Friday, January 29, 2016

New study shows a glass of red wine each day is beneficial to type 2 diabetics

A new study shows that moderate consumption of red wine can help people with type 2 diabetes to manage their cholesterol and cardiac health as well as controlling the blood sugar levels.

Type 2 or "adult onset" diabetes contrasts with type 1 or gestational diabetes. The main types are set out in Wikipedia:
Type 1 DM results from the pancreas's failure to produce enough insulin. This form was previously referred to as "insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (IDDM) or "juvenile diabetes". The cause is unknown.[3]
Type 2 DM begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly.[3] As the disease progresses a lack of insulin may also develop.[6] This form was previously referred to as "non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (NIDDM) or "adult-onset diabetes". The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.[3]
Gestational diabetes, is the third main form and occurs when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop a high blood-sugar level.[3The reference to type 2 as non-insulin dependent is hardly accurate since often, as the disease progresses, one needs to use insulin, and blood sugar needs to be controlled by injecting insulin. I myself have been doing this for several years. I wish I had gone to insulin earlier as it has provided much better control in my case. I do not find injection painful at all,
The relation of drinking to diabetes control is complicated. Some of the issues are listed here. The complete Canadian Diabetes guidelines can be found here. I drink only one bottle of beer a day and often not that. It does not appear to have any impact on control as far as I can tell.
This new study shows that alcohol at least in the form of a glass of red wine a day can actually improve cardiac health and cholesterol levels in Type 2 diabetic patients. I have never had trouble with cholesterol but maybe I will try the wine anyway. The new study was carried out in a two-year randomized controlled trial (RCT) led by researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel, although researchers from other countries also participated,including from the University of Leipzig in Germany, and Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Prof. Meir Stampfer of Harvard University in the US was also one of the researchers. This study is the first long term study of alcohol effects. The study published in the well-regarded Annals of Internal Medicine is titled, "Effects of Initiating Moderate Alcohol Intake on Cardiometabolic Risk in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes".
The researchers found that both red and white wine could improve sugar control. Those with diabetes are prone to having lower levels of "good" cholesterol than those in the general population. Any recommendations of alcohol consumption for people with diabetes have remained controversial due to the lack of long term randomized trials. The positive results for blood sugar control only resulted for diabetics who were slow rather than fast alcohol metabolizers. About one in five of the participants were fast alcohol metabolizers.
There are other properties of red wine that apparently make it superior to white win in overall results:“Red wine was found to be superior in improving overall metabolic profiles, mainly by modestly improving the lipid profile, by increasing good (HDL) cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1 (one of the major constituents of HDL cholesterol), while decreasing the ratio between total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol... "initiating moderate wine intake, especially red wine, among well-controlled diabetics, as part of a healthy diet, is apparently safe, and modestly decreases cardio-metabolic risk. The differential genetic effects that were found may assist in identifying diabetic patients in whom moderate wine consumption may induce greater clinical benefit."Sleep quality was improved in participants whether they drank white or red wine as compared with those in a control group who drank water. The study also found no adverse effects such as change in blood pressure, liver function, growth in fat levels or other adverse symptoms.
The study was carried out on 224 diabetes type 2 patients who were aged 45 to 75. Most of the participants abstained from alcohol. The participation rate over the two year study was 87 percent a very high participation rate. Perhaps the wine was of high quality. The results were rather different than the researchers originally thought. Red wine appears to have non-alcoholic constituents that provide further benefits that are lacking in white wine. Perhaps the effects might be different with different wines as well. Subjects of the study were subject to a constant and comprehensive set of medical tests including monitoring of blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose levels. I am hoping the next study will use beer. I am ready and willing to volunteer.

Criticism of Libyan Government of National Accord mounting

The internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk has only a few more days to give a vote of confidence in the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA).

