Thursday, December 23, 2004

Culture Wars, part 3

So this is what a culture of life looks like...
Exhibit A: US Forces have been actively eliminating civilians in Iraq who've attempted to count the casualties they inflict.

Exhibit B: The next logical step after okaying torture flights of 'detainees' to Jordan and Saudi Arabia for interrogation: Evidence obtained by torture is now admissable. **note: nonworking link. Contents survive in comments. An illuminative excerpt: "Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence..."

Exhibit C: New York City's Administration for Children's Services, in a bid to make Florida's Department of Children's Services look competent and compassionate, has been using the minority, HIV+ orphans in its charge as captive Guinea pigs to test the toxicity of experimental drugs. Infants as young as three months have been force-fed double dosages of experimental medications, in an effort to find out just how much is 'safe'. Foster parents who object are accused of abuse and have their children taken away.


Blogger Management said...

In Iraq, the US does eliminate those who dare to count the dead

Naomi Klein
Saturday December 4, 2004
The Guardian

David T Johnson,
Acting ambassador,
US Embassy, London

Dear Mr Johnson, On November 26, your press counsellor sent a letter to the Guardian taking strong exception to a sentence in my column of the same day. The sentence read: "In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone - doctors, clerics, journalists - who dares to count the bodies." Of particular concern was the word "eliminating".

The letter suggested that my charge was "baseless" and asked the Guardian either to withdraw it, or provide "evidence of this extremely grave accusation". It is quite rare for US embassy officials to openly involve themselves in the free press of a foreign country, so I took the letter extremely seriously. But while I agree that the accusation is grave, I have no intention of withdrawing it. Here, instead, is the evidence you requested.

In April, US forces laid siege to Falluja in retaliation for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater employees. The operation was a failure, with US troops eventually handing the city back to resistance forces. The reason for the withdrawal was that the siege had sparked uprisings across the country, triggered by reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed. This information came from three main sources: 1) Doctors. USA Today reported on April 11 that "Statistics and names of the dead were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Falluja general hospital". 2) Arab TV journalists. While doctors reported the numbers of dead, it was al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya that put a human face on those statistics. With unembedded camera crews in Falluja, both networks beamed footage of mutilated women and children throughout Iraq and the Arab-speaking world. 3) Clerics. The reports of high civilian casualties coming from journalists and doctors were seized upon by prominent clerics in Iraq. Many delivered fiery sermons condemning the attack, turning their congregants against US forces and igniting the uprising that forced US troops to withdraw.
US authorities have denied that hundreds of civilians were killed during last April's siege, and have lashed out at the sources of these reports. For instance, an unnamed "senior American officer", speaking to the New York Times last month, labelled Falluja general hospital "a centre of propaganda". But the strongest words were reserved for Arab TV networks. When asked about al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya's reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed in Falluja, Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defence, replied that "what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable ... " Last month, US troops once again laid siege to Falluja - but this time the attack included a new tactic: eliminating the doctors, journalists and clerics who focused public attention on civilian casualties last time around.

Eliminating doctors
The first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm Falluja general hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under military control. The New York Times reported that "the hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumours about heavy casual ties", noting that "this time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent weapons". The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the soldiers "stole the mobile phones" at the hospital - preventing doctors from communicating with the outside world.

But this was not the worst of the attacks on health workers. Two days earlier, a crucial emergency health clinic was bombed to rubble, as well as a medical supplies dispensary next door. Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who was working in the clinic, says the bombs took the lives of 15 medics, four nurses and 35 patients. The Los Angeles Times reported that the manager of Falluja general hospital "had told a US general the location of the downtown makeshift medical centre" before it was hit.

Whether the clinic was targeted or destroyed accidentally, the effect was the same: to eliminate many of Falluja's doctors from the war zone. As Dr Jumaili told the Independent on November 14: "There is not a single surgeon in Falluja." When fighting moved to Mosul, a similar tactic was used: on entering the city, US and Iraqi forces immediately seized control of the al-Zaharawi hospital.

Eliminating journalists
The images from last month's siege on Falluja came almost exclusively from reporters embedded with US troops. This is because Arab journalists who had covered April's siege from the civilian perspective had effectively been eliminated. Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because it has been banned from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya did have an unembedded reporter, Abdel Kader Al-Saadi, in Falluja, but on November 11 US forces arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Al-Saadi's detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists. "We cannot ignore the possibility that he is being intimidated for just trying to do his job," the IFJ stated.

