US Firm’s Teargas Used at Tahrir Square

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Egypt’s military junta fired CS gas cartridges made by Combined Systems Inc of Pennsylvania, say demonstrators

By Jack Shenker in Cairo and Luke Harding

The teargas used by interior ministry troops in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is supplied by a US company. Demonstrators say cartridges retrieved from the scene are branded with the name and address of Combined Systems Inc (CSI).

The firm is located in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. It specialises in supplying what it calls “crowd control devices” to armies and “homeland security agencies” around the world. It also manufactures lethal military equipment.

Protesters say the CS gas seems more powerful than that used by Egyptian police during the country’s last popular uprising in February. “It’s stronger, it burns your face, it makes you feel like your whole body is seizing up,” one witness said. He added: “It doesn’t seem to be combated by Coke or vinegar.”

Experts told the Guardian the gas was likely to be standard CS gas, but the effects could be exacerbated by physical exertion.

As well as the effects of the teargas, protesters have suffered grave injuries to their heads and faces from rubber bullets. There are also reports of live ammunition being used. Dozens of people have been taken to makeshift hospitals after inhaling the choking gas fired by the Central Security Forces.

The export of teargas to foreign law enforcement agencies is not prohibited. CSI has also sold teargas to the Israeli police, where it has been deployed against Palestinian demonstrators, as well as, reportedly, to the regime of Tunisia’s ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Nevertheless, the revelation that people are being gassed and hurt by US-manufactured projectiles is embarrassing for the Obama administration.

“We have seen the illegitimate and indiscriminate use of teargas,” Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Cairo, said, of Egypt’s most recent street protests, as well as the original revolution in February. “There are a few cartridges from Italy but the vast majority are from the USA.”

She said teargas did not constitute direct military aid, since it was sold to the interior ministry rather than the army. But she added: “Ideally governments should be verifying who they are selling teargas to.”

Morayef said the gas was having a devastating effect on its victims, with everyone left choking, and hundreds forced to seek medical treatment. Protesters have also retrieved 12mm rubber bullet cartridges made in Italy. “One person I know ended up coughing up blood,” she said. Human Rights Watch intended to examine the canisters to discover exactly what kind of gas was being used, she added.

Alastair Hay, professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said police in Cairo were almost certainly using conventional CS gas. “It’s a standard riot control agent which has been around for a very long time,” he said.

Hay said its effects were extremely unpleasant. “It’s an eye and respiratory tract irritant, largely. It will also cause skin irritation.”

The chemical compound used in CS gas – 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile – was “perfectly legitimate”, with many commercial companies involved in selling it, and domestic governments willing to make use of it in riot situations, he added.

US army trials showed CS gas had a far more serious effect on people taking part in physical activity than those sitting passively, sometimes leaving its victims needing intensive care afterwards. The way to get rid of it was “constant irrigation” to wash away the affected areas, Hay said.

There was no immediate comment from CSI.

The company’s website says it was founded in 1981. It adds: “Combined Systems Inc (CSI) is a US-based firm that supports military forces and law enforcement agencies around the world. CSI is a premier engineering, manufacturing and supply company of tactical munitions and crowd control devices globally to armed forces, law enforcement, corrections and homeland security agencies.

“[…] In addition to its military products, CSI markets its innovative line of less lethal munitions, tactical munitions and crowd-control products to domestic law enforcement agencies under its law enforcement brand name, CTS. CSI also supports its wide base of international military and law enforcement customers with its line of non-lethal munitions.”

guardian.co.uk

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Tax Dollars Used Against Islam and Muslims

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO

A few weeks ago, a former Palestinian Muslim, who is now an ultra conservative Christian equated Islam with terrorism describing the two inseparable. There is nothing new in what the so called former PLO terrorist said or says on a regular basis. In the last 10 years, several individuals claiming to speak on behalf of Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism have spoken openly against Islam and Muslim Americans in particular. Expressing one’s opinion is everyone’s right and that right must be preserved even if it is based on misconception or lies.

