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Showing posts from January, 2015

Up to 50 Special Action Force commandos killed in botched Philippine raid

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The death toll is rising from the botched raid by commandos of the Philippine Special Action Force in the southern province of Maguindanao as the body count has risen from thirty after first reports to almost fifty or even more now.

Al Jazeera reports the death toll is at least 43 police commandos. The Inquirer put the death toll at 49. National Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said 44 commandos were dead and 12 others wounded. Some Muslim rebels said as many as 56 of the commandos were killed. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas told a news conference: "Out of 392 "special action force" policemen who took part in the mission, 44 were killed and 12 others wounded." However, a local source told Al Jazeera that 43 bodies of police officers had been recovered but as many as 64 had been killed according to local media.Earlier reports had put the death toll at around thirty commandos. These commandos are members of the elite Philippine Special …

CIA-linked General Haftar seizes Benghazi branch of Libyan Central Bank

The UN yesterday condemned an attack on the office of the Libyan Central Bank in the city of Benghazi in the east of Libya. The attack appears to have been carried out by forces loyal to CIA-linked general Khalifa Haftar. The Libyan central bank has attempted to remain neutral in the conflict between militias and two rival government. The internationally recognized government is in Tobruk, led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni. The rival government that controls much of the western part of Libya is in the capital Tripoli and led by Prime Minister Omar al-Hasi appointed by the General National Council. The neutral role of the bank is crucial in maintaining whatever unity is left in the country: "It has continued to pay for fuel and food subsidies as well as the salaries of bureaucrats, doctors, teachers, local officials and millions of other public employees — often regardless of whether they showed up for work. By financing the budgets of the Interior and Defense Ministries,…

Syriza appears headed for victory in Greek election

Athens - In an attempt to reassure the EU public and officials that a Syriza victory is not a threat to the EU, leader Alex Tsipras, has published opinion pieces in both the FInancial Times and earlier in a German newspaper, Handelsblatt. In the Financial Times article, Tsipras promised that Syriza would not only respect European Union fiscal rules but would also commit to their targets on eliminating the deficit. Tsipras is trying to convince Greek creditors that his victory is not a threat to them or EU unity. At the same time Tsipras reiterates his demand for a " new social contract" and an end to austerity requirements, claiming that this would lead to "political stabililty and economic security". Tsipras also promised: “A Syriza government will respect Greece’s obligation, as a eurozone member, to maintain a balanced budget, and will commit to quantitative targets." Tsipras also spoke of a write off of some Greek debt as something that could be done coop…

Obama's State of the Union Speech: talk to the left, act to the right

Obama's State of The Union Speech(SOTU) was upbeat about the economy and in general about the US situation. He set out many progressive measures that he intends to include in a new budget.

The entire Obama speech text can be found here, and I have appended a YouTube video of the speech as well. The speech enjoyed lavish praise for the performance of the U.S. economy, which is doing better than most advanced capitalist economies. However, it is far from booming and wage increases have not risen in tandem with the economic improvement. A trend upward in wage rates noted in Obama's speech was reversed in December last year. The speech was replete with promises of liberal policies, such as free tuition at Community Colleges, that Obama knows the Republicans will not support. Since the Republicans now control both the Senate and the House of Representatives he must know that these policies can never become law under present circumstances.

 Obama also invented a …

Houthi rebels in Yemen consolidate power by seizing presidential palace

Sanaa - In Yemen, Houthi rebels are reported to be in control of the presidential palace in the capital Sanaa. President Mansour Hadi is thought to be inside. Al Jazeera reports, based on witness accounts and security sources, that the seizure took place after a brief clash with the security guards at the presidential compound. Yesterday, the rebels seized a military base on a hill overlooking the palace. Yesterday as well, officials claimed that a ceasefire had been declared after a six hour fight between the Presidential Guard and the rebels.

There were troops deployed around the residence of President Hadi in Sanaa. Information Minister Nadia al-Sakkaf said that the Houthis have taken control of the state-run Republic of Yemen television station as well as the news agency Saba. She said: "This is a step toward a coup and it is targeting the state's legitimacy." There were two separate ceasefires agreed to, designed to facilitate ongoing negotiations today. The chief …

Iran and Saudi Arabia struggle to achieve better relations

Iran and Saudi Arabia are competitors for influence in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia also represents Sunni influence in the area while Iran is a prime supporter of Shia groups. Lately, the rise of the Islamic State, both in Syria and especially in Iraq, has created common areas of interest that may lead to improved relations. The recent attack by the Islamic State on a Saudi border post showed the Saudis the degree to which the Islamic State was becoming a threat to the kingdom. The attack killed two border guards and also the commanding officer. The attackers included three Saudi nationals.

The Saudis have decided to reopen their embassy in Baghdad, establishing relations with a country that has close relations with Iran and has a Shia majority. The new Iraqi government is reaching out to Sunni powers such as the Saudis in the hope of getting support from them to help fight IS in return for more accommodation of Sunni interests within the Shia majority government. The Saudis have a…

Israel attack in Syria kills several Hezbollah fighters includng important leader.

