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Showing posts from June, 2017

As US downs Assad aircraft tensions with Russia in Syria increase

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(June 20)Russia has said that it will now consider US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its forces are also present as "targets" after the U.S. downed a Syrian jet.
TheRussian defence ministrysaid it would track U.S.-led coalition aircraft with missile systems and military aircraft although the statement did not say that they would shoot the aircraft down. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has announced that it issuspending flights in Syria as a precaution. In a statement theRussian Defence Ministry said: “All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.” On Sunday a US F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 jet in the countryside west of the city of Raqqa. This is the first ever downing of a Syrian jet by the U.S. since the civil war began in 2011. While the Assad government said the plane was on a mission against…

Lebanese academic to be new UN special envoy to Libya

The former Lebanese Minister of Culture from 2000 to 2003, Ghassan Salame has been appointed as the new UN envoy to Libya by the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutterres according to a number of media sources.
Salame will also be the new head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Salame will be the sixth envoy appointed since Gadaffi was overthrown in 2011. In November 2015, the present envoy and Special Representative of the (Secretary General(SRSG) in Libya, Martin Kobler, took over from Bernardino Leon, the fourth envoy. Leon was offered a well-remunerated position in the UAE after he left his post. Salame is the second Lebanese person to take on the role. Tarek Mitri was the second head of UNSMIL but held the job for less than two years leaving the job in August of 2014. The job is a tough task. Kobler was unable to push through the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) by having the House of Representatives (HoR) vote confidence in the UN-brokered Government of Nationa…

Former Gadaffi air force chief rumoured to have returned to Libya

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Gaddafi's last commander of his air force Ali Sharif Al-Rifi fled Libya in 2011 but is now reported to have returned to his home town of Waddan in the Al-Jufra area.
Al-Rifi fled in 2011 as Tripoli fell. He is thought to have fled over the border into Niger where he met the Tuareg leader and Gaddafi loyalist Ali Kana.Al-Rifi had previously served in the 1986-87 war with Chad, during which Khalifa Hafta,r now commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), was captured. The LNA are the armed forces of the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) government. After being captured, Haftar and his mean were abandoned by Gaddafi. At the time, Al-Rifi had been a ground forces commander during the war, organizing logistics and reinforcements from the central desert area of Al-Kufra. Al-Rifi later moved to the Niger capital Niamey where he was a close associate of Saadi Gaddafi the third son of Moammar Gaddafi the former Libyan leader. On the the fifth of March of 2014 Saadi was arrested …

Interest rate rise by US Feds not likely to have much effect on consumer borrowing costs

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(June 17) The US Federal Reserve increased short-term interest rates by a quarter point on Wednesday to an upper limit of 1.25 percent. The increase will have a quite modest impact on consumer's borrowing costs.
The increase was widely expected. If the Feds continue to keep raising rates it would be wise for consumers to adjust now for any effect such moves might have later on. Increased rates get passed on to consumers who borrows causing higher rates for all types of loans including on credit car balances and car loans. If you are planning on getting a new mortgage or if your present mortgage is variable rate, there could be an increase in the amount you pay. It might be wise to move from a variable rate mortgage to a fixed rate. Since rates are likely to continue to rise it might be wise to take out a mortgage now rather than wait for another increase. As credit card rates could rise, it might be a good idea to try and pay down credit card debt. If you have a student loan with …

US general claims 10 to 20 thousand US troops needed in Afghanistan to defeat Taliban

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General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the U.S. army said that the 16-year-old U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was a disgrace.
Speaking withFox News, Keane claimed that 10 to 20 thousand more troops were needed to win against the Taliban. Keane made his remarks just as reports emerged thatDefense Secretary Mattiswould send about another 4,000 troops to the country. Earlier recommendations were for from 3,000 to 5,000 to be sent. Keane insisted that the report of 4,000 additional troops being sent is only speculation but that such an amount would not be enough to defeat the Taliban saying: "There's no doubt the 4,000 will be helpful. But the real question is: Will it change the momentum of the war to our favor? My judgment is it’s likely not to." Given that the combat mission in Afghanistan is supposed to be over and that at one time there were as many as 100,000 U.S. trips in Afghanistan and the Taliban were still not defeated it hardly seems wise to send more…

