April 2011

Map of Syria

Map of Syria

map of Libya

Map of Libya

Apr 1  Japan's government continues to monitor radiation levels, and despite new radiation data it says it has no plans to widen the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 atomic power plant. Yesterday the level of radioactive iodine-131 in seawater near the plant was measured at 4,385 times the maximum tolerable level. This is iodine-131 radiation, which has a half-life of eight days. Concentrations of cesium 137 radiation are also leaking from the plant, and experts say that releases from the plant could continue for months. Meanwhile the increase in radiation that has appeared in milk in the United States is said to be within the tolerable radiation levels that people are continuously exposed to every day.

Apr 1  The Arab League declares its support for anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya. Qatar agrees to market oil from anti-Gaddafi eastern Libya. A Facebook page titled "Support Muammar al Gaddafi from the people of Serbia" has attracted more than 65,000 supporters. Their yardstick for measuring the conflict in Libya appears to be their dislike for the NATO air campaign that they experienced in 1999.

Apr 1  It's Friday, with huge protest demonstrations across Yemen and Syria. In Syria people again are shouting for "freedom." Four demonstrators are reported dead after security forces fired upon demonstrators in a Damascus suburb.

Apr 2  In northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif, some join those Muslims who have yet to come to terms with the fact that some people in the world dislike their religion – as people with grown-up attitudes elsewhere have. Yesterday a crowd of a thousand or so Muslims, outraged after being told by an imam in a Friday sermon about the burning of a Koran by a pastor in the United States a month ago, stormed a UN compound and killed at least 7 UN workers. The not-so-grown-up American pastor, the imam and his murderous mob all believed they were combating evil.

Apr 2  Today in Kandahar a crowd surged through the streets chanting "They have insulted our Koran." They were only a few people around one pastor largely disrespected in the United States, but the crowd extended they to the whole of the United States with the words "Death to America." The crowd rampaged and nine people died.

Apr 2  Seven New York Times reporters speak of their ordeal while captives of Gaddafi forces. In the back of a pickup truck in the city of Surt they were exposed to people who attacked them physically and called them Al Qaeda and dogs – more of the small-minded passionate demonization common to conflicts. Surt is Gaddafi's hometown and reported to be largely pro-Gaddafi. And what's with the disrespect for dogs?

Apr 3  Norman Benotman, Libya's former al-Qaeda associate of bin Laden, tells Fareed Zakaria of CNN that al-Qaeda and jihadists on the anti-Gaddafi side in Libya are "insignificant." They are there of course, he says, and anti-Qaddafi, but they are not organized into a coherent group and will not give direction to the anti-Gaddafi movement. The anti-Gaddafi movement, he says, is led and supported by men with an agenda that is friendly to the West and "based on a free democratic society." Meanwhile a few people (Richard Haaas among them) are looking for a ceasefire in Libya that works, for negotiations and for the Gaddafi regime to transform itself – again – in order to survive. Others insist that Gaddafi must go.

Apr 3  In the Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the results of an election for president in late November is being decided by a civil war. The United Nations has declared the challenger, Alassane Ouattara, the winner. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to leave and has ordered UN peace keepers out of the country. Forces supporting Ouattara have swept down from the north and surround Gdagbo's forces around the city of Abidjan – on the coast in the south. According to the UN, almost 500 people have been killed and a million have fled their homes. Gbagbo is a former history teacher who fought and was imprisoned for the sake of democracy. Ouattara acquired a doctorate in economics in 1972 from the University of Pennsylvania.

Apr 4  According to the Norway Post, the number of offences reported to the police in Norway is lowest in 20 years. One in five of those offenses occurs in the capital, Oslo, which has one-tenth of Norway's population. Norway enjoys less crime than most countries. Statistics held by the UN for the years 1998-2000 has Norway at 2.6 criminal prosecutions per 1,000 population compared to 48 per 1,000 for the US, 11.5 for Canada, 6.8 for Germany and 1.1 per 1,000 for Japan. (Stats available at Nationmaster.com)

Apr 4  A Turkish hospital ship rescues 250 injured people from the besieged city of Misrata and takes them to the anti-Gaddafi city of Benghazi.