While the GNA formation has been announced, although 48 hours after a deadline, it is facing increasing opposition with two members of the senior body of the nine-member Presidency Council not signing and suspending their membership in the body. The rival General National Congress government has not accepted the GNA either. Some of the problems with the GNA and its 32-member cabinet are outlined in a critique by Omar Al-Aswad, one of two members who did not sign.
He accused other members of the Council of acting dishonestly, and of moral and political corruption. He also claimed that not only was the government too big but the members were chosen on the basis of cronyism not competence. When the Council had originally failed to meet the deadline for announcing the GNA, Al-Aswad had proposed that there be a smaller government of just 10 ministers. Al-Aswad claimed everyone accepted that proposal and they were to meet the next day to chose the names. He also claimed that each of the Council's nine members would get to nominate a specific minister with the Prime Minister designate Faiez Serraj nominating the tenth as well, the finance minister.
Al-Aswad continued: “The next day, very early in the morning, I received a phone call telling me that the two members had not slept all night and had created a new government with 24 ministries. I waited to be sure of the news. I waited till midday and did not take any calls. I then went to the meeting hall and found no one there. Then I realised that there was truth in the phone call.” At around 6.30pm, he added, “I got a call to come to the meeting. Serraj was not there but everyone else was, except [Ali] Gatrani who had suspended his membership the night before for different reasons.”
Al-Aswad went to meet Serraj and demanded that the Council return to its earlier decision or begin the process over again. He also demanded to know who had changed the plan and why. He then said Serraj could call him to go to the meeting before midnight or he would suspend his membership. He received no call. Al-Aswad had objected when two members suggested a cabinet of 24 members. But the actual number was much larger at 32. Some ministries were divided with the foreign ministry now having three divisions. Al-Aswad notes: There had, moreover, been clear cronyism in the choice of some ministers. “One ministry was given to the office manager of a member of the Presidency Council. Another of his staff was given a separate ministry.” Five ministries were given to relatives of Presidency Council members..
The other official who resigned was Ali Al-Gitrani , a deputy minister from the east and a strong supporter of General Khalifa Haftar, the commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) of the HoR. He was concerned that there were insufficient guarantees that Haftar would keep his job when the GNA term began after a vote of confidence in the HoR. An additional section of Article 8 of the LPA gave the Presidency Council the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army immediately upon the signing. The document was signed on December 17th. This section has been completely ignored with Haftar carrying on as if the section did not exist. The mainstream press seems not to take the slightest interest in or even notice this requirement. Al-Gatrani no doubt worried that when the GNA term actually began, after the vote of confidence by the HoR, the GNA might actually carry out its obligations under Section 8.
In eastern Libya, there are now serious divisions developing between those who strongly support Haftar and those who oppose him. His spokesperson, Colonel Mohamed Hejazi, recently turned against him and launched a vicious attack against Haftar on TV, accusing him of a litany of crimes. Some parts of the armed forces and the head of the militia guarding the oil pipelines support Hejazi in his attacks. However, Haftar appears to still be firmly in place as commander with demonstrations in his favor breaking out in Benghazi. Unfortunately, for UN envoy Kobler who brokered the GNA formation, Hejazi does not support the GNA either and is critical of it as well as Haftar.
In another development, a group of elders from the eastern area of Cyrenaica met with Haftar at his headquarters in Marj and told him they reject the Serraj government. They said they support Haftar's fight against terrorism and want a "Libya-Libya" dialogue that would lead to peace and security within Libya. Haftar would not favor a dialogue that included the GNC since he regards them as Islamists to be defeated by his Operation Dignity begun back in May of 2014 and arguably the beginning of the present conflict between rival governments. Along with the elders, were a number of members of the HoR and of the government of prime minister Al-Thinni and even some delegates from the Tebu and Tuareg communities in the south. In total, this is a significant group who will not allow a vote of confidence in the GNA within the HoR. Again Haftar announced that he would liberate Benghazi from Islamists. He has made such announcements many times in the past. While he has regained much of the city after losing almost all of it at one time, he still faces significant pockets of resistance. Parts of the city are virtually uninhabitable and completely destroyed by the battles.
Haftar has obviously learned something from observing Kobler and the UN. If a fact is damaging or goes against one's narrative just ignore it. Kobler says nothing about the divisions in the east or about when he might be able to get the HoR to pass a vote of confidence in the GNA. He is busy promoting more support and cheerleading for the GNA. Haftar, for his part, simply ignores the charges against him of his former spokesperson Hejazi. Instead, he predicts success for his battle against Islamists in Benghazi and is gathering a formidable group of opponents to the GNA.

Read more:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Foreign military intervention in Libya increasing with more likely to come

As the Islamic State launches more attacks in Libya, there is an increasing likelihood that there will be further foreign military intervention to confront the group.

The U.S. top general, Joseph Dunford, chair of the US military Joint Chiefs of Staff, is reported by the New York Times as having said in Paris:
 “Unchecked, I am concerned about the spread of ISIL in Libya…You want to take decisive military action to check ISIL’s expansion and at the same time you want to do it in such a way that’s supportive of a long-term political process.”
Dunford said action was likely to be within weeks rather than hours. General Joseph L. Votel, commanding general of the Joint Special Operations Command, noted that fighting the Islamic State would not be all about Iraq and Syria but concerned Libya as well. Apparently a large meeting in Rome last week was not just about bringing humanitarian and other aid to Libya but about security and military options. Military intervention in Libya has long been planned by several western countries since at least last August.
The German newspaper Die Welt makes it clear that the foreign military intervention hopes to gain international legitimacy through being invited into Libya by the UN-brokered Government of National Accord:
“The only thing missing for a military intervention is the legal framework. As soon as the new Libyan unity government is formed, it can proceed. When Libya has a united and to some extent legitimate government again, then there is someone in response to whose request a western military intervention can take place within the framework of international law.”
So far, the GNA has not begun to function, as it needs a vote of confidence in the internationally-recognized House of Representatives or HoR. This must happen according to the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) by January 27. Martin Kobler, head of the UNSMIL, has yet to announce when the vote will take place. It met four times already but failed to achieve a quorum. It is not clear it will be able to vote on the issue this time around in spite of tremendous pressure to do so. Meanwhile the Libyan National Army seems to be experiencing divisions, with several groups rejecting the commander in chief Khalifa Haftar a former CIA asset.
A number of sources claim that foreign troops are already in Libya. The Libya Observer says:Military forces from Britain, US and Russia have arrived in Libya to support the new UN-backed government, London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Saturday, adding a French one is to follow soon. The newspaper said foreign troops made up of dozens of soldiers and officers landed at Jamal Abdel Nasser military base south of Tobruk. Eyewitnesses said the number of foreign military personnel arrived at the base has reached 500, while a military source indicated that the number does not exceed a dozen of officers who came to give consultations to the army.Al Arabiya provides a similar report. There is also a report that a plane carrying military experts from France arrived in Tobruk yesterday. A group of U.S. commandos landed in Al-Watiya airbase in Libya but left when confronted by Zintani militia who demanded they leave.
The Israeli intelligence source Debka has much more detail of what is allegedly planned with maps of the operations. Debka claims that Obama decided earlier in January to open a third anti-terror front in Libya to eradicate the Islamic State there. To the surprise of many, he decided to launch the campaign in cooperation with Russia. Debka claims the first step took place on the weekend with a group of US, Russian, French, and Italian Special Forces landing at a point south of Tobruk near the Egyptian border. Some 1,000 UK SAS were standing by as they had prepared for the landing. Debka goes on:At the peak of the assault, large-scale US, British and French marines will land on shore for an operation first billed as the largest allied war landing since the 1952 Korean War. The attachment of Russian forces was negotiated later. According to the scenario sketched in advance by DEBKA Weekly, large-scale US air, naval and ground units are to spearhead the new coalition’s combined assault on the main Libyan redoubts of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia and other radical Islamist organizations. Cruise missiles strikes will blast them from US, British, French and Italian warships on the Mediterranean.
While Debka has its supporters, and is sometimes right, a bit of caution is in order:
...Israeli intelligence officials do not consider even 10 percent of the site's content to be reliable.[1] Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf calls Debka his "favorite alarmist Israeli website trading in rumors."There seems little doubt however that many foreign countries are lining up to militarily intervene in Libya as soon as the GNA gets up and running or as it seems even before this happens. Parts of the Debka report also fit in with other reports. For now, it appears most likely that there will be small groups of special forces operating in Libya from a number of countries.

