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Debunking the Suicide for 72 Virgins Myth

| Ascertain the Truth |

One of the biggest Israeli propaganda myths is the invention of 72 virgins as a Muslim reward for suicide. This has been repeated to the western world so often that most people accept it as fact. The media wants us to believe that there cannot be anything wrong with Israelis – who must be seen as eternal victims – to cause anyone to commit suicide as a means of striking back at them.

Heavens no!

The motivation for suicide bombings in Israel has nothing to do with Jewish treatment of Palestinians. Instead it has to do with the evilness of the Palestinians and their religious beliefs. This is the “bill of goods” they sell the western mind while at the same time faking most, if not all, the “Islamic suicide bombings” to blame on Muslims.

It is a sick and despicable mind that feels that it has a right to attack, steal, murder and cause harm to others, but if the others dare fight back they are wrong and therefore terrorists. This one sentence describes Israeli thinking and their policies. They believe they are superior and entitled and they have a right to do anything to other people and those people better not retaliate. As a result, the Israelis have done more by way of propaganda to take the legitimate fight of those who are against their wrongs and demonize them. We now have this ongoing enormous propaganda campaign to make Palestinians and anyone belonging to the same religion as Palestinians, to be seen as mindless terrorists and suicide bombers with no cause other than to do evil. And, of course, vicariously receiving 72 virgins as a reward in paradise for committing suicide to kill a few Israelis.

The Qur’an and valid authentic Hadiths are very clear about what happens to anyone who commits suicide. According to Hadiths:

Committing Suicide is a Major Sin:

Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23, Number 445: Narrated Jundab the Prophet said, “A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.”

Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 73: Narrated Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak: ”And if somebody commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection.

There are many more Hadiths condemning suicide but I would also like to reference the Qur’an. Amongst the many verses against suicide here is one that makes it very clear that the taking of one’s life is strongly prohibited and that there is no reward for anyone who does that.

But let there be amongst you Traffic and trade by mutual good-will: Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily God hath been to you Most Merciful! If any do that in rancour and injustice,- soon shall We cast them into the Fire: And easy it is for God. Qur’an 4:29 – 4:30

So where did the reward of 72 virgins in paradise for suicide come from? Are there any Islamic teachings we can point to endorsing that?
When we look at the highest authority in Islam, the Quran, we find nothing in it endorsing rewards for suicide. Instead we find the strongest condemnation with severe punishments for those who commit suicide. When we look at Hadiths, which after the Quran is second in authority in Islam, we find nothing in the authentic Bukhari and Muslim Hadiths endorsing suicide. Instead we find strong condemnation for it.

Searching what Muslims refer to as Gharib Hadiths (weak or strange Hadiths) we do find something about 72 wives but not virgins. The Hadith we find is the following:

Sunan al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2562 says:

The Prophet Muhammad was heard saying: “The smallest reward for the people of Paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana’a [Yemen]”

This is as a weak Hadith that has no Sanad — line or sequence of narration. Although listed in an authoritative collection, this particular Hadith has technical weaknesses in its chain of transmitters and is therefore not considered impeccable. As a result, Muslims are not required to believe in it. Even if the Hadith was true, there is nothing about it that says that if someone commits suicide they would get 72 virgins in paradise.

Muslims know that the description of paradise or heaven in Hadiths and Quran is allegorical. If not, then Allah would have allowed us to take our bodies with us when we die. But the vehicle by which we could enjoy the physical things (especially 72 virgins  ) mentioned as being in heaven, is left behind here in this world to rot and decay away. So we know for a fact that for heavenly rewards, physical things of this world are used to describe things totally non-physical. A Hadith to keep in mind is as follows:

The Prophet said, “Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in Allah’s Cause).” (Sahih Bukhari, 4:52:53)

I am sure that 72 physical virgins are a small part of the whole world to be given to someone who has experienced paradise to come back to. Yet the prophet (saaw) has said NOBODY who experiences paradise would want to come back to this world even for everything this world has to offer. If a man was getting 72 physical virgins in heaven, then surely he would get more than that from the world and would be enticed to come back.

On the other hand, martyrdom in war for an Islamic cause is praised extensively as in the above Hadith. The Quran teaches (3:169):

“Do not consider those killed [while engaging] in God’s cause dead. Rather, they live with their Lord, who sustains them!”

The Quranic idiom, “killed while engaging in God’s cause” is a reference to martyrdom for acting on being a Muslim, whether as a persecuted and powerless individual or as a warrior fighting in defense of Islam, country, justice, freedom and peace. A Hadith in Sunan al-Tirmidhi states that in contrast to the suicide, the martyr does not even feel the pain of his death (Fada’il al-Jihad, 26:1663). He is also forgiven all his sins and has the right to intercede on behalf of his own family to enter Heaven. So, suicide is forbidden, killing of noncombatants is forbidden, but martyrdom is rewarded with entrance into heaven and, therefore, with great material rewards in the world to come.

What I wrote about Islam’s position on suicide is not secret, esoteric knowledge. It is common knowledge well known and can easily be discerned by anyone doing a very elementary study of the religion. Yet what we have today is the knee jerk, unconscious association of the religion of Islam with suicide bombings. Even to the point where claims of getting 72 virgins are an Islamic prize offered for suicide. This is a cruel and ugly lie about Islam that has been so widely perpetuated that it is accepted as fact.

