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"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." James A. Baldwin

Journal Archives

Ukraine opposition defy govt-backed amnesty bill for protesters.

Source: R T News

The Ukrainian opposition rejected an amnesty bill adopted by the parliament, which requires that protesters vacate occupied government buildings. Opposition leaders demand an unconditional amnesty and pledge to continue their protest. Once signed into law, the bill will offer blanket amnesty to all participants of anti-government rallies, with the exception of those suspected of major crimes, like murder or kidnaping. The amnesty is to come into force automatically after the general prosecutor confirms in an official statement that the protesters have ceded all government and administrative buildings in the country, as well as some streets. The latter do not include the sites of peaceful protests, like Kiev’s Independence Square and European Square. The bill sets a 15-day deadline for the opposition to meet the conditions.


“This legislation provides for steps for both the authorities and the opposition. They relinquish the seized buildings; we relinquish participants of the clashes from responsibility. It’s called compromise. But if they don’t hold their part of the obligations, the law ‘dies’ and no amnesty takes place. So of hundreds of people are punished for violating the law, the blame would be fully on [opposition leaders] Klitschko, Yatsenyuk and Tyagnibok,” explained Mikhail Chechetov, a Party of Regions MP.

But the opposition does not appear to see the deal as fair. Opposition lawmakers refused to support the draft, saying that detained protesters must be released without any preconditions. After it was passed, they said they would challenge it on procedural grounds. “The law was adopted in clear violation of parliamentary rules, it wasn’t discussed in the committee. It was absolutely illegitimate and illegal. This law shouldn’t be recognized,” said the leader of the nationalist Freedom (Svoboda) opposition party, Oleg Tyagnibok, "They are trying to make us responsible for the situation in the country."


Read more: http://rt.com/news/ukrainian-parliament-amnesty-protesters-375/

The violence and confrontation in Kiev may soon be over, but I would not bet on it. The video included with this article suggests at least some of the protesters have left Independence Square, though certainly not all of them.
Posted by another_liberal | Thu Jan 30, 2014, 08:03 AM (3 replies)

Edward Snowden nominated for Nobel peace prize

Source: The Guardian

Two Norwegian politicians say they have jointly nominated former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel peace prize. Socialist politicians Baard Vegar Solhjell, a former environment minister, and Snorre Valen said the public debate and policy changes "in the wake of Snowden's whistleblowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order".

Being nominated means Snowden will be one of scores of names that the Nobel committee will consider for the prestigious award. The five-member panel will not confirm who has been nominated but those who submit nominations sometimes make them public.

Nominators, including members of national parliaments and governments, university professors and previous laureates, must enter their submissions by 1 February. The prize committee members can add their own candidates at their first meeting after that deadline.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/29/edward-snowden-nominated-nobel-peace-prize

Take that, General Alexander!

I hope it really irritates our Spy Masters at the NSA.
Posted by another_liberal | Wed Jan 29, 2014, 08:02 AM (83 replies)

Putin: Russia ready to support Ukraine, regardless of govt

Source: R T News

Moscow is ready to support not the government of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people, President Putin said, referring to Russia’s loan to its neighboring state and its offer to reduce gas prices. No matter which government comes to power in Ukraine, Russia will not reconsider its earlier signed agreements, he told a news conference in Brussels.

"Regarding you question whether we will review our agreements on loans and the energy sector if the opposition will take power ... No, we will not," Putin told a news conference after talks with European Union leaders in Brussels. The loan and the gradual reduction of gas price were to, “support the people of Ukraine, not the government. It’s the ordinary people who always suffer."

The Russian president reiterated Moscow’s position on the situation in Ukraine, saying that the political crisis in the country should be solved without foreign interference. Putin said that Moscow believes that meddling in Ukraine’s domestic affairs is unacceptable. The international community, which has been calling on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to act in a civilized way amid the crisis, should urge the opposition to do the same, Putin added.