Saudi Grand Mufit says chess is "the work of Satan" and is forbidden

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh responded to a question on a Saudi television show saying that chess was "the work of Satan," as were alcohol and gambling.

Chess is believed by many scholars to have originated in India in the sixth century AD. It spread to Persia and when the Arabs conquered Persia, they adopted the game and the game spread throughout the Muslim world and from there to southern Europe. During the Cold War, Russia was dominant in the game except for a period when the American,Bobby Fischer, became a U.S. hero for a time beating the Russians. He beat the Russian Boris Spassky in 1973 in a tournament held in Reykjavik Iceland. He refused to defend his title when chess authorities refused to meet his demands. Later he became anti-American and ended up in Iceland where he died in 2008:
 During the 1990s and early 2000s, Fischer lived in Hungary, Germany, the Philippines, Japan, and Iceland, and made increasingly anti-American and anti-semitic remarks on various radio stations. Possibly, as a result, his U.S. passport was revoked.[15][16][17] Unaware of the revocation, Fischer traveled to Japan, where he was arrested by Japanese authorities[18] and detained for more than eight months[19] under threat of deportation. In March 2005, Iceland granted Fischer full citizenship,[20] leading Japanese authorities to release him from prison.[21] Fischer flew to Iceland, where he lived until his death on January 17, 2008.[22]Fischer was arguably one of the best players ever.
Chess is still widely played across the Arab world even in Saudi Arabia. In spite of the danger of crossing religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, Musa Bin Thaily, a member of the Saudi Chess Association defended the game against the cleric's charges saying that the game had nothing to do with gambling and that the Association had held 70 events in Saudi Arabia. He even included photos that showed players posing with a UAE prince. Bin Thally also posted a photo of chess pieces that had crescent moons atop the king rather than the cross that is standard on the Staunton pattern often used in the west.
The Grand Mufti issued a fatwa, or religious decree, to the effect that chess was forbidden. Nevertheless, it appears that the Saudi chess association will go ahead with a chess tournament in Mecca. In his association of chess with gambling, the Mufti said: “It makes the rich man poor, and makes the poor man rich. It causes hostility and wastes time where it should not be spent.”
It is not clear how chess makes the rich man poor and the poor man rich. although if it did. that sounds to be not such a bad idea. As for wasting time and causing hostility, it could be argued that almost any competitive game could have these effects on some players. It remains to be seen whether the royal rulers will enforce the fatwa. Fatwas are not considered law but legal opinions or religious guidance.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Iraqi Shia religious authority, beat his Sunni counterpart to the punch by previously issuing rulings against the game. Indeed Christian churches and a number of authorities throughout its history have sanctioned chess: By the late 15th century, it had survived a series of prohibitions and Christian Church sanctions to almost take the shape of the modern game.
After the 1979 Iranian revolution chess was forbidden by senior clerics for the same reason as the Saudi Grand Mufti gave that it is associated with gambling. In 1988, Iran’s then supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, lifted the ban and said it was permissible as long as it was not a means of gambling. Iran now has its own confederation for playing chess. It regularly sends players to international tournaments. While many Muslim scholars distinguish chess from gambling in that it is a skill-based game, they are concerned that playing chess might distract players from religious duties. Placing bets on a match is strictly forbidden.

Israeli herbicide spraying damages and destroys Gaza crops

Israel is spraying herbicide along the border with the Gaza strip for what Israeli army officials claim is for "security reasons."

On January 7, the spraying by a low-flying agricultural aircraft eradicated or damaged up to 162 hectares of crops along the fence area on the Israeli border. Anwar Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at the Ministry of Agriculture, said :
"Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population,"
The spraying is along a buffer or "no-go" zone unilaterally imposed by Israel. The zone represents an estimated 17 percent of the territory of the tiny Gaza Strip and a third of the agricultural area, passing through some of Gaza's most fertile soils. Last week, Yousef Shahin, who was having trouble as it was sustaining his farmland, had his water tank targeted by an Israeli raid. The tank supplied not only his own farm but others in an area east of Khan Younis. The tank and collection system cost he and his neighbours some $15,000. With no government support to rebuild Shahin said: "Without support, we can never reconstruct the system again. We don't have running water for irrigation; I think we lost this season..We had to jeopardize our lives daily growing these crops; now all our efforts are in vain,"Within the last few months at least 16 Palestinians who entered the buffer zone have been killed. Most have been protesters shot by Israeli snipers.
Wind has taken the herbicide spray beyond the buffer zone. There is a safety period that needs to be observed before planting again in an area that has been sprayed. The 2014 war caused over $500 million in damage to the Gazan agricultural sector; 14,000 hectares of crops were destroyed and many thousands more lost because farmers could not tend to the crops because of the fighting. The Israeli army has admitted that it carried out the recent spraying.
Just a few days ago, Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza's main agricultural experimental station causing an estimated $300,000 in damages as it destroyed the building, laboratories, vehicles and a large power generator.It was also bombed and completely destroyed during the 2014 Gaza war.
Israel places restrictions on the import of tractors and agricultural machinery. Adel Alallah, general director of the Agricultural Ministry said: "Domestic farmers face problems trying to replenish anything that goes out of service. What isn't banned is stalled at the crossings by Israel." When the irrigation system does work it is plagued by power outages.
Some argue that Israel has a deliberate policy of targeting Palestinian infrastructure to make Palestinian communities unsustainable. The targeting of water infrastructure is prohibited under Protocol I of the Geneva Convention of 1977.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Anti-Haftar forces growing in eastern Libya

In a dramatic turn of events, the official spokesperson for General Khalifa Haftar, the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army, resigned and launched a bitter attack on Haftar.

