Century 21 12 th yr
Century 21 2012- AD


Jan 8  In Damascus on the 6th a suicide bomber killed 26 people on a bus said to be carrying policemen. The Assad dictatorship and its supporters responded with outrage, surprised apparently that slaughter and abuse of people opposed to the Assad regime would be met with a counter violence. The dictatorship and its supporters seem to assume that the only legitimate violence is their violence. Syria's interior ministry vowed to "strike back with an iron fist" as a sectarian civil war continued to unfold. The Free Syrian Army, on the side of the protesters and military deserters, accused the government of staging the blast on the 6th. The US, meanwhile, proclaims that violence is not "the right answer to the problems in Syria" (as it was for George Washington in the colonies).

Jan 10   New Hampshire presidential candidate voting is today, with Mitt Romney described as the favorite and the conservative Republican Ron Paul expected to do well. Romney is widely criticized for his "baloney" and his slick but contradictory statements. Some big-gun and big-money Republicans support him believing he is the candidate who can win. Paul, on the other hand, is running on small donations and is critical of big money in politics. Romney's candidacy has an element of cynical opportunism that Paul's campaign lacks, and some Paul supporters see in Romney's candidacy politics as usual.

Jan 11  The dictator Assad claims that victory is near, that he will stay in power because "I am not someone who abandon's responsibility," that the Arab League "has failed for six decades to take a position in the Arab interest," and that he will restore order "by hitting terrorists with an iron fist." Crowds of his supporters respond enthusiastically.

Jan 12  Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich defends his criticism of his rival, Mitt Romney, pointing out that a difference should be recognized between bad practice by an individual capitalist and the capitalist system in general. He says he is not attacking capitalism. Rush Limbaugh, guru for some Republicans, responds by saying it's none of the government's business what Romney does and that Newt sounds like he is supporting left-wing social engineering.

Jan 14  Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou is re-elected president and promises closer ties with mainland China. His 55-year old female opponent, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, described as a "China-sceptic," concedes defeat. According to Al Jazeera, officials in China breathe a "sigh of relief." China still claims Taiwan as its territory but welcomes stability, close ties and trade with Taiwan.

Jan 16  Alan Krueger, Princeton economist, has charted upward mobility in various countries in relation to inequality in distribution of wealth. His chart places Denmark, Sweden and Finland as best for upward mobility. His fellow Princeton economist, Paul Krugman, writes in his January 15 NYT column that Krueger shows "America is both especially unequal and has especially low mobility."

Jan 16 Syria's dictator, Assad, makes another show of benevolence in victory. He offers amnesty to anyone accused of "crimes" committed in connection with the last 10 months of anti-government unrest. It is a gesture that regime opponents cannot take seriously and that now equates with surrender.

Jan 17  The world saw on CNN yesterday an enraged Syrian soldier with a few other soldiers around a seemingly dead comrade. He screamed to journalists and Arab League monitors: "Is this what you want for Syria? Is this what you want for Syria?" It's a question he could have asked when the dictator he supports first started dragging protesters from their homes and shooting protesters in the streets.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Jan 18  Burma (Myanmar) continues its move toward more democracy. Today, hundreds of Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters have turned out to see the democracy advocate register as a candidate for a parliamentary seat. Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the release of political prisoners in Burma as a substantial step towards democratic reform, and there was a move toward exchanging ambassadors.

Jan 20  In Malawi (largely Christian) cultural conservativism among a few men has given rise to attacks on women in public for wearing trousers rather than traditional dress. President Bingu wa Mutharika has responded by saying on national radio that women have the right to wear what they want.

Jan 20  The sensational news of the day yesterday was the second wife of Newt Gingrich telling a journalist why she thought he was unfit to be president: because he wanted an open marriage. Private (corporate) news organizations tend toward sensationalism over substance in order to attract viewers, and in last night's presidential debate CNN's John King directed his first question to Newt Gingrich regarding his former wife's allegations. Gingrich responded: "'I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.'' He called the question despicable. The audience (conservatives whose respect for public media - PBS and NPR - is limited) leaped to their feet and applauded with passion.

Jan 21  As conservatives in the United States try to increase their political power, some of them are expressing disdain for the "liberal" media. At a rally in South Carolina a couple of days ago one could see a sign that read, "DON'T BELIEVE THE MEDIA." This comes when journalism is more opinion with selected facts, and it comes with the new media democracy that appears on the internet and flies around cyberspace. Sloppy opinions, bias and errors abound, while liberals and some who are not-so-liberal hold that of course one should not believe the media the way traditionalists believe scripture. One should always have one's question and evaluation motor running. Meanwhile, some good journalism continues from professional journalists; liberals continue to see bias in conservative commentators; conservatives continue to see bias in the "liberal" media because it isn't purveying their perspective; and extensive coverage of debates, candidate speeches and interviews saturates television with conservative opinion.

Jan 22  Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, continues the religious and ethnic fragmentation and lack of tolerance that challenges it as a nation and a democracy. Muslims and Christians are at war. The Muslim group, Boko Haran, attacked with bombs yesterday in the city of Kano - the attack, described as Boko Haran's bloodiest assault to date, with at least 160 dead. The democratically elected president, Goodluck Jonathan, has respect internationally, and he is responding to international and local requests for more security.

Jan 23  In China's Sichuan province, dozens of ethnic Tibetans attack a police station with stones and clubs. Police are reported as shooting at the crowd and killing at least one of the protesters.

Jan 24  An article in the Guardian this month has described the weird weather of 2011 continuing into 2012, with "arctic ice at almost its lowest extent ever recorded in midwinter, disastrous droughts and searing heat in Africa and Latin America." The article reports "thousands of people in Austria, France and Germany ... digging themselves out of some of the heaviest snowfalls seen in 30-50 years." In the US yesterday, tornadoes were confirmed in at least four southern states, with hundreds of homes destroyed. And yesterday an article in The New York Times claimed that "Warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder." Meanwhile, the only Republican running for president who confessed to believing in global warming, Jon Huntsman, has dropped out of the race, and global warming deniers are arguing that humans cannot change nature - although nobody is arguing the absurdity that humans are or can.

Jan 25  China reports that violence has erupted again among Tibetans in Sichuan province - another attack on a police station, yesterday. China's news agency, Xinhua, writes that "Police were forced to use force after efforts involving persuasion and non-lethal weapon defence failed to disperse the mob." The death of one of the attackers is reported.

Jan 26  Believing that military confrontation alone will not stop their insurgency, President Jonathan of Nigeria invites the violent Islamist Boko Haram sect  to a dialogue.

Jan 27  It's widely recognized in the US that technological change has altered work. Manufacturing plants are not going to be as crowded with workers as they were thirty or forty years ago. In an American or a Chinese factory these days, Robert Reich observes, "you see technicians sitting behind computer consoles controlling a lot of robots and numerically controlled machine tools." Regarding the skills needed for new kinds of jobs, Martin Schmidt of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claims that as a nation "we need to figure out how to revitalize our community college education system to train those folks that want to work in these types of jobs."

Jan 29  Yesterday the Arab League announced it was suspending its monitoring mission in Syria because of deteriorating conditions and rising violence there. The Assad regime has been stepping up its efforts to crush its enemies, and in increasing numbers its enemies are picking up the gun - the logic of events in Syria that has been anticipated on the website, out of tune with the intentions of the Arab League mission. reports that Syria's "state security forces battled rebels holding three suburbs just outside the capital Damascus." Anti-Assad Syrians continue to call for help from abroad. According to Al Jazeera late Saturday New York time, "Opposition activists say that at least 210 people have been killed in the past four days in Syria, and a further 27 people have been killed across the country on Saturday."

Jan 29  Niall Ferguson expresses his belief that regarding the Arab Spring the US should get some credit for what it has done in Iraq and showing that democracy can work. Wadah Khanfar (former Director-General of the Al Jazeera network) counters that in his opinion what happened in Iraq delayed the Arab Spring. (See today's Zakaria GPS)

Jan 30  The honey you buy may be fake, according to nutritionist Dr. Joseph Mercola ( "Nearly all of the fake honey," he writes, "is made in China," and made of "a mixture of sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup" et cetera.  Real honey has a pollen content, and Mercola cites an investigation by Food Safety News that has discovered "76 percent of honey samples" bought at various grocery stores (which Mercola names) were absent of pollen. (, Jan 28, 2012)

Jan 31  Speaking at a Communist Party conference, Cuba's President, Raul Castro, defended his country's one-party political system (similar to the one-party system in China). Anyone interested in engaging in public service of a poltical nature (with all that entails) is limited to doing so within Cuba's Communist Party.

Jan 31  Some occupy protesters in Washington DC don't want to differentiate between their ability to demonstrate on public property and their right to camp on public property. The Park Service has a long-standing ordinance against camping in the public parks in question. Pro-camping protesters are using interesting rhetoric to support their defiance of park authority and the police. In doing so some of them are also not differentiating between normal civic regulations in our democracy and the oppressions of an authoritarian state. And some like-minded persons will probably rule out the possibility that what is expressed here is other than rightist thinking.

February 2012

Feb 1  Syrian rebels remain upbeat despite government advances, according to Britain's newspaper, The Telegraph. The army of dictator Assad, with its tanks, continues its drive against rebels and its searches of homes of deserters in the poorer neighborhoods of the capital, Damascus. The Free Syria Army has made a tactical withdrawal from these suburbs, but the Free Syria Army commander Colonel Riad al-Assad claims that his forces control half of Syria.

Feb 1  Researchers in the US gather electrical signals - brain waves - from patients and reconstruct those signals into the words the patients had in mind.

Feb 1  A court in Cape Town sentences four South African men to 18 years in jail for stabbing and stoning to death a lesbian, Zoliswa Nkonyana, just outside her home, in 2006. A crowd outside cheered and danced. South Africa's constitution protects people despite their sexual orientation. Pumza Fihlani reports for BBC News that "More than 30 lesbians have been killed in the past 10 years because of their sexuality and the so-called practice of 'corrective rape' also appears to be on the increase, according to gay activists."

Feb 2  Health researchers at the University of California call for new government controls to rein in a soaring consumption of sugar and sweeteners. They claim that sugar is as damaging and addictive as alcohol or tobacco. They acknowledge that they face "an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby." (BBC News)

Feb 3   Pew Research Center reported yesterday that "Nearly six-in-ten lower-income Republican and Republican-leaning voters" have said that the government does too little for poor people. Meanwhile there is much ado in the press about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying he's not concerned about the poor given that they have a safety net that he is willing to repair. Complaints arise from some on the political right and rival candidate Newt Gingrich against spending on a safety net. Complaints arise from left-of-center regarding the working poor. Allow me a personal note. While I was an apartment manager in Oakland, California, three of my tenants were single black women who lived alone. They went to work every workday morning and gave a big chunk of their wages every month for rent. It was a distribution-of-wealth matter favorable to their employers (in the form of rock-bottom wages) and favorable to their landlord, but it left them trapped, unable to live other than most frugally and unable to save enough to get a landlord off their back.

Feb 4  While UN delegates talk, the Assad regime continues its policy of crushing those Syrians opposed to its power. This morning, BBC News reports that "activists" claim that last night Syrian forces, with tanks and mortars, killed more than 200 in the city of Homs, "in the worst violence since anti-government protests began." In the UN, Russia has been threatening to block with its veto an Arab League move against Syria supported by France, Britain the US and others. Russia has expressed disappointment with the Arab League for pulling its observers out of Syria. Russia does a lot of business with Syria, including arms sales. And Russia is looking forward to completed construction of a naval base for its warships on the coast of Syria, at Tartus. This would allow Russia a greater presence in the Mediterranean region - closer than its naval base on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.

Feb 4  Russia and China veto the UN resolution on Syria. US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, described the vetoes as "unforgivable." France's Ambassador Gerard Araud said it was "a sad day for all friends of democracy," Germany Ambassador Peter Wittig said, "The people in Syria have been let down again."

Feb 5  The US plans to save money by pulling two brigades from Germany, reducing the size of the US army in Europe by almost 10,000. According to Reuters, the US Army today has around 41,000 troops in Europe. US troops have been in Germany since 1945.

Feb 6  This morning, with heavy artillery fire, the Bashar al-Assad regime continues its several days of assault on the rebellious city of Homs, apparently believing it can crush the opposition there. Homs has a population of around 1.2 million. Assad's father, Hafez, killed a reported 20,000 in 1982 putting down a Sunni rebellion in Hama - a city just a little over half the size of Homs, but Hama remains a city opposed to the Assad dynasty. And Bashar faces an international situation different from what his father faced and revolts across Syria. Assad is getting help from his Shia ally, Iran. Iran's elite Quds Force is in Syria helping to manage Assad's offensive against popular unrest. Meanwhile, support for the Free Syrian Army is expected from neighboring Turkey and other Sunni powers. Assad is destroying a lot of homes and lives in the city of Homs, but that he can win the city any more than his father ultimately won Hama appears doubtful. Bashar al-Assad appears still on a path toward what befell the dictator Anastasio Somoza (assassinated in 1980), or Sadam Hussein (hanged in 2006), or Muammar Qaddafi (shot by a soldier in 2011) - more likely perhaps than he is to become a prisoner of the International Court of Justice at the Hague in the Netherlands.

Feb 7  Reporting from Homs for BBC News, Paul Wood speaks of a full colonel who defected four days ago describing morale crumbling in the Syrian army and the rebels gaining strength. Wood describes the assault on Homs continuing into today, the assault including mortar and heavy machine gun fire and Russian-made tanks. For the people of Homs food is a problem as they hunker down in the center of their homes, putting as many walls as possible between themselves and the outside.

Feb 9  Journalist/author Robin Wright tells Piers Morgan (yesterday) that Assad needs at least 30 percent support to stay in power and that he still has it. Assad's bombardment of Homs enters its sixth day today, with a report of at least 50 more people killed. The Italian news agency ANSA reports "thousands of asylum seekers are fleeing to neighboring Jordan seeking safety and refuge from hunting of Syrian security forces."

Feb 9  Running for president, Mitt Romney has been describing President Obama as wanting to make the US like a European welfare state. Looking at Germany (also a welfare state) a former chief economist at Deutsche Bank says that with one percent of the labor force of the world Germany has ten percent of the exports in the world, that with a quarter of the US population it exports more in total than does the United States. (News Hour Feb 8)

Feb 10  The Center for Science in the Public Intererest (CSPI) petitions the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the use of potassium bromate. These bromates were banned in Britain in 1990 and in Canada in 1994. In the US, some bakers have already switched to bromate-free products.

Feb 10  Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues have been blaming Democrats for the shape of the economy, saying that President Obama owned the economy. Yesterday, McConnell claimed that recent economic improvements are "not because of the president but in spite of him." He credited Republicans for the improvements and described Democrats as "liberal thugs." McConnell didn't mention any Republican contribution to political gridlock as an ingredient regarding economic recovery.

Feb 12  Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, has prevented a young Saudi journalist, Hamza Kashgari, 23, from seeking asylum in New Zealand and has deported him to Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah had ordered that Kashgari be arrested "for crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet." Last week, Kashgari tweeted an imagined conversation with the Prophet Muhammad in which he objected to the "halos of divinity" that others had put on the Prophet, and Kashgari said he would treat the Prophet "as a friend, no more." The Koran has the Prophet saying "I am only a mortal like you," but hostile tweets went viral, and there were calls for Kashgari's execution. Kashgari said he was trying to exercise a most basic human right: freedom of expression and thought. Neverthless, to save himself, Kashgari has apologized.

Feb 12  "Markets don't correct their own excesses," says George Soros on CNN.

Feb 13  Fawaz Gerges, Professor of Middle East Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics, describes the Assad regime as having the backing of Syria's Christians (about 10 percent of the population) and Syria's "bourgeoisie." He opposes giving support to the Free Syrian Army, saying that "The worst thing" that can happen to the uprising against Assad, "is the militarization of the intifada, because that would exactly play into the Assad basically world view." Gerges wants to give time for an economic squeeze on the Assad regime to work, and he wants to avoid an "all out civil war." There are others, however, who believe that deserters from Assad's army have a right to defend themselves, that Assad is the one who has started the civil war that already exists, that civilians need to be protected and that cringing to Assad's propaganda would be making that propaganda more effective. And some might consider that pacifist policies during the shelling of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica slaughter  delayed the ending of that conflict.

Feb 13  The Arab League announces that it is ending all diplomatic co-operation with Syria, and it promises to give "political and material support" to the opposition.

Feb 15  A court in New Zealand has blocked government approval of Chinese investors buying New Zealand farmland.

Feb 15  In Egypt, a call by "activists" for a day of strikes and civil disobedience has fizzled. The actions were to mark one year since Mubarak's overthrow and to pressure the military regarding civilian control. BBC News reports that "strikes at universities attracted small numbers of protesters, and public transport in Cairo ran as normal." Meanwhile electoral politics are warming up. According to the state-owned newspaper, Al-Ahram, Egypt's first presidential election since the fall of Mubarak will be held at the end of May.

Feb 15  In Syria, government forces continue to provoke hostile neighborhoods as President Assad is handed a copy of a "democratic" constitution that is to be voted on. The government today has launched a new offensive in the city of Hama and it continues bombardments in Homs.

Feb 16  President Assad decrees that a referendum will be held on the new draft constitution on the 26th of this month. The new constitution drops political domination in Syria by the Baath Party, to which Assad belongs. Opponents of Assad voice opposition to the referendum while he continues assaults against their neighborhoods.

Feb 16  David Ignatius writes in today's Washington Post about President Obama's "outreach" to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Obama's outreach statement: "America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments - provided they govern with respect for all their people."

Feb 16  In the UN General Assembly today, voting NO with the Assad regime on the Arab League's resolution condemning human rights violations in Syria and calling for President Assad to step down: Iran, Russia, Belarus, China, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Zimbabwe. Their number is 12. Voting YES were 137, and 17 abstained.

