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Thursday, October 27, 2016

After spying illegally for 17 years UK intelligence seeks new powers

The U.K. Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that the U.K.'s secret bulk collection by the GCHQ between 1998 and near the end of 2015 violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and was never approved as legal by the U.K. parliament.

The GCHQ is the Government Communications Headquarters. The program was first revealed by Edward Snowden. Key points in the Tribunal findings can be found here. The program, or rather programs, allowed the U.K. surveillance agency, the GCHQ, to build up a detailed database of communications with little to no oversight. The bulk collection included a whole year's worth of call data and location records from every cell phone in the U.K. The collection had been kept secret from the public and beyond the reach of the courts. If it were not for the revelations of Edward Snowden the data collection probably would never have been revealed. Snowden is in Russia at present. If he returns to the U.S. he would no doubt face criminal charges. Although some have urged that Snowden be pardoned this seems highly unlikely.
In November last year, the GCHQ program was changed so as to make it legal and to reveal more about the underlying policies. However, the underlying operations continue. No one appears to have been held accountable for the illegality of the earlier operations. The official response of the government to the Tribunal ruling manages to ignore all the damaging aspects of the report:The official public response from the government didn’t touch on the 17 years of unlawful practice, but merely declared it was “pleased the tribunal has confirmed the current lawfulness of the existing bulk communications data and bulk personal dataset regimes”. While underplaying the significance of this ruling, the government is ebullient about how Theresa May’s investigatory powers bill – more commonly known as the snooper’s charter – will usher in a new era of transparency, honesty and rigorous oversight.
The government also appears to have supplemented its former " neither confirm nor deny" policy when questioned about surveillance programs by a policy of never apologizing about the programs and explaining as little as possible when they are revealed.
As noted, the U.K. parliament is now faced with the Investigatory Powers Bill which although it has some minor improvements such as error reporting it has no provisions for notifying people if their data is being used and thus perhaps misused. There is no right to seek redress for misuse either. The new bill in effect "enshrines in law the powers of bulk surveillance that led to the collection of our data."
64 Labour members of the House of Lords supported the Conservative bill to expand state surveillance powers. The peers explained that they were protecting an amendment to the bill which the House of Lords passed that web-browsing activities should not be given to police except for offences that carry a penalty of less than 12 months rather than six as in the original bill.
An attempt by Liberal Democrats to delete powers to order the collection and storage of new internet connection records was defeated by a vote of 75 for to 292 against. The actions of the Labour peers contrasted with that of the Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott who said that the bill was "draconian" and that the Tribunal report showed why the bill needed to be amended: “The latest ruling from the investigatory powers tribunal should be a sharp reminder that we should not lightly hand over powers to the security services and police and that greater accountability is needed. The government’s bill needs amending in all these areas.” Her reaction shows that Labour may be changing its stance as it had merely abstained on second reading of the bill.
Another article on the Tribunal report claims that M15, the U.K. domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, was involved in the spying as well. The article notes that the intelligence community had several opportunities to notify parliament of its activities but failed to do so.
Privacy International, a U.K.-based advocacy group, maintains that the new U.K. bill still has inadequate safeguards including notifying victims of any misuse of the data collection. The group called the Tribunal report "one of the most significant indictments of the secret use of the Government's mass surveillance powers since Edward Snowden first began exposing the extent of U.S. and U.K. spying in 2013." Millie Graham Wood, Legal Officer at Privacy International said:"There are huge risks associated with the use of bulk communications data. It facilitates the almost instantaneous cataloguing of entire populations' personal data. It is unacceptable that it is only through litigation by a charity that we have learnt the extent of these powers and how they are used. The public and Parliament deserve an explanation as to why everyone's data was collected for over a decade without oversight in place and confirmation that unlawfully obtained personal data will be destroyed."Yet there is no apology or even mention of the misdeeds in the U.K. Home Office statement about the report:The powers available to the security and intelligence agencies play a vital role in protecting the U.K. and its citizens. We are therefore pleased the tribunal has confirmed the current lawfulness of the existing bulk communications data and bulk personal dataset regimes."

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Libyan coup plotters remain in seized headquarters

The Rixos coup leaders of their self-declared Salvation Government remain protected by loyal militia who form a ring around the Rixos Hotel and guest houses across the road.

