Archive for January, 2011

Great Dish

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Tonight I made a great dish for dinner. I to some frozen Mahi Mahi from Trader Joe’s threw it on the skillet with some olive oil, defrosted it on the stove, dosed it with coriander, chili pepper, a salt and pepper mix, and nutmeg. I then took about half a pineapple, sliced it up into small chunks and put a few slices on the mostly cooked fish. I then took a bell pepper and yellow onion, sliced up about a third of each and then threw them into the skillet with the rest of the pineapple. The flame should be medium to low and covered if possible to save the juices. The whole thing should take about 10 minutes to cook. Make sure you don’t burn the fish or the other ingredients.

This makes a perfectly delicious meal for one or two. Add more of each ingredient for more persons proportionately.

Anarchist-Punk Show, Protests Across Middle East

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Last night I went to an anarchist punk show. It was the usual mix of hardcore bands playing hard and fast with lyrics shouted and unintelligible. There were animal rights activists, vegan promoters and Food Not Bombs representatives. A literature table from PM Press with some anarchist and left communist books was the only serious political material available. Various local groups such as RAC also had tables and I saw the Black Riders leaving as I was coming in. There was a good crowd of several hundred people jamming the club ‘Blvd’ in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles.

The music was a bit anachronistic, and focusing on animal rights at a time when revolt is brewing around the world seems to be a bit out of touch with the times, but then ultimately meat eating may be unsustainable in the long run if the population keeps increasing. They want to replace the animal food chain eaten in the industrialized world with a western spin off on Gandhian non-violence in the form of non consumption of animal products. This works well in India where there is a religious culture promoting the concept. I can’t see it as more than a novelty among a minority in the rest of the world, especially with the new affluence in places like China where McDonalds is something of a status symbol. But it is nice to see youthful idealism, I just wish it was geared more to fighting for more practical issues that affect people here in the USA rather than Quixote like battles with American’s eating habits. On the other hand that is what Michelle Obama is trying to do, so in that sense they are right in step with some of the reforming aspects of the government.

Otherwise there is a rebellion brewing across the Arab world. Below are reports I have gathered from media about what is happening or about to happen in various countries.

From Reuters

Sudanese police clash with students in Khartoum
3:32am EST
By Khaled Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM | Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:12am EST

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese police beat and arrested students on Sunday as hundreds protested throughout the capital demanding the government resign, inspired by a popular uprising in neighbouring Egypt.

Armed riot police broke up groups of young Sudanese demonstrating in central Khartoum and surrounded the entrances of four universities in the capital, firing teargas and beating students at three of them.

Some 500 young people also protested in the city of el-Obeid in North Kordofan in the west of the country.

Police beat students with batons as they chanted anti-government slogans such as “we are ready to die for Sudan” and “revolution, revolution until victory.”

Groups have emerged on social networking sites calling themselves “Youth for Change” and “The Spark,” since the uprisings in nearby Tunisia and close ally Egypt this month.

“Youth for Change” has attracted more than 15,000 members.

“The people of Sudan will not remain silent any more,” its Facebook page said. “It is about time we demand our rights and take what’s ours in a peaceful demonstration that will not involve any acts of sabotage.”

The pro-democracy group Girifna (”We’re fed up”) said nine members were detained the night before the protest and opposition party officials listed almost 40 names of protesters arrested on Sunday. Five were injured, they added.

Sudan has a close affinity with Egypt — the two countries were united under British colonial rule. The unprecedented scenes there inspired calls for similar action in Sudan, where protests without permission, which is rarely given, are illegal.

Before Tunisia’s popular revolt, Sudan was the last Arab country to overthrow a leader with popular protests, ousting Jaafar Nimeiri in 1985.

Opposition leader Mubarak al-Fadil told Reuters two of his sons were arrested on their way to the central protest.

Editor-in-chief of the al-Wan daily paper Hussein Khogali said his daughter had been detained by security forces since 8 a.m. (1 a.m. EST) accused of organising the Facebook-led protest.

From the Wall Street Journal

Yemeni Protests Turn Violent .
SAN’A, Yemen—A small anti-government protest turned violent in the Yemeni capital Saturday, according to eyewitnesses, with demonstrators—emboldened by Friday’s massive protests in Egypt—clashing with security forces.

At least nine protesters were set upon by police with batons when security forces blocked up to a hundred demonstrators as they attempted to march to the Egyptian Embassy here, in a show of solidarity with protesters in Egypt, according to eyewitnesses.

A government supporter waves a traditional dagger during confrontations with anti-government protesters in the capital Sanaa. Yemen’s ruling party has called for dialogue with the opposition in a bid to end anti-government protests.
It was the first instance of reported violence during a recent bout of protests in Yemen, which started earlier this month in the wake of anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia that eventually ended the long rule of that North African country’s autocratic ruler.

Witnesses also said prominent human-rights activist Abdul Hadi al-Azazi was arrested in the march on Saturday.

A Yemeni governmental spokesperson, Tareq Al-Shami, said: “Security forces were not involved, but because protesters were both pro-government and anti-government, clashes could have taken place among them, with security forces out of the picture.”

From Argentina Star

Sunday 30th January 2011 Edition 30/2011
Protests break out in Yemen and Jordan
Argentina Star
Saturday 29th January, 2011

While world focus has been on the spreading protests in Egypt, similar demonstrations have broken out in neighbouring Jordan and in Yemen.

There are also reports of demonstrations in Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis are protesting in the capital Sanaa, calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh, like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, has been in power for three decades, ruling with an iron fist, frustrating the young people of the country. Widespread poverty and corruption have been central targets in the growing protests.

Yemen has been in the spotlight in the West as it combats al-Qaeda influences in the country. The U.S. military has been targeting what it terms are terrorist targets associated with al-Qaeda in the country with drone attacks.

Protesters chanting “its time for a change,” have taken to several parts of the city.

“We gather today to demand the departure of President Saleh and his corrupt government,” Opposition MP Abdulmalik al-Qasuss, from the al-Islah (Reform) party, was quoted by AFP as he addressed protesters.

Government officials are clamping down on the demonstrations. “We are against whoever wants to trouble the country’s interests. All Yemeni people are against that, and we will prevent any kind of disturbance,” government supporter Saleh al-Mrani said .

Yemen’s President Saleh, an ally of the West, became leader of North Yemen in 1978, and has ruled the Republic of Yemen since the north and south merged in 1990. He was last re-elected in 2006.

His party, the General People’s Congress (GPC) party, called for dialogue between the parties ahead of elections planned for April. “We call for the halting of media propaganda and urge all political parties to work together to make the dialogue a success and arrange for upcoming elections,” a GPC committee member was quoted as saying on the Web site of the Saba state news agency.

“Furthermore, we urge an end to protests that ignite dissent to avoid dragging the country into conflict or sedition,” the statement said.

Meantime about 3,500 people gathered in Amman after prayers on Friday to demand the ouster of Jordan’s Prime Minister Samir Rifai, an end to corruption, and high food prices.

Many of the protesters were reported as chanting, “Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians.”

Similar demonstrations took place in other cities across Jordan.

King Abdullah has agreed to partial reforms, including to elections, but is not expected to relinquish his power to appoint the prime minister and cabinet ministers.

With a quarter of the country living in povery, and half that number unemployed, Jordanians are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry.

Ibrahim Alloush, a university professor, told The Associated Press it was not a question of changing faces or replacing one prime minister with another. “We’re demanding changes on how the country is now run,” he said.

Elsewhere, dozens of demonstrators have been arrested in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia during protests which followed Friday prayers. The city is recovering from extensive floods, and in many parts of the highly populous city are without power.

Around fifty people were arrested observers say. “They took them all. They were protesting. There are still some people hiding in that building over there. The police are looking for them and trying to arrest them,” a police officer at a station near the protest said.

January 31, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.661

Crisis in the Middle East – Part III: Syrian Facebook Pages Calling for Demonstrations on Saturday, February 5, 2011
By: Y. Yehoshua*


In the past week, Syrian activists have been using Facebook to call for mass protests in Syria on Saturday, February 5, 2011, dubbing it the “Day of Rage.” In Facebook pages created specifically for this purpose, members have called on the Syrian public to take to the streets on that date and stage peaceful demonstrations and rallies in all parts of the country, as well as in front of Syrian embassies in Arab and European capitals, in protest of the oppressive Syrian regime. These Facebook pages also feature images and videos slamming Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and supporting protest against his rule.

The organizers of the Syrian protests have expressed support for the demonstrators in Tunisia and Egypt, and have adopted their methods:[1] opening special Facebook pages on which information is posted regarding the place and time of the planned protests, and creating a special profile picture, associated with the protests, to be used by all Facebook members sympathizing with the cause. However, it seems that the scope of their activity is limited compared to that of the Tunisian and Egyptian activists. So far, the number of people who have registered as members on these Facebook pages is relatively small, and some of the members reside outside the country.

Among those promoting the “Day of Rage” protests is the Independent Islamic Bloc – part of the “Damascus Declaration” opposition movement – which has called upon Syrians to attend a “sweeping protest and mass rally” in front of the Parliament house in Damascus on February 5. In its announcement, the organization praised the protests in Tunisia and Egypt and warned the Syrian regime against continuing its oppression, corruption and political arrests.[2] Websites have also published a message by “the Popular Committees in Aleppo Province” announcing a February 5 protest rally in the center of Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria.[3]

The organizers of the planned demonstrations in Damascus and Aleppo have listed their demands: an improvement in living standards, respect for human rights, freedom of speech for all Syrian citizens, and greater influence for Syrian youth. They requested that the protesters come equipped with nothing more than Syrian flags and signs expressing their demands.[4]

Syria is on the alert for the possible spread of protests to its territory. On January 29, 2011, the Syrian authorities prevented the holding of a demonstration in solidarity with the Egyptian protesters in front of the Egyptian embassy in Damascus, fearing a conflagration.[5] It was also reported that Syrian security chief ‘Ali Mamlouk has met with province governors and police commanders in order to prepare for possible protests in the country.[6]

There are conflicting reports regarding the accessibility of Facebook, which has played a crucial role in mobilizing the public for the current wave of protests in the Arab world. According to a January 25, 2011 report on, the Syrian authorities have restricted access to Facebook in a bid to keep the protests from spreading to Syria, but some users are managing to access the site through proxies. [7] The Syrian news agency SANA has denied this, saying that access to the Internet is unrestricted throughout the country.[8]

Following is a review of the preparations on Facebook for the February 5 protests in Syria:

Facebook Pages Created to Advertise February 5 Protests

In advance of the anticipated events, several Facebook pages have been launched, such as the pages titled “Syrian Day of Rage,” “The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Al-Assad,” and “Towards Popular Action in Syria: The February 5, 2011 Day of Rage.” As of this writing, these three pages have some 5,000 registered members, but more are joining every hour.

From Ennahar Online

Algeria: No March will be allowed in Algiers / M. Oudina30 January, 2011 06:12:00ALGIERS

- Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia reminded that no march will be permitted by the authorities in Algiers, in an interview Sunday with the French-language daily Liberté.
“The marches are banned in Algiers,” he said ensuring that this does not apply only to protests from the opposition but to “all marches”. January 22, a march of the RCD (Rally for Culture and Democracy, opposition) was prevented by police.

“If a Party from the presidential Alliance plans to hold a march tomorrow in Algiers, I can tell you as Minister of Interior, that it will be banned,” he added.

The presidential Alliance, in power in Algeria, includes the National Liberation Front (FLN, Conservative), The National Democratic Rally (RND, Liberal) of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, and the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP, Islamist).

A march to demand the “departure of the regime” is scheduled on February 12 in Algiers at the invitation of the new National Coordination for Change and Democracy, which includes opposition movements and civil society organizations. This coordination was born Jan. 21 in the wake of riots in early January that killed five people and injured over 800.

