Anti-Semitic violence in Belfast condemned

This video is called Belfast Synagogue.

From the Sinn Fein site in Ireland:

Kelly condemns synagogue attacks

21 July, 2014 – by Gerry Kelly

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has condemned outright an attack on a synagogue in north Belfast.

Speaking after windows at the synagogue on Somerton Road were smashed at the weekend, the North Belfast MLA said:

“I condemn outright this attack on the synagogue on Somerton Road.

“There can be no place for attacks on any place of worship, regardless of the religion or denomination.

“The local Jewish community makes a valuable contribution to our society and there is no justification for hate crimes.

“If anyone has any information on these attacks then they should contact the PSNI.”

The Vatican’s four problems

This video from PBS in the USA in 2011 is called Rift Grows Between Ireland, Vatican Over Priest Abuse Allegations.

From the New York Review of Books in the USA:

The Pope and the Pederasts

Garry Wills

Pope Francis has acted fast on his preferred issues—poverty and economic justice. Nothing in that to criticize. He has been slower—too slow, say some—to deal with the long-festering problem of sex abuse by priests. He has at last taken some of the steps people were calling for—see victims and apologize to them, authorize a panel to study the problem, promise reforms that will prevent a recurrence of these crimes. OK so far—but Pope Benedict had begun all that before him.

Why did Francis hesitate to continue what was already being done? Is it because all these things are beside the point? Very likely, they are. Without addressing structural issues in the Vatican, meaningful action to restore trust in the priesthood and church authority cannot get far. There are four such interlocking problems:

1. Celibacy. Yes, celibacy does not directly and of itself lead to sexual predation. There are many unmarried men and women who are not predators. But Catholic celibacy is not simply an unmarried state. It is a mandatory and exclusive requirement for holding all significant offices in the Church. This sets up a sexual caste system that limits vision, empathy, and honesty. It enables church rulers to be blithely at odds with the vast majority of their own people. According to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study, 98 percent of American Catholic women of child-bearing age have had sex—and, of that 98 percent, 99 percent have used or will use some form of contraception. Yet celibate priests tell us they know what sex is really about (by their expertise in “natural law”), and in their view it absolutely precludes birth control. There is an induced infantilism in such cloistered minds, an ignorance that poses as innocence. This prevents honesty at so many levels that any trust on sexual matters begins in a crippled state, handicapping all treatment of sexual predation in the Church.

2. Homophobia. Pope Francis is often hailed for asking, “Who am I to judge” gay men. The New Yorker headlined its comment on this question (by the estimable Alexander Stille), “Francis Redefines the Papacy.” Hardly. He was speaking within a specific context, after being asked about gay priests in the Vatican (the so-called “gay lobby”). He said, “We must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?” But accepting the Lord in the modern priesthood means following the rule of recent popes that homosexuality is morally “disordered” and may not be acted on. He was saying that gay priests who do not have gay sex should not be judged.

This is no great advance on the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” line that homophobes regularly use. There are many gay priests, some who remain celibate, some who don’t. The fact that they have to hide their “disorder” does not mean they are not being judged. If they felt they were not being judged, they would not be hiding. Now, when Catholics are agreeing with their fellow Americans that being gay is not a disgrace, and marrying is a gay right, the Vatican cannot even get into the conversation, much less lead it in a useful way.

3. Patriarchy. The Vatican is not only the West’s oldest monarchy, but its most entrenched patriarchy. For long its official teaching was Thomas Aquinas’s assertion (taken from Aristotle) that “the female is a defective male.” Though the Vatican has tried in recent years to back off from that position, as late as 1976 Paul VI’s Curia said that there can be no women priests because women do not look like Jesus: they lack “this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister.” Pope John Paul II said in 1994 that if Jesus had wanted to ordain women, he would have begun with the best of them, his mother. He ignores the fact that Jesus in the Gospels ordained no priests, male or female. The investigation of American nuns for daring to have opinions of their own shows how far Vatican officials are from understanding women. (How could they understand them?)

4. Clericalism. The previous three problems converge on the clerical mindset that afflicts all bureaucracies, but especially sacred ones. Advancement of one’s career involves deference to those above, adherence to corporate loyalties, and a determination not to hurt the institution (demonstrated by signal loyalty). Questioning “church teaching” is subversion. This leads to support of one’s own in all ways possible—as far as one can go, for instance, in denying sin among one’s colleagues. This is the area in which Pope Francis has made some initial moves, challenging the power of the Curia (Rome’s bureaucracy).

