Democrat Bob Kerrey blasts Senate interrogation report

Former US Senator Bob Kerrey. Image copyright Getty Images

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Former Senator Bob Kerrey hopes the Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are still friendly after his harsh critique of the Senate report US interrogation practices in USA Today.

Mr Kerrey says the report, which he suspects was written by Democrats alone after Republicans "checked out", provides no recommendations to improve the Central Intelligence Agency system.

The Democrats, he said, "started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it".

"This is perhaps the most significant missed opportunity, because no one would claim the programme was perfect or without its problems," writes Mr Kerrey, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War. "But equally, no one with real experience would claim it was the completely ineffective and superfluous effort this report alleges."

Mr Kerrey, stressing for the second time in the column that he has not read the report, argues that the CIA did what was necessary to keep the country from being attacked again.

"There was no operating manual to guide the choices and decisions made by the men and women in charge of protecting us," said Kerrey. "I do not need to read the report in full to know this: We have not been attacked since (9/11), and for that I am very grateful."

One of Mr Kerrey's former Senate colleagues, Republican John McCain, offers a differing view.

In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, the prisoner of war survivor said torture practices "not only failed their purpose - to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the US and our allies - but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world".

He also argued that "the truth is a hard pill to swallow ... the American people are entitled to it."

Mr Kerrey calls on Congress to take responsibility for the oversight of intelligence. He mentions an earlier report, the 9/11 Commission, which did recommend a number of changes in the authorities of congressional committees, but Congress did not offer support to those recommendations.

The column was quickly embraced by the CIA's defenders, who cited it as an example of a veteran liberal voice - a two-time Democratic presidential candidate - speaking out against his party's interests.

Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations calls Mr Kerry's piece a "blistering critique".

Mr Kerrey is a "serious Democrat", tweets the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens, and his writing "devastates the reckless Feinstein report".

Meanwhile his comments were met with derision on the left.

"When did he become the worst?" asks Blue Nation Review's Jesse Berney,

India

A pollution crisis - The consequences of environmental sins are far more serious in overpopulated India than in other parts of the world, argues Anne Backhaus and Simone Salden in Der Spiegel.

"Polluted air and contaminated water can quickly affect millions of people in India," write the authors, who say the guidelines that exist - that toxic chemical factories be constructed at least 25km from residential areas, for example - are not followed.

The results are tragedies like the 1984 Bhopal disaster, where US-based Union Carbide leaked 350 tons of highly toxic gas, killing thousands in days and up to 30,000 in total.

"Union Carbide denies any responsibility for the long-term damage to human beings and the environment," write the authors, and "what is happening in Bhopal is an endless catastrophe - and the world simply looks away."

Russia

A dark numerical convergence - Moscow's most popular joke today is not funny, reports Masha Gessen in New York Times. "Next year [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, the ruble and a barrel of oil will converge at just over 63."

She explains that the ruble will soon be trading at 63 to the dollar, or nearly double what the dollar was worth in Russia a year ago (meaning most Russians will be roughly 50% poorer); a barrel of oil will fall to $63, roughly 2005-level prices, devastating the Russian economy; and Mr Putin will turn 63.

"All three predictions are depressingly realistic," writes Gessen. "The Russian economy appears headed for disaster just as certainly as Mr Putin will most likely celebrate his next birthday in October 2015. And more likely than not, he will still be president of Russia then."

Canada

Energy money takes flight - In the Globe and Mail, investor Jeff Rubin writes that he's taking his investments out of the Canadian oil sands and putting the money elsewhere.

Canada's oil sands producers, he says, are churning out some of the highest cost oil in the world, while at the same time they're fetching one of the lowest prices for every barrel sold. Light sweet crude from a shallow well in Texas fetches a much better price from refiners than the heavy sludge that's being delivered from Canada's sands.

"If oil prices stay at their current levels, North American producers will have to start making choices about whether or not to shut in production," he writes. "If they don't, they run the risk of exacerbating the current glut in world oil markets, which would cause oil prices to fall even further. It's a situation that's reminiscent of the one faced by the global coal industry, which has had to contend with an equally challenging collapse in commodity prices."

Mexico

Across the border and out of sight - Seasonal farm workers live and work in shocking conditions in Mexico, write the editors of the Los Angeles Times. Barracked in squalid shacks far from their homes, underfed, trapped by debt or even held captive by their employers - it's time to improve conditions for those who make products for US consumption, argues the author.

"It might be possible to write this off as another sad story about a foreign people in a foreign country except that much of the food these contract workers pick is ultimately imported into the United States, where it is sold to American consumers by retailers as disparate as discounter Wal-Mart and pricey health-food chain Whole Foods," they write.

For their part, consumers can look for the "Fair Trade" label on foods, which at least ensures that the farm is regularly audited and meets certain requirements for treatment of workers, they conclude.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Commentators react to plans by Hong Kong authorities to start dismantling barricades put up by protesters on major roads in two districts of the city.

"The 'Occupy Central' movement will leave behind a very complicated legacy… from now on nothing will be 'scary'… It has broken through the restraints as imposed by Hong Kong's laws." - Editorial in Beijing's Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times).

"The 'Occupy' protests have lost all support among the public and a minority's violent resistance will not help turn things around. The Hong Kong police force has been professional and restrained in executing the law." - Editorial in Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po.

"Tactically, the government's approach of waiting it out has worked. Student organisers, seeing the writing on the wall, have resorted to increasingly desperate moves to keep the movement alive… But the government cannot afford to gloat. The ugly factors that have fuelled the movement are still festering." - Philip Yeung in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.

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