Saturday, January 15, 2011

Full Mideast Update: Emphasis Israel (v) Palestine Plus WikiLeak Updates, New Coming Disclosures And Continued World-Wide Corruption And Corrosion Reporting.

Full Mideast Update: Emphasis Israel (v) Palestine Plus WikiLeak Updates, New Coming Disclosures And Continued World-Wide Corruption And Corrosion Reporting.

…The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal.

Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own.

Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of theStuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms…

“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”

South African Jewish Group Prepares War-Crimes Charges Against Livni In Advance Of Visit : And Other News From Today In Palestine: By Kate On January 15, 2011

Land, Property And Resources Theft & Destruction / Ethnic Cleansing / Settlers
Villagers near wall told to stop building homes
TULKAREM -- Israeli forces on Friday delivered "stop work" orders to seven Palestinian families building homes in the West Bank district of Tulkarem. The orders said the buildings did not have the required permits. The village, Nazlat Isa, is a small population center north of Tulkarem. The route of Israel's separation wall runs along the western edge of its residential area, and severed access to much of the village land.

Israel demolishes homes and classroom in West Bank village
In a bleak but beautiful landscape of undulating stony hills I watched a group of Palestinian schoolchildren take their lessons yesterday in the open air next to a heap of rubble that, until this week, was their classroom. This is the village of Dkaika, about as far south in the West Bank as you can get. It's a community of around 300 people, without electricity or running water, whose days are spent tending their herds of goats and sheep and trying not to attract the attention of nearby Jewish settlers.

Jewish settlers storm Attof village in Jordan Valley, carry out land survey
JORDAN VALLEY, (PIC)-- Dozens of armed extremist Jewish settlers under military protection stormed Attof village near Tamun town in Tubas province on Saturday morning. Eyewitnesses said the armed settlers were carrying maps, cameras and surveying instruments and carried out a land survey which raised doubts about their intents to annex more Palestinian lands to their nearby settlements.

Israeli occupation to build a hotel on the ruins of the Qashala cemetery
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- The Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage (AFEH) said that the Israeli occupation has started building a hotel on the ruins of the historical Qashala cemetery next to the Grand Mosque in the occupied city of Yaffa. Dozens of graves have been bulldozed after the Israeli occupation antiquities authority dug the graveyard affording no respect for this historical Islamic site.

Clashes erupt after Friday prayers in Silwan
14 Jan (SILWANIC) -- Violent clashes swept through Silwan today following the weekly public prayer held in al-Bustan protest tent. Confrontations were sparked by an amassing of Israeli troops at the entrance to Silwan, who then moved through the village towards the protest tent. Palestinian youth responded by throwing stones at Israeli forces and settlers, causing damage to a settler’s car. No injuries have been reported. Clashes spread to neighboring districts, reaching Ein Silwan area on the outskirts of Wadi Hilweh, a district of intense settlement activity and another flashpoint for violence in Silwan village.

Unfounded arrests continue in Silwan
14 Jan (SILWANIC) -- Israeli forces arrested 27 year old Fadi Siyam from Wadi Hilweh in Silwan yesterday, on suspicion of stone-throwing at an Israeli settler on 10 October last year. Siyam has denounced the charges as unfounded, telling Silwanic that the place he was accused of throwing stones from is merely the daily route he takes to work. Siyam was released this afternoon without trial, on the condition that he return to the police station for further investigation on 16 January. Police have still not returned his ID card.

Information Center press conference discusses arrest of its director Jawad Siyam and Israeli crackdown on activists
14 Jan (SILWANIC) -- A press conference was held by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center today to discuss the recent Israeli campaign against Palestinian activists of Silwan, which has seen the arrest of several prominent community figures, dubious charges laid against them and pressure put on their families.

A tale of two homes, one illegal, the other one too / Ami Kaufman
This the story of two homes in the West Bank. One home belongs to the family of Eliezer Peretz, an IDF officer from the settlement of Eli who was killed in Operation Cast Lead. The other home belongs to Oudah al-Najada, a Palestinian from the village of al-Daqeqa in the South Hebron Hills. I didn’t know of al-Najada, and today is the first time I saw his name in black on white. Simply because the Israeli media doesn’t bother to cover his story. One home belongs to a fallen hero of the IDF. The other belongs to a Palestinian. Both homes have been deemed illegal by the state. One is still standing, the other is no longer.

Neighborly relations, settlement style / Yudith Oppenheimer, Ir Amin
If right-wing groups can establish settlements in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood, why can't a Palestinian settle in the core of a Jewish settlement? -- Twists and turns in the development of the Nof Zion settlement, located in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber in East Jerusalem, encapsulate the whole misbegotten story of the Jewish settlement movement in East Jerusalem. Nof Zion has made headlines in recent weeks, following the disclosure that a Palestinian entrepreneur intends to purchase the Digal company building in the neighborhood, which is in financial trouble. Right-wing organizations have launched a particularly aggressive campaign against Bank Leumi and Digal's other creditors in order to foil the deal.

IDF collecting settlers' weapons
Hebron Brigade commander orders Jewish residents to return arms received from army in light of relative calm in territories in recent years. 'This isn't Switzerland,' says enraged settler ... Hebron's Jewish residents will be the first to be affected by the move ,... The IDF Spokesperson's Office clarified Thursday that the weapons being collected are not in use and that the move is aimed at fighting weapon thefts and in light of evaluations of the security-related situation.,7340,L-4013641,00.html


Medics: Settler shot pregnant Hebron teen
A settler shot a pregnant 16-year-old girl twice in the foot on Saturday near an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, medics said. Summer Rabi Jaber, six months pregnant, was transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital with two bullet wounds in her foot. Doctors said she was referred to the Al-Mizan Hospital, which would be better able to monitor the effect of the incident on the fetus.  Jaber is from the Al-Baq'a area east of Hebron, and according to medics was shot by a resident of the illegal Kiryat Ar'ba settlement.

Settlers, Palestinians battle with stones near Shiloh
Three Israelis and five Palestinians were lightly wounded on Thursday when rock-throwing exchanges broke out near the Shiloh settlement 45 km. north of Jerusalem. The incident occurred a day after security forces demolished the home of a family in the fledgling Eli Ayin outpost, right outside Shiloh.

Freeze frame / Shay Fogelman
In February 1988 CBS cameraman Moshe Alpert filmed four soldiers carrying out Yitzhak Rabin's "break their bones" order against two Palestinian teens. Their bones didn't shatter, but Israel's self-image and its international image did. Now, 23 years later, one of the victims speaks out.

Activism / Solidarity / Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

Leading UK store backs settlement boycott
LONDON (Ma'an) -- Leading British retailer John Lewis has withdrawn Ahava Dead Sea cosmetics from its stores because they are produced in illegal Israeli settlements, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign said Friday. John Lewis' Managing director informed PSC of the decision and said that as a socially responsible retailer the store expected suppliers "not only to obey the law, but also to respect the rights, interests and well-being of their employees, their communities and the environment," according to a statement from PSC.

