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Egypt sentences 188 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death

More than 180 supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death in Egypt over a 2013 attack on a police station near Cairo.

The attack took place on the same day as Egyptian security forces broke up protest camps set up by Brotherhood supporters, leaving hundreds dead.

Egypt has been fiercely criticised for its crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Hundreds of death sentences have been passed but none have been carried out.


Iraq’s 50,000 ‘ghost soldiers’ analysis: This is further proof of army corruption

December 1, 2014

The Iraqi army includes 50,000 “ghost soldiers” who do not exist, but their officers receive their salaries fraudulently according to the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. “The Prime Minister revealed the existence of 50,000 fictitious names,” said a statement after a thorough headcount during the latest salary payments.

The Iraqi army has long been notorious for being wholly corrupt with officers invariably paying for their jobs in order to make money either through drawing the salaries of non-existent soldiers or through various other scams. One Iraqi politician told The Independent a year ago that Iraqi officers “are not soldiers, they are investors”. In the years before the defeat of the army in Mosul in June by a much smaller force from Isis, Iraqi units never conducted training exercises. At the time of Isis’s Mosul offensive, government forces in Mosul were meant to total 60,000 soldiers and federal police but the real figure was probably closer to 20,000.

“Ghost” soldiers may never have existed and just be fictitious names added to the roster, or they may once have existed but been killed or deserted without this being officially noted. In either case, the officer in a unit would keep receiving the salary, though he would have to share it with his superiors. Another scam is for soldiers to kick back part of their salary to their officer in return for staying at home or holding another job but never going near a barracks. Mr Abadi’s figure of 50,000 is probably only a modest estimate of the numbers of Iraqi soldiers who play no military role.

Asked why the Iraqi army had disintegrated at Mosul, a retired four-star general said the explanation was “corruption, corruption, corruption”. He said that this had become institutionalised when the US was building a new Iraqi army after dissolving the old one in 2003. The Pentagon insisted that supplies of food and other necessities be outsourced to private companies. The general said that as a result the Iraqi government might be paying for a battalion with a nominal strength of 600 men, but which in fact had only 200 soldiers. Profits would be shared between officers and commercial companies supposedly supplying the army.


Mubarak verdict fuels protests, mockery in Egypt

By Amr Dalsh
Sun Nov 30, 2014 5:39pm EST

CAIRO (Reuters)- - Protests erupted at universities across Egypt on Sunday, condemning a court decision to drop criminal charges against Hosni Mubarak, the president whose ouster in the 2011 uprising raised hopes of a new era of political openness.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Cairo University, waving pictures of Mubarak behind bars and demanding the "fall of the regime", the rallying cry of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook governments from Tunisia to the Gulf in 2011.

Police stood ready at the gates to bar students that sought to take their demonstration into the streets.

An Egyptian court on Saturday dropped its case against Mubarak over the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule.



Visit the parks to see how East Jerusalem is being made Jewish and the lives of its Palestinian residents made miserable.

Since the annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel, Israeli governments have established five national parks on annexed land. Another three parks are currently in preliminary planning. The parks border populated Palestinian neighborhoods, and in some cases encroach on the neighborhoods proper. No construction is allowed in national parks. Therefore, declaring areas as national parks serves as a means of restricting construction and development of Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The establishment of the parks promotes an agenda of ensuring a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, creating a contiguous bloc of lands with no Palestinian population, and expanding the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.

Start The Tour

Tzurim Valley National Park
One of a kind! A park boasting absolutely no natural or archeological attractions.
Bring a deck of cards, there’s nothing to see or do.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/sites/default/files2/gan_czavim/en.html

**The Court concludes that all these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and that
Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.

How Public Power Can Defeat Plutocrats

November 21, 2014

Lawrence Lessig and Zephyr Teachout return to talk about the corrupting influence of money in politics, and their push to change the system.


BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Like many of you, I’ve been watching Congress since the midterm elections, and what I’ve seen has me thinking of King Louis XVI of France. His Majesty was a good friend of the American Revolution but when he gave Benjamin Franklin a gold snuff box with the monarch’s portrait surrounded with diamonds, some of our founding fathers objected. They worried that the gift would corrupt his judgment and unduly bias Franklin in France’s favor.

Ever since, we Americans have been debating the meaning of corruption. Today, gifts to politicians that were once called graft or bribes are called contributions. And the Supreme Court has ruled that powerful corporations and rich individuals can give just about anything they want to politicians who do their bidding, and it’s not considered corruption.

