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Index December 2008

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Hours Before a Watershed Year

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Linked with WorldPulse Magazine.

Received by mail:
From: World Pulse
Date: 30/12/2008

Your deliberate action in these last hours of 2008 will lay the foundation to make 2009 a watershed year for women worldwide! Even The New York Times is taking notice of how women are the key for global change, and is recommending World Pulse to its readers.

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SOUTH AFRICA: Community Gardens Contribute to Food Security

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Published on IPSnews, by Stephanie Nieuwoudt, December 29, 2008.

A few years ago 66-year-old grandmother Regina Fhiceka and her family of five ate vegetables only once a week. They would survive on maize and bread the rest of the time – the cheapest food available in the poor township of Philippi, just 15 minutes from the affluent business district of Cape Town. But then Fhiceka got to hear about a municipal project where people were encouraged to get together to establish community gardens …

… “In the global economic downturn where food insecurity has increased due to soaring food prices, backyard and community gardens are some of the most basic survival strategies. Many people who live in the poor informal settlements have come here from rural areas. They turn to backyard farming because they survived as small farmers in the rural areas and they apply these skills in the cities.”

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Class is a Dirty Word

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Linked with Michael Parenti – USA.

An Interview with Michael Parenti by Jason Miller, published on Dissident, December 26, 2008.

… Yet there are a few political analysts and academics who dare to blaspheme against capitalism, which is the “God” this benighted land truly worships—despite the disgustingly hypocritical veneer of faux Christianity. Remember that Michael Parenti has one of the filthiest mouths you’ll ever hear. He dares to repeatedly spew profane diatribes against capitalism, the sacrosanct basis for our precious American Way of Life. Parenti has the chutzpah to derisively attack our system, which we all know is the best that’s ever been (or will be), by asserting that there are divisions amongst US Americans based on socioeconomic standing. And worst of all? He uses the “C” word! Somebody needs to give his mouth a good cleansing with a bar of Dial!

Parenti recently answered a few questions Jason Miller threw his way. Let’s see how much further he traveled on the road to perdition:

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The 2008 World Zero Evictions Days Video Contest

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You have until 31/12/08 to vote

Linked with International Alliance of Inhabitants IAI.

Received by mail:
From: International Alliance of Inhabitants IAI
Date: 23/12/2008

Launched on the 2008 World Zero Eviction Days, the first edition of the International Alliance of Inhabitants Video Contest, which supports the fight for the right to housing, ends on December 31st.

Thirteen videos from eight countries on all the continents are competing in two different categories (free technique videos, maximum 3 minutes, and documentaries, maximum 8 minutes). These works are vying for honour and the right to be shown during the 2009 WSF in Belem and during the main events of the Zero Evictions Campaign. It features works which dramatically or ironically expose the hidden face of the seemingly gleaming cities and brilliant policies, but which are often the result of evictions and destruction, which offer no valuable alternative to the people concerned.

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… and still New Orleans

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Published on YouTube these videos:

Corps of Engineers caught harassing citizens on Internet, 4.47 min, added December 16, 2008.

The Katrina Myth; the Truth about a thoroughly unnatural disaster, 10.51 min, August 29, 2008;



Brasscheck TV.

Our Politicians Are Still Not Listening

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Published on (first on Mail Today), by Colin Gonsalves, 20 December, 2008.

One would have thought that after the Bombay attack and the public outpouring of resentment against politicians, that the establishment would get its act in order. One would expect that careful thought would go into the making of proposals to combat terrorism and to keep the people secure. Instead what do we find? The same old clichés and the usual attack on human rights activists.

What the people of India expected, was that the governments would give careful thought to making the police a professional fighting force oriented towards the security of the ordinary citizens of India rather than operating, as it does now, as the protectors of politicians. They also expected that the police would eliminate from its ranks the use of torture and the vice of corruption, two aspects of policing today that make the general public both distrustful and fearful of the police …

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Tricky Headlines

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Linked with Thierry Meyssan – France.

