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WASHINGTON: Doctors and nurses tasked with monitoring the health of terror suspects were complicit in abuses committed at prisons run by the Pentagon and the CIA, an independent report said yesterday. The Defense Department and the CIA demanded that the health care personnel “collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in US custody,” according to the two-year study by the Institute of Medicine and the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.

Medical professionals helped design, enable and participated in “torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees, according to the report. Collaboration at US prisons in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the Central Intelligence Agency secret detention sites began after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. “It’s clear that in the name of national security, the military trumped (the Hippocratic Oath), and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice,” said study co-author Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University.

The Hippocratic Oath is a commitment made by medical personnel to practice their profession in an honest and ethical manner. The report, conducted by two dozen military, ethics, medical, public health and legal experts, calls on the US Senate Intelligence Committee to fully investigate medical practices at the detention sites. Co-author Leonard Rubenstein of Johns Hopkins University focused on force-feeding on Guantanamo Bay’s hunger strikers, as well as CIA agents’ use of harsh interrogation methods and simulated drowning known as waterboarding at secret sites. “Abuse of detainees and health professional participation in this practice is not behind us as a country,” he said. The authors also urged the Pentagon and CIA to follow standards of conduct that would let medical personnel adhere to their ethical principles so they could later heal detainees they encounter. Both the CIA and the Pentagon rejected the report’s findings.

The report “contains serious inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions,” said CIA public affairs chief Dean Boyd. “It’s important to underscore that the CIA does not have any detainees in its custody and President (Barack) Obama terminated the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program by executive order in 2009,” Boyd said. Obama signed an executive order shortly after taking office in 2009 that banned interrogation techniques used under his predecessor George W Bush and that critics say amount to torture. Although the president has not banned extraordinary rendition, new rules prevent suspects from being tortured before they are transferred to a different country for interrogation, trial or continued detention. Obama also established a task force to review interrogation and transfer policies and issue recommendations, but the group’s 2009 report remains classified. —AFP

LOS ANGELES: Police were hunting for a motive yesterday after a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport, killing an unarmed federal official, terrifying hundreds, and sowing chaos at the busy transport hub. Panicked travelers scrambled to escape after the shooter-identified as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia-armed with an assault rifle, blasted through a security checkpoint at the airport shortly after 9:00 am Friday. Ciancia then walked calmly through the terminal seeking further victims. He was eventually stopped when police shot and wounded him. TV footage showed people diving to the floor at the sound of gunfire and scrambling to escape the terminal.

The dead agent was the first Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee killed in the line of duty since the group was set up following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The lone gunman, who reportedly had a grudge against the TSA, also wounded seven people in the rampage. But he was still carrying plenty of ammunition when he was arrested, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “There were more than 100 more rounds that could have literally killed everybody in that terminal today,” he said, praising airport police. “If it were not for their actions, there could have been a lot more damage,” he said.

“My prayers are with the TSA family today and with your fallen. Thank you for your courage and your service. Our country is indebted,” Garcetti later wrote on his Facebook account. The mayor also ordered flags on city buildings to fly at half-mast in honor of the slain TSA agent. While reports suggested Ciancia-who was shot several times before he went down-was a disgruntled loner, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it could not rule out terrorism.

The shooter opened fire in a crowded terminal of the country’s third-busiest airport. He “came into Terminal Three, pulled an assault rifle out of a bag and began to open fire,” said Patrick Gannon, head of the airport police. “He proceeded up into the screening area … and continued shooting,” he said. Police chased the gunman, “engaged him in gunfire… and were able to successfully take him into custody.” The terminal remained close Saturday as authorities carried out a detailed investigation of the shooting.

‘DISAPPOINTMENT IN GOVT’
The TSA, which employs unarmed screeners at airports, confirmed that one of its employees had died. “Multiple Transportation Security Officers were shot, one fatally,” said a TSA statement. The FBI later named the shooter, and said that he was a Los Angeles resident originally from the eastern state of New Jersey. Police found a note on the gunman voicing “disappointment in the government” but that he did not want to harm “innocent people,” a law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

It appeared that Ciancia was hunting for TSA agents. During the shooting spree, which lasted less than 10 minutes, he approached a number of people cowering in the terminal and pointed his gun at them, asking if they “were TSA.” If they answered “no,” he moved on, the Times reported, citing witnesses who said he cursed the TSA repeatedly.

