Showing posts from July, 2017

EU angry at new US sanctions against Russia

Both houses of the United States Congress have now voted to approve new sanctions against Russia. The bill also blocks Trump from lifting sanctions on Russia. The measure also includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

The bill was passed earlier in the House by a vote of 419 to 3. The vote in Senate was 98 to 2.  Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Rand Paul a Republican from Kentucky were the two who voted no.  Starting a new cold war with Russia and worsening relations with Iran and North Korea are a bipartisan affair. Sanders said on Twitter "following Trump's comments that he won't recertify Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement I worry that new sanctions could endanger it."

While Trump could veto the bill, given the overwhelming majorities by which the bill passed the two houses it would no doubt be over-ridden by more than the two-thirds majority needed. Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee said that he had talked to Secretary of …

The several meanings of "digital transformation"

In general the term "digital transformation" refers to the transformation of business including processes, activities and models, through the use of developing digital technologies
 1 of 2 Wikipedia refers to digital transformation even more widely as the change associated with the application of digital technology to all aspects of human society. The use of new digital technology enables new types of innovation and creativity in different areas rather than just enhancing traditional methods. However,Wikipedia also recognizes a narrower sense of "digital transformation" which may just mean "going paperless" and can apply to government, art, medicine and science. The narrower sense is perhaps closely related to the process of digitization. Wikipedia defines digitization as follows:Digitizing or digitization is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or signal (usually an analog signal) by generating a series of numbers that describe a discr…

French confirm meeting between Serraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Paris on July 25

Emmanuel Macron French President

Faiez Serraj the head of the Presidential Council(PC) of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) is set to meet Haftar who is the head of the armed forces, the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the House of Representatives (HoR) based in the east. The meeting is to be in Paris tomorrow at the invitation of the French President Emmanuel Macron.

It is also expected that the incoming UN envoy Ghassan Salame will attend. He did not attend a meeting two weeks ago of a team from the HoR and the  GNA's High State Council. The group is working on amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement. However, there has been no announcement as to when or even if the HoR is to meet to approve the changes or what the changes are.

Even at this late date, the evening before the expected meeting, Serraj's office has refused to confirm or deny that he is even going to Paris. This is incredi…

Analog versus digital wrist watches

There are two basic kinds of watches. Analog watches display the time through a dial with an hour hand, minute hand, and sometimes a second hand, on a dial usually divided into 12 hours, often marked by numbers or roman numerals.
A digital watch on the other hand displays the time by hour and minutes or even seconds on an LCD or LED screen in terns of numbers or digits. TheJapan Watch and Clock Association describes the two types as follows: Analogue watches/clocks have a mechanism to indicate time by means of mechanical structures a dial and hands (hand indication type), while digital watches have a mechanism to indicate time by means of electronic structures, such as a liquid crystal and LED (number display type)."Digital" ("digit" as a noun), representing a finger, implies a thing that can be counted on fingers, which indicates a number. On the other hand, "analogue" originally means resemblance or similarity, which indicates a continuous quantity, as t…

Digital Transformation: Five myths

Stephen J. Andriole is a Professor of Business Technology at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Professor Andriole has addressed five myths about digital transformation that could impact how a business goes about transitioning.

 1 of 3 Andriole participated and oversaw digital transformation both in the public and private sector. He served as the director of the Cybernetics Technology Office of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and senior VP of Safeguard Scientifics Inc. He was also CTO and senior vice president for technology strategy at Cigna Corp. Digital transformation is the transformation of business activities, processes and models by the use of digital technologies. Andriole's writes in a recent article that there are five common myths about digital transformation. He notes that many boards of directors and management teams see digital transformation as a way to efficiency, innovation and competi…

US Afghan air strike kills sixteen Afghan police

Omar Zwak a spokesperson for the governor of Helmand said:"Sixteen Afghan policemen were killed including two commanders. Two other policemen were wounded. It was most probably a miscommunication or the coordinates were not correct, which resulted in the US air strikes. An investigation has been launched."

The aerial attack on a compound took place on Friday afternoon after Afghan police had retaken a checkpoint captured by the Taliban a day earlier in Gereshk district, north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah. A statement by the US military confirmed the event saying "aerial fires resulted in the deaths of the friendly Afghan forces, who were gathered in a compound." The statement did not give the number of deaths. There has been increased fighting in the southern Helmand province.

Trump has still not decided on a new strategy for Afghanistan. There have been recommendations that three to five thousand more troops be sent but Trump still has not announced a dec…

Trump administration shutting down CIA program supporting rebels in Syria

The Russians have called for such a move for years. and the move will no doubt be seen as a victory for Russia and a gift from the US. The program was begun under Obama in 2013.However, stopping the program will not end US involvement in Syria by any stretch of the imagination as the US is deeply involved in funding and arming the Syrian Democratic Forces dominated by Kurds. The Kurds are regarded as terrorists by Turkey and there have been clashes with them.

The US was recently angered as Turkey revealed the location of its numerous bases in Kurdish-controlled areas. There are reports of US armored vehicles pouring into Kurdish-held areas in Syria suggesting that US involvement in Syria is actually increasing even though the CIA program has been jettisoned.

