Report cites link between terrorism, cigarette smuggling
GENEVA, Switzerland (Press Release) - As nations meet in Geneva this week to negotiate an international treaty to combat cigarette smuggling, new investigative journalism reports released Monday found an increasing link between the illicit tobacco trade and funding for terrorist organizations.
The investigations, which also detail the world's largest tobacco smuggling hubs, underscore the vast scope and seriousness of the illicit tobacco trade and the urgent need for the nearly 150 nations meeting in Geneva to quickly negotiate the strongest possible treaty to combat this problem.
The investigation, part of a series titled "Tobacco Underground", was conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, including Luk Joossens, David Merriman, Hana Ross, and Martin Raw. For a powerpoint presentation of this report, click here.
The investigation found that approximately six terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Real IRA and the Columbian FARC, are using tobacco smuggling to fund their activities. Due to the small size and weight of cigarettes, and the high profit margins they bring, cigarette smuggling is a highly appealing business to criminal networks and terrorist groups.
"This report shows that curbing illicit trade is crucial not only for health and economic reasons, but also to protect national and international security," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Illicit trade undermines efforts to reduce tobacco use and save lives and costs governments billions of dollars in revenue. This investigation showcases the need for strong international cooperation to reverse the increasing flow of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes."
Additionally, the investigation found that China is the largest source of counterfeit cigarettes in the world, producing more than 400 billion counterfeit cigarettes annually. 99 percent of U.S counterfeit cigarettes are believed to originate in China. Paraguay and Ukraine are close behind, with each country producing and importing staggering numbers of cigarettes far beyond what could ever be used by each country's legitimate markets.
The illicit trade treaty being negotiated this week, the Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, is a supplementary treaty to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC obligates nations to implement scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use such higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free air laws, large graphic health warnings and bans on all tobacco advertisements, sponsorships and promotions.
With a tobacco death toll of 5.4 million per year, projected to rise to eight million by 2030, the FCTC measures are critical in reducing the toll of tobacco. Yet illicit trade undermines the effectiveness of these tobacco control measures by making cigarettes cheaper and easier to buy. It also costs governments as much as an estimated US $40 billion to US $50 billion a year in tax revenues, with counterfeit trafficking stealing billions more.
Another new report released at the illicit trade negotiations, titled "How Eliminating the Global Illicit Cigarette Trade Would Increase Tax Revenue and Save Lives," found that 11.6 percent of the global cigarette market is illicit, equivalent to 657 billion cigarettes a year. The report also states that if the global illicit trade of tobacco were eliminated, governments would gain $31 billion. Additionally, in just six years, more than one million lives would be saved. This report was authored by Luk Joossens, Framework Convention Alliance; Hana Ross, American Cancer Society; Martin Raw, University of Nottingham and David Merriman, University of Illinois.
Together, these reports underscore the need for nations to take strong, swift and coordinated action to combat illicit trade and protect all citizens and governments from the harmful effects of tobacco.
ZOA says PA's TV show
lauds terror against Israelis
NEW YORK (Press Release) — The Palestinian Authority (PA) presided over by Fatah co-founder Mahmoud Abbas, frequently described as moderate peace-seekers, recently broadcast on PA-controlled TV an event in which Fatah bragged of committing more terrorist acts against Israelis than Hamas.
The broadcast included a mock debate between Fatah and Hamas partisans in which the savage October 2000 murder and mutilation of two Israeli reservists by a frenzied mob of Palestinians was celebrated and lauded as an example of national pride and duty. (The two Israelis – Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami – had unintentionally entered PA-controlled Ramallah and were arrested by PA police before a murderous mob seized them, brutally murdered them, threw them from the second floor police station window to a savage throng below that proceeded to tear their bodies apart and mutilate them beyond recognition. While the picture of a Palestinian celebrating the killing by waving his bloody hands to the mob horrified the world, the murder remains a source of pride for Fatah).
The broadcast event was attended by senior PA/Fatah leaders, including Muhammad Dahlan, former head of PA security; Kadura Faras, head of the PA Prisoners’ Association; Nasser Al-Qidwa, former PA Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Samir Al-Mashharawi, a senior Fatah official. It includes a segment in which Fatah mocks and criticizes Hamas for a decrease in its terrorist attacks upon Israel, glorifies Fatah’s own campaign of terrorist murder, and ends with Fatah boasting that they “arrested two soldiers in Ramallah,” a reference to the lynching. (Dahlan recently said explicitly in an interview that Fatah has never accepted Israel’s existence and demanded that Hamas never do so).