Feb 17  The Assad regime continues to ignore the idea of preparing the opposition for a political solution to the country's crisis. Today, nine days before voting is to take place on a new democratic constitution, rather than let the opposition live in their neighborhoods in peace, the Assad regime continues its assault on "armed gangs." Someone in the city of Homs complains, "We have a lack of medical supplies and food. The Assad forces have prevented people leaving the city." Someone else complains: "There are thousands of people isolated in Homs. There are neighborhoods that we know nothing about. I myself do not know if my parents are OK. I have had no news from them for 14 days." A report exists that government forces on the outskirts of Homs are poised for a big push into the city to wipe out all resistance. On the News Hour, Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiya Television offers what is becoming a common opinion among pundits: that the time for a political solution and the issue of reform in Syria "has come and gone."

Feb 18  Assad forces fire on a crowd attending funerals in the Mazzeh neighborhood in Damascus. The funerals were for three youths killed the day before. Thousands had joined the funeral processions on the way to the burial site. What was gained for the Assad regime by firing on the crowd? Stupidity is playing its role in Syria's crisis. Indeed, stupidity appears to be the proper characterization of the Assad regime since it began moving against dissidents a year ago.

Feb 19  A Syrian banker, Faisal Qudsi, who now chairs a London-based investment banking firm, predicts that Assad's military phase against protesters will last no longer than six months. Speaking to the BBC's Weekend World Today programme, he describes Syria's economy as crippled and its foreign exchange reserves dwindling rapidly.

Feb 21  The cost of becoming President of the United States has increased something like 7.5 times (in 2011 dollars) between the Kennedy-Nixon race in 1960 and the Obama-McCain race in 2008, according to Dave Gilson in yesterday's issue of Mother Jones magazine. Obama spent 260 times what Abraham Lincoln spent in his first presidential election.

Feb 22  In Buenos Aires, Argentina, a different kind of incompetence is made apparent. A commuter train's brakes fail and the train hits the end of a platform at about 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) per hour - a speed that with the combined weight of the train creates an impact great enough to kill an estimated 49 people and injure 600 others.

Feb 23  Running for president and still the target of hostile rallies, Vladimir Putin does what is common for a politician. He speaks of enemies and he appeals to national conceit. He asks his crowd, "Do you love Russia?" And the crowd chants "Yes!" Putin tells them, "We won't allow anybody to interfere into our internal affairs and impose their will on us because we have our own will… We are a nation of victors. It's in our genes… The battle for Russia is raging on. We'll be victorious." (Christian Science Monitor)
Secretary of State Clinton
Secretary of State Clinton
Feb 23  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today says, "And I want the Syrian people who are suffering so mightily to know that the international community has not underestimated either their suffering or their impatience, and we are moving in an expeditious but deliberate manner."

Feb 24  Seventy countries meet in Tunis to establish "no-kill zones" in Syria. Jonathan Marcus, BBC News: "All the talk of safe havens or humanitarian corridors demanded by opposition groups founders on a simple fact; one way or another they all mean going to war with the Syrian regime."

Feb 24  In Cairo the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, declares: "I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform." BBC News

Feb 25  Al Jazeera reports that yesterday Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal stated that arming the Syrian opposition is "an excellent idea."

Feb 25  Reuters reports that opposition activists in Syria deplore the results of the 70-nation international "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis and complain that the world has abandoned them "to be killed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad." The Obama administration and others are not supporting arming the Syrian opposition. They are leaving the Syrian revolution to wait for sanctions to work, for more desertions from Assad's military and, like the Chinese revolution in 1949, using whatever weaponry they can get their hands on, captured and otherwise.

Feb 26  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says "there is every possibility of a civil war" in Syria. What Clinton fears is a more intense civil war that spreads instability in the region. (A civil war already exists.) And she fears what she calls bad actors, al Qaeda and Hamas, siding with the opposition (boogeyman-talk to some). Also, Clinton points out that automatic weapons smuggled into Syria would be ineffective against tanks and artillery. She adds that part of the reason for the Tunis meeting on Friday was to see "whose side who was on." BBC

Feb 26  More informative than media news, a readable description of developments in Syria is published by the Middle East Research and Information Project  (February 24). It's written by Peter Harling and Sarah Birke. The Princeton scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter tweets that it is a must read.

Feb 27  China's Communist Party newspaper lashes out at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton has described the Chinese and Russian veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria "despicable" while "people are being murdered." The newspaper describes Clinton as super-arrogant and egotistical. Meanwhile, China is asking the world to let Assad's move to a new constitution work. Some across the globe see this as a naive interpreation of events in Syria, and some of us will continue to see China's leaders as cretinous in their attitude toward brutal applications of authoritarianism, including those of us who understand China's history and concern regarding stability.

Feb 29  Russians are unpopular in Syria. A Russian Orthodox Church representative reports: "Our women are insulted out loud in some districts of Damascus. Sometimes taxi drivers deny a ride to Russian-speaking people. Even children can throw stones at people speaking the Russian language." It is said that Russian citizens who can are getting out, the Russian Embassy school has closed, and Russian workers on a natural gas development project have been evacuated.

March 2012

Maher al-Assad, financial wheeler-dealer
Maher al-Assad, financial wheeler-dealer, said to have convinced

 his brother in 2001 to end the Damascus Spring .

Mar 1  The Free Syrian Army announces a tactical withdrawal from the neighborhood of Baba Amr a common tactic for guerrilla fighters facing superior government forces. Government forces now claim full control of Baba Amr, following almost a month of heaving shelling. Government troops, led by Assad's wealthy younger brother, Maher, are described as having sealed-off Baba Amr and having allowed the rebels to leave in preparation for moving in to "cleanse" the neighborhood. The so-called seal might explain why the rebels didn't leave sooner. Meanwhile, the anti-Assad Syrian National Council (SNC) says it will bring armed groups under a central command and control the flow of weapons.

Mar 1  When Senator Ted Kennedy died, Andrew Breitbart called him a "pile of excrement" and tweeted "Rest in Chappaquiddick." Early today Breitbart died, at the age of 43. He was a journalist who said he enjoyed making enemies. Following his death he is being criticized for knowingly using lies and trickery and for demeaning the profession of journalism. On the other hand, Newt Gingrich tweets that "Andrew Breitbart was the most innovative pioneer in conservative activist social media in America. He had great courage and creativity." And Mitt Romney tweets: "Ann and I are deeply saddened by the passing of @AndrewBreitbart: brilliant entrepreneur, fearless conservative, loving husband and father."

Mar 2  All but two of the European Union's twenty-seven leaders have signed a new treaty to enforce budget discipline within the Euro currency bloc. Twelve were needed to the treaty to take effect. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the main architect of the pact, describes it as a "great leap" toward stability and political union. Reuters Newsquotes her as telling reporters, "We have the two instruments. On the one hand, the fiscal pact, and, on the other, the permanent European rescue mechanism. The two are interlinked." Ireland will hold a referendum on the issue said to amount to whether Ireland wants to remain inside the euro currency bloc.

Mar 3  In the US at least 28 people are killed as storms and tornadoes sweep across vast parts of the Midwest. Some describe it as more "freaky weather," and some associate this with global warming while deniers of global warming remain focused on their Republican presidential candidates. One candidate, Rick Santorum has said global warming is not climate science, but "political science". Newt Gingrich during his campaign has turned agnostic on global warming, saying "I think that the evidence is not complete." Mitt Romney, like Gingrich has shifted his position, Romney saying during his campaigning, "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet,"

Mar 5  Putin wins Russia's presidential election with a reported 63 percent of the vote. Exit polls indicated a Putin victory, but there are ballot stuffing allegations. People are saying they voted for Putin because he improved the economy, crediting him with making their lives better. Meanwhile Putin repeats his campaign bluster about the glory of Russia and the defeat of foreign threats, suggesting that the massive demonstrations against him within Russia have been instigated by foreign agencies. "No one can force anything on us," he says.

Mar 5  An opinion piece at arab, out of Saudi Arabia, writes: "Most Islamic countries are being left behind in social progress as compared with other nations. There are essentially five reasons for this situation. First, we must consider the educational curriculums adopted in Islamic countries, knowing that education is the first step toward refining the talent and minds of scientists, inventors and innovators." Comments below the article are favorable.

Mar 6  A former economic advisor to two Republican presidents criticizes conservative Republicans regarding taxes. Bruce Bartlett thinks that replacing income taxes with the Value-Add Tax (VAT) (paying taxes as we buy things) would simplify taxation and "could clean up so many of our problems in our tax code." He mentions a conservative who describes Europe as one giant gulag because of the VAT. "Well, you know, " says Bartlett, "I've been to Europe. Germany doesn't look like a slave camp to me." (Zakaria GPS, Mar 4, 2012)

Mar 7  In an article titled "Prosperity, autocracy and democracy," Chrystia Freeland describes politics as a historical force in economic development. The economist Daron Acemoglu tells her, "It is really about societies that have a more equitable distribution of political power versus those that don't." (Reuters)

Mar 7  In Chile a savage attack on a young gay man arouses political leaders to push anti-discrimination legislation.

Mar 8  US Senator Feinstein says she doesn't know who we would be helping with any kind of military assistance to the Free Syrian Army. Some see the FSA as the body that will end the Assad regime. The FSA is running medical supplies and small arms from neighboring Lebanon and maybe elsewhere. The FSA has checkpoints that prevent armed Assad agents from entering towns to strike against targeted individuals. So for some the answer to the senator's question who we would be helping is: the many Syrians who are opposed to the Assad regime, the many who have deserted Assad's military, and the many under attack who have an enhanced appreciation for freedom and liberty. Meanwhile, the British defence secretary says it would be illegal for the UK to arm the Syrian rebels against a "terrible regime," and China repeats the old and oft-made request that the conflict be settled peacefully through dialogue.

Mar 9  Danny Abdul Dayem, British citizen of Syrian descent just back from Syria, responds with outrage to Robert Malley telling him on the News Hour that we should give Kofi Annan's diplomacy a chance to work. Says Danny: "Diplomacy with the Assad regime will not work. He will only leave by force. We all know this. He will not leave by any peaceful talk or any politician talk... We need to save human lives and stop talking about this. People are dying... We need help, any kind of help." With a no fly zone, Mr Dayem says, "More than 70 percent of the army would defect with their tanks and their heavy artillery. They can't defect now because the Assad force will bombard them with airstrikes." About fear of war he says, "There is already a war going on right now." (video and transcript )

Mar 10  Around 85 percent of private investors holding Greece's debt agree to a cut in the money owed them - a "haircut" better for them than a default. It reduces Greece debt load by $140 billion and is said to be the biggest sovereign restructuring in history. It is described as allowing Greece to move ahead with its economic reform program. Private insurance policies kick-in, helping investors taking a loss.

Mar 11  In Syria, guerrilla tactics include attacking checkpoints and military transport vehicles to capture weapons and hostages. Rebels know they can't hold when Assad's military arrives in strength. According to the Los Angeles Times some still don't have arms. AK-47s dominate, purchased on the black market or seized from Assad's military. "A few have rocket-propelled grenades. But the paucity of heavy munitions, antitank and antiaircraft weaponry in particular, is their great lament."

Mar 12  The president of China's Supreme People's Court, Wang Shengjun, tells his country's parliament that reforms are needed to overcome lingering problems with transparency and corrupt judges. And today elections resume in Wukan village, the third and final vote accompanied by an optimism about democracy.

Mar 13  A court in Guatemala sentences Pedro Pimentel Rios, 55, for his role as a special forces soldier in the massacre of 201 people in the village of Dos Erres in 1982.

Mar 13  In Syria, President Assad plans to avoid any tribunal - while his recent massacres stimulate more talk. Secretary Clinton calls again for Assad to stop his violence, while Kofe Annan, momentarily in Turkey, looks forward to more pleading. He says, "We expect to hear from the Syrian officials today."

Mar 14  Yesterday an Obama-approved drone aircraft raid killed 15 "suspected militants" in Pakistan. Some among those who like seeing Obama being forceful concerning other matters question the effectiveness of such killings. Last year Pakistan's Imran Khan passionately complained that the drone attacks in Pakistan were benefitting al Qaeda.

Mar 14  Under Argentine law, abortion is allowed only in cases where the mother's life or health are at risk, or if the woman is deemed "of feeble mind." Amid public outrage in favor of a 15-year-old rape victim, the Supreme Court unanimously confirms a lower court's decision to allow the girl to terminate her pregnancy. According to the BBC an estimated 500,000 illegal abortions occur in Argentina every year.

Mar 14  At today's news conference President Obama says, "Assad will leave power. It's not a question of if - but when." The President also claims that military intervention would lead to even more killing and possibly a "civil war" - words recorded here for future evaluation.

Mar 15  Reporters Without Borders adds Bahrain and Belarus to its list of nations that restrict internet access, filter content and imprison bloggers. The others: Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam. Reporters Without Borders accuses China and Syria of having agents flood the sites of dissidents with messages supporting the government.

Mar 16   The economist Nouriel Roubini describes the rise in gas prices as the result of fear rather than an increase in demand oil supplies being plentiful and demand in the US and Europe down. The fear involves conflict with Iran. Roubini estimates that oil prices could rise to $200 per barrel if Iran is engaged in a protracted military conflict.

Mar 16  Actor George Clooney is arrested at a protest in front of Sudan's embassy in Washington DC. Clooney has been criticizing Sudan's military assaults against the Nuba people in the south of what is internationally recognized as territory of Sudan.

Mar 17  In the US, indiscriminate use of a webcam and tweeting results in a guilty verdict for a Rutgers University freshman, Dharun Ravi. He is to be sentenced on May 21 for a hate crime (bias intimidation) and invasion of privacy. Ravi's student room-mate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself shortly after the incident, in September, 2010. Some consider Ravi's punishment a lesson about growing up with responsible use of hi-tech.

Mar 17  Today, Iranians complained that a shipment of arms and ammunition from Saudi Arabia was on its way through Jordan, to be smuggled to the rebels in Syria. Two days ago Syrian security forces confiscated weapons being smuggled across the Lebanese border. (News source: Arab Monitor)

Mar 18  Yesterday and today, two car-bomb attacks are apparently aimed against Assad's intelligence services and security forces, which play a role in hunting down dissidents and deserters - one blast in Damascus the other in Aleppo. Dozens have been killed.

Mar 19  In Cuba, authorities arrest members of the protest group Ladies in White while they are on their weekly protest walk demanding the release of political prisoners - a week before a visit by the pope. The government claims that the US is paying the protesters to undermine Cuba's revolution.

Mar 20  Cuba releases the Ladies in White arrested yesterday.

Mar 20  The Australian Senate yesterday increased taxes 30% on iron ore and coal mining companies. Demand from China and India has created a "resource boom" in the country. The increase in taxes is to be accompanied by tax relief for companies not benefitting from the boom.

Mar 20  Saudi Arabia announces it will help global economic recovery by working with others to ensure oil supplies at levels that will reduce oil prices to reasonable levels.

Mar 21  Israel bans underweight models, hoping to reduce the cultural influence that creates eating disorders among youthful females.

Mar 21  The foreign minister of Syria's ally, Russia, says the Assad regime has "responded incorrectly" from the beginning, when protests were peaceful, and despite the "numerous promises" the regime has made it is still making a lot of mistakes. "Unfortunately," he adds, " this is why the conflict is so acute."

Mar 22  Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the UN Security Council for voicing united support for Kofi Annan's bid to end the violence in Syria. Today, amid the talk, the slaughter in Syria continues. Joshua M. Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies, sounds less optimistic. He says the Assad regime believes "that time is on their side and that they're going to win this struggle." The Syrian military, he says , is pursuing a campaign of capture and hold while the opposition has been naïve in its enthusiasm. One might wonder about the ability of Assad's military to hold more than half the country.

Mar 23  Recently in the Republic of Mali , armed men returning from helping the Gaddafi regime in Libya formed an angry group with others within Mali's army. Yesterday the angry soldiers took power - a military coup. The coup is viewed as a setback for Mali's democracy, established in 1992. The African Union suspends Mali's membership. The UN Security Council exercises its power to talk and calls for the "immediate restoration of constitutional rule."

Mar 24  The European Union decides to step up its use of military force against Somali pirates to attacks on land as well as at sea. Pirate paraphernalia will be fair game. The government of Somalia controls little more that its capital, Mogadishu, and it has notified the UN secretary general of its collaboration with the European Union.

Mar 25  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gives Kofe Annan Russia's "full support" for his mission to Assad, saying it "may be the last chance for Syria to avoid a protracted and bloody civil war." Russia's foreign minister, Lavrov, adds that to support Annan's mission, nations must refrain from "interfering in Syria affairs or taking sides in the confrontation between the government and opponents." Nora Basha (Syrian American) tweets: "Yes, let's not arm the FSA but let's continue to let Russia & Iran supply Assad with an unlimited amount of weapons. Thank you world."

Mar 25   A crowd of heroic Syrians facing down tanks. Will the media give attention to this as it did big-time the facing down of a tank in Beijing in 1989?

Mar 26  In a runoff election, the president of Senegal , Abdoulaye Wade, accepts defeat. He has been in power twelve years, from before a new constitution established a two-term limit, and he believed those first years should not have limited him from running again. Voters thought otherwise. Senegal is being hailed as a model for democracy in Africa. Senagal has never had a military coup.

Mar 27  President Obama is caught by an open microphone telling Russia's president, Medvedev, "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." Republicans complain of Obama's duplicity. Sarah Palin says he plans to weaken the country if re-elected. A few who have supported Obama also find fault, not in his getting caught but in his style.

Mar 28  Debate in the USA. Columnist Harold Meyerson cites recent economic analysis claiming that during the recovery that followed the downturn of the early 1990s the "wealthiest 1 percent captured 45 percent of the nation's income growth" and that this time around "it's reached 93 percent." Some regret this, believing that consumers with more money to spend encourage businesses to produce and hire more - a faster recovery. Expressing an opposing vein of thought, someone responds to Meyerson: "So, blame the rich? Isn't it possible that the rich get richer because the poor get lazier?" (The Washington Post)

Mar 29  Arab leaders meet in Baghdad for more talk in support of Kofe Annan's UN-backed peace plan. Syria's opposition see Annan's plan as absurd. It specifies no timetable or sequence for a cease-fire and doesn't require Assad to stand down. Assad accepted a similar plan in November but didn't implement it. Assad, the opposition believes, is buying time by keeping people talking.

