Showing posts from February, 2015

Snowden Documentary by Laura Poitras wins best documentary award at Oscars

Los Angeles - "CitizenFour" is a documentary based on the revelations of Edward Snowden about NSA spying. The title refers to the pseudonym that Snowden used when he first contacted Laura Poitras, the director of the film.

The film, edited by Mathilde Bonnefoy and produced by Dirk Wilutzky, won the Oscar for best documentary. In collecting the award Poitras, with journalist and collaborator Glenn Greenwald at her side, said:“The disclosures of Edward Snowden don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the decisions that rule us are taken in secret we lose the power to control and govern ourselves. I share this award with Glenn Greenwald and the many other journalists who are taking risks to expose the truth.”Also on stage was Snowden's girlfriend Lindsay Mills. Host of the Oscars, Neil Patrick Harris, could not pass up a chance to add his own commentary as the winners left the stage: As the filmmaker and her collaborators walked offstage o…

Syriza government in Greece tries to sell sell out as a success

Athens - After presenting proposals for a debt deal that reneged upon most of Syriza's campaign promises that were rejected by Germany, the Syriza Greek government claims it won the battle for the debt deal. + Add Image In actuality, with Germany taking the lead, Greece was forced to accept extension of the original bailout deal that includes all the bailout conditions of the original memorandum of agreement. It did not receive a six-month loan period as it wanted but only four months. The loan period could not expire at a worse time since large debt repayments will be due shortly after. This will provide leverage for EU officials to press even more demands on the beleaguered Greek government. The Syriza government had insisted that it did not want an extension of the existing bailout agreement nor would it deal with the Troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank or the International Monetary Fund. It has agreed to an extension of the original bailout and supervision …

US troops may take part in planned attack to retake Mosul in Iraq

Mosul - The US has been hyping a spring offensive against the Islamic State to retake the city of Mosul, the largest city held by the rebels. + Add Image The Islamic State has held Mosul since last summer giving it time to build up formidable defenses. However, the offensive will involve five brigades or about 25,000 troops against a mere one to two thousand IS fighters although reinforcements may be brought in prior to the offensive. Even with those lopsided numbers and help from the Kurdish peshmerga, US officials, and even some within the Iraqi military hierarchy, think that direct intervention by US troops will be needed. The last thing that the west wants is another rout such as happened when Mosul was taken in the first place by IS with many advanced weapons being captured. There will also be heavy air support from the US-led coalition. US officials are already saying that US ground troops will be brought in "if necessary". The US has already been massing combat troops …

US and UK reject lifting Libyan arms embargo until unity government formed

As the Islamic State draws attention to itself in Libya, Egypt is pushing for a UN resolution to lift the embargo on arms shipments to Libya. The US and UK have urged that the embargo remain until a unity government is formed. + Add Image 1 of 2  The UN has been holding peace talks and a dialogue between the competing governments and main competing militias in Libya.The internationally recognized government is located in the eastern city of Tobruk and is supported by the militia of Khalifa Haftar and his allies the Zintan brigades. The prime minister is Abdullah al-Thinni, the same prime minister who presided over the transitional government of the General National Council when Haftar's allies burned down the parliament as part of his Operation Dignity. A warrant was issued for his arrest at the time. Al-Thinni condemned Haftar's actions then. Now he applauds Operation Dignity and pledges government support for his actions.The alternative government is in Tripoli with the main…

Houthi rebels try to extend their control while UN tries to broker political deal in Yemen

Houthi rebels who have taken control of the government in Yemen have extended their control into areas where they now face resistance from well-armed Sunni tribesmen as well as the Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). Nadwa Dawsari, a researcher on Yemeni tribe, said of the Houthis who have expanded their influence from their base in North Yemen east to the Red Sea and south to capture the capital Sanaa and even south into territory where Sunnis dominate:" "Traditional Yemeni political actors used to find middle ground and didn't let their clashes lead to a full-blown civil war. The Houthis don't seem to be interested in compromising. They mix a lack of experience in politics with, as their own leader has said, limitless ambitions. The fact that Iran is involved aggravates things and brings in a regional dimension that makes a conflict harder to avoid.""

While there may not have been a full-blown civil war in Yemen for some time there was an extended co…

Syriza throws in the towel and stocks soar as deal on Greek bailout reached

Brussels - Even the proposals presented earlier that Germany rejected were a sell out of most of the campaign promises made by Syriza including the demand for writing off some debt and for a new agreement rather than an extension of the existing bailout.
The new agreement makes it even clearer that Syriza is definitely committed to repudiating those promises, but goes much further. During the four-month extension period of the present bailout, Greece will be subject to exactly the same austerity conditions that were agreed to in the original memorandum of agreement(MofA). The sellout set forth in the original Greek proposals did not satisfy Germany, which wanted even more ironclad guarantees that Greece would keep to the original terms of the agreement. In return Greece managed to convince the EU finance ministers that its target surplus should be tied to its economic situation in 2015. Germany wanted not just a Greek sellout but a super sellout, and got it. The full …

Germany rejects Greek loan extension proposals sabotaging a deal for now

Moments after the European Commission had called the Greek proposals "positive" Germany rejected the proposal. Greece was requesting a six-month extension of its loan program. The complete text of the letter sent to the Eurogroup finance ministers can be found here. A spokesperson for the German finance ministry complained that the Greek proposals were attempting to obtain "bridge financing, without meeting the requirements of the programme. The letter does not meet the criteria agreed upon in the Eurogroup on Monday." The spokesperson also said that the suggestions were "not a substantial proposal for a solution". In the BBC article, at least, the spokesperson does not say exactly why the proposal is not a substantial proposal for a solution nor how exactly the proposals fail to meet the requirements of the program.