But challenge is not change, and so long as these structural issues persist, it will be impossible to restore trust in the Vatican’s authority. No pope can change all these things all by himself, even one as winning as Francis is proving. If it is to be done at all, it must be by a joint effort of the whole People of God. Perhaps that is what Francis is waiting for. I suspect he would welcome it.

July 11, 2014, 11:15 a.m.

Ku Klux Klan interview on BBC

This video from the USA is about the Ku Klux Klan and lynching.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Protests were also held outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House in Belfast yesterday over the publicly funded corporation’s decision to interview a Ku Klux Klan member on Wednesday’s Good Morning Ulster programme.

Belfast Trades Council and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Youth said the BBC’s decision beggars belief.

“The KKK are renowned for lynching people because of the colour of their skin. There can be no justification for these racist, divisive, reactionary beliefs nor should they be given the oxygen of publicity by the largest broadcaster on these islands,” they said.

CIA planned torture flight for Edward Snowden

This 2013 video is called [Irish] MP Clare Daly: World kowtowing to US over Snowden asylum.

By Robert Stevens:

CIA planned rendition of Edward Snowden

18 June 2014

According to an article published by the Register, an aircraft belonging to the United States Central Intelligence Agency was sent to Europe last June as the US government was preparing to seize whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

On June 23, 2013, Snowden arrived in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong. From there, he had planned to fly on to Cuba and then to Latin America. He was unable to do so, as the Obama administration cancelled his passport. Earlier that month, Snowden had made public, via the Guardian and other newspapers, revelations that the US, British and other governments were carrying out programmes of mass surveillance of the world’s population.

The Register article, “CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to snatch Snowden,” states that on June 24, 2013, the day after Snowden arrived in Moscow, “an unmarked Gulfstream V business jet—tail number N977GA—took off from a quiet commercial airport 30 miles from Washington DC.”

The article notes that N977GA flew from the small Manassas Regional Airport. It continues, “Early next morning, N977GA was detected heading east over Scotland at the unusually high altitude of 45,000 feet. It had not filed a flight plan, and was flying above the level at which air traffic control reporting is mandatory.”

The article explains, “But, even if pilots have turned off automated location data feeds, ordinary enthusiasts equipped with nothing more than suitable radio receivers connected to the Internet can measure differences in the time at which an aircraft’s radar transponder signal reaches locations on the ground…. ‘The plane showed up on our system at 5:20 on 25 June,’ according to our source, a member of an Internet aircraft-tracking network run by enthusiasts in the UK. ‘We knew the reputation of this aircraft and what it had done in the past.’ ”

The Register gives some details of the history of the plane known as N977GA, which played a vital role in the illegal extraordinary rendition system run by the US government. It notes that N977GA “was originally ordered by the US Air Force for use as a general’s flying gin-palace. But then, shortly after 9/11, it lost its military livery and acquired civilian registration as N596GA. Under that designation it was employed in CIA ‘renditions’—or kidnappings. In 2011, the ‘black’ jet’s role was switched again, having been transferred from the CIA’s contractor to use by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

“With its new tail number N977GA the plane became part of the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation Systems (JPATS), operated by US Marshals. On perhaps its best-known mission, the jet flew a team of marshals into the UK on 5 October 2012 to collect radical cleric Abu Hamza after the USA won an extradition order against him.”

The information provided to the Register includes a graphic showing that that N977GA “did not make it all the way to Moscow, but set down and waited at Copenhagen Airport.”

The fact that the plane is understood to have landed in Copenhagen backs up the claim that N977GA was there in order to carry out a rendition.

It has been public knowledge since 2007 that the Danish government gave permission for a CIA rendition flight to cross Danish airspace on October 25, 2003. Last year, the Open Society Foundation released a report, “Globalising Torture—CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” documenting that Denmark was one of 53 nations whose government assisted the US in its “rendition” operations. The 216-page report documents what happened to the 136 known victims of these terrible human rights abuses.

The important information made public by the Register has been stonewalled by the mass media, with the sole exception of the Russian TV news broadcaster RT.

In the UK, where the source of the Register’s information comes from, none of the media, including the Guardian, have even reported this development, let alone subjected it to further investigation. The British media have refused to challenge the censorship over reporting Snowden’s revelations, put into place last year by the British government under its “D-Notice” system.

There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information provided in the Register article, and no attempt has been made to rebut it by the US or Danish governments. The Register states, “US Department of Justice did not respond to our requests for information regarding N977GA and its purpose in heading to Europe on 24 June last year.”

