July 28, 2010 - The Constantine Report    
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March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

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March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
Image
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
Image
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
Image
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
Image
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading

The Phoenix Program Redux: Task Force 373

This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.

Why is the NY Times Underplaying Account of Task Force 373’s Extrajudicial Killings?

 July 28, 2010

… Even the quickly posted Wikipedia entry on Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Task Force 373 notes that there is a large discrepancy between the amount of targets on TF373’s “kill/capture” list as reported by the major media.

The figures are drawn from the extraordinary release of previously classified Afghan war reports by Wikileaks, and now searchable at the latter’s website.

Task Force 373 is alternately described by the New York Times as “a secret commando unit”; as “an undisclosed ‘black’ unit of special forces” by the UK Guardian; and “an elite American unit…. which operates in Afghanistan outside of the ISAF mandate” by Spiegel Online. These three news sources were partners with Wikileaks in the release of the documents, and had special access to the material prior to their public posting.

By all accounts, Task Force 373 seems to be a kidnapping and death squad, run by the Americans, but housed at a German base in Afghanistan. The very secret unit, unknown even to other ISAF forces, works off a “kill or capture” list known as JPEL, which stands for “Joint Prioritized Effects List.” From this bland name springs an operations force that, according to the UK Guardian, has “more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida” on its seize or kill list. Most of the world press has reported this same or similar figure, though Spiegel only says the figure is “large”:

The list of targeted individuals is arranged according to process number and priority level. Depending on the case, the commandos are sometimes given the option to arrest or kill their prey. Nowhere in the available documents is that list printed in full, but a total of 84 reports about JPEL operations can be filtered out of the thousands of documents. It is not possible to work out from the documents exactly how many JPEL targets there are in Afghanistan, but the four-digit process numbers are enough to suggest that the total number of targets is large.

It was the four-digit process numbers that the Guardian used to determine their figure. Simply put, they counted.

The pursuit of these “high value targets” is evidently embedded deep in coalition tactics. The Jpel list assigns an individual serial number to each of those targeted for kill or capture and by October 2009 this had reached 2,058.

But however they did it, the New York Times came up with a much different and drastically lower number.

Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

The dramatically lower of numbers reported may be a fudged way of looking at figures. They say “top insurgent commanders”, and this may be a subset of the total of 2000 or more. But the Times never reports the larger number, or even that it runs into the four digits. The import of this is to underplay the amount of killings. It’s unlikely there are 2000 or more “top insurgent commanders.” So, who is the U.S. seizing or killing?

Operation Phoenix Redux

The Guardian article by Nick Davies reports much more than the single paragraph the New York Times dedicates to the story, emphasizing the legal, moral and political ramifications of the Task Force’s actions.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights, Professor Philip Alston, went to Afghanistan in May 2008 to investigate rumours of extrajudicial killings. He warned that international forces were neither transparent nor accountable and that Afghans who attempted to find out who had killed their loved ones “often come away empty-handed, frustrated and bitter”.

Now, for the first time, the leaked war logs reveal details of deadly missions by TF 373 and other units hunting down Jpel targets that were previously hidden behind a screen of misinformation. They raise fundamental questions about the legality of the killings and of the long-term imprisonment without trial, and also pragmatically about the impact of a tactic which is inherently likely to kill, injure and alienate the innocent bystanders whose support the coalition craves.

The Guardian story documents some of the cases of killings of women and children, and notes that there is also likely a British version of Task Force 373 operating in Afghanistan as well. The parallels with Vietnam are extraordinary, where U.S. counterinsurgency amounted to a large degree to a capture, torture and assassination program known to us today as Operation Phoenix.

It was only a few weeks ago that I noted (based on an observation in a Guardian story by Ian Cobain and Owen Bowcott) that documents released in Britain in the Binyam Mohammed et al. suit had referenced what sounded like extrajudicial killings associated with the rendition program. “Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?” asks a protocol for MI6 operatives working with the U.S. on rendition operations.

Now we have evidence of massive killings underway by secretive U.S. forces, and of plenty of deaths of civilians who get in the way. But the U.S. press has mostly deep-sixed this aspect of the Wikileaks Afghan logs. A story by CNN makes no mention of how many people might be on TF373’s target list, but does add a word of dissent:

“You have people going in with a kill list and the public accountability simply doesn’t exist,” said Sarah Knuckey, director of the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Marc Ambinder on Task Force 373

Mainstream bloggers appear to be taking the lead of the major U.S. press. Take Marc Ambinder’s story on the release at The Atlantic, and his own reference to TF373:

The task forces themselves — well, there’s TF 373, the Joint Special Operations Command task force for Afghanistan, which has since morphed into something else. The structure is different today. There are, however, references to the activities of Task Force 2-2, a multi-element special operations element that has — and I emphasize has — the authority to basically self-task, to take bad guys off of the JPEL list (the joint prioritized effects list) and decide whether to capture or kill them based on the situation at hand.

There are several incidents in which 2-2 and other 373 elements killed civilians and saw those killings covered up or obscured in official press releases.