Corrections to the association of Islam with suicide and the killing of innocents are not made in the media. Instead it is glued even tighter by reporting that NOT a person disobeying Islam, but a Muslim imbued with Islamic religious fervor committed a suicide.

We have a media that is too eager to enlighten and spread the word about crazy Muslims killing themselves for 72 virgins. We read and hear everyday about suicide bombers in Iraq killing themselves and other Iraqis with them. We are to believe that a religion that strongly condemns suicide, promises severe punishment in hell for those who commit it and has never had a strategy of using suicide to fight wars until recent contact with Israelis — somehow has spawned the most suicide killers on earth. I don’t believe for a minute that the reports about suicide killings in Iraq are true. Many independent journalists and eye witnesses have reported how Mossad and US occupational forces have staged incidents to make them appear to be Iraqi suicide killings. In fact there are many cases where the perpetrators have been caught.

Oddly enough in this saga about suicide killings we read the following headlines from Israeli newspapers: “Fewer officers to be armed as suicide becomes IDF’s top killer!!!” which you can read more about at the following links:

The leading cause of death for the Israeli Defense Forces is suicide!!! Well, well it looks like suicide is really an Israeli problem and not a Muslim one. Their IDF commit far more suicides than what is being blamed on Muslims. We already know that Israel leads the world in trafficking prostitutes and that there are hundreds of brothels in Tel Aviv. Israel has no law against trafficking people, and no law against prostitution. Who knows, maybe having access to one prostitute at a time on a soldier’s salary was not enough for those IDF soldiers. Maybe these soldiers believed the lies told about Muslims and were trying to get their 72 virgins too. See how strong an effect Jewish lies have on their own people.


Related:

Killing Suicide

By WILLIAM BLUM | CounterPunch | February 5, 2014

Suicide bombers have become an international tragedy. One can not sit in a restaurant or wait for a bus or go for a walk downtown, in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Russia or Syria and elsewhere without fearing for one’s life from a person walking innocently by or a car that just quietly parked nearby. The Pentagon has been working for years to devise a means of countering this powerful weapon.

As far as we know, they haven’t come up with anything. So I’d like to suggest a possible solution. Go to the very source. Flood selected Islamic societies with this message: “There is no heavenly reward for dying a martyr. There are no 72 beautiful virgins waiting to reward you for giving your life for jihad. No virgins at all. No sex at all.”

Using every means of communication, from Facebook to skywriting, from billboards to television, plant the seed of doubt, perhaps the very first such seed the young men have ever experienced. … Full article

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia | , , , | 2 Comments

Prosecution of Forced Sterilizations in Peru Still Possible

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Alfonso Ramos (left) shows a newspaper reporting the death of his sister Celia in Piura due to forced sterilisation. Micaela Flores (centre) and Sabina Huillca are sterilisation victims from Cusco. All three have been waiting for justice for 17 years. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Milagros Salazar | IPS | February 6, 2014

Shelving the case of the forced sterilization of more than 2,000 women in Peru during the Alberto Fujimori regime was a surprise move by the prosecutor in charge. What happened? An IPS investigation found that legal avenues to pursue justice have not been exhausted.

On Jan. 24, prosecutor Marco Guzmán announced an end to the investigation of forced sterilizations carried out in Peru between 1996 and 2000. He said he would not pursue criminal charges against Fujimori (1990-2000), three former health ministers and other officials accused of being responsible for the crime.

“The doors were padlocked. They carried me off in a stretcher, tied my feet and cut me.” — Micaela Flores

“They took us in trucks. We got in quite innocently and contentedly. But then we heard screams and I ran… The doors were padlocked. They carried me off in a stretcher, tied my feet and cut me,” Micaela Flores, then a mother of seven from Anta province in the southern region of Cusco, told IPS.

On that occasion about 30 women went to the health center, duped by a campaign offering general check-ups, she said.

Guzmán has decided to prosecute only health personnel in the northern department of Cajamarca. The sterilizations were part of the Voluntary Surgical Contraception Program (AQV – Anticoncepción Quirúrgica Voluntaria), created by Fujimori and his government to bring about a drastic reduction in the birth rate in the poorest parts of the country, especially among rural Quechua-speaking women.

Guzmán, as head of the second supra-provincial prosecutor’s office, assumed the case in July 2013 after the investigation was reopened in November 2012.

There are currently 142 volumes of evidence in this longstanding case. In May 2009 the prosecution shelved the probe into the former ministers and other officials for the first time, in spite of repeated urging for its completion from the inter-American human rights system.

In 2003, the Peruvian state signed a friendly settlement agreement before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the case of Mamérita Mestanza, who died in 1998 as a result of a poorly performed tubal ligation procedure done without her consent.

The government promised to pay an indemnity to her family and investigate and bring to trial the government officials who devised and implemented the forced sterilization campaign.

After years of delays and foot-dragging, human rights organizations had their hopes raised when Guzmán showed interest in investigating Fujimori’s command responsibility for the generalized, systematic practice of sterilizations.

In late November the prosecutor said there were “indications of the alleged participation of Alberto Fujimori in the crimes,” and expanded the investigation into the cases of Mestanza and others.

Rossy Salazar, a lawyer with the women’s rights organization DEMUS who is representing the victims, told IPS that this statement by the prosecutor appears on page 60277 of the file as part of a report on the case addressed to Víctor Cubas, the prosecutor who coordinates all human rights cases.

