Al-Jazeera television's offices closed, station banned

Al-Jazeera television's offices closed, station banned
Country/Topic: Iran
Date: 21 April 2005
Source: International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Target(s): television station(s)
Type(s) of violation(s): banned , closed
Urgency: Flash

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Iranian Ban on Al-Jazeera as "Spiteful Act of Censorship"

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the decision by the Iranian authorities to close the offices of the Arab satellite television channel in Tehran as a "spiteful act of censorship."

The IFJ was responding to the decision by the Iranian authorities, who accuse Al-Jazeera of stirring up unrest that led to recent disturbances in the southwest of the country and the arrest of 200 people.

"This closure is a spiteful act of censorship and a blatant attempt by the authorities to make media the scapegoat for civil unrest," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "If Iran has complaints about media standards it should seek professional redress, not take action that undermines press freedom and pluralism."

At least one person died after Arab-Iranians went on the rampage in the city of Ahvaz, near the border with Iraq, at the weekend. Government officials say the violence in Iran's traditional oil-producing heartland was sparked by a forged letter, apparently from a senior official, discussing the relocation of ethnic Arabs from the area.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi claimed people behind the incident have ties to "anti-government (television) channels." But Al-Jazeera denies any involvement and says that the closure of its office is unwarranted and intends to stick by its ethical editorial policies.

The IFJ says that the ban on Al-Jazeera should be lifted and the office re-opened. "It looks as though the authorities are seeking a scapegoat for their own troubles," said White. "They would do better to respect the principles of pluralism and press freedom. If there are problems of professional ethics, they should be dealt with in a democratic manner, not by arbitrary bans and closures."

The Al-Jazeera interview of the Popular Democratic Front of Ahawazi Arabs in Iran, a London-based organization which is forbidden in the country and has denounced "80 years of Iranian occupation in Khuzestan", has apparently sparked the retaliation of the authorities. The government has denied the authenticity of a document quoted by the Front's representative, which was referring to alleged plans to revise the ethnic composition of the area.

"Al-Jazeera coverage of the events respected a strictly journalistic and balanced view of opinions, which by no means signified the adhesion of the media itself to the position of the interviewees," said White. "Al-Jazeera is doing no more than its counterpart organizations around the world and such an attempt to stifle their work represents an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression."

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries.


For further information, contact the IFJ, International Press Centre,
Residence Palace, Block C, 155 Rue de la Loi, B-1040 Brussels, Belgium,
tel: +322 235 2206, fax: +322 235 2219,


The Silencing of Sibel Edmonds

Court won't let public hear what FBI whistleblower has to say

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The unsettling story of whistleblower Sibel Edmonds took another twist on Thursday, as the government continued its seemingly endless machinations to shut her up. The U.S. Court of Appeals here denied pleas to open the former FBI translator's First Amendment case to the public, a day after taking the extraordinary step of ordering a secret hearing.

Edmonds was hired after 9-11 to help the woefully staffed FBI's translation department with documents and wiretaps in such languages as Farsi and Turkish. She soon cried foul, saying the agency's was far from acceptable and perhaps even dangerous to national security. She was fired in 2002.

Ever since, the government has been trying to silence her, even classifying an interview she did with 60 Minutes.

Oral arguments in her suit against the federal government were scheduled for this morning, but yesterday the clerk of the appeals court unexpectedly and suddenly announced the hearing would be closed. Only attorneys and Edmonds were allowed in.

No one thought the three-judge appeals court panel would be especially sympathetic to the Edmonds case. It consists of Douglas Ginsburg, who was once nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court by President Reagan. He withdrew after it was revealed he had smoked pot as a college student; he later joined the appeals court. Another member, David Sentelle, was chair of the three-judge panel that appointed Ken Starr to be the special prosecutor investigating Clinton. Karen LeCraft Henderson was appointed a federal judge during the Reagan period, then put on the appeals court by the elder President Bush.

In making a plea to open the Edmonds hearing, the ACLU noted appellate arguments normally are accessible to the public. “When the United States asked the Supreme Court to close part of the oral argument in the Pentagon Papers case—a case that involved classified information of the greatest sensitivity—that motion was denied," the ACLU said. “Likewise, in an appeal in the ongoing prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, an alleged conspirator in the September 11th terrorist plot, the court rejected the government's move to close the entire hearing.”

Edmonds, an American citizen, was born in Iran and grew up in Turkey. She speaks Farsi, Turkish, and other languages of central Asia. She was hired by the FBI in the hectic aftermath of 9-11 to translate various top-secret materials collected by the bureau from wire taps, surveillance reports, interviews with agents, etc.

In that capacity she began observing the bureau’s bizarre, even surreal practices, including such things as sending people to Guantanamo to translate statements by prisoners who spoke Farsi. Only trouble was the translators weren't speakers of Farsi, but were instead Kurds speaking a Turkish dialect. She stumbled across various mistranslations and interpreters who were not able to make accurate translations. Then she discovered someone was signing her initials to approve translations she never made. And she observed translations being doctored or blocked by the actions by one translator or another. She discovered one translator whose relative was working for an embassy which the FBI had under surveillance.

When Edmonds protested to her supervisors, she has said, the ignored her or told her off, at one point calling her “a whore.” Eventually she was fired by a supervisor who told Edmonds he’d look forward to meeting her again—in jail.

Taking her protests to Congress, she won support from the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who exchanged letters with the Justice Department’s Inspector General's office, which said it was making an investigation. In the midst of all this, then attorney general John Ashcroft stepped in and threw down a gag order by invoking the arcane states secrets privilege, under which the government can classify whatever materials it wishes in the interests of national security. Last year, the Edmonds case was dismissed by a federal district court judge. The government had never even bothered to file an answer to her complaint.

The case that was argued this morning concerned a complaint by Edmonds that the government was denying her First Amendment rights. Only after she was fired did Edmonds go to the Congress. She is saying she played by the rules and was squashed by the government without cause or explanation. And when she went outside the official channel to reveal what was going on within the bureau, the government responded by classifying her previous attempts to speak out, including press accounts written before the classification came down. One of them was a 60 Minutes segment.

