A federal appeals court has ruled US corporations can no longer be sued for human rights violations abroad under the longstanding Alien Tort Statute. Earlier this month, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alien tort claims can only be brought against individuals, not corporations. The ruling dismissed a lawsuit accusing the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell of complicity in the murder and torture of Nigerian activists including Ken Saro-Wiwa. In a separate opinion, Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval criticized the ruling, writing, "The majority opinion deals a substantial blow to international law and its undertaking to protect fundamental human rights… So long as they incorporate, businesses will now be free to trade in or exploit slaves, employ mercenary armies to do dirty work for despots, perform genocides or operate torture prisons for a despot’s political opponents, or engage in piracy—all without civil liability to victims."
A federal appeals court has issued a temporary order reinstating government funding for embryonic stem cell research. On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a stay of a lower court injunction that blocked the Obama administration’s reversal of Bush-era restrictions on stem cell funding. The lower court had ruled that the funding violates a 1996 law prohibiting federal money for any research that destroys or threatens human embryos. The funding will be restored pending the administration’s appeal.
In Iraq, a US soldier is in custody after allegedly fatally shooting two other soldiers and wounding another in Fallujah last week. The military says the soldiers had gotten into a "verbal altercation" that turned violent.
Passengers of a Jewish aid boat prevented from reaching Gaza are accusing the Israeli military of excessive force in seizing their ship. On Tuesday, eight of the nine activists aboard the Jewish Boat to Gaza ship Irene were released after being apprehended miles off the Gaza coast. They were attempting to deliver a symbolic load of humanitarian aid to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip. Israeli activist and former Israel Air Force pilot Yonatan Shapira said he was beaten and shocked with a taser gun.
Yonatan Shapira: "The soldiers were very brutal to us. They didn’t kill us like they kill the other Palestinians and Muslims, but they were very brutal. I got shot with a taser shock gun, electric, and was brutally treated, just like my brother Itamar. We were detained pretty violently and later, now, were released. And they blame us. They accuse us of attacking the soldiers and threatening the soldiers. And, of course, everything is upside down. It’s a complete lie."
Other passengers included the eighty-two-year-old Holocaust survivor and Israeli resident Reuven Moskovitz, who lived under Nazi occupation as a child in Romania.
Reuven Moskovitz: "We are talking about one-and-a-half million people, 800,000 children. When I was a child, I was imprisoned for five years, and I can’t forget it. I cannot sleep at night. I have nightmares that have haunted me all my life. Do you know what we are doing to these people (in Gaza) and what we are doing to our own soldiers?"
The Jewish Boat to Gaza was the latest attempt to break the blockade since Israel’s deadly attack on an aid flotilla in May. Meanwhile, a convoy of some forty-five vehicles carrying aid has arrived in Turkey on its way to Gaza from Europe. The convoy, dubbed Viva Palestina, will attempt to reach Gaza next month. British activist Patrick Audai said Israel’s attack on the flotilla motivated him to take part.
Patrick Audai: "When I saw what those Israeli terrorists did to those innocent activists on board the Mavi Marmara — and those people who died, they are heroes, they are the conscience of the world — that’s when I decided that I must make a stand and that I must come to Gaza and take medical aid to relieve the people there from their terrible suffering."
Pakistan is warning it will stop protecting NATO supply routes to Afghanistan if the US continues to carry out cross-border attacks. More than seventy alleged militants have been killed in recent strikes from US Apache helicopters crossing the Afghan border. According to the Associated Press, Pakistani officials have told NATO leaders in Brussels that they won’t tolerate attacks from manned aircraft. About 80 percent of NATO’s non-lethal supplies in Afghanistan are delivered through Pakistan.
In other news from Pakistan, thousands of people rallied in Karachi on Tuesday to protest the sentencing of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui in a US court. Siddiqui was sentenced last week to eighty-six years in prison for shooting at her American interrogators while jailed in Afghanistan. Her conviction and sentencing has been widely criticized in Pakistan, where Siddiqui is believed to be innocent and mistreated in US detention. Pakistani political leader Farooq Sattar called for Siddiqui’s repatriation.
Farooq Sattar: "A review is needed here, and intervention by President Obama and the US administration that they must immediately withdraw the cases against Aafia Siddiqui. They must declare this sentence null and void and order for the release of Aafia Siddiqui. And she must be sent back home unconditionally, honorably. She should be acquitted."
Republican Senator Tom Coburn has been identified as the lawmaker responsible for holding up over $900 million in congressionally approved aid for Haiti. A supplemental request for Haiti reconstruction passed the Senate in May and then the House in July. But a measure to direct how the money is spent was held up after it was anonymously tabled for further review. The Associated Press reports that Coburn, a doctor, pulled the measure over concerns about a $5 million provision that he says would waste taxpayer dollars. The US still hasn’t delivered a cent of the $1.15 billion in new aid for Haiti it pledged earlier this year. At least six people were killed and over 8,000 tarps and other temporary shelters were destroyed when a storm hit the capital Port-au-Prince last week.
The prominent Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba has spoken out about her removal from the Colombian Senate and eighteen-year ban from public office. Colombia’s Inspector General ousted Córdoba this week for allegedly aiding members of the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Córdoba has been a leading critic of former Colombia president Álvaro Uribe and the US-backed drug war in Colombia. Her mediation efforts have helped free hostages held by the FARC. On Tuesday, Córdoba vowed to remain involved in talks with the rebels.
Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba: "To all the hostages in the world and in the country, to all those hostages of the FARC and the ELN, they have to be completely sure that this will not make us retreat, this will not intimidate us, that this will not scare me, that we will not leave the families alone. And to those who are listening to me in the jungle, you can be sure that even if it comes to that point and I go to jail, from jail my voice will be heard, sovereign, strong, to insist on the necessity of the humanization and the need for peace."
A new study is warning more than a fifth of the world’s plant species are at risk of extinction. The Sampled Red List Index says 22 percent of almost 4,000 species are threatened, with human-induced habitat loss the cause in over 80 percent of the cases. Stephen Hopper of London’s Royal Botanic Gardens said, "We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear — plants are the basis of all life on Earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. All animal and bird life depends on them, and so do we."
And protests are continuing nationwide against the FBI for raiding eight homes and offices of antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago last week. On Tuesday, hundreds of people rallied in at least a dozen cities, including Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Here in New York, antiwar activist Jose Martin took part in a demonstration outside a federal building.
Jose Martin: "I lived in Chicago for eight years, and I know everyone who got raided or got contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation this past Friday. They’re all dear friends of mine. Some of them have children in kindergarten. Some of them have babies. And I remember them before they were married in some of these cases. They’re wonderful people, hard-working antiwar activists and solidarity activists, and we need to make sure that no one in any movement turns their back on these folks, because that’s what the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to do. It wants to ruin their lives, and it wants to make as many antiwar activists turn their back on people who are being harassed as it can."
Eleven activists have been handed subpoenas to appear before federal grand juries, with the first beginning next week.