Blackwater murder in Iraq

This video from the USA is called Jeremy Scahill: “Obama, Blackwater, War Beyond Bush” – 1:39:56 – 25 dec. 2008.

Associated Press reports:

Mar 20, 2:05 PM EDT

Iraqi family sues ex-Blackwater guard over death

Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. — The family of a slain Iraqi security guard says in a federal lawsuit that a former Blackwater contractor fatally shot the man while wandering drunk in Baghdad, and the survivors accuse the company of covering up wrongdoing while reneging on promises of compensation.

Raheem Khalaf Sa’adoon’s wife and two children said Blackwater, the North Carolina-based company now known as Xe, destroyed documents to hide evidence of a pattern of recklessness. The lawsuit filed Thursday in the southern district of California also says the company promised to compensate the widow, Wijdan Mohsin Saed, in a series of payments but stopped after an initial payment of $20,000.

“She was expecting a continued stream of compensation,” said Susan Burke, a Washington-based attorney for the family, in an interview. “But, obviously, with killing the breadwinner of the family, they had essentially cut off her means of livelihood. She’s a stay-at-home mom and doesn’t have any other source of income.”

The lawsuit names both Xe and the former Blackwater guard, Andrew Moonen. It says Moonen shot Sa’adoon without provocation on Christmas Eve of 2006 after getting drunk at a party and then getting lost. Sa’adoon, 32, was on guard duty for Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi at the time.

Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said in a release that the shooting happened while Moonen was off-duty. She said military officials investigated the matter and that the company was ordered to remove him from Iraq. He was fired and fined, and Tyrrell said the company has assisted throughout a Department of Justice investigation.

A congressional report released in 2007 said Moonen reported the shooting at a nearby post for another security contractor, Triple Canopy, saying he had been in a gunfight with Iraqis. The lawsuit says a visibly intoxicated Moonen simply pulled out his Glock and fired at Sa’adoon for no reason.

The lawsuit accuses Xe of a pattern of recklessness and illegal activity. It seeks compensation and punitive damages that would strip the company of all “revenue and profits earned from their pattern of constant misconduct and callous disregard for human life.”

“To some degree, I think they continue to believe they’ll be able to evade scrutiny and accountability,” Burke said.

Blackwater changed its name to Xe (pronounced ZEE) in February.

Blackwater sued in US court over alleged cover-up: here.

My Opposition to the Iraq War, by Gary Hart: here.

Australia: On March 21, 200 people gathered at Sydney Town Hall for the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, demanding an end to the current US-led wars and occupations: here.

Canadian conservatives against free speech for Afghan war opponent

This video from the USA is called The Oil Factor – Why are we in Afghanistan? O-I-L.

From the Socialist Unity blog in Britain:


Galloway: ‘This idiotic ban shames Canada ’

Respect MP George Galloway today vowed to use “all means at my disposal” to challenge the decision by Canada ’s pro-war conservative immigration minister, Jason Kenney, to refuse him entry to the country to give a series of speeches.

Galloway is this afternoon exploring with organisers of his speaking tour and with legal advisors avenues to challenge the decision, which he brands “irrational, inexplicable and an affront to Canada’s good name”.

Galloway was not informed of the decision until it had already been given to journalists. The grounds provided by a spokesperson for Mr Kenney for the ban are that Galloway’s opposition to the deployment of Nato troops in Afghanistan make him “inadmissible” to Canada. In fact George Galloway’s concern over the deployment of NATO troops in Afghanistan is consistent with the majority of public opinion in the UK. Indeed, George’s most recent comment on Afghanistan was to the Grimsby and Scunthorpe media group when he pointed out that, “more British soldiers have now died in Afghanistan than in the whole of the disastrous war in and occupation of Iraq. And yet the Taliban are growing in strength and instability is spreading across the border into Pakistan. My heart goes out to the families of all the loved ones who have lost their lives and in particular to the families of Corporals Grahame Stiff and Dean John, the latest soldiers to lose their lives in Afghanistan . The majority of British people, the latest opinion polls show, do not understand why we have sent troops to Afghanistan. I want our troops brought home from Afghanistan now, so no more lives are lost in this pointless and unwinnable war.”