Libya's oil production could reach one million barrels per day soon

Speaking to U.K. ambassador, Peter Millett, Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) chair Mustafa Sanalla claimed that Libya was on course to produce one million barrels per day by the end of July.
This production level has not been reached since back in 2013. Sanalla noted though that there were repeated attempts to disrupt production. Smuggling of oil and fuel and fallout from the Qatar crisis were also problems. The death of a worker in Libya's largest oil field recently caused abrief closing downof production as workers protested. Sanalla mentioned the need to improve safety for oil workers, the protection of the environment, and providing aid for local communities dependent on oil jobs. Sanallah hosted the Turkish ambassador to Libya, Ahme Dogan. Dogan invited Sanallah to the upcoming World Petroleum Congress meeting to be held in Turkey next month. Even though the Turkish embassy has reopened in Tripoli, Turkish oil companies have yet to resume operations but Dogan hoped that …

US may send 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan

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President Donald Trump recently gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan. Mattis could officially announce the increased troop level as early as next week.
The U.S. has been in Afghanistan now for 16 years with no sign of the war ending. Indeed, the Islamic State is now active in the country and the Taliban are gaining control of more territory. Mattis is now the third U.S. commander in chief in Afghanistan. The new force will be the largest since Donald Trump took power. Mattis had said that he did not have enough forces to help Afghan forces fight off the Taliban. An anonymous administration official claimed that most of the additional troops will be used to train and advise Afghan forces. However, a smaller number will be used for counter-terror operations. The additional troops will no doubt result in more casualties. There have been several this year but the number will remain small in comparison to the period when the U.S. was involved i…

President Trump chooses a woman as new ambassador to Canada

U.S. President Donald Trump is poised to nominate Kelly Knight Craft as the next American ambassador to Canada. The post has been vacant since the former ambassador Bruce Heyman appointed by former president Barack Obama resigned on January 20.
 1 of 2 TheWhite House announcedin a statement late Wednesday that Craft had been picked for the post. Maryscott Greenwoodwho heads the Canadian-American Business Council praised the choice saying: "I think it's an inspired choice on the part of the president. It's a complement to Canada that the White House would choose a person of Kelly's calibre, intellect and talent, so I am excited about the prospect." Her nomination will need to be approved by the Senate. The Trump administration hopes to get her nomination approved quickly so she can be ambassador before the NAFTA trade negotiations begin in August. Craft is married to billionaire Joe Craft, president and CEO of Alliance Resource Partners LP, one of the largest coal…

NBA basketball star makes fourth visit to North Korea

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(June 14) The former NBA star Dennis Rodman claims he was "just trying to open the door" as he visits North Korea for the fourth time. He said he would not raise the issue of Americans detained in the country.
However, Otto Wambier 22 , a US student who had been detained for a year and a half has been evacuated from the country for medical reasons.He has beenin a coma for more than a year after falling ill shortly after his trial in Pyongyang in March of last year. Rodman has called his visits "basketball diplomacy". On his last visit he sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim Jong Un at a stadium in the capital Pyongyang. Kim is a great basketball fan. He is one of the few Americans meeting with North Korean officials at this time of escalating tensions between North Korea the US and South Korea. Kim has been firing missiles regularly and also continues his nuclear program. Although there are four Americans being held now by North Korea, Rodman said he would not dis…

