Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Partial Readings: Collapsing Factories and the “End Death Traps” Tour

    Tuesday, April 30, 2013   No comments
As the death toll of Wednesday’s garment factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh surpasses 320, the incident has become the most lethal disaster in garment industry history, one of the worst manufacturing disasters ever. The New York Times reports that more than one thousand of the Savar factory complex’s 2,500 workers have been injured, and hundreds remain trapped in the rubble. By comparison, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, one of the most widely remembered disasters in industrial history, killed 146 and injured 71.

Like last week’s fertilizer plant blast in West, Texas, the collapse of Rana Plaza was  preventable. A bank and other commercial establishments on the ground floor were reportedly closed after workers complained of a visible crack in the building on Tuesday, but managers of the factories on the upper levels of the five-story complex refused to follow suit. About an hour into the workday on Wednesday, the building collapsed; three days later, volunteers are still pulling survivors and corpses out of the rubble.

The names of international brands whose clothes were being produced in the Savar factory complex are beginning to surface: a range of U.S., European, and Canadian companies, they include the Children’s Place, Benetton, Cato Fashions, Mango, Joe Fresh, and BM Casual. Ether Tex, one of the factories destroyed in the collapse, listed Walmart as one of its customers on its website, but it remains unclear whether the U.S. retail giant was sourcing clothes from the factory at the time of the collapse.


The violence that ended Qaddafi still rules above elected leaders

    Tuesday, April 30, 2013   No comments
Gunmen demanding the sacking of former officials of the ousted Kadhafi regime surrounded the justice ministry on Tuesday, stepping up an action started at the foreign ministry, an official said.

"Several armed men in vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft guns surrounded the ministry of justice," spokesman Walid Ben Rabha told AFP.

"They asked the minister and staff present to leave their offices and close the ministry." An AFP photographer saw more than 20 pick-up trucks loaded with machine guns, anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers and said they had blocked access to the building.

Dozens of gunmen making the same demand have kept the foreign ministry under siege since Sunday, paralysing its work.

The interior ministry and national television station have also been attacked.

On Monday, angry police officers firing their guns in the air stormed the interior ministry demanding higher wages.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has denounced the encircling of the foreign ministry and other such attacks.


Monday, April 29, 2013

eager to get around term limits, Erdoğan eyes the presidency, explains "president is not a king"

    Monday, April 29, 2013   No comments
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today said that the president in a presidential system would not be a king, speaking at a meeting in Ankara’s Kızılcahamam neighborhood with members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“The president in a presidential system is not a king. But some ignorant people are lying by attempting to represent the president as a king,” Erdoğan told the AKP representatives of district and provincial branches today, calling on them to intervene and persuade in the debates over the presidential system.


CIA 'buys influence with bags of cash' left at office of Hamid Karzai

    Monday, April 29, 2013   No comments
The CIA has delivered tens of millions of dollars to the office of Afghanistan's president during the past decade, according to advisers to Hamid Karzai.

Bundled into suitcases, backpacks and plastic bags, the payments were designed to ensure that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) retained influence at the presidential palace.
But the payments may have instead fuelled corruption and ended up in the pockets of warlords.
"We called it 'ghost money'," said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr Karzai's deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. "It came in secret, and it left in secret."
Afghan officials told the newspaper there was no evidence that Mr Karzai personally received any of the money. The cash was handled by his National Security Council, it added.
The payments are one of Afghanistan's worst kept secrets. Rumours have circulated for years and Mr Karzai even confirmed receiving American cash in 2010.


Iraqi army losing hold on north to Sunni and Kurdish forces as troops desert

    Monday, April 29, 2013   No comments
Soldiers are deserting a beleaguered Iraqi army as it struggles to keep its hold on the northern half of Iraq in the face of escalating hostility from Sunni Arabs and Kurds who dominate in the region.

Around the oil city of Kirkuk Kurdish troops have advanced south to take over military positions abandoned by the army, while in Baghdad senior Iraqi politicians say that for the first time there is talk of partitioning the country.

The current crisis was sparked on 23 April when the Iraqi army attacked a sit-in protest in the Sunni Arab town of Hawijah, killing at least 50 people and injuring 110. Outraged Sunni Arab protesters have since stepped up their demonstrations against the Shia-led government. Demonstrators are increasingly protected by armed men, some of whom are accused of dragging five military intelligence soldiers in civilian clothes from a car that came near a protest in Ramadi and killing them.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Syria nerve gas claims undermined by eyewitness accounts

    Sunday, April 28, 2013   No comments
New questions have emerged over the source of the soil and other samples from Syria which, it is claimed, have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, amid apparent inconsistencies between eyewitness accounts describing one of the attacks and textbook descriptions of the weapon.

As questions from arms control experts grow over evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on a limited scale on several occasions, one incident in particular has come under scrutiny.

While the French, UK and US governments have tried to avoid saying where the positive sarin samples came from, comments by officials have narrowed down the locations to Aleppo and Homs.

Last week the Obama administration suggested that Syrian government forces may have used the lethal nerve gas in two attacks. Opposition fighters have accused regime forces of firing chemical agents on at least four occasions since December, killing 31 people in the worst of the attacks.

A letter from the British government to the UN demanding an investigation said that it had seen "limited but persuasive evidence" of chemical attacks, citing incidents on 19 and 23 March in Aleppo and Damascus and an attack in Homs in December, suggesting strongly that samples were taken at these locations.

A US defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Los Angeles Times, appeared to confirm that one of the samples studied by the US was collected in December – suggesting that it too originated in Homs


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gold as a decorative art in the Muslim Near East

    Saturday, April 27, 2013   No comments
Niki Gamm

In Islam hoarding gold and silver is denounced in the Qur’an and willyet artists have long used these metals in a variety of artistic forms

Gold has a long history of decorative use in the Middle East starting with Egypt and continuing through Sumer, Babylon, Greece and Rome. In Islam, hoarding gold and silver is denounced in the Qur’an [Chap. 7, V. 34 and 35] and will result in punishment in the afterlife; accumulating it to use in God’s way was not and Islamic traditions [hadith] reinforced this. In spite of this, the prohibition seems never to have stopped the use of these two precious metals. It was impossible to totally ban the conspicuous use of the two luxury metals although not many examples from prior to the 12th century have survived. Many items would have been carried off as plunder or destroyed in the pillaging of cities and towns during the interminable wars and invasions that wracked the Near East. Gold and silver would also have been melted down to produce coinage.

