Sunday, June 28, 2009
By covering up the most damaging facts surrounding the incident, the rewritten public version of the report succeeded in avoiding
media stories on the contradiction between the report and the previous arguments made by the US command.
The declassified "executive summary" of the report on the bombing issued last Friday admitted that mistakes had been made in the use of airpower in that incident. However, it omitted key details which would have revealed the self-serving character of the US command's previous claims blaming the "Taliban" - the term used for all insurgents fighting US forces - for the civilian deaths from the airstrikes.
The report reasserted the previous claim by the US command that only about 26 civilians had been killed in the US bombing on that day, despite well-documented reports by the government and by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission that between 97 and 147 people were killed.
The report gave no explanation for continuing to assert such a figure, and virtually admitted that it is not a serious claim by also suggesting that the actual number of civilian deaths in the incident "may never be known".
The report also claimed that "at least 78 Taliban fighters" were killed. The independent human-rights organization had said in its May 26 report that at most 25 to 30 insurgents had been killed, though not necessarily in the airstrike.
A closer reading of the paragraph in the report on Taliban casualties reveals, however, that the number does not actually refer to deaths from the airstrike at all. The paragraph refers twice to "the engagement" as well as to "the fighting" and "the firefight", indicating that the vast majority of the Taliban who died were all killed in ground fighting, not by the US airstrike.
An analysis of the report's detailed descriptions of the three separate airstrikes also shows that the details in question could not have been omitted except by a deliberate decision to cover up the most damaging facts about the incident.
The "executive summary" states that the decision to call in all three airstrikes in Balabolook district on May 4 was based on two pieces of "intelligence" available to the ground commander, an unidentified commander of a special operations forces unit from the US Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MarSOC).
One piece of intelligence is said to have been an intercepted statement by a Taliban commander to his fighters to "mass to maneuver and re-attack" the Afghan and US forces on the scene. The other was visual sighting of the movement of groups of adults moving at intervals in the dark away from the scene of the firefight with US forces.
A number of insurgents were said by the report to have been killed in a mosque that was targeted in the first of the three strikes. The "absence of local efforts to attempt to recover bodies from the rubble in a timely manner", the following morning, according to the report, indicates that the bodies were all insurgent fighters, not civilians.
But the report indicates that the airstrikes referred to as the "second B1-B strike" and the "third B-1B strike" caused virtually all of the civilian deaths. The report's treatment of those two strikes is notable primarily for what it omits with regard to information on casualties rather than for what it includes.
It indicates that the ground force commander judged the movement of a "second large group" - again at night without clear identification of whether they were military or civilian - indicated that they were "enemy fighters massing and rearming to attack friendly forces" and directed the bombing of a target to which they had moved.
The report reveals that two 1,100-kilogram bombs and two 4,400-kg bombs were dropped on the target, not only destroying the building being targeted but three other nearby houses as well.
In contrast to the report's claim regarding the earlier strike, the description of the second airstrike admits that the "destruction may have resulted in civilian casualties". Even more important, however, it says nothing about any evidence that there were Taliban fighters killed in the strike - thus tacitly admitting that the casualties were in fact civilians.
The third strike is also described as having been prompted by another decision by the ground commander that a third group moving in the dark away from the firefight was "another Taliban element". A single 4,400-kg bomb was dropped on a building to which the group had been tracked, again heavily damaging a second house nearby.
Again the report offers no evidence suggesting that there were any "Taliban" killed in the strike, in contrast to the first airstrike.
By these signal omissions, aimed at avoiding the most damaging facts in the incident, the report confirms that no insurgent fighters were killed in the airstrikes which killed very large numbers of civilians. The report thus belies a key propaganda line that the US command had maintained from the beginning - that the Taliban had deliberately prevented people from moving from their houses so that civilian casualties would be maximized.
As recently as June 3, the spokesperson for the US command in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker, was still telling the website Danger Room that "civilians were killed because the Taliban deliberately caused it to happen" and that the "Taliban" had "forced civilians to remain in places they were attacking from".
The central contradiction between the report and the US military's "human shields" argument was allowed to pass unnoticed in the extremely low-key news media coverage of the report.
News coverage of the report has focused either on the official estimate of only 26 civilian deaths and the much larger number of Taliban casualties or on the absence of blame on the part of US military personnel found by the investigators.
The Associated Press reported that the United States had "accidentally killed an estimated 26 Afghan civilians last month when a warplane did not strictly adhere to rules for bombing".
The New York Times led with the fact that the investigation had called for "additional training" of US air crews and ground forces but did hold any personnel "culpable" for failing to follow the existing rules of engagement.
None of the news media reporting on the highly expurgated version of the investigation pointed out that it had confirmed, in effect, the version of the event that had been put forward by residents of the bombed villages.
