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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Cloned cow offspring meat in UK food chain, FSA says

Meat from the offspring of a cloned cow was eaten in the UK last year, the Food Standards Agency has said.
As part of an inquiry into milk from a cow produced from a cloned parent, it identified two bulls born in the UK from embryos of a US cloned cow.
Both bulls were slaughtered but meat from one entered the food chain.
Studies suggest such milk or meat is no different nutritionally to that from normal animals but any suppliers would require approval under European law.
The FSA, which is the UK body responsible for the assessment of so-called novel foods produced by cloned animals and their offspring, said it had not been asked to consider any such cases.
Foodstuffs, including milk, produced from cloned animals must pass a safety evaluation and gain authorisation before they are marketed in Europe and there are moves afoot to bring in a ban across the EU.
In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration in the US said meat and milk from cloned animals was safe for human consumption.
American biotechnology companies are cloning animals that give high yields of milk and meat to use as breeding stock.
BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh said as the industry grows it will be difficult for food safety authorities to police the export of embryos from cloned animals to farmers in Europe.
'Ethical issue'
The FSA statement on its investigation into cloned animals comes after a British dairy farmer said he used milk from a cow produced from a cloned parent.
The FSA said "the agency has traced two bulls born in the UK from embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the US. Both of these bulls have been slaughtered.
"The first, Dundee Paratrooper, was born in December 2006 and was slaughtered in July 2009. Meat from this animal entered the food chain and will have been eaten.
"The second, Dundee Perfect, was born in March 2007 and was slaughtered on July 27 2010. Meat from this animal has been stopped from entering the food chain."
On Monday, UK dairy industry body DairyCo said it was "confident" no milk from the offspring of cloned animals has entered the human food chain.
Professor Hugh Pennington, an expert on food safety, of Aberdeen University, told the BBC there was "absolutely no evidence" that cloned products being produced were dangerous to eat, and any concerns were a "moral and ethical issue".
"People are concerned about playing God and that kind of thing... rather than producing products which are dangerous to eat.
"There's absolutely no evidence for that, and I've got no expectation that any such evidence will ever emerge," he said.
Emma Hockridge, the Soil Association's head of policy, said cloning raised worrying issues about animal welfare, ethics, public safety, reducing genetic diversity within agriculture and the spread of animal diseases.
In 2008, the European Food Safety Authority issued an opinion which said "no clear evidence" had emerged to suggest any food safety differences between food products from clones or their offspring compared to products from conventionally bred animals.
"But we must acknowledge that the evidence base, while growing and showing consistent findings, is still small," it added.
Last month MEPs voted in favour of a law that would ban cloned meat and other animal products in the European food supply.
The legislation faces a next stage of consideration in September before it could become EU law.

Document details 'US' plan to sink Palestinian Government

16.06.2007 16:04

Document details 'US' plan to sink Hamas
By Mark Perry and Paul Woodward

On April 30, the Jordanian weekly newspaper Al-Majd published a story about a 16-page secret document, an "Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency" that called for undermining and replacing the Palestinian national-unity government.

The document outlined steps that would strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, build up Palestinian security forces under his command, lead to the dissolution of the Palestinian Parliament, and strengthen US allies in Fatah in a lead-up to parliamentary elections that Abbas would call for early this autumn.

The Majd document is based on a Jordanian government translation of a reputed US intelligence document that was obtained by the newspaper from a Jordanian government official. The document, an official at the newspaper said, was drawn up by "Arab and American parties" and "presented to Palestinian President Abbas by the head of an Arab intelligence agency". The document is explosive.

Should Abbas give his agreement to the plan - which is not yet certain - he would be complicit in a program to undermine his own government.

Understanding the implications of the document, Jordanian government officials ordered that the publisher's printing house stop the presses while that edition's plates were confiscated. "The Jordanian security services, which censor newspapers in advance, intervened during the night to stop our print-run," confirmed Fahd Al Rimawi, an editor at Al-Majd.

On May 1, the Jordanian government explained its decision in a statement issued by the president of the Jordanian Press Association, Tareq al-Moumani. The statement claimed that Al-Majd had repeatedly published reports "based on information taken from intelligence sources and offends the country's security and interests".

Moumani explained that the printing house of the Jordanian Press Foundation had refused to print the April 30 edition because it included news reports that were harmful to Jordan "and offended a sisterly state". The "sisterly state" referred to is the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to published sources.