Friday, April 26, 2013

PKK does not support to Kurdish state plans in northern Iraq

    Friday, April 26, 2013   No comments
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) would not support an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, according to Murat Karayılan, a senior leader of the outlawed group which announced yesterday that it would withdraw from Turkish soil starting from May 8.

The PKK “would not say anything” about the foundation of such a state, but it would also not lend its support as it was against the “nation-state,” Karayılan told a group of journalists on the evening of April 25, after making the withdrawal plans public at a press meeting in the Kandil Mountains, the PKK’s base.

Karayılan said yesterday that the withdrawing militants would be deployed to northern Iraq, adding that the PKK expected understanding from the Iraqi authorities, and particularly from the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The KRG is at odds with the central government in Baghdad, particularly on oil exports issues, with the latter opposing the autonomous Arbil government’s direct trade, largely via Turkey.

“We support [the idea of] all Middle Eastern peoples living together equally in a democratic environment and in fraternity. This is possible with democratic confederalism and federation. Dictators emerge in nation-states,” Karayılan said.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

500 Europeans fight against Assad in Syria – EU anti-terror chief

    Thursday, April 25, 2013   No comments
About 500 Europeans are now fighting for the rebels in Syria against Bashar al-Assad's regime, the EU's anti-terror chief told the BBC. He added the majority of those fighters are from the UK, Ireland and France.

“Not all of them are radical when they leave, but most likely many of them will be radicalized there, will be trained," Gilles de Kerchove said. "And as we have seen this might lead to a serious threat when they get back."

Intelligence agencies are now concerned that some of those currently in Syria could join Islamists groups linked to al-Qaeda and when they return to Europe may launch terrorist attacks.

In March, the Netherlands raised its terror threat level to "substantial", citing an increase in the number of Islamist militants travelling to Syria, as well as the radicalization of Dutch youth.

"Close to a hundred individuals have recently left the Netherlands for various countries in Africa and the Middle East, especially Syria," National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) said in a statement in mid-March.


Gunmen seize control of Iraqi town, officials say

    Thursday, April 25, 2013   No comments
Rebel gunmen took control of Sulaiman Bek, a town north of Baghdad, after defeating government forces, security officials told the AFP on Wednesday. The surge in militant unrest comes a day after Iraqi forces raided a Sunni protest camp.

Gunmen seized control of Sulaiman Bek, a town north of Baghdad, following deadly fighting with Iraqi security forces on Wednesday, officials said.

Security forces have completely withdrawn from the area, which is now under the control of the gunmen, Shalal Abdul Baban, a local administrative official responsible for the area, told AFP.

Niyazi Maamar Oghlu, a member of the provincial council in Salaheddin province, where Sulaiman Bek is located, also said authorities had lost control of the town.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A conversation with Olivier Roy on the nature of the alleged Marathon terrorists

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013   No comments
Olivier Roy has a different view of radical Islam from many of the experts you find writing in the American press. Roy, now 63, first went to Central Asia as a 19-year-old high school dropout, but eventually become a leading expert on Islamic politics. He has been a consultant to the French Foreign Ministry and United Nations and is currently a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Several of his books are landmarks in the field, including The Failure of Political Islam and Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah.  

Roy’s view is relevant in understanding the alleged Boston marathon bombers. A decade ago, Roy was pointing out that al Qaeda was drawing many of its recruits from Western Europe rather than from Saudi Arabia or Palestine or Pakistan. He saw al Qaeda as a product of the failure of Arab nationalism and Marxism-Leninism to establish viable popular societies. Its tactics and outlook derived from the Red Army Faction or Red Brigades or the secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine rather than from the Koran or from religious factions within Islam. Al Qaeda, Roy wrote in The Illusions of September 11, is “a junction of a radicalized Islam with a shrill anti-imperialism reshaped by globalization.”


Erdoğan’s compromise: I will go to Gaza with Abbas

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013   No comments
Will what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said about the delay of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip to Gaza change his travel schedule? This was the question the journalist asked Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on board the night plane carrying them to Brussels for a NATO meeting on Syria the next day, April 23. Davutoğlu’s answer was a simple “No.”

“The main parameter of Erdoğan’s visit to Gaza is not what Kerry said,” Davutoğlu carried on. “It is the reconciliation talks between the Palestinians.” If the two rival Palestinian factions – Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas lead by Khaled Mashaal – would come to an agreement in talks expected early in May in Egypt, the current picture will change as Ankara believes. “If the Palestinians agree, it may be possible [for Erdoğan] to go to Gaza with Abbas,” Davutoğlu said. So that is Erdoğan’s formula for his Gaza trip, which has great symbolic importance for his foreign policy especially in the Middle East. “We have been talking about this both with Abbas and Mashaal,” Davutoğlu added.

The power base of Abbas is the West Bank and Mashaal’s is Gaza, which has been under Israeli embargo since 2006, the reason being shown as rocket attacks from there on Israeli towns. Israeli military operations on Gaza, which caused civilian losses of life caused Erdoğan’s outburst during the Davos meetings in 2009, the famous “one minute” incident with Israeli President Shimon Peres.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Families of Lebanese hostages believe Turkey can secure release of captives

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013   No comments
The families of Lebanese pilgrims currently being held hostage in Syria believe that the Turkish government can play an effective role in securing the release of the Lebanese nationals, Turkish diplomatic sources have said.
Syrian opposition forces abducted 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in May of last year as they were returning from a pilgrimage to Iran, apparently to use them in a prisoner swap with the Syrian government. Two of them were later released, reportedly thanks to Turkish efforts.

Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Süleyman İnan Özyıldız has stated that the families believe Turkey has strong influence among the Syrian opposition and therefore, according to them, Turkey can solve the hostages issue if it makes a greater effort.


