Century 21 13 th yr
Century 21 2013- AD
Jan 1 Reuters reports that Syrians have awakened on New
Year's Day "to countrywide aerial bombardment." Others report Russia's
Foreign Minister Lavrov asserting that Assad has no intention of
stepping down and Assad speaking of his willingness to end the fighting
through dialogue. With this there is no reason for confidence that the
end of the war in Syria can soon be brokered by the UN-Arab League
peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Assad's opponents have made gains in
recent months, and there is little sign that Assad can reverse those
gains or their momentum. A few months ago a few pundits in the West
were expressing concern that the war in Syria would drag for many years
and spread to Syria's neighbors. Today Linux Beach, on the blog sheet
Daily Kos, expresses a contrary view. He predicts that 2013 will see an
"end to the Assad regime." I'm with him.
Jan 2 The so-called fiscal cliff, invented by Republican
Senator Mitch McConnell in the summer of 2011 and passed by Congress,
has been averted. His intention was to address the government debt
issue and to skirt around a debt ceiling impasse. Today, Congress
completed its vote for a bill that averted the "fiscal cliff." The 2011
invention didn't work and another debt ceiling crisis returns in
February. The debt ceiling was invented by Congress in 1917 as a device
to help finance World War One.
Jan 3 Eighteen days have passed since the rape on a bus in
New Delhi, and demonstrations are still going strong. Indian
authorities have charged five men with rape, and it is written that
they will be tried in a couple of days and may be sentenced to death,
as requested by the victim's father. A sixth will be tried in a
juvenile court. The rapists are described as having been drinking and
joyriding in an empty bus. They offered a ride to the victim and her
male companion, who were waiting at a bus stop after having been to the
cinema. On board the bus, the joyriders beat the male, scolded the
young woman for being out at night with a male. They beat and took
turns raping her and driving the bus. One of them shoved a metal rod
into her vagina. Then they threw both victims from the moving bus. The
young woman died in a hospital in Singapore on the 29th of December
after great efforts were made to save her life. New Delhi now has more
police night patrols, checks on bus drivers and their assistants, and
the banning of buses with tinted windows or curtains. More stringent
laws regarding rape are expected.
Jan 4 "Politicians don't win elections by promising new
sewers;" so says Miles O'Brien on the News Hour. Speaking of crumbling
sewers (alongside our other infrastructure problems), Sue McCormick,
sewerage department director for Detroit, says, "We have deferred
replacement in the public systems. Ultimately we're going to see
potential significant rises in failures." Pundit Fareed Zakaria
complains of big spending for entitlements (consumption) while
"spending for the next generation of growth has few supporters." The US
is affluent compared to what it was around 1900, but we are conflicted
concerning where we spend - ultimately a distribution and fun and games
Jan 6 Assad makes a speech to Syrians and calls for "a
reconciliation conference with those who have not betrayed Syria." He
says nothing about his responsibility for Syria's troubles - what he
calls a "black cloud of pain." He calls his adversaries "the enemies of
God and puppets of the West" and rejects dialogue with them. His speech
is scorned internationally except by the usual few, scorned by those
who have taken up arms against him, but cheered by the gathering of
worshippers around him. His speech is a dictator's rationalizations and
delusions. It's a speech of defiance and confirms the need of
overwhelming pressure against him.
Jan 7 Yesterday as Bashar al Assad made his speech at the
Damascus Opera House, members of the crowd chanted "We will die for
you" and "God, Syria and Bashar are enough." Every butcher-dictator
needs some support around him. But there is also a little unneeded
support in Western Europe and the Americas. Shooting down protesters,
abductions, torture and military invasions of neighborhoods account for
less with them than their ideological theorizing that whatever the West
does in foreign policy is motivated by imperialism. Someone in Britain
writes to the Guardian: "The only reason the West is against a
negotiated settlement is from the very beginning we have only had one
goal in Syria, regime change to install a puppet regime loyal to US/UK
Jan 8 In democracies, those with political power tolerate
insults. Kuwait's hereditary rulers, both the emir and prime minister,
are members of the House of Sabah. They know that they are not
universally appreciated, but they find it opportune to have a
journalist, Ayyad al-Harbi, jailed for twitter "insults." Kuwait is a
constitutional monarchy, and the monarchy has been in conflict with
parliament. Parliamentary elections in December were boycotted by
groups unimpressed by Kuwait's system of representation. The emir and
prime minister are of a clan that migrated from Arabia and established
their power in Kuwait in the early 1700s. Most of their extended family
receives a monthly stipend. They host thousands of US troops, and their
military is trained by the US. (But, Imperialism theorists can relax.
Kuwait is oil-rich and controls that resource - not what transpires
with victims of imperialism.)
Jan 10 In Somalia, Mohamed Abdi Hassan and other leading
pirates have agreed to end their pirating. Authorities have persuaded
them to hand over their boats and weapons. BBC News quotes a government
official: "They realised that they cannot function as before with
impunity and profits are no longer good." The decline in profits is
said to have resulted from an increased use of private security guards
on ships and better co-ordination between naval patrols in the area.
Jan 11 Despite Japan's huge public debt - almost twice that
of the United States - its new conservative government approves a
stimulus package equal to $116 billion dollars. The money is to be
spent on infrastructure and rebuilding areas devastated by the
earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Some will be invested in education.
Japan's economy is in recession, having dipped for two successive
three-month periods. The stimulus is expected to boost the economy by 2
percent and create 600,000 jobs. Japan's economy has been hurt by
slowing global demand and a dip in its exports, and it has low domestic
consumption. Japan's manufacturers would like their fellow countrymen
to buy more, and they are looking to a decline in the value of Japan's
currency to make their products less expensive abroad.
Jan 12 Yesterday In the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson
wrote of "a year when the lower 48 states suffered the warmest
temperatures, and the second-craziest weather, since record-keeping
began." He added that "We see what looks like disaster looming but
don't even talk about it, because the politics of climate change are
inconvenient. Future generations will curse our silence." His article
gets 2532 comments, including a complaint about liberal
Jan 13 China Daily reports that smog has "enveloped a large
swathe of East and Central China" since Friday, "causing highway
closures and flight delays in several provinces."
Jan 13 Arab News reports that King Abdullah's appointment of
thirty educated women to the Shoura Council (a 150-member advisory body
that can propose laws to the king) has won praise from "Saudis and
expatriates from all walks of life... In coffee shops, five-star hotel
lobbies, newsrooms, chatrooms, Internet groups and on Facebook and
Twitter." On twitter are comments from a few women in the West who want
more equality for Saudi women now.
Jan 14 The Guardian runs a story that headlines, "Americans
are sicker and die younger than people in other wealthy nations." The
story draws from an academic study in the US, and continues: "Americans
lose more years of life to alcohol and other drugs than people in other
affluent countries ... The US has the highest obesity rate ... death
and disease take a huge toll on the younger American population, even
though the US spends more on healthcare per capita than almost any
other country in the world ... The situation will not improve unless
Americans wake up to the truth about their health and a public debate
Timbuktu and Gao
Jan 15 In Mali, religiously extremist forces somewhat
associated with Al Qaeda have been expanding farther south, past
Timbuktu and Gao. In cooperation with the government of Mali, the
French are sending military aircraft and hundreds of ground troops, and
in a few days they will be joined by a West African international force
expected to be more than 3,000 in number. The insurgents have been
intimidating Mali's religiously moderate populations. On behalf of the
insurgents, Omar Ould Hamahar of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in
West Africa, fantasizes: "France has opened the gates of hell ... it
has fallen into a trap much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or
Somalia." The war in Afghanistan has been going for ten years. Having
little support from the general population, the religious extremists in
Mali are not expected to last that long, maybe not into the summer,
when the Sahara heat makes ground fighting difficult.
Jan 16 An interview with a woman refugee in the Mali city of
Ségou, printed in Britain's Guardian: "We left Timbuktu because of the
suffering we endured there," she said. "The Mujao [Movement for Unity
and Jihad in West Africa] and the others harassed us. We are Muslims
but they imposed sharia on us by force. They are truly terrorists."
Yesterday the UN Security Council unanimously supported France's
intervention. Only a tiny few in Britain complain. Britain's Socialist
Worker Party newspaper: "In reality the new scramble for Africa is a
battle for resources and strategic interests. Now the US and
[Communist] China have joined old colonial powers like Britain and
France." The way out left in France expresses its adherence to
anti-imperialist theory and opposition to intervention by describing
Socialist Premier Hollande and the French Communist Party (PCF), who
supports him, as "petty bourgeois."
Jan 16 The European Union welcomes Saudi King Abdullah's
appointment of women to the kingdom's Shura Council. Some clerics
protest and demand a meeting with King Abdullah. Writes Al Arabiya
News, "They waited for two hours but were denied access."
Jan 17 Two days ago a jihadist group in Algeria spoke of
having taken 41 hostages in retaliation for French military action in
neighboring Mali. This morning's news describes the Algerian army as
having rescued some of the hostages. It appears that these were British
Petroleum employees. Meanwhile France increases its troop strength in
Mali to 1,400.
Jan 18 This morning, Al Arabiya reports "nearly 650 hostages
freed [today] by the Algerian army." It describes Algeria's government
as "army dominated" and "hardened by decades of fighting Islamist
militants." BBC News reports that "around 30" of the hostages are
unaccounted for. The Jihadists in Algeria have been described as linked
with the rebels across the border in Mali, and today those rebels are
reported as having retreated northward from the town of Konna (less
than fifty miles north of Mopti).
Jan 19 A Mali singer quoted in Al Arabiya: "We are very very
concerned about not being able to sing in our own country because not
only are women being raped, beaten and mistreated in the north, but now
they want to prevent us from making music, knowing that music is the
soul of Mali." He with others have released a seven-minute song titled
"Mali Ko," which calls on Malians to join hands against the warring
that the jihadist insurgents have brought to their country. Another
sign of the futility in the tactics of the al Qaeda linked jihadists is
in the Algerian army's prestige among Algerians. That prestige came
from defeating jihadists in recent wars. The jihadists, however, appear
not to link their success to a strategy of hearts-and-minds.
Jan 20 Across the United States yesterday, organized citizens
expressed their opposition to government taking away their guns. "Stop
the Gun Grabbers." read their signs. In Connecticut, expressing fear
and an absolutism that rules out the measure that applies to much law
making, Jessie Buchanan said: "They could take away the 10-round
magazine today and tomorrow it would be the five-round and the next day
it would be the whole thing."
Jan 21 Algerian troops attacked the hostage takers after
learning they were killing their hostages. This morning at least 48
hostages are reported as having died, including nine Japanese. Freed
were 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners. A few of the hostage
takers survived and are prisoners. Their blank-faced leader, Mokhtar
Belmokhtar, is now the most wanted man in the world. He began the
hostage taking by calling it a "blessed operation" by "we in al-Qaeda."
It was to counter the French move into Mali. The French, he said, had
fallen into a trap "more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia."
Today the French and Mali government forces are moving easily northward
toward Timbuktu and being cheered by Malians. The al-Qaeda linked
rebels are running away, and Belmokhtar will soon be dead.
Jan 23 Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and his
ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitani Party coalition allies take 31 of 120
parliament seats in yesterday's election. A newly formed centrist
party, Yesh Atid, wins 19 seats. Its leader has been described as
someone who will go along with Netanyahu's policies. Netanyahu will
continue as prime minister and no policy changes are expected as Israel
feels secure against pressures from Palestinians, the United States or
Jan 24 Yesterday's parliamentary elections in Jordan are
touted by the monarchy of King Abdullah II as a success. Abdullah is
working toward politically modernizing his kingdom by giving more power
to parliament, and he has promised to consult with parliament in
picking his cabinet.
Jan 26 Prince Turki bin Faisal, chairman of the King Faisal
Center for Research and Islamic Studies and former Saudi intelligence
chief and ambassador to the United States, has called for a level
playing field for the anti-Assad forces in Syria. "What is needed," he
said, "are sophisticated, high-level weapons that can bring down
planes, can take out tanks at a distance." The prince warned of
extremists in Syria, and he added that they were predicted from day
one. "Stop the killing and you won't have these terrorists," he said,
"They won't have any place to go in Syria."
Jan 27 Russia's Prime Minister Medvedev claims that Bashar
al-Assad has made a "grave, perhaps fatal error" and that he should
have brought the opposition to the negotiating table a long time ago."
He sees Assad's chances of staying in power as shrinking - as if Assad
could have remained in power months ago with a negotiated settlement.
Many people other than Russia's leaders and the UN's Kofe Annan saw
that Assad couldn't have both negotiations and stay in power. Today,
Medvedev reiterates Russia's support for negotiations but adds that
Assad must not be pushed out by external forces. Some are sick of
Russia's talk and wonder whether Assad now, at long last, is willing to
give up power rather than be driven out by force. When he is, there
will be real negotiations.
Jan 28 In Egypt massive anti-Mursi rioting has killed
forty-eight people have died since the 25th. Liberals and secularists
had not done as well as conservative Muslims and the Muslim Brotherhood
in recent election, and now liberal and secular groups claim that the
new constitution is the work of an assembly unfairly dominated by
Islamists. President Morsi claims support for democracy, and he wants
to talk to his opponents and allay their fears. One anti-Morsi
demonstrator declares that, "only protests work." Democracy works only
when the losing side stays in the game, and Egypt's main opposition
coalition, the National Salvation Front, tries to stay in the game by
ordering Morsi to appoint a national unity government and name a
commission to amend the disputed constitution.
Jan 29 Claims by Mokhtar Belmokhtar and warnings from Egypt's
President Morsi that in Mali the French were falling into a quagmire
appear to have been distortions. Today French troops are in control of
the most important towns in Mali including Timbuktu. Yesterday, Malian
crowds were joyous and shouting "Vive la France." Parallel to this, on
CNN on the 27th, journalist Fareed Zakaria criticized the notion that a
great al Qaeda danger is on the rise in northwest Africa.
Jan 30 Israel's airforce strikes a convoy of vehicles inside
Syria, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Assad's television accuses Israel of bombing a military research center
at Jamraya. An aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has
announced that strikes by foreign powers against Syria will be
considered a strike against Iran. Israel associates the Assad regime
and Iran and sees Iran as the foremost threat to its security.
Jan 31 Israel is reported in the BBC as worried about
sophisticated conventional weapons being passed to Hezbollah. Russia
responds with a warning that yesterday's air strike is "unacceptable,"
and it adds: "We once again call on the end to all violence in Syria."
Feb 1 In her last interview as
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton describes Iran and Russia as having
stepped up their aid to the Assad regime. She says the Russians
"continue to supply financial and military assistance in the form of
Feb 1 In Egypt, the head of the
Muslim Brotherhood's political party, Saad al-Katatni, takes the side
of political maturity and declares the need for compromise from all
parties. Yesterday, Egypt's leading Islamic scholar, the Grand Imam
Ahmed al-Tayyeb, was on the same page and led a gathering of groups for
and against President Morsi. They signed a document vowing to support
"a serious dialogue," and they condemned "violence and incitement to
violence." A participant was the leading opposition group, the National
Salvation Front, which accuses President Morsi of "managing the country
in the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood." The National Salvation
Front supports today's demonstrations, which will include those who
like the sensation of violence. And speaking of sensation seeking, the
UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has counted
twenty-five women as having been sexually assaulted, mainly in Tahrir
Square, since the protests erupted a week ago.
Feb 2 Yesterday in Egypt,
protesters demonstrated their position regarding President Morsi by
throwing stones, shooting fireworks and throwing petrol bombs at his
residence and there were demonstrations. The effect was a clash with
police, with one person reported killed, adding to the sixty or so
killed in demonstrations since January 25. Dozens were injured. A
response from Morsi's office read: "The presidency was pained by the
shocking footage of some policemen treating a protester in a manner
that does not accord with human dignity and human rights." (Quote from
Al Arabiya.) Of the protests elsewhere, the head of Egypt's ambulance
service said at least 54 people had been wounded, mostly in Cairo.
Reuters reports that "The main opposition National Salvation Front
denied it was to blame for the demonstrations turning violent."
Feb 3 A splinter group
calling itself the Revolutionary People's Liberation Army-Front
(DHKP-C) has taken credit for the suicide bombing at the US embassy in
Turkey. Reuters reports a spokesperson accusing the US of using Turkey
as its slave state. He describes Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan as a
US puppet and warns: "Murderer America! You will not run away from the
people's rage." The group views the US as imperialist. As
revolutionaries they can be compared to Italy's Red Brigade, Germany's
Baader-Meinhof revolutionaries, the Japanese Red Army and tiny cells of
individuals who associate themselves with al-Qaeda: youthful, earnest
in their devotion to the destruction of their satanic enemy, but
Feb 4 The fate of Richard
III of England has been confirmed by DNA testing. After losing his
horse, his kingdom and his life in battle on Bosworth Field, he was
buried under what became an automobile parking lot. British officials
declare that he will now receive a burial proper for a king.
Feb 4 Over the shambles
of neighborhoods and broken lives he has wrought, President Bashar
al-Assad accuses Israel of destabilizing Syria. After months of support
in weapons and money to the Assad regime, Iran announces that Israel
will regret its "aggression" against Syria. He is referring to Israeli
warplanes destroying weapons in Syria destined for Hezbollah, a group
supported by Iran that hates Israel.
Feb 5 In Norway a new TNS
Gallup poll shows the Conservative Party as rising and now the most
popular of political parties, at 35.1%. It closest rival is the Labor
Party, currently in power, with 26.1%. Under Labor Party leadership,
Norway has been doing well economically, with a higher per capita GDP
than the United States and an unemployment rate for 2012 at 3.1%. The
Left has dominated Norway politically since the 1930s. The Conservative
Party regards itself as an opponent of socialism, but it favors a
continuation of Norway's welfare state, as does Britain's Conservative
Party. It favors same-sex marriage and gay adoption rights and is tough
regarding law and order issues. The party leader is Erna Solberg,
perhaps Norway's next prime minister. She has undergraduate degrees in
sociology, political science, statistics, and economics.
Feb 6 In Denmark,
yesterday's attempted assassination of Lars Hedegaard,
historian-journalist, 70, has been attributed to his criticism of
Islam. Danes are calling it an attack on their democracy and right to
free speech. Liberal Alliance leader Anders Samuelsen goes further and
argues that anyone involved, regardless of their residency status and
ethnicity, "ought to be thrown out of the country." The attack seems to
have added support for Hedgaard's views and, of course, to have been
void of political sophistication and foresight.
Feb 6 In Tunisia the
assassination of Shokri Belaid produces violent protests, barricades
and crowds chanting "the people want the fall of the regime. " Belaid
was the leader of the left-leaning opposition Democratic Patriots
party. The prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, has been described as a
Feb 7 Again assassination
appears to be faulty strategy. Tunisia's Islamists now feel their power
threatened. Lawyers and judges are on strike and protests continue.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and President Moncef Marzouki are speaking
about a new government that adequately represents all Tunisians,
including secularists like the man murdered yesterday. President
Marzouki has a background as a human rights activist. The prime
minister is described as a moderate Islamist.
Feb 8 An article in Al
Jazeera today gives us a little background on the conflict in Tunisia
between secularists and Islamists. It appears that some Islamists in
Tunisia do not yet have the tolerance for opposing opinions necessary
for a functioning democracy. The Islamists have their street fighters
who claim to be defending themselves from attacks by secularists. Last
October there was the lynching of a conservative secularist leader,
Lotfi Naqdh, with the Islamist dominated government claiming he died of
a heart attack. Implicated in Naqdh's death is Said Chebli, head of the
Tatouine branch of Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution.
Reports Al Jazeera, "Many opposition parties, human rights groups and
activists have called for the dissolution of the leagues." Islamist
supporters of the government have also been targeting the press,
accusing it of being anti-Islamist. Today is the funeral of the slain
Shokri Belaid. There, verses from the Koran were read. Demonstrators
packed the surrounding streets. Slogans were shouted against Rachid
Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Ennahda Party: "Ghannouchi, assassin,
criminal," and "Tunisia is free, terrorism out."
Feb 9 Syria's Information
Minister proclaims the Assad regime ready for negotiations with
opposition leaders, whoever they are, provided there are no
preconditions. Some see something new in the offer. They see chance for
a settlement that in giving political power to all Syrians would amount
to a peaceful end to Assad's power. The passion for Assad's death is
seen as an impediment to ending a war that is costing many lives and
widespread miseries everyday. Some others believe that little traction
for a negotiated settlement will be gained among anti-Assad fighters.
Their hatred and distrust of the Assad regime in too great.
Feb 11 Assad's
oppposition, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), claims unity on the
issue of his departure as a precondition for any solution to the war in
Syria. SNC's Moaz al-Khatib is offering Assad's representatives talks
to find a way for Assad to leave power in order to "minimize bloodshed
Feb 11 In Israel, ten women
campaigning for gender equality are arrested at the Western Wall for
wearing prayer shawls that Orthodox tradition holds solely for men.
Feb 12 There is now
wonder whether the papacy is going to abandon use of the monarchy model
- older than Christianity. That is, staying in power until death.
Yesterday the world heard news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign later
this month, because of ill-health. The media described many as stunned.
Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, remained Pope until his death on
April 2, 2005 at the age of almost eighty-five after a couple of months
of health crises involving influenza, hospitalization and breathing
problems. Jean Paul died as he wished, in the Vatican. Today, Pope
Benedict promises "not to intefere in his successor's affairs."
Feb 13 North Korea talks
tough and proud following its test-explosion of the kind of nuclear
device that could be put on an intercontinental rocket. Supreme Leader
Kim Jong-un (30?) is described by Choe Sang-Hun in the New York Times
as seeming "to be attempting to raise his status as a worthy leader at
home and as a foe to be taken seriously among the countries his
government considers its enemies." China, South Korea, Japan express
their displeasure with the test. US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice,
describes the test as "highly provacative." At the UN, tougher
sanctions against North Korea is a possibility. North Korea declares
itself to be an anti-imperialist leader. Kim Jong-un inherited his rule
in the manner of old-world monarchical dynasties.
Feb 14 Japan's economy
declined in the last three months of 2012. Economic growth has been
hurt by declining exports and consumers not hyped into buying things or
scared by inflation. Prices have been declining and what consumers
don't really need they would just as soon buy later at a lower price.
