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Intelligence based on ‘fabrication’

 

  • Press Association – A member of the British Desert Rats during fighting on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Basra

Vital intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq 10 years ago was based on “fabrication” and “wishful thinking”, a new documentary claims.

A BBC Panorama investigation, broadcast to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, suggests that US and UK security services relied on several pieces of questionable information, while dismissing others that were contradictory.

The war, which started on March 20, 2003, lasted over six years, claimed the lives of 179 UK personnel, more than 100,000 Iraqis, and and cost more than £9 billion.

Britain ended combat operations in 2009 but a decade on the war remains unfinished business, with ongoing questions about the legality of the invasion, and the conduct of British troops.

Panorama – The Spies Who Fooled The World – documents the chain of secret information that contributed to the decision to invade, including new testimonies from intelligence sources.

It tells how claims from a few sources that Iraq was manufacturing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) spiralled into apparently sound intelligence used to justify the war.

The programme alleges that certain intelligence was relied on out of wishful thinking, with one source telling the programme the Iraq War was borne out of “choice” rather than “necessity”.

In his first TV interview on the subject August Hanning, former head of German Intelligence, said Iraqi spy Rafed Al Janabi – codenamed Curveball – told German secret services he had witnessed the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons, including mobile facilities to produce them.

The information was passed by the Germans to American and British intelligence, along with concerns about its reliability, he said.

Former CIA Europe Division chief Tyler Drumheller also claimed he passed warnings about Curveball’s claims up the chain of command, while Mr Hanning said he also sent a personal cable to then CIA director George Tenet. Mr Tenet denies receiving the warnings, the programme says.

Source: Press Association Via Yahoo News

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Indian lawyers refuse to defend gang-rape accused

india-rape-protest-1-AFP-670

Indian university students shout slogans during protest march in New Delhi on Dec 31, 2012. — Photo by AFP

NEW DELHI: Lawyers at an Indian court hearing the case of a fatal gang-rape which has shocked the nation said on Wednesday they would refuse to defend the men accused of taking part in the assault and murder.

Hearings are expected to begin on Thursday at the Saket district court in south New Delhi, where police will formally present a 1,000-page charge sheet against the six-person gang.

“We have decided that no lawyer will stand up to defend the rape accused as it would be immoral to defend the case,” Sanjay Kumar, a lawyer and a member of the Saket District Bar Council, told AFP.

Kumar said the 2,500 advocates registered at the court have decided to “stay away” to ensure “speedy justice”, meaning the government would have to appoint lawyers for the defendants.

Another lawyer at the court confirmed the boycott to AFP.

Five men are expected to face charges including rape, murder and kidnapping in the Saket court, with the prosecutor likely to seek the death sentence.

A sixth suspect is believed to be 17 years old, meaning he would be tried in a juveniles’ court, but police are conducting bone tests to determine his age.

The brutality and horrific nature of the attack on a 23-year-old has led to protests in the capital and elsewhere over the widespread abuse of women and sex crime in India.

The rape victim died at the weekend after 13-day struggle to survive injuries so grievous that part of her intestines had to be removed.

She was repeatedly raped and violated with an iron bar on a bus on December 16 before being thrown from the moving vehicle at the end of a 40-minute ordeal.

In 2008, Indian lawyers also refused to defend a gunman who took part in attacks on Mumbai which killed 166 people, leaving him with a government-appointed lawyer. He was executed in November last year.

Source: Dawn News

 

Pakistan, 10 others to surpass EU by 2030: US govt report

The study is presented to US policymakers to plan for the best and worst possible scenarios. It includes a Goldman Sachs list of “Next Eleven” consisting of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, and Vietnam.

WASHINGTON: The “Next Eleven,” which include Pakistan, will collectively overtake EU-27 in global power by 2030, says a US government report released on Monday.

Although America’s influence will reduce, it will remain the “first among equals,” adds the report prepared by the US National Intelligence Council with inputs from 18 American intelligence agencies and dozens ofthink-tanks.

