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Showing posts from September, 2014

UN brokers Yemen peace deal between government and Houthi rebels

The Houthi rebels in Yemen accepted a UN-brokered peace deal after capturing much of the capital Sanaa. The deal will require disarmament and withdrawal from areas they seized recently.



The deal was signed by the Shiite rebels along with political rivals the Islah party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, with other parties signing as well. The Houthis appear to be the strongest force in the capital Sanaa. They have thousands of fighters in the city, man checkpoints, and are well supplied with weapons seized from army barracks. The Houthis may be reluctant to give up their present power status. While the Shiite Houthis are a minority among the Sunni majority in Yemen as a whole, they are a majority in their strongholds in the north. However, separatist rebels in the south also oppose the central government.
 Even while the deal was being signed some Houthi fighters fought with security guards at the house of the national security chief Ali-Ahmadi. Two Houthi fighters were k…

Entomophagy may help provide protein for growing global population

Entomophagy the consumption of "bugs," may become much more prevalent in the future especially to supply protein and ensure that a food supply is available for the world's growing population.



In a video here a University of British Columbia(UBC) researcher suggests that bugs could be a common source of protein in the future. Yasmin Akhtar, is a Research Associate in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the UBC. She discusses what the future of entomophagy might be with CBC reporter Deborah Goble. Bugs typically contain many vitamins and minerals as well as protein.
 Eating of insects is hardly new. The practice dates back to prehistoric times. Not only adult insects have been eaten but also the eggs, larvae, and pupae of insects. Many animals other than humans eat insects and even some plants live on them. While many in the west may be revolted at the very idea of eating insects, there are over 1,000 species of insects known to be eaten in 80 percent of …

Taliban seize key area between Kabul and Kandahar on major highway

Hundreds of Taliban attacked the Ajrestan District of Ghazni province a key link between the capital Kabul and southern areas. The Taliban have also been making advances in the south recently.



Some 700 Taliban are said to be involved in the battle which has lasted about a week already. Although fighting is still continuing, there have been over 100 killed and the Afghan forces have been pushed back giving the Taliban effective control over the area. The highway through the area links Kabul to the main southern city of Kandahar.
 Provincial officials say they have lost all contact with police in the area. NATO has attempted to allow the Afghan military to counter Taliban attacks of late with the result that the Taliban are making gains in the south and central areas of Afghanistan. Earlier, Taliban had attacked a government compound in the area containing intelligence and police offices killing at least 8 security personnel and losing 19 of their own fighters. Deput…

Watch for more foreign involvement in Libya

A common narrative about what is happening in Libya will be about the threat of radical Islamist groups such as Ansar al-Sharia, a group thought to be responsible for the attack on the American consul in Benghazi which killed the ambassador among others.


Reuters has an article on the issue noting that a group of countries mostly Western and Arab state expressed readiness to help Libya's government confront "a growing presence of Islamic militant groups in the North African country." The entire narrative of what has happened fails to mention CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar, Operation Dignity or his own attacks that started the present confrontation. Nor does the article mention that Haftar allies attacked and burned the Libyan parliament and kidnapped Islamist officials and legislators. The threat is apparently only from Islamist-linked militia. This is not so much news reporting as it is propaganda that ensures the public does not understand the context…

Pittsburgh Reverend tased while praying over dead son

Reverend Earl Baldwin Jr. has filed a lawsuit against Pittsburgh police after they are alleged to have restrained and tased him while he claims he was praying for his stepson Mileek Grissom in a hospital emergency room.



Baldwin explained on local station WPSI: “I needed to tell him his family was going to be OK. I was going to do everything I could to make sure they were OK.” The appended video from a camera in the hospital shows Baldwin with several officers surrounding him. The officers can be seen trying to pull him away from his son and shooting him in the back with a taser. The attendant officers claim that Baldwin was interfering with attempts by doctors to revive Grissom. However, the attorney for the family said that Grissom was dead at the time of the incident and was not being treated. Grissom's mother was denied entry into the hospital at the time of the incident. The hospital, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), issued a statement counter t…

US bombings in Syria anger almost all Syria rebels

The Islamic State(IS) has captured territory held by other rebel groups and fought against them. Surely the rebels should welcome the strikes. However, the strikes were directed not only against IS but other radical rebel groups as well.



The US bombing attacks also targeted Jabhat al-Nusra(JaN), an Al-Qaeda-linked radical group but one that has mostly fought in cooperation with the FSA and other rebel groups such as the Islamic Front. There are reports that the bombing attacks were directed also at Ahrar al-Sham in the Aleppo area. The group is not linked to Al-Qaeda at all and operates in tandem with the Free Syrian Army that is supported by the west.
One US official explained: "We're characterizing our targets as Khorasan and ISIS but its possible others were there. It is a toxic soup of terrorists".Khorasan is a jihadist group that has migrated to Syria. It is associated with Al Qaeda and apparently includes a bomb-maker from Yemen. It hopes to hit targets…

China opposes any further US and EU sanctions on Russia

China has been careful in its responses to the Ukrainian situation. While it wants to retain Russia as an ally it is concerned that the Crimea referendum could set a precedent for areas such as Tibet, which is part of China.