Immediately following the first of Snowden’s revelations, breaking on June 5 of last year, the Obama administration rapidly moved to detain him at all costs, launching a massive international manhunt. This included the forcing down on July 2, 2013, of the jet carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales on suspicion that it was carrying Snowden to asylum in Bolivia.

Mobilising a plane previously involved in acts of rendition in order to seize Snowden would be of a piece with this act of state terrorism and air piracy. It renders null and void the official position of the US government that Snowden should return to the US and where he would face a “fair trial”.

The Register’s article was published just one day prior to a Washington Post piece providing a few more glimpses into the extraordinary operation that was put into place to “Get Snowden”. The Post explains, “For weeks, senior officials from the FBI, the CIA, the State Department and other agencies assembled nearly every day in a desperate search for a way to apprehend the former intelligence contractor who had exposed the inner workings of American espionage then fled to Hong Kong before ending up in Moscow.”

It cites an official speaking anonymously who said the meetings were “Convened by White House homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco.”

She told government and intelligence officials, “The best play for us is him landing in a third country.” The official told the newspaper, “We were hoping he was going to be stupid enough to get on some kind of airplane, and then have an ally say: ‘You’re in our airspace. Land.’ ”

The article notes that the “burst of activity” during an eight-week period, “including the White House meetings, a broad diplomatic scramble and the decision to force a foreign leader’s plane to land—was far more extensive than U.S. officials acknowledged at the time.”

The White House meetings were attended by the CIA’s head of counterintelligence, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and Michael McFaul, then the US ambassador to Russia. According to Joyce, the discussions “were not just about Edward Snowden the fugitive,” but also dealt with the impact of Snowden’s revelations. The Post states, “[T]here was a constant search for ideas to recover him”. It said Joyce did not give any detail but that “There were several things that were sort of ongoing. None of them actually panned out.”

The piece refers to Obama’s comment during this period that “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.” As the World Socialist Web Site noted at the time, Obama sought to downplay the issues in Snowden’s revelations, as he was acutely aware of the worldwide support for his courageous stand and the alarm the NSA disclosures caused in foreign capitals.

It is now evident that nothing was off the table in the manhunt for Snowden, including his possible illegal seizure using methods that have resulted in the torture and imprisonment, without any trial, of many other innocent people.

Bahrain deaths, dictatorship or sickle cell disease?

This video says about itself:


From the blog of Lancaster University Law School in England:

Denial in Bahrain? The Links Between Sickle Cell Disease, Detention and Tear Gas

Dr. Gearóid Ó Cuinn

Since the outbreak of pro-reform protests in Bahrain in early 2011 security forces have deployed an unprecedented amount of tear gas resulting in the deaths of numerous individuals. This torrent has also revealed a genetic component to Bahrain’s political unrest through a record spike in sickle cell deaths– a condition that predominantly affects the marginalised Shia population.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), set up to consider human rights violations following the Government’s crackdown, concluded that Bahrain’s police used a disproportionate amount of CS gas in the urban spaces of this community. It found that private homes were targeted in an “unnecessary and indiscriminate” manner (video) citing examples of gassing in small villages where the authorities simultaneously blocked escape routes (p277). Physicians for Human Rights recently noted how this “extensive, persistent, and disproportionate” use of tear gas continues. It was against this backdrop that doctors observed nearly a three-fold rise in deaths from sickle cell disease compared to pre-2011 levels. While a definitive clinical link between tear gas and sickle cell deaths remains disputed the practices mobilised around the disease raise important questions from a human rights perspective.

Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited blood disorder whose prevalence is higher in African, Caribbean, Indian and Arab populations, primarily due to the adaptive advantage of carriers (sickle cell trait) in areas afflicted by malaria. The dominant symptoms are painful “crises” arising from blood vessels becoming blocked by sickle shaped red blood cells. Crises can be triggered by a number of causes, including dehydration, stress and a lack of oxygen (hypoxia). Untreated these episodes can cause organ failure, strokes and, in some cases, it can be fatal. Pain management through the administration of pain relief is seen as key to managing and controlling these sickle cell crises.

Bahrain’s authorities have frequently attributed custodial deaths of political activists as the result of sickle cell disease. Invariably these accounts are disputed by both families and human rights groups who alleged mistreatment or lack of adequate care. As Bahrain is off-limits to independent organisations capable of verifying sickle cell deaths the official reports can still be examined and compared with those from independent media and local civil society groups.

Many deaths the authorities have attributed to sickle cell disease involve detainees who have not been exposed to tear gas as was the case of Hasan Jassim Mohamed Maki (39). An investigation by the BICI in 2012 concluded his death was a consequence of torture (p242).