Syriza has caved on almost every demand including the demand that there be a new agreement and not an extension of the original agreement.…

Al Qaeda group takes over army base in South Yemen as US and UK close embassies

Both the US and UK close their embassies in Yemen as security deteriorates after Houthi rebels took over government. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula(AQAP) took control of an army base in the south.

Only four Yemeni soldiers and one AQAP fighter were killed in the raid. Members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, took control of the base, a garrison for the Yemeni army’s 19th brigade, then freed some 60 captured soldiers, according to government officials and a media liaison for AQAP. The attackers seized many weapons and even off road vehicles. The base is in the southern province of Shabwa. AQAP has had repeated clashes with the forces of the Houthi rebels who recently took power in Yemen after the failure of a political compromise. This is AQAP's biggest success on the battlefield since the Houthis took power. The US has closed it embassy in Yemen temporarily. A statement from the embassy in the capital Sanaa said: "Recent unilateral actions di…

Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve, on the Greek crisis

The former head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, conservative economist Alan Greenspan argues, that the only way for Greece to get out of the present bailout terms is a Grexit — to exit the euro zone. + Add Image Greenspan, was Chair of the US Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. He was a champion of free market capitalism and was part of the the inner circle of Ayn Rand and a supporter of the philosophy of Objectivism. After he became head of the Federal Reserve some objectivists criticized him for abandoning free market principles.Democrats often criticized him as having politicized his position as head of the Reserve. Greenspan argued strenuously for the privatization of social security. Although a Republican, Greenspan strongly supported President Bill Clinton in 1993 when Clinton introduced a deficit reduction plan that included tax increases and budget cuts. Greenspan's policies that shunned regulations are regarded by some as partly responsible for the recent recession. In a Congr…

CIA-linked General Haftar is the power behind the Libyan Tobruk government

Tripoli - CIA-linked General Haftar has upgraded his status from failed coup leader with a warrant out for his arrest to the de facto head of the Libyan army whose Operation Dignity has the support of the internationally recognized government in Tobruk.
The rise of Haftar is detailed in this article. Haftar is no longer a retired or renegade Libyan general as some sources still describe him. In fact he along with many other Gadaffi era military personnel have been recalled to active duty. Haftar's militia and the official Libyan army are now supposedly merged. Back on January 19th, Reuters reported that Haftar along with many other Gadaffi era army officers had been reactivated: A copy of an official decree obtained by Reuters recalled Haftar and 108 other former Gaddafi-era army officers for active army duty...Senior officers linked to Haftar have also been given top posts in the recall. The decree had been issued weeks before but only revealed later.

 Earlier, in …

Houthi rebels take control in Yemen

Yemen's Houthi rebels announced that they had taken over the government on Friday. Several cities saw rallies opposing the decision. The Houthis are a Shiite group while the majority of Yemenis are Sunni.

The conflict in Yemen and the growth in Houthi power has been accompanied by the strengthening of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula(AQAP) who not only oppose the Houthis but have gained allies among some Sunni tribes to help stop the advance of the Houthis into Sunni majority territory. The Houthis also are hostile to the US and to the Saudis a well. The group is supported by Iran, a fact that further complicates the politics of the situation. In spite of all the unrest the US has continued its drone program. Eric Schultz said it was " deeply concerned with this unilateral step" but would continue with its counter-terrorism efforts. Al Qaeda has admitted one of its leaders was killed in a strike and there have been several drone strikes of late. However ano…

In spite of cease fire in Libya conflict continues in several areas

Clashes took place in Benghazi where pro-government forces led by CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar have been trying to retake the city from an umbrella group of Islamist militias opposed to the Tobruk governent.
After recent peace talks brokered by the UN, Libya Dawn, the main militia associated with the Tripoli-based government, declared a ceasefire. A few days later, the internationally recognized government in the eastern city of Tobruk also declared a ceasefire. However, the government said that it would continue to pursue terrorists. As a result, there has seemingly been no ceasefire at all in Benghazi, where Haftar continues his attempt to retake the city from the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries who captured most of the city last July.

Haftar began the present campaign against Islamists back in February last year culminating in his Operation Dignity launched last May. Up until now, he has lost the two major cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, to the oppositi…

Talks between Greek and German finance ministers go nowhere

Talks Thursday between German Finance Minister Wofgang Schaeuble and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis appeared to achieve little or nothing with the German side simply repeating its hard line on Greek debt reduction

German Finance Minister Schaeuble has been consistent in making it clear that he is completely against any "haircut" or writing off any Greek debt. At the same time, Schaeuble said that Greece belonged in the euro zone. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also made it clear that she is against any reduction of Greek debt. Surprisingly, Schaeuble said that although the two had agreed to disagree on renegotiating the terms of Greek debt repayment outside of the Troika process, the talks had "come much further than anyone had expected". Perhaps, Schaeuble was alluding to the fact that Varoufakis has already caved on the debt reduction issue by suggesting that present debt obligations could be met by a debt swap plan that would involve de…

Egyptian counter-terror violence in Sinai generates more terrorist violence

Egyptian President Abdul el-Sissi has used ever more violent means to try and counter the violence in the Sinai Peninsula. In spite of concerted efforts to stop the insurgents there was a devastating series of attacks on January 29.

One source put the casualties from the attack at 31 people and another source at least 26. The Egyptian army had begun to feel confident that a strong military response to earlier attacks had decisively weakened the insurgency. Last October, the group then called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis launched an attack on a military checkpoint that killed 31 and wounded many more. The Egyptian government blamed "foreigners" for the attack. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, originally inspired by Al Qaeda, has recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and rebranded itself as the Sinai Province of the Islamic State. Egyptian president Abdel el-Sissi also blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the recent attack, claiming it had a role in the operation. Since ove…