Immigrant Kids, Adrift

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013   No comments
THE alleged involvement of two ethnic Chechen brothers in the deadly attack at the Boston Marathon last week should prompt Americans to reflect on whether we do an adequate job assimilating immigrants who arrive in the United States as children or teenagers.

In 1997, we started a large-scale study of newly arrived immigrants, ages 9 to 14, in 20 public middle and high schools in Boston, Cambridge, Mass., and the San Francisco Bay Area. Our participants came from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean; many fled not only poverty but also strife, in countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti. Over five years, we interviewed more than 400 students, as well as their siblings, parents and teachers. We gathered academic records, test scores and measures of psychological well-being.

The two brothers accused in the Boston bombings — Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed on Friday, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, who was captured later that day — were around 15 and 8, respectively, when they immigrated. Both attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin, that city’s only public high school. They were not part of our study, but they fit the demographic profile of the subjects of our research: birth to families displaced by war or strife, multiple-stage (including back-and-forth) migration, language difficulties and entry into harsh urban environments where gangs and crime are temptations.

When asked “what do you like most about being here?” an 11-year-old Haitian boy in Cambridge told us, “There is less killing here.” His response was notably succinct, but not unique.

A Salvadoran 10-year-old whose family had narrowly escaped death squads recounted intense loneliness. When a firecracker was set off in his working-class Cambridge neighborhood, he plunged into the arms of a stunned researcher.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Rand Paul Wants to Ban 8-Year-Old Immigrants from America

    Monday, April 22, 2013   No comments
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the coveted position of "Republican liberals kind of like" with his drone-related filibuster earlier this year. Paul will surely disappoint them today with his demand that the Senate delay immigration reform until until we figure out how the Boston marathon bombers got into America, and how to prevent that from happening in the future. The thing is, we know how the Tsaraevs got into America. It's not because there were warning signs and they slipped through our fingers. They got into America because they were kids.


Algerians in London protest against shale gas and the lack of a national debate

    Monday, April 22, 2013   No comments

It was during an informal discussion in London, organised by Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC) on the topic of the dangers of shale gas exploitation in Algeria, that some participants, learning of the imminent official visit of the Algerian Minister of Energy and Mining to London, felt compelled to take action.

The information presented during the discussion left participants extremely concerned with the potentially deleterious consequences of shale gas extraction in Algeria, through hydraulic fracturing “fracking”. A shale gas well requires the high-pressured injection of colossal quantities of water (20 000 m3), mixed with a concoction of over 750 chemical substances (29 of which are known or suspected carcinogens, presenting health and environmental risks), together with sand, in order to fracture highly impermeable rock, leading to the release of shale gas. This technique has raised major concerns for its substantial use of water (particularly worrying for the Sahara) and for the potential leaking of these chemical substances into groundwater. It was, therefore, rejected by many communities across the world, including France. Indeed, the latter banned it on its soil, but has been invited to experiment with it in Algeria.

Partial Readings: The Violence We Can, and Can’t, Prevent

    Monday, April 22, 2013   No comments
By Colin Kinniburgh

It’s been a grim week. Whether it was the bombing at the Boston marathon or the explosion of a fertilizer plant in small-town Texas, the week’s events have instilled, for many in the U.S., a renewed sense of vulnerability to mindless violence. Reports of atrocities in all corners of the globe, many of them far more lethal than the Boston bombing, have hardly been comforting. Neither have developments in Congress, where the crucial components of new gun control legislation were shot down, while CISPA—the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a major blow to internet freedom—passed in the House.

Killing three and leaving close to two hundred wounded, the Boston marathon bombings have resonated around the world, with their symbolic weight adding to the trauma experienced by the immediate victims. Messages of sympathy and solidarity are pouring in from around the world, including from actual war zones. In response to the violence, many on the scene have showed tremendous courage and fortitude, including runners who ran on from the finish line to the hospital to donate blood.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

FBI: Boston suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev followed 'radical Islam'

    Sunday, April 21, 2013   No comments
Deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was identified by a foreign government as a "follower of radical Islam and a strong believer" whose personality had changed drastically in just a year, according to the FBI.

As investigators considered possible motives for Monday's fatal bombings, U.S. authorities acknowledged that an unnamed government had contacted the FBI to say the 26-year-old ethnic Chechen “had changed drastically” since 2010 and was preparing to leave the United States “to join unspecified underground groups,” according to an official statement from the FBI.

U.S. officials have not named the foreign nation, but it is presumed to be Russia. Tsarnaev traveled there in 2012 and stayed for six months.


US prepares $130m military aid package for Syrian rebels

    Sunday, April 21, 2013   No comments
The US readied a package Saturday of up to $130m in non-lethal military aid to Syrian opposition forces while European countries consider easing an arms embargo, moves that could further pressure the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
US secretary of state John Kerry was expected to announce the plans about the defensive military supplies at a meeting Saturday that was bringing together the Syrian opposition leadership and their main international allies.
The supplies possibly could include body armor, armored vehicles, night vision goggles and advanced communications equipment.
US officials said the details and costs were to be determined at the meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss Kerry's announcement.

Monday, April 15, 2013

President Assad's army is starting to call the shots in Syria

    Monday, April 15, 2013   No comments

Old Mohamed Said al-Sauda from Deraa, in his tawny gown and kuffiah headscarf, sat at the end of a conclave of tribal elders, all newly arrived in Damascus for an audience with no less than the President himself. They sat – only one woman in a blue dress among them – round a long table in the Damas Rose Hotel drinking water and coffee, rehearsing their anxieties. How should they talk to the young armed men who came into their villages? How should they persuade the rebels not to damage their land and take over their villages? "We try to talk to the saboteurs and to get them to go back to rebuilding the country," al-Sauda told me. "We try to persuade them to put aside their arms, to stop the violence. We used to have such a safe country to live in."

These men, middle-aged for the most part with tough, lined, dark faces, are the first line of defence of the Assad regime, the landowners and propertied classes of the peasants who benefited most from the original Baathist revolution and whose prosperity has been threatened by the mass uprising against the regime. They come from Tartus, Deraa, the Damascus countryside, from Hama and Latakia, and they speak the language of the Assad government – up to a point. "Syria is a mosaic unlike any other in the world," says Salman Hamdan. "The sectarian divide does not exist in our country. Muslims, Christians, they are the same. It is a conspiracy that is classifying people. Some have chosen the homeland; others have decided to be ungrateful to their country for personal gain."