The Minister explained that the ban on marches was justified by security reasons. “Algiers is a city of three million inhabitants. There are problems that can not be taken into account by the organizers of the marches,” he said.

Street demonstrations are banned in Algeria since June 14, 2001 when a march in favor of Kabylia had turned into a riot which left eight dead and hundreds injured.

From Zero Hedge

Protests Spread To Saudi ArabiaSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/29/2011 13:19 -0500

While the biggest threat to the Middle East region is the possibility that the population of Saudi Arabia may try to imitate what has been happening in the area, thereby bringing total chaos to the established regional geopolitical and more importantly, energy, structure, the first protests in the Saudi Arabia city of Jeddah are already in the books. The clip below shows the peaceful demonstrations that have taken place recently, which as Fedupmontrealer explains are “taking place in front of the Municipality in protest of the severe lack of infrastructure, and corruption, that led the city to be inundated this week causing billions of dollars of damages for the second time in two years.” That this is even occurring in a state where the average wealth is orders of magnitude greater than in Egypt is remarkable. On the other hand, we expect more news such as those from yeserday that Kuwait is paying its citizens $3,500 plus free food for a year to keep calm. Oddly, visions of money dropping helicopters, infinitely extendable unemployment insurance and tax breaks keep dancing in our head. Those who wish to follows the latest developments out of Jedda which appears could be the lightning rod for Saudi riots can do so by tracking #JeddahProtests on Twitter.

Egypt Protests Explode Across Country

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Al Jazeera comentators are all claiming that Mubarak has lost credibility and that the army is not supporting him. This is speculation but could very well be the case. They are also stating that Syria, Algeria and Jordan might be next. The soldiers and police are all underpaid conscripts. They are not professionals and have nothing to do with the governing elite. Mubarak is a real tyrant and cruel to his people according to Egyptians quoted.

Robert Gibbs spoke in Washington. He called the situation fluid and did not offer any support for Mr. Mubarak. He says the President has been updated by the national security officer. President Obama has not spoken with President Mubarak. No new positions, all he says is for the people to refrain from violence and for the government to turn on the social networking sites. Government of Egypt must address legitimate grievances.

Al Jazeera is reporting live from Egypt. The protests seem to be continuing. In Suez the police and army have given up the streets to protestors. Protests continue in Alexandria and Cairo as well. Tanks are rolling in Alexandria and Cairo. The presidential guard is attempting to protect the national TV center from protestors. The regime’s party headquarters has been set on fire and is still burning. Protestors protected a nearby museum from fire indicating the intelligent and focused nature of the demonstrations. People are cheering the Army and some of the soldiers are waving Egyptian flags. What this means is unclear other than the people seem to see the Army as a neutral force. A dozen or more police vehicles have been burned around the burning NDP headquarters.
Clinton is saying the US supports universal human rights of the Egyptian people. The US is reviewing aid to Egypt according to Al Jazeera.
There are also protests in Yemen and Jordan today. The former regime members in the new Tunisian government have been forced out.
Ahmed Morsi in Egypt says it is the right of the Egyptian people to reclaim their country and secure the streets for the people.
The Egyptian government has attempted to shut down the social networks by blocking Twitter and other sites. Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and civil society leaders have been arrested.

From Dean Tukerman

In Egypt, according to twitter sources : “DIAL-UP ISP IS WORKING. Noor
dsl is still working on Dial up numbers (0777 7770),(0777 7000) SPREAD

From Guardian.UK

7.56pm GMT: CNN’s Ben Wedeman – who has been doing an excellent job all day – is asked why things have calmed down in Ciaro. “Jim, things have calmed down because there is no government here,” saying that police and army had disappeared.
Is something about to happen?
7.49pm GMT: The White House press briefing room is full of journalists awaiting the press conference that is about to be held. It’s being said that the US government doesn’t want to be pre-empted by a TV appearance by President Mubarak on Egyptian television.
My guess is that if Mubarak hasn’t appeared on television by now then he’s not going to tonight, except in extreme circumstances.
7.43pm GMT: Al-Jazeera is showing some great live footage of the looting of the National Democratic Party headquarters – and is reporting that the protesters are forming a “human shield” around the nearby national museum.
Meanwhile, Nile TV, the Egyptian state broadcaster, is now also showing footage of the protests – perhaps a significant event, since it contadicts the broadcaster’s earlier footage.
7.35pm GMT: There is a White House briefing on Egypt promised shortly, but the Associated Press has this bombshell – that the Obama administration is using US aid to Egypt as leverage over the Mubarak regime:
An Obama administration official says the US will review its $1.5bn in aid to Egypt based on events unfolding in the country, where the authoritarian government is struggling to extinguish huge and growing street protests.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the situation. Egypt has been a key US ally in the volatile region. US officials are now increasing calls on President Hosni Mubarak, the target of the protesters, to respond with restraint and reverse steps taken to cut off the protesters’ ability to communicate.
The decision to review assistance to Egypt is a significant step as the US seeks to balance the desire to maintain stability in the region with a recognition of the unexpected scope and uncertain outcome of the protests.
7.30pm GMT: Time magazine talks to “a minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” and reports that Israel appears to be backing the Mubarak regime:
With a deep investment in the status quo, Israel is watching what a senior official calls “an earthquake in the Middle East” with growing concern. The official says the Jewish state has faith in the security apparatus of its most formidable Arab neighbor, Egypt, to suppress the street demonstrations that threaten the dictatorial rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The harder question is what comes next.
But this was the most eye-catching quote from the unidentified minister:
“I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.”
7.26pm GMT: Reuters is now reporting a witness saying that the army has dispersed the protesters who tried to storm Egypt’s state television building in central Cairo.
The Al Arabiya network had earlier reported that demonstrators had forced their way in, but the state television channel was broadcasting throughout.
7.15pm GMT: The White House has just announced that it is postponing its planned press conference on the situation in Egypt. There’s some speculation that may be because Obama himself wants to make a statement personally, but in any case it has been postponed for the time being.
7.11pm GMT: The US State Department has said that US citizens should postpone non-essential travel to Egypt and urged US citizens in the country to “exercise caution”. The State Department also says Americans should not try to go to the US embassy since Egyptian security forces may block off the area around the embassy.
7.04pm GMT: Thanks Haroon, this is Richard Adams in the Guardian’s bureau in Washington DC, where there has been an abrupt change in attitudes towards events in Egypt today.
The main US cable news networks had given Egypt minimal coverage so far this week, partly because of the time difference but also because of the president’s state of the union address on Tuesday night absorbing so much energy.
That has all changed today, with the the extraordinary scenes from Egypt filling America’s TV screens – even if the early morning bulletins were more interested in Charlie Sheen’s hernia.
The exception has been Fox News, where coverage has been more muted. “You probably don’t give a lot of time thinking about Egypt,” a Fox News presenter suggested about an hour ago, before explaining that “groups linked to al-Qaida” were in danger of taking over the government in Cairo.
6.59pm: Here’s a summary of the day’s events so far on a momentous day in Egypt’s history:
President Hosni Mubarak has ordered a curfew in three cities (3.30pm), later extended to the entire country, which was supposed to start at 6pm today and last until 7am tomorrow morning but it has been roundly ignored as clashes have continued.
Mubarak has sent in the army to restore order in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez but protesters cheered the army in some areas, calling on them to side with them against the police (3.43 pm). In some areas the army has done so. Soldiers have shaken hands with protesters in Alexandria and in Cairo. Demonstrators have clambered onto tanks in Suez and Cairo. There have also been unconfirmed reports of clashes between the army and police
There have been unconfirmed reports of many protesters killed today, including a woman in Tahrir square in Cairo, two people in Suez, one named as Hamada Labib, 30, a driver., one person in Alexandria and a 14-year-old in Port Said.
In the country’s strongest intervention so far, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said the US is “deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protestors”. (5.12pm)
Some police are reported to have joined the protesters, who welcomed them to their ranks. (5.05pm)
Police immediately attacked protesters after Friday prayers (11.12am) but protesters remained defiant and fought back, overwhelming police and government buildings right across the country. The ruling NDP’s party headquarters in Cairo were set on fire (4.23pm).
I’m handing over the blog to my colleague Richard Adams now.
6.54pm: Rachel Stevenson, who freelances for Guardian films, is in the Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. She says they are isolated from what’s happening elsewhere, there are no demonstrations and people are ignroing the curfew. But she says people in the tourist industry there support the protests not least because they have the same concerns, being in poorly paid jobs despite many of them being highly educated.
6.42pm: Apparently, bizarrely, it’s the president’s national guard being cheered through the streets of Cairo as they make their way to the state TV station, which has been taken over by protesters.
The Egyptian museum, full of priceless artefacts, is said to be at risk from the fire at the NDP headquarters.
6.39pm: The army are being cheered as they pass in tanks/armoured cars in Cairo by protesters who are clambering on to the vehicles.
6.05pm: US president Barack Obama has convened his national security team on the growing protests in Egypt, the Associated Press reports:
Obama’s 40-minute session on Friday took the place of his daily national security briefing. It included Vice President Joe Biden and his national security adviser, Tom Donilon. Aides said additional briefings are planned during the day.
5.49pm: The latest from Alexandria from Peter Bouckaert, of Human Rights Watch:

4.56pm: Here are some of the best bits from the live Q&A on the Middle East protests, which the Guardian website hosted today. Answering the questions was Brian Whitaker, former Middle East editor and current editor with CIF.
Q. A question about an Eqyptian democracy… is there a basis for hope? is there a political culture that can step up to represent the people and what role will youth play in the new landscape?
Brian’s Answer: Egypt already has the infrastructure to turn into a working democracy — elected parliament, long-established political parties, etc. The problem is the the NDP has monopolised this system for a very long time.
So the transition to a working democracy would not be all that difficult, though I would expect it to be a somewhat flawed democracy for some time - maybe like some of the East European or Latin American countries.
One problem is that most of the opposition parties are just as hidebound as the regime. The younger “Facebook generation” doesn’t seem to have much interest in them and prefers to do things in its own way. Youth movements are going to become more and more important, and they are a very hopeful sign.
Q. What are the chances that all this could be repeated in Syria?
Brian’s answer: I was discussing that with an Arab friend yesterday. We both felt that it would be very difficult at present in Syria to organise the kind of protests seen in Tunisia and Egypt. One thing you need for it to happen is a civil society structure of some kind, whether it’s trade unions, opposition parties or NGOs, plus a lot of internet users. I don’t think Syria has that. Instead, it as a very proficient secret police.
That said, I would expect the Syrian regime to be very scared. Yemenis have told me of the panic in the Marxist regime in the PDRY following the revolution in Romania in 1989 — they feared it could happen to them. I would expect similar fears in the Syrian regime.
Who knows? Could they be the ones who decide to reform rather than waiting to be toppled?
Q. How likely do you think it is that these uprisings will drive Egypt & Tunisia towards democracy? Is it likely that these situations will descend into sectarian or ethnic conflict as we seen in Kyrgyzstan last year?
Brian’s answer: Adapting to democracy will be a lot easier in Tunisia and Egypt than it was in Iraq. There are no major ethnic issues; Egypt does have something of a sectarian problem but it is not insurmountable.
4.52pm: Once more amazing scenes being broadcast on al-Jazeera, as protesters stop for prayer. There is the sound of explosions and gunshots in the background as about six rows of people form rows and prostrate themselves on the ground.
4.49pm: This Guardian video tells the story of how events unfolded and escalated today after Friday prayers:

4.45pm: A downtown police station in Cairo, police cars and gas tanks outside the police station are on fire, which could account for the number of loud explosions being heard, al-Jazeera reports.
4.43pm: Amin Iskander, an opposition politician from the Nasserist Al-Karama party, just told al-Jazeera what is needed from Mubarak is “a firm promise that this his last term he spends in office” and he must pave the way for democracy. But Iskander does not believe Mubarak will stand down. He said NDP headquarters are being set on fire across the country because the party had “gobbled up the riches” of the country.
4.40pm: Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs has expressed concerned about the violence and urged the government to respect the freedom of speech.
Very concerned about violence in Egypt - government must respect the rights of the Egyptian people & turn on social networking and internet
4.37pm: Military vehicles are on the streets, but it’s unclear whose side they are on, Peter Beaumont reports from Cairo.
Listen! - Show quoted text - Turn off auto refresh to listen to audio
4.30pm: We were expecting Hosni Mubarak or his son Gamal to speak (there were mixed reports as to who was going to speak) half an hour ago but we have still not heard anything.
4.28pm: The US state department has responded to the protests via Twitter, which Egypt has of course tried to prevent its own citizens from using. PJ Crowley (@pjcrowley), US state department spokesman, tweeted:
Events unfolding in #Egypt are of deep concern. Fundamental rights must be respected, violence avoided and open communications allowed.
Reform is vital to #Egypt’s long-term well-being. The Egyptian government should view its people as a partner and not as a threat.
4.23pm: TV pictures show the headquarters of the ruling NDP in Cairo are on fire.
4.22pm: Army tanks are rolling into the centre of Cairo and Suez, al-Jazeera reports. Mubarak has supposedly ordered them in to restore order but people have been cheering the army hoping it will side with them against the police.
4.11pm: This is the response to the curfew in Cairo. This is the van protesters have been trying to push into the nile (see 4pm).
Screen grab from al Jazeera
4.07pm: There are a couple of Guardian stories on the Wikileaks Egypt documents worth reading. One is about the closeness of Egypt’s relationship with the US:
Secret US embassy cables sent from Cairo in the past two years reveal that the Obama administration wanted to maintain a close political and military relationship with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, who is now facing a popular uprising.
A frank briefing note in May 2009 ahead of Mubarak’s trip to Washington, leaked by WikiLeaks, reported that the Egyptian president had a dismal opinion of Obama’s predecessor, George Bush.
“The Egyptians want the visit to demonstrate that Egypt remains America’s ‘indispensable Arab ally’, and that bilateral tensions have abated. President Mubarak is the proud leader of a proud nation … Mubarak is 81 years old and in reasonably good health; his most notable problem is a hearing deficit in his left ear. He responds well to respect for Egypt and for his position, but is not swayed by personal flattery,” the cable said.
The other is about a document on police brutality in Egypt:
Under Hosni Mubarak’s presidency there had been “no serious effort to transform the police from an instrument of regime power into a public service institution”, it said. The police’s ubiquitous use of force had pervaded Egyptian culture to such an extent that one popular TV soap opera recently featured a police detective hero who beat up suspects to collect evidence.
Some middle-class Egyptians did not report thefts from their apartment blocks because they knew the police would immediately go and torture “all of the doormen”, the cable added. It cited one source who said the police would use routinely electric shocks against suspected criminals, and would beat up human rights lawyers who enter police stations to defend their clients. Women detainees allegedly faced sexual abuse. Demoralised officers felt solving crimes justified brutal interrogation methods, with some believing that Islamic law also sanctioned torture, the cable said.
4.00pm: The curfew is in place, but the protests continue. Live footage from Cairo shows protesters trying to push a police van into the Nile.
3.56pm: Murabak ordered the military onto the streets, according to al-Jazeera, citing state media.
3.55pm: Mubarak is due to address the nation in the next few minutes. Al-Jazeera’s offices in Cairo are being raided by police. They are being told to stop broadcasting images of the unrest.
3.51pm: In Alexandria Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, witnessed four police cars on fire in front of the Siddi Brahim mosque.

3.48pm: Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague called on both sides to “refrain from violence”. But he said: “It is is important to recognise that people involved do have legitimate grievances, both economic and political. And it is important for the authorities to respond positively to that, and to be able to hold out the hope and prospect of reform in the future. That is the answer to the situation rather than repression.”
Hague repeated western ambiguity towards the regime. “It is not for use to try to choose the rulers of other countries. For the moment we should concentrating on advocating the right response.” He called for “evolutionary change”.
In a pooled interview Hague said the Foreign Office was reviewing travel advice to Egypt.
Based on a phone call to the British ambassador in Cairo, Hague said the main “problems” were in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez. “Those are places where there is the greatest risk of violence,” Hague said.
He added: “We are not sure of the whereabouts of the Mohamed ElBaradei. There are rumours of restraints on his movements, but we don’t have any specific information.”
3.43pm: Egyptian state TV says Mubarak has asked the army to take charge of security alongside the police. Looks like that is how he intends to impose the curfew, due to start in about 15 minutes.
3.38pm: State security have entered al-Jazeera’s building in Cairo, it is reporting. It says they may have been chasing activists.
Outside the news organisation’s offices, in remarkable scenes, a momentary truce has been called between police and protesters while protesters pray. Just a few moments ago police were throwing teargas cannisters at them and now this:
Screengrab from al-Jazeera
3.30pm: Egyptian state media is reporting a curfew starting at 6pm tonight (about 30 minutes away) and running until 7am tomorrow in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.
The way it’s looking on the streets at the moment suggests there is little chance of people obeying the order and what can the police actually do to enforce it.
3.26pm: Protesters are in control of most streets in Alexandria, says al-Jazeera.
3.24pm: A screengrab shows the BBC Arabic journalist Asad Al Sawi after he was attacked by thugs acting for the government.
3.17pm: A second police station has been taken over by protesters in Suez, reports al-Jazeera.
3.12pm: Following up from the previous update, al-Jazeera just showed pictures of protesters jumping and cheering beside what appeared to be an army armoured vehicle in Cairo with the occupants in the vehicle not responding in any kind of negative fashion. It’s too early to get carried away but al-Jazeera was suggesting this could be a sign that the army’s allegiance is with the people.
Let’s just hope the hopes of the people are not misplaced.
3.05pm: Egyptian protesters in Cairo are calling for the army to side with them against the police, Reuters reports:
Egyptian protesters in Cairo chanted slogans calling for the army to support them, complaining of police violence during clashes on Friday in which security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets. “Where is the army? Come and see what the police is doing to us. We want the army. We want the army,” the protesters in one area of central Cairo shouted, shortly before police fired teargas on them.
3.03pm: The International Crisis Group has condemned the detention of Mohamed ElBaradei, who serves on Crisis Group’s board of trustees, and the violence against the demonstrators:
Crisis Group President Louise Arbour said:
His detention has no credible basis. It also will not serve Egypt’s interests at this critical juncture. In a situation as tense as this, repression and abuse can only further inflame the situation. Rather than resort to repression, the authorities should heed demands of the population for dramatic political, social and economic transformation.
2.58pm: An incredible picture from Cairo, taken earlier today, of people praying in the streets surrounded by riot police.
Locals pray in the street in front of The l-Istiqama Mosque watched by riot police in Giza on January 28, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
2.53pm: Protesters have named the man killed in Suez (2.37pm) as Hamada Labib, 30, a driver.. They blamed his death on a gunshot, reports Reuters. It adds:
Egyptian police abandoned central areas of the industrial port city after demonstrations in which thousands of protesters overwhelmed security lines and torched a police station, a Reuters witness said. Police had tried to disperse the protesters, who hurled stones and chanted for the end to President Hosni Mubarak’s rule. But they were unable to contain them and moved back, abandoning at least eight big police trucks. Protesters smashed the windows and tried to flip one of the trucks over. Hundreds of members of security forces had gathered in a large group around the governor’s offence, where there was no sign of protesters.
2.50pm: Rawya Rageh, for al-Jazeera, says she has seen evidence of a protester killed in Alexandria, a bloody body being held aloft through the streets with people chanting “There is no God but God”. She adds that police have now been overrun by protesters in the city.
2.48pm: The NDP headquarters in Dumya/Daniette, 131 miles north-east of Cairo, and Al Mansoura, 120km north-east of Cairohave both been destroyed, according to the Egyptian Association for Change.
2.39pm: Egyptian security officials say Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei is under house arrest.
2.37pm: Reuters is reporting the death of protester in Suez:
Egyptians carried the body of a protester through Suez on Friday after clashes with police who withdrew from central areas of the eastern city leaving some main streets to demonstrators, a Reuters witness said. “They have killed my brother,” shouted one of the demonstrators.
2.32pm: Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, gives this detailed account of how protesters overwhelmed police in Alexandria today.
After prayers, the protesters came out of a mosque and started shouting slogans. They were saying “peaceful, peaceful” and raising their hands. They were immediately attacked by police in an armoured car firing teargas. Fierce clashes started then, with exchanges of rock throwing. About 200 police faced about 1,000 protesters. The clashes lasted for nearly two hours. Then a much larger crowd of protesters came from another direction. They were packed in four blocks deep. Police tried to hold them back with teargas and rubber bullets, but they were finally overwhelmed.
Then the police just gave up, at about the time of afternoon prayers. Protesters gave water to police and talked to them. It was was all peaceful. Hundreds of protesters were praying in the street.
Now walking down to downtown Alexandria, the whole road is packed as far as we can see, people shouting slogans against [Hosni] Mubarak and his son Gamal. Asking others to join them. It is a very festive atmosphere. Women in veils, old men, children, I even saw a blind man being led. And there are no police anywhere.

President’s Eisenhower Speech

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

President Obama spoke about the world towards the end of his speech, he didn’t make such a big deal about Al Qaeda or Homeland Security, but he did mention efforts to keep terrorists off American shores. He tauted his own acheivements in drawing down the troops in Iraq, he walked gingery around the mine fields of Pakistan and Afghanistan and cheered on the Tunisians while steering clear of Israel, Palestine and the events in Egypt. He congratulated Congress for the new Start Treaty with Russia, noted the embargo against Iran and said North Korea needs to get rid of its nukes. Obama mentioned China and India in reference to to their agressive push to educate their children in science and math for the future job market. He also noted that China was doing well with the fastest super computer and the fastest bullet train in the world. There was no talk of pulling out of Afghanistan, only of a partnership with the locals.

Domestically his agenda was restrained. He only really wants money for infrastructure, particularly to build high speed trains, and an internet network that reaches rural areas. Obama talked of his rush to the top in education funding, and wanting to continue to spend for high tech research. He noted that Cal Tech is developing a fuel made from water and sunlight. He went on to talk about the need to generate electricity from clean sources and said our goal should be 80% by 2035. Obama included nuclear and so called clean coal in his clean fuels along with natural gas and a cursory mention of solar and wind. He also claimed that by 2015 there will be a million electric cars on the road in the USA, the most of any nation. He clings to a hope that there might be immigration reform and gave a plug for the Dawn Act to allow children of illegals to become citizens if they are in a university or the military. He gave himself a pat on the back for allowing gays to serve openly in the military but there was no mention of gay marriage.

There were plenty of bones thrown to the Republicans. Tort reform was mentioned particularly regarding medical malpractice, he claimed to support changes in the new Medical Law to make it less onorous on small businesses. He claimed that he will place a five year cap on increases in federal spending and stated that this will be the most conservative budget since Eisenhower. He made some noises about reforming Social Security but made a point of saying that it would not be put on the market. He stated the usual bromide about getting rid of duplication in government offices, and spoke about the need for deficit reductions. Obama also stated he would not sign legislation with earmarks on it, an easy token as earmarks are a small portion of the budget. There was no talk of cutting back on the military.

He spoke a lot about creating jobs through exports. He noted he would not make trade agreements unless they created American jobs. He had a couple of lines for the disposessed workers saying he felt their pain but then went into his bit about how the future was in recreating ourselves and education and brought up a few examples of people changing carreers and going back to school. He hammered on the need for education, noted his $10,000 tax break for college, a mere nothing, and called for people to become teachers. Why anyone would want to do that when the states are cutting teachers benefits is beyond me. It is as if Obama is living on some shining castle on the hill while the rest of us are struggling here in the lowlands. Nice try at encouraging us to work harder and study more, not much in the way of benefits. It was a message of austerity with some future hope based on a faith in the wonders of capitalism. He is a confirmed free trader and expects American innovation and spunk to win out in the end.