The Interior Ministry ordered that those responsible for the coup be arrested some time ago. As a tweet reports, Serraj stated: "I have instructed the Interior Ministry to arrest those involved in storming of the State Council. #Libya". Rather than being subject to arrest, the coup members were joined by the Presidential Guard who are supposed to be defending the Presidential Council(PC) of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).
PM and head of the PC, Faiez Serraj, acted as if there were no coup by visiting a Tripoli hospital. He also attended a parade of police cadets who are reported to have been trained and hired to protect the Interior Ministry. Faiez claimed that there would be zero tolerance for those who sought to undermine the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) and instead sow chaos. He again noted that he had ordered the arrest of the coup leader Khalif Ghwell and his associates. He also ordered those occupying the seized buildings to evacuate the building. No attempt has been made to arrest the coup members and this is the third day of the coup now. The most consistent actions to derail the implementation of the LPA have been those of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) government. Not only is he tolerated, but the UN envoy Martin Kobler continually attempts to accommodate him and give him a role in a new GNA that he would accept. Perhaps Serraj should ask Haftar to evacuate the oil ports he has seized.
The Libya Herald describes Tripoli as descending into anarchy over the last two days but noted tonight some parts of the city appeared quite calm and normal. Some tweets claim fighting near the Roxios hotel: "There's a big fight going on right now - I think the Rexus cld be under fire. Big guns." However reports were conflicting as a tweet notes: "Many conflicting reports. People are simply edgy and scared" There have been casualties from the sporadic outbreaks of violence with one woman killed and several others wounded in a camp for internally displaced persons, apparently the result of stray shells.
Haltem Tajouri's Tripoli Revolutionary Brigades (TRB) has expanded its network of checkpoints and moved armoured vehicles into Martyr's Square. Last night, shops in the square were ordered to close by Tajouri's men. However, there are even rumors of fights within the brigades. This is the same group that earlier took over GNA intelligence headquarters. One report claims Tajouri is said by the UN to be guilty of war crimes, and he is also accused by some of having murdered a number of prisoners who were released recently by court order. Tajouri may attack the coup headquarters whether the GNA wants that to happen or not. We will see. There appear to be sporadic clashes that may have nothing to do with the coup but are just between militias defending their own areas. In many places people are just going on with a normal life. University classes are continuing as usual.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Amy Goodman charged with participating in a riot for filming native protest

Well-known Democracy Now journalist Amy Goodman is now facing charges of participating in a "riot" after she filmed Native American-led protests against an oil pipeline project in North Dakota.

North Dakota state prosecutor, Ladd Erickson, filed the new charges on Friday before District Judge John Grinsteiner. He will decide on Monday (October 17) whether there is enough evidence to pursue the charge. The prosecutor decided earlier to drop a criminal trespassing charge against Goodman. Goodman will appear in court to face the charges if they are approved.
Goodman said: "I came back to North Dakota to fight a trespass charge. They saw that they could never make that charge stick, so now they want to charge me with rioting. I wasn’t trespassing, I wasn’t engaging in a riot, I was doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters."
Erickson claimed that Goodman was not acting as a journalist in a statement to the Bismarck Tribune. He defended his position in an email that said: "She’s [Amy Goodman] a protester, basically. Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions." While her coverage is favorable to the protesters from what can be seen in the appended video, it is also clear that she is acting as a journalist. The fact that a journalist provides coverage that is favorable to one side does not make the person any less a journalist. Perhaps the authorities are unhappy that the security forces are shown in an unfavorable light with dogs being used to drive back protesters and one dog at least having blood on its mouth and nose. One person is shown with a bite. It seems pepper spray was used as well. The Democracy Now report was viewed more than 14 million times on Facebook and was picked up by many major outlets including CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC.
Professor Katherine Franke, chair of the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights said: "Filming Native Americans being violently attacked as they defend their land is not rioting, it’s called journalism, it is protected by the First Amendment, and indeed, it is an essential function in a democratic society." Such coverage is however embarrassing to the powerful interests supporting the pipeline project so they will do everything they can to discourage such journalism. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe along with over 100 other tribes from all across the U.S., Canada and even Latin America have been protesting the pipeline project for months. The Standing Rock Sioux have their own Facebook page.
Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, an independent, award-winning public television/radio news program. It airs on more than 1,400 stations worldwide. She has won many awards.
Objections to the project come not only from Native American tribes but from U.S. government agencies as well. Senior officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raised serious environmental and safety objections to the North Dakota section of the Dakota Access pipeline. The concerns were dismissed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers who instead based their decision on an environmental assessment of the developer, Dakota Access LLC.
In a letter to the Army Corps in March, Philip Strobel, National Environmental Policy Act regional compliance director for the EPA wrote: "Crossings of the Missouri River have the potential to affect the primary source of drinking water for much of North Dakota, South Dakota and Tribal nations. The U.S. Department of the Interior also spoke out against the project. Lawrence Roberts, acting assistant secretary of Indian affairs wrote in March to the Army Corps: "We believe the Corps did not adequately justify or otherwise support its conclusion that there would be no significant impact upon the surrounding environment and community."
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) also expressed its concern over the assessment of the Army Corps. The ACHP claimed that the Army Corps did not adequately consult the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. In a May 19 letter to the Army Corps, Reid Nelson, director of the office of federal agency programs for the ACHP wrote: "Based on the inadequacies of the tribal consultation and the limited scope for identification of historic properties that may be affected, the ACHP questions the sufficiency of the Corps' identification effort, its determinations of eligibility, and assessments of effect."
The complaints are all echoed by the protesters. It seems that the only way to stop the project was to mount the type of protests that we are seeing now. Although many U.S. officials did their job their objections were simply ignored.
In September a Federal Judge denied an injunction by the tribe to stop construction on the pipeline. However, the U.S. government ordered a halt to construction to further consider the concerns of the Standing Rock Tribe. The situation is complicated by the fact that some of the construction is on private property. As the Globe and Mail reports: Energy Transfer Partners LP is moving forward with construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, rejecting the Obama administration’s request that it voluntarily halt some work on the $3.8-billion (U.S.) project.
The project cannot be completed because other areas are subject to the government order that construction stop.
UPDATE: The riot charges against Goodman have been rejected by a North Dakota judge.