What is problematic is that the Homeland Security invited the so called terrorist-turned Christian to an official event attended by more than 300 law enforcement officials in South Dakota. This is a violation of our constitution that clearly indicates that the people’s tax dollars would not be spent in either promoting or targeting a particular religion. The so called expert was paid 5,000 plus other expenses.  In other word, the our tax dollars were spent on supporting someone whose anti-Islam agenda is well known. If the Homeland Security had invited a Muslim American to counter his argument, one could have argued that the purpose of the event was to have a balanced perspective. However, by giving money and podium to an avid anti-Islam fanatic, the Homeland Security has revealed its hatred of Islam, a crime which is in breach of the constitution and which deserves to be thoroughly investigated.

Ten after the September 11 attack, Muslim Americans are still deemed unfit by many law enforcement agencies or agents to be partners in the country’s fight against terrorism. This policy or attitude is hurting the country and wasting its tax dollars money. Seemingly, the Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies have wasted millions of dollars in rewarding anti-Muslim and anti-Islam experts on terrorism by giving them legitimacy and authenticity through invitation to officially organized events for state and federal agents.

Most of the so called experts on Islam belong to several religious groups who anti-Islam position is well known. They use the Tax payers money and resources to promote their religious agenda and to make money for themselves. The country does not benefit from their expertise.

One is entitled to his or her opinion on Islam or any other faith but when that opinion is given legitimacy by agencies that are meant to uphold the constitution and the citizens, then it deserves the attention of all those who are serious about the sanctity and supremacy of the constitution. As far as opinions against Islam are concerned, we Muslims must be aware of the task that we have at hand, i.e. challenging the misconception and informing the country and the world that there is another side of the explanation that can be offered only by those practice this faith and who understands its in and out better than those so called experts who have found a new opportunity to mint money from the new venture that we can term as “Islamic Threat to the West.”

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Immigration Forum Thursday

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

ACCESS Press Release

ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber will be one of the featured speakers at an immigration forum beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday July 1 at Hope of Detroit Academy. The school, at 4443 North Campbell St., was allegedly staked out earlier this year by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Jaber joins host Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), who will speak about ICE’s recent enforcement actions at local elementary schools and against residents and U.S. citizens.

Representatives from the ACLU, Reform Immigration for America (RIFA), and individuals impacted by ICE’s actions also will speak about the adverse effects such actions have had on the immigrant community in Detroit.

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Editorial-Arrests of Florida Imams Require Serious Investigation

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief

Two imams, (Muslim religious leaders) and four of their family members were arrested in Florida for allegedly sending money to the Taliban in Pakistan and supporting their terror network. The two were naturalized US citizens. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies rightly explained that the indictment was not against a community or religion but against individuals. The authorities have the recorded conversations of the two imams with the Taliban contacts in Pakistan and have the information about the money transfer between 2008 and 2010.

This is a serious issue and all mosque managements in the US need to take measures that that spiritual leadership positions must not be misused to promote personal political agenda. Regardless of how the situation is explained, the fact is that an average American would find it hard to trust a Muslim spiritual leader for his words. In his view, not only the individuals but people and institutions who support these individuals are guilty. However, illogical this perspective may be, but it cannot be overlooked.

It is the responsibility of mosque management to ensure that people who are given the responsibility to lead the community in spiritual matters are not pursuing some hidden political agenda. It is important that before hiring them, their background is checked and their understanding of religion is verified. There is nothing wrong in taking the help of the law enforcement agencies in having background check of individuals. The religious identity of a person is not a guarantee that his understanding of religion is sound or his past is free from actions that are contrary to religion.

The two imams of Florida should not have been at the position they were appointed. How could such people who have a duality in their character ever lead a people to the correct understanding of their faith. Does their behavior not confirm the fear of many non-Muslim Americans that Muslim Americans lie in order to promote their hidden agenda of destroying America from inside?

These sort of religious fanatics must be rooted out of the community. In fact, those who invite such people to America to lead the community in the masajid must be investigated too.The faith cannot be held hostage by the people who have nothing but hatred in their heart, two of the diseases that Islam demands must be fought.

Injustice must be fought but not through violent means. Yes, what is happening in Palestine is wrong and what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan is wrong. But the wrong can not be corrected by doing more wrong. Those among the Muslim community who promote hatred and anger and violence must realize that they have no place in the community. They will be challenged and thrown out of Muslim places of worship as they do not represent the faith and the example of the leader of the faith, the Prophet (s).

