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Showing posts from October, 2015

Portuguese president refuses to allow lefitsts to form majority government

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While the government of Prime Minister Pedro Coelho was re-elected after recent elections, it is only with a minority. Coelho's government was known for its cooperation in passing austerity programs in return for a bailout four years ago. + Add Image Leftist parties including the Socialists and Communists finally managed to bridge their differences and agreed to a coalition government that would have a majority in parliament. Coelho has not been able to form a coalition that would have a majority in parliament. Nevertheless president, Anibal Silva, reappointed Coelho as prime minister: "I have designated Mr Passos Coelho as prime minister because he is the head of the coalition which won the October 4 parliamentary elections," Silva refused to entertain the idea that he should appoint the left-wing coalition that would have a majority. The group has a mandate to undo the austerity regime Coelho created. Silva's move will appease the authorities in the EU and financia…

Attacker in Israel said to be "Arab terrorist" until he was found to be Jewish

Two Israel Defence Force(IDF) soldiers shot and killed a man who they claim was acting erratically and attempted to grab one of their guns. They shot and killed the man because they believed he was an Arab terrorist. + Add Image Yehuda Zahav of the ZAKA rescue team told the Jerusalem Post:“When I arrived with the ZAKA team at the site of the supposed terrorist attack, it seemed to be a ‘standard’ current terrorist attack, a stabbing attempt, and the terrorist was apprehended..I wanted to cover the body in a black bag [reserved for terrorists]. After I was asked to take care of the body I saw that he was a Jew, and that it was mistake to speak of a terrorist. I immediately notified the police and we switched to a white ZAKA body bag.” Remi Brulin, from the New York University, has often written on the "discourse of terrorism." He tweeted that the incident proves what he has long argued that the term "terrorism" is basically meaningless except for its propagandistic …

UN's special envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon has term extended

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The UN Special Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, has been asked to continue his work even after the refusal of both rival governments in Libya to approve his final draft of the Libyan Political Agreement after a year of negotiations. + Add Image Leon had set a final deadline of October 20 for the approval of the agreement, one of many deadlines the two sides have ignored. The next day the mandate of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) ran out. The HoR earlier had unilaterally extended its mandate, but this is likely illegal as the mandate was supposed to be extended only by a referendum. However, under the Libyan Political Agreement, the HoR could have continued but under the terms of the LPA as approved by both sides. Leon and many in the international community have put pressure on the HoR to sign the agreement with Leon even suggesting that the HoR must sign the agreement to obtain international recognition. So far no country has come forth with an announcem…

Welfare often helps rather than corrupts the poor

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A common view of welfare is that it corrupts the poor and creates a culture of dependency that needs to broken by cutting off benefits and forcing the poor to find jobs and break their addiction to welfare. + Add Image A recent article in the New York Times, by Eduardo Porter, shows that at least some of the contentions behind this viewpoint are not consistent with some of the facts about the effects of welfare. Of course there is nothing easier than to find specific incidents in which welfare has corrupted the poor and recipients are successfully gaming the system. This tells one nothing about the overall effects of welfare payments but creates a public bias against welfare that can be used to cut benefits without much negative fallout, except from anti-poverty groups, that can be branded as "special interests." Often anti-welfare positions are associated with the conservative politicians and Republicans in the United States. Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Instit…

Commander of LIbya Army, Haftar pledges allegiance to government only if they reject peace agreement

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CIA-Linked General Khalifa Haftar pledged his loyalty to the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government but only if they reject the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) brokered by UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon. + Add Image Haftar claims the LPA favours those who back terrorism in Libya. Haftar said his hands would not be tied "if the HoR goes too far, under Western dictation and foreign pressure on its president and other members and yields to form a government which calls itself the Accord, but in fact is biased toward the supporters of terrorism in Libya.” The unity government to be formed under the LPA is called the Government of National Accord(GNA). Haftar said of the Libyan army: “We will not rest until the security of our injured country is restored.” His Operation Dignity, which he started a year ago in May, is intended not just to defeat radical Islamists such as the Islamic State, but the militia of the rival General National Congress gov…

United Nations threatens sanctions against those blocking peace progress

For a long time now the international community and the UN have been cheerleaders for the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) brokered by the UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon.
+ Add Image The LPA will set up a unity government, the Government of National Accord(GNA), that will do away with the system of rival conflicting governments that exists at present. The eastern part of the country is mostly under control of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) based in Tobruk. Much of the west is controlled by the General National Congress(GNC) government based in Tripoli. The two parliaments were supposed to vote on the agreement several weeks ago. The HoR met to vote a week ago and the next day but put off any vote until today. This is the day before the HoR mandate runs out. Leon had insisted the agreement should be ratified by then so that the new GNA could take power. This obviously will not happen. The HoR has unilaterally extended its mandate in any event.
The…

US and Russia agree to measures to avoid accidents over Syrian skies

While the US and Russia agree on little with respect to Syria they have agreed to measures that will help ensure flight safety for the two countries during bombing sorties over Syria. + Add Image Russian Colonel-General Andrei Kartapolov said: "All technical matters have already been agreed upon, with Russian and U.S. lawyers now cross checking the text of the document. We hope this document will be signed in the very near future." He said he wanted broader cooperation on Syria with the U.S. and other countries. Russia had asked to share intelligence with the US and for the US to suggest targets to strike. So far the U.S. has refused such cooperation. However, the U.S. realizes the necessity of avoiding unfortunate accidents over Syrian skies. A U.S. official , speaking anonymously, confirmed to Reuters that a memorandum of understanding between the two countries setting out basic safety procedures over Syria was being finalized. Kartapolov also said Russia had established di…