Interest rates are at 0.1% to encourage purchases. Japan's new
conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, Is giving economic recovery
"top priority." In January his government approved a $116 billion
stimulus package. Japan leads the world in public debt, at 198% of GDP
compared to 63% for the Netherlands and 62% for the United States.
Feb 15 Anti-Assad forces
continue with the military gains they have been making for more than a
year (with some mistakes). They are getting closer and closer. But Marc
Lynch in Foreign Policy doesn't see continuing gains. He writes of "an
abyss with no real prospect of victory," contradicting those of us who
guess that Assad will be out one way or another before the first of
2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, says, "President
Assad has the ability to be able [sic] to make the difference here by
deciding to engage in a legitimate diplomatic process." He says he is
going to try to talk Assad into stepping down - only slightly different
from Kofe Annan's efforts last year, which amounted to asking the same
Feb 16 Meeting in Moscow,
the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors known
as the G20 announce their determination to do something about tax
fraud, tax avoidance, and tax evasion. Tax avoidance has been a problem
for economies in crisis - Greece for example.
Feb 16 Economic growth
rates for 2012 are published and there were twelve African nations with
growth rates of 7 percent or higher: Libya 121.9%, Niger 14.5, Liberia
9.0, Ghana 8.2, Ivory Cast 8.1, Rwanda 7.7. In Latin America, Chile had
5.0%, Mexico 3.8, Nicaragua 3.7. The best European performers were
Russia at 3.8% and Norway at 3.1. The US economy grew at 2.2%. Europe
was largely flat. Its biggest losers were Spain -1.5%, Italy -2.0,
Portugal -3.0 and Greece -6%.
Feb 17 Why Europe's poor
showing in 2012? Last week, Fareed Zakaria asked whether austerity as a
response to Europe's economic crisis of 2008 had been a disaster
because "it slowed growth, slowed tax revenues and actually increased
the deficit." Arianna Huffington answered, "Look at what's happening in
the U.K. with a triple-dip recession. Look at the chief economist of
the IMF advising them not to proceed with austerity measures." Some
conservatives, on the other hand, blame Europe's welfarism, describing
it as inherently dysfunctional (although it has been around since the
Feb 18 Commenting on the
murder of Reeva Steenkamp, Rachel Jewkes, a gender and health
researcher at the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), says
that a woman in South Africa is killed by her partner every eight hours.
Feb 19 President Assad
says he is pleased with the course of events on the ground and also at
the political level. Also he says that next year he will either run for
president or leave politics but remain in Damascus to work in a clinic.
Feb 19 In denying the
charge of premeditated murder, Oscar Pistorius describes an unlikely
scenario. He claims he thought an intruder had broken into his home and
- apparently without having confronted Pistorius - locked himself in
the bathroom. It was actually Reeva behind the locked bathroom door.
Pistorius claims he thought she was still in his bed.
Feb 20 Saudi women take
political office for the first time in the country's history. King
Abdullah swears in the thirty women who are joining the Shura Council,
his consultative council. Abdullah has also granted women the right to
vote and to run for office in the next municipal elections, scheduled
Feb 20 In Bulgaria, Prime
Minister Borisov resigns following demonstrations against austerity and
rising prices. "I will not participate in a government under which
police are beating people," he said.
Feb 20 Yesterday at the
UN Conference on Disarmament, North Korea's Jon Yong Ryong said that
"South Korea's erratic behavior would only herald its final
Feb 21 Mosquitos are
reported becoming resistant to the widely used repellent Deet. With a
short lifespan, evolution's natural selection works fast for mosquitos.
Those mosquitos with Deet resistance genes become the successful
breeders, and quickly Deet resistance genes among new born mosquitos
are as common as evolution believers are among biologists.
Feb 22 India's
anti-corruption campaigner, Anna Hazare, described here on 17 August
2011, is still campaigning. But columnist Anne Applebaum writes of him
being described as presiding over a declining "comical anti-corruption
opera." Hazare's favored solution - an omnipotent ombudsman - is
thought insufficient. Whatever is sufficient must come from India's
legislature, and inventing controls over corruption is not expected to
be easy. One of Applebaum's readers asks us to look at the corruption
in China, the Philippines, Italy and Greece. But there is some hope in
India regarding women's issues, rising from recent massive
Feb 23 North Korea
describes as aggression an annual drill planned for March 11. The US
and South Korea see their joint drills as defensive. North Korea again
gives reason to be defensive. It warns of "miserable destruction" if
the US and South Korea ignite "a war of aggression by staging the
reckless joint military exercises."
Feb 23 In Bangladesh,
offended Muslims unaccustomed to opinion diversity and modern
communications technology accuse bloggers of blasphemy. They clash with
police, and four die. Last week in Bangladesh, reports BBC News, a
blogger was killed outside his home.
Feb 25 Park Geun-hye, age
61, is sworn in as President of South Korea. Her mother was
assassinated in 1974 by an individual described as under the direction
of the North Korean government. She was regarded as first lady until
1979 when her father, Park Chung-hee, was also assassinated - by his
own intelligence chief. She has a degree in electrical engineering. In
her inauguration speech today, writes BBC News, she says she will "not
tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the
security of our nation."
Feb 26 Speaking of health
care, Stephen Brill, writer for Time magazine, has appeared on the
Daily Show, the News Hour and elsewhere. He describes reasons for
health care costs in the US being twice what it is in other
industrialized countries (Germany and Australia for example). He claims
that market controls don't exist for hospital patients as they do where
customers can shop elsewhere. Non-doctor administrators are making huge
salaries. Drug companies and lab companies are taking a share that
lines the pockets of investors. He speaks of Medicare having the
leverage "to buy efficiently" except where Congress has "handcuffed"
it. Medicare, he complains, "can't negotiate the cost of wheelchairs
and canes and things like that. So you could knock easily another
quarter of a trillion dollars out of the Medicare bill, the taxpayers'
bill, if you took the handcuffs off of Medicare."
Feb 27 It is estimated
that in Italy's recent elections some 57% of voters repudiated Europe's
austerity policiies (also the policy of the Republican Party in the
US). With few people seeing tangible results from Prime Minister
Monti's austerity measures, his party won only 10.5% of the vote. A
common view is that the system is rigged in favor of Europe's big money
or, as some call it, the banksters. The banks feel threatened. European
stocks in the banking sector plunged 7 percent yesterday, and today the
cost of borrowing money for Italy surges. Nationalism among Italians is
on the rise, moving Italy closer to an acceptance of abandoning the
euro. This would allow a currency manipulation that would hurt money
lenders but perhaps encourage a circulation of money and that would
Feb 28 in recent days
China's foreign ministry has denied that China is protecting the
illegal trade in ivory. Last night a National Geographic program titled
"Battle for the Elephants" aired on television in the United States,
and Chinese officials were described enriching themselves by smuggling
ivory on airplanes immune from inspections. A Buddhist in China using
carved ivory was interviewed blissfully describing elephants as
spiritually happy in contributing their ivory.
Mar 1 The United States pledges
$60 million in assistance to select anti-Assad forces for everything
short of weaponry. It will help the Syrian opposition militarily and is
aimed at helping populations in what Kerry calls "liberated" areas.
Secretary of State Kerry declares that "Assad cannot shoot his way out"
of his crisis. The Obama administration's decision not to give weapons
has been described in the press as motivated by a continuing hope for a
"political solution" rather than a military solution. Meanwhile,
anti-Assad forces refuse to talk with the Assad regime until Assad
steps down, and it is military success by the anti-Assad forces that
drives a willingness by the Assad regime to negotiate.
Mar 2 Mokhtar Belmokhtar,
the Algerian who bombastically warned France of the trouble it was
getting into, is reported to have been killed.
Mar 2 While the Obama
administration stops short of giving weapons to Assad's opponents, the
Assad regime fights on with weapons sent from Russia, including scud
missiles sent against residential areas. Syria's foreign minister,
Walid Muallem, ignores that the Assad regime has been murdering people
in hostile neighborhoods since 2011. He describes the United States as
killing Syrians and the US aid announced by Secretary of State John
Kerry as "inconceivable." Muallem speaks with a seriousness that
suggests he believes he is communicating with credibility, while this
site and many in the world see al-Muallem on a path similar to that
taken by another Ba'athist, Saddam Hussein's foreign minister, Tariq
Mar 3 In an interview
today, Assad says his regime is ready to negotiate "with anyone,
including militants who surrender their weapons." He says (again) that
he is not stepping down. He accuses the British government of naivete
and of using shallow and immature rhetoric and arming terrorists.
Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, describes it as "one of the
most delusional interviews that any national leader has given in modern
times," overlooking perhaps an interview or two given by Muammar
Mar 3 Close to 70 percent
of Swiss voters are supporting a limit on executive pay, an initiative
to apply to all Swiss companies listed on Switzerland's stock exchange.
BBC News says "the new measure will give Switzerland some of the
world's strictest corporate rules." Some argue that it will damage
Mar 4 The spending
problem versus revenue problem that US Congressman John Boehner speaks
of is a pressing difference of opinion also in India. India's finance
minister is focusing on austerity (not spending) and legislators are
interested in spending money ahead of elections due in 2014. Affluent
Indians dislike taxes perhaps even more than Republicans, hence India
has half the revenues per GDP of the US, less than a half the revenues
of China and a fourth to a fifth the revenues of Australia, Germany and
some other more wealthy countries.
China has a wealth distribution problem: not enough money to common
people and too much to others. It has an over-production problem. The
Chinese have been building more condos than there are people who can
afford them. People with money looking for more of it have been
speculating by purchasing condos, while whole buildings of condos
remain empty. China is doing what was not done in the United States
during its housing bubble: It is imposing a tax with the intention of
reducing the intensity of the coming bubble-burst. Meanwhile a
"people's political consultant," Chi Fulin, advises a major
tax-reduction plan "to decrease income disparity." And Wen Jiabao
leaves the office of premier warning of "unbalanced, uncoordinated and
Mar 6 There is weeping
and shock in Venezuela with the death yesterday of President Hugo
Chavez. He is remembered for his devotion to the poor, including free
healthcare and education, subsidized food, clothes and electronics. His
loss has been called "irreparable" although a people's socialism is
supposed to have leaders who can be replaced - the Great Man theory of
history being a rightwing rather than a leftist idea. Chavez was,
however, charismatic. Some others saw him as passionate but shallow, as
in his siding with oppressive regimes in Iran and Syria believing these
regimes were the victims of imperialism.
Kim Jong-un, ashtray and gloves at the ready.
Mar 7 The regime in North Korea accuses the United States
of pushing to start a nuclear war and says It will exercise its right
for "a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the
aggressors." Some see this as just more of North Korea's inflammatory
rhetoric. Some wonder about the regime's mental state: distorted
perceptions and endangering itself (and others) while believing it is
Mar 8 North Korea rages
against new sanctions imposed yesterday by the UN Security Council
regarding its nuclear testing. China was among the nations signing the
new resolution, and China calls for calm. North Korea is isolated,
without allies on the nuclear testing and looming war issues, but it
ramps up its position, saying in three days it will cancel all
non-aggression treaties with South Korea. This would be a return to the
status of war of 1950-53. Some outside of North Korea view the North's
threatened pre-emptive nuclear strike not as stupidity but as a clever
bluff, believing the its leaders know it would be suicidal. A leading
North Korea general declares angrily to a television camera that they
are not bluffing.
Mar 8 People traveling
from Eritrea across Sudan to Egypt and elsewhere are being kidnapped
and forced to call relatives as far away as the United States for
ransom money. The kidnappers apply torture for screams during the calls
to intensify the requests.
Mar 11 On this quiet day
in East Asia, China's newspaper, China Daily, reports a move by its
government for more efficiency by restructuring its railway and health
ministries into parts of a larger ministry. The paper also reports a
government plan to help small and micro-sized businesses overcome
rising costs and financing difficulties. A government statement claims
that small and micro-sized firms "serve as a significant channel for
creating jobs, a major platform for entrepreneurship and an important
force of scientific innovation." March 11 is ending in East Asia. In
the US people have awakened to talk of a possible return of
functionality to Congress.
Mar 12 The will of the
Falkland Islanders is clear. They want to remain British citizens. The
vote count is 1,517 in favor of the islands remaining British
territory, and three against. Meanwhile, many in Argentina exercise a
special understanding of possession and claim it doesn't matter what
the inhabitants of the islands want. The islands, they say, are
Mar 12 Germany ranks
second (after Switzerland) in competition for tourists. France drops
from third to seventh place. The ranking is biannual by The Global
Economic Forum. People going on a holiday are said to like good
infrastructure and clean air. They prefer places where costs are
moderate, where they feel safe and the locals are friendly and don't
smoke. In Denmark, it is written, people are not as friendly as in
Germany . Denmark ranks 21st, down six places from the 2011 report. The
US ranks 6th, Canada 8th.
Mar 13 In the US
Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ted Deutch have
introduced an attempt to skirt the US Supreme Court's ruling in 2010
regarding money and political campaigns. The Senator and Congressman
propose that only "natural persons" be able to make political
contributions and expenditures to influence the outcome of public
elections. This would bar for-profit corporations, nonprofit
corporations and unions from spending money in elections.
Mar 13 A study published
in the journal Current Biology on the lifespan of Korean eunuchs
reveals that women live longer than men on average because of male
Mar 14 North Korea's
threat of war is reduced to live-artillery drills near its border with
South Korea, as South Korea and the US continue their annual military
exercises. There is no "preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the
strongholds of the aggressors" as threatened. The North has tossed a
macho, sexist insult at South Korea's president, speaking of the
"venomous swish of her skirt," although the North sees itself as the
most socially progressive of states. (The North has called Hillary
Clinton a "minister in a skirt.") The South's President Park is
reported as patiently hoping to move the North's Supreme Leader, Kim
Jong-un, 32 years younger than she, toward reason and conciliation. She
has called on the North to tone down its rhetoric, while the North
threatens to destroy the South in a sea of fire and accuses the South
Mar 15 Iran and Russia
have been supplying the Assad regime in Syria with weapons. Today,
Britain and France are pushing the European Union to lift the embargo
that prevents them from sending weapons to those in Syria fighting for
democracy. They believe that military pressure alone will make those on
the dictatorship side of the conflict willing to effectively negotiate.
Russia has complained that giving arms to the anti-Assad forces is
illegal, while some others question the legitimacy of a regime that
slaughters its own people. Comments sent to the Washington Post are
largely opposed to the British and French move and close to (but not
identical with) the positions of Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime.
(Bloody dictator's enjoy their legalities and the pacifism of potential
opponents.) The comments call for more of the negotiations that have
not worked, and they fear weapons ending up in the hands of al-Qaida.
One sees a "wag the dog" effort to boost sagging popularity. Another
alludes to the colonialist past of the British and French, and another
is like a general with a failing analogy considering a previous war.
The war he chooses is not the Bosnian war but the Afgan-Russian war,
which gave birth to al-Qaida.
Mar 17 Pope Francis,
elected on the thirteenth, makes his second appearance and declares. "I
would iike to see a church that is poor and is for the poor." This fits
his association with Francis of Assisi. Conflicting commentary follows:
Someone identifies himself as an atheist and looks forward to the
Church helping the poor. A second person tells the atheist to "Dream
on." He says the Church "is there to get the cash off the poor and keep
them poor." A third person, an agnostic, complains that the second
person is one of the many in the world who has let his emotions destort
Mar 18 The BBC reports
that In recent years Cyprus has developed into an important financial
hub, "especially for investors from Russia and Eastern Europe." The
banks have been a tax haven. The banks have made bad investments,
buying bonds for Greece's debt. Germans don't want to rescue Russian
investors. Lacking cash from the EU to rescue Cyprus banking, the
government of Cyprus has decided to levy the accounts of ordinary
depositors. This creates a storm of protest and violates banking Rule
Number One: maintaining depositor confidence. The Cyprus parliament has
voted to postpone the bailout. The banking crisis in Cyprus continues
as the government looks for money with which to keep the country's
banks alive, and Europe trembles.
Mar 18 Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference two days ago, Sarah Palin denounces "too big to fail" bailouts.
Mar 19 Republican John
Boenher, US Speaker of the House of Representatives on March 17 said,
"We do not have an immediate debt crisis, but we all know that we have
one looming." He complained the budget "never gets to balance." Boehner
has been speaking against raising taxes to balance the budget, saying
that we have a spending problem not a revenue problem. He doesn't like
the German model of revenue as 44.9% of GDP compared to 15.7% for the
United States, with Germany's government having balanced its budget
despite its extensive spending.
Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt
Mar 20 Denmark's Social
Democrats respond to experience. Nearly 43 percent of the bosses of
medium or large-sized enterprises polled say the government of Social
Democrat Thorning-Schmidt is better for competitiveness than was the
Venstre-Conservative regime. The Copenhagen Post reports that "praise
for the government was partially due to a growth plan which is expected
to lessen the overall cost of doing business by ten billion kroner by
the year 2020."
Mar 21 In Israel,
President Obama pledges an "eternal" alliance. It's good to be back in
The Land, he says in Hebrew. He and Prime Minister Netanyau embrace and
look genuinely friendly. Obama tells the media he is in the area to
learn rather than to speak. In Israel Jewish settlements in West Bank
is not a topic of discussion. In the Israeli occupied West Bank city of
Ramallah he meets with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, who has been
telling the world that continued building of Jewish settlements is a
stumbling block to a peace deal. At a press converence Obama says, "the
Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily dignities
that come with it." Not everyone buys Obama's message of friendship to
both sides. In Ramallah, demonstrators chant "The occupation is a snake
and Obama is its head." From Gaza two rockets are fired into Israel. In
the US the Heritage Foundation joins the complaints, accusing Obama of
trying to lead from behind.
Mar 22 Late yesterday
Obama spoke publicly to a young Israeli audience. He told them that
peace "will have to be made among peoples, not just governments
(applause). ... the Palestinian people's right to self-determination,
their right to justice must also be recognized (cheers, applause). ...
Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. ...
It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of
their own (cheers, applause), living their entire lives with the
presence of a foreign army that controls the movements, not just of
those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single
day. It's not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes
unpunished (applause). It's not right to prevent Palestinians from
farming their lands or restricting a student's ability to move around
the West Bank (applause) or displace Palestinian families from their
homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer (cheers,
applause). Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland,
Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land
(applause). ... Israelis must recognize that continued settlement
activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an
independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be
drawn (cheers, applause)."
Mar 22 "Let guns be
silenced and politics dominate," says Abdullah Ocalan, leader of a
Kurdish rebellion that has killed 40,000. According to Reuters he is
cheered by "hundreds of thousands." Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan,
Reuters reports, has taken "considerable political risks " by extending
cultural and language rights to Kurds."
Mar 23 Al Arabiya reports
that the European Union insisted today on "the need for a hasty
political solution to end the carnage in Syria" - tantamount to
ignoring months of failed efforts negotiating with Assad. Accompanying
the EU's declaration is opposition to the one thing that will force
serious negotiations for an end to the Assad regime: military pressure.
Sweden's Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, influential within the EU, says
that funneling weapons to Syria's insurgents would "fan the conflict
and undermine efforts to seek a negotiated settlement."
Mar 24 Syrian opposition
leader Ahmed Khatib resigns in frustration, saying, "For the past two
years, we have been slaughtered by an unprecedentedly vicious regime,
while the world has looked on." He adds: "All the destruction of
Syria's infrastructure, the detention of tens of thousands of people,
the forced flight of hundreds of thousands and other forms of suffering
have been insufficient for the international community to take a
decision to allow the people to defend themselves."
Mar 25 Cyprus bank
bailout deal leaves those with less than 100,000 euros ($130,000) in
their account untouched (fully guaranteed). Those with more will loose
money. Among the losers are unhappy Russians. The move keeps Cyprus in
the eurozone. Someone comments that no bailout would have meant
ordinary Cypriots losing all their bank savings. Another writes,
"Cyprus should have done what Iceland did. Bit the bullet and let the
banks go bust.They would have come out of this debacle with some
integrity and could have rebuilt their economy." (Icelanders have
rejected joining their country to the eurozone.)
Mar 26 The Arab League
convenes, and the chair for Syria is filled by a member of the National
Coalition opposed to Assad: Ahmed al-Khatib. In today's Washington
Post, opinion writer David Ignatius describes a split between Arab
League members on the makeup of Syria's opposition. He says Jordan,
Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates favor moderate Muslim leadership,
and Turkey and Qatar want "to see an Islamist government headed by the
Muslim Brotherhood after the fall of Bashar al-Assad." Ignatius writes
of fuss in the US from those who blame the division on President
Obama's low key approach to Syria, and he alludes to others who see the
"mess" as reason for the US to keep its distance from the conflict in
Syria. At the Arab summit and representing Syria, al-Khatib declares
that the Syrian people alone should determine who rules the country -
as in real elections nation-wide.
Mar 27 On his much
watched television show in the United States, Bill O'Reilly says,
"Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, now Cypress, all broke. And
other European nations are close. Why? Because they are nanny states."
A contrary view on Europe is expressed by an economics professor,
Richard Wolff. He says that If you want to describe places as nanny
states it should be Germany and Scandinavia, "because they provide more
social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what, not
only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the
current situation. The unemployment rate in Germany is now below five
Mar 27 Still responding
to recent sanctions, North Korea announces that it has ordered
artillery and rockets to full "combat posture" as preparation for
targeting US bases in Hawaii, Guam and the US mainland. And North Korea
cuts its military hotline with South Korea, adding to other recent
communications cuts: a Red Cross hotline and the UN Command in the
Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. (Video )
Mar 28 A federal law, the
Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA), is being challenged by the US
Supreme Court. That law defines marriage as between a man and a woman
only. The case was originated by Edie Windsor, 83, of New York who
married a woman in Toronto, Canada, and lived with her for forty-two
years. When her marriage-partner died she had to pay more than $350,000
in federal inheritance taxes she would not have had to pay had her
marriage been recognized. Congressional Republicans have hired the
lawyer at taxpayer expense to argue in favor of the law. (President
Obama isn't defending DOMA.) Some traditionalist Americans favor
government intervention to defend marriage as an institution whose
purpose is procreation. Some associate marriage with Biblical morality,
but this is not an argument for a court of law in the United States.
