Showing posts from November, 2014

No one convicted 5 years after Philippine massacre that killed 58 people

November 23 was the fifth anniversary of a slaughter allegedly committed by members of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao province in the large southern island of the Philippines Mindanao.

The Maguindanao massacre killed 58 people including 32 journalists and other media workers. The slaughter was allegedly the result of Andal Sr. and his sons plotting to prevent political rival Esmael Mangudadatu from running for governor of the province. A convoy led by Mangudadatu's wife, friends, and lawyers was en route to file papers for Mangudadatu's candidacy at the provincial capital along with 32 local media representatives. The patriarch's son Andal Ampatuan Jr. along with almost 200 militia and police officers stopped the convoy at gunpoint. The group then were marched to a grassy knoll where witnesses said that they were methodically gunned down. Another version of events is given in the appended video. Some of the women's bodies were mutilated. A back…

US Special Forces participated in Yemen raid that freed 8 hostages of Al Qaeda

Yemen security officials announced that eight hostages had been freed from the custody of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula(AQAP). The operation was in Hadrawmut province.

The hostages had been seized just north of Aden, a port city, but moved inland into Hadrawmut province. The first reports from the Yemeni government claimed that a US military instructor was among the eight rescued. The Pentagon, while applauding the rescue, denied that any US personnel were rescued. The US embassy in Sanaa refused to even comment on the operation at all. The Yemen government report did not mention US involvement.
Pentagon officials later privately confirmed that there were actually US ground troops involved in the rescue raid to the tune of two dozen Special Forces. The US does not admit to having "boots on the ground" in Yemen. Those freed were six Yemenis, a Saudi, and an Ethiopian. Officials say that the raid was aimed at freeing a US journalist and a UK citizen. Both are…

Prosecutor misled grand jury about the law in Michael Brown case

Grand juries are often criticized because it is easy for prosecutors to obtain an indictment. In the shooting of Michael Brown by officer Wilson however the aim of the grand jury process seems to have been not to indict Wilson but to fail to indict him. Justice Antonin Scalia in a 1992 Supreme Court explained what the role of a grand jury had been for hundreds of years:It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented. Given this is the function of grand jur…

Even UN expresses concern about Tripoli bombings by General Haftar

UN special envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon has been trying his best to persuade the parties in conflict to stop fighting and engage in dialogue. He has stressed that there can only be a political solution to the Libyan conflict.

While the groups of militia opposed to the government still are in conflict in some areas, the capital Tripoli is free of fighting for the most part and Benghazi was also under control of anti-Tobruk government forces until recently. In spite of the UN's pleading to stop fighting CIA-linked General Haftar and his militia launched an operation that is intended to retake Benghazi. This operation was apparently aided by planes that probably came from Egypt . Some claim they were piloted by Libyans allowing Egypt to deny that they were involved.
 On November 6th the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the June elections were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk government should be dissolved. The UN said it was studying the decision. Apparently it is…

Russia and Abkhazia sign extensive agreement on military and defense policies

Russia and Abkhazia have signed an extensive agreement on military issues and Abkhazia agreed to harmonize its foreign and defence policies with those of Russia. A Russian commander will lead a new joint force of Russian and Abkhazian troops.

The leaders of both countries, Vladimir Putin and Raul Khadzhimba, lauded the agreement: “I’m sure cooperation, unity and strategic partnerships between Russia and Abkhazia will continue to strengthen. Ties with Russia offer us full security guarantees.”Abkhazia regards itself as an independent state, The Republic of Abkhazia, but aside from Russia, only Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru recognize the state. Abkhazia is also recognized by the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations: South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Abkhazia are post-Soviet "frozen conflict" zones...These four unrecognized states maintain friendly relations with each other and form the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations. …

Unidentified jets attack Tripoli airport in Libya twice in two days

If an unidentified jet bombed an international airport in Jerusalem or even Kiev it would be headline news. In Tripoli, the capital of Libya, however unidentified bombings have happened several times. No one even expresses surprise let alone outrage.