Damascus - Several fighters from the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah were killed in an attack by an Israeli helicopter in the Syrian province of Quneitra. Different casualty figures are given but a Hezbollah statement said that six fighters had been killed. One of the dead was Jihad Mughniyeh , the son of Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus in 2008 in a suspected attack by Israel. The attack took place on Sunday near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as the Israeli helicopter fired missiles at Imad's car. This attack came just a few days after Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, threatened to retaliate against any Israeli attack either in Lebanon or Syria. He added that the group had missiles that could strike anywhere in Israel. Muhamad Issa, chief of Hezbollah operations in Syria was also reported as among those killed in the attack. Nicole Johnston of Al Jazeera also confirmed Issa was killed: "Mohamad Issa, the chief of Hezbolla…

Two main parties in conflict agree to Libya ceasefire

The internationally-recognized Tobruk government announced a ceasefire as of midnight Sunday. The rival faction Libya Dawn associated with the Tripoli government had announced a truce two days before.


Peace talks are set to resume next week again in Geneva. Earlier talks had taken place without the participation of representatives from the Tripoli government but in spite of that the Libya Dawn militia called a truce shortly after the talks. The talks were able to map out a route to a unity government, that would rule until a new constitution is created, accepted and then new elections held. Both sides accept the committee that is drafting the new constitution. The announcement by the Tobruk government may mean little as the army said that it would continue to pursue "terrorists" but CIA-linked Khalifa Haftar whose former militia is the main part of the Libyan Army considers all Islamists who oppose him "terrorists".  Ansar al-Sharia is considered a t…

Impotent "International Common Law Court of Justice" rules Pope guilty of rape.

Brussels - The International Common Law Court of Justice(ICLCJ) in Brussels has ruled that Pope Francis, Jesuit Superior General Adolfo Pachon and Justin Welby Bishop of Canterbury are guilty of rape, torture, murder and trafficking of children. The report on the ICLCJ decision is written by Judy Byington who describes her credentials as follows: "Judy Byington: M.S.W, L.C.S.W, ret.; CEO, Trauma Research Center and Child Abuse Recovery Speakers Bureau; former Supervisor, Children Services, Alberta Mental Health; Clinical Director, Provo Family Counseling Center; Utah Child Welfare; CEO, Trauma Research Center; Author, Twenty-Two Faces: Inside the Extraordinary Life of Jenny Hill and Her Twenty-Two Multiple Personalities. www.22Faces.com www.ChildAbuseRecovery.com" Among the rather astonishing claims, the ICLCJ heard 48 eyewitness accounts about the activities of the Ninth Circle Satanic Child Sacrifice Cult: "The Ninth Circle Satanic Child Sacrifice Cult was believed …

European banks get ready for possible Grexit

Both banks and brokers are dusting off contingency plans for a possible Greek exit from the eurozone (Grexit). While most think that Greece will remain in the zone, the snap elections to take place January 25 may make such an exit more likely.


The latest poll shows the leftist anti-bailout party Syriza increasing its lead over the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy. Syriza has the support of 31.2 percent versus 28.1 percent for New Democracy. This 3.1 percent lead compares with a 2.6 percent lead in an earlier January poll. To win an outright majority the leading party would require from 36 to 40 percent of the vote. Syriza is not expected to achieve that, but under the Greek system the party getting the highest vote count receives an extra 50 seats and this will make it easier for Syriza to form a coalition with one or more smaller parties. The survey was carried out from January 13-15 and so is quite recent.

 Syriza opposes the au…

US economy stars at Davos meeting

Davos - Usually emerging economies star at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. This year talk is about the superior performance of the U.S. economy compared to that of most other developed countries. + Add Image Russia is entering a recession due to sanctions but mostly because of the decline in oil prices that in turn has caused the value of the ruble to drop. India is struggling with economic reforms. Even China is growing more slowly. The U.S. on the other hand, in the fourth quarter of 2014 grew at an annual rate of 5 percent. Jacob Frenkel of JP Morgan Chase and Co said : “The U.S. is now regaining its position in the world economy. It is the place where the recovery took hold in the most robust way.”

The Davos meeting runs from January 21-24. The US will have a high profile at the meeting as Secretary of State John Kerry will attend. Kerry is the highest level official the Obama administration has ever sent to Davos. Often at the meetings there will be talk of…

Syriza moves to the middle as it seeks to win Greek election

In In order to gain enough votes to win elections leftist parties often jettison their more radical positions in order to attract voters more to the middle of the political spectrum. This is clearly a strategy that Syriza is pursuing.

The leader of Syriza, Alex Tsipras, has stressed recently that he does not want Greece to leave the Euro zone. He expresses optimism about creating conditions for repaying Greek debts:Tsipras reiterated that he wanted Greece to stay in the euro zone. "Our goal is to reach a new agreement -- within the euro zone -- that would allow the Greek people to breathe ... and to live in dignity by restoring debt sustainability and finding a way out of recession through financing growth," Syriza is either abandoning or not mentioning many of the policy planks adopted at its first Congress in July of 2013. The policies are set out in detail here. The policies include the following: "..withdrawal from NATO, closure of all foreign military …

Hard line position on Greek debt may make crisis worse

Rather than supporting negotiations on the Greek debt crisis, many EU leaders continue to support the austerity programs imposed by lenders even though Greece may very well elect a government on January 25 that will insist on changing terms of the loans.

