Archive for January 13th, 2009

The Crime No One Wants To Acknowledge

ORIGINAL CAPTION: A woman from Amnesty International is locked in a transparent suitcase, with stickers reading “Stop Human Trafficking! 60 Years of Human Rights,” in the baggage claim area at the airport in Munich. The human rights organization staged the action to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN. (Oliver Lang / AFP / Getty)

Spotlight tuned on human trafficking with Sunday event

The scourge of human trafficking takes many forms — from the illicit sex trade to forced labor. But no matter what it looks like, it’s modern-day slavery, say those who are working to combat it.

And it’s not happening just in distant locales. Trafficking cases have been increasingly disclosed and prosecuted in Kansas City and elsewhere in the Midwest, says Ilene Shehan, chief operating officer of Hope House, a Kansas City shelter.

The spotlight on the problem has been getting brighter, too, and Sunday brings National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

A free local event will include a panel discussion and a showing of two documentary movies, beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road.

Participants include Cynthia Cordes, an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City; Independence Police detectives Jason Young and Matt Fowler; and Carrie Rosetti of Hope House.

Two years ago the Independence Police Department and Hope House landed federal grants to step up enforcement efforts and to improve services for trafficking victims.

“When we talk about trafficking,” Rosetti said this week, “we’re trying to diminish the myth that it only happens overseas.”

In recent years, trafficking prosecutions have followed a raid on a string of massage parlors in Johnson County and the arrest of an operator of ice cream trucks, who employed Russian students.

The movies on the program, both directed by Michael Cory Davis, are “Cargo: Innocence Lost” (2007), about sex trafficking, and “Svetlana’s Journey” (2004), about the plight of a 13-year-old Bulgarian girl.

Steve Paul, senior writer and editor, 816-234-4762, paul@kcstar.com.

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Cheney’s Last Hurrah: No Light at the End of the Dark Side

Where is Dick Cheney? It’s been over a month since the inauguration and the White House HR office has been waiting….and waiting…and waiting for the former VP to appear for his exit interview and to hand over the keys to his office.

Finally, there is a knock at the door of the White House HR Office, and the man reputed to be the power behind the throne in the Bush administration is ushered into the room. He is flanked by secret service men on each side.

“Good to finally see you, sir!” the HR officer says. “I must ask you where have you been all this time? You’ve given interviews to the media but your office has been locked and all of your secret locations empty.

With a sardonic smile of self-satisfaction, Cheney responds, “I didn’t make it easy for you to find me, did I?”


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Sudhan @22:35 CET

Hamas’s violations are no justification for Israel’s actions.

By GEORGE E. BISHARAT | The Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2009

Israel’s current assault on the Gaza Strip cannot be justified by self-defense. Rather, it involves serious violations of international law, including war crimes. Senior Israeli political and military leaders may bear personal liability for their offenses, and they could be prosecuted by an international tribunal, or by nations practicing universal jurisdiction over grave international crimes. Hamas fighters have also violated the laws of warfare, but their misdeeds do not justify Israel’s acts.

The United Nations charter preserved the customary right of a state to retaliate against an “armed attack” from another state. The right has evolved to cover nonstate actors operating beyond the borders of the state claiming self-defense, and arguably would apply to Hamas. However, an armed attack involves serious violations of the peace. Minor border skirmishes are common, and if all were considered armed attacks, states could easily exploit them — as surrounding facts are often murky and unverifiable — to launch wars of aggression. That is exactly what Israel seems to be currently attempting.

Israel had not suffered an “armed attack” immediately prior to its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Since firing the first Kassam rocket into Israel in 2002, Hamas and other Palestinian groups have loosed thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, causing about two dozen Israeli deaths and widespread fear. As indiscriminate attacks on civilians, these were war crimes. During roughly the same period, Israeli forces killed about 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza by targeted killings, aerial bombings, in raids, etc., according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

But on June 19, 2008, Hamas and Israel commenced a six-month truce. Neither side complied perfectly. Israel refused to substantially ease the suffocating siege of Gaza imposed in June 2007. Hamas permitted sporadic rocket fire — typically after Israel killed or seized Hamas members in the West Bank, where the truce did not apply. Either one or no Israelis were killed (reports differ) by rockets in the half year leading up to the current attack.

Israel then broke the truce on Nov. 4, raiding the Gaza Strip and killing a Palestinian. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire; Israel then killed five more Palestinians. In the following days, Hamas continued rocket fire — yet still no Israelis died. Israel cannot claim self-defense against this escalation, because it was provoked by Israel’s own violation.

An armed attack that is not justified by self-defense is a war of aggression. Under the Nuremberg Principles affirmed by U.N. Resolution 95, aggression is a crime against peace.

Israel has also failed to adequately discriminate between military and nonmilitary targets. Israel’s American-made F-16s and Apache helicopters have destroyed mosques, the education and justice ministries, a university, prisons, courts and police stations. These institutions were part of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. And when nonmilitary institutions are targeted, civilians die. Many killed in the last week were young police recruits with no military roles. Civilian employees in the Hamas-led government deserve the protections of international law like all others. Hamas’s ideology — which employees may or may not share — is abhorrent, but civilized nations do not kill people merely for what they think.

Deliberate attacks on civilians that lack strict military necessity are war crimes. Israel’s current violations of international law extend a long pattern of abuse of the rights of Gaza Palestinians. Eighty percent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are Palestinian refugees who were forced from their homes or fled in fear of Jewish terrorist attacks in 1948. For 60 years, Israel has denied the internationally recognized rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes — because they are not Jews.

Although Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, it continues to tightly regulate Gaza’s coast, airspace and borders. Thus, Israel remains an occupying power with a legal duty to protect Gaza’s civilian population. But Israel’s 18-month siege of the Gaza Strip preceding the current crisis violated this obligation egregiously. It brought economic activity to a near standstill, left children hungry and malnourished, and denied Palestinian students opportunities to study abroad.

Israel should be held accountable for its crimes, and the U.S. should stop abetting it with unconditional military and diplomatic support.

George E. Bisharat is a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

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In Foreign Policy, a New Trio at the Top

With Hearing Today, Clinton, Kerry and Obama Begin to Realign Their Roles

Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 13, 2009; Page A01

When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) gavels the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to order today and welcomes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to her confirmation hearing as President-elect Barack Obama‘s nominee to be secretary of state, he will mark the ascendance of a new triumvirate dominating the foreign policy arena.

The hearing will also call attention to a particularly awkward tangle of relationships.



Hillary Clinton Hearing: Live Updates From Senate (VIDEO)

The Huffington Post/AP |   January 13, 2009 08:23 AM


Sen. Hillary Clinton appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today for a hearing on her nomination as Secretary of State. If the panel votes in her favor, she could be confirmed by the whole Senate by Inauguration Day.



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Obama inauguration to air in theaters

MSNBC pact puts coverage in 27 U.S. locations

By Paul J. Gough

Jan 12, 2009, 07:15 PM ET

NEW YORK — President-elect Barack Obama is on his way to the big screen, thanks to a deal between MSNBC and Screenvision that will put the news channel’s inaugural coverage in 27 theaters around the country.

Free tickets are being handed out via MSNBC.com to see the inauguration and parade from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. ET at the 27 theaters run by 11 exhibitor partners in 21 markets. Midday Tuesday isn’t necessarily a big movie time, so it helps to fill the theater — and boost popcorn and soda sales — at a time when it’s not usually busy.

That means that Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and other MSNBC and NBC personalities will play the big movie screen in addition to the usual MSNBC cable and satellite stream. MSNBC won’t be in high-definition until the second quarter, but both the channel and Screenvision say the quality will still be high.


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