Back in August there were a series of bombings by unidentified planes on Islamist positions in Tripoli. The planes were of a type that were not among the few planes that remain in Libya's air force after the west bombed Gadaffi's air force. Destruction of Gadaffi's air force was designed to avoid having any interference with the extensive bombing, that was supposed to protect the people from Gadaffi's forces. The recent Tripoli bombings were claimed to be a joint venture of CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar and the international community according to the general himself. The rebels blamed Egypt and the UAE with the latter providing the planes and Egypt the air bases for the attacks. The silence of the intern…

Obama seeks to expand US role in Afghanistan in 2015 to include combat

While US combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of this year, under an agreement signed by the new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani almost 10,000 troops will remain through 2015 at least.

Back in May of this year, Obama claimed that US troops remaining in Afghanistan after the end of this year would not play any combat role. The troops would train Afghan forces, and hunt down any remnants of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Now Obama plans to extend the role of the remaining troops to include combat actions against the Taliban and any other militant group that threatens either the US troops or the Afghan government, according to "several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision" who spoke to the New York Times. President Ghani not only supported but apparently even requested the expanded US role even though such a role was not set out in the original bilateral agreement on security he recently si…

Elizabeth Warren helps convince liberals to stay in Democratic Party

The United States is a two-party system consisting of Republicans and Democrats. While other parties exist, and independents as well, they do not have sufficient funds or support to challenge the two main parties.

The Democrats are supported by most in the US who consider themselves liberal or leftist. Most of these supporters are well aware of the fact that Wall Street has a huge influence on policy through donations and lobbying even when the Democrats are in power. Many liberal policies were not implemented even when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, for example the long-promised closure of Guantanamo Bay. In order to prevent liberals and leftists from leaving the Democrat fold, shepherds or shepherdesses are needed to herd them back into the fold rather than leaving and perhaps even forming another party. Elizabeth Warren can be seen as playing this role and doing an excellent job.
 In a recent article in the Huffington Post, "Enough is Enough, T…

US launches 500th drone attack

As Micah Zenko noted in an article in 2012, November 3 that year marked the tenth anniversary of the first drone attack by the US. No one took notice. The same will apply to the 500th confirmed US drone attack today outside of combat zones.

In his 2012 article Zenko called the drone strikes America's Third War. Micah Zenko is the Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He has worked previously at Harvard and the Brookings Institution. Targeted killings were originally directed supposedly at a small number of key terrorist leaders thought to be an imminent threat to the US. Now the attacks barely merit a mention in the press. As Zenko puts it in his 2012 article: What was once considered an immediate response to an exceptional threat to the United States is now a permanent and institutionalized feature of U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps by November 3, 2022, policymakers and the American people will have n…

More problems in Yemen with Special Forces mutiny

As if Yemen did not have enough problems dealing with rebel Houthis and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula(AQAP) there has now been a mutiny within the elite Special Forces.

Gunfire was reported within the headquarters' building. The Yemen presidential guard has cordoned off the entire area. The mutineers are demanding their new commander Mohammed Mansour al-Ghadraa be removed from his post. Rumors abound that former president Ali Saleh is behind the mutiny. His relatives had led the forces until being ousted when the present president, Mansour Hadi, had purged many of them. However, Saleh still has considerable support in parts of the armed forces.
A later report claims that the mutiny has ended with the appointment of a new commander: Yemen's official SABA news agency reported on Friday that Interior Minister Galal al-Rowaishan has appointed Abdel-Razak al-Marouni as a new commander of the Special Forces. The SABA report made no mention of Mohammed Mansour al…

Very rare cat received at Lothian Cat Rescue in Scotland

The Lothian Cat Rescue in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian Scotland received a rare male tortoiseshell cat. Only .04 percent of tortoiseshell cats are male.

Harry, as the kitten is called, came to the shelter after his owners suffered an extreme allergic reaction to the kitten's fur. Nicola Zelent who works at the rescue site said: “It’s very rare to get a male. He’s the first tortie boy we’ve had at LCR in our 35 year history, and he is the first of his kind which our vets have seen too!” A photo of Harry can be found here. Harry is 12 weeks old already. At first, the vet who identified the gender of Harry was convinced that he should be a Harriet. He said: “When I heard the cat called Harry, I said to the owners, ‘I think that might have to be a Harriet'. I had to change my words when I discovered it was male. I’ve never seen one before and I’ve been a vet for more than 30 years.”
 Zelent said that males are usually hermaphrodite, that is have the sex organs not just …

Not just in Ferguson, Missouri, in total there are presently 30 different states of emergency in US

A proclamation by governor Jay Nixon authorizes the Missouri National Guard to support police if there is violence when a grand jury decision is announced on whether a white policeman who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager will be charged.

