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Showing posts from April, 2015

Greece shuffles negotiating team with Varoufakis moving to the sidelines

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Feisty Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has reportedly been relegated to the sidelines in negotiations with EU and IMF creditors for a deal that would release more funds from the bailout loan. + Add Image Varoufakis was unable to strike a deal at a recent meeting of the Eurogroup of finance ministers in Riga, Latvia. There was considerable criticism of his performance by some ministers. However, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, voiced support for Varoufakis and said that he would supervise a new team negotiating with the institutions responsible for the loan. At the same time, Deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, another economist more acceptable to creditors, and soft-spoken, has been appointed coordinator of the group. A Reuters' article suggests this move pushes Varoufakis to the sidelines. An article in the New York Times also suggests that although Varoufakis remains the leader of the negotiating team, that Tsakalotos would co-ordinate the day-to-day discussi…

Tripoli government totally rejects UN draft proposal for unity government

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After the last round of talks in Morocco, Bernardino Leon, UN special envoy to Libya, said the two sides are close to an agreement. The two sides are to return to Libya for consultations, and then this week resume talks to finalize the deal. + Add Image Last week the UN group was also to arrange talks with the two military forces associated with the two sides, Libya Dawn on the Tripoli government side, and the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar on the Tobruk side. Nothing was announced during the week, nor was there any word on reactions to the proposals from the two rival governments. I have been sceptical of the whole dialogue process for some time. The EU and U.S. insist they favour a political solution and a ceasefire, yet they have done nothing to stop Khalifa Haftar from going ahead with an offensive against the Tripoli government and even bombing the Mitiga airport in Tripoli not once but three times before different stages of the talks. Haftar did all this in spite of warn…

Obama's drone wars continue with no end in sight

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In spite of the fact that recently President Obama announced that a drone strike in Pakistan killed two innocent hostages being held by Al Qaeda, there is no sign of the drone program ending any time soon or that it will even be altered. + Add Image Last Thursday, Obama said he took full responsibility for drone strikes that killed two Al Qaeda hostages in Pakistan. The strikes killed an American, Warren Weinstein,and Giovani Lo Porto, an Italian, along with two American Al Qaeda members. Weinstein was a 73-year-old economic advisor, and Lo Porto a 39-year-old aid worker. Obama gave few details of the operation but officials said that it took place in January after hundreds of hours of surveillance. If there was so much surveillance, how is it that there was so little intelligence about who was with the Al Qaeda operatives? As Jeremy Scahill points out, the public only finds out about mishaps when journalists investigate. He claims there is very little transparency as to who the inten…

Obama lashes out at critics of TPP trade deal

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There is bipartisan support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) free trade involving 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region but many US liberals, environmentalists, and unions are against the deal. + Add Image In a recent speech, Obama went as far as to compare his left critics' arguments to conspiracy theories about the "death panels" raised by some on the right about Obamacare. He claimed that his critics did not know what they were talking about. Obama is hoping to get "fast track" authority which would prevent Congress from amending the treaty with only the ability to pass or vote down the final result. Critics argue that the TPP would benefit corporations and also foreign countries at the expense of US workers. Certainly, capital would be the main beneficiary of the deal. As with earlier deals that are part of globalization they result in capital moving to areas where conditions are most favorable to it. This deal is also meant to give US multinationals…

No updates yet on dialogue between rival military forces in Libya

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There has been a continual three ring circus of peace talks and dialogue, sponsored by the UN, among three sets of Libyan groups, the most significant being those involving Libya's two rival governments. + Add Image On the 19th of April, the UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, announced that the two rivals were close to reaching agreement saying at the end of talks in Morocco: "I can tell you that we have now a draft which looks like something very close to a final agreement, Eighty percent of the text in this draft is, let me put it this way, is something that the parties can agree."The factions were to return to Libya for consultations and return to Morocco this coming week to finalize the agreement. There has been no reporting that I can find at all on the reactions of the rival governments. Complete silence. Leon finally noted that the agreement would mean nothing without the agreement of the respective military and militia groups associated with the rival go…

Eurogroup demands its reforms before it releases cash to Greece

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The Eurogroup of finance minister meeting in Riga Latvia had harsh words for Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis as they refused his bid to find a shortcut to get badly need financial aid. + Add Image Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chair of the euro-zone finance ministers, ruled out any partial aid payment, such as Varoufakis has requested, in exchange for fewer and narrower reforms:“It was a very critical discussion and it showed a great sense of urgency around the room,” Dijsselbloem said at a press conference after the meeting. Asked if there was any chance of a partial disbursement, he said, “The answer can be very short: No.”Also, Dijsselbloem told reporters at the end of the Riga meeting: "I'll be quite frank - it was a very critical discussion. We had hoped to hear a positive result..we are still far from that."Varoufakis was severely criticized for not bringing forward and implementing the "reforms" demanded of creditors including to pensions and the labor…

