Showing posts from 2014

Islamic State offensive creates flood of new refugees in Iraq

There have been many internally displaced Iraqis in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era and ever since. The offensive of the Islamic State that overran most of several provinces has exacerbated the situation with many refugees now outside Iraq as well.

Ammar Younes is an example of one internally displaced Iraqi. Younes sits in a frigid refugee camp in the Kurdish region busy picking shrapnel from a wound in his legs. He was hurt when Islamic State radicals placed a bomb under his car in Mosul. He was a trainer for the Iraqi armed forces and had worked for three years with US forces in Iraq. He was still in the hospital when the Islamic State took over and had to flee still wearing his medical gown. Younes is just one of an estimated more than 2 million Iraqis who have been added to the already huge number of internally displaced and refugee Iraqis.
Estimation of earlier numbers can be found here. Almost 1.7 million Iraqis fled their homes during the period of 2006 to 2008 during the s…

More troops in Iraq means more private contractors

As more and more US troops are sent to Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve private contractors follow to provide various services for the troops and the Iraq government. At present, there are already around 1,800 private contractors in Iraq who work for the US State Department. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently ordered another 1300 but this is likely only a fraction of the ultimate total.

 During the peak of the earlier US deployment to Iraq there were more than 163,000 private contractors in the country. The use of many private contractors often masks the total US involvement. In the earlier deployment there were frequent criticisms of the costs involved and lack of proper oversight of spending. As pointed out in an earlier article, the Pentagon has already been asking for contractors to sign up for long-term deployment to Iraq. A senior US official said that the number of contractors sent will depend on the number of US troops present and their dispersion within Iraq…

Ukraine and rebels swap prisoners on Xmas

Although talks in Minsk so far have not reached a peace deal, there has been agreement between the eastern rebels and the Ukraine to swap prisoners, a pleasant Xmas gift for many families on both sides.

The exchange took place near the rebel-held city of Donetsk. According to the BBC the Ukraine exchanged 222 prisoners held by them for 150 soldiers held by the rebels. The Russian news agency Ria-Novosti said that the exchange took place 35 km or 22 miles north of the city of Donetsk. However, there were also some photos taken of Ukrainian soldiers in Luhansk where their mothers had come to claim them. They were apparently three who were released this Friday.

In spite of the agreement on the prisoner exchange, the talks in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, broke up back on Wednesday and no date was set for their continuation. The meeting was among the Ukraine, Russia, the rebels, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE). Ukr and lasted for five hou…

New UN sponsored peace talks on Libya scheduled for January 6

Peace talks held under UN auspices in September in Ghadames made virtually no progress. There are now two rival governments supported by rival military forces. The new talks are scheduled for January 6.

The UN envoy to Libya, Bernadino Leon, has reported to the UN Security Council that the two main rival groups have agreed to a road map designed to dampen the conflict that has split the country into warring factions and governments. The Tripoli government has as prime minister, Omar al-Hassi, while the internationally recognized government that was elected in June is located in the far east in the city of Tobruk with the prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni. The militia of CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar is now merged with the Libyan armed forces and the Tobruk government has made him head of the armed forces. On November 6th the Libyan Supreme Court declared that the June elections were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk government should be dissolved. The Tobru…

Greece faces new elections unless president elected Dec. 29

Greece's parliament must elect a new president by December 29th or early elections must be called according to the constitution. The Coalition of the Radical Left or Syriza as it is commonly called may be poised to win those election.

Most Greeks are fed up after five full years of recession, continual tax hikes, and record high levels of unemployment. This has increased the popularity of parties on both ends of the political spectrum but Syriza under popular leader Alexis Tsipras is predicted to win any elections. Nikos Samanidis, a top official and founding member of Syriza said: "After decades on the defensive, the left is staging a comeback. Not just in Greece, but in Europe and Latin America as well." In Europe, there is also a surge in the popularity of more radical right parties as well. The popularity of Syriza rattles financial markets. The Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras warned members of parliament that they must elect a new pre…
Leaders of several African countries are calling on the West to intervene in Libya in order to stop instability from spreading across the Sahel and threatening fragile governments in the region.

Some African leaders called on NATO to help stop the flow of weapons to armed groups in the region. The call ignores the fact that the armed groups receiving weapons include CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar's militia which are now integrated with the Libyan National Army(LNA). This is no longer a fight between two umbrella groups of militia but of the Tobruk internationally recognized government and a host of anti-government militias including some radical Islamist militia. Ibrahim Keita, president of Mali, said that unless the problem was resolved in southern Libya there would be no peace in the region.