George Galloway finds Canada’s decision outrageous: “This decision, gazetted in Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, is a very sad day for the Canada we have known and loved – a bastion of the freedoms that supporters of the occupation of Afghanistan claim to be defending. This has further vindicated the anti-war movement’s contention that unjust wars abroad will end up consuming the very liberties that make us who we are.

“This may be a rather desperate election ploy by a conservative government reaching the end of line, or by a minister who has not cottoned on to the fact that the George Bush era is over. All right thinking Canadians, whether they agree with me over the wisdom of sending troops to Afghanistan or not, will oppose this outrageous decision.

“On a personal note – for a Scotsman to be barred from Canada is like being told to stay away from the family home. This is not something I’m prepared to accept.”

As so often, the press are misreporting the facts, today’s briefing from the Press Associsation includes the claim that in 2006 Gallowy was prevented from speaking at an anti-war conference in Cairo by the Egyptian government. In fact the President of Egypt personally apologised to George Galloway after he was detained for some hours on arrival in Cairo and the speaking engagement went ahead as planned.

See also here. And here.

Lawyers for British anti-war MP George Galloway are mounting a court challenge to a Canadian government order that prohibits him from entering the country on the grounds he is a “national security” threat and terrorist accomplice: here.

The Canadian government’s claim that George Galloway is a terrorist accomplice is an outrageous, politically-motivated attempt to smear the British anti-war MP and to rob Canadians of their democratic and constitutionally-protected right to hear his views: here.


Update September 2010: here.

HUNDREDS of Afghan citizens rallied for an end to the occupation of their country on Sunday after US-led forces killed five civilians in Kunduz Province: here.

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has indicated that his administration is struggling to cook up a coherent “exit strategy” in Afghanistan: here.

I SALUTE the army colonel who took a moral stand and allegedly released data to Human Rights Watch about civilian casualties from NATO’s aerial bombardment in Afghanistan: here.

Details of Barack Obama’s new strategy for the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan make for grim reading: here.

Amy Goodman Detained at the Canadian Border, questioned about speech–see the CBC national news, 6 pm and then online at here.

Protest songs about police and dictators

Journalists of British daily The Guardian have made a list of protest songs. All of them in the English language.

I ‘ll reproduce some of that list on this blog. Not exactly in the same way as they did. Eg, they have options to listen to songs on Spotify, which is not available in all countries.

And I have added links. And grouped the songs according to themes. The theme of this entry is: protest songs against abuse of power by police, by military dictators, and by others.

Me and Giuliani Down By the Schoolyard (A True Story) !!! 2003

Rudolph Giuliani’s tenure as mayor saw New York nightlife all but stamped out; his taskforce would close down venues without a dance licence if people so much as tapped their foot. When the bar Nic Offer was working at fell victim to Giuliani’s clampdown, the !!! frontman was driven to write this nine-minute punk-funk epic, which attempts to start a dancefloor insurrection. AN …

Fuck tha Police NWA 1988

More than three years before the LA riots – provoked by the LAPD’s filmed assault on Rodney King – this track from Niggaz With Attitude’s Straight Outta Compton album expressed the growing anger towards police brutality among black youth in Los Angeles. Presented as a furious, gangsta-funk court case that the one representative of the LAPD has no chance of winning, the prosecution testimonies of Ice Cube, MC Ren and Eazy-E were so violent that the FBI sent a protest letter to their label Ruthless. GM

Cop Killer Body Count 1992

Ice T’s in-character reaction to the 1991 police beating of Rodney King begins with the stated desire to shoot every corrupt cop in the face. That’s one way to get your audience’s attention. The pummelling, consciously over-the-top piece of speed-metal that ensues was a significant piece of steam-letting on behalf of a community teetering on the brink; following the 1992 LA riots, Cop Killer was removed from the first Body Count album and remains devilishly hard to find. GT

California Über Alles Dead Kennedys 1979

This jolting proto-hardcore debut rose out of DKs’ singer Jello Biafra’s fear of shonky new-age guruism spreading into politics, notably when California governor Jerry Brown stood for election on a platform of Buddhist economics and exploring the universe. Biafra imagined a hippie-fascist future under his presidency worse than Orwell’s 1984, complete with organic poison gas chambers and “suede/denim secret police”. All lurching riffs and twitchy stops, it’s a rabid, paranoid punk classic. TH …

Víctor Jara of Chile Dick Gaughan 1985

Anyone doubting the political power of song might ponder the brutal murder of the great Chilean activist Víctor Jara, whose music was considered sufficiently subversive to warrant his killing by General Pinochet’s junta during the bloody, US-backed military coup of 1973. Adrian Mitchell’s moving poem – which recounts the story of Jara’s life and death – was set to music by Arlo Guthrie, but Dick Gaughan’s cold fury best captures its angry despair. CI

I have been able to find Guthrie´s version with Google, not Gaughan´s. A version by Christy Moore is here.