Late Friday, the TSA identified the dead officer as Gerardo Hernandez, 39, US media reported. Before the shooting, Ciancia texted his younger brother that he might harm himself, the Washington Post reported Saturday. This led the shooter’s father to contact local New Jersey police, who in turn contacted their counterparts in Los Angeles. LAPD officers visited Ciancia’s home on Friday but could not find him, according to the Post. Brian Adamick, 43, said he saw a wounded TSA worker, with a bloodied ankle, board a shuttle bus helping passengers escape. “It looked like it was straight out of the movies,” he said.

Some 750 flights were disrupted after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a national ground-stop. Although there was no indication that other people were involved in the attack, the FBI said it could not rule out terrorism. “It would be premature to comment on a motivation at this time and joint investigators have neither ruled out terrorism, nor ruled it in,” said an FBI statement. This being Los Angeles, a number of celebrities were caught up in the action.

Filming of an episode of the hit TV show “Mad Men” underway in nearby Terminal Four was halted, a crew member wrote on Twitter. Actor James Franco posted a “selfie” picture of himself on a plane stopped on the tarmac by the incident. “Some s**tbag shot up the place,” he wrote in the first of a series of tweets, ending some five hours later with a more relieved message: “WE’RE OUT! everyone was calm.” The shooting comes just weeks ahead of the stressful end-of-year travel period that includes Thanksgiving-traditionally the busiest travel time of the year-and Christmas._ AFP

WASHINGTON: Airline passengers will soon be allowed to use a range of mobile electronic devices in flight with very few restrictions, US aviation authorities said Thursday.

The move by the Federal Aviation Administration put an end to stricter regulations that have barred the use of electronics during taxi, takeoff and landing for the past 50 years.

The changes are expected to take effect on most US-based carriers by the end of this year.

“Airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta told reporters at Reagan National Airport.

The relaxed safety guidelines came from a committee convened last year to study the matter, and included input from pilots, passengers, flight attendants, aviation manufacturers and experts from the mobile technology industry.

“The committee determined that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices,” Huerta said.

“It is safe to read downloaded materials like e-books and calendars, and also to play games.”However, in rare cases passengers may be asked to turn off their devices when there is low visibility due to poor weather, he said.

“Some landing systems may not be proven to tolerate the interference,” Huerta said, describing this as “a very small percentage -- we are saying one percent of flights.””If the captain asks you to shut off the device, it is for a good reason,” he added.

Mobile phones still cannot be used for voice calls while in flight, due to rules from another federal agency, the Federal Communications Commission.

Passengers will be advised to use their mobile devices in airplane mode, which shuts off the cellular band technology.

But flight attendants will not be required to check individual devices, so the rule will likely go unenforced. “There is no safety problem if it isn't (in airplane mode),” Huerta added.

“But you are going to arrive at your destination with a dead battery, and I don't think anyone wants that.”He also addressed concerns that passengers may become more distracted by their devices, making them more likely to ignore the flight attendants as they describe emergency procedures prior to takeoff.

The changes affect airline carriers that are under the regulatory authority of the FAA, meaning US-based carriers, and will apply to the full scope of their international and domestic operations, Huerta said.

The committee called on the FAA to work with international regulatory authorities so that expanded use of personal devices is “universally accepted.”European aviation authorities also said that they are planning to allow the usage of portable electronic devices during flights.

“It is clear that it is necessary to develop the rules in force and the conditions of their application,” a spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) told AFP.

The new FAA guidelines are being distributed to airlines now.

Delta Air Lines said it was already making changes and would be ready to allow passengers to use mobile devices below 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) as early as November 1.

The very first FAA restrictions on personal electronics in flight date back to 1966, when studies showed that portable FM radio receivers caused interference with some plane navigation systems.

But some concern was expressed by Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller, chair of the committee on commerce, science and transportation.

“Having access to e-mail or a movie is not worth compromising the safety of any flight,” he said, calling for “exhaustive oversight” of the changes by the FAA.