He talked about hardships people go through with all the changes in the economy, with the promise of a lifetime employment gone. He tells us to reinvent ourselves as if that was some kind of rabbit we could simply pull out of our collective hats. He doesn’t ever come close to blaming the system for not haveing adequate retraining programs. He doesen’t demand that companies find equivalent work for displaced workers before they are allowed to relocate. He doesn’t say that the government or the companies will retrain and relocate workers if need be. No, he simply states we need to go back to school and reinvent ourselves without providing a support network or acknowledging that there is any social responcibility for insuring that citizens are employed and or provided for between employment. No mention of the foreclosure crisis in housing. No mention of the banks other than to say he no longer gives them the business of providing federal student loans.

Global warming was ignored and cap and trade was not mentioned at all. The environment was only mentioned in his attempt to stem the Republican tide in their efforts to defund the various regulatory agencies as a method of deregulating. Obama was clearly on the defensive here and he wants to protect as much as he can of his agenda while coming across as a moderate concerned with the budget deficicts. There was no talk of Keynsian methods of economic pump priming except a mention of the need for more infrastructure spending to keep up with the rest of the world. He is trying to hold the line against assaults from the right and throw a few bones to try to give the impression that he has listened to them, hoping that the American people when they see the extreme nature of the attack on the entitlements and protections of the environment provided by the government, by the right, that they will react by suppporting Obama again in 2012. Its a gamble, especially since his vision is not exactly one that inspires great aspirations. Keeping a pet train project running and his Run to the Top education Darwininan struggle in Education is hardly something to make us stand up and cheer.

The 80 ton gorrilla in the closet is the need for an end to capitalism and the free market as the determining factor in how society is run. He acknowledges the fact of run away technology but instead of calling for some social control on its effect he asks us to grab onto this tigers tail and hope for the best. He called the free enterprise system the engineer of growth. Perhaps, in the sense of a cancer. We need a strong planning capacity that takes the needs of the people into account and keeps a firm control on the excesses of capital and its constant need for turnover to create profits for its elite stockholders. The world does not revolve around the needs of the top 5% but Obama seems to be catering more and more to them as he approaches the end of his term. We need a progressive agenda that works for the people, perhaps if we had Tunisian riots in the streets the government would get the point, or perhaps it will simply fall and we can create something that reflects the needs of the people. If only Americans would get pissed off enough to act. If only….

Egyptian Protests Emulate Tunisia Events

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Things are getting hot In Egypt as thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands joined protests against the dictatorship of Mubarak. This is exactly what I predicted would happen after the example of Tunisia. There is so much suppressed rage in the Middle East against these dictators and their corrupt cronies propped up by the USA and their European allies.

Hillary Clinton speaks typical doublespeak, calling for restraint and reform at the same time claiming that the Mubarak regime is stable. Like all regimes based on repression of its citizenry, it is only as stable as the military and police apparatus that supports it. Those depend on the lifeline of support from the USA, the EU and the Gulf Oil states. The real purpose for all this repression is to protect the access to oil for the western states, Japan and now China and India. The people of the Middle East all suffer due to the politics of oil where the status quo is maintained for as long as possible.

These revolts are civil society events, not controlled or manipulated by the Islamic forces in the case of Tunisia and Egypt. On the other hand in Lebanon there are religious factions that are tearing up the country again being manipulated by outside powers with an interest in keeping this central nation weak and off balance.

It seems that we are seeing the long expected rising up of the peoples of the Middle East. I congratulate them and hope they are successful in overthrowing the repressive regimes and replacing them with social democracies. It is incumbent on us in the west to stop our governments from interfering and to cut off aid to the dictatorships and allow the civil societies within the region an opportunity to take hold and restructure their nations to reflect the will of the people.

From Al Jazeera

Egypt protesters clash with police

Police fire tear gas at anti-government demonstrators in Cairo as thousands call for ouster of president Hosni Mubarak.
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2011 15:26 GMT

Inspired by Tunisian demonstrators, thousands of Egyptian protesters on Tuesday gathered in Cairo and other major cities, calling for reforms and demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Al Jazeera’s correspondents have reported.

The anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks and climbing atop an armoured police truck, were chanting slogans against Mubarak, who has ruled the country for three decades.

Downtown Cairo came to a standstill with protesters chanting slogans against the police, the interior minister and the government, in scenes that the capital has not seen since the 1970s.

Demonstrators marched toward what Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh called the “symbols of their complaints and their agony,” the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party, the foreign ministry and the state television.

But police responded with blasts from a water cannon and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out “Down with Mubarak” and demanding an end to the country’s grinding poverty.

At least 30 people have reportedly been arrested in Cairo, according to official sources.

Protests also broke out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Mansura and Tanta and in the southern cities of Aswan and Assiut, witnesses said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rageh reported from the protests, calling them “unprecedented” in the leniency showed by security forces who allowed demonstrators to march through the capital.

The Egyptian government had earlier warned activists hoping to emulate Tunisian pro-democracy protesters that they faced arrest if they went ahead with Tuesday’s mass demonstrations, which some labelled the “Day of wrath”.

The rallies have been promoted online by groups saying they speak for young Egyptians frustrated by the kind of poverty and oppression which triggered the overthrow of Tunisia’s president.

Mamdouh Khayrat, 23, travelled from the governorate of Qalubiya to attend protests in Cairo. He spoke to Al Jazeera’s Adam Makary. “We want a functioning government, we want Mubarak to step down, we don’t want emergency law, we don’t want to live under this kind of oppression anymore,” he said.

“Enough is enough, things have to change, and if Tunisia can do it, why can’t we?” Khayrat added.

Mohamed Ahmed, 36, a demonstrator from Boulaq told Al Jazeera’s Makary: “We might be trying to copy what happened in Tunisia. If Egyptians manage to even come close to what they did then I can proudly say today was successful but we still have a long way to do.”

“The reaction [to join the protest] has been overwhelming,” Rageh said. “The people we have seen taken to the streets today are not the 50 or 60 activists that we have been seeing protesting in Egypt for the past five or six years. These were normal Egyptians, older women, younger men, even children.”

Organisers have called for a “day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment”.

“Our protest on the 25th is the beginning of the end,” wrote organisers of a Facebook group with 87,000 followers.

“It is the end of silence, acquiescence and submission to what is happening in our country. It will be the start of a new page in Egypt’s history, one of activism and demanding our rights.”

The banned Muslim Brotherhood, seen as having Egypt’s biggest grassroots opposition network, has not called on members to take part but said some would join in a personal capacity.

Organisers have called for protesters to not display political or religious affiliations at demonstrations. The Facebook page says: “Today is for all Egyptians.”

Commenting on the wave of public unrest in Tunisia, Adli, the interior minister, said talk that the “Tunisian model” could work in other Arab countries was “propaganda” and had been dismissed by politicians as “intellectual immaturity”.

“Young people are very excited, and this time there will be much more than any other time,” Ahmed Maher, one of the founders of the opposition youth movement said.

“This is going to be a real test of whether online activism in Egypt can translate into real action,” Al Jazeera’s Rageh reported.

“Anger has been on the rise in Egypt for the past couple of years, but we have seen similar calls fizzle out. The main difference now is that these calls are coming after what happened in Tunisia, which seems to have not only inspired activists, but actually ordinary Egyptians, a dozen of whom we have seen set themselves on fire in copycat self-immolations similar to the one that had sparked the uprising in Tunisia.”

Sympathisers across the world have said they plan to protest in solidarity. In Kuwait, security forces detained three Egyptians on Monday for distributing flyers for the protests, while large demonstrations have also been planned outside the Egyptian embassies in Washington, DC, and London.

From Christian Science Monitor

Inspired by Tunisia, Egypt’s protests appear unprecedented
Egypt’s protests today appear to be the largest public call for democratic reform and an end to the Mubarak regime for years.

By Dan Murphy, Staff writer / January 25, 2011

Though tens of thousands took to the streets of Cairo in 2005 calling for democratic reform, today’s protests are far beyond the action in the capital. Reporters and activists on the scene in Cairo say there was a spirit of anger and defiance in the crowds and there were protests of varying sizes in at least a half-dozen Egyptian cities.

By late afternoon, thousands of protesters converged in Tahrir Square, not far from the US embassy, the Interior Ministry, and the five-star hotels looming over the Nile. Police water cannons and tear gas barrages did little to deter them.

For now, it’s hard to imagine the aging Mr. Mubarak and the apparatus of the state being swept from power in the same way that President Ben Ali was chased from Tunis. Egyptian military spending is much higher than in Tunisia and the circle of people who have everything to lose if the system is upended much wider.

But the riveting images beamed into millions of Egyptian homes of the Tunisian uprising appear to have led to a shift in the public consciousness, at least for today. A small group of leftists and democracy activists have been trying to organize protests like today’s for years, but have generally failed to get large numbers out on the streets. Average Egyptians, mired in poverty and afraid of the consequences of participating in protests they suspect are doomed to failure, have stayed away.

That clearly changed today. Activists were reporting on their twitter feeds (until twitter service was shut down in Egypt at about 3:30 pm local time) that thousands from working-class neighborhoods like Shubra, a warren-like neighborhood with millions of mostly poor residents, joined the protest marchers as they passed, and joined in shouts for Mubarak, his son and presumed heir Gamal, and Interior Minister Habib el-Adly to be driven from power.

Monitor Correspondent Kristen Chick is among the crowd in Tahrir Square, where marchers from at least three different locations converged by mid-afternoon. She says it briefly got ugly, with protesters tearing up pavement and throwing rocks as the police brought tear gas and water-cannon to bear, but that the police soon backed off, ringing the square but leaving the protesters unmolested for the moment.

“I’ve seen middle-aged women with expensive jewelry, women in niqabs (full black Muslim veils), guys with suits and briefcases, young people from the poor neighborhoods,” she says. “They’re demanding their rights, and end to unemployment, poverty and torture.”

From Guardian.UK

Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – live updates• Cairo a ‘war zone’ as demonstrators demand president quit

5.40pm: Here are the full quotes from Hillary Clinton regarding Egypt:

We support the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people and we urge that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence. Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.

4.56pm: The situation in Egypt seems to be escalating quite dramatically
4.32pm: The Associated Press news agency has filed a report on thousands of protesters, some throwing rocks and climbing on top of an armoured police truck, clashing with riot police in the centre of Cairo. Police responded with water cannon, batons and tear gas, as we have reported. Demonstrators were shouting “Down with Mubarak,” a reference to Hosni Mubarak, the president, and “demanding an end to Egypt’s grinding poverty, corruption, unemployment and police abuses”.

The news agency reports:

Protesters emerged stumbling from white clouds of tear gas, coughing and covering their faces with scarves. Some had blood streaming down their faces. One man fainted. Police dragged some away and beat a journalist, smashing her glasses and seizing her camera.

At one point, the protesters seemed to gain the upper hand, forcing a line of riot police to flee under a barrage of rocks. One demonstrator climbed into a fire engine and drove it away.

AP has interviewed some Egyptian protesters. Eid Attallah, a driver aged 50 said:

I want my 3-year-old child to grow up with dignity and to find a job just like the president.

He said he had heard about the planned protests from friends but didn’t expect them to be so big.

Sayid Abdelfatah, a 38-year-old civil servant who marched with an Egyptian flag, said:

We are fed up; this is just enough. Tunisia’s revolution inspired me but I really never thought we would find such people ready to do the same here.

Lamia Rayan, 24, said: “We want to see change just like in Tunisia.”