Opposition leader jailed for insulting Kuwaiti ruler

    Monday, April 15, 2013   No comments

Kuwaiti opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al Barrak (pictured) was sentenced to five years in prison on Monday after being convicted of making statements insulting the country's ruler, Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah, at an October 15 rally.

A Kuwaiti court on Monday sentenced main opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison after he was convicted of insulting the emir of the OPEC member country.

Barrak, a nationalist, was charged with making statements deemed offensive to the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, at a public rally on October 15.

Criticising the emir is a felony that carries a maximum of five years in jail.

"The court has sentenced the defendant Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison with immediate effect," said judge Wael al-Atiqi in a half-packed courtroom in the Palace of Justice in the capital Kuwait City.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Barbara Boxer, AIPAC seek to codify Israel's right to discriminate against Americans

    Sunday, April 14, 2013   No comments
A bill introduced by the California Democrat would uniquely exempt Israel from long-standing requirements imposed on all other nations

In order for the US to permit citizens of a foreign country to enter the US without a visa, that country must agree to certain conditions. Chief among them is reciprocity: that country must allow Americans to enter without a visa as well. There are 37 countries which have been permitted entrance into America's "visa waiver" program, and all of them - all 37 - reciprocate by allowing American citizens to enter their country without a visa.

The American-Israeli Political Action Committee (Aipac) is now pushing legislation that would allow Israel to enter this program, so that Israelis can enter the US without a visa. But as JTA's Ron Kampeas reports, there is one serious impediment: Israel has a practice of routinely refusing to allow Americans of Arab ethnicity or Muslim backgrounds to enter their country or the occupied territories it controls; it also bars those who are critical of Israeli actions or supportive of Palestinian rights. Israel refuses to relinquish this discriminatory practice of exclusion toward Americans, even as it seeks to enter the US's visa-free program for the benefit of Israeli citizens.

As a result, at the behest of Aipac, Democrat Barbara Boxer, joined by Republican Roy Blunt, has introduced a bill that would provide for Israel's membership in the program while vesting it with a right that no other country in this program has: namely, the right to exclude selected Americans from this visa-free right of entrance. In other words, the bill sponsored by these American senators would exempt Israel from a requirement that applies to every other nation on the planet, for no reason other than to allow the Israeli government to engage in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination against US citizens. As Lara Friedman explained when the Senate bill was first introduced, it "takes the extraordinary step of seeking to change the current US law to create a special and unique exception for Israel in US immigration law." In sum, it is as pure and blatant an example of prioritizing the interests of the Israeli government over the rights of US citizens as one can imagine, and it's being pushed by Aipac and a cast of bipartisan senators.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pakistan: Pervez Musharraf admits secret CIA drone deal with US

    Saturday, April 13, 2013   No comments
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military ruler, has for the first time admitted doing a secret deal with America to allow CIA drone strikes against terrorist targets.

His comments contradict repeated Pakistani denials that the US has ever been given permission for the strikes. They come amid growing evidence that the country’s intelligence service is collaborating with its American counterpart.
In an interview with CNN, Mr Musharraf, who returned to Pakistan three weeks ago, said he had authorised strikes “only on very few occasions where the target was absolutely isolated and had no chance of collateral damage”.
The first strike on Pakistan soil came in 2004, five years into Mr Musharraf’s reign, killing a tribal leader seen as an enemy of the government. Since then there have been more than 300 strikes and more than 3,000 deaths.
Islamabad has publicly condemned the attacks, describing them as an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty.
They provoke intense anger and have been blamed for stoking anti-American sentiment in the country. Yet there has long been suspicion that Pakistan had given consent.

Russia strikes back with Magnitsky list response

    Saturday, April 13, 2013   No comments

Russia has released the list naming 18 Americans banned from entering the Russian Federation over their alleged human rights violations, as a direct response to the so-called Magnitsky list revealed by the US on Friday.

Before the Magnitsky list was released, Russia warned that the reaction would be in accordance with the “rules of parity.”

“We will not publish anything substantially different in terms of the numbers [of names] published by the American side,” explained Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The final version of the list of Russian officials and businessmen who will be banned from entering the United States while their stateside assets will be frozen includes 18 people. Sixteen of them are said to be “directly responsible” for Magnitsky’s death in prison, according to Washington's version of events.


US officials involved in legalizing torture and indefinite detention of prisoners (The Guantanamo List)
1) David Spears Addington, Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney (2005-2009)
2) John Choon Yoo, Assistant US Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice (2001-2003)
3)  Geoffrey D. Miller, retired US Army Major General, commandant of Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the organization that runs the Guantanamo Bay detention camps (2002-2003)
4) Jeffrey Harbeson, US Navy officer, commandant of Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the organization that runs the Guantanamo Bay detention camps (2010-2012)

US officials involved in violations of the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens abroad
5) Jed Saul Rakoff, Senior US District Judge for the Southern District of New York
6) Preetinder S. Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York
7) Michael J. Garcia, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York
8) Brendan R. McGuire, Assistant US Attorney
9) Anjan S. Sahni, Assistant US Attorney
10) Christian R. Everdell, Assistant US Attorney
11) Jenna Minicucci Dabbs, Assistant US Attorney
12) Christopher L. Lavigne, Assistant US Attorney
13) Michael Max Rosensaft, Assistant US Attorney
14) Louis J. Milione, Special Agent, US Drug Enforcement Administration
15) Sam Gaye, Senior Special Agent, US Drug Enforcement Administration
16) Robert F. Zachariasiewicz, Special Agent, US Drug Enforcement Administration
17) Derek S. Odney, Special Agent, US Drug Enforcement Administration
18) Gregory A. Coleman, Special Agent, US Federal Bureau of Investigation


Friday, April 12, 2013

Rebel Keeps Kurds’ Guns Close at Hand in Peace Talks With Turkey

    Friday, April 12, 2013   No comments

ZARGALI, Iraq — In a safe house made of cinder blocks and surrounded by grazing goats and sheep, nestled high in the remote mountains of northern Iraq, a Kurdish fighter who has waged a guerrilla war against Turkey for nearly three decades remains defiant in the face of peace.

