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Showing posts from October, 2012

The presidential election and drone strikes: Five Questions

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Not much has been said about the issue of drone attacks during the presidential election campaign. Robert Naiman suggests that there are five important questions that journalists should ask about the issue. Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy. Among his other many pursuits he writes on U.S. foreign policy for the Huffington Post. Given that there has been little discussion of U.S. drone policy during the presidential campaign, Naiman along with others urged Bob Schieffer , who was moderator of the third and last debate between Obama and Romney, on foreign policy, to ask a question about drones. He did. Schieffer asked the question only of Mitt Romney! He asked only Romney what his position on the use of drones is on the grounds that people already know what Obama's position is. Romney replied: " Well I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it's widely reported …

More U.S. drone attacks in Yemen, 3 suspected militants reported killed

Three suspected Al Qaeda militants were killed in a U.S. drone attack in the south-eastern province of Maareb. The mostly desert area has been a refuge for militants driven from their strongholds by a recent offensive. Al Qaeda and other militants had taken over almost entire provinces in the south of Yemen but an offensive by Yemeni forces advised and supported by U.S.advisers drove them out. However, they still mount effective attacks upon the government and security forces. The U.S. has continued to mount many drone attacks in Yemen. Last Thursday (October 18), a drone strike killed nine people in a farmhouse in Abyan province. One of those killed was described as a local AQAP leader. After former president Saleh gave up power in a deal that granted immunity from prosecution to him, his family, and associates, his vice-president Mansour Hadi was elected president unopposed. He was supported by the U.S. Hadi has been praised by the U.S. ambassador to Yemen as being more effective i…

Retired BC zoologist leaves Omar Khadr $700 in his will

Jack Hallam, an 84 year old retired zoologist, has left Khadr $700 dollars to help pay for his education and because he thought that Khadr had been treated badly both by the U.S. and Canadian government. Hallam told the Canadian Press: "I think the young man has been treated abominably.His story just moved me. He was tortured, he was kept in solitary confinement, he had light deprivation." Hallam said that he had been in contact with Khadr's tutor from Alberta who had helped Khadr while he was imprisoned in Guantanamo. In a plea bargain, Khadr pleaded guilty in October 2010 before a military tribunal to five war crimes including murder in violation of the rules of war. In return, he was sentenced to 8 years but was allowed to return to Canada to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Canada did less than nothing for Khadr while he was in Guantanamo, unlike other countries such as the UK who tried to get their citizens in Guantanamo repatriated. The Khadr family is very…

Iran agrees to one-on-one talks with U.S. according to report

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According to U.S. officials, Iran and the U.S. have agreed to one-on-one negotiations. The talks on Iran's nuclear program will take place immediately after the U.S. election the officials told the New York Times. The Iranian officials claim that the talks should take place only after the elections since they want to know which president they will be dealing with. Just a few hours after the article appeared on the New York Times website, the Obama administration denied the report. Many regard the Times as at times acting as a conduit for information the White House wants released to the public. However, on this report, National Security Council Spokesperson said: ”It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections." If the Times report is true, the agreement must have been reached after secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials. Ahmadinejad has been pressing for a negotiated solution to the …

UN requests plan for military intervention in Mali

The U.N. Security Council has approved a motion that provides regional groups 45 days to draw up specific plans for military intervention designed to oust rebels in northern Mali The northern region of Mali, sometimes called Azawad, is now occupied and governed by militant Islamists who are linked by many to Al Qaeda. The region was lost by the central government after a coup by U.S. trained Captain Sanogo in March of this year. Ironically, the coup was defended on the grounds that the central government had not ousted rebels in the area. The resolution was unanimous, no doubt because of the association of the rebels with Al Qaeda. The leader of the coup stepped down in May and transferred power to a civilian government but the coup leaders still have considerable influence in the new government. Originally, much of the north was captured by Tuareg rebels who proclaimed an independent Azawad. However, no country recognized Azawad and shortly thereafter, the Tuareg were ousted in turn…

Attack in Benghazi hurts CIA Libya operations

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The attack on a consular office and "safe house" in Libya has set back CIA operations in eastern Libya. About a dozen CIA operatives were among personnel evacuated from Benghazi. CIA agents were stationed in Benghazi to engage in surveillance of militant groups. One American official said: "It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss. We got our eyes poked out.” Among the militant groups targeted by the CIA are Ansar al-Sharia, whom some have blamed for the attack, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Although there was public anger against militants after the Benghazi attack, there are still entrenched militant groups in the region. They are obviously aware of U.S. intelligence operations in the region. Frederic Wehrey, a policy analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: “The region’s deeply entrenched Salafi community is undergoing significant upheaval, with debate raging between a current that is amenable to political integration and a more militant …