Ambinder’s link is to the same Guardian story on TF373 that I have quoted here, so I’ll give him that. But the failure to report the extent of the targets, and the reference to “take bad guys off the JPEL list” makes them sound, well, sort of innocuous, basically good guys. His view that the TF is “basically self-task” is belied by the Guardian’s coverage, which reports, “The process of choosing targets reaches high into the military command.” Additionally, the idea that there have only been “several incidents” underplays the extent of damage done by the secret U.S. death squad.

Consider this “incident”, reported by Speigel Online:

The documents don’t just reveal the existence and activities of the Taliban hunters, they also show why these special units cause so much anger in the Afghan population. Mistakes made by special units are kept secret. One particularly sensitive report of a TF 373 operation dated June 17, 2007 is classified so secret that details of the mission must not be passed on to other ISAF forces. On this day the soldiers appear to have committed a particularly fatal error. The aim of the mission seems to have been to kill the prominent al-Qaida official Abu Laith. The unit had spent weeks watching a Koran school in which the Americans believed the al-Qaida man and several aides were living. But the five rockets they launched from a mobile rocket launcher ended up killing the wrong people.

Instead of the finding the top terrorist, the troops found the bodies of six dead children in the rubble of the completely destroyed school.

The Guardian reports, “The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path.”

It is a sign of how debased our society has become that reports of “targeted killings” and assassinations are met with little outrage in the press or by the public. Perhaps this is because we use terms that will not offend as much. Indeed, in the title of this very piece I use the term “extrajudicial killings” rather than “death squads” (which I do clearly use in the text) because I fear that this reality will be so discordant to readers that they will shun the article, perhaps too psychologically defended to accept the terrible truth about the government they have and the country they live in.

Let us say, too, that the mainstream press plays a major role in this. The downsizing of the figure of killings — really murders — by the Special Operations task force, as reported by the New York Times, or underplayed by major bloggers such as Marc Ambinder, lulls the population into believing the terror wrought by the U.S. military in Afghanistan is really not so bad. But it is bad. It is a war crime, and Julian Assange, who orchestrated the release of the documents upon which this story is based is correct in saying that they give evidence of war crimes. I’m reminded of recent stories that have cited the Harvard study (PDF) that showed how the media dropped using the word “torture” after Abu Ghraib.

One wonders what kind of schizoid state exists at the New York Times. One minute their ed board calls President Obama’s forcible deportation of an Algerian Guantanamo prisoner back to a country where he feared persecution, torture, or death “an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.” The next minute, the editorial news staff is minimizing the number of targets on a U.S. military task force hit list. I’ll let them figure that one out for themselves.

As for the rest of us, we need to step up the demand that U.S. and NATO forces pull out of Afghanistan.

Originally published at Firedoglake.

Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist living in Northern California who writes regularly on torture and other subjects for The Public Record, Truthout and Firedoglake. He also maintains a personal blog, Invictus. His email address is sfpsych at gmail dot com.

http://pubrecord.org/world/8082/times-underplaying-account-force/


Confessions of an Economic Hit Man –Redemption in Confession

by Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge
Sri Lanka Guardian | July 25, 2010

To steal millions, you need a top team of armed robbers. But to steal billions, you need PhD’s with color charts and economic projections made of fairy dust and eye of newt.

(July 25, Ontario, Sri Lanka Guardian) Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a best seller written by John Perkins based on his undercover experiences. According to the book John Perkins himself was an economic hit man. Who are these Economic hit men? Are they a special kind of breed? John Perkins gives a simple definition of economic hit men thus. Economic hit men or (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.

Although the author wanted to publish this book for many years, he was suppressed publishing it by many forces. The World Trade Center attack in 2001 changed his views. Perkins was determined to publish his book. Eventually Perkins managed to publish his controversial book in 2004.

Perkins writes:

That is what we EHMs do best: we build a global empire. We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure —electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks. A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices in Washington to engineering offices in New York, Houston, or San Francisco.

With his poor knowledge in geography, John Perkins was recruited by the National Security Agency and he worked with the Peace Corps in South America in 1968. (Perkins was posted to Ecuador and he had thought Ecuador is an African country) In 1971 he joined the International consulting firm called Chas. His assignment was to convince the third world countries to accept massive loans for infrastructure projects. To fulfill this goal Perkins claims that he gave invalid data and exaggerated statistics to various governments. The end result was this money came back to the donors and the recipient countries trapped in heavy foreign debt. Thus these countries could not remain as sovereign independent states in international politics.

He traveled to Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other strategically important countries. Perkins recounts a wild story how multinational ‘aid’ organizations and corporations are following a dangerous path in their pursuit of oil and other resources. As an expert in economy he manipulated and distorted economic forecasts in order to achieve political objectives.

In this book Perkins use the word corporatocracy which refers to the powerful group of people who run the world’s biggest corporations, the most powerful governments, and history’s first truly global empire. Perkins book gives a though provoking recollections of world events. He describes the accidental deaths of Ecuador’s President Jaime Roldos and Panama’s President Omar Torrijos are assassinations . This is what he says in the page 156.

Early in 1981, the Roldós administration formerly presented his new hydrocarbons law to the Ecuadorian Congress. If implemented, it would reform the country’s relationship to oil companies. By many standards, it was considered revolutionary and even radical. It certainly aimed to change the way business was conducted. Its influence would stretch far beyond Ecuador, into much of Latin America and throughout the world.’