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Timeline of Events in Strauss-Kahn Case

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in a prison in New York on charges that he attempted to rape a maid at a New York hotel on Saturday.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have denied the charges.

The scandal has appeared to wreck his hopes of running for president of France and has prompted calls for new leadership of the IMF which oversees the world economy.

Here is a timeline of events:

FRIDAY AFTERNOON – Strauss-Kahn checked into a $3,000 a night suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan, which a law enforcement source said he was paying a discounted rate of $800.
The suite has a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom. The 30-storey hotel has an Art Deco restaurant and bar called Gaby, which the website (www.sofitel.com) says serves “French flair in a glamorous setting.’’

The hotel is near Times Square, Broadway theaters, Fifth Avenue shopping and Central Park.

SATURDAY ABOUT 12:00 P.M. EDT (1600 GMT) – A 32-year-old maid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite, room 2806, which she apparently thought was unoccupied.

Following routine procedure, the maid announced herself when she entered the suite, and left the front door to the suite unlocked and ajar, a law enforcement said. She entered the living room and saw nobody. Then she opened the door to the bedroom, where she saw Strauss Kahn, naked. She apologized and said she would come back later, and started to leave the room.

Strauss-Kahn allegedly ran after the maid and, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors, shut the door of his hotel room, preventing her from leaving. He grabbed the victim’s chest without consent, attempted to remove her pantyhose, and forcibly grabbed the victim’s vaginal area. His penis made contact with the victim’s mouth twice through the use of force, prosecutors said.
The woman fled and reported the incident to her supervisor who called police. Strauss-Kahn left the hotel, leaving behind his mobile phone.

An ambulance was called to the hotel and the woman was taken to a hospital where she was treated and released.

SATURDAY, 12.28 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn checked out of the Sofitel hotel, according to court papers filed by his lawyers with the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday.

SATURDAY, 12.45 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn “proceeded to a previously scheduled lunch a few blocks away’’ from the Sofitel hotel, according to the court papers.

SATURDAY, about 1:30 P.M. – Security staff at the Sofitel called police to report the alleged sexual assault, a law enforcement source told Reuters. The first police units arrived at the hotel at 1:45 pm, the source said.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – “Strauss-Kahn was driven to John F. Kennedy International Airport to catch an Air France flight to Paris, which was scheduled to depart at 4:40 p.m. A seat for Mr. Strauss-Kahn had been reserved on that particular flight approximately one week in advance,’’ court papers filed by defense lawyers said.

SATURDAY, about 3.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn called the hotel to ask about his missing mobile phone.

Police were still at the hotel and asked the staff member speaking to Strauss-Kahn to tell him an urgent effort would be made to return the phone. Strauss-Kahn told the hotel staff member to bring the phone to him at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn boarded Air France flight 23 for Paris at New York’s JFK airport and was seated in the first class section. He had been due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Europe on Sunday and attend meetings on the region’s debt crisis on Monday.

SATURDAY about 4:40 P.M. – Police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the bridges, tunnels and airports in the area, boarded the flight minutes before it was due to depart and detained Strauss-Kahn. He was not handcuffed.

The Port Authority police turned him over to New York Police Department detectives from the Midtown South Precinct, which covers the area of Manhattan where the Sofitel hotel is located. They handcuffed him.

Strauss-Kahn made no statements and requested a lawyer. He was taken to the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit in the Harlem neighborhood, where he was kept in a room reserved for questioning. He made no statements and declined any food. The Special Victims Unit investigates sex crimes.

SATURDAY NIGHT/SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – The consul general of France met with Strauss-Kahn under the regular rules of consular protection for all French citizens detained abroad, said Marie-Laure Charrier, a spokeswoman for the French consulate in New York.

SUNDAY 1:15 A.M. – Brafman told Reuters in an email that the IMF chief would plead not guilty.

Brafman is a high-profile criminal lawyer who was part of Michael Jackson’s legal team that successfully defended the pop singer against child molestation charges in 2005. Brafman also won an acquittal on weapons and bribery charges for rap mogul Sean “P. Diddy’’ Combs.

