‘Bug-Splats’ December 17, 2012 – By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian

George Monbiot

George Monbiot 










December 17, 2012







Some dead children are mourned; others are dehumanised.


By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 17th December 2012

“Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”(1) Every parent can connect with what Barack Obama said about the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.

It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them; no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers; no interviews with grieving relatives; no minute analysis of what happened and why.

If the victims of Mr Obama’s drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human. The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as “bug splats”, “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.”(2) Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.”(3)

Like Bush’s government in Iraq, Barack Obama’s administration neither documents nor acknowledges the civilian casualties of the CIA’s drone strikes in north-west Pakistan. But a report by the law schools at Stanford and New York universities suggests that during the first three years of his time in office, the 259 strikes for which he is ultimately responsible killed between 297 and 569 civilians, of whom 64 were children(4). These are figures extracted from credible reports: there may be more which have not been fully documented.

The wider effects on the children of the region have been devastating. Many have been withdrawn from school because of fears that large gatherings of any kind are being targeted. There have been several strikes on schools since George W Bush launched the drone programme that Obama has expanded so enthusiastically: one of Bush’s blunders killed 69 children(5).

The study reports that children scream in terror when they hear the sound of a drone. A local psychologist says that their fear and the horrors they witness is causing permanent mental scarring. Children wounded in drone attacks told the researchers that they are too traumatised to go back to school and have abandoned hopes of the careers they might have had: their dreams as well as their bodies have been broken(6).

Obama does not kill children deliberately. But their deaths are an inevitable outcome of the way his drones are deployed. We don’t know what emotional effect these deaths might have on him, as neither he nor his officials will discuss the matter: almost everything to do with the CIA’s extrajudicial killings in Pakistan is kept secret. But you get the impression that no one in the administration is losing much sleep over it.

Two days before the murders in Newtown, Obama’s press secretary was asked about women and children being killed by drones in Yemen and Pakistan. He refused to answer, on the grounds that such matters are “classified”(7). Instead, he directed the journalist to a speech by John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism assistant. Brennan insists that “al-Qaida’s killing of innocents, mostly Muslim men, women and children, has badly tarnished its appeal and image in the eyes of Muslims”(8). He appears unable to see that the drone war has done the same for the United States. To Brennan the people of north-west Pakistan are neither insects nor grass: his targets are a “cancerous tumour”, the rest of society “the tissue around it”. Beware of anyone who describes a human being as something other than a human being.

Yes, he conceded, there is occasionally a little “collateral damage”, but the US takes “extraordinary care [to] ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life.” It will act only if there’s “an actual ongoing threat” to American lives(9). This is cock and bull with bells on.

The “signature strike” doctrine developed under Obama, which has no discernable basis in law, merely looks for patterns(10). A pattern could consist of a party of unknown men carrying guns (which scarcely distinguishes them from the rest of the male population of north-west Pakistan), or a group of unknown people who look as if they might be plotting something. This is how wedding and funeral parties get wiped out; this is why 40 elders discussing royalties from a chromite mine were blown up in March last year(11). It is one of the reasons why children continue to be killed.

Obama has scarcely mentioned the drone programme and has said nothing about its killing of children. The only statement I can find is a brief and vague response during a videoconference last January(12). The killings have been left to others to justify. In October the Democratic cheerleader Joe Klein claimed on MSNBC that “the bottom line in the end is whose 4 year-old get killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4 year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”(13) As the estimable Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, killing 4 year-olds is what terrorists do(14). It doesn’t prevent retaliatory murders; it encourages them, as grief and revenge are often accomplices.

Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are “militants”. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.

“Are we,” Obama asked on Sunday, “prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”(15) It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.



1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/17/obama-speech-newtown-school-shooting

2. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-rise-of-the-killer-drones-how-a…

3. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-10-23/world/35500278_1_drone-campaign…

4. International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and Global Justice Clinic at NYU School Of Law, September 2012. Living Under
Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan.


5. eg http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=4043&Cat=13&dt=11/5/2006

6. International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and Global Justice Clinic at NYU School Of Law, September 2012, as above.

7. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/12/press-briefing-press-se…

8. John Brennan, 30th April 2012. The Ethics and Efficacy of the President’s Counterterrorism Strategy. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-efficacy-and-ethics-us-counterterrorism…

9. John Brennan, as above.

10. International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and Global Justice Clinic at NYU School Of Law, September 2012, as above.

11. http://dawn.com/2011/03/18/rare-condemnation-by-pm-army-chief-40-killed-in-dr…

12. http://dawn.com/2011/03/18/rare-condemnation-by-pm-army-chief-40-killed-in-dr…

13. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe

14. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe

15. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/17/obama-speech-newtown-school-shooting


Mass rape, amputations and killings – why families are fleeing terror in Mali

The Guardian home


Mass rape, amputations and killings – why families are fleeing terror in Mali

At refugee camps, reports are flooding in of horrific human rights abuses in a country once famous for its music and joyous lifestyle. Mark Townsend reports on the jihadist nightmare in the Sahel

Zicki Fli and family outside their tent

Zicki Fli and family outside their tent in Goudebo camp, Burkina Faso. Photograph: Mark Townsend for The Observer

They were told to assemble in Gao’s market place at dusk. A man accused of using tobacco was escorted before the crowd by several members of the al-Qaida splinter group Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa.

“Then they chopped off his hand. They wanted to show us what they could do,” said Ahmed, 39, a meat trader from the town in northern Mali.

That was not the end of it. The severed hand was tossed into a vat of boiling water. Then, according to Ahmed, the man was pinned down and over the next hour the bent, misshapen hand was sewn crudely back onto his stump. Ahmed, too terrified to disclose his full name, fled Gao the next day, 8 November: “I had to go. I could not live my life.”

Fresh witness accounts such as this, from people arriving smothered in the red Sahel dust that clogs every pore at the refugee camps straddling the border with Burkina Faso, suggest that the situation in northern Mali is deteriorating fast. Given the dangerous situation in the region, it was impossible to verify the accounts, but they were numerous and disturbing.

Mali graphicCredit: Observer graphics

Islamist militants who seized control of an area larger than the UK six months ago have imposed their ultra-conservative brand of sharia law. The tales recounted suggest a population subjugated by a regime well versed in appalling brutality. Allegations of war crimes include summary executions, mass rape, racism and the targeting of elders by child soldiers recruited by the extremists. Some allege that child soldiers are being forced to rape women.

Analysts warn that the crisis in Mali threatens to destabilise the entire Sahel region, the belt of Africa immediately south of the Sahara where 19 million people live on the edge of malnutrition. The arrival of Islamic terrorists against this backdrop saw the United Nations last Monday describe Mali as “one of the potentially most explosive corners of the world”. Within 24 hours, the country’s prime minister was forced by the military to resign , further complicating any attempts to reclaim northern Mali.

MaliAhmed, from Gao, Mali, witnessed Islamic extremists trying to sew a shrivelled hand onto a man as punishment. Photograph: Mark Townsend for the Observer

Last week refugees told how the Islamists – an amalgam of militant extremists Ansar Dine, al-Qaida from north Africa, and the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa – are hunting down Tuaregs, whose desert lands they have seized. Refugee Zicki Fli, 39, who arrived in Burkina Faso’s Goudebo camp several days ago, said: “We were hunted. They came to track us down and if they found Tamasheq [the ancient language spoken by Tuaregs] they beat us badly.”

Fli stayed in Mali until, 10 days ago in the town of Gossi, he witnessed something that changed his mind: “A man I knew would meet his fiancée every night, but somebody saw them and called the Islamists. They were beaten with batons 100 times. They kept on beating until both were dead.”

Fli left Gossi the following morning, walking seven days to the refugee camp to which his heavily pregnant wife Fadii had fled weeks earlier to give birth. Fli says Fadii is depressed: they own nothing and don’t know when, or if, they will return to Mali.

Toufenat Wallet Fikka, 37, spoke two weeks ago to a friend in Timbuktu who described a woman having a hand amputated and being whipped after being accused of stealing money equivalent to just over £1: “They had no evidence. Many people are very scared or running away. Two women, she said, were beaten to the floor because their heads were not totally covered.”

