Italian medical soldier jailed for saving cat’s life?

Doctor Barbara Balanzoni

Nearly a century ago, in World War I, British military top brass ordered a cat to be shot for treason.

Now, in 2013, an Italian woman doctor may have to spend a year or more in a military jail for saving a cat’s life.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Italian army reservist to be prosecuted for saving cat’s life in Kosovo

Barbara Balanzoni, who saved dying cat while serving as a medical officer at a Nato base, is charged with insubordination

John Hooper in Rome

Sunday 22 December 2013 15.35 GMT

A question is to be raised in the Italian parliament over the case of an army officer who was sent for trial at a military court last week for saving the life of a dying cat.

Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni, a reservist who has since returned to her civilian job as an anaesthetist in Tuscany, is charged with gross insubordination. She committed the alleged offence while serving as medical officer at a Nato base in Kosovo.

It is claimed that, by attending to the cat, Lt Balanzoni disregarded an order issued by her commanding officer in May 2012 forbidding troops at the base from “bringing in or having brought in wild, stray or unaccompanied animals”. She faces a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary.

Lt Balanzoni told the Guardian she intervened after receiving a call to the infirmary from military personnel, alarmed by the noises the cat was making. She said the cat – later named “Agata” – normally lived on the roof of a hut.

“There are lots of cats on the base,” she said. “In theory, they are strays, but in practice they belong there.”

Lt Balanzoni said the veterinary officer was in Italy when she received the call. “Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene.”

She said she found that the cat had been unable to deliver the last of her kittens, which was stillborn, and was certain to die. “If the cat had died, the entire area would have had to be disinfected. What is more, the surviving kittens could not have been fed. So they too would have died and created an even greater public health problem.”

Lt Balanzoni’s trial is due to open in Rome on 7 February. Her case has been taken up by Italy’s oldest animal defence association, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali and a question to the defence minister is due to be tabled in the Senate, the upper house of the Italian legislature, when parliament reassembles after the Christmas break.

See also here.

British government spying on German government

This video says about itself:

Next Media: US spying on foreign countries through embassies

30 Oct 2013

It was revealed recently that the National Security Agency secretly monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone and has also used the American Embassy in Berlin as a surveillance station, according to German media Spiegel.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the U.S. is tapping telephones and monitoring communications networks from surveillance facilities in US embassies and consulates across east and south-east Asia, including Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Yangon, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei.

Embassies are supposed to improve relationships between governments …

“Allied” behaviour between NATO allies: the United States NSA spying on all NATO allied governments and their citizens.

“Allied” behaviour between two NATO allies: sabre-rattling between Turkey and Greece.

“Allied” behaviour between two NATO allies who are also European Union allies: British and Spanish governments sabre-rattling about Gibraltar.

More NATO allies who are also European Union allies …

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Germany demands explanation from British ambassador over ‘secret listening post’ in Berlin

Foreign minister summons ambassador to provide explanation after report in The Independent

Nigel Morris, Tony Paterson

Berlin, Tuesday 05 November 2013

The German Government called in the British ambassador today to demand an explanation over concerns the United Kingdom operated a secret listening post from the roof of its embassy in Berlin.

Guido Westerwelle, its foreign minister, summoned Simon McDonald to provide an explanation following the exclusive revelations in The Independent today.

In a dramatic intervention, Berlin left no doubt over the seriousness with which it viewed the allegations, with its Foreign Ministry saying the ambassador was reminded that “tapping communication from an embassy would be violation of international law”.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman confirmed: “Her Majesty’s Ambassador attended a meeting with a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at their invitation this afternoon.”

David Cameron‘s official spokesman insisted the ambassador had been “invited”, rather than summoned, but would not discuss the content of the meeting

“We don’t comment on intelligence matters,” he said.

The diplomatic row came after senior figures from Ms Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic party said they were outraged by reports that GCHQ had installed a clandestine listening post on the roof of Berlin’s British Embassy.

Commentators pointed out that the embassy building in Berlin’s Wilhelmstrasse was merely 200 yards from the German parliament or Bundestag and MPs’ adjoining offices.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a home affairs specialist for Ms Merkel’s party said the revelation showed that it was high time for a “No Spy” agreement between London and Berlin. “Since disclosures about the Tempora spying programme, we have been aware of the extent to which the British carry out data surveillance,” he said. “The latest developments show that we should also reach a ” No spy” agreement with Great Britain,” he said in a reference to the agreement currently being negotiated between in Berlin and Washington.

Mr Bosbach said such an agreement would only work if both sides abided by a mutual obligation to refrain from spying on each other and that its would have to be subjected to regular tests to ensure that no one was cheating. “It is regrettable that such agreement should be necessary at all between partners, but total surveillance is completely unacceptable and action is needed,” he insisted.

But Hans-Peter Uhl – an MP in the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Ms Merkel’s conservatives – said he was sceptical about no spy agreements. “You can make many agreements with partners, including Great Britain, but their real value is uncertain,” he said. Mr Uhl said technical answers were needed as well as legal and political responses. “Our aim must be to develop Germany technology so that it can protect our data,” he said. ” There won’t be a perfect solution, but we have to make it more difficult for spies irrespective of where they come from,” he insisted.

Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper noted that at the recent EU summit at the end of October, David Cameron had joined the leaders other EU member states in condemning the US National Security Agency for bugging Ms Merkel’s mobile telephone for over a decade.

First it was the US — and now it turns out the UK might have been spying from its embassy in Berlin, too. Officials at Germany’s Foreign Ministry responded Tuesday by inviting Britain’s ambassador for a lecture: here. And here.

“United Stasi of America” light projection on USA embassy in Berlin: here.

How the British state now snoops on those who ask questions of it. The police attempt to get an activist to spy on fellow Cambridge students backfired – but the monitoring of citizens’ legitimate activity is now a familiar story: here.

Ex-NATO boss says bombing Syria is wrong, but should still be supported

This video from London, England says about itself:

London Street Protest Against Syria Intervention At Downing Street

Aug 28, 2013

Civil disobedience followed the anti-war rally outside Downing Street. People remained seated in the street resisting police calls to disperse.

You don’t have to be a pacifist to oppose a NATO attack on Syria; or such an attack, not by NATO, but by one or a few NATO countries. Many non-pacifist people oppose that. Even a former boss of NATO does. Though he draws a very strange conclusion from his opposition …

While even Donald Rumsfeld, George W Bush’s Iraq warmonger, now has doubts about attacking Syria … While even Jack Straw, sidekick of Tony Blair during the Iraq war, now has doubts about attacking Syria

Translated from Dutch (Protestant Christian) daily Nederlands Dagblad:

De Hoop Scheffer: attacking Syria won’t achieve anything

An attack on Syria won’t achieve anything. This says former Secretary General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer this Thursday in an interview with the newspaper De Volkskrant. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs believes that the Netherlands will nevertheless have to support such an attack politically, provided that the U.S. evidence is credible.

In 2003, the United States government convinced De Hoop Scheffer of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. On the basis of evidence produced by intelligence services the Dutch government promised political support. Afterwards it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction.

The US Americans say now they have conclusive evidence of a poison gas attack. “Seeing is believing. It is very clear that we, with Iraq in mind, should examine that evidence extremely carefully”, De Hoop Scheffer says in the newspaper.

According to the former Secretary General of NATO there is really no legal basis for an attack. Also, the ‘tap on the nose with cruise missiles’ which now is expected to happen, according to him will not contribute to ending the Syrian civil war. “It will complicate things rather than solving them.”

De Hoop Scheffer says the Netherlands should nevertheless support an attack, because “you can not remain neutral.” Germany, Britain, France and Germany [sic] have already indicated they support the USA. “With so much international consensus a Dutch minister can hardly dissent.” …

Posted: 29-08-2013 – 9:00

The strange logic of Mr De Hoop Scheffer is: something may be very wrong. However, if rich and powerful people support that very wrong course of action, you should still support it. Though a lawyer by education, De Hoop Scheffer seems not to know that during the post 1945 Nuremberg trials of nazi Germany officials, it was established that people should refuse to follow “superior orders” (“Befehl ist Befehl” in German) which are wrong. Even powerful people’s orders. “Might is right” should never ever be a guiding principle.

Unexploded NATO bombs kill Afghan civilians

This video says about itself:

Jun 13, 2012

Unexploded munitions a dangerous legacy of war in Afghanistan

(CNN) — The sounds of battle echo across a desolate stretch of land just east of Bagram Air Base, America’s biggest base in Afghanistan. As it turns out, it’s just battle practice.

“Training exercises on our big weapons to include our small arms,” explains Sergeant 1st Class Steve Cunningham, of the 381st Military Police Unit. “Just put some ammo down range. The Afghan people let us do this to make sure our weapons stay functional for future missions.”

He says rehearsals like this help his troops keep their skills sharp, adding that they’re skills U.S. troops need to keep Afghans safe.

But villagers living around the East River Range couldn’t disagree more — they argue U.S. military exercises here are putting them in danger.

From AFP news agency:

Unexploded NATO ordnance killing Afghan civilians

July 21, 2013, 11:09 pm

KABUL – Unexploded ordnance left behind by NATO troops as they leave Afghanistan is killing and injuring a rising number of civilians, a UN demining group said Sunday.

Mohammad Sediq Rashid, director of the Mine Action Coordination Centre, told AFP the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) must fully clean up military bases and firing ranges being vacated ahead of a final withdrawal due next year.

A total of 53 Afghan civilians, mostly children, have been killed or injured by unexploded ordnance found in or around ISAF bases and firing ranges since 2008, he said.

The 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, signed by most ISAF contributing nations, requires militaries to remove all unexploded ordnance from areas they vacate.

All ordnance, including those left by Soviet troops and mujahideen, caused 363 civilian casualties in 2012 compared to more than 240 between January and June 2013: a rise from an average of 30 a month to 40 a month so far this year, Rashid said.

“We believe if this problem is not sorted out, the casualty rate is very highly likely to increase because there are many people looking for unexploded ordnance to be sold as scrap metal,” he told AFP.

