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Assad agrees to sign convention banning chemical weapons

Syrian President Bahar al-Assad has signed a decree stating that Syria will accede to international law governing chemical weapons, according to a UN spokesperson.
The spokesperson for UN, secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, said: "The secretary general has today received a letter from the government of Syria, informing him that President Assad has signed the legislative decree providing for the accession of Syria to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction of 1992. In their letter, the Syrian authorities have expressed their commitment to observe the obligations entailed by the convention even before its entry into force for Syria." Assad had already said in an interview on Russian TV that he was ready to sign the law. Assad said that he was placing his chemicals under international control at Russia's request, not because of the US threat of force. Assad repeated …

Obama administration now targeting encryption providers to ensure spying is made easy

Another secure email service that encrypts mail for customers has announced that it is shutting it doors to avoid "becoming complicit" in crimes against the American citizens it serves.
Silent Circle is the second company to close down within just a few hours both for the same reason. Founder Jon Callas who helped start the company in 2011 along with Phil Zimmerman said the two saw the handwriting on the wall and decided it was best to shut down now. Zimmerman is also the creator of the widely-used email encryption program Pretty Good Privacy or PGP. Zimmerman told RT earlier in the year: “We’ve created an architecture that doesn’t share cryptographic keys with the servers that we control. So if the government tries to persuade us to hand over something that we might have on our servers, we can’t give them the keys and we can’t give them the decrypted messages. We don’t keep logs of the connections between people. So a court order can’t make us give them s…

Snowden still stuck in Moscow Airport transit area

- Ecuador has asked Russia for talks concerning Edward Snowden according to a Russian state broadcaster. Snowden is seeking asylum in Ecuador to avoid trial in the US. Snowden is believed to be in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. This is confirmed by Russian president Vladimir Putin. As reported earlier in the Digital Journal, President Corea of Ecuador has revoked the travel papers that were issued by the Ecuadorean consul in London. This makes it difficult for Snowden to travel on to Ecuador since his US passport has already been revoked. Ecuador has insisted that Snowden must be on Ecuadorean territory to be given refugee status. Perhaps the talks are aimed at allowing Snowden transit to the Ecuador embassy in Moscow. Alexei Pushkov, the Russian parliamentary foreign affairs committee chair, said on Twitter that the case was tragic."The idealist Snowden was apparently convinced that it would be like in a Hollywood movie: he would blow the whistle, and de…

CIA provided information to South African police that led to arrest of Mandela in 1962

While the US now celebrates and praises Nelson Mandela as the father of South Africa, in the past Mandela was regarded as a dangerous revolutionary associated with violence and communists. The CIA apparently helped ensure his arrest in August of 1962. In an article published in January of 2005, William Blum sets out the background of the CIA involvement in the arrest of Nelson Mandela. Ultimately Mandela was convicted and was jailed for a total of 28 years. By the time Mandela was released in February of 1990, his stature had changed dramatically and then President George Bush Sr. telephoned Mandela to say that Americans rejoiced at his release. Blum points out that this was the same George Bush who once was head of the CIA and who was second in power during an administration that worked closely with South African Intelligence service to provide information about Mandela's African National Congress. The African National Congress was seen by the US as part of the "Internationa…

US National Security Agency spied on both the UN and the European Union in US and Brussels

The well-known German newspaper Der Spiegel claims that the US National Security Agency spied on European Union computer networks in Washington and also at the the UN.The source of the claims are a September 2010 "top secret" document that whistleblower Edward Snowden had taken with him. Journalists from Der Spiegel had read the document in part. The document shows how the NSA  bugged offices and spied on internal EU computer networks in both Washington and the United Nations. The NSA not only listened to conversations and phone calls but were able also to peruse documents and emails. The document specifically referred to the EU as a target. These reports, if confirmed, could be highly damaging to relations between the US and the EU.
Not surprisingly,[url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/10150905/NSA-suveillance-US-bugged-EU-offices.html t=_blank] EU officials [/url]have already demanded that the US explain the alleged bugging.  The NSA also targeted t…

Canada-Europe free trade deal is about expanding corporate power and shrinking democratic control