Radwa Qabbani, 26, said:

I am not protesting the police. They are citizens like me. I am protesting corruption, unemployment and high prices. We are just asking for the smallest dreams.

According to AP, nearly half of Egypt’s 80 million people live under or just above the poverty line set by the United Nations at $2 (£1.27) a day. “Poor quality education, healthcare and high unemployment have left large numbers of Egyptians deprived of basic needs,” the agency writes.

There were also thousands of protesters in Alexandria, in the north of the country, the agency reports.

Like the Tunisian protests, the calls for the rallies in Egypt went out on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 saying they would attend. Organisers used the site to give minute-by-minute instructions on where demonstrators should go in an attempt to outmanoeuvre the police. By late afternoon, access to Twitter appeared to have been blocked.

In another parallel with Tunisia, the protests drew energy in large part from the death of one person: a young Egyptian man named Khaled Said whose family and witnesses say was beaten to death by a pair of policemen in Alexandria last year.

His case has become a rallying point for Egypt’s opposition. Two policemen are on trial in connection with his death.

Tunisia’s protests – which led to the ousting of the president – were also sparked by the death of one man, a poor Tunisian vegetable seller who set himself in fire to protest against corruption.

4.07pm: Jack Shenker has just sent me this dramatic update from Egypt. He calls central Cairo a “war zone”.

Downtown Cairo is a war zone tonight – as reports come in of massive occupations by protesters in towns across Egypt, the centre of the capital is awash with running street battles. Along with hundreds of others I’ve just been teargassed outside the parliament building, where some youths were smashing up the pavement to obtain rocks to throw at police.

We’ve withdrawn back to the main square now were thousands more demonstrators are waiting and a huge billboard advertising the ruling NDP party has just been torn down. Security forces are continuing to use sound bombs and teargas to disperse the crowd, but so far to no avail.

If the United States and its allies wish to exploit the Tunisian example to widen processes of democratic change in the Arab world, they will need to adapt as well. Tunisia holds lessons both for Arab autocrats and for Western promoters of democracy. Which lessons turn out to be decisive will depend, if only in part, on whether democracy promoters demonstrate the same flexibility and responsiveness shown by Arab regimes.

Waste of Time - Class

Monday, January 24th, 2011

I was taking a class in Economic Geography. I dropped it due to the incredible number of factual errors in the text. “The World Economy” by Stutz & Warf, has an interesting analysis, sort of post-marxist, but their grasp of the facts, or at least their fact checking was very poor and they made some pretty far reaching generalizations without supplying the basis for their arguments.

This is typical “Of course, the United States is also very diverse ethnically and culturally but emerged under very different historical circumstances that did the former European colonies in the developing world. Above all, the United States was primarily a colonizer rather than a colony, able to exert military and economic power over other countries and ultimately rising to become the globe’s premier superpower, and that makes all the difference.” (Page 63 The World Economy). This in a chapter on the history of capitalism and colonialism. All the difference? How exactly was the United States different from Canada or Mexico or any of the other colonies in the 18th century? Was American exceptionalism present even then? It may be true, but there is no evidence in this statement or elsewhere in the books chapter.

On the Middle East…”The Arab World…had been colonized long before the Europeans arrived. The expansion of the Ottoman Empire over several centuries saw one group of Muslims, Turks, who are not Arabs, dominated another group of Muslims, the Arab peoples of the Middle East and North Africa.” (Page 56 ibid). The Turkish movement into the Middle East was part of the historical movements of nomadic tribes from Central Asia and was not part of the western European colonial expansion. Equating the Ottomans with the Conquistadors is a case of apples and oranges. It is like calling the Mongols part of the modern colonizing movement because they conquered other lands and encouraged trade. It maybe true on some levels but it distorts their place in history.

“The Indian Subcontinent came to be the jewel in the crown of the British Empire.” (Page 58 ibid). Why? What does that mean? No explanation.

On China, “the Chinese government was weak and corrupt. Except for a few cities along the coast, China was never formally colonized; rather, European control operated through a pliant and cooperative government.” Then later “In a rare moment of defiance, the Manchu government resisted opium imports, and Britain and China fought two short wars, nasty conflicts, the Opium Wars of the 1840’s.” (Page 58 ibid). The Chinese had historically restricted imports and had more concern with the nomads of the north than with the relatively minor influence of western traders who were considered to be simply bearers of tribute. Only when the importation of Opium began to take on considerable proportions did they react by doing what any country concerned about the health of its people would do and that was to restrict the availability of opium. It was at that time that the British military superiority in cannons was discovered and the Chinese negotiated a deal rather than see a massive loss of life.

On the subject of industrialization they state “The first resistance to employers included the British Luddites in the eighteenth century, named after their leader, “General” Ludd.” (Page 49 ibid). The Luddites were a 19th century phenomenon and there was no General Ludd. There had been textile workers resiting the factory system since the its founding in the 18th century and for British workers resistance was part and parcel with the emergence of capitalism.

“Russia, which flirted with industrialization under Peter The Great, did not become fully industrialized until the 1920’s, when under Stalin the Soviet Union leaped to become the world’s second largest economy in the span of a decade.” (Page 47 ibid). Ok, Peter the Great was Czar before industrialization had begun. He was a westernizer not an industrializer. Industrialization had begun in the late 19th century, otherwise where did the Bolsheviks get their factory worker supporters? Industrialization was mostly completed in the 1930’s and with the world in depression it would not be a supprise that the Soviet Economy grew since it was not linked to the western capitalist market system.

I could go on. James Watt is said to have built a steam engine based on Thomas Newcomen’s design. In fact Watt was asked to repair Newcomen’s machine and came up with an improved version of his own (Page 42). There are non sequiturs like “Eli Whitney, made machines more reliable. Henry Ford introduced the moving conveyor belt” (Page 43 ibid), as if they came one after the other and not over a century apart.

It is not so much that they are terribly wrong, it is just that they are oversimplifying and misleading in their construction of history and ultimately I found their views to be dated and simply did not add much to my store of knowledge. In other words the class was a waste of my time and the $50 I spent on the text.

If you are taking classes or thinking of taking classes, beware of shoddy materials, poorly written texts and classes that waste your time with repetitions of information you already know or can find on line in more up to date contexts. This text was working with data from the 1990’s. A class on the modern world economy should have noted that China was the number 2 economy in the world. They still had Japan as number 2. Dated, and misleading. I hope my other classes work out better than that one.

Fighting Back Against Drone Attacks

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Civilians injured by American drone attacks in Pakistan are fighting back with a law suit in Pakistani courts. There have been congressional hearings on the legitimacy of the use of drones and there is a case in the Massachusetts courts claiming that the CIA is using pirated software in its drones.

As a highly effective tool in the war to subdue third world resistance, the drones have become ubiquitous in the US military arsenal. Question is are they legal? There is an increasingly vocal call for clarity in the US policy for the use of drones as their presence is increasingly felt across the planet. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit questioning the legality of targeting persons with drones. Can these silent and deadly birds of prey be brought under some kind of transparent legal code? I doubt if the CIA will agree to humanitarian concerns. Collateral damage in keeping capitalism functioning by destroying all who would resist, is par for the course. We need to bring the empire down and end this war on the world by the titans of capital.

From Der Spiegel Online

Striking Back at the US Relatives of Pakistani Drone Victims to Sue CIA
By Hasnain Kazim in Islamabad

Almost every day, people in the Pakistani region of Waziristan are killed or seriously injured by drone attacks carried out by the CIA. Now a group of victims’ relatives is standing up to Washington — by suing the US government.

An eye and both legs: That was the price that 17-year-old Sadaullah Wazir paid for living in a part of the world that is deemed a “terrorist haven” and that has been a target for US drones over the past few years. Since Barack Obama became US president, these attacks have become increasingly frequent. The Pakistani newspapers now report daily on those killed and injured in the tribal areas in the west of the country.

“War is hell,” the American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman said more than a century ago. And Sadaullah Wazir certainly ended up in hell, despite never having sought out a war, nor having fought in a single battle. The war came to him on Sept. 7, 2009, as he was sitting in front of his family home in the village of Machikhel, in northern Waziristan.

Wazir was enjoying the last rays of sunshine and stayed outside. Suddenly there was a whoosh and a drone fired a rocket that hit Wazir’s house. The young man jumped up in an attempt to help his family when the building collapsed. Wazir was just at the entrance. A wall collapsed on him and severed his legs, and a splinter tore into his eye. Two uncles and a cousin died in the inferno.

The next day the newspapers wrote that “several terrorists were killed by a drone attack.” The reports only ever mention that “terrorists,” “militants” and “extremists” are killed, never civilians. After all, war is always also a propaganda war.

Wazir has now come together with 12 other victims to defend himself. He has joined a lawsuit initiated by Karim Khan, a 43-year-old who lost his son and brother four months after Wazir was injured during another attack on the same village. Ten other residents of Waziristan are supporting Khan, all people who have lost relatives in the attacks. They include 14-year-old Fahim Qureshi, who on Jan. 23, 2009, lost his left eye, suffered a fractured skull and was hit by several shards in the stomach. Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, was initially reported to have been killed in the attack. That report later turned out to be false. The seven people who died were ordinary people, relatives of the young Qureshi.

Experts doubt the legality of the US strategy in Pakistan. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, has asked the US to make public their rules for the drone missions, give the numbers of civilian victims and prove that there were no other viable alternatives to the deadly aerial attacks. Up to now, Washington has been cautious about making any statements regarding the drone operations. The line is simply that there is a reliance on the weapons in order to prevent militants based in the Pakistan territory from being able to exert pressure in the war in Afghanistan. A CIA spokesman declared recently that “the CIA counterterrorism operations are precise, lawful and effective.” The intelligence agency maintains that many high-ranking extremists have been killed in the drone attacks, including the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud.

Pakistan’s government has formally protested against the drone missions but secretly they have approved the flights, something that WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website, recently made clear when it released confidential US diplomatic cables. The authorities in Islamabad even handed over information about the possible location of terrorists, including target co-ordinates.

“They are free to shoot us, just because we live in a region that is regarded as evil?” Khan asks. He is the first person affected who has dared to stand up to the CIA, which is responsible for the drone attacks in Pakistan. It is a remarkable scenario: a dozen brave men — simple people, some of them illiterate — standing up to the intelligence agency of the United States of America.

The lawsuit is the first counter-strike by a few villagers against the CIA. In December, Kahn and his lawyer Shahzad Akbar also organized a protest in front of the parliament building in the capital, Islamabad. The Pakistani press took up the issue, and the people back in Waziristan got to hear about Khan and his lawyer. A group of plaintiffs formed. They are planning to demonstrate in Waziristan too.

Khan achieved something else that ensured that he caught the attention of the powerful in Washington. He found out the name of the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Banks, and named him in the writ. Banks was immediately withdrawn from Pakistan. The identity of the local CIA head is regarded as one of the best-kept secrets of the US Embassy in Islamabad. How was Khan able to unearth it and include it in the writ, which also names US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta? US diplomats already assume that the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI had a hand in the matter.,1518,740638,00.html
From IPS

Legality of Drone Strikes Still in Question
By Jim Lobe*

WASHINGTON, Apr 2, 2010 (IPS) - While welcoming an initial effort by the administration of President Barack Obama to offer a legal justification for drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists overseas, human rights groups say critical questions remain unanswered.

In an address to an international law group last week, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh insisted that such operations were being conducted in full compliance with international law.

“The U.S. is in armed conflict with al Qaeda as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific acts of 9/11 and may use force consistent with its right to self-defence under international law,” he said. “…(I)ndividuals who are part of such armed groups are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law.”

Moreover, he went on, “U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war,” which require limiting attacks to military objectives and that the damage caused to civilians by those attacks would not be excessive.

“We are encouraged that the administration has taken the legal surrounding drone strikes seriously,” said Jonathan Manes of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “While this was an important and positive first step, a number of controversial questions were left unanswered.”