In February 2014 another detainee Jaffar Al Durazi’s (23) died in hospital. Within 18 hours the public prosecutor announced his death was “natural away from any criminal suspicion”, a result of complications from sickle cell disease. At the same time the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, while not disputing Mr. Al Durazi’s sickle cell status, alleged he died after being severely tortured over a prolonged period. Another sufferer of sickle cell disease, Mohamed Ibrahim Yaqoob, reportedly died of “natural causes” related to his condition at Salmaniya Medical Complex. The BBC later reported photographic evidence of cuts and bruises on his body.

The conflict between these reports suggest that sickle cell disease is deployed as a catch-all explanation disguising the mistreatment of detainees. In the case of Sayyed Jawad Ahmed (20) the Government attributed his death entirely to his sickle cell condition. This account failed to mention that his difficulties arose following his participation in a protest confronted by security forces. According to human rights groups he died from complications following the inhalation of tear gas. More importantly his family denied he even suffered from sickle cell disease. Likewise Human Rights Watch reported that torture victim Mr. Maki (see above) was merely a carrier of the disease and had never displayed symptoms.

The potential for disguising causes of deaths by reference to sickle cell disease would not be unique to Bahrain. Through migration and the legacy of slavery sickle cell disease is somewhat prevalent in the US and Europe. Dyson and Boswell’s study of unexplained deaths over a 30 year period in US and UK custody found sickle cell disease was frequently suggested as a cause of death despite overlapping with forceful restrains, beatings and pepper spraying all of which can induce hypoxia, a trigger for the disease. Attributing deaths to the disease, they suggested, helped to avoid the need to confront institutional racism and was a convenient way to deflect criticism.

Systematic triggers of the disease?

It has been suggested by a leading expert on sickle cell disease that exposure to tear gas could trigger severe problems for a sickle cell sufferer as it could cause hypoxia by restricting the supply of oxygen.The head of the Bahrain Society for Sickle Cell Anaemia Patient Care dismissed the role of tear gas as sickle cell victims “did not fall on the road and die” and put the increase in deaths down to patients not getting “the right care at the right time”. However suffers do not necessarily die instantly and the first 24 hours are considered critical in the treatment of the disease.

With this in mind it is worth noting new guidelines published last year by the Ministry of Health recommending an eight hour gap in seeing a specialist and receiving an initial dose of pain relief. This and other changes have been criticised for contributing to overall poor outcomes for patients.The Government rationale is they do not want “a section of population becoming addicts”. Other health officials have gone further, using language likely to stigmatise sufferers, by alleging that sickle cell patients have been “caught trafficking drugs and sleeping pills, inappropriately behaving with women and injecting themselves with illegally procured painkillers”.

Further delays in the delivery of pain relief and care is the continuing practice by security forces of interrogating and arresting patients who display tear gas symptoms. Doctor also face dilemmas as to how they treat and report injured protesters – in 2011 numerous doctors were imprisoned and tortured, for treating protesters. This includes Dr. Ali Al-Ekri who remains imprisoned after giving prominent interviews on civilian deaths and the effects of tear gas (video). Those doctors who remain employed have been compelled by orders of the health authorities to report potential protesters and risk losing their jobs if they deviate from official guidance.

Sickle cell deaths, it can be argued, provide a window into broader human rights issues impacting on and through Bahrain’s medical and social fabric that also have implications for medical neutrality. What the conflict between various media reports point to is a convergence of multiple factors – legal, ethical and political which are creating system of hypoxia that is increasing sickle cell deaths. If this is the case sickle cell deaths are merely revealing a set of practices inflicting stress, breathing difficulties, delays, neglect and physical abuse. In other words, tear gas is just one of many factors contributing to these fatalities. As Bahrain attempts to convince the international community about its commitment to reform it may have to focus attention on these systematic triggers of sickle cell crises. From an Irish perspective the suitability of Bahrain’s hospitals for the clinical training of students will soon be examined by the Irish Medical Council when they visit the Kingdom later this year. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) operate a satellite campus in Bahrain and concerns over the suitability of local facilities and the treatment of staff are being raised at national level.


Gearóid Ó Cuinn (@gocuinn) is an Academic Fellow at Lancaster Law School. His research examines public health governance and international human rights law. He is also Co-Director of Ceartas (Irish Lawyers for Human Rights) an independent non-profit which is currently examining Ireland’s human rights obligations via public sector involvement in the provision of medical education in Bahrain.

You can find out more about Gearóid’s research at

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