It's not the first time journalists in Iraq have faced this kind of intimidation. When US forces invaded Baghdad in April 2003, US Central Command urged all unembedded journalists to leave the city. Some insisted on staying and at least three paid with their lives. On April 8, a US aircraft bombed al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub. Al-Jazeera has documentation proving it gave the coordinates of its location to US forces.

On the same day, a US tank fired on the Palestine hotel, killing José Couso, of the Spanish network Telecinco, and Taras Protsiuk, of Reuters. Three US soldiers are facing a criminal lawsuit from Couso's family, which alleges that US forces were well aware that journalists were in the Palestine hotel and that they committed a war crime.

Eliminating clerics
Just as doctors and journalists have been targeted, so too have many of the clerics who have spoken out forcefully against the killings in Falluja. On November 11, Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaei, the head of the Supreme Association for Guidance and Daawa, was arrested. According to Associated Press, "Al-Sumaidaei has called on the country's Sunni minority to launch a civil disobedience campaign if the Iraqi government does not halt the attack on Falluja". On November 19, AP reported that US and Iraqi forces stormed a prominent Sunni mosque, the Abu Hanifa, in Aadhamiya, killing three people and arresting 40, including the chief cleric - another opponent of the Falluja siege. On the same day, Fox News reported that "US troops also raided a Sunni mosque in Qaim, near the Syrian border". The report described the arrests as "retaliation for opposing the Falluja offensive". Two Shia clerics associated with Moqtada al-Sadr have also been arrested in recent weeks; according to AP, "both had spoken out against the Falluja attack".

"We don't do body counts," said General Tommy Franks of US Central Command. The question is: what happens to the people who insist on counting the bodies - the doctors who must pronounce their patients dead, the journalists who document these losses, the clerics who denounce them? In Iraq, evidence is mounting that these voices are being systematically silenced through a variety of means, from mass arrests, to raids on hospitals, media bans, and overt and unexplained physical attacks.

Mr Ambassador, I believe that your government and its Iraqi surrogates are waging two wars in Iraq. One war is against the Iraqi people, and it has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. The other is a war on witnesses.

· Additional research by Aaron Maté

12:01 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Dec. 3, 2004
Evidence gained by torture is allowed be used against Guantanamo prisoners

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Evidence gained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in deciding whether to imprison a foreigner indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant, the government says.

Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday.

Some of the prisoners have filed lawsuits challenging their detention without charges for up to three years so far. At the hearing, Boyle urged District Judge Richard J. Leon to throw their cases out.

Attorneys for the prisoners argued that some were held solely on evidence gained by torture, which they said violated fundamental fairness and U.S. due process standards. But Boyle argued in a similar hearing Wednesday that the detainees "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court."

Leon asked whether a detention based solely on evidence gathered by torture would be illegal, because "torture is illegal. We all know that."

Boyle replied that if the military's combatant status review tribunals "determine that evidence of questionable provenance were reliable, nothing in the due process clause (of the Constitution) prohibits them from relying on it."

Leon asked whether there were any restrictions on using torture-induced evidence.

Boyle replied that the United States never would adopt a policy that would have barred it from acting on evidence that could have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks even if the data came from questionable practices like torture by a foreign power.

Several arguments underlie the U.S. court ban on products of torture.

"About 70 years ago, the Supreme Court stopped the use of evidence produced by third-degree tactics largely on the theory that it was totally unreliable," Harvard Law Professor Philip B. Heymann, a former deputy U.S. attorney general, said in an interview. Subsequent high court rulings were based on revulsion at "the unfairness and brutality of it and later on the idea that confessions ought to be free and uncompelled."

Leon asked whether U.S. courts could review detentions based on evidence from torture conducted by U.S. personnel.

Boyle said torture was against U.S. policy and any allegations of it would be "forwarded through command channels for military discipline." He added, "I don't think anything remotely like torture has occurred at Guantanamo" but noted that some U.S. soldiers there had been disciplined for misconduct, including a female interrogator who removed her blouse during questioning.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday it has given the Bush administration a confidential report critical of U.S. treatment of Guantanamo detainees. The New York Times reported the Red Cross described the psychological and physical coercion used at Guantanamo as "tantamount to torture."

The combatant status review tribunals comprise three colonels and lieutenant colonels. They were set up after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the detainees could ask U.S. courts to see to it they had a proceeding in which to challenge their detention. The panels have reviewed 440 of the prisoners so far but have released only one.

The military also set up an annual administrative review which considers whether the detainee still presents a danger to the United States but doesn't review enemy combatant status. Administrative reviews have been completed for 161.

Boyle argued these procedures are sufficient to satisfy the high court.