The oil companies reacted predictably -they pulled out all the stops. Their public relations people went to work to vilify Jaime Roldós, and their lobbyists swept into Quito and Washington, briefcases full of threats and payoffs. They tried to paint the first democratically elected president of Ecuador in modern times as another Castro. But Roldós would not cave in to intimidation. He responded by denouncing the conspiracy between politics and oil – and religion. He openly accused the Summer Institute of Linguistics of colluding with the oil companies and then, in an extremely bold -perhaps reckless – move, he ordered SIL out of the country.

Only weeks after sending his legislative package to Congress and a couple of days after expelling the SIL missionaries, Roldós warned all foreign interests, including but not limited to oil companies, that unless they implemented plans that would help Ecuador’s people, they would be forced to leave his country. He delivered a major speech at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito and then headed off to a small community in southern Ecuador.

He died there in a fiery helicopter crash, on May 24, 1981.

The world was shocked. Latin Americans were outraged. Newspapers throughout the hemisphere blazed, “CIA Assassination!” In addition to the fact that Washington and the oil companies hated him, many circumstances appeared to support these allegations, and such suspicions were heightened as more facts became known. Nothing was ever proven, but eyewitnesses claimed that Roldós, forewarned about an attempt on his life, had taken precautions, including traveling in two helicopters. At the last moment, one of his security officers had convinced him to board the decoy copter. It had blown up.

Despite world reaction, the news hardly made the U.S. press.

Osvaldo Hurtado took over as Ecuador’s president. He reinstated the Summer Institute of Linguistics and their oil company sponsors. By the end of the year, he had launched an ambitious program to increase oil drilling by Texaco and other foreign companies in the Gulf of Guayaquil and the Amazon basin.

Omar Torrijos, in eulogizing Roldós, referred to him as “brother.” He also confessed to having nightmares about his own assassination; he saw himself dropping from the sky in a gigantic fireball. It was prophetic.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man emphasizes how Globalization is used to cheat Poor Countries and building an empire primarily through economic manipulation, expand its “empire” at the expense of Third World citizens. It was a description of Perkins’ own profession. According to Perkins he was able to realize the repercussions of anti-American feelings, especially in the Muslim World which he narrates in the page 41.

“Vietnam is just a holding action,” one of the men interjected, “like Holland was for the Nazis. A stepping-stone.”

“The real target,” the woman continued, “is the Muslim world?’

I could not let this go unanswered. “Surely,” I protested, “you can’t believe that the United States is anti-Islamic.”

“Oh no?” she asked. “Since when? You need to read one of your own historians – a Brit named Toynbee. Back in the fifties he predicted that the real war in the next century would not be between Communists and capitalists, but between Christians and Muslims.”

‘Arnold Toynbee said that?” I was stunned.

“Yes. Read Civilization on Trial and The World and the West.”

“But why should there be such animosity between Muslims and Christians?” I asked. Looks were exchanged around the table. They appeared to find it hard to believe that I could ask such a foolish question.

“Because,” she said slowly, as though addressing someone slowwitted or hard of hearing, “the West – especially its leader, the U.S. – is determined to take control of all the world, to become the greatest empire in history. It has already gotten very close to succeeding. The Soviet Union currently stands in its way, but the Soviets will not endure. Toynbee could see that. They have no religion, no faith, no substance behind their ideology. History demonstrates that faith – soul, a belief in higher powers – is essential. We Muslims have it. We have it more than anyone else in the world, even more than the Christians. So we wait. We grow strong.”

“We will take our time,” one of the men chimed in, “and then like a snake we will strike.”

“What a horrible thought!” I could barely contain myself. “What can we do to change this?”

The English major looked me directly in the eyes. “Stop being so greedy,” she said, “and so selfish. Realize that there is more to the world than your big houses and fancy stores. People are starving and you worry about oil for your cars. Babies are dying of thirst and you search the fashion magazines for the latest styles. Nations like ours are drowning in poverty, but your people don’t even hear our cries for help. You shut your ears to the voices of those who try to tell you these things. You label them radicals or Communists. You must open your hearts to the poor and downtrodden, instead of driving them further into poverty and servitude. There’s not much time left. If you don’t change, you’re doomed.”

Perkins conversation with Muslim students reminds me Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 911. Moore says that invasion of Iraq had a different motive and it could further escalate anti American emotions in the Middle East. Bin Laden who was created by America later had a dramatic 180 degree change declared that his organization will keep on attacking American civilians. Consequently EH s trade and industry actions would endanger the lives of innocent American civilians.

In 1965 Kwame Nkrumah wrote a commentary on Neo-Colonialism which he called the Last Stage of imperialism. According to Kwame Nkrumah there are copious mechanisms of neo-colonialism and it operates not only in the economic field, but also in the political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres. After many decades Perkins echoes the words of Kwame Nkrumah. If it came from an outsider people could simply ignore it as pro Marxist propaganda or anti-American slogans. But when the inside men reveal the shocking truth we tend to think twice. Is there a God Father who wants to help the developing nations genuinely? Whether the Foreign “aid” is a trap rather than an altruistic means to alleviate poverty?

