Showing posts from October, 2014

Foreign intervention in Libya now traces back to Gadaffi overthrow

The intervention in Libya politics traces back to foreign support for the rebellion against Gadaffi. The intervention not only involved western powers led by the US but also Arab countries with the UAE and Qatar supporting different rebel factions.

An article by Frederic Wehrey points out that the present Libyan strife still has aspects of being a proxy war. UAE planes in support of General Haftar were reported both by rebels and also originally by the US as being behind the night bombings of Tripoli during the period when the Libyan Dawn Islamist coalition were taking control of the international airport and the city of Tripoli. The internationally recognized Libyan government in Tobruk continues to emphatically deny that there is any foreign involvement in the Libyan conflict. The president of the House of Representatives Ageela Saleh said that allegations of foreign intervention in Libya are baseless rumors being perpetuated by forces interested in blocking recent…

Costs of US operations against Islamic State already in excess of one billion

According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon has spent up to $1.1 billion in military operations directed against the Islamic State both in Iraq and Syria since operations began back in the middle of June.

The Pentagon previously said that it is spending between $7 and $10 million a day. The AP calculation is based upon this estimate. US Central Command released figures that put the cost of Navy airstrikes and Tomahawk cruise missile launches at $62 million but did not indicate the costs of Air Force strikes. As of the first week of October there had been more than 266 airstrikes in Iraq and 103 in Syria. Commander Bil Urban, a spokesperson, for the Pentagon claimed that there had been 6,600 sorties sorties by the US and allied aircraft at a cost of some $580 million since airstrikes began on August 8. Earlier, the Defense Dept. had claimed an average of around $7 million a day for the air campaign but that has now been upped to $8.1 million as the pace of airs…

Aghanistan to remain dependent upon US and allies' funding for years

While the Afghan security forces may or may not be able to fend off attacks by the Taliban when the 2015 fighting begins next spring, one thing is certain, the Afghan government cannot fund those forces without aid from the US and others.

The U.S. along with other international donors provide 65 percent of the $7.6 billion Afghan yearly budget. The special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, John Sopko, notes that Afghanistan raises only about $2 billion of the annual $5 to $6 billion required each year just to maintain its police force and armed forces. The new government of Afghanistan led by president Ashraf Ghani has been more cooperative with the US so far than former President Hamid Karzai was during the end of his term. Unlike Karzai, Ghani signed a security agreement within days of becoming president that will allow about 10,000 US troops to remain after the present agreement expires at the end of this year.
 The upkeep of the Afghan government has been…

Secular party wins most seats in Tunisian election with Islamists coming second

Nidaa Tounes, a secular party has won the most seats in yesterday's election in Tunisia. It main rival the moderate Islamist Ennahda came in second.

The Turkish news agency Anadolu. after examining its count of 214 of the 217 seats in parliament. claimed that Nidaa Tounes had won 83 seats, with about 38 percent of the popular vote, while Ennahda won only 68 with about 31 percent. Mourakiboun, a Tunisian election observer group, claimed that Nidaa Tounes had 37 percent of the vote with Ennahda at 28 percent. Officials from both the main parties said that although the results were still somewhat premature, they matched their own information. Final results will probably be released on Tuesday.
 Nidaa Tounes is led by Beji Essebsi, who served under the deposed Ben Ali and even earlier under Bourgouiba, the founder of independent Tunisia. He is 87. The party is a coalition of former pre-revolution officials, secularists, and liberals formed back in 2012. Turnout for the …

Relatively small number of European banks fail stress test

Although 25 of 130 lenders subject to the European Central Bank (ECB) stress test failed, the Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem maintained that the test shows that the banking crisis in the region is already in the past.

Dijsselboem, who is also minister of finance of the Netherlands, said: “I definitely think the banking crisis is behind us. I am never free of worry, so I do feel that banks have to keep on working managing their risks, strengthening their capital ratios where necessary also in the future.” Although there was a total shortfall of about $32 billion many banks had already taken steps to cover that amount this year. Dijsselboem said that the numbers were manageable.
A Bloomberg article gives details of the banks that failed the test. Nine of them were in Italy. The banks were concentrated in areas such as Greece and Cyprus, with the latter country the site of the worst performing bank. Italy, Greece, and Cyprus have all faced financial difficultie…

Dilma Rousseff wins by slim margin in Brazilian presidential runoff

Dilma Rousseff, the leftist former guerrilla, was able to win a second term winning a run-off election over Aecio Neves but only by a narrow margin. With 98 percent of votes counted Rousseff, received 51.45 per cent of the valid votes.