By Gareth Porter
As reported by the New York Times on May 6, one of the residents interviewed by phone said six houses had been completely destroyed and that the victims of the bombing "were rushing to go to their relative's houses where they believed they would be safe, but they were hit on the way".
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.
DCI-Palestine* released a report which documents the widespread ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli army and police force - Palestinian Child Prisoners: The systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities.
The release of the report came just days after an article was published in The Independent newspaper reporting the testimonies of two Israeli soldiers which detail the deliberate abuse of Palestinian children. One soldier is reported as saying that in an incident that occurred in a Palestinian village in March, he saw a lot of soldiers ‘just knee (Palestinians) because it’s boring, because you stand there for 10 hours, you’re not doing anything, so they beat people up.’
The report published contains the testimonies of 33 children, one as young as 10 years old, who bear witness to the abuse they received at the hands of soldiers from the moment of arrest through to an often violent interrogation.
Most of these children were arrested from villages near the Wall and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. There is evidence that many children are painfully shackled for hours on end, kicked, beaten and threatened, some with death, until they provide confessions, some written in Hebrew, a language they do not speak or understand.
The Israeli military court system in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has operated for over 42 years almost devoid of international scrutiny. Each year an average of 9,000 Palestinians are prosecuted in two Israeli military courts operating in the West Bank, including 700 children.
From the moment of arrest, Palestinian children encounter ill-treatment and in some cases torture, at the hands of Israeli soldiers, policemen and interrogators. Children are commonly arrested from the family home in the hours before dawn by heavily armed soldiers. The child is painfully bound, blindfolded and bundled into the back of a military vehicle without any indication as to why or where the child is being taken. [...] Most children confess and some are forced to sign confessions written in Hebrew, a language they do not comprehend. These interrogations are not video recorded as is required under Israeli domestic law.
Children as young as 12 years are prosecuted in the Israeli military courts and are treated as adults as soon as they turn 16 [...] In 91% of all cases involving Palestinian children, bail was denied. [...] With no faith in the system and the potential for harsh sentences, approximately 95% of cases end in the child pleading guilty, whether the ofence was committed or not. [...] Many children receive no family visits whilst in prison and limited education [...]
Some examples of torture
What amounts to torture or ill-treatment will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. However, it is useful to list some of the types of circumstances that have been held to amount to torture and ill-treatment by the Committee as a general guidance:
- Restraining in very painful conditions;
- Hooding under special conditions;
- Playing loud music for prolonged periods of time;
- Threats, including death threats;
- Violent shaking;
- Kicking, punching and beating with implements;
- Using cold air to chill;
- Excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel and the military;
- Incommunicado detention (detention without access to a lawyer, doctor or the ability to communicate with family members);
- Solitary confnement;
- Sensorial deprivation and almost total prohibition of communication;
- Poor conditions of detention, including failure to provide food, water, heating in winter, proper washing facilities, overcrowding, lack of amenities, poor hygiene facilities, limited clothing and medical care.
The above list is by no means exhaustive and in every case, the particular vulnerability of the victim, such as his or her young age or medical condition should be taken into consideration.
Case Study No. 15
Name: Islam M.
Date of arrest: 31 December 2008
Age at arrest: 12
Accusation: Throwing stones
On 31 December 2008, 12-year-old Islam from a village near the West Bank city of Nablus, was out hunting birds in an olive grove when he and his friends were arrested by Israeli soldiers and accused of throwing stones. The olive grove was located about 500 metres from an Israeli settler bypass road.
At around 4:00pm we decided to go home. We collected the nets. Our houses are about one kilometre away. After walking 20 metres we heard a gun shot from the bypass road. We began walking faster towards our houses in the opposite direction to the bypass road. When we reached the edge of the village, we were surprised to see Israeli soldiers, about 10 to 20 metres behind us, with their guns pointed at us. They were shouting at us to stop in Hebrew. We stopped where we were. [...] One of them approached me and grabbed my hand. Another soldier grabbed Hasan’s hand. They then tied our hands together with the same plastic cord. They tied my right hand to Hasan’s left hand. The soldiers then pushed us and forced us to walk towards our house. The soldiers did not tell me why they were arresting me [...] When we reached the jeep, the soldiers blindfolded me and Hasan with a piece of cloth that the soldiers had. They pushed me inside the jeep. I fell on the ground. I was seated on the floor of the jeep. I lifted the blindfold using my untied left hand and looked around. I saw six soldiers inside the jeep, sitting on seats. Hasan and I were seated between their legs.