Arguments against DOMA question the federal government's authority to
regulate marriage and complain that DOMA violates equal protection
guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. (Video, Edie
Mar 28 Today the UN
reports that its Security Council "approved the creation of its
first-ever 'offensive' combat force, intended to carry out targeted
operations to 'neutralize and disarm' the notorious 23 March Movement
(M23), as well as other Congolese rebels and foreign armed groups in
strife-riven eastern Democratic Republic of Congo." Mark Lyall Grant,
representing Britain said said the agreement "provided an opportunity
for civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially women and
girls, to go about their lives in safety."
Mar 29 Another boring
report concerning North Korea. The US moves two radar-avoiding stealth
bombers and submarines forward, preparing to defend its ally South
Korea and itself against North Korea's threats. Russia criticizes the
military activity near North Korea, saying a "vicious cycle" could get
out of control. North Korea's leaders see the US military activity as
more provocation and appear impressed by their own military capability.
North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, signs the order that
prepares the country's missiles for action. His news agency KCNA
describes him as telling his top generals that he has "judged the time
has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the
prevailing situation." The US is aware of a great increase in movements
of vehicles and soldiers at North Korea's mid and long-range missile
sites. Mass rallies are being held in North Korea supporting their
Supreme Leader. It's Friday and many in the United States are looking
forward to the weekend. Some see Kim Jong-un as insane. They appear
little concerned, or they look forward to their military destroying
North Korea's missile capabilities or more. (Video )
Mar 30 Bahrain's justice
system appears to be working somewhat. This past week an appeals court
overturned the convictions of twenty-one medics arrested in April 2011
at a hospital treating injured protesters. Twenty-five of their
collegues also prosecuted already have been acquitted. Three remain in
jail and some have not been allowed to return to their work as doctors.
Mar 31 On this Easter Day
some are expressing themselves on a age-old issue: the Church having
adopted the trappings of power, wealth and splendor during the reign of
the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. It was contrary to the
humility regarding wealth of Jesus and that of Christians before
Constantine. Christians are describing their pleasure with the new
pope, Francis, equating his simplicity with a greater spirituality. And
in his Easter message today the pope denounces "greed looking for easy
gain." Some others today comment on Easter having risen from paganism.
Easter originally celebrated Ishtar, a goddess of fertility. It was
adapted by the Church as an accommodation in bringing pagans into the
Church, but supporters of Easter believe that it is the symbolism not
the "pagan" origins that matters. Also on this day, in the United
States, Cardinal Dolan criticizes excessive individualism and speaks up
for the collective "we" that was a big part of early Christianity.
(Dolan video .)
Apr 1 Tax shelters have become
an issue in Russia as well as the United States. President Putin now
approves the banking bailout procedures in Cyprus, and Russia's deputy
prime minister suggests that losses by Russians would encourage
Russians to bring their money home to Russian banks. He said that some
money in Cyprus banks from Russia had been taxed and some not. The New
York Times describes tax haven competitors elsewhere as seeking
advantage from the Cyprus disaster - places such as the Cayman Islands,
Luxembourg, Dubai and Singapore. Meanwhile, United States prosecutors
have been asking for cooperation from Liechtenstein regarding
foundations and other financial vehicles being used as tax havens by
Apr 2 In Hilliard Ohio
yesterday a man, 66, pulled a gun and threatened four people at a
Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and he is reported as saying that if the
police followed him home he would have to kill them too. He was
arrested, and he told police he had been admitted to a mental health
facility at least 40 times and has repeatedly purchased guns from a
local gun store. The man is reported as having a tendency to sense evil
occasionally and that yesterday he failed to take his medication. Some
in the US are responding to their sense of evil and engaging in a
national debate about background checks for buying guns. Ohio has an
ineffectual law declaring that one cannot buy a gun if mentally ill
while people with mental problems sometimes look perfectly sane.
Apr 3 The United Nations
General Assembly has voted 154 to 3 with 23 abstentions to prohibit
states from exporting weapons that would be used for crimes against
humanity, war crimes or terrorism. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has no
impact on gun legislation or trade within the United States, but in the
US the National Rifle Association vows to fight ratification by the US
Senate, and some people are complaining about "UN gun grabbers." The
Assad regime in Syria joined Iran and North Korea in voting against the
treaty because it will not block arms being passed to rebels it
describes as terrorists. This is the world's first treaty for
regulating the global arms trade business.
Apr 4 North Korea has
declared war against South Korea and the United States. It has shut
down the industrial cooperation facility just inside its border with
South Korea - its last link with the South. A South Korean newspaper,
the Korea Times, headlines that the north may be aiming "to pressure
[the] US for dialogue." People in South Korea are reported as thinking
that the North isn't crazy enough to send its missiles flying and that
its just more of the talk they've been hearing for years. In the Japan
Times an analyst, Yoon Young Kwan, surveys the Korea problem since the
fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and concludes that in recent years
things have become progressively precarious. The US takes the threats
from North Korea seriously and is increasing defenses for itself and
South Korea, which it has vowed to protect. And some of us wonder about
the likelihood of the North willing to back down, lose face and appear
as having been globe, selected. If they do, what will be their talking
Apr 5 Today, Germany's
finance minister welcomes the exposing of secret offshore banking and
global tax evasion, and he says he wants more joint EU action against
it. He refers to a consortium of journalists that has, according to its
own report , "lay bare the names behind covert companies and private
trusts in the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands and other
offshore hideaways. They include American doctors and dentists and
middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of
long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and
Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international
arms dealers and a sham-director-fronted company that the European
Union has labeled as a cog in Iran's nuclear-development program."
Apr 6 Chinese tourists
are declared as having led the world in total spending abroad last
year. They spent $102 billion on foreign trips, surpassing travelers
from Germany and the United States. Meanwhile, big stores in London,
Paris and Milan are concerned about the recent decline in tourist
spending by Asians, this spending having been a bright spot during
Europe's recession. According to an article in Reuters today, the
Chinese "account for a third of European luxury sales." In late March,
a senior North Korean official assured Chinese tour operators that
there would be no war on the Korean peninsula. Chinese tourists have
been flocking to South Korea rather than to North Korea. in January,
President Obama signed an executive order aimed at speeding the visa
process for Chinese and Brazilian tourists from four months to three
weeks. Video: Chinese tourists in South Korea ,China
announces, as reported by Reuters, that "no country should be allowed
to plunge the region into chaos after the United States postponed a
missile test to ease talk of war." North Korea has declared that it
cannot guarantee the safety of embassy personnel in its country after
April 10 and accuses the US of intending to start a war. China says it
is keeping its embassy people in North Korea anyway.
Apr 7 In recent days,
Members of Parliament in Britain have been complaining that British
taxpayers shouldn't be paying for health and education in Pakistan
while rich Pakistanis were paying little tax. The MPs are calling for
withholding extra aid to Pakistan.
Apr 8 In Britain, Members
of Parliament call for suspension of pesticides linked to the death of
bees. In the US are people urging action on this issue by their
Apr 8 The move by Japan's
conservative government to stimulate massively its economy is
accompanied by its central bank plan to double the nation's money
supply. The purpose is to end deflation and to spur economic growth.
The value of Japan's currency has dropped about 4.4% in the last week.
Japan's public debt for 2012 was at 214% of GDP, close to twice that of
the United States.
Apr 9 In Britain,
Intelligence Squared has it debate on the motion "Karl Marx was right,
capitalism post-2008 is falling apart under the weight of its own
contradictions." There are six debaters, all bright, learned and
charming. They agree that Marx wasn't right about everything. Those for
the motion agree that he was right about some significant matters, and
they talk about capitalism being propped up by various state
interventions. The debate isn't definitional: what is and is not
capitalism. They seemed to agree that they were living in a capitalist
society. And the idea was put forward by Frank Fureti, for the motion
and in agreement with Marx, that we don't have to be objects of
history; we can innovate and create history in ways we find useful. The
audience voted in favor of those opposed to the motion, 316 to 217,
with 37 don't knows.
Apr 9 Pundits are
analyzing North Korea while it threatens war. Anne Applebaum calls
North Korea an anachronism. Looking back, the North was created by the
Soviet Union which occupied it and kept Korea divided to suit its
economic interests. All Koreans wanted a unified country. The North,
with Stalin's backing, resisted elections to unify the country and then
tried invading the South. The North was saved by intervention from
China. The fighting stopped with the Stalinist regime still in place in
the North. Stalinist-like repressions, propaganda and cult of
personality prevailed and continues today while it remains economically
dysfunctional and dependent on Chinese assistance. Applebaum and others
wish but don't expect China to end the anachronistic regime in North
Korea by not continuing to prop it up. BBC News describes the 1994
crisis in which the Clinton administration put aside its plans to
destroy the North's nuclear capability and instead agreed to direct
talks, which resulted in the North agreeing to a nuclear freeze in
exchange for the US phazing out economic sanctions. And today pundits
are focusing on the North making threats as a trading ploy. They don't
think the North really believes the US is planning to make war. One
asks, "Is Pyongyang looking for food aid or a cash injection to keep
its economy from collapsing?"
Apr 10 France's
president, Francois Hollande, calls for the eradication of the world's
tax havens. Reuters quotes Hollande as saying, "French banks will have
to publish every year the full list of their subsidiaries in the world,
country by country. And they will indicate what they are doing. ... In
other words it won't be possible for a bank to hide transactions
carried out in a tax haven."
Apr 10 Yesterday Uhuru
Kenyatta was sworn in as the new president of Kenya . In his inaugural
address, Mr Kenyatta said he would govern for all Kenyans and that "We
will leave no community behind." Children starting school next year, he
added, would be given laptops.
Apr 11 Assad's Air Force
"has repeatedly carried out indiscriminate, and in some cases
deliberate, air strikes against civilians," reports Human Rights Watch.
This strategy was described by a rebel in a PBS Frontline documentary
"Syria Behind the Lines" as an attempt by the Assad regime to
discourage civilians from supporting rebel fighters. It's a claim that
rings true. It's common knowledge among students of war that rebel
fighters are dependent on local populations. The bombing of civilians
is a strategy to encourage civilians to demand that rebel fighters go
away - a strategy employed against villages in South Vietnam in hope of
separating local populations and the Viet Cong. It didn't save the
regime in Saigon (South Vietnam). Nor has it been working In Syria.
Instead of rebel forces going away, the civilians are fleeing. On the
other hand for all we know at this time, Assad's airforce intentionally
hitting civilians might be less a product of strategic thinking and
more of a desire for revenge and to punish.
Apr 12 US Secretary of
State Kerry meets with South Korea's lady president, Park Geun-hye, and
aggravates North Korea by announcing that its planned test launch of a
medium-range missile would be a "huge mistake" and that the US would
never accept the North as a nuclear power. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has
reported "North Korea probably has nuclear weapons that can be mounted
on ballistic missiles," and China has increased its troops near its
border with North Korea.
Apr 14 North Korea
dismisses a proposal for dialogue by South Korea as a "cunning ploy."
After recently threatening the South with final destruction, it accuses
the South of being confrontational. And with these statements it
rejects US Secretary of State Kerry's invitation to talks.
Kuwait's Emir, His Highness Sheikh Sabah IV
Apr 15 In Kuwait,
opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak has said that the state's chief
of state, its emir, would not be allowed "to take Kuwait into
autocracy." Today he is put in prison for five years for insulting the
emir. The emir's family, the House of Sabah, rules, and the country's
constitution protects him from criticism. Several tweeters and others
have been jailed on the charge. There are claims that the family is
creating a rubber stamp parliament, and riot police have repeatedly
used tear gas and stun grenades against demonstrators.
Apr 16 Yesterday
afternoon two blasts loaded with ball bearings killed three and injured
176 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There are no suspects
or claims of responsibility.
Apr 16 China's defense
ministry describes the US as having increased tensions in the
Asia-Pacific by ramping up its military presence and alliances in the
region. This, it says, has emboldened Japan, the Philippines and
Vietnam in territorial disputes. The People's Liberation Army newspaper
Daily says, "Hostile Western forces have intensified their strategy to
Westernize and split China, and have employed every possible means to
contain and control our country's development."
Apr 16 North Korea vows
"sledge-hammer blows" against South Korea unless the South apologizes
for insults yesterday by demonstrators who burned portraits of the
Apr 17 In North Korea the state
news agency announces that the country is open to talks, but not while
the US is "brandishing a nuclear stick." The claim of not bluffing in
its threat to make preemptive war (March 8) appears on its way to being
forgotten. The crisis appears to be fading. We shall soon see whether
the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, will be hailed as having scared the US
into dropping its plans for war. Meanwhile, North Korean exiles are
described in the Western press as laughing and saying that North Korea
is not able to make a war they could hope to win, that it has all been
Apr 18 In an interview on
state television yesterday, the dictator Assad rejected reports that
several parts of Syria have fallen out of his control. He said his army
withdrew in some areas mainly to protect civilians. The protection of
civilians, he said, is the top priority of his army battling opposition
forces. This morning (EST), Aljazeera reports Syrian opposition
fighters having captured "large parts of a military base in the
strategic central Homs province."
Apr 18 President Obama
describes the Senate's vote against its compromise gun legislation as
"shameful" and says, "The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about
the bill." Jon Stewart, television host of the Daily Showdenounces the
argument put forth by Republicans that background checks for buying
guns are pointless because criminals don'tt follow laws. Stewart
describes this as lawmakers arguing that there is no point in making
laws because criminals are just going to end up breaking them. Some
opponents of the bill took an absolutist position, saying the bill
would save no lives; President Obama said the bill would save some
lives. Some opponents complained that the bill demonizes gun owners.
Some other opponents of the legislation want to make state laws that
are now ineffective (in Ohio for example) more effective. Progressives
vow to target four Democratic Party senators who voted against
background checks for buying guns: Pryor of Arkansas, Baucus of
Montana, Begich of Alaska and Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Apr 20 Two brothers
living in the Boston area for a few years and originally from Chechnya,
are accused of planting two bombs near the finish line during the
Boston Marathon on April 15th. They are Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,
26 and 19 respectively, They ae alleged to have killed three and
injured many more. By yesterday the FBI had successfully identified
them, and the attempt by the brothers to avoid capture appeared to
corroborate their guilt. The older brother was killed and the younger
brother taken prisoner. The mother, in Dagestan, said her sons were
being framed. The father, also speaking from Dagestan, said the same.
An aunt in Toronto said she was suspicious that the event was "staged."
The older brother has been described as a devout Muslim. The public
wonders what could have motivated the senseless act against innocent
people other than Islamic extremism. Presidents Putin and Obama agree
to more coordination in combating terrorism.
Apr 21 In the US, comparisons are being made between the Boston bombings of April 15 and the London bombings of July 7, 2005 .
Apr 23 In Canada, two men
are arraigned on charges of planning a terrorist attack on a passenger
train. One is from Tunisia, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, who was working on a
PhD in engineering at a university in Quebec. The other, Raed Jaser,
35, has permanent resident status and is thought to be Palestinian.
Esseghaier is said to have been threatened with expulsion from his
university for disruptive behavior. He is described as having alienated
colleagues with his religious views, having torn down posters he didn't
approve of and pestering administration officials to install a prayer
room. Canada's Globe and Mail reports that the two men had been under
investigation since last year following a tip by an imam in Toronto's
Apr 24 Many if not most
people in the US are puzzled by the absurdity of the Boston Marathon
bombing; it is after all a political act that has no political benefit
to people of any ideology (something al Qaeda is slow to recognize).
Someone claims that "It's painful for most Americans to admit our fault
in these events." Someone else labels this person an idiot liberal and
complains that liberals are refusing to recognize that the bombers were
Muslim extremists. Someone else writes, "our university and idiot
professors share some of the blame." Another finds it necessary to
label the bombers as rightwing terrorists. All this while it is
realized generally that most people on the right and most people on the
left would never approve or do what the Boston bombers did. Someone
simply labels the bombers "vicious murderers of the worst kind."
Another person wonders how someone takes the step of intentionally
killing innocent people. One of the bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, has
recently referred to an old saying that has been proclaimed from the
left and the right, something about evil prevailing when good people do
nothing. Great abstractions do not necessarily impart wisdom. There are
bad ideas around and some people act on bad ideas. There is value, of
course, in excluding killers from society and value in addressing bad
ideas in their specificity.
Apr 27 Israeli, British
and French intelligence services claim that the Assad regime has been
using chemical weapons. The Assad regime accuses its enemies of using
chemical weapons but hasn't allowed inspectors in to examine where
anti-Assad forces have done so. Ground samples in areas held by those
opposed to Assad have tested positive for poison gas use. The Obama
administration concedes that "Our intelligence community does asses
with varying degrees of that the Syrian regime has used chemical
weapons on a small scale in Syria. President Obama has said that such
use would be a red line, suggesting a greater intervention of some kind
- a "game changer" he said yesterday. On the NewsHour, University of
Notre Dame peace advocate David Cortright, hostile toward any use of
military force, argues that the US should work with the Russians on the
issue of chemical weapons. Russia's deputy foreign minister Mikhail
Bogdanov sides with the Assad regime, saying that news of chemical
weapons use "must not be a pretext for an intervention in Syria." On
the NewsHour, Kori Schake of Stanford University expressed concern that
the Obama administration might be holding to a position of required
evidence and extent of use high enough to remain an excuse for not
acting. She said, "The American public is war-weary, and they should be
war-weary. The problem is that the Syrian government is taking
advantage of that war-weariness to do truly atrocious, inhuman things.
It's a war crime to use chemical weapons. Right? So they are
capitalizing on our desire, as the president said, for the tide of war
to be receding."
Apr 28 In Iceland the
Social Democrats, now in power, lose in yesterday's elections. The
right-of-center gains and is poised for a return to power. BBC News
describes it as "a dramatic comeback for the [right-of-center] parties
widely blamed for Iceland's economic meltdown in 2008." In appealing to
voters, the right-of-center called for good times and took advantage of
dissatisfaction with the austerity policies of the Social Democrats.
The call for good times (let's party?) by conservatives included
expressions of respect for free enterprise but also for investments. In
the words of their most prominent leader, Bjarni Benediktsson, quoted
by BBC News, "We've seen what cutbacks have done for our healthcare
system and social benefits... now it's time to make new investments,
create jobs and start growth." Also, the right-of-center promised debt
relief and cuts in taxes.
Apr 29 Civil war has
erupted in Iraq. But, as happened with Syria, observors are slow to
call it that. It could also be called a sectarian conflict, as does
Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki. An army raid on a Sunni protest camp last
week has been followed by escalated violence. In the past week clashes
have occurred in several towns and cities. Prime Minister Maliki, a
Shia, supports Iran and Syria's so-called president Bashar al-Assad.
Iraq's Sunni oppose Assad and believe they are under-represented or not
represented at all by Maliiki's government. Today according to BBC
News, "At least 18 people have been killed and dozens injured by five
car bombs in Shia-majority provinces of southern Iraq, officials say."
Apr 30 Syria: "This is
not a civil war. This is a national uprising against almost
half-a-century of dictatorship." So says Murhaf Jouejati, Chairman of
the Syrian National Council.
Apr 30 Search for
survivors in Bangladesh came to an end yesterday, five days after a
building full of garment workers in the city of Dhaka collapsed. The
death toll is expected to rise to around 570. Corruption is blamed:
people with political connections allowed shoddy construction and to
work people in a dangerous environment. Anger and demonstrations have
been followed by the arrest of the building's owner. Retailers in the
West seeking cheap labor are being blamed for their part in the
May 1 According to a
survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than
three-quarters of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, South
Asia and Southeast Asia want sharia courts to decide family law issues
such as divorce and property disputes. About half favor sharia courts
deciding punishment for crimes such as thievery. And most Muslims do
not favor sharia law being applied to non-Muslims.
May 1 In Lebanon,
Hezbollah leader Nasrallah declares that he will not let the Assad
regime fall to "the US, Israel or Islamic extremists." Syria's
anti-Assad coalition (SNC) denounces the threat. Also today, the
Washington Post reports that "President Obama is preparing to send
lethal weaponry to the Syrian opposition and has taken steps to assert
more aggressive US leadership among allies and partners seeking the
ouster of President Bashar al-Assad."
May 2 The deaths of
garment workers in Bangladesh raises the issue of retail companies
caring about the conditions in which those who make their clothes work.
But Scott Nova, of Workers Rights Consortium, told the NewsHour
yesterday that, "The reality is, it's the brands and retailers who have
the most power in the system. If they want to ensure their factories
are safe, they have the power to ensure their factories are safe. They
haven't chosen to exercise that power." Workers themselves are the best
watchdogs and advocates concerning working conditions, and in a
Huffington Post article back in 2009 he wrote, "Repression of
unionization efforts at apparel factories is rarely challenged, either
by the brands that buy from these factories or by local governments."
May 6 A new Pew Research
Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds a widespread majority
believing that Islam is the one true faith and that to be a moral
person one must believe in God. The survey also found of the Muslims it
interviewed in the United States that 81 percent believed violence
against civilians in the name of Islam is never justified. This leaves
19 percent of those surveyed in the US believing that violence against
people might at least sometimes be justified (i.e. moral) when Islam is
May 7 Human Rights Watch
and Amnesty International accuse Equatorial Guinea of serious human
rights violations and denial of fundamental freedoms as the country
moves toward legislative elections on May 26. They cite politically
motivated arrests, harassment of the political opposition, voter
intimidation and denial of free speech. The country's president,
Obiang, has been in power since 1979. His ruling party, according to
Human Rights Watch, "benefits from a virtual monopoly on power,
funding, and access to national media." According to Wikipedia,
"Equatorial Guinea is one of the continent's largest producers of oil,
but ranks very poorly in the United Nations human development index;
the vast majority of Equatorial Guineans hardly have access to clean
May 8 Yesterday, Russia
and the US agreed to convene an international conference that would
encourage the Assad regime and his enemies in Syria to negotiate a
peaceful settlement to their war. The hope is that Assad can be
pressured into offering the Syrian people something close to democracy.
Assad has not done so yet, and some believe that only greater military
pressure will end the Assad dictatorship. The chances of getting Iran
to withdraw its military support of Assad to induce steps toward
democracy in Syria appears remote. But hope springs eternal.
