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Iran welcomes Tajik proposal for railroad link to China

Press TV – May 6, 2012

Iran’s Minister of Road and Urban Development Ali Nikzad says Tehran welcomes a proposal by the Tajik government to connect the Iranian rail network to the city of Kashgar in China via Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

In a meeting with the visiting Tajik Minister of Transportation and Communications Nizam Hakim Oaf on Sunday, Nikzad said the 392 kilometers (km) long rail corridor will connect Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China.

“It will increase trade exchange and export volume, reduce transit costs among these countries and facilitate the transport of cargo and passengers in the region,” he added.

The Iranian minister also pointed to the 15,000 km railroad tracks in Iran, saying the country’s railroads are currently connected to Turkmenistan through Gorgan city, to Iraq via Shalamcheh border crossing, to Azerbaijan through Astara port city, and also to Afghanistan through Khaf-Herat railroad.

The Tajik minister, for his part, said the most complicated part of the project is a 270 km-long section that includes 16 km of tunnels and 47 bridges, and needs about USD 8-10 million for every kilometer of the line.

He added that the first phase of the project is 335.4 km and will cost USD 169.5 million while the second phase needs USD 96.4 million in investment. The final stage, Hakim Oaf said, which includes building anti-avalanche structures, will cost USD 30 million.

The Tajik minister of transportation and communications is currently in Iran to take part in a two-day international conference dubbed “South Khorasan, Transit and Development of East Axis.” The event will open in Iran’s eastern city of Birjand on Monday, April 7, attended by participants from 18 countries.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iran welcomes Tajik proposal for railroad link to China

State of Israel Dispossesses Negev Bedouin

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | May 6, 2012

Not content with dispossessing nearly 1 million Israeli Palestinians during the Nakba through exile and theft of their land, Israel is repeating this Original Sin against the Negev Bedouin, who’ve lived in their homes for decades.  The State now intends to expel the Bedouin from these settlements, where they’ve lived for several generations, and to appropriate the land for itself.  In many cases, there are plans hatched with the Jewish National Fund and Israel Lands Authority to Judaize the Negev by creating new Jewish settlements to replace the Bedouin.

There are indigenous tribal members who are fighting back with every means at their disposal.  But the odds and long and the deck is stacked.  Every legal appeal has been repelled by a judiciary that many liberal Zionists like to claim stands as a bulwark against the worst excesses of rampant Israeli nationalism.  This particular issue shows the limits of such optimism.

nuri el okbi
Nuri el Okbi, Negev indigenous activist, imprisoned for ‘being Bedouin without a license’

Ben Gurion University Prof. Oren Yiftachel provides historical background to this struggle:

Since its foundation, the State of Israel refuses to recognize Bedouin ownership over ancestral lands in the Negev.  Most of the Bedouins did not register their lands in 1921, as was required by one of the British laws; but neither did most other residents of Mandatory Palestine, including Jewish ones, carry out such registration. Sixty years later, the State of Israel made cynical use of this lack of registration to order to register most Bedouin lands as “State Lands”, thus making the Bedouins into “invaders” or “squatters” on their own ancestral land.

Some of the Bedouins have tried to challenge the system of dispossession. Notable among them is Nuri el-Okbi, long-time dedicated human rights activist. In recent years, Nuri and his brothers are conducting a series of law suits against the state, demanding restoration of the lands taken from them in the fifties.

A few weeks ago, a ruling rejecting the claims of the el-Okbis was made in an important case – one in which for the first time a professional support team was involved, including attorney Michael Sfard, geographer Oren Yiftachel and other experts. The proceeding lasted three years, during which dozens of witnesses testified and hundreds of documents and expert reports [were] submitted, attesting to the el-Okbis’ ownership of the land.

The judge, however, chose to render a harsh, confrontational ruling, sticking to earlier precedents and concluding that any land which had not been registered in 1921 is ipso facto the property of the state. The court relied mainly on legal precedents, hardly referring to the evidence presented. Therefore, it is very important to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court – the only body which is empowered to overturn precedents and strike out in a new direction.

At such a hearing, the judges would not be able to ignore the rich materials submitted by the el-Okbi Tribe, and the new legal arguments presented. In addition, such an appeal would strengthen the struggle of tens of thousands of Bedouins, who at this very moment are struggling against government plans to evict them to existing townships.

The government’s plan is based on the wrong assumption that Bedouins have no land ownership rights, and a Supreme Court appeal is now the only way to stop these draconian plans. Therefore, it is highly important to lodge an appeal on the el-Okbi Land Case, and make it clear that the Bedouin community is determined to struggle for their basic human rights – specifically to change a legal ruling which causes severe and completely undeserved damage to a large section of Israel’s citizen body.