Colonel Mohamed Hejazi spoke on TV, including a station that supports Operation Dignity, Haftar's own operation launched back in May of 2014. Operation Dignity was meant to rid Libya of Islamists including the Libya Dawn, the main forces supporting the rival General National Congress (GNC), located in the west in Tripoli. The internationally-recognized government, the House of Representatives (HoR) is located in the east in Tobruk and the Libyan National Army is associated with the HoR. The Libya Herald reports that Hejazi said of Haftar:
".. he claimed that Hafter had deliberately stretched out the fighting in Benghazi, had targeted civilian areas, had set up a secret department to kill his opponents, had set fire to their homes and stolen their belongings, had diverted money from the Libyan army to buy property in Egypt and Jordan, but all the while remaining in comparative safety in Marj."Hejazi called Haftar a dictator, a traitor, and said he wanted 5,000 Italian troops as part of a stabilization force.
At first, one might think Hejazi may have been persuaded to join in with supporters of the new UN-brokered GNA government. The GNA has provisions that would take away Haftar's job and give it to senior officials of the GNA, the Presidency Council. However, Hejazi condemned the GNA, as well as Haftar, and said a military council was to be set up under Colonel Faraj Barasi — whom Haftar had recently fired — and also Wanis Bukhamada, head of the Saiqa Special Forces who is not sympathetic to Haftar. Hejazi said that the proposal would be sent to the HoR president Ageela Salah to approve.
Just a week ago, Hejazi had still been staunchly defending Haftar. The head of the Libyan Air Force, Major-General Adam Saqr Geroushi, a close ally of Haftar said Hejazi may have been bitter after he had been suspended from his job for what Haftar thought were misleading statements to the media. He said that none of Hejazi's accusations were true. Hejazi's statement apparently created a backlash in Benghazi and a warrant is expected for Hejazi's arrest. Haftar himself was busy talking to an Italian delegation about security plans for the country. I wonder if that includes Italian troops!
There are also divisions created by the GNA appointment of Colonel Mahdi Al-Barghathi as Minister of Defense in the new Government of National Accord. The Herald reports that the appointment was welcomed in Tripoli but only by some of the militia that support the UN-brokered GNA not the GNC or Libya Dawn. Kobler has carried on with the program of splitting the GNC militia support that was begun by his predecessor Bernardino Leon who met with militia representatives without authorization of the GNC military officials. Kobler built on this and a number of Misrata militia groups support the GNA. Barghathi was born in Benghazi in the east and commands a tank brigade there. He even joined Haftar's Operation Dignity in 2014. Both Al-Barghathi and Bukhamada formerly of the Saiqa Special Forces have little confidence in Haftar's leadership, according to the Herald.
Bukhamada is also friendly with Ibrahim Jadrhan, the commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards(PFG) who have been attempting to ward off attacks from the Islamic State on the oil facilities they guard. Haftar's forces are nowhere to be seen as the Islamic State advances. Jodhran is a supporter of the GNA but an opponent of Haftar. The Libya Observer quotes Jodhran as saying on TV of Haftar: "He (Haftar) destroyed Benghazi, oh my people in Barga, beware of his plot, beware of this criminal....I call my people in Benghazi and Barga for unity. Our enemy is not Daesh only, but also those who are planning to bring back dictatorship and military rule. The so-called the General Command and its supporters are also enemies to all Libyans."
The appointment of Barghathi as Defence Minister was one reason Ali Gatrani, a close Haftar ally, resigned from the Presidency Council of the GNA.
The pro-GNC Libya Observer also reported on Al-Hejazi's attack on Haftar. According to the Observer Hejazi said that Haftar had negotiated with the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL), Martin Kobler, for the position of defense minister in the GNA. If he did so, obviously it did not work since Haftar supporters to not approve of Barghathi. Hejazi also called the GNA a trusteeship government and said that Haftar was a foreign agent. Finally he said that Haftar was corrupt and had transferred military funds to his sons in Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan. There could be outright fighting between rival factions in eastern Libya before the HoR even meets to vote confidence in the GNA. Haftar probably still has enough power to prevent a vote by the HoR on the GNA if he chooses to do so. His decision will no doubt hinge on receiving guarantees that he will remain as commander of the Libyan National Army.

Islamic State sets oil storage tanks onf fire at Ras Lanuf Libya

The Islamic State(IS) has launched more attacks on oil terminals, this time at the Ras Lanauf — sometimes spelled Ras Lanuf or Ras Lanouf — export terminal. Four more oil tanks have been set on fire.