An article by Nicos E. Devletoglou, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Athens, claims that the actual sovereign debt is not at the level of 350 billion euros. but not more than 150 billion euros, less than half that. Any solution to the problem , he claims, should take into account the damage to Greece both in financial and human terms caused by what he calls the "blind austerity" policies imposed on Greece for the last six years. The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, has been insistent that "all previously agreed Greek debt, must be paid in full regardless of the composition of the next Greek government." According to Devietoglou before Schauble's demand could ev…

Defending freedom of speech and expressing solidarity with speech

Glenn Greenwald has a long article on the reactions to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo culiminating in the huge march in Paris expressing support for the satirical journal.

Greenwald is a famous American journalist and author, perhaps best known for articles based on documents he received from Edward Snowden. He is a staunch defender of free speech and is opposed to "hate speech" laws that are common in Europe including France but also Canada. He discusses Canada's criminalization of hate speech in this March 2010 article in Salon. Greenwald notes that activists are usually concerned with defending the right to disseminate one's opinions, however distasteful to certain groups or the establishment. Quite often these same activists may be vehemently opposed to the content of what is expressed.

 The ACLU defended the right of Nazis to march in the Chicago suburb of Skokie: ACLU attorney David Goldberger, caught in the ironic position of being a Jew defe…

Tight security as Pope Francis begins his visit to the Philippines

Today, Pope Francis begins his visit to the Philippines. A huge security operation is planned with an estimated 37,000 police and military personnel deployed to ensure there are no attacks on the Pope. Gregorio Catapang Jr., the top commander of the military, said the Papal visit was the " the biggest security nightmare" the government faces.

Earlier Papal visits have been marred by attacks on the Pope. When Pope Paul VI visited in November of 1970 he was attacked by Bolivian artist Benjamin Mendoza. Mendoza had managed to pass through the airport security wearing a priest's robe. He slashed the Pope with a dagger, just missing his throat. When Pope John Paul visited in 1995, Ramzi Yousef who previously had attacked the World Trade Center, planted a bomb which luckily exploded prematurely. There have been threats reported against the Pope in recent months. Adding fuel to the fears, some armed jihadist groups in the southern Philippines have pledged allegiance to the …

President of Uruguay Jose "Pepe" Mujica set to retire

The outgoing president of Uruguay Jose "Pepe" Mujica is known for his humble lifestyle and donating most of his presidential salary to charity.

During his five years as president he donated $550,000 to charity, with $400,000 going to Plan Together, a social program that supports vulnerable Uruguayan families. Mujica donates about 90 percent of his 12,000 monthly presidential salary to charities benefiting the poor and small entrepreneurs. Mujica says about his donations: "You can talk all you want, but put your money where your mouth is." In 2010, as part of his mandatory wealth declaration, Mujica listed his old 1987 Volkswagen Beetle as his sole asset, with a value of $1,800. As president, Mujica refused to live in the presidential palace or use its staff. Commenting on his austere life style Mujica said: “I travel in life light in luggage, so those things don't rob me of my freedom.”

 Mujica will be turning 80 in May of this year. He will retir…

Conflict continues in Yemen

The National Dialogue Conference(NDC) in Yemen was held between March 18, 2013 and January 24, 2014. The Conference was a transitional dialogue sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC) subsequent to former president Saleh yielding power.

The NDC was plagued by problems from the beginning. Many in the southern separatist movement refused to join in the dialogue. There were problems with the Houthi separatists in the north as well who ultimately withdrew after two of their representatives were assassinated. The Dialogue members agreed that Yemen would become a federal system with six regions. Sanaa the capital and Aden the former capital of a separate southern state would also have special status. The federal system was rejected by southern leaders including Ali Ahmed who had been part of the NDC.

Many praised the dialogue including Marie Harf who was then a spokesperson for the US State Dept.: "The debates, discussions and compromises throughout the National …

UN sponsored Libyan talks to take place this week in Geneva

The UN envoy to Libya, Bernadino Leon, held talks with both the two rival governments in the country and the two main military groups, Libyan Dawn and General Khalifa Haftar, the latter associated with the Tobruk, internationally recognized government.


Libya Dawn supports the government in Tripoli with the prime minister Omar al-Hassi. Haftar supports and is supported by the Tobruk government with prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni. The UN has constantly demanded that the two groups in conflict should cease military activity so that talks could take place but so far that has not happened with both sides battling each other. Haftar's forces have also carried out a number of air raids on Tripoli, including on the last functioning airport in Tripoli, and also the airport at Misrata. As well, his air force bombed a Greek tanker in the port of Derna killing two crew members.

 Earlier talks in September in Ghadames went nowhere but they did not include representatives from…