Some members of General National Council attempt a coup in Libya

The attempted coup by some members of the General National Council and Salvation Government is still ongoing after two days. There have been some clashes in Tripoli but the city was mostly calm by nightfall.

The coup leaders took over the Roxios Hotel and "Hospitality Houses" across the road. The buildings were the headquarters of the State Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) which had seized them some time ago from the Salvation Government. The Salvation Government although still existing had its ministries taken over by the GNA.
The coup was immediately condemned by the UN, the GNA its Presidency Council (PC) the EU and the U.S. However, the rival government of the GNA the Al-Thinni House of Representatives (HoR) government had a less negative response. The coup leaders were probably hoping for a dialogue with some members of the HoR in the hopes of agreeing on a unity government.
The Libya Herald suggests that PM Al-Thinni had effectively rejected calls by coup leader Khalifa Ghwell for a joint government. Al-Thinni insists that Ghwell had to accept the HoR as the sole legitimate legislature. The Herald claims that Ghwell would reject this and also that Ghwell is not in any situation to ditch the former members of the GNC who are now members of the High State Council of the GNA. However, Ghwell declared the Council void and the coup members the only legitimate power. He has in fact ditched them. In fact, the members who originally joined the Council in effect ditched the other members of the GNC who have now carried out the attempted coup. The Herald in the past often opposed the Salvation government.
In a statement, the HoR government suggested it would investigate Ghwell's offer. One HoR member from Benghazi, Ziyad Daghim, a leader of a bloc strongly opposed to the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) and GNA welcomed the invitation. The Herald reports that Ghwell proposed the idea of a joint government with the GNC last month but Al-Thinni was said to reject the idea because he was not proposed as prime minister.
Although the Tripoli attorney general issued an arrest warrant for the people who took part in the coup the group still holds the buildings they seized. Today the Presidential Guard tasked with protecting the GNA are reportedly now supporting and helping guard the coup members. The Libyan Express reports: The Presidential Guard of the Government of National Accord has announced in a TV statement Sunday evening its defection from The GNA and says it now backs up the only legitimate and constitutional government, which is the Salvation Government of the General National Congress.
The Presidential Guard spokesperson said in a TV statement from the Roxio headquarters that the LPA signed in Skhirat was not the right thing and had failed to provide for the Libyan people. The statement went on: The UN-brokered political agreement and GNA was put forth in order to establish a place for Khalifa Haftar and enable him to rule Libya by force.” The statement added that “honorable revolutionaries must be ready to work with the Presidential Guard to protect the only legitimate government the GNC’s Salvation Government and to secure the capital, Tripoli, from all the misdeeds of the illegal armed forces."
Some commentators found it hard to believe that the Presidential Guards of the GNA switched sides tweeting that there must be two sets of Presidential Guards now, one group supporting the Salvation Government coup and the other supporting the GNA. However, the statement on TV seems to show this is not the case. This new development shows the GNA to lack even the power to defeat a coup launched by the few remaining members of the GNC who were left after the formation of the State High Council.
There have been clashes today in Tripoli and the Libya Observer reports that a woman was killed and six wounded when "indiscriminate shells" fell on a Tawerga internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. Security has been strengthened around the headquarters of the coup at the Rixos hotel. We will soon see if there are any militia loyal to the GNA who will attempt to end the coup.


About 300 U.S. marines to be based in Norway

The Norwegian government is considering allowing a contingent of about 300 U.S. marines to be based in the country in order to facilitate better military cooperation between the two countries and to be prepared in the event of a crisis involving Russia.