Apr 5  Qatar's English daily, the Peninsula, describes an increase in speculation in the oil futures market. Among the players are Barkleys, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. They are "leading the charge into oil but, in addition, several secretive hedge funds are now wagering hundreds of millions of dollars every day in the oil market and reaping the dividends." More speculators in the market are driving up the price of oil futures, and the rulers of oil exporting countries, perhaps Qatar but definitely Saudi Arabia, dislike being blamed for rises in oil prices.

Apr 5  Around 250 students demonstrating at Kabul University in Afghanistan shout "Death to America," regarding the burning of a Koran. They are angry about disrespect for Islam while feeding that disrespect and the argument that Islam is a religion that encourages violence.

Apr 6  Photos found by journalists in a burned-out police station in Zawiyah (50 km west of Tripoli) show death and torture of persons detained. (Reported by the New York Times.) Gaddafi's son, Saif, has portrayed himself as anti-torture.

Apr 6  The violence in Yemen continues. Eighteen are reported killed since the day before yesterday. Today, fighting is reported between tribesmen loyal to President Saleh and soldiers on the side of anti-Saleh demonstrators.

Apr 7  At the OPEC meeting in Paris, the United Arab Emirates oil minister, al-Hamli, claims that oil prices have been rising because of speculators rather than any shortage of supply.

Apr 8   Tea Party Republicans in Washington DC have been saying that elections in 2010 made them the representatives of "the people" and that they will pursue the people's agenda. President Obama and other Democrats in government represent the opinions of enough people to argue that compromise is in order to keep the government doing its business. The Democrats have agreed to the Republican proposal to cut $33 billion from the federal budget, but the Republicans have upped that to $61 billion and insist on cutting social programs they dislike. If an agreement is not made by the end of today the government will shut down. 9:15 PM EDT, no deal yet, and Michele Bachmann, Tea Party congresswoman, tells Wolf Bltizer of CNN she will not vote for a compromise deal that keeps Obama care. At 11PM, an agreement is made – ignoring social issues for now – to cut $38 billion from spending for the year to September 30.

Apr 10  In Bahrain, Shia are being described by defenders of the status quo as lazy, ungrateful, sexually odious and as traitors lacking intelligence and education. The Shia are also accused of having conspired with Americans to kill Saddam Hussein (a Sunni) and take over Iraq. All this described here.

Apr 11  Reports on Bahrain describe a brutally repressive regime that has turned the country into an island of fear. (See Bahrain profile news.)

Apr 12  The United Arab Emirates joins Bahrain and Syria in oppression. It has arrested activists whose only crime has been calling for reforms.

Apr 12  In the Ivory Coast yesterday, former President Gbagbo was arrested by French forces working with the United Nations. Gbagbo created an insurrection against the election of his successor, Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo was slow to recognize defeat, and some are still fighting on his behalf. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced her support of Gbagbo's arrest.

Apr 12  China's ministry of health takes moves to curb the overuse of antibiotics that is contributing to evolving micro-organism immunity to medicine. According to China Daily, 80 percent of antibiotics being used in mainland China are "unnecessary." The charge is being made that some of the overuse is encouraged by monetary profit.

Apr 13  In Syria, hundreds have been arrested, and troops continue to encircle the city of Baniyas. There, four people wree shot and killed on the weekend, and 28 people were killed on Friday (the 8th) in Daraa. Witnesses have told al-Jazeera that soldiers have been shot for refusing to fire on protesters – while the government complains that its soldiers have been fired upon. But mass defections by soldiers appear unlikely, as does the rise of urban guerrilla armies. Non-violent protests appear powerless, and oppression appears to be the future for Syria.

Apr 13  Mmebutterfly1 offers a variety of sources on interesting developments in Libya, including "Gaddafi's Men Shooting Down Balloons in Tripoli."