Israeli firms on Palestinian building project sign anti-settlement clause
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem - A dozen Israeli companies working on a Palestinian construction project have signed contracts stipulating they must not use Israeli products originating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. The move has sparked calls from Jewish settler groups and their supporters for a counter-boycott.

Jewish group files lawsuit against Livni ahead of visit to South Africa
JOHANNESBURG, (PIC)-- A South African Jewish group has filed charges against Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni for involvement in the Gaza war two years ago, in an attempt to have her arrested upon her soon expected visit to South Africa. South Africa reserves the right to prosecute foreign war criminals, a French radio quoted this group as saying on Saturday. The complainants have prepared a 3,000-page report documenting Israeli violations and submitted it to the local public prosecutor.

Siege / Restriction Of Movement / Rights Violations

Gaza patient dies waiting for permission to leave
Human rights organizations in Gaza have demanded a criminal investigation into the death of a young Gaza man who died two weeks ago while he was waiting for a permit from Israel to leave the Strip for medical treatment. Anas Saleh, 20, died on January 1 from a liver disease. He had been unconscious for several days in Gaza's Ash-Shifa Hospital before his death. His doctors had sought permission for Saleh to enter Israel for treatment. After the request was made Israeli authorities insisted that the unconscious patient appear for questioning by the Israel Security Agency, a report from the Al-Mezan center for human rights said.

Surviving off one's flattened house in Gaza
Gaza: Hauling a shovel and a hammer Abu Ali Kader makes his daily trip not to work but the rubble of the house he once owned to complete its demolition. "For over 20 tough years, I've saved up every single penny working as a construction worker within the Israeli region with the intention of building this house. Yet all the money, time and effort spent on this house vanished in less than a minute," Abu Ali in agony said. The hands which built the house are now digging through the remains to find anything worthwhile to sell.

Egyptian police: Drugs [and cement] seized en route to Israel
EL-ARISH, Egypt -- Egyptian police said Friday that officers intercepted a group of smugglers attempting to bring narcotics into Israel via a border tunnel ... Further south along the border, Egyptian security said 10 tons of cement in trucks heading toward the Egypt-Gaza border was also intercepted. A report said the trucks were en route to tunnels in the Rafah area.

US medical delegation to land in Gaza on Sunday
GAZA (ABNA)- A US medical delegation is scheduled to land in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to perform a series of medical operations. The Gaza program for mental health, the trip's coordinator, has completed preparations to receive the delegation of eight doctors of surgical specialists and psychologists from the US Physicians for Social Responsibility group. The medics will stay in Gaza until January 24.

Foundation: Egypt to ease entry from Gaza
The Palestinian Human Rights Foundation said Friday that Egyptian authorities have decided to ease restrictions on Palestinians entering the country from Gaza. Egypt will allow entry to all women with an Egyptian visa or papers for medical treatment, the foundation said. Further, students with university acceptance documents will be permitted entry, as will anyone with a Palestinian diplomatic passport issued in Ramallah. Any woman who entered Gaza from Egypt will be allowed to return, the foundation said. The foundation welcomed the new arrangements, but expressed concern that the policy discriminated against men. [End]

Gaza crossings closed; exports remain low
Gaza crossings were closed on Friday, one day ahead of schedule as Israeli officials maintain the curtailed operations schedule. ... Palestinian coordination official Raed Fattouh told Ma’an that the crossings were set to re-open on Sunday. UN officials monitoring the terminals said the preceding week's imports remained at 33 percent of the weekly average of imports recorded before the imposition of the blockade in June 2007.  The weekly report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said exports remained limited to a few shipments of strawberries and cut flowers, noting that the 8 December announcement by the Israeli authorities to allow more exports from Gaza remains unimplemented.


Gaza militants launch at Israel amid increasing tensions
Palestinian gunmen on Friday fired a homemade rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel despite an internal Palestinian agreement reached on Wednesday between Hamas and other factions over halting firing rockets at Israel. Palestinian witnesses told Xinhua that unknown militants fired a homemade rocket from al-Garara village, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, into Kissufim area near the Gaza Strip borders with Israel. Israeli army forces then fired back in response. No injuries have been reported and nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Israeli official warns Hamas to stop projectiles
Israeli government spokesman Ofer Gendalman on Thursday warned Hamas to stop firing projectiles into southern Israel. In an interview with Ma'an Radio, Gendalman said the Israeli government was not interested in an escalation in hostilities with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


Political detainee Hardan on hunger strike for days in PA jail
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Political detainee Mohsen Al-Hardan has been on hunger strike for days in protest at the poor incarceration conditions he is experiencing in the Palestinian Authority's jails in Nablus city.  Hardan, 49, has been in Juneid prison for more than one year and was jailed for his political affiliation with Hamas Movement ... The PA intelligence, for its part, still refuses to release 12 Palestinian students from Al-Quds university from its jails in Ramallah city or let their families visit them.

Palestinian prisoner could lose leg after being tortured in Egyptian prisons
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Hafiz Abu Saada, secretary-general of the Egyptian rights group organization, said Egypt's policies of detaining and torturing Palestinians is ruining the country's reputation among the Arab and international communities. The Egyptian rights group received medical reports stating that Palestinian prisoner Ramzi al-Ra'i's leg has become infected after Egyptian officials tortured him and neglected to provide treatment for his wounds, Abu Saada told the PIC Friday ... Ra'i was severely beaten by Egyptian security forces, causing a severe gangrene-like infection to appear on his legs,

Hamas: PA detained 4 supporters overnight
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas on Saturday accused Palestinian Authority security forces of detaining four party supporters overnight across the West Bank. Hamas affiliates were detained from Tubas, Tulkarem and Qalqiliya in the northern West Bank, according to a statement from the Islamist movement.

Repression / Racism / Discrimination

Leftists march against 'dark regime'
Thousands of left-wing activists belonging to groups Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has labeled "terror-aiders" gathered in Meir Park in Tel Aviv Saturday evening to protest against "anti-democratic trends in the Knesset". The protesters plan to march to Tel Aviv Museum, where a rally will be held with MKs from Labor, Kadima, Meretz, Hadash, and Ta'al.,7340,L-4013941,00.html

J'lem cops try to shut down leftist pub as mayor dines nearby / Dimi Reider
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat -- responsible for the highly controversial building projects in the East of the city-- went out to dine at the posh Cavalier restaurant in the city. He was spotted by activists from the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity movement, who decided to combine business with pleasure, and sat down at the outside tables of the nearby Sira pub, one of the left’s most favourite, delightfully scruffy hangouts in the capital. Aside from their well-earned pints, the activists were holding signs protesting Barkat’s policy. According to a report in Haaretz, their beer evening was soon interrupted by the city’s finest; one of the activists told the paper  the scene was soon graced by “several dozen policemen...