Based on socio-economic trends across the globe, the study also presents the best and the worst case scenarios in the report titled, “Global Trends 2030.”

The best case scenario: Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030. The middle class will outnumber others. Most people will have access to technology, advanced health care and most countries will learn to link with each other. The United States and China will also cooperate with each other to lead the way.

In the worst case scenarios, rising population leads to conflict over water and food, especially in the Mideast and Africa, and the instability contributes to global economic collapse.

The study is presented to US policymakers to plan for the best and worst possible scenarios.

It includes a Goldman Sachs list of “Next Eleven” consisting of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, and Vietnam.

The “Next Eleven” will collectively overtake the EU-27 in global power by 2030. “When this second tier is combined with the non-Western giants of China and India, the shift of power from the West to the emerging or non-Western world is even more pronounced,” the report notes.

The study suggests that China will surpass the US in 2022 if GDP is measured at purchasing power parity and sometime near 2030 if GDP is measured at market exchange rates.

India will most likely continue to consolidate its power advantage relative to Pakistan, says the report. India’s economy is already nearly eight times as large as Pakistan’s; by 2030 that ratio could easily be more than 16-to-1, it adds.

Both Pakistan and India probably will have youthful ethnic and regional populations that could remain a security concern.

Youthful age structures are likely to persist for most of the next two decades among tribal populations in Pakistan’s western provinces and territories.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the rates of childbearing are probably greater than five children per woman among the Pushtun.

The report warns that South Asia may face a series of internal and external shocks during the next 15-20 years. Low growth, rising food prices, and energy shortages will pose stiff challenges to governance in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s youth bulges are large, similar in size to those found in many African countries. “When these youth bulges are combined with a slow-growing economy, they portend increased instability,” the study warns.

India is in a better position, benefiting from higher growth, but it will still be challenged to find jobs for its large youth population.

Inequality, lack of infrastructure and education deficiencies are key weaknesses in India, the report adds.

A growing sense of insecurity in South Asia will bolster military outlays. Conflict could erupt and spread under numerous scenarios.

Conflicting strategic goals, widespread distrust, and the hedging strategies by all the parties will make it difficult for them to develop a strong regional security framework.

Insufficient natural resources, such as water and arable land, and disproportionate levels of young men increase the risks of intrastate conflict breaking out. Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan also havefaltering governance institutions.

The study notes that nuclear powers such as Russia and Pakistan and potential aspirants such as Iran and North Korea see nuclear weapons as compensation for other political and security weaknesses, heightening the risk of their use. The chance of non-state actors conducting a cyber-attack, or using WMD, also is increasing.

Globally, power will no longer reside with one or two key nations, but be spread across networks and coalitions of countries working together.

Sixty present of the world’s population will live in cities.

Nearly half of the world’s population will live in areas experiencing severe water stress.

Among the anticipated crises is the worry of global economic collapse, fighting among nations that don’t adapt rapidly enough to change and the

possible spillover of instability in the Mideast and South Asia to the rest of the world.

Technology is seen as a potential saviour to head off some of this conflict, boosting economic productivity to keep pockets filled despite rising population, rapid growth of cities and climate change.

The report warns of the mostly catastrophic effect of possible “Black Swans,” extraordinary events that can change the course of history. These include a severe pandemic that could kill millions in a matter of months and more rapid climate change that could make it hard to feed the world’s population.

Two positive events are also listed, including “a democratic China or a reformed Iran,” which could bring more global stability.

APP adds: Pakistan-India economic relations will be critical to determining stability of the South Asia and Islamabad’s economy could grow on sustained basis if normalisation of trade between the two nuclear neighbours takes place, a new US report, looking into the world scenario in 2030, said Monday.

“In a Turn-the-Corner scenario, sustained economic growth in Pakistan based on the gradual normalisation of trade with a rising India would be a critical factor,” says the report.

An improved economic environment would produce more opportunities for youth entering the workforce, lessening the attractiveness of  militancy and containing the spread of violence, the authors of report say of Pakistan’s economic possibilities.