Apr 14  In Japan, the nuclear crisis has been upgraded to level-7 radiation risk. As stated in an Associated Press article in the Japan Times today, Japan's crisis in not as bad as Chernobyl because it is slower moving. According to the Japanese government, Fukushima's radiation leaks are still one-tenth of those released by Chernobyl. The heaviest radiation leaks at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex occurred in the first days of the crisis. An article at Nature.com: "How Fukushima is and isn't like Chernobyl."

Apr 15  In the US the argument exists that taxes on the wealthy should not be raised even a tiny bit in order to keep US companies competitive. Meanwhile, Sweden's knowledge-intensive industries, taking advantage of the country's advanced technological development, sophisticated infrastructure and high general educational level, is competing well, thank you, despite high personal taxes. Personal taxes are higher also in Norway and Germany than they are in the United States, and their companies are also competing well. Corporate taxes are something else. Corporate tax rates differ only slightly in these countries, with Sweden and Norway at 28% and Germany at 25%. The US corporate tax rate is higher. The liberal economist Laura Tyson has written that "In today's world of mobile capital, increasing the corporate tax rate would be a bad way to generate revenues for deficit reduction." But raising personal income taxes on the wealthy is something else.

Apr 17  In Yemen, for the second day, thousands of Yemeni march against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's claim that women protesting against his regime were violating Islamic prohibitions against women mixing with men who are not direct relatives. He told the women to stay home. Also today, in the capital city the army fires again on anti-government protesters. Ten are reported injured.

Apr 17  In Syria more widespread protests and three more reported shot and killed – while President Assad tries to apply a little of the liberalism he acquired from the British, including his wife.

Apr 17  In Cuba at a Communist Party congress, President Raul Castro proposes term limits in an effort to advance politics and Cuba's Communist Party The limits he says would also apply to him.

Apr 18  Representative Joe Walsh from Illinois repeated what has become a Republican credo. Yesterday he could be seen on ABC's This Week stating:. "Every time we cut taxes, revenues have gone up. President Obama claims this is not true. Others point out that the credo is patently false and qualifies as unexamined dogma. The well known economist Nouriel Roubini calls it a religion. Talk show commentator Rush Limbaugh, whom some describe as the Republican Party's intellectual guide, sides with Joe Walsh and has been hammering away on the issue for months – along with describing progressive taxation (against the wealthy) as robbing working people and subsidizing the lazy.

Apr 18  Britain has a budget problem greater than the United States. Conservative members of parliament complain about the Labour Party budget adding to the national debt – which has been worse in Britain than in the United States. Jobs in Britain is also an issue, but conservatives there are different from conservatives in the United States. No British equivalent to Rush Limbaugh exists. British conservatives still talk of keeping taxes down but talk also of promoting economic growth and jobs by investments, including investing in housing to help families get on the housing ladder. Meanwhile, Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, continues to fight for a balanced budget and has ruled out tax cuts to that end.

Apr 18  In the US many working poor are trapped into giving a lot of rent money to landlords rather than putting that money into a mortgage on their own home – despite low mortgage rates and home prices having fallen.

Apr 19  Syria lifts the emergency law that has been in place for 48 years. Peaceful protests are now to be allowed and arbitrary detentions – arrests without a charge – are supposed to end. Early this morning in the city of Homs thousands of demonstrators sitting-in at the city square were fired upon and dispersed. They have been accused of participating in armed insurrection....... 2:30 PM EDT, regime hypocrisy as one hand giveth and the other taketh away: The interior minister calls on people "to refrain from taking part in all marches, demonstrations or sit-ins under any banner whatsoever." He warns that if demonstrations are held, "the laws in force in Syria will be applied in the interest of the safety of the people and the stability of the country."

Apr 20  In Syria, the tactic of appeasing the demonstrators by ending the emergency laws is failing to give people the sense that they have won something. Syrian authorities are not that talented politically – as they continue their oppression. Today in Homs the regime arrests a protest leader, Mahmoud Issa. Homs is still mourning its dead, and it is preparing for a three-day strike.

