US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

 
Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

 
Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

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Trump loses his big bet on Alabama U.S. Senate race

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‘If US goes to war against N Korea, Pyongyang will fight back’

North Korea, treated as a rogue nation led by crazy people, has developed a nuclear program they consider to be existentially important as a deterrent against the menace they perceive from the US, says Brian Becker from the anti-war Answer Coalition.

North Korea has conducted first missile test since September. The hermit nation fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which splashed down in the Sea of Japan early Wednesday, according to South Korean, Japanese, and US militaries. The Pentagon's initial assessment indicated it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). 

 
People watch a news report on the North Korea missile launch in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017 © Kim Hong-Ji

Pyongyang said the missile reached an altitude of around 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles), more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station. It said it flew 950 kilometers (690 miles) during its flight, which lasted 53 minutes.

RT:Why do you think North Korea decided to conduct a missile test now, after a two-month pause? 

Brian Becker: If you want to have an advanced missile technology program, they must be tested from time to time – at different times of the day, under different weather conditions, from different locations. I think the Kim Jong-un government and North Korea made it very clear in their New Year’s message to the nation that they were planning to go forward in what they call the final stage of the nuclear weapons program, so that DPRK would be understood to be a nuclear power by the world. And by having this kind of very advanced intercontinental ballistic missile test which was successful and traveled 2,780 miles straight up and could have, if flown horizontally, travelled about 8,000 miles, in other words, the distance to Washington DC. It is clear that the DPRK which has been treated as a rogue nation led by crazy people, a bunch of peasants, maybe ignorant, has in fact developed effective missile technology program and nuclear technology program which they consider to be existentially important for their having a deterrent against the menace that they perceive from the US – the largest military in the world. 

 
A US-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, South Korea © Kim Hong-Ji

RT: The US Defense Secretary said this latest missile went higher than any previous launch, and yet we've seen quite a muted response from the US administration, with Trump merely saying he will "take care of it". Why is that?

BB: We don’t know. Actually, Trump has been all bluster and bluff. In spite of the fact that Trump says that he’s a great negotiator, the art of the deal, you never what Donald Trump’s bottom line is because there’s so much bluster. He said from the podium of the UN General Assembly that he was prepared to totally destroy North Korea, he called its head of state “little rocket man,” he said that the US would use “fire and fury” the type of which the world has never seen to take out North Korea. And at the same time now he calmly says of this missile test “we’ll take care of it.”…It’s quite clear that if the US – and there are many advocates here who favor this – goes to war, carries out a military strike against the DPRK, the DPRK will not wait, they will fight back, and we will have a major war which will take the lives of tens of thousands…or millions of people. 

Joseph Cheng, a political analyst and professor at Hong Kong City University says that the escalation in North Korea has become “almost routine”.

However, he explained, it is “quite expected because North Korea will certainly continue to improve its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities so as to achieve the objective of processing a minimum credible nuclear deterrent”.

Obviously, Pyongyang calculates to achieve the maximum propaganda impact - it wants to make sure that the world will be reminded of the North Korea nuclear weapons issue,” he told  RT.

According to Cheng, the Trump administration does not have “a credible strategy to deal with the issue”.

Any military options on a part of the US will be very risky and strongly opposed by China and Russia. And will not be supported by South Korea. And it is obvious that economic sanctions alone will not be able to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program,” he added.

  

 
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North Korea fires ballistic missile, Pentagon claims it’s an ICBM

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile, which splashed down in the Sea of Japan, according to the South Korean, Japanese and US militaries. The Pentagon says an initial assessment indicates it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff was the first to report on the launch. "North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today," it said, as cited by Yonhap news agency. Seoul and Washington were analysing the missile’s trajectory, it added.

The Pentagon later said it detected and tracked a North Korean missile launch.

 
© Damir Sagolj

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning described the projectile as an intercontinental ballistic missile, adding that it traveled some 1,000 km before splashing down into the Sea of Japan.

The White House said that the US President Donald Trump had been already briefed on the new Pyongyang’s launch when the missile was still in the air. 

the Japanese prime minister's office also said that the North Korean missile apparently landed in waters off Japan within the country’s exclusive economic zone. 

Japanese PM ordered an emergency meeting of cabinet ministers, according to Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Tokyo has also expressed a “strong protest” over the launch.

Following the North Korean launch, South Korean military staged a “presision strike” missile exercise, Yonhap news agency reported, citing South Korea's military.