On May 2, the Jordanian government and Moumani gave further background on the Majd case. Moumani claimed that Al-Majd's report was "totally false" and not based on reliable sources. Nevertheless, two days later, Moumani was again being quoted in news reports, this time saying that the press association demanded "the lifting of the ban and insisted on abolishing any censorship".

(Al-Majd, which describes its editorial position as "Arab nationalist", has been in several scrapes with the Jordanian security services - including one incident when the newspaper was banned for two months over an editorial on Saudi Arabia.)

The Jordanian government's action brought swift condemnation from the international Committee to Protect Journalists. "This flagrant act of censorship is further evidence of the poor state of press freedom in Jordan," CPJ executive director Joel Simon said. "Officials should allow Al-Majd to be printed immediately."

The pressure seems to have worked. By the end of last week, Moumani announced that Jordanian authorities had lifted the ban and that the April 30 edition of Al-Majd would be reprinted.

Even so, Al-Majd's publication of the "Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency" might have faded into obscurity were it not for a May 4 article by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz detailing a US-sponsored "Benchmarks for Agreement on Movement and Access". The "Acceleration Benchmarks" document detailed a series of deadlines for Israel to begin dismantling a large number of its security obstacles and checkpoints in the West Bank - allowing increased access in the occupied territories.

The appearance of the "Benchmarks" document within days of the disclosure of the Majd document suggests a connection, though despite appearances, the former may not in fact be a component of the latter. On the contrary, the disclosure of the two plans in quick succession may reflect competing agendas coming from the US State Department and the White House.

Not surprisingly, the US press has failed to pick up on either the Majd or Haaretz story and has ignored the existence of the White House program aimed at undermining the Hamas government (see No-goodniks and the Palestinian shootout, Asia Times Online, January 9). The Majd document came to the attention of a wider audience when the Amman incident was reported in the weblog Missing Links, which translated sections of the document from Arabic and provided analysis on the proposed plan.

The details of the Majd incident, the publication of the "Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency", the commentary provided by Missing Links, and the subsequent publication of the additional US document in Haaretz have now made it possible to detail how the United States (or at least one faction of policymakers inside the administration) intends to implement its program to implement a "soft coup" against the Palestinian unity government.

America's 'action plan'
In the wake of the February Mecca Agreement, which called for the formation of a Palestinian unity government, White House officials scrambled to recast their anti-Hamas program. The resulting "action plan" relies heavily on the disbursement of US funds to build President Abbas' security forces at the same time that it escalates the delivery of money to specific development projects affiliated with his office.

The plan as delivered to Abbas, according to a Fatah official, is quite detailed - salaries would be provided to those parts of the Palestinian government closely affiliated with Fatah and supported by Abbas. The plan envisages delivering "a strong blow to Hamas by supplying the Palestinian people with their immediate economic needs through the presidency and Fatah". At the same time, the international boycott of Hamas would stay in place and Hamas-affiliated programs would be starved of funds.

Senior Fatah officials who oppose the program confirm the Majd claim that the action plan was drawn up between the White House and Arab intelligence officials. "You can see the hand of [Egyptian intelligence chief] Omar Sulieman in this," a Fatah official said. "It is no secret that he has been working with the Americans to strengthen Fatah."

But this Fatah official refused to implicate anyone in the Jordanian government, who he claimed "would be much more skeptical of this kind of thing - which may be why the document was leaked in the first place". And while this Fatah official could not say for certain who in the White House would author such a program, the document reflects the long-held views of White House Middle East adviser Elliott Abrams - known as the major impetus behind the rearming of Abbas' security force.

US worries over the increasingly weak position of Abbas are made clear in the action plan's language: "In the absence of strong efforts by Abbas to protect the position of the presidency as the center of gravity of the Palestinian leadership, it can be expected that international support for him will diminish and there won't be enthusiastic cooperation with him," the plan says.

"And a growing number of countries, including the European Union and the G8 [Group of Eight], will start to look for Palestinian partners that are more acceptable and more credible, and more able to make advances in security and governance. And this would strengthen the position of Hamas within Palestinian society, and would further weaken Fatah and the Palestinian presidency. And it would also diminish the chances for early elections."

The plan re-emphasizes the US commitment to building Abbas' security service, a program now funded by some US$59 million in direct congressionally approved security assistance. The money "will deter Hamas or any other faction from any attempt at
escalation, as long as the security control of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah is on a firm basis". The plan also counts on the support of the EU and World Bank.