Apr 21  In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan addresses the nation and speaks against "horrific acts" that killed and maimed innocent citizens. "They set ablaze business premises, private homes and even places of worship," he said. Jonathan is a southerner and a Christian. The tradition has been to rotate between a Christian president and a Muslim president and Jonathan had served as president since February 2010, elevated from the vice-presidency after the illness and death of the Muslim president. Jonathan and those giving him a winning margin in the election last week believe that he deserves a full term before the next rotation. In north of the country, where Muslims dominate, some chose to express their lack of generosity on the election issue by resorting to rampage. The Red Cross estimates that 48,000 people have fled from the violence.

Apr 22 The request has been made that Syria's government show its good intentions by allowing protests to proceed without violent repression. Following Friday prayers, demonstrations again erupt across Syria, and government goon squads in various cities again shoot at protesters. Later today: 88 reported killed. (Murderous authoritarianism was defeated in Europe decades ago. It still thrives in the Middle East.)

Apr 25  Yesterday on CNN, Paul O'Neill, US Secretary of the Treasury in 2001 and 2002, told Fareed Zakaria that we should "get rid of individual income taxes and corporate income taxes and payroll taxes and replace it all with a value-added tax." This is a tax on consumption. Rich people buying things rather than investing would be paying their share of taxes. They buy more, they pay more. O'Neilll claims that "It would no longer make any sense for lobbyists to go to Washington to lobby for beneficial things for their interest groups in the tax code." Right now, he adds, hundreds of billions would be saved that goes to administer the present system that misses hundreds of billions more because the present tax code is "incomprehensible and unenforceable."

Apr 25  In Syria, tanks roll into Daraa. More people die. Around the world are people who are outraged. Tweets on Syria jump to new highs.

Apr 26  The Assad regime claims that its army was invited to Daraa by citizens to hunt "extremist terrorist groups." Rather than a careful police operation, eight tanks and a claim of between 4,000 and 6,000 troops came to the town of 70,000 before dawn. Writes Anthony Shadid of the New York Times: "Water, electricity and phone lines were cut, making firsthand accounts difficult and the numbers impossible to verify, and nearby border crossings with Jordan were reported sealed. Snipers took positions on the roofs of mosques, residents said, and a mix of soldiers and armed irregular forces went house to house to search for protesters."

Apr 27  What, me intolerant of criticism? Malawi orders Britain's high commissioner out of the country for saying in private that President Bigu wa Mutharika does not tolerate criticism.

Apr 27  A scientific study declares what should be obvious: that a low IQ score could be the result of low motivation, low intelligence or both. The study finds that Incentives increase IQ scores – not that kids taking SAT tests lack motivation. That sweet passivity and lack of cognitive aggressiveness might account for some girls not being as bright as they could be appears not to have been addressed.

Apr 28  Posturing against "outside interference" in Syria, yesterday Russia and China stopped a Security Council resolution condemning Syria's violence against peaceful protesters. The US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal expressed their outrage at Syria's crackdown.

Apr 29  Robert Kagan criticizes "pragmatists" and complains that "The Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt today because Mubarak crushed the moderate, secular opposition. And we let him."

Apr 29  Today is Friday and a "Day of Rage" in Syria. Syria's exiled Muslim Brotherhood calls on Syrians with the words, "You were born free, so don't let the tyrant enslave you." Across Syria, government forces kill at least sixty-two.

Apr 29  England is jolly, as is the entire United Kingdom and Commonwealth, as Prince William of Wales marries Catherine Middleton.

Apr 30  The US dollar drops in value and therefore gasoline costs more in the United States. The dollar has declined for eight consecutive days. Investors are chasing higher returns. The economist Stephen King tells Bloomberg news: "If the Fed is keeping rates very, very low for a long period of time, it just makes the dollar less and less attractive."

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Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.