The marines would deploy on a six-month rotation, pending approval of the Norwegian government, after which additional rotations would follow. The U.S. already has crisis response teams for Africa, the Middle East and Japan.
A Norwegian newspaper reported that the Vaernes air base in Stjordal is being considered to house the marines. The air station is already serving as part of Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway. This program allows the Marine Corps to store thousands of vehicles and other military gear in caves that are temperature controlled. The vehicles are ready for joint exercises or any combat contingency. The base is far from Russia, about 1,000 miles — although in the extreme north Norway shares a 120 mile border with Russia.
Major General Niel Nelson, the commander of the U.S. Marine Corps in Europe and Africa, would confirm only that the possibility of the deployment was being considered:"We have a long and close relationship with our friends in the Norwegian Armed Forces, and a limited rotational Marine presence in Norway is one option being considered as a further development of this relationship. However, at this time, it would be premature to discuss possible implementation of such an initiative before the appropriate Norwegian political processes are completed."Local reports indicate that if approved, the first rotation of troops could arrive as soon as January. The Norwegian Ministry of Defense has supported the arrangement.
A report from Press TV says:“Assessments have taken place within the military to look at the options for additional training, storage and this kind of thing," said Norwegian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Ann Kristin Salbuvik on Monday.
The Norwegian deployment will be just one of many moves made by the U.S. to collaborate with EU allies. Last year, the Allied Maritime Basing Initiative began that placed a small number of U.S. marines on board French, Dutch and Spanish ships to better enable the marines to respond to crises and reassure partners against any Russian moves in eastern Europe. Just this July, U.S. Army officials revealed that it intends to create a division headquarters and artillery brigade in Europe in the coming years on a rotational basis. The move would add more than 40,000 additional soldiers to those already in Europe by next year. This is all part of what the Pentagon calls its "European Reassurance Initiative" that began in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimea.
The U.S. Marine Corps already operates a Black Sea Rotational Force in six month deployments of 500 marines that carries out partner exercises with eastern European countries to promote regional stability. This will continue regardless of what happens in Norway.
Earlier this year, almost 2,000 marines were in Trondheim Norway to take part in the exercise Cold Response. The exercise involved 16,000 troops from 15 different countries. General Robert Neller, Marine Commandant said: "We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us, and I'm sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor."


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kuwaiti's Emir dissolves parliament paving way for elections

The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Sabah, has issued a decree today dissolving the Kuwaiti National Assembly, according to the official state news agency KUNA.

The dissolution sets the stage for an early election. The dissolution was announced after an emergency government meeting. The emir said that because of the circumstances in the region and security challenges, that he had ordered that the 50-member legislature be dissolved. The emir's move comes less than 24 hours after the speaker of the parliament Marzouk al-Ghanem called for new elections in the face of security and economic challenges.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with the emir having power to appoint the PM who appoints government ministers but compared to most other Gulf Cooperation Council states it is more liberal and the legislature has considerable power. A BBC article claims:Kuwait's parliament has the most powers of any elected body in the Gulf region, but the ruling al-Sabah family has the final word over all key decisions and has dissolved the legislature repeatedly in the past.Kuwait shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. As of 2014 it had a population of 4.2 million people but only 1.3 million are Kuwaitis with 2.9 million being expatriates.
The cabinet also resigned after the parliament was dissolved. There has been a dispute between the government and the parliament over price increases in fuel in the country. However, there are also claims of administrative and financial violations. Although no date was set for the new elections, the constitution says that they must take place within two months of the parliament being dissolved. The country faces declining revenues as oil prices have dropped leading to the government to cut back on the many subsidies enjoyed by Kuwaiti residents. This has stirred a popular backlash. Kuwait is a major oil producer.
Recently Kuwait has had attacks by the Islamic State(IS). On October 8 an Egyptian IS supporter drove a garbage truck loaded with explosives into a truck carrying five U.S. soldiers but the attack ended up just wounding the attacker. However in 2015 IS carried out a suicide bombing of a Shia mosque that killed 27 and wounded scores more.


UN, EU, and others condemn the attempted coup in Libya

The UN, the EU and the Libyan Government of National Unity (GNA) have all condemned the attempted coup yesterday by members of the Salvation Government of the former General National Congress (GNC).