SUNDAY 2:15 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Strauss-Kahn spent the night at the Special Victims Unit, which is on the second floor of a red brick and concrete building, sleeping in a chair with his feet propped up in another chair.

SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a breakfast of home fries, scrambled eggs and toast brought in from an outside diner, a law enforcement said.

SUNDAY 11 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, said in a statement: “I do not believe for a single second the accusations leveled against my husband … I do not doubt his innocence will be established.’’

SUNDAY 1 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Brafman and William Taylor, arrived and spent half an hour with their client. Brafman again said Strauss-Kahn would plead not guilty.

SUNDAY 2 P.M. – Sofitel New York manager Jorge Tito said in a statement sent by property owner Accor in Paris that the maid who made the allegations had worked for the hotel for three years and was “completely satisfactory in terms of her work and behavior.’’

SUNDAY 3.30 P.M. – Brafman and Taylor arrived and spent 45 minutes with Strauss-Kahn.

SUNDAY 3.50 P.M. – The maid arrived at the Special Victims Unit in a van and shielded by police with a white sheet from photographers. She spent 40 minutes there. She identified Strauss-Kahn in a lineup, a NYPD spokesman said. “It was a standard lineup — six people,’’ he said.

SUNDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard and drinks a bottle of water, a law enforcement source said.

SUNDAY 10.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers told reporters on the steps of Manhattan Criminal Court that his court appearance had been postponed so he could undergo a “scientific and forensic’’ examination that had been requested by investigators. Taylor said Strauss-Kahn was “tired but fine.’’

SUNDAY 11 P.M. – A handcuffed Strauss-Kahn, wearing black pants, a blue dress shirt and a black overcoat, was escorted from the Special Victims Unit by detectives. He was taken to Kings County Hospital in the New York City borough of Brooklyn where he was examined by forensic technicians who specialize in investigating sexual assault cases.

MONDAY about 3.30 A.M – Strauss-Kahn’s mug shot was taken at the Manhattan Criminal Court building detention center, best known as “The Tombs,’’ where he spent the night. The photo showed him looking haggard, his eyes downcast and his shirt collar open.

MONDAY 10.50 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn entered Manhattan Criminal Court for his hearing. Before his appearance, other defendants appeared before the judge in the media-packed courtroom on charges including drug possession, criminal trespassing and delinquency.

Strauss-Kahn appeared to be dressed in the same clothes he was wearing on Sunday and looked tired and grim.

MONDAY 12 P.M – Strauss-Kahn was denied bail. He is due to reappear in court on May 20.

MONDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn was transferred to Rikers Island jail and held in protective custody in an 11 foot by 13 foot cell, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction said.

TUESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – At Strauss-Kahn’s request, the French consul general visited him at Rikers Island jail, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – The French consul general again visited Strauss-Kahn, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers lodged an appeal seeking bail with the New York State Supreme Court. They want him released on bail of $1 million in cash and placed under 24-hour home detention with electronic monitoring, according to the court papers. A bail hearing is due to be held on Thursday. It is unclear whether Strauss-Kahn will attend.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Edith Honan and Basil Katz in New York and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Florida Mosque Bombing Suspect Fatally Shot in Oklahoma

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kristi Eaton

ORIENTA, Okla. — A man wanted in the bombing of a Florida mosque was shot and killed Wednesday when he brandished a weapon as agents tried to serve an arrest warrant in northwest Oklahoma, FBI officials said.

Sandlin Matthews Smith, 46, of St. Johns County, Fla., pulled out a firearm as federal and state law enforcement officers approached him in a field at Glass Mountain State Park near Orienta and asked him to surrender, said FBI Special Agent Jeff Westcott of Jacksonville, Fla.

Westcott said agents learned late Tuesday that Smith was staying in a tent in the park, located in the rugged foothills of the Glass Mountains in northwest Oklahoma. An Oklahoma City FBI SWAT team and other law enforcement officers blocked off the area overnight, Westcott said.

Agent Clayton Simmonds at the FBI’s Oklahoma City office said Smith was taken to a hospital in Fairview, where he was pronounced dead.