“We still don’t know what criteria the government uses to determine that a civilian is acting like a fighter, and can therefore be killed, and… whether there are any geographical limits on where drone strikes can be used to target and kill individuals,” he told IPS.

In Obama’s first year in office, more strikes were carried out than in the previous eight years under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), they reportedly killed “several hundred” al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban militants since Obama in 2009, forcing many of them to flee their border hideouts for large cities where precision attacks would be much harder to carry out without causing heavy civilian casualties.

But the strikes - as well as cruise-missile attacks carried out by the U.S. military against suspected terrorist targets in Yemen and Somalia - have drawn growing criticism from some human rights groups and legal scholars, notably the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Philip Alston, who have argued that several aspects of these operations may violate international law.

Their focus has been less on the use of drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Washington’s forces are engaged in active hostilities and the Pentagon has implemented relatively transparent procedures to maximise compliance with the laws of war, than on the frontier areas of Pakistan and other “ungoverned” areas where al Qaeda and Taliban militants have gained refuge. The CIA, whose procedures remain secret, is in charge of drone operations.

“The question is a legal one: under what circumstances can you use lethal force at all? Our view has always been that it should be limited to zones of active armed conflict where normal arrest operations are not feasible.”

A related question involves who may be targeted. While many authorities insist lethal force can be used under the laws of war against those who are actively participating in armed conflict, the U.S. has used defined participation in very broad terms, including membership in - or even financial support of - an armed group.

In his remarks to the American Society for International Law, Koh, who was one of the harshest and most outspoken critics of the Bush administration’s legal tactics in its “global war on terror”, acknowledged some of these concerns, noting that his speech “is obviously not the occasion for a detailed legal opinion.”

“(W)hether a particular individual will be targeted in a particular location will depend upon considerations specific to each case, including those related to the imminence of the threat, the sovereignty of the other states involved, and the willingness and ability of those states to suppress the threat the target poses,” he said.

Koh added that Washington will ensure the application of the principles of “distinction” and “proportionality” in the laws of war.

Alston, the U.N. rapporteur, was far from satisfied with these assurances, however, calling Koh’s statement “evasive”.

He “was essentially arguing that ‘You’ve got to trust us. I’ve looked at this very carefully. I’m very sensitive to these issues. And all is well,’” he told an interviewer on ‘Democracy Now’ Thursday.

“The speech did not provide essential information about the drone/targeted killing programme, including the number and rate of civilian casualties, and the internal oversight and controls on targeted killing, especially within the CIA,” said Manes of the ACLU, which has filed a lawsuit to acquire that information.

*Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at

From The Raw Story

CIA used pirated, inaccurate software to target drone attacks: lawsuit

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, September 24th, 2010 — 6:09 pm

‘They want to kill people with my software that doesn’t work,’ software exec tells court

The CIA used illegally pirated software to direct Predator drone attacks, despite apparently knowing the software was inaccurate, according to documents in an intellectual property lawsuit.

The lawsuit, working its way through a Massachusetts court, alleges that the CIA purchased a pirated and inaccurate version of a location analysis program, which may have incorrectly located targets by as much as 42 feet.

The allegation raises fresh questions about the CIA’s execution of drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are believed to have killed hundreds of civilians in the past four years.

And if the court decides to grant an injunction against users of the software, it could potentially halt the CIA’s drone attacks, at least temporarily, as the agency works to find a replacement.

Massachusetts-based Intelligent Integration Systems Inc., or IISI, has asked a judge to stop clients of IT firm Netezza from using software IISI says is pirated, reports The Register.

According to IISI, Netezza reverse-engineered a location analysis program called Geospatial and installed it on its own hardware, which it then sold to the CIA. Netezza had contracted IISI to build the software, but decided to create its own unauthorized version after the project suffered delays, the lawsuit alleges.

The CIA accepted the pirated software despite reportedly knowing it “produced locations inaccurate by up to 13 metres (42.6 feet),” reports The Register.

In a sworn deposition, IISI chief technical officer Richard Zimmerman said a Netezza executive pressured him to deliver the product before it was ready and told him it was their “patriotic duty” to build location software for CIA-operated drones.

From Wall Street Journal

Secret Drone Program at Issue in Lawsuit
Civil-liberties groups on Tuesday filed suit against the Obama administration, challenging what they say is a requirement that lawyers get government permission to represent certain terror suspects.

The lawsuit serves as a proxy challenge to what the government calls its “targeted killing” program, which mostly uses drones operated by the Central Intelligence Agency to hunt down suspected terror leaders.

As the White House has widened the use of drones that began in earnest during the Bush administration, it has generated both international criticism and internal debate. Civil-liberties groups in the U.S. say such extrajudicial killings may violate the legal prohibition against assassinations. They also object to such operations in Yemen and other countries outside of the Afghanistan war zone.

Blair Faces Inquiry On Iraq, Why Not Bush And Obama?

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Former British Prime Minister Blair is facing an inquiry into how Great Britain was brought into the war against Iraq. This is the least that should be done here in the United States regarding the Bush administration. It seems that the only place where there is a possibility of a trial is in Spain and we know through Wikileaks that the US government has been obstructing that effort.

The Guardian seems to be the only major media with coverage of this matter. All the other sources I could find were from Bugilosi’s site, a petition site and Sourcewatch. This is rather strange, as back in 2008 and 2009 this was all over the media but since then it has become a dead issue in the USA. We need to put pressure on these politicians and make them follow international law with regards to human rights. American politicians should not be above the law and the sooner they are brought to justice, the sooner perhaps things like the drone attacks of civilians in Pakistan, and the carpet bombing of villages in Afghanistan will come to an end. American impunity must be met with firm resistance on the part of the international community.

From the Guardian.UK

Chilcot inquiry: The bare facts on Iraq are there for all to see, Mr Blair The former prime minister’s responses to key questions on Iraq are, to put it charitably, elusive and less than complete

Philippe Sands, Friday 21 January 2011 21.35 GMT

The questions sent by the Chilcot Inquiry to Tony Blair make crystal clear the key issues on which the report will focus.

In the run up to the war these include: the timing, nature and extent of commitments given to President Bush; the preparation and presentation of intelligence; the circumstances of the decision to return to the United Nations; the role of the attorney general and the effect of his legal advice at various stages; the role of the cabinet; and the presentation of information to parliament and the public.

Mr Blair’s responses to those questions are, to put it charitably, elusive and less than complete. But once the fluff is stripped away, today’s defensive testimony, the written answers and the totality of the evidence before the tribunal points to a simple story: the prime minister took an early decision to support President Bush in the quest to remove Saddam, assured him repeatedly of his unequivocal statement of support, ignored the law, and deprived the cabinet and parliament of key information.

In short, Mr Blair managed to skilfully lead the entire machinery of government — attorney general, cabinet, parliament — into a place from which British involvement in the war became inevitable.

Mr Blair has paid a big price for delivering his commitment to President Bush: his legacy is an unlawful and disastrous conflict that continues to cause misery and claim lives, shredding public trust in government, diminishing Britain’s role in the world, and undermining the rule of law. To the Chilcot inquiry falls the task of picking up the pieces.

Philippe Sands QC is professor of law, University College London, and a barrister at Matrix Chambers

From the site The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder
Famed prosecutor and #1 New York Times bestselling author Vincent Bugliosi has written the most powerful, explosive, and thought-provoking book of his storied career. As a prosecutor dedicated to seeking justice, he delivers a non-partisan argument, free from party lines, based upon hard facts and pure objectivity. More

In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Bugliosi presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting in Iraq. Watch this video interview to learn why he believes we must bring those responsible for the war in Iraq to justice. More

From Care2 Petition Site

Investigate/Prosecute Bush Administration War Crimes

Sponsored by: Deb Della Piana
The moral compass of the United States has been permanently damaged by the actions of the Bush administration’s war on terror and its aggression in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Part and parcel to this aggression has been the admission of war crimes by those at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including the president himself.

Condoleeza Rice admitted to Senator Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that starting in 2002 she held high-level discussions on torture in the White House. This story received little coverage by the mainstream media because it occurred during the 2008 election season.

President George W. Bush, in a stunning admission to ABC News, stated that he knew about the meetings and approved of them. This occurred in April 2008 and no action was taken by the Congress.

On his way out the door, Vice President Dick Cheney has admitted that he approved of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Not only does he admit it, but he admits it proudly in an attempt to cement his place in the history of Bush torture policies.

The Bush administration has left behind a legacy of war, death and destruction unparalleled in recent history. It has violated both national and international laws, as well as the Geneva Conventions. As Americans, we must hold our own elected officials to the same standards that we hold the rest of the world to.

While Dick Cheney will tell you that waterboarding and other torture techniques have saved American lives, the exact opposite is true. The stories about and pictures of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have served to turn more people in these war-torn areas against us.

It is time to demand that the Obama administration appoint a Special Prosecutor to conduct a thorough investigation of Bush administration war crimes that results in an indictment of the guilty parties. Rather than return comfortably to private lives, those complicit in these crimes (and they do not stop here) should take a trip to The Hague.

From Sourcewatch

Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq

In my own research on war crimes committed by US forces in Iraq, I counted at least two-dozen classes of offenses systematically committed by the Occupation administration and US or US-allied military forces in the invasion and subsequent period of CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) rule. This includes violations of articles and 17, 18, 33, and 147 of the Geneva Convention covering the killing, hostage-taking and torturing of civilians. Subsequent to these acts the so-called insurgency has become more aggressive brutal in all types of hostilities, including incidents that the United States would simply brush off as “collateral damage”.

1. The President and senior administration and/or government officials could be subject to the death penalty for war crimes committed by US personnel in Iraq assuming that they directed or authorized murder, torture or inhuman treatment of prisoners or, if they permitted such conduct to continue after they became aware of the abuse. The statute applies to “any US national” and there is no other limitation with regard prosecution. But getting these ‘high officials’ prosecuted would be no easy matter, even if their conduct fell well within the ambit of the statute.

Under the War Crimes Act of 1996 there are two sets of questions to determine potential criminal liability of high government officials, including the President: 1. What did they specifically order or authorize regarding interrogations of Iraqi prisoners and 2. Assuming they did not order or authorize murder, torture or inhuman treatment, what actions did they undertake once they knew of murder, torture and inhuman treatment; under international law, once a government official is aware of profound abuses of human rights, then that official has every duty to effectively act to stop them.

The Bush Administration has failed to release any information about the President’s (and other high officials) orders with regard to the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners. Questions concerning what Bush knew about the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, when did he know it, and what did he do to stop it have never been addressed in any public forum. We know for example that Colin Powell advised the President on International Red Cross complaints re prisoner abuse, and the questions arise: when did that briefing occur? What was the President told about the Red Cross complaints and what did he do in response? This information must be disclosed by President Bush since the Fourth Geneva Convention directly addresses the matter of Red Cross access to prisoners and verification by the Red Cross that prisoners are treated humanely.

But the most important issue is, legally and morally, who initiated the unlawful invasion of Iraq and why. We think we know the answers, but the reasons must be formally documented and entered into testimony by witnesses such as George Bush. Bush is certainly a key witness for deposition and if the Special Prosecutor rule had not lapsed after the excesses of Kenneth Starr then we might have a chance at prosecuting George Bush and others, or at least submit Bush to a discovery process as a witness to these crimes.

From the Guardian.UK

Bringing the ‘Bush Six’ to justiceIf those responsible for the Bush administration’s torture policy will not face charges in the US, then in Spain it must be

Michael Ratner, Friday 7 January 2011 12.30 GMT

Today, the Centre for Constitutional Rights filed papers encouraging Judge Eloy Velasco and the Spanish national court to do what the United States will not: prosecute the “Bush Six”. These are the former senior administration legal advisors, headed by then US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who violated international law by creating a legal framework that materially contributed to the torture of suspected terrorists at US-run facilities at Guantánamo and other overseas locations.