“Our forces believe they can achieve results through war,” said the fighter, Murat Karayilan, who commands the thousands of fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the P.K.K.

For all the costs of the long war, Mr. Karayilan, his fighters and millions of Kurds believe it helped them achieve something they never would have without armed struggle: a recognition of Kurdish identity and more democratic rights.

Now, as the P.K.K. negotiates peace with Turkey to end one of the Middle East’s most intractable conflicts, it is clinging to its guns despite demands by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, that it lay them down as a condition of talks. This defiance suggests that the peace process, despite the hope it has engendered on both sides, could be longer and more arduous than at first anticipated.

“Our guerrillas cannot give up their arms,” said Mr. Karayilan, in an interview here in the safe house, which had a freezer full of ice cream and satellite television despite its remote location. “It is the last issue, something to discuss as a last issue to this process.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Iran Gets First Ever Kurdish Presidential Hopeful

    Thursday, April 11, 2013   No comments
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran’s first ever ethnically Kurdish presidential hopeful is counting on the votes of the young, and those of the country’s Kurdish minority. But first, he has to get the green light to run by Iran’s conservative Guardian Council.

“I will have 80 percent of the Kurdish votes due to the Kurdish national cause,” said Seyed Mohammed Bayatiyan, who is planning on running in the June election, the eleventh presidential polls since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. Kurdish support, he says, should win him seven million votes.

Bayatiyan was born in Bijar district in 1973. His father, the founder of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards in the district, was killed by Kurdish Peshmarga forces.

From 1999 to 2006, Bayatiyan was the general secretary of the Iranian Islamic Council.

So far, 35 nominees have announced their nominations for the Iranian presidency.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Syria's al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013   No comments
The head of Syria's jihadist al-Nusra Front has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri - but distanced his group from claims it had merged with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"The sons of al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri," Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in an audio message.
But, he added, "we were not consulted" on an announcement by al-Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Tuesday of a merger with al-Nusra Front.
"We inform you that neither the al-Nusra command nor its consultative council, nor its general manager were aware of this announcement. It reached them via the media and if the speech is authentic, we were not consulted," Jawlani said.
He added that the group would not be changing its flag or its "behaviour."
"Al-Nusra Front will not change its flag, though we will continue to be proud of the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq, of those who carry it and those who sacrifice themselves and shed their blood for it," said Jawlani, acknowledging he had fought in Iraq alongside the ISI, al-Qaeda's Iraqi branch.


Egypt's army took part in torture and killings during revolution, report shows

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013   No comments
Egypt's armed forces participated in forced disappearances, torture and killings across the country – including in the Egyptian Museum – during the 2011 uprising, even as military leaders publicly declared their neutrality, according to a leaked presidential fact-finding report on revolution-era crimes.

The report, submitted to the president, Mohamed Morsi, by his own hand-picked committee in January, has yet to be made public, but a chapter obtained by the Guardian implicates the military in a catalogue of crimes against civilians, beginning with their first deployment to the streets. The chapter recommends that the government investigate the highest ranks of the armed forces to determine who was responsible.

More than 1,000 people, including many prisoners, are said to have gone missing during the 18 days of the revolt. Scores turned up in Egypt's morgues, shot or bearing signs of torture. Many have simply disappeared, leaving behind desperate families who hope, at best, that their loved ones are serving prison sentences that the government does not acknowledge.

The findings of the high-level investigation, implicating Egypt's powerful and secretive military, will put pressure on Morsi, who assumed power from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after his election last June and has declined to prosecute any officers, despite allegations that some participated in abuse. They could also figure in the retrial of the toppled president Hosni Mubarak and his former interior minister Habib el-Adly, who are set to return to court on Saturday to face charges – perhaps supported by new evidence from the fact-finding committee – that they were responsible for killing protesters during the revolt.

"This chapter sheds light on new and extremely disturbing incidents that implicate the military in serious human rights violations," said Hossam Bahgat, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "In particular, it uncovers new details on one of the most secret aspects of the 18 days of revolt that ended with the ouster of Mubarak: the role played by the armed forces in supporting Mubarak against protesters from the date they were deployed on 28 January 2011, until the first military statement was issued in support of the protesters on 10 February."

Syria's Jihadists face test of government in eastern city

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013   No comments
A month after they pulled down a statue of President Bashar al-Assad's once feared father, people in a city in eastern Syria are living under a Jihadist regime that could be a taste of what is in store for the country if Assad himself is overthrown.
Hardline Islamist brigades patrol streets abandoned by police. A religious court has replaced a collapsed judicial system, and minorities have fled, according to civic activists in Raqqa, the largest city to fall to the opposition since the uprising against four decades of Assad family rule broke out in March 2011.
The Jihadist show of force coupled with the absence of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, the main grouping of the political opposition, could consolidate an Islamist sweep in the north and east of the country. But the experience of Raqqa, where there have been demonstrations and strikes, shows that Islamist rule has got off to a difficult start.
The east, which accounts for all of Syria's oil output and most of its grain production, borders Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, where Sunni Jihadists opposed to the Iranian-backed Shi'ite government in Baghdad are also active.
Since falling, Raqqa has been in effect run by Ahrar al-Sham, one of the best organized of hundreds of opposition formations fighting to oust Assad, and its Islamist allies, opposition campaigners in the area said.
They said the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front has a strong presence in the city and cooperates with Ahrar. The Iraqi wing of al Qaeda announced on Tuesday that Nusra was now its Syrian branch and the two groups would operate under one name -- the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Activist Maen Khader said Ahrar were quick to take control of the power and water departments, which are providing a mostly uninterrupted service, largely because a main hydro-electric dam on the Euphrates River, 40 km (25 miles) to the southwest in the town of Tabaqa, had been overrun by jihadists.
Unlike the town of Tel Abyad on the border with Turkey to the north, looting in Raqqa has been minimal, Khader said.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tunisia Now Exporting “Jihadis”

    Tuesday, April 09, 2013   No comments

Tunisian families have begun to dread knocks on their doors, or late-night phone calls, fearing that the messenger will bear the news that their son has been smuggled out of the country to join the “jihad” in Syria.
Families here told IPS that they have no way of contacting their sons once they leave — whether by choice or coercion they will never know — for the warring nation nearly 3,000 miles away. At most, family members receive an inaudible telephone call from Libya, where the soon-to-be militants are trained, the muffled voice on the other end of the line saying a quiet and final goodbye.