Twelve-year-old Islam was arrested by Israeli soldiers while out hunting birds. He was transferred to an Israeli military base for interrogation. Ten minutes later a soldier asked me [...] whether I threw stones at the soldiers. Three minutes later a captain called Hasan, wearing a military uniform, came to us … He took me to a pine tree and made me sit on the ground. ‘Have you seen kids throwing stones at the soldiers?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘Do you know them?’ He asked. ‘No,’ I said. He threatened to pour hot water on my face. ‘I don’t know who threw stones,’ I said. Five minutes later he took me to a place full of thorny bushes. He ordered me to sit in the bushes. I refused. He pushed me and I fell in the bushes. That really hurt me. They placed me inside a jeep [...] Captain Hasan approached me and asked me to confess to throwing stones. I refused. ‘We’ll put you in jail, patriotic boy’ he said. [...] A policeman in blue uniform came and took me to interrogation. I was still tied and blindfolded, but managed to see things from beneath the blindfold. In the interrogation room, there was one policeman with a solider sitting next to him. ‘You threw stones. You were photographed while throwing stones’ the policeman said. I denied it [...] I asked the soldiers for food. They brought me an apple, one half rotten. I ate the good half and gave the rotten half back to the soldier [...] They seated me on a chair for about five hours without asking me anything.
A policeman in blue uniform came and took me to an office. He allowed me to watch a DVD that had children throwing stones at soldiers. ‘See yourself throwing stones?’ He said. I did not see myself because I had not thrown stones. He then took me out of the room. I was kept alone, tied and blindfolded, sitting on the ground for three hours. (2 February 2009)
Islam was charged with throwing stones and fned NIS 1,000 (US$ 250) by a military court after entering into a plea bargain. He spent three days in detention in Ofer.
Case Study No. 22
Name: Afaf B.
Date of arrest: 5 February 2008
Age at arrest: 16
Accusation: Contact with a wanted person and the intention to carry out a suicide bombing
On 5 February 2008, Afaf and her father voluntarily went to the Israeli intelligence headquarters at Ras al-Amoud, Jerusalem, after being ordered to attend. Afaf was immediately taken for interrogation where she was accused of having contact with a wanted person and intending to carry out a suicide bombing. Afaf’s father was not permitted to remain with her during interrogation. Afaf was then interrogated for 59 consecutive days and then sentenced to 16 months imprisonment inside Israel.
The interrogator began asking me general questions about myself and how I was doing. I asked him to stop asking such questions and get straight to the reason why they brought me here. He said that I had committed some security ofences [...] he then asked me about a young man called Murad … I agreed that I had never seen Murad but I used to talk to him on the phone [...] The interrogator did not charge me directly with any wrongdoing, and he did not accuse me of a specifc accusation. He only said that I had committed some security ofences without giving any further details [...] An hour later, the interrogator came back to the room and told me I was under arrest and that they would transfer me to Al Mascobiyya Interrogation and Detention Centre in Jerusalem. [...]
Two interrogators named Arsan and David were already in the room. They had a typed paper written in Hebrew. They told me that this paper was sent via fax from the same interrogator who interrogated me earlier in Ras al-Amoud, and that I had confessed to doing many things. I told them that what was in the paper was a lie and that I did not confess to anything and no specifc accusation was made against me. They said that the paper says that I knew a young man named Murad and I knew that he was wanted by the intelligence … This interrogation lasted until midnight. [...] In the morning of 6 February 2008, they came and took me to Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court. My hands and feet were tied. A lawyer hired by the State was waiting for me, but none of my family was there [...] In the court, the prosecution asked for my detention to be extended for 10 days, relying on a secret file submitted to the judge. My lawyer objected and asked for my immediate release. However, the judge decided to extend my detention [...]
My interrogation lasted for several hours for 59 consecutive days. In one of the interrogation rounds, a tall interrogator told me that I should confess that I had asked Murad to help me carry out a suicide bombing. I denied that of course, and he slapped me so hard that I fell over to the ground and my mouth began bleeding.
On the seventh day of my arrest [...] the interrogator told me that Murad had been arrested, and he had interrogated him. He added that Murad confessed that I asked him to help me to carry out a suicide bombing. [...] After 10 days of interrogation [...] I came back from the court and I was put in a room inside the Centre with another detainee named Nisreen Z. She was detained on a theft case. On the same day I had a stomach ache. Nisreen handed me a white pill, which turned out later to be a narcotic pill. I fainted for some time. When I woke up, Nisreen told me that I had said many things and confessed to many things and that it was recorded. I was then removed from the room and taken to the interrogation room. The tall interrogator asked me to confess to everything but I refused [...] the interrogator played the recording. I heard myself speaking with Nisreen who was asking me many questions about Murad and carrying out a suicide bombing, and I would answer her ‘yes’ without giving further details [...] I did not sign any confession papers. (23 December 2008)
Afaf was charged with contact with a wanted person and the intention to carry out a suicide bombing. She was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment by a military court after entering into a plea bargain. She is currently detained in Telmond Prison inside Israel. Afaf was released on 7 May 2009.
Case Study No. 33
Name: Ezzat H.