Published on, by Thierry Meyssan, 27 August 2008.

France’s AFP News Agency Manipulated Statements by Swiss Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey and Accused her of Trying to Negotiate with Bin Laden. A deplorable action. AFP News Agency (Agence France Presse), one of major world information entities and whose bulletins serve of «raw material» to thousands of daily newspapers around the world, has used honest, sincere and intelligent statements by the head of Helvetic Diplomacy, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who gave a political speech betting on dialog among nations as a means to solve world conflicts, and to avoid wars among the countries and other calamities. AFP has outrageously distorted Calmy-Rey´s statements and misinformed the public. The AFP article reads like this: … (full text).

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The Bhagavad Gita – Part Three

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Linked with Savitri MacCuish – Netherlands.

Published on Savitri MacCuish’s homepage, by Trish Brown (first published in Australia Yoga Life), the article is not dated.

… Let us now continue together our journey through the chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita touches on some very deep and challenging concepts, and in Chapter 3 the Law of Sacrifice is introduced, not so much in the traditional meaning of forfeit or surrender, but in the deeper meaning of making something sacred. “All of life revolves around this great Law of Sacrifice” (Verse 16).

This sounds very similar to the stance taken by the well known author Joseph Campbell, but in The Dru Bhavagad Gita, a new, modern translation that was reviewed earlier in Australian Yoga Life (issue 12, p.71), this concept is developed along the lines of making your actions sacred, rather than forfeiting or going without something. The intention with which one acts is the secret ingredient for making your actions sacred.

When the dust is cleaned from the mirror, how clear is the image? …

… anything offered with pure intention and love is more potent than costly material items offered conditionally.

The only ‘cure’ is to realise the truth of our innate oneness and interconnectedness with life in all its myriad manifestations. Krishna invites Arjuna – and us – to rediscover our relationship with the universe in which we live.

Krishna proclaims the kingly science of self-realisation as the highest knowledge of all because it is the only thing that can permanently uproot the cause of all suffering. Once we realise our true nature we start to penetrate the core mystery of how the higher divine self can be both near and far and that we are a microcosm of that great mystery.

“Anything that is offered to Me with devotion and a pure heart,” says Krishna, “even if it is only a leaf, a flower, a piece of fruit or water, I will gladly accept” (9:26). In its beautiful simplicity, this verse shows that anything offered with pure intention and love is more potent than costly material items offered conditionally.

Arjuna is our role model. He is eager, attentive, pure of heart, full of courage and very determined to know the higher self and that which is truly divine.

In the next and final article, we journey with Arjuna as he moves from the longing for freedom to realising the pure joy of enlightenment.

Trish Brown has taught yoga for over Trish Brown has been teaching yoga for 20 years and has teaching diplomas with IYTA and DRU yoga. She is a senior tutor on the DRU teacher training program and has been studying the ancient scriptures with master teachers in Australia, UK and India. (full long text).

Human Rights … For Who?

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Published on (Share The World Resources), by Robin Willoughby, Dec. 10, 2008.

… In the sphere of peace and security, the richest nations have used their political and military clout to pursue a highly defined and specific human rights agenda, highlighting the importance of themes such as intervention, democracy and political freedom. This trend is illustrated by the creation of such bodies within the United Nations (UN) as the Peace Building Commission and Counter-Terrorism Committee, as well as by the growth in interventionist peacekeeping missions …

… New actors have moved into a combined human rights and humanitarian fold. The EU is developing a rapid reaction force as part of its human rights-based foreign policy, while NATO has incorporated a ‘structural intervention force’ to intercede in countries that are perceived as ‘failed states’, humanitarian emergencies or threats to peace and security. The World Bank has also entered into this new arena, incorporating a reconstruction and intervention arm into its operations, as witnessed in the aftermath of the South East Asian Tsunami in 2006.

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Joint Nordic initiative on Zimbabwe

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Published on The Norway Post, by Rolleiv Solholm, Dec. 22, 2008.