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is busy promoting CETA, the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement while on his travels in Europe. Critics claim that the agreement is less about free trade and more about extending the power of huge global corporations.
The deal has been criticized ever since negotiations began. Among the claims of critics is that the deal could add up to $3 billion to the price of Canadian drugs by extending patent lengths. It could also restrict the manner in which local governments are able to spend money and also ban any buy local policies. The Wall Street Journal reports that Canadian negotiators have agreed that their will be no investment review on any European firm's takeover or investment in a Canadian firm unless it is over $1.5 billion. Currently any deal over $330 million is subject to review. The higher amount would be phased in over several years. As it liberalizes the rules for giant global European base…

Obama to nominate former Bush official and Republican for FBI director

President Obama will nominate James Comey to serve as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The date when Obama will make the nomination is not known. Obama apparently is anxious to please Republicans, Wall Street, and the military-industrial complex. Comey was a former counsel for Bridgewater Associates, a huge hedge fund , and also a senior official in the Bush administration:"As Deputy Attorney General, Comey was the second-highest ranking official in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and ran the day-to-day operations of the Department, serving in that office from December 2003 through August 2005." No doubt Democrats will play up Comey's role in refusing to reauthorize a program for eavesdropping without warrant when he served as acting attorney general during the Bush administration. This event is played up by the PBS news report appended.However, an even stronger recommendation will be his role in the Arar case where a Canadian citizen…

Car bombing targets French Embassy in Libya

The French embassy in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, was the target of a car bombing early this morning (April 24). Two French guards were wounded in the attack according to early reports. A French official told Reuters: "There was an attack on the embassy. We think it was a booby trapped car. There was a lot of damage and there are two guards wounded."French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the attack and said that everything would be done to find the perpetrators:"I send my solidarity and deepest sympathy to the two injured French guards and my wishes for their recovery." Asad Naeeli, a witness living near the embassy, told Al Jazeera that the bomb went off around 7 in the morning: “This is a big concern as a Libyan. You hear about things happening in different cities and now it is close to home. It is a big concern for the security of Libya, it will delay many things." The car, laden with explosives, was detonated just outside embassy building. The e…

Violence greets General Dempsey's Afghan visit with 11 children and American troops killed

The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Dempsey arrived for a visit aimed at assessing the training of Afghan security forces. Several incidents have been reported one involving Americans and the other children, victims of a NATO air strike. Dempsey no doubt wants to assess the progress made in training Afghan forces to take over security when the main combat troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan at the end of 2014. In one attack, a suicide bomber, detonated a car bomb just as an American convoy passed that was accompanying the provincial governor of Zabul. Three US troops were killed as well as two US civilians and an Afghan doctor who was accompanying the governor. Several Americans and Afghans were wounded including two of the governors' bodyguards. Meanwhile in Shigal district in Kunar province on the Pakistan border, local officials in the region report that eleven children and a woman were killed in an air strike during a NATO operation that targeted Taliban comma…

Violence escalates as Iraq elections approach

As provincial elections scheduled for April 20 draw closer violence continues in Iraq, including a savage attack on a political rally for a Sunni candidate in Baquba The suicide bomber attack on the rally for Muthana al-Jourani was launched during a luncheon with hundreds of supporters in attendance. At least 22 people were killed and over fifty wounded. Among the wounded were al-Jourani himself and three other candidates. A New York Times report puts the death toll at 20 with about 55 wounded and claims that there were two explosions one from the bomber and another from a home-made bomb. The BBC reports that a grenade was thrown into the tent where the supporters were assembled for lunch and just seconds later a suicide bomber inside the tent blew himself up. In the last few weeks more than 11 candidates in the elections have been killed. In two provinces polls have been postponed because of the security situation. Some of the opposition claim that the al-Maliki government is trying t…

Divisions within Chavism

Michael Lebowitz is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver Canada. He was director of the Program in Transformative Practice and Human development in Caracas, Venezuela from 2006-2011 Lebowitz discusses the divisions within Chavism and the outlook for Venezuela during Chavez's fourth term. Much of the material for this article is taken from an interview with a Croatian newspaper published on November 1st 2012. The original interview in Croatian can be found here. Although the interview was long before Chavez' death it nevertheless shows many of the problems that the revolutionary movement in Venezuela faces and gives a brief history of developments there that put the situation in context. Lebowitz discusses his general views on socialism, and the problems of promoting socialism in the 21st century, in the interview on the appended video. Before Chavez was elected, Lebowitz descibes Venezuela as a rentist economy depending upon oil revenues, and…