Saudi with UK residency likely to be released from Guantanamo soon

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Shaker Aamer, a Saudi with residency status in Britain, is expected to be released from Guantanamo in June. He has a British wife and four children in London. + Add Image The UK has made repeated requests for Aamer's release. The 48-year-old Aamer is accused of having been a key recruiter and financier for Al Qaeda while in Britain and to have worked for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. However, he has been held in Guantanamo for 13 years without charge. A US government officialtold AFP that Aamer would be released along with up to 10 other detainees. A new commander Rear Admiral Fernandez Ponds will take over the command of the facility in July. There are still 122 men held prisoner. 57 have been classified as "releasable" by a review committee, including Aamer. Obama promised to close the prison even during his first presidential campaign. Congress has continually blocked Obama's attempts to take actions that could lead to closing the base. The base is technically Cu…

Pentagon cannot account for $1.3 billion sent to US commanders in Afghanistan

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The Pentagon is unable to account for $1.3 billion in funds sent to commanders in Afghanistan through the years 2004 to 2014 for reconstruction projects. + Add Image These funds were sent to military commanders in order to bypass bureaucracy to speed up construction of badly needed infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and water treatment facilities. The $1.3 billion for which there is no account represents about 60 percent of funds allocated to the program. About 70 percent of the $100 billion the US has spent during its 13.5 years in aid to Afghanistan has gone through the Pentagon with the remainder distributed through the US Agency for International Development(USAID) and other civilian departments. John Sopko, the US special investigator general for Afghan reconstruction (SIGAR), spent a year studying the $2.26 billion spent on the Commander's Emergency Response Program(CERP). Sopko's report said:"In reviewing this data, SIGAR found that the De…

Three beheaded by Islamic State in Libya earlier deported from Israel

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Three of those beheaded in Libya by IS had earlier lived in Israel where they sought refugee status before being deported. + Add Imagerecent video posted on line by the Islamic State shows the shooting and beheading of what were thought to be 30 Ethiopian Christians. However, three of the victims have been identified as Eritrean refugees who had earlier been seeking refugee status in Israel. Mesi Fashiya, who is a translator for The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an Israel-based NGO that advocates for the approximately 46,000 refugees in Israel, identified three of the victims. Fashiya told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that one of the victims was her cousin, whom she recognized by photos posted by IS on Facebook before the victims were killed. Her cousin had been deported from Israel to Uganda or Rwanda but was not accepted and went on to Sudan and from there to Libya. The Israeli government will help refugees to leave voluntarily, by providing airline tickets and a grant tha…

Saudis claim an end to "Decisive Storm" bombing raids on Yemen

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"Operation Decisive Storm" a Saudi-led bombing operation targeting Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen will be ended after nearly a month. + Add Image The old operation will replaced by a new one called "Operation Restoring Hope" according to Saudi state-run television. The Saudis are aiming to restore the former president Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of both the Saudis and other Arab states in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and of the United States. Brigadier Gen. Ahmed Assiri, a spokesperson for the Saudi military, said the campaign had achieved its objectives "by a very good planning, very precise execution, by the courage of our pilots, our sailors, our soldiers." Those killed and who had their houses destroyed in the bombings may question the "precise execution" of the bombings:At least 46 people are dead tonight and several hundred others wounded after Saudi warplanes launched attacks on the outskirts of a missile depot in the Yemeni capi…

US quick to react to Russian opposition murder ignores those in the Ukraine

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Ron Paul points out the radical differences in the response from the U.S. government when a prominent opponent of the Russian government is murdered and when several members of the Ukrainian opposition meet the same fate.
+ Add Image Ron Paul is a well-known former member of Congress who represented a Texas district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He retired in 2013. Wikipedia describes Paul: Ronald Ernest "Ron" Paul (born August 20, 1935) is an American physician, author, and former Republican congressman, two-time Republican presidential candidate, and the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party in the 1988 U.S. Presidential Election.

Paul notes that in Ukraine two prominent opposition figures were shot and killed in broad daylight. Ten other prominent opposition figures in the Ukraine have either committed suicide in suspicious circumstances or been killed outright. All these figures were either associated with or friendly to the Yanukovych government ousted a…

Greece tackling impossible task of keeping election promises and pleasing creditors

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Greece said it will keep election pledges to end austerity measures even as its creditors demand pension and labour market changes that go counter to those pledges. + Add Image Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis said Greece wanted a viable solution with the euro zone but still would not budge from their red lines. It is because Greece has not been willing to budge much from these red lines that the Eurogroup and the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund(IMF), the Troika, have not agreed that Greece has met the conditions of the bailout loan with the reforms presented so far. Other Greek officials were equally defiant in refusing to countenance cuts in wages, pensions, selling state assets or increasing taxes. Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said the country won't agree to any privatizations, a position at times contradicted by other officials. It would appear the privatization of Piraeus port is going forward. Lafazanis also claimed …