 It is fair to say that the problem in southern Libya has never been resolved since the overthrow of Gadaffi. There is no reason to expect it will be solved soon. Establi…

Clashes in Libya continue with no peace talks in sight

Libyan Dawn border guards at the Ras Jadir crossing into Tunisia are reported to have fled across the border into Tunisia after being attacked by forces of the Libyan National Army. The LNA and General Haftar's militia are now merged.
The head of the LNA air force, Sagr Geroushi, said that the LNA is in control of the crossing. The border is reported to have been closed by the Tunisians while the clashes are ongoing. However, video supposedly shot early yesterday showed that the Libyan post was deserted but people were walking by unchallenged by anyone.

Two Egyptian workers were reported killed near the border during clashes. A Tunisian official also claimed that the LNA had captured a checkpoint that was 10 kilometers east of the border on the coastal road. Several casualties were reported and some fighters were said to have surrendered to the LNA. According to the Libya Herald there were a number of air raids:Libya Dawlia TV is also reporting LNA air raids th…

Libya clashes threaten operation of eastern oil ports

One Libyan oil export port is no longer functioning because of clashes between government forces and anti-government militia who are launching attacks nearby.
An official told Reuters that Ras Lanuf a large port east of Es Sider was still exporting oil but the al-Waha Oil Company that operates Es Sider had stopped work. Armed groups from Fajr Libya a coalition of militia opposed to the government had launched attacks on al-Hilal an important oil region but Brigadier-General Saqr Jarushi said they had been repelled by the air force:"Air force jets and helicopters struck the fighters as they advanced on Al-Sidra oil terminal," he said, adding that the air raids had caused "a large number of casualties". Libyan officials said. An aide to the Omar al-Hassi, the prime minister of the Tripoli government, said that the attack on Es Sider was part of a much larger offensive called "Sunrise".

The Tripoli government appears to be reacting to the Ha…

American, billionaire and philanthropist George Soros may be head of Ukrainian National Bank.

There are several reports about billionaire American business tycoon and philanthropist, George Soros, possibly being the next head of the Ukrainian National Bank (NBU).

Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, seems to like appointing foreigners to top cabinet posts and gives them immediate Ukrainian citizenship: US-born Natalie Jaresko became finance minister, Lithuania's Aivaras Abromavicius economy minister and Aleksandre Kvitashvili - from Georgia - health minister. Hours before the vote in the parliament that installed them, all three were granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Petro Poroshenko. Jaresko was former president and CEO of Western NIS Enterprise Fund(WNISEF) a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

 The APA reports that Ukraine’s Channel 112 reported the information about the Soros candidacy derived from sources in Verkhovna Rada and people close to Petro Poroshenko. Soros is not the only foreigner among candi…

Cat at Vladivostok airport deli runs up one thousand dollar bill

In the deli at Vladivostok airport a stray cat managed to sneak under a gourmet fish counter and begin nibbling on the delicacies.

After being pawed over by the cat, the scallops, squid, dried octopus and tuna are no longer delicacies and must go in the trash can or perhaps to the local animal rescue facility. The total bill facing the feline would be about $1,000 dollars according to the BBC or 660 UK pounds, or 60,000 Russian roubles. Another UK source Metro upped the value to one thousand UK pounds in its headline.

 The appended video shows the fish-filching feline happily stuffing its face. The cat apparently is a stray that frequently wanders into the airport to search for edibles. The video of the cat has gone viral with the cat now having its own fan-base. The owner of the shop, Irina Kuzmina, told PrimaMedia news(Russian):‘Our staff practically can’t work because of the flow of fans. From the arrival hall, people come directly to us with questions about the cat. B…

Bomb kills two US soldiers in Afghanistan

Kabul - According to Interior Ministry spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi the vehicle being driven by the two soldiers was hit by the bomb. The international military coalition (ISAF) provided less detail saying only that two of its members had been killed.
Seddiqi said: "It was a magnetic bomb. It was either attached to the vehicle belonging to the foreigners or it was planted and detonated remotely." Another source said at least three civilians had also been killed in the attack Fox News reported a spate of attacks in which at least 19 Afghans were killed along with the two American soldiers. The Washington Post says that the attack that killed the two Americans was on an ISAF convoy north of Kabul, near the Bagram military base. Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahi claimed that they were responsible for the attack.

 Another attack on Saturday morning killed 12 Afghan civilians while they were clearing mines in Helmand province, according to Omar Zwak, a spokesp…

Pirate Bay torrent site raided by police and taken off line

Pirate Bay was allegedly the most popular place to download copyrighted material but it was taken off line last week after a police raid.