Although the Interior Ministry of the GNA was ordered to arrest those involved in the coup, so far no action to do so appears to have been taken. There is tension and some violence in Tripoli but it is not clear that the violence is related to the attempted coup. As a tweet reminds commentators: User Actions "#Libya Worth noting there are pre-existing Tripoli militia disputes, some skirmishing may that + not related to rival govts. power struggle." Another tweet notes there are clashes between two militia in Tripoli: "Avoid BenGasheer,#Tripoli, due to ongoing fighting (tanks being used) btwn militias of BGasheer and Warshiffan. #Libya." So far, there appears to be no violence at the Rixos hotel buildings that the coup leaders seized which are now guarded by militia. The leader of the coup, Khalifa Ghwell is subject to EU sanctions for impeding the implementation of the LPA.
recent DJ article gives details on the attempted coup. While the coup leaders captured the former headquarters of the Salvation Government, the Rixos Hotel, it did not occupy the naval base or quarters where the Presidential Council of the GNA meets. In fact the PC is meeting today to discuss the situation.
The EU issued a statement on the situation. The statement claimed that the use of force to claim power could only lead to "further disorder and a spiral of violence" with Libyans being the main victims. Of course, force is being used against the Islamic State and Haftar used force to seize four oil ports and is using it not only against the Islamic State (IS) but against jihadists in Derna who fought against IS. There is the standard never-ending call to support the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The statement calls for the Presidency Council(PC) to set forth an inclusive new proposal for the formation of the GNA on which the House of Representatives(HoR) need to vote "in a fair and orderly manner". On October 22nd it will be two months since the GNA vote of confidence went down to defeat in the HoR. Yet there is no sign yet of a new cabinet nor a date for a meeting of the HoR on the issue. The EU offered continued support for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. The UN envoy, Martin Kobler, was not named.
Kobler condemned the coup attempt warning that it would bring "further disorder and insecurity". A tweet sums up the reaction of several stakeholders to the coup: "UNSMIL, EU & Western ambassadors to Libya condemn takeover of #StateCouncil HQs in Tripoli by members of exGNC,reaffirm support for GNA &LPA."
The U.S. State Department issued its own statement and demands that the seized buildings be returned back to the GNA: The United States is concerned about reports of violence in Tripoli and the use of force to take over the headquarters of the State Council. Government buildings in Tripoli should be returned to the control of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and all parties should exercise restraint. The United States reiterates its support for the Government of National Accord and the Libyan Political Agreement, and calls on all parties to work together toward creating a safe, prosperous and free Libya that provides for the needs of its people.The statement does not mention that the buildings were originally seized some time ago from the GNC by militia loyal to the GNA.
The reaction of the HoR government does not condemn the coup. A recent tweet notes: "The Interim Govt declares it is following Tripoli events with utmost interest, acknowledging the Salvation Government's declaration'" The coup leader Ghwell may attempt to renew a Libya-Libya dialogue and an agreement without foreign intervention that was discussed in Malta back in December of 2015. The weakness of the GNA has been shown by the lack of any quick reaction by security forces to put down the coup and retake the High Council of State headquarters.


HP Inc. to shed 3 to 4 thousand jobs during the next 3 years

HP Inc. the successor company to Hewlett-Packard the computer manufacturer is downsizing once again. The company announced that it expects to eliminate 3,000 to 4,000 jobs over the next three years.

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Between 2007 and the second quarter of 2013, Hewlett-Packard was the world's leading PC manufacturer but was then overtaken by Lenovo. On November 1, 2015 the company split into two with HP Inc. being the computer and printer business and Hewlett Packard Enterprise providing services and enterprise products.
HP has been shedding jobs for years now:On December 31, 2013, HP revised the amount of jobs cut from 29,000 to 34,000 up to October 2014. The current amount of jobs cut until the end of 2013 was 24,600.[70][71][72] At the end of 2013 the company had 317,500 employees. On May 22, 2014 HP announced it would cut a further 11,000 to 16,000 jobs, in addition to the 34,000 announced in 2013. "We are gradually shaping HP into a more nimble, lower-cost, more customer and partner-centric company that can successfully compete across a rapidly changing IT landscape," CEO Meg Whitman said at the time.The restructuring plan could eliminate as many as 50,000 jobs in total. Earlier Meg Whitman CEO of HP said that the restructuring was finished but later she made no such promise but said that the turnaround of HP was still on track and that it made sense to increase layoffs during a turnaround of the scale HP was engaged in.
Now, HP again expects to lay off about 3,000 to 4,000 jobs in the next three years. The announcement sent shares down 1.3 percent. Profits of HP for fiscal 2017 are expected to be $1.55 to $1.65 per share, in line with the expectations of analysts at $1.61 per share on average. The company increased its quarterly dividend by 7 percent and said it would increase its share buyback program by $3 billion.
Although restructuring and other charges will cost $350 to $500 million the job cuts are expected to save $200 to $300 annually by 2020. While the savings will provide no consolation for those who lost their jobs, it may help HP survive in a PC market that looks bleak. PC sales continue to decline with quarter 3 shipments 5.7 percent less than the previous year. According to research firm Gartner this is the 8th consecutive quarterly decline in sales the longest on record.


Attempted coup in Libya by members of the General National Congress Salvation government.