The exact proclamation can be found here. Governor Nixon said: "As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision." The order also designates the St. Louis Police Department rather than the Ferguson police to be in charge of policing any protests that might arise as a result of the decision. There have already been protests in Clayton, Missouri, where the grand jury is meeting. The decision is expected some time in November. The state of emergency was for thirty days but can always be extended.
Many states of emergency are extended for years. In 1979 on the 10th day of the Iranian hostag…

Turkish envoy to Libya urges elections as a way out of Libyan crisis

Emrullah Isler, the Turkish Special Envoy for Libya claims the political crisis in Libya can be overcome by holding general elections.

At present there are two rival governments, one in Tobruk, that is internationally recognized, the House of Representatives, consisting of representatives elected in elections last June. Some of those elected have not attended and do not recognize the legitimacy of the Tobruk government. The UN through its envoy Bernardino Leon held talks with those elected but boycotting the parliament in order to reach some type of political settlement. However, the alternative government formed in Tripoli by a bloc of Islamist and other militias who control Tripoli and part of Benghazi were not involved in the dialogue nor were the rival Islamist-led militias and those led by CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar. The General National Congress was recalled by the Islamist bloc and appointed a rival prime minister Omar al-Hassi, who then formed an alt…

Egyptian government continues repression and suppression of dissent.

Egypt under President Abdul al-Sisi is repressing dissent of all kinds. In the latest move Egyptian State Radio banned a popular singer Hamza Namira from broadcasting since some of his songs criticize authorities.

Namira gained fame during the uprising in Tahrir square with songs of hope and freedom three years ago. Protesters managed to oust the regime of Hosni Mubarak with the help of the army. Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was eventually elected president but after large demonstrations against his government was overthrown in a move led by Al-Sisi who was then army chief. Almost a year later Al-Sisi was elected president with strong support even from many who had been part of the original revolution. Al-Sisi rode a wave of anti-Islamist feeling and was able to successfully and brutally repress protesters supporting Morsi, killing hundreds or more in a bloody crackdown. Now even protest songs are not allowed.
 Human rights activists claim that the move to …

Japan's economy moves back into recession in spite of Abeonomics

Japan's economic performance was hurt by a recent sales tax hike and investment by business declined. The economy shrank by 1.6 percent even though predictions were that there would be growth following a large decline in the previous quarter.

The decline may increase uncertainty about global economic growth as China's growth is slowing and the Eurozone grew only by 0.2 percent last quarter. Japan is the world's third largest economy. Effects on stock markets were mixed: U.S. stocks ended mixed Monday -- with the S&P 500 managing to set another closing high -- after Japanese markets tumbled on news that the world's second-largest economy unexpectedly slipped back into recession.
The hike in the sales tax appears to have created less demand from consumers, builders and manufacturers. In April the sales tax was hiked from 5 to 8 percent. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is using the revenue to try to reduce debt which is the worst among advanced industrialized c…

Libyan Supreme Court decision could facilitate UN political dialogue

The Libyan Supreme Court well over a week ago ruled that the June elections in Libya were unconstitutional and that the House of Representatives now meeting in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk should be dissolved.

The Supreme Court ruling complicates the situation in Libya. Up to now the UN and the international community has regarded the House of Representatives(HoR) meeting in Tobruk as the sole legitimate government of Libya, and its prime minister Abdullah Al-Thinni as the sole legitimate prime minister. The UN has been attempting to strengthen the role of the Tobruk government. The UN dialogue to reach a political deal involved elected members of the HoR, who had boycotted the meetings. The UN did not include the alternative government of Omar al-Hassi, which controls the capital Tripoli, nor any of its allies in the east such as the Shura Council in Benghazi. Nor did it apparently include talks with militia leaders on either side of the conflict.
 Jason Pa…