Missing HR activist Jestina Mukoko – Zimbabwe

In a joint statement the Foreign Ministers of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) say that the misrule of Robert Mugabe must come to an end and respect for human rights be reinstated in Zimbabwe. They say the Nordic countries have a long tradition of engagement with Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern Africa …

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Conor Cruise O’Brien, the irascible angel

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Linked with Conor Cruise O’Brien – Ireland (1917 – 2008).

Published on openDemocracy, by Neal Ascherson, Dec. 22, 2008.

The great Conor Cruise O’Brien climbed unsteadily onto a table in the senior staff club of Edinburgh University. We had all spent most of the day with him, arguing (it was in the late 1970s) about Scottish devolution. Conor had been obstinate, witty and useless,

his phobia about all European nationalisms rendering him deaf to any suggestion that these demure Scottish aspirations were not yet another blood-and-soil crusade for ethnic exclusivity. There had followed a big lunch with much quaffing and mockery. He was meant to go to a waiting taxi, to conduct an interview with Radio Clyde. Instead, he mounted the table, and shouted in a high, ringing voice: “I am Griboyedov!” …

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War babies and Bangladesh’s tragedy of abortion and adoption

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Victory’s silence

Linked with Bina D’Costa – Australia.

Published on, by Bina D’Costa, December 2008.

Bangladesh celebrates its birth on 16 December 1971 – now celebrated as Victory Day, a day of reminiscence for citizens of the new nation. But many memories are troubling, especially those of the ‘war babies’ – children born during or after the War of Liberation, as a result of the often-planned and systematic rape of Bangladeshi women. If we turn back the pages of Bangladesh’s history, we can get some rare glimpses of the marginalised; but there is still complete silence when it comes to the babies of war …

… An erased past:

Some of the interviews conducted by this writer suggest that social workers and medical and humanitarian practitioners often employed their own personal strategies, based on their understanding of the realities that surrounded them. Ibrahim, for instance, supported the women in their silence. M encouraged and expedited international adoption. B implemented state policies regarding women’s reintegration. And Davis carried out the abortion programmes according to the state’s policies.

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Islamic Revivalism in Muslim World

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Linked with Fethullah Güllen – Turkey, and with The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Thought and Practice.

Published on Islam and Democracy, by Spogmay Kakar, December 5, 2008.

… Eickelman observes the twentieth century as a time of change for the Muslim world just as the Protestant Reformation was for Christianity. He explains that, “the combination of mass education and mass communication is transforming this world [...] from North Africa through Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and across the Indonesian archipelago (82).” He further elaborates that, “the faithful – whether in the vast cosmopolitan city of Istanbul or in Oman’s tiny, remote al-Hamra oasis – are examining and debating the fundamentals of Muslim belief and practice in ways that their less self-conscious predecessors would never have imagined (82).” This is what Eickelman means by Islamic Reformation. The proliferation of technology and education has brought substantial changes in Muslim world.

Literacy rate has risen in Oman, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and many other Muslim countries; education has proliferated to every city, town, and village. Adult literacy rate has increased as well. He also explains that the market for religious and non-religious books have improved a lot. He mentions and one book that is central to the Islamic Reformation “The Book and the Qur’an: A Contemporary Interpretation (1990),” written by Muhammad Shahrur, who is a Syrian civil engineer.

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European Community’s Development and External Assistance Policies

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Annual Report 2008 on the European Community’s Development and External Assistance Policies and their Implementation in 2007

Published on, by Risto Karajkov, December 15, 2008.

The European Commission (EC) annual reports on would-be members brought a mixture of hope and bitterness in the Balkans, after being published early last month. Brussels regularly assesses the progress of aspirant countries in meeting the conditions for membership and hands out the carrot or the stick accordingly. Countries are commended for progress and promoted in the process, or criticized for lack of reforms and passed for rewards …

… It is often said every country runs the race alone. Alas, that’s way too simple. There is a dispute of how many runners there actually are in the case of Serbia and Kosovo, and the referee, who watches the finish line, is also not sure. They are bound to trip over.