Rand Paul filibustering Brennan's appointment to CIA head

Representative Rand Paul is carrying out an old-fashioned filibuster that will hold up for an indefinite period the confirmation of John Brennan as chief of the CIA. Rand_Paul is focusing on the dangers of drone strikes against Americans in the US. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today (March 6) that any Republican attempt to block a vote would lead him to start the process of ending debate. However, Reid did not actually begin the paperwork that would allow him to do this. As a result Reid cannot break in on Paul while he is holding the floor. The only solution seems to be for Paul to finally yield. Rand Paul is a Republican and junior United States Senator for Kentucky.He is a member of the Tea Party and describes himself as a constitutional conservative and libertarian. He is the son of the recently retired libertarian and former representative from Texas, Ron Paul. Rand Paul said:“I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Const…

Australian helicopter attack kills two Afghan children herding cattle

In a rare apology NATO admitted a helicopter fired on two boys herding cattle mistaking them for insurgents in Uruzgan province. General Joseph Dunford said in a statement : "I offer my personal apology and condolences to the family of the boys who were killed....I am committed to ensuring we do the right thing for the families of those we harmed, as well as for the community in which they lived."The children, aged seven and eight, were killed while herding cattle. Insurgents apparently had fired at the helicopter that shot the children. There have been numerous incidents in which civilians are killed in air attacks called in when there is a conflict with Taliban fighters or other incidents. Here are a few examples: 13 Feb 2013: 10 people killed, including women and children, in a NATO air strike in Kunar province 14 Oct 12: Three civilians die during a NATO operation in Helmand province 6 Jun 12: 18 civilians killed in a NATO air strike in Logar province Karzai has constant…

Women in Afghanistan often jailed for "moral crimes"

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Even though the Taliban government in Afghanistan fell more than ten
years ago, the justice system is still discriminatory in its treatment
of women as is the legal system.
Al Jazeera reporter, Jennifer Glasse reports from Herat at a women's jail. Many in Afghan jails are in jail for fleeing domestic abuse or violence. Even rape
victims are jailed for what are called "moral crimes" as the appended
video shows, Afghanistan is unique even among those countries which base
 their judicial system on Sharia law in that Afghanistan is the only
jurisdiction which claims there is a crime of fleeing. Heather Barr,
 Afghan Researcher, at Human Rights Watch said: "Afghanistan is the only
 Islamic government in the world that specifically criminalised running
away." There is no mention of the offense in Afghan law. The problem of
running away could be solved if Afghanistan had more women's shelters
and other programs.


A report issued
 by Human Rights Watch last year, …

Taliban are infiltrating Afghan Local Police

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The Taliban are infiltrating local militias funded and trained by the US to attack the Taliban and control security in local areas.
   A recent attack that killed 17 local police was carried out by Taliban infiltrators. Earlier reports, such as this one in Digital Journal, did not go into details about the attack. The New York TImes now reports that several members of the Afghan Local Police drugged 17 of their fellow police officers and then executed them. They then stole all their weapons and fled after setting a police vehicle afire. Afghan officials subsequently said that the attackers were Taliban infiltrators. The Taliban said that the attack was in revenge for atrocities and crimes carried out by these forces against local people. There have been numerous complaints about such forces from local people. A Taliban spokesperson said: “Locals in the area were tired of the atrocities and crimes of these [irregular militias] and their lives and property were not safe."
   Recent…

United Arab Emirates spends $1.4 billion at arms show in Abu Dhabi

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- Sales at the IDEX arms show in Abu Dhabi have been brisk as in total about $2.7 billion in defence contracts have been signed by a number of different countries. The International Defence Exhibition or IDEX is the largest arms exhibition in the Middle East. For the past several years the exhibition has been held in the capital of the UAE Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Khalifa Al Nahyan who is President of the UAE and also Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed forces is benefactor of the show. The UAE expenditure of $1.4 billion includes drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's)The largest deals, which were announced on Tuesday February 19, were for 750 mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicles from Oshkosh Corp worth $380 million. The number of drones purchased was not announced. The unarmed Predator drones were bought from the privately-owned US firm, General Atomics, and had a price tag of $197 million. The drones are said to be designed so that armaments cannot be added. This …