One refugee returned to Mali wearing an Oxfam T-shirt and carrying condoms, the charity’s main weapon in curbing population growth in a region with one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates. When searched by the Islamic police, he was thrashed with a “wire whip” 80 times and told to return for further sentencing the next day.

He, too, fled to Burkina Faso. Those leaving say there is nothing left to enjoy. Mahmoud Ag Hatalio worked as a DJ. He says La Voie de N’Tillit, a popular local station, now broadcasts only prayers. Hatalio says he got lucky: a friend wrongly accused of stealing a bicycle lost a hand to the giant steel scissors specially made by a local blacksmith and later also a foot, to deliberately impair his mobility.

One aim appears to be the complete dismantling of Mali’s once-famous secular, pluralist democracy, defined by world-renowned blues and folk music and fabled joie de vivre.

Ahmed Abdullai, from Haribomo, 30km from the Burkina Faso border, claimed that families, including Tuaregs, are being forced to hand over children to the militia. “There is a lot of these Islamic groups,” said the 37-year-old former teacher. “Families are being forced to give up their children. They are told to kill, rape. Children do whatever they are told.”

Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid who recently visited the region to launch an increase in aid, said reports that respected elders were being killed by extremists were particularly troubling: “The effect is unravelling the very fabric of society. It’s very hard to rebuild.”

MaliMothers gather outside a health centre near Dori, north Burkina Faso. A quarter of children in the country suffer from malnutrition. Photograph: Mark Townsend for the Observer

The concern, for Georgieva, is that northern Mali’s transformation into a massive jihadist enclave could replicate the recent history of Somalia. Others warn that Islamic militants are set on establishing a caliphate (a Muslim political-religious state) across the entire 3,000-mile wide Sahel. Intelligence suggests local militia are being assimilated into the extremist structure, and that Nigeria’s notorious Islamist group Boko Haram has been seen in Mali.

Georgieva said: “The situation is now mushrooming, metastasising: there are around 100 little groups claiming to be involved. No one expected Boko Haram to explode in Nigeria, but once it did it was very hard to control. We could have a Somalia situation all over again if we do nothing.”

The Malian army is fractured and under-resourced, and Europe, the US and local states are squabbling about intervention. The former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, appointed UN envoy to the Sahel, still doesn’t have an office in the region. “The speed with which we are moving towards mobilisation needs much more urgency,” said Georgieva.

What exactly they are up against remains something of a mystery. The threat of abduction of foreigners is high, and the refugee camps in Burkina Faso have been moved away from the border to avoid raids. However, the rumours persist that al-Qaida is operating in Burkina Faso – and throughout the region. Charities are nervous. Seven French nationals are missing in northern Mali. In Bamako, the country’s capital, the tension is palpable. Air France no longer allows its aircrew to stay overnight because of the risk of them being kidnapped.

MaliKids getting off truck at Burkina refugee camp. Photograph: Mark Townsend for the Observer

How well-equipped and numerous the Islamic extremists are is open to conjecture. Aboubacan Traoré, 27, who fled from Timbuktu last month, described the moment that heavily armed Islamic forces first stormed the city. “They were shooting everywhere. They had lots of guns, rocket-propelled grenades. There were many, many of them – hundreds.”

No one doubts that the crisis is destabilising the entire region. Almost 350,000 Malians have fled from their homes, almost half to neighbouring countries, including 8,000 in Goudebo camp.

In simple terms, people are being forced from their homes on to land that can barely support its present incumbents. Oxfam is hurriedly sinking boreholes to serve communities that suddenly have to cope with tens of thousands of fresh arrivals.

But it is the inevitability of war that most agencies fear: any attempt to clear al-Qaida’s latest assembly point will create a huge influx of refugees and animals on to a land that cannot sustain them.

In the meantime the situation is likely to worsen. Food prices in Mali and Burkina Faso remain stubbornly high despite a decent harvest, rendering the poorest unable to feed their families.

Experts say the region’s rapid population growth is compounding the impact of the world’s rapidly growing global middle class on prices. Climate change too cannot be ignored. The Sahel has endured three droughts in the past seven years.