"The federal government is routinely retaliating against government employees who uncover weaknesses in our ability to prevent terrorist attacks or protect public safety," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU. "From firing whistleblowers to using special privileges to cover up mistakes, the government is taking extreme steps to shield itself from political embarrassment while gambling with our safety."

by James Ridgeway
April 21st, 2005 2:19 PM
Additional reporting: Natalie Wittlin

Threat to Public Grows With State Secrecy, Civil Libertarians Argue

he case of a government interpreter-turned-whistleblower serves to illustrate the snowballing trend of hiding embarrassing information — a pattern critics believe may ironically lead to greater public insecurity.

Apr 22 - Yesterday, a national security whistleblower finally had her day in court, while public interest advocates intensified their campaigns for a more open government, challenging what they see as a pattern of secrecy and impunity in the name of national security interests.

To public advocates, the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who was allegedly fired for exposing misconduct within the agency, has come to symbolize the expansion of government opacity in the post-9/11 era. The stark resistance Edmonds has faced in attempting to challenge the alleged retaliation against her, say civil libertarians, illustrates how secrecy has cast a dark net over institutions of democratic government.

"Expanded secrecy rules are allowing government agencies to hide their incompetence and to hide their failure to really adequately protect the public," warned Beth Daley, spokesperson for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a Washington, DC-based watchdog group. Like many other open-government advocates, Daley sees secrecy not only as detrimental to democracy, but also, ironically, a potential security threat in itself.

Rick Blum, of the national public interest coalition, said that the growth in secrecy under the Bush administration — involving the shrinking of information and oversight resources and the expansion of executive power — is the product of a bureaucracy given a green light to keep the public in the dark whenever possible. "It's a Great Wall being erected between government and the public," he told The NewStandard.

Government Invokes Powers to Silence Whistleblowers

Advocates point to increasing use of the "state secrets privilege" — the authority of the executive branch to keep sensitive national security information out of public purview — as a stark illustration of the administration's desire to remain above the law.

Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called that privilege the "ultimate trump card" in the secrecy game. She said it was just one of an array of tools that the government officials use "to avoid accountability for their own wrongdoing."

The use of the privilege statute to hide evidence in Edmonds' case followed a slew of what the former translator believes were retaliations against her for speaking out about government misconduct. In public testimony, Edmonds has explained that as an FBI employee from September 2001 to March 2002, she perceived evidence of incompetent and illegal practices within the organization – including poor translations, potential espionage and security breaches – and tried to raise those concerns with the Department of Justice and members of Congress. Those actions, Edmonds has charged, prompted the FBI to intimidate and eventually fire her in March 2002.

In 2004, the Justice Department retroactively classified information regarding the circumstances surrounding Edmonds' dismissal, including Senate letters requesting investigation into the case in 2002 and FBI internal briefings that corroborated some of Edmonds' charges. Although the information had been available to the public for two years, apparently with no threat posed to national security, the Department still used the national security argument to justify its action. The information was eventually re-released after POGO filed a lawsuit in protest.

While the classification order was legally questionable, it ultimately bolstered then Attorney General John Ashcroft's invocation of the state secrets privilege to have the lawsuit dismissed. Without addressing the actual facts of the case, Ashcroft essentially argued that the litigation could not proceed because it would reveal sensitive information, and that he was using the privilege "in order to protect the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States."

Beeson, lead counsel in the Edmonds trial, told TNS that Ashcroft's legal maneuver clearly revealed that the Justice Department was using secrecy powers "for tactical advantage in their defense against her case."

Edmonds has appealed the dismissal, and after a nearly three-year legal struggle, the case gained momentum this January with the release of a formerly classified report about Edmonds' dismissal. Published by the Justice Department Inspector General, the document describes the FBI's handling of Edmonds's claims as "significantly flawed" and concludes that her dismissal was in part retaliatory.

The court proceedings that began yesterday have reinvigorated the campaigns of civil libertarians against what they view as the abuse of classification authority and the state secrets privilege.

Beeson, however, remains wary that while the courts are "the primary recourse" for challenging the lack of government accountability, the legal hurdles Edmonds has faced reveal the tendency of the post-9/11 judicial branch to be "more deferential" to executive power in the ever-widening realm of "national security."

Yesterday, the ACLU's opening statement before the appellate court warned that if the judiciary again denied Edmonds justice, "it will be all too easy for the government to deploy the state secrets privilege to avoid embarrassment or accountability" in the future.

Yet the court's last-minute decision to make the opening arguments closed to the public suggested that the air of secrecy had already penetrated the judicial chamber.

Rewriting the Rules

Critics charge that the Bush administration has further skewed the balance between the public's right to know and the government's duty to protect security, turning secrecy into the default mode for handling government information.

OpenTheGovernment, with a membership base spanning from civil libertarians to scientists, has outlined the magnitude of government secrecy in terms of sheer numbers. According the group's annual report issued earlier this month, an unprecedented 15.6 million requests were made to seal information from the public in 2004.

But the most notable jump in classification decisions came in 2003, the year President Bush issued an Executive Order redefining classification authority to include anything the administration considered related to "defense against transnational terrorism." Executions of classification authority increased that year by nearly three million.

OpenTheGovernment also found that federal employees are opting to classify information for longer periods of time. Of the new classification requests issued, the proportion that would seal information for more than a decade has climbed from the typical rate of about 50 percent in previous years to two-thirds in 2004.

The release of information to the public has simultaneously dwindled, from 100 million declassified pages in 2001 to fewer than 29 million last year. The government now sits on a backlog of 260 million pages of documents, scheduled for release by the end of 2006, pending official review. OpenTheGovernment estimates that the government will not finish its review until 2013.

Many of these pages, the group points out, could contain information about local environmental hazards, evidence of government misconduct, or, ironically, information that could be useful to the public in preempting a real security threat.