Gush Shalom adds:

After a legal struggle lasting three years, the Be’er Sheba District Court rejected the appeal of Nuri al-Okbi, veteran activist for the rights of the Negev Bedouins. El-Okbi’s plea for recognition of ownership over the Al-Araqib lands, from which he and his family were evicted in 1951, was rejected out of hand by Judge Sarah Dovrat. The ruling has wide implications for Negev Bedouins in general, implying an overall denial of their rights over ancestral lands.

Further information

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on State of Israel Dispossesses Negev Bedouin

Netanyahu’s Role in Crafting the “Strategic Asset” Myth

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | May 6, 2012

From the Cold War to the War on Terror, Israel and its partisans have stressed the Jewish state’s role as a strategic asset to the United States in the Middle East. A recent Haaretz article, however, provides further evidence that this claim is little more than a self-serving myth.

In the article titled “David Ben-Gurion’s diary invites a rethink of Benzion Netanyahu’s extreme Zionist image,” Israeli historian and journalist Tom Segev reveals that the current Israeli Prime Minister’s late father offered his propaganda services to Ben-Gurion’s government on at least two occasions. Writes Segev:

In 1956, Netanyahu proposed that Ben-Gurion employ him as a public diplomacy (hasbara) functionary, in the guise of a history professor, at one of the universities in America. He sought to work under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, and tailor his activity to its policy.

Ben-Gurion’s diary notes Netanyahu’s experience in such “public diplomacy”:

He told of a series of meetings with American statesmen, among them Dean Acheson, who had been secretary of state in the Truman administration. It seems that he spoke with them primarily about the danger of Soviet penetration of the Middle East.

The diary doesn’t record whether or not Netanyahu got the job, but from 1957 to 1968 he worked as a professor in Dropsie College in Philadelphia. If his 1956 propaganda proposal had been turned down, it certainly didn’t deter him from trying again:

In June 1968 Netanyahu paid another visit to Ben-Gurion, by then in retirement, and once again proposed a plan for Israeli propaganda in America. We must take action against the American left, he said referring to what was then called the New Left. Almost all are communist Jews, Netanyahu told Ben-Gurion, and once more proposed concentrating Israeli propaganda on the danger of Soviet penetration of the Mideast: If the Soviet Union takes over the Middle East, it will control the United Nations, he suggested arguing, and praised two of the Israel supporters he had found on the right flank of the Republican Party: Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon.

But if Israel really had been such an obvious strategic asset to the U.S. during the Cold War, there wouldn’t have been any need for Netanyahu and other hasbara agents to remind the Americans of Israel’s usefulness in countering “the danger of Soviet penetration,” would there?

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’t hold your breath for Fukushima’s radiation toll

By Tilman Ruff | The Conversation | March 13, 2012

A year can be a long time in politics. But for the radioactive particles released from Fukushima’s damaged nuclear reactor, a year is just a moment in their life of hundreds or thousands of years.

So, what is the radiological situation at Fukushima one year after the disaster?

Thankfully, despite more than 9,000 aftershocks since the disaster – including more than 10 rating above seven on the Richter scale – there have been no major fires or explosions since March 2011 that could cause further catastrophic releases of radioactivity.

But the extensively damaged plants are still unstable and highly radioactive. This has restricted access and clean-up efforts, which will need to go on for many decades.

Though Japanese authorities declared they’d achieved a “cold shutdown” in December, an arbitrary definition was used: coolant water temperature was less than boiling, pressure inside the reactors was not raised, and the release of radioactive materials from the first layer of containment was below a specified level. But it didn’t mean the nuclear reaction inside the reactors had been stably shut down.


A number of investigations (some of which are still ongoing) have highlighted inadequacies in the design, prevention and response measures to deal with such a disaster. There is also a high level of dysfunction, cover-up, collusion and corruption in the nuclear industry – including its regulation and oversight.

How, for example, could sea walls designed to withstand a tsunami of only 5.5 metres be acceptable on a coast battered by a 38 metre tsunami in 1896 and a 29 metre tsunami in 1933?

How could cooling pumps, back-up generators and control systems not be required to be located on high ground?

How could spent fuel ponds, filled with vast amounts of long-lived radioactivity, safely be placed right of top of reactors? And without any special containment structures?

Independent, peer-reviewed research provides strong evidence that radioactive emissions from the Fukushima plants began after the earthquake and well before the tsunami struck. This is contrary to claims by TEPCO, the power company involved, and the Japanese government that it was the tsunami and not the earthquake that irrevocably damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant.

If leaks did begin as a result of the earthquake, as the evidence strongly indicates, this has profound implications for nuclear reactors everywhere – not only those located on coasts, within reach of tsunamis.

Poor protection

Serious gaps in measures to protect the population have also become evident.