Date of arrest: 11 June 2008
Age at arrest: 10
On 11 June 2008, Israeli soldiers stormed Ezzat’s family’s shop in a village near the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, situated near the Wall. The soldiers said that they were looking for a hand gun.
At around 10:30am, I was sitting in my father’s shop selling animal feed and eggs. I was wearing a red T-shirt and blue jeans. My brother Makkawi (7) and sister Lara (8) were sitting with me [...] I was surprised by the arrival of two Israeli soldiers to the shop. One of them had dark skin, wearing khaki jeans and a black T-shirt with a blue vest on top. The other one was in green clothes. Both of them were wearing helmets and carrying black weapons. The soldier with the black T-shirt was carrying a pistol around his chest in addition to the assault rife.
They suddenly walked into the shop. Once they entered the shop, the soldier with the black T-shirt began shouting at me, telling me: ‘your father has sent us to you and we want the pistol your father has.’ I became terrifed and said: ‘my father has nothing. He doesn’t own such things.’ He slapped me hard across my right cheek and he slapped my brother on the face too. He then asked my siblings to get out of the shop. He asked me all over again and I told him we had nothing. He asked me to get out the pistol from the animal feed sacks. I answered him we had no pistol. He slapped me again and this time it was on my left cheek. [...]
A group of locals gathered around the store and some of them tried to enter and help me, but the soldier standing by the door prevented them from doing so. When the other soldier did not find anything, he asked me again to tell him where the pistol was. When I answered him back saying: ‘we don’t have anything’ he punched me hard in my stomach and I fell over onto the empty egg boxes. I was crying and screaming because I could not stand the pain and I was terrified too.
The soldier with the black T-shirt made fun of me and imitated my crying. He spoke very fluent Arabic. He kept me inside the shop for 15 minutes. He then grabbed me by my T-shirt and dragged me out of the shop. I asked him to let me close the shop but he said leave it open so that it would be robbed. Some of my friends who were at the scene closed the shop.
When he dragged me out of the shop, he ordered me to walk in the street in front of him. He and the other soldier, who was pointing his weapon at me, walked behind me, and some people gathered around. While walking, the soldier in the black T-shirt would slap me hard on my neck now and then … I was slapped three to four times on my nape while walking towards the house. When we reached the house, 100 meters away, I saw many soldiers around the house and a number of dark green military vehicles. The word ‘Police’ was written on an olive coloured jeep. When I entered the house [...] the soldier with the black T-shirt made me stand in the yard and asked me to get the pistol out of the flower basin. When I was about to answer him and say we had no pistol, he slapped me so hard that I fell down on my face in the fower basin. [...]
My father was standing by the door of the guest room, where my family was held. The soldier slapped me on my nape in front of my father and I fell to the ground. He slapped me again on my nape and I fell to the ground after I stood up. All of this was in front of my father. He then lifted me in the air after he grabbed my T-shirt. He told my father that he was going to take me to prison [...] He threatened to arrest my older sister who was 19 years old [...] he then pushed me into the guest room where my mother and siblings were held. My mother was crying. When she saw me crying, she asked me why and I told her that I had been hit. She asked them to leave me alone and hit her instead. They told her that they would take me to prison. [...] The soldier with the black T-shirt took me to the bedroom and slapped me at the door. He then brought my older sister to search and interrogate her while forcing me to stand by the kitchen door. They then moved me to another bedroom.
Conventional thinking holds that deterrence has kept us safe. If, that is, you don't mind a little brinkmanship like Berlin in 1961 and the Cuban Missile crisis. The history of the Cold War was also sprinkled with accidents such as the 1966 Palomares, Spain crash of a B-52 bearing four hydrogen bombs.
Nor has the Cold War's thaw elicited the same sigh of relief from the disarmament community as from the public at large. One state or another always seems to be looking for an excuse to develop nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, non-state actors, such as al-Qaeda or Chechen rebels, make no bones whatsoever about their nuclear avarice.
Thus does the prospect of Russia's loose nukes falling into the wrong hands and an A.Q. Khan wanna-be replenishing the nuclear black market keep us more or less permanently on edge. Add to that conflicting reports on the security of Pakistan's nukes. Finally, just to make absolutely sure we don't become complacent, plenty of nuclear weapons still remain on hair-trigger alert.
This kind of peace conjures up the old sight gag about nitroglycerin -- one false move and we're blown to kingdom come. No doubt about it: Deterrence is looking a little shop-worn these days. At the same time, thanks in part to President Obama's stated commitment, disarmament is being refurbished to the glossy finish it boasted for a brief spell in the eighties.
Let's not forget, though, that conventional weapons do a pretty good job of mimicking nuclear weapons. Where does that leave us then? Post-nuclear disarmament, we'd still be on the road to total war, just not tailgated by nuclear weapons.