The abuse of the classification system, in Blum's view, erodes confidence in the government and makes it less responsive to the need of the public. In light of heightened concerns about the country's vulnerability to attack, he said, "We can't equate an agency's self-interest with national security."

Outside of the conventional classification system, a host of new designations of "sensitive but unclassified" material has further encumbered information access.

Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expanded its designation of "Safeguards Information," or information withheld for security reasons. The new designation could prevent public access to plans for emergency evacuation of nuclear facilities and to information concerning safety risks to surrounding communities — a move that watchdogs criticized as "safeguarding" information while endangering people.

The Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security have also become notorious for creating special classification-like categories, preventing the release of any information that could be remotely related to a suspicion of a "terrorist threat."

Government watchdogs also argue that often, the information that is classified has no good reason to be hidden, and that the phenomenon of "over-classification" is another indicator of a counter-productive compulsion to err on the side of secrecy.

Testifying at an August 2004 Senate hearing on the classification system, William J. Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives and Records Administration, conceded that over half of the information selected for classification may technically meet the classification criteria but "really should not be classified." In such cases, he said, "The price we pay for classification outweighs… any advantage we perceive we gain."

Stretching the Information Gap

According to public interest groups, those hardest hit by government secrecy are not would-be terrorists, but simply inquisitive citizens.

They point out that the rise in classification has paralleled rollbacks on classification's bureaucratic counterweight, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a process for requesting documents from government agencies.

Last February, the Central Intelligence Agency alleged that national security was at stake when justifying its refusal to disclose the 2002 intelligence budget to Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy, a clearinghouse for information about federal secrecy policies. The CIA successfully argued in a federal district court that revealing how it spent its money "would threaten to reveal intelligence sources and methods."

But Aftergood later reflected in an interview with TNS that beyond oft-cited security concerns, the two underlying forces driving the widening government information gap are "a natural bureaucratic tendency to hoard information" combined with "politically motivated secrecy intended to advance an agenda" — namely the Bush administration's concentration of power.

Last week, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a policy analysis group that parses federal agency data to track how policies are implemented, recently filed a lawsuit together with the watchdog organization Public Citizen to challenge the Internal Revenue Service's denial of a FOIA request for tax enforcement records. In a statement protesting the IRS's sudden reversal of its longstanding policy of releasing such information, Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson quipped, "It appears that there are now three certainties: death, taxes and improper government reliance on national security as a pretext to stonewall FOIA requests."

Watchdogs Learn to Play a New Game

In the eyes of some watchdog groups, secrecy is a double-blow to their work. They report that, increasingly, their public interest role is concentrated around simply protecting the very mechanisms that enable the public to exercise oversight in any arena.

Beeson said that currently, "the primary battle" of the ACLU is "to obtain access to information to hold the government accountable for rights violations" related to the so-called "War on Terror." Merely prying open the door in an investigation, she noted, claims a growing portion of the group's advocacy resources.

According to Beeson, ACLU advocates have run up against the secrecy wall in many high-profile cases. Last year, in a lawsuit challenging the Federal Bureau of Investigation's expanded information-gathering powers under the PATRIOT Act, the ACLU was forced to comply with a federal "gag order" that delayed lawyers from even disclosing the existence of the suit and prevented the disclosure of basic information about their client.

Beth Daley of POGO noted that before the rapid emergence of new government secrecy mechanisms, her group's advocacy campaigns were more oriented toward raising public awareness of questionable government practices. "But now that these new rules are being put into place," she said, "there's some question about how we will be able to perform our function" in investigating and exposing misconduct.

Just as the government has taken its terror war as a cue for moving toward greater secrecy, advocacy groups have adapted to the post-9/11 environment by doing more of their public interest work behind the scenes.

The ACLU and POGO both act as intermediaries for government employees seeking to blow the whistle on misconduct, enabling them to remain anonymous while disclosing information that exposes wrongdoing to the public, or to members of Congress as they weigh legislation to address government accountability issues. Many of these cases involve national security whistleblowers, who have few official protections from employer retaliation. Because national security employees basically have no legal recourse, said Beeson, "We often don't have very encouraging advice to give in terms of whether they can go forward directly and make allegations without having their job threatened."

As civil libertarians maneuver within what they see as a more hostile legal environment, they are turning to Congress for legislative checks on government secrecy.

Noting the weakness of existing protections for whistleblowers, Daley said that Congress has "been asleep at the wheel with regard to whistleblower protections." But POGO hopes that this year, legislators will finally wake up to the secrecy problem.

Watchdog groups are pushing for the Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act, introduced by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), which would consider the revocation of national security clearance — a tactic used against national security whistleblowers that is essentially tantamount to a dismissal — as a type of administrative retaliation.

In response to public pressure, Congress is also currently considering the OPEN Government Act, which would establish stricter reporting requirements, guidelines and timetables for agencies' responses to FOIA requests.

As open-government advocates cultivate a growing diversity of supporters, from reporters to physicists, they argue that policymakers need to realize what ordinary Americans have slowly discovered: that secrecy tends to serve the keepers of the secrets more than it serves the public interest.

"With greater scrutiny," reflected Rick Blum of OpenTheGovernment, "you're going to get better decisions… that do a better job of protecting the public."

© 2005 The NewStandard. by Michelle Chen

Online sources used in this feature article:

Sibel Edmonds: "Just A Citizen"


to Stop the Nuclear Option

Click here to contact key Senators urging them to vote “NO” on the nuclear option.

Susan Collins (R-ME)
(202) 224-2523
Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
(202) 224-4224
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
(202) 224-4814
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
(202) 224-6665
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
(202) 224-6551
Gordon Smith (R-OR)
(202) 224-3753
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
(202) 224-3004
John Warner (R-VA)
(202) 224-2023


I am calling to urge Senator _____to vote "NO" on the so-called "nuclear option" that would prevent the filibuster of nominees to federal courts.

These very important lifetime appointments deserve not only the full consideration and debate of all members of the Senate as it exercises its Constitutional responsibility of "advise and consent," but should also command the support of a supermajority of 60 Senators.