Georgieva said the capacity for the poor to withstand such shocks has all but disappeared: the arrival of Islamic militants in the region is a factor too far. Despite a 13% increase in Burkina Faso’s harvest, forecasters are already adamant that 2013 will bring no respite for the region’s food crisis.

Mali refugees in BamakoMali refugees in Bamako Photograph: Mark Townsend for the Observer

Although a concerted and rapid response by aid agencies to conditions in the Sahel narrowly averted a humanitarian “catastrophe” this year – the European Commission estimates 400,000 children in the region have been saved from death by malnutrition – the same urgent response is required again.

Many fear complacency may set in, and that reports of yet another near humanitarian crisis in west Africa is unlikely to attract many headlines while foreign finances could be diverted to assist any military campaign. “It is why the Sahel has to be our top priority next year,” said Georgieva.

Beyond the threat of a large-scale desert war, conflict on a micro scale is already evident in camps like Goudebo, which has a provisional capacity of 20,000 refugees. Camp visitors will wonder why only black Africans, ‘Bella’, can be seen queueing at the water collection points or building refugee tents.

The ancient Tuareg caste system, where the Bella were once slaves, still survives and means that the dark-skinned members of the tribe occupy the lowest positions in Tuareg society. By contrast, the Tuareg are often called “white” and claim that they are routinely victimised by the predominantly black, southern-ruled, post-independence Malian governments who themselves are uncomfortable with the Tuaregs’ reputation for enslaving black Africans.

The UN says it is “deeply aware” of the tension in its camps but rejects claims the Bella are slaves. “They are more like servants – it is a master and servant relationship,” said one.

But skin colour dominates many conversations with the Malian refugees. Mohamed Ag Almougamar alleges that members of the Malian army killed a large number of Tuaregs at Nampalari, a network of 22 desert villages in the north of the country holding 11,000 people.

The incident, again impossible to verify, was said to have occurred over the summer and, according to Almougamar, was racist in motive. “We have clear skin, we are killed like sheep,” he said.

As the west deliberates its next move with France favouring immediate military intervention and the US opting for a diplomatic resolution, it seems certain that the hundreds of thousands of Malian refugees, including the traditionally nomadic Tuaregs, are destined to remain in camps for months yet.

Mossa Ag Wantaganatt, 46, who arrived in Burkina Faso at the start of the month, said: “Our lives are on hold. We are living in a cage.”

UA: 358/12 Index: ASA 38/006/2012 Taiwan Date: 14 December 2012 URGENT ACTION EXECUTION OF TAIWANESE MAN IS IMMINIENT



UA: 358/12 Index: ASA 38/006/2012 Taiwan Date: 14 December 2012



Cheng Hsing-tse is facing imminent execution in Taiwan after the Prosecutor General rejected a request on 11 December to seek an extraordinary appeal. The Minister of Justice could sign an execution order at any moment.

Cheng Hsing-tse was arrested on 5 January 2002 and accused of killing a police officer during a gunfight. He was sentenced to death for murder by the Taichung District Court on 18 November 2002. The case bounced back and forth between the High Court and the Supreme Court for appeals and retrials; however Cheng Hsing-tse’s death sentence was finalized on 25 May 2006. His lawyers have since applied for extraordinary appeals but the requests have been rejected each time by the Prosecutor General.

Cheng Hsing-tse first retracted his confession, allegedly extracted by the police through torture, on 6 January 2002 and again on 22 January 2002. He continued to retract his confessions in court proceedings. There have been no investigations into the torture allegations so far.

Cheng Hsing-tse’s lawyers have also argued that there were irregularities in the investigation. For example, four guns were obtained from the crime scene but Cheng’s fingerprints were not found on any of them. The police also failed to keep the crime scene intact by moving the guns and the court has never sought ballistic or forensic analysis.

Taiwan provides no procedures that would allow people on death row to seek a pardon or for the sentence to be commuted – a right recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Taiwanese parliament has voted to implement.

Cheng Hsing-tse has been in custody for more than ten years and he is currently being detained in the Taichung Detention Center.

Please write immediately in English or your own language:

 Urging the authorities not to sign an execution order for Cheng Hsing-tse or any other prisoner;

 Urging the authorities to introduce a legal procedure for requesting clemency;

 Urging the authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in line with UN General Assembly resolutions 62/149 of 18 December 2007, 63/168 of 18 December 2008 and 65/206 of 21 December 2010;

 Urging the authorities to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment.


Minister of Justice

Minister Tseng Yung-fu

No.130, Sec.1, Chongqing S. Road

Taipei City 10048


Fax: 011 886 2 23319102

Email: tyftp@mail.moj.gov.tw

Salutation: Dear Minister


Ma Ying-jeou

Office of the President

No. 122, Sec. 1, Chongqing S. Rd.

Zhongzheng Dist.

Taipei City 100


Fax: 011 886 2 23832941

Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:

Cheng Hsing-tse

Taichung Detention Center

No.11, Peide Road

Nantun District

Taichung City 408


Salutation: Dear Cheng Hsing-tse

Also send copies to:

Representative Jason C. Yuan

Taiwan Embassy, 4201 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington DC 20016

Tel: 1 202 895 1800 | Fax: 1 202 495-2138 | Email: tecroinfodc@tecro.us

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

UA Network Office AIUSA │600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington DC 20003

T. 202.509.8193 │ F. 202.675.8566 │E. uan@aiusa.org │ amnestyusa.org/urgent




Taiwan has not carried out any executions this year and 61 people remain on death row. Five people were executed in 2011. Family

members are not informed about scheduled executions in advance and they learn about them afterwards, when they are invited to

collect the bodies from the mortuary.

Since 2000, the government of Taiwan has repeatedly pledged to abolish the death penalty. However, on 30 April 2010 they resumed

the implementation of the death penalty for the first time since 2005 by executing four people.

The current government agreed to implement the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2009, and reaffirmed its

intention to eventually abolish the death penalty.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime;

guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. International law

and standards on the use of the death penalty require that in all capital cases rigorous compliance with international standards for fair

trial, at least equal to those contained in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are observed. These

include: the right to be tried before an independent, impartial and competent tribunal; the right to competent defense counsel at every

stage of the proceedings; the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare one’s defense; the right to be presumed innocent until guilt

has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt; the right to appeal to a higher court; the right not to be compelled to testify against

himself or herself or to confess guilt; the right to seek pardon and commutation of sentence.

Name: Cheng Hsing-tse (m)

Issue: Imminent execution, Death penalty, Legal issues

UA: 358/12

Issue Date: 14 December 2012

Country: Taiwan

The Daktory Court Support – Dakta Blaze Public event – Dakta Blaze faces a charge of “obstruction of a police officer” stemming from a visit made by the police while undertaking bail checks of Dakta Green at The Daktory.

  • Dakta Blaze faces a charge of “obstruction of a police officer” stemming from a visit made by the police while undertaking bail checks of Dakta Green at The Daktory. 

    Dakta Blaze stepped outside to talk to them and the door closed behind him. He was arrested for obstruction after refusing to open the door for police. Blaze does not have to comply by Dakta Greens bail conditions. This date has been set down for a status hearing.

    Show your support for cannabis law reform by protesting with us!

  • https://www.facebook.com/events/194326004035893/

Do We Have the Courage to Stop This? By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF Published: December 15, 2012


New York Times


Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

Published: December 15, 2012

IN the harrowing aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut, one thought wells in my mind: Why can’t we regulate guns as seriously as we do cars?

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Edel Rodriguez


The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns.

Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence.

So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage.

American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has five pages of regulations about ladders, while federal authorities shrug at serious curbs on firearms. Ladders kill around 300 Americans a year, and guns 30,000.

We even regulate toy guns, by requiring orange tips — but lawmakers don’t have the gumption to stand up to National Rifle Association extremists and regulate real guns as carefully as we do toys. What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.?

As one of my Facebook followers wrote after I posted about the shooting, “It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”

Look, I grew up on an Oregon farm where guns were a part of life; and my dad gave me a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday. I understand: shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?

And don’t say that it won’t make a difference because crazies will always be able to get a gun. We’re not going to eliminate gun deaths, any more than we have eliminated auto accidents. But if we could reduce gun deaths by one-third, that would be 10,000 lives saved annually.

Likewise, don’t bother with the argument that if more people carried guns, they would deter shooters or interrupt them. Mass shooters typically kill themselves or are promptly caught, so it’s hard to see what deterrence would be added by having more people pack heat. There have been few if any cases in the United States in which an ordinary citizen with a gun stopped a mass shooting.

The tragedy isn’t one school shooting, it’s the unceasing toll across our country. More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

So what can we do? A starting point would be to limit gun purchases to one a month, to curb gun traffickers. Likewise, we should restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines so that a shooter can’t kill as many people without reloading.

We should impose a universal background check for gun buyers, even with private sales. Let’s make serial numbers more difficult to erase, and back California in its effort to require that new handguns imprint a microstamp on each shell so that it can be traced back to a particular gun.

“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” President Obama noted in a tearful statement on television. He’s right, but the solution isn’t just to mourn the victims — it’s to change our policies. Let’s see leadership on this issue, not just moving speeches.

Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.

The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.

In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.

Or we can look north to Canada. It now requires a 28-day waiting period to buy a handgun, and it imposes a clever safeguard: gun buyers should have the support of two people vouching for them.

For that matter, we can look for inspiration at our own history on auto safety. As with guns, some auto deaths are caused by people who break laws or behave irresponsibly. But we don’t shrug and say, “Cars don’t kill people, drunks do.”

Instead, we have required seat belts, air bags, child seats and crash safety standards. We have introduced limited licenses for young drivers and tried to curb the use of mobile phones while driving. All this has reduced America’s traffic fatality rate per mile driven by nearly 90 percent since the 1950s.

Some of you are alive today because of those auto safety regulations. And if we don’t treat guns in the same serious way, some of you and some of your children will die because of our failure.


On the Ground

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Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.

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A version of this op-ed appeared in print on December 16, 2012, on page SR11 of the New York edition with the headline: Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?.



Morgan Freeman – ” do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine?”



He isn’t wrong. ~ Belfast

Morgan Freeman’s brilliant take on what happened yesterday :

“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed
people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Reprieve – Frankie Boyle announces that Shaker Aamer is to sue MI5 & MI6 for defamation



14 December 2012

Frankie Boyle announces that Shaker Aamer is to sue MI5 & MI6 for defamation

Shaker Aamer

Comedian Frankie Boyle today joined Reprieve to announce that the last remaining British resident in Guantanamo Bay is suing the intelligence services for defamation.

Shaker Aamer has been held at Guantanamo without charge or trial for nearly 11 years. He has been cleared for release under both the Bush and Obama administrations and yet remains imprisoned.

The UK government has repeatedly claimed that they want Shaker returned to the UK. Yet Shaker has told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that UK agencies are still telling lies about him – lies which prevent him from being released. Reprieve has finally been able to declassify enough material through the US censorship process to move forward on this litigation, and call the UK agents out on their defamation.

The defamation consists of untrue allegations and includes a picture of Shaker wearing normal Arabic clothes in London as proof of him being an extremist.

Shaker Aamer is currently at the centre of a police investigation into his torture and that of other men held at Guantanamo Bay.

Clive Stafford Smith, said: “They [the security services] go around saying all these awful things about him, which aren’t true. And say that this doesn’t infringe his good character. It’s just laughable. All we want is our day in court, where these allegations would never stand up.”

Frankie Boyle, said: “I can’t even call it a miscarriage of justice, because he’s never even had a trial. We just want to see him back home.”

MP Caroline Lucas, who supports the action, said: “The defamation of Shaker Aamer is evidence of the immense power of the security services to say whatever they want behind the backs of an accused man, to devastating effect. Shaker has been cleared for release by the US government – twice! – and yet remains in Guantanamo Bay where he has been for eleven years because of these lies, unable to defend himself. Such hypocrisy on the part of the British government is shameful and damaging. They should be holding the security services properly to account and redoubling efforts to bring Shaker home.”

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