Intra-regional trade would also be important in building trust between India and Pakistan, slowly changing threat perceptions and anchoring sectors withvested interests in continuing economic ties, it argues.

The report projects a strong economic engine in India could lay down new foundations for prosperity and regional cooperation in South Asia.

Over several decades, Pakistan would grow into a relatively stable economy, no longer requiring foreign assistance and IMF support. However, authors of the report stipulate that such a scenario would need sustained good governance and tax reforms that spur new industries, jobs and more resources for modern education in Pakistan.

It also presents other scenarios with pitfalls, including the militants, retarding developments in the region with violence.

A collapse in neighbouring Afghanistan would probably set back any such civilian-led agenda, reinforcing security fears and retrenchment, the report cautions.

Source: Dawn News

Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world

Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens’ happiness levels, not the GDP. Now its ideas are attracting interest at the UN climate change conference in Doha

A series of hand-painted signs dot the side of the winding mountain road that runs between the airport and the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu. Instead of commands to cut speed or check mirrors, they offer the traveller a series of life-affirming mantras. “Life is a journey! Complete it!” says one, while another urges drivers to, “Let nature be your guide”. Another, standing on the edge of a perilous curve, simply says: “Inconvenience regretted.”

It’s a suitably uplifting welcome to visitors to this remote kingdom, a place of ancient monasteries, fluttering prayer flags and staggering natural beauty. Less than 40 years ago, Bhutan opened its borders for the first time. Since then, it has gained an almost mythical status as a real-life Shangri-La, largely for its determined and methodical pursuit of the most elusive of concepts – national happiness.

Since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.

For the past three decades, this belief that wellbeing should take preference over material growth has remained a global oddity. Now, in a world beset by collapsing financial systems, gross inequity and wide-scale environmental destruction, this tiny Buddhist state’s approach is attracting a lot of interest.

As world leaders prepare to meet in Doha on Monday for the second week of the UN climate change conference, Bhutan’s stark warning that the rest of the world is on an environmental and economical suicide path is starting to gain traction. Last year the UN adopted Bhutan’s call for a holistic approach to development, a move endorsed by 68 countries. A UN panel is now considering ways that Bhutan’s GNH model can be replicated across the globe.

As representatives in Doha struggle to find ways of reaching a consensus on global emissions, Bhutan is also being held up as an example of a developing country that has put environmental conservation and sustainability at the heart of its political agenda. In the last 20 years Bhutan has doubled life expectancy, enrolled almost 100% of its children in primary school and overhauled its infrastructure.

At the same time, placing the natural world at the heart of public policy has led to environmental protection being enshrined in the constitution. The country has pledged to remain carbon neutral and to ensure that at least 60% of its landmass will remain under forest cover in perpetuity. It has banned export logging and has even instigated a monthly pedestrian day that bans all private vehicles from its roads.

“It’s easy to mine the land and fish the seas and get rich,” says Thakur Singh Powdyel, Bhutan’s minister of education, who has become one of the most eloquent spokespeople for GNH. “Yet we believe you cannot have a prosperous nation in the long run that does not conserve its natural environment or take care of the wellbeing of its people, which is being borne out by what is happening to the outside world.”

Powdyel believes the world has misinterpreted Bhutan’s quest. “People always ask how can you possibly have a nation of happy people? But this is missing the point,” he says. “GNH is an aspiration, a set of guiding principles through which we are navigating our path towards a sustainable and equitable society. We believe the world needs to do the same before it is too late.”

Bhutan’s principles have been set in policy through the gross national happiness index, based on equitable social development, cultural preservation, conservation of the environment and promotion of good governance.

At a primary school in Thimphu, the headteacher, Choki Dukpa, watches her students make their way to class. She says that she has seen huge changes to the children’s emotional wellbeing since GNH principles were integrated into the education system four years ago. She admits that at first she had no idea what the government’s policy to change all education facilities into “green schools” meant.

