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Archive for November, 2012

Posted by Just Foreign Policy on November 13th, 2012

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

On Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that the Obama administration would come to a decision within the next few weeks about the magnitude of the US “enduring presence” in Afghanistan. Panetta said that the White House was currently reviewing several recommendations for troop levels from General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. These options take into account the different roles US troops would play in Afghanistan after 2014. According to the New York Times,

The number, Mr. Panetta said, will be based on how many forces are needed for counterterrorism — that is, in commando raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden — as well as for training and providing air transport and other support to the Afghan security forces.

read more

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Posted by The Agonist on November 13th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

BBC, November 13

Uganda will pass a new law against homosexuality by the end of 2012 as a “Christmas gift” to its advocates, the speaker of parliament has said.

The AP news agency quoted Rebecca Kadaga as saying that Ugandans were “demanding” the law.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, but the bill which is before parliament proposes tougher sentences for people convicted.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 12th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Mother Jones, By David Corn, November 12

Oliver Stone has made some of the best movies of the past three decades. With Salvador, Platoon, and Wall Street, he helped shape the cultural history of the 1970s and 1980s. Now, he’s trying to influence the national security history of postwar America. His 10-part documentary, The Untold History of the United States, begins tonight on Showtime (an hour before Homeland!). It’s notable that a major network—okay, a major cable network—is devoting 10 hours to an unabashedly left-of-center analysis of modern America that confronts many of the myths of the national security state that evolved after World War II. The 750-page book accompanying the documentary series—coauthored by Stone and American University professor Peter Kuznick—opens with an explicit note:

This book and the documentary film series it is based on challenge the basic narrative of U.S. history that most Americans have been taught. That popular and somewhat mythic view, carefully filtered through the prism of American altruism, benevolence, magnanimity, exceptionalism, and devotion to liberty and justice, is introduced in early childhood, reinforced through primary and secondary education, and retold so often that it becomes part of the air that Americans breath….[B]ut like the real air Americans breathe, it is ultimately harmful, noxious, polluted. It not only renders Americans incapable of understanding the way much of the rest of the world looks at the United States, it leaves them unable to act effectively to change the world for the better.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 11th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Aljazeera

West African leaders at an emergency summit have agreed on a 3,300-strong force to wrest control of northern Mali from Islamist fighters, as fears grow over risks they pose to the region and beyond.

“We foresee 3,300 soldiers for a timeframe of one year,” Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, the current ECOWAS chairman, told journalists on Sunday after the summit.

The troops would come primarily from ECOWAS, but possibly from countries outside the bloc as well, he said.

The summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja was aimed at setting out a blueprint for military force in Mali’s north that would be transferred to the UN Security Council via the African Union.

Discussions also involved the potential training of 5,000 Malian troops, according to Ouattara.

Political crisis

Ouattara said he hoped UN Security Council approval could come in late November or early December, which would allow the force to be put in place days afterward.

“We have countries that are offering battalions, others companies,” he said.

ECOWAS countries he named were Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo.

From outside of ECOWAS, “Chad could also participate. We have had contacts with other countries – Mauritania, South Africa.”

The summit’s final communique stressed that dialogue remained “the preferred option in the resolution of the political crisis in Mali.”

“However, regarding the security situation, recourse to force may be indispensable in order to dismantle terrorist and transnational criminal networks that pose a threat to international peace and security,” it said.

An ECOWAS source had said earlier that regional military chiefs were proposing a total of 5,500 troops, with some 3,200 from the West African bloc and the rest from elsewhere.

It was not clear whether heads of state had rejected the proposal or if the bloc would continue efforts to reach that level.

More at the link

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Posted by The Agonist on November 10th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Fascinating interview with Assad

RT News

Source

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Posted by The Agonist on November 10th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The Hill, By Zack Colman, November 9

The Interior Department on Friday issued a final plan to close 1.6 million acres of federal land in the West originally slated for oil shale development.

The proposed plan would fence off a majority of the initial blueprint laid out in the final days of the George W. Bush administration. It faces a 30-day protest period and a 60-day process to ensure it is consistent with local and state policies. After that, the department would render a decision for implementation.

[...]

Under the plan, 677,000 acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming would be open for oil shale exploration. Another 130,000 acres in Utah would be set aside for tar sands production.

The administration and Democrats said that while the plan would curtail what was originally sought for oil shale development, it still opens up a significant amount of land that was previously unavailable for the energy production method.

