Friday, December 3, 2010

Current situation: WikiLeaks

Sweden said it would issue a fresh arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, while US senators unveiled a bill aimed at punishing him and his whistleblowing website.
Freshly released State Department cables confirmed US concerns about President Hamid Karzai and the pervasiveness of corruption in Afghanistan, where some 100,000 US troops are stationed to fight the Taliban.
In one cable, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said Karzai may be "paranoid" as he often inquired about conspiracy theories in which the United States was said to be working to undermine him or to weaken Afghanistan or Pakistan.
After the Supreme Court in Stockholm refused to hear an appeal by Assange against the initial warrant over allegations of rape and molestation, Swedish police said they would issue a new one as a result of a procedural error.
"It's a procedural fault," Tommy Kangasvieri of the Swedish National Criminal Police told AFP. "The prosecutor Marianne Ny has to write a new one."
While Assange has not been seen in public since WikiLeaks began leaking around 250,000 cables on Sunday, his London-based lawyer Mark Stephens denied he was on the run.
"Scotland Yard know where he is, the security services from a number of countries know where he is," Stephens told AFP.
While the elusive whistleblower laid low, a group of US senators introduced legislation that would make it illegal to publish the names of informants serving the US military and intelligence community.
The legislation, which would amend the US Espionage Act aimed at punishing the disclosure of secret information, could help to stop such leaks from happening again.
But American legal experts have said the path to prosecution is strewn with potential legal complications, including free speech protections under the First Amendment of the US constitution.
Britain's Guardian newspaper Friday published leaked cables sent from the US embassy in London in which US officials discussed former British prime minister Gordon Brown's "abysmal track record" as he lurched "from political disaster to disaster."
The paper also said US and British officials clashed over the use of a Cyprus air base for US spying missions in 2008, with London worried about complicity in potential rights abuses.
The British were particularly concerned about U2 spy plane missions to track militants in Lebanon, Turkey and northern Iraq that provided intelligence to Lebanese and Turkish authorities., according to leaked cables.
The United States came under fire after WikiLeaks documents released on Sunday showed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had asked American diplomats at the UN to seek intelligence about Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN figures.
The July 31, 2009 cable requested information about the UN leader's stance on Iran and the Middle East and his "management and decision-making style."
According to The Guardian, the CIA drew up the "wish list" of information and passed it on to the State Department, which then distributed tailored requests to its diplomats around the world.
The wish list is created annually by the manager of Humanint (human intelligence), a post created in 2005 by the administration of then-president George W. Bush to aid with intelligence co-ordination, the daily said.
Some of the most eye-catching of the latest revelations centred on Russia with one memo quoting a Spanish prosecutor describing it as a virtual "mafia state" whose political parties operate "hand in hand" with organised crime.
Jose Gonzalez, who has been investigating Russian organised crime in Spain for a decade, also agreed with poisoned dissident Alexander Litvinenko's thesis that Russian intelligence and security services "owned organised crime."
The cables have also quoted Defense Secretary Robert Gates as saying "Russian democracy has disappeared" and describing President Dmitry Medvedev as "Robin" to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's "Batman."
In an interview with CNN, Putin said Gates was "deeply misled" and warned US officials not to "interfere" in Russia's internal politics.
As the leaks piled on embarrassment for his administration, President Barack Obama named Russell Travers, an anti-terrorism expert, to lead efforts to mitigate the damage and prevent future illegal data disclosures.
Assange's Stockholm-based lawyer Bjoern Hurtig told AFP Thursday he would fight his client's extradition to Sweden in the event of his arrest, while the fugitive's mother expressed fear for her son's safety.
"I'm concerned it's gotten too big and the forces that he's challenging are too big," Christine Assange told the Courier Mail, her local newspaper in Queensland, Australia.

Eating Happy Pigs meat

Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has announced it’s going to start using happier pigs. Pork from pigs with a one-star “Better Life” pedigree will gradually replace meat from factory farms on the freezer shelves. Albert Heijn is the first supermarket to introduce the measure and it hopes all its supermarkets will sell one-star pork in 2011. The first packet will be presented to Deputy Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker today.

The star system was introduced by the Dutch Animal Protection Foundation in 2007. The foundation was initially criticised because the system rewards farmers for small improvements. A one-star pig has one square metre to live in (compared to 0.8 square metres in factory farms) and male pigs are not castrated.

It might not be a big difference, but the idea of bridging the gap between factory and organic farming seems to be paying off. A spokesperson for the Animal Protection Foundation says “Organic meat is better, but consumers don’t want it.” The decision means a million pigs will be slightly better off. They will also live in groups rather than in individual pens. But if you want to eat a really happy pig, you will still have to go organic. Three-star pigs have three times as much room as factory farm pigs, lie on straw, keep their tails and teeth, and are not castrated. Of course, if you really want to make pigs happy, turn vegetarian.

Day Opening - December 3

Clear, ladies?