May 9 Richard Haas, May 5
on Zakaria's GPS: "Second of all, we're not going to have a negotiated
settlement here [Syria]. We've long, long, long since passed the line
where the lions are going to lay down with the lambs. This is a fight
to the finish, initially, between the Alawites and the majority,
secondly, between - among the majority."
May 9 Denmark (considered
socialist by some US conservatives) is concerned about creating a more
healthy business environment for small businesses in its capital city,
Copenhagen. The challenge, it is being said, is to create growth and
jobs. The Copenhagen Post writes that, "the capital is lagging far
behind cities like Stockholm, Berlin and Hamburg. Between 2001 and
2011, Greater Copenhagen had an average growth rate of 1.4 percent. The
growth rate in Stockholm during the same period was 3 percent."
May 10 The head of
Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, expresses optimism about receiving the
"game changing" weapons that the Israeli airforce has tried to prevent
Hezbollah from having. Receiving these weapons, says Nasrallah, would
serve as Syria's reaction to Israeli air raids. The Assad regime
threatens an immediate response to any new Israeli strike. A regime
spokesman says, "Our retaliation will be strong and will be painful
against Israel." Israel, meanwhile, is reported as determined for the
sake of its survival to keep "game changing" weapons from the hands of
May 11 Rios Montt, age
86, a former president of Guatemala, is found guilty of genocide and
crimes against humanity. He is sentenced to 80 years in prison - the
first time a former head of state has been found guilty of genocide by
a court in his or her own country. In court, Montt said he "never had
the intent to destroy any national race, religion, or ethnic group. ...
The commanding officer in charge of the units in El Quiche region is
accountable for the actions." In July 1982, the New York Times reported
Montt announcing, "If you are with us, we'll feed you; if not, we'll
May 12 The people of
Africa are losing benefits from the mining of resources there because
of deals that amount to tax avoidance, writes Kofi Annan. He writes of
secret mining deals, financial transfers and firms that shift profits
to lower tax jurisdictions and concludes that "Africa loses twice as
much money through these loopholes as it gets from donors."
May 14 Billionaire
industrialist Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League wins big in Pakistan's
elections. He is headed for his third time as prime minister. Sharif
promised economic recovery, more highways, bullet trains, good
relations with India and the US. He is a moderate free-enterprise
conservative who has been in conflict with the left-of-center People's
Party, historically led by the Bhutto family, which nationalized his
properties, which he later undid.
May 15 In Bangladesh, the
rubble turning is finished. Yesterday, thousands attended an Islamic
prayer service for the 1,127 people now counted as having died in the
collapse of the garment factory building on April 25. Also yesterday,
WalMart announced it will pay for inspections at 279 factories in
Bangladesh and will publish the results on its website by June 1.
Inspections heretofore are being described as terribly superficial.
May 15 The economy of the
17-nation eurozone shrank 0.2 percent in the January to March quarter,
according to European Union statistics. Nine of these 17 nations are in
recession, including France, France's second recession in four years.
Germany's economy grew by just 0.1 percent.
May 17 In Norway, gypsies (officially called Romani) demonstrate against the Oslo city council's plan to ban outside sleeping.
May 17 The New York Times
reports that Russia is sending Yakhonts cruise missiles to Syria,
missiles with advanced radar and a range that can strike against ships
supplying the opposition forces with weapons and other supplies.
"Ship-killers' they are called. Today there is more talk from UN
General Secretary Ban ki-moon while he is visiting Russia. He warns
against losing the "momentum" for peace in Syria generated by talks
between Kerry and Putin on May 7. Secretary Ban proclaims that "A
negotiated political solution is the only way to end the crisis," while
some are aware that many conflicts across history were settled by one
side defeating the other. Some of us wish the UN could conduct or
moniter national elections for Syria. That would require the approval
and participation of the Assad regime. Why such elections are not
likely to happen soon is being revealed from day to day and will be
described on this world news page in the days ahead.
May 18 The first Saudi
woman, age 25, makes history by reaching the top of Mount Everest. She
is Raha Moharrak, a university graduate based in Dubai. Her team
included the first Qatari man and the first Palestinian man to attempt
the summit. "I really don't care about being the first," she says, "So
long as it inspires someone else to be second."
May 19 Assad tells an
Argentinian newspaper that "to resign would be to flee." While some of
us see his continuing in power as an obstacle to the reconciliation in
Syria that will someday come, Assad portrays his manner of rule, which
has alienated the majority of Syrians, as righteous. And he portrays
himself as hero. Regarding the coming international conference
initiated by the US and Russia, as he has many times before he speaks
approvingly of more talk, but he adds that "we do not believe that many
Western countries really want a solution in Syria."
May 21 Opposition groups
meeting in Spain oppose negotiations with the Assad regime unless it is
aimed at his departure. The battle for control of the strategic town of
Quazar, near the Lebanese border, rages into its third day. It's a
showdown of sorts. Winning the area is a must for the Assad regime.
Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters are there, backed by Assad's artillery
and air strikes. The anti-Assad forces are hanging on and claim they
will not abandon the anti-Assad civilians there.
May 22 Iran's Guardian
Council has disqualified a former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, from
running for the president. Rafsanjani is thought of as someone who
might have won the support of pro-reform and centrist politicians. The
Guardian Council is appointed by and is loyal to the Supreme Leader,
Ali Khamenei. Iran remains a theocracy, not to be confused with
May 22 In truly
democratic Sweden, rioting continues for a third day in largely
immigrant (Middle East and Somali) neighborhoods near Stockholm.
Someone was shot while threatening a policeman with a machete. Police
say they tried negotiating with the man. A youth defending the rioters
charges police brutality. Yesterday, Prime Minister Reinfeldt told
reporters that Sweden would not be intimidated by rioters. The Justice
Minister, Beatrice Ask, invites anyone who has felt mistreated to file
May 23 Iran's Rafsanjani
(See May 22) says of the Guardian Council, "I don't want to stoop to
their propaganda and attacks but ignorance is troubling... They don't
know what they're doing." He says he doesn't think "the country could
have been run worse." The BBC reports: "The 78-year-old will not
contest his disqualification [in running for president], his campaign
manager was quoted as saying [yesterday]."
May 24 A BBC poll has
surveyed more than 26,000 people around the world, asking them to rate
16 countries and the EU as to whether their influence in the world was
"mainly positive" or "mainly negative." (Rating the more than 200
countries in the world would have been asking too much.) Germany was
ranked as most respected and Canada second. The EU ranked 6th. The US
was 8th of 17, just ahead of China. Russia was 13th, Israel 14th, North
Korea 15th, Pakistan 16th, and at the bottom was Iran. (BBC News, May
May 26 Yesterday in
Lebanon, Shi'ite Hezbollah leader Nasrullah, declared war against
opponents of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. "The battle is ours," he
said, "and I promise you victory." Since May 19, Hesbollah has lost
dozens in the battle of Qusair just inside Syria. Today two rockets of
the type with a five-mile range were fired from within Lebanon and
exploded near offices of Hesbollah in Beirut.
May 27 Britain and France
are asking the European Union for permission to send weapons to
opposition fighters in Syria. They believe that military pressure from
opposition forces will encourage the Assad regime to negotiate an end
to its war. But some EU members, including Austria, the Czech Republic,
Finland and Sweden, remain opposed to EU countries helping Syria's
opposition defend itself from a murderous dictatorship - state
terrorism - armed by Russia and supported by Iran and Hezbollah. They
say, the EU should remain "a peace community." In a word: pacifist.
Sanctions against arming Syrians ends on June 1, and If the EU fails to
agree to continue these sanctions, in the words of the Austria foreign
minister, "everybody is entitled to deliver weapons to the Assad regime
or to the opposition."
May 28 Russia's foreign
ministry complains of the European Union failing to renew its arms
embargo for Syria. Meanwhile Russia announces that it is going ahead
with delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Assad regime in
order to deter "hotheads" from involvement in Syria's rebellion. This
threatens Israel's ability to continue its airstrikes against advanced
weaponry supplied by the Assad regime to Hezbollah, which believes that
israel has no right to exist. Israel complains that its Ben Gurian
airport would be in range of the S-300 missiles. The Times of Israel
writes: "Using unusually harsh language, Minister of Intelligence,
International Relations and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz told
reporters the Russian decision to press on with the deal was an 'odd'
and unjustifiable move, which he said was 'totally wrong' on moral and
May 29 Encouraged by what
it sees as military successes, the Assad regime is going into June
peace talks with the announcement by Assad's foreign ministry that
Assad will remain as Syria's president at least until elections in
2014. The peace talks that the Obama administration has been looking
forward to appears to be an illusion. Meanwhile the head of Germany's
intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, has reversed himself. Last
summer he predicted that the Assad regime would collapse in early 2013;
now he reports that the opposition is in trouble and the Assad regime
is poised to make significant advances.
May 30 Today, in an
interview with Hezbollah-link television, Assad boasts that his
military has scored "major victories" and now holds "the balance of
power." Speaking in Instanbul, George Sabra, the interim head of the
opposition Syrian Nation Coalition, proclaims that talk of diplomatic
conferences is farcical. He says, "The National Coalition will not take
part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the
militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria."
May 30 In Saudi Arabia,
anachronistic interpretations of Islamic proprieties show signs of more
slippage. On twitter, Saudi cleric Abdullah Mohammed al-Dawood has
called on men to harass women cashiers. His purpose has been to
discourage them from leaving home so as not to lose their chastity. The
cleric is being lambasted on twitter, and the cashiers have substantial
May 31 Miners in
Kyrgyzstan are dispersed in widespread clashes with police. Government
has declared a state of emergency. The miners want better pay. The
Canadian mine owner, Centerra Gold, complains that it is the biggest
payer of taxes in Kyrgyzstan and is funding social projects. A state
commission claims the company is paying too little. Miners call for
nationalization. Some in government worry that nationalization would
discourage more foreign investment.
Jun 1 In Egypt, Cairo
House opera workers strike to protest what they are calling
Brotherhoodization - Islamist interference. They are upset with the
government's new culture minister having fired the head of the opera
Jun 1 In Turkey, protests rage
for a second day. Some people in Istanbul dislike the government
messing with their park, including cutting down their sycamore trees.
Protesters chant "Unite against fascism" and have been dispersed by
water cannon and tear gas. The protests accompany unrest regarding the
ruling administration's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party,
increased restrictions on alcohol sales, including beer, and warnings
against public displays of affection. Prime Minister Erdogan says it
was a mistake to use tear gas on protesters, but he holds to his plans
for the park's redevelopment. When it's finished, he said, there will
be more trees than before. An official description of the redevelopment
includes a shopping mall and reconstruction of an Ottoman army
barracks. Amnesty International describes more than 100 protesters as
having been injured.
Jun 3 Protests in Turkey
continue for the fourth day. Turkey's media has been lightly reporting
the events, and Prime Minister Erdogan complains: "There is now a
menace which is called Twitter. The best examples of lies can be found
there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society." BBC News
reports that "Officials say more than 1,700 people have been arrested
in demonstrations in 67 towns and cities, though many have since been
released." Erdogan describes the protesters as anti-democratic.
Turkey's President Abdullah Gül, of the same political party as
Erdogan, urges calm. He says there is more to democracy than just
elections and tells anti-government demonstrators that their message
has been "received."
Jun 4 Amid the daily news
of disaster, tragedy and folly, many people are enjoying life despite
their personal struggles, but the Bollywood movie star, Jiah Khan, is
found dead by hanging, an apparent suicide. She was twenty-five and is
reported to have been concerned about her career and future. Also this
past week four South Koreans, two men and two women in their twenties,
committed suicide together, leaving a suicide note. Wikipedia has a
"List of countries by suicide rate" and South Korea is second, just
after Greenland. China is seventh, Japan tenth, the United States
thirty-fifth, Sweden (where like Greenland there is little sun)
thirty-sixth, Germany forty-ninth, Israel sixty-eighth. One factor in
South Korea's high suicide rate is academic achievement pressure, which
is also a factor in Japan. In Haiti people are less expected to triumph
in a race with others for success, and Haiti ranks at the bottom of
China's President Xi receives key to the city of
San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo/Xinhua)
Jun 5 China and Mexico
agree to cooperate in energy creation, infrastructure construction,
mining, new industrial trade, banking and entrepreneur exchanges.
Mexico will benefit from exporting pork and tequila to the Chinese
market, and China promises to provide one hundred scholarships to
Mexican students each year for the next three years. China's President
Xi and First Lady Peng Liyuan (photo:right ) are visiting Mexico
following their visit to Caribbean states and Costa Rica. China is
lending Jamaica money for construction of the Baha Mar resort and the
reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges.
Jun 6 Yesterday, Iran
congratulated the Assad regime on its success in recapturing the
strategic town of al-Qusayr in Western Syria, without mentioning its
role and Hezbollah's role in that success. Iran and Hezbollah have
expressed determination not to let the Assad regime fall. The European
Union and United States, on the other hand, have been reluctant to arm
even those among the anti-Assad forces who are committed to democracy.
Some have taken this position entertaining equivalence-thinking: no
arms to either side. And many among the public have supported this,
seeing the arming of anti-Assad Syrians as equivalent to the invasion
of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration has placed its hope
in diplomacy, as did the UN and Kofi Annan from many months ago.
Jun 7 North Korea's rage
in March this year appears forgotten. So too is the North Korean
general's angry declaration to a television camera that his country was
not bluffing. Nor is there news of anyone in South Korea bragging about
his claim that the North was just posturing and that missiles were not
about to start flying. Today, BBC News reports that North Korea "has
restored a key hotline with South Korea" and has announced that it will
"reopen a Red Cross is line cut in March."
Jun 8 The hate engendered
by war is expressed by a Syrian refugee surrounded by her distressed
children in Lebanon. She tells Margaret Warner of the News Hour (PBS),
"Shia and Hezbollah attacked us, and they left nothing. They burnt the
house, and we had a shop, but it is all gone now." Warner asks: "How do
you feel now about Shias?" The woman replies, "I hate them." Warner
asks: "All Shia?" The woman: " Yes, all of them."
Jun 8 Despite the
disapproval of Pakistan's new government, the US executes another drone
strike within Pakistan. A US official describes nine "militants" from
the Bakka Khel tribe as having been killed. Pakistan's new prime
minister since June 5, Nawaz Sharif, has demanded an end to the
strikes, which are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and
territorial integrity. Some in the US doubt that the strike will make
Americans anywhere any safer or help influence people in our (US) favor.
Jun 10 Exposure of a
government program that tracks phone records and internet
communications has raised opposition from people who fear government
interest in them. From Glenn Beck and others comes talk of "Big
Brother," "1984" and a "Brave New World." Senator Rand Paul says
"somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington."
Support for the exposure comes also from some on the political left,
including Daniel Ellsberg who helped publish the Pentagon Papers.
Meanwhile, head of the National Security Agency, James Clapper, who
runs the program, called prism, describes its purpose as a data base
from which to track terrorist communications. He describes fears as
unreasonable and points out that the government is incapable of
interest in or collecting data on the personal doings of everybody.
Against this clarification remains the fears of people that government
can have god-like powers of observation and might want to control them
or take a special interest in them regarding their cheating on taxes,
political beliefs, watching pornography, having an affair or some other
activity. The program was exposed by a former employee in US
intelligence work named Edward Snowden, 29, who says he did it "to
protect basic liberties for people around the world."
Jun 11 The Obama
administration plans to continue the "prism" surveillance program. Jane
Harman, a liberal democrat and former US Congresswoman, describes the
program as having been debated appropriately in Congress. The "leaker,"
Edward Snowden, is being described by the press as having advanced in
the intelligence business by his performances as an internet-computer
whiz but as otherwise uneducated, not even having a high-school
diploma. Harman argued last night on the NewsHour that Snowden and
others have made false characterizations of the surveillance program.
(It takes a court order to examine the content of personal
communications.) Also yesterday, a few young people appeared in a news
photo carrying signs declaring Snowden a "hero."
Jun 12 Turkey's Prime
Minister Erdogan has decided to crush protests that began on May 31,
protests that became massive and include people who don't consider
themselves left or right. Erdogan describes the protests as hurting
Turkey economically and as having been hijacked by vandals, terrorists
and unnamed foreign forces. In a televised speech he has said: "To
those ... taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I
call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send
you my love." Demonstrators have been attacked with water cannon and
tear gas. Four have been killed, including one policeman. Erdogan
remains proud that Turkey is a democracy. He expresses concern for
Turkey's reputation. He has spoken against early elections. Elections
are scheduled for 2014.
Supreme Leader Khamenei
Jun 13 Amnesty
International reports that the regime of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei> (photo:right ) is increasing its repressions ahead of the
presidential election scheduled for tomorrow. The report adds that at
least five journalists have been arrested since March and that "a
number of political activists and trade union representatives have also
been arrested and harassed."
Jun 14 The "Supreme Leader" Khamenei denounces US doubts about
the significance of today's elections in Iran. "We don't give a damn,"
he said. "To hell with you if you don't believe in our election."
Khamenei rules Iran backed by the ultra-religious who dominate
parliament and by the "Army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution"
(the Revolutionary Guards). Iran is a theocracy governed also by those
who occupy an Assembly of Experts and Guardian Council of the (1979)
Constitution. Many in the West see Khamenei as the world's leading
villain, right up there with Bashar-al Assad - despite his sweet smile.
He was president from 1981 to 1989 - a temporary unity of the clerical
with the office of presidency not originally intended by the founding
Ayatollah Khomeini. As president, Khamenei wielded considerable power.
Wikipedia reports that "In his presidential inaugural address he vowed
to eliminate 'deviation, liberalism, and American-influenced leftists'
... Thousands of rank-and-file members of insurgent groups were killed,
often by revolutionary courts." BBC News reports that "No foreign
observers will be monitoring the poll and there have also been concerns
that media coverage in the run-up was unfair."
Jun 15 Zbigniew Brzezinski, a big name in the Democratic Party
regarding foreign policy, speaks against President Obama's move to send
weapons to Syria. Says Brzezinski: "You know, we started helping the
rebels, whatever they are, and they're certainly not fighting for
democracy, given their sponsorship, Qatar and Saudi Arabia ..."
Brzezinski tends to avoid analogous reasoning, so he is not likely to
see significance in the observation that King Louis XVI could have
asked who those rebels were that his kingdom was about to help against
England's King George III, or Churchill and Roosevelt could have asked
why they should help the Russians against Hitler's invasion of the
Soviet Union - all good questions. But Brzezinski's comments about
Saudi Arabia and Qatar appear to some to be slanderous, as if their
support for people defending themselves and fighting state terrorism
somehow contanimates that struggle. Republican Senator John McCain,
meanwhile, tells the BBC that the Free Syrian Army is now in an "unfair
fight" and needs "heavy weapons to counter tanks and aircraft."
Jun 16 Asked whether he approves the idea of the US and some
European countries arming the Syrian opposition, Israel's President
Shimon Peres, 90, says, "Look, if it were dependent on me, I would
pursue a totally different policy. I would turn to the Arab League and
say: 'Syria is a member of the Arab League. It is for you to enter
Syria as a transitional government, stop the bloodshed, go to elections
and do it in the name of the United Nations - all of us will support
you.'" (Washington Post)
Jun 17 In Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan has offered
demonstrators a referendum on the public park issue that started the
protests, and he has said kind things. But he has also insulted them,
telling parents to take their children home away from their camp-ins,
and he describes the protesters as manipulated by terrorists. The
protesters see the issue as bigger now than the park. And, rather than
opt for the quiet of political organization and electoral politics in
what is a democracy, most demonstrators appear to have chosen the drama
and grandiosity of continuing protests. Today trade union workers in
the capital, Ankara, join the protest, with Erdogan committed to
clearing away the protesters with water cannon and tear gas. "Stop
blocking the streets," he commands. He is complaining about damage to
the economy and rallying his supporters against the protesters with an
eye to protecting his power in 2014 elections.
Jun 18 The Reuters news agency reports that Saudi Arabia has
equipped Syria's anti-Assad fighters for the first time with
shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, the Saudi kingdom showing less
concern about al-Qaedi jihadists in Syria than some analysts in the
United States. This is despite the kingdom's recent years of conflict
with and opposition to al-Qaeda type jihadists. What kind of help in
weaponry the anti-Assad fighters will receive from the US is not yet
known. Meanwhile, following the Kerry-Putin meeting on May 7, hope that
Assad would participate meaningfully in a negotiated settlement appears
to have been more wishful thinking. Instead, this morning's news
describes G8 summit leaders, including Putin, being "close to a Syria
Jun 22 Since June 10, Brazil's leftist government has been rocked
by massive protests. They began in response to a transport fare
increase of 20 cents and grew to massive numbers in various cities over
a wide range of dissatisfactions. The middle class appears to dominate
among the protesters, but there were those who liked to throw things
and provoke, and some have found opportunity to destroy property and to
loot. The police, of course, have responded, but without excessively
brutality displayed in the media - not quite as brutal as the police in
Turkey this past week. Protesters complain about money being spent in
preparation for the Olympics that should be spent on citizen
well-being. President Dilma Rousseff, in office since January 2011, has
tried to put herself on the side of the protesters. In a televised
address she says she will draft a new plan to benefit public transport,
spend more on education and that thousands of doctors will be drafted
from overseas to improve the national health service. There is talk of
the use of social media producing protest sizes much bigger than
generations ago. And expectations appear to have risen with Brazil's
economic growth rate, as high as 9.3% in the second quarter of 2010,
which thereafter declined steadily to 0.9% for the year 2012. Brazil
ranks 106th in per capita income. It's middling in revenues collected
as a percentage of GDP, between Germany (44.9%) and the US (15.7%). It
is listed as middling in corruption, and with the worst of countries in
Jun 23 In Brazil, demonstrators continue to clash with police,
with the police using tear gas and rubber bullets as demonstrators try
to break through a police perimeter, glass is smashed, a few shops are
looted and some fires set. The leftist government seems to be telling
unhappy Brazilians that it hears their message and plans to act. But
many seem to want to press on with their demonstrations, largely
peaceful, for emphasis. And there must be at least a few who enjoy the
excitement of battle (as I saw while participating in demonstrations in
Jun 24 A BBC News report by Helen Briggs describes scientists as
having discovered signs of plants automatically doing math to regulate
their food reserves at night. Scientists speculate that birds use an
automatic math - a biological math - to preserve fat reserves during
migrations. Some humans, of course, can solve problems and do simple
math in their sleep, but they need a break.