The watchdog Sunlight Foundation reports that from 2007 to 2012, two hundred corporations spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions, and received more than $4 trillion -- that's $4 trillion -- in government contracts and other forms of assistance. Now, that’s why K Street in Washington is the road to paradise for lobbyists. But it’s a road that runs in both directions.

snip* Larry Lessig teaches at Harvard Law School and made his reputation as an expert on Internet law. He started the Mayday super PAC, raising millions for congressional candidates who vowed to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics. All but two of them lost – but the fight continues. Welcome back.


ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Thanks for having us.

BILL MOYERS: Chief Justice John Roberts takes a different view of corruption from the two of you. He says, quote, "Any regulation must instead target what we have called ‘quid pro quo’ corruption or its appearance. the notion of a direct exchange of an official act for money.”

remainder in full: http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-public-power-can-defeat-plutocrats/

'Cruel and unusual' - Leaked prison letter from hunger striker Mohamed Soltan

Mohamed Soltan

Sunday, 16 November 2014

File photo of US national, Mohamed Soltan

US citizen Mohamed Soltan has been in an Egyptian jail for over a year, and on hunger strike for nearly all of that time. He has smuggled a letter out of prison to mark his 27th birthday today (November 16th). There is also another hearing in his trial today, and the judge in charge of the case is the same one who sentenced the Aljazeera journalists to lengthy jail terms, as well presiding over the trial of known activists Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdelfatah. The text of Soltan's letter is as follows:

For the first time in the pre-season, I came late to JV basketball practice. I had made the team at 336 pounds, during my junior year in high school, even though all of my classmates were playing varsity I was just happy to make the team. That day, Coach Slappy looked at me as I entered the gym, and without giving me the chance to explain my tardiness he put his index finger up and circled it in the air, directing me to run laps. I was OK with the punishment for the tardiness, but what I wasn't OK with was his insistence on the "finger-circling" when I asked and continued asking as I ran, "How many laps coach?"

That day I felt that I had received the worst punishment. I could have ran 100 laps had the coach let me know how many laps I needed to run, but the psychological punishment was, for me, nothing short of torture. That day I ran 29 laps around the basketball court, but every lap felt like it would be the last one. By the time Coach Slappy remembered to tell me to stop I was mentally and physically drained.

I remember this story as my 27th birthday, my second in prison, approaches and as I finish 290 days on hunger strike. One hundred and fifty pounds lighter and exactly 10 years later, I am sitting in an underground Egyptian dungeon reflecting on that basketball season and its relevance to my current circumstances. I have lost the sense of hunger; I lose consciousness often; I wake up to bruises and a bloody mouth almost daily; and physical pain has become the norm, with my body numb as it eats away at itself. None of that is as painful as the psychological torture that the ambiguity of my detention (which is under an indefinite temporary holding law) is imposing. This is a dark and gloomy nightmare; I have no clue about how it descended on me so suddenly; I don't know how long it will last; nor do I know how and when it will end. Although it is a much more extreme feeling than that of Coach Slappy's punishment, it is nonetheless similar; mental and physical depletion. I do not know how long until this "punishment" ends, so every day passes like it is the last, slow and excruciating.

remainder: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/15299-cruel-and-unusual

Israeli harassment curtails access to education for Hebron girls

By Alex Shams and Salam Muharam

The first part in a series about the lives of Palestinian women affected by the Jewish settlements of Hebron's Old City.

Having grown up in Hebron's Old City, Aisha was used to dealing with Israeli soldiers and their questions on a daily basis.

When she was a little girl the checkpoints began multiplying as the Jewish settlements expanded throughout the city, and by the time she reached middle school she had to pass through a checkpoint to go anywhere more than a few meters up the road.

The staring, the yelling, and the pushing were a daily occurrence, and she says that more than a few times young Jewish settlers who had taken over homes in the area smacked her as she passed while soldiers watched impassively. For a girl growing up in Hebron's Old City, these little humiliations were -- and are -- the stuff of life.


Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinian traffic since 1994, leading to the
closure of scores of local businesses and constant military presence.

War with Isis: Islamic militants have army of 200,000, claims senior Kurdish leader

Exclusive: CIA has hugely underestimated the number of jihadis, who now rule an area the size of Britain

The Islamic State (Isis) has recruited an army hundreds of thousands strong, far larger than previous estimates by the CIA, according to a senior Kurdish leader. He said the ability of Isis to attack on many widely separated fronts in Iraq and Syria at the same time shows that the number of militant fighters is at least 200,000, seven or eight times bigger than foreign in intelligence estimates of up to 31,500 men.

Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said in an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday that "I am talking about hundreds of thousands of fighters because they are able to mobilise Arab young men in the territory they have taken."