“I think the main reason (for this increase) is because of these firing ranges,” he said. “The evidence suggests there is a problem, this job is not being done properly,” he added.

He said weaponry left behind included unexploded mortars and grenades.

In January, three civilians were killed and five injured in a village in Kohi Safi district of Parwan province, adjacent to the largest US-run base Bagram, Rashid said.

His team found more than 400 items of unexploded ordnance in the area, where a military base had been abandoned and there was also a firing range nearby, he said.

In February, two teenage boys were seriously injured in Bamyan province.

“We deployed another team there and so far half of the job is done, more than 500 items unexploded ordnance were found, most of them munitions that belong to ISAF,” Rashid said.

“We think this is a major issue. There are hundreds of military bases… a considerable number of them will be closed, some of them will be handed over to local forces and some will be abandoned, so we think the casualties will increase,” he added.

ISAF told AFP in an emailed response to the accusations that “the safety of civilians is one of our highest priorities”.

But Rashid said the military was not doing enough.

“We want ISAF to pay attention to this. They are spending huge amounts of money and resources in this country. Why they are not paying attention to this issue?” he said.

Departing troops are leaving behind an explosive mess in Afghanistan: here.

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Afghans killed for demonstrating

Some of the people injured at the demonstration

From Associated Press:

Afghan police kill 8 at protest


05/08/2013 09:27:52 AM CDT

KABUL, Afghanistan—Afghan police were accused of killing eight protesters at a demonstration on Wednesday as the U.S.-led coalition said it had opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct by NATO troops during an encounter with insurgents.

Both incidents occurred in southern Afghanistan where violence has escalated in recent weeks following a Taliban announcement launching the start of its spring offensive.

Villagers in the town of Maiwand said Afghan police opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting raids that Afghan and NATO forces conducted in their village of Loye Karez two days earlier.

Accounts differed as to whether the eight killed were unarmed protesters or militants. Ten other people were wounded.

Kandahar Provincial Police Chief Gen. Abdul Raziq said Taliban insurgents had infiltrated the demonstration.

Abdul Qayyum, a 45-year-old demonstrator, disputed that, telling The Associated Press by phone that “there were no Taliban among the protesters.”

“The local people of Maiwand district are so upset and unhappy with the government and the foreigners because they are conducting night raids on the houses of local people,” he said. “With no reason, they are entering local houses and doing whatever they want. We don’t want all these things to keep happening to us.”

In the past, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has bitterly criticized raids on village homes, particularly those carried out during
the night.

In a separate incident, the NATO-led force said Wednesday that it had launched an investigation into allegations of misconduct following an internal report into an April 28 encounter with insurgents in Zabul province.

The statement did not offer more details and Lt. Tamarac Dyer, a spokeswoman for the coalition, told the AP in an email that “this is the only information we are able to release at this time due to the ongoing investigation.”

Afghan officials were not immediately available for comment.

The statement quoted U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as saying that the alliance takes “all allegations of misconduct by our personnel very seriously.” He pledged to “fully investigate the incident and keep the Afghan government informed.”

Karzai reveals US plan for permanent Afghanistan bases: here.

British troops will start serving longer tours in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said today: here.

Serbian three-year-old bomb victim commemorated

Milica Rakić

From B92 radio in Serbia:

April 17, 2013 | 17:42

Anniversary of death of 3-year-old victim of NATO bombing

Source: B92

BELGRADE — Today marks 14 years since the death on April 17, 1999, of three-year-old Milica Rakić, killed during a NATO air raid.

The child was fatally injured in the bathroom of her home, when a shrapnel from a cluster bomb hit her in the head.

The apartment building where her family lives is located some six kilometers from the military airport in the Belgrade suburb of Batajnica.

The traces of the damage done by the bomb are still visible on the facade around the bathroom window. The family decided not to repair the wall, as a reminder of the horrific crime.

The toddler’s death became the symbol of the suffering of the Serbian people during the war that NATO waged against the country in the spring of 1999.

This is a music video from Yugoslavia of a song, with English subtitles, about the death of Milica Rakić.

The EU has started accession negotiations with Serbia, using the membership talks as a form of blackmail to curb Russian influence: here.

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Afghan NATO bombing victims’ legal victory

This video is about the German Kunduz massacre in Afghanistan.

This video is also about the Nato airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan in 2009, which killed up to 142 people, mainly civilians. US forces launched the strike on fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban, following advice from German ground troops.

From Associated Press:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 3:19 AM

German court sees merit in Afghan airstrike case

BERLIN — A German court says a case brought by relatives of Afghans killed in a 2009 NATO airstrike ordered by German forces has merit, and it now plans to proceed with a review of evidence.

The Bonn regional court says it wants to see video material recorded by the American fighter jets ordered by a German colonel to bomb two stolen fuel tankers in the Afghan region of Kunduz.

The airstrike killed 91 Afghans and injured 11, most of them civilians, causing a political furor and the resignation of several senior officials in Germany.

The Bonn court said Wednesday that the two plaintiffs might be entitled to compensation if the German colonel is shown to have failed to protect civilians as required by the Geneva Conventions.

Photo Gallery: Afghan Workers Left in Danger by German Military: here.