Jun 25 In Foreign Policy magazine, Egypt's dissident, Mohamed
Elbaradei, describes Egypt as having become a failed state. Law and
order, he writes, is disintegrating. Murders, robberies and kidnapping
have been rising. " You see people being lynched in public, while
others take pictures of the scene. The feeling right now is that there
is no state authority to enforce law and order, and therefore everybody
thinks that everything is permissible. And that, of course, creates a
lot of fear and anxiety." He complains that people in government are
inexperienced, don't have remedies and are "not qualified to govern."
He writes that prices are soaring and life is becoming "untenable,"
especially for the half who are living on less than two dollars per
day. He titles his article, "You Can't Eat Sharia."
Jun 26 Yesterday in
Brazil, dimished protests took place in low-income suburbs. Five
hundred people blocked streets for several hours in Capao Redondo and
Campo Limpo on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. Also yesterday, Brazil's
congress overwhelmingly defeated a proposed constitutional amendment
that had been a grievance of protesters across the country, and
congress voted to use all royalties from new oil fields for education
Jun 27 The US Supreme
Court strikes down a law that denied legally married same-sex couples
the same federal entitlements available opposite-sex married couples.
These benefits include tax, health, pension benefits and family
hospital visits. The law is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed
by Congress, signed into law in 1996 and contested in the courts by
Edie Windsor (photo:right and March 28 ). It is now ruled a
violation of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment. It was a 5-4 decision.
The four dissenters were the court's conservatives. Justice Scalia
argued that government should be able to decide whether gay conduct is
moral, and this, Scalia claimed, means that the Court had no right to
consider the DOMA law. In Salon, Alex Pareene writes, "In most cases
involving homosexuality, Scalia is likely to argue purely from disgust,
and to resort to strange justifications for his disgust-based
Jun 28 US State
Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell says that Ecuador giving
Snowden asylum would create "grave difficulties for our bilateral
relationship." Ecuador complains that this is blackmail by the US.
"Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone," said an
official. Meanwhile Ecuador is being accused of a double standard
regarding freedom of information. Ecuador has a law that empowers its
superintendent of information and communication to heavily fine anyone
involved in releasing protected information. The regime of President
Correa in Ecuador is known for its restrictions on journalists and is
accused of trying to muzzle critics.
Jun 29 Rafael al-Assad,
Bashar's first cousin, told BBC's Katty Kay yesterday, "We want a
peaceful solution for the Syria crisis ... We don't want Syria becoming
another Iran, where we replaced a dictatorship with a theocracy." He
didn't say why, if Bashar wants a peaceful solution, he doesn't propose
UN supervised elections while holding to a purely defensive posture
where he is now popular.
Jun 30 A court in Saudi
Arabia has sentenced seven Facebook users to between five and ten years
in prison for inciting protests and harming the public order. According
to BBC News, Human Rights Watch describes the convicted admitting to
putting on Facebook pages support for the Shia cleric Tawfiq al-Amer,
who in 2011 was calling for a constitutional monarchy. The cleric's
jailing was followed by protests in the east of Saudi Arabia where Shia
Jul 1 In Egypt, massive
demonstrations have been taking place, the demonstrators hoping to
drive President Morsi from power - as happened last year with President
Mubarak. Many Egyptians support Morsi and see the demonstrators as
anti-democratic, and they are also in the streets. Anti-Morsi people
have served their emotions by setting fire to Morsi's headquarters. In
2012, secularists were less successful than the Muslim Brotherhood at
electoral politics: organizing for elections.
Jul 1 Population figures
indicate that the US population grew again by more than 2 million
between July 2011 and July 2012 - nearly the same as the growth between
2010 and 2011. And today's US population is about 2.5 million more than
it was in July 2012. This is more than fourteen cities of 500,000
(309.35 million in July 2010; 316.67 million in July 2013). Meanwhile
population figures in Europe and Japan have been steady while
populations in less developed countries have continued to expand.
Egypt's growth rate is more than twice that of the United States. At
the top of the list in growth rate are Libya, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The
average birth rate is more than twice the average death rate.
Jul 2 In Egypt yesterday,
according to Reuters, "General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delighted President
Mursi's opponents by effectively ordering the president to heed the
demands of demonstrators." The demonstrators are celebrating. President
Morsi's supporters are describing it as a military coup, and Morsi is
reported as having rejected the military's ultimatum. He complains that
the military hasn't consulted with him and that he will pursue his own
plan for national reconciliation.
Jul 3 In Pakistan's North
Waziristan tribal region, a US drone strike kills 17, according to
reports. The targeted are described as members of the most dangerous
faction fighting US soldiers in Afghanistan. Pakistan's President
Sharif has demanded an end to such attacks, complaining that they are a
violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. The question remains whether the
attacks add up to a plus on the side of eliminating "enemies" of the US
or, on the other hand, accomplish little or nothing by harming the
image of the US while creating more hostility.
Jul 4 After five or six
days of gigantic demonstrations against President Morsi and
demonstrations supporting Morsi, and some violence between the two
sides, Egypt's army has taken power. Today, the head of the Supreme
Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmud Mansour, is sworn in as leader of an
interim government. A new constitution is to be created and new
elections are promised. Morsi supporters describe what has happened as
a military coup. BBC News reports that the anti-Morsi protesters
accused Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood "of pursuing an Islamist
agenda and of failing to tackle Egypt's economic problems." Morsi is
described as "in military custody." One protester said he didn't like
being told how to be a good Muslim.
Jul 4 Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad proclaims success, saying his opponents have failed to
oust him and that he and his government will survive the civil war,
having endured everything his opponents could do to topple him. He adds
that "only the distant prospect of direct foreign military intervention
could change that." He says he will serve out the rest of his term as
president. The next election, a referendum, for another seven-year
term, is scheduled for May, 2014.
Jul 5 The leader of
Morsi's opposition, Mohamed ElBaradei, describes the military's ouster
of Morsi as necessary to prevent a civil war. A few others are
expressing regrets. Abdullah Al-Arian, a professor at a US university,
writes "...we have lost, possibly forever, the opportunity to witness
the Muslim Brotherhood humbled through its preferred method of
political contestation." In other words he would have preferred Morsi
and the Brotherhood being defeated in elections that so many didn't
have the patience to wait for. Anti-democratic forces, Al-Arian writes,
"have won the day... Consumed by their euphoria, the anti-Morsi
movement has failed to see the dangerous path that lay ahead."
Jul 6 Some Morsi
supporters are defying Egypt's military. This morning, according to BBC
News, "cities were left strewn with rocks, glass and bullet casings ...
after almost 24 hours of violence which left 30 dead and more than
1,100 injured." Meanwhile Egypt's ambassador to the US, Mohamed Tawfik,
has described the military's position, which faults Morsi and his
supporters. Tawfik accuses the Morsi group of having incited their
supporters, a week ago, into facing off against the many anti-Morsi
people in the street. The army, he said, had to intervene "before
terrible clashes got out of control." Tawfik describes the military as
peacekeepers, against violence by members of the public and especially
against the incitement of violence.
Jul 7 In Egypt, a
spokesman for the interim presidency says that the Muslim Brotherhood
will have a voice and be able to assert their influence in new
elections. The strategy of the Brotherhood is not to wait patiently
till then. Patience has been in short supply in Egypt's so-called
transition to democracy. The Brotherhood's revered leader, Mohammed
Badie, hot with emotion, vows to restore former president Morsi to
office somehow sooner, saying Egyptians will not accept "military rule"
for another day. We shall see.
Jul 9 In Egypt the Muslim
Brotherhood is describing the deaths of 51 protesters fired upon by
soldiers as a massacre. The army shows footage of the protesters with
guns and claims the soldiers were firing in self-defense. Someone who
had been somewhere with the protesters claims in a rage before a
television camera that he knows for sure there was no firing on the
soldiers. Egypt's media responds with support for the military's view
of the event. Charged up emotionally, according to BBC News, the
Brotherhood rejects "a timetable for new elections laid out by interim
president Adly Mansour, saying it is illegitimate." Some believe that
the Brotherhood is responding to events against its interests.
Jul 10 The king and crown
prince of Saudi Arabia congratulate Muslims across the world on the
advent of Ramadan, and they denounce divisive sectarianism. Their
message, read on television, states that Saudi Arabia will not tolerate
extremism, and adds: "We have learned from the great Muslims of the
past that Islam is a religion of love and tolerance and it promotes
dialogue and peace."
Jul 10 Egypt's new
interim government orders the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leader
Mohammed Badie and nine others, for inciting violence against
Egyptians. Badie is an emotionally charged "Supreme Guide" who has
denounced peace efforts with Israel, saying the "enemy knows nothing
but the language of force." It was he who said three days ago that
Egyptians will not accept "military rule" for another day.
Jul 12 Yesterday,
anti-Assad Islamists killed another Free Syrian Army leader, a top
commander, Mohammed Kamal al-Hamami. Other FSA leaders call it
tantamount to a declaration of war. "We will not let them get away with
it," says a senior FSA commander. The FSA was begun by army deserters
who chose self-defense and defeat of the Assad regime rather than shoot
at innocent civilians. Now they have another war to fight.
Jul 15 In the US the
media is dominated by news of a jury in Florida having found no
convincing evidence that George Zimmerman, 29, acted other than in
self-defence in his shooting and killing an unarmed Trayvon Martin, 17.
In many cities people have been demonstrating peacefully. A few have
found pleasure in rioting - in Oakland, California, for example, where
cars were smashed and fires set. Proclamations of vigilante justice
have been made: predictions that Zimmerman will go from being found
innocent to being found dead. Some fault Zimmerman for having racially
profiled Martin by assuming he was up to no good because he was black.
A complaint has been expressed that whites are perceived as able "to
stand their ground" but blacks not. Ann Coulter reacts to the jury's
verdict in front of TV cameras with the word "Hallelujah," and she
speaks of a "media-led mob" trying to make Zimmerman a sacrificial
lamb, and with others she finds reason to fault President Obama.
Jul 16 Fervent
authoritarian faith of the aggressive and violent kind takes a hit in
Bangladesh. Islamist leader Ghulam Azam has been convicted of war
crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh. He has been
sentenced to 90 years in jail for his involvement in mass killings and
rape during Bangladesh's struggle for independence from Pakistan in
1971. Azam supported Pakistan. Today in Bangladesh he is still seen as
a spiritual leader. On the eve of the verdict, reports BBC News, "there
were sporadic clashes in different parts of the capital [Dhaka] with
reports of some injuries. "
Jul 17 On a North Korean
ship passing from Cuba through the Panama Canal, weapons are found
under a shipment of sugar. The ship is seized by Panama authorities,
looking for illegal drugs. The ship's crew now faces charges of illegal
weapons smuggling. The weapons included are mid-20th century missiles,
parts for MIG aircraft and anti-aircraft weaponry. Cuba has announced
that "The weapons are ours." Arms trafficking expert, Hugh Griffith,
speaks of renewed military co-operation between Cuba and North Korea.
Meanwhile the Danes remember the suggestion during the height of Cold
War tensions in Europe that their defense department be reduced to a
tape recorder that repeats "we surrender" in Russian. No such humor is
expected from political leaders in North Korea or Cuba.
Jul 18 China's recent GDP
decline from a 7.7 percent annual growth rate to 7.5 percent has
created international buzz. The decline is perhaps intended. Prime
Minister Li Keqiang has said the Chinese economy needs to slow down.
Mark Buchanan for Bloomberg News writes of China's leaders complaining
that, "Too much money is flowing into unproductive investments."
According to Buchanan, "Li means to encourage a focus on the quality
rather than the quantity of growth." He wants "a gliding slowdown in
which consumption, not misdirected investment and white-elephant
projects, becomes the primary driver of growth."
Jul 19 A Pakistani
Taliban commander, Adnan Rasheed, has written a letter (dated July 15)
to Malala, the teenage education heroine honored by the United Nations.
He writes, "The Taliban never attacked you because of going to school
or you were [an] education lover." Rasheed claims Malala was attacked
for running a smear campaign to malign their efforts to establish an
Islamic education system in Pakistan's Swat district. He describes the
Taliban as "not against the education of any men or women or girl." He
complains of British imperialism trying to make "all human beings
English ... because Englishmen are the staunch supporters of Jews."
Rasheed speaks up for an education system "based on noble thoughts
noble curriculum" and faults Malala for backing an education system to
"produce more and more Asians in blood but English in taste, to produce
more and more Africans in color but English in opinion, to produce more
and more non English people but English in morale." He continues: "
This so called education made Obama, the mass murder[er], your ideal.
isn't it?" He ends: "All praises to Allah the creator of the universe."
Jul 20 A Norwegian
interior designer on a business trip to Dubai, after a night out with
colleagues on March 6, reported to police that she was raped. Marte
Deborah Dalelv, 24, is still in Dubai, living under the protection of
the Norwegian Seaman's Center. Her money and passport were confiscated
and she was charged with having extramarital sex, drinking alcohol and
perjury and sentenced to 16 months in prison. The man she accused of
rape was sentenced to 13 months for extramariital sex and drinking
alcohol. Norway's foreign minister is protesting.
Jul 22 Russia's Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov calls on the Assad regime and opposition to work
together to expel all "terrorists and extremists" from Syria. A war
between opposition groups is still underway, and a compromise between
the Assad regime and those who are not al-Qaeda oriented would be a
beginning to ending Syria's civil war. Meanwhile, Russia is telling the
Assad regime of possible loans to help Syria's battered economy.
Jul 23 World Bank
reports that the African continent suffers from confusion over land
governance. BBC News reports the Bank saying "farmers' inability to
prove ownership, legal disputes and land grabs [have] held back
cultivation." The Bank recommends governments securing land tenure
rights for communities and individuals. This comes a couple of weeks
after President Obama toured Africa and spoke up for its economic
Jul 24 An eleven-year-old
Yemeni girl, Nada Al-Ahdal, has spoken with verve on video against her
arranged marriage. She is reported as having fled her home to her
uncle. Her video, with English captions, is reported as having had more
than 5.6 million views in two days. Nada's father is reported as having
responded by changing his mind and pledging not to give her away in
marriage until she is seventeen. The video is here.
Jul 24 Goldman Sachs is
getting more negative media attention. In the New York Times on July 21
David Kocieniewski writes that by warehousing aluminum, Goldman Sachs
has raised the price of cans of beer and cola the world over.
Jul 25 While visiting
Morocco to promote business ties, King Juan Carlos of Spain hails
Morocco's stability. Morocco has its conflict between Islamist and less
Islamist or almost secular citizens. It has a problem right now with
its Islamist prime minister having lost parliamentary support. With
King Mohammed VI looking on, the prime minister will be trying to form
a new coalition. Morocco's constitutional monarchy has provided the
country with a stability obviously greater than exists in the republics
of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen - while Britain has just finished
gleefully celebrating the birth of His Royal Highness Prince George of
Cambridge (born on 22 July ), who might someday become King George VII.
Jul 25 In a narrow vote,
the US House of Representatives has supported the Obama
administration's position on continuing the National Security Agency's
data collections. It was done with the help of Republicans while a
majority in Obama's party, the Democrats, voted to end the NSA
practice. There was argument before the vote that the government had
gone too far in the name of national security and that the program is
inspired by exaggerated fear. People supporting the Obama
administration on the issue see an exaggerated fear in the claim that
the NSA program threatens personal privacy.
Jul 25 A Gallop poll
among Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks claims an 87 percent approval of
Black-White marriages, up from 4 percent in 1958. Whites alone are
described as approving at a rate of 84%, up from 61 percent in 1997 and
17 percent in 1969.
Jul 26 In France,
parliament ends a law against insulting the nation's president. To
defend himself in a court of law a president still has issues available
to others: slander or defamation. In March this year, a man was fined
for telling President Sarkozy to go .... himself. According to the
World Press Freedom Committee, laws "that make it a criminal offense to
'insult' the honor or dignity of public officials are used in dozens of
countries to prevent and punish journalistic scrutiny of public records
and official actions... Insult laws are clearly incompatible with
Article 19 of the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Jul 29 The world is
focused on Egypt, where millions took to the streets over the weekend
(it's Monday) both for and against the Muslim Brotherhood's ousted
president, Morsi. At least 83 Morsi supporters are reported as having
been killed in clashes with the military. Evidence exists that the
military was fired upon, and the military, of course, claims
self-defense. Morsi supporters are planning more and greater
demonstrations. Some were demonstrating early today. The army is
warning protesters not to approach military facilities. Meanwhile, UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls on Egypt's security forces to
respect the right to free speech and assembly and urges protesters to
Jul 30 Self-appointed
moral police of the religious kind strike again. In Kano, the major
city in northern Nigeria, bombers strike at bars, in the Christian part
of town. The city has a Muslim majority. The Islamist group Boko Haram
is considered suspect. Twelve people are reported as having been killed.
Jul 31 Kuwait's ruling
monarch in this month of fasting and forgiveness (Ramadan) announces a
pardon for persons given jail time for insulting him. Many are in
prison under this charge, including a woman teacher sentenced in June
to eleven years for using her mobile phone to insult the king and call
for regime change. The monarchy faces displeasure from both "liberals"
and Islamists. In elections last week, liberals won three seats in the
50-member National Assembly, up from no seats. Kuwait does not allow
political parties. Candidates run either as independents or affiliated
unofficially with a tribe. Shi'ite representation fell from 17 seats to
8. (Shi'ites are 30 percent of the population.) Sunni tribal groups
gained, with a shift toward greater support for the monarchy.
Aug 1 In Egypt,
supporters of ousted President Morsi continue their sit-in despite
warnings from the military. Reuters reports that "Behind a barricade
made of bricks and sandbags, rocks had been piled up to use as
ammunition." A protester is reported as saying: "We are ready. We are
ready to die for legitimacy." The Obama administration has called on
Egypt to respect freedom of assembly.
Aug 1 In Israel a minor
riot erupts in the town of Beit Shemesh when ultra-orthodox, Haredi,
believers try to force a woman to move from where she was seated, at
the front of the bus. The Times of Israel reports, "The driver said it
was not his first time being attacked by Haredi crowds and that similar
incidents had occurred in Jerusalem as well."
Aug 3 In Zimbabwe, Robert
Mugabe, in power since 1980 and "president" since 1987, is declared as
having won just over 61 percent of the votes against nearly 34 percent
for his opponent, Tsvangirai. Of the hundreds of comments to BBC News,
one reads: "Of course you get elected if you control the police,
paramilitaries, the courts and much else, by putting your cronies in
key positions and threatening or rewarding others... it will take
decades for Zimbabwe to rebuild its institutions, industry and
agriculture." Another, probably British, writes: "Don't give to African
charities; most of it will end up in the wrong pockets." A third calls
Mugabe a dictator as says "you don't get rid of dictators that easy."
Aug 5 Egypt's military
backs down in its demand that pro-Morsi sit-ins disperse. Egypt's
army-installed government says it will give mediation a chance and
speaks of "the rights of citizens regardless of their affiliations."
But it also warns of a time limitation.
Aug 5 US and Russian
plans to talk about mediation in Syria appear headed for the usual
failure. Syria's dictator, Assad, gloats over recent military successes
and announces his solution to the conflict in Syria: striking his
opponents, whom he calls terrorists, "with an iron fist." As expected,
he says nothing about state terrorism or the right of Syrians to
self-defense. In his 45-minute speech he says: "I don't think that any
sane human being would think that terrorism can be dealt with via
politics... The opposition is not reliable ... and it has no role in
solving the crisis."
Aug 6 In Turkey civilian
rule over the military asserts itself, perhaps with unnecessary
intensity and injustice, as a court sentences generals and journalists
to prison, some for life. The accused were charged with planning the
overthrow of Prime Minister Erdogan's Islamic oriented government --
the so-called Ergenekon plot. General Basbug, who led the army from
2008 to 2010, was the leading defendant. The military had seen itself
as the protector of Turkey's secular state, founded by Ataturk. Since
1960 it had launched three military coups. General Basbug has declared
the changes against him fanciful. Critics of the trial say there is
little evidence for the charges. They describe it as a show trial and
accuse the government of trying to silence its secularist opponents.
Outside the courtroom protesters dispersed by police reported as using
tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. Meanwhile Erdogan's
government is reported as having "very good relations with the [new]
top brass of the military, currently headed by General Necdet Ozel,"
elevated to his position following the fall of General Basbug.
Aug 7 Italy agrees to
take 102 migrants refused by the island nation of Malta. The migrants
are aboard an oil tanker which had rescued them at sea. Malta is a
member of European Union, and an EU commission had ordered Malta to
accept the migrants as a humanitarian duty, but Malta refused. BBC News
reports that Malta receives "thousands of illegal migrants heading to
Europe each year." Three days ago, before this latest incident, 111
migrants arrived at Malta in a dinghy. Unlike Europe, Africa has a fast
growing population, and individuals are seeking opportunity in Europe.
The migrants aboard the oil tanker are from Libya. Opinion in Malta
appears to favor resisting the invasion and humanitarian appeals.
Aug 8 Denmark's Social
Democratic government in the person of its minister for social affairs,
Karen Haekkerup, says, according to the Copenhagen Post, "too many
young boys from immigrant backgrounds are growing up with a disregard
for Danish community standards." She seeks a cut in benefits to parents
who don't keep their children in school and obeying the law. Hoping to
prevent the kind of unrest that has plagued Stockholm (in Sweden), she
says immigrant families should resist development of a "parallel
society" of crime and gangs. A reader asks "Why not all parents of
truant/criminal children regardless of ethnicity?" Another comments:
"Maybe she should also target firms that discriminate against ethnic
minority job candidates, and won't give trainee places to ethnic
minority young people."
Aug 9 A clerk in Zurich
Switzerland tells Oprah Winfrey she can't afford the handbag she is
interested in. Winfrey, said to be one of the world's richest woman
(Zhang Xin is richer), politely tries again and again, and with her
usual class she says okay, smiles and walks out. A BBC News reader adds
a comment about a clerk in an upscale store making a dumb assumption
also regarding a customer's casual dress.