The filibuster has an important role to prevent one party from packing the federal courts.

We must flood the Senate with emails and phone calls opposing the so-called “nuclear option,” which could be initiated as early as Tuesday, April 26. If we do not stop the far-right Republicans, we could lose our reproductive rights, workplace protections, educational opportunities, and much, much more.

Right now, it takes only 41 votes to continue debate and block a vote on a judicial nominee. It takes 60 votes to end debate and force a full Senate vote.

The so-called “nuclear option” would eliminate the use of the filibuster for all judicial nominees, allowing the Senate to confirm them with only 51 votes (or 50 votes and the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President). Democrats only have 44 votes in the Senate, plus Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT). Republican Senators Olympia Snowe (ME), Lincoln Chafee (RI), and John McCain (AZ) have also publicly stated that they would vote against the nuclear option.

Now more than ever, we need you to contact key Senators. We must convince them to vote “NO” on the nuclear option.

Let us not be fooled. The real purpose of this so-called “nuclear option” is to make the Senate a rubber stamp for all judicial nominees, including Supreme Court nominees. Republicans want a free ride when it comes to stacking the Supreme Court with far-right, reactionary justices. That’s why they are so intent on changing the rules before a Supreme Court resignation occurs.

The confirmation of judicial nominees should take a supermajority of 60 Senators to ensure that a weak majority is never able to ramrod through lifetime appointments to the federal courts. If we do not stop the “nuclear option,” then this President, who has won two elections by the narrowest of margins, will be able to not only stack the lower courts but also the Supreme Court – which would change the landscape of this country for the next 40 years.

The filibuster is an important tool to allow a strong minority to apply the brakes. If our judges are to be not just considered political ideologues, but people with judicial temperament representing mainstream society, then we cannot allow judges to be railroaded through the Senate confirmation process with only 51 votes.

Take action today! Click here to send a message to key Senators urging them to vote “NO” on the “nuclear option.”

We must act now, before it is too late.

dao nonanticipation

Chinese characters for "not anticipating"

beautiful Shiva

Put forth your effort
with no thought of gain.

One should not pray or mieditate with any thought of gain. Hold no expectations. Then the rewards will come. If one strives for power and gifts, no true results willl come, and one will become lost in lust. Praying for results brings no results—the true spirit appears only when there are no expectations to hamper it.

Books and teachings talk of the results of meditation because they prepare the aspirant for the experiences that will occur. It is important not to look on these writings as adivertisements. They are merely descriptions of what you will encounter.

Sit down with no thought of results and you will go naturally and spontaneously with Tao. It is admittedly a paradox. We are to know what to expect, and yet we should allow them to appear as they will. It seems irrational and inefficient. Yet if you would know Tao, there is no faster way to enter the midstream.

365 Tao
Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

India (Tamil Nadu) ca. 1300
Bronze 21 9/16 in (54.9 cm)

With his tall crown of matted hair adorned by the crescent moon, Shiva is seated here in ease and comfort, with his right leg pendant on a rectangular base or seat. Because the posture is known as sukhasana, or posture of contentment, the image type is called sukhasanamurti. It is likely that his consort, Uma, or Parvati, once sat on a similar seat on his left. Shiva’s lower right arm, as usual, displays the gesture of reassurance. The upper right holds the battleaxe, a weapon of destruction, while in the corresponding left hand is the antelope. Apart from representing animal—kind (pasu) — hence his title Pasupati or Lord of Creatures — the antelope also symbolizes illusion (maya), which is destroyed by the battleaxe. The lower left hand forms the kataka or simhakarna (lion’s ear) gesture.

Both the size and the dignified bearing make this a bronze of commanding presence. Not only is the figure handsomely proportioned but the modeling still echoes the simplicity and elegance of the classic Chola—period aesthetic. The body is not enmeshed in ornaments and allows the viewer to admire the fluent contours of the form. However, it should be remembered that such a figure would rarely be seen in a temple in its naked glory. It would be clothed most of the time, either while resting in a shrine or being carried during occasional processions and the devotee would catch only a glimpse of his face.

all text and images © The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore

Chinese characters for huahujing

attributed to Laotsu

Those who wish to embody the Tao should embrace all things.

To embrace all things means first that one holds no anger or resistance toward any idea or thing, living or dead, formed or formless.

Acceptance is the very essence of the Tao. To embrace all things means also that one rids oneself of any concept of separation; male and female, self and other, life and death.

Division is contrary to the nature of the Tao. Foregoing antagonism and separation, one enters in the harmonious oneness of all things.

— Edited by Brian Walker

a reading list of books and interpretations of the Daodejing is available at

for a meditation sent to your email address each day, please write
’subscribe tao’ in the subject line and send to lisbeth at duckdaotsu

Dear George and Dick,

Dear George and Dick,

I feel I can be informal, since you killed my son

Cindy Sheehan 11 Apr 2005 18:50 GMT
Cindy Sheehan is the mother of
Spc. Casey
Austin Shehan, KIA 04/04/04

where were you when
this mother’s son was murdered?


Dear George and Dick,

I apologize (not really, you don't deserve my apologies) for the familiarity, but I don't call the people responsible for my son's death: Mr, or Sir, nor do I have any respect for the offices that you have defiled. The only thing you both mean to me is pain and devastation. George and Dick, you are both shameful cowards who are sending our brave young people to die to make yourselves and your buddies unbelievably and fabulously wealthy. Neither of you have any idea of the true human, sorrowful cost of war nor do you care that you are ruining lives by the thousands and thousands. You both disgust me beyond belief. You are not, never have been, and never will be my President or Vice President.

This is what your irresponsible and reckless policies took from me: One year and four days ago my son, Casey Sheehan, was one of the consequences of your lies and betrayals. One of the tens of thousands that your arrogant, pre-emptive, imperialistic policies have killed. I don't know how any of you can sleep at night...I know I can't.

I have wanted to write this letter for over a year.

We know the intelligence leading to the war was "dead" wrong and gleaned from a known liar (your administration likes liars...familiarity, and all), so I have a question for you...