In an interview with IPS, Guzmán acknowledged having said “there were indications that Fujimori had participated.” At that point he had interviewed over 500 victims, mainly in the northwestern department of Piura and in Cusco, he said, although in his latest 131-page decision he states he only interviewed around one hundred.

Guzmán was also in possession of evidence that the program had targets, incentives, and even sanctions for personnel who did not fulfill sterilization quotas, according to documents obtained by government agencies that investigated the facts of the case.

DEMUS invoked these official documents in an appeal against the prosecutor’s decision to shelve the case, which it presented Jan. 28 before the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

The appeal refers to four letters from the former health minister, Marino Costa, to Fujimori in 1997. In one document the minister reports to the president on the increased numbers of AQV operations performed and says “by the end of 1997 our total production should be fairly close to the target.”

IPS asked Guzmán: “After determining in November that there were indications of Fujimori’s participation, why did you absolve him from responsibility so soon afterwards?”

“In order to examine him I had to interrogate him. I went to interrogate Fujimori and he answered some questions, but not others. For some he invoked the right to silence. Then his defense lawyer gave me a number of documents. This was important because Fujimori had never been questioned about this case before,” he said.

Fujimori’s interrogation on Jan. 15 in the Barbadillo prison, where he is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses, lasted less than three hours. One week later, Guzmán closed the case against the ex president.

“Was your interview with Fujimori decisive for determining whether he participated in the crimes?” persisted IPS.

“It was taken into consideration, but it was not decisive. The decisive thing is the legal package I have to apply… There is no legal support for imputing guilt,” Guzmán said.

The prosecutor argued that Peruvian law does not provide for the crime of forced sterilization, and therefore there is no legal support. In his decision he said the victims’ complaints would not be classed as crimes against humanity, which refer to generalized or systematic attacks on a civilian population and have no statute of limitation.

In international terms, the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, does recognize the crime of forced sterilization. The statute entered into force in Peru in July 2002, after the sterilizations were committed and denunciations were initiated, but “the international community has regarded forced sterilization as a crime since the early 1990s,” Salazar said.

In its appeal, DEMUS argues that the prosecutor’s decision “should not halt the criminal investigation.” It is “only the first step in the search for truth” and does not end the evidence collection phase. DEMUS asks for a higher level prosecutor to bring charges so that the case can continue. Another means of re-opening the case would be for another victim to bring a new complaint.

DEMUS also plans to bring the case to the attention of the IACHR in March.

On Jan. 31, an article by Guzmán was published in the newspaper El Comercio, saying that “the only way Fujimori could be held responsible is by demonstrating command responsibility, and according to the Constitutional Court the requirements for this are not fulfilled, because there is no rigid vertical structure involved, and doctors cannot be obliged to operate against their will.”

“They are isolated cases,” he told IPS.

According to the Health ministry, 346,219 sterilizations were performed on females and 24,535 on males between 1993 and 2000, 55.2 percent of them in the period 1996-1997 alone. During that period an average of 262 tubal ligations were carried out a day.

More than 2,000 persons were documented to have been deceived or threatened into undergoing sterilization. Women in Cusco were among the worst affected, because on average nearly five operations a day were performed there, according to Health ministry figures and the testimony of victims.

Sabina Hillca, from Huayapacha in the Cusco region, told IPS that she set out for the health center in Anta when she was due to give birth to her daughter, Soledad, but the birth happened on the way.

The nurses told her she should stay to be “cleansed” and avoid infection. The next day she woke up crying, with sharp pain, an incision close to her navel, and tied to the bed. Afterwards she fled to her village, cleaned the wound with soap and water, removed the stitches as best as she could, and went to her mother for herbal treatments.

“Now I have cancer because dry blood collected in my ovaries,” she said, showing the dark scar on her abdomen.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador leaves inter-American defense treaty

Press TV – February 5, 2014

349427_Ecuador-presidentEcuador has announced its withdrawal from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, a hemispheric agreement of mutual defense signed in 1947.

On Wednesday, Ecuador Foreign Ministry said President Rafael Correa pulled the country out of the US-led security arrangement on the grounds it is outdated, AFP reported.

The Foreign Ministry said Correa signed a decree on Tuesday, ratifying a decision earlier this month by the National Assembly to withdraw from the treaty.

“Ecuador renounces in all its articles the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance,” the ministry said.

The treaty, commonly known as the Rio Treaty, stipulates that an armed attack against any of the member states is to be considered an attack against all of them.

Ecuador ratified the treaty in 1950.

The move is the latest in a shift away from US-led security arrangements in the region by Ecuador and other leftist Latin American allies.

At the end of an annual meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Bolivia in 2012, the foreign ministers of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua announced their decision to pull out of the treaty, saying the regional defense treaty is a US initiative and membership is not beneficial to them.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Pentagon Leads PR Campaign to Counter Critical Inspector General Reports on Afghanistan

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | February 6, 2014

Frustrated by numerous reports criticizing U.S. spending in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense has launched a public relations campaign aimed at countering the work of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). That watchdog agency is charged with overseeing the military’s $96.5 billion reconstruction program in Afghanistan.

John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, has upset military commanders by frequently reporting on million-dollar programs that haven’t panned out or failed to account for missing American tax dollars.