Reporters were kept back about two miles from the scene of the shooting. Because of the nature of the bombing, agents were concerned that there may have been an explosive device in the area, Simmonds said. Officials wanted to keep reporters away while they were processing the scene, but so far no bombs have been found, he said.

Simmonds said he didn’t think there were any other campers at the park.

Smith was facing several federal charges, including damage to religious property and possession of a destructive device, in connection with the May 10, 2010, bombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville. No one was hurt in that explosion, but authorities found remnants of a crude pipe bomb at the scene, and shrapnel from the blast was found a hundred yards away.
A call to a telephone listing for Smith in St. John, Fla., seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday night.

The center issued a statement commending law enforcement officers’ diligence in finding the person responsible for the blast.

“The membership and constituents of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida join all citizens of goodwill in Jacksonville to express their relief that any threat posed by the person suspected in the bombing of the Islamic Center has ceased as well as convey their regret that any lives were lost,” the statement read.

The shooting occurred about 110 miles northwest of Oklahoma City in a sparsely populated area of Major County.

Levada Tharp, who lives about four miles from the park, said law enforcement officers came to her house about 8:30 a.m. and asked if she had seen anything suspicious. Tharp said she hadn’t seen anything unusual.

She said she and her husband have been scared in the past of encountering coyotes on their 40-acre property, but not another person. They’ve locked the motorhome they keep behind their house and she will take other precautions when she goes out on their land.

“I won’t do it now without my cell phone,” she said. “Now I’ll take the truck.”

Simmonds said it’s unclear why Smith was in Oklahoma. He said the shooting still was being investigated.

“I’m not at liberty to say who fired on him,” Simmonds said.

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Michigan: Police Search Cell Phones During Traffic Stops

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

TheNewspaper.com

The ACLU seeks information on Michigan program that allows cops to download information from smart phones belonging to stopped motorists.

The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last Wednesday demanded that state officials stop stonewalling freedom of information requests for information on the program.

ACLU learned that the police had acquired the cell phone scanning devices and in August 2008 filed an official request for records on the program, including logs of how the devices were used. The state police responded by saying they would provide the information only in return for a payment of $544,680. The ACLU found the charge outrageous.

“Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide,” ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote. “No less should be expected of law enforcement, and the Michigan State Police should be willing to assuage concerns that these powerful extraction devices are being used illegally by honoring our requests for cooperation and disclosure.”

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

“Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags,” a CelleBrite brochure explains regarding the device’s capabilities. “The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps.”

The ACLU is concerned that these powerful capabilities are being quietly used to bypass Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

“With certain exceptions that do not apply here, a search cannot occur without a warrant in which a judicial officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the search will yield evidence of criminal activity,” Fancher wrote. “A device that allows immediate, surreptitious intrusion into private data creates enormous risks that troopers will ignore these requirements to the detriment of the constitutional rights of persons whose cell phones are searched.”

The national ACLU is currently suing the Department of Homeland Security for its policy of warrantless electronic searches of laptops and cell phones belonging to people entering the country who are not suspected of committing any crime.

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9 Israelis Suspected of Scamming Millions from U.S. Pensioners

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yuval Goren, Haaretz Correspondent

The Tel Aviv police fraud squad arrested on Sunday nine Israelis on suspicion of netting millions of dollars from U.S. pensioners in a so-called Nigerian scam.

Police raided an office in the city, which is suspected to have been the nerve center of the dodgy enterprise. The defendants, all in their 20s and 30s, allegedly phoned American pensioners, told them they had won the lottery and asked them for a fee of several thousand dollars for the transfer of the prize money, which in fact never existed.

The investigation has been conducted in conjunction with U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Last week, it was reported that the American agencies had urged Israel Police to step up the extradition procedure of another ten Israelis who were suspected of scamming $2 million in similar means.

Most of the ten defendants in the advance-fee scam, which was unveiled by police last September, are in their early twenties, without a criminal record.

The first hearing in their extradition plea took place last week, after a New York law enforcement official said many of the victims are old and frail, and urged the Israeli police to bring the alleged offenders to imminent justice.

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