IMF lowers global growth outlook

In its World Economic Outlook, the IMF claims that the global economic slowdown is getting worse. The organization also cut growth forecasts for the second time since last April. The IMF report was issued ahead of its twice-yearly meeting. The meeting will be held in Tokyo later in the week. The IMF also warned that if the U.S. and Europe did not remedy their economic ills, this would prolong the slump. The U.S.will certainly not act until after the November election when the government will need to face the fiscal cliff. The fiscal cliff in the U.S. and the European debt crisis were flagged by the IMF as key issues that will impact the global economy. Global growth, the report said, is too weak to bring down unemployment. What momentum exists comes mainly from central banks. No doubt this news will be greeted with great scepticism by U.S. Republicans, who blame Obama for high unemployment, and claim that the government cannot promote growth, only the private sector. The report says:…

Kuwait ruler Emir Sheik Al-Sabah dissolves parliament

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Emir Sheik Al-Sabah, the ruler of Kuwait, issuued a decree dissolving the 2009 National Assembly for the second time in less than four months. The assembly was dissolved in December 2011, after protests and allegations of corruption against some members. Corruption charges were leveled against at least 13 members of the 50 seat assembly. The protests also led to the resignation of the former prime minister and the appointment of the present premier Sheik Jaber Al-Sabah. General elections were held on February 2 this year. The opposition scored a big victory winning 35 seats and control of the assembly led by Islamist factions. Conveniently, the Constitutional Court on June 20 nullified the polls and dissolved the Assembly on the grounds that the decree that dissolved the 2009 Assembly and asked for a new vote was flawed. The court also revived the 2009 Assembly which was dominated by pro-government members. The revived Assembly failed to meet because both the opposition and the pro-go…

Libyan city of Bani Walid under seige

Residents of the city of Bani Walid have been surrounded the past week by government forces. The siege is part of an attempt to arrest those responsible for killing the man who is credited with capturing Gadaffi. Bani Walid residents are suffering from lack of food, drugs, and other supplies. The residents are calling on the UN for help. Amnesty International has asked Libyan authorities to avoid force if possible and also to allow medical supplies and other vital supplies into the city. On October 4th, local doctors claim that a group of armed men stopped three vehicles carrying medical supplies, personnel, and oxygen from entering Bani Walid. The armed group had set up a checkpoint about 80 kilometers from the city. Libya's ruling General National Congress approved the use of force to arrest those suspected of killing Omran Shaaban, who is credited with capturing Gadaffi. Dr. Abdul-hamid Alshandoli, a member of Bani Walid's social council said:“Right now, the armed forces ar…

Kuwait parliament dissolved by Emir

Emir Sheik Al-Sabah, the ruler of Kuwait, issuued a decree dissolving the 2009 National Assembly for the second time in less than four months. The assembly was dissolved in December 2011, after protests and allegations of corruption against some members. Corruption charges were leveled against at least 13 members of the 50 seat assembly. The protests also led to the resignation of the former prime minister and the appointment of the present premier Sheik Jaber Al-Sabah. General elections were held on February 2 this year. The opposition scored a big victory winning 35 seats and control of the assembly led by Islamist factions. Conveniently, the Constitutional Court on June 20 nullified the polls and dissolved the Assembly on the grounds that the decree that dissolved the 2009 Assembly and asked for a new vote was flawed. The court also revived the 2009 Assembly which was dominated by pro-government members. The revived Assembly failed to meet because both the opposition and the pro-go…

How presidential debates are rigged to exclude third party candidates

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There are two other candidates running for president who run in enough states that they could theoretically be elected president. Neither of these two candidates can take part in the presidential debates. Why?
Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, the presidential nominee of the Libertarian party is on the ballot in a total of 48 states. Dr Jill Stein, the nominee of the Green party, is running in 39 states. Since both could win one would think that they should be able to debate the issues with Romney and Obama.
But these debates are not run according to rules set out by the government. The rules are set by a non-profit organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). This group was created by the Democratic and Republican parties in 1987 as a bipartisan effort. An effort it would seem, to help keep presidential candidates other than those for the two main parties out of debates. At a 1987 press conference announcing the commission's creation, Republica…

Film on Bin Laden attack to be released two days before presidential election

Just two days before the presidential election, a film on the death of Bin Laden will be aired on the National Geographic Channel. The film is being released by a company whose co-chairman raised more than $100,000 for the Obama Victory Fund. The film is called "Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden". The National Geographic Channel plans to air a video of the film on November 4th just two days before the election on November 6. The channel claims the date is to promote the start of the fall season and has nothing to do with politics. Nevertheless, this is a happy coincidence for Obama. Harvey Weinstein, co-chair of The Weinstein Co. and Voltage Pictures, that produced the film also just happens to be an avid fan and supporter of Barack Obama. Back in early August, Weinstein held a fund-raising dinner at his Westport, Connecticut home that hosted 50 people at a cost of $35,800 per head. The president has constantly hyped the successful raid by Navy Seal Special Forces t…

