New book on Guantanamo torture camp


This video from the USA is called Meet Me In Guantanamo (Remix).

From British daily The Morning Star:

Betrayed for cash

(Sunday 03 August 2008)

My Guantanamo Diary by Mahvish Rukhsana Khan
(Public Affairs, £15.99)

IAN SINCLAIR hears Mahvish Khan’s stories of Guantanamo Bay.

Since the first detainees were transferred there from Afghanistan on January 11 2002, Guantanamo Bay has become the most notorious prison on earth.

Held indefinitely as “enemy combatants” with no recourse to the Geneva Conventions, prisoners face torture, either no trial at all or an unfair trial, no family visits, harsh conditions and often years of solitary confinement.

As the Amnesty International director has said, the US prison on the eastern tip of Cuba – which, at its peak, held approximately 750 detainees – is “a travesty of justice.”

In My Guantanamo Diary, 30-year-old Mahvish Rukhsana Khan tells the stories of some of the men held at what is known as Gitmo – “the worst of the worst” according to ex-US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Born in the US to Afghan parents, law student Khan’s fluency in Pashtu enables her to work as an interpreter between Afghan detainees and the pro bono lawyers acting on their behalf, visiting the prison over 36 times.

Khan quickly established close relationships with several prisoners, including paediatrician Ali Shah Mousovi, 80-year-old Haji Nusrat Khan and cheeky 27-year-old goat herder Taj Mohammad.

“Though they were systematically dehumanised, to me they became like friends or brothers, or fathers and uncles,” Khan writes.

But isn’t she talking about terrorists? It seems unlikely when you consider that the US military dropped thousands of leaflets in Afghanistan promising bounties of up to 25,000 US dollars to anyone who would turn in members of al-Qaida or the Taliban. The average annual wage in Afghanistan is equivalent to 300 US dollars.

Furthermore, an analysis of declassified

Pentagon documents has found that 86 per cent of prisoners were not captured by US forces, but handed over, probably for money, by either the trusty Pakistani police or virtuous Afghan warlords.

Travelling to Afghanistan for the first time in 2006 to gather evidence to help the prisoners cases, Khan explores her own heritage and, interestingly, describes the effects on the civilian population of the depleted uranium used by NATO forces since 2001, something that I have not seen mentioned anywhere else.

A surprisingly easy and accessible book, My Guantanamo Diary is a fantastic introduction to the criminal and morally reprehensible nature of the “war on terror.”

Khan has many amusing anecdotes to tell, but her stomach-churning account of the force-feeding of al-Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj is deadly serious and, along with the many descriptions of torture, will anger everyone who reads it.

That both US presidential candidates have pledged to close Guantanamo if they are elected is good news, but only half the story.

It is likely detainees will simply be moved to other US detention facilities around the world – including Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, consistently described by inmates as far worse than Guantanamo. Plus ca change…

Guantánamo detainee convicted in rigged military trial: here.

Guantánamo trial sentence stuns Bush administration: here.

T-Rex ancestor discovered in Poland


This is a video about dicynodonts.

From Reuters:

Ancestor of T-Rex dinosaur unearthed in Poland

Sat Aug 2, 2008 11:28am ET135

By Gabriela Baczynska

WARSAW – Paleontologists digging in a brickyard in southern Poland have discovered the remains of a dinosaur they say is a previously unknown ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The predator dinosaur, given the working name “the Dragon”, lived around 200 million years ago, team member Doctor Tomasz Sulej of the Polish Science Academy, told Reuters.

It was five meters (yards) long and moved on two legs. Its longest teeth were 7 centimeters (2 inches) long.

“This is a completely new type of dinosaur that was so far unknown,” Sulej said on Friday. “Nobody even expected that members of this group lived in that time, so this gives us new knowledge about the whole evolution of the T-Rex group.”

The remains were excavated from a brickyard in Lisowice village about 200 km (125 miles) from Warsaw.

The paleontologists will continue examining the bones and fully document the discovery before they decide what name to give to the new dinosaur. They will exhibit the findings in Lisowice on August 7, Sulej said.

At the same site the group also found a dicynodon — a reptile which was a direct predecessor of mammals.

“We are almost certain that “Dragon” hunted animals like this herbivorous dicynodon, which looked like hippopotamus but was much bigger,” Sulej said.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

See also here.