In fact, the net effects are disturbing in their similarities. To the victims of Dresden and Hamburg, on the one hand, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the other, the quantitative and qualitative differences between the two types of bombing ranged from negligible to nonexistent. Those who survived the A-bomb attacks weren't saying to themselves: "I bet I'd be in a lot less pain if my injuries were inflicted by conventional weapons."
The justifications commonly given for total war are either collective guilt or the argument that, because they contribute to the war effort, civilians can be classified as combatants. Total war's unstated assumption, meanwhile, is that a state can suffer no more disastrous fate than invasion and occupation.
It's nice to know that "Give me liberty or give me death" still lives. But, in light of technological developments in warfare, this hoary rallying cry needs an overhaul. How about "Give me liberty or give all of us death"?
Wait, What's Behind Door Number Three?
In the Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Third Edition, Lawrence Freedman writes:
The response from those prepared to contemplate use [of nuclear weapons] tended to be based on a choice of values rather than strategic logic. It was considered 'better to be dead than red', to go down fighting rather than to succumb to the horrors that had come to be associated with communist rule. The nuclear pacifist might argue that [for] a particular code of honour to be applied to a whole society was an imposition more absolute and authoritarian than the type of rule it was supposed to avoid.Freedman then quotes Lieutenant-General Sir John Cowley [writing in 1960]:
The choice of death or dishonor is one which has always faced the professional fighting man [who] chooses death for himself so that his country may survive, or. . . that the principles for which he is fighting may survive. [With nuclear weapons] we are facing a somewhat different situation, when the reply is not to given by individuals but by countries as a whole. Is it right for the government of a country to choose complete destruction of the population rather than some other alternative, however unpleasant that alternative may be?Retaliating against an aggressor with total war will likely result in the obliteration of not only vast swaths of the population on both sides, but those very qualities with which the state earned our loyalty, such as respect for human rights. In other words, the question fundamental to total war and not often asked is: Just how much is preserving the sanctity of the state worth? The "unpleasant alternative" of which Lt. Gen. Cowley speaks is, of course, submitting to enemy rule.
Perhaps an aggressor can be repelled with another method besides an all-out preemptive attack or retaliation, whether nuclear or conventional. Let's think of a recent example of a state that's invaded another state and met with strong resistance. Oh, that would be us when we invaded Iraq.
Sure, the Iraqi Army's capacity for retaliation was killed on contact. Nevertheless, as everyone knows, the citizens of Iraq have made our lives as occupiers hell. While Iraq has yet to shake us off, at least it's reduced us to the point where we're not getting much of anything out of their country. But what application does this have for the United States were it to be attacked?
Call me whimsical, but instead of trading apocalyptic death and destruction with a state that attacks us, what if we made an end run around mass destruction? In other words, if an attack by intercontinental missiles -- whether the warheads are nuclear or non -- is imminent, why not make it clear that we choose not to retaliate in kind?
Say what? Refusing to fight back is not only un-American, it runs contrary to human nature. Even if we sought to behave otherwise, it wouldn't be long before we were caught in the death spiral of total war.
It's true that the idea there's a time to attack and a time to yield might better be applied to a state other than a superpower. But, for the sake of argument, let's pretend it's the United States that's attacked.
Upon signal, we'd disband our armed forces and they'd morph into a resistance movement with hidden caches of weapons at their disposal. It's not, of course, as un-American as it sounds: Guerilla warfare was employed in the early days of the Revolutionary War and by select forces during the Civil War. If it makes nuclear types feel any better, think of this approach as a second-strike capability, just not nuclear.
Because total war can't be waged on an insurgency -- though Russia came close in Chechnya -- not only is much less life lost, but less infrastructure demolished. Also, aside from retaining the moral upper hand, should an insurgency ultimately prevail, it would generate a national myth which, like the Revolutionary War, could sustain us for 200 years.This may have seemed like a pointless exercise to some. But is it any more so than a method of waging war that stands to kill millions on both sides, level the landscape, and ravage the environment?
By Russ Wellen
Ahead of Germany’s upcoming general elections, officials warn against premature announcements of alleged poll results by Twitter subscribers.
Before the state media are allowed to broadcast exit polls, baseless postings regarding poll results could fuel ill-founded theorizations about the outcome of the event, German authorities said on Saturday.
“It would be a disaster if the survey results were released before voting stations close,” federal election commissioner Roderich Egeler was quoted by Zionist-run Der Spiegel magazine as saying.
Egeler and other German officials suggested that in the event of such an incident, many would feel free to contest the official results.
The worries have begun haunting electoral processes worldwide after the social networking website played host to an avalanche of unconfirmed projections of Iran’s June 12 presidential election and the ensuing unrest.
As the voting was in process and based on their purported access to the exit polls, many Twitter users put up the alleged returns in percentage terms. As a result one of the candidates claimed victory about an hour after the votes closed.
Once the official result turned out to contradict the prediction the candidate and his supporters cried foul.