Mar 30  The US Fair Labor Association, asked by Apple to investigate working conditions at plants in China that produce Apple products, reports people working more than 60 hours per week and sometimes all seven days, with unpaid overtime and health and safety risks.

Mar 31  In Mali,  Tuareg rebels (who are Berbers), have seized the towns of Kidal (40,000 inhabitants) and Gao (87,000). Captain Amadou Sanogo, leader of the military coup that took power in the capital, Bamako, on March 22, calls for help from neighboring states. His coup has been criticised by those neighbors.

April 2012

Apr 1  Regarding Syria, power talkers are now using words of immediacy. At the "Friends of Syria" conference in Istanbul, Turkey's Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, tells foreign ministers and others from seventy countries that the "legitimate demands of the Syrian people must be met, right here, right now." Two days ago Kofe Annan demanded that the Assad regime implement his six-point peace plan "immediately." Today, Assad's military assaults on neighborhoods continue.

Apr 1  In Mali, Tuareg rebels continue their drive for an independent Tuareg state. They advance to Timbuktu.

Apr 1  Chinese police arrest six people and shut down 16 websites for spreading rumors about military vehicles on the streets involved in a coup.

Apr 1  In the wake of failed diplomacy, the coalition of 70 nations announces late today that the rebels in Syria will receive pay that adds to several million dollars per month and will also receive communications equipment to help them organize, remain in contact with the outside world and to evade regime attacks. These will be channeled through the Syrian National Council, which may help various rebel groups accept it as the alternative authority to the Assad regime.

Apr 2  Researchers at UCLA find persons who carry two gene variants that affect the production of serotonin are more susceptible to post-traumitic stress disorder than are others.

Apr 2  Winners of the giant lottery wisely try to remain anonymous while so-called news organizations, pursuing entertainment rather than news, refuse to leave the winners alone.

Apr 3  Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiya Television: "But even if you have a cease-fire, the other conditions will be practically impossible for Assad to implement. Is he going to release tens of thousands of political prisoners? Is he going to allow unfettered access to the international media? If that happens, I can assure you what you will see in the streets are the massacres in Aleppo, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands probably of Syrians demonstrating. And he will be forced to shoot them. Otherwise, he will fall." (News Hour, April 2)

Apr 4  In Turkey, two surviving leaders of the 1980 pro-business military coup are put on trial. Following the coup, around 600,000 people were detained. Pro-labor persons were labeled as Communists. Fifty were executed by hanging. Thousands lost their citizenship and went into exile and gruesome torture was routine. Because of age and ill-health the two are not appearing in court and are not expected to go to prison.

Apr 5   Testifying on Capital Hill (and broadcast on C-SPAN), Professor Michael Greenberger stated yesterday that the amount that people in the US have been paying for gasoline above what they were paying in mid-December (90 days) totals to $10 billion. Eighty percent of this rise he attributed to speculation - pure gambling. He noted that in the past Congressional action sent a signal to speculators that the bubble was over and this inspired speculators to sell, sending gas prices down precipitously. Testifying and agreeing with Greenberger was Gene Guilford, President & CEO of statewide energy marketers trade group, who worked for Ronald Reagan.

Apr 6  A jury in the US has found Victor Bout, the Russian known as the "Merchant of Death," guilty of conspiring to kill Americans, delivering anti-aircraft missiles and aiding a terrorist organization. He is sentenced to 25 years in prison. In 2008 in Thailand, Bout was caught in a sting operation by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The UN has named Bout an associate of Liberia's Charles Taylor, who is awaiting judgment for war crimes. Russia's foreign ministry claims the treatment of Bout is "clearly political" and potentially damaging to Russia-US relations. (Russia supports and sells arms to the Assad regime in Syria, said to be mistreating its citizens.)

Apr 7  In Tunisia, two bloggers are sentenced to seven years in jail for having posted a cartoon of a naked Muhammad the Prophet. Their crime is described as a "violation of morality" and as "disturbing public order." One of the men, Jabeur Mejri, is in jail while the second, Ghazi Beji, is being sought. A moderate Islamist government is in power, and some in Tunisia are concerned about freedom of expression.

Apr 8  Richard Dawkins, the world's foremost atheist, has gone agnostic now a former atheist. (Reported today in The Telegraph on this Easter Sunday).

Apr 9  In Morocco, three young men who don't understand what makes a successful political movement try sensational sabotage against ATM machines and government buildings. Seventeen people are killed, mostly tourists, and 20 others wounded. People in Morocco can demonstrate without being fired upon, government is not hauling or bombarding people out of their homes, and people can vote for the person they want to represent them in parliament. The army of three young men is in custody. No demonstrations of support for them have been reported and none is expected.

Apr 9  Fighting between Syrian rebels and security forces at the border with Turkey results in twelve of the security forces dead and the rebels running across the border to a refugee camp yards from the border, where one of them dies from his wound or wounds. A Turkish translator and policeman are among the injured. Emotions are again inflamed in Turkey, and the Turkish foreign ministry protests. Also today (9AM EDT), according to BBC News at least 50 people are reported killed in Syria. Internationally, fantasies about Kofi Annan's peace plan are fading.

Apr 10  The Austrian Roman Catholic cleric Helmut Schüller says that the ban on women priests and the ban on priests marrying is not a matter of theology but of history and tradition - matters that are constantly changing. Father Schüller is head of a movement that includes between 300 and 400 Austrian priests and priests elsewhere in the world, including the United States, seeking reforms. Pope Benedict XVI describes their reforms as "unthinkable" and says that disobedience is no solution.

Apr 11 The Assad regime again promises to implement Kofi Annan's six point peace plan - tomorrow. Today, Assad's troops shell hostile neighborhoods in the city of Homs.

Apr 11  Fighting continues between Sudan and South Sudan in the disputed Heglig oil region.

Apr 12  Morocco's government agrees to parliament's increase in taxes on businesses for a fund that will reduce the widest of wealth inequalities. A reform of food and energy subsidies is expected to follow. The government admits that these subsidies now benefit mostly those who need them least.

Apr 12  A ceasefire holds, somewhat. Late in the day at least 37 people are reported as having been killed by army gunfire across Syria. Kofi Annan urges the UN Security Council to demand a full military withdrawal from around hostile areas in order to comply with his peace plan and to bolster what he sees as an extremely fragile truce. Syria's Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, says the Assad regime is committed to reforms, absolutely, and adds that "we have started the process." He describes the recent brutal attacks on hostile neighborhoods as defensive and as providing the regime security. "Why should we commit suicide," he asks.

Apr 13  Connecticut joins much of Europe and sixteen other US states by repealing its death penalty - but death remains for the eleven already on the state's death row. (Maine abolished the death penalty in 1887, Norway in 1902, Denmark in 1930.)

Apr 13  A German court denies Patrick Stuebing and his sister the right to live together. The two have had four children together. Stuebing did not meet his sister until he tracked down his family as an adult. He has already served three years in prison for violating Germany's incest law.

Apr 14  The UN Security Council unanimously approves sending as many as thirty monitors to Syria. Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times, activists have reported "almost 20 deaths across Syria, including nine in the city of Homs, where videos uploaded to the Internet indicated that government forces had begun shelling once again."

Apr 15  At a summit meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, President Obama responds with conservatism to calls from participants for a new approach to the drug problem. Obama ignores experience in the Netherlands and claims that new drug legislation would be "corrupting."

Apr 16  Spain was not profligate on the eve of the crash of 2008 - at least as some see it. Then Spain suffered from a burst housing bubble, and its banks fell deeply in debt. Now Spain is in an economic depression. Its overall unemployment rate is 23.6 percent. Youth unemployment is over 50 percent. Anxiety has just sent Spain's bond yields above 6 percent. Spain's debt at the end of 2011 was 68.22% of GDP compared to 99.66% for the US. For Spain, the cost of borrowing is getting worse. Spain has had a center-right party in power since December 21, 2011, and its formula for recovery is conservative in orientation: austerity.

Apr 17 "The fundamental objective at the moment is to reduce the deficit," said Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, yesterday. "If we don't achieve this, the rest won't matter: we won't be able to fund our debt, we won't be able to meet our commitments." He was countered by a London-based economist, Madhur Jha, who said, "People are beginning to realize the more and more austerity you impose on an economy, the worse it becomes in terms of growth and also in terms of debt sustainability."

Apr 17  In the US Senate, a proposal to raise tax rates to at least 30% for those earning more than $1,000,000 per year failed to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The vote was 51-45 with all Republicans voting against except Susan Collins of Maine. Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor sided with the Republicans. A Gallup poll on the 13th indicated that 60% of the public favors the proposal and 37% disapproves.

Apr 18  In Britain, according to an Environmental Science and Technology report, automobile exhaust each year causes nearly 5,000 deaths. Matched against the 2,000 or so deaths annually from traffic accidents, the study concludes that automobile pollution is the more deadly. BBC News adds: "Of the 19,000 annual UK deaths estimated, 7,000 are due to pollutants blown in from the continent. In London, European pollutants add 960 deaths each year to the 2,200 caused by UK combustion fumes."

Apr 18  War has been unanimously declared by Sudan's parliament, and today Sudan's smiling and happy president, Omar al-Bashir, declares his goal of "liberating" the people of South Sudan. Sudan and South Sudan have a dispute over the oil fields at Heglig, on the border between the two countries.

Apr 19  The Anders Breivik trial is taking place in Norway. Breivik describes himself as a hero nationalist for having killed 77 people. He describes his victims as Marx-influenced liberals who were surrendering their culture and way of life. He attributes to himself the same kind of authority-in-action importance that Timothy McVeigh did.

Apr 20  Sudan's threat to make war to drive South Sudan's President Klir from office - an actual and convincing threat rather than skirmishes and bluff - inspires President Klir to begin withdrawing his troops from the Heglig oil fields - to take three days. Heglig is internationally recognized as a part of Sudan. President Klir chooses international arbitration.

Apr 22  Japan writes off the more that 3.7 billion dollars that Burma owes it as it resumes development aid.

Apr 22  Logging companies in Brazil are accused of using gunmen to wipe out Awá hunter-gatherers from the eastern Amazon forests. The Awá are reported as having been reduced in number to about 300. The Guardian reports that Survival International is "campaigning to stop what a judge has referred to as 'genocide'."

Apr 23  President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea has been described as a ruthless dictator. His first son, Teodorin Obiang, is wanted by French prosecutors on corruption charges. President Nguema strikes back, accusing Europe with having renewed its colonial ambitions. "Our enemies," he says, "never sleep." Equatorial Guinea has the highest per capital wealth of any African nation while most of its people are described as living in squalor.

Apr 23  Anders Breivik tells Norway's court that his killing seventy-seven people was "a small barbarian act to prevent a larger barbarian act".

Apr 24  Sudan's president, Omar al Bashir: "We will not negotiate with the South's government, because they don't understand anything but the language of the gun and ammunition." (Reuters news agency)

Apr 24  President Obama: "National sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people."

Apr 25  Scientific research at Oxford University, the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Centre in New York and the Rega Institute in Belgium reveals in our genetic material today traces of viruses from creatures as far back as the dinosaur era. These viruses have evolved to stay within their host cell where they have profilerated very effectively, spending their entire life cycle within the cell.

Apr 25  Britain's economy has had an economic growth at minus 0.2% in the first three months of this year, creating the double dip recession that many have feared. Labour Party politicians ask Prime Minister Cameron, of the Conservative Party, for an explanation. Cameron describes the growth figures as "very, very disappointing."

Apr 26  Days ago the FBI shut down webservers used by malware criminals, and it acquired the IP addresses of compromised computers for victim notification. Today the BBC reports that a global police operation has taken down dozens of websites that have been selling credit card details and other private information.

Apr 26  The neighboring countries Argentina and Uruguay agree to share bank information aimed at fighting tax evasion. Argentinians had been hiding cash in Uruguayan banks.

Apr 27  Proponents of international justice praise the guilty verdict against Charles Taylor on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, murder, rape and terrorism. The idea is advanced that no one is above the UN Charter's declaration against war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some hope that the trial will be a deterrence. Some others doubt this, and they fear that it will be harder to convince brutal dictators to leave office and go into exile.

Apr 29  The New York Times reports that Apple Corporation avoids paying billions in tax dollars by creating a subsidiary in Nevada where corporate taxes are zero. Corporate taxes levied in California, writes the New York Times, is 8.84 percent. Apple's home state, California, is having a revenue problem, much like Greece had along with a tax evasion problem going into its crisis.

Apr 30  The Norwegian Major-General Robert Mood, head of the UN observer mission to Syria, warns that even 1,000 unarmed observers cannot end the violence in Syria. The civil war in Syria rolls on. Another suicide bombing kills nine of Assad's men early today. This time in the city of Idlib. Two days ago the bombing was in Damascus. UN monitors have rushed to Idlib to do more looking on.

May 2012

May 1  The economist Nouriel Roubini describes the eurozone crisis as a "slow-motion train wreck." In the eurozone, debt in many cases is still growing and economies are not. Recession has returned to Spain, Italy and Britain. Revolts against austerity are gathering force. Economists are saying that austerity is making the debt crisis worse by holding back growth, and some are saying there is no alternative to austerity.

May 2  After its meeting with President Abdullah Gul, Turkey's National Security Council announced yesterday that it is obligatory to end the bloodshed in Syria as soon as possible. By now, many observers see Kofi Annan's peace plan as fantasy, but Turkey's Security Council said: "We have drawn attention to the obligation to fulfil all requirements of the six-point Annan plan." This coincides with Jackson Diehl's comment yesterday in the Washington Post that a "gloomy defeatism has infected European and Arab diplomats working on Syria. They shrug and say there are no solutions, that not much can be done to stop the fighting and that there's no way to build an international consensus for stronger measures."

May 3  Last night the Assad regime extended its attempt at control through terror by storming student dormitories at a university in the city of Aleppo, killing at least four students and wounding several others. More than 50 students are reported as having been arrested. Today the university is shut down. A typical response to government attacks against university students is an increase in their militancy. How many students will drop out and move from peaceful protests to the Free Syrian Army is anyone's guess. Another guess is the attack on students has added no greater control by pro-Assad forces over Syria's population.

May 4  The austerity debate continues. The boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity, says Paul Krugman, quoting or paraphrasing John Maynard Keyes. Instead, we had go-go years when our president was touting economic growth and urging people to spend, a time of consumer and government borrowing and reduced taxation that raised the deficit when we should have been reducing debt. And now, when we're economically down and need to spend in order to grow and need growth to pay down the debt, we have conservatives (who dislike Keynes) arguing for austerity.

May 5  Japan shuts down its last working nuclear reactor. Reactors are to be restarted if they pass new tests. Hundreds of people march through Tokyo, waving banners to celebrate what they hope will be the end of nuclear power in Japan. Businesses warn that severe consequences will result for manufacturing if no nuclear plants are allowed to re-start.

May 5  In Cairo, a march yesterday against the Defense Ministry resulted in one soldier killed and hundreds of people hurt. The army had warned protesters during a news conference on May 3rd that it would not tolerate threats to any of its installations. Undeterred, protesters calling for the military to give up power attacked anyway. Reports describe public frustration with the protesters. Authorities have detained 300 people whom they say will be be held for 15 days pending investigations into yesterday's events.

May 6  Brazil is cracking down on drug smuggling, gold mining and illegal deforestation in the Amazon. Soldiers are being sent to porous border areas. The operation has detected 10 clandestine airstrips in the state of Roraima that were being used for illegal mining operations on indigenous territory. The operation is expected to last several more weeks.

May 7  Yesterday Francois Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy in a run-off election, winning 52% of the vote. He will be France's first Socialist head of state in 17 years. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti tells Hollande of the Italian government working with France, and Europe, to create "an ever more efficient and growth-driven union."

May 8  The anti-austerity push continues in Europe. Following May 6 parliamentary elections in Greece, the leader of the political bloc Syriza, to the left of the center-left Pasok party, is trying to form a coalition that he says will "tear up" the European Union's "austerity deal." Syriza won 52 seats in parliament. Pasok won 33, the Communist Party won 26 and the xenophobic rightist party, Golden Dawn (also opposed to the Enlightenment) won 21 seats. Greece's Communist Party is refusing to join a coalition with Syriza. It takes 151 seats in parliament to constitute a majority. Meanwhile predictions rise that sometime next year Greece is likely to leave the euro, and Gideon Rachman (whom I distrust) writes in the Financial Times that there is "No Alternative to Austerity".

May 9  Some complain about a lack of determination by Europeans to go forward with needed austerity measures. Larry Summers writes for Reuters of an opposing view "that seems to be taking hold among the European electorate." Summers writes that "Much of what is being urged on and in Europe is likely to be not just ineffective but counterproductive to maintaining the monetary union, restoring normal financial conditions and government access to markets, and re-establishing economic growth." He writes that European Central Bank's commitment to provide funding to resolve the money crisis has "proved little more than a palliative" - inadequate.

May 10  Should people too fat to ride in an ambulance or a public bus be accommodated with new transport facilities? Where should we draw the line in helping people survive? "Years ago," said a doctor interviewed on the News Hour (May 8), "we wouldn't have patients over 300, 400 pounds very often. Now we're seeing them daily. And it's become an operational problem at times." Cities are building new ambulances and busses to accomodate the super-fat. According to the News Hour, research has tried to measure in dollars the transportation and medical costs, lost productivity and increased absenteeism at work, and one estimate puts it at $190 billion a year.

May 11  Yesterday's bomb attack in Syria killed 55 and wounded 372. No one is taking credit for the bombing, but bomb attacks are now a regular occurrence in the Syria's civil war. Al Arabiya headlined an April 30 article "Outgunned Syrian opposition forces make shift to homemade bombs." The target of the bombing was Assad's intelligence agency, which helps hunt down Assad opponents. The UN and others condemn yesterday's bombing, while each of the two sides in the war are passionately fighting for survival, leaving Kofi Annan's peace plan described as "in tatters" and media anti-escalation punditry as irrelevant. The bombing appears to be a counter step to Assad's tanks and artillery.