Former members of the General National Council's (GNC) Government, as it called itself, including the former prime minister, Khalifa al-Ghwell have taken over their former headquarters in the Rixos Hotel and announced they are in power again.

Ghwell issued a statement declaring a state of emergency and claiming that this was a "historical initiative to rescue Libya". Both the Rixos Conference Center and the "Hospitality Palaces" across the road were taken over last April by the State Council by militia who were then loyal to the GNA. The pro-GNC militia withdrew to avoid bloodshed. The State Council actually pulled out of the headquarters a couple of days ago citing security issues. Apparently, the militia guarding the Council were harassing members. According to the Libyan Express:
 The Head of the Libyan High Council of State, Abdelrahman Al-Sweihli, ordered Monday the headquarters of the council be evacuated from all members and employees over recurrent violations and assaults perpetrated by the security guards, who are appointed to protect those members and employees.Recently, the Council declared that it was the legislature of the the Government of National Accord (GNA) since the House of Representatives (HoR) had not recognized the GNA.
The takeover began early in the morning with a confrontation between gunmen who supported the GNC and some linked to Sweihli but ended with the latter withdrawing. The militia guarding the council were already angry since their salaries were yet to be paid. They apparently had threatened to quit and were in contact with al-Ghwell supporters which is apparently the reason they decided to withdraw.
Al-Ghwell accompanied by the GNC first deputy president Awad Saddeq and head of the GNC presidential guard Ali Ramali, called on PM Abdullah al-Thinni of the HoR government, a rival to that of the GNA, to join them and together form a national unity government. This would completely avoid implementing the Libya Political Agreement and ignore the existence of the GNA.
Al-Ghwell claimed that the GNA and Presidency Council(PC) were undermining national unity and were the pawn of foreign forces who wanted to divide the country. All governmental organizations and ministries were ordered to stop dealing with the PC and GNA and to work with him instead. He also said that all those appointed by the PC were dismissed. It is quite unlikely that Al-Ghwell has the power to carry out his announcements. Most of the former GNC members are now members of the High State Council. It is not clear how many militia still support the GNC.
As of writing this article, there has been no statement on what has happened by the State Council, the PC or the UN. There is no comment yet either from the east and the HoR. A couple of weeks ago, there were also proposals that the former GNC and HoR administrations should create a government of national unity. The Grand Mufti Sadek Al-Ghariani was apparently aware of al-Ghwell's moves and approved them. A TV station associated with Al-Ghariani was the only one which attended a press conference given by al-Ghwell. The Mufti is an opponent of Marshal Khalifa Haftar of the HoR. It is unlikely that he will favor what is happening. Neither will the PC or UN special envoy Martin Kobler since the unity government planned would replace the GNA.
The Libya Prospect reports Al-Ghwell as saying after he entered his headquarters: “what we see nowadays is a result of agendas and conspiracies against the homeland.” He said that Libyan war commanders "brought us to where we are, and they are influencing the council of Skhirat, which is supported to destroy the nation". Skhirat is where the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) was signed. He said that the PC which was part of the LPA had divided Libya and was becoming a threat to national security. He called on the HoR government to participate with the GNC in forming a unity government. Al-Ghwell said that he had asked the armed battalions of the general presidency to be ready to deter enemies of the nation. It is not clear how many fighters Al-Ghwell can muster. We will no doubt find out within the next few days.
There have been many tweets on the takeover. Here is a typical tweet:
"BREAKING: Former Tripoli (Salvation) government declares UN-backed government State Council void, captures it's Tripoli HQ."


Libyan Investment Authority loses court case against Goldman Sachs

A United Kingdom court has ruled in favor of Goldman Sachs in a $1.2 billion dollar case brought by the the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) regarding nine disputed equity derivatives trades, according to a spokesperson for Goldman Sachs.
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The LIA said that it was disappointed in the decision by Judge Vivien Rose, saying in response: "Time will be needed fully to digest the judgment and all options are being considered at this time." Some sources said that an appeal should be expected.
The trial had run for seven weeks in London's High Court over the summer. The LIA had argued that the trades were secured through "undue influence" and "unconscionable bargaining". The LIA also argued that its members were too unsophisticated to understand what it was they were buying and Goldman had abused its position as a trusted adviser by taking advantage of this inexperience. The members of the LIA had been appointed by the Gadaffi regime, and not on the basis of merit or qualifications, it was argued. Goldman Sachs blamed the "unforeseen financial depression" of 2008 for the LIA losses, and not any wrongdoing by the bank. It described the suit against it as "buyer's remorse". The trades were between January and April of 2008.
Some of the "undue influence" employed by Goldman Sachs is described in a Guardian article: "Goldman Sachs bankers paid for prostitutes, private jets and five-star hotels and held business meetings on yachts to win business from a Libyan investment fund set up under Gaddafi regime, the high court in London was told yesterday." While LIA lost almost all its investment through the trades, Goldman Sachs generated profits of over $200 million through them, according to Roger Masefield a lawyer to the LIA. As shown on the appended video, Goldman Sachs already was hit with a $5 billion dollar fine by the US justice department in April this year for misleading investors.
The LIA is pursuing a separate case as well against the French investment bank Societe General. The suit is for $2.1 billion US in relation to another group of trades between 2007 and 2009. The bank is contesting the case which is not expected to come to trial until April of next year.