In the debate scene between Fatah and Hamas, the competition between Fatah and Hamas supporters is based not on who has built more Palestinian infrastructures, nor on who has promoted peace, but rather on who can take credit for more terror. The broadcast transcript reads:
Fatah student taunts Hamas: “Since Hamas seized power, we haven’t heard of any Martyrdom operation [suicide-bombing].”
Hamas teacher: “It’s called ‘fighter’s rest’.”
Fatah student: “A Hamas fighter needs rest, but a Fatah fighter doesn’t need rest?!”
Hamas teacher: “Every fighter has the right to rest.”
Fatah student: “Why is it that when Fatah stops fighting, you [Hamas] say they’re cowards, but when Hamas stops fighting, you say it’s ‘fighters’ rest’?”
Hamas teacher: “I don’t know much about resistance [terror] and fighters...”
Fatah student: “The first shot was fired by the PLO; the first Jihad was carried out by the PLO [audience applauds], with all the other factions – but Hamas always opposed.
Hamas student: “What do you say about Hamas having kidnapped the [Israeli] soldier Shalit [still held hostage - Ed.]?”
Hamas teacher: “Ahaaa!”
Student: “By Allah, it’s good.”
Hamas student: “Did Fatah ever capture a soldier?!”
Fatah student: “It was the [other] brigades who captured him [Shalit] and sold him to you [Hamas]. It’s a deal that you [Hamas] made for your own benefit, not for the [Palestinian] people’s benefit. [Applause]
Fatah student: Remember, in Ramallah the [PA-Fatah] police arrested two soldiers - have you forgotten, teacher?!” [PA-TV June 17, 2009]
(A report based on Palestinian Media Watch bulletin can be found in Maayana Miskin, ‘Abbas’s Fatah Brags About Anti-Israel Terror,’ Israel National News, June 26, 2009).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “This PA-TV broadcast provides a perfect example of the culture of terrorism and glorification of murder that permeates Mahmoud Abbas’ PA. Instead of a genuine debate on which movement, Fatah or Hamas, have educated their peoples for peace, built vital infrastructures or worked for prosperity, we see rather that the central preoccupation of the two largest Palestinian movements is which can claim to have murdered more Jews. Any decline in the murder of Jews by either party is one that has to be explained away and excused.
“Can there be any greater lack of realism or commonsense in the notion that the PA and Fatah represent genuine peace partners for Israel to whom Israel should make concessions and to whom the U.S. and the world should give financial and other aid?
“The ZOA has been drawing attention for years to the duplicity and unreconstructed extremism of Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. In particular, we have highlighted innumerable times Abbas’ own 2006 admission (repeated since) that Fatah has not in reality accepted Israel and that the PA only formally does so for the purpose of receiving international aid and Israeli concessions. We have also stressed the fact that the Fatah Constitution remains unaltered and therefore still calls for the destruction of Israel (Article 12) and the use of terrorism as an indispensable element in the strategy to achieve this goal (Article 19). It is also noteworthy that before, during and since the 2007 Annapolis conference, Abbas and other senior PA officials explicitly repudiated accepting Israel as a Jewish state
“This broadcast is an important additional piece of data exposing what should be the obvious fact that Fatah does not accept Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state and that it does not mean to conclude a serious and durable peace agreement with Israel. All the diplomatic flurry for a peace settlement negotiated with Abbas’ PA is simply an illusion built on sand.
“The immediate practical ramification of this should also be obvious: Any of the U.S. $900 million aid for the Palestinians, as well as negotiations with the PA, should be conditioned on Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah explicitly and clearly stating their acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, rescinding the Fatah Constitution, dismantling the terrorist groups and arresting their members, and reforming the PA broadcasting, textbooks curricula, mosques and media so as to eliminate the incitement to hatred and murder within the PA that feeds continued extremism and terrorism.”
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Sarkozy urged Netanyahu to jettison Lieberman as F.M.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a meeting last week in Paris, to remove Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and replace him with opposition leader Tzipi Livni, according to Israel's 'Channel 2' television. The broadcaster claimed that Sarkozy had told the Israeli leader "to get rid of this man."
The French president reportedly urged Netanyahu to replace Lieberman with Kadima Party leader Livni, who was foreign minister in the previous Israeli government but refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition because of differences over how to pursue the peace process with the Palestinians.
"I have always accepted Israeli foreign ministers, and I loved to have Tzipi Livni here at the Elysée, but with him [Lieberman] I can't," Sarkozy said at the meeting, according to Channel 2, emphasizing his statement with a disparaging hand gesture. When Netanyahu replied that Lieberman sounded different in private conversations and in reality was a "pragmatic", Sarkozy retorted that in private talks Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the extreme-right National Front in France, was also a nice person. When Netanyahu protested the comparison, Sarkozy conceded that Lieberman and Le Pen were not the same.