'It's trivial to hire Arab academics' / Interview with Ayman Seif
We asked Ayman Seif, general director of the Authority for the Economic Development of Minorities at the Prime Minister's Office, if it's true that there aren't many Arabs in Israeli government service. Apparently it is. "We are 20% of the population, but only 7% of the employees of the state are Arabs," Seif says. In absolute numbers, out of state employees, there are only 4,200 Arabs, he says. Moreover, very few make it high in the ranks of government service.

Ethiopians need not apply / Ido Solomon
African immigrants entering the job market today face numerous barriers. Their skin color is just one of them ... "The impression I got over the phone was that there was a click between the manager and me. The conversation had gone smoothly, she sounded very nice, and it seemed that I fit the qualifications. But as soon as I got to the store and introduced myself she told me, clearly embarrassed, that she had just hired someone else for the job. It was a little odd. She didn't say so specifically, but it was quite clear to me that it was because of the color of my skin.

Haredi schools ordered to solve displacement of Sephardim
Knesset Education Committee Chairman Alex Miller (Israel Beiteinu) on Tuesday gave cities in which haredi high school girls are not enrolled anywhere one month to change that situation or to provide a very good explanation for it, after a lengthy hearing on the situation of Sephardi teens who remain at home because the schools of their choice wouldn’t accept them.

Political/Diplomatic Developments

Abbas sends condolences to overthrown Tunisian president
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- De facto Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas phoned former Tunisian president Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali a few hours before his people overthrew him to send condolences for the events that preceded his escape from the country.

PLO backtracks on Tunisia stance
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian president's advisor to the PLO said Saturday that the body's leadership had not taken an official stance on the situation in Tunisia, contradicting a prior statement expressing solidarity.

Medvedev heads to West Bank, Jordan to revive talks
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sets off on a rare trip to the West Bank and Jordan next week in a bid to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after their collapse at the end of last year. A strike by Israeli diplomats earlier this month forced Medvedev to cancel a visit to Israel, leading him to reduce the Middle East trip to just the West Bank and Amman

Other News

GPO apologizes for strip search (AFP)
The Government Press Office apologized Friday for an incident in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's guards ordered a pregnant Arab newswoman to remove her bra and told other reporters to strip to their underwear, AFP reported. The report says Israel's GPO expressed "regret" for the humiliating search. "I want to express my regret over the fact that journalists left the GPO's annual reception with the feeling that they received improper treatment by guards," Director Oren Hellman said.,7340,L-4013765,00.html

Amnesty: Israel training UK to use Cast Lead UAVs
Human rights group Amnesty International on Friday said British soldiers are being trained in Israel in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have been "field-tested on Palestinians" during IDF operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009, Sky News reported.
Britain has purchased 30 of Elbit's WK450 UAVs, based on the Hermes 450 system, in a deal which Sky News says is worth nearly one billion pounds. As a result of the deal, British troops have been training in Israel in the use of the drones.

East Jerusalem Arabs split on where to live (UPI)
JERUSALEM, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Most East Jerusalem Arabs indicated they would not move if their neighborhoods became part of a Palestinian state, a poll released Thursday indicated. Thirty-five percent of participants said they were willing to move if their neighborhoods were absorbed into a future Palestinian state, while 54 percent of respondents said they would stay put, Haaretz reported. Thirty percent said they preferred Palestinian citizenship to Israeli, Haaretz reported, while 35 percent of participants said they preferred Israeli citizenship and an equal 35 percent expressed no preference or declined to answer.

Poll: Jerusalem Palestinians prefer Israeli papers
JERUSALEM (AP) - A poll suggests that a plurality of Jerusalem Palestinians would rather remain in Israel even after a peace deal and the creation of a Palestinian state. The survey released this week shows that 35 percent of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents would choose Israeli citizenship over Palestinian citizenship. Respondents who chose Israeli citizenship cited freedom of movement, higher income and Israeli health insurance as the reasons behind their choice ... Hatem Abdel Qader, a former Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, doubted the credibility of the poll and dismissed it as meaningless.

What the poll on East Jerusalem Palestinians really means / Maggie Sager
As a November study by Petcher Polls (slideshow here) elucidating the opinions of Palestinian East Jerusalemites makes its rounds on the internet, many hasbarists have used its conclusions to justify Israel’s illegal annexation of the city ... Palestinians were also particularly concerned with losing access to Al-Aqsa mosque, which Israeli authorities have routinely restricted.

PA tourism minister meets head of USAID
Palestinian Authority Tourism Minister Khuloud Daibes on Thursday met USAID head Mike Harvey to discuss tourism in the West Bank. Daibes thanked Harvey for USAID support for Palestinian tourism projects, particularly the restoration of Hisham's palace in Jericho.

ICCO reaffirms support for EI after meeting Dutch minister
The Netherlands-based foundation ICCO issued the following press release on 13 January 2011 reaffirming its support for The Electronic Intifada, after a meeting between ICCO and Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal.

Russian president to inaugurate Jericho museum
JERICHO -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be present at the formal opening of the Jericho Museum, built by Russia on lands handed over to the country by Palestinian officials three years earlier.  The museum was built on 105 dunums of land once owned by a Russian Tsar, abandoned during the socialist revolution and handed back over to Russia via the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in June 2008.

In Israel, Palestinian orchestra produces sounds of independence
...It was very strange -- and yet not so strange at all -- to chat with a musician friend, a Palestinian from Ramallah, in the courtyard of the Krieger Center. After all, what are Palestinians doing visiting Israel? ... The 600 or so people who came to hear the orchestra play its debut concert spoke Arabic, and that was also the language onstage. The anthem was 'My Homeland', the Palestinian anthem. The orchestra did not, then, come to 'Israel', but rather to 'Haifa'.

Analysis / Opinion

Lost innocence / Akiva Eldar
Hanan Ashrawi was one of the first Palestinians to negotiate with Israelis over the future of the territories. After almost 20 years of disappointments, does she still believe peace is possible?

Forget Iran, Israel's biggest enemy is itself / Guy Grimland
High-tech innovator Benny Landa has moved from digital printing to a new, top-secret effort to develop alternate energy sources. In that venture he expects success; it's Israel's ability to contend with widening social and economic gaps that fills him with trepidation ... Here are some of the figures Landa collected: As of 2009, Israel was one of the most non-egalitarian countries in the world, with gaps between rich and poor among the widest in the world; as of 2007, the percentage of people employed in the total population was 37.3 percent, the lowest among developed countries and one of the lowest in the world.

Lieberman's dream is Israel's nightmare / Yossi Sarid
Lieberman and his serfs want to turn the Jewish and democratic state into a Jewish and Soviet state: corrupt judges, bribed policemen, frightened prosecutors, submissive journalists and human rights activists in handcuffs.