One recent example involved a hospital in northeastern Afghanistan costing $600,000 that lacked adequate water, sewer, electrical, and heating systems—and was vulnerable to collapsing in an earthquake, according to SIGAR.

The U.S. military countered SIGAR’s report by issuing a news release that praised the hospital and even rejected some of the critical findings.

Somehow, the military came to these conclusions even though the Army hadn’t inspected the hospital in months because the insurgency made the area too dangerous to visit.

In addition to putting out press releases, the military has crafted an in-house strategy for dealing with SIGAR’s negative reports. This plan was revealed in a slide presentation, a copy of which was obtained by USA Today, that stated the goal was to “[build] the right combination of ammunition to achieve desired effects on a specified target.”

That target was Sopko, who was mentioned in the presentation during a hunting analogy: “In the past we may have shot where we saw the duck, but now, with our plan of action—we will bag our limit of birds before Mr. Sopko wakes up to feed his dogs.”

When informed of the anti-SIGAR campaign, Sopko told the newspaper: “It’s disappointing to see that funds appropriated by Congress are being used by elements of the Department of Defense to misrepresent the work of an independent inspector general. American taxpayers would be better served if ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] spent less time writing misleading press releases and more time fixing the problems we’ve identified.”

SIGAR spokesperson Philip LaVelle shares his boss’s concerns. “Let me get this straight,” he recently said to the Los Angeles Times. “They’re complaining we’re telling the American people how their tax dollars are being spent? The public has a right to know and we have a duty to tell them — and we intend to keep doing just that.”

Since 2008, SIGAR’s investigations have resulted in 56 criminal convictions or guilty pleas, involving nearly three dozen civilians and members of the U.S. military, along with 21 Afghans.

The Pentagon’s overall public relations campaign—exercised at home and abroad—grew by 63% during a five-year period since 2004, reaching $4.7 billion in 2009, according to Defense Department budgets and other documents produced that year. The budget included the employment of 27,000 people to handle public relations, advertising and recruitment.

The military’s budget for outreach and media amounts to 1% of the total Pentagon budget, according to Fox News.

To Learn More:

The Pentagon’s PR War Against SIGAR (by Neil Gordon, Project On Government Oversight)

Military Yanks Leash of Critical Government Watchdog (by Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today)

U.S. Embassy in Kabul Defends Itself Against Blistering Fraud Reports (by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times)

Pentagon Spending Billions on PR to Sway World Opinion (Fox News)

Harsh Inspector General Report Says 0 of 16 Afghan Agencies can be Trusted with U.S. Aid (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

U.S.-Led Military Unit in Afghanistan Lost $230 Million in Spare Parts, Then Spent $138 Million for More (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

U.S. Paid $6.8 Million to “Maintain” Non-Functioning Afghan Police Vehicles (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NSA Defender Explains How Even Though NSA Spies On Americans, It’s OK To Say They Don’t

Orwell Would Be Proud

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | February 6, 2014

Benjamin Wittes of the Brooking Institution has become the go-to non-government NSA apologist. One of his most recent articles is a true work of rhetorical artistry, in which he tries to explain why saying “the NSA doesn’t spy on Americans” is acceptable shorthand for the fact that the NSA spies on pretty much every American. It’s a master class in political doubletalk. First, it’s the law’s fault. The law, you see, is too complicated for mere mortals not working for the NSA to understand, so that makes it okay to lie:

The law is so dense and so complicated that it cannot be accurately summarized at a level a citizen can reasonably process.

Any effort to summarize the relevant law necessarily ignores themes sufficiently important to its architecture that the reductionism will partake of serious inaccuracy. The person who told my friend that NSA does not spy on Americans was not lying. He or she was highlighting a crucially-important limitation on NSA’s authority vis a vis US persons. The law and the relevant regulations all contain significant territorial restrictions and significant protections for US persons overseas as well—all designed to separate the foreign intelligence mission of NSA from both domestic intelligence and domestic law enforcement. It’s a sincere and pervasive effort. “We don’t spy on Americans” is a common shorthand for a wealth of law and practice that really and meaningfully keeps the agency out of the business of being a covert domestic intelligence agency.

Got that? Because there are some limitations on all the spying they do on Americans, and it’s too complicated to understand those limitations, so it’s okay to lie and say they don’t spy on Americans. Of course, in the very next paragraph, Wittes tries to effectively brush away the massive amount of surveillance done on Americans.

NSA, after all, does spy on individual Americans with an order from the FISC. It does, moreover, capture all domestic telephony metadata. And most importantly, it does routinely capture communications between Americans and the targets of its surveillance and incidentally capture other material its systems scoop up overseas—subject to rules that limit the retention and processing of US person information. In other words, to say that NSA does not spy on Americans emphatically does not mean, as a reasonable student or citizen might expect it to mean, that the agency does not regularly acquire and process the communications of Americans.