Read more: http://rt.com/news/putin-eu-ukraine-summit-293/

It would seem that Ukrainian President Yanukovich has just run out of friends.
Posted by another_liberal | Tue Jan 28, 2014, 03:09 PM (7 replies)

Kiev protesters seize Justice Ministry building after day of calm.

Source: R T News

Protesters in Kiev seized the Justice Ministry building near Independence Square on Sunday, following a day of calm. It comes one day after rioters seiged a convention center in the capital where police were stationed. Rioters seized the building on Sunday evening. “At 22:38 security in the building called in an attempted seizure of the building. Information was confirmed, the building remains seized,” police said, according to Unian news agency. Local media reported that no one was hurt during the seizure of the building. Following the incident, activist group Common Cause claimed responsibility for the seizure, posting a message on their Facebook page.

Ukrainian Justice Minister Elena Lukash has said she will ask the National Security and Defense Council to introduce a state of emergency if rioters do not leave the ministry building. "If the protesters do not leave the Justice Ministry building in half an hour I will ask the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to impose the state of emergency,” she told Inter TV channel. Lukash said the ministry building was captured just when the last amendments were being made to the law “On Changes to the Constitution of Ukraine” in order to return to the 2004 text of the constitution.

UDAR party leader Vitaly Klitschko has entered the building, Interfax reported. According to AFP, the group entered the building without any resistance and is currently building a system of barricades just outside the building. Common Cause is reportedly the same group that earlier occupied the Energy and Agricultural Ministries.


Read more: http://rt.com/news/ukraine-rioters-justice-ministry-226/

Some fascinating video is included with this article. It now seems clear Kiev and Ukraine as a whole may be on the brink of an explosion.
Posted by another_liberal | Mon Jan 27, 2014, 12:47 AM (25 replies)

TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes near Winnipeg.

Source: Al Jazeera America

A natural gas pipeline operated by TransCanada exploded and caught fire in a rural part of western Canadan early on Saturday, putting fresh focus on the firm's safety record ahead of a crucial White House decision over a controversial cross-border project. The explosion happened near Otterburne, Manitoba, about 15 miles south of the provincial capital, Winnipeg. The area was evacuated as a precaution, said the National Energy Board (NEB), which oversees parts of Canada's energy industry. No injuries were reported but the fire burned for more than 12 hours.

The explosion comes as some environmentalists are raising concern about the safety of TransCanada’s pipelines. The company is currently making a big lobbying push to convince the U.S. government to allow TransCanada to deliver oil from Canada’s oil sands through the United States in its controversial Keystone XL pipeline. After the explosion, pictures of balls of flames poured into Twitter and television stations. The line was shut down and depressurized to contain the fire, the NEB said, adding it would work with the federal Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause. A TransCanada spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment. About 4,000 residents and other customers may be without natural gas for at least a day, according to Manitoba Hydro, the provincial government-owned energy utility. Temperatures in the province are well below freezing.

"We could see these massive 200- to 300-meter high flames just shooting out of the ground and it literally sounded like a jet plane," said resident Paul Rawluk to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "The police were by [Highway] 59 and you could just see little cars out there and you could see in comparison how big the flame was. It was just literally 200 to 300 metres in the air. And bright, I mean lit up the sky." The incident comes as the safety record of all pipeline operators face increased scrutiny as they build infrastructure across the continent for natural gas and oil. In addition to the Keystone XL, plans are under way for construction of several export terminals on the Pacific Coast, with the aim of making Canada, the world's third largest producer of natural gas, an exporter of liquefied natural gas to Asia.

Read more: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/25/transcanada-naturalgaspipelineexpodesnearwinnipeg.html

Coming soon to a pipeline near you! Is it just me, or do these "incidents" seem to be happening more and more often? If we keep on building these accident-prone pipelines, how long will it be before we have a truly devastating accident near a major population center?
Posted by another_liberal | Sun Jan 26, 2014, 08:07 AM (33 replies)

Ukraine anti-government protesters try to seize energy ministry in Kiev.