One of the important protective health measures, which should be taken for those who have been or are likely to be exposed to significant reactor fallout, is the administration of stable iodine shortly before exposure, or within 24 hours. This blocks the uptake of radioactive iodine into the body, which causes thyroid cancer.

Yet the government admitted, in its June 2011 report to the IAEA, that because of dysfunctional decision-making, iodine was not administered to anyone in Fukushima, despite supplies reportedly being available.

Exposure to radiation

We now know the computer-based system designed to guide evacuations and sheltering (known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information or SPEEDI system) correctly predicted the initial path of the heaviest Fukushima fallout. The results were delivered to the government but not acted on, resulting in the people of some towns moving right into the path of the fallout.

Detailed mapping of the population’s radiation doses (from contaminants in the air, water and food) is still not publicly available. But hundreds of thousands of people still live in areas where they will receive doses higher – in some case several tens of times higher – than the world-wide recommended levels of no more than 1 milliSievert (mSv) of additional exposure per year.

The most contaminated areas were re-categorised by the Japanese government in December 2011. Residence is not precluded in areas where inhabitants would face radiation doses between 20 and 50 mSv per year.

Astonishingly, evacuation is not recommended from areas where residents are likely to be exposed to doses of up to 20 mSv per year. Even in the “bad old days” of the Soviet Union, those anticipated to receive more than 5 mSv annually after the Chernobyl disaster were resettled as a matter of priority. And those likely to receive more than 1 mSv annually had resettlement rights.

What happens next?

On January 26, 2012 the Japanese government released a roadmap of planned environmental remediation activities, to be completed over the following two years.

But the value of such measures has likely been oversold. Plans to remove the topsoil of farmland, for instance, will erode the viability of farming. And the problem of where to store, and how to isolate, vast amounts of contaminated material remains a major challenge.

One group particularly at risk of health harm is the large and growing number of workers required to help control, shut down and clean up the damaged nuclear plants.

By early December, more than 18,000 men had participated in clean-up work in Fukushima. These largely unskilled, inadequately trained, ill-equipped and poorly monitored day labourers performed the bulk of the dirty and dangerous work. Much of the contracting of these workers is dominated by criminal “yakuza” networks.

Even before the disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi complex was staffed by 1,108 regular employees and 9,195 day labourers. On average, the contracted day labourers receive two- to three-times the radiation dose of a regular worker but are not included in utility statistics. And there is no compulsory, centralised system for tracking cumulative radiation exposure or health outcomes of these workers.

Radiation levels are not always monitored. But when they are, and a labourer is known to be near the maximal permitted dose for workers, they may be sent away. The maximum dose is normally 20 mSv per year, but this was raised to 250 mSv after the Fukushima disaster. After the workers are despatched, there’s nothing stopping them from then going to work another nuclear plant.

On top of the many other health problems that the Fukushima disaster has caused, thousands of additional cancer cases will likely be diagnosed, but these will take some years to emerge.

This means, of course, that much of the radioactive fallout from Fukushima will continue to indiscriminately harm health for many generations to come.

Tilman Ruff is an Associate Professor, Disease Prevention & Health Promotion Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health at University of Melbourne.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Nuclear Power | , , , | 1 Comment

When NATO/US European ABM becomes a threat, it will be dealt with

By John Robles | Voice of Russia | May 4, 2012

On Thursday, at an international conference held in Moscow, attended by senior NATO and US officials, in the most unequivocal and harshest terms possible, the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Nikolay Makarov, laid out Russia’s position on the US’ plans for European missile defense, saying that a pre-emptive strike is possible on UN/NATO missile elements if the situation becomes aggravated. However he did add that this is an extreme solution according to RIA-Novosti.

Quote: “The placing of new first strike weapons in the south and the north-west Russia in order to counter ABM missile defense components, including the deployment of “Iskander” missile batteries in the Kaliningrad region, represent one of the possible options for the destruction of missile defense infrastructure in Europe.” Said General Makarov.

General Makarov stated that taking into account the; “…destabilizing nature of their missile defense system, namely the creation of the illusion of a first-strike-disarming capability to which a response can not be made, a decision on the preemptive use of existing weapons will be made during the exacerbation of the situation.”

NATO and the US have refused to cooperate on equal terms with Russia on ABM elements in Europe, in particular ignoring Russia’s proposals for a sectoral approach to missile defense. Agreements had been reached between Russia and NATO to cooperate on the draft European missile defense system at the summit in Lisbon in 2010, but due to the U.S. refusal to provide binding legal written guarantees as to the non-targeting nature of the system being deployed, meaning against Russia’s nuclear deterrent, the situation has continued to worsen. US claims at being open to cooperation are based on verbal promises which can in no way be taken seriously.

On Thursday the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Anatoly Serdyukov also commented on the situation saying that talks on European missile defense between Moscow and Washington are close to being at a dead end.