Noting that detainees cannot have lawyers at the combatant status review proceedings and cannot see any secret evidence against them, detainee attorney Wes Powell argued "there is no meaningful opportunity in the (proceedings) to rebut the government's claims."

Leon suggested that if federal judges start reviewing the military's evidence for holding foreign detainees there could be "practical and collateral consequences ... at a time of war."

And he suggested an earlier Supreme Court ruling might limit judges to checking only on whether detention orders were lawfully issued and review panels were legally established.

Leon and Judge Joyce Hens Green, who held a similar hearing Wednesday, said they would try to rule soon on whether the 59 detainees may proceed with their lawsuits.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Management said...

UK firm tried HIV drug on orphans

GlaxoSmithKline embroiled in scandal in which babies and children were allegedly used as 'laboratory animals'

Antony Barnett in New York
Sunday April 4, 2004
The Observer

Orphans and babies as young as three months old have been used as guinea pigs in potentially dangerous medical experiments sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, an Observer investigation has revealed.

British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline is embroiled in the scandal. The firm sponsored experiments on the children from Incarnation Children's Centre, a New York care home that specialises in treating HIV sufferers and is run by Catholic charities.

The children had either been infected with HIV or born to HIV-positive mothers. Their parents were dead, untraceable or deemed unfit to look after them.

According to documents obtained by The Observer, Glaxo has sponsored at least four medical trials since 1995 using Hispanic and black children at Incarnation. The documents give details of all clinical trials in the US and reveal the experiments sponsored by Glaxo were designed to test the 'safety and tolerance' of Aids medications, some of which have potentially dangerous side effects. Glaxo manufactures a number of drugs designed to treat HIV, including AZT.

Normally trials on children would require parental consent but, as the infants are in care, New York's authorities hold that role.

The city health department has launched an investigation into claims that more than 100 children at Incarnation were used in 36 experiments - at least four co-sponsored by Glaxo. Some of these trials were designed to test the 'toxicity' of Aids medications. One involved giving children as young as four a high-dosage cocktail of seven drugs at one time. Another looked at the reaction in six-month-old babies to a double dose of measles vaccine.
Most experiments were funded by federal agencies like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Until now Glaxo's role had not emerged.

In 1997 an experiment co-sponsored by Glaxo used children from Incarnation to 'obtain tolerance, safety and pharmacokinetic' data for Herpes drugs. In a more recent experiment, the children were used to test AZT. A third experiment sponsored by Glaxo and US drug firm Pfizer investigated the 'long-term safety' of anti-bacterial drugs on three-month-old babies.

The medical establishment has defended the trials arguing they enabled these children to obtain state-of-the-art therapy they would otherwise not have received for potentially fatal illnesses.

However, health campaigners argue there is a difference between providing the latest drugs and experimentation. They claim many of the experiments were 'phase 1 trials' - among the most risky - and that HIV tests for babies were not a reliable indicator of actual infection and therefore toxic drugs could have been given to healthy infants. HIV drugs are similar to those used in chemotherapy and can have serious side-effects.

Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, said the children had been treated like 'laboratory animals'.

'These are some of the most vulnerable individuals in the country and there appears to be a policy of giving drug firms access to them,' she said. 'Throughout the history of medical research we have seen prisoners abused, the mentally ill abused and now poor kids in a care home.'

Sharav has urged the US Food and Drug Administration to investigate and has demanded full disclosure of all adverse effects suffered by the children, including deaths. Brooklyn Democrat councillor Bill de Blasio is also demanding that New York's Administration for Children's Services, which approved the trials, reveal who gave consent and on what grounds.

Glaxo has confirmed it provided funds for some of the experiments but denied any improper action. A spokeswoman said: 'These studies were implemented by the US Aids Clinical Trial Group, a clinical research network paid for by the National Institutes of Health. Glaxo's involvement in such studies would have been to provide study drugs or funding but we would have no interactions with the patients.

'Generally speaking, clinical research is carefully regulated in the US and it would be the responsibility of the appropriate authorities to ensure all subjects in a clinical trial provided appropriate, informed consent to conform with all local laws and regulations regarding legal authority in the case of minors.'

The Incarnation trials were run by Columbia University Medical Centre doctors. Columbia spokeswoman Annie Bayne said there had been no clinical trials at Incarnation since 2000 and that consent for the children was provided by the Administration for Children's Services, which uses a panel of doctors and lawyers to determine whether the benefits of a trial for each child outweighs the risks. 'There are many safeguards in the system. HIV is eventually a fatal disease, but drug therapy has lengthened life significantly,' said Bayne.