General admits that US-led coalition used white phosphorus in Mosul

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New Zealand Brigadier General Hugh McAsian admitted that the U.S.-led coalition used white phosphorus during its operations in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
McAsian said that around 28,000 civilians have managed to reach safety from Islamic State(IS) held territory during the last few days. He claimed: "We have utilized white phosphorus to screen areas within west Mosul to get civilians out safely." This is the first confirmation that the white phosphorus has been used in Mosul. Although the coalition claims to have control now of 90 percent of western Mosul the UN claims there are still tens of thousands of civilians trapped in an enclave controlled by the IS. Amnesty International has warned that the use of white phosphorus to produce smoke screens carries a deadly risk in urban settings noting that white phosphorus can cause "terrific injuries, burning deep into the muscle and bone". Sometimes the substance ignites weeks after being deployed creating even more danger.…

3 Afghan civilians killed after an IED hit a coalition vehicle

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In Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan three civilians were killed after soldiers opened fire after a roadside bomb hit a vehicle according to Afghan officials.
A spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar, Attaullah Khogyahi said that soldiers opened fire after the explosion. The US military said that none of its personnel had been wounded but claimed there was an exchange of gunfire after the explosion.Khogyahi said: "As the bomb blast hit their vehicle, the US troops starting shooting." He said the authorities were investigating the incident.The US military said it had no official report of civilian casualties. In a news release theUS military said: “We take civilian casualties very seriously, and all allegations are thoroughly investigated.” All six US soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year have been killed in Nangarhar Province while fighting the Islamic State (IS). On Saturday three were killed in an apparent insider attack as shown on the appended video. A Tal…

Former rebel leaders lead polls in Kosovo election results

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(June 12)Almost complete results from the Kosovo national election show that a coalition of ethnic Albanians, former leaders in the war of independence waged in 1998-1999 against Serbian troops, are leading, receiving about a third of the votes.

The Central Election Commission(CEC) reported that the coalition was in first place with around 34 percent of the votes with more than 99 percent of the vote already counted. Second were the Movement for Self-Determination with about 27 percent and third a coalition led by the former PM Isa Mustafa with about 26 percent. The final official results are expected later in the week. There are 120 seats in the parliament with 20 of them reserved for ethnic Serbs and other minorities. Head of the Commission Vaidete Daka said that heavy traffic caused blockage of the CEC website temporarily and that final results should be posted later in the week.
Ramush Haradinaj, who is the nominee for PM of the leading coalition said in a rally in the capital Pri…

Puerto Rico voters overwhelmingly opt for state-hood but with abysmal turnout

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(June 11)In a vote with historically low participation almost all those Puerto Ricans who voted today voted in favor of statehood. The other choices were independence or the present commonwealth status.

Arecent tweet sums up the result: PUERTO RICO REFERENDUM- Become U.S. state: 97.1%- Independence: 1.5%- Status quo: 1.3% Turnout: 23%. The turnout was historically low. The vote is non-binding. Ricardo Rossello the governor of the island and his government had been pushing for a vote for statehood as the best way to deal with Puerto Rico's debt. However, the two main parties had pushed for a boycott of the vote. This shows up in the turnout and the overwhelming result in favor of statehood.
Hector Ferrer, president of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) which favors the present commonwealth status pointed out that most voters went to the beach or did everything but vote and claimed that most people did not actually want statehood. Only about 500,000 votes were cast. In the last vote …

Name of head of Libyan unity government's state council appears on terror list

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The Defence and National Security Committee of the eastern-based House of Representatives has issued a terrorism list that includes 75 lawmakers, politicians, military officers, clerics, activists, and journalists.

While not everyone would agree that all on the list are terrorists, they all are foes of the commander of the HoR military the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. A prominent member of the rival UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) Abdul-Rahman Al-Sawihili who heads the GNA's High Council of State was on the list. TheLibya Observerdescribes Sawihili as an advocate of reconciliation with the HoR.Some time ago Sawihili met with the head of the HoR Ageela Saleh in Rome, a supposedly breakthrough meeting, but it appears that any attempt to amend the Libyan Political Agreement may be in jeopardy as the HoR can hardly negotiate with anyone they deem a terrorist one would think. Sawihili is identified as one of the commanders of the Qatar-funded L…