After that point, no news is good news. If they are contacted again, it will only be an anonymous caller announcing the death of a son, brother or husband, adding that the family should be proud of their martyred loved one.

The next day, the family might find a CD, slipped under the door, containing filmed footage of the burial.

There are no reliable data on exactly when young Tunisian men began rushing to join the Free Syrian Army, currently engaged in a battle to depose Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, but experts and civil society activists are agreed on one thing: the number is increasing.

On Mar. 29, local sources reported that between 6,000 and 10,000 men have left the country, while the Algerian press say the number could be closer to 12,000.

Families tell IPS the self-proclaimed jihadists leave in secret, often under cover of darkness, and change their names en route so that Facebook and internet searches yield no results. They believe mosques and charity organisations serve as fronts for this “recruitment” process.

Widely considered the cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has gained a reputation as a progressive country, bolstered by the strong democratic current that toppled former dictator Zine Abadine Ben Ali in January 2011. The election of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda in October 2011 further raised hopes that the country would stay on track towards a more inclusive future.

But beneath the moderate veneer, a strong ultra-conservative undercurrent remained, steered by Salafist-controlled mosques – like Fath, Ennassr, Ettadhamen, and the great mosque of Ben Arous located on the outskirts of Tunis – that are now serving as headquarters for the smuggling of fighters.

Jabhat Al Nusra, Syrian Islamic Rebel Group, Merges With Al Qaeda In Iraq

    Tuesday, April 09, 2013   No comments
BEIRUT — Al-Qaida's branch in Iraq said it has merged with Syria's extremist Jabhat al-Nusra, a move that shows the rising confidence of radicals within the Syrian rebel movement and is likely to trigger renewed fears among its international backers.

A website linked to Jabhat al-Nusra confirmed on Tuesday the merger with the Islamic State of Iraq, whose leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, first made the announcement in a 21-minute audio message posted on militant websites late Monday.

Jabhat al-Nusra has taken an ever-bigger role in Syria's conflict over the last year, fighting in key battles and staging several large suicide bombings. The U.S. has designated it a terrorist organization.

The Syrian group has made little secret of its links across the Iraqi border, but until now it has not officially declared itself to be part of al-Qaida.

Al-Baghdadi said that his group – the Islamic State of Iraq – and Syria's Jabhat al-Nusra will now be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

"It is time to announce to the Levantine people and the whole world that Jabhat al-Nusra is merely an extension and part of the Islamic State of Iraq," he said.

He said that the Iraqi group was providing half of its budget to the conflict in Syria. Al-Baghdadi said that the Syrian group would have no separate leader but instead be led by the "people of Syria themselves" – implying that he would be in charge in both countries.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Brazil, China, and India Are Fat, And Getting Fatter

    Monday, April 08, 2013   No comments

In China, the growth rate of new Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants is 13 percent a year, compared with 2.9 percent in the U.S. And as the chain has expanded, so have Chinese citizens' waistlines. Recently, the aspiring BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) met in sunny Durban, South Africa, for their fifth summit to discuss their plans for creating their proposed BRICS Development Bank (BDB). Despite ongoing doubts that these nations will be able to quickly come to an agreement over where and how the bank will function, there is hope that these differences can be overcome.

But there is one issue that the BRICS leaders seemed to have overlooked. That is, how will the BRICS bank address these nations' ongoing struggle to contain the spread of disease? Diseases commonly attributed to economic wealth and prosperity, such as obesity and diabetes, are on the rise and will inevitably threaten their bristling economies should the BDB fail to adequately invest in healthcare infrastructure.

The proposed BDB bank is mainly focused on providing loans and grants - approximately $4.5 trillion in total - to finance infrastructural development projects in the BRICS and other developing nations. This funding will be used to construct railroads, bridges, highways, and ports. Created as an alternative " Bretton Woods for the developing nations," loans will be provided at favorable lending terms. The bank will also provide a currency reserve of $100 billion dollars to be used in times of economic crisis. Another implicit goal through this banking endeavor is to decrease the BRICS and other developing nations' ongoing reliance on the World Bank and IMF for financial assistance while creating a lending facility that better understands developing nations' context and needs.

Christian mourners, mob, police clash in Egypt

    Monday, April 08, 2013   No comments

CAIRO (AP) — A mob threw rocks and fired birdshot Sunday at several hundred Christians marching in a protest against Egypt's Islamist government after the funeral of four Christians killed in sectarian clashes over the weekend.
The Christians were chanting slogans against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, just as several thousand did earlier during the funeral service nearby in the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Cairo.
The attacking mob, described by witnesses as residents of the area, forced the marchers to take shelter inside the sprawling cathedral complex. They also showered the protesters with rocks from the roofs of nearby buildings, according to witness Ibrahim el-Shareef.
Mohammed Sultan, director of Egypt's national ambulance services, said at least 17 people were wounded in the clashes.


WikiLeaks publishes 1.7m US diplomatic records

    Monday, April 08, 2013   No comments
WikiLeaks has published more than 1.7m US records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world.

The data, which has not been leaked, comprises diplomatic records from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1976, covering a variety of diplomatic traffic including cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.

Julian Assange said WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the US national archives before releasing it in a searchable form.

WikiLeaks has called the collection the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), describing it as the world's largest searchable collection of US confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.

Assange told Press Association the information showed the vast range and scope of US diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The leader of Iraq’s oil union is being threatened with prison–again

    Sunday, April 07, 2013   No comments

Many Iraqi oil workers thought the fall of Saddam Hussein would mean they would finally be free to organize unions, and that their nationally owned industry would be devoted to financing the reconstruction of the country. But the reality could not have been more different. Earlier this month, the head of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, Hassan Juma’a (below right), was hauled into a Basra courtroom and accused of organizing strikes, a charge for which he could face prison time. The union he heads is still technically illegal: Saddam’s ban on public-sector unions was the sole Saddam-era dictate kept in place under the U.S. occupation, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki hasn't shown any interest in changing it since most U.S. troops left.