Why are Americans and Iraqis still dying every day?

Then, George and both go around spewing the lying filth that "freedom is on the march in Iraq." Well, I have a challenge for both of you: if you believe in freedom so much in Iraq...then send your own children over there to fight and perhaps die in the occupation without the proper training, equipment, food, water, supplies, armor, or protection. If you aren't willing to send your own children to die for this most grievous bull-crap, THEN BRING THE REST OF OUR CHILDREN HOME...NOW!!! The definition of a just war is one that you are willing to have your own children die for. Apply the definition. Then send your own children if you believe this aggression is just...if not THEN BRING THE REST OF OUR CHILDREN HOME...NOW!!!

Do the right thing and BRING OUR TROOPS HOME, NOW!! Not one more drop of blood, not one more penny for this travesty. Do not let our other children be killed for the ephemeral and ever changing "Mission." My son's death will have meaning and not be in vain if it is for peace: if our troops are withdrawn immediately from this abomination that is Iraq.

I dare both of you to do the honorable thing and read about my pride and love...I wish you would read it and weep, but I know neither of you give one flying flip about me, my family, or Casey.

I pray that either one of you, or both of you, grow a vestigial conscience and pray for forgiveness for the killing that your ignorance and arrogance have caused. One time I ran over a kitten and killed it and I was devastated for do either one of you look at yourselves in the mirror? How do you live with the fact that so many innocent people are dead because of your beliefs and actions? I know I couldn't. I know I would have a hard time living with myself if I was responsible for one death, let alone legions of deaths. I really hope someone grows some courage in the House of Representatives and you both are impeached soon.

Again, I reiterate. Celebrate the new found "Culture of Life" in your hypocritical administration. BRING OUR TROOPS HOME. NOW!!!

Do I sound angry? You better believe I am. My son's future was stolen from him. My future with my son is now gone. I never even got to say good-bye to him.

If you have any questions, or would like to hear anymore of my ideas, please feel free to contact me.

Cindy Sheehan

April 11, 2005

Cindy Sheehan [send her mail] is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Shehan, KIA 04/04/04 She is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.

Embedded links at:

South Korea: Death penalty abolition -- historic opportunity

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International
AI Index: ASA 25/003/2005 20 April 2005

South Korea: Death penalty abolition -- historic opportunity

Amnesty International urges members of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee (LJC) in the 17th National Assembly to pass the Special Bill on Abolishing the Death Penalty (Special Bill) which calls for the abolition of the death penalty in the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

In December 2004, 175 members of the National Assembly (which consists of 299 members in total) from the ruling and opposition parties proposed the Special Bill to abolish the death penalty on humanitarian and religious grounds. The Special Bill was introduced in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in February 2005. Amnesty International welcomes the large bipartisan support for the Special Bill by the National Assembly members and sees this as reflecting the resolve of the 17th National Assembly members towards abolishing the death penalty in South Korea.

Amnesty International unconditionally opposes the death penalty on the grounds that it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty violates the right to life; it is irrevocable and has been inflicted on the innocent. It has not been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments.

A majority of the countries in the world, 120, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Since 1990 over 40 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, all countries except South Korea, Japan, the United States of America (USA) and Mexico have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Mexico has abolished the death penalty for all ordinary crimes.


Since its independence in 1948, at least 900 people have been executed in South Korea, most of them by hanging. The last executions in South Korea took place in December 1997 when 23 people (18 men and five women) were executed at short notice. There has been an unofficial moratorium on executions since President Kim Dae-jung (who was himself sentenced to death in 1980) took office in February 1998. However, at least six people were sentenced to death in South Korea in 2004 and at least 60 prisoners remain under sentence of death at the end of the year.

In November 2001, 155 members of the last National Assembly (which consisted of a total of 273 members) supported a bill calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Despite this support which constituted over 56 percent of the National Assembly members, there was no progress in the status of the bill; it appears to have been stalled in the LJC of the last National Assembly.

In July 2004, in an Open Letter to newly elected Members of the 17th National Assembly (AI Index No. ASA 25/004/2004), Amnesty International recognised the important role that then-newly elected members of the National Assembly had to play in ensuring that the Special Bill was enacted into legislation. Amnesty International called on the members of the 17th National Assembly to support abolition of the death penalty in law.

View all documents on South Korea at

Past and current Amnesty news services can be found at . Visit for information about Amnesty International and for other AI publications. Contact if you need to get in touch with the International Secretariat of Amnesty

Privacy policy

The Article Page: New Kingpin of Online News?

Thanks to blogs, aggregators, RSS feeds, and other options, fewer and fewer readers are entering news sites through home pages. So it’s time to adjust.

It’s a trend that’s been a long time in coming: More and more people bypass news Web sites’ home and section pages, instead entering a site at the article-page (or “inside-page“) level.

The home page — where Web designers and editors have for so long poured so much of their effort — is no longer the be-all, end-all. You have to pay serious attention to the home page, of course, but equally important these days is the template used for article pages.

Indeed, it may be that the best approach is to create an article-page template that serves as a sort of secondary home page. Assume that more than half of the people who see something on your site will not see its home page. At the article level, give them enough choices to guide them to other important content elsewhere on the site.

It’s come to this

Has it really come to the point where significant numbers of people who visit news sites bypass the home page? Well, listen to the experience of the The Globe & Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. According to its Web site’s editor, Angus Frame, 41% of visits now begin on non-hub pages (that is, all but the home page and section pages such as Sports, Business, etc.). These are site visitors who come to article pages via search engines, news aggregators (like Google News), RSS feeds, news alerts, e-mail newsletters, notes from friends, and the like.

Other news sites report similar user behavior., the Web site of the Christian Science Monitor, tracks only 23% of its visitors’ sessions coming in via the home page, with the rest entering at the article level or other page. The Monitor’s Joel Abrams notes that “a shockingly high percentage of those sessions that start on a story end on that story.” He says, “For an upcoming redesign, we’re putting a lot of thought into [article-page design]. The Monitor, like other news sites, is trying to recognize that other editors — and algorithms — have become the gatekeepers to our reporting.”