September auto sales in U.S. surge

In the U.S., auto sales were higher than they have been in four and a half years. Sales were calculated at 14.94 million vehicles on an annualized basis. Analysts had estimated the rate at 14.5 million. This is the highest rate since March 2008 Analysts expected a rise of less than 9% in U.S. sales but the actual increase was 13%. Cheap financing helped fuel the increase in sales. Almost a third of Toyota purchasers took advantage of no interest loans to finance their purchases. Analyst Jesse Toprak said: "The money is so cheap now... Higher resale values and cheap money has been enabling automakers to offer some of the most attractive leasing programs we've seen in years." Interest rates on a 4 year new car loan were around 3.19% in September 2012 compared to 4.29% in September 2012 according to Bankrate.com. Consumers delayed purchasing big ticket items during the recession. Average age of vehicles being driven rose to record highs. Now, as consumers need to replace th…

Pro-NATO liberal coalition in Libya excluded from cabinet positions in new government

The Libyan Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur has nominated his cabinet for approval by the national congress. The nominees exclude members from the pro-NATO liberal coalition National Forces Alliance which won the most seats in a recent election Abushagur was elected prime minister by the Libyan congress on September 12, narrowly beating his main opponent. Abushagur has many connections with the U.S. having lived there for several decades. He had a distinguished academic career as an engineering professor, and has launched businesses as well. He helped establish a branch of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Dubai. Abushagur's cabinet choices indicate he is attempting to achieve some type of geographical balance. Libya is notorious for regional rivalries that often threaten to tear the country apart. His transitional government will take over from an interim administration in which he was deputy prime minister and which was appointed last November. The Abushaqur …

U.S. Special Forces gathering data that could be used to target militants suspected of Benghazi attack

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The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command is gathering information that could be used to kill or capture militants thought to be involved in the recent Benghazi attack that killed the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans. The top-secret JSOC or Joint Special Operations Command is busy gathering information on militants who are suspected to be behind the attacks on the U.S. consular office in Benghazi, according to senior U.S. counter-terrorism officials. The officials described the process as preparing the "target packages". This would be the first step that would set the stage for orders from President Obama and top advisers to carry out any action against those thought to be responsible for the attack in Benghazi. President Obama has vowed that he would bring the killers of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans to justice. As in the case of Osama bin Laden, this may mean simply killing them through a raid by Special Forces, or perhaps through drone attac…

Georgian president admits electoral defeat

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Georgia's pro-western president Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat to a coalition led by businessman and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, according to a government spokesperson.
Sergei Kapanadze the deputy foreign minister, said Saakashvili promised that his United National Movement would work with the Gerogian Dream alliance which has won a majority in the 150 member Georgian legislature,
Lorne Cramer, president of the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-funded institute in support of democracy, said that the election commission could be relied upon. Politics is quite polarized in Georgia and some worry that not everyone will remain calm upon hearing the results.
Saakashvili was brought into power nine years ago in the Rose Revolution. Constitutional changes will give more power to parliament and less to the president when Saakashvili's term ends in 2013.
Thomas de Waal, a Georgia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said:
"The p…

Assad may have helped French spies ambush Gadaffi

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According to an article in a British newspaper the Syrian government offered French spies operating in Sirte, Gadaffi's satellite telephone number. This aided them in trapping Gadaffi by alerting Libyan militia as to where they could ambush his convoy.
Rami El Obeidi, a former senior intelligence officer in Tripoli, said:
"In exchange for this information, Assad had obtained a promise of a grace period from the French and less political pressure on the regime – which is what happened," International attention was shifting from the situation in Libya to that in Syria and Assad hoped that by helping the French, pressure would be removed from his regime. Assad should have known better. It worked for a short while only. For years Assad had acted as a destination for terror suspects who were rendered to notorious Syrian prisons for interrogation and torture. He always obediently provided guarantees that the suspects would not be tortured so U.S. authorities would not be compl…

Bahrain court upholds conviction of nine medics

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Nine medics who were arrested last year during pro-democracy protests have lost their final appeal and now face time in jail. The nine are part of a group of 20 convicted by a military court in 2011, a conviction upheld by a civilian tribunal in June. Dr. Ali al-Ekry, formerly the senior doctor at Sallmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain, was given the longest sentence. five years. He was convicted of "possession and concealment" of weapons and also "illegal assembly". In speaking to Al Jazeera about the decision al-Ekry noted that it is still unclear if the doctors will be sent to prison immediately. The medics' trial has been roundly criticized internationally and the government may be reluctant to implement the verdict. Dr. al-Ekry had formerly been regarded as a hero in Bahrain for his volunteer work helping those in Gaza during the Israeli incursion into the strip. However, helping injured protesters in Bahrain and supporting the protests, made him a crimina…