Commissioner Rehn said recently that 2009 could be an important year for the Balkans, provided optimistic predictions come true. It would be about time. Croatia aside, all the others are in a race with a finish line nowhere in sight. (full text).

Senator Calls for Ongoing Investigation of CIA Torture Techniques

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Published on political affairs pa, by PA Staff Writers, 18 dec. 2008.

An outside commission with subpoena power should be empowered to examine the role of the CIA in authorizing and using torture on detainees held by the US government after 9/11, stated Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show Dec. 17, 2008 …

… The Senate report also hinted that the CIA’s interrogation program included torture as authorized by top administration officials.

Levin told Maddow that his committee’s finding will be turned over to the next Department of Justice, as the current Attorney General seems uninterested in looking at the evidence “objectively.”

See the video clip: Levin on The Rachel Maddow Show, 8.00 min. (full text).

Defamation of religion and anti-extremism laws

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… global free speech rapporteurs concerned

Received by mail:

From: HREA – Human Rights Education Associates and its Newsletter
Date: 16/12/2008

(an OSCE Press release) … download here the full text of the declaration.

GENEVA/PRETORIA/VIENNA/WASHINGTON DC, 15 December 2008 — The freedom of expression rapporteurs of the United Nations, the OSCE, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) released a joint declaration today on defamation of religions, and anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation.

After meting on 9 December in Athens, the four media freedom ‘watchdogs’ adopted their annual international mechanism for promoting freedom of expression. Toby Mendel, Senior Director for Law at ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression, co-ordinated the drafting process.

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Human rights defenders remain under threat

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Received by mail:

From: HREA – Human Rights Education Associates and its Newsletter
Date: 16/12/2008

(an OSCE Press release).

VIENNA, 15 December 2008 – Human rights defenders continue to face serious threats in countries across the OSCE region, concludes a report published today by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

“Some of the report’s findings are alarming. The threats human rights defenders still face in many OSCE countries are unacceptable in a democratic society,” said Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, ODIHR’s Director.

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Journalists abducted in Zimbabwe

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Published on Zimbabwe

  • by Sokwanele, Dec. 14, 2008: This sms just received: A  quiet and honest journalist was abducted from his home in Harare today. His name is Andrisson Manyere. There is extreme concern. He is an accredited freelance journalist.
  • by LocalNews, Dec. 15, 2008: Prominent Zimbabwean human rights activist, Jestina Mukoko and two senior MDC officials are being held in a remote location in Kariba and ZANU PF plans to use them as ransom to force the MDC to enter into an all inclusive government, a source tellsMetro. “They are still alive,at least for now”, the source said, but refused to reveal the exact location where the captives are kept but told us that its a remote location in the Kariba area where the government also keeps anyone suspected of espionage,working for the CIA or M16 … (full text).

… and many more political texts on the same page.

The Right to Health and Health Workforce Planning

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A Guide for Government Officials, NGOs, Health Workers and Development Partners

Linked with Chukwumuanya Igboekwu – Nigeria.

Published on Physicians for Human, by Health Action AIDS, 91 pdf-pages, March 2008.

(page 85/91: … XII. Sustainability

Sustainability and human rights – continuing progress:

The right to health provides a solid platform on which to build sustainable, workable health workforce plans. Emphasizing, as it does, both “progressive realization” and avoiding “retrogressive measures” (moving forward continuously and not sliding backwards), the right to health is inherently concerned with ensuring sustainable, accessible and equitable health provision. For a health workforce plan to be faithful to human rights, and the right to health in particular, it must take as a non-negotiable principle that its implementation will result in health services that are progressively of higher quality and increasingly available to all population groups. Such continuing progress is consistent with human rights obligations. Commitments made by both national governments and international donors must reflect this understanding and account for the fact that once services have been implemented, withdrawing them is a violation of people’s right to health. This must be borne in mind when setting up programs and proposing funding so that initial investments are considered in light of the principle of non-retrogression. Backsliding is not an option.

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Why I am a Christian

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Linked with Theo Hobson – England, and with John Milton’s vision.