“It sounded good but I wasn’t sure how it would work,” she says. But after Unicef funded a “green schools” teacher training programme, things improved. “The idea of being green does not just mean the environment, it is a philosophy for life,” says Dukpa.

Alongside maths and science, children are taught basic agricultural techniques and environmental protection. A new national waste management programme ensures that every piece of material used at the school is recycled.

The infusion of GNH into education has also meant daily meditation sessions and soothing traditional music replacing the clang of the school bell.

“An education doesn’t just mean getting good grades, it means preparing them to be good people,” says Dukpa. “This next generation is going to face a very scary world as their environment changes and social pressures increase. We need to prepare them for this.”

Despite its focus on national wellbeing, Bhutan faces huge challenges. It remains one of the poorest nations on the planet. A quarter of its 800,000 people survive on less than $1.25 a day, and 70% live without electricity. It is struggling with a rise in violent crime, a growing gang culture and the pressures of rises in both population and global food prices.

It also faces an increasingly uncertain future. Bhutan’s representatives at the Doha climate talks are warning that its gross national happiness model could crumble in the face of increasing environmental and social pressures and climatic change.

“The aim of staying below a global two-degree temperature increase being discussed here this week is not sufficient for us. We are a small nation, we have big challenges and we are trying our best, but we can’t save our environment on our own,” says Thinley Namgyel, who heads Bhutan’s climate change division. “Bhutan is a mountainous country, highly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. We have a population that is highly dependent on the agricultural sector. We are banking on hydropower as the engine that will finance our development.”

In Paro, an agricultural region one hour out of the capital, Dawa Tshering explains how the weather is already causing him problems. The 53-year-old farmer grew up in Paro, surrounded by mountains and streams, but has found it increasingly difficult to work his two acres of rice paddy.

“The weather has changed a lot: there is no snow in winter, the rains come at the wrong times and our plants get ruined. There are violent storms,” he says. Around 70% of Bhutan’s people are smallholder farmers like Tshering.

“The temperature has got hotter so there are more insects in the fruit and grain. I don’t understand it, but if it continues we’re going to have many problems in growing food and feeding ourselves.”

Bhutan is taking action to try to protect itself. Ground-breaking work is being done to try to reduce the flooding potential in its remote glacial lakes. Yet it cannot do it alone. Last week in Doha, campaigners pushed for more support to countries such as Bhutan that are acutely vulnerable to climate change.

“While the world is now starting to look to Bhutan as an alternative model of sustainable economics, all of its efforts could be undone if the world doesn’t take action in Doha,” says Stephen Pattison from Unicef UK.

“Small and developing countries like Bhutan must get more support, and the UK and other governments must start actually taking action, like pledging their share of money to the green climate fund and get it up and running as soon as possible.”

In Paro, teenagers in school uniform heading home from lessons are well aware of the hard times ahead for Bhutan as it tries to navigate a path between preserving its sustainable agenda and the global realities it faces. All say they are proud to be Bhutanese. They want to be forest rangers, environmental scientists and doctors. At the same time they want to travel the world, listen to Korean pop music and watch Rambo.

“I want to be able to go out and see the world but then I want to come home to Bhutan and for it to be the same,” says Kunzang Jamso, a 15-year-old whose traditional dress is offset with a hint of a boyband haircut. “I think we must keep the outside from coming here too much because we might lose our culture, and if you don’t have that then how do you know who you are?”

Source: Guardian News

Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault

Letter with 52 signatories including artists and activists also denounces US and EU ‘complicity’ through weapons sales

A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month.

The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their “complicity” through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including about 35 children.

The 52 signatories include the Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; the author Alice Walker; the US academic Noam Chomsky; Roger Waters of Pink Floyd; and Stéphane Hessel, a former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor who was co-author of the universal declaration of human rights.

“Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel’s decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel,” the letter says.

“Such a measure has been subject to several UN resolutions and is similar to the arms embargo imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past.”

The letter accuses several countries of providing important military support that facilitated the assault on Gaza. “While the United States has been the largest sponsor of Israel, supplying billions of dollars of advanced military hardware every year, the role of the European Union must not go unnoticed, in particular its hefty subsidies to Israel’s military complex through its research programmes.

