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Wednesday, Sep 17th

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My Lai 45 Years Later—And the Unknown Atrocities of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan

My Lai massacreForty-five years ago today, March 16, roughly 100 U.S. troops were flown by helicopter to the outskirts of a small Vietnamese hamlet called My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Over a period of four hours, the Americans methodically slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systematically burned homes, and fouled the area’s drinking water.

On this day, I think back to an interview I conducted several years ago with a tiny, wizened woman named Tran Thi Nhut. She told me about hiding in an underground bunker as the Americans stormed her hamlet and how she emerged to find a scene of utter horror: a mass of corpses in a caved-in trench and, especially, the sight of a woman’s leg sticking out at an unnatural angle which haunted her for decades. She lost her mother and a son in the massacre. But Tran Thi Nhut never set foot in My Lai. She lived two provinces north, in a little hamlet named Phi Phu which—she and other villagers told me—lost more than 30 civilians to a 1967 massacre by U.S. troops.

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U.S. acknowledges 14 on hunger strike at Guantánamo prison

Hunger strikeThe U.S. military said Friday that it had designated 14 captives at the Guantánamo detention center as “hunger strikers,” and that six of them were being force-fed through tubes in the first admission of a protest claimed by defense attorneys.

The acknowledgement came a day after 51 attorneys wrote Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel of their “urgent and grave concern about a mass hunger strike taking place at the prison, now in its second month.” They sought Hagel’s intervention in “a serious threat to the health and life of detainees.”

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Unholy Alliance: The Vatican, Iran and Russia

UN commission on womenSome horrific events over the past few months, including the shooting of a Pakistani schoolgirl and the rape and murder of a young Indian physiotherapy student, should have been an alert for the world to unite in preventing violence against women.

But if a conference now under way at the United Nations is any guide, that message has not resounded with the necessary urgency. Halfway into their two-week annual meeting, delegates to the Commission on the Status of Women fear they will not be able to agree on a final communiqué, just like last year.

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Queen Elizabeth II to sign new charter backing gay rights

Queen ElizabethThe Queen will sign a new Commonwealth charter opposing discrimination suffered by women, gay people and ethnic minorities.

In a special ceremony to mark Commonwealth Day on Monday, she will also give a speech endorsing the new agreement which states signatories oppose “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds”.

The words “other grounds” are said to refer to sexuality however any specific references to gay people are not included to avoid antagonising Commonwealth countries that retain laws against homosexuals, according to the Mail on Sunday.

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Revealed: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centers

Iraq torture linked to PentagonGeneral David Petraeus and 'dirty wars' veteran behind commando units implicated in detainee abuse.

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country's descent into full-scale civil war.

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U.N. investigator urges U.S. to pursue Bush-era abuses

Bush torture programA United Nations investigator called on the United States on Monday to publish its findings on the CIA's Bush-era program of rendition and secret detention of terrorism suspects.

Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, voiced concern that while President Barack Obama's administration has rejected Central Intelligence Agency practices conducted under his predecessor George W. Bush, there have been no prosecutions.

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Autopsy casts doubt over first Israeli version of how Palestinian prisoner died

Arafat jaradat funeralOn the evening of Feb. 18, Israeli authorities arrested Arafat Jaradat, 30, on suspicion that he had thrown stones at Israeli soldiers. Five days later, he was dead. Now his story has come to symbolize what many Palestinians and human rights groups say are the torturous interrogation methods used by Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet.

A spokeswoman for Israel Prison Services, Sivan Weizman, originally said that Jaradat had died in Meggido Prison of a heart attack. But a different picture emerged when Israel’s Ministry of Health released a statement describing what doctors found during their autopsy.

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