Of course, as Jameel Jaffer from the ACLU points out, this is all nonsense because it’s a simple fact that the NSA does do surveillance on Americans, and to claim otherwise is not acceptable shorthand. It’s a lie. And while Wittes then tries to obfuscate things even more by trying and purposely failing to come up with a concise way of summarizing what the NSA does, Jaffer helps out with a few workable suggestions:

This is nonsense. Perhaps Ben’s right that it’s difficult to come up with a single sentence, or even a single paragraph, that clearly and comprehensively describes the nature and extent of the NSA’s surveillance of Americans. (Can you describe any federal agency’s functions in a single, comprehensive paragraph?) But it’s not difficult to come up with a sentence more accurate than “The NSA doesn’t spy on Americans.” Try this one: “The NSA spies on Americans.” Or this one: “The NSA collects a huge amount of information about Americans’ communications and in many contexts it collects the communications themselves.” Or this one: “The NSA is sometimes described as a foreign-intelligence agency but this label should not obscure the fact that a large part of the agency’s energy is dedicated to collecting and analyzing information about Americans.”

Jaffer further points out that Wittes’s suggestion that those who claim the NSA doesn’t spy on Americans are really trying to tell the truth through shorthand, is actually misleading. As Jaffer points out:

Any official who says the NSA isn’t spying on Americans is seeking to mislead.

And anyone defending that statement is trying to support that fundamental attempt to mislead.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US surveillance cameras raise privacy concerns

Press TV – February 6, 2014

349449_camerasPrivacy advocates in the United States are concerned about a new class of surveillance cameras which are able to monitor an area the size of a small city for several hours at a time.

The cameras, built by Persistent Surveillance Systems, can spot people up to 25 miles away, The Washington Post reports.

The cameras, mounted on a fixed wing aircraft, can track every vehicle and person, enabling police, businesses and even private individuals to identify people and track their movements, the report says.

Ross McNutt, the president of Persistent Surveillance Systems, said the cameras have already been flown above major public events such as the Ohio political rally where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) named Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.

He said they have also been flown above Baltimore; Philadelphia; Compton, Calif.; and Dayton in demonstrations for police.

McNutt, a former Air Force officer who helped design a similar surveillance system for use in wartime Iraq, said he hopes to deploy the systems around the country to help solve and deter crime.

However, the use of cameras in US cities is raising civil liberties concerns, though courts have put stricter limits on technology that can see things not visible to the naked eye, ruling that they can amount to unconstitutional searches when conducted without a warrant.

“If you turn your country into a totalitarian surveillance state, there’s always some wrongdoing you can prevent,” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The balance struck in our Constitution tilts toward liberty, and I think we should keep that value.”

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Who Did the NSA’s Illegal Spying Put in Jail?

By Patrick C. Toomey | ACLU | February 5, 2014

Last week, the ACLU joined a constitutional challenge to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the statute that allows the NSA to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international phone calls and emails. With the Federal Defenders Office, we filed a motion on behalf of Jamshid Muhtorov, the first criminal defendant to receive notice that he had been monitored under this controversial spying law. But Mr. Muhtorov received this notice only after the Department of Justice (DOJ) abandoned its previous policy of concealing FAA surveillance in criminal cases — a policy that violated both the statute itself and defendants’ due process rights.

For criminal defendants and for the country, it’s good news that the government is reviewing criminal cases in which FAA evidence has played a role. But the FAA is just one surveillance program among many. And given what we now know about the DOJ’s unlawful notice policy, we should be asking whether the government has concealed in criminal prosecutions its use of other mass surveillance programs.

Let’s start with the NSA’s internet-metadata program. That program involved the NSA’s bulk collection of records about Americans’ online activity between 2001 and 2011. Under this program, the NSA vacuumed up information such as the “to” and “from” data in emails and, in all likelihood, the addresses of websites visited by Americans.

As Brett Max Kaufman and I have described elsewhere, the program has a problematic past. It was secretly authorized by President Bush in 2001 and then belatedly approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in a secret opinion, recently declassified, that has been heavily criticized. In particular, the FISC found that bulk collection of Americans’ internet metadata was permissible under FISA’s pen-register and trap-and-trace provision (PR/TT). The program was reportedly discontinued in 2011 for “operational and resource reasons” — but only after the NSA had tracked Americans’ internet activity for a decade.

It doesn’t take much to imagine that, over those ten years, some of that internet data made its way into criminal investigations and prosecutions. Indeed, we know that the NSA collected huge volumes of metadata under this program, that it routinely pools its various streams of data in order to conduct “contact-chaining,” and that it often feeds tips or leads to the FBI and even the DEA.

If the internet-metadata program did contribute to criminal prosecutions, the government had a duty to tell defendants. That’s because FISA’s PR/TT provision includes a notice requirement. Notice is also a matter of basic due process, because defendants have the right to test whether the government obtained its evidence against them lawfully.

The government has never told a criminal defendant that the internet-metadata program supplied evidence for a prosecution — but, as the FAA experience makes plain, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We know that for five years the government violated an identical notice provision in the FAA, adopting a self-serving interpretation of the law that allowed the government to effectively circumvent the notice provision altogether. Indeed, after learning of DOJ’s FAA notice policy, the solicitor general reportedly concluded that it “could not be justified legally.”

It seems likely that the government embraced the same flawed legal theory with respect to notice and evidence derived from the internet-metadata program. If so, then criminal defendants were almost certainly left in the dark — and were very likely convicted with the help of this evidence.

If that’s the case, those individuals went to prison without having a chance to test the legality of the government’s bulk collection of their internet records — a program that, from its inception, stood on precarious legal ground. Any failure to provide notice would have been a violation of those defendants’ due process rights, calling their convictions into question. Let’s hope their cases are part of the Attorney General’s ongoing review.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

The Ayatollah’s KEPT promises: on Camelia Entekhabifard’s “journalism” versus reality on Iran… again

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | February 5, 2014

Camelia Entekhabifard, a person of no doubt very high morals and sense of outrage and indignation at human rights abuses etc etc etc, has yet again published an article in the Huffpo proclaiming that “the mullahs” have failed to improve the living standards of Iranians as they promised. Where’s the free electricity we were promised!