The chair of the Tripoli-based National Oil Company, Mustafa Sanalla, described the resulting fires as a disaster. As many as three million barrels of oil could be set on fire. Obviously, IS is not seeking to use the oil facilities as a source of revenue. They are seeking to deprive the Libyan new UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA), or the two rivals, the internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk or the western-based General National Congress (GNC) of any revenue from oil.
Sanalla claimed firemen had been unable to reach the fires because of battles between the Islamic State fighters and the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) militia led by Ibrahim Jadhran. The Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar appear not to be involved as Jadhran is at odds with Haftar. Mustafa claimed that for much of the day tanks 5, 9, 10 and 12 had burned unchecked. Sanalla was angry at this further loss, as the NOC had hired a Greek tanker to remove the 490,000 barrels of oil that remained at the tank farm.
Jadhran refused to allow the tanker to load the oil. Jadrahn has shut down Ras Lanauf, along with other export terminals he controls at Sidra, Brega, and Zuetina for most of the last two years. He insists only tankers registered with the rival eastern-based National Oil Company be allowed to load oil. So far the international community has refused to deal with the break-away company. However, recently Egypt signed a contract with the eastern company even as the new GNA comes into being which will insist on having a monopoly of oil exports, I expect. The NOC said that the situation in Ras Lanauf was catastrophic for the environment.
Reports about the situation do not yet give a clear picture of what happened. It is unclear whether the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) were able to repel the attackers. After the January 4 attack on Sidra's main checkpoint the PFG claimed to have regained control of the port. However, IS published a photo, that showed a heavily-armed terrorist standing behind what they claimed was an undamaged tank at the Sidra tank complex.
Bloomberg reports Sanalla as saying that up to three million barrels of crude oil are at risk of being burnt and that the attacks had destroyed electricity towers and cables supporting industrial areas and residencies. This may include oil at sites other than Ras Lanauf. Another source claims there are 13 storage tanks at Ras Lanauf with a capacity of 6.5 million barrels. Bloomberg reports on Libyan oil production: It’s now the smallest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, producing 362,000 barrels a day.The Wall Street journal claims that Libya’s contribution to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was just 0.06 percent in 2015. While loss of production from Libya may not have all that much effect on the global oil market the loss of revenue could be disastrous for an already suffering Libyan economy. The Islamic State attacks will generate even more pressure from the international community for Libyans to support the new UN-brokered Government of National Accord.

International community backs the UN-brokered Libyan Government of National Accord

Since the formation of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) the international cheerleaders are lining up with their rhetorical chants of support for the Libyan GNA the UN and international power brokers are anxious to see up and running.

Among the cheerleaders is the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in Libya and head of the UNSMIL. Kobler strongly welcomed the formation of the GNA, which he sees as a significant step forward toward ending political divisions and armed conflict in Libya:
"This is a sterling opportunity for Libyans to come together to build their country. The formation of the Government of National Accord (GNA) is one important leap on the path to peace and stability in Libya, I congratulate the Libyan people. Hard work lies ahead “SRSG Martin Kobler said.
The creation of the GNA if anything has deepened divisions. Kobler fails to mention that two members of the nine-member presidential council did not vote on the GNA but suspended their membership. One member specifically mentioned there was no guarantee that Khalifa Haftar would keep his position as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army. Actually, according to the additional section 8 of the LPA Haftar was supposed to have lost his job on December 17 when the LPA was signed in Skhirat. Kobler also fails to mention that the LPA has not been approved by either parliament or that the HoR has already met four times and never achieved a quorum and was unable to vote on the LPA or GNA. Kobler congratulates the Libyan people but he should congratulate himself and the UN and international community. Using an assortment of carrots and sticks they were able to pressure a number of members of the Libya Dialogue to sign the LPA at Skhirat on December 17. These included members from the two rival governments who had no authorization to sign. It is a special sub-set of Libyans Kobler should thank. Now Kobler is busy with more carrots and sticks but no dialogue trying to convince the HoR members to give a vote of confidence in the GNA. Kobler stresses the need to move forward to the next step: "I call on the members of the HoR and its presidency to uphold the country's national interest above all other considerations and promptly convene to discuss and endorse the proposed cabinet."
The EU policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also echoed Kobler welcoming the GNA and saying that it was now up to the HoR "to show the same spirit of compromise and vote its approval." The HoR has 10 days in which to do so. Mogherini also noted EU foreign ministers had met the other day in Brussels and reaffirmed their readiness to support the GNA once it takes office.
Not to be left out, the United States also joined the chorus of applause for the GNA. State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, said the U.S. was "committed to providing the unified government full political backing and technical, economic, security, and counter-terrorism assistance as requested." There was also a huge but not well-publicized meeting in Rome. After the LPA was signed there was also a huge gathering of ministerial cheerleaders in Rome last December, a suitable locale since Italy has a history of colonial rule in Libya. This recent meeting had representatives from the same countries plus Canada and Malta: The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome is hosting a High Level meeting on the Libyan crisis. It’s attended by representatives of 18 countries, three international organizations and Libya’s Presidential Council’s officials.
Kobler was busy working with all the delegations no doubt discussing strategy but if past meetings are any indication making plans for the future based on the assumption that GNA will be a reality. This has been going on since long before the LPA was even signed.
There are a few minor roadblock slowing up the plan. There is no guarantee that the HoR will give a vote of confidence to the GNA. There is tremendous pressure to do so but it will happen only if there are ironclad guarantees that Khalifa Haftar keeps his job. No doubt Kobler has been promising those in the HoR and his supporters in the GNA that he will. GNA members have successfully managed to ignore the provisions of the LPA that relieved Haftar of his job on December 17th. However, anti-Haftar members of the government may insist that the terms be carried out as soon as the GNA becomes a reality with a vote of confidence. In the vote of confidence the HoR itself would be approving that mischievous section. This is just a tip of the iceberg as far as difficulties facing Kobler and the UN. The GNA is meant to produce regime change by killing off the two rival regimes with just one LPA. The trouble is that the GNA still needs to come into being and one of the rival regimes has the power to prevent that from happening. The other regime, the General National Congress(GNC) in Tripoli also has the power from keeping the GNA from establishing itself in Tripoli. Kobler has not announced when the HoR will meet to vote.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

British-Iranian BBC reporter not allowed to board flight to US.