Not only the foreign aid sometimes foreign advice could become a damaging factor to the National Economy. The best example can be given from China. When Mao Tse-tung ruled China some forighen advisor told him that house sparrows eat a large number of grains per day and it is a severe wastage. He further adviced that the house sparrows should be eliminated. A Nation wide house sparrow hunt project was launched and millions of birds were killed. The final result came unexpectedly . Soon after the ecological disblance China suffered a series of pest attcks that was earlier controlled by the house sparrows under natural circumstances.

The contemporary world has turned in to a global village and no one can live in a sagrigated societies. In a global village people should share and live in harmoney. In his book, Globalization and Its Discontents, Joseph Stiglitz World Bank chief economist and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics writes:

Globalization, as it has been advocated, often seems to replace the old dictatorships of national elites with new dictatorships of international finance …. For millions of people globalization has not worked …. They have seen their jobs destroyed and their lives become more insecure.

Is this the final reality of the globalization?

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man shocked the United States as well as other countries. Perkins may have found redemption in confession. He became famous and also made extra money from his best seller. But he had already done the damage to many countries beyond repair.

http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/07/confessions-of-economic-hit-man.html

Busted! Racist Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, she of the leathery face, is under investigation, by TV station KPHO, which is looking into ties between her administration and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – and how the Governor’s rhetoric on border security may be damaging Arizona’s tourism industry for the benefit of CCA.

The private prison industry houses illegal immigrant detainees for the federal government. Those companies could gain contracts with state and local agencies to house illegal immigrants arrested for state violations.

Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, holds the federal contract to house detainees in Arizona. The company bills $11 million per month. CBS 5 Investigates has learned that two of Brewer’s top advisers have connections to CCA.

Paul Senseman is the governor’s deputy chief of staff. He is also a former lobbyist for CCA. His wife is listed as a current lobbyist for the company.

Chuck Coughlin is one of the governor’s policy advisers and her campaign chairman. Coughlin’s company, HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, currently lobbies for CCA.

http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2010/07/arizona-governor-jan-brewer-under-investigation-for-ties-to-private-prisons-that-could-benefit-from-sb-1070/

A pauper prince’s palatial quest

Tony Paterson in Berlin
Guardian | June 22, 2000

An impoverished German prince will begin the final round of a battle today to inherit 」100m-worth of castles, property and a Mediterranean island denied to him by his family because he married a “bourgeois” socialite who later converted to Islam and left him for the Aga Khan.

The tale of clannish feuding, iron Teutonic principle and divorce involves Prince Karl Emich zu Leiningen, 48, who hopes to convince a “princes’ court” in Munich this afternoon of his right to inherit his family’s fortunes. A panel of three German aristocrats, including a judge and the deputy president of the Berlin parliament, Prince Hermann Otto zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, will decide whether to overrule the 103-year-old family edict which has prevented him gaining access to his inheritance for nine years.

The merciless squabbling over the Leiningen family assets started in 1991 when Prince Karl chose to defy his 72-year-old mother Princess Eilika and marry the German society beauty and steel magnate’s daughter Gabriele Thyssen. Princess Eilika and her husband, Prince Emich Kyrill, refused to attend the wedding in Venice and formally disinherited their son shortly afterwards. Prince Karl’s crime was to have broken a 1897 family edict which stipulates that its members may only marry aristocrats of equivalent status.

“From the very beginning of our marriage I was turned into an enemy. We were both subjected to enormous pressure. No marriage can withstand that sort of thing in the long-term,” Prince Karl said in a recent interview, “I had hoped that things would improve when our child arrived. But after our daughter was born, nothing happened. My mother has refused to speak to me since the wedding.”

Prince Karim Aga Khan IV

The prince insists that the strains imposed on the marriage by the family feud led his wife to desert him in 1998 when, in a blaze of publicity, Princess Gabriele converted to Islam and ran off with the Aga Khan, who she later married after divorcing the prince. Since then the prince has been involved in a desperate legal battle to gain the rights to his inheritance, which includes the Mediterranean island of Tago Mago, near the Spanish island of Ibiza, which is used as the family’s summer retreat; two stately homes in Bavaria and the Rhineland Platantinate; and estates in Africa and Canada.

His attempt to gain his in heritance was first thwarted in 1991, when his father, then dying of cancer, flew to Munich and instructed his lawyers, from a wheelchair on the airport runway, to cut his son out of his will. Since then he has been through the German courts, which have ruled against him. The final blow came when the constitutional court in Karlsruhe rejected his appeal.

Every attempt by the prince to gain access to the family fortune has been vehemently opposed by his mother and his brother Prince Andreas, 44. As a result, he has been left with no option but to resort to the princes court – an aristocratic body which occasionally arbitrates in matters of blue-blooded strife.

“We will do our best to ensure that the two brothers reach an agreement,” said the court chairman, Prince Ludwig Eugen zu Wied.

The case will inevitably involve the court making some difficult decisions about the prince’s welfare.

Prince Karl has never been equipped to enter a profession: his education consisted purely in being schooled to run the Leiningen family affairs. He currently lives in a three-storey forester’s house on the family estate, which he says he may be forced to leave because he is so short of cash. …

Flash forward to 2005 …

Give me £500m or I’ll call in the taxman

By CHRISTOPHER LEAKE

Mail on Sunday, January 9, 2005

The Begum wants half of the Aga Khan’s £1billion fortune

It is already being billed as the most expensive divorce in history. But now it could be one of the most bitter, too.