Hollywood has long been attempting to crack down on Pirate Bay and similar sites. The industry claims that in 2006 alone, piracy cost it $6.1 billion US. Hollywood decided to go after the biggest site Pirate Bay. However, shutting the site down required pressure from the US government: Given Sweden's lax laws regarding copyrighted materials, Hollywood had to enlist the United States government for help cracking down on the site. The US threatened that unless something was done to take the site offline, it'd impose trade sanctions against Sweden by way of The World Trade Organization. That led to Swedish police raiding the outfit in 2006, confiscating enough servers and computer equipment to fill three trucks and making two arrests. Three days later, the site was back up and running and more popular than ever thanks to a swell o…

Fragile economies in Russia and Ukraine may help ceasefire in east to hold

On Friday the fragile ceasefire extended after the recent "Day of Silence" called for by the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, appeared to be holding for the most part.

Poroshenko had called for the "Day of Silence" back on Tuesday December 9. Poroshenko hoped that the move would lead to a more durable ceasefire and eventually peace talks. Although eastern separatists agreed to the truce, the Ukrainian military accused them of violating the agreement. A ceasefire agreed to back on Sept. 5 has been continually violated by both sides. UN estimates are that there were more than 10 casualties a day on average after the agreement up to the Day of Silence. Ukraine, and NATO as well, claim that Russia has thousands of its own troops in rebel-held areas. Russia vehemently denies this.   Andriy Lysenko, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military, said Thursday that three soldiers had been killed in the last 24 hours and that there had been 22 violation…

Six released Guantanamo inmates arrive in Uruguay but facility far from closed.

On December 7, six Guantanamo prisoners flew to Uruguay. There were four Syrians, a Palestinian, and a Tunisian. The six had never been charged and had been cleared for release five years ago in 2009. Ali al-Shaaban, a 32-year-old Syrian, had been held in Guantanamo for the last 12 years as a suspected member of Al-Qaeda. He was moved by the kindness shown him in Uruguay and said: “We are so happy to be here...We are very grateful to President Mujica for everything he’s done. I don’t want to let Mujica down.”

 Jose Mujica said that his move to receive the prisoners was meant as a humanitarian gesture. Mujica knows what it is like to be incarcerated in harsh conditions as the 79-year-old was a Tupamaros guerrilla who spent 13 years in prison, two in solitary confinement, during the time of a military dictatorship in Uruguay. Mujica said: “It’s a very traumatic situation, I can’t transmit how they must feel, some of us have lived through similar things.”

One of those rel…

Press provides selective coverage of Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai has recently received her Nobel Peace prize, an award she deserves much more than people such as Barack Obama or Henry Kissinger who have at times promoted war but who were also awarded the prize.
Malala has spent her life promoting education for children, certainly a noble cause and worth supporting. The western media applauds and publicizes statements such as the one she made to the UN: "..let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen, can change the world. Education is the only solution.” Emphasis upon education alone however, as Ben Norton points out, fails to call attention to the fact that most citizens in underdeveloped countries suffer also from grinding poverty. Malala herself in her statements has not ignored this factor. In the same speech in which she emphasized the role of education, she also emphasized what she called " a glorious struggle against illi…

UN-sponsored Libya dialogue postponed

UN Special Envoy Bernadino Leon announced that talks aimed at resolving Libya's political crisis scheduled to begin today have been postponed until the beginning of next week.

An earlier set of talks in Ghadames in September had produced no progress. The talks were only with representatives of the internationally recognized government in Tobruk led by prime minister Al-Thinni, along with some representatives who had been elected but had boycotted the meetings of the House of Representatives in Tobruk. No militia leaders nor representatives of the rival government in Tripoli were included in the talks.

 Since that meeting, the Libyan Supreme Court ruled on November 6 that the June elections were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk government should be dissolved. This ruling was immediately rejected by the Tobruk government. The most recent statement from the UN does not refer to any government but just to "parties" and "stakeholders." The internati…

Psychologist who helped plan CIA "torture" program sleeps soundly

Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell were pyschologists who were hired as private contractors by the CIA to plan and develop methods to get terror suspects to talk.

Among the techniques were interrogation tools such as waterboarding, slapping, and sleep deprivation. A CIA medical professional warned in an email back on June 16, 2003: “Although these guys believe that their way is the only way, there should be an effort to define roles and responsibilities before their arrogance and narcissism evolve into unproductive conflict in the field,” These two psychologists are among very few major participants in the torture program who are actually identified. There are many who are calling for legal prosecutions as a result of the report and the two psychologists could be among those against whom charges could be filed.

 However, given the attitude of the Obama administration it is highly unlikely that any legal action will ever be taken against anyone in the US. The only person c…