And the oil industry? The big multinational petroleum giants now run the nation’s fields. Between 2009 and 2010, the Maliki government granted contracts for developing existing fields and exploring new ones to 18 companies, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, the Italian Eni, Russia's Gazprom and Lukoil, Malaysia's Petronas and a partnership between BP and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. When they started, the U.S. military provided the initial security umbrella protecting all of their field operations.

The Ministry of Oil technically still owns the oil, but functions more as the multinationals’ adjunct, while stripping workers of their rights. Since 2003 the ministry has denied the union its right to exist and retaliated against its leaders and activists. As the oil corporations rush in to lay claim to developing fields, ministry spokesman Assam Jihad told the Iraq Oil Report in 2010, “Unionists instigate the public against the plans of the oil ministry to develop [Iraq's] oil riches using foreign development.”

The Nation Is Made Of These

    Sunday, April 07, 2013   No comments

by Javed Jabbar

The further we move on from March 23, 1940—and from December 16, 1971, when the original Pakistan disintegra­ted—the stronger and deeper, and at the same time, more stressful, becomes the search for a cohesive sense of Pakistani nationalism.

Composed of several elements, Muslim identity is the prime driver of Pakistani nationalism, but not exclusively so. Non-Muslim identities are small, yet vital and intrinsic parts of Pakistani nationalism. Foremost among them are Pakistani Hindu and Buddhist citizens. In a foundational sense, Pakistani Hindus and Buddhists are the oldest Pakistanis. Their ancestors have lived upon the lands that constitute our territory for centuries before the first Muslims arrived, or before the first local was converted to Islam.

If roots in territory make people eligible to be regarded as ‘sons of the soil’, then these non-Muslims are the first sons and daughters of Pakistan. It is unfortunate that, in the name of a state entity created less than 70 years ago, peoples whose ancestors have lived on these very territories for over 7,000 years are now ‘minorities’. Worse, many of them are regarded (and regard themselves) as second-class citizens. Adherents of all non-Islamic faiths are ineligible, by virtue of their religion, to be elected president or prime minister. This is so despite the fact that Article 20 of the Constitution grants—subject to law, public order and morality—freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions. Article 25, which deals with citizens’ equality says, in part: “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.” This is further reinforced by Article 36, which obliges the state to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the federal and provincial services.

Working with Hindus, Christians and Zoroastrians for over 30 years in remote areas and in urban centres, this wri­ter has first-hand experience of their attitudes and act­ions. These non-Muslim Pakistanis have a deep love for Pakistan. They are proud Pakistanis, and contribute abundantly to the country’s progress—and little to its problems! Yet Pakistani Hindus are often regarded by segments of the state and society as Indian ‘agents’ or as being inherently disloyal to Pakistan. Such suspicion is a profanity in itself.

However, this does not prevent non-Muslim Pakistanis from rendering notable roles in all areas, from agriculture, business and law to education, diplomacy and politics.

Azeri Muslims Protest Theologian’s Arrest

    Sunday, April 07, 2013   No comments

By Idrak Abbasov

The arrest of an Muslim theologian who preached against the government in Azerbaijan has sparked a new show of opposition in which representatives of secular parties have sided with Islamists.

Police arrested Taleh Bagirzadeh, 29, on March 31 and charged him with possession of drugs, an allegation often used against opponents of the government.

On April 1, devout Muslims and opposition activists took to Imam Hussain Square in Baku to show their support for Bagirzadeh.

Veysal Gasimov, a member of the opposition Popular Front party, was arrested and sentenced to ten days in jail for taking part in the protest, which attracted between 500 and 600 people.

Further demonstrations followed on April 2, in the town of Lenkoran close to the Iranian border, and in the village of Nardaran, a village 25 kilometres north of the capital Baku which is a focal point for Azerbaijan’s majority Shia Muslim faith.

Residents of Nardaran promised to carrying on protesting both in the village and in Baku until Bagirzadeh is released.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Syria warns Jordan over aiding rebels

    Friday, April 05, 2013   No comments

Syria's regime sternly warned neighboring Jordan on Thursday that it was "playing with fire" by allowing the U.S. and other countries to train and arm rebels on its territory.

Jordan, America's closest ally in the Arab world, has long been nervous that President Bashar Assad's hard-line regime could retaliate for supporting the rebels. The warning carried on state media may add to those jitters, though Jordanian government officials publicly downplayed it as "mere speculation by the Syrian media."

Syrian state television said leaks in U.S. media show Jordan "has a hand in training terrorists and then facilitating their entry into Syria." State radio accused Jordan of "playing with fire."
A front-page editorial in the government daily al-Thawra accused Amman of adopting a policy of "ambiguity" by training the rebels while at the same time publicly insisting on a "political solution" to the Syrian crisis.
"Jordan's attempt to put out the flame from the leaked information will not help as it continues with its mysterious policy, which brings it closer to the volcanic crater," the paper said.

Two Jordanian officials downplayed the diplomatic tiff with Syria. One said Jordan will not discuss the state of relations through the media.

"Such discussions are usually carried out through the appropriate diplomatic channels,' he said. Both officials insisted on anonymity out of concern that their comments may further irritate relations, which have been historically bumpy.

Why Do We Laugh at North Korea But Fear Iran?

    Friday, April 05, 2013   No comments
In the United States, we make fun of Kim Jong Un and the North Korean regime's over-the-top propaganda machine. The regime may have launched a massive cyberattack on South Korean banks and TV stations last month, but we were circumspect that they were capable of such a thing. When former basketball player Dennis Rodman visited the country in February we giggled. How silly, we thought. Kim Jong Un is a Dennis Rodman fan - how out of touch! Soon after, a video emerged from North Korean state television showing Kim welcomed by jubilant masses of soldiers sprinting to welcome him as he visited a posting from whence rockets were launched in a brief 2010 skirmish with South Korea.