A spokesman for Incarnation said: 'The purpose of the trials was to test the efficacy of HIV medication ... These trials were based on scientific evidence of their potential value in the treatment of HIV-infected children.'

12:03 AM  
Blogger Management said...

New York's HIV experiment
By Jamie Doran
Reporter/producer, Guinea Pig Kids

HIV positive children and their loved ones have few rights if they choose to battle with social work authorities in New York City.

Jacklyn Hoerger's job was to treat children with HIV at a New York children's home.

But nobody had told her that the drugs she was administering were experimental and highly toxic.

"We were told that if they were vomiting, if they lost their ability to walk, if they were having diarrhoea, if they were dying, then all of this was because of their HIV infection."

In fact it was the drugs that were making the children ill and the children had been enrolled on the secret trials without their relatives' or guardians' knowledge.

As Jacklyn would later discover, those who tried to take the children off the drugs risked losing them into care.

The BBC asked the Alliance for Human Research Protection about their view on the drug trials.

Spokesperson Vera Sherav said: "They tested these highly experimental drugs. Why didn't they provide the children with the current best treatment? That's the question we have.

"Why did they expose them to risk and pain, when they were helpless?

"Would they have done those experiments with their own children? I doubt it."

Power and authority

When I first heard the story of the "guinea pig kids", I instinctively refused to believe that it could be happening in any civilised country, particularly the United States, where the propensity for legal action normally ensures a high level of protection.

But that, as I was to discover, was central to the choice of location and subjects, because to be free in New York City, you need money.

I've had many ACS case workers tell me: 'We're ACS, we can do whatever we want'
David Lansner, family lawyer

Over 23,000 of the city's children are either in foster care or independent homes run mostly by religious organisations on behalf of the local authorities and almost 99% are black or hispanic.

Some of these kids come from "crack" mothers and have been infected with the HIV virus. For over a decade, this became the target group for experimentation involving cocktails of toxic drugs.

Central to this story is the city's child welfare department, the Administration for Children's Services (ACS).

The ACS, as it is known, was granted far-reaching powers in the 1990s by then-Republican Mayor Rudi Giuliani, after a particularly horrific child killing.

Within the shortest of periods, literally thousands of children were being rounded up and placed in foster care.

"They're essentially out of control," said family lawyer David Lansner. "I've had many ACS case workers tell me: 'We're ACS, we can do whatever we want' and they usually get away with it."

Having taken children into care, the ACS was now, effectively, their parent and could do just about anything it wished with them.

'Serious side-effects'

One of the homes to which HIV positive children were taken was the Incarnation Children's Center, a large, expensively refurbished red-bricked building set back from the sidewalk in a busy Harlem street.

It is owned by the Catholic church and when we attempted to talk to officials at Incarnation we were referred to an equally expensive Manhattan public relations company, which then refused to comment on activities within the home.

Hardly surprising, when we already knew that highly controversial and secretive drug experiments had been conducted on orphans and foster children as young as three months old.

We asked Dr David Rasnick, visiting scholar at the University of Berkeley, for his opinion on some of the experiments.

He said: "We're talking about serious, serious side-effects. These children are going to be absolutely miserable. They're going to have cramps, diarrhoea and their joints are going to swell up. They're going to roll around the ground and you can't touch them."

He went on to describe some of the drugs - supplied by major drug manufacturers including Glaxo SmithKline - as "lethal".

When approached by the BBC, Glaxo SmithKline said such trials must have stringent standards and be conducted strictly in accordance with local regulations.

Battle of wills

At Incarnation, if a child refused to take the medicines offered, he or she was force-fed through a peg-tube inserted into the stomach.

Critics of the trials say children should have been volunteered to test drugs by their parents.

When Jacklyn Hoerger later fostered two children from the home where she used to work with a view to adopting them, she discovered just how powerful the ACS was.

"It was a Saturday morning and they had come a few times unannounced," she said. "So when I opened the door I invited them in and they said that this wasn't a happy visit. At that point they told me that they were taking the children away. I was in shock."

Jacklyn, a trained paediatric nurse, had taken the fatal step of taking the children off the drugs, which had resulted in an immediate boost to their health and happiness.

As a result she was branded a child abuser in court. She has not been allowed to see the children since.

In the film Guinea Pig Kids, we follow Jacklyn's story and that of other parents or guardians who fear for the lives of their loved ones.

We talk to a child who spent years on drugs programmes which made them and their friends ill, and we discover that Incarnation is not an isolated case. The experiments continue to be carried out on the poor children of New York City.

Guinea Pig Kids was broadcast on Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, at 1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK).

12:04 AM  

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