He estimates that Isis rules a third of Iraq and a third of Syria with a population of between 10 and 12 million living in an area of 250,000 square kilometres, the same size as Great Britain. This gives the jihadis a large pool of potential recruits.

Proof that Isis has created a large field army at great speed is that it has been launching attacks against the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Iraqi army close to Baghdad at the same time as it is fighting in Syria. "They are fighting in Kobani," said Mr Hussein. "In Kurdistan last month they were attacking in seven different places as well as in Ramadi and Jalawla . It is impossible to talk of 20,000 men or so."


How Deep is the Rot on Wall Street?

Joseph Fichera's op-ed in the New York Times shows the full depravity of Wall Street's resistance to regulation, says white collar criminologist Professor William Black.

November 14, 2014


snip* Bio

William K. Black, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.


PERIES: Bill, what are you blogging on this week?

BLACK: So Joseph Fichera is a head of a Wall Street advisory firm. And he's one of the sometimes good guys, that is, for example, warned about auction rate securities as a dangerous scam and criticized major investment banks for derivatives that they've sold to cities. So he's easily in the top 10 percent of the distribution of Wall Street CEOs. But even he--and that's sort of the point--has just come out on November 6 and said, we're treating Wall Street too harshly.

Now, Wall Street, as we've talked about, has zero convictions of any of the senior officers who actually led the fraud epidemics that caused the crisis. But that's not sufficiently weak for Fichera. He says that the Securities and Exchange Commission should not have the power to remove an investment bank's license to sell securities, for example, just because it's committed a massive fraud. Instead, frauds should have a schedule of points, like the Department of Motor Vehicles has in many states. And so for one active appraisal fraud that could actually be thousands of acts, maybe you'd get four points. And over the course of six years, if you've got--he doesn't give the number, but maybe 16 points, then and only then could your license be removed.

So this is the idea that fraud is really just like driving without your seatbelt. You know, there's no moral element at all to defrauding other people of tens of billions of dollars, and that you actually have a right if you're in finance (but only if you're in finance) to a certain number of felonies before anything can happen seriously. And he explicitly says that the Securities and Exchange Commission should have no power to remove your license if you've only committed one series of felonies. And remember, this series of felonies could be 10,000 people that you defrauded or indeed millions of people that you defrauded. But like every dog gets its bite, every corporation that issue securities would get its massive fraud. And if it didn't get caught again within the next six years, well, then, like DMV, your points would be eliminated and you could commit your new fraud with impunity.

On top of that, he says, well, you know, we really have to believe in this too-big-to-jail and too-big-to-sanction stuff for the Securities and Exchange Commission, 'cause he says that there's a real contradiction between the principles of financial regulation and the principles of justice. In other words, if we want to insist on justice, we're going to have bad regulation, because we're going big firms, and then those firms will fail, and therefore we'll have financial crises. And so the answer is to leave the frauds in power, and not only to not prosecute them, but to make it very, very hard to take any serious enforcement action against them as well.

remainder: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12646

Russia's Pivotal Role in the Iranian Nuclear Agreement

Russia will play a major role in a deal by ensuring that Iran complies with US demands - and it has a lot of money to gain from it, says Gareth Porter, the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

- November 13, 14


Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist specializing in US foreign and military policy. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. He is the author of five books, of which the latest is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
Russia's Pivotal Role in the Iranian Nuclear AgreementSHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

As we approach the November 24 deadline for the Iran nuclear energy agreement with P5+1, the Russian cooperation of the agreement has been nailed down on the sidelines of the APEC meeting taking place in Beijing, as reported by Press TV. The U.S. lifting of sanctions and Iran's willingness to comply with the specifics hinges on the Russia.

Now joining us from Arlington, Virginia, to discuss all of this is Gareth Porter. Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. He is the author of a new book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Thanks for joining us, Gareth.

GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Hi, Sharmini. Thanks for having me.

PERIES: So, Gareth, explain the role of Russia in these discussions. And why is it so important, Russia's engagement and in?

PORTER: Well, Russia's role in the negotiations is really pivotal because of the importance of drawing down the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, that is, uranium enriched up to only 3.5 to 5 percent. And that turns out to be a key to getting a compromise between the United States and Iran, because the United States started out the negotiations demanding publicly and in a very sort of aggressive way that Iran had to reduce the number of centrifuges that it has in operation from the present level of about 10,000 to just as low as 1,000 or 1,500. And, in fact, in the first draft of the agreement, we know that the United States actually put a number (it's either 1,000 or 1,500 or both) into the actual draft text.

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