Aug 12 In Zimbabwe,
President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has won 160 of parliament's 210 seats.
Mugabe rejects Prime Minister Tsvangirai's claim of fraud, and
complaints from foreign observers. In a speech on Heroes Day (for those
who died fighting against colonialism more than thirty years ago)
Mugabe proclaimed: "Those who lost elections may commit suicide if they
so wish. Even if they die, dogs will not eat their flesh." A man of
measure, Mugabe didn't mention Tsvangirai by name. Tsvangirai has
announced that he will not stay on as prime minister in what has been
called a unity government. Tsvangirai has described Mugabe as having
violated their original agreement by appointing governors "without
consultations with me."
Aug 14 "Cairo crackdown!" "Egypt declares national emergency."
According to Egypt's security forces, 95 people have been killed. A lot
of blood is on the ground. At dawn, armored bulldozers began running
over tents. Makeshift hospitals are set up. Interim president, Adly
Mansour, announces that his government "has tasked the armed forces, in
cooperation with the police, to take all necessary measures to maintain
security and order and to protect public and private property and the
lives of citizens." Egypt's foreign minister told the NewsHour
yesterday that "the government needs to exert its authority and provide
the layman on the street free access to their homes, their facilities
and so on and so forth." This morning, someone else comments to the
Washington Post that "it's a sad day for democracy."
Aug 15 Cairo's official
death toll from yesterday's violence exceeds 520. There is camera
evidence of protesters firing on police and police firing on the
protesters. According to Al Jazeera, Egypt's interior ministry has
instructed police to use live ammunition against anyone who attacks
government buildings. President Obama says he "deplores the violence
against civilians." France, Germany and Britain summon Egyptian
ambassadors. Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, denounced "armed
intervention against civilian people." Morocco's ruling Justice and
Development Party (PJD) describes the crackdown as a "horrible
massacre" and calls on Egyptian authorities "to stand by their people
not to drag the nation into a quagmire." Today the Muslim Brotherhood
in Egypt vows to bring down the "military coup" that toppled former
President Mohammed Morsi and says it remains committed to peaceful
activism. It added: "We will always be non-violent and peaceful." Also
today in Egypt, there were attacks on Christian targets in several
areas, setting fire to churches, homes and businesses. According to
security sources and state media, the Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros
has given his blessing to the military takeover that ousted President
Aug 17 As war
between Egypt's military and the Muslim Brotherhood continues, Saudi
Arabia's King Abdullah supports the crackdown on the Brotherhood,
claiming that Egypt's interim government has the right to restore
order, fight terrorism and violence and to protect properties. Saudi
Arabia is "backed fully" by Bahrain. According to Al Arabiya, Jordan
praises King Abdullah's support for the Egyptian government. And Kuwait
supports the crackdown.
Aug 19 Following hundreds
of deaths among Morsi supporters, Egypt's military leader, al-Sisi,
speaks of his (the state's) responsibility in suppressing violence, and
he says to Morsi supporters that in Egypt "there is room for everyone."
He urges them to help "rebuild the democratic path" and "integrate in
the political process." Al-Sisi's forces are thought to have been more
than a little reckless in targeting Morsi supporters resorting to
violence, and the violence against government forces goes on. Today,
policemen were ambushed and killed in the Sinai. Saudi Arabia stands by
its support for Egypt's government, saying it will make up for any loss
of assistance from the United States. And Israel's former prime
minister, Ehud Barak, tells journalist Fareed Zakaria: "...Sisi and the
liberals, ElBaradei and others, they deserve the support of the free
world. To whom else can they turn?"
Aug 20 From Cairo, Nancy
Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers told the NewsHour yesterday that the
Egyptian government and population is bitter about news coverage by the
international press corps. She said, "I can tell you that I was at an
event a couple days ago. And a police officer yelled at the men around
me that I was an American and therefore should be beaten. And the men
began to manhandle me in an effort to suggest that I was somehow part
of the problem. And it's been, I dare say, a systematic campaign going
on by this government because there's so much anger that the
international community has suggested that what they're doing is
anything short of defending the state." From others than Nancy Youssef
come reports that those supporting the former president Morsi are also
angry with the US, while in the US the common view is that what is
happening there is for the Egyptians to solve. Today, the Huffington
Post describes a new poll indicating that a majority of Americans
support cutting aid to Egypt, at least until "democracy is restored."
Aug 21 Pfc Bradley
Manning is punished with a 35-year sentence in prison for leaking
secret government documents -- wikileaks. Last week, in near tears, he
said he was sorry for the "unintended consequences of [his] actions."
Someone comments about knowing that Manning now "loves big brother" --
a view perhaps from the Left side of the political spectrum. A snap
poll by Slate Magazine in early August indicates that around 25 percent
believe Manning should serve more than twenty years. Those for
imprisonment for less than one year (including zero years, presumably)
were around 12 percent.
Aug 22 The world responds
to a poison gas attack in the Damascus area reported as having killed
more than a thousand. The Assad regime denies culpability but to this
moment has not allowed UN people to investigate. Russia speaks of the
likelihood of opposition forces being responsible. China is standing
with Russia. These two prevent a strong statement from the United
Nations. Meanwhile, Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, a Sunni and
hostile toward the Assad regime he once embraced, complains that a red
line has been crossed. And to this moment President Obama is silent --
nothing about the red line he spoke of last year. He also has voter
opinion as a concern. But it is moral outrage that is spoken by
Britain's foreign secretary, Douglas Haig, and France speaks of using
force against the Assad regime if it is proved as having used chemical
weapons against it own people.
Aug 23 In a stadium and
with a large banner next to him reading "Zimbabwe will never be a
colony again," Robert Mugabe is sworn in for a seventh term as
president. Fear of being colonized is no longer a useful fear, but the
slogan boosts Mugabe's status as a liberating hero to the cheering
crowds. The opposition in Zimbabwe, meanwhile, complains that during
the election bribery was employed, along with manipulation of voter
rolls, that voters were turned away from polling stations and that
there were many instances of voters being intimidated.
Aug 24 The scholar Joshua
Landis, Director of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at Oklahoma
University, has spoken against intervention in Syria by the US. On the
NewsHour on the 22nd he said, "If America goes in and helps one side
conquer the other, things could become -- it's not going to solve the
problem." He drew a parallel with the US invasion of Iraq and also
asked whether intervention by the British or French to stop Americans
from killing each other during the US Civil War would have made America
a better place. "I'm not sure," he said, "it would have." A different
approach to the Syria tragedy exists among those who don't see Syrians
as having the luxury of a certain and comprehensive solution. They want
to remove -- the sooner the better -- what they see as the major
problem in Syria: the Assad regime. They want to end fighting that is
radicalizing and dividing people and to begin the always imperfect
business of building a functioning democracy. This is definitely not
the view today of a majority of the US public. And President Obama in
an interview yesterday on CNN vaguely appeared to be on the same page
as Landis. He said that "...the situation in Syria is very difficult
and the notion that the US can somehow solve what is a sectarian,
complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated."
Aug 25 Germany's budget
surplus is recorded as having jumped up to 0.6% of GDP in the first
half of 2013. BBC News reports that German firms are "investing more in
equipment and are not so hesitant anymore." Taxes and other revenues in
Germany are listed by World Factbook as 45.1% of GDP compared to 15.6%
for the United States. The US is still running a budget deficit.
Aug 25 Human Rights Watch describes police corruption in Liberia: "no money, no justice."
Aug 26 The death toll
from the gas attack is being described as ranging from 500 to more than
1,000. The Assad regime warns that any military action against it would
set the Middle East ablaze, that US military intervention would bring
chaos and the Middle East would "burn." President Assad describes
claims that his regime used chemical weapons as "nonsense" and an
"insult to common sense." In comments to the Russian newspaper Izvestia
he describes the US as facing failure if it attacks Syria, failure he
says "just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with
Vietnam and up to our days." Iran warns the US of "severe consequences"
if it attacks Syria. Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov expresses his
concern over talk about an attack. He says, "If anybody thinks that
bombing and destroying the Syrian military infrastructure and leaving
the battlefield for the opponents of the regime to win would end
everything, that is an illusion."
Aug 27 More talk before
the missiles fly. Syria's foreign minister says, "We will defend
ourselves with the means at our disposal," and he says that his country
has defenses that would "surprise" the world. Italy's foreign minister
announces that her country will not be a part of any coalition that
attacks Syria. She describes the chemical attack in Syria a war crime
but says Italy's government will not support military action without
Security Council authorization -- certain not to happen. Britain's
parliament will discuss how to respond to the use of chemical weapons
in Syria on the 29th. BBC News, meanwhile, reports that Madonna is the
world's top-earning celebrity for the past year, earning $125 million,
more than Oprah Winfrey. Glenn Beck earned $90 million and Lady Gaga
Aug 28 President Obama
argues that for the treaty that outlaws use of chemical weapons to have
meaning there has to be a body of nations willing to do something when
the treaty is violated. The treaty is an international arms control
agreement that went into effect on 29 April 1997 and was signed by
nations except North Korea and Syria, Angola, Egypt and South Sudan.
Today, arguing against the treaty having meaning is Lakhdar Brahimi,
envoy for a recent vain UN attempt to talk Bashar al-Assad into ending
his war against his opponents in Syria. Brahimi proclaims that any
military intervention in Syria would need UN approval. This is Russia's
postion, and Russia would no doubt veto any such approval. Also against
Obama's argument are those hostile to the spirit of internationalism
with which the UN was created -- for fighting fascist aggressions. In
opposing military action in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical
weapons, columnist George Will on ABC's This Week three days ago
equated believing in the international community with believing in the
Aug 29 From Germany,
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government says that "The Syrian regime must
not hope to be able to continue this warfare that violates
international law." In the US, arguing against military action on the
NewsHour is the University of Chicago political scientist John
Mearsheimer. He says, "There is no compelling moral case for
intervening in Syria. And, very importantly, it's not clear that using
military force is going to do any good... You don't have nations of the
world coming together... The United States has no vested interest in
what is going on in Syria. This is not a strategically important
country... it appears that about 1,000 people were killed by chemical
weapons. But I would estimate that roughly 40,000 people have been
killed by conventional weapons."
Aug 30 Yesterday,
Britain's parliament voted against their country supporting Obama's
call for a military strike to punish the Assad regime for using
chemical weapons. Parliament voted against the Iraq war despite Prime
Minister Cameron's energetic insistence that "this isn't Iraq." And
there were those in parliament who wanted absolute certainty as to who
was responsible for using the chemical weapons. Meanwhile, in Britain
and the US, some who bother to interest themselves in foreign policy,
war and peace are asking what would happen following Obama's attack
against the Assad regime. Obama's position: if the Assad regime again
uses chemical weapons there would be another attack. The purpose of the
attack is to deter use of chemical weapons. Today, France's government
gives its commitment to take action alongside the United States. But
many in the US and elsewhere are sticking with their view of everything
as uncertain and Obama as lacking purpose. (A BBC News video with
opinions of Syrians who favor military action:
Aug 31 The United States
government claims that the chemical weapons attack killed 1,429 people,
including 426 children. The Obama administration has evidence of Syrian
military chemical weapons personnel as operating in the area in the
three days before the attack. The US has satellite evidence that shows
rockets launched from government-held areas 90 minutes before the first
report of a chemical attack. The US is aware of communications that
were intercepted involving a senior Damascus official who "confirmed
chemical weapons were used." Because of Iraq, some people consider US
intelligence useless, as if the US is functioning in foreign policy
dumb and blind. Today, President Putin seems to agree. He says it would
be "utter nonsense" for the Assad regime to have used chemical weapons
when it was winning its war, and he urges the US not to attack Syria
and to present its evidence to the United Nations. Also on the side of
more talk are many in the United States, from conservative Republicans
to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, who want what-to-do debated in
Sep 1 Yesterday,
President Obama spoke of the urgent necessity of deterring the Assad
regime from using chemical weapons. In mid-speech he said he was
passing approval to do so to Congress, which convenes on
September 9. In Syria a pro-Assad newspaper,Al-Thawra, describes this
as stemming from Obama's "sense of implicit defeat and the
disappearance of his allies" and "the start of the historic American
retreat." By September 9, the sense of urgency that Obama was appealing
to probably will have dissipated. There will be more talk. For many,
Obama's overall strategy doesn't make sense. Anti-war and anti-Obama
sentiments and a call for peace talks are likely to prevail. The Assad
regime will survive a limited hit and may be strengthened by it. The US
will continue to leave the "Middle East madness" to play out, as
various European countries refuse involvement in any intervention not
sanctioned by the UN, in effect leaving President Assad encouraged in
his pursuit of state terrorism supported by Russia's veto in the UN and
Russian and Iranian aid. Maybe.
Sep 2 In Vietnam, a law
goes into effect that restricts internet, twitter and facebook users
(about a third of the country or more) from communicating anything but
personal information. Discussing anything political or sociological is
forbidden. Vietnam allows only one political party, the Communist Party
of Vietnam, and the prohibition includes, of course, anything critical
of the government or that "harms national security." Whether the new
law will dampen international sales of Nike products (made in Vietnam)
or otherwise reduce Vietnam's economy is not known.
Sep 3 Meltdown of
the cooling system for the Fukushima nuclear reactor damaged in the
tsunami of March 2011 has been causing leaks of radioactive water at an
alarming rate - water used for cooling the reactor. Japan's government
is taking over damage control from the private company that runs the
plant and investing what is said will be an estimated 47 billion yea
(473 million dollars) in a scheme to freeze the ground around the hot
reactor, one hundred feet deep, with refrigeration tubing.
Sep 3 Diana Nyad, 64, US
author, journalist, record-holding long distance swimmer and
high-ranking squash player, displays enormous fortitude and physical
strength by a 53-hour 103-mile swim in shark and jelly-fish infested
water from Cuba to Florida. It was her fifth attempt.
Sep 4 Al Jazeera
reports that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are not
supporting a potential US military strike in Syria. And little support
exists elsewhere in the world. On television someone asks
(paraphrased): If matters in Syria are so horrendous as to require
military action, where are Obama's allies among world leaders? Someone
interested in history points to Europe's supine attitude toward Barbary
piracy, including kidnapping for ransom and women into harems, and
President Jefferson' war against the pirates, sending US Marines to the
shores of Tripoli. This someone (me) also points to isolationism and
self-centeredness in the 1930s, the tolerance of Mussolini's slaughter
of Bedouins in Libya, the widespread tolerance of fascism in general,
Japan's invasion and bombings in China, the cheers for peace at the end
of the Munich conference , and he asks how the sentiments of broad
segments of the world's population can be used confidently as a measure
of morality and wisdom in foreign policy.
Sep 5 Egypt continues its
crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. State prosecutors have announced
that ousted President Morsi will be tried for inciting murder and
violence. Mohammad Badie, Supreme Guide for the Brotherhood, has also
been arrested. Four television stations that authorities see as
supporting the Muslim Brotherhood have been ordered to stop
broadcasting. One of them is operated by the Qatar-based broadcaster Al
Jazeera, which states that Egyptian authorities are jamming its
satellite signals. Yesterday a military court in Egypt gave prison
sentences to forty-nine people after having convicted them of shooting
at soldiers during demonstrations in the port city of Suez last month.
Today, Egypt's interior minister survived an assassination attempt by
an explosion from a parked car set of by remote control as his
motorcade passed by. The minister warns of a new wave of terrorism.
Sep 6 After a military
coup in March 2012, advances by an Islamist army and military
intervention by France, Mali returns to democracy. A former prime
minister, Ibrahim Boubacer Keita, 65, has been elected president and
took office on September 4. He was the army's preferred candidate. He
promised to prioritize ability rather than political considerations
when appointing ministers, and yesterday he appointed a technocrat
banking official, Oumar Tatam Ly, as Prime Minister. Claims by
Islamists that France was entering a quagmire in Mali proved to be no
more than bombast.
Sep 7 In Australia, a
national election gives victory to the conservatives, led by Tony
Abbott, who will be the country's third prime minister in three months.
Australia is suffering a decline in demand and price of the resources
it mines and sells abroad, and during the elections the economy was an
issue. Voters responded with that old presumption that maybe a new
government would do better. And there was discussion about squabbles
within the Labor Party, addressed by Abbott with his proclamation that
his party was stable. Former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke blamed
internal divisions for Labor's defeat. Abbott also had what has been
described as "the strident support" of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers.
Abbott has pledged to repeal mining and carbon taxes that were
introduced by Labor, and he has promised budget cuts, including
reducing the budget for foreign aid.
Sep 8 Scientists with the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have published a
report concluding that man-made climate change was a factor in extreme
weather events around the world for the year 2012.
Sep 9 On CNN yesterday,
Fareed Zakaria described Sweden's government as pragmatic and the
Swedish people as adaptable. Sweden doesn't have the inheritance taxes
disliked by US conservatives. It has "very free markets, freer and less
regulated than the United States in many sectors." Swedish companies
pay lower tax rates than US companies. It's in great shape regarding
debt. Sweden is "near the top of most rankings on quality of life and
competitiveness." And according to Zakaria, "Slowly but surely,
Scandinavian countries are moving away from big government to smart
government. Now, despite the tax cuts and the recent move to the right,
Scandinavian states are still big spenders, but increasingly efficient
and effective spenders."
Sep 10 On Sunday the 8th,
in an interview with Charlie Rose of CBS News, Syria's dictator, Bashar
al-Assad, appeared relaxed, more so than Rose, and at one point
laughed. The subject was chemical weapons and President Obama's plan
for a military strike. Assad claimed that the US had no evidence of his
regime having used chemical weapons. He laid down the fear card, saying
if the US attacks it should "expect repercussions." He claimed that
al-Qaeda is "definitely the majority" of those fighting his regime.
Rose described al-Qaeda as 15 or 20 percent. Assad spoke of the secular
nature of his regime as opposed to al-Qaeda. He asked how the majority
of the country could be against him when he has survived more than two
years of opposition from the United States and other countries
including Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He claimed that he was strong
militarily because of public support. "I am not superman," he said.
"When the Western countries stop supporting those terrorists ...you
will have no problem in Syria." Rose mentioned that some describe him,
Assad, as a butcher, and Assad replied that he was like a doctor that
had to amputate to save life. When you have terrorism, he said, you
have a war. When you have a war, he added, you always have innocent
victims. On ending the war, Assad spoke of negotiations with all who
lay down their weapons first. He spoke of a national dialogue, an
interim government and elections.
Sep 12 On September 10,
President Obama spoke to the US public and urged support for his call
for what Secretary of State John Kerry called "an unbelievably small"
military strike against the Assad regime regarding its use of chemical
weapons. Toward the end of the fifteen minute speech he announced he
was postponing asking Congress to vote to authorize his military
strike. He said he wanted to pursue a Russian proposal that involved
Syria giving up its chemical weapons. Amid all this It appears that
Congress was going to reject the proposed military strike in line with
the public's overwhelming opposition to it. Meanwhile, today BBC News
describes US officials as saying a plan to dismantle Syria's chemical
arsenal will be 'doable but difficult,' and the war with conventional
weapons continues, while the Assad regime appears to be gaining.
Sep 13 Medical science
reverses tissue growth. It is expected to make possible a restart of
growth for heart and other organ repairs.
Sep 13 The Dutch
government formally apologizes to Indonesians for excesses, including
summary executions, when fighting to win back its colonial power
against independence forces after having been dislodged by the
Japanese. The independence struggle against the Dutch occurred between
1945 and 1949. The British and Australians supported colonialism and
Sep 13 In India,
anti-rape demonstrators cheer the death sentence for the four who gang
raped a young woman and threw her off a bus, killing her. The novelist
Nilanjana Roy says there is still a rape culture in India fuelled by
inequality for women.
Sep 14 Elections in
Norway early this week allow the Conservative Party's "Iron Erna"
Solberg to become Norway's next prime minister. The Left has been in
power since the end of World World II - mainly the Labour Party. It
remains the largest party, with 55 seats in Parliament, down from 65.
The Conservative Party now has 48 seats, up from 30, and will rule in a
coalition with another right-of-center party, the anti-immigration
Progress Party, also led by a woman, which has 29 seats. The Green
Party won one seat. The Socialist Left Party barely won the 4% needed
to be represented in parliament. The Communist Party, anarchist Society
Party, People's Power Party, Marxist Red Party, and far-right Christian
Unity Party gained nothing. The Labour Party leaves Norway financially
sound with surpluses and more per-capita wealth than the United
States. Issues that won for the Conservative Party have been described
as better care for the elderly, improved hospitals and better schools.
Solberg admires Germany's Prime Minister Angela Merkel, having
described her as a role model. Like Merkel, Solberg is expected to
conserve her country's high-taxes and welfare-state positions compared
to the US. There might be a small reduction in taxes, a little more
emphasis on private enterprise, less regulation of small businesses and
some tinkering with government-run bureaucracies. She will take office
on October 14.
Sep 15 The Assad regime
hails the Russia-US chemical weapons agreement. "It's a victory for
Syria achieved thanks to our Russian friends," says a regime
spokesperson. China, France, Britain, the UN and the Arab League
express satisfaction. Syria is expected to start surrendering its
arsenal of chemical weapons in mid-October. "Syria is committing itself
to whatever comes from the UN," says another regime spokesperson. Not
happy is the head of the Free Syrian Army, General Idriss, described by
the Arab News as livid. He asks, "Are we Syrians supposed to wait until
mid-2014, to continue being killed every day and to accept [the
agreement] just because the chemical arms will be destroyed in 2014?"
Turkey's foreign minister also was negative. At his press conference he
accused Assad of playing for time while continuing to commit
atrocities. In the US some are saying Obama has won without firing a
shot, by merely threatening to do so. Some others discount this and
continue their opposition to any military strike against the Assad
regime. Some, like Senator McCain, call for getting arms quickly to the
Free Syrian Army and complain about our slowness in doing this. McCain
says that Syria is not a nation "that will embrace these foreign
fighters." Some others put al Qaeda at the top of their list of reasons
for not supporting the overthrow of Assad.