May 12  The Islamist group, al-Nusra, takes credit for recent bombings in Syria. Their video describes the bombing as a response to attacks on neighborhoods by forces loyal to Assad. The video states that if the Assad regime doesn't stop its massacres against the Sunni people it "will bear the sin of the Alawites" (the offshoot of Shia Islam to which the Assad family and many regime leaders and military belong). Al-Nusra has been described as having originated in the Syrian city of Homs in 2011.

May 14   Anti-austerity demonstrations occurred in several debt-strapped European countries over the weekend. And yesterday Fareed Zakaria spoke of Europeans he had talked to last week as understanding the argument for stimulating the economy now and making cuts later in good times. "But," says Zakaria, "many in Europe, especially in Germany, believe that later will never come." This isn't an argument against Keynesian economics. It's a belief that "In reality, governments spend in bad times and then spend more in good times." It's a claim about an incapability of politicians.

May 15  The Islamist group, al-Nusra, claims that the video of them taking reponsibility for bombing in Damascus (that killed 55 people) was "fabricated" and "full of errors" and that they were not behind the bombing.

May 15  Naval forces belonging to the European Union attack pirate bases in Somalia and destroy several boats.

May 16  Some in the US complain that banks are still out of control. Some wanting a return to commercial banking separate from investment banking accuse JPMorgan Chase of gambling in its loss of at least two billion dollars in recent market transactions. Those resisting separation deny that lax regulation is to blame for JPMorgan's loss. They support banks being able to make market plays to cover possible financial loss rather than just finding safety in sound commercial lending. (Carlson cartoon)

May 17  Yesterday, Syria's President Assad put his character on display, bringing to mind Muammar Gaddafi during his last year in power. Assad told Russian television that Syria is losing the information war. He accused his detractors of having "outplayed us," of having "at the very beginning of the crisis - invented stories... These lies, or rumours, or false accusations - call them what you will - all these are soap bubbles," he said. "They have a short life." "The main thing," he added, "is to win in real life," and this is what we "place our reliance on." He described most Syrians as supporting his regime and the Free Syrian Army as "a group of criminals who have for years broken the law and received convictions."

May 18  Europe's economic and euro problem summarized without emphasis on profligate spending: A wave of optimism followed invention of the euro in 1992. "Money poured into Spain and other nations, which were now seen as safe investments; this flood of capital fueled huge housing bubbles and huge trade deficits. Then, with the financial crisis of 2008, the flood dried up, causing severe slumps in the very nations that had boomed before." At that point, Europe's monetary union without a political union "became a severe liability." So writes Paul Krugman, who adds that austerity measures "deepened the depression in Europe's troubled economies, which both further undermined investor confidence and led to growing political instability."

May 20  The 300-member Syrian National Council, outside Syria and center of opposition to the Assad regime, is reported to be divided to the point of "complete disarray," making international help for those fighting the Assad regime within Syria more difficult.

May 21  From the NATO summit in Chicago comes an endorsement of President Obama's strategy of shifting responsibility for military matters in Afghanistan fully to Afghan forces by the middle of next year. Then, by the end of 2014, most of NATO's remaining 130,000 combat troops are to be withdrawn. France's new president, François Hollande, offers an exception. He vows to stick by his pledge to withdraw French troops by the end of this year.

May 21  Former Rutgars student, Dharun Ravi, is sentenced to 30 days in prison plus serve a three-year period of probation and complete 300 hours of community service - for indiscriminate use of a webcam and tweeting bias intimidation. (See Mar 17)

May 22  Norway's parliament moves to abolish the Church of Norway - established in 1536-37. The Norwegian state is no longer to engage in religious activities and will instead treat all religions and philosophies equally. All political parties represented in parliament, including the Conservative Party, support the move.

May 23   Dishonesty in the distribution of goods and services has invaded the effort against malaria around the world and the manufacture of aircraft. Researchers from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institute of Health have estimated that a third of the malaria drugs used around the world are counterfeit. The US Senate Committee on Armed Services has released a report of a flood of counterfeit parts, overwhelmingly from China, in US military aircraft.

May 24  With stem cells - which have the ability to become different cell types - scientists manage to create heart muscle from skin. They hope that using a heart patient's own skin will eliminate the problem of tissue rejection.

May 24  Syria will overcome its crisis "thanks to the strength of its people and commitment to unity and independence," President Assad said today. Also today, a UN-commission report describes his army as using torture and summary executions. The Assad regime's strategy has been to help the unity of the Syrian people with military intervention.

May 28  After almost three months of pleas, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan continues with his "Peace Plan" as he goes to Damascus to plead again with the Assad regime. He calls on "every individual with a gun" to lay down their arms" and says "I am personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla" (described by others as a massacre). Many observers inside and outside of Syria see Annan's Peace Plan as dead, as failure - this on top of Annan's failure in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide when he held back UN troops from intervening militarily. Annan appears to dislike military solutions no matter what. And many agree with that.

May 29  Sheila Bair, veteran finance analyst and former chairwoman of the FDIC tells Peter S. Goodman, Business Editor of the Huffington Post, that "Banks ought to stick to taking deposits and making loans, while setting dollars aside to cover the possibility that some of those loans will not get paid back." She describes JPMorgan's recent losses as a result of gambling.

May 30  Egypt's presidential candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, says that if elected president he will support women's rights and freedom of expression and that Coptic Christians would be his "partners" in building the country. He says he is committed to a system of checks and balances where powers are separated. "We want a democratic, national state with a separation of powers," he adds, claiming that his goal is to "build a free and democratic Egypt that will enjoy social justice." Mr Morsi studied engineering in the United States and is the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party.

June 2012

Jun 2  An Egyptian court sentences former President Hosni Mubarak, 84, and his Interior Minister Habib al-Adly to life in prison for the deaths of demonstrators. Mubarak and his two sons are acquitted on charges of corruption.

Jun 2  Russia's President Vladimir Putin denies giving support to Syria's Assad regime. Yesterday at a news conference in France he praised Kofi Annan and said, "We must do everything for his [peace] mission to succeed. I think it is counterproductive to announce his mission as a failure in advance." Meanwhile, Russia has applied no visible pressure on Bashar al-Assad of Syria concerning Assad's failures to abide by his agreements with Annan.

Jun 2  Gallup reports that 46 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form - a percentage "essentially unchanged from 30 years ago" when Gallup first asked the question. Gallup didn't address the question of biological evolution in general flies, bacteria and the like - which a few of the 46 percent might accept.

Jun 3  In a popular and grand display of affection, the British celebrate Queen Elizabeth's 60th anniversary as their nation's chief-of-state. She is being praised for her loyalty to duty and service. Like other monarchs in Western Europe she has been in tune with democracy and a supporter of civil liberties and human rights.

Jun 3  In a televised address to Parliament, Syria's dictator, President Assad, referring to the Houla massacres of May 25, says that even monsters could not commit such acts. Assad calls on the people of Syria to unite.

Jun 4  Time will tell. Various pundits have been claiming that the Assad regime is too strong militarily for the Free Syrian Army and that there is a danger of a civil war in Syria lasting more then ten years like the civil war in Lebanon in the 1980s. CNN's pundit, Fareed Zakaria, has joined this group. A rival view is that Assad's military is a paper tiger, that something should be done to make it easier for people in Assad's military to defect. The Assad regime is dependent on its military strength and that strength could unravel faster than many think. Again, we shall see. Will the civil war now taking place in Syria drag on for more than ten years, or will Assad fall within a year or two?

Jun 5  Three Obama drone strikes in three days on suspected militants have killed 27 people, Pakistani intelligence officials say. Complaints have arisen that drone strikes violate international law, stir up hostility to the US and encourage growth in extremism. Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen, claims that drone attacks have strengthened the hand of terrorists there. The Obama administration claims the strikes are legal, and apparently Obama believes that in the long-run he is decapitating leadership that can't be replenished.

Jun 6  Four days of celebrating Queen Elizabeth's sixty years of reign ended yesterday with some complaints tweeted by Brits who want to be rid of the monarchy. Someone tweeted: "The reality is that while a large swathe of public opinion is largely indifferent to the royals but happy to have an extra public holiday to mark the jubilee many millions want the whole institution of monarchy consigned to the history books." This appears to be exaggeration. Those opposed to the monarchy have been described as 20% against 80% in favor. Some complain of the cost of maintaining the monarchy, a cost that has been described as something like one dollar per person per year. On the other hand, there are those delighted to have a chief of state somebody in politics functioning "above the fray." The queen has benefited from accident of birth (dynastic rule), but British history has put her under laws regarding democratic processes and civil liberties. Time marches on. Elizabeth has democratic sensibilities that her great-great grandmama, Queen Victoria, did not have.

Jun 8  Government action is to be employed regarding hand water pumps that automatically phone repairmen when a breakdown is imminent. This is planned for seventy villages in Kenya to cut down on the cost and delay in repairs that have been sending people to polluted water.
Jun 10  Spanish banks crashed after making bad loans to developers and home buyers in the pre-2008 overheated go-go period, using money they had borrowed from international financial institutions. And now the European Union has engineered a bank bailout a loan of 100 billion euros that some believe might not work. Spain's right-of-center Prime Minister Rajoy was opposed to a bailout but now is going along. Rajoy believes in his austerity reforms, while many in Spain don't want to be the ones to sacrifice and view the big moneylenders and Prime Minister Rajoy with hostility. A sign held by one of Spain's protesters reads: "Hands up! This is a rescue."

Jun 11  A Spaniard says, "It's a nightmare. People are so angry with the banks." Another says, "They are cheeky. They caused the problems and now want even more money." According to BBC News still another "points to the fact banks aren't regulated there [Madrid?] and that Spain's regions, which control their own finances, have been overspending both things have helped push up borrowing costs leading to Spain's economic problems." A banker says: "They say bankers are greedy, but everybody's greedy. It's the system that's corrupt in Spain." (BBC News)

Jun 12  Bond yields rise again for Spain and Italy good for creditors but making it more expensive to pay off debt and to finance economic growth. The optimism among some who greeted the Spanish bank bailout continues to evaporate.

Jun 12  Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota, suggests leaving party affiliation off ballots, forcing people who vote to know better who they are voting for. The most successful of independent political candidates in the US, he says he is not interested at the moment in being President. He is hawking his new book, DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government.

Jun 13  Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir tells Europeans to look to her country as a model for managing banking crises. Economist Paul Krugman agrees. He has written, "Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net." Another Nobel laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz, also agrees. He says, "Iceland did the right thing by making sure its payment systems continued to function while creditors, not the taxpayers, shouldered the losses of banks."

Jun 14  Moody's ratings agency slashes its rating on Spanish government debt to one notch above "junk." Spain's borrowing costs rise to a new high. Moody's (sic) says the eurozone bailout plan for Spain's banks would increase the country's debt burden.

Jun 14  An article for BBC News claims that we in the UK and US are not getting more greedy or less active. Sugar (fructose) in foods is the villain more than fat because of the quantity of sugar that we ingest. With fructose corn syrup, food has become cheaper to make and to buy, and "We're being bombarded every day by the food industry to consume more and more food." That includes fizzy soft drinks. In two decades (from the mid-1980s to 2005?) "the average American's consumption of fizzy drinks almost doubled - from 350 cans a year to 600."

Jun 19  The gathering in Brazil of leaders from twenty nations agrees to the text of a document that is supposed to address the world's environmental concerns. BBC News describes the text as lacking in details, having no timetable and environmental groups as saying the text lacks "any meaningful substance."

Jun 20  Being politically adult continues as a challenge in the US. President Obama's senior campaign strategist David Axelrod condemns heckling that has taken place at Republican events. Let people hear both sides, he says. Mitt Romney, running for president as a Republican, rejects calling on his supporters to stop making themselves obnoxious at Democratic Party campaign events.

Jun 22  Iceland repays $483.7 million in loans to the International Monetary Fund, an early repayment. This follows a $900 million repayment in March as Iceland works it way out of its financial meltdown in 2008.

Jun 22  The seventh meeting of the G-20 heads of government took place on the 18th and 19th. They issued a concluding statement: "We will act together to strengthen recovery and address financial market tensions." Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said, "The seeds of a pan-European recovery plan were planted." She added that leaders had committed "to take all measures necessary to safeguard the integrity and stability of the euro area." Some express disappointment and claim that too much favor is being shown banks rather than common people.

Jun 22  The British newspaper The Guardian reports that Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from Assad's military.

Jun 23  Summer is here. The US remains the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. Canada's government mandates at least 10 days of paid vacation for employees, Australia and the UK 20, Germany 24, Norway 25, France 30 days. Some in the US object to such guarantees for employees because they want to keep the US competitive, or they oppose additional regulations by government on businesses. Also, some in the US blur the above countries into one wickedly profligate group, a group inclined to debilitate economically compared to US economic potential that can be unleashed if a Republican were in the White House.

Jun 24  In Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has overseen the presidential election results that are announced today. The winner is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi apparently not SCAF's favorite with 51.7% of the vote. Thousands crowded into Cairo's Tahrir Square, waving national flags, cheering, chanting "God is Great" and "Don't fear! The military must go!" Leila Nachawati Rego, a professor of communication in Madrid, tweets: "Congratulations to ALL Egyptians for free elections and the end of the Mubarak era."

Jun 26  Turkey announces that if Syrian troops approach its borders, those troops will be seen as a military threat. This follows Syria having shot down, without warning, one of Turkey's fighter aircraft near the Turkish-Syrian border on June 22nd and Syria shooting at a second plane involved in a rescue search. Turkey is a member of NATO, and NATO has announced its support for Turkey. Also, in the past five days a Syrian general, two colonels, a major and a lieutenant with 33 other soldiers have defected and have arrived in Turkey. Two brigadier generals and two colonels from Syria's Aleppo area have announced their defection, and a Syrian Air Force pilot has defected in his aircraft to Jordan. Defections have been made easier with Turkey as a safe haven and with the growing strength of Syria's opposition forces.

Jun 27  In the company of other dignitairies, Queen Elizabeth II and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, now North Ireland's deputy first minister, cheefully shake hands. This follows the Queen's visit to Dublin last year. There she spoke of her "sincere thoughts and deep sympathy" to the victims of Ireland and the UK's troubled past and "a wish, finally to turn a page." As they shook hands today, Mr McGuinness told the Queen that their meeting was a "powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership."

Jun 28  Greece is still sinking. "Because everyone is angry with the government, Greece's already egregious problem of tax evasion is getting worse." So writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. People with money are sending it abroad. Individual interest still trumps collective interest.

Jun 29  Egypt's president-elect, Mohammed Morsi, addresses a packed Tahrir Square in Cairo, telling the people there that they are "the source of all authority," promising them that he will be "president for all Egyptians" and that the revolution must continue "until all its objectives are met." In a veiled reference to the military, he said. "I promise you that I will not give up on any of the powers given to the president." He pledged to work for the release of civilians detained by the military and to seek justice for those killed and injured in last year's uprising. Morsi has given up his position within the Muslim Brotherhood for the sake of his role as Egypt's president.

Jun 30  Mohammed Morsi is sworn in as Egypt's first democratically elected president. Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, leader of the military council said to be passing power to the president, salutes Morsi and shakes his hand.

July 2012

Jul 1  In Hong Kong, an estimated 400,000 participate in an annual rally, beating drums, waving flags, singing, dancing and shouting slogans. China has ruled Hong Kong for fifteen years with a "one country, two system" policy. One demonstrator told BBC News, "We are fighting for the right to vote. It should have happened by now." Another said, "We're fighting for the rule of law. The Chinese government is interfering with the workings of the Hong Kong government, and that's not right."

Jul 2  Syria update. Assad regime helicopters bombarded the Damascus suburb Douma today. Douma was attacked by government forces two days ago, and Reuters News describes "bodies rotting in the streets of the nearly abandoned town." Assad has told the international community in effect that what he does in Syria is his business and to butt out. Diplomacy continues to fail, and Russia is being accused of protecting Assad.

Jul 3  More regarding Syria. Turkey's deputy prime minister announces that regime change in Syria is a domestic issue for Syria and not Turkey's business or interest. Turkish media reports that yesterday another 85 Syrian soldiers, including 14 senior officers, defected across the Turkish border. And, according to National Public Radio, Human Rights Watch reports today that Syrian intelligence agencies have established at least 27 detention facilities - an "archipelago of torture centers scattered across the country."

Jul 4  In Europe, austerity strategy is being discarded in hope of moderate economic growth with discipline. International Monetary Fund director, Christine Lagarde, supports the same for the United States. She forecasts recovery at 2.3 percent in 2013, up from 2 percent in 2012 "tepid growth". She says that in order to bring the debt under control, action needs to be taken "over a period of time extend for the next 10 years." It needs to be gradual, she claims, and "not so contractionary that the economy stalls." Referring to the austerity-growth debate in Europe, she says there is "clearly more focus on a balanced approach."

Jul 7  The Economist writes today of the growth of the anti-Assad forces in Syria, of anti-Assad fighters transporting arms and medicine "and greeting refugees and defectors passing the other way." It repeats a report that regime "soldiers patrolling the border have to be flown into some posts, since they are unable to cross hostile territory by land." Also, "A UN expert reckons that 40% of Syria's populated area is no longer fully under government control." The title of the article is "The tide begins to turn."

Jul 8  In the United States the campaign for president is underway. Mitt Romney is saying he will be better at advancing the economy and job creation than President Obama. He describes Obama as having failed. It's a claim that defies Christine Lagarde of the IMF who says that the best we can hope for is continued "tepid" growth from 2 to 2.3%. Romney promises to incentivize the "job creators." Skeptics counter that those with the money to hire people will do so when they need to increase production because of increased buying.