Friday’s filing provides Judge Velasco with the legal framework for the prosecution of government lawyers – a prosecution that last took place during the Nuremberg trials, when Nazi lawyers who provided cover for the Third Reich’s war crimes and crimes against humanity were held accountable for their complicity.

CCR would prefer to see American cases tried in American courts. But we have joined the effort to pursue the Bush Six overseas because two successive American presidents have made it clear that there will be no justice for the architects of the US torture programme, or any of their accomplices, on American soil.

Thanks to the US diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks, we now know why seeking justice abroad has also been fraught with difficulty – why there have been so many delays and even dismissals. The same US government that will not pursue justice at home, not even when the CIA destroys 92 videotapes that show detainees being tortured, has put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice in other countries as well.

During the Bush presidency, the US intervened to derail the case of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was abducted by the CIA in 2003 and flown to Afghanistan for interrogation as part of the U.S. “extraordinary rendition” program—until they realized they had kidnapped the wrong man and dumped el-Masri on the side of an Albanian road. A leaked 2007 cable reveals the extent both of U.S. pressure and German collusion. In public, Munich prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA operatives while Angela Merkel’s office called for an investigation. In private, the German justice ministry and foreign ministry both made it clear to the US that they were not interested in pursuing the case. Later that year, then Justice Minster Brigitte Zypries went public with her decision against attempting extradition, citing US refusal to arrest or hand over the agents.

Will this toxic combination of American pressure and a European ally’s acquiescence derail justice in Spain, as well?

This 1 April 2009 cable, released 1 December 2010, shows Obama administration officials trying their best to stop the prosecution of the Bush Six. They fret that “the fact that this complaint targets former administration legal officials may reflect a ’stepping-stone’ strategy designed to pave the way for complaints against even more senior officials” and bemoan Spain’s “reputation for liberally invoking universal jurisdiction”. Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza reassures the US that while “in all likelihood he would have no option but to open a case”, he does not “envision indictments or arrest warrants in the near future”, and will “argue against the case being assigned to Garzon” (a notoriously tough judge, who has since been removed from the case).

Judge Velasco, who has since been assigned to the case, has been scrupulous in his oversight. The Spanish court has thrice asked the US, in accordance with international law, “whether the acts referred to in this complaint are or are not being investigated or prosecuted”, and if so, “to identify the prosecuting authority and to inform this court of the specific procedure by which to refer the complaints for joinder”. Of course, no response to any of these requests has been received, because the Obama administration has no intention whatsoever of pursuing justice on this matter.

Democracy demands a fully functioning legal system – one that does not bend to hidden pressures and political agendas. We have faith that Judge Velasco will justify the US officials’ concerns about Spain’s independent judiciary, and its respect for international law, and move forward with the Bush Six case.

Report on Drone Attack Protest in Pakistan

Village Bombing in Afghanistan

Carpet Bombing In Afghanistan

Massive Bombing in Iraq Gulf War

Civilian Death Causes In Iraq

Lebanon Crisis

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Three perspectives on Lebanon, one middle of the road from Reuters, one from the left on Australian Broadcasting Co. and one from the right with the Weekly Standard. The picture is complex, Lebanon provides a buffer between Syria and Israel. Hezbollah also is Iran’s main link to the front lines in the Islamic battle with Israel over the fate of the Palestinian people.

The people of Lebanon are torn between forces that are often far beyond their control. The USA and Israel are engaged in a struggle with Iran and Syria with Lebanon as the pawn. The USA & Israel using Christian factions, Iran & Syria using Muslim factions as they wrestle for control of the country. There has been a fragile balance in the past and right now the balancing act is again being played out. Will there be further war or a realignment of forces? It depends largely on whether the bigger players are willing to accept the fait accompli on the ground.

Druze leaders have fallen in with Hezbollah giving them a majority in the Lebanese Parliament. Question is will the USA and Israel let things be? Turkey has in recent times been seen as a neutral interested party and may have a role in working out a deal now that the Syrian-Saudi Arabian efforts seem to have collapsed. But with the Duse accepting the Hezbollah position, there may not be much choice left except that of war or peace.

From Reuters

Lebanon’s Druze leader backs Hezbollah
By Mariam Karouny

BEIRUT | Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:26pm EST

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said on Friday his group would support Hezbollah ahead of parliamentary talks on Monday to pick a new prime minister.

With Jumblatt’s support it is almost certain Hezbollah and its allies, with 57 seats in parliament, will win a majority to endorse Sunni politician Omar Karami to lead a new government.

“I am announcing the right political stand … by assuring the steadfastness of the group (Progressive Socialist Party) alongside Syria and the resistance,” he told a news conference.

Resistance is a term used to describe Hezbollah.

Hezbollah ministers and their allies resigned from Saad al-Hariri’s cabinet last week, days before a U.N.-backed tribunal issued a confidential draft indictment which is expected to accuse Hezbollah members of involvement in the killing of his father.

The Shi’ite group denies any role in the assassination and says the tribunal is serving U.S. and Israeli interests. Jumblatt described the tribunal as “a tool for destruction.”

Two days of mediation by Qatari and Turkish ministers ended in failure on Thursday and the political deadlock has raised fears of renewed sectarian conflict in Lebanon.

Jumblatt leads a bloc of 11 parliamentarians and his support is crucial to decide who forms the government, Hezbollah or Hariri, who said on Thursday he will seek the premiership.

Once Syria’s ally, Jumblatt moved into the anti-Syrian camp after Hariri’s killing, but he has re-positioned himself once again and last year sealed his reconciliation with Syria.


Jumblatt urged all sides to continue dialogue and warned against excluding any party, saying “it will only lead to more division.”

In Lebanon’s power-sharing political system, the prime minister should be a Sunni, the president a Christian Maronite and the speaker a Shi’ite. President Michel Suleiman has called parliamentarians for consultations on Monday.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, brought down the fragile unity government of Hariri, a Sunni Muslim backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia, after Riyadh and Damascus failed to reach a deal to contain tensions over the indictment.

Hezbollah and its allies accused Washington of sabotaging the Saudi-Syrian efforts by putting pressure on Hariri to stop supporting it. Hariri blamed Hezbollah for the talks’ failure.

Jumblatt said all sides had agreed in the talks to cut Lebanon’s links to the tribunal, end Lebanon’s funding for it and withdraw the Lebanese judges. He said those terms would be confirmed in a policy statement by the new government.

From Australian Broadcasting Company

21 January 2011
January 2011

Lebanon crisis a test for the US

Antoun Issa

Lebanon’s national unity government collapsed last week following the resignation of Hezballah and its allies in protest at a controversial UN investigation into former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination in 2005.

Deposed Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, son of the slain former premier, and his Western-backed March 14 coalition have refused Hezballah’s demands to end co-operation with the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is expected to indict Hezballah members.

The crisis has spurred regional powers into action, aimed at preventing the troubled tiny Arab country from relapsing into civil war.

Regional talks have hit a snag, however, as Saudi Arabia – a key player in Lebanon – announced in frustration its withdrawal from negotiations this week.

Nevertheless, the emergence of new regional players signals a clear decline of US influence in a region where it once held exclusive hegemony.

It is not only the typical arch nemeses of Iran and Syria that are challenging the US in the Middle East, but friendly states in Turkey and Qatar that are becoming increasingly assertive on the regional arena.

The Turkish alternative

Turkey, in particular, has in recent years distanced itself from Washington in its Middle Eastern approach. Gone are the days when Ankara turned a cold shoulder to its east. Turkey is today asserting its own agenda in the region that is visibly independent of American interests.

The Turks – a NATO ally – have refused to take sides in the regional battle for influence between the US and Iran, and instead have pursued friendly relations with Tehran and continue to conduct trade and business with a country under increased US sanctions.

The rise of a Turkish, democratic and Sunni alternative to the US and Iran is proving to be increasingly popular among ordinary Arabs resentful towards American and Israeli regional hegemony, and wary of Iran’s intentions.

Public and vocal condemnations of Israeli policies in Palestine have made Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan among the most popular figures in the Arab world.

Turkey’s drive to the forefront of regional politics has pushed long-time Arab Sunni powers, and key American allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt out of the spotlight.

Many Lebanese analysts – as well as Hezballah leader Hassan Nasrallah – blamed the US for scuttling months-long Saudi-Syrian efforts to prevent the current crisis from occurring. Washington’s refusal to play ball would have infuriated its Saudi allies after Riyadh reportedly reached an agreement with Damascus and local Lebanese factions.

Obama’s failing Lebanon policy

Entrenched in a regional contest with Iran, the Obama administration has inherited Bush’s legacy of a divided, tense Lebanon.

The neoconservative Bush administration included Lebanon in its plan to transform the region into a New Middle East. Bush sought to expel Syrian and Iranian influence from the country – a feat the US already failed to accomplish in the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War – and destroy Hezballah.

The Israeli onslaught of 2006 failed to achieve the key goal of eradicating Hezballah. To the contrary, Bush’s confrontational policies in Lebanon only empowered Hezballah, with Iran enjoying unprecedented levels of influence in the country.

Obama’s insistence on the STL (Special Tribunal For Lebanon) in an attempt to strike a blow to Hezballah, Syria and Iran risks backfiring. Hezballah’s local Western-backed opponents do not have the capability to confront the Shi’ite group in a civil war.

Should the Americans continue to squeeze Hezballah, its Iranian and Syrian backers may give their local ally the green light to take control of the state by force.

The US is pursuing an aggressive Lebanon policy that will inevitably lead to conflict, a game the Iranians are willing to play. Tehran is aware it holds the upper hand, and there is little the Americans can do to dislodge Hezballah, which enjoys widespread popular support in addition to its unrivalled military presence in Lebanon.

Internal Lebanese strife raises the stakes of regional conflict as Israel has previously warned it will not allow a Hezballah-ruled Lebanon on its doorstep. Any future war with Hezballah, according to Israeli strategists, is likely to draw in Syria.

Aware of the spiralling effect war in Lebanon may have on the region, emerging regional powers such as Turkey are countering with their own drive and interest for regional stability. The current Lebanon crisis is most certainly a test to see which regional will prevails.

From The Weekly Standard

Lebanon on the Brink
9:00 AM, Jan 21, 2011 • By HILLEL FRADKIN and LEWIS LIBBY

The perennial Middle East crisis known as Lebanon has entered a new phase with the fall of Sunni prime minister Saad Hariri’s government. The proximate cause of the government’s collapse was the withdrawal from Lebanon’s coalition Shiite and opposition ministers aligned with Hezbollah. They object to Hariri’s support for the U.N.-authorized Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. It’s little wonder —the Party of God’s general secretary Hassan Nasrallah fears that the STL will soon indict members of Hezbollah.

Such indictments would have significant implications for Hezbollah and its patrons in Syria and Iran, for Lebanese democrats, and even for Israel and the U.N. But the stakes are large for us, as well. America has, to this day, given its full rhetorical support to the tribunal. But, more importantly, that support reflected America’s long-term interest in a moderate government in Lebanon, and in reducing Syrian and Iranian influence at the Eastern edge of the Mediterranean. Our broader interests are entangled in the unfolding crisis in Lebanon.

The elder Hariri had opposed Syria’s and its allies’ chokehold on Lebanon. The truck bomb that ripped his life away left a crater in the streets and in Beirut’s politics, for the scale of the attack led many to suspect Hezbollah, aided by a foreign hand. Around that crater rose the Cedar Revolution of democratic forces that reclaimed their land and, with Western support, ultimately drove Syrian troops from Lebanese soil. Americans of both parties praised Lebanon’s new freedom. But punishment and further geopolitical consequences from the assassination were postponed pending the STL’s findings.