U.S. ups air attacks on the Islamic State in Sirte Libya

Although the final push to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Sirte began some time ago and their imminent defeat has been announced a number of times, a few IS fighters still remain surrounded in the city in an increasingly smaller area.

In order to soften up IS positions before each advance of the Al Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure or BAM) forces, the U.S. has targeted snipers and IS positions as part of its Operation Odyssey Lightning that began back on the beginning of August. Just in the last four days, the U.S. has carried out 51 airstrikes. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said that this was some of the heaviest bombing since the operation began. AFRICOM said that in all about 155 targets were hit, mostly enemy fighting positions.
The BAM forces are mostly brigades from the city of Misrata and are loyal to the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). The U.S. airstrikes are in support of the Sirte offensive. There are also some special forces from the U.K. and the U.S. who are helping out on the ground. The attacks are launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. Since the U.S. operation began it has carried out 261 airstrikes. The Stars and Stripes suggests that there are perhaps fewer than 200 IS fighters left in Sirte.
There were gains against IS on Friday when the group was split into two and on the weekend. On Tuesday BAM forces are reported to have begun advancing again. Mohamed Abdulla a pro-government fighter claimed that BAM forces are making progress every day but needed better care for their wounded. BAM forces have faced fierce opposition from snipers, suicide vehicle attacks, and booby traps. The cost to BAM forces has been heavy. Some sources put the tally at 560 BAM fighters killed plus more than 2,750 injured so far.
Spokesperson for BAM, Muhammad Al-Ghusri said on Wednesday: “The remaining IS militants are not positioned in a combat mode, they are rather cornered, lost and perplexed in a very small area in the city. A coordinated work between our air force and ground troops has paid off and all IS militants are waiting for their death at any minute as they lie trapped in a very small area in Sirte – an area that is encircled by our forces. IS radicals have now two options; surrender or die.”Al-Ghusri claimed that all possible exits have been closed off and there is no way the remaining fighters can escape.


Pickup truck rams into crowd of protesters in Reno Nevada

Police are investigating after a pickup truck plowed into a group of demonstrators for native rights in downtown Reno Nevada on Monday night.

The appended video shows occupants of the vehicle arguing with the protesters then revving the engine and speeding into the crowd. Reno police chief Jason Soto said the 18-year old male who was driving the vehicle along with a 17-year old passenger contacted police just three minutes after the incident as they were several blocks away. Both he and his passenger are cooperating with the police.
A 59-year old woman was sent to the hospital with injuries resulting from the rampage. Three other people were hurt. According to the police about 40 protesters were blocking Virginia Street in front of a famous arch that has the Reno slogan "Biggest Little City in the World". As a group of protesters surrounded the truck which was revving its engine, they told the occupants that that they need to go in a different direction. Some shouted "Stand your ground". There were screams as the truck sped ahead and some were knocked to the ground.
Quanah Brightman, executive director of United Native Americans told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the action was a "hate crime." The police chief said that investigators were still looking at a great deal of video of the incident and urged anyone with video of the incident to come forward with any video or photos they might have. Although Soto did not say whether the incident was being regarded as a hate crime he did say that some of the footage was "very horrifying" After the incident the driver was not immediately arrested.
Taylor Wayman, who was at the rally but not a member of the sponsoring group told the Associated Press: “They drove by once as we were walking toward the arch, yelling obscenities. I heard the driver ask one of the protesters, ‘Do you want me to kill your homies?’ and that really set everybody off.
Mike Graham, founder of the United Native American Association based in Oklahoma which sponsored the rally said he was planning to meet with Reno police on Tuesday to find out why the driver of the pickup had not been arrested.
The protest was about Columbus Day. There were signs criticizing the Dakota Access Pipeline as well. The Standing Rock Siousx tribe claim the project is a threat to their water supply among other problems it poses.
The Reno mayor, Hillary Schieve, issued the following statement:This incident is troublesome and saddens us deeply. I take these matters very seriously, and I believe they must be investigated thoroughly and promptly. Public safety is our highest priority, and I want all Reno residents to know that we are working swiftly and diligently to make sense of the events that took place last night. Please be advised that the Reno Police Department will hold anyone responsible accountable for their actions once the investigation has concluded.
The woman who was taken to the hospital, Kitty Colbert said she feels "pretty strongly" about the police not arresting the driver of the truck that hit her. She said:"He had the choice to go around either direction on the street, and he deliberately plowed right through us, and I got run over. I got run over and now I have several pelvic fractures, a sacral fracture and one in my hips as well, a small fracture. I want them to arrest this guy. I mean, I know the guy in the passenger seat didn't press the gas pedal, but the guy that was diving needs to be arrested. I feel that this was attempted vehicular homicide. He could've killed me, and he didn't care. He didn't care that there were babies out there. He didn't care that there were youth, and children and elders. He just didn't care."
On Tuesday Police Chief Soto said that they had made contact with the driver of the pickup but had made no arrest as they were still examining video evidence. Soto said the demonstrators did not have a permit from the city to hold a demonstration. United Native Americans have their own Facebook page.