Sep 16 No such thing as a
soft war - so said Bashar al-Assad in his interview with Charlie Rose,
rebroadcast in part last night on Sixty Minutes. Assad was defending
himself against the accusation of being a "butcher," as Senator McCain
calls him. Assad didn't qualify his comment with the observation that
there are choices in warfare. He was making his excuse for attacking
neighborhoods and communities that were opposed to him, saying he has
been warring against terrorists and saying nothing about the right of
people to defend themselves against state terrorism.
Sep 16 According to Sixty
Minutes (broadcast yesterday and available online) the source of
President Obama's lack of support for the Free Syrian Army is Mike
Morell, who as a CIA man briefed Obama every day in the Oval Office. It
appears that Morell, who recently retired, was going beyond presenting
Obama with facts: he was analyzing. In other words, he was
philosophizing about government and revolution, judging how best Syria
can arrive at a good place for US security. The CIA has not always done
well going beyond intelligence gathering (what's happening factually)
into political options. Take Iran in the early fifties for example.
And, the CIA has admitted that its take on Vietnam was disastrously
Sep 17 In its estimates for
2013, the CIA World Factbook still has Japan as a leader in life
expectancy, at 84.46 years, with much of the world gaining longer lives
at a rate of around one to two months per year. The United States is
listed 51st, at 78.62 years, up in one year from 78.49, a gain of 0.13.
(One month equals 0.83.) Afghanistan is listed as having gained 4.7
months, to 50.11 years. Namibia is on record as gaining more than six
years, to 52.03, which can't be explained here. Zimbabwe's figure is up
from 51.82 to 53.86, an advance of two years, reflecting perhaps the
recent improvement in its economy. In the past year Russia has gained a
little more than three years, from 66.46 to 69.85. China remains
average: a gain of one month. Figures for Chad, Zambia and Libya show a
decline. All these are statistical averages of life expectancy at
birth. The figures would be higher, of course, if life expectancy
averages were calculated from age fifty.
Sep 18 Tony Abbott begins
his first day as prime minister in Australia, and he puts into force
his policy on migrants in boats. The navy is to tow the boats back to
Indonesia without delay. Prime Minister Abbott describes his policy as
sending "a message to the people-smugglers that from today their
business model is coming to an end."
Sep 19 A little more than
a week ago Sixty Minutes rebroadcast a piece titled "Are robots hurting
job growth?" On the internet one can find a person or two arguing that
since the beginning of the industrial revolution machines have been
creating more jobs and wealth for common people, but they don't address
the possibility of increased automation unable to continue this job
creation in a free-enterprise environment forever. And there are others
who wonder about robotic machines creating more wealth for the owners
of these machines and less wealth for displaced workers, disrupting the
balance needed for a well functioning economy. They see a need for
wealth redistribution to accompany the automation. Wealth distribution
occurs through taxation, and the US is taxing less than the successful
and highly industrialized economies of Germany and Norway - both of
whom have less unemployment than the US (3.3% for Norway, 5.3 for
Germany). They point out that with higher taxes we could have more jobs
in public safety, more teachers and other public service jobs and more
infrastructure work. They claim that a better distribution of wealth
would increase the spending by consumers and government needed to
advance the economy for everybody. But they expect tax and
anti-distribution ideologies in Congress to keep that institution
lagging behind automation.
Sep 20 "Neither the armed
opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side,"
proclaims Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, speaking for the Assad
regime to Britain's Guardian newspaper. He says that President
al-Assad's government will call for a cease-fire at the Geneva
conference - the stalled conference proposed by Russia and the US.
Jamil adds that Syria will call for "an end to external intervention
... and the launching of a peaceful political process."
Sep 22 The Washington
Post writes: "The stream of US weapons heading to moderate rebel groups
in Syria is being offset by a fresh torrent of cash for Islamist
extremists." Funding for the Islamists is said to be from numerous
small donors, obviously people who don't see the extremists as hurting
the struggle against Assad - people who apparently don't see politics
as an essential part of any social movement and who don't recognize the
consistent political failures of actions by violent Islamic extremists.
Sep 23 Kenya's military
has freed most hostages at the luxurious mall in Nairobi, attacked two
days ago by members of Al-Shabab. The civilian death toll is described
as 68 with 175 injured. The purpose of the attack is to make Kenya pay
for sending troops to Somalia as a part of the Africa Union's
"peacekeeping" there. No broad political gains ( no winning friends and
influencing people) is apparent.
Sep 23 Angela Merkel,
called mutti (mommy) by her supporters, will have a third term in a
nation that once had macho leaders like Bismarck, the Kaiser and
Hindenburg and just seventy years ago saw the place for women as
Kinder, Küche und Kirche (children, kitchen and church). Merkel is
actually a tough political operator and with a brain that allowed her
to acquire a doctorate in quantum chemistry and to become good at
speaking Russian, English and French. Merkel's Christian Democrats won
42% of the vote. The Social Democrats won about 26%. Merkel's coalition
partner, the market friendly Free Democrats, fell below the 5% needed
for one seat in parliament. The anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland
party is in this category with only 4.7%. The Left Party won 8.6% and
the Green Party won 8.4%. Germany is expected to continue its
peace-loving international positions, and a coalition between the
Social Democrats, the Left (former communist) Party and the Green Party
is not likely.
Sep 24 As Kenyan soldiers
sweep the Westgate mall in Nairobi looking for holdout terrorists,
journalists are addressing the question, who are Al-Shabaab? (short for
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen). They are described as forming in
2006 and operating in Mogadishu for six months, then an offshoot
resorting to guerrilla warfare. They were making war on the African
Union peace keeping force, which succeeded in driving them from
Mogadishu in 2012. Al Shabaab is known for punishing women and
homosexuals by stoning, and they are said to have affiliated with Al
Qaeda in 2012.
Sep 25 Columnist Ruth Marcus compares the recent big
election campaign in Germany with the long and expensive US
presidential campaign of 2012. Germany's campaign lasted six weeks, and
Merkel spent $27 million compared to Obama having spent $700 million.
Sep 25 Buying good bread
in the US continues to be a tough search. Most bread has sugar, some so
much that the bread tastes like cake. A lot of the bread is air. And
bread in the US has potassium bromate, unless the label boasts that it
does not. Potassium bromate has been banned in food products in the EU,
Canada, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, Peru and other countries. In the
US, lobbyists succeeded in getting Congress to allow its use and
without labeling. According to Wikipedia,"under the right conditions
[potassium bromate] will be completely used up in the baking bread."
Sep 26 According to BBC
News, "Over the past few centuries, animals in Europe have not fared
well. Hunting, habitat loss, and pollution have sent animals into
decline." But a recent report commissioned by the conservation group
Rewilding Europe describes a comeback for wildlife as a result of legal
"protections, curbs on hunting and people moving away from rural areas
and into cities." Another article about animals in Europe, dated Sep
23, by Kevin Mathews, headlines: "Humans banned from using bridges for
animals in Germany." He writes: "Germany is building some new bridges,
but don't even think about traveling over them. These cool passageways
are designated for animals only, a method of both protecting and
enhancing the lives of creatures whose territories have been
Sep 27 The secession of
South Sudan in 2011 deprived the Republic of Sudan of two-thirds of its
crude oil output, reducing revenues and dollars with which to import
food. Since the 23rd, people in Sudan have been protesting fuel subsidy
cuts. Rights groups complain that police have killed at least 50
protesters, aiming their weapons at heads and chests. Sudan ranks high
in percentage of the population emigrating. It ranks 65th in population
growth, more than double the rate of the United States. It's one of the
poorest of countries, with an authoritarian elite, a trade imbalance
and corruption ranked among the highest in the world. Its president,
Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Court on seven counts of
crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Sep 28 Some have
described Iran's President Rouhani as trying to dupe the West with a
charm campaign. They see Iran as an enemy. Israeli Prime MInister
Netanyahu speaks of "fraud" and a possible trap. In Iran, meanwhile,
among those greeting Rouhani's return from the UN is a small crowd that
chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," and someone from
the crowd throws a shoe that misses Rouhani's car. An article in the
New Yorker includes a claim that Rouhani "will have to contend with the
hard-liners ... who for more than a decade have defined their foreign
policy as a covert war on the US and Israel."
Sep 28 Egypt's high court
has issued a preliminary injunction that outlaws the Muslim Brotherhood
activities and freezes its assets. The case was brought to the court by
the socialist Tagammu Party, which accuses the Brotherhood of terrorism
and exploiting religion for political gain. The Tagammu Party,
according to Wikipedia, "is considered to be a defender of the
principles of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952."
Sep 29 The US Senate,
dominated by Democrats, has passed a bill to give the federal
government funds to keep it running. The Republican dominated House of
Representatives has attached an anti-Obamacare amendment to the bill.
Senate leader Harry Reid promises rejection of the House's version of
the bill, and President Obama says he would veto such a bill. Congress
must pass a funding bill by the end of tomorrow if the US is to avoid a
government shutdown in two days.
Sep 30 In the Washington
Post on the 25th, opinion writer Matt Miller had an article on the US
healthcare debate appearing absurd to Canadians, including
conservatives. He wrote of Canada's single-payer system known for its
quality and cost-effectiveness, and he described it as providing
healthcare at a much lower cost per person than the United States. He
wrote of a "tough-minded" Toronto businessman, David Beatty, wondering
why big US companies "want to be in the business of providing health
care anyway." Turning from Miller's opinion piece to today, we in the
US have Republicans still fighting against Obamacare (Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act) three years after Obamacare became
law. Also, last November Obama was re-elected with Obamacare as a
central issue. After that, Republicans tried and failed forty times to
pass anti-Obamacare legislation. Now they are trying again by linking
Obamacare to a government funding bill. Matt Miller ended his opinion
piece referring to the Republican senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, who has
been leading the charge for the Republicans and spoke on the Senate
floor for 21 hours straight against Obamacare. Miller opined: "Maybe
when US business leaders muster the common sense of their Canadian
counterparts, they'll deliver the message the Ted Cruzes of the world
need to hear: sit down and shut up."
Oct 1 In the US,
the Republican Party's ploy against President Obama's healthcare shuts
down the federal government, partially. Some federal employees will
work without pay. Parks, monuments and museums close. But junk mail is
still delivered, and talk continues, with Democrats blaming Republicans
and Republicans agreeing that it's all the fault of the other party. A
handful of dreamers wish the US had a parliamentary system with
governments run by a single party or coalition. As we know, the
political system created by America's Founding Fathers was built for
division and squabbling in order to weaken government.
Oct 2 A Washington ABC
News poll regarding disapproval of handling negotiations over the
federal budget has 50% disapproval for President Obama, 56% disapproval
for congressional Democrats and 63% disapproval for congressional
Republicans. A Gallop poll has Obama climbing one percent in his
approval rating during September 28-30, to 45%.
Oct 2 In Australia, young
male power-group camaraderie prevails in the form of many biker clubs.
BBC News headlines: "Eight members of rival Australian motorbike gangs
have been charged in Melbourne over a spate of shootings." BBC News
photos show the bikers riding in packs. (I know the pleasure.) The BBC
adds: "Not all of Australia's motorcycle groups are violent."
Oct 2 In Greece, the
fascist impulse expresses itself in the Golden Dawn political movement.
Today a pack of tough-looking Golden Dawn motorcyclists storm through
Athens, celebrating the release of three fellow members from police
custody. Twenty-three party members were detained following the
September 18 murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a left-wing musician and
activist. Golden Dawn has risen in popularity with economic hard times
in Greece (not unlike the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany in
the early 1930s. It claims to have local organizations in 32 Greek
cities, as well as in Cyprus. According to Wikipedia, "Members have
expressed admiration of the former dictator Ioannis Metaxas, who ruled
Greece from 1936 until 1941. They have also made use of Nazi symbolism,
and have praised figures of Nazi Germany... According to academic
sources, the group is racist and xenophobic, while the party's leader
has openly identified it as nationalist and racist."
Oct 3 From Warsaw, Anne
Applebaum, conservative by European standards, writes a column for the
Washington Post about countries trying to become democracies and of
people asking her questions. She writes of political institutions and
of Obamacare having become law in the United States, confirmed by the
US Supreme Court. One branch of government, she writes, is not now
legally or morally empowered to change that law by holding other parts
of the government hostage. She describes Republicans as damaging "the
credibility of the United States abroad."
Oct 3 Britain's Prime
Minister Cameron says: "Today it is still possible to leave school,
sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life
on benefits. It's time for bold action here." Cameron is also known for
wanting to reform the UK's National Health Service but, like Margaret
Thatcher, not wanting to abolish it.
Oct 4 In the United
States, many are blaming Congress for the partial government shutdown.
Some conservatives blame President Obama. If voters are being blamed,
it's those who voted for the other political party. No one is about to
blame his own mentality, although in our democracy mentality is the
basic problem, with each side viewing the other side as shallow and
misguided. The nation, pundits say, is polarized - although in reality
opinion is slightly to the left of conservatives. (Obama received 51.1%
of the vote to Romney's 47.2%.) Some conservatives, meanwhile, are
having ideological fun with what is being described as the layoff of
non-essential government employees. In Ohio, on October 1st, talkshow
host Doc Thompson, on Blaze Radio, was laughing with his fellow
conservatives. Employers in private enterprise, he said, don't keep
non-essential employees around. Non-essential employees, he suggested,
are a manifestation of big-government, and big-government is the enemy.
Meanwhile, those being described as non-essential government employees
are annoyed at what they see as a shallow and misguided interpretation
of that label.
Oct 5 The US has
conservatives of different kinds. One of them, David Brooks, yesterday
on the PBS NewsHour, described the career people working for the US
government - people during the shutdown labeled as non-essential. He
mentioned David Cameron in Britain having stopped calling government
bureaucrats by that name after he got to know them. Brooks said that he
often asks Republicans about the "career people" they work with. "And
almost universally" said Brooks, "even if a lot of the Republicans are
not very fond of big government ... they say the people in the offices
are quite impressive."
Oct 7 President Obama's
position is clear, and it is being repeated by Democrats: the
Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) became law through proper
legislation and was tested by the Supreme Court, and the way to reform
or get rid of Obamacare is also by traditional legislative means; a law
should not be changed by attaching it to a funding bill and threatening
to shut the government down if that bill doesn't pass. This, according
to Obama, is not the way our democracy works. A principle is at stake
here, says Obama. In politics methodology is significant. That's what
constitutions are about. Obama wants a vote on government funding that
doesn't have the Obama proviso attached. The Republican Speaker of the
House, John Boehner, doesn't accept Obama's argument. He describes
Obama as refusing to negotiate and with his Republican collegues he
puts blame for the shutdown on Obama.
Oct 8 In Washington DC, a
rift intensifies between "take our country back" Tea Party Republicans
and moderate Republicans, while public support for Congress diminishes.
A WashingtonPost/ABC poll has 70 percent disapproval for the
Republicans, up from 63 percent a week ago. Gallop has President Obama
rising 2 percent in job approval (to 45 percent) from October 4th to
Oct 8 General al-Sisi
describes Egypt's armed forces as having removed President Morsi from
power in order to avoid a "civil war." Yesterday, the military was
targeted in several attacks around the country. BBC News wrote that
"gunmen shot dead five soldiers who were in a patrol vehicle near the
city of Ismailiya" and a " rocket-propelled grenade is reported to have
hit a satellite station in a Cairo suburb." Today, hundreds of defiant
Morsi supporters gather outside Cairo University and chant "Down with
the military government." A 19-year-old find arts student with them
said, "We are here standing against the coup." Another student,
according to Reuters News, says "Sisi is a hero and there's no one like
him." A friend added: "Mursi was a traitor and the Brotherhood are
Oct 8 Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan calls Syria's President al-Assad a terrorist.
Oct 9 Yesterday, Speaker
of the House, John Boehner, gave us his version of political propriety.
He said: "...if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he
[President Obama] will sit down and talk to us. That's not the way our
government works." Meanwhile, Boehner is being described as
refusing to consider voting for a "clean continuing resolution" to
reopen the government and a "clean bill" to raise the debt
Oct 10 The Copenhagen
Post reports that in Denmark atheists "now make up nearly 20 percent of
the population" and just three percent "regularly attend church
services." Of the remaining 77 percent, some are said to create "their
own faith package or practice their faith without any framework." Some
are perhaps closet atheists. Nothing was said about agnostics.
Oct 10 Michele Bachmann,
Tea Party leader in the US Congress from Minnesota, describes a crisis
greater than the partial government shutdown and the debt ceiling
crisis. She says we are "living in the End Times ... that we have
entered the Last Days." She describes indication of this as President
Obama having "waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow
weapons to go to the Syrian opposition." She adds that "US taxpayers,
are now paying to give arms to terrorists including al Qaeda."
Oct 10 The New York Post
newspaper ran an article two days ago with the headline "US adults are
dumber than the average human being." Late night comics have had fun
with it. The Post's story is about a serious study called the Program
for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. Tested were
about 166,000 people, ages 16 to 65, in more than 20 countries. The
Americans scored somewhere in the middle. Adults in Japan, Canada,
Australia, Finland and Denmark scored better.
Oct 13 This past week, the
Obama administration cut aid to Egypt, telling those in power there
that the aid would resume when they behaved themselves. The cut
frustrated Israeli officials, the aid having been part of a 1979 peace
treaty between Egypt and Israel. Some say the cut will encourage
Brotherhood protests. A headline in the pro-government newspaper,
Al-Tahrir (named after Tahrir Square where anti-Mubarak demonstrations
took place) read: "Let American aid go to hell." Meanwhile Egypt
receives billions in aid from Arab allies, and many in the US are
writing comments celebrating the cuts, saying sending money to Egypt
doesn't make sense. Yesterday in Egypt demonstrations against the
army-backed government continued, with one death having occurred.
Oct 13 Two days ago, China's
President Xi visited Malaysia and promised to triple his country's
trade within four years. A little more than a week ago he spoke to
Indonesia's parliament, and he promised Indonesia tens of billions of
dollars in investment. At the Asian economic summit in Bali this past
week, Xi met with Australia's new prime minister, Tony Abbott, and he
promised more trade and more cooperation in technology. President Putin
was there. President Obama didn't make it to Bali. He is reported as
having been busy with the government shutdown crisis.
Oct 13 In Peru, returning on a
twisting mountain road from a religious celebration, 52 die as their
bus plunges 650 feet. Such busses are known for being in poor
condition, and their drivers are known for being careless but having
reassurance from their saints and God.
Oct 14 As people in the
US and others worry about the debt-ceiling crisis deadline of October
17, religious minorities and secular writers in Malaysia have the word
police to worry about. A court rules that non-Muslims cannot use the
word "Allah" to describe God. Muslims have been in the street
protesting against this use. BBC News reports that "Christians argue
they have used the word, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to
their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights." In
2009, churches and mosques were attacked following a government
proclamation that a Catholic newspaper, The Herald, couldn't use
"Allah" to describe the Christian God.
Oct 14 According to an
article in the New York Times by Gina Kolata, researchers have
discovered that cancers wrap themselves in an invisible protective
shield, that these shields can be broken with the right drug, and with
the immune system is free to attack, "cancers can shrink and stop
growing or even disappear in lucky patients with the best responses...
It may not matter which type of cancer a person has. What matters is
letting the immune system do its job."
Oct 15 As US Senators
show good cheer and appear to be inching toward a crisis settlement,
Tea Party Republicans, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are hanging
tough. In the Washington Post, conservative columnist Michael Gerson
describes the reluctance of Cruz and his supporters to compromise as
"romantic posturing," and he describes them as "harboring an
apocalyptic diagnosis and utopian solutions." Gerson complains that
"The political world is moved by optimistic pragmatists, not by
despairing utopians." Meanwhile, "right flank" members of Congress are
described as furious over Senate Republicans working with Democrats,
producing "a mushy piece of sh*t." One of them, according to the
National Review, says "If Speaker Boehner backs this he is in trouble."
Boehner's fear of the Tea Party is being described as the reason he
won't allow a "clean" bill to be voted on that would fund the
government and end the shutdown (now in its 15th day). Those who favor
such a vote claim that a minority of Republicans and the House
Democrats would allow its passage.
Oct 17 Yesterday, US
Senators passed an agreement that ends the partial government shutdown
and delays the debt ceiling issue to early 2014. Late last night
members of the House of Representatives agreed to the Senate's move.
All House Democrats and 87 Republicans voted in favor; zero Democrats
and 144 Republicans voted no. Senator Ted Cruz, who supported the
attempt to attach funding of the government to Obamacare, complained
that "Unfortunately, once again, it appears that the Washington
establishment is refusing to listen to the American people." In the
House, Speaker Boehner addressed those Republicans who supported the
maneuver against Obamacare, saying, "We fought the good fight. We just
didn't win." Pew Research today claims that among Tea Party political
people, support for Ted Cruz soars but with the public the Tea Party's
"image turns more negative."
Oct 22 The human rights
organization Amnesty International has reviewed nine drone strikes in
North Waziristan, Pakistan. The organization condemns these strikes as
unlawful killings. A week ago the UN report claimed that drone attacks
killed 400 people in Pakistan.
Oct 22 Denmark's tax
minister, Holger Nielson, complains about his fellow countrymen using
tax havens, and he describes the practice as immoral. In the Copenhagen
Post, Denmark is reported as having "no shortage of tax advisors openly
willing to help people squirrel their money away."
Oct 24 Maersk, a huge
conglomerate based in Denmark and "the world's largest shipping
operator" according to the Copenhagen Post, announces that it will
streamline its operations by selling holdings not directly concerned
with shipping or oil drilling, and that it is looking for buyers of
Dansk Supermarket, which operates the supermarket chains Føtex, Netto,
and Bilka and the department store Salling.
Oct 26 Yesterday, Senator
Ted Cruz of Texas spoke to influential Iowa Republicans and, in the
words of the Huffington Post, said that "the partial government
shutdown he help[ed] precipitate this month was a success despite a
compromise that reopened the government and ultimately funded the
health care law he has made his name fighting." The reason it was a
success, said Cruz, was that it got people talking.
Oct 26 The freedom and
sexual morality issue that arose when driving first became common in
the US, in the early twentieth century, is alive today in Saudi Arabia.
In the US it was focused on young people, male and female. In Saudi
Arabia the issue of morality and freedom with driving remains focused
on women, who are still prohibited from driving cars. Today, however,
BBC News reports that a "handful of women defy a ban on female driving
in Saudi Arabia in protest, despite stern official warnings that they
will face punishment."