The aid seems to have been frozen in February after the groups suffered from a major Islamist attack in January. There were complicated relations and conflict among groups. Apparently, Trump made the decision after talking with C…

Mixed reactions in Libya for Presidency Council's head Faiez Serraj's call for elections next March

Faiez Serraj head of Presidential Council

Recently as part of his road map for peace,  head of the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of  National Accord,  Faiez Serraj, said that there should be parliamentary and presidential elections next March. I discuss the entire road map in a recent article. While there has been strong support from some of the members of the High State Council of the GNA for Serraj's proposal, the House of Representatives members have been largely negative.

The speaker of the HoR Ageela Saleh dismissed the proposal in spite of the fact that he himself had called for elections next year. Saleh objects that Serraj has no legal powers to make such a call as he has not been appointed to such a role by the HoR. The HoR has not yet recognized the GNA in any event so naturally Serraj will be regarded as not having the status to call an election.

Ziyad Daghim, a member of the HoR from Benghazi said th…

Libyan UN-brokered government's head outlines a road map to peace

Troops loyal to GNA

Fayez al-Serraj, head of the Presidential Council of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA)  noted that he and his government had tried to bridge the gap between it and the rival House of Representatives (HoR) government, and had always tried to achieve reconciliation but without success. Serraj said that representatives of the HoR and the GNA's High Council of State had been unable to live up to their privileges regarding their sovereign positions. One might equally claim that the GNA was not able to do so either in that it was unable to present a government to the HoR that could gain the confidence of the HoR as is required by the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). It lost the vote twice, the last time on August 22, 2016.

There have been earlier so-called road maps to peace one near the end of May suggested by Martin Kobler and an earlier one in the middle of February. Neither was a success. Serraj claim…

Seventy-year old Korean grandma is a You Tube and Instagram star

. In social media that often prizes youth and good lucks, Park Makrye shows off her wrinkles and her life as a senior.She is so liked by South Koreans that large companies such as Samsung are using her in ads.

Being a celebrity has not changed Makrye's life style. She still gets up at dawn to run her diner. Her videos are called Grandma's Diary. Koreans love just watching her meet up with an old friend or try pasta for the first time.

Lee Injae, 31, who  lives in the capital Seoul says: "She's real. She's not fake. It's refreshing to see the world through the eyes of a grandmother."
Park describes her life before she went on You Tube as "dead like rotten bean sprouts". She said that she used to think that at over 70 her life was over but after her appearances on You Tube she thinks life begins after seventy. Park's rise to fame hardly meets South Korean's expectations of the elderly who are often seen as being poor or as in protests prom…

Owners of cargo ship that hit USS Fitzgerald destroyer may be liable for damages

The USS Fitzgerald and the Philippine-flagged container ship MV ACX Crystal collided early in the morning on June 16. Not much new information has been released since the last article I wrote on the issue. However there have been some developments.

The U.S. Navy announced that it had temporarily relieved the commander of the Fitzgerald for medical reasons. The captain was in his cabin at the time of the collision and was injured. Seven sailors were killed. There are at least six ongoing investigations including two US Navy internal hearings and an investigation by the US Coast Guard.  There is also an investigation by the Japanese Coast Guard.

So far there has been no explanation as to how the Fitzgerald with sophisticated equipment and lookouts sailing in clear conditions at night was hit by a huge cargo ship three times it size before it saw the ship coming and took evasive action. The captain of the cargo ship claims that it had given warning signals of flashing lights to the Fitz…

Libya Dialogue members suggest amendments to Libyan Political Agreement.

The Libya Dialogue  delegates of the High State Council (HSC) from the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and the House of Representatives (HoR) from the Tobruk-based rival government, met in the Hague Netherlands to discuss amendments to the Libya Political Agreement  signed in Skhirat Morocco in December of 2015.

The GNA is required to have a vote of confidence from the HoR. It has twice been rejected the last time on August 22 last year.There was supposed to be a new GNA presented within then days at the time. Ten months later no further meeting has happened.

 Now at least there are suggested amendments so that the HoR will presumably hold another vote soon but there is no date set for any HoR meeting to vote confidence again. The group agreed that the number of members of the Presidency Council(PC) main executive body of the GNA should be reduced from the present nine to three. This may not sit well with some regions. The number was originally three b…

International Committee of Red Cross reports 300,000 cases of cholera in Yemen

The Red Cross says that more than 7,000 new suspected cases are diagnosed each day in a country hit by war and economic collapse as well as near famine. The epidemic has been raging now for 10 weeks. While the spread of cholera in the worst hit regions has slowed, the disease is spreading to other areas. The worst hit areas are in the west of the country where there has been a continuous war between a Saudi-led coalition supporting the government of Mansour Hadi in the port city of Aden and Houthi rebels who hold much of the north-west of Yemen and the capital Sanaa.