Rana Rahimpour, a dual Iranian-British citizen was stopped from boarding a plane at Heathrow airport about to fly to New Jersey. She was told she needed a visa and was not eligible to fly under the visa waiver program since she was an Iranian citizen.

Rahimpour is a presenter with the BBC's Persian service based in London. Legislation was just recently passed by the US Congress that forces some dual citizens of some countries to obtain visas, whereas previously they could visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. The new regulations will apply to all dual Iranian nationals. Previously, the waivers could be obtained through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization(ESTA).

After she was stopped, Rahimpour tweeted: 3 days after lifting #Iran sanctions, #US denied #ESTA/visa waivers for me and another 2 #British citzns cos we have Iranian nationality too.
The law will also apply to those of UK and other nationalities who have visited Iran in the last 5 years. One commentator said: “Europeans who want to visit Iran for tourism purposes or European companies who want to do business in Iran now have to be worried about their travel to the US. Which EU businessman is prepared to jeopardise his or her ability to travel to the US by going to Iran?”Ironically, Rahimpour has not been able to visit Iran for more than seven years as Iran has been hostile to the BBC Persian service staff and is alleged to have mistreated family members in Iran.
Rahimpour said of the change in regulations: “I just feel it’s unfair, it’s unfair to many Iranians, My cousins who were travelling with me and faced similar problems have left Iran 20 years ago, they don’t know how to write or read Farsi and they are paying the price for the politics of a country that they have nothing to do with.”Rahimpour that the new regulations risk alienating many Iranians. The new regulations were confusing and even her Washington contacts were not sure what changes had been made. Rahimpour pointed out: “Iranians feel they are being treated very unjustly and over the last few weeks. They have said that there has never been a terrorist attack by an Iranian national on American soil. This is very unfair, they referred to the nationality of those involved in 9/11 and you can’t find any Iranians involved.”

Dr. Firouz Naderi an Iranian-American who has served at NASA for 35 years and landed a spacecraft on Mars and even met Michelle Obama at the White House says he now is being treated like a second-class citizen in the country he regards as his home.
Rahimpour had been told by contacts she has in Washington that the new rules would not take effect until April. She had then applied for the visa waiver through the ESTA visa clearance site. She was told she would have a response within 72 hours. Given the information from her Washington contacts she had bought a ticket to fly to New Jersery. The response from ESTA was still pending when she arrived at the airport. She called an ESTA official there to check on her status and was told that her request had been denied due to the new law.
Rahimpour was born in Iran but has lived in the UK since 2008. Her husband is British. She had planned to surprise her brother and her family by traveling to New Jersey to celebrate her nephews' sixth birthday. She was taking her two-year-old daughter and two cousins, also British-Iranian along with her.

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GNA still needs vote of confidence from House of Representatives before its term starts

The Presidency Council of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) has named 32 members of the cabinet. However, only seven of the nine-member Council voted, two having suspended their membership before the vote.

One member who suspended his membership was Ali Gatrani, who was one of the designated deputy ministers, and the other was Omar Al-Aswad, a Presidency Council minister. According to Reuters:
Late on Monday, one of the council members who did not sign the document naming the new government, Ali Faraj al-Qatrani, announced he was withdrawing from the process, saying eastern Libya was under-represented and there was not sufficient support for the armed forces allied to the eastern government.The GNA government names must be submitted to the House of Representatives (HoR), the internationally recognized Libyan government located in Tobruk in eastern Libya. The rival General National Congress (GNC) government is located in Tripoli in the west. After a vote of confidence by the HoR, the GNA will become the sole internationally-recognized government, but the HoR will become the sole legislative body of the GNA.. The HoR must vote on the GNA within 10 days of the announcement of the GNA's formation.
One source told the BBC that the proposed cabinet was "illegitimate" because it had not been unanimously agreed to by the Council. When claims such as this are made it would be very helpful if the section of the LPA which demands this unanimity be cited. The BBC could easily check this. The BBC article makes the astute observation that the cabinet was proposed for the sake of meeting deadlines and not losing momentum towards getting the GNA approved and up and running. The UN and international community seem bound and determined to forge ahead in spite of the dangers of attempting to create the GNA when conditions may not be at all favorable for its being accepted. Neither of the two rival parliaments approved the LPA nor did Khalifa Haftar head of the HoR armed forces or Libya Dawn the main militia supporting the GNC government.
The two members of the council who suspended their membership are supporters of Haftar. Gatrani specifically noted that he suspended his membership because there was no guarantee that Haftar would retain his position as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army(LNA), a demand made by many members of the HoR. In particular Gatrani worried about Article 8 of the additions to the LPA which can be found in the text of the LPA signed in Skhirat on December17: Article (8)
All powers of the senior military, civil and security posts stipulated in the Libyan legislations and
laws in force shall be transferred to the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers immediately
upon signing this Agreement.
The Presidency Council of the GNA has simply ignored that since December 17, it should have been carrying out the functions of commander in chief of the LNA. Haftar has continued in his job. Obviously the GNA must have been advised by the UN that it could safely ignore this provision. Someone must have said that was OK, as a means of convincing pro-Haftar members of the GNA that they could serve in the GNA without Haftar being dismissed. You can read accounts of what is happening in the New York Times, in the BBC, or in Reuters, and this issue is not even mentioned. The GNA can act illegally for a month but it is not of interest to prominent news organizations.
The BBC quotes one anonymous Libyan as saying: "A selected cabinet with no cohesiveness might as well not bother turning up at the starting line." I expect that is not the issue that might cause the defeat of the vote of confidence in the GNA. One key factor will be a guarantee that Haftar's position within the armed forces is maintained. If this guarantee is provided, the GNC members of the GNA will likely revolt.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Libyan Government of National Accord announced

The announcement of the formation of the Libyan Government of National Accord(GNA) was made early this morning. The declaration was signed by only seven of the nine members of the Presidency Council, the senior officials of the GNA.