Published on his own Homepage, by Theo Hobson, March 23, 2008.

… Christians tend to be bad at explaining themselves in a clear, intelligent way. This is because faith is highly personal, and rather complex: to speak about it goes against the grain of media discourse, where personal writing is fine as long as it’s trivial, affected, “witty”. Those of us who want to see a more intelligent religion debate should risk the charge of self-importance, and try to explain ourselves …

… It should also be said that I am a rather eccentric Christian in that I’m sceptical of all conventional forms of church. I dislike the idea of a big holy club, with rules about morality and doctrine, and political weight. All this gets in the way of the vision of the Kingdom; it ties it to reactionary political habits, and it ties it to the sort of legalism that Jesus rejected.

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After Guantánamo

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The Case Against Preventive Detention

Linked with Kenneth Roth – USA, with Human Rights Watch HRW,  with Cop violence up due to the culture of impunity, and with The Price of Rights.

Published on Foreign Affairs, by Kenneth Roth, May/June 2008.

These days, it seems, everyone wants to close Guantánamo. In January 2002, the Bush administration created a detention camp at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to imprison what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called “the worst of the worst” terrorism suspects. The facility has since become an embarrassing stain on the United States’ reputation …


Many countries grapple with the dilemma of balancing national security and the rights of the accused. Authoritarian states have concluded that the best way to address serious security threats is to summarily detain the people they consider the most dangerous suspects. Malaysia and Singapore, for example, have unabashedly embraced such preventive detentions. In both countries, the government can hold suspects for renewable two-year periods without charge or a meaningful court appearance based on the mere suspicion that they might endanger national security. Islamists, Communists, and political dissidents have been imprisoned on these grounds. One Singaporean dissident, Chia Thye Poh, alleged to be a Communist Party member, was detained without charge or trial for 32 years …


Criminal prosecution of terrorism suspects is not a perfect system. Not all suspects can be prosecuted. Sometimes evidence will be so tainted that it fails to meet even the low threshold of a conspiracy or a material-support prosecution, or the government will argue that established court procedures for protecting sensitive intelligence are insufficient. In these cases, the government will have to let the suspects go. Although they might still be deported (if they are foreign nationals and not at risk of torture when they return to their home countries) and almost certainly would be placed under intensive surveillance, releasing them certainly has its risks.

But a policy of preventive detention poses greater dangers. One lesson of Guantánamo is that when the United States begins detaining suspected terrorists on the basis of thin and untested evidence, it inevitably ends up detaining some innocent people. Particularly when combined with the government’s insistence on using harsh interrogation techniques, such wrongful imprisonment generates resentment and a justified sense of victimization. As the British government discovered from its detention of IRA suspects in the 1970s, the resulting animosity is a boon to terrorist recruiters and arguably generates more terrorists than the detentions are stopping.

Preventive detention also discourages citizens from cooperating with counterterrorist investigations, a crucial factor in uncovering terrorist plots. Counterterrorism experts report that information gleaned from interrogating detainees is far less important than information delivered by members of the general public who see something suspicious and report it. For example, information given by relatives of the perpetrators and the general public was key to the arrest of those responsible for the attempted bombings in London on July 21, 2005. Similarly, a British Muslim who found an acquaintance’s behavior suspicious led the police to discover the plot to bomb several transatlantic flights using liquid explosives in August 2006. Because sympathy for the victims of abusive counterterrorism policies tends to be greatest in the communities that give rise to terrorists, policies such as preventive detention jeopardize this vitally important source of intelligence.

Finally, detaining suspects without trial as part of the “global war on terrorism” allows them to glorify themselves as combatants without facing the stigma of a criminal conviction. Khalid Sheik Mohammad’s comments before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal reveal that he craved the “combatant” label. In broken English, he declared, “We consider we and George Washington doing same thing. . . . So when we say we are enemy combatant, that right. We are.” By detaining such suspects as warriors rather than stigmatizing them as criminals, the Bush administration is effectively reading from al Qaeda’s playbook. It would be far better for a convicted suspect to face the likes of U.S. District Court Judge William Young. On sentencing Reid, the “shoe bomber,” Young berated him for being not “a soldier in any war” but “a terrorist” – a “species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.”