Israel's right have eyes but do not see, have ears but do not hear / Carlo Strenger
Israel’s right-wing politicians are trying to divert blame for its isolation onto the country’s liberal critics -- Future historians will debate how Israel’s leadership could have been so blind. They will wonder how it was possible that Israel - for 43 years - didn’t realize what David Ben-Gurion saw a few weeks after the Six-Day War: that the occupation of the West Bank was a catastrophe for Israel ... The frenzy of the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem has now crossed the tipping point where the international community is no longer willing to just stand by ... The ominous signs that Israel will soon be under great international pressure are mounting, and proposals for specific steps of boycott and sanctions are taking shape. One is to deny Israelis who live in the West Bank entry to the EU


Friday: 2 Iraqis killed, 1 wounded
by Margaret Griffis -- Only two deaths were reported in Iraq today, while a third individual was wounded in a bomb blast. Meanwhile, in response to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden‘s visit, scores of Iraqis staged a demonstration in Najaf calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Although U.S. troops are scheduled to leave by the end of the year, a new agreement allowing them to stay beyond 2011 could be forged. In any case, a large contingent of state department personnel and contractors will likely remain.

Baghdad gets less than one hour of electricity a day / Saadoun Al-Jaberi
Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, home to more than six million people, hardly gets one hour of non-interrupted electricity supplies every 24 hours. The city has plunged into darkness with the country’s national grid still unable to increase supplies despite billions of dollars in investments. Seven years after the 2003-U.S. invasion, power production in the country is still below levels reached under former leader Saddam Hussein.

US soldiers killed while training Iraqis
15 Jan - BAGHDAD (AP) -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed by an Iraqi trooper who opened fire on them during a training exercise Saturday, raising fresh concerns about Iraq's security forces as the Americans prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of this year.

Syrian PM in Iraq to boost trade
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Baghdad and Damascus agreed to boost trade ties on Saturday during a visit by Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri, four months after the two neighbours re-established full diplomatic relations.


Lebanon: Controversial probe results to be uncovered Monday
PARIS (AFP) -- Draft charges hinting at Hezbollah in the 2005 murder of Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri are likely to be presented under wraps to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Monday, the French daily Le Monde reported.

Hezbollah chief to speak Sunday on Lebanon crisis
BEIRUT (AFP) – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah will speak on Sunday for the first time since ministers from his party and its allies toppled the government of Saad Hariri, the Shiite group's television said. The announcement comes a day after Hariri, who was in the United States when the cabinet walkout took place, returned home and vowed to cooperate in forming a new government.

Report: UNIFIL limits patrols along border
The United Nations is reducing its presence in southern Lebanon following the impending political crisis: Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, reported Friday that UNIFIL forces have limited their patrols along the southern border with Israel, fearing a looming civil strife.,7340,L-4013659,00.html

US condemns Hezbollah's wrecking of Lebanese gov't
(AP) The United States has condemned Hezbollah vigorously for quitting Lebanon's pro-Western government and causing it to collapse. A White House statement promises to help Lebanon peacefully reconstitute a government. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said Friday that Hezbollah's intentions have been "laid bare." He said the Shiite militant group would have a hard time presenting itself as a "righteous resistance organization" if it continues trying to undermine "international efforts to find the truth.",7340,L-4013776,00.html


With Tunis connection, Palestinians watch upheaval
Palestinians in Tunisia have checked in and are doing fine, Palestinian ambassador in Tunis Salman Al-Harfi told state news agency WAFA in a report published Saturday ... A small Palestinian population remains in Tunisia, which hosted the Palestine Liberation Organization from 1982-1992, when the population reached some 5,000.  Studies showed that most of the Palestinians in Tunisia left in the mid 1990s following the creation of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in the wake of the Oslo Accords. A report from the European University estimates there remain about 1,000 Palestinians in the North African nation.

Shootout in Tunis as new leader takes over (AP)
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Soldiers and police have exchanged fire with assailants in front of Tunisia's Interior Ministry amid unrest after the longtime president was ousted. Associated Press reporters saw the shootout Saturday that left two bodies on the ground on a big square in central Tunis. It was not clear whether the two were dead or injured, or who they were.

Rebellion in Tunisian prison amid unrest
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – A top official in the Tunisian coastal city of Mahdia says the prison director there freed about 1,000 inmates following a deadly rebellion. The official says soldiers at the prison opened fire on the inmates after they rebelled Saturday, setting fire to mattresses and other objects. The official estimates that five people were killed.

Tunisia's dictator is out but what's left behind? / Ishaan Tharoor
(TIME) In the hours after Tunisia's President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali on Friday fled the country he'd ruled with an iron fist for 23 years, many commentators rushed to proclaim the end of an era ... But the euphoria may have been somewhat premature. In Tunisia, a state of emergency remains in force with brutally enforced dusk-to-dawn curfews. Ben Ali has stepped down, but the protests — and the violent crackdown by security forces — are far from over.,8599,2042697,00.html

Unrest engulfs Tunisia after power changes hands for second time in 24 hours
Unrest engulfed Tunisia on Saturday after a popular rebellion forced the president to flee: Dozens of inmates were killed in a prison fire, looters emptied shops and torched the main train station and gunfire echoed through the capital ... Power changed hands for the second time in 24 hours in this North African country after President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country Friday for Saudi Arabia ... Fouad Mebazaa, the former parliament speaker, was sworn in as chief of state on Saturday. He says he asked the premier to form a national unity government in the country's best interests.

Obama hails Tunisians' 'courage' as ousted president arrives in Saudi Arabia
(Reuters) President Barack Obama on Friday condemned violence against Tunisian citizens and called on the government to hold free and fair elections soon ... A Saudi official told Reuters Ben Ali was in the port city of Jeddah ... Saudi Arabia has a history of receiving deposed rulers and out-of-favor politicians. Former Uganda dictator Idi Amin spent his final years in Jeddah.

The Jasmine Revolution / Ahmed Moor
Thanks to the New York Times, I've been able to engage deeply with what's happening on the ground in Tunisia for the past month. Just kidding. The Times only just covered the story (I think the Style section had a piece about Ben Ali's bespoke suits and impeccably manicured eyebrows) - while Al Jazeera has been doing an extraordinary job covering the biggest story in the Arab world and Africa. I wonder, what's behind the lack of coverage?
The Arab world changed today. Now we know how easy it is to depose the malignancies in our midst.

Tunisia: People power succeeds without Western backing
CAIRO - These are scenes Western powers would have loved to see in Iran - thousands of young people braving live bullets and forcing an autocratic ruler out of the country. But it is in the North African nation Tunisia where an uprising forced the Western-backed autocratic President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country. Western powers remain incredulous. France, the real power broker in the Franco North African nation, was giving Ben Ali tacit support until an hour before he fled Friday.

No Muslim, non-Arab reactions in solidarity with Tunisia / As`ad AbuKhalil
Another argument in favor of the political salience of Arab identity is the lack of a Muslim, non-Arab reaction in support of the Tunisian people.  Many Arabs on Facebook and Twitter have noted that.