The billionaire racehorse owner and playboy the Aga Khan is being sued for divorce by his wife of six years, German-born former pop singer the Begum Inaara Aga Khan, 41.

And as their relationship crumbles, she has warned him that she will, if necessary, demand that the British taxman examines every nook and cranny of his labyrinthine financial affairs to make sure she gets her rightful share.

The Begum, born Gabriele Thyssen in Frankfurt, wants half the 67-year-old Aga Khan’s fortune, estimated to be at least £1billion.

‘Bringer of light’

An insider said last night: “Detailed enquiries into the Aga Khan’s tax affairs would be very inconvenient for a man of such considerable wealth.

“It’s not that his wife is being greedy, but she wants what she’s due. And as he has so much, that will amount to a lot of money.”

The battle lines were drawn last year when the Begum sued for divorce in London, saying that their marriage had broken down irretrievably. But the Aga Khan, a British citizen who owns 600 racehorses and has homes on five continents, has successfully applied to have the divorce heard in a French court, where he believes his wife will receive a less lucrative settlement.

The Aga Khan’s financial affairs have already been the subject of investigations by the authorities in America and Canada. They looked into the apparent transfer of large amounts of cash by members of the 18million-member Shia Muslim Ismaili sect, who donate significant sums to the Aga and worship him as their God or “bringer of light.”

Similar investigations by the UK’s Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise, which collects VAT, could paralyse his operations.

Leading racehorse owner

The Aga Khan’s diverse business interests in this country include 43 prayer and business centres run by the Ismailis all over Britain, from which he receives tribute money. He owns three private executive jets, several yachts – one worth £56million – a newspaper, an airline, hotels, factories and a fabulous collection of jewellery and antiques. As if to underline her determination for every penny she can get, the glamorous Begum, who has a four-year-old son, Prince Aly Muhammad, by the Aga, has engaged the tough divorce lawyer Maggie Rae to fight her corner.

Ms Rae secured £17.5million for Princess Diana when she divorced Prince Charles and a landmark payout for Premiership footballer Ray Parlour’s wife, Karen.

The Aga is the world’s leading racehorse owner and trainer, and once owned Shergar, the Derbywinning racehorse, which was later kidnapped from an Irish stud farm and never seen again.

The divorce is the second for both parties. The Aga Khan divorced his first wife, former model Sally Croker-Poole, with whom he had three children, 13 years ago. The settlement cost him a reputed £20million. The Begum was previously married to German Prince Earl-Emich zu L e i n i n g e n , whom she divorced in 1997. She converted to Islam and took her new name when she married the Aga.

The previous biggest divorce payout in Britain was £250 million to Rafael Lopez-Cambil from cosmetics tycoon Paloma Picasso in 1999.

By Jeff Stein  
Washington Post | July 23, 2010

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has long wanted more members of Congress to know what’s going on at the CIA, but why doesn’t she announce a full-fledged investigation into the intelligence contractor mess, complete with televised hearings?

Why has it fallen to The Washington Post to get everyone talking about the spy world’s mercenaries?

For weeks now the Speaker has been holding the intelligence authorization bill hostage, insisting that the final measure include expanding the number of House members who can receive Top Secret briefings.

Nobody needs a Top Secret briefing to see the elephant in the room.

Relying on public records, The Post has just revealed “what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine,” as Dana Priest and William M. Arkin put it.

Why aren’t Pelosi and the intelligence committees taking that on?  To be sure, there have been plenty of oversight drive-bys.

The Senate intelligence committee “does sustained reviews of this subject,” an aide to Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said. “The committee receives updated figures on the size of the problem annually; it has met with the top [human resources] guy for the IC; and has had multiple discussions at the head-of-agency level with CIA, NGA [National Geospatial Agency] and DHS intelligence.”

Feinstein has also supported an intelligence authorization bill that would have reduced the contractor force by 10 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the aide said on condition of anonymity because, well, that’s the only way they will talk to us.

Wow, 10 per cent. I guess you have to start somewhere. But the bill has never passed.

In the Clapper hearing, Feinstein also said she was “pleased that [contractors] are no longer being used to conduct interrogations” and pledged to “keep pushing” to reduce their overall numbers “until contractors are not used for any inherently governmental purpose.”

Good luck with that.

Likewise, the House intelligence committee has taken swipes at the contractor mess.

“We’ve looked into it,” said a Republican staffer. “It’s been the subject of provisions in authorizations past, including one by Mike Rogers [R-Mich.] involving inherent government functions.”

He added, “I don’t think there’s been a formal hearing of the full committee on that specifically recently, but you’d have to check with the Dems.” I did, but a spokesman for the chairman, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, didn’t respond to my inquiry. Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, however, a senior Democrat on the intelligence committee, did respond.

On Wednesday Eshoo had “praised” the Post investigation into intelligence contractors, which she said “in so many ways makes the case for strong oversight — and that’s Congress’s job.”

An Eshoo aide said “she would” support full scale hearings on intelligence contractors.