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should propose, in consultation with the World Bank and the European Union, a plan that defines specific sectors and projects that are in need of financing, and that will show useful and tangible results on the

ground in the space of six to nine months, centering on the alleviation of poverty and unemployment," the plan notes. "And since some projects will take more than nine months, there should be a guarantee of adequate results within the nine months. This is so as to guarantee the usefulness of these projects before the elections."

Anticipating that Abbas' popularity would now be soaring - and money to his supporters flowing through his office - the plan proposes that Israel act to enhance Abbas' credibility further by removing roadblocks and barricades in the West Bank and easing Palestinian access to Gaza. "Abbas will need to be supplied with the means, both material and legal, to govern and to strengthen his credibility and legitimacy, so that he can comfortably call for parliamentary elections by the beginning of autumn 2007."

Perhaps the most interesting part of the action plan is in its authors' apparent need to cover up the fact that it is being proposed by the US and its Arab - Jordanian and Egyptian - allies. The plan states that it is designed to be presented to the Palestinians as something for them to support and to obtain the agreement of the United States and the Arab quartet, as a first step.

This would give Israel and the Europeans assurance that Abbas is taking the lead. The deception would be complete and US hands would be clean: the "action plan" would not be a US plan to undermine the Palestinian unity government - it would be Abbas' own plan.

Israel's role
On May 4, Haaretz published the US security plan for the West Bank and Gaza, which the newspaper had received from Israeli government officials on April 25. The document - authored by US General Keith Dayton, US Ambassador to Israel Dick Jones, and Consul-General in Jerusalem Jacob Walles - took more than a month to write, according to an American diplomat, and was begun in mid-March soon after the announcement of the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

The timing of the writing of the Haaretz document roughly coincides then with the "action plan" as written for the approval of Abbas, and indeed the two appear connected, either as interrelated plans or, perhaps more likely, reflecting an ongoing struggle inside Washington over who controls Middle East policymaking.

The goal of the US-sponsored "Benchmarks" document is to set a schedule for the removal of Israeli roadblocks and the opening of travel and trade passages in the occupied territories. But the document also contains a strong secondary component, which requires that Israel "approve requests for weapons, munitions and equipment required by defense forces" loyal to Abbas.

The plan's components envisage that Israelis and Palestinians will engage in a coordinated series of actions that will expand PA security control to all sectors of Gaza and the West Bank. Mohammad Dahlan, the newly named head of Abbas' National Security Council, will be charged with drawing up and implementing a security plan that will ensure this. Israel will then slowly ease travel restrictions in specific areas of the West Bank according to a detailed schedule.

But there are two key components of the program - first, that Israel will approve and support the transfer of "armaments, ammunition and equipment" to Dahlan's forces at Dayton's direction and at his specific request and that, in exchange, the PA security forces will implement a program that will suppress Qassam rocket fire into Israel.

According to the "Benchmarks" document, Dahlan would be required to develop a plan against Qassam rockets with the support of President Abbas by no later than June 21, and the forces under Dahlan must be deployed to problem areas no later than that date. The Palestinian forces would also be required to prevent arms smuggling in the Rafah area in coordination with Israel - a long-standing sore point with senior Israel Defense Forces officials since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Within 24 hours of the "Benchmarks" document's publication, Abbas endorsed it. But the plan was swiftly dismissed by Hamas. The organization's Damascus-based leader, Khalid Meshaal, declared that the proposal was "a farce", as it implied that Israeli checkpoints would only be removed as the Palestinians slowly ratcheted down their resistance to the occupation.

"The equation has now become dismantling the checkpoints in exchange for ending the Palestinian resistance," Meshaal said. The Israeli government also hesitated, saying that it would study the proposal. Israeli defense officials took a much harder line, saying that the adoption of the plan would harm Israeli security.

Washington moved quickly to reassure its ally. The plan merely promoted "suggestions and ideas that we have circulated", a State Department spokesman said. "It's not any kind of formal agreement nor is it something that is being enforced on anybody." Four days later, a US Embassy official in Tel Aviv said it was not a "take it or leave it" document, but "an informal draft" of "suggestions" that could "help facilitate discussion, engagement and action".

In the wake of the Majd incident and the publication of the "Benchmarks" document in Haaretz, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice abruptly canceled her trip to Israel, citing "political turmoil" in the Israeli government. In truth, the real turmoil is in Washington, where successive attempts to jump-start a peace process have in effect been short-circuited by Rice's diplomatic fecklessness ("We just don't think she has the president's mandate," an Israeli official notes), or by the White House's willful disregard of Rice's efforts to show America's allies that the US will move to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Condi is just not in charge of your Middle East policy," one Israeli official commented. "Every time she turns around, Elliott Abrams is slapping her down. It's embarrassing." The embarrassment has now become public.