French farmer and critic of CETA finally allowed to stay in Canada but just for 7 days

Jose Bove a French farmer, member of European Parliament, and anti-globalization activist has been allowed to stay in Canada for seven days after being told yesterday he would have to leave the country today.

However, Bove missed his speaking engagement scheduled for Montreal last night. The Council of Canadians had asked Bove to speak on his opposition to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). He will be able to attend a conference at St. John's later on this week.
After Bove had spent hours in customs by Canada Border Services Agency on Tuesday, Bove had his passport confiscated and was informed he had to leave Canada on Wednesday afternoon. He was told he was being expelled because of his previous criminal convictions, including one in which he vandalized a McDonald's restaurant.Bove has been convicted of crimes resulting from his activism a number of times. However, he has been to Canada many times before with no issue. His experience in the U.S. has been different: In February 2006, Bové was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at New York's JFK Airport as he arrived en route to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations for events sponsored by Cornell's Global Labor Institute. According to Bové, the Customs agents told him he was "ineligible" to enter the U.S. due to his past prosecutions for "moral crimes". After being detained for several hours, Bové was placed on an Air France flight to Paris.[2]
At a new conference Wednesday Bove called on Canadian PM Prime Minister Trudeau to explain why he was held at the airport. Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians described the situation as "outrageous" saying: "Is the case for CETA on such thin ice that it can't withstand free speech?" Alex Lawrence, a spokesperson for Chrystia Freeland denied that there had been any interference from the government. A spokesperson for Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister said that decisions as to who can enter Canada is at the discretion of border service agents. Lawrence claimed that the government supported open public debate including about trade, as the only way to build public support and consensus.
Jean-Marc Desfilhes, Bove's press attache who was able to clear customs with no problem, though he had the same visa as Bove, said: "He isn't a criminal. He is an elected member of the European Parliament. This is simply an extremely embarrassing situation." CETA has not yet been ratified or signed but a signing ceremony is expected in Brussels later on in the month if it is ratified by the European parliament. Bove claims the deal is bad for farmers in both the EU and Canada. Critics say it is dangerous for the environment as well as unjust socially. A detailed critical analysis of CETA can be found on the Policy Alternatives website.


Russia to expand Syrian naval base at Tartus and make it permanent

While Russia has occupied the Tartus naval base in Syria for 45 years now it is nevertheless about to formalize that it is a permanent base and also come to an agreement with the Assad government for a substantial expansion of the base.

Tartus is Russia's only naval base in the Mediterranean. The base is quite limited in size and cannot accommodate larger warships. Russia wants to expand the base. Since the Assad government is very much indebted to Russia for helping it survive, negotiations should not be too difficult. In fact, any Russian expansion of the base will be seen by Assad as a sign of serious commitment to saving his regime. Russia has recently deployed an S-300 anti-aircraft system to the area around the base.
As relations with the U.S. sour, Russia is also apparently considering opening up Soviet era bases in both Vietnam and Cuba. Russia has also talked of opening an airbase in Egypt but Egyptian officials deny it will agree to any such base. However, Russia appears to be developing cordial relations with Egypt's el-Sisi government, and also with Khalifa Haftar of the rival HoR government of Libya. Russian paratroops will take part in war games with Egyptian paratroopers in Egypt this month.
Senator Igor Morozov of the senate International Affairs Committee said of the agreement to expand Tartus and make it permanent: "By doing this Russia is not only increasing its military potential in Syria but in the entire Middle East." Russia seems to be planning to expand its military presence globally. The state-owned newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta said Russia wants bases also in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Seychelles and Singapore as well. As relations with the U.S. heat up, Russia has also moved nuclear-capable missiles to its EU enclave of Kaliningrad.
Moscow already has a permanent airbase in Syria. The Tartus naval base was inherited from the USSR when it collapsed in 1991. As well as being expanded, the base will be equipped with anti-submarine defenses and new electronics systems