The International Conference organized by the Ministry of Defense and titled “The factor of Missile Defense in the the Formation of a New Security Zone” was attended by over 200 military representatives, professionals and experts from 50 countries, including 28 NATO member countries, and representatives of China, South Korea, Japan, the CIS countries and the Organization of Collective Security Treaty.

At the conference, while addressing U.S. and NATO officials, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said: “We can’t just reject the distrust that has been around for decades and become totally different people… Why are they calling on me, on my Russian colleagues, to reject distrust? Better look at yourselves in the mirror.” He later said Russia would not plan any retaliation unless the United States goes through with its plans and takes the third and final step and deploys defense elements in Poland which is estimated to happen no earlier than in 2018.

Soon after General Makarov’s statements, and most likely due to them, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner stated that the U.S. is ready to redouble efforts to find a compromise with Russia on missile defense.

When asked to respond to General Makarov’s comments Toner said; “I think we will redouble efforts to find a compromise on this issue and will strive for mutual understanding. Cooperation on missile defense exists and we intend to continue it for many years. We also intend to continue the search for a compromise.”

And in a move that in my opinion smells of censorship, the State Department official urged American journalists not to construe the comments made by Makarov as a return to the cold war era although the US through its actions is doing everything possible to keep the cold war era alive, unarguable proof being the very continued existence of NATO as a block.

According to Russian media the Deputy Head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, has stated that the European missile shield would be unable to protect Europe from a possible missile strike by Iran.

Mr. Gerasimov stated the following: “Elements of the US missile shield deployed in Romania are unlikely to be able to protect Southern Europe from any missiles launched from the South. As for the elements in Poland, they would be unable to protect Europe from any potential missiles coming from the South.”

What no one seems to be remembering when discussing the ABM shield is the phased approach and the fact that the West has and continues to refuse to provide the Russian Federation with written guarantees regarding the fact that, as the West claims, the shield is not directed against nor does it pose a threat to the strategic defensive or offensive military capabilities of Russia.

The phased approach is important to note because what it calls for is a strengthening and improving of all of the elements of the system once they are in place, in other words, an empty Trojan Horse is placed in the optimum location and is to be filled for attack at a later date, elements which are not a threat to Russia today will be when later phases are complete.

Ellen Tauscher, US Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense, summed it quite nicely in a conference posted on the US Department of State web site when she said; “It (missile defense cooperation) presents an opportunity to put aside the vestiges of the Cold War thinking, and move away from mutually assured destruction, toward mutually assured stability. At the same time, (she presents a contradiction) the United States is committed to all four phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach.” It is the later phases that will nullify Russia’s strategic potential.

She also states: “… we cannot agree to pre-conditions outlined by the Russian Government. We cannot agree to any limitations on our missile defense deployments.” This means that there are plans in place or the potential should be available to direct elements against Russia, as those are the only limitations sought by the Russian side.

Lastly she states that: “… we are able to agree, however, to a political statement that our missile defenses are not directed at Russia,” which has been the problem all along as the Russian Federation rightfully and justifiably has requested, time and time again, written guarantees as to what has been said verbally. What is the use, in reality, of a “political statement”? Politics change like the weather and the US, for all its short recorded history has pathologically gone back on political statements.

Lastly the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, again re-stated Moscow’s offer to jointly operate the ABM shield with NATO. He said a jointly run European missile defense system “could strengthen the security of every single country of the continent” and “would be adequate for possible threats and will not deter strategic security.”

Maybe it’s time for the US to let go of its cold war thinking? IT seems as if the biggest threat to regional, if not global security at present, is NATO itself.

Have a nice day.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on When NATO/US European ABM becomes a threat, it will be dealt with

Iran: Afghan pact with US will only increase violence

Al Akhbar | May 6, 2012

Iran’s foreign ministry on Sunday denounced a new strategic pact signed between Afghanistan and the United States, saying it would give rise to instability in the neighboring country.

“Iran is concerned about the strategic pact signed between Afghanistan and the US,” ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.

“Not only will the strategic pact not resolve Afghanistan’s security problems, but it will intensify insecurity and instability in Afghanistan,” he said.

His remarks came after US President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a deal with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, guaranteeing that occupying US forces will remain in the country after the majority withdraw in 2014.

However the deal, reached after months of painstaking negotiations, states that the US does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan as it has in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

Mehmanparast said on Sunday the solution to establishing security in Afghanistan was for foreign forces to leave.

He also said the pact was a source of “concern” for Iran as “the status of US military bases in Afghanistan is unclear and the security duties of US forces lack transparency.”

Iran regularly criticizes the presence of Western forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the Arab Gulf countries, calling for their immediate departure.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | 1 Comment