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Protests: A woman painted in black screams as dozens of activists gather in front of Petroperu HQ
By Mitra Taj
LIMA, March 7 (Reuters) - An indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon took at least eight public officials hostage to demand help from the central government after an oil spill polluted its lands, authorities said Monday.
The Wampis community of Mayuriaga seized a grounded military helicopter late on Sunday, holding crew members and several officials to press for inclusion in the emergency response plan, said German Velasquez, the president of state-owned energy company Petroperu.
A rupture in Petroperu's 40-year-old pipeline spilled 1,000 barrels of oil in Mayuriaga on Feb. 3, nine days after a leak in the same duct poured 2,000 barrels near eight other indigenous communities in the same Amazonian region.
You never know who a person is until you spend time with him or her. And you never really know the heart of a community unless you live there. On a misty morning in January, I joined a team of volunteers to perform the Point in Time Homeless Count for Sonoma County. I chose Healdsburg because it’s outside my own community and people have the impression that there are no homeless in Healdsburg. How can one community escape what is so prevelant everywhere else? It can’t.
I am in the strange position of knowing that I am on the ‘Kill List’. I know this because I have been told, and I know because I have been targeted for death over and over again. Four times missiles have been fired at me. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be alive.
I don’t want to end up a “Bugsplat” – the ugly word that is used for what remains of a human being after being blown up by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone. More importantly, I don’t want my family to become victims, or even to live with the droning engines overhead, knowing that at any moment they could be vaporized.
I am in England this week because I decided that if Westerners wanted to kill me without bothering to come to speak with me first, perhaps I should come to speak to them instead. I’ll tell my story so that you can judge for yourselves whether I am the kind of person you want to be murdered.
I am from Waziristan, the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am one of the leaders of the North Waziristan Peace Committee (NWPC), which is a body of local Maliks (or community leaders) that is devoted to trying to keep the peace in our region. We are sanctioned by the Pakistan government, and our main mission is to try to prevent violence between the local Taliban and the authorities.
In January 2010, I lent my vehicle to my nephew, Salimullah, to drive to Deegan for an oil change and to have one of the tires checked. Rumours had surfaced that drones were targeting particular vehicles, and tracking particular phone signals. The sky was clear and there were drones circling overhead.
As Salimullah conversed with the mechanic, a second vehicle pulled up next to mine. There were four men inside, just local chromite miners. A missile destroyed both vehicles, killed all four men, and seriously injured Salimullah, who spent the next 31 days in hospital.
Upon reflection, because the drones target the vehicles of people they want to kill in Waziristan, I was worried that they were aiming for me.
The next attack came on 3 September 2010. That day, I was driving a red Toyota Hilux Surf SUV to a ‘Jirga’, a community meeting of elders. Another red vehicle, almost identical to mine, was some 40 meters behind. When we reached Khader Khel, a missile blew up the other vehicle, killing all four occupants. I sped away, with flames and debris in my rear view mirror.
Initially I thought the vehicle behind was perhaps being used by militants, and I just happened to be nearby. But I learned later the casualties were four local laborers from the Mada Khel tribe, none of whom had any ties to militant groups. Now it seemed more likely that I was the target.
The third drone strike came on 6 October 2010. My friend Salim Khan invited me to dinner. I used my phone to call Salim to announce my arrival, and just before I got there a missile struck, instantly killing three people, including my cousin, Kaleem Ullah, a married man with children, and a mentally handicapped man. Again, none of the casualties were involved in extremism.
Now I knew for certain it was me they were after.
Five months later, on 27 March 2011, an American missile targeted a Jirga, where local Maliks – all friends and associates of mine – were working to resolve a local dispute and bring peace. Some 40 civilians died that day, all innocent, and some of them fellow members of the NWPC. I was early to the scene of this horror.
Like others that day, I said some things I regret. I was angry, and I said we would get our revenge. But, in truth, how would we ever do such a thing? Our true frustration was that we – the elders of our villages – are now powerless to protect our people.