Before discarding the U.S. criminal justice system, policymakers should keep in mind the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The terrorist threat will undoubtedly challenge the criminal justice system, but the system’s track record, the quality of its personnel, and its time-tested procedures make it an infinitely better option than preventive detention. Rather than countenance so radical an exception to basic due process rights, Americans should remain confident in the strength and resilience of their criminal justice system. (full long 4 pages text).

Cop violence up due to the culture of impunity

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Linked with Kenneth Roth – USA, with Human Rights Watch HRW, with After Guantánamo, and with The price of rights.

Published on, December 12, 2008.

ISTANBUL – The 80-page report, ’Closing Ranks against Accountability – Barriers to Tackling Police Violence in Turkey,’ reveals that at least 28 cases of police violence since June 2007 and seven police shootings since June have been fatal.

’Complaints have increased and convictions have decreased since 2007, according to data. If governments do not take action to change that, then it means the reforms are in trouble,’ says Kenneth Roth.

The latest amendments to Turkey’s police laws are a contradiction to the government’s reform agenda to prevent cases of torture and other human rights violations, a recent human rights report has revealed.

These laws, in combination with a failure to prosecute abusive police officers, have also led to a rise in police violence, the report also said.

“There is an entrenched culture of impunity, especially among police officers,” said Kenneth Roth, head of the New York-based Human Rights Watch in a press conference. “We call on the government to remove the culture of impunity, which is the main reason behind the increase in police misconduct and violence,” Roth said.

The 80-page report, “Closing Ranks against Accountability Ğ Barriers to Tackling Police Violence in Turkey,” has revealed at least 28 cases of police violence since June 2007 and seven police shootings since June 2008 have been fatal … (full text).

John Milton’s vision

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Linked with Theo Hobson – England, and with Why I am a Christian.

Published on openDemocracy, by Theo Hobson, Dec. 9, 2008.

To honour the English writer John Milton on the 400th anniversary of his birth is to acknowledge his persistent otherness in the country he tried to transform, says Theo Hobson.

There are, according to the received wisdom of our day, two sides to the greatness of John Milton, who was born in London on 9 December 1608. First and foremost he was a great poet (despite being religious). Also, he was a champion of liberty; a key architect of the English-British tradition of liberalism (despite being religious). It is principally the latter assumption that I want to discuss, though I will come back to his literary reputation.

The idea is that he helped to put his country on the path to an enlightened constitution, in which such things as freedom of the press are firmly enshrined. Liberty is “the greatest gift that Britain gave the world”, in the words of prime minister Gordon Brown; and John Milton was a founding father of this noble tradition (Brown mentioned Milton in his 25 October 2007 speech about liberty) …

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The Price of Rights

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(also in espanol).

Linked with Kenneth Roth – USA, with Human Rights Watch HRW, with After Guantánamo, and with Cop violence up due to the culture of impunity.

Published by Human Rights Warch HRW (and published in The Guardian), by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, December 10, 2008.

… In situations of serious abuse, the human rights movement often cannot rely on local courts to enforce rights. Abusive governments have long figured out that killing, corrupting or compromising a few judges and lawyers is enough to secure impunity for human rights abuse. Instead, the human rights movement has developed the capacity to put intense pressure on abusive governments with the goal of forcing them to resist the temptation to violate human rights.

Most important is the power to shame. Today, in light of the movement set in motion by the declaration, no government wants to be known as a human rights violator. By carefully investigating, reporting, and publicising misconduct, human rights groups can subject abusive governments to intense public opprobrium. Because that embarrassment undermines legitimacy at home and abroad, governments will go to great lengths to avoid it. They often begin by denying the problem or attacking the messenger, but ultimately they recognise that the key to their public-relations problem is to acknowledge and change abusive practices.

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