But, here’s the reality: Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranians are living longer, better, healthier lives than ever, according to the UNDP.

I probably sound like a broken record repeating this over and over again.

So, this time, note something quite interesting about the three graphs for life expectancy, gross national income and education in the above linked website. Those things are the three major factors that are used to determine a country’s Human Development Index. Note that in the case of Iran, from 1980 to 2012, the education and life expectancy graphs massively improved yet the gross national income graph did not. In other words, even though not much new wealth was created, people are living much better lives. How does that happen?

Kevan Harris has an interesting explanation from his analysis of an earlier HDI report on Iran: “National wealth, especially for resource-rich countries like Iran, can often mask poor health and education. In Iran’s case, however, its improvements in health and education far outpace its economic growth, which has been sporadic over the past two decades. ‘The manner in which countries spend their wealth, not the wealth itself, is decisive,’ the new report explains.”

So, in other words, Iranians don’t live longer, better-educated lives just because the country got richer, as is the case with some other nations, since Iran didn’t get richer — rather, the improvements in health and education were the results of the manner the wealth was used: a policy of allocating limited resources to improving living standards. (which also begs the question, where were those resources going until the Revolution when the shift to improving living standards started?)

As the UNDP explains: “From a human development standpoint – during the period 1980-2012, Iran’s policy interventions were both significant and appropriate to produce improvements in human development.”

So, in the years since the Islamic Revolution, not only did Iran have the second-fastest rate of HDI improvement after China (Iran: 67%; China 70%) which was also more than double the world’s average rate of HDI improvement, and which resulted in things like a 22-year increase in lifespan in the course of a single generation (a generation is defined as 30 years) — all of this happened despite the fact that Iran did not get significantly richer in that same time period (and despite the war, the sanctions etc.)

This is an amazing fact. Of course this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other problems in Iran: While Iran is far from being Saudi Arabia or the Taliban, gender equality figures need improving (more than 6 women in Parliament!) And while absolute poverty in Iran (defined as people living on under $/2 day) is low, a sense of relative poverty is high because there’s a significant income inequality there as in the US. And that sense of relative poverty is what Ms Entekhabifard is appealing to.

But, 22 years of increased lifespan and a rate of HDI improvement that’s double the world average, still speak for themselves. The bottom line is that “the mullahs” not only improved living standards for Iranians after the revolution, but did so spectacularly, Mrs Entekhabifard. This is simply a statistical fact from the UNDP so don’t send me the hissing fits.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Misread Telexes Led Analysts to See Iran Nuclear Arms Programme

By Gareth Porter | IPS | February 5, 2014

When Western intelligence agencies began in the early 1990s to intercept telexes from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms, intelligence analysts believed they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme. That suspicion led to U.S. intelligence assessments over the next decade that Iran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

The supposed evidence of military efforts to procure uranium enrichment equipment shown in the telexes was also the main premise of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear programme from 2003 through 2007.

But the interpretation of the intercepted telexes on which later assessments were based turned out to have been a fundamental error. The analysts, eager to find evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, had wrongly assumed that the combination of interest in technologies that could be used in a nuclear programme and the apparent role of a military-related institution meant that the military was behind the procurement requests.

In 2007-08, Iran provided hard evidence that the technologies had actually been sought by university teachers and researchers.

The intercepted telexes that set in train the series of U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was working on nuclear weapons were sent from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran beginning in late 1990 and continued through 1992. The dates of the telexes, their specific procurement requests and the telex number of PHRC were all revealed in a February 2012 paper by David Albright, the executive director of the Institute for Science and International Security, and two co-authors.

The telexes that interested intelligence agencies following them all pertained to dual-use technologies, meaning that they were consistent with work on uranium conversion and enrichment but could also be used for non-nuclear applications.

But what raised acute suspicions on the part of intelligence analysts was the fact that those procurement requests bore the telex number of the Physics Research Center (PHRC), which was known to have contracts with the Iranian military.

U.S., British, German and Israeli foreign intelligence agencies were sharing raw intelligence on Iranian efforts to procure technology for its nuclear programme, according to published sources. The telexes included requests for “high-vacuum” equipment, “ring” magnets, a balancing machine and cylinders of fluorine gas, all of which were viewed as useful for a programme of uranium conversion and enrichment.

The Schenck balancing machine ordered in late 1990 or early 1991 provoked interest among proliferation analysts, because it could be used to balance the rotor assembly parts on the P1 centrifuge for uranium enrichment. The “ring” magnets sought by the university were believed to be appropriate for centrifuge production.

The request for 45 cylinders of fluorine gas was considered suspicious, because fluorine is combined with uranium to produce uranium hexafluoride, the form of uranium that is used for enrichment.

The first indirect allusion to evidence from the telexes in the news came in late 1992, when an official of the George H. W. Bush administration told The Washington Post that the administration had pushed for a complete cutoff of all nuclear-related technology to Iran, because of what was called “a suspicious procurement pattern”.