Here’s the thing, as Washington old-timers know: Without an all-out investigation and full-dress hearings, chances are intelligence contractor reform will fall by the wayside, like so many other “burning” issues that die like fireflies in Washington’s summer nights.

Only a big show grabs the public by the lapels, which in turns gives Congress and the White House the spine to do something. Without the Watergate hearings, surely Nixon would have escaped judgment. The same goes for the dramatic hearings on the Vietnam War; CIA assassination plots; the Iran-Contra, arms-for-hostages deal; Gulf War syndrome; Wall Street greed and nicotine in cigarettes.

Only big-time hearings have the power to shake the public out of its lethargy — and, it must be said, ignorance — to demand reform.

L. Britt Snider, an expert on intelligence oversight by virtue of holding top jobs at the Senate intelligence committee, the CIA and the 9/11 commission, not to mention writing scholarly papers on it, says “the use of contractors has been a perennial topic …”

“People were certainly aware that the contractor base had exploded after 9/11,” he said in a phone interview, “but I’m not aware that anyone ever did a systematic look into what was happening.”

Back to Pelosi: An aide, who like all the others speaks only on condition of anonymity, said she “certainly sees a need to step up oversight.” But after taking an informal sounding, he added, Pelosi found “there wasn’t any momentum for it.”

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/07/intelligence_reform_a_snooze_f.html

July 25, 2010

Shum Khan, a man both deaf and unable to speak, lived in the remote border hamlet of Malekshay, 7,000ft up in the mountains. When a heavily armed squad from the CIA barrelled into his village in March 2007, the war logs record that he “ran at the sight of the approaching coalition forces … out of fear and confusion”.

The secret CIA paramilitaries, (the euphemism here is OGA, for “other government agency”) shouted at him to stop. Khan could not hear them. He carried on running. So they shot him, saying they were entitled to do so under the carefully graded “escalation of force” provisions of the US rules of engagement.

Khan was wounded but survived. The Americans’ error was explained to them by village elders, so they fetched out what they term “solatia”, or compensation. The classified intelligence report ends briskly: “Solatia was made in the form of supplies and the Element mission progressed”.

Behind the military jargon, the war logs are littered with accounts of civilian tragedies. The 144 entries in the logs recording some of these so-called “blue on white” events, cover a wide spectrum of day-by-day assaults on Afghans, with hundreds of casualties.

They range from the shootings of individual innocents to the often massive loss of life from air strikes, which eventually led President Hamid Karzai to protest publicly that the US was treating Afghan lives as “cheap”. When civilian family members are actually killed in Afghanistan, their relatives do, in fairness, get greater solatia payments than cans of beans and Hershey bars. The logs refer to sums paid of 100,000 Afghani per corpse, equivalent to about £1,500.

US and allied commanders frequently deny allegations of mass civilian casualties, claiming they are Taliban propaganda or ploys to get compensation, which are contradicted by facts known to the military.

But the logs demonstrate how much of the contemporaneous US internal reporting of air strikes is simply false.

Last September there was a major scandal at Kunduz in the north of Afghanistan when a German commander ordered the bombing of a crowd looting two hijacked fuel tankers. The contemporaneous archive circulated to Nato allies records him authorising the airstrike by a US F-15 jet “after ensuring that no civilians were in the vicinity”. The “battle damage assessment” confirmed, it claims, that 56 purely “enemy insurgents” had died.

Media reports followed by official inquiries, however, established something closer to the real death toll. It included 30 to 70 civilians.

In another case the logs show that on the night of 30 August 2008, a US special forces squad called Scorpion 26 blasted Helmand positions with multiple rockets, and called in an airstrike to drop a 500lb bomb. All that was officially logged was that 24 Taliban had been killed.

But writer Patrick Bishop was embedded in the valley nearby with British paratroops at their Sangin bases. He recorded independently: “Overnight, the question of civilian casualties took on an extra urgency. An American team had been inserted on to Black Mountain … From there, they launched a series of offensive operations. On 30 August, wounded civilians, some of them badly injured, turned up at Sangin and FOB Inkerman saying they had been attacked by foreign troops. Such incidents gave a hollow ring to ISAF claims that their presence would bring security to the local population.”

Some of the more notorious civilian calamities did become public at the time. The logs confirm that an entirely truthful official announcement was made regretting the guidance system failure of one “smart bomb”. On 9 September 2008 it unintentionally landed on a village causing 26 civilian casualties.

The US also realised very quickly that a Polish squad had committed what appeared to have been a possible war crime. On 16 August 2007 the Poles mortared a wedding party in the village of Nangar Khel in an apparent revenge attack shortly after experiencing an IED explosion.

It is recorded under the heading: “Any incident that may cause negative media”. The report disclosed that three women victims had “numerous shrapnel wounds … One was pregnant and an emergency C-section was performed but the baby died”. In all, six were killed. The Polish troops were shipped home and some eventually put on trial for the atrocity. After protests in their support from a Polish general, the trial has apparently so far failed to reach a conclusion.

But most of the assaults on civilians recorded here, do not appear to have been investigated. French troops “opened fire on a bus that came too close to convoy” near the village of Tangi Kalay outside Kabul on 2 October 2008, according to the logs. They wounded eight children who were in the bus.