The launch, if confirmed, would be the first test conducted by Pyongyang since September, when the North fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

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Día de los Muertos-Inspired Film Tops US Box Office on Debut

“These are really solid numbers, particularly given how volatile the box office has been this year,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

“Coco” tops the U.S. box office on debut, raking in $71.2 million over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

RELATED: Highest Grossing Animated Film 'Coco' Star Dedicates It to Latino Children

The film – which centers on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos celebration – became the highest grossing film in the Latin American country's history ($53.4 million to date), when it opened four weeks ago.

“These are really solid numbers, particularly given how volatile the box office has been this year,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

"Pixar not only focused on telling a good story, they focused on making the film as culturally relevant as possible. I think that's one of the things that make the film feel authentic for all audiences, and particularly Hispanic audiences, although this is a story that resonates with everyone," says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis.

“Coco” is the fourth-best Thanksgiving opening of all time, trailing only “Toy Story 2”, “Frozen” and “Moana.”

“It’s another win for the Pixar brand,” Dergarabedian added.

The animated feature managed to beat out second-weeker and DC Comics heavyweight, Justice League, which fell 57% from its opening week.

“Coco” also debuted in China and is currently tracking to become Pixar’s biggest hit in a country, making $18.2 million so far, after a 25 percent boost from Friday to Saturday receipts.

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Filmmaker Clint Eastwood to Premiere Film on Terrorism

Los Angeles, Nov 24 (Prensa Latina) U.S. actor and director Clint Eastwood's latest film ''The 15:17 to Paris'', a story on thwarted terrorist action, will be premiered, said various websites.

According to the website e.cartelera, the film was shot in the original locations in which the actions took place, seeking to bring characters closer to real life.

The film, to be premiered in February, is about the August 2015 events, when a man fired on a train that was traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.

The perpetrator, Ayoub El Khazzani of Moroccan origin, was killed before committing the killing, so only three people were injured.

Such terrorist action did not become a massacre thanks to the intervention of three young people traveling on the train: student Anthony Sadler, U.S. Army National Guard specialist Alek Skarlatos from Oregon, and a U.S. Air Forces member Spencer Stone.

Eastwood selected these three people that lived the events to perform the characters in his film.

He said that the film is a tribute to ordinary people, particularly these young people that took action to save lives when the extremist got on the train.

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No more ‘fighting ISIS?’ US to stay in Syria to prevent ‘win’ for Assad and Iran – report

The US plans to keep its troops in Syria long after the defeat of ISIS – the goal used to justify their illegal presence in the first place – because the Syrian government and its ally Iran would “win” if they were withdrawn, the Washington Post reported.

The Trump administration is “expanding its goals” in Syria to include a “potentially open-ended commitment” to support the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing several anonymous US officials. The change comes as the defeat of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group in Syria seems imminent.

 
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis © Aaron P. Bernstein 

Washington has been justifying its deployment of ground troops in Syria, which violates the embattled nation’s sovereignty, by citing the need to fight IS. US Defense Secretary James Mattis last week went so far as to erroneously claim that the US had been given a mandate to be in Syria, stating: “You know, the UN said that … basically we can go after ISIS. And we're there to take them out.”

While Washington has a history of skipping UN approval for its military interventions, be it in Syria or in other sovereign states, it appears that the semblance of legitimacy for keeping hundreds of troops in Syria is about to be dispelled. WaPo sources say that Washington actually sees its boots on the ground as a source of leverage in dealing with the government of President Bashar Assad and his allies.

“An abrupt US withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival – an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally. To avoid that outcome, US officials say they plan to maintain a US troop presence in northern Syria… and establish new local governance, apart from the Assad government, in those areas,” the newspaper said.

If true, it means Washington will be actively promoting Kurdish separatism to spite Damascus and Tehran, while paying lip service to preserving Syria’s territorial integrity.

“The conditions are there for the counter-ISIS campaign to morph into a counter-Iran campaign,” Nicholas Heras of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security told WaPo. “By placing no timeline on the end of the US mission… the Pentagon is creating a framework for keeping the US engaged in Syria for years to come.”

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‘George Soros seeks a one world government to serve oligarchs, not the people’ – US State Senator

For people like Soros and the globalists; they view the nation-state as a problem, because the nation expresses the will of the people of that nation, and it serves their personal interest, Richard Black, Republican Virginia state Senator, told RT.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the Fidesz Party Vice Chairman Gergely Gulyás are locked in a desperate battle with the billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, as well as his ideologically driven campaign to allow thousands of migrants to flood into Europe.