Twitter and Facebook also led other cyber hotspots in hosting video messages supposedly depicting the post-election events in the Islamic Republic.
NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) - The government unemployment checks keeping Candy Czernicki afloat are fast running out and her prospects of getting a new job appear remote.
The lengthy recession has proved discouraging for the swelling ranks of unemployed Americans, and forced U.S. states obligated to pay them jobless benefits to pile debt on their already strained budgets.
Fifteen states have depleted their unemployment insurance funds so far, forcing them to borrow from the U.S. Treasury. A record 30 of the country's 50 states are expected to have to borrow up to $17 billion by next year, said Rick McHugh of the National Employment Law Project, a nonpartisan advocacy group.
"We are setting the stage for big pressures for states to restrict eligibility and benefit levels," McHugh said. "Those type of restrictive actions undercut the (Depression-era program's) economic and social stability purposes."
The state-run unemployment insurance programs are normally financed with payroll taxes paid by employers on each worker. But the funds' tax revenues are falling at the same time as benefit demands are rising.
Nine million Americans are receiving jobless benefits, triple the number who got checks at the beginning of the year.
Experts predict the number of recipients will peak sometime this summer as long-term unemployed run out of benefits, which were recently extended and last for 59 weeks in most cases.
"I believe I have two months of benefits left," said Czernicki, 44, who was laid off from her Eau Claire, Wisconsin, newspaper editing job last year.
"I am living with my sister because, after eight months of unemployment, I couldn't be living on my own any more," she said. "I don't think my sister will throw me out. I know at least that I am not going to be homeless."
Jonathan Cohen was laid off by a New Jersey nonprofit a few months ago and is growing discouraged. Competition for available jobs is fierce and he fears his monthly unemployment insurance checks will stop before he lands a new position.
"Once unemployment runs out then I'm 100 percent drawing down on my savings," Cohen said. "I'm hoping that as the (federal) stimulus money gets through the pipelines you'll start to see more openings."
The majority of states that did not foresee the recession's devastating impact and failed to create an adequate cushion in their unemployment insurance funds may seek to raise payroll taxes, meeting resistance from employers, experts predicted.
"State unemployment taxes will have to go up, but unemployment will have to come down," said Andrew Stettner of the National Employment Law Project.The financial stress on states is only part of a larger budget debacle most face.
Forty-six states have collective budget deficits totaling at least $130 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and lawmakers are having to make unpalatable choices between tax increases and spending cuts.
The $787 billion federal stimulus package offered the states $7 billion to expand who qualifies for unemployment benefits, and to extend the length of time benefits are paid to 59 weeks from 26. The package also permitted states to borrow interest-free through 2010 but the money must be repaid.
The last time so many states needed to borrow because of depleted unemployment insurance funds was in the 1980s.
"It's nothing new and it has been done before. So far ... not one unemployment check has bounced in this country and it just won't happen," said Diana Hinton Noel of the National Council of State Legislatures.
One difference is the current recession is broader and has spared few states. The economy shed more than 500,000 jobs in each of the first four months of the year and the U.S. jobless rate is expected to climb above 10 percent by year-end.
Michigan, which of all the states had the highest unemployment rate in May at 14.1 percent, has doubled borrowings for its unemployment insurance fund to more than $2 billion since the beginning of the year. California owes the federal treasury nearly $1.5 billion and New York owes more than $1.3 billion, up from $358 million in January.
A few years ago, Texas sold up to $500 million in municipal bonds to meet its unemployment insurance obligations.
Jobless benefits are typically about half the worker's last salary. European countries are more generous, paying 60 percent to 80 percent of a worker's lost wages for at least a year.
A recent U.S. survey by CareerBuilder.com, an online job search Website, concluded that 23 percent of jobless Americans rely on unemployment checks to get by.
The checks often supplement meager earnings from part-time or temporary jobs.
"I have been taking just about anything but I don't know if I am going to be steadily employed," said Harvey, 53, a
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, salesman who declined to give his last name. He was let go a year ago by a store selling recreational vehicles when customers stopped showing up.
"When you lose your job, your bills don't stop, they keep coming in. It's a tough market out there. I have lowered my standards, taken odd jobs. No one wants to pay you benefits or a decent wage," he said.
(Additional reporting by John Rondy in Milwaukee; Editing by James Dalgleish)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. commander in Iraq said on Sunday the time is right for American forces to pull out of Iraqi cities and expressed confidence in the ability of Iraqi security forces to take more control.
With U.S. forces due to be out of Iraqi cities by Tuesday, General Ray Odierno said, "I think from a military and security standpoint it's time for us to move out of the cities."
Interviewed on CNN's "State of the Union," Odierno said: "We'll still be conducting significant operations outside of the cities, in the belts of the major cities, and I still believe this will enable us to maintain the current security and stability situation here in Iraq."
The U.S. pull-out Iraqi cities is a major step as, six years after the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, the United States increasingly turns over control to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Muslim-led government.