Jul 9  Bashar al Assad again claims that he has the support of a majority of Syrians. He tells a German news organization, "The US is against me, the West is against me, numerous regional powers and countries are against me; if the people were also against me, then how could I still be in my position?" The answer, some would say, is wanton use of military force. Meanwhile, today, Kofe Annan announced that he has "just had a positive and constructive discussion with President Assad." Assad told him again of his willingness to negotiate a settlement with his opponents - whom he calls terrorists and implies are traitors.

Jul 10  It's in evolutionary genetics. Researchers discover why dogs like to gnaw on bones. They developed the jaw muscle strength that allowed them to survive when "open habitants were spreading through Asia, Europe and North America" around eight million years ago. And dogs are genetically inclined to want to use their jaw strength. (BBC News)

Jul 11  Eurozone finance ministers have agreed to give 30 billion euros to Spain's troubled banks by the end of the month and to give Spain's government an extra year until 2014 to reach its budget targets. Spain's center-right government announces austerity measures (increased sales tax and spending cuts) to satisfy the big-money people behind the bank bailout. BBC News writes that, "European leaders want to see a credible Spanish plan for viability and deficit reduction." Labor, led by miners, are protesting in the streets. They don't care what does and does not satisfy big-money people; they don't want the average Spaniard carrying any more burden in the crisis created by big-money people.

Jul 12  Libya's first-time elections for decades, on July 7, have been getting a good press. According to the Norway Post, "International observers reported that the election was well organized and orderly" and "voter turnout was around 60 percent." Norway's foreign minister is reported as saying, "Libyan voters men and women alike showed great courage by protecting polling stations against those who tried to disrupt the voting."
Jul 13  On July 9, Syria's President Assad told United Nations peace envoy Kofi Annan that his (Annan's) plan to end 16 months of bloodshed in Syria was being undermined by US political support for terrorists. Annan announced to the world that his talk with Assad was constructive. Today, Annan says he is "shocked" by the slaughter of 200 men, women and children in the Syrian village of Tremseh. Why Annan thought his talks with Assad were constructive and why Annan can still be shocked by events in Syria remain unknown.

Jul 17  A third day of warfare in Syria's capital has reached the city's center. Democracy forces call it Operation Damascus Volcano. Across Syria the surging multitude of combatants are blocking main highways, and there are claims that the decisive battle for Syria is underway. An activist says that Assad's army is shelling the al-Midan neighborhood in Damascus "hysterically" and that "the collapsing regime has gone mad." There is fear that the Assad regime may start to use its chemical weapons.

Jul 17  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells reporters that, "It should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime their days are numbered."

Jul 18  Conflict between Canada-based gold and copper mining companies and agricultural villages in Central America is underway. There, Inmet of Toronto is building what will be one of the biggest copper mines. The companies are accused of making river fish unfit to eat and of disrupting local labor markets. The companies are financing schools and health centers to win acquiescence, but local leaders are not accepting it, saying these things are the responsibility of their government. Canadian mining companies have around 1,400 properties from Mexico to Argentina. MiningWatch Canada reports: "We're seeing moratoriums on new mining concessions in Guatemala, in Honduras, in El Salvador, in Ecuador."

Jul 19  The surge by anti-Assad forces in Damascus is holding on for the fifth day more successful than the Tet Offensive in Saigon in 1968. Across Syria crowds are celebrating in the streets. The rise in morale equals more people encouraged to fight and to fight better. In the face of the sudden success of the opposition, the Assad regime speaks absurdities similar to Gaddafi in Libya just before he was defeated. Yesterday state radio and TV repeated over and over that the Syrian people's unity is going to grow. (What unity? They are in a civil war. The regime is falling because it is not a part of a unity of sufficient breadth.) Gaddafi was calling his opposition rats. Yesterday came the announcement that the Armed Forces are resolved "to decisively eliminating the criminal and murder gangs and chasing them out of their rotten hideouts wherever they are until clearing the homeland of their evils."

Jul 20  On this, the sixth day of occupy Damascus, according to the Arab News, anti-Assad forces have been driven out of the Midan district while other anti-Assad combatants continue to pour into the city from elsewhere in Syria. Anti-regime attacks within the city continue. Another Syrian general has fled to Turkey, bringing the number of generals sheltered there to 22. As many as 30,000 Syrian refugees "may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours."

Jul 20  In Aurora Colorado, a 25-year-old, James Eagan Holmes, enters a movie theater, shoots and kills 12 and wounds 70. Holmes had an undergraduate degree in neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside, with the highest honors. Holmes will be described as under the influence of nihilism. What he demonstrated was contempt, and he will be described as suffering from mental problems.

Jul 21  The economic crisis continues in Europe. Spain has had a week of demonstrations against government austerity cuts. Yesterday Spain's stock market fell sharply: nearly 6%. This was after eurozone ministers agreed to a big loan to Spain's banks in return for the Spanish government restructuring its banking sector. The cost of borrowing money continued its rise anyway, above 7.2%, as moneylenders (creditors) want higher rates of return on their money rates said to be unsustainable for a country that cannot devalue its own currency and is in a depression. What to do? Just cancelling debt and starting from scratch is not an option for Spain's right-of-center government. Analysts are talking again about a coming breakup of the eurozone, with Spain going back to its old currency, the peseta, which Spain could manipulate to suit its interests rather than the interests of moneylenders.

Jul 22  The world wealthy are hiding at least $21 trillion in tax havens according to a report by James Henry, printed by BBC News. "This figure is equivalent to the size of the US and Japanese economies combined." Comments are well over a thousand. A Brit writes: We need OUR currency to drive OUR economy, not to have it hoarded for 'market killings.' Another comments: "The british government in charge at the moment, demonizing the so-called benefit scroungers, targeting the pensioners, the old, the sick, the hard-working people, closing down libraries, schools, and hospitals telling us that we can't go on like this. We? Who's we?"

Jul 23  Economic crisis continues in Spain, expressed today in the continuing fall in its stock market. Spain's banks are described as undercapitalized, the central government cannot borrow money at an affordable rate. Spain's regions are burdened by debts they cannot pay. Spain is not growing out of its recession, and its economy minister says, "We have done all what we could to establish the bases of a return to a healthy growth for Spain's economy."

Jul 24  Saudi King Abdullah hostile to the Assad regime in Syria initiates a donation campaign to support the people of Syria. Today so far, $32.4 has been raised in the kingdom. Yesterday at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, the Arab League pledged $100 million in aid for Syrian refugees.

Jul 27  "Every time there are 15 people killed in a village, 500 additional sympathizers are mobilized, roughly 100 of whom are fighters." So says Robert Mood, former head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria. Now the enhanced rebel forces are focusing on defending Syria's second city, Aleppo. They have taken the city from within, overwhelming police and Assad militiamen. People in Aleppo are standing arm-in-arm in the street, cheering in the face of death. The city is surrounded by Assad forces with bigger guns, tanks and aircraft. Anti-Assad fighters are moving behind them. Meanwhile a defecting general claims that Assad's forces are on the brink of a logistical meltdown because they lack fuel and food. The question: how soon is Assad going to realize that for him it's over? And today, a less significant development than the looming Battle for Aleppo, and a different kind of cheering: the opening festivities for the London Olympics.

Jul 28  People power in China. Hundreds of demonstrators protesting in the coastal city of Qidong (near Shanghai) have protested against pollution from a paper-making factory. They chanted slogans in opposition to the pollution of coastal waters. They occupied a government office, destroyed computers, overturned cars and clashed with police. Reuters described five cars and one minibus being overturned. Demonstrators found a party official wearing an expensive Italian brand shirt and forced him to replace it with a shirt bearing an anti-pollution slogan. At least two police officers were dragged into the crowd and beaten. The crowds dispersed after local authorities announced that the waste water pipeline project would be "permanently cancelled."

Jul 29  For a second day the Assad regime continues its assault against the city of Aleppo. Col. Abdel Jabbar Al-Oqaidi of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) describes his side as having "destroyed eight tanks and some armored vehicles and killed more than 100 soldiers." Oqaidi said that the FSA can "face air strikes" and that Assad's air strikes were responsible for the high death toll among civilians. He calls for help for the people of Aleppo in the form of a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, after months of failing to get the Assad regime to stop its military assaults, Kofe Annan rejects the rebels' armed defense against the Assad regime. Annan repeats his claim that only a political solution can end the conflict. With Annan are the Russians, as before. Despite Russia's historical experience with an indigenous mass uprising against autocracy, yesterday Russia's foreign minister sided with the Assad regime by blaming the West for "essentially encouraging, supporting and directing an armed struggle against the regime."

Jul 30  From Rueters: 'We always knew the regime's grave would be Aleppo. Damascus is the capital, but here we have a fourth of the country's population and the entire force of its economy. Bashar's forces will be buried here," said Mohammed, a young fighter, fingering the bullets in his tattered brown ammunition vest.

Jul 31  Indian women who have angered their families by pursuing "forbidden" relationships are increasingly seeking refuge with their husbands in special shelters run by the police. Asked whether her family might really kill her husband because she married outside her caste without permission, she says, "Yes, yes, they can." (BBC News)

August 2012

Aug 1  Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put the US in favor of separating Syria's dictator-president Bashar al-Assad from his military. He said "It's very important that we don't make the same mistakes we made in Iraq." He would like to see Syria's military establishment as a part of a stable transition to democracy in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army. It's a view that reduces Syria's bloodshed and destruction merely to the Assad family wanting to stay in power. Bashar al-Assad doesn't see it that way. Today, regarding the on-going battle for Aleppo, he sent a written message from an unknown location to his military, which read: "The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle." (How winning the battle could change the past he didn't explain.)

Aug 2  Fear of recession haunts Europeans while European leaders hope that the Eurozone's central bank (ECB) tinkering with lowered borrowing costs will solve the Eurozone's problem. Lowered borrowing costs is a hit against the moneylenders, who normally want the market to decide lending rates. Some see wishful thinking by Europe's leaders and expect something more radical to happen. European markets have been rising and falling and are down again today. Yesterday, President Obama welcomed recent declarations by European leaders and the Eurozone's Central Bank on the need to do whatever is necessary to preserve the euro, and Timothy Geithner told European leaders of their need to lower interest rates.

Aug 3  Kofe Annan yesterday quit his mission as peace envoy for Syria. He admitted that it was a "mission impossible," yet for months  he continued his "mission impossible" while Bashar al-Assad and the Russians used him in their public pronouncements. In his announcement yesterday, Annan put blame on the characters that he as a diplomat was obliged to understand, but didn't. And he did the false equivalence thing. He blamed the opposition forces although they were weak when the peace plan was launched and were willing to stop fighting if Assad stopped attacking their neighborhoods.

Aug 5  About NBC Olympic coverage, Sam Luce tweets: "Sitting down watching commercials with a few Olympic breaks mixed in." Someone else tweets: "You have no idea what you are missing in the BBC." A trick for accessing BBC coverage is suggested. A Brit responds: "Yes, the BBC coverage is excellent, but what you're suggesting is nefarious at best. The BBC is region locked because we, the British TV licence payer, pay for the privilege of having an excellent, commercial free service."

Aug 7  Iran blames the "warmongering" US for the crisis in Syria. Iran's moral leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sends his security chief, Omran al-Zoubi, to Damascus. There he meets with the dictator Assad and pledges Iran's determination to maintain what he calls a vital regional alliance. Omran al-Zoubi's next stop is Turkey. Meanwhile, Assad's prime minister has defected. Also, Assad's forces are trying to encircle and choke-off opposition forces in Aleppo, and those forces are running low on ammunition.

Aug 8  A Free Syrian Army announcement claims responsibility for the death of a Russian general, Vladmir Petrovic Kojaiv. It describes the general as embroiled in the "humanitarian crimes" against Syrians, and it adds, "We warn all the snakes to go back to their dens whether it is Russia, Iran and Iraq or Lebanon." (Al Arabiya)

Aug 8  The Bank of France says that France is falling back into recession. The Bank of England cuts it's forcast for the growth of the British economy to zero. Yesterday, Reuters reported that "Italy shrank further into recession in the second quarter [April to June] for a 2.5 percent yearly decline... threatening attempts by Mario Monti's technocrat government to control a debt crisis that is undermining the whole euro zone."

Aug 9  Syrian rebel commanders admit to a "strategic withdrawal" from the Salah al-Din district in Aleppo. The Assad regime used airpower against the district and has described it as a success reminiscent of the comment from a US Army major in Vietnam who said. "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it." The Assad regime has also described recent military operations in Damascus as a victory. There, today, anti-Assad forces are reported to be lying low and organizing for a coordinated offensive. Meanwhile, Iran is sponsoring a twelve-nation conference that includes Russian representation. Iran wants dialogue that includes Syria's anti-Assad forces, while it says nothing about Assad having to step down if there is to be peace. (Imagine a US president sending tanks, helicopter gunships and bomb-dropping warplanes against neighborhoods he thought hostile to his re-election.)

Aug 10  In Libya yesterday, the Interim National Transitional Council did its work by handing over political power to the country's 200-member assembly. Members to the assembly were elected on 7 July elections reported as free and fair. BBC News reports that crowds in Tripoli celebrated the hand over, "which was the first peaceful transition of power in Libya's modern history." The new assembly is to elect a prime minister and to pass laws until new parliamentary elections are held under a new constitution.

Aug 13  The summer Olympic games in London have ended. The number of medals awarded to athletes according to country puts the US first at 104 and China second at 88, but dividing the number of medals by population puts Trinidad & Tobago at the top at 3.3 per million. New Zealand scores 3.0 per million. China, because of its large population, scores 0.06 - a common score - about the same as Ethiopia, Turkey and Mexico. The United States scores much higher, at 0.33. Singapore, with two medals, scores 0.37. Canada scores at 0.52 up there with Germany at 0.54 and Russia at 0.59. Sweden scores 1.98 and Denmark at 1.6. A Ugandan won the men's marathon which provided the country its one medal, a score of 0.27 per million and a great personal achievement for the runner. The same can be said for Ethiopia's score of .07 and the great achievement of the winner of the woman's marathon. These countries were not expected to participate in activities more common to affluent countries.

Aug 14  Egypt's fifth president, Mohamed Morsi, has strengthened his political power by sending Field Marshal Tantawi, 76, and armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan, 64, into retirement. He has done so apparently assuring the men that they were retiring with dignity. Morsi has also scrapped a constitutional document that gives the military legislative and other powers. Morsi appears to have the approval of the military men being elevated in rank.

Aug 15  Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke of an increase of Iranians in Syria to prop up the Assad regime militarily. Also yesterday, the Assad regime's former prime minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, described the Syrian government as collapsing "morally, financially and militarily" and as controlling no more than 30 percent of Syrian territory. in Mecca the Saudi king, Abdullah, hosted a conclave of Muslims, including Iran's president, Ahmadinejad, whom he asked to sit next to him. King Abdullah proposed the establishment of a dialogue center to promote inter-sectarian harmony, and the proposal was received with thunderous applause. Iran appears to be positioning itself for the loss of the Assad regime as an ally.

Aug 16  Today, apparently with little understanding of the breadth that is politics, Floyd Lee Corkins walked into the office of the conservative Family Research Council in Washington DC, said he didn't like their politics and committed an amost universally despised political act among those who believe in democracy: he began shooting.

Aug 18
  In South Africa, striking miners armed with machetes, sticks and at least one handgun are reported to have aggressed against a line of police. Considering violence against the police was a tactic with unsatisfying results. The police responded with what they describe as self-defence. The result: 34 miners dead, another 78 wounded and more than 200 arrested. South Africa is ruled today by the African National Congress, which describes itself as a "disciplined force of the left." President Jacob Zuma says, "We are all saddened and dismayed by the events."

Aug 19  Mitt Romney says he will cut federal money to Public Broadcasting, describing subsidies as money borrowed from China. The US federal government is spending $444 million on PBS in the fiscal year 2012. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation receives more federal money: $946 million in 2006. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) draws revenue from user fees - not an option Romney is considering. In the US, commercials are more pervasive than decades ago, with stations cutting portions of rebroadcast dramas. Recently Americans were stuck with commercials while trying to watch the Summer Olympics. A few found refuge with CBC or BBC broadcasts - public television being what public parks are supposed to be.

Aug 20  In Burma, the government abolishes pre-publication media censorship. Reporters will no longer be required to submit their work to state censors before publication.

Aug 20  Self-inflicted tragedy has reduced another person of high social standing. Gu Kailai, once described as China's Jacqueline Kennedy, is given a suspended death sentence, said to amount to a life in prison. She admitted in court to poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood. Gu Kailai is the wife of Bo Xilai, who was head of the Communist Party in Chongking and a contender for a position on the Communist Party's politburo. Four senior police officers have admitted charges of covering up evidence linking Ms Gu to the murder. Neil Heywood refused her request to illegally transfer money to Britain. Ms Gu had a reputation for charm, brains and drive. She has a masters degree in international politics and represented several Chinese companies in high-profile cases in the United States. The world is also witnessing a self-inflicted tragedy befalling Bashar al-Assad and his family.

Aug 21  Yesterday, President Obama warned that use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime represented a "red line" for the United States. Today, Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov displayed his measure of sensitivity to events in Syria. He warned against unilateral action in Syria apparently even if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against Syrian populations. Lavrov spoke of the norms of international law and the principles contained in the United Nations Charter, and he warned against "democracy by bombs." The use of bombs for democracy during World War II, the Nuremberg trials, the Genocide Convention of 1948 and the UN Charter forbidding slaughter within a country didn't appear to be a parts of Lavrov's (or Putin's) point of view.

Aug 22  China's state media accuses President Obama of planning to use Syria's chemical weapons as an excuse for intervening militarily, suggesting that if the Assad regime does use chemical weapons China would fault Obama more than it would chemical weapons and the Assad regime.

Aug 22  The United Nations reports that in Latin America the gap between rich and poor has been widening. Guatemala is described as have the widest gap and Venezuela with the most narrow. Latin America is described as the most urbanized region in the world, with eight out of 10 people living in cities.

Aug 23  Prime Minister David Cameron joins President Obama in warning the Assad regime about use of chemical weapons. Presumably, contrary to China's recent claim, Obama and Cameron are trying to discourage the Assad regime from using chemical weapons rather than looking for an excuse to intervene.