Leaders like Orban say the strategy will lead to the total collapse of a “Christian Europe,” and argue that Soros is trying to subvert Hungary and the rest of the EU.

@RT_com Hungary's ruling party deputy chairman accuses of attacking country via NGOs & EU bureaucrats https://on.rt.com/8spf

RT:  What reputation does George Soros and the Open Society Foundations have in the world? What role do they play?

Richard Black: George Soros is an immensely wealthy billionaire. He has an interest in converting the world. He has a very, very sinister reputation throughout the world, and he is viewed widely as being anti-moral and anti-nationalistic. His belief appears to be that we should have a globalist government that dictates to the people and that nations are a sort of an impediment, because when you have national governments – they express the will of the people. When you have a globalist government it simply exhibits the views of the oligarchs and has very little regard for the people. That is the side he is on – he is with the oligarchs, he is not with the ordinary people.

RT:  The Hungarian government and the ruling party have been accusing George Soros of interfering in the domestic affairs of Hungary and other nations. Do you think their claims are valid? Do they have a reason to be wary of Soros’ activities?

RB: Soros has interfered very dramatically in the affairs of Hungary and a number of eastern European countries. But right now his focus is on Hungary. I would certainly applaud the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban is a man who gets things done. When he had illegal immigrants pouring across the border into Hungary, he sent the army out, he put up a wall, and within a month he had stopped immigration from crossing Hungary.

I think for people like Soros and the rest of the globalists, they view the nation-state as a problem because the nation expresses the will of the people of that nation and it serves their personal interest. Whereas if you have a one world government than it can simply disregard the interest of the people, and it can basically cater to the very wealthy oligarchs.

@RT_com Soros accuses Hungary of ‘anti-Muslim sentiment’ & ‘anti-Semitic tropes’ in campaign against him https://on.rt.com/8sng

I would mention that the background of Soros is a very, very poor one. He is known as the man, who was a currency manipulator, who broke the Bank of England – one of the most powerful banks in the world. He disrupted the Malaysian financial stability back in 1997, and he crushed the Bank of Thailand and forced 600,000 temporary workers to give up their homes and leave. So he thinks nothing of ordinary people. He is willing to crush them out; he is willing to destroy their lives and their livelihoods.

Prime Minister Orban and also the Fidesz Vice Chairman [Gergely] Gulyás have united and have fought very hard against Soros. Soros is trying to subvert the country of Hungary. He does it through these non-governmental organizations. The NGOs – there are some good ones, but there are very many of them that act as a Fifth Column to undermine the stability and integrity of the countries. Often they work in conjunction with covert intelligence agencies – whether it is the CIA, MI6, French intelligence and so on. They act as sort of an internal intelligence agency that is always there when the time comes to overthrow the government. The prime minister of Hungary recognizes this danger. He is not going to stand for it.

One of the big points of contention is that Soros is running a university in Budapest to promote the liberal ideas he believes in. These are ideas that break down the culture, they break down the moral values, and they break down the national integrity of the nation…

@RT_com What does want and who are his 226 EU ‘friends’? https://on.rt.com/8sj3

RT:  Soros had been calling for the EU to apply pressure against conservative governments of Hungary and Poland, while Soros-funded NGOs are heavily criticizing EU countries for not accepting more migrants and asylum seekers. What, in your opinion, does Soros wish to achieve do doing this?

RB: The real rebellion against the European Union seems to be emanating from the eastern European countries. Soros is also having great conflict with Poland. Poland is becoming increasingly nationalistic. They are adamantly opposed to immigration. The immigrants flow through Eastern Europe into Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel invited a million immigrants to be brought to Germany, and of course, they immediately began raping and terrorizing the nation. And it looks as though Angela Merkel may very well lose her leadership in Germany. The country has been thrown into a crisis strictly because of the sexual assault of the German people by the immigrants that were brought in, by people like Soros, by people like the European Union. I think where you see the strongest resistance is in Eastern Europe. Not so much in Germany, not so much in France, which is almost a lost country by now. But there is still the ability of the people of Eastern Europe to rise up and fight this…

RT:  How do you think things will develop in Hungary? How will the people react there?

RB: There will be an immense amount of money that will be spent against Prime Minister Orban and against his party. But I have watched the Hungarian people throughout their history, and there are no tougher or more independent people than the Hungarians. I have great confidence in the nation of Hungary. I know they will be influenced by the EU that will pressure them and try to compel them through dictatorial means to accept whatever the EU wants, including the reinstitution of the whole corrupt Soros organization there that seeks to undermine the values of the Hungarian people.

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