At the Web site of Spokane, Wash.’s Spokesman-Review, the home page brought in only 24% of all site visitors in the most recent seven-day period. Online publisher Ken Sands says there were 1,640 different entrance pages during that time — although 90% came through the top 100 pages. “I’m astounded that there were that many entrance pages,” he says.

Some sites report higher home-page usage. The Arizona Daily Star’s site in Tucson estimates that about 40% of site traffic comes through the home page. The Web site of the Salt Lake Tribune on a recent day found that 62% of visitors were entering through its home page, according to news editor Manny Mellor. Perhaps that site’s content isn’t as widely referenced on news search engines as other news sites; or there may be other factors at play.

Let’s fix it

At the Globe and Mail, Frame and his crew, to their credit, recognized that these stats indicated a problem in need of a solution. “Readers who went straight to a story page had no idea how much was available on,” he says. “They only saw one story and then had no reason to stick around.”

A few years ago, publishers might have taken the approach of trying to change consumer behavior to attack the “problem.” You may recall a few lawsuits where some news publishers tried to prohibit “deep linking” to articles beyond the home page. That was a dumb idea (well, at least in my view), and for the most part prohibitions against deep linking were nixed by the courts. The trends pretty clearly indicated that traffic coming to inside pages would continue to grow and would make the home page less important.

Instead,’s managers decided last year to “improve the story-page experience.” Explains Frame, “We allowed readers to change the size of the text to suit their needs, we improved the headline font, we removed the left-rail navigation to give the story some breathing room, and we added valuable, informative links to the right-hand side of the story in a fairly wide column. We turned every story into a mini hub.”

Here’s an example of a article page.

Right-side-of-page content that’s now likely to be featured on a article page (beyond the article itself):
  • A photo (which sometimes can be enlarged by clicking on it).
  • Links to photo galleries related to the story.
  • Links to stories related to the main article.
  • Links to interactive features and/or other sites that are related to the article.
  • Links to columns by columnists who write for the same section as the article is in.
  • Links to top current stories from the same section (National, Sports, etc.).
  • Links to the top story from other sections.
While not repeating the home page, the article-page scheme does duplicate in part the function of the section page.

So, did this design change make much of a difference? Frame reports: “Literally overnight daily page-views increased by more than 25%, from about 2.3 million pageviews a day to 3.0 million pageviews a day. That works out to about one extra pageview for each daily unique visitor to the site.

”It just goes to show,” he says, “that small changes can make a big and immediate difference.”

How far should you go?

I’m not sure I need much more convincing than that to buy into the idea that many news sites’ article pages need to be redesigned. Take a quick tour of article links found on Google News, for example, and you’ll find that the majority of news sites offer little on article pages beyond some basic navigation to other sections of the sites. There’s clearly room for improvement.

If we can all agree that there’s a strong need to guide visitors beyond the initial story they came to read, then how far do we need to go? Within the news-site industry, there’s plenty of variation.

The spartan approach.

A common article-page template provides a limited number of links to other content. A article page, for example, includes as a sidebar box a list of “Most E-mailed Stories” from the site, plus two lists of top international stories and top stories placed at the end of the article. An article page includes only two lists of headlines at the bottom of the page, for “More Headlines” and “Most Sent Headlines.” Those examples include space-efficient site navigation, as well.

With home-page visits at most news sites coming in at between 25% and 50% of total vists, I don’t think those approaches are sufficient. There’s not enough there to entice article readers to explore elsewhere on the site. Should those sites adopt an article-page template similar to’s, they well might see similar traffic gains site-wide.

A smart, middle-ground approach.

Increasingly, news sites are making their article pages busier — including links to a fairly wide range of content that’s related to the article being read. The thinking is not to repeat the entire home page, or have a condensed version of it, on article pages, but rather to offer a wide variety of link options to content that relates to the article itself or the section the article sits in.

An example of that is On its typical article page, you’ll find that the article is just one component of a very busy page. In the right column are headline-blurb descriptions of articles and columns in the same general topic area as the article being read and lists of blogs on the site.

In addition, articles include a bunch of commercial links at the end of stories — to webcasts, white papers, sponsored reports, and sponsored links. That’s a good reminder that relevant commercial content can and should be promoted on article pages, not just on the home page.

CNET’s also does a decent job with article pages (example), using a fairly large right column next to the article to include links to other content on the site: blogs, top picks from readers, most popular headlines, and latest headlines. At the end of the article are links to stories related to the article, related white papers, and related videos.

Online news industry observer Terry Steichen offers a credible justification for focusing article-page link offerings on content contextually relevant to the article being read: “Your viewers landed on your article page because of some interest of theirs that the article reference triggered. What you should try to do is leverage that specific interest. One way, and perhaps the best way, to do that is to include links to similar articles and/or links to relevant supplemental background information.”

I tend to favor a healthy and abundant mix of contextual and overall links to content elsewhere on a site. If article pages are to become more crowded as they take on the role that the home page once played, then so be it.

The home page, repeated.

At the other extreme is taking the article page and turning it into a pseudo-home page. Yes, some news sites do this, putting most or even all of the content on the home page onto each article page — using the left and right columns for some content, but putting most of it at the end of an article. (Scroll down below the last paragraph of articles on such sites and you’ll see what’s pretty much a repeat of the home page.)

This concept is demonstrated at the website of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, which repeats most of its home page on article pages. And perhaps it’s a trend in Scandinavia, since Sweden’s Aftonbladet does the same thing with its article pages.

JP Web editor Jørgen Schultz-Nielsen says the change to this form of article page was made last year with the intent of not requiring site users to click back to the home page or a section page in order to see the rest of the content on the site. While he doesn’t have figures that break down usage of the home page versus the navigation content repeated on article pages, he believes it’s “the right way to do it.”