“Similarly, the growing military ties between Israel and the emerging economies of Brazil, India and South Korea are unconscionable given their nominal support for Palestinian freedom,” it says.

The letter opens with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

The other signatories include John Dugard, a South African jurist and former UN special rapporteur in the occupied territories; Luisa Morgantini, former president of the European parliament; Cynthia McKinney, a former member of the US Congress; Ronnie Kasrils, a South African former cabinet minister; and the dramatist Caryl Churchill.

Source: Guardian News

UK education comes sixth in global league table

Countries which do best have a culture which supports education, says report

The UK education system is ranked sixth best in the developed world, according to a new global league table.

Finland and South Korea top the new league table, followed by Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

The global study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for education firm Pearson, used data from international tests, as well as data on school literacy and university graduation rates to draw up the index.

UK education has come sixth in the world

The UK was found to have the second best education system in Europe, ahead of countries such as Switzerland, Denmark and Germany which were ranked 9th, 12th and 15th respectively.

The research is designed to help policymakers, school leaders and academics identify the key factors which drive improved educational outcomes.

For educational attainment, based on literacy and graduation rates from schools and colleges, the UK is second only to South Korea, while Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan were ranked highly in the cognitive ability category based on international tests in maths, reading and science.

While investing in education “undoubtedly reaps rewards”, the report – called the Learning Curve – suggested that a culture of support for education is probably more important. It also added that there was no substitute for high quality teaching. “The best performing countries attract top talent, train teachers throughout their careers and allow them freedom too” the report stated.

Denis McCauley, executive editor, business research at the Economist Intelligence Unit said: “We hope our study serves as a catalyst for further collaborative efforts by academics, practitioners and policymakers to deepen our knowledge about what contributes to better education performance and outcomes.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said: “This is great news for all those working in schools and colleges. The study by Pearson concludes that having a culture that is supportive of learning is vitally important to educational success.”

Learning Curve top 20 countries for education

  • Finland
  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Australia
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • USA
  • Hungary
  • Slovakia
  • Russia

Source: Guardian News

UK hopes Mideast nuclear talks can be held next year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo dated October 31, 2012 show British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt at an at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London.—File Photo

LONDON: Britain said on Saturday it hoped a conference on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East could take place “as soon as possible”, after the United States said it would not be held next month.

The US State Department said on Friday that the conference could “not be convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a conference”.

It did not spell out when or if the event, originally scheduled for December, would take place.

But Britain, which along with the United States, Russia and the United Nations is ones of the organisers, made it clear that the conference was only being postponed rather than cancelled altogether, saying it backed efforts to hold it next year.

“We support the convening of a conference as soon as possible. We endorse fully the work of the Conference Facilitator, Finnish Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava, to build consensus on next steps,” Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement.

“We welcome his commitment to conduct further multilateral consultations with the countries of the region to agree arrangements for a conference in 2013,” Burt said.

Washington had feared that the conference, which was to be held in Finland, could be used as a forum to bash Israel, a concern likely to have increased after eight days of Israeli-Palestinian fighting that ended with a ceasefire on Wednesday.

Iran and Arab states often say Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal poses a threat to Middle East peace and security. Israel and Western powers see Iran as the main nuclear proliferation threat, but Tehran denies any nuclear weapons ambitions.

The plan for a meeting to prepare the ground for the possible creation of a ‘weapons of mass destruction-free Middle East’ was agreed to at a May 2010 conference of 189 parties to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT.

Like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, Israel has never signed the NPT. It neither confirms nor denies having nuclear arms, although non-proliferation and security analysts believe it has several hundred nuclear weapons.

Even if the talks do occur, Western diplomats and others expect little progress any time soon due to the deep-rooted animosities in the region, notably the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran announced earlier this month it would attend the conference, but some Western diplomats said they thought Tehran may have only done so once it became clear that the meeting was likely to be postponed anyway.

Source: Dawn News