How Tunisian Facebookers will change newsrooms / Romina Ruiz-Goiriena
...many of my fellow journalists in newsrooms across the world concluded the Tehran Twitter protests were an isolated occurrence -- until now. After weeks of unrest in Tunisia seen only through videos uploaded on Facebook, it seems as our psychological apprehension to rely on social networks as a news source will finally come to an end.

Other Mideast

Egypt is not Tunisia, but...
CAIRO, Jan 15 (IPS) - "Where can I find a Tunisian flag?" The question flooded Egyptian blogs, tweeter and Facebook pages minutes after news that popular protests had forced out long-time Tunisian dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Egypt is feeling the ripple effect from Tunisia already ... Today the view from Cairo is that the military-backed regime of 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak is far more formidable, and more subtle, than the brutal regime of Ben Ali that alienated its own people

Tunisia riots offer warning to Arab governments
CAIRO (Reuters) – Nervous Arab leaders watching young Tunisian demonstrators force an aging strongman to step aside are wondering if their own old established formula of political repression will have to change too ... The unprecedented riots that have shaken Tunisia have been closely followed on regional satellite television channels and the Internet across the Middle East where high unemployment, bulging young populations, sky-rocketing inflation and a widening gap between rich and poor are all grave concerns.

Jordanians protest living conditions, blame gov't
AMMAN (AFP) -- Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Amman and other Jordanian cities on Friday to protest soaring commodity prices, unemployment and poverty, calling for the government to be sacked.

Egypt postpones trial of suspected Mossad agent
(dpa) Trial of Egyptian businessman Tareq Abdelrazek delayed after lawyer resigns, citing his refusal to represent a 'traitor.' ... Two Israelis accused of spying on Egypt will be tried in absentia. .

IAEA envoys visit Iran nuclear facilities ahead of P5+1 talks
(AP) Ambassadors from Egypt, Cuba, Syria, Algeria, Venezuela, Oman and the Arab League visit unfinished heavy water reactor near Arak, uranium enrichment facility near Natanz.

Iran says 2 downed spy planes were US-operated
(AP) Iran said Saturday it has determined that two pilotless spy planes it claims to have shot down were operated by the United States, and offered to put them on public display.,7340,L-4013915,00.html

U.S. And Other World News

Imam behind NY mosque near 9/11 site steps down (Reuters)
NEW YORK -- The imam and his wife behind a controversial plan to build a Muslim cultural center and mosque near the site of New York's September 11 attack are stepping down as leaders of the project, the center said Friday. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan had become the public faces of the project, which they described as a cultural center open to everyone, as opposition to the project swelled last year from critics who said its location was insensitive.

Ex-Army translator acquitted of working as agent
DETROIT – A jury on Friday acquitted a former military translator of secretly working as an Iraqi agent in the U.S. but convicted him of making false statements when he sought a security clearance. The split verdict offered some relief to Issam "Sam" Hamama, who claimed he was only passing along basic information about Iraqis in the U.S. when he reached out to Iraqi officials in the 1990s during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

High-tech border fence: Obama administration cancels project
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday ended a high-tech border fence project that cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion but did little to improve security. Congress ordered the high-tech fence along the border with Mexico in 2006 amid a clamor over the porous border, but it yielded only 53 miles of protection.

Death threat domains : Registrar says will not be removed
According to -- a new site created to track "cyber-bullying domain names of wikileaks associates" -- multiple death-threat domain names have been registered going after WikiLeaks director Julian Assange. and are recently registered examples, although they have no content on them at this time. Go Daddy, the site which registered both and said there is nothing that can be done about either site while they are contentless.

Not so fast. The Internet can take some credit for toppling Tunisia's government, but not all of it

Friday evening, Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali boarded a jet for Malta, leaving his prime minister to face streets filled with protesters demanding a change of government in the North African country. 

The protests began weeks earlier in the central city of Sidi Bouzid, sparked by the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed university graduate whose informal vegetable stall was shuttered by the police. His despair exemplified the frustration that many Tunisians felt with their contracting economy, high levels of unemployment and inequality, censored media and Internet, and widespread corruption. Protests spread from city to city, with trade unions, lawyers, and countless unemployed Tunisian youth demanding a change to an economic system that appeared to benefit a small number of families close to power and leave ordinary citizens behind.

As the protests intensified, Ben Ali offered concessions to his people: 23 years into his reign, he agreed to step down in 2014. He ordered the security police to stop using live ammunition on protesters after nearly 70 had been killed, cut the price of basic foodstuffs, and promised to allow a freer media and end Internet censorship. This morning, as pressures increased, he offered new elections within six months. But all that failed to placate the crowds, who finally got what they wanted later in the day: a Tunisia sans Ben Ali.

While the future of Tunisia's governance is extremely uncertain at present, it seems we've witnessed the rarest of phenomena, a popular revolt toppling an Arab dictator. Audiences in the Arab world have been glued to Al Jazeera, which has covered the protests closely. Many states in the region suffer from the same problems -- unemployment, slow growth, corrupt government, aging dictators -- that brought Tunisians into the streets. Protesters have taken to the streets in Algeria and Jordan, demanding jobs and affordable food. Whether these protests erupt into the revolution Tunisia is experiencing is impossible to know. What's clear is that the actions taken by Tunisians are reverberating around the region.

Outside the Middle East and the Francophone media sphere, the events in Tunisia have gotten little attention, certainly not the breathless, 24-hour coverage devoted to 2009's Iranian election protests. When the protests began in Sidi Bouzid, much of the English-speaking world was focused on the Christmas and New Year's holidays. As protests in Tunis heated up, U.S. eyeballs were focused on the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona. 

Had the Tunisian protests hit during a slow news month, it's still unlikely they would have been followed as closely as events in Iran, which is larger, of greater international security concern, and has a large, media-savvy diaspora who helped promote the 2009 protests to an international audience.

Iran's diaspora was especially effective at promoting the Green Movement to an online audience that followed tweets, Facebook posts, and web videos avidly, hungry for news from the front lines of the struggle. Tens of thousands of Twitter users turned their profile pictures green in solidarity with the activists, and hundreds set up proxy servers to help Iranians evade Internet filters. For users of social media, the protests in Iran were an inescapable, global story. Tunisia, by contrast, hasn't seen nearly the attention or support from the online community.

The irony is that social media likely played a significant role in the events that have unfolded in the past month in Tunisia, and that the revolution appears far more likely to lead to lasting political change. Ben Ali's government tightly controlled all forms of media, on and offline. Reporters were prevented from traveling to cover protests in Sidi Bouzid, and the reports from official media characterized events as either vandalism or terrorism. Tunisians got an alternative picture from Facebook, which remained uncensored through the protests, and they communicated events to the rest of the world by posting videos to YouTube and Dailymotion. 