Police and Thieves Junior Murvin 1976

In 1976, Junior Murvin pitched up at Lee Perry’s legendary Black Ark studio to audition for the maverick producer. The song he brought with him became the rude boy anthem of the year in Jamaica and a huge sound system hit in Britain. On Police and Thieves, Murvin’s extraordinary falsetto, modelled on Curtis Mayfield, floats on a shimmering, otherworldly Perry production that remains one of the high water marks of reggae music. Reworked by the Clash on their debut album, and its rhythm used for countless Jamaican DJ outings, the original remains untouchable. SOH

Days of Fire Nitin Sawhney 2008

How to respond to the events of 7/7 and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in London? Rather than serve up a slice of polemic, Sawhney set a simple acoustic melody against the narrative of a young MC called Natty, who’d followed de Menezes on the next train into Stockwell station. The refrain “it all went slow motion… now we’re all in slow motion” freezes the action but also captures the confusion that followed “the days of fire”. CLS

American Skin (41 Shots) Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 2000

Springsteen’s lament for Guinean immigrant Amadou Dialloshot 41 times by New York City police officers for reaching for his wallet in 1999 – led to the unthinkable: Bruce being booed at Madison Square Garden. The track, recorded for a live E Street reunion record, also marked the moment in which Springsteen was brought back from the critical and commercial wilds to become the documenting voice of modern America, something he confirmed with 2002’s majestic The Rising album. WD

Kingfisher catches fish, video

From Birdlife:

Fish-eye view of bird attack – The video below shows what it looks like to be a fish attacked by a kingfisher – from the fish’s point of view! Don’t forget to keep updated of BirdLife videos by subscribing to our YouTube account –

North American birdwatching archive

From Wildlife Extra:

Ivory-billed woodpecker, Giant albatross and Carolina parakeet amongst birding records found in US archive

19/03/2009 10:23:27

6 million bird records to provide evidence of climate change

On Nov. 1, 1933, Mrs. Bruce Reid recorded seeing both a male and female ivory-billed woodpecker in Texas. And on May 28, 1938, Oscar McKinley Bryans observed a ruby-throated hummingbird in Michigan, noting that the birds were most common when apple trees were blooming.

100 years of bird records

These are just two of more than 6 million personal observations scribbled and preserved on note cards in government files. The cards record more than a century of information about bird migration; a veritable treasure trove for climate-change researchers because they will help them unravel the effects of climate change on bird behaviour, said Jessica Zelt, coordinator of the North American Bird Phenology Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre.

900 species recorded

The collection, said Zelt, includes information on about 900 species, including some sightings of rare, extinct, or nearly extinct birds, such as the giant albatross, ivory-billed woodpecker and Carolina parakeet, birds whose very names make the hearts of avid birders go pitter-patter. …

Launched in 1880

The BPP was started in 1880 by Wells W. Cooke, who wanted to broaden knowledge and understanding of migration. Eventually, famed scientist C. Hart Merriam expanded the volunteer network to include the entire United States, Canada and part of the West Indies. By the late 1880s the program had 3000 volunteers. Although the program was actively maintained by the federal government, in 1970 the program closed, until it re-opened again last year.

The state of America’s birds: here.

Birdwatching webcam sites: here.

Dutch bird webcams: here.

No free speech near Australian spy base

Australian Catholic Worker Ciaron O’Reilly speaks at the gates of Pine Gap Oct 7th 06.

By Mike Head in Australia:

Australia: Rudd government attacks right to protest at Pine Gap spy base

20 March 2009

Without any publicity or public debate, the Rudd government has pushed through parliament a law to step up the protection of the joint US-Australian military spy base at Pine Gap in central Australia, ensuring that protesters will face up to seven years’ jail if they go near or even photograph the facility.