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World’s smallest snake discovered on Barbados


This video is called Barbados parrot attack at Graeme Hall Nature Park.

From the BBC:

World’s smallest snake discovered

By Jennifer Carpenter
Science reporter, BBC News

The world’s smallest snake, averaging just 10cm (4 inches) and as thin as a spaghetti noodle, has been discovered on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

The snake, found beneath a rock in a tiny fragment of threatened forest, is thought to be at the very limit of how small a snake can evolve to be.

Females produce only a single, massive egg – and the young hatch at half of their adult body weight.

This new discovery is described in the journal of Zootaxa.

The snake – named Leptotyphlops carlae – is the smallest of the 3,100 known snake species and was uncovered by Dr Blair Hedges, a biologist from Penn State University, US. …

Dr Hedges thinks that the snake eats termites and is endemic to this one Caribbean island. He said that, in fact, three very old specimens of this species were already in collections – one in London’s Natural History Museum and two in a museum in Martinique.

However, these specimens had been misidentified. …

Researchers believe that the snake – a type of thread snake – is so rare that it has survived un-noticed until now.

But with 95% of the island of Barbados now treeless, and the few fragments of forest seriously threatened, this new species of snake might become extinct only months after it was discovered.

Smallest of the small

In contrast to other species of snake – some of which can lay up to 100 eggs in a single clutch – the world’s smallest snake only produces a single egg.

“This is unusual for snakes but seems to be a feature of small animals,” Dr Hedges told BBC News.

By having a single egg at a time, the snake’s young are one-half the length of the adult. That would be like humans giving birth to a 60-pound (27kg) baby

Dr Hedges added that the snake’s size might limit the size of its clutch.

“If a tiny snake were to have more than one offspring, each egg would have to share the same space occupied by the one egg and so the two hatchlings would be half the normal size.”

The hatchlings might then be too small to find anything small enough to eat.

This has led the researchers to believe that the Barbadian snake is as small as a snake can evolve to be.

See also here. And here.

New Snake Species Found in Fiji: here.

Anti feminism and anti “terrorism” in the USA


This video is called Susan Faludi – The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America.

Review by Angela Walker in Australia:

The marginalisation of women in the post-9/11 US

1 August 2008

The Terror Dream: Fear & Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
By Susan Faludi
Scribe Melbourne, 2007
351 pages, $35

Susan Faludi’s new book, The Terror Dream, is part of the turning tide against US President George Bush’s “war on terror” but hers is a limited view.

Best known for her 1991 book Backlash: the Undeclared War Against American Women, Faludi presents a feminist analysis of the media, popular culture and political life in the US post 9/11.

However, this time her feminism seems more limited than I remember from her earlier works. It fails to take into account the experience of race and class as it impacts on women’s (and men’s) experiences.

Faludi points out that women journalists, news announcers, academics and commentators were sidelined in the post 9/11 environment where heroes were recast as exclusively male. But she fails to address the exclusion of Muslims and Arab Americans — not just women were seen as potential traitors within.

Her analysis could have been wider and more far reaching. In this respect, fellow journalist Naomi Klein’s work easily eclipses hers.

Faludi’s writing talent, however, ensures The Terror Dream is an interesting read. Her reporting of the unnecessary deaths of New York firefighters who died in the northern Twin Tower because of old and failure-prone communication equipment reveals how much has been repressed from media presentations of 9/11.

Faludi’s research also demonstrates the paucity of tributes to women involved in 9/11 rescue work or as part of the fightback on United Airlines Flight 93 (the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania). Women were cast as the victims who needed to be rescued.

This would be replayed over and over despite the lack of US female victims at home or abroad, as the truth of the “rescue” of injured soldier Jessica Lynch, unguarded and undergoing treatment in an Iraqi hospital in the first days of the Iraq war, revealed.

Faludi’s exploration of the development of the political awakening of the “Jersey Girls” — a group of women whose husbands died in the World Trade Center — gives an insight into the vitriol that faced women who dared to speak out against the US war drive.

The Jersey Girls pieced together a sophisticated timeline of the missteps and mistakes made by their government in the lead-up to 9/11. For their crime of asking questions they were ridiculed and abused.

Ann Coulter: here.