The new rules say bulkier electronic items must be still be stowed, either in the overhead bin or under the seat, during takeoff and landing.

Smaller devices can be held or put in the seat back pocket during takeoff and landing.

Browsing the Internet will continue to be possible on air carriers that provide Wi-Fi in flight, and Bluetooth technology for wireless keyboards will also be allowed.

“I think it'll be great,” said Mike Sullivan, 62, a musician and therapist who described himself as a frequent traveler.

“It seems like there is always someone who doesn't want to turn off their device. It creates a little bit of tension.”

WASHINGTON: A Pakistani elementary school teacher, whose mother was killed in a US drone strike last year, Tuesday urged the United States to end unmanned operations and help bring peace to the tribal areas through cooperative efforts with Pakistan.

Rafiq-ur-Rehman made the plea in a joint Congressional briefing, where his children nine-year-old daughter Nabila Rehman, and 13-year-old Zubair Rehman, who were both injured by the drone strike, also recounted their emotional experiences.

The family traveled to Washington on the invitation of Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, to provide their accounts of the attack that killed Rafiq's 67-year-old mother, Momina Bibi in North Waziristan, a year ago.

Nobody has been able to explain why this drone hit his home, Rehman told the hearing, also attended by other members of Congress. His mother, Rehman said, was the binding force for the family and life has not been the same for the family since her death.

He said in North Waziristan, people live under fear of drones. “Drones are not the answer” to the problems, he said, speaking through an interpreter. Justice must be delivered to those who have suffered as a result of drone attacks, the school teacher said.

The unprecedented briefing by survivors of drone strikes took place amid international calls for greater transparency. Washington has defended its drone campaign, saying the counterterrorism actions are the least harmful and effective against militants.

If he has the opportunity to meet President Obama, he will ask him to “find a peaceful end to the war in my country, and end these drones,” Rehman said at the briefing.

He said he has seen people living peacefully in the United States and wanted a similar peaceful environment in North Waziristan and dreams that his children would be able to complete their education and help rebuild Pakistan. “We can achieve peace through education,” he said.

A preview from the upcoming Brave New Films documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars was shown at the briefing, moderated by Robert Greenwald, the documentary's director.

The lawmakers, attending the briefing, expressed their profound regrets over what had happened to the family and noted that the briefing highlighted the importance of transparency and conversation on the costs and benefits of the drone operations.

Congressman Grayson, Representative Jan Schakowsky and Representative Jon Conyers also addressed the hearing.

Human Rights Charity Reprieve Staff Attorney Jennifer Gibson called for bringing the drone war out of the shadows, stressing transparency.

DUBAI: The Gulf Emirate of Dubai on Sunday opened passenger operations at its second airport, Al-Maktoum International, touted to be the world’s largest once it is completed.

A Wizz Air plane from Budapest was the first passenger aircraft to land at the sprawling new facility, and it was welcomed on the tarmac with a water cannon salute.

Jazeera Airways, another low-cost carrier, will follow suit on Thursday with daily flights to and from Kuwait, while Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, will begin operations on December 8.

No other airlines have announced intentions to use the new airport, which lies some 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Dubai International, one of the world’s busiest hubs for air passengers.

Paul Griffiths, chief executive officer of Dubai Airports, was confident that other companies would follow “in the coming months”.

He pointed out that 36 cargo carriers currently operate out of the new airport, compared to only two in 2010.

Dubai International handled 57 million passengers in 2012, as it has become a major stop for air traffic between the West, Asia and Australasia.

Al-Maktoum International was opened only for cargo in June 2010, while passenger operations were repeatedly delayed.

The new airport is situated in Dubai World Central, an economic zone the government hopes to turn into what it calls an “aerotropolis”.

Once completed, it is to feature five runways that will be able to handle an annual capacity of 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo.

It is built next to Dubai Jebel Ali Free Zone and its port, which is one of the world’s largest man-made harbours, and a major containers terminal.

It is part of a grand project announced during Dubai’s economic boom, but the pace of progress slowed during the global financial crisis that also hit the Gulf Emirate in 2009.