Two months later, US troops gunned down a group of bus passengers even more peremptorily, as the logs record.

Patrolling on foot, a Kentucky-based squad from 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, known as “Red Currahee”, decided to flag down the approaching bus, so their patrol could cross the road. Before sunrise, a soldier stepped out on to Afghanistan’s main highway and raised both hands in the air.

When the bus failed to slow – travellers are often wary of being flagged down in Afghanistan’s bandit lands – a trooper raked it with machine-gun fire. They killed four passengers and wounded 11 others.

Some of the civilian deaths in the list stem from violent actions by US special forces attempting to hunt down Taliban leaders or al-Qaida incomers. In a typical case, last November, the army files record a demonstration by 80 angry villagers who broke an armoured car window in the village of Lewani. A woman from the village had been killed in an assault by the shadowy Task Force 373.

The influence of the then new commander, General Stanley McChrystal, can be seen, however. Brought in last year with a mission to try to cut the number of civilian casualties, he clearly demanded more detailed reporting of such incidents.

The Lewani file is marked with a new “information requirement” to record each “credible allegation of Isaf [the occupying forces] … causing non-combatant injury/death”.

McChrystal was replaced last month, however, by General David Petraeus, amid reports that restraints aimed at cutting civilian deaths would be loosened once again.

The bulk of the “blue-white” file consists of a relentless catalogue of civilian shootings on nearly 100 occasions by jumpy troops at checkpoints, near bases or on convoys. Unco-operative drivers and motorcyclists are frequent targets.

Each incident almost without exception is described as a meticulous “escalation of force” conducted strictly by the book, against a threatening vehicle.

US and UK rules require shouts, waves, flares, warning shots and shots into the engine block, before using lethal force. Each time it is claimed that this procedure is followed. Yet “warning shots” often seem to cause death or injury, generally ascribed to ricochets.

Sometimes, it seems as though civilian drivers merely failed to get off the road fast enough. On 9 July 2006 mechanic Mohamad Baluch was test-driving a car in Ghazni, when the Americans rolled into town on an anti-IED “route clearance patrol”.

The log records: “LN [local national] vehicle did not yield to US convoy … Gunner on lead truck shot into the vehicle and convoy kept going out of the area.” The townspeople threw rocks at the eight departing armoured Humvees. Baluch ended up in hospital with machine-gun bullets in his shoulder.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/25/afghanistan-civilian-deaths-rules-engagement

by Benzinga Staff | July 28, 2010

The Spring, by Gustave Courbet, is among the works from the Baron Mór Lipót Herzog Collection confiscated by the Nazi-collaborating Hungarian government

Heirs to the Herzog Collection, the largest private art collection in Hungary prior to World War II, filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia late yesterday to seek the return of artworks illegally held by Hungary since the Holocaust. The heirs are also demanding a full and transparent inventory of looted art from the Herzog Collection held by Hungary, marking the first time a request of this nature has ever been made in an art restitution lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks the return of over 40 artworks with a combined value of over $100 million, including masterworks by El Greco, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Lucas Cranach the Elder. The works come from the collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, a passionate Jewish art collector, and the case is regarded by experts as the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim. Hungary, a WWII-era ally of Nazi Germany that organized the dispossession, seizure, deportation, and eventual deaths of more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews, has held the artworks since the genocide of its Jewish population, despite years of negotiations and international appeals for the collection’s return from multiple U.S. Senators.

Major Works in Herzog Collection

Before his death in 1934, Baron Mór Lipót Herzog amassed approximately 2,500 paintings, sculptures, and other artworks in what was one of the finest collections of art in all of Europe. Among the artworks at issue in this case are:

  • The Agony in the Garden, an oil-on-canvas masterwork that was one of six El Greco paintings in the former Herzog Collection;
  • The Portrait of Don Balthasar Carlos, by Alonso Cano, the Spanish painter and sculptor known as “the Michelangelo of Spain”;
  • The Spring, by Gustave Courbet, the innovative French painter who lead the Realist movement in 19th-Century France; and
  • Portrait of a Woman (Lady with a Marguerite (Daisy), by Camille Corot, the 19th-Century French landscape painter of whom the impressionist master Claude Monet said, “We are nothing compared to him, nothing.”

Case Summary

The complaint filed yesterday sets out the remarkable and disturbing facts of the case, including:

