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Bush condones torture

About the author
Nikolaj Nielsen is an independent journalist and editor based in Brussels.

A torture technique once used in the Spanish Inquisition has been condoned by the US president. George Bush vetoed a Congressional bill outlawing water boarding and other forms of torture. Bush's latest exercise of executive power will allow the CIA to continue practicing waterboarding. Bush claims the bill would have made it more difficult for CIA operatives to obtain key information from terrorists, despite compelling evidence and advice that suggests otherwise. US General David H. Petraeus says the use of waterboarding will increase the risks of torture for future American prisoners of war. Democrats may attempt to override the veto but require a two-third majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to do so.

The toD verdict: Waterboarding simulates drowning and is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, even under US law the technique is considered a war crime. Bush has used his veto power nine times, eight of which occurred in the past ten months under a Congress dominated by Democrats. The New York Times first reported the use of the technique by American interrogators in 2004 but a CIA Director Michael Hayden recently admitted that waterboarding has been on the table since 2002. Hayden's admission, along with Bush's approval of torture, will most likely enflame anti-American sentiment and provide more militant recruitment material against American forces and their allies.

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US funding Taliban

A former Pashtun Afghan Taliban commander claims some of the US Defence Department's $10 billion aid to Pakistan was diverted to train militants in and around North and South Waziristan. The commander, who remains unnamed, says Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) helped train him and other Taliban and al-Qaida to fight against US and international coalition forces. He claims ISI also provided weapons and was once given a load of Russian Sakar-20 rockets by an ISI captain. The Defence Department's handout, known as the Coalition Support Fund, is only now beginning to get attention from US officials who cite gross budgetary discrepancies on Pakistan's behalf.

China suspects terrorist activity

Chinese authorities detained two individuals accused of sabotaging a China Southern passenger plane in the Xinjang region on route to Beijing last Friday. Meagre details from Xinjiang's governor on Sunday suggest one of the individuals was a Uighir woman with several containers of fuel. Xinjiang is home to over eight million Muslim Uighurs whose identity has not sat easily within the Han majority Chinese state. Muslim Uighurs abroad claim the latest incident reflects China's policy of using terrorism as an excuse to repress ethnic minorities. Chinese authorities have offered no definitive proof of the alleged plot to sabotage the plane.

Sri Lankan rebels take part in polls

For the first time in over a decade, citizens in the eastern Batticalao district of Sri Lanka cast their votes in a local election. Batticalao has witnessed heavy fighting between rebels, government forces and rebel splinter groups. The election is seen as a precursor to the larger north-south provincial poll. One person was killed and several others injured in a bomb blast Monday in the capital, Columbo. So far over 5,000 people have been killed in the civil war since 2006 and another 140,000 displaced.

Tibet protest march

Tibet exiles start their 6-month protest march against China today. The exiles will march from India to Tibet and hope to draw attention to China's policy against Tibetan Buddhism. Monday marks the anniversary for Tibet's failed uprising against China in 1959.

Farmers and world food demand

World food demand is pressuring farmers to produce more as food prices increase globally. For many, the price hikes will directly affect health and lead to malnutrition. Soybeans increased from $8.50 a bushel in August to $12.79. It is feared bio-fuels will now compete with food and make it more difficult to feed those already suffering from the price hikes.

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