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Thursday, May 26th

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U.N. calls U.S. human rights record "deplorable"

The United Nations has released a new report on accountability for human rights abuses by the United States, focusing mostly on transgressions during the Bush administration's so-called war on terror. In a word, accountability in the U.S. has been "deplorable."

The May 26, 2009, report by Australian law professor Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, does praise the United States for establishing compensation payments for civilians accidentally killed by U.S. forces in the heat of battle. But Alston quickly adds the following: "However, there have been chronic and deplorable accountability failures with respect to policies, practice and conduct that resulted in alleged unlawful killings -- including possible war crimes -- in the United States' international operations."

A summary from the report follows below. But the body of the document doesn't pull any punches either.

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U.S. man who gave secrets to Israel spared prison

An 85-year-old former civilian employee of the U.S. Army was fined but avoided prison time on Friday after earlier pleading guilty to giving classified documents to Israel in the 1980s in a case the sentencing judge said was "shrouded in mystery."

Court documents showed that Ben-Ami Kadish, who was fined $50,000 but spared prison time, reported to the same handler as Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel in the 1980s and triggered a scandal that rocked U.S.-Israeli relations.

"Why it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish is shrouded in mystery," U.S. District Judge William Pauley said during the sentencing hearing in Manhattan federal court. "It is clear the (U.S.) government could have charged Mr. Kadish with far more serious crimes."

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US violated Geneva Conventions, Bush Iraq commander says

The head of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, said Friday that the US had violated the Geneva Conventions in a stunning admission from President Bush’s onetime top general in Iraq that the US may have violated international law.

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Revealed: the best protection against cancer

Boosting levels of vitamin D could cut the incidence of breast cancer by a quarter, bowel cancer by a third and it should be offered to the population as part of a public health drive, scientists say.

The finding is based on a review of 2,750 research studies involving vitamin D, sometimes called "bottled sunshine", which show that taking daily supplements of the vitamin could do more for cancer prevention than a library full of lifestyle advice.

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New report appears to directly contradict White House denial on abuse photos

A new report appears to directly contradict denials by the White House and the Pentagon that abuse photographs the Obama administration has withheld are worse than previously known.

In a posting Friday, an American reporter says he’s confirmed allegations printed in British newspapers that unreleased photographs of US servicemembers abusing prisoners include graphic images of rape, sexually explicit acts, sodomy and forced masturbation.

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Tortured while MI5 left the room Briton’s claim after 7/7 attacks

After being stripped, beaten and told that his wife would be raped and murdered and her body burned, Rahman says he agreed to make a lengthy tape-recorded confession to a number of terrorist offences, including masterminding the suicide bomb attacks on London’s transport network the previous July.

He says he was then questioned by two well-spoken Britons by the names of Liam and Andrew, who said they were MI5 officers. When he told them he had been tortured and had made false confessions, and asked for their help, he says the two said they “needed a break”. Andrew is said to have added: “They haven’t done a very good job on you.” Rahman says he was then beaten, had extreme pressure exerted on his testicles, and was told his wife was to be raped. When the questioning resumed, according to Rahman, Andrew said: “That’s good, you’ve learned your lesson.” Rahman then made a series of admissions that he and his lawyers say were false. He says he was also shown a number of maps that he was instructed to copy on to pieces of paper, which were taken away by the two.

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Toxic link: the WHO and the IAEA

A 50-year-old agreement with the IAEA has effectively gagged the WHO from telling the truth about the health risks of radiation.

Fifty years ago, on 28 May 1959, the World Health Organisation's assembly voted into force an obscure but important agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency – the United Nations "Atoms for Peace" organisation, founded just two years before in 1957. The effect of this agreement has been to give the IAEA an effective veto on any actions by the WHO that relate in any way to nuclear power – and so prevent the WHO from playing its proper role in investigating and warning of the dangers of nuclear radiation on human health.

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MOBILE phones DO increase the risk of brain cancer, scientists claimed yesterday.

The chances of developing a malignant tumour are "significantly increased" for people who use a mobile for ten years.

The shock finding is the result of the biggest ever study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation.

Scientists found a type of brain tumour called glioma is more likely in long-term mobile users.

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Oil firms and loggers 'push indigenous people to brink of extinction'

Five "uncontacted" tribes are at imminent risk of extinction as oil companies, colonists and loggers invade their territiories. The semi-nomadic groups, who live deep in the forests of Peru, Brazil and Paraguay, are vulnerable to common western diseases such as flu and measles but also risk being killed by armed gangs, according to a report by Survival International, which identifies the five groups as the most threatened on Earth.

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