Source: The Guardian

Ukrainian anti-government protesters have tried to seize the energy ministry in Kiev and detained two policemen, according to the government. Eduard Stavytsky, the energy minister, said he had confronted about 100 protesters on Saturday and warned them that Ukraine's energy system would collapse if they occupied the ministry. The protesters left the building and blocked roads outside. The interior ministry said protesters had captured two of its officers and detained them in the Kiev city administration building which has been occupied by demonstrators for nearly two months. Although the protesters have denied the ministry's claim, officials warned that police could storm the city hall to free them. The ministry added that another officer who had been injured while being seized by protesters had been released and was hospitalised in serious condition.

On Friday, Viktor Yanukovych, the president, said he would reshuffle the government and modify draconian laws against demonstrations. But the key demand, for early parliamentary and presidential elections, does not appear to be on the table, nor is there any suggestion that the president is ready to sack his hardline prime minister, Mykola Azarov.

In central Kiev, anti-government activists who occupied another government building overnight were unimpressed with the concessions. At the barricades near Dynamo Kiev's ground, the Olympic stadium, protesters resumed their assault on police lines overnight, with barricades of burning tyres lit and projectiles fired at riot police using a giant catapult. The police doused the fires with water cannon but were not responding with force. The majority of those at the barricade during the night were the hardcore of the protest movement, dressed in combat fatigues and ready for violence.


Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/25/ukraine-protesters-seize-energy-ministry-kiev

The protesters seized the Ukrainian National Energy Ministry in the middle of Winter? It may not be a civil war, but this is getting pretty close to an actual rebellion at least.
Posted by another_liberal | Sat Jan 25, 2014, 08:21 AM (0 replies)

US hints at Edward Snowden plea bargain to allow return from Russia.

Source: The Guardian

The attorney general, Eric Holder, has indicated that the US could allow the national security whistleblower Edward Snowden to return from Russia under negotiated terms, saying he was prepared to “engage in conversation” with him. Holder said in an MSNBC interview that full clemency would be “going too far”, but his comments suggest that US authorities are prepared to discuss a possible plea bargain with Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia.

Snowden, who took part in a live webchat at about the same time Holder’s remarks were made public, defended his leaks, saying weak whistleblower protection laws prevented him from raising his concerns through formal channels. “If we had ... a real process in place, and reports of wrongdoing could be taken to real, independent arbiters rather than captured officials, I might not have had to sacrifice so much to do what at this point even the president seems to agree needed to be done,” Snowden said.

He gave no indication in the live chat whether he would consider any plea bargain or negotiated return to the US. Asked under what conditions he would return to his native country, Snowden replied: "Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself."


Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/23/edward-snowden-nsa-plea-bargain-russia

That didn't take long! The Feds are already starting to cave.

Hurry home, Mr. Snowden. There are a great many of us waiting to welcome you as our hero.
Posted by another_liberal | Thu Jan 23, 2014, 11:16 PM (156 replies)

Syria peace talks: little sign of deal as Assad government and rebels meet.

Source: The Guardian

Long-awaited direct peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad get under way on Friday morning, with Damascus insisting on ending "terrorism" before seeking a political solution to end nearly three years of war and misery. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met both sides separately in Geneva on Thursday to iron out procedural issues before a first round of talks at the Palais des Nations.

The talks are due to carry on from where Wednesday's 40-nation international conference in nearby Montreux left off. They will be the first direct contact between the Syrian parties to the conflict since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011. An estimated 130,000 people have been killed since then, two million Syrians have fled abroad and nine million in all are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Angry remarks in Montreux by Walid al-Muallem, Syria's foreign minister and head of its negotiating team, left the western-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) claiming that it alone was committed to the 2012 agreement – known as Geneva I – to create a "transitional governing body." Assad, president since succeeding his father in 2000, has insisted repeatedly that he will not step down. The opposition says he must go. Brahimi's problem is how to square that circle..


Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/23/syria-peace-talks-bashar-al-assad-rebels

It would appear there is still lack of agreement on anything. Nonetheless, the two sides (are there just two) will talk to each other. That alone is quite an accomplishment for the organizers of this peace conference.
Posted by another_liberal | Thu Jan 23, 2014, 05:37 PM (6 replies)

"Analysis: Syria's Assad enters talks in strong position."

This is an opinion piece I found on Al Jazeera America. It's author gives the Assad government a surprisingly good chance to come out on top in the Geneva talks which have just begun today. One may or may not agree with this assessment, but it is the kind of information and point of view we in the West rarely see:

As representatives of Syria's Assad regime and some of its opponents sit down Wednesday for their first direct negotiations since the Syrian rebellion began nearly three years ago, the grim reality facing the opposition is this: President Bashar al-Assad comes to the negotiating table in Switzerland apparently stronger today than at any time in the last two years. Thus his cavalier tone ahead of the talks, dismissing opposition representatives as a “joke” and brushing off U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s and the opposition’s demand that he relinquish power and accept a “transitional governing body.” Instead, Assad maintains, Syria will hold elections this year, and “I see no reason why I shouldn’t stand.” Understanding why Assad’s regime survives more than two years after then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it a “dead man walking” is critical for gauging the outcome of the Geneva II talks.

The regime's resilience is based, first and foremost, on the Syrian army. Without its loyalty, Assad would likely have fallen as quickly as Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak did in 2011. But while many soldiers and officers did join the rebellion, most did so as individuals; few entire units defected, and no entire divisions did. Structurally, the military held together, and it was able to replenish its ranks through intensive recruitment among the Alawite minority, where many are loyal to the regime and still more live in mortal fear of sectarian retribution at the hands of the Sunni-led armed rebellion. The same factors allowed the military to expand its capabilities through the paramilitary Popular Committees, often called shabiha. And it has also been able to enlist the support in critical battles of units of the Shia Hezbollah militia from neighboring Lebanon, whose leaders recognize that their own military fortunes depend on maintaining the resupply lines that the Assad regime has long provided.

Just as important as the military’s loyalty to the regime have been its superior armaments. Even if rebel fighters, who number well in excess of 100,000 by most estimates, outnumber the Syrian army, in any battle for territory they are often little match for the army’s dramatic technological and organizational advantage. Rebel militias have no answer for the artillery, armor and airpower of the Syrian military. Perhaps even more important, the rebels have no central command. And it is difficult to imagine, today, how the rebels could plausibly overcome these disadvantages.

Read more at: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/23/why-syria-s-assadapproachesgenevafromapositionofstrength.html
Posted by another_liberal | Wed Jan 22, 2014, 02:32 PM (5 replies)

Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists impose Islamic rules, ban music, shisha in Syrian province.

Source: R T News

An Al-Qaeda-linked group has issued new decrees restricting the personal freedoms of the Syrians in the areas under its control in Raqqa province. New laws prohibit music and smoking cigarettes and shisha. Violators will be “punished by sharia law.” The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated as ISIS or ISIL) has issued four statements that decree new laws on Monday. The new laws come into force three days later, the group said, i.e. January 23.

Starting on that day, women are obliged to wear the niqab, or full face veil, and cover their hands with gloves. They will also not be allowed in public without a male guardian. Walking late at night will also be prohibited for the women of Raqqa, the first and only city to have fallen completely under the jihadist group’s control. “Any sister who does not comply with this moral code will be punished by the rules of sharia, her male guardian will also be punished,” reads the statement, cited by the Syrian Observatory of Human rights.

In its second statement, the jihadist group has also prohibited music from being played in public and photographs of people being posted in shop windows.


Read more: http://rt.com/news/jihadists-sharia-law-syria-980/

". . . her male guardian will also be punished."

I guess that translates to: "Keep your women in line, or you'll get the worst of it."
Posted by another_liberal | Tue Jan 21, 2014, 05:35 PM (24 replies)
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