Two members, Ali Gatrani, a designated deputy minister and Omar Al-Aswad, a Presidency Council minister, had earlier suspended their membership of the Council. According to the Libya Herald:
They did so in support for General Khalifa Hafter, demanding that the Libyan Political Agreement clause that the Presidency Council take over as supreme commander of the armed forces be dropped and, reportedly in opposition to the appointment of Al-Mahdi Ibrahim Al-Barghathi as defence minister.CIA-linked General Haftar is the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk and Bayda. Bayda has demanded that the HoR leave the city. Most of the government offices are there rather than in Tobruk.
The addition to Section 8 of the Libyan Polltical Agreement(LPA) says all the senior military position functions are to be carried out by the Presidential Council from the time of the signing of the LPA back on December 17 last year. This provision has been ignored and Haftar continues as commander in chief of the LNA. The GNA has clearly not been carrying out their obligations under the LPA. This apparently is of no significance. Equally of no significance is the fact that the HoR mandate ran out last October and there was no legal basis for extending it unilaterally. This can safely be ignored since it is what the powers that count accept that is relevant. The UN Security Council and many foreign power brokers want the GNA to go forward so if the HoR votes confidence in the GNA that is all that matters.
Events are no doubt being steered by the Presidency Council in collaboration with the Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) In Liibya. The Herald give a frank assessment of how things were done: The names were selected in collaboration with members of the House of Representatives negotiating on behalf of their towns and areas, not on the basis of competence for the job. This was done to try an ensure that the HoR now votes for the package. It has to do so within ten days, by 29 January.
All of the HoR representatives who support the GNA will also be guaranteed jobs in the GNA as the HoR becomes the sole legislative body of the GNA. Nevertheless, Kobler will need to give some ironclad guarantee that Haftar remains in his position as commander of the LNA before he can hope to pass the GNA through the HoR, and many may also object to some of those named as part of the government.
A meeting of the HoR could happen as early as today. If there is no quorum, this will show that "the fix is not in" as yet. So far the GNA is operating only through ignoring Article 8. Perhaps someone has told HoR members that this can go on indefinitely and that Haftar's role should not be an issue. Even if the GNA ignores section 8 of the LPA, the Presidency Council is required to appoint someone to be commander in chief of the LNA within the GNA in a reasonably short time and this will generate opposition from many members of the GNA from the west and the former GNC should Haftar retain his position.
The Herald notes there will be 105 ministers with only one being a woman. As the Guardian report on the new government notes:Women lose out in Libya’s new order. Sarraj ignored Kobler’s request to have women form 30% of his cabinet by appointing only one, culture minister Asma Mustafa al-Usla.
This is of no significance of course as Martin Kobler SRSG welcomed the formation of the GNA: “This is a sterling opportunity for Libyans to come together to build their country. The formation of the Government of National Accord (GNA) is one important leap on the path to peace and stability in Libya, I congratulate the Libyan people. Hard work lies ahead”.No doubt there will be numerous other cheerleaders joining in. Already Fredirica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, has joined the chorus and noted that EU foreign ministers had reaffirmed their readiness to support the GNA once it takes office. I am not sure if it is a misprint with the Herald putting "Hafter" for "Kobler" but the paper claims:Said Hafter: “I call on the members of the HoR and its presidency to uphold the country’s national interest above all other considerations and promptly convene to discuss and endorse the proposed cabinet”.I would be surprised if Haftar said anything such as this as some of his supporters are resigning from the GNA because his status in the new GNA is not guaranteed. Indeed if the GNA had pain any attention to Article 8 he would have lost his job over a month ago.
There are rumours that there could be vote on the GNA in the HoR as early as today.However, Kobler must ensure that there is a quorum and that they will vote in the right way, that is to give a vote of confidence in the GNA. Given that the GNA has paid not attention to the LPA requirement that they take on Haftar's job perhaps Kobler can assure HoR members that the status quo of Haftar as commander of the LNA will not change.

Deputy Minister in GNA resigns prior to vote on cabinet by Presidency Council

As the midnight deadline approaches for the announcement of the formation of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), a senior official has resigned.