Aug 26  Armed Assad supporters continue their attempt to control with intimidation. Recently In a Druse neighborhood an armed contingent carried the dead body of an anti-Assad fighter through the streets to show what happens to those who fight the Assad regime. News today describes a pro-Assad force In Darayya (a neighborhood near Damascus) having slaughtered a couple of hundred people execution style rather than in actual combat, and the government media, Sana, explains that Darayya was being "cleansed of terrorist remnants." But if Syria is again to function socially and economically as a coherent political unit, the ideologically and religiously diverse Syrians will have to get along better than they are today by moving to something more democratic. Democracy engages in an appeal to hearts and minds. The politics of intimidation - the way of authoritarian rule - is not going to work any longer in Syria. Armed Assad supporters are pursuing an impossibility.

Aug 27  Conflict at the Lonmin (a British company) platinum mine in South Africa continues - largely another division of wealth problem complicated by fighting between labor unions. Rock driller operators have been demanding a monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,500). Lonmin says they get about 9,800 rand with an average monthly bonus of 1,500 rand. Other miners are on strike in support of the rock drillers. Today, only thirteen percent of the 28,000 miners showed up for work and they were confronted by strikers. The production of platinum has fallen, and its price has risen on the world market. Lonmin's stock had declined again today, down to $626 from $774 eleven days ago.

Aug 28  Burma's military-backed government announces the removal of 2,082 names from its list of people considered a threat to national security. According to BBC News, this reduces the list about one-third. State media describes the move as a signal to Burmese citizens abroad that they can return home.
Yulia Tymoshenko in 2009
Yulia Tymoshenko in 2009

Aug 28  At the Republican National Convention, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik delivers the invocation. In it he denies the founding of the United States as having a place in history and as men responding politically to a new philosophical trend. Instead, he describes the founding of the United States in the same manner that despotic monarchies defended their rule: the claim of divine agency.

Aug 29  In a television interview today, Assad sticks with his political solution to Syria's crisis: killing and terrorizing his opponents - more than half the country. He says "I can summarise in one phrase: we are progressing, the situation on the ground is better but we have not yet won. This will take more time."

Aug 29  In Ukraine the high court rejects the appeal of former president, Yulia Tymoshenko. She is serving seven years in prison. She had favored aligning Ukraine with NATO and the European Union rather than with Putin's Russia. Her opponent, now President Yanukovych, has closer ties with Russia. Temoshenko claims that the charges against her are politically motivated. She complains that there has been no judicial review and that she is not receiving proper medical care.

Aug 30  Human Rights Watch reports that "Syrian government forces have dropped bombs and fired artillery at or near at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province over the past three weeks, killing and maiming scores of civilians who were waiting for bread."

September 2012

Sep 2  Syria enters another month of civil war, with President Assad and his Allawite supporters describing the uprising in Syria as an assault from outside the country. Assad still believes he can win the war by military action. Others see Assad and his supporters as living in a dream world. Some of us advocate a negotiated settlement as soon as possible to avoid years of horrendous violence, a settlement with a promise of democracy that would establish order and minimize the sectarian hatred that has been brewing. Anything closely resembling democracy would leave the Assad family without power, and little hope exists of such a settlement as long as Assad remains in power.

Sep 5  First Lady Michelle Obama, spoke to the Democratic National Convention yesterday - about issues for her husband not being political. "For Barack," she said, "they're personal, because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids... He wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love... He's the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work." Tweets during the speech were 28,000 per minute compared to 14,000 tweets per minute for Mitt Romney's acceptance speech last week. The columnist Charles Krauthammer, a Romney supporter, responded by describing Michelle's speech as "brilliant." "I thought it was a great speech," he said, "but I didn't buy a line of it." Krauthammer says he is tired of speeches about hardship, and he guesses that Barack Obama has motives not described by Michelle Obama.

Sep 6  In nominating President Obama for another four years, Bill Clinton reminded people that he has cooperated with Republicans, and he criticized congressional Republicans for their rigid failure to cooperate with Democrats. Cooperation is necessary, he said, in order to get things done. He praised Obama's "reasonable plan" for attacking the debt, and he praised the "balanced approach of the Simpson-Bowles commission." He accused the Republicans of not using the method he used for attacking the deficit: "arithmetic." He concluded: "We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double-down on trickle-down." In detail he described as wrong the accusations by Romney and Ryan that Obama had robbed medicare. He ridiculed the charge that "Democrats don't really believe in free enterprise and individual initiative, how we want everybody to be dependent on the government, how bad we are for the economy." He described the Republican approach as "you're on your own" and "winner take all." A better approach, he said, is "We're all in this together.'' He mentioned that in the 24 years since 1961 that the Democrates held the White House, forty-two million jobs were created, and 28 million jobs in the Republcan years. Charles Krauthammer for Fox News described Clinton's speech as sprawling, undisciplined, a wasted opportunity, self-indulgent and "a giant swing and a miss. Mighty Casey struck out." Clinton's speech provoked 22,000 tweets per minute.

Sep 7  Yesterday, the European Central Bank announced details of its bond buying plan. The plan is intended to ease the debt crisis by lowering government borrowing costs. Yields on Spanish and Italian ten-year bonds have fallen, the Euro has climbed to a two-month high against the dollar, and yesterday stock market prices in Europe and the US rallied.

Sep 8  Yesterday, Reuters reported that President Obama's speech "prompted 52,756 tweets per minute just after it ended, a new record according to Twitter." Some who watched complained that they didn't hear specific economical proposals from Obama. Obama spoke of "bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued." He spoke of rebuilding roads and bridges, schools and runways, the need to advance education, and he spoke of special tax cuts as incentives for businesses. He said he would "use the money we're no longer spending on war to pay down our debt." Obama is opposed to "trickle down" economics and he left that point to Bill Clinton's speech the day before - a point some people understand and others do not. Nevertheless, the overall reaction for Obama was positive. He has received a bounce from the convention. Gallop Poll has his approval rating at 52%, a fifteen-month high. Romney, on the other hand, is reported as having received no bump up from the Republican convention. The two other recent presidential candidates who also received no bump up are: George McGovern in 1972 and John Kerry in 2004.

Sep 9  A week of protests by thousands in Hong Kong force the island's locally elected head of government, Leung Chun-ying, to give up plans initiated by Beijing that would have required students to take patriotism classes. The protesters are opposed to government "brainwashing."

Sep 10  On Fox News, Republican candidate for US Vice President, Paul Ryan, has criticized Democrats for having "purged" the word "God" from their official platform. "It's not in keeping with our founding documents," he said (although "God" is not mentioned in the US Constitution and the Democrats left it in their platform). Some who detest Democrats have joined in. They have associated the Democrats with the godless Soviet Union (rather than with Australia, which has a Labour Party non-believer, Julia Gillard, as prime minister). Not yet heard is a Democrat comparing the Republican Party with the party that actually claims to be the "Party of God," in Arabic: Hezbollah. Meanwhile, some of us respect those many Democrats whose belief in God is personal, and we wonder about certainties as to God's interest in politics.

Sep 12  A film idenified as crude sensationalism rather than enlightening has been made by a self-described Israeli with perhaps a fictitious name: Sam Bacile. He is said to have been working in real estate development in California. Mr. Bacile tells the Wall Street Journal that he made the film to expose "Islam as a hateful religion." He also says, "Islam is a cancer, period." The film has enraged a segment of the Muslim population in Libya and Egypt, people who do not yet accept that there are a few people in the world who despise their religion and are crude and hateful about it. The film has had almost no showing or support, and the enraged are inaccurate in choosing their target.

Sep 13  Sam Bacile is being described in the press as a fictitious character, and Israeli officials tell the Associated Press that they have no record of anyone by that name. Steve Klein, on the other hand, had much to do with the creation of the anti-Muslim film and he has been talking to the press. He is an insurance agent from the sun-drenched town of Hemet in central-southern California. He's a member of Courageous Christians United, a group of happy-looking, smiling people devoted to opposition to Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims. They take a position common among Christians during many centuries past: that "Christianity is the only true religion." It's a position that puts them above today's concern about religious tolerance. According to a report carried by CBS News, an Egyptian talk-show host has also played a role in inspiring the riots by Muslims yesterday and today. Apparently, like some other talk-show hosts, he was interested in something sensational: the anti-Muslim film went no where - a complete failure - for two months until the talk show host played it for his audience on September 8.

Sep 14  impassioned demonstrators in Muslim countries, who don't understand US freedom of speech, riot against insults to the Prophet Muhammad, claiming that a movie made in the US is part of a US government conspiracy against Islam. On Fox News, Bill O'Rellly reacts with a wild idea of his own. He claims that the minority demonstrating against the US indicates that Muslims don't like us and that President Obama's "soft power" and "sensitive" approach to the Muslim world has failed. "A good try," he said, "but it has not worked." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues to describe the president as not tough enough. But Robert Kagan, a foreign policy commentator commonly labelled as a neo-conservative, doesn't go along with the excitement. In the Washington Post he writes: "A handful of Republicans pushed Wednesday [the 12th] to cut off aid to Libya and Egypt. Fortunately, most Republicans and Democrats in Congress reject the idea."

Sep 16  Excited mobs in China rampage for the fifth and wildest day. They attack Japan's embassy, Japanese businesses including Panasonic factories. They attack people in Japanese cars and snatch Japanese cameras. There are chants "Declare war on Japan" and "Long Live China." Police are out in full force trying to contain them. The demonstrators are angry over Japan's government buying three small islands from Japanese citizens, putting the islands under Japanese state control. China claims that the group of islands of which the three are a part - the Diaoyu islands, between Okinawa and Taiwan - are historically Chinese. Japanese call them the Senkaku Islands. Japan annexed the islands in 1895. Premier Wen Jiabao plays to the get-tough spirit, saying his government will "absolutely make no concession" concerning the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Sep 17  The attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, on September 11, is being described as retaliation for a drone attack that killed Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. Rioting because of the anti-Islam film made by persons in the US is in decline but continues. Yesterday, Tariq Ramadan, Oxford University professor of Islamic Studies, stated that quite clearly "the great majority of the Libyans and the Egyptians and the Tunisians and the Yemeni people are completely against what was done against the embassies, the killing of the ambassador." Today in Beirut, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah (a supporter of Assad in Syria) puts his face forward and calls for a week of protests against American embassies and also against Muslim governments. Meanwhile, the US has sent ships, more troops and special forces to various locations to help protect its embassies and citizens.

Sep 19  Russia's President Putin accuses the US of using its aid agency, USAid, to influence his country's politics and elections. The Russian government gives USAid until the first of October to cease all operations in the country. According to the newspaper The Guardian, the agency has helped to fund a number of pro-democracy and human rights groups. Al Jazeera writes of Moscow "tightening Internet controls" and having "raised fines for protesters." Also today, in the Washington Post, columnists Marc Thiessen and Richard Cohen accuse President Obama of having been too passive in foreign policy. Five days ago, Russia's parliament voted to expel Putin critic Gennady Gudkov who had participated in anti-Putin and anti-corruption demonstrations.

Sep 19  As sometimes happens, slowly, clarity moves against popular confusion. Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, describes to the US Congress the nature of the assault on the consulate in Benghazi on September 11 that killed Ambassador Stevens and four others. The attack has been confused with the public rioting that was also taking place.

Sep 20  Today in the Washington Post, the conservative columnist George Will writes that Mitt Romney is silly for describing the anti-US rioting as the fruit of the Obama administration's weakness. Meanwhile, the rioting has subsided except in Pakistan and maybe a couple of other places, and the governments of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, to name just three, are as friendly to the US as they were ten days ago before the rioting began. A French satirical magazine has gained publicity by publishing obscene photos of the Prophet Muhammad and is proclaiming its right to freedom of expression.

Sep 21  Interviewed by an Egyptian magazine and speaking of the rebellion against his dictatorship, President Assad of Syria says, "Both sides of the equation are equal and political dialogue is the only solution." He claims that "change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention." BBC News describes him as also saying that the Arab Spring uprisings only brought chaos.

Sep 22  Consumer Reports magazine this week released a warning about arsenic in rice, claiming that arsenic levels have increased by arsenic having been fed to chickens, turkeys and pigs and their manure used as fertilizer. Consumer Reports describes arsenic-containing drug formulations having been given to chickens to promote growth and prevent disease.

Sep 23  According to Reuters, President Obama thanks Egypt's President Morsi for securing the US Embassy during recent anti-US protests - in contrast to what Reuters describes as Mitt Romney's call "for a tougher line with Egypt."

Sep 23  Portugal's right-of-center government has been facing raucous street demonstrations against its plan to increase social security taxes. The government is backing down, and to stay on track in reducing its deficit it is reported as preparing a new cut in holiday subsidies for workers.

Sep 25  Reported in the Copenhagen Post, an analyst from the Fitch rating agency, Maria Malas-Mroueh, describes the Danish economy as having many structural strengths. "It's versatile," she says, "personal income is high and there are robust economic, political and social institutions." Ivan Morozov from Standard & Poor's adds that Denmark's prized triple-A rating is a result of the government's "continued commitment to fiscal discipline and growth orientated macro economic policy."

Sep 27   In New York, responding to a question from talk show host David Letterman, British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks of "...a big difference between us. We don't allow political parties to advertise on television." The audience applauds and shouts its approval.

Sep 27  In the United States the big election is about five weeks away. In public a newsperson asks Jason Klaus, 26, which presidential candidate he is supporting. Four years ago Mr Klaus voted for Obama. But he says now he's in the business world and favors Mitt Romney because of his plan to keep taxes low for those with higher incomes. Says Klaus: "They are the ones who own the businesses, and they are the ones who are putting the money back in the economy and providing the jobs. So I believe that would be a better plan for us." Jason Klaus appears to be a believer in what Obama and Bill Clinton call "trickle down" economics - the economics of President George W. Bush. At the Democratic National Convention a couple of weeks ago, former president Bill Clinton said, "We simply can't afford to hand the reins to somebody who will double down on trickle down." Obviously not everyone agrees with Bill Clinton or knows what he is talking about. Despite the arguments saturating television, a lot of reasoning as the US approaches election day appears to be based on hunches. This Includes Democrats who believe opposite Jason Klaus that the wealthy have more cash than ever to invest and that it will be consumer spending that drives businesses to hire more people and to advance the economy.

Sep 29  The blur that sometimes occurs in reporting events, and that has dragged on regarding the attack on the 11th of this month in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Stevens, is still a news item. On September 13, Rachel Maddow broadcast what appears to have been an accurate account. Finally, yesterday's news included a report that top US intelligence sources have issued a public statement with a clarification that agrees with Maddow's (and MSNBC's) account, described on the Sep 17 entry on this page.

October 2012

Oct 1  Arnold Schwarzenegger, impulse and the human condition: On 60 Minutes, he says his family was most important to him. Referring to his hanky-panky with the family maid that ruined it for him, he asks himself, "That is something that I will always look back and say, 'How could you have done that?'"

Oct 1  Labour Party leader Ed Miliband tells British banks that if they don't split between "casino operation" investment banking and traditional customer banking, a future Labour government will "break them up."

Oct 1  Bahrain's highest court upholds prison sentences for nine medics who served people injured during last year's pro-democracy protests.

Oct 3  President Assad of Syria enters another month of war against those he calls terrorists - and I view as freedom fighters. Last month the Assad regime announced they had cleared Damascus of the terrorists, but then they felt they had to attack again in Damascus, and again, and again. It was the same with the major city of Allepo: claims of having defeated the terrorists and fighting that rages on to today. Syria's foreign minister talks silly by saying that his government is ready to negotiate an end to the fighting but that various nations have to stop supplying arms to the terrorists first. Last month BBC News America broadcast a history of the conflict in which it described Assad's mother telling him to be tough like his father. And to today that continues to be Bashar al-Assad's solution to the conflict, although his side is gaining nothing while killing a lot of people, making refugees of many, destroying buildings and creating a lot of suffering.
 neighborhoods in Syria are still demonstrating
Despite months of regime assaults, some neighborhoods in Syria are still demonstrating. Today (Oct 5)
a YouTube video  shows one such demonstration with a sign insulting to President Obama and NATO.

Oct 5  In the wake of a cross-border mortar attack by Syria and Turkey's retaliatory response (two days ago), fears have been expressed about an escalating regional conflict. For months we have been hearing such fears from those opposed to arming Syria's Free Syrian Army. Today, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague says, again perhaps, "...the longer the conflict goes on in Syria the greater the danger for international peace and security." Meanwhile there are no signs of diplomacy speeding a settlement, and the world stands by as Assad's aircraft and artillery bomb and shell neighborhoods hostile to his rule.
Image from 2011, found in Opinion Maker magazine
Image from 2011, found in Opinion Maker magazine

Oct 7 In Pakistan, politician and former cricket star, Imran Kahn, has led a thousands-strong nine-mile motorcade and protest rally against President Obama's drone policy. Khan describes drone attacks as violations of Pakistani sovereignty and international law, and he advocates shooting them down. He and others describe drone attacks as counter productive. The occasional attacks kill a targeted enemy leader but inflame opinion against the United States, and others rise to take the place of whomever is killed. At stake essentially, says Khan, is a hearts-and-minds struggle. A recent study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law has called for a re-evaluation of drone policy, describing the number of "high-level" targets killed as a percentage of total casualties as extremely low: about 2 percent.

Oct 8  For the sixth day Assad's troops have fired into Turkey and Turkey has fired back. Turkey's President Gul said today that "worst-case scenarios" are playing out in Syria, that this could not go on indefinitely and that Assad's fall is inevitable. Speaking to reporters, Gul said. "It is a must for the international community to take effective action before Syria turns into a bigger wreck and further blood is shed." Some of us wonder about Assad's control over his troops (as well as police) - control that has in the past appeared lacking. A few days ago the Assad regime apologized to Turkey. Is Assad now willing to extend his war to Turkey and NATO? Are the same aggressive instincts of those forces under Assad, that have brought Syria to where it is now, speeding Assad to its demise?

