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
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
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.
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
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
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. ArabNews.com 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
Jan 30 The honey you buy may be fake, according to
nutritionist Dr. Joseph Mercola (mercola.com). "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.
(Mercola.com, 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
Secretary of State Clinton
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Mar 5 An opinion piece at arab news.com, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
Apr 8 Richard Dawkins, the world's foremost atheist, has gone
agnostic now a former atheist. (Reported today in The Telegraph on this
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
...to 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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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