Also, AP: US limits oil-shale development in Rocky Mountains

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Posted by The Agonist on November 8th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

by Cas Mudde

(Originally posted by openDemocracy, republished under a Creative Commons license)

What a difference two years make.After the congressional elections in November 2010, the Tea Party was the talk of the town. Both left-wing and right-wing media pundits declared “the” Tea Party to be the (only) winner, and all focus was on the right’s new stars such as Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida. The new Republican Party kingmakers were Jim De Mint and Sarah Palin, support from whom was claimed to be essential for their fellow Republicans to get elected. It became obligatory to refer to the new legislature as “the Tea Party Congress”. The fact that only one-third of Tea Party-backed candidates had actually been elected was irrelevant. The Tea Party was the new story, and all experts knew that it was here to stay.

An aptly titled Fox News story - “After election victories, Tea Party activists look ahead to 2012″ – speculated about the movement’s future. It seemed beyond debate that it was the newly dominant force in United States politics; the question was whether it was going to take over the Republican Party or create a third party. Within a month of the November 2010 elections the answer to that question became clear: helped by massive spending by “astroturf” organisations such as FreedomWorks, and led by members of the Grand Old Party establishment, the Tea Party was steadily integrated into the GOP. But who controlled who? 

Even before the Republican primaries started for the 2012 elections, the media was unified in its narrative: the Tea Party was going to select the GOP’s presidential nominee. This narrative was strengthened by the strong, if in the end brief, showings of Tea Party favourites like Minnesota’s Michelle Bachmann and former pizza CEO Herman Cain. Bachmann even gave the first-ever official Tea Party response to President Obama’s state-of-the-union address in 2011, which was broadcast live on national television by CNN! In the end, however, no Tea Party candidate could really challenge the old-school Republican-establishment candidate, Mitt Romney. The Tea Party’s influence on the primaries remained limited to pushing Romney to make very right-wing promises on issues like immigration, which would haunt him during the actual campaign.

From defeat…

At the height of the election campaign, the Tea Party was almost invisible. The campaign was dominated by the (super)-PACs of Mitt Romney and GOP establishment operatives like Karl Rove; together they spent the staggering amount of more than $310m. Even Romney’s choice of running-mate, Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan, was the darling more of the astroturf Tea Party boosters in Wall Street than of the grassroots Tea Party activists in Main Street. Moreover, Ryan (“Mr Budget”) had to defend Romney’s much more moderate agenda on both fiscal and social issues. In fact, in almost every scandal involving a Republican candidate for Congress, which mostly related to outlandish remarks on abortion or rape (often positions that Ryan had supported in his pre-VP nominee period), Romney joined the condemnations from the Republican establishment, albeit it at times halfheartedly – even when the offending candidates were Tea Party favourites such as Senate hopefuls Todd Akin from Missouri and Richard Mourdock from Indiana.

In the event, and in virtually all ways, the 2012 elections were a total defeat for the Tea Party (a rare exception was the election to the Senate of Ted Cruz in Texas). The movement was not just unable to oust President Obama, its number-one priority, but saw some of its most prominent candidates fail in the congressional votes. Both Todd (“legitimate rape”) Akin and Richard (“pregnancy resulting from rape is God’s will”) Mourdock paid the price for their extreme statements. In Akin’s case this meant that the GOP lost out on a sure pick-up seat, while Mourdock was responsible for taking the Senate seat from Richard Lugar, the longstanding and well-respected Republican Senator, and handing it to the Democrats.

But even Tea Party incumbents fared very badly. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Senator, had been for a while the very personification of the Tea Party’s the power; he was handsomely defeated by Elizabeth Warren, the new hope of the American left. Two leaders of the Tea Party caucus in Congress, Florida’s Allen “progressives are communists” West and Illinois’s “Crazy” Joe Walsh, lost their seats in the House of Representatives (West called for a recount). On top of that, Michelle “the Founders worked tirelessly against slavery” Bachmann was only re-elected by the narrowest of margins after outspending her opponent twelve-to-one. In short, the Tea Party failed miserably, and the GOP establishment has taken notice.

…to division

What, then, do the 2012 elections reveal about the Tea Party’s future? If anything, the elections show that extreme social-conservative statements are not appreciated by a majority of Americans; even among many religious and Republican voters. While astroturf Tea Party operatives claim that the Tea Party has recently been “hijacked” by social conservatives, academic research notes the crucial importance of anti-abortion and anti-immigration positions to grassroots Tea Party supporters (see Theda Skocpol & Vanessa Williamson, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (Oxford University Press, 2011). In short, there is no Tea Party without (extreme) social conservatism, but there is no GOP national majority with (extreme) social conservatism.