The European Union has threatened Russia with further sanctions after Russia was accused of sending troops into Ukraine to help separatists in their battle with Ukrainian forces. There are divisions among European leaders and it is not clear when any further sanctions might come into effect.
Spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Qin Gang, said: "A political solution is the only way out, sanctions do not help to solve the underlying problems in Ukraine. It may lead to new and more complicating factors." China has said also that it respects Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and wants to develop friendly relations with it. In a joint statement released during an official visit of Russian president V…

Fox news commentator Stephen Hayes on DHS terror watch list

Stephen Hayes is an unlikely candidate to be on the Department of Homeland Security's Terrorist Watchlist. As a senior writer for the conservative Weekly Standard and a regular commentator on Fox news he seems an unlikely terrorist sympathizer.



Hayes, as well as contributing to conservative media, has been on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, even C-Span as well. His conservative neo-con credentials include being picked as the official biographer of former vice-president Dick Cheney. The Weekly Standard could be called the home base of the neo-cons. The Weekly Standard has never made money but depended upon subsidies from prominent conservatives and the owner billionaire media magnate Rupert Murdoch until 2009 when it was sold to the Clarity Media Group. That company is also owned by a billionaire entrepreneur Philip Anschutz ranked by Forbes at 38th richest person in the US worth about $11 billion in 2014. Murdoch claimed he was not interested in selling the Weekly Standard b…

Washington avoids discussion of costs of war on the Islamic State

If the US war against the Islamic State were a social program there would be immediate requests for an estimate of the costs. If the duration and extent of the program was indefinite criticism would be immediate and harsh.



With respect to the Obama long term program to degrade and eliminate the Islamic State, costs appear to be irrelevant and in any case not worthy of discussing. We have no idea how long the attacks on the Islamic State will last nor the extent of the program but even now the attacks have extended from Iraq into Syria. While Obama so far has ruled out any boots on the ground, he has already sent about 1,500 special forces to Iraq. Apparently they do not count as boots on the ground.
The White House refuses to even estimate how much the war has cost up to now let alone what it might cost in the future. When press secretary Josh Earnest was pressed on the cost issue he said: “I don’t have an estimate on that. I know that we’re interested in having an open d…

Rival Afghan presidential candidates reach deal at last

Rival candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani were said to be close to a power-sharing agreement back on Tuesday Sept. 16 but talks stalled in part because the two could not agree when the results of final vote audit should be released.



Abdullah does not want the results as they now stand made public.Those results are widely thought to show him losing by a considerable margin even though he led by a good margin in the first vote before the runoff. Both Abdullah and Ghani had assured their western backers that they would support a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry. There would be a complete audit of all the votes cast and the formation of a unity government that would see the loser given a new chief executive position.
 The latest report from the Los Angeles Times indicated that the two rival candidates finally reached a deal yesterday September 19 on the formation of a unity government, even though they still have divisions over the final results. T…

Obama's Syria bombing will violate international law

The Obama administration has explained why it thinks it has the legal authority to bomb IS in Iraq and Syria although many doubt whether the justifications are sound. No justification has yet been been given for the attacks under international law,.



Obama argues that the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after 9/11 to allow military action against Al Qaeda and those linked to the 9/11 attacks gives him the required authorization to use military forces against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. However,. Al Qaeda has disowned the Islamic State(IS) and IS has even fought against the group recognized by Al Qaeda in Syria the Al-Nusra Front. The Islamic State had nothing to do with 9/11.
 So far the Obama administration has not even attempted to provide a justification for attacking the Islamic State under international law. Since the Iraqi government has asked for and approved the US military actions against IS in Iraq, the problem will be t…

Moderate Syrian rebels of FSA refuse to join Obama coalition to fight the Islamic State

The Free Syrian Army(FSA) that the US classifies as moderate Syrian rebels has announced that it will not join the US anti-Islamic State coalition.



The head of the western-backed Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad Assad, the leader of the FSA also said that his group would not participate in attacks against the Islamic State. Assad is not related to the Syrian president Bashar Assad. The Colonel's main objection to the coalition is that it does not have as its primary goal regime change to replace president Bashar Assad and his government. Colonel Assad said: "If they want to see the Free Syrian Army on their side, they should give assurances on toppling the Assad regime and on a plan including revolutionary principles."
 The statement by the Colonel is in contrast to an earlier statement by the western-backed political group, the Syrian National Coalition associated with the FSA and recognized by some countries, including many Arab states, as representing the…

Israel shows off its drones at conference in Tel Aviv

Only a few weeks after the recent truce that ended the Gaza war, Israel weapons manufacturers are displaying weapons used in the conflict at their annual Unmanned Systems Conference in Tel Aviv, from Sept. 14th to 19th.