Oct 9  With an 81% turnout in voting and 54% of the vote, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's chief of state and head of government since February 1999, has won another 6-year term as president. He is reported as saying that the more than six million people who voted for the oppostion should be taken into account going forward. Chavez promises "to respond with greater efficacy and efficiency to the needs of our people" and adds: "I promise you I'll be a better president."

Oct 10  Jordan is relatively quiet following demonstrations numbering thousands last week. Demonstrators and Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood want broader political representation and a more democratic parliament, and there is a call for parliament rather than the king to have the power to appoint or to dismiss the prime minister. Al Arabiya has recently reported the Syrian regime trying to promote unrest against Jordan's King Abdullah, who has allowed Syrian defectors and refugees into his kingdom. Jordan is hurting economically, but an uprising doesn't appear on the way in Jordan, which has a king shrewder than those who have been guiding the Assad regime. Like Muhammad VI in Morocco, King Abdullah allows people to express their grievances unmolested. Today, less than a week after dissolving parliament, King Abdullah appointed a new prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, who is forming Jordan's fifth government in two years.

Oct 11 Pakistan's Taliban is busy taking its backward steps in the ultimate contest of winning hearts and minds. A Taliban member has shot a 14-year-old school girl, Malala Yousafzai, in the head as she was riding home in a school bus. Two other girls were also shot. Malala had been campaigning for the right of girls to education. Mass protests against the shooting have erupted, with demonstrators carry signs reading: "Say no to terrorism" and "women's voice for peace, justice, freedom and honor." BBC News reports that Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayan has visited Malala in the hospital in Peshawar and has said it is time to "stand up to fight the propagators of such barbaric mindset and their sympathisers." Word comes from the Taliban that if the girl survives, another attempt will be made to kill her.

Oct 12  Three news items for today. Botswana's high court has overturned a customs law that prevented women from inheriting property, such as the family home. Botswana's constitution declares equality between men and women. The second item is from Tunisia, where an announcement has been made that the country's new constitution will have no clause for punishing blasphemy. Third, in Guatemala an army colonel and eight soldiers have been arrested and accused of killing indigenous demonstrators during last week's protest.

Oct 15  Singapore and Switzerland are opposed to foreigners moving funds to their banks for the purpose of tax avoidance. Germany is working with Switzerland on the matter. And wary of its citizens hiding money abroad, the German government has signed an agreement with Singapore for an exchange of banking information.

Oct 16  Abortions in Argentina are becoming more accessible. Abortion in Argentina was illegal except in the case of rape or to protect a woman's health. Doctors have performed an abortion for a woman who had been rescued from a prostitution ring. Argentina's Supreme Court overturned a previous decision, and the doctors will not be prosecuted. Women's rights advocates are celebrating.

Oct 17  Today in Uruguay a Senate vote of 17 for and 14 against gives women the right to a legal abortion during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and to later-term abortions when the mother's life is at risk or the fetus is so deformed it would not survive. A health minister, Leonel Briozzo, claims non-surgical abortions (using the drug misoprostol) ought to be standard practice for abortions. Cuba and Mexico are two other Latin American countries with similar abortion rights.

Oct 18  A month ago there was confused reporting about the attack in Libya that killed a US ambassador. On that same day as that attack there were anti-US demonstrations about a movie that insulted Muhammad the Prophet. Insufficient differentiation was applied by professional newsmen, and the confusion was passed on to members of the Obama administration (described here on Sep 17 and 19) . The Republican candidate for president of the US, Mitt Romney, tried to gain politically from the events, and this week he was still trying to make as much of the sloppy intelligence as he could. He accused President Obama of conspiring to cover up what really happened in order to hide his weakness in foreign policy. Debating Romney on the 16th, Obama described what he had said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack: his calling the death of the ambassador an act of terror and his determination to hunt down those involved. Romney questioned this easily verifiable point and didn't want to give up his point. He complained that "It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group."

Oct 19  Approaching elections in the US in eighteen days, a common view among Republicans was expressed last night by Bill O'Reilly at Fox News in his "memo" titled "What kind of a country do you want?" This view holds that Democrats are taking the country too much in the direction of Europe and that Europe's troubles are too much government spending and a common profligacy. Spain's troubles arose from the foolishness of its banks and Greece suffered more from tax evasion than it did from common Greeks wallowing in ease and luxury like aristocrats. And there are European countries with high tax rates and extensive government spending programs that are doing well.

Oct 24  "I wish I'd heard more clarity from the candidates about how the United States will shape an Islamic world in turmoil," writes Washington Post opinion writer, David Ignatius. He misses the point. It is the people of the Islamic world who are shaping the islamic world. It was the people of the Islamic world who created the "Arab Spring," not US foreign policy. Rather than shape the Islamic world, the US can be a go-along helpful friend. It is the Islamic world that will give failure to the dreams of al Qaeda, that will give more freedom and opportunity to its women, more freedom for its intellectuals, better economic organization, less corruption and rid themselves of rulers like Bashar al-Assad.

Oct 25  The International Monetary Fund predicts that economic growth in the US in the next four years will be around 3 percent - better than other wealthy nations. In the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria credits Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury. He writes: "In addition to providing general liquidity, the Fed and the Treasury rescued the financial system but also forced it, through stress tests and new rules, to reform. The result is that US banks are in much better shape than their European counterparts."

Oct 28  People in the province of Zhejiang, on China's east coast south of Shanghai, have not been shy about protesting against environmental risks to their health. In September 2011, people stormed a factory they feared was endangering them with pollution. Several company cars were overturned and offices were destroyed. This month, in the city of Ningbo, they are protesting again. One of the protesters, a middle-aged woman, is reported by Dawn.comas saying, "The sky was so clear when I was a child. Look at it now." With the protests is the usual clash between police trying to keep order and the crowd increasing in anger as some among them are arrested and taken away. Meanwhile, authorities are moving to accommodate people's grievances. Government officials announce that a plan to expand a state-owned petrochemical plant has been shelved.

Oct 29  Protests continue in Ningbo China for a fourth day, with reports of little public confidense in the government's promises. Authorities demand that the protesters remain peaceful. Those detained in previous days have not yet been released. Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, describes the protesters as "educated, middle class professionals who are not overly political but can and will mobilize on public health issues."

Oct 29  Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik demands a halt to drone attacks by the US, claiming that the attacks have been rendering his country's efforts to counter terrorism ineffective.

Oct 30  Bahrain's King Hamad In November 2011 promised legal reforms to protect freedom of speech and other basic rights. Today a BBC News headline reads: "Bahrain government bans protests." The government is associating speech and violence and freedom of speech with agreeable speech. In the manner of authoritarian regimes the monarch's interior minister, Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifah, claims there has been abuse of the freedom of speech and that protests would be permitted only after security and stability are sufficient to maintain national unity.

Oct 31  Election results in the Ukraine indicated a win for president Viktor Yanukovich and his ruling party. Norway News describes the election as "largely in line with international standards" but adds that it is "particularly regrettable that the two leading opposition politicians Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko are serving prison sentences and were unable to take part in the election." Viktor Yanukovich has been in power since February 2010. Under Yanukovich the Ukraine's relations with Russia have improved. Yanukovich continues to pursue a visa agreement with the European Union, but joining the EU is not in the cards - something Russian President Putin does not want.

November 2012

Nov 2  In Greece, tax evasion remains news as journalist Costas Vaxevanis is on trial charged with having violated privacy laws when he published a list of names of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts. The list includes the names of members of Greece's commercial and political elite. A few Greeks including a mainstream daily newspaper have sided with Vaxevanis by publishing the list. Greece's center-right government, led by Antonis Samaras, has promised international creditors to crack down on tax evasion and is reported to be embarrassed.

Nov 2  In the last few days before elections in the US, presidential candidate Romney argues that as a man with business experience he knows how to get the economy moving again. He remains opposed to taxing the most wealthy of people as President Clinton had. Campaigning for President Obama, Bill Clinton continues to describe Romney as pursuing trickle-down economics  - as "doubling down" on Bush economic strategy. Some on the Left are talking about Romney as a tax evader, and Romney continues to blame Obama for the condition of the US economy. Pundit George Will describes his philosophical difference with Obama as Obama being "indolent in mind," employing empty rhetoric, belious and as "promising to replicate his first term." Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post that Obama has been trying to reverse the Reagan Revolution, and that if Obama loses the election his presidency will have been "a passing interlude of overreaching hyper-liberalism, rejected by a center-right country that is 80 percent nonliberal."

Nov 3  A young man in Bahrain is sentenced to six months in prison for "defaming" King Hamad on Twitter. In Bahrain (as in other monarchical states without a tradition of democracy and freedom of expression) insulting the king and other members of the ruling family has been illegal.

Nov 3  In Syria an anti-Assad force has killed a dozen or so captured pro-Assad soldiers. Human rights groups describe it as a possible war crime. Before killing them, the anti-Assad force kicked their captives, some in the head, and called them Assad dogs. Ages ago, triumphant soldiers could sell defeated soldiers into slavery. In the 20th century, victors on the battlefield sent the defeated to state-run camps that fed them until the war ended. Anti-Assad forces in Syria are welcoming opponents who desert but are not showing an inclination to let those who had just been trying to kill them return happily to Assad's military.

Nov 5   Elections in the US are a couple of days away. Historian David McCullough speaks of the "unconscionable amount of money" being spent on campaign advertizing. "And what is it producing," he asks? He praises President Truman's authenticity. "It worked," he said.

Nov 6  In South Africa, police photos were taken after miners were shot dead during the strikes at the Marikana platinum mine - reported on this timeline on August 18, 2012 . Examination of these photos results in accusations that the police planted weapons on bodies.

Nov 7 The US has its philosophical divides, and yesterday enough voters rejected big money attack ads against President Obama to an extent that allowed the president's re-election. And in significant number the voters rejected Mitt Romney's well publicized claims. But heard already today is analysis from those on the political right who give no credit to independent thinking by their fellow Americans. Instead they claim that Romney lost because of media bias.

Nov 7  Until yesterday, Mitt Romney was telling citizens that President Obama had no plan. In his victory comments, Obama speaks of working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges of "reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil."

Nov 8  Yesterday in Damascus anti-Assad forces managed to fire a couple of mortar rounds at Assad's palace. They are getting closer, but they missed. Weeks ago the Assad regime claimed to have rid Damascus of anti-Assad forces, whom they call terrorists. Britain's Prime Minister Cameron has announced that he is prepared to see that Assad is allowed safe passage into exile but that he favors Assad facing charges of war crimes. Today, Assad says that he "was made in Syria" and must "live and die in Syria." He described foreign intervention in Syria as shaking regional stability and said, "We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region." He said nothing about democracy as an instrument of stability. He is not expected to agree that with democracy in Syria there would have been no uprising.

Nov 9  Some who wanted and expected Romney to win the election are pondering why their candidate lost. The philosophy of less government, no taxes, of no redistribution of wealth and maximizing the economy by motivating the "job creators" (trickle down) lost the election, but what the Republican Party must do to avoid another such defeat, some are saying, is demographic. Pointing to how well Obama did with Hispanics, Bill O'Reilly and others are sayng that Romney should have had Senator Marco Rubio as his running mate. Some others are saying that the problem is their Republican candidate was not steadfastly conservative enough. Pundit Rush Limbaugh, who expected Romney to win, offers another view. Now he expresses disgust with the voters. "Conservatism, in my humble opinion, did not lose last night," he said. "It's just very difficult to beat Santa Claus." This meshes with a common view regarding Europe (all of Europe rather just a few countries). Limbaugh sees trouble in democracies not because of tax evasion and faulty banking but because people are lazy, want something for nothing and allow themselves to be bought off by liberal-socialists who promise them the moon. How putting Marco Rubio on the ticket would have countered this voter sinfulness remains unexplained.

Nov 10  Iranian officials have told the family of Sattar Beheshti that he has died in prison. He was arrested at his mother's home on October 30 by Iran's cyber police, FATA, established in January 2011 to enforce laws that regulate online speech. Human Rights Watch reports that "Iran's prisons are rapidly turning into death traps for detainees, including people who should never have been behind bars to begin with."

Nov 11  At their meeting in Qatar, groups opposed to Bashar al-Assad choose a moderate Sunni cleric, Moaz al-Khatib, as their coalition head. Khatib has spoken recently for a political solution to save Syria from further destruction.

Nov 11  In Poland's Independence Day marches, rightists put in an appearance. Violence erupted when the super-patriots pelted police with firecrackers and lumps of concrete. Assaulting police is a crime in Poland, and the police responded with truncheons, forcing the demonstrators to disperse. Members of two rightwing organizations have been described as involved: All-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp. The All-Polish Youth manifesto states that "one's country is the greatest earthly good," that "after God, your foremost love belongs to the Homeland." It opposes "doctrines promoting liberalism, tolerance, and relativism." The National Radical Camp has origins from 1934, when it admired Mussolini. Today it professes anti-Communism and is known for anti-Semitism.

Nov 14  In Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France and Belgium, labor unions take part in a "Day of Action and Solidarity" against unemployment and economic hardship. Portugal's unemployment is a record 15.8 percent, Spain and Greece are reported as having 25% unemployment. Italy's is almost 11 percent. It is a protest against the austerity policies said to have aggravated recession, and a protest about wealth distribution. Reuters quotes a store owner in Barcelona saying, "Things have to change... Money has ended up with all the power and people none. How could this happen?" The left-of-center is out of power in these countries except for France and Belgium, which have Socialist Party governments and lower unemployment - 10 and 8.2 percent respectively. In the other countries, governmental response to the opinions of the protesters is not expected until those holding such opinions win elections.

 Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping

Nov 15  China's Communist Party Congress concludes following expressions of determination to fight corruption and to improve the well being of Chinese citizens. Corruption was a problem with the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, and China's public often vents its frustrations by attacking corruption. Communists making revolution were risk taking non-conformists with whom opportunism was a dirty word. Communist parties in power were joined by opportunists, and opportunists in minor position of power if not higher up were tempted to seek advantages, and in the Soviet Union they were given advantages. According to accounts in the press, a foremost concern by the Party is survival of the Party's power. This means both announcing intentions to fight corruption and giving the appearance of unity. At the Party Congress just concluded was a look of extreme conformism in dress code, not a hair out of place or failure to applaud. None had the look of that non-conformist who opposed Maoism: Deng Xiaoping . There are differences of opinion among China's Communist Party members - as exists in every large group - but it isn't very apparent And, according to Reuters, in selecting new leaders the Congress "unveiled an older, conservative leadership line-up." The new General Secretary of the Party is Xi Jinping. He looks a little more like Deng than does his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who will be around as part of the Party's collectivist approach to power. Xi Jinping will succeed Hu Jintao as President of China in March.

Nov 17  After Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, rockets were fired into Israel at a rate of about a thousand rockets per year, according to Israeli sources. That number diminished following Israel's air and ground assaults into Gaza in early 2008, killing more than 120 Palestinians. Last year there was a return of the approximate rate of 1,000 per year, and in recent weeks the rate intensified. Rather than forbearance, Israel returned to its policy of assassinating Hamas leaders: a military chief, Ahmad al-Jabari, described by Prime Minister Netanyahu as having had a lot of blood on his hands. Rather than forbearance, Hamas employed a strategy of revenge, which gained for them an Israeli retaliation that blew up missile launching sites and various Hamas offices and government buildings. Israel has called up reservists and amassed a force on the Gaza border for another sweep into Gaza to destroy its rocket launching capability. During this last week, Gaza has lost 41 killed "nearly half of them civilians," according to Reuters. Israel's defensive shield had stopped some rockets in mid-air, but some get through, and Israel has lost three civilians killed. Israel complains that Hamas deliberately targets civilians and describes Israeli forces as trying as best it can to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas was founded in 1987 with the intention of creating an Islamic Palestinian state that includes where Israel now exists.

Nov 19  Today, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweets its count of 570 rockets fired at Israel in the last five days, 307 of them blocked by its "iron dome" defensive shield. The IDF complains that most rockets are being fired from inside Gaza City, a densely populated area. Reuters describes the death toll in Gaza as having reached 90. According to BBC News, in addition to missile sites Israel has been targeting "militant-owned buildings, weapons storage facilities and police stations, bringing its total to 1,350 sites targeted since Wednesday [the 14th]."

Nov 19  David Shambaugh, professor and director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, describes continuing "factional allegiances" within China's Communist Party. Potential reformers, he writes, are "likely to continue to be checked by an entrenched bloc of party conservatives and retired elders."

Nov 20  Russian lawmakers are reported as believing the time has come to remove Lenin's statues from town and cities squares.

Nov 20  Britain joins France in recognizing the coalition led by Moaz al-Khatib as the legitimate governing body of the Syrian people.

Nov 20  A court in Pakistan drops the case of blasphemy against the 14-year-old Christian girl accused by her neighbor of burning pages from the Koran.

Nov 20  The israelis are dropping flyers over Gaza, warning civilians to stay away from Hamas operatives and facilities. (9 AM in New York, 4 PM in Gaza)

Nov 21  Carbon emissions levels dangerous to Europeans are reported by a UN Environment Program. It indicates increasing damage from extreme weather, also damage to health, forests, agriculture, bio-diversity and rising sea levels.

Nov 22  A cease fire is agreed to by Hamas and Israel, brokered by Egypt's President Morsi, whom Secretary Clinton is praising as an agent of stability. The agreement gives Israel the right to resume its assaults if any more rockets are fired from Gaza, and promises severe military action if it happens again. The Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal declares the agreement as a triumph. "We have come out of this battle with our heads up high," he says. Israel he adds has been defeated and has failed in its "adventure." He thanks Iran for supplying Gazans with financing and arms. How Israel has actually been defeated or has failed, Meshaal hasn't said, but it seems to satisfy Gazans in general, who celebrate in the streets, some of them having supported rocket fire against Israel not as a tactic other than that old emotion revenge. The eight days of fighting killed a reported 150 Gazans and 3 Israelis. A big gain for the Gazans would be Israel lifting its blockade of the Gaza Strip, a blockade deemed necessary to hold down a weapons flow into Gaza, which hasn't been all that successful.