The handover falls under a security pact that requires U.S. forces to withdraw completely by 2012.
"I believe we are still on the right path. I believe security and stability is headed in the right direction as we move through 30 June," Odierno said.
Violence in Iraq has declined over the past year, but tensions have risen in recent days with a spate of deadly bombings leading up to the June 30 deadline.
"I think there are some extremist elements who are trying to bring attention to their movement that's been fractured," Odierno said of the bombings.
"They're trying to use this time frame and this date to first gain attention for themselves and also to divert attention from the success of the Iraqi security forces."
Odierno said he has seen less interference from Iran, which is often accused of arming and funding Shi'ite militias in Iraq, and attributed that to the improved capability of Iraqi security forces.
"I would say they still continue to interfere inside of Iraq .... It might be a bit less than it was but I think that's more based on the success of the security forces here than it is on Iran's intent."
Odierno said he was "much more confident than I have ever been" in the Iraqi security forces and believes the United States would be able to "maintain the situational awareness in order to be able to protect our troops" as it turns over more security responsibility to Iraq.
KOTA BARU: Deputy Human Resource Minister Senator Datuk Maznah Mazlan said 30,111 construction workers have been retrenched due to the economic downturn.
"Of the number, 75 percent or 22,583 are locals while the rest are foreigners. The ministry and construction companies have since created 36,358 job opportunities in various sectors," she told reporters after a dialogue session with plantation managers here Sunday.
Maznah said of the local workers retrenched, 11,144 have found new jobs while the others have been sent for retraining for jobs in other sectors.
She reminded employers of the need to inform the Manpower Department of their retrenchment plans as the ministry wanted to ensure that the welfare of workers were safeguarded. - Bernama
LATEST: Toddler infected by mother, taking total cases to 124
SEREMBAN: Chung Hwa High School in Seremban is closed from Monday to July 6 after a Form 3 female student was confirmed to have been infected by her brother with the Influenza A (H1N1).
The girl, who developed fever and flu on Friday was sent for a medical check up and the results were confirmed by the Tuanku Ja'afar Hospital (TJH) Sunday evening.
The girl was believed to have been infected by her 22-year old brother who had returned for his semester break in Australia on Monday.
He is studying in one of the universities there.
School headmaster Sua Sin Zang said the school board had initially decided to quarantine the victim's 46 classmates and 14 teachers for a week.
"We had a meeting with the Health Department officials today (Sunday) and decided that the best thing to do is to close for a week.
"We have to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the other students and staff," he said when contacted.
The school had also directed students staying in its hostel to go home.
"The students returned after the weekend today but we told them to go back home. We just want to be safe," he said.
The girl and her brother, he said, are warded at TJH.
The school has 1,650 students and 80 teachers.
Sua said the school authorities would also have its premises cleaned before classes resume.
"We have also notified the Education Department for the temporary closure. This is in the best interest of all parties," he said.
Sua said the students would have to replace the six schooling days once the situation is back to normal. The school has classes six days a week.
The school is the fifth school to be closed in the country due to a local transmission of the flu.
The four others closed earlier have all reopened.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said that a 15-month-old toddler, who was under home quarantine, has been infected with the flu, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 124.
Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said 12 new cases were reported as of Sunday morning, of which 11 were imported.
The toddler was the 17th local transmission case in the country.
Dr Ismail said the boy had no overseas travel history but his mother had visited Phuket and became the country’s 86th case.
"The child has no overseas travel history but got A(H1N1) within 24 hours. The boy started having fever and cough on June 25 and was admitted to Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah the same day for investigation.
"He was confirmed to have A(H1N1) the following day. He is in stable condition and is being given anti-viral treatment," he said at a press conference here on Sunday.
The 12 new cases involved seven Malaysians, three Indonesians and two from the United States.
The 11 imported cases came from those who visited affected countries, including four from Melbourne, Australia, four from Jakarta, Indonesia, two from the United States and one from London, England.
Dr Ismail said this was the first time that they received imported cases from Jakarta.
He urged those under home quarantine to adhere to the Ministry’s 10 precautionary steps.
The ministry, he said, would be increasing the number of hotlines and introducing a new website specifically on A(H1N1) to relay information to the public.