The disadvantage to this approach to article pages is that the pages can get pretty big — and load slowly for those Internet users on slow connections. For the JP website it is possible to take this approach, says Schultz-Nielsen, because “here in Denmark almost everybody has a broadband connection.”

Another disadvantage is that when people go to print out an article page, they’ll get a pile of unwanted extra pages; ergo, such an approach does require a printer-friendly option be offered and that it be highly visible.

One approach that might work for repeating most or all home-page content is to condense it, for example by using hidden text that appears when the user moves his/her mouse over something. Top headlines, for example, might be a small “Top Headlines” box that expands to reveal headlines, blurbs and links on mouseover.

Some Web editors will object to the notion of repeating home-page content on article pages because of its repetitive nature; a site user who came to an article from the home page may become annoyed at the repetition. A possible solution to that is to detect where a user is coming in from: If it’s from the site’s home page or another page, a simple article page can be displayed that contains less navigation content; if it’s from another website or search engine, the busy article page with home-page content included can be displayed.

In any event, there are plenty of options for addressing the problem of article pages that don’t lead visitors to the rest of a website — and increasing overall site traffic by fixing it. The first step is to admit that your site may have a problem.


Steve Outing ( has covered the online news industry for E&P since August 1995.
He is also senior editor at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Links referenced within this article

The Globe & Mail
Google News
Arizona Daily Star’s site
Web site of the Salt Lake Tribune
recall a few lawsuits
Here’s an example of a article page
Google News article page
typical article page
website of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten
article pages
its article pages,2789,634058,00.html

By Steve Outing BOULDER, Colo. (April 22, 2005)
© 2005 VNU eMedia Inc. All rights reserved.

Tunisia: Ex-Prisoners Recount Brutal Solitary Confinement

Authorities Should Halt Isolation Policy Immediately

(Tunis, April 20, 2005) – Interviews with recently released prisoners in
Tunisia refute government denials that it is holding dozens of political
prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement or isolation, some for over
a decade, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 39-page report, "Tunisia: Crushing the Person, Crushing a
Movement," charges that the government's policy of isolation is
driven not by legitimate penological concerns. Rather, this national
policy seeks to punish and demoralize jailed leaders of the banned
Nahdha (Renaissance) party, as part of government efforts to destroy
the country's Islamist movement.

"The Tunisian government must end its policy of trying to crush
political prisoners by throwing them into solitary confinement for
years on end," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa
director at Human Rights Watch. "Tunisia should grant an amnesty to
its political prisoners, but until that happens, the isolation policy must

Released Nahdha leaders said that prison officials never formally told
them why they were being held in isolation, how long the isolation
would last, or how to appeal the decision. The government forbids
inmates in isolation from all contact with the rest of the prison
population, even during their daily outdoor exercise period. These
inmates are barred from all vocational, cultural and educational
programs. Their communication with the outside world and access to
books is also heavily restricted, and family visits are limited to a single,
short weekly visit at most, usually through a separation barrier.

Not only does Tunisia's practice of long-term isolation violate
international norms on the treatment of prisoners, it also violates
Tunisian law, which allows isolation as a form of punishment for up to
10 days only. Moreover, the policy also violates the prohibition against
cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment and, in some cases, may
rise to the level of torture. The long-term absence of normal social
interaction and of reasonable mental stimulus threatens the mental
health of inmates in enforced isolation, penologists say.

"The only person you can speak to is the guard. But from time to time,
the prison staff would decide not to address a single word to you,
sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for an entire week," said Ali
Laaridh, a prisoner freed in November who described the measures
Tunisian authorities sometimes took to intensify the inmate's sense of
isolation. "You might ask for a medication, or to see a doctor, and they
wouldn't even say ‘Yes' or ‘No', or, ‘We are looking at your request.'
It makes you despondent, ready to do something desperate, toward the
guard, or toward yourself, just to prove you exist."

About 40 out of Tunisia's 500 political prisoners are being held in
long-term isolation, either in solitary confinement or in small-group
isolation, in which two to four inmates share a cell or wing but are
otherwise cut off from all contact with the rest of the prison population.
Many have held hunger strikes to demand improved conditions and an
end to the enforced segregation. On April 9, Nahdha journalist Hamadi
Jebali, imprisoned since 1991, launched a hunger strike from his
isolation cell in Sfax prison.

International penal standards dictate that solitary confinement should
be imposed only for short periods, in an individualized fashion, under
strict supervision (including by a physician) and only for legitimate
penal reasons of discipline or preventive security. However, the
released prisoners said that inmates in long-term isolation received no
special medical supervision, and that the only explanations they
received for their segregation were unofficial comments such as, "You
can incite the other prisoners," or "The decision is beyond my
authority." The released prisoners acknowledged that the material
conditions of isolation cells have improved since the mid-1990s, even
though the underlying policy of strict segregation remains in force.

All of the prisoners in prolonged isolation are Islamists, most of them
leaders of the banned Nahdha party. After tolerating Nahdha in his
first years of office, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali launched a
crackdown against the party in 1990 that has continued to this day.
The Tunisian government maintains nevertheless that Nahdha is an
extremist movement that sought to establish a fundamentalist state. In
1992, it obtained convictions in military court of 265 Nahdha leaders
and supporters for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
Many of today's prisoners in isolation are from that group.

However, human rights organizations that observed the proceedings
condemned the 1992 trials as unfair and concluded that the charges of
a coup plot had not been proven. The defendants in those trials were
not convicted of carrying out any acts of violence. Since then, Nahdha
has not been linked to any violent activities. Nor has evidence been
released to suggest that, while in prison, the inmates currently held in
long-term isolation engaged in behavior that would justify such an
extreme measure against them.

One year ago today, Tunisian Minister of Justice and Human Rights
Béchir Tekkari announced that Tunisia might accept prison visits by
the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, negotiations
between the government and that organization have yet to produce an
agreement on access.