Nov 23  NBC newsman Richard Engel has described Hamas as claiming that its rockets (Iran's rockets actually) forced Israel to agree to yesterday's cease-fire, a claim that conflicts with media descriptions of Israeli thinking but which serves the Hamas claim of victory. Engel speaks of Hamas as seeing itself as having gained some recognition and the truce as having transferred Gaza back into to "Egypt's lap." (Until the Six-Day War in 1967, the Gaza Strip was administered by Egypt.) Today, CNN reports that Israel has killed a Gazan who with others, whom Israel describes as "rioters," stormed a border fence. Hamas claims the Gazans were farmers trying to reach their land.

Nov 25  Israel appears to be trying to ease tensions with Gazans. It has eased some restrictions on Gazans that it had created to limit an arms buildup in the Gaza Strip. Israel is now allowing Gazan fishermen to go as far as six miles from shore, beyond Israel's previous three-mile limit. And Israel is allowing farmers to visit land near its security fence. Meanwhile, Hamas leader Mussa Abu Marzouk, holding to the view that sending rockets into Israel accomplishes something, announces that weapons smuggling will continue.

Nov 26  On CNN yesterday Fareed Zakaria spoke of Latin America's middle class expanding by 50 percent between the years of 2003 and 2009. The proportion of people in poverty during this period, he said, fell from 44 percent to 30 percent. "As the rest of the world became more unequal," he added, "Latin America was the only region to decrease the gap between rich and poor." He described 70 million women in Latin America having joined the labor market in recent years "contributing to a reduction in extreme poverty" and children now spending "three extra years in school, compared with a decade ago thanks to targeted government initiatives."

Nov 27  China begins its plans for $7.87 billion inner-city transportation projects, and its state planning agency approves a feasibility study for an inter-city rail line between Fuzhou and Pingtan (an island off the coast of Fujian) thought to cost another $3.5 billion and to be completed in four years. This is being done in part, according to Reuters, to boost economic growth.

Nov 27  Anti-Assad forces in Syria describe themselves as having moved from defensive operations to the initiative. In the last ten days they have overrun at least five army and air installations. They have captured a modest supply of weaponry, and they are still very much alive in the capital, Damascus. But Assad still has a strong military force and air power. The anti-Assad forces predict months more of warfare.

Nov 29  David Cay Johnston tells the News Hour that the common cable television, telephone and internet package in the United States costs about $160 per month. "If you go to France," he says, "you get the same package for the equivalent of $38 a month, and you don't get two-country calling. You get worldwide calling to 70 countries. You get live TV from all around the planet and your internet is 20 times faster uploading and 10 times faster downloading." According to Wikipedia, France has had intense competition among its internet service providers.

Nov 30  The United Nations General Assembly has voted 138 for and 9 against in recognizing Palestine as sovereign state - a sovereign state with non-member status within the UN similar to that held by the Vatican. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downplays the significance of world opinion, calling the vote "negative political theater." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton displays anger and denounces the UN vote as "unproductive" and as putting "further obstacles in the path of peace." The nine opposed were the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama. Since its victory in the 1967 war, Israel has claimed the right to control Palestine. Talks between the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and Netanyahu's government has floundered on Abbas' demand that Israel halt settlement building on Palestinian territory. Today, according to Reuters, Israel has revealed plans to build 3,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in response to the Palestinians' success at the United Nations.

December 2012

Dec 1  Egypt's new draft constitution is described by proponents as creating a balance of power between the president and the parliament that will avoid the parliament being dissolved or the president having to resign. The president is to be elected by popular vote for a four year term and eligible for no more than two terms. Opponents complain about an article that protects "the true nature of the Egyptian family" and promotes "morals and values," phrasing they fear will allow state control over the contents of such arts forms as books and films. They complain about a lack of protection for female equality. And they fear an article that bans "insulting or defaming all prophets and messengers" or "insulting humans" - broad language that might be used to crack down on many forms of speech. The draft was approved by a special assembly after a minority of liberal and Christian members walked out in protest. Mass demonstrations have been taking place for days, including those who support the constitution with banners that read "The people want implementation of God's law." President Morsi has decreed for himself temporary power to block Egypt's judiciary from blocking the creation of the constitution. This angers Egypt's liberals who are screaming against Morsi's "power grab" and describing him as a "dictator" and "pharaoh." Morsi declares against dictatorship and for democracy. He sets December 15 for a referendum on the constitution.

Dec 3  Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to world condemnation of considered plans to expand Jewish settlements, saying "We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel's strategic interests." Britain, France and Sweden follow by a summon of Israeli ambassadors, and Germany and Russia voice their disapproval. The planned construction is for an area just east of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim that building there would cut Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank.

Dec 4  The Israeli newspaper Haaretz asks about the decision to assassinate the Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari - which occurred on November 14. Jabari received a draft of an agreement for a permanent cease-fire with Israel and, claims Haaretz, "was apparently expected to reply to it affirmatively." The newspaper claims that "... the decision to kill Jabari shows that our decision makers decided a cease-fire would be undesirable for Israel at this time... Israel's leaders killed three birds with one stone: They assassinated the man who had the power to make a deal with Israel; they took revenge on someone who had caused more than a few Israeli casualties; and they signaled to Hamas that communications with it will be conducted only through military force." By the way, back in October Prime Minister Netanyahu called for early elections and he is said to be concerned about the opinions of Israelis on the far right.

Dec 5  The argument about President Bush's tax cuts of 2001 extends to within the Republican Party. Senator DeMint of South Carolina opposes compromise with the Democrats regarding taxes, claiming that raising taxes would "destroy jobs." In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus reminds us that the purpose of the Bush tax cuts, which DeMint wants to maintain, was to return to tax payers what President Bush said was a surplus. Tax payers, said Bush, had been over-charged. "As it turned out," writes Marcus, "the people of America - in particular, the rich people of America - hadn't been overcharged, they were undercharged. They received an unaffordable tax cut premised on the false notion of affordability."

Dec 6  Ireland unveils another austerity budget and protests hit the streets. People don't like having to pay for problems created by the country's banking-construction bubble, and there are complaints that austerity isn't working. Some finance-oriented people, meanwhile, are talking about a turn around. Ireland's largest banks can borrow again on the open market. Interest rates on Ireland's sovereign bonds are falling. Moody's and Fitch have upgraded their outlooks on the country and some of its banks. A right-of-center party is in power, and, seeing the world differently from some US Republicans, they have been raising taxes in addition to cabbslashing spending. But the government is holding down on taxing multi-national corporations - which served them well before the 2008 crash.

Dec 7  Today, Egypt's opposition coalition rejected meeting President Morsi tomorrow to discuss their differences. Morsi wants political stability and, he says, democracy. The question remains whether Morsi is willing to give ground by offering a better guarantee of rights than exists in the draft constitution that will be voted on by the public in eight days. The opposition coalition appears to think that talking with President Morsi would be to legitimize his current political positions. Opponents of the new constitution appear to have worked themselves into a passionate view of Morsi as an evil tyrant, and they appear to believe that they have the power to overthrow him by continuing their street protests. Recent nationwide voting suggests otherwise, and the military stands with Morsi on the side of stability.

Dec 9  James Baker, the Republican Party's former Secretary of State, Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury, tells Fareed Zakeria on CNN that the debate between President Obama and the Republicans regarding the fiscal cliff crisis ought to be "done in confidence and behind closed doors because it makes it extraordinarily difficult when you try to do it in the public domain. It looks like the campaign is just continuing... I don't think they'll ever get there doing it this way. They're just jousting with each other. And each side is repeating its campaign talking points."

Dec 10  Prime Minister Netanyahu says that a recent vow by Hamas to vanquish Israel vindicated Israel's reluctance to relinquish more land to the Palestinians. "They have no intention of compromising with us," he said. "They want to destroy our country... We want true peace with our neighbors. but we will not close our eyes nor bury our heads in the sand."

Dec 10  In Romania, anti-austerity voters give electoral victory to Prime Minister Victor Ponta's center-left coalition.

Dec 11  Being competitive in attracting business is argued by those wanting right-to-work (anti-union shop) legislation in Michigan. Meanwhile the fire in a Bangladesh Tazreen Fashions garment factory on November 24 that killed 112 is still in the news. Tazreen Fashions had been competitive enough to attract business from Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer. Wal-Mart management claims it didn't know where their business was going, that work had been subcontracted to Tazreen Fashions without their knowledge.

Dec 12  Russia refuses to join the West in removing Bashar al-Assad from power in order to end the war in Syria. A think tank scholar in Russia, Georgy Minsky, is quoted in the Washington Post: "Putin has no doubts that the regime will fall. But he doesn't want it to look like he dumped Assad. He would lose face if he moves closer to the West and gives up his support for Assad."

Dec 12  President Obama joins the US with the move last month by France, Britain, Turkey and Gulf states in recognizing the anti-Assad coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Dec 13  Japan complains of a state-owned Chinese aircraft intruding into its airspace today. Also, today is the 75th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre. In Nanjing sirens wailed, thousands sang songs, soldiers in dress uniforms carried memorial wreaths, and Nanjing's head of the Communist Party told the crowd, "We are here to recall history, grieve for compatriots who suffered and died, and to educate people about the lessons of history." A nationalism by Japanese troops outraged with the Chinese was part of the history that produced the Nanjing Massacre. Some have been describing China's Communist Party as appealing to an extraordinary nationalism to create "cohesion" and to win the support of China's citizenry.

Dec 14  A Polish national In Britain, Wlodzimierz Umaniec, who has claimed that his vandalism is art, is sentenced to two years in prison. Umaniec has been reaching for attention by promoting an undeveloped philosophy of art, a movement called Yellowism. On Twitter, Yellowism receives insults.

Dec 15  Another young loner kills strangers. He kills 20 children at an elementary school and five others, but also his mother - in Newtown Connecticut. The killer, Adam Lanza, is a reminder of Canada's young killer, Kimveer Gill who was also "quiet and unassuming" and a sharp student. Gill had the antipathy toward humanity in general that it takes to do what he and Adam Lanza did to strangers. Lanza's antipathy toward his mother, if that is what drove him to kill her, is still a mystery. The other ingredient in Adam Lanza's case was the availability of guns. Lanza's mother had a gun collection which became her son's weapons.

Dec 16  From Lebanon, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, a Shi'ite and ally of President Bashar al-Assad, says: "The situation in Syria is getting more complicated [but] anyone who thinks the armed opposition can settle the situation on the ground is very very very mistaken." Nasrallah is supported by Iran's autocratic regime and is accused of sending fighters to Syria to help Assad.

Dec 17  The Assad administration in the person of Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa proclaims that neither side can win Syria's civil war. El Arabiya News repeats a report that President Assad is planning an escape from Damascus and preparing for a last stand in his home town of Qardaha in the Alawite area on the Mediterranean coast.

Dec 17  A story emerges about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The shooter's father was uncomfortable living with his wife Nancy and their "special needs" son, Adam. He divorces her and leaves her with an annual $240,000 payment. She has a survivalist philosophy and a lot of guns. She has been teaching Adam to shoot. Adam is dysfunctional socially and probably sexually frustrated and disgusted with himself and life in general. He plays video games - reported to be the kind with a lot of shooting and killing people. The mother tells a friend that Adam is getting worse, that she is "losing" him, but she hasn't locked up her guns or removed them from her home. Adam kills her, 20 children and six adults and ends his shooting spree by killing himself.

Dec 18  Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has won in a landslide, promising to hang tough against China's challenge in the East China Sea and to improve Japan's stagnating economy. The LPD has held power most of the time since the end of World War II. Its rival, the center-left Democratic Party has been in power for the last three years. In the elections just ended, a third party movement failed to make gains. The prime minister to be, Abe, will return to office on December 26. He promises more public spending despite Japan's debt near 200 percent of GDP. Japan is stagnating economically because of declining exports and because the public is not buying as much as economic strategists would like. Abe plans to push the annual GDP growth rate to 3 percent.

Dec 19  In northwestern Pakistan two vaccination workers in a campaign against polio have been shot to death. No group is reported to have claimed responsibility, but the Taliban is said to have accused health workers of being US spies and has claimed that vaccine makes people sterile.

Dec 19  Word is out that mass murderer Adam Lanza, age 20, shot his mother after learning that she was planning to send him away to a "psychiatric facility". There is speculation that they quarrelled. The mother, Nancy Lanza, didn't think of locking up her guns, and Adam shot her in the head in the morning while she was still in bed. Nancy is reported as having spent time as a volunteer with kindergartners at the school where Adam continued shooting. According to an interview with a plumber who worked at the family home, Adam Lanza spent hours playing violent video games such as Call Of Duty.

Dec 20  After many months of conflict with the US position that Assad would fall from power and should fall from power, Russia's President Putin now proclaims that Russia's main concern is the fate of Syria. "We are not concerned," he says, "about the fate of Assad's regime." Putin is looking to a political settlement without Assad - the US position for more than a year. Putin tries to put a good face on Russia's position regarding Syria, which has included support for the Assad regime, by saying: "We understand what is going on there." Also today Putin defends a proposed ban on US citizens adopting Russian children. This is in retaliation for what he describes as an "unfriendly human rights law" in the United States. That law restricts high-ranking Russians involved in the abuse and death of Sergei Magnitsky from visiting the United States.
Dec 21  Regarding mass murder, Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post cites a 2011 University of California at Berkeley study that finds states with strong laws that commit the mentally ill have about a one-third lower homicide rate. Krauthammer adds that "Just a tiny percent of the mentally ill become killers." Then he turns to the issue of video games: "Young men sit for hours pulling video-game triggers, mowing down human beings en masse without pain or consequence. And we profess shock when a small cadre of unstable, deeply deranged, dangerously isolated young men go out and enact the overlearned narrative." He notes that "involuntary commitment impinges upon the liberty clause of the Fifth Amendment" and that "curbing 'entertainment' violence impinges upon First Amendment free speech."

Dec 21  President Obama is urging Americans to keep up the pressure for tighter gun control. It is hoped that without assault weapons murderers will not be able to kill so many so fast. Bomb making is more complex, and its substances are not an issue. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 including 19 children and injured 800 with a bomb. Andrew Kehoe blew up an elementary school, killing 38 children, two teachers and four adults.

Dec 23  Following the massacre in Connecticut nine days ago, a debate is rising about the influence of violent video games. On December 21st the head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, complained that "media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes." A few students of human behavior have doubts and want more research. Indeed, not everyone who watches these games feels an urge to kill people in real life. The question is whether the games encourage abnormal people caught up in abnormal circumstances to kill - something difficult for academics to substantiate scientifically. Many are ready to err on the side of the games being a danger. They see the games as having no countervailing entertainment or artistic value and at best only encourage indolence and stupifying mindlessness.

Dec 24  In India young men have been able to rape with impunity because of police attitudes, poverty of the victims, class attitudes and court costs for the victims. Victims who want to go to court must wait years for their cases to be heard. The conviction rate is 34.6 percent. Last week in India's capital, New Delhi, a middle-class 23-year-old woman medical student was raped by as many as seven men for about an hour and then thrown off the bus. The men are reported as lower class recent migrants to the city. This, in addition to not having taken place in the countryside, has resulted in days of violent protests in New Delhi. Prime Minister Singh today says he shares people's anger and anguish but that violence will serve no purpose. He promises that something will be done to protect women.

Dec 25  In Swaziland, run by one of the world's last absolute monarchies, where the king has great wealth and a palace for at least ten of his thirteen wives, where trade unions and opposition parties have been banned, police announce that an 1889 law that bans immoral dress will be enforced it they receive a complaint. Such dress includes mini-skirts or a top that exposes part of the stomach. The police spokesperson, a woman, added that women make it easier for rapists by wearing mini-skirts. According to BBC News, "Last month, police reportedly blocked women in mini-skirts marching against rape in the second city, Manzini."

Dec 26  China opens its 1,428-mile highspeed train route. It cuts a 22 hour journey to 10 hours and has 35 stops between Beijing and the southern city of Guanzhou. It's viewed as both a convenience and a good investment for China's economy - as the US stays with its less efficient and more environmentally damaging air travel.

Dec 26  President Morsi signs into law Egypt's new constitution. Its passage just won with 63.8 percent of the votes, but only a third of the electorate voted. Many bitterly oppose the constitution, saying the document favors Islamists and betrays the anti-Mubarak revolution. Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie says Egyptians should "begin building our country's rebirth with free will... men, women, Muslims and Christians." Some look for his support in reforming the constitution so it can be more broadly supported. Meanwhile, more unrest and division is foreseen as rising from President Morsi's response to economic difficulties.

Dec 28  In Syria, "extremists" are better armed than the US backed Free Syrian Army, according to the director for the Syrian American Council in Washington, Mohammad Alaa Ghanem. In today's Washington Post he writes of his recent visit to Syria and having found the Aleppo Transitional Revolutionary Council "run by a 23-member board of university-educated professionals," and he was impressed by their professionalism. He also found anti-Assad combatants joining the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, The who were better supplied with food and weapons.

Dec 29  In the Philippines a bill is signed into law providing free access to contraception and family planning. The Catholic Church is described as having bitterly opposed the bill, and President Benigno Aquino is calling for national reconciliation. The Philippines has one of the fastest growing populations in Asia. There are forecasts that the population could double again within three decades. Manila, including adjacent Quezon City, leads the world in population density.

Dec 30  Uneasy is the dictator who tries to stay in power by sending murderous forces against neighborhoods that dislike him. El Arabiya News reports that Bashar al-Assad fears sleeping in the same bedroom on successive nights, he doesn't step outside into the daylight, is on guard against his food being poisoned. and he restricts his contacts "to a small circle of family members and trusted advisors."

Dec 31  Germany's conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel, warns that "the economic environment" will be "more difficult next year." She associates German prosperity with a prosperous European Union (with whom Germany does most of its trading). Referring to policy she tells her fellow Germans that "we need to strike the right balance" and we need "continued patience." This contradicts the foreign minister of France's Socialist Party government. Last week he forecast that "the worst is behind us."

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