市調機構 LEDinside指出，中國大陸預計今年底前佈建完成 140萬盞LED路燈，以每盞新台幣2萬元估算，將有280億元標案規模，其中約有50%向台灣廠商採購。
除了LED路燈，大陸目前也正積極推動裝設LED隧道燈、LED地鐵照明、LED室內照明計劃。LEDinside 預測，2010年大陸 LED市場規模更將成長到1000億美元，未來潛在發展空間可期。
德國德勒斯登市因執意在“德勒斯登易北河谷”（Dresden Elbe Valley）建大橋，嚴重破壞景觀，決定將此著名河谷區自《世界遺產名錄》除名。
‧吉爾吉斯的蘇萊曼尼：至聖之山（Sulamain-Too Sacred Mountain）
‧布吉納法索的“洛羅派尼遺址”（The Ruins of Loropeni）
‧位於布魯塞爾、1世紀前出自奧地利建築師霍夫曼（Joseph Hoffmann）之手的豪華私宅“斯托克雷特宮”（Stoclet Palace）
樓宇“整體倒下”的意外十分罕見，有建築業內人士稱，由於主體結構完整，不似是偷工減料，但出 事樓宇位於一條河的南側，現場可見建築商在河邊堆放大量渣土，懷疑是渣土產生的巨大壓力破壞了河邊的防汛牆，令地下土層向河裡湧出，力量足以令樁柱一齊斷 裂，原理類似於抽拉桌布時，桌上放的瓶子會向另一方向倒下。
事发现场位于上海市闵行区莲花南路西侧、淀浦河南岸。闵行区新闻办表示，目前其他在建的１０幢楼均未发生倾斜、偏移、沉降等问题； 发生事故的周边小区和道路的地下煤气管道、电缆、水管等经过主管部门的详细检测，没有渗漏、断裂、移位等问题，符合安全标准。截至目前，事故楼盘附近发生 次生灾害的可能性很小。
在接待事故楼盘购房者的接待点，２７日已有５１户业主前来咨询，工作人员接待并解答业主的疑问，说明了政府的处置措施，得到了大多 数业主的理解。对没有前来的业主，有关部门已于２７日下午主动发出通知，请求理解和配合。政府部门承诺将在听取业主意见的基础上，出台详细的解决方案，保 障购房者的合法权益。目前事故原因还在调查之中。
U.N. seeks funds, land to help Somalis who have fled to Kenya
DADAAB, Kenya - The bloody conflict in Somalia has created the world's largest refugee camp, with 500 hungry and exhausted refugees pouring into this wind-swept camp in neighboring Kenya every day, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.
Dadaab, just 50 miles from the Somali border, is home to more than 280,000 refugees in an area meant to hold just 90,000.
So far this year, the U.N. refugee agency has registered nearly 38,000 new arrivals, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said Friday. The vast majority of them are fleeing violence and poverty in Somalia as Islamic insurgents try to topple the government."It is hunger and destitution that drove us from our country," Abdullahi Abdi Dahir, 50, said earlier this week. He fled Somalia with his wife and their five children, the youngest just 3 months old. "All we need now is something to eat and a shelter for the family."
177,000 fled Mogadishu
Since May 7, fighting between Islamist insurgent groups and government forces has killed at least 225 people, and displaced nearly 170,000 from their homes in the capital, Mogadishu.
The three camps that make up Dadaab were established in 1991 after Somali warlords toppled dictator Siad Barre and carved the country into armed camps ruled by clan law. The area was never meant to hold so many people, and overcrowding has become a massive problem.
"The new influx of refugees is putting more pressure on an already aged infrastructure," said Anne Campbell, head of the UNHCR's office in Dadaab. "We are appealing to the Kenyan government to provide us land to settle them (new refugees), and call on the donors to give us the funding we need to set up a new camp and upgrade the old ones."
Many longtime refugees also lament the fact that they cannot leave the camp to make a life in Kenya. The government has strict rules requiring them to stay, arguing that integration into Kenya is not a "durable solution" for refugees.
Kenya closed its border in January 2007 to prevent Islamists fleeing Somalia from entering the country, but the closure also has forced refugees to sneak into Kenya.
Some refugees, like Dahir's family, avoid border points entirely and use donkey routes in the bush. Dahir said the trip to the refugee camp took his family 10 days, two of which they walked on foot. He said he begged drivers of the cars heading for border towns to take his family.
The Dadaab camp complex is the world's largest refugee camp, followed by Tindouf in Algeria, where some 90,000 are staying, according to UNHCR.
Before this year's influx of refugees began at Dadaab, the refugees were complaining about shortage of services and aged infrastructure, such as health, sanitation and water systems.
39,000 latrines needed
The U.N. said it needs funding to build 39,000 new latrines to cater for the increasing number of refugees.
"The consequences of not having a functioning water system and adequate latrines could be very severe," said Daniel Dickinson, spokesman for the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office, which is spending $4 million to repair the aged water system in the camps and says it will build more than 5,000 latrines for refugees this year. "Certainly there could be a humanitarian catastrophe if these people are not getting enough water."
But those fleeing violence care less about the aged facilities or the overflowing camps. Reaching safe camps, away from bullets and grinding poverty in Somalia, is all Dahir's wife, Hawo Ahmed, needs.
"If you get food, what else do you need?" she said while breast-feeding her youngest child. "He will not get enough milk, I know. But when we settle down and I get enough food to eat, he will get sufficient milk."