In a breakfast meeting at the White House last Thursday, Abrams told a group of Jewish Republicans that they should not put too much stock in efforts to pressure Israel to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. "He said that pressure on Israel was all for show," a congressional staffer familiar with the meeting said, "and that it was being done just to satisfy the Europeans and Arabs.

"He said, 'You know, we have to show that we're doing something. You really shouldn't worry about it.'"

Abrams, according to a report on the same meeting that appeared in Haaretz, said the talks among Rice, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on prospective negotiations was just "process for the sake of process". The Haaretz report noted that "some of the attendees understood Abrams' comments as an assurance that the peace initiative promoted by Rice doesn't have the full backing of President George W Bush".

Reports of Abrams' comments brought an immediate White House response: "It is inaccurate to suggest that the White House and State Department are at odds on this issue, for the entire administration - including Mr Abrams - is committed to pursuing it [Rice's peace initiative] and the rest of the president's agenda."

Despite this, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that Rice's program - enforcing Israeli compliance with dropping barriers in the West Bank and easing access to Gaza - will be implemented while on the other hand the US program to undermine Hamas seems destined to continue. And in the end, Washington observers note, it is likely that in the current Abrams-Rice tussle, Abrams will win - and the Palestinians will lose.

Mark Perry is the co-director of Conflicts Forum, a Beirut-based organization dedicated to providing an opening to political Islam. He is a political consultant in Washington, DC. Paul Woodward is the managing editor of the Conflicts Forum website and also creator and editor of the foreign affairs blog War in Context.

(Copyright 2007 Mark Perry and Paul Woodward. Used by permission.)


What If Pigs Fly? 

‘Israeli firing on stone-throwing Palestinians only self defence’

* Former adviser of Israeli prime minister says firing directly at unarmed stone throwers spiteful, must be avoided

By Iftikhar Gilani

JERUSALAM: Former adviser of Israeli prime ministers and defence forces, Daniel Reisner, on Tuesday said that Israeli forces resorted to firing on stone-throwing Palestinian protesters only as a means of “self defence” during the first Palestine uprising, Intifada-I, between 1987-1993.

He said the first Intifida forced Tel Aviv to start secret talks with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), leading to the Oslo Accord.

He, however, made distinction between Israeli responses to Intifada-I and Intifada-II of 2000, which he said was a “militant uprising”. 

Talking to a group of Indian journalists, who wanted to know Israeli response to unarmed civilian protesters, as in Indian-held Kashmir, Reisner said firing directly at unarmed stone throwers was spiteful and must be avoided at all costs.

Reisner also served as a senior member of Israel’s peace delegations with Jordan and Palestine. 

“During the 1987 Intifada, we actually invented quite a bit of riot-control equipment. We invented a stone-throwing vehicle, and we invented a helicopter-dropped net,” he said.

Israel also sent groups of experts to tour every single country in the world that had such capabilities – 26 different countries and military organisations. “We developed new systems to meet the new threat, which means they were effective at longer ranges, to keep the people away and prevent them coming near us into effective ranges of live-fire weapons,” he said.

“We also used a device that emitted penetrating bursts of sound that leaves targets reeling with dizziness and nausea,” he said.

Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads, overcome by dizziness and nausea, after the vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10 seconds.

The device emits a special frequency that targets the inner ear. 

“Exposure for several minutes at close range could cause auditory damage, but the noise is too intolerable for people to remain in the area for that long,” he said.

He conceded that some non-lethal weapons, like rubber-coated steel bullets had caused dozens of Palestinian fatalities. Israel forces had come out with tranquilliser bullets as well. “But they were not approved as they would have proved fatal for children,” Reisner said. 

Further, Israeli forces were advised to identify instigators and fire only at their feet, he said.

“And if it was not possible, orders were to simply retreat unless the mob became life threatening,” he added.

He claimed that Israel changed its anti-terrorism laws only after Intifada-II in 2000, when the forces had to confront suicide bombers, rockets, missile and sniper attacks. 

The current IHK uprising and first Palestine Intifada have striking resemblances. Palestinian civilians protested Israeli occupation in loosely organised confrontations, in which Palestinian youths burned automobiles and pelted Israeli troops with rocks.

The uprising wrested an important political concession from a nation that had previously proven its military dominance of the region in a series of conventional conflicts.

It also resulted in Egypt withdrawing claims on the Gaza Strip and Jordan recognising the West Bank as a Palestinian territory.


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