Remembering Pine Gap: Women’s Peace Camp, November 1983 An exhibition from the archives of Jesse Street National Women’s Library NSW Parliament House, Sydney Until September 24: here.

Israeli soldiers on Gaza war

This video from Israel is called mass demonstration against the war in Gaza Tel Aviv-Yaffa 17-1-2009.

From British daily The Independent:

Israel’s dirty secrets in Gaza

Army veterans reveal how they gunned down innocent Palestinian families and destroyed homes and farms

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Friday, 20 March 2009

Israel was last night confronting a major challenge over the conduct of its 22-day military offensive in Gaza after testimonies by its own soldiers revealed that troops were allowed and, in some cases, even ordered to shoot unarmed Palestinian civilians.

The testimonies – the first of their kind to emerge from inside the military – are at marked variance with official claims that the military made strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties and tend to corroborate Palestinian accusations that troops used indiscriminate and disproportionate firepower in civilian areas during the operation. In one of the testimonies shedding harsh new light on what the soldiers say were the permissive rules of engagement for Operation Cast Lead, one soldier describes how an officer ordered the shooting of an elderly woman 100 metres from a house commandeered by troops.

Another soldier, describing how a mother and her children were shot dead by a sniper after they turned the wrong way out of a house, says the “atmosphere” among troops was that the lives of Palestinians were “very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers”.

A squad leader said: “At the beginning the directive was to enter a house with an armoured vehicle, to break the door down, to start shooting inside and – I call it murder – to shoot at everyone we identify. In the beginning I asked myself how could this make sense? Higher-ups said it is permissible because everyone left in the city [Gaza City] is culpable because they didn’t run away.”

The accounts, which also describe apparently indiscriminate destruction of property, were given at a post-operation discussion by graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military course at the Oranim Academic College in northern Israel. The transcript of the session in front of the head of the course – details from which were published by the newspaper Haaretz – prompted the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit yesterday to announce a military police investigation into the claims. Haaretz said the airing of the “dirty secrets” would make it more difficult for Israelis to dismiss the claims as Palestinian propaganda. The course principal, Danny Zamir, told the newspaper that after being “shocked” by the testimonies on 13 February he told the IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi he “feared a serious moral failure” in the IDF.

See also here. And here.

Israeli troops detail Gaza atrocities as demand grows for war crimes probe: here.

Many Israeli troops had the sense of fighting a “religious war” against Gentiles during the 22-day offensive in Gaza, according to a soldier who has highlighted the martial role of military rabbis during the operation: here. Israeli religious soldiers against women singing: here.

Black coral discovery off Italy

This video is called The Hawaiian Black Coral Fishery: Science and Management (Anthony Montgomery) – 16:32 – 4 nov. 2007.

From Italian news agency ANSA:

Black coral forest found off Italy

‘World’s largest’, marine biologists say

Catanzaro, March 19 – Researchers have discovered the largest forest of black coral in the world off the coast of the southern Italian region of Calabria, the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) said Thursday.

Marine biologists found almost 30,000 colonies of Antipathella subpinnata coral present at depths of between 50 and 100 metres near the town of Scilla.

ISPRA described the discovery as ”extraordinary”.

Black coral takes its name from its dark-coloured skeleton and many species are highly sought-after for their use in jewellery.

The tree-like coral family is more often found in the tropics and is included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which lists species that could be threatened with extinction if trade is not controlled.

ISPRA researchers, who are using a robot to investigate the sea bed, said they also found five colonies of an extremely rare species of black coral, Antipathes dichotoma, of which only five samples have ever been collected and studied in the world.

The last sample was taken from the Gulf of Naples in 1946 and donated to Harvard University.

”This is the first time these rare and protected species have been observed and studied in their natural habitat thanks to the sophisticated robot,” said project chief Simonepietro Canese.

Canese said the robot could shoot photos and videos as well as take samples of the species it encounters.

The project to survey Calabria’s marine diversity began in 2005 and will continue until next year.

The town of Scilla overlooks the Strait of Messina and is traditionally held to be the home of Scylla, a sea monster in Greek mythology who together with Charybdis terrorised sailors trying to pass through the narrow channel.

Deep-sea corals are the oldest living animals with a skeleton in the seas, claims new research that found a 4,265-year-old coral species off the coast of Hawaii: here.

Scilly Island underwater survey turns up rare sponges, corals, slugs and anemones: here.