  • At its peak, the Herzog Collection included approximately 2,500 works of art, including paintings by El Greco, Velázquez, Renoir, Corot, and Monet.
  • After the widow of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog died in 1940, the collection was passed to her three children: Erzsébet, István, and András.
  • Hungary sent András to a forced labor camp in 1942; he died on the Russian front in 1943. His daughters, who fled Hungary after their father’s deportation and death, are plaintiffs in this suit.
  • Hungary attempted to send István to the infamous Auschwitz camp, though he escaped to a safe house. The heirs of István and Erzsébet have assigned their interest in the Herzog Collection to David de Csepel, the lead plaintiff.
  • The Hungarian government worked hand-in-hand with the infamous Nazi SS commander Adolf Eichmann in organizing large-scale deportations of Hungarian Jews to German death camps. Between mid-May and July 1944, Hungarian authorities deported over 430,000 Jews, comprising more than 50% of the Hungarian Jewish population.
  • In May 1944, the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior issued a decree requiring Jews to register all art objects in their possession.
  • The Herzog family attempted to save their artworks from damage and confiscation by hiding the bulk of it in the cellar of one of the family’s factories at Budafok. Dénes Csánky, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, assisted in packing and hiding the artworks. Despite their efforts to prevent the looting of the art, the Hungarian government and their Nazi collaborators discovered the hiding place (Csánky inventoried the treasures as they emerged). The seized artworks were taken to Adolf Eichmann, who selected many of the best pieces of the collection, first displaying his “trophies” and then shipping them to Germany. The remainder was handed over by the Hungarian government to the Museum of Fine Arts for safekeeping.
  • Under the 1947 Treaty of Peace between Hungary and the Allies, ownership rights to the Herzog Collection remained with the Herzog heirs.
  • The artworks that are the subject of this lawsuit are among the main attractions at Hungary’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Galley. One guidebook to the Museum of Fine Arts includes four art works from the collection, including El Greco’s The Agony in the Garden, while another guidebook includes two artworks from the collection.
  • The museums display works from the Herzog Collection prominently and have included tags identifying them as being “from the Herzog Collection.”
  • The museums have promoted and distributed books, including Treasures of Venice: Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, that include works from the Herzog Collection.
  • The Budapest University of Technology and Economics and the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest also possess artworks from the Herzog Collection.
  • At the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, an international conference on the persistent issues surrounding Nazi-looted art, the Hungarian government pledged that it was “fully committed to the restitution or compensation of Holocaust victims concerning cultural assets. For managing this complex task . . . a state commissioner will be designated.” Twelve years later, no commissioner has been appointed.

Statements

The following are comments from the Herzog heirs, their counsel, and experts on Holocaust-era art recovery:

Michael S. Shuster of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP, the lead attorney in the Herzog lawsuit, stated:

  • “In the area of Holocaust restitution, the government of Hungary has been a particularly bad actor. Hungary attempts to portray itself as a nation worthy of our respect and investment, while refusing to comply with its basic obligations under international law.”
  • “In contrast to Hungary, Germany returned artworks from the Herzog Collection to the Herzog heirs this spring without need for legal action. We had no choice but to bring the Herzog family’s claim before a U.S. court.”

Martha Nierenberg, the daughter of Erzsébet (Herzog) Weiss de Csepel, who fled the Hungarian Holocaust with her family in 1944 and has long championed efforts for the return of the collection, stated:

  • “Hungary knows what is the right thing to do. Hungary chooses instead to do the wrong thing. It is sad that the Hungarian government would bring shame on its people by behaving this way, so long after the rest of the world has recognized the horror of the Holocaust.”
  • “I hope this lawsuit will restore what was lost to my family and has been held hostage by the government of Hungary for more than half a century.”

David de Csepel, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and grandson of Erzsébet (Herzog) Weiss de Csepel, stated:

  • “We bring this lawsuit in remembrance of our ancestors who lost their homes and lives in the Holocaust. We are only requesting the property that was taken from them, our remaining connection to a proud family history. That can’t be too much to ask.”
  • “We will continue the struggle of previous generations and fight for what rightfully belongs to our family.”

Charles Goldstein, counsel to the Commission for Art Recovery, a not-for-profit organization that works to ensure that governments comply with the Washington Principles for Holocaust-era looted art, stated:

  • “Repeatedly failing to live up to its treaty obligations and commitments to the Washington Principles and Terezín Declaration, Hungary must acknowledge its actions during the Holocaust and return the Herzog art.”
  • “Hungary’s vulgarity and recklessness in refusing to return the art that it has illegally held is unparalleled. The country’s inaction is a stain on its people and all of Europe.”

Constance Lowenthal, Ph.D., art historian and former executive director of the International Foundation for Art Research, said:

  • “Baron Mór Lipót Herzog’s art collection was the greatest in pre-war Hungary. Among his most important Old Master paintings were several major El Grecos (the magnificent “Agony in the Garden” and the powerful “Saint Andrew”), a wonderful early Lucas Cranach the Elder (“The Annunciation to Saint Joachim”), and a great rarity, a painting by the father of Raphael, Giovanni Santi. He also loved and collected more modern works by leading French painters — Corot, Courbet, Monet, and Renoir.”
  • “Herzog had museum-quality works of art, and he combined great paintings, renaissance furniture and sculpture, and precious objects to create an atmosphere to delight any connoisseur. The Herzog Collection was comparable to the best house museums we know today — The Frick Collection in New York and The Wallace Collection in London.”

László Mravik, author of Sacco di Budapest, the authoritative catalog on Holocaust-era looted art from Hungarian art collections, said:

  • “The Hungarian government’s refusal to return Holocaust-era looted art is shameful. The government should have negotiated and settled with the heirs a long time ago. Hungary cannot build its national art collection through court battles to retain art that does not belong to its museums. I hope it is not too late to reach an amicable settlement.”

Additional materials, including a copy of the publicly filed complaint and photos of the artwork, are available online at http://www.hungarylootedart.com/.

http://www.benzinga.com/press-releases/10/07/b398300/lawsuit-over-100-million-art-collection-illegally-held-by-hungary-will-