Opinion polls before the results showed Roussef winning by a margin of 4 to 6 per cent. Many Brazilians are unhappy with a recent decline in the economy coupled with rising inflation. Recently inflation has been above the government's target of 6.5 per cent. Added to this is public concern over poor public services and corruption within the government. Many Brazilians were upset by the huge costs of the recent FIFA world cup. ]
The presidential campaign was quite acrimonious with many attack ads on both sides. Rousseff's party represents itself as the party of the less well off and portrays Neves as a playboy with little concern for the poor. Rousseff was far ahead of Neves after the first round winning 41.5 per cent of the vote…

Opposition to Canadian government's Iraq mission appears not to change support for Liberal party

Both Liberal leader Justin Trudeau who is leading in recent federal polls and Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party(NDP) voted against the bombing mission of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Iraq.

Two recent polls indicate that a majority of Canadians support Canada's Iraq mission and also Stephen Harper's judgment on the matter. Yet, as an article by Eric Grenier indicates, the results do not clearly show that Trudeau's position on Iraq has had any negative effect on support for the Liberal party. An EKOS research survey shows that 58 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat support Canada's Iraq mission while only 39 per cent are opposed.
As usual with such results the polls actually show that most Canadians 58 per cent favor a "non-military response such as aid and assistance to refugees" a position supported by both opposition parties. 21 per cent favored limiting the response to airstrikes where another 23 per cent wanted a &…

Assad forces capture key central town from Al Qaeda-linked rebels

The Syrian military is taking more territory in the central province of Hama and are reported to have retaken the town of Morek. The town is important because it is close to the crucial Damascus-Aleppo highway arguably the most important road in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that supports the rebels reports that the town is under the control of the military but surprisingly Syrian State media reported only that the military held most of the town. The town was seized by rebels with the Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front nine months ago. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights statement said: "Regime troops and their militia allies took back total control of Morek in the north of Hama countryside, after fierce battles that have raged" The battles began on Wednesday night and the assault was aided by air raids.
 As the Syrian government has now secured most of metro Damascus, they are moving north towards Aleppo to regain territory on the road towards Al…

Critical comments removed from report on USAID in Egypt

After Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011, the US Agency for International Development(USAID) paid several nongovernmental organizations(NGOs) to begin pro-democracy programs even though they were not registered to work in Egypt.

In less than a year, Egypt charged 43 workers with operating in the country illegally. Sixteen of those charged were Americans. The son of then-U.S. transportation secretary Ray Lahood was one of those arrested. In March 2012 the US workers were freed but only after USAID secretly paid $4.6 million for "bail." As the Washington Post reports, just two months afterward the Office of the Inspector General(OIG) of AID did a confidential draft audit that brought into question the legality of the program and of the "bail" payment. However, when the IOG office issued its final audit five months afterwards, what had been originally a 21-page report was now just nine. The earlier questioning and criticism of the …

US marine accused of murder in Philippines moved to Manila base

In a move meant to ease tensions over who should have custody of Pfc. Joseph Pemberton accused of murdering a transgender filipino, the US transferred him to the main Philippine military camp in Manila.

The Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines allows for the prosecution of US service personnel in Philippine courts unlike some countries such as Afghanistan where the agreement grants immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts. However, the agreement also allows for US custody of the accused "from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings". In 2009 the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that any sentence must be served in Philippine detention. Although many Filipinos are grateful for the US role in liberating the Philippines from Japanese occupation, they also want to protect their sovereignty after a long history of colonial rule by Spain, Japan, and the United States.
There have been protests at the US embass…

CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar completes coup in Libya

General Khalifa Haftar, often called a "renegade," now has the support of the internationally-recognized Libyan government in Tobruk. His coup has been successful.