The US Embassy in Tel Aviv is a co-host of the event. The US Embassy website says that "senior officials from commercial and government entities" attend from Europe, Asia, North and South America.
 Among sponsors are Elbit Systems,the largest private Israeli defense contractor. Elbit has over 12,000 employees. Elbit produces the Hermes 450 drone that was probably used for attacks during the Gaza conflict this summer. There are photos of the aircraft operating in Gaza. The company website claims that the Hermes 450 had been fighting terrorism for over a decade and claims that it is the main platform of the Israeli Defense Forces in counter-terrorism operations. The drone is described as a "multi-role tactical high-performance unmanned aircra…

More mysterious plane attacks on Islamist positions near Tripoli

General Saqr Jarrushi, an aide to CIA-linked General Hafter, claimed that their forces carried out an air strike on the town of Gharyan, 120 kilometers southwest of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.



Militia in the town are associated with the umbrella group Libya Dawn of mostly Islamist militias that control Tripoli and the international airport there. The same group had been targeted on several nights as it wrested control of Tripoli and the international airport from the Zintan brigades that are allies of Haftar. The rebels accused the UAE and Egypt of being behind the attacks, as did the US — at least for a time. Haftar claimed it was a joint operation by his forces and the international community. The planes involved were not of a type that are part of the Libyan air force.
The Libyan state news agency said that 15 people were wounded in the recent raid directed at a munitions depot. General Haftar began the main conflict with Islamist militias in May and called it Operatio…

Obama breaks promise to declassify pages of 9/11 report on foreign involvement

In 2002 a report was issued that gave details of support for the hijackers behind the 2001 attacks. Twelve years later the pages dealing with the support still remain classified in spite of many promises to have them released.



The pages are part of a US House-Senate Intelligence Committee's Joint Inquiry. The section classified was on "specific sources of foreign support". George W. Bush classified the pages for national security reasons. Bush himself was criticized by many for not declassifying the material. Critics say that the American public and especially family members of victims of the attacks deserve to know the contents of the report. The attack, involved four hijacked airlines. Two crashed into the New York World Trade Center's Twin Towers. One crashed into the Pentagon, and a third crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The attack killed almost 3,000 people.
 Attempts to declassify the documents are not new with 46 Senators urging release of t…

IMF loan to Ukraine chains it to the west

Back in April of this year after the February uprising against president Yanukovych in the Ukraine, the IMF approved a loan of $17 billion to the new Ukrainian government.



The $17 billion is eight times the normal quota. Usually a country will be able at most to borrow just twice its annual quota. However, the Ukraine loan is four times even that amount, indicating that the IMF was very anxious to grant the loan even though past loans have not worked out well, as when a loan was made previously in 2012: The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund has decided that Ukraine is expected to engage in post-program monitoring1 with the Fund, following the expiration on December 27, 2012 of the 29-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with exceptional access (SDR 10 billion; US$ 15.2 billion; 729 percent of quota). The program went off-track with only two purchases made in the total amount of SDR 2.25 billion (about US$ 3.4 billion). As of June 30, 2013 Ukraine’s outstandi…

Vietnam renews adoptions with US but Russia still bans US adoptions

The United States and Vietnam will resume adoptions, ending a six-year ban. The ban was imposed after reports of babies being sold and some children offered without parental consent.



The new system will allow Americans to adopt children who have special needs or are over five years old. The adoptions will begin again after the Vietnam decides which US adoption service groups will be authorized to represent parents in the US. Nguyen Van Binh, director of the adoption agency at the Vietnamese Justice Ministry said that two agencies would be issued licenses next week.
 The US government also announced the renewal of adoptions: Beginning September 16, 2014, USCIS will accept and adjudicate Form I-800 petitions filed on behalf of children from Vietnam who meet the specific criteria of a Special Adoption Program under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). The announcement …

Obama may be planning to intervene in Libya with others

In Obama's recent announcement of the expansion of attacks against the Islamic State in Iraq and also into Syria, he also spoke of the need for vigilance in northern Africa.



Obama may also be turning his sights on a possible intervention in Libya which is more and more described in the media as a failed state. Ever since the CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar began his Operation Dignity against Islamist militias and had his allies the Zintan Brigades attack and burn parliament while kidnapping some Islamist lawmakers and officials, there have been counter-attacks by umbrella groups of mostly Islamist militias who now control Tripoli and also most of Benghazi.
Obama could argue that the success of Islamist militias could lead to a safe haven for radical Islamist groups. Some radical groups are already associated with Islamist militia umbrella groups, especially in Benghazi, including Ansar al Sharia, the group accused of the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. The US…