Oct 28 In various parts
of Saudi Arabia, twelve women are "detained" for driving. Yesterday in
Mecca security patrols arrested three women in their 40s. Each was
accompanied by a younger brother less than 15 years of age. In Jeddah,
a 50-year-old divorced Saudi woman was arrested who had a passport from
another country.February 2013
Nov 1 Germany becomes the first
European country to allow parents to register babies with
characteristics of both sexes as neither male nor female. Parents can
now leave the gender question blank on birth certificates. Germany's
move is described by BBC News as "removing pressure on parents to make
quick decisions on sex assignment surgery for newborns." As many as one
in two thousand people are born with characteristics of both sexes
Nov 4 According to Pew Research, 16 percent of US adults use Twitter, 84 percent do not, and 8 percent use it as their news source.
Nov 5 In the Democratic
Republic of the Congo the rebellion that began in April 2012 ends with
a victory by government forces, with help from UN forces. The rebels
are Tutsi, an ethnic minority in DR Congo said to have close ties with
the Tutsi of neighboring Rwanda. They started their rebellion claiming
they were unhappy with the pay and conditions in the Congolese army,
but others claim that the mutiny began when the government came under
pressure to arrest and turn over their leader, Bosco Ntaganda, to the
International Court Court (ICC). In the face of military defeat, rebel
leadership announces they are adopting a "purely political means" to
achieve their goals, and they urge their fighters to disarm and
Nov 6 In Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory
Coast) - the world's largest producer of cocoa - a court has sentenced
fifteen former top officials known as "cocoa barons" to 20 years each
in prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the
cocoa and coffee industry during the rule of former President Laurent
Nov 6 Voters in Houston
Texas reject a referendum that would have authorized up to $217 million
in bonds to turn the Houston Astrodome into a giant convention and
event center. The great Astrodome is now likely headed for
demolition.The Astrodome opened in 1965. Newer stadiums have
retractable domes," and since Houston opened one such stadium in 2002
the Astrodome hasn't turned a profit.
Nov 8 UNESCO (United
Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) suspends
voting rights for the US and Israel because neither country has paid
its dues to the UN organization. That has been their protest against
UNESCO having given membership to the "State of Palestine" in October
Nov 9 The US Navy
christens a $15.5 billion aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford,
said to be the most technologically advanced ship ever built.
Nov 12 Norway opens Africa's largest solar energy plant in Kalkbult, South Africa.
Nov 12 In Cambodia's
capital, Phnom Penh, police and garment workers clash when hundreds of
workers marched towards the prime minister's home. They demand better
pay and working conditions. One of the demonstrators, a woman, is shot
dead. BBC News reports that the protesting workers are from a factory
that makes "clothes for Gap, H&M and other international brands."
BBC News adds that "Strikes and violent demonstrations at garment
factories in Cambodia have quadrupled over the past year."
Nov 12 US stock exchanges
announce a plan to improve technical functioning of their markets, a
response to a computer software bug that in August caused high-profile
glitches and halted trading on the Nasdaq exchange.
Nov 13 With most
Obamacare provisions scheduled to begin in 2014, internet access in
signing up for Obamacare has been reported as faulty and has been
elevated by Congressional Republicans into a scandal. Also publicized
is Obamacare forcing people to pay more for health insurance than they
did for their previous plan. They are complaining that they were
supposed to be able to keep their previous plan if they wished. These
were plans that were relatively inexpensive because, according to
Obamacare, they were substandard. Obamacare wants the holders of these
plans to pay for plans that cover more, this so they will subsidize the
insurance of those who have not been able to afford healthcare
insurance or are taking money from the healthcare sysem through
illness. A Washington Post and ABC News poll indicates that 39 percent
of voters are now likely to vote against a candidate who supports
Obamacare, against 23 percent who say they would be likely to support
such a candidate. Democrats are showing nervousness about next years
Nov 13 A four-day meeting of
China's top Communist Party members discusses reforms for the next
decade. The reforms include a bigger role in the economy for the free
market. A CNN Money article describes State-owned enterprises in China
as having "long enjoyed preferential treatment in key industries
including finance, oil and infrastructure... but some of the
state-backed businesses are now bloated, inefficient and heavy with
debt." Included in the reforms that are announced is farmers having
more rights over their land.
Nov 15 In China another reform
in announced. (See above.) China's government is to relax its family
planning policy of restricting most couples to having only a single
child. Previously, rural families were allowed a second child if the
first child was a girl or was disabled, and ethnic minorities were
exempt. The new policy adds that a family is permitted two children if
one parent is an only child. A Pew Research Center report in 2008
described 76 percent of China's population as supporting this policy.
Nov 15 Burma releases 69 more political prisoners, creating optimism that its persecution of peaceful activists is drawing to a close.
Nov 18 This years Climate
Change Performance Index (CCPI) ranks Denmark as doing the most to
combat climate change. Denmark is ranked 4th, with no country
considered as deserving a ranking in the top three. Sweden is ranked
5th, Portugal 6th, Switzerland 7th and Germany 8th. The US is ranked
43rd but ahead of Japan, 47th, and China, 54th. The Index is created in
Germany and describes itself as "an instrument designed to enhance
transparency in international climate politics."
Nov 18 Libya’s government
sends its military into the capital, Tripoli, to drive out militiamen.
The troops are welcomed by people in the city angry about the numerous
armed groups rampaging in their city. Similar anger exists elsewhere in
the country. The militias are reported as sometimes fighting each other
- leftover from the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011. Some of the militias
are described as nothing more than criminal gangs similar to those that
arose in Somalia. The United States announces an agreement to help
Libya by training as many as 8,000 soldiers.
Nov 22 As government
forces In Syria continue to make gains, seven separate groups fighting
the Assad regime announce their "gradual merger" into an Islamic Front.
The Front, they say, will be an "independent political, military and
social formation" and will create an Islamic state.
Nov 23 Egypt's government
expels ambassador from Turkey after Turkey's prime minister, Erdogen,
says Egypt should free ousted President Morsi. Erdogen's remarks are
described by Egypt as provocative. Morsi is in prison waiting trial for
inciting murder and violence.
Nov 24 In Geneva, an
interim agreement between Iran and six nations - the US, UK, Russia,
China, France, Germany - is established. Iran is to receive a reduction
in sanctions while sanctions against its oil and banking sectors stay
fully in place. Iranians in general appear to support the settlement
while opponents of talks with "satanic America" are subdued. The pundit
Fareed Zakaria of CNN speaks in favor of talks and against the
effectiveness of sanctions, pointing out that when the Bush
administration rejected Iran's offer to talk in 2003 Iran had 164
centrifuges and today it has 19,000 - growth that occurred while
sanctions against Iran were in place. The Obama administration is
hoping that the negotiations put an and to Iran's nuclear military
Nov 27 In Thailand,
massive protests enter a fourth day, against the government of
Thailand's first prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra. She is accused of
being controlled by her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, in exile. The
brother was ousted from power in a 2006 military coup. Affluent
urbanites disliked his reforms and higher taxes. The protests are being
led by former opposition Democrat Party leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, who
lost to Ms Shinawatra (Thailand's first woman prime minister) in 2012.
The protesters have been described as wanting a government closer to an
Nov 28 The US public supports
the Geneva agreement 44 percent to 22 percent according to a
Reuters/Ipsos survey. If the agreement fails, 49 percent want an
increase in sanctions against Iran, 31 percent want further diplomacy,
and 20 percent want military action.
Nov 28 In Thailand's
parliament, a delighted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, according
to Reuters News, "easily" wins against a no-confidence move against her
government. Protests continue in the street but have diminished at
least a little. The passionate protesters are shouting "Kill the
Nov 29 In Thailand,
protests against Yingluck Shinawatra's government continue,
demonstrating a lack of respect for democracy and favor for street
action over politics by elections - common these days. Shinawatra
announces she will not use force against protesters occupying
government ministries. She speaks of protecting democracy and suggests
she will call for new parliamentary elections but that elections need
more calm than now exists.
Nov 29 Conflict between
Putin's Russia and the European Union continues. Under pressure from
Russia, according to BBC News Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has
abruptly frozen plans to sign the trade and reform deal with the EU.
The EU is upset. Meanwhile Ukraine is divided between the Roman
Catholic west and the Eastern Orthodox east, the former more inclined
to the EU, the latter to Russia. Russia is reported as building a
trading bloc, and Ukraine buys its oil from Russia. Ukraine's prime
minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, remains in prison and on the fourth day of
a hunger strike in solidarity with the protesters. The EU is looking to
shared values, including human rights, the rule of law and the pace of
democratic reform by countries that join it. President Viktor Yankovych
has told the EU not to further involve itself in the Yulia Tymoshenko
Nov 29 According to the
Times of Israel, Israeli officials have denounced President Obama "for
presiding over failed negotiations with Iran." The officials add that
"sanctions pressure on Tehran is collapsing and the Islamic Republic
has been granted the right to enrich uranium. The entire wall of
sanctions, painstakingly constructed over years, is already crumbling."
Nov 30 According to
Argentinian police, raids on brothels in and around the capital, Buenos
Aires, have rescued nearly 100 women forced into prostitution.
Dec 2 In the Central
African Republic (CAR), attacks by Muslims against Christian villages
have driven more than an estimated 460,000 from their homes, and more
than a million are dependent on external aid. France's President
Francois Hollande wants a Security Council resolution that would give
UN backing for a beefed up African Union or UN force . While waiting
for the Security Council, the French have decided to act, following
talks with CAR's Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye. According to BBC
News, some 200 French troops have arrived, and another 500 are being
Dec 3 In Russia a court
of law convicts ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko of organizing an acid
attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre, Sergei Filin.
Anger regarding selection for roles seems to have been a motive for the
Dec 4 Iran lists seven
Western oil companies it would like to return to work in its oil and
gas fields should the lifting of international sanctions make this
possible. It said it would outline investment terms in April, 2014.
Dec 4 The results of DNA
traced from a bone of a 400,000 year-old hominid are published in the
journal Nature. (Hominid is an ancestral grouping that includes
chimpanzees, gorillas and humans.) Genetic analysis finds in the bone
some of the DNA that appears in the Denisovan Neanderthal who lived
40,000 years ago in East Asia, thousands of miles from the site in
Spain where the bone was discovered. Matthias Meyer at the Max Planck
Institute says, "It's kind of strange, this piece of DNA going around
Europe and Asia, and it pops up at two different times and places."
(NewsHour, 4 Dec 2013.)
Dec 5 In Libya, an
American teacher, Ronnie Smith, 33, has been shot dead while jogging in
Benghazi's popular residential area. He was teaching chemistry in that
city's international school.
Dec 5 In Thailand,
protests have stopped in reverence for and celebration of King Bhumibol
Adulyadej's 86th birthday. The king makes a speech calling on his
subjects to support each other for the sake of the country.
Dec 6 South Africa's
Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95. UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon tells reporters, "Nelson Mandela showed what is possible
for our world and within each one of us if we believe, dream and work
together for justice and humanity." Queen Elizabeth of the United
Kingdom says she is "deeply saddened." South Africa is mourning its
first black president. At Fox News, Bill O'Reilly tells Rick Santorum,
"What he did for his people was stunning … He was a great man, but he
was a communist." Wikipedia describes this as follows: "Although
initially committed to non-violent protest, he [Mandela] co-founded the
militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South
African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the
apartheid government." Mandela was a supporter of Cuba's Fidel Castro
and also Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. He did well in South Africa as
champion of national unity, peace and conciliation between whites and
Dec 8 In Singapore, in an
area known as Little India, a man was knocked down and killed by a
private bus. According to BBC News about 400 people took to the
streets, and they torched police cars. The police commissioner
describes it as the first rioting in Singapore in more than 30 years.
He adds that "It is not the Singapore way." In Singapore a person
involved in a riot can be sentenced to seven years in prison plus
Dec 9 Libya's Prime
Minister Ali Zeidan tells the Washington Post two days ago that Libya
has "a few ideological people who belong to some Islamic groups - a
couple of hundred, not even thousands. They want to take over the
country. They do not want the state to succeed... There are extremist
Islamists who see this as a last opportunity for them. They are
extremists who lost in many countries, but in Libya they want to
establish a state."
Dec 11 In the US, law
against banks gambling with depositor money is moved on by federal
regulators. It's known as the Volcker Rule and designed to prevent
another 2008-style financial crisis. The largest banks will be required
to comply with the law by July 2015. USA Today reports that "Because
banks have already shed most of their proprietary trading businesses in
anticipation of the rule, the final version should have little new
effect on bank profits." The Washington Post writes, "Two of the firms
that have the most to lose from an aggressively enforced Volcker Rule
gained on the day, with Goldman Sachs shares up 1.23 percent and Morgan
Stanley shares up 1.25 percent."
Dec 11 In Syria's civil
war, gains made by Islamist militants, many of them foreigners, result
in Britain and the US suspending aide to the Free Syrian Army - but
humanitarian assistance to the Syrians continues. BBC News reports that
"Fighters from the Islamic Front, a new alliance of major rebel groups,
took control of the bases at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with
Turkey last week." The Islamists are giving more credibility to the
Assad regime propaganda that it is fighting foreigners and terrorists.
Dec 12 An Islamist leader
falls in Bangladesh. Abdul Quader Mullah, 65, known as the "Butcher of
Mirpur, and a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, is hanged
today in a jail in the capital, Dhaka. He is the first person put to
death for massacres committed in the country's 1971 war for
independence. Mullah went to his death saying he was proud to be a
martyr for the cause of Islam. Crowds were in the streets demanding his
execution, but the Arab News reports that "Islamists and opposition
protesters armed with crude bombs and rocks clashed ineffectively with
police in riots in several cities across the country." More executions
associated with the 1971 massacre are scheduled.
Dec 13 On the 11th, the
Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea executed the husband of Kim's aunt,
Jang Song-thaek, until last week thought to be one of the country's
most powerful men. Kim Jong-un inherited power in 2011, with Jang seen
as the young man's mentor or regent, and since then the regime has been
posturing extreme righteousness. A couple of days ago a military court
tried Jang, and he was described as a "traitor for all ages," as having
attempted to overthrow the state, as guilty of factionalism, corruption
and dissolute behaviour. Officialdom describes Jang as having admitted
his crimes. State television announces Jang's execution with the words
"despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog."
Dec 13 In yesterday's
annual state-of-the nation speech, Vladimir Putin said, "We do not
aspire to be called some kind of superpower ... We do not infringe on
anyone's interests, we do not force our patronage on anyone, or try to
teach anyone how to live ... Nobody should have any illusion about the
possibility of gaining military superiority over Russia. We will never
allow this to happen." He also described his support for Russians
conservative social values and criticized "genderless and infertile"
policies in the West. In so many words he spoke up for Russia's
traditional church, against same sex marriage and such, and he wants
Russian men to father more babies.
Dec 15 On CNN, Kurt
Campbell, former US Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific
Affairs, describes North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un as "a
young upstart" and "a kid." Campbell speaks of assessments drawn from
those who knew Kim when he was a student in Switzerland. There are
descriptions of Kim as less than steady emotionally and with an
elevated sense of his own importance and worthiness, in Campbell's
words, with "delusions of grandeur." Campbell describes Kim's executed
uncle Jang as having been an internationalist, most knowledgeable about
the economics and politics of the country and the man the international
community, including China, looked most to for interaction with North
Dec 15 Pope Francis says
he is no communist, following criticism from conservative commentators
in the United States. In an interview today for the newspaper La
Stampa, he says, "Marxist ideology is wrong," and he adds, "But in my
life I have met a lot of Marxists who are good people, so I do not feel
offended." Francis said in an interview with the Italian daily La
Stampa published on Sunday.
Dec 16 In the United
States, a divide between moderate Republicans and Tea Party Republicans
has erupted into a war of words. Republican Speaker of the House John
Boehner has verbally attacked those Republicans opposed to a budget
compromise bill, and from Tea Party supporters to his right comes the
claim that Boehner only pretends to be a conservative but is in fact a
"tax and spend liberal," and they remind Boehner of their claim that
they truly represent the American people.
Dec 16 In Bangladesh,
people enraged over the execution of the Islamic leader Abdul Quader
Mullah are reported as having burned homes and fought street battles in
three days of protest. Twenty-five people are reported dead and dozens
more injured. The protesters stand against the government and majority
opinion and their protest is considered a hopeless tantrum.
Dec 17 Singapore
announces its deportation of 53 foreign workers and its charges against
28 others who participated in the riots described on Dec 8 on this
page. A photo on BBC News shows two of the riot participants in a
police vehicle, sitting with heads deeply bowed as if shamed and
Dec 17 Occasionally a
pregnancy involves a fetus that has no chance of life outside the womb.
Today the NewsHour describes the results of El Salvador's 1997 law that
allows no exceptions against any abortions. Included is a video of
Roman Catholic Bishop of San Miguel saying, "We cannot accept any law
that goes against life. It is not a question of faith and religion, but
of humanity." Doctors in El Salvador are complaining. Protecting the
life of the mother is also not an exception, and girls and young women
are being charged with murder.
Dec 18 Iran has its
version of no compromise with the enemy in the person of Hossein
Shariatmadari, editor of Iran's leading conservative newspaper, Kayhan
(Universe) - this from David Ignatius in the Washington Post. Ignatius
interviewed him and reports: "Shariatmadari says frankly that he
doesn't believe in compromise with the West." Shariatmadari sees the
nuclear negotiations Iran is involved in as an internal struggle over
its identity. According to Ignatius, "Shariatmadari thinks these
Western temptations are poisonous." Ignatius describes Shariatmadari as
a militant supporter of Khomeini's 1979 revolution, whose slogans
Ignatius describes are fading on Tehran's walls, literally.
Dec 19 Saudi Arabia's
grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh brands suicide
bombers as "criminals." In February 2010 he denounced terrorism as
un-Islamic and condemned the killing of civilians.
Dec 19 This past week the
US Drug and Food Administration (FDA) has warned the public that
chemicals in anti-bacterial soaps and body washes can be dangerous. The
agency recommends using regular soap.
Dec 21 Thailand's main
opposition Democratic Party stays with the anti-government protest
movement's hositility to a democratic solution to a crisis that the
movement has created. The Democratic Party announces it will boycott
elections set for February. The head of Thailand's army warns that a
civil war might develop.
Dec 22 Egyptian
authorities jail three secular activists who had been prominent among
those who organized the 2011 protests against Mubarak. The three were
found guilty of violating a law instituted this past November that
restricts demonstrations to those authorized by the government. The
three are concerned about democracy. Some other pro-democracy Egyptians
side with the military backed government.
Dec 23 Al Arabiya reports
that In Egypt a split from the Muslim Brotherhood gives rise to a new
political party that, according to its leader, Amr Amara, is abandoning
the idea of a shariah-based Islamic state and will support civilian
governance. The old Brotherhood organization extended beyond Egypt,
while the politics of the new group will be limited to Egypt. The new
group has met with Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, and Amara
says "We want to return to working within state institutions." From the
old Brotherhood comes complaints that the new group is an illusion
manufactured by the military-backed security services to undermine the
Dec 24 The United Arab
Republic damages its image among many in the world as a court convicts
six foreigners and two citizens for making a video that pokes fun at
teenagers. The eight are found guilty of "defaming the UAE society's
image abroad." According to BBC News, this is a law against the use of
"information technology to criticise senior officials, argue for
political reform or organise unlicensed demonstrations."
Dec 24 In the Egyptian
city of Mansura a car-bomb attack on police headquarters kills 14 and
wounds more than a 100. The public blames the Muslim Brotherhood, who
appear for now to have failed at whatever contest for hearts and minds
existed in the town. Al Arabiya reports residents shouting for the
"execution of the Muslim Brotherhood." According to Al Arabiya, "At a
nearby hospital, the floor of the emergency room was slick with blood
as medics rushed in casualties."
Dec 24 In South Sudan a
power conflict between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and ex-deputy
Riek Machar, of Nuer ethnicity has escalated to massive killings and
people fearing death because of their ethnicity. BBC News reports that,
"One man in Juba said he was rounded up with 250 men and only 12
survived." Fighting that started in the capital, Juba, is reported as
having spread throughout the country. United Nations Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon warns that anyone responsible for human rights violations
will be held to account.
Dec 25 In her Christmas
message, Queen Elizabeth says, "We all need to get the balance right,
between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to
forget to pause and take stock."
Dec 25 From Russia,
Edward Snowden delivers an annual alternative Christmas message for
Britain's Channel 4 television. He begins with a claim counter to
President Obama having described NSA surveillance as limited. Snowden
says that "our government is watching everything we do." He adds what
some think is ridiculous exaggeration but others embrace
enthusiastically: he says, "A child born today will grow up with no
conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have
a private moment to themselves - an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought."
Dec 28 In Egypt, supporters of
President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood rampage at the country's mail
Islamic University. They were trying to make effective a student
strike. They blocked entrances and, according to the police, students
stormed several buildings on campus to "terrorize students and
faculty," some fired shotguns into the air and there was a smashing of
furniture. Photos have been published of campus buildings on fire. One
student was killed. What was supposed to be accomplished by what
appears to be the striking minority of students is unclear. To succeed
strikes must be cohesive, not forced by a minority - like the Third
World Strike at the UC Berkeley campus in 1969. The rampaging militants
don't appear to be winning friends and influencing people, and a
division among the Islamist students is clear.
Dec 30 On the NewsHour, Miles
O'Brien describes research regarding our immune system killing cancer
cells as it does other harmful cells, and he says cancer researchers
"are extremely excited about this." (See Oct 14.) But, he adds, there
is a funding problem: "Every researcher I talk to, every scientist I
speak with speaks about what a dark time it is for federal funding for
basic scientific research... A lot of people in Washington would say,
well, why don't we have the private sector fund this? The private
sector doesn't fund things if it doesn't see a good solid business
Dec 31 Pew Research told
us yesterday of a growing difference of opinion between Republicans and
Democrats regarding evolution. Its research in 2009 had 39 percent of
Republicans not believing in evolution and that number growing to 48
percent today. For Democrats those not believing in evolution has
decreased from 30 percent in 2009 to 27 percent today. A difference in
percentages between Republicans and Democrats that was 9 in 2009 has
grown to 21.
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