The war has helped the spread of the disease caused by human waste getting into food or water. It thrives where there is poor sanitation. A few cases are now appearing further east in the Hadramawt region and Mukalla port. The economic collapse has resulted in 30,000 health workers going unpaid for more than 10 months. The UN has issued "incentive payments" to get them involved in a campaign to fight cholera. Th…

Militia loyal to former Liyban "Salvation" government clash with forces loyal to UN-brokered unity government

Reuters reports that  militia opposed to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) were attempting to approach the capital Tripoli from the east. The clashes took place in Garabulli about 50 km ( 30 miles) to the east of the capital on the coastal road. Most of the group's support comes from the city of Misrata. The militia were driven out of Tripoli in May and have been attempting to regroup. Libya Observer claims the group are the National Guard of the Salvation Government(SG) associated with the General National Congress (GNC) led by Khalifa al-Ghweil. The Observer speaks of the clashes as in the Gwiya district of Castelverde town, 70 km to the east of Tripoli. A tweet claims that members of the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) are also involved against the GNA forces.Some of the many militia groups in Tripoli are nominally loyal to the GNA but often have their own agendas.The GNA has yet to form a national army and disband militias.

The forces loyal to the GNA invol…

New Mongolian president campaigned on a platform of "Mongolia First"

Khaltmaa Battulga, a former Judo champ perhaps had been watching the US presidential campaign as his slogan of "Mongolia First" seems to mirror Trump's "America First" slogan. Battulga is a populist businessman. He belongs to the opposition Democratic Party. Overseas votes remain to be counted but Battulga had 50.6 percent of the vote, while his opponent of the ruling Mongolian People's Party, Miyegombo Enkhbold, had only 41.2 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was just over 60 percent.

The election was seen by many as a referendum on the ruling parties economic plans.While Mongolia has been democratic since the communist government collapsed about 30 years ago, politics has been growing increasingly acrimonious as economic problems have mounted and the political elite has faced increasing charges of corruption. The election was rife with mud-slinging from all sides with many in the public seeing neither runoff candidate as desirable and there were many bla…

122 countries sign on to treaty to ban nuclear weapons at UN meeting

To loud cheers Elayne Gomez, president of the UN conference that has been negotiating the legally binding treaty announced that 122 nations had signed on to the ban while the Netherlands was opposed and Singapore abstained. Gomez said: "The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years" the time period from when the first atomic bombs were dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August of 1945. Gomez noted that this was the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than 20 years. The treaty comes into effect 50 countries ratifyit.

Last December UN member states voted overwhelmingly for a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons even though there was strong opposition from all the nations that have nuclear arms. Every one of them refused to even participate in the talks.All NATO members boycotted the negotiations except for the Netherlands which attended but voted against the resolution. The Netherlands has US nuclear weapons on its territ…

Trump will keep Guantanamo Bay open and may add new detainees

Obama never was able to follow through on his promise to  close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. In his presidential campaign far from promising closure Donald Trump promised to keep the detention center open. Trump appears to be taking action to keep his promise.

In March, Trump asked Congress for additional funding for the facility. A request for $115 million to be incorporated in a 2018 spending bill is under consideration.The money would build a new military barracks for US troops but it also contains language that prevents the facility from being closed and also bans the transfer of any detainees to the United States mainland.

In his campaign in February of 2016 Trump said of Guantanamo: "We're going to load it up with bad dudes." The acting Pentagon comptroller John Roth said that it did not seem as if the facility would close anytime soon. Trump has not as yet sent any new detainees to Cuba but Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he saw no legal problems …

United States and Russia agree to a ceasefire and de-escalation zone in southwest Syria

The US together with Russia and Jordan have agreed to a ceasefire in the southwestern area of Syria. The ceasefire was reported after the meeting of Putin and Trump on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg. The meeting was exceedingly long lasting a full two hours and twenty minutes. There is also a more general ceasefire that came into force back at the end of December 2016. Despite many reported violations it appears to be generally holding. The UN Security Council passed a resolution last December supporting the ceasefire.

The ceasefire is to take effect on July 9 at noon Damascus time. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the announcement after Trump's meeting with Putin. Lavrov said: “In this zone [in southern Daraa, Quneitra and As-Suwayda provinces] the ceasefire regime will take effect on July 9 starting 12:00 Damascus time. The US took an obligation that all the militant groups, located there, will comply with the ceasefire.” It remains to be seen if all the…

Hamas and Egypt appear to improve relations after meeting

After a series of meetings between Hamas and senior Egyptian officials in Cairo relations between Egypt and the Islamist Palestinian group appear to be improving.
The improved relations may have important implications for Gaza and Palestinian politics. Ismail Haniyeh who recently became leader of Hamas said in a speech in Gaza on Wednesday that relations with Egypt which borders the strip to the south have been warming:"We have launched a new chapter with Egypt and the relations have witnessed a big move." For most of the last ten years Egypt has supported Israel in enforcing a blockade of the strip by land, sea, and air. Hamas seized the Gaza strip in 2007 and has controlled it ever since. Just recently Israel has made the situation in Gaza even worse cutting off electricity to Gaza leaving it with only about four hours a day with power. The cuts hit hospitals and water treatment plants during a heat wave causing hardships for Gaza's two million people. Sanctions agains…