Knowing indictments would one day come, Hezbollah and its allies predictably delayed the investigation and prepared their defenses. Obdurate Lebanese pro-democracy figures have been killed or pressured. In May, 2008, Hezbollah seized the streets of Beirut and negotiated new political arrangements, as the West watched. Emboldened, a stronger Hezbollah has proclaimed that it would “cut off the hands” of any who serve indictments on its members. And now, with flair, Hezbollah has brought down Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government while he visited the White House. “What a coincidence,” the State Department spokesman said acridly. If it was expected that Hariri would be quickly re-nominated to the post, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s decision to join officially the Hezbollah-led opposition, a choice apparently made under threat of violence, may forestall Hariri’s candidacy.

The region senses the new, compromised Lebanon bowing to the new reality – power, not justice, is in the air. Lebanon feels the pull of rising, unchecked powers that would claim Lebanon as their instrument against the West. Saad Hariri has had to pay obeisance in Damascus and Tehran to the patrons of his father’s alleged murderers. It would be nice to think that the son had learned that these patrons played no part in the crimes of the past or the defense of the guilty, but none in the region believe that to be his view. Meanwhile, Iran arms Hariri’s enemies, while some in Lebanon hail the self-proclaimed Shia champion of Islam. A more assertive Turkey enters as well; when his government fell, Hariri did not linger in Washington, but quickly went to Ankara.

Survivors In A Capitalist Wasteland

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Every now and then I get an email from this group Survival, they are an organization who work to protect the rights of tribal peoples around the world. This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of what modern capitalist civilization is doing to the remaining traditional peoples around the world. They still exist in their tribal entities living close to nature as hunter gatherers and sustenance farmers. There is a tendency now to write off these people as hopelessly outdated remnants of a time when life was a struggle to survive and that modern civilization is better, or inevitable. Capitalism, and its inherent need for constant growth, like a cancer, eats up the resources and the peoples of the world, devouring all before it like some great Moloch.

If there is anything sacred about the life of those living in constant contact with nature, if there is any value in it that cannot be determined by the economic imperative, then it is worth preserving, if only to remind the rest of us that there are alternatives to the capitalist grind.

I am no romantic, dreaming of a more natural life, I live in the city, I grew up on a farm, I don’t want to live in a hut, but there is no reason why those who do, cannot have the right to remain. There are things that cannot be quantified about a natural life that we who live within the confines of our urban existence do not experience. We see nature abstractly, like a picture or a movie. We do not get dirty, except perhaps in our gardens. But those who live with nature, and I tasted something of that when I was staying in parts of India, are living the rhythm of life as it has been lived for thousands of years, before the industrial revolution transformed our world.

If only the world were big enough to hide them from our consumption machines. They live in balance with their worlds, we live in one that is constantly being devoured. Soon our way of life will reach a wall, the end of cheap and easy resources to steal from the earth to give to the profit takers. When that happens our 300 year run of so called development will collapse, like the Easter Islanders who cut down all their trees. We will then be forced to live on recycled waste, like tribal peoples kicked off their land and now picking garbage in New Delhi to survive. Imagine a world of trash pickers, that is our future if we don’t stop. But there will not be a stopping, only an end, when the wall is reached and there is nothing left but the wasteland. Then we will learn to be Bushmen if lucky, trash men if not, or we won’t survive at all.

From Survival

Botswana approves $3bn mine as Bushman water case gets underway 18 January

Botswana’s government has green-lighted a massive $3bn mine in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve – in the middle of the Kalahari Bushmen’s appeal against the Botswana authorities’ refusal to allow them access to water there.

Gem Diamonds announced today that its application to open a huge diamond mine near the Bushman community of Gope in the reserve has been approved. The company claims to have secured the consent of the Bushmen on whose lands the mine will be located.

Survival, however, has repeatedly told Gem Diamonds that the Bushmen are entitled to independent advice on what the likely impact of the mine will be. No such advice has been given, and many Bushmen whose lands will be affected still live outside the reserve in resettlement camps after their 2002 eviction, as the government refuses to allow them to hunt or even access water in the reserve.

Survival and the Bushmen have always maintained that the Bushmen were evicted to make way for diamond mining. The government long denied this, claiming the diamond deposit at Gope was ‘sub-economic’.

A Bushman who wanted to remain anonymous said today, ‘Why does the government choose to issue the mining licence today, while our appeal for water is underway? It seems like this is their answer to our case. They are saying to us that even if we win our case and get water, the diamond mine will go ahead.

‘This is final proof that the government’s argument that they don’t want us to live in the CKGR to protect the wildlife is a lie. Who do they think will damage the wildlife? The people who have lived there for thousands of years, or a $3billion mine with roads, power lines, thousands of tons of waste and hundreds of people going to and fro?’

Survival Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Gem Diamonds’ claim that the Bushmen have given their consent to the mine would be laughable, if it weren’t tragic. How can people who are denied water to force them out of the reserve possibly be in a position to give their free and informed consent? Particularly when no-one apart from Gem Diamonds and the government has told them what impact this massive mine might have on them? Survival said for years that the government wanted to open up the reserve for diamond mining. The government denied it – but we have sadly been proven right.’

From WIEGO - Women in Informal Employment - Globalizing and Organizing

Occupational Groups
Waste Pickers
The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and Allies Head to United Nations Climate Change Conference COP16.
Cancun, Mexico
December 2010

Waste pickers recover and recycle waste, which saves natural resources and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. WIEGO is a proud partner of this alliance which brings waste pickers from Latin America, Asia and Africa together with support organizations and environmentalists to offer real solutions for climate change mitigation and waste management.

For more information:
Visit the Waste Picker and Climate Change on the Inclusive Cities website or follow waste picker activities in Cancun on the Waste Pickers and Climate Change blog.


Options for Organizing Waste Pickers in South Africa, Jan Theron, WIEGO Organizing Series, 2010.

Waste pickers (who are also known as reclaimers in South Africa) are workers engaged in collecting recyclable materials gathered from refuse, landfill sites and elsewhere, which they sell for a living. Although there are some waste pickers who work for someone else, most waste pickers have created their own jobs, and work for themselves: in other words they are self-employed. Across the country waste pickers are starting to organize as they recognize that this will help them to win recognition for the work that they do and to advance their collective interests. This booklet aims to assist them in this process by explaining the different kinds of collective organizations that they can form and identifying some of the key issues that they should consider when forming organizations.


Livelihoods With Dignity, by the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers, March 2010.

This document has been compiled by Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) with reports from all members of the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers (AIW).

Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) is a Trade Union of wastepickers registered in the year 1993, and functions as the secretariat for the AIW.


See also: “Waste pickers without frontiers,” South African Labour Bulletin, Oct-Nov., 2008

Read more about the World Conference of Waste-Pickers

Informal Recycling Around the World: Waste Collectors
Waste collectors form a small but vital part of the informal economy. These workers—men, women, and children—make a living collecting, sorting, recycling, and selling the valuable materials thrown away by others. In nearly every city of the developing world, thousands can be found collecting household waste from the curbside, commercial and industrial waste from dumpsters, and litter from the streets, as well as canals and other urban waterways. Others live and work in municipal dumps—as many as 20,000 people in Calcutta, 12,000 in Manila, and 15,000 in Mexico City. 1

Informal waste collectors perform an essential role in the economies and societies of developing countries. The benefits created by informal waste collection include:

•Contribution to public health and sanitation. In the fast-growing cities of the developing world, informal waste collection is the only way that waste gets removed from the many neighborhoods not served by municipal authorities. Third World municipalities only collect between 50 and 80 percent of the refuse generated in their cities. 2

•Employment and a source of income for poor people. The World Bank estimates that one percent of the urban population in developing countries earns a living through waste collection and/or recycling; 3 in the poorest countries, up to two percent do so.4 A significant number are women, and, in some cases, children.

•Provision of inexpensive recycled materials to industry. This reduces the need for expensive imports. The Mexican paper industry, for example, depends on wastepaper to meet about 74 percent of its fiber needs, and buys cardboard collected by Mexico’s cartoneros at less than one-seventh the price it would pay for market pulp from the U.S .5

•Reduction in municipal expenses. Waste collectors reduce the amount of waste that needs to be collected, transported and disposed of with public funds—in Indonesia, for example, by one-third. And in Bangkok, Jakarta, Kanpur, Karachi, and Manila, informal waste collectors save each city at least US$23 million a year in costs for waste management and raw material imports. 6

•Contribution to environmental sustainability. In many cities, informal recycling is the only kind of recycling that occurs at all. It decreases the amount of virgin materials used by industry, thereby conserving natural resources and energy while reducing air and water pollution. It also reduces the amount of land that needs to be devoted to dumps and landfills.

Despite the considerable economic and social benefits they produce, waste collectors usually operate in hostile social environments. Public authorities often treat them as nuisances, embarrassments, or even criminals. They tend to have low social status and face public scorn, harassment, and, occasionally, violence.

Waste collectors are also vulnerable to exploitation by the middlemen who buy recoveredwaste material from them before selling it to industry. Waste collectors in some Colombian ,Indian, and Mexican cities can receive as low as 5% of the price industry pays for recyclables; middlemen pocket the rest. 7 Accordingly, waste collectors generally have low incomes, and oftenlive in deplorable conditions, lacking access to water, sanitation, and other basic infrastructure.
As a result of their poor living conditions and the nature of their work, waste collectors face tremendous health and safety risks, including:

•Exposure to the elements (extreme temperatures, wind, rain, and sun)

•Exposure to dangerous waste, including toxic substances such as lead and asbestos,as well as blood, fecal matter, animal carcasses, broken glass, needles, and sharp metal objects

•Exposure to diseases transmitted by vermin, flies, and mosquitoes

•Back and limb pain, skin irritation and rashes, and specific high risk of tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, dysentery, and parasites.

It comes as no surprise, then, that high infant mortality rates and low life expectancies are common in waste collector communities. In Mexico City, for example, where overall life expectancy is 69 years, dumpsite waste collectors live for an average of 39 years. 8 The community of waste collectors in Port Said, Egypt, has an infant mortality rate of one in three. 9

The good news is that, when organized, waste collectors can and do raise their income, their social standing, and their self-esteem. There is a growing organization of waste collectors into trade unions, cooperatives, and associations, especially in Latin America, and to a lesser extent in Asia.

Workers’ cooperatives in several Latin American cities have successfully cut middlemen out of the recycling chain, raised members’ incomes dramatically (sometimes well above the minimum wage), secured social services like medical care, and contracted with municipalities to provide waste management services.

In some countries, national alliances have been formed. However, organizations have had little opportunity to interact or come together globally, and the vast majority of waste collectors remain unorganized, unrepresented, and unprotected. Much work still needs to be done to strengthen and support waste collectors’ organizations worldwide.

Below is a list of common demands made by waste collector organizations.

1.Identification, recognition and registration (identify cards).

2.Right to work/ have access to waste.

3.Provision of facilities for collection and sorting of waste – set aside sorting sites to sort without harassment.

4.Provision of sites to sell waste (“cash for trash”).

5.Sanitary and storage facilities.

6.Health care and social security provisions.

7.Credit/loan facilities.

8.Granting of rights to collect scrap for recycling (linked to ID cards).

9.Organise house to house collections through waste collector organisations – first preference.

10.Where outsourcing to private companies should be asked to employ waste pickers on first priority basis. (otherwise lose their livelihoods).

11.Scrap dealers/traders and recycling enterprises to contribute through a levy to contributory provident fund/leave/insurance (where tripartite boards or other provisions).

12.Consultation/negotiation with waste collector organisations before initiating any disposal of solid waste schemes.

13.Provision of rest rooms, drinking water, toilet, crèche facilities at dumping grounds and landfill sites.

14.Child labour should not be allowed.

15.Institutionalising informal waste collectors into doorstep/other collection.

16.Encouragement and support for organisations of waste collectors- financial and non financial.

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