A spokesman for Lieberman was quoted as describing Sarkozy's remarks as "the intervention of the president of a respected, democratic state in the affairs of another democratic state," which was "grave" and "intolerable." The spokesman added: "We expect that - regardless of political affiliation - all political bodies in Israel condemn this callous intervention of a foreign state in our internal affairs." Netanyahu's office said that it would not discuss the contents of private talks that the Israeli prime minister held with foreign leaders.
"Netanyahu greatly values his foreign minister", the Prime Minister’s Office said.
46 countries call for restitution
of Nazi loot to rightful owners
PRAGUE (WJC)— Forty-six nations have signed a declaration which calls for the restitution of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis during World War II, and for the provision of social aid for impoverished Holocaust survivors. The legally non-binding text, notes that "only a part" of the estimated 17 billion dollars worth of assets taken from Jews has so far been returned, or compensated for.
"The participating states urge that every effort be made to rectify the consequences of wrongful property seizures, such as confiscations, forced sales and sales under duress of property, which were part of the persecution of these innocent people and groups, the vast majority of whom died heirless," the text states.
Addressing delegates, World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Michael Schneider said countries needed “to do the right thing” urgently. He specifically named Poland and Lithuania and urged them to speedily pass restitution laws and implement them in a non-bureaucratic fashion.
The so-called Terezin Declaration also calls for some of the recovered property from Jews who did not have heirs to be used to help needy Holocaust survivors."It is unacceptable that those who suffered so greatly during the earlier part of their lives should live under impoverished circumstances at the end," the declaration states. The head of the US delegation, Stuart Eizenstat, praised the declaration's scope and its inclusion of social aid for needy Holocaust survivors.
"We have the most far reaching and comprehensive declaration dealing with the assets of the Holocaust," Eizenstat (at left)told reporters. "It covers every single area, including many that had never been covered before," including social needs and the restitution of private property, he added. While the declaration was not legally binding, "it creates an important moral obligation," Eizenstat said.
The signatories also pledged to widen the access to archives in order to make it easier to identify seized property. Around 100,000 of the estimated 600,000 paintings stolen by the Nazis are still missing, according to figures released at the conference. The five-day conference, which ended on Tuesday, will be the last event held under the Czech Republic's six-month presidency of the European Union. The EU agreed at the conference to create the European Shoah Legacy Institute, which will help facilitate the restitution process.
The Terezin declaration is a follow-up to a text adopted in Washington in 1998 which was signed by 44 countries.
Large-leafed desert rhubarb funnels its water supply
HAIFA (Press Release)—Researchers from the Department of Science Education-Biology at the University of Haifa-Oranim have managed to make out the "self-irrigating" mechanism of the desert rhubarb, which enables it to harvest 16 times the amount of water than otherwise expected for a plant in this region based on the quantities of rain in the desert. This is the first example of a self-irrigating plant worldwide.
The desert rhubarb grows in the mountains of Israel's Negev desert, where average precipitation is particularly low (75 mm per year). Unlike most of the other desert plant species, which have small leaves so as to minimize moisture loss, this plant is unique in that its leaves are particularly large; each plant's rosette of one to four leaves reaches a total diameter of up to one meter. Prof. Simcha Lev-Yadun, Prof. Gidi Ne'eman and Prof. Gadi Katzir came across this unique plant growing in the desert while studying the field area with students of the Department of Science Education-Biology of the University of Haifa-Oranim, and noticed that its leaves are unusually large and covered with a waxy cuticle. They observed an exceptionally ridged structure on each leaf, forming a leaf structure that resembles the habitat's mountainous topography.
The scientists explained that these deep and wide depressions in the leaves create a "channeling" mountain-like system by which the rain water is channeled toward the ground surrounding the plant's deep root. Other desert plants simply suffice with the rain water that penetrates the ground in its immediate surroundings.
The findings have shown that the natural selection process has resulted in the evolution of this plant's extremely large leaves, which improved its ability to survive in the arid climate of the desert. The results of experiments and analysis of the plant's growth - in an area with an average annual rainfall of 75 mm - showed that the desert rhubarb is able to harvest quantities of water that are closer to that of Mediterranean plants, reaching up to 426 mm per year. This is 16 times the amount of water harvested by the small-leafed plants of the Negev desert region. When the research team watered the plant artificially, they observed how the water flows along the course of the leave's depressed veins to the ground surrounding the plant's single root and then penetrates the ground to a depth of 10 cm or more. Under the experimental conditions, water penetrated the ground only as deep as 1 cm.
"We know of no other plant in the deserts of the world that functions in this manner," the researchers concluded.