Bolivia nationalizes Spanish firm that operates Bolivian airports

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Bolivia nationalized the company that runs the three largest airports in Bolivia because the government claims the company did not invest in improving the airports.
Servicios de Aeropuertos Bollivianos SA (Sabsa) is a division of Spain's Abertis Infraestructure SA but Sabsa is also partly owned by Aena Aeropuertos SA based in Madrid. Bolivian president Evo Morales said that the privatization of Sabsa in 1997 was equivalent to "robbery" and "looting". He claimed that since that time the company's profits have been exorbitant and investments "ridiculous".
Since taking office in 2006 Morales has moved to put telecommunication, energy and water industries in the hands of the state. As reported in Digital Journal he took over Spanish power companies the end of last year.
The parent company of Sabsa says that it respects the government's decision but trusts it will receive adequate compensation. The company claims that the government had frozen the…

A rare protest in Singapore against new population plan

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On February 16, a rare protest of about 3,000 people took place in Singapore. They were protesting government plans to increase the population of the city state. Protesters worry that a government plan that would raise the current population from 5.3 million to a high as 6.9 million by 2030 will make already strained public services worse and also push up the cost of living. Singapore has an image of political stability and efficient governance but also is known for attempts by the long-ruling People's Action Party to try to stifle opposition. The party has ruled since 1959. There are also strict regulations on public protests. The main organizer of the protest, Gilbert Goh, said the protest is meant to show the public's displeasure with the population plan that was endorsed by the parliament on February 8 :"They want to tell the government, please reconsider this policy. The turnout is a testimony that this policy is flawed and unpopular on the ground." The governme…

Facebook earns over a billion but ends up with net tax benefits of over $400 million

Facebook manages to get a $429 million net tax refund. The refund is not because Facebook had a loss. Facebook earned almost $1.1 billion in profits during 2012. Corporations are able to claim deductions that are not available to individual filers. In Facebook's case the company is able to deduct executive stock options that are used as part of their compensation:"That tax break reduced Facebook’s federal and state income taxes by $1,033 million in 2012, including refunds of earlier years’ taxes of $451 million." This situation is not unique to Facebook. Many large corporations use stock options to compensate not just executives but other employees. The options allow the holders to buy stocks at favorable prices in the future. When the options are exercised the corporations are able to deduct the difference between what the employee paid for the stock and what it is worth. The employee is required to report this difference as a taxable wage. This article reports that 18…

Environmentalists press Obama to reject Keystone XL pipeline

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While Obama stressed the importance of the environment in his State of the Union speech, environmentalists are pressing him to prove it by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.. Already this week, 50 people were arrested while demonstrating against the XL pipeline outside the White House in Washington DC. An even larger rally is planned for this Sunday, Febrruary 17th, in Washington. The rally is billed as being the largest environmental rally in history. The upcoming rally is designed to convince Obama to reject construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from the Alberta tar sands to a port in Texas. While on one side Obama is under pressure from environmentalists to not approve construction, he is under pressure to approve the project from many in Congress and his own party, as well as business interests and big oil companies in particular. Just last month, the Democratic-controlled Senate urged approval, after what was said to be an exhaustive environmental review…

US Senators considering secret court to rule on additions to kill list

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The idea is that a secret court would consider evidence that a suspect should be on a targeted killing list and hence could be attacked by a drone. The court would issue what might be called a "death warrant". The secret drone court would be modeled on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court that was created in 1978. This court approves national security surveillance on US soil. Earlier these decisions had been the prerogative of the president. The court has almost never rejected requests for surveillance warrants although at times they have modified them. The court has also complained at times that evidence presented to the court was not well verified. George Bush carried out surveillance without bothering to go to the court on a number of occasions.. The suggestion of such a court is obviously an attempt to establish some type of legal legitimacy for the drone program by providing judicial oversight that could then be touted as due process. As of now, the d…