As unrest spread from Sidi Bouzid to Sfax, from Hammamet and ultimately to Tunis, Tunisians documented events on Facebook. As others followed their updates, it's likely that news of demonstrations in other parts of the country disseminated online helped others conclude that it was time to take to the streets. And the videos and accounts published to social media sites offered an ongoing picture of the protests to those around the world savvy enough to be paying attention.

One way to understand the significance of social media in Tunisia is to examine the government's attempts to control and silence it. Tunisia has aggressively censored the Internet since 2005, blocking not just explicitly political sites, but social media sites like video-sharing service Dailymotion. Video-sharing sites were a special target of government censors because Tunisian activists are extremely tech-savvy and had released provocative videos online, including one that documented the first lady's frequent shopping trips to Europe using the presidential jet.

Not content just to filter content, last summer Tunisian authorities began "phishing" attacks on activists' Gmail and Facebook accounts. By injecting malicious computer code into the login page of those services through the government-controlled Internet service provider, Ben Ali's monitors were able to obtain passwords to these accounts, locking out the activists and harvesting email lists of presumed activists. When the riots intensified last week, the government began arresting prominent Internet activists, including my Global Voices colleague Slim Amamou, who had broken the story of the government's password phishing. (Amamou was released, apparently unharmed, Thursday night.)

But if the web was such a threat to the government's authority, why did the regime not block Facebook or shut down the Internet entirely? It's critical to understand that Ben Ali was, first and foremost, a pragmatist. As late as Friday morning, he was looking for a solution that would allow him to remain in power, offering concessions in the hope of placating protesters. Internet censorship was already one of the grievances protesters had aired -- when Ben Ali offered concessions to protesters Thursday, loosening the reins was one of the promises that were warmly, if skeptically received.

Pundits will likely start celebrating a "Twitter revolution" in Tunisia, even if they missed watching it unfold; the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan already revived the dreaded phrase Thursday. Others are seeking connections between unfolding events and a WikiLeaks cable that showed U.S. diplomats' frustration with Ben Ali, and with denial-of-service attacks by online activist group Anonymous, which has been targeting entities that have tried to stop the dissemination of WikiLeaks cables, like the Tunisian government. But any attempt to credit a massive political shift to a single factor -- technological, economic, or otherwise -- is simply untrue. Tunisians took to the streets due to decades of frustration, not in reaction to a WikiLeaks cable, a denial-of-service attack, or a Facebook update.

But as we learn more about the events of the past few weeks, we'll discover that online media did play a role in helping Tunisians learn about the actions their fellow citizens were taking and in making the decision to mobilize. How powerful and significant this influence was will be something that academics will study and argue over for years to come. Scholars aren't the only ones who want to know whether social media played a role in the end of Ben Ali's reign -- it's likely to be a hot topic of conversation in Amman, Algiers, and Cairo, as other autocratic leaders wonder whether the bubbling cauldron of unemployment, street protests, and digital media could burn them next.

Twitter Is Hero As Feds Attempt To Trample Wikileaks' Free Speech

Q&A: Former WikiLeaks spokeswoman Birgitta Jonsdottir

A former WikiLeaks spokeswoman and now an Icelandic parliamentarian, Birgitta Jonsdottir had to rearrange her flight schedule for a Canadian visit this week after she became the centre of a diplomatic spat when the U.S. justice department subpoenaed Twitter to hand over her personal details. Ms. Jonsdottir spoke to the Post’s Tamsin McMahon about her thoughts on Julian Assange, why she left WikiLeaks, and her Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, legislation that aims to make Iceland a global save haven for whistleblowers and investigative journalists hamstrung by domestic censorship.

Why are you in Toronto?

Canada used to be the country that other countries would look for when it came to freedom of information and it’s obviously lagging behind. So it’s now sort of at the bottom. So I hope that by talking about these issues that will be an inspiration for everybody who really cares for these things to have Canada again be one of the top countries when it comes to these laws.

Your Icelandic Modern Media Initiative legislation hopes to make Iceland a global safe haven for whistleblowers and journalists. What are the implications for Canada if it’s passed?

One thing it will make sure of is if you publish material through Icelandic servers, it should not be possible to take it down.

Just the simple notion for Canadian authorities that the fact that all the main investigative journalist sections want to move their operations to Iceland, maybe that will be an inspiration for the Canadian legislators to make sure that the working environment for Canadian journalists would be in such a way that they can do their work to report the stories that need to be told.
It is really time to put a brake on the law firms and the corporations that are constantly, everyday, every hour of the day and every second of the day, looking for opportunities to take away our right to know things. Particularly in relation to the big international corporations and politicians that have something to hide.

Why did you change your travel itinerary to avoid going through the U.S. to get to Toronto?

I was advised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland and lawyers in the United States right now that while this is not clear about how the U.S. authorities would respond to the complaints from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that it would be better to avoid going through the United States.
Obviously, the bureaucrats in the United States don’t necessarily know that I’m not responsible for the [leak of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic] cables, but the cable have sort of embarrassed the entire bureaucratic body in the United States. Since I’m obviously in the fishing net, it’s better to at least get a clear answer if I can get guarantees from the U.S. authorities that I can travel without the risk of being interrogated or my equipment being taken away.

But I’m definitely going there unless they tell me they’re going to be sending me to Guantanamo Bay or something.

What do you think the U.S. Justice Department was trying to find by subpoenaing your Twitter account?

I think that they’re trying to build a case against Julian Assange to have him extradited to the United States and maybe they think that I know Bradley Manning [the U.S. soldier jailed on charges he leaked much of the government material to WikiLeaks], or that me and Julian had a long Tweet discussion about Bradley Manning. I don’t know, but I think it’s a part of a bigger fishing expedition.

For me, fighting against handing over this information to a foreign government, when I know they’re building a case based on sand, where they’re trying not only to criminalize whistle blowing, they’re also trying to criminalize the middle man that hands over the envelope from a source to a newspaper or the public, I find that to be very disturbing.

I also want to protest this because even if I don’t think that parliamentarians should have any more immunity than others, that’s still the law and that needs to be respected between borders.

Parliamentarians are just ordinary people or people with various different backgrounds and many of them care for different issues. Some care for Palestine. Others care for Tibet. So let’s say that this would be accepted as something that’s OK. Then I can’t say that I would feel very sympathetic toward members of the U.S. Senate who would get similar probes and fishing expeditions from Chinese authorities because of their support of Tibet, or the Israeli government wanting to probe into those that want to support Palestinian issues in Europe. 

So this opens up a whole can of worms.

I am not a terrorist even if I’ve gotten that label for standing up for environmental issues in Iceland and for WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is not a terrorist organization and it’s not right when people that have strong media attention, such Sarah Palin and others, when they start to call for the assassination of Julian Assange. Just look at what happened in Arizona. People need to understand that words are very powerful and if you use this word calling for the assassination of Julian Assange or me or anybody else associated with WikiLeaks, are these people willing to live with the consequences if any of us would be killed?

Do you think you’re really at risk of being assassinated?