Then the Iranian efforts to obtain those specific technologies from major foreign suppliers were reported, without mentioning the intercepted telexes, in a Public Broadcasting System “Frontline” documentary called “Iran and the Bomb” broadcast in April 1993, which portrayed them as clear indications of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

The producer of the documentary, Herbert Krosney, described the Iranian procurement efforts in similar terms in his book “Deadly Business” published the same year.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s CIA Director John Deutch declared, “A wide variety of data indicate that Tehran has assigned civilian and military organisations to support the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.”

For the next decade, the CIA’s non-proliferation specialists continued to rely on their analysis of the telexes to buttress their assessment that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. The top-secret 2001 National Intelligence Estimate bore the title “Iran Nuclear Weapons Program: Multifaceted and Poised to Succeed, but When?”

Former IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen recalled in a May 2012 article that the IAEA had obtained a “set of procurement information about the PHRC” – an obvious reference to the collection of telexes – which led him to launch an investigation in 2004 of what the IAEA later called the “Procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC”.

But after an August 2007 agreement between Iran and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on a timetable for the resolution of “all remaining issues”, Iran provided full information on all the procurement issues the IAEA had raised.

That information revealed that the former PHRC head, Sayyed Abbas Shahmoradi-Zavareh, who had been a professor at Sharif University at the time, had been asked by several faculty departments to help procure equipment or material for teaching and research.

Iran produced voluminous evidence to support its explanation for each of the procurement efforts the IAEA had questioned. It showed that the high vacuum equipment had been requested by the Physics Department for student experiments in evaporation and vacuum techniques for producing thin coatings by providing instruction manuals on the experiments, internal communications and even the shipping documents on the procurement.

The Physics Department had also requested the magnets for students to carry out “Lenz-Faraday experiments”, according to the evidence provided, including the instruction manuals, the original requests for funding and the invoice for cash sales from the supplier. The balancing machine was for the Mechanical Engineering Department, as was supported by similar documentation turned over to the IAEA. IAEA inspectors had also found that the machine was indeed located at the department.

The 45 cylinders of fluorine that Shahmoradi-Zavareh had tried to procure had been requested by the Office of Industrial Relations for research on the chemical stability of polymeric vessels, as shown by the original request letter and communications between the former PHRC head and the president of the university.

The IAEA report on February 2008 recorded the detailed documentation provided by Iran on each of the issues, none of which was challenged by the IAEA. The report declared the issue “no longer outstanding at this stage”, despite U.S. pressure on ElBaradei to avoid closing that or any other issue in the work programme, as reported in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

The IAEA report showed that the primary intelligence basis for the U.S. charge of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme for more than a decade had been erroneous.

That dramatic development in the Iran nuclear story went unnoticed in news media reporting on the IAEA report, however. By then the U.S. government, the IAEA and the news media had raised other evidence that was more dramatic – a set of documents supposedly purloined from an Iran laptop computer associated with an alleged covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme from 2001 to 2003. And the November 2007 NIE had concluded that Iran had been running such a programme but had halted it in 2003.

Despite the clear acceptance of the Iranian explanation by the IAEA, David Albright of ISIS has continued to argue that the telexes support suspicions that Iran’s Defence Ministry was involved in the nuclear programme.

In his February 2012 paper, Albright discusses the procurement requests documented in the telexes as though the IAEA investigation had been left without any resolution. Albright makes no reference to the detailed documentation provided by Iran in each case or to the IAEA’s determination that the issue was “no longer outstanding”.

Ten days later, the Washington Post published a news article reflecting Albright’s claim that the telexes proved that the PHRC had been guiding Iran’s secret uranium enrichment programme during the 1990s. The writer was evidently unaware that the February 2008 IAEA report had provided convincing evidence that the intelligence analyst’s interpretations had been fundamentally wrong.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lakes For Sale, Partially Thawed, N=20

By Willis Eschenbach | Watts Up With That? | February 5, 2014

Anthony pointed out the selling of over-hyped claims of the “dramatic thinning” of Arctic ice here. The title of the underlying scientific study is much more prosaic, Response of ice cover on shallow lakes of the North Slope of Alaska to contemporary climate conditions (1950–2011): radar remote-sensing and numerical modeling data analysis.  (PDF). To their credit, the authors make no such claims of drama in their text, which is generally quite appropriately restrained.

Here is their complete “dramatic” dataset of the lakes around Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the US:

percentage barrow lakes partially thawedFigure 1. Percentage of lakes in the low-lying tundra around Barrow, Alaska that are partially thawed in late April, 1992-2011. Photo Source.

It’s an interesting study. They noted that partially thawed lakes look very different on radar than when the same lakes are frozen solid. As a result, they’ve collected solid data that is not affected by urban warming. So … what’s not to like in the study? Let me start with what is to like in the study.

I do like the accuracy of the measurements. It’s an interesting metric, with very objective criteria. I like that they listed the data in their paper, and showed photos for each of the years. I like that they didn’t try to project the results out to 2080.

What I didn’t like is where their study went from there. After collecting all that great data, they immediately sent out for that perennial favorite, a global climate model … not my style at all.

So rather than pointing out that their study is models all the way down, I figured I’d just show the kind of analysis that I would do if I were handed the lake thawing data.