Governor of Okinawa withdraws permission for construction at US base

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The governor of Okinawa, Takeshi Onaga, has revoked permission for construction work on a new U.S. base at Henoko Bay on the Japanese island. + Add Image 1 of 3  For two decades, the U.S. and Japanese military planners have been attempting to relocate the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma — now located in the middle of a crowded city — on the island to a less populated area. The plan for the relocation has faced growing opposition and many protests since Onaga an opponent of the base won over the incumbent governor last November. The conflict has grown since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to complete the base. The deal for relocation was agreed to back in the 1990s. Abe is promoting increased military spending and military ties with the U.S. in a bid to counter China's growing military power. He has reinterpreted the pacifist Japanese constitution so as to allow Japanese forces to engage in combat missions outside of Japan. Abe reversed a decades-old policy that allowed Japanese…

Both Libyan rival governments critical of new UN-brokered agreement

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Western leaders are the main cheerleaders for the proposed Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) and Government of National Accord(GNA) as well as the members of the government named by Bernardino Leon, the UN special envoy for Libya. + Add Image The cheerleading of the international community is deafening and no doubt irritating to both the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) in Tobruk in the east, and the General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli. Neither of the two parliaments have ratified the draft. The HoR is to discuss the draft and the nominees today. The HoR earlier rejected the amended draft but Leon was able to persuade them to go to a dialogue meeting in New York and another in Skhirat, where Leon suggested names for senior officials of the government. GNC member Mahmoud al-Gharyani said: "I think what Leon did was a complete farce. We were surprised by the proposal. There must be a compromise because what has happened is not right and will never …

Communist Party head elected prime minister of Nepal

The parliament speaker announced that K.P Sharma  Oli had received 338 votes from the 597 members in the Nepal parliament. Oli is chair of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) since 2014 when he won over Jhala Khanai by a 98 to 75 vote.
+ Add Image 1 of 2  Oli's candidacy had the support of at least a dozen parties including the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal. For years Nepal was subject to a Maoist insurgency in the countryside.The new government faces many problems including protests by Madhesi and Tharu communities over the new constitution. Over 40 people died within a month during clashes. The minorities live in the south on the border with India. Nepal is facing a diplomatic row with India over the treatment of the Madhesis, who are of Indian origin, resulting in reported blocking of trade along border points.
The new Nepal constitution is secular. In a first in Asia, the constitution recognizes the rights of the LGBT community. In 2007 the Nepal Supreme …

US bombing of Kunduz hospital in Afghanistan may have been a war crime

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The Nobel Peace Prize-winning group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) sent letters to 76 countries that have signed Article 90 of an additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions. + Add Image The Conventions set out rules for conducting armed conflict including rules meant to protect non-combatants. MSF believes the attack on its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan may have been a war crime. The attack killed at least 22 people. Among those killed were 12 MSF staff and 10 patients. Thirty-three people are still unaccounted for. The U.S. military, the Afghans, and NATO are already planning investigations into the incident that the US now calls a mistake. Obama called MSF president Joanne Liu and apologized for the attack. Liu however sees an independent investigation as necessary especially since there have been inconsistencies between US and Afghan accounts in recent days. Liu said: ”We cannot rely on only internal military investigations by the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces." The MSF sen…

Pentagon finally scraps failing expensive training program for moderate rebels in Syria

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After considerable criticism, the Pentagon has announced it is ending its $500 million program to train and equip vetted moderate Syrian rebels to form a New Syrian Force to fight the Islamic State. + Add Image The U.S. is now planning to provide arms and equipment to select vetted groups and leaders in Syria already fighting the Islamic State. Secretary of State Ash Carter said:"I remain convinced that a lasting defeat of ISIL in Syria will depend in part on the success of local, motivated, and capable ground forces.I believe the changes we are instituting today will, over time, increase the combat power of counter-ISIL forces in Syria and ultimately help our campaign achieve a lasting defeat of ISIL." There were just two groups of trained rebels sent to Syria. The first group of 54 was quickly routed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. In recent testimony to the U.S. Congress CENTCOM commander General Lloyd Austin III testified that less than half a dozen U.S.-trained rebe…

CIA-linked Khalifa Haftar's alternative plan for Libya

A recent article in the Middle East Eye describes what the author, Mattio Toaldo, calls Khalifa Haftar's Plan B. The plan would replace that of the UN to create a unity Government of National Accord(GNA) supported by the existing two rival governments. + Add Image The author is a policy fellow in the Middle East and North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London. The plan for the GNA is still ongoing. The UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, who is organizing the dialogue between the rival governments, hoped to announce the names of the main officials of the GNA last night. However, that did not happen as the General National Congress(GNC) government requested more amendments to the final draft of the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA). Leon says there can be no amendments. Neither parliament, including the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) has agreed yet to the final draft even though both sides sent negotiators to the rec…