You don’t put out empty threats like this. This is a very serious threat. Here is a person that was running as a vice-president of the United States saying things like this. How can you possibly take the United States seriously if this is the quality of the dialogue of the people that are running for the highest offices in this country?

Beyond the Collateral Murder [A leaked video of a 2007 U.S. air strike in Iraq that killed 12, including two Reuters journalists], how much involvement have you had with any of the other leaks?

Not at all. I just helped with the Collateral Murder video. I worked as a spokesperson in relation to that. I worked with Julian Assange and [early WikiLeaks spokesman] Daniel Schmidt [ Domscheit-Berg] extensively in getting their hands on experience with where laws are good when we were cherry-picking the best laws for [the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative].
I was at one stage asked to, just in case something would happen to Julian or anything else, I was a security in the sense that I had access to information that I would pass on, but other than that, I was never a part of the decision-making of what should be or should not be published. Along with many other people I kept bits and pieces of the puzzle that would have been published or at least kept in a safe place were anything to happen. It was like some encrypted files.

Why did you leave WikiLeaks?

If you had a startup company, it’s very hard when it grows to let go of your vision, or your idealism, or the way you do things. So I could see that WikiLeaks was morphing. The tendency is if you have organic grassroots movements, it doesn’t matter if there’s one person that’s sort of leading the way because there are still very organic discussion-based decisions being made. 

When you morph into a larger structure, there are so many more responsibilities that come with that. You need to be able to utilize more people because there are just so many different responsibilities that come with it. So if you don’t have a very good structure in place, it is a very big danger that people will become disgruntled.

There is not enough transparency within the organization about decisions and not good enough communication flow and in order for a good communication flow, you have to have good structure and know whose role is appointed to each other. I just wanted to have a debate about this with sort of the core group of volunteers and I couldn’t. I tried for a long time and it didn’t happen.

One of the biggest criticisms on WikiLeaks, just like WikiLeaks criticizes government for their lack of transparency, there was a big criticism of WikiLeaks for not being transparent enough about their financial system, their donations. It would have just been so easy to make that just completely open instead of defending it all the time and having these speculations. I don’t think there was any reason to suspect that there was anything wrong with the financial aspect, it’s just that it needed to be more transparent.

Do you think WikiLeaks has done enough to support Bradley Manning after his arrest?

This is a tricky situation because on the one hand Julian did call out on the 15th of June last year for fundraising for Manning on the WikiLeaks mailing list. But it didn’t have a tag saying I’m donating to Bradley Manning. So this is one of my criticisms. Nobody really knows who sent money for Bradley Manning and who was supporting WikiLeaks. At the same time, because Bradley Manning was mentioned as the WikiLeaks source, even if we don’t know if he was or not, they offered to support half of his legal fees, which was around $50,000. Then that sort of changed. Julian said he could only do $20,000 and then the money never showed.

So I have allowed myself to criticize them to encourage them to do something about that. There were some fears I’ve heard that if WikiLeaks would really gets behind Bradley Manning, the U.S. authorities would use that as proof. So it’s a tricky situation how to deal with it.

But I think that it’s super important that people rally behind Bradley Manning because he has been sitting in jail for 7.5 months in isolation. And it’s no soft isolation. I don’t think he even has a pillow or anything. He needs for us to know that he exists and he needs to know that there are a lot of people that think that he at least should have a trial and what he did, if he is responsible for the Iraq war Collateral Murder video, that was a courageous act.

Do you know if it was Bradley Manning who leaked the files?

No. But if he is indeed the alleged source, then I feel compelled to stand behind him because it takes a hell of a lot of guts to report on war crimes, particularly if you were part of the war crimes by being part of the military.

Julian Assange is facing sexual assault charges in Sweden and his case has seemed to have even eclipsed the attention over what government information that has been leaked. What do think about the focus on these charges against him and his conduct as a person?

I don’t really I don’t know what he conduct is. I wasn’t there. I’ve seen police reports. I’ve seen his defense. I want to stress that there are these two women in Sweden that are having actually quite a miserable life and since we don’t know what happened, if they are honey pots -— CIA spies — or if they are just ordinary women that are supporting WikiLeaks. We don’t know, so I think we should consider that and be considerate of all the parties involved by just letting go of speculating too much about this and focus on the content of WikiLeaks and to stop letting the messenger be in the way of the message he is delivering.

That is also the responsibility of the media. I know from many talks that I’ve had with Julian Assange that he is not like he is portrayed. His biggest dream is not to be on the front pages of newspaper, but the story that he wanted to tell it’s all been mixed up. I guess getting into the spotlight like he did, you have to be really well-prepared to deal with that and that’s why you also need structure. You need to be able to take the load off now and I think it would have saved him a lot of agony if that would have been in place before sh-t hit the fan.

If he is guilty, does that diminish the work he has done with WikiLeaks?

I don’t know. It should not. My personal thing, not with him, just in general, you really should always practice what you preach. It’s very hard to do that, but still the ultimate goal ought to be to always practice what you preach.

If you’re a priest and you’re talking about how you’re the middle man between God and us and then you abuse that power to some other means, that’s not really walking your talk. It’s the same if you are a poet and you write beautiful poetry about how you should honour women and then you go back home and you beat up your wife.

I’m not saying that Julian is not. I’m just saying that it is very important if you’re preaching for sort of freedom of information then you can’t really complain that somebody leaked your police report. It’s not even his police report, it’s the reports from the women.

But I think that the guy is just under tremendous pressure and that really the focus of all of this should be rather than Julian Assange versus Sweden, it should be Julian Assange versus extradition to the United States and I will support him in that. But with this Swedish thing, I just don’t want to get anywhere near it. I don’t even like talking about it. I shouldn’t have because it just adds on to this endless debate about something that is completely irrelevant to me.

You generally don’t talk about WikiLeaks much anymore. Why are you now?

I want to talk about WikiLeaks because I have now become affiliated again with WikiLeaks through this subpoena. I made a plan that if Julian Assange was attacked by any authority for the work he is doing for freedom of information that I would stick my neck out and that is the single most important thing.

To me the centre of the story is danger that people like him are facing by U.S. authorites rather than if he is annoying or not.

John Pilger's Investigation Into the War on WikiLeaks and His Interview With Julian Assange

Swiss Whistleblower Rudolf Elmer Plans To Hand Over Offshore Banking Secrets Of The Rich And Famous To Wikileaks

  The Observer, Sunday 16 January 2011

He will disclose the details of 'massive potential tax evasion' before he flies home to stand trial over his actions

The offshore bank account details of 2,000 "high net worth individuals" and corporations – detailing massive potential tax evasion – will be handed over to the WikiLeaks organisation in London tomorrow by the most important and boldest whistleblower in Swiss banking history, Rudolf Elmer, two days before he goes on trial in his native Switzerland.

British and American individuals and companies are among the offshore clients whose details will be contained on CDs presented to WikiLeaks at the Frontline Club in London. Those involved include, Elmer tells the Observer, "approximately 40 politicians".

Elmer, who after his press conference will return to Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial, is a former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands and employee of the powerful Julius Baer bank, which accuses him of stealing the information.

He is also – at a time when the activities of banks are a matter of public concern – one of a small band of employees and executives seeking to blow the whistle on what they see as unprofessional, immoral and even potentially criminal activity by powerful international financial institutions.
Along with the City of London and Wall Street, Switzerland is a fortress of banking and financial services, but famously secretive and expert in the concealment of wealth from all over the world for tax evasion and other extra-legal purposes.

Elmer says he is releasing the information "in order to educate society". The list includes "high net worth individuals", multinational conglomerates and financial institutions – hedge funds". They are said to be "using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax". They come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia – "from all over".

Clients include "business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates – from both sides of the Atlantic". Elmer says: "Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on."

"What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures," he told the Observer. "I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering – although these cases involve tax evasion."

Elmer was held in custody for 30 days in 2005, and is charged with breaking Swiss bank secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two officials at Julius Baer.

Elmer says: "I agree with privacy in banking for the person in the street, and legitimate activity, but in these instances privacy is being abused so that big people can get big banking organizations to service them. The normal, hard-working taxpayer is being abused also.

"Once you become part of senior management," he says, "and gain international experience, as I did, then you are part of the inner circle – and things become much clearer. You are part of the plot. You know what the real products and service are, and why they are so expensive. It should be no surprise that the main product is secrecy … Crimes are committed and lies spread in order to protect this secrecy."

The names on the CDs will not be made public, just as a much shorter list of 15 clients that Elmer handed to WikiLeaks in 2008 has remained hitherto undisclosed by the organization headed by Julian Assange, currently on bail over alleged sex offences in Sweden, and under investigation in the US for the dissemination of thousands of state department documents.

Elmer has been hounded by the Swiss authorities and media since electing to become a whistleblower, and his health and career have suffered.
"My understanding is that my client's attempts to get the banks to act over various complaints he made came to nothing internally," says Elmer's lawyer, Jack Blum, one of America's leading experts in tracking offshore money. "Neither would the Swiss courts act on his complaints. That's why he went to WikiLeaks."

That first crop of documents was scrutinized by the Guardian newspaper in 2009, which found "details of numerous trusts in which wealthy people have placed capital. This allows them lawfully to avoid paying tax on profits, because legally it belongs to the trust … The trust itself pays no tax, as a Cayman resident", although "the trustees can distribute money to the trust's beneficiaries".

Now, Blum says, "Elmer is being tried for violating Swiss banking secrecy law even though the data is from the Cayman Islands. This is bold extraterritorial nonsense. Swiss secrecy law should apply to Swiss banks in Switzerland, not a Swiss subsidiary in the Cayman Islands."

Julius Baer has denied all wrongdoing, and rejects Elmer's allegations. It has said that Elmer "altered" documents in order to "create a distorted fact pattern".

The bank issued a statement on Friday saying: "The aim of [Elmer's] activities was, and is, to discredit Julius Baer as well as clients in the eyes of the public. With this goal in mind, Mr Elmer spread baseless accusations and passed on unlawfully acquired, respectively retained, documents to the media, and later also to WikiLeaks. To back up his campaign, he also used falsified documents."

The bank also accuses Elmer of threatening colleagues.

WikiLeaks Activist Searched, Questioned At Seattle Airport

Jacob Appelbaum Tweets That Federal Agents In Seattle Nicer Than Agents In Newark

A member of the core group of computer "hacktivists" who founded WikiLeaks was detained by federal agents at the Seattle airport earlier this week, in an apparent attempt by authorities to learn more about the group that exposed thousands of once-secret U.S. government documents on the internet.

Jacob Appelbaum, an American citizen in his late 20s, was questioned and searched for 30 minutes at Seattle Tacoma International Airport on Monday evening after returning from Iceland. 

The inventor of the Tor Project, security software that allows computer users to surf the web anonymously, Appelbaum has lent his computer security expertise to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. 

He was previously detained and searched by federal agents at Newark airport last July, and is one of five WikiLeaks volunteers whose Twitter accounts were subpoenaed by the U.S. government in December.

Appelbaum gave his account of what happened at SeaTac in a long series of Tweets starting Wednesday afternoon. Brigitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's parliament and an early Wikileaks activist, confirmed the authenticity of Appelbaum's Twitter account.

"I was detained, searched, and [Customs and Border Protection agents] did attempt to question me about the nature of my vacation upon landing in Seattle," posted Appelbaum.

Appelbaum wrote that the agents wanted his laptops and cell phones and "were visibly unhappy when they discovered nothing of the sort."

"I did, however," wrote Appelbaum, "have a few USB thumb drives with a copy of the Bill of Rights encoded in the block device. They were unable to copy it." 

Appelbaum Also Claimed That He Was Searched Without His Consent, And That His Request To Speak To His Lawyer Was Ignored.

Appelbaum had posted his arrival time in Seattle on his Twitter account before leaving Iceland. After he landed in Seattle, according to Appelbaum, a CBP mentioned the pre-flight posting to him, which he took to be an assertion that the federal authorities knew he was coming.

But Appelbaum was happier with his experience in Seattle than with what happened at Newark airport last summer. "The CBP agents in Seattle were nicer than the ones in Newark," Appelbaum posted on his feed. "None of them implied I would be raped in prison for the rest of my life this time."

Appelbaum was detained for several hours at Newark Liberty Airport on July 29, 2010 after arriving from the Netherlands. 

He was questioned by CBP agents and had his electronic devices, including his computer and cell phones, searched. His phones were confiscated, and customs agents made mirror images of his computer data drive in an effort to search his files.

Officials from Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol did not return calls seeking comment.

The searches and subpoenas for information come as the Justice Department looks for ways to prosecute Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for posting a series of classified military documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most recently roughly 250,000 classified State Department cables. 

Army private first class Bradley Manning has been accused by the military of leaking classified materials to Assange and WikiLeaks. He is currently being held in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia.

Appelbaum had earlier written on his Twitter feed that his account information had been subpoenaed by the U.S. government and warned his followers not to write him private messages on Twitter for fear that they too could be later read by Justice department prosecutors. Jonsdottir was among the WikiLeaks volunteers who received letters from Twitter informing them of U.S. subpoenas.

A lawyer for Julian Assange, Mark Stephens, told Bloomberg News that the Justice Department also requested user information about Assange, Appelbaum, Jonsdottir and two other activists from Google, Facebook and Skype.

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men,
they create for themselves,
in the course of time,
a legal system that authorizes it,
and a moral code that glorifies it.”
– Political economist Frederic Bastiat, The Law [1850]
“I used to think of Wall Street as a financial center.
I now think of it as a crime scene.”
– Filmmaker Danny Schecter, Plunder (2009)

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