First thing I’d need for the analysis? MORE DATA. Piles and piles of data. So I went out and I dug up two datasets—Barrow temperature, and Barrow snow depths. I started with just the temperature, but it turns out that the correlation between temperature and the lake thawing isn’t all that good. It doesn’t explain much, the best correlation is with temperatures in December, 4 months prior to the thawing, at a correlation of 0.68. However, at least it gives a good idea of what’s been going on, because we have good records clear back to 1920.

how cold is winter in point barrowFigure 2. Winter temperatures in Point Barrow (pale blue line) and the 17 year Gaussian average of the data. Photo source http://www.panoramio.com/photo/63484316

I note in passing that Barrow has a well-documented Urban Heat Island that is at its strongest in winter … and despite that, the 1930s and 1940s both had warmer winters than the last decade. I also note in this context of winter-business-as-usual that the study says:

Climate-driven changes have significantly impacted high-latitude environments over recent decades, changes that are predicted to continue or even accelerate in the near future as projected by global climate models …

… but I digress.

So the next obvious suspect for a correlation with the lake thawing is the snow depth. It’s an odd fact of nature that snow is a good insulator. It both slows down heat transfer by insulating the surface, and it keeps the wind from contacting the ice.

So I looked at the average snow depth data (scroll down to “Custom Monthly Listing” in sidebar) … but it’s not all that good at emulating the ice thawing either—in fact it’s worse. With snow depth, the best correlation with average snow depth is only 0.51, again with December coming out on top. So, having investigated single variables to try to emulate the lake thawing, I turned to the combination of snow depth and temperature … not much luck there either. In fact, the only way I could get a good correlation was to use the combination of the Nov-Dec-Jan average temperature, and the December snow depth. This gave me a correlation of 0.81, and a p-value of 0.001 … which turns out to be just barely significant. Here’s the emulation:

emulation barrow lake thawing shortFigure 3. Emulation of Barrow lake thawing. Observations (thick red line) compares well with the emulation (thin green line). Correlation is 0.81, p-value is .0010.

Now … why did I say that a p-value of 0.001 is “barely significant”, when the usual level is a p-value of 0.05? Well … because I looked at so many possibilities before finding what I sought. All up, I looked at maybe 40 possibilities before finding this one. If you want to establish significance at the level of a p-value of 0.05, and you look at 40 datasets before finding it, you need to find something with a p-value less than 1-10(LOG(0.95)/N, where N is the number of datasets you looked at. For N=40, that gives a required p-value of better than 0.0013 … so with a p-value of 0.0010, my emulation just made it under the wire.

Next, I looked at what that same emulation would look like over the whole period 1950-2013 for which we have records, and not just the period 1992-2011 of the study (the “N=20″ of the title). Figure 4 shows that result.

emulation barrow lake thawing longFigure 4. Exactly as in Figure 3, but covering the entire period of record.

OK … not a lot going on there. Now, those who follow my work know that I’m quite skeptical of this kind of modeling, particularly with such a short record. What I do to test that is first to find a model with an acceptable p-value. Then I take a look at both the emulation shown above, along with the same emulation using just the first half of the data to fit the parameters, and then the same thing using just the second half of the data. Figure 5 shows that result:

emulation barrow lake thawing long plusFigure 5. As in Figure 4, but showing the emulation based solely on the first half of the data (light blue), and that based solely on the second half (dark blue)

As emulations go, in my experience that’s not bad. The general shape of the emulation is well maintained, and neither of the two half-data emulations go far off of the rails, as is all too common with this type of analysis.

So that’s how I’d analyze the data, at least to begin with. My conclusions?

Well, my first conclusion has nothing to do with the lakes. It has to do with Figure 2, which shows that there is nothing out of the ordinary happening to Barrow winter temperatures. So whatever you might want to blame the lake thawing on, it’s not the local temperature. It’s hasn’t much changed over almost a century, it just goes up for a while and then down for a while.

The second conclusion is that the changes in the lake thawing dates over the period of study are not “dramatic”. In fact, they are boringly mundane. The only thing “dramatic” is the press release, which is no surprise.

The third conclusion is that I wouldn’t trust my emulation of lake thawing all that far … the problem is that with  N=20, we have so little data that any conclusions and any emulations will be fraught with uncertainty. Heck, look at Figure 1 … up until a few years before the end of the data there was not even much trend. It’s just too short to conclude much of anything.

Next, I wouldn’t trust their “CLIMo Lake Ice Model” much further than I’d trust my emulation above. Again, the underlying problem is lack of data … but to that you have to add the unknown performance of the CLIMo model.

Finally, while the authors were restrained in their study, they cut loose in their quotes for the press release, viz:

“We’ve found that the thickness of the ice has decreased tremendously in response to climate warming in the region,” said lead author Cristina Surdu, a PhD student of Professor Claude Duguay in Waterloo’s Department of Geography and Environmental Management. “When we saw the actual numbers we were shocked at how dramatic the change has been. It’s basically more than a foot of ice by the end of winter.”

and

“Prior to starting our analysis, we were expecting to find a decline in ice thickness and grounded ice based on our examination of temperature and precipitation records of the past five decades from the Barrow meteorological station,” said Surdu, “At the end of the analysis, when looking at trend analysis results, we were stunned to observe such a dramatic ice decline during a period of only 20 years.”

I see nothing “stunning” or “dramatic” in their results at all. Overall, it’s quite ho-hum.

My warmest regards to all, it’s bucketing down rain here after a long period of drought, life is good.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment