Category Archives: International

A Toxic Shroud: "China is choking on its own success” and endangering neighbors and American cities

 

Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley of the New York Times, on August 26th, produced an excellent story on China’s industrial success/toxic pollution nexus. The situation is dire, and China’s difficulties overcoming the Victorian England-like pollution troubles in order to host an Olympics palpable to the rest of the world are well known, and have been covered recently in similar excellent coverage in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a brief section of the NYT report:

…it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.

China is choking on its own success

And this is not merely a problem for the Chinese. Acid rain containing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from Chinese coal-fired power plants falls on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo. The Journal of Geophysical Research reports that much of the particulate pollution over Los Angeles originates in China.

The World Health Organization and World Bank independently found that total deaths in China due to pollution have reached 750,000 a year. Chinese experts interviewed claimed that the Western estimates “probably understate the problems.” The World Bank told the NYT that China’s environmental agency asked them to remove this number from the Spring 2007 final report, claiming the numbers could detrimentally impact “social stability.”

The question, of course, is who has the credibility and sway to either guide China toward responsible environmental policies, or model a path forward by example.

Lime

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Filed under Business, Environment, International, Science

AltLaw Beta: Free Boolean-searches of SCOTUS/Federal Courts of Appeal Decisions

AltLaw

AltLaw, the newest and one of the more promising internet legal resources to hit the scene, is now up and running and available for free public advanced searches of case law.

It’s a sort of Google for Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal decisions, and clearly holds promise to democratize the availability of relevant and useful case law in the States. LEXIS and Westlaw, of course, have long monopolized the availability of such information in any searchable or useful form, and have charged a pretty penny to those that want to easily search case or other resources (via “Natural Language” or the far more powerful, but underused, advanced/Boolean search engines). AltLaw now makes Boolean searching entirely free.

The catch: at startup, AltLaw’s coverage of SCOTUS case law extends fully only back to May 1991, and the Federal Courts of Appeals in a more irregular spread–the 7th Circuit back only to October 1999, and at best, the 1st Circuit back to 1992. Complete details about AltLaw’s initial coverage are posted HERE.

AltLaw is a joint project of Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School. The site touts, amazingly, advanced searching options akin to LEXIS and Westlaw, including proximity searching, Boolean searches, concentration searches, wildcard searches (my fave), among others. The site also intimates that West Reporter Citations will be added.

Yet another step in making U.S. case law readily available to the citizenry, along the lines of what Cornell’s indispensible Legal Information Institute has done, for example, in making the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations, among LII’s many other items, very quickly searchible and accessible for free.

Thanks to fellow appellate litigator Greg May at The California Blog of Appeal, and Harvard’s Info/Law for the story.

Lime

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Filed under Appellate Law, Criminal Law, Education, International, Law, Supreme Court, Tech

Haditha Update: SJA Recuses Himself After Criticizing LtCol Ware

The Staff Judge Advocate, SJA, – the senior legal adviser, roughly equivalent to in-house counsel for a business – for LtGen Mattis removed himself form the case of LCpl Tatum. The SJA, LtCol Bill Riggs, contacted LtCol Ware and criticized him for holding the government to too high of a standard when evaluating the charges against LCpl Tatum. LtCol Ware replied, via e-mail, “I viewed Lt. Col. Riggs’ comments as inappropriate and imprudent. … I was … offended and surprised by this conversation.”

LtCol Ware was the investigating officer for LCpl Sharratt. LtCol Ware unrecommended no charges against the Marines, and LtGen Mattis concurred with this recommendation and dismissed all charges against both LCpl Sharratt and Capt Stone. LtCol Ware will also be the Investigating Officer for SSgt Frank Wuterich.

yojoe out

More on Haditha

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Haditha Update: LCpl Tatum’s Article 32 the Final Day

In the final day of the Article 32 investigation into LCpl Tatum’s role in the action in Haditha, Iraq, both the prosecution and defense gave their respective summations of the case. The defense emphasized that,

You can’t sit back in an air-conditioned room at Camp Pendleton and second-guess these men. It’s 20/20 hindsight.

While the prosecution maintained its mantra of retribution and a rush to use force,

In an effort to avoid unnecessary suffering of innocents, you are not permitted to go straight to deadly force.

LtCol Ware will likely submit his report within the next ten days.
yojoe

Previous posts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5. Days 6 and 7

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Filed under Criminal Law, Haditha, International, Iraq, Military Justice, Military Law

Quote of the Day

From the BBC:

UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.”

Though I think it would have been better if he had said: “Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers!”

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Haditha Update: LCp Tatum’s Article 32 Days 6 and 7

LCpl Tatum testified that he did not “know that there was women and children in that house until later . . . otherwise, I would have physically stopped everyone in that room from shooting.” This testimony came during his unsworn statement during an Article 32 investigation in his actions in Haditha, Iraq. The prosecution has maintained that the Marines killed civilians in retaliation for an explosion that killed a fellow Marine. The Marines maintain that they were following the rules of engagement while in pursuit of their attackers.

LCpl Tatum explained that the visibility was very poor during the battle, making it very difficult to identify targets, as anything more than that, targets. He explained that only later did he learn that the targets were women and children. He entered the first house after his squad leader told him the house was “hostile” and continued to the second house because he heard the sound of an AK-47 Continue reading

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UPDATE: Court of Military Commissions and Review Rules available

The Pentagon has freshly updated and made available to the public a cartload of Military Commissions materials. Earlier this month we noted that the site hadn’t been updated for several months. That’s been remedied. On the site are:

  • Rules of Practice for the Court of Military Commission and Review
    • After a very quick perusal, I notice nothing too remarkable here–they look like, as we were led to suspect, a typical Court of Criminal Appeals’ rules, modified for the Commissions context. Many rules are footnoted “taken from ACCA (Army Court) rule” this or “Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Rule” that. I will note that Rule 30 states that “The Clerk of Court is authorized to release unclassified filings with the CMCR and CMCR decisions. Filings and decisions will be available at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/commissions.html.” That openness is certainly welcome, hopefully the link will be continually and timely updated.
    • Admission to practice requirements (as if you’d want to): “to be eligible for admission to the Bar of the CMCR, an attorney must be a member in good standing of the Bar of the highest court of a state, territory, commonwealth, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, or of the Bar of a Federal Court.” Proof of good standing is required. Foreign attorneys may gain honorary membership.
  • Approval and Promulgation of Rules of Practice
  • Multiple recent documents from the Khadr Commissions case that AO has reported on, inter alia, HERE (Khadr and Hamdan dismissal), HERE (reconsideration denial), and HERE (Khadr appeal), including: Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Appellate Law, International, Law, Military Justice, Military Law, Supreme Court

P0wn’d!!! (those who think US Defense spending has gone through the roof)

In fact, Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post reports, it’s just the opposite. The real story is the rise of the American welfare state. Whereas in 1956 (see chart) defense spending was nearly 60% of the US budget, now it’s just less than 20%.

In comparison, the roles have switched: in fiscal year 2006, the US Federal government spent $2.7 trillion, of which Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined formed approximately $1 billion. Almost $200 billion came from payments to poor, earned-income tax credit and food stamps.

Those who are concerned with the size of the U.S. Defense budget should take a good look at all U.S. government expenditures before spending their talents barking up a sapling: European governments now are largely considering reversing decades of welfare-state policies, and going the American route (and more recently British route) by privatizing state industries and minimizing the welfare state.

So for 50 years, we’ve been striving to be more French. Sacre bleu! Bring on the wine and cheese! If we can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! (What was the quote about monkeys?)

Lime

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Filed under Culture, International, Political Commentary, Politics, Social Sciences and History

Treasure Trove

You may have heard something over the last few days about the discovery of a hoard of Viking treasure in northern England. It has been reported in most major news outlets, and the treasure has recently gone on display in the British Museum. More than 600 coins and 65 other silver and gold objects were found, including items acquired via trade or plunder from Scandinavia, Russia, Afghanistan, and France, among others. The hoard was discovered by a father and son who were prospecting with metal detectors. This news is a good example of the positives and negatives about Britain’s treasure trove law.

Without going into too much detail, the treasure trove law (as modified by the Treasure Act of 1996) determines the destination of objects that are found and for which no owner can be determined. Under British common law, if ownerless objects are merely lost (like change falling out of your pocket), they belong to the finder. If they are deliberately stashed (like the hoard in Continue reading

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Islamtube Part II: Turk hacks Islamtube

You might recall my post back in March about IslamTube entitled “IslamTube: Snipers and Destruction.” Bottom line, IslamTube back then (hold on before you excoriate me for not updating my sources) featured such crowd-pleasers as videos of jihadists blowing up Coalition forces, and Zawahiri tapes–much unlike the cheery GodTube.

IslamTube HackedWell, turns out somebody has now hacked IslamTube, rendering it useless. Hopefully forever–thanks to good old freedom and democracy, it appears that citizens of fellow democracy Turkey have hacked the abomination. Now appearing on the IslamTube front page: a lovely picture of Turkish nation-founder Ataturk, the Turkish flag, and some music (Turkish national anthem?).

Now to be fair, there were positive Islamic videos on the site: and so, sincere apologies to our reader (named “a person”) who pointed out that IslamTube now directs him to another site (“Islaam.com”).  I also found myself redirected to Islaam.com, before the second attempt that brought me Ataturk.

I’ll take Ataturk over Jihadists anyday. Long live Turkey!

(And by the way: hacking is often illegal.  Don’t do it.)

Lime

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Filed under Afghanistan, Humor, International, Iraq, Islam, Politics

American Adults More Scientifically Literate Than European or Japanese Adults

A recent study shows that Americans are more scientifically literate than Europeans or Japanese. But, at 28% we still have some way to go. On the bright side, that figure was 10% in the 1990’s.

yojoe


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Gang Holds Top RPG Gamer at Gunpoint

Folha Online reports that using Orkut, Google’s online social network, an armed gang of four 19-27 year old- kidnapped the world-leading Role-Playing Gamer of the game GunBound (boy plays violent video game; others become The image “http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fb/Gbwclg.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.violent; psychologists, have at it). One of the gang members’ girlfriends lured the gamer onto a fake date at a shopping mall via the network. The gamer showed for the date but the girl didn’t. Her boyfriend appeared in her place (“Wha! Your voice didn’t sound so low on the phone…”), the gamer was kidnapped and held in Sao Paulo, with a gun held to his head for five hours.

The gang’s goal? To obtain the gamer’s password, which the gang planned to sell for $8,000. The game, however, didn’t give up the information. The gang, naturally, then let the victim go.

And go he did, straight to the police–Brazilian police saved the rest of the day, picking up the four Continue reading

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Haditha Update: LCpl Tatum’s Article 32 Day 5

As the investigation moved into its fifth day Special Agent Micheal Maloney, of NCIS, was called as a witness by the prosecution. SA Maloney testified that 17 bullets had been fired by the Marines that day at Haditha, Iraq. The women were killed first and the children were shot as they tried to escape. On cross-examination, SA Maloney admitted that he based his conclusions of photographs and a visit to the scene four months after the incident, and there there was not physical evidence at the scene. The Article 32 investigation will continue on 23Jul07.

LCpl Tatum is charged with 2 specifications of unpremeditated murder, Art. 118, UCMJ, 4 specifications of negligent homicide, Art 134, UCMJ, and 1 specification of assault, Art. 128, UCMJ. In the military justice system, “specifications” are similar to counts. Thus, in this case LCpl Tatum is charged with the murder of two individuals. LCpl Tatum is currently going through an Article 32 Investigation, which is to a grand jury in the civilian sector. The investigating officer will make a recommendation on charges, or no charges, to the Convening Authority, in this case LtGen Mattis. LtGen Mattis will then determine which, if any, charges to send to a court-martial.

More information about the military justice system is available here.

yojoe out

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POTUS applies Geneva Conventions to the CIA

The President yesterday signed an Executive Order, entitled “Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

The White House Press release is HERE, and the full text of the Executive Order follows below my brief analysis.

Note that the Military Commissions Act requires this Executive Order. MCA, Sec 6(a)(3) : states that “As provided by the Constitution and by this section, the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and to promulgate higher standards and administrative regulations for violations of treaty obligations which are not grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.” The section continues to state that POTUS “shall issue [such] interpretations . . . by Executive Order,” and that such EO “shall be authoritative (execpt as to grave breaches of common Article 3) as a matter of United States law, in the same manner as other administrative regulations.”

As you read, note a few additional things. First off, the EO requires that CIA detainees “receive the basic necessities of life.” However, the Washington Post reports that a “senior administration official” states that “sleep” does not fall within the “basic necessities” category.

Second, the President reaffirms his 7 February 2002 determination that al Qaeda, Taliban, “and associated forces” are “unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Appellate Law, International, Iraq, Law, Military Justice, Military Law, Politics, Supreme Court

Hamandiya: Cpl Thomas Sentenced

Cpl Thomas was sentenced today, 20Jul07, to a bad-conduct discharge, and reduction to E-1. He was found guilty of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. The Government had sought 15 years confinement.

For charges of this magnitude, this seems like a low sentence, as compared with other courts-martial for the same offenses. The members would have taken into account that he served over 500 days in pretrial confinement, but it still seems low. His service in Iraq and other mitigating evidence must have swung the members in his favor.

yojoe

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