The airport “will play a vital role in the future development of Dubai as a centre for trade, commerce, transport, logistics and tourism”, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Airports, said in a statement.

The new airport is not aimed at replacing Dubai International, where expansion work is continuing, at least not for the time being, according to Mr Griffiths.

“If DXB (Dubai International) is to close, it isn’t a decision we have to make probably for the next 30, 40 years,” he told journalists.—AFP

 

PATNA: A series of small bomb blasts killed six people and injured dozens near a park in eastern India where tens of thousands of people had gathered to hear a speech by the main opposition party’s prime ministerial candidate.

Panic erupted briefly among those who had gathered in the park in the Bihar state capital of Patna after at least five small blasts went off nearby.

Police detained one man for questioning, but did not say whether he was a suspect.

At least 50 people were being treated, according to the head of Patna Medical College hospital, Vimal Karak.

The first blast came from a crude bomb that exploded in a public toilet building on an isolated railway platform, Patna district police chief Manu Maharaj said.

A man who was wounded in the blast later died in a hospital.

Another bomb went off near a movie theater, and two more exploded just outside the park, sending plumes of gray smoke swirling above the crowd.

''All the bombs produced low-intensity blasts,'' Maharaj said.

Bomb disposal and forensic teams found two unexploded bombs around the railway station and were defusing them, railway police superintendent Upendra Kumar Sinha said.

Authorities quickly restored order at the rally, and it went ahead as scheduled with a speech by Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

In the first half hour of his speech, however, Modi did not mention the blasts.

His plans to visit Bihar have been controversial since the state’s highest elected leader, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, severed ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party six months ago to protest Modi’s candidacy. Kumar has questioned Modi’s secular credentials and suggested that he could exacerbate communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India.

TRIPOLI: Libya marked the second anniversary yesterday of its “liberation” from loyalists of veteran dictator Muammar Gaddafi with no official celebrations as it struggles to heal the wounds of the conflict. The post-Gaddafi authorities are still struggling to assert their writ over large swathes of the country. Many rebel units which fought in the bloody NATO-backed revolt against Gaddafi’s forces have refused to lay down their arms and now operate as more or less autonomous militias, sometimes in outright defiance of the government.

The government did issue a brief statement on Tuesday, congratulating the people on the “decisive day that ended tyranny and despotism.” On October 23, 2011, the victorious rebels declared the “liberation” of Libya from Gaddafi loyalists three days, after the once-feared dictator was captured and killed outside his home town Sirte in the final battle of the eight-month conflict. But two years on, there was no sign of any preparations for festivities in either the capital or second city of Benghazi, birthplace of the uprising. The anniversary comes less than two weeks after a former rebel militia briefly kidnapped Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, exposing the persistent weakness of the central government. Tripoli resident Abdelhadi Al-Sultan, 41, was downbeat about the anniversary. “Nothing has changed in Libya,” he said as he left a mosque. “Libya is not getting better, it is heading towards worse things because of the militias that really govern the country”.

With the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, the country’s once-pervasive security apparatus also collapsed, and the new authorities have struggled to create a replacement army and police force. Instead it has had to rely on the former rebel militias which have their own competing ideological, regional and tribal loyalties. Despite the chaos, Fethi Terbel, the lawyer and human rights activist whose arrest on February 15, 2011 sparked Libya’s uprising, was tentatively optimistic. “I have a positive outlook two years after the liberation, despite the bitterness that dominates most people’s feelings and which seems to me to be the natural result of a revolution still in its infancy,” he said. Terbel said that Libya’s instability was the “legacy of the former regime,” which left “state institutions in meltdown”.

The roadmap for the transition to democracy was supposed to give the country sustainable institutions to help bring stability. But the current turmoil has cast doubts over the roadmap. The failure of the government to set up a professional police and army has prompted mounting criticism of its human rights record. Residents of Tawargha, a town that was a base for Gaddafi’s forces during the 2011 uprising, have been hounded out of their homes and prevented from returning by former rebels, Amnesty International said yesterday. “The Libyan authorities must urgently find a durable solution to end the continued forcible displacement of tens of thousands of Tawarghas,” the watchdog said.— AFP

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