Again we chuckled at how staged it seemed. Just a week or so previous, a propaganda video came out showing images of Barack Obama and American troops on fire, and just before that, a sleeping Korean dreaming about a rocket destroying an American city. At these, we guffawed. We mocked the use of "We Are the World" and music from the video game Call of Duty as a soundtrack; we called one video " bizarre from start to finish"; " hilarious and disturbing "; "hilariously low-rent"; " cartoonish ." When the United States beefed up its missile defense network in California and Alaska to protect from a possible North Korean attack, we noted they wouldn't have the brains to actually hit us, and asserted that " no one's taking them that seriously." The propaganda, the rhetoric, it's all seen as a grand joke. Desperate, harmless hyperbole from a scorned and neutered country.

A man starves his own people and threatens to start a nuclear war, and Americans laugh. What a bizarre thing to do.

Meanwhile, we shirk in fear at the unhinged other leg of former President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" tripod: Iran...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sri Lanka's Muslims bear brunt of Buddhist extremism

    Thursday, April 04, 2013   No comments

Sri Lanka has been rocked in recent weeks by a growing wave of anti-Muslim sentiment led by ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks. According to one expert, the small island nation is suffering a profound and worrying identity crisis.

On the evening of March 28, a Muslim clothes trader watched as his warehouse was ransacked by an angry crowd of some 500 Sri Lankans. Buddhist monks among the attackers were filmed throwing stones at the Fashion Bug outlet in capital Colombo.

According to BBC reporter Charles Haviland, several people including a number of journalists recording the scenes were injured.

It was not an isolated incident. In the past few months, the number of attacks on the minority Muslim population (9 percent) in the Buddhist-dominated country has been growing.

As well as targeting shops, Muslims have reported vandalism against mosques as well as calls for a boycott on their products and services.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, a junior coalition partner in the government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, has denounced the “hate campaign” being waged against Muslims which the authorities are blaming on a hard core of extremist Buddhist monks.

Islam ‘the invader’

Why the Iran Sanctions Don't Work

    Thursday, April 04, 2013   No comments

The United States has used its leverage over the international financial system to create the most comprehensive unilateral sanctions regime in history. The move against Iran has played a key role in convincing the European Union to implement its own set of unilateral sanctions—all with the central objective of changing Tehran’s nuclear calculus and forcing it to agree to a deal that it otherwise would refuse.

Those associated with the regime openly acknowledge that sanctions are having a devastating impact on the Iranian economy, but they have not achieved their stated objective: shifting Iran’s nuclear stance. For this to happen, the regime’s stakeholders must start building narratives that enable such policy shifts, and subsequently lobby the government for those shifts.

In a new report published last week (Never Give in and Never Give Up)—which relies on over thirty in-depth, vetted and anonymous interviews with senior Iranian political officials, analysts and members of the business community—we show that neither phenomenon has emerged within the Iranian elite in a measurable or impactful way.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Syria: 'up to 100' British Muslims fighting in war

    Wednesday, April 03, 2013   No comments

There are “hundreds” of Europeans now fighting in Syria, some of whom are with groups linked to al Qaeda, the Home Office told MPs.
The British-born jihadis are said to have joined the fight with Jabhat al-Nusra, the country’s most militant al-Qaeda gang.
The fighters have come from range of ethnic backgrounds include young Asians, converts to Islam and men from north African backgrounds.
Some are said to have fought in conflicts elsewhere while others waging war for the first time.
Officials warned of the risk to Britain and other European nations posed by foreign fighters now gaining military experience in Syria.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Emir of NYU: John Sexton's Abu Dhabi Debacle

    Monday, April 01, 2013   No comments

In February 2008, I attended an New York University faculty meeting about the school's plans to open a new campus in the tiny desert emirate of Abu Dhabi. I was there reporting for a New York magazine article about the first major U.S. research institution to open a complete liberal-arts university off American soil. Hoping to be a fly on the wall, I instead found myself seated at the head of the table, bombarded with rapid-fire questions by exasperated professors looking for any kernel of information about the new project:

"Who will do the hiring?" one professor asks.
"Will there be tenure? You can't have academic freedom without tenure, right?"
"Where will the students come from?"
"Why Abu Dhabi?"
"What exactly is the status of Abu Dhabi's relationship with Israel?"
"Will we become the next Guggenheim franchise?"

I quickly learned that the new initiative was being personally driven by NYU's larger-than-life president, John Sexton -- and that many faculty felt completely left out of a decision that had the potential to effect the university dramatically.


This mirrors the concerns I heard when I interviewed dozens of NYU's faculty about the Abu Dhabi project. Many expressed substantive concerns about academic freedom, diluting NYU's brand, human rights violations in Abu Dhabi, and discrimination against gay and Israeli students.

... read full article

                            read also,  UAE "Blacklisting" of Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

Libya's south teeters toward chaos — and militant extremists

    Monday, April 01, 2013   No comments

SABHA, Libya — Their fatigues don't match and their pickup has no windshield. Their antiaircraft gun, clogged with grit, is perched between a refugee camp and ripped market tents scattered over an ancient caravan route. But the tribesmen keep their rifles cocked and eyes fixed on a terrain of scouring light where the oasis succumbs to desert.

"If we leave this outpost the Islamist militants will come and use Libya as a base. We can't let that happen," said Zakaria Ali Krayem, the oldest among the Tabu warriors. "But the government hasn't paid us in 14 months. They won't even give us money to buy needles to mend our uniforms."

Krayem is battling smugglers, illegal migrants bound for Europe and armed extremists who stream across a swath of the Sahara near the porous intersection of southern Libya, Chad, Niger and Algeria. Since the 2011 Arab uprisings that swept away Moammar Kadafi and other autocrats, Western countries and Libya's neighbors fear that this nation may emerge as an Islamist militant foothold.

Kadafi was replaced by a weak central government that has struggled with economic turmoil and the lack of judicial reform and a new constitution. The long-neglected south has grown more lawless. The Al Qaeda-linked militants, including Libyans, behind the January assault on a natural gas processing complex in Algeria that killed at least 37 foreigners traveled from Mali through Niger and Libya's poorly patrolled hinterlands.

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