I have been warned that Americans and their allies had me and others from the Peace Committee on their Kill List. I cannot name my sources, as they would find themselves targeted for trying to save my life. But it leaves me in no doubt that I am one of the hunted.
I soon began to park any vehicle far from my destination, to avoid making it a target. My friends began to decline my invitations, afraid that dinner might be interrupted by a missile.
I took to the habit of sleeping under the trees, well above my home, to avoid acting as a magnet of death for my whole family. But one night my youngest son, Hilal (then aged six), followed me out to the mountainside. He said that he, too, feared the droning engines at night. I tried to comfort him. I said that drones wouldn’t target children, but Hilal refused to believe me. He said that missiles had often killed children. It was then that I knew that I could not let them go on living like this.
I am aware that the Americans and their allies think the Peace Committee is a front, and that we are merely creating a safe space for the Pakistan Taliban. To this I say: you are wrong. You have never been to Waziristan, so how would you know?
The mantra that the West should not negotiate with “terrorists” is naive. There has hardly ever been a time when terrorists have been brought back into the fold of society without negotiation. Remember the IRA; once they tried to blow up your prime minister, and now they are in parliament. It is always better to talk than to kill.
I have traveled half way across the world because I want to resolve this dispute the way you teach: by using the law and the courts, not guns and explosives.
Ask me any question you wish, but judge me fairly – and please stop terrorizing my wife and children. And take me off that Kill List.
Malik Jalal is represented by the charity Reprieve
Los Angeles city council OKs law limiting homeless people's belongings to what can fit in a trash bin.
The city has been grappling for the better part of a year with how to respond to shantytowns that leapfrogged their traditional downtown boundaries as the city's homeless population up 20% in two years, to 26,000 people!
CIA Won't Waterboard Again — Even if Ordered by Future President.
CIA Director John Brennan told NBC News in an exclusive interview that his agency will not engage in harsh "enhanced interrogation" practices, including waterboarding, which critics call torture — even if ordered to by a future president
This week I have participated in events organised as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, which every year “aims to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the Palestinian people”.
For some, talk of Israeli “apartheid” may seem like just another buzzword used by activists. Others see it as unhelpful, lazy, inflammatory, or even antisemitic.
But what are we really saying when we talk about Israeli apartheid?
Writing a Blank Check on War for the President
How the United States Became a Prisoner of War and Congress Went MIA
By Andrew J. Bacevich
Let’s face it: in times of war, the Constitution tends to take a beating. With the safety or survival of the nation said to be at risk, the basic law of the land -- otherwise considered sacrosanct -- becomes nonbinding, subject to being waived at the whim of government authorities who are impatient, scared, panicky, or just plain pissed off.
"Remember Barack Obama campaigning back in 2008
and solemnly pledging to end the Iraq War?
What he neglected to mention at the time was that he was retaining the prerogative to plunge the country into another Iraq War on his own ticket.
So has he now done, with members of Congress passively assenting and the country essentially a POW."
Puerto Rico’s financial crisis escalated early Wednesday morning as Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla won an emergency declaration from both houses of the Puerto Rican legislature authorizing him to suspend all payment on $72 billion in public debt.
The sudden move stunned both Washington and Wall Street, where leaders keep ignoring Puerto Rico’s pleas to be allowed to restructure its debts.
“The people of Puerto Rico have complete autonomy in internal economic matters and in cultural and social affairs,” the U.S. State Department told the United Nations back in 1953, when Washington urged removing Puerto Rico from the UN’s list of colonies.
Newly released Department of Justice (DOJ) documents show that the White House has worked aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle congressional reforms designed to give the public better access to information possessed by the federal government- Via Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The Obama administration set a record for the number of times its federal employees told disappointed citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn't find a single page requested under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a new Associated Press analysis of government data. In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed last year. Such cases contributed to an alarming measurement: People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record.
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