Ali Al-Gatrani is one of the deputy prime ministers in the government of prime minister designate Faiez Serraj. His resignation is reported in the Libya Herald. The reasons for his resignation have not yet been made public.
Al-Gatrani had threatened to resign two weeks ago along with another deputy prime minister, Fathi Majbri. An official told the Herald then that the threats were simply a negotiating tactic. The Herald did not know whether Majbri also resigned. Even this one resignation will create problems for Serraj as he attempts to meet the deadline tonight. The Libyan Political Agreement required the announcement to have been made last Saturday but the Presidential Council unilaterally extended the time for formation of the GNA by 48 hours.
The Herald claims that the number of ministries in the GNA may be reduced. As of this morning (January 18) there were reported to be 11 ministries: Planning, finance, interior, local government and foreign affairs would be held by people from the west, defence, economy and industry, labour and social affairs by appointees from the east and education, health and justice run by southerners.Press inquiries to Serraj's team in Tunis have not been answered. Apparently, eastern region officials are demanding that Haftar remain as commander of the Libyan National Army. The LPA actually requires that his position be assumed by the GNA presidency council back on December 17, 2015, when the LPA was signed. This has never happened. The resignation of Ali Gitrani may be related to a perceived failure of the present LPA to guarantee the continuation of Haftar in his position.
On Sunday, Martin Kobler, the head of the UNSMIL visited Agila Salah in the eastern city of Shahat to gain support for the GNA and enable the GNA to announce its formation. Kobler claimed in a press conference after the meeting that Salah confirmed he still supported the LPA and GNA. Salah had a somewhat different narrative. Salah claimed that before the GNA could be recognized there must be a resolution amending the constitutional declaration. There is a provision requiring this in the LPA although it does not set out when the amendment should be passed.
On Alnabaa TV, Salah said: "As usual, he (Kobler) game to push for the national concord, but we told him that the constitutional declaration must be amended first by a majority of two-thirds of the parliament.We explained to him that this government was not given a vote of confidence. Its acts are meaningless."The reporting is from the Libya Observer which is pro-GNC and against the GNA and HoR. The Observer also claimed Salah said there must be a Libya-Libya dialogue and the GNC must be part of the solution. This story contradicts recent reports that Salah now supports the GNA. Certainly he has not been publicly involved in any aspects of the Libya-Libya dialogue lately. The Observer also claims it was Kobler, not the GNA Presidency Council, who had ordered the 48 hour extension of the deadline. We will know by early tomorrow if there is another extension before the GNA is announced.
UPDATE: The Libya Herald now reports that among the reasons that Al-Gatrani resigned was that he had been assured there would be no changes to the military with Haftar remaining in command of the LNA. Some ambassadors are suggesting that some members of the GNA may not have read the text of the LPA as released today. They no doubt read it but Kobler may have assured them that Hafter would stay and he did so to ensure they would join the GNA. Now he is suffering the consequences. Kobler has already let the GNA violate the LPA since December 17th by allowing Haftar to stay on the job. They have good reason to think he will do anything to ensure that the GNA comes into being.

According to terms of LPA commander in chier Haftar on LNA lost his job back on December 17

At last, the UN has actually published the English text of the Libyan Political Agreement signed on December 17 in Skhirat, Morroco. There are some changes from the earlier draft of July 2, 2015.

The draft as of July 2 has long been available on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) website. I was surprised the draft as it was when signed by members of the Libyan Dialogue, including some from each of the rival governments, has just been published in English on the UN website. The draft was signed in Skhirat, Morocco on December 17, 2015. Publication of the English text is a welcome move towards some transparency by UNSMIL. I was particularly interested in seeing whether the status of Khalifa Haftar, the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the internationally-recognized House of Representative (HoR) located in Tobruk in eastern Libya, had changed. The rival General National Congress (GNC) government is located in the west in Tripoli. Once the GNA term begins after the HoR gives a vote of confidence suppporting the GNA, only the GNA will be recognized as the sole legal Libya government.
When I looked at Article 8 of the new text, in section 2, senior officials of the GNA, the Presidency Council are still assigned the job of commander in chief of the LNA once the GNA is approved by the HoR and its terms begins:2. Terms of Reference of the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers:
a. Assume the functions of the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army
I had always thought that it was this provision that those favoring Haftar had objected to in the LPA and why they support it only in principle and are demanding that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the LNA. However, to my astonishment there is an addition to Article 8 in what are called Additional Provisions added to the LPA. Part of the addition to article 8 reads as follows: Article (8)
All powers of the senior military, civil and security posts stipulated in the Libyan legislations and
laws in force shall be transferred to the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers immediately
upon signing this Agreement. The Presidency Council must take a decision on the occupants of such
posts within a period that does not exceed twenty (20) days. In case a decision is not reached during
this period, the Presidency Council shall take decisions on new appointments within a period that
does not exceed thirty (30) days...,
This is astonishing. The Presidential Council has had the powers of all senior military personnel including Haftar's role of commander in chief of the LNA since December 17. There is no sign that Haftar ever gave up his role nor has any other senior military official of the LNA. The Council was supposed to decide on who would occupy these posts within 20 days. There was not even an announcement as to whether the first 20 days deadline was missed. If the 30 days is to start after the 20 days then there would be 50 days in all so there would still be time for the appointments to be decided. However, this would be past the deadline for the formation of the GNA last Saturday in any event. What is clear is that the GNA has been violating the terms of the LPA since December 17, unless I am reading the text incorrectly.
Some time ago I criticized an article that suggested that the authority of the GNA was being challenged by Haftar since he was continuing as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army, even though the terms of the LPA stipulated that the Presidency Council had this role immediately upon the LPA being signed. I have not been able to locate the article but I must apologize to the author. He apparently was correct. It is astonishing that no one else has remarked on what is happening. Article 64 of the LPA states:Article (64)
The Libyan Political Dialogue may convene after the adoption of this Agreement at the request of
any party to the Agreement to examine what it deems a severe breach to one of its items.
Perhaps it is time that some of the signers of the LPA convene the Libyan Political Dialogue to examine some of the severe breaches of the LPA that have already taken place.
What is important is not the LPA, but the power politics behind it. Those powers will pay attention to the LPA only when it serves their purposes. Those powers are roughly the same countries that planned the first regime change in Libya, again under the auspices of the UN, with a no-fly zone resolution. Now you have a UN Security Council resolution pledging support and assistance for the GNA and sanctions against those who interfere with its establishment.
The powers behind this could not even be bothered to change the dates. You have ridiculous articles such as this:Article (65)The Constitutional Declaration shall be amended in accordance with the stipulations of this. Agreement as per the legally stated procedures and according to the proposal in Annex 4 of this Agreement within a date that does not exceed 20 October 2015.
Why would no one change the date? What sense does it make to sign an agreement with dates that ensure that as soon as you sign the agreement you have violated it? The agreement was signed on December 17, 2015.

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner investigating Twitter over data privacy concern.

Irish privacy regulators are launching an investigation into precisely how much data Twitter collects from, its URL-shortening system....