The leaders of both factions threw their first punches on the night of the presidential count. Republican establishment leaders said that Mitt Romney had lost because the Tea Party had pushed him too far to the right in the primaries, while Tea Party leaders argued that he had not gone far enough to the right. The struggle for dominance of the GOP was on. The veteran conservative operative and prominent Tea Party figure Richard A Vigueri  boasted: “Tea Partiers will take over the Republican Party within four years.”

The Republican elite seems convinced that the only way to survive as a viable alternative to the Democratic Party is to become less radical and more inclusive. Among the most vocal protagonists of a more diverse party strategy is former Tea Party favourite Marco Rubio; the Cuban-American Senator from Florida is calling for the GOP to abandon its “white strategy” and embrace America’s Hispanics, the key demographic in many (southern) Democratic states. A more ethnically diverse Republican strategy will have to include some level of support for comprehensive immigration reform, which will antagonise a Tea Party strongly nativist at local level.

It is a paradox, though, that immigration is for the Tea Party movement both strength and weakness (even if not all Tea Partiers consider immigration a high priority). If and when President Obama finally makes good on his word to enact comprehensive immigration reform, the Tea Party movement will split. The astroturf faction is mostly bankrolled by big business, which favours liberal immigration policies; while the grassroots faction is largely anti-immigration. Without financial support from the astroturf groups, and sympathetic media coverage from major outlets like Fox News, the Tea Party will be returned to its true proportions: i.e. a relatively strong local and regional force in some parts of the country, but a relatively weak force in national politics. So, the initiative is with the re-elected president.

(Image: formatted_dad, Flickr/CC)

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Posted by The Agonist on November 7th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

BBC, November 7

Thirty-nine people have been killed and many more are missing after a 7.4-magnitude quake hit off the Guatemala’s Pacific coast, the president has said.

Otto Perez Molina declared a national alert and advised people to evacuate tall buildings as a precaution.

Officials said landslides had buried roads and it would take 24 hours to restore links to the quake-hit area.

Frightened people fled from offices and homes around the region, as buildings shook from Mexico City to San Salvador.

Quake officials said the tremor hit at about 10:35 local time (1635 GMT) about 23km (15 miles) from the Guatemalan town of Champerico.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 7th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

AP, By Danica Coto, November 6

San Juan,PR — Puerto Ricans faced a fundamental question on Election Day: Should they change their ties with the United States?

Citizens in the U.S. island territory cannot vote in the U.S. presidential election, but many were excited to participate in a referendum on whether to push the territory toward statehood, greater autonomy or independence.

Car horns blared and party flags waved after polling stations closed following what election officials said was a high voter turnout. During the day, many voters carried umbrellas against the blistering tropical sun as temperatures neared 90 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius).

The two-part referendum first asked voters if they wanted to change Puerto Rico’s 114-year relationship with the United States. A second question gave voters three alternatives if they wanted a change: become a U.S. state, gain independence, or have a “sovereign free association,” a designation that would give more autonomy for the territory of 4 million people.

With 243 of 1,643 precincts reporting late Tuesday, 75,188 voters, or 53 percent, said they did not want to continue under the current political status. Forty-seven percent, or 67,304 voters, supported the status quo.

On the second question, 65 percent favored statehood, followed by 31 percent for sovereign free association and 4 percent for independence.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 6th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Amid all the rightwing noise about what happened in Benghazi the night the US Ambassador was killed, there’s a tendency to forget that Libya is still far from the new democratic utopia that ousting Gadaffi was supposed to usher in. Last week, militias shelled and brutally pillaged a Gadaffi loyalist town. Two days ago rival militias started a firefight outside the Sepreme Security Committee headquarters in the capital, Tripoli. Now workers at western Libya’s main oil refinery plan to shut down the plant from Wednesday to protest the government’s weak grip on security.

It shouldn’t really need saying, but Libya is a dangerous place right now no matter which nationality you are, and there’s no way to guarantee anyones’ safety, not even an ambassadors. That was true in war-torn and unstable places during the Bush era too, when there were ten separate attacks on US embassies and it was only by the hand of grace that no senior diplomats lost their lives, “just” security folks.

Still, now that the election is over, I expect the rightwing noise machine will have no further use for Benghazi outrage.

 

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