"Tunisia: Crushing the Person, Crushing a Movement" is available in
English at:

Please help support the research that made this bulletin possible. In order
to protect our objectivity, Human Rights Watch does not accept funding from
any government. We depend entirely on the generosity of people like you.
To make a contribution, please visit

Justice and/or peace

Justice and/or peace
04/20/05 01:17 PM

This past week, Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, said that he would suspend the planned prosecutions of members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Ocampo came to the decision after meeting with Ugandan leaders who have become concerned that the threat of prosecutions may be preventing the unfolding of peace efforts currently underway. Press coverage over the current schism so far seems to steer clear of the complexity of obtaining justice in the midst of a conflict and focus more on making a simplistic story of the conflict between the ICC's intent to prosecute, and the Ugandan government's focus on peace.

The New York Times recently published a piece with the headline, "Atrocity Victims in Uganda Choose to Forgive." The bent of the article seems to be that a battle of cultures is going on in which the ICC is pushing a foreign concept of "Western justice," while Africa is more preoccupied with "forgiveness."

Remarkably, a number of those who have been hacked by rebels, who have seen their children carried off by them or who have endured years of suffering in their midst say traditional justice must be the linchpin in ending the war.

It’s true that Uganda has its own ritual for forgiveness, and has used amnesty as an important component of getting rebels to lay down their weapons. But might this focus on "forgiveness" and "amnesty" have more to do with the fact that rebel leaders have said that issuing warrants against them will result in more violence and an end to any steps towards peace? While there is certainly room for a dialogue regarding cultural nuances of the concept of "justice," it hardly seems like it should be the focal point of the discussion. Similar to Rwanda and South Africa, it seems likely that any post-conflict rehabilitation will involve both elements of forgiveness and prosecution.

Rather than making the main issue that of cultural difference, it seems more important to focus on what role the ICC should have in working with governments that are currently negotiating the end to conflicts. It is important to note that the concept of "Western justice" wasn't so foreign as to keep the Ugandan government from asking the ICC, back in 2003, to investigate LRA abuses.

The problem is not that Ugandans have such a radically different understanding of justice. Rather, it is the same conundrum that the ICC faces in Sudan—the people with the guns get to call the shots—and guess what—they don't want to be prosecuted. And when the warfare tactic of choice is to kill, rape, and recruit innocent civilians, it becomes necessary for either a peace agreement (involving amnesty) or massive military force. Considering that no country with a substantial military force seems to care much about Africa, governments find that they usually must resort to amnesties in order to end the violence.

So instead of arguing over the different definitions of justice and whether or not the ICC is a good thing, perhaps we should simply get more realistic about what it can and cannot achieve. The problem seems to be that we don't have any other effective international deterrent. Prosecution usually comes after the apprehension of those who committed crimes. If the specter of ICC prosecution is the only thing that strikes fear in the hearts of members of the LRA and janjaweed militias, it would seem that the international community is missing a crucial force that the ICC is not in a position to provide.

- Onnesha Roychoudhuri

This article has been made possible by the Foundation for National Progress, the Investigative Fund of Mother Jones, and gifts from generous readers like you.

© 2005 The Foundation for National Progress


Inter Press Service News Agency updates

More than 300 million strong, the world's indigenous peoples are beginning to make themselves heard, in international arenas like the new United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and at the national level, where their growing numbers are translating into political muscle. Via its local writers, IPS endeavours to transmit these indigenous voices and untangle their issues for a global audience.
ENVIRONMENT-MEXICO: From Prison to Awards Ceremony for Indigenous Activist
By Diego Cevallos
MEXICO CITY - In the past two years, Isidro Baldenegro, an indigenous activist from Mexico, went from prison and death threats to posh hotels and award ceremonies.

DEVELOPMENT: Making Every Drop Count
By Isaac Baker
UNITED NATIONS - For years, the Yellow Quill First Nation, a small indigenous community of 1,000 people located in the south-central region of Canada's Saskatchewan province, was forced to boil all its drinking water because the local water sources were limited and despicable.

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LATIN AMERICA: Indigenous Filmmakers Give Glimpse into Their World
By Humberto Márquez
CARACAS - A painter's search in the Peruvian jungle for plants that would reproduce the colour blue served as the inspiration for the grand-prize winner at the latest Anaconda Awards, a regional competition for videos made in South America's tropical rainforests.

RIGHTS-BRAZIL: Indigenous Groups Welcome Gov't Decision on Reserve
By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO - Indigenous groups welcomed a decision by the Brazilian Justice Ministry Friday to formalise the demarcation of the Raposa Sierra del Sol reserve in the northern state of Roraima.

BRAZIL: Landless Farmers, Indigenous Peoples Unite in Fight for Land
By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO - Landless campesinos and indigenous people promise to shake up Brazil throughout the rest of April and the first weeks of May, with a tent city in the capital, occupations of unproductive land throughout the country, and a march on the capital.

And many more:

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Pope intervened IN US election campaign

Tue Apr 19, 6:20 PM ET

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican theologian who was elected Pope Benedict XVI, intervened in the 2004 US election campaign ordering bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential candidate John Kerry.

In a June 2004 letter to US bishops enunciating principles of worthiness for communion recipients, Ratzinger specified that strong and open supporters of abortion should be denied the Catholic sacrament, for being guilty of a "grave sin."

He specifically mentioned "the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws," a reference widely understood to mean Democratic candidate Kerry, a Catholic who has defended abortion rights.

The letter said a priest confronted with such a person seeking communion "must refuse to distribute it."

A footnote to the letter also condemned any Catholic who votes specifically for a candidate because the candidate holds a pro-abortion position. Such a voter "would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy communion," the letter read.

The letter, which was revealed in the Italian magazine L'Espresso last year, was reportedly only sent to US Catholic bishops, who discussed it in their convocation in Denver, Colorado, in mid-June.

Sharply divided on the issue, the bishops decided to leave the decision on granting or denying communion to the individual priest. Kerry later received communion several times from sympathetic priests.

Nevertheless, in the November election, a majority of Catholic voters, who traditionally supported Democratic Party candidates, shifted their votes to Republican and eventual winner George W. Bush.