Haftar's coup began earlier this year. Hafter was supposed to have taken over control of Libya's main institutions on the 14th of February. He managed to appear on TV announcing that the parliament, the General National Congress(GNC) and the government had been suspended. He claimed that he was not attempting a coup but "a correction to the path of the revolution." He claimed also that there were troops loyal to him in Tripoli.
Then-Defence Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni claimed that Haftar had no legitimacy and that there were no forces loyal to him in Tripoli. He also noted that there was a warrant out for Haftar's arrest for plotting a coup. While Haftar forces did not attack the GNC at this time, neither was the warrant for his arrest ever carried out. Abdullah Al-Thinni is prime minister of …

Russia and Ukraine still need to finalize natural gas deal

After meetings on Friday between Putin and Poroshenko and then between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators and the EU Commission over the weekend, it appeared that an agreement would be finalized today but no accord was reached.

An interim deal was reached over the weekend. Progress was made in September and the interim deal would have provided Ukraine with sufficient natural gas to carry it through the winter unless the weather was quite cold. The meeting today was unable to work out problems having to do with Ukraine's ability to pay for the gas. The European Energy Commission, Ukraine, and Russia did agree on the price that Ukraine would pay for the gas $385 per thousand cubic meters providing the money was paid in advance. While Alexander Novak claimed that Russia needed further assurances that Ukraine could pay for the gas, there was also agreement that the group would meet again in Brussels in a week to try to resolve the issue.
 Ukraine is in desperate nee…

Long-surviving Opera browser deserves a better market share

From time to time I look at statistics related to my blogs. Today I looked at browser percentage of page views on one of my blogs. Opera was over 40 percent. Over a longer period it runs at about one or two percent.

The statistic does not mean much. Maybe one person using Opera simply read a number of pages, but it piqued my curiosity about the Opera browser and led to my decision to write a short article on it. As compared to other browsers Opera is at present in fifth place on desktops with Chrome being the most popular according to most surveys, with venerable Internet Explorer in second, closely followed by Firefox, the Apple operating system in fourth and then Opera.
 As this article points out calculating the share of the market for each browser is difficult to estimate. Methods used give different results. However, the four different estimates shown here are not that different, except for one company that has Internet Explorer much more popular than any of…

Gunman wounds guard in attack on Canadian parliament

Although details are still sketchy an armed man emerged near the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill. He then shot four times wounding a guard. He then apparently was able to enter the parliament buildings.
The shooter is still said to be on the loose although one MP Bernard Trottier had tweeted that the gunman was shot and killed inside the Centre Block. The area has been sealed off by police and the guard who was shot has been taken to hospital. Police locked down parliament. Tactical Ottawa police arrived pointed guns at journalists and ordered them to the ground. Reporters were in lockdown in the foyer at the front of the House of Commons.
Stephen Harper, the prime minister, is reported safe and has left the parliament buildings. One Calgary MP Michelle Rempel tweeted to her mother that she was safe but that there were shots outside the caucus room. One body was reported visible from the Library of Parliament that is about in the middle of the Centre Block. I…

Obama administration considering adopting Bush-era view of UN convention against torture

In 2005 the Bush administration revealed that it interpreted the UN Convention Against Torture banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" as not applicable to the CIA or military prisons overseas.

Barack Obama was at that time just a newly-elected senator but he supported legislation that would make it clear that US officials were barred from using such treatment anywhere. However, the Obama administration has so far not stated its official position on how the treaty is to be interpreted.
The New York Times reports that Obama's legal group is considering whether the administration should retreat from his earlier view and adopt a position very much like that of former president George W. Bush — that the treaty does not impose legal obligations to bar torture outside the borders of the U.S. The U.S. will send a delegation to Geneva next month to appear before a UN panel that monitors compliance with the UN treaty.
The Times claims that State Department …

US marine charged with murder in the Philippines

Jeffrey Laude, aka Jenny, a transgender woman, was murdered in Olongapo City in the Philippines on October 11th. Olongapo City is near Subic Bay where US forces are stationed.

An initial report in the Marine Corps Times from an internal Naval memo gave few details: “Philippine police report a homicide occurred in a hotel room in Olongapo City on the night of 11 October.The victim was reported as a male Philippine national ... preliminary witness statements indicate U.S. military personnel may have been involved.” However, on October 15, local officials charged Private first Class Joseph Pemberton with the murder of Laude. The Philippine government later served five subpoenas on the US embassy in Manila. One was for Pemberton and the other four for witnesses.
The murder happens more than two decades after US forces were expelled from the Subic Bay base. However, US forces continue to visit on a rotating basis and the Philippine government is now considering a new agr…