May 2011

May 1  Osama bin Laden is shot dead in a raid by US Navy Seals and his body buried at sea – the end of the war he declared against the United States in 1996. Bin Laden was fifty-four.

May 2  Lara Logan, 40 years-old and a 60 Minutes correspondent, breaks her silence on her ordeal in Egypt on the night of celebration over Mubarak's resignation, in early February. After her crew's camera battery "went down" someone said, "Let's take her pants off." Young men started grabbing at her. Then someone shouted that she was an Israeli, a Jew and the "assault turned into a murderous fury." Dragged along the ground, pummeled, beaten, naked and her muscles torn, after something like 20 minutes the mob ran into a fence and into some Egyptian women. A woman dressed head to toe in black, with only her eyes showing, threw herself onto Logan as protection. Logan: "And oh my God, I can't tell you what that moment was like for me. I wasn't safe yet, because the mob was still trying to get at me. But now it wasn't just about me anymore. It was about their women and that was what saved me, I think."

May 3  In Canada's elections yesterday, the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won a majority of seats in parliament: 167. The New Democratic Party (NDP) climbs to second place with 102 seats, and the Liberals fall to third place with 34. Seats for the French separatist party, Bloc Quebecois, drop from 47 to 4. In the election campaigning, Prime Minister Harper made no promise to change course by abolishing Canada's national health system. Harper is talking about lowering taxes, but his tax policies have been high enough to put Canada's revenues for the year 2010 at 45.8% of its GDP (above Australia and just below Germany) compared to 14% for the United States.

May 4  In wake of the discovery of where Bin Laden had been hiding, India's government expresses concern that perpetrators of the horrific attacks in the city of Mumbai in November 2008 "continue to be sheltered" in Pakistan. And in the US Senate, relations with Pakistan is being questioned.

May 4  Among the people who welcome the passing of Bin Laden, expressed at, a dissenter suggests that the US is controlling the world with a power that is Satanic. He complains that Bin Laden was a hero "until he started disobeying the masters (USA)." He asks, "What kind of memory people have these days?" In the US, meanwhile, an awareness of the limits of US power has been growing, and that awareness is not diminished by the killing of Bin Laden. What has increased are calls to get out of Afghanistan sooner.

May 5  UN human rights chief Navi Pillay accuses Bahrain of not maintaining its international human rights obligations. She describes as "absolutely unacceptable" death sentences imposed by military courts in Bahrain as well as military trials for civilian activists. Bahraini authorities are putting 47 doctors and nurses on trial in a mililtary court, accusing the doctors and nurses of having taken part in anti-regime protests while treating the injured.

May 5  In Egypt, President Mubarak's notorious former security chief, Habib al-Adly, is sentenced to twelve years in jail on charges of money-laundering and profiteering.

May 5  Twitter again demonstrates its capabilities. Shortly before the assault on Bin Laden, a tweet by Sohaib Athar from Abbottabad, Pakistan, told the world that a helicopter was hovering overhead and that it might not be a Pakistani aircraft.

May 6  It's Friday protest day in several cities in Syria. Six people are reported shot: five in Homs and one in Hama.

May 6  Brazil's Supreme Court rules in favor of legal rights for persons in homosexual unions the same rights as those for married heterosexuals.

May 6  In Russia, Nikita Tikhonov is declared guilty of having murdered a journalist and a lawyer. The murdered journalist, Anastasia Baburova, was writing articles that super-patriots like Tikhonov disliked.

May 7  Dr Alia Brahimi, of Oxford and other universities, writes in Al Jazeera that with the death of Bin Laden, al-Qaeda will continue its "descent into nihilistic chaos," dividing into little groupings that will annoy Muslim majorities. She writes that Bin Laden's focus of purpose – defending Islam against the West, however delusional – will dissipate further. She describes al-Qaeda as its own worst enemy, suggesting that Muslims will play a significant role in the demise of a movement.

May 9  Britain to release papers revealing a "guilty secret" about the use of torture against Kenyan rebels during their independence uprising of 1952-59.

May 10  Some people to the right-of-center are celebrating enhanced interrogation (torture), believing that Bin Laden would not or could not have been found without it. And they are criticizing President Obama for not celebrating it as vehemently as they. Some are asking why "enhanced interrogation" is worse than shooting Bin Laden in the head – despite the US having a history of killing the enemy in warfare but not approving the use of torture in warfare.

May 10   At the Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes of "The Myth of American Exceptionalism." He describes it as part of a "culture of smugness" that holds to the notion that the US alone among nations "is beloved of God" – as if God takes an interest in international political boundaries. Cohen faults various leading Republicans for invoking this brand of exceptionalism.

May 10  Despite NATO airpower, the siege of Misrata, Libya's third largest city, continues. Fighting there has been taking place since late February. A tenuous life-line for the city remains from its sea port.

May 11  A turning point in Libya: Qaddafi's forces have been ousted from Misrata's airport, opening another link to the outside world.

May 12  US Senator John McCain, describes waterboarding interrogations as torture and says, "As such, they are prohibited by American laws and values, and I oppose them." He adds that CIA Director Leon Panetta told him the following: "The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times."

May 12  Argentine authorities have arrested three former policemen accused of having participated in throwing a nun, Leonie Duque, and a rights activist, Azucena Villaflor, from an airplane over the ocean in 1977. The military dictatorship under Jorge Videla wanted Argentina protected from these two peaceful political opponents. Writes the BBC: "Hundreds of political prisoners are known to have died this way."

May 13  It is Friday and people are in the streets in Syria, raising their arms and fists and chanting. The dictator Assad has mustered his generosity and announced that there will be no shooting at demonstrators and that anybody who does will be severely punished. Three are reported dead in the city of Homs, where security forces opened fire on demonstrators. No reports, meanwhile, of protests today in Bahrain. Al Jazeera describes the Bahraini government as having destroyed 28 mosques and Shia religious instituions since the crackdown on Shia-led protests began in Mid-March. Bahrain's Justice Ministry announces that the mosques were torn down because they were not licenced.

May 14  Syrian officials announce that troops and tanks are being pulled out of the cities of Baniyas and Daraa. Dictatorships need at least a cowed and cooperative populace, and after having failed to achieve this by military force and having created more intense hostility toward it, the Assad regime tries another move. It announces that next week a "comprehensive national dialogue" will begin in all provinces.

May 16  The International Criminal Court is seeking the arrest of Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity. Gaddafi's deputy Foreign Minister, Khalid Kaim, has responded with the announcement that Libya does not recognise that court's jurisdiction – like most African countries and the United States.

May 16  In Zurich, Switzerland, approximately 85% of votes cast oppose a proposed ban on assisted suicide, and 78% oppose forbidding the service to foreigners.

May 17  In Pakistan, the Saudi embassy has been attacked by grenades and an employee of the embassy has been shot to death while driving his car. Al-Qaeda is known to be hostile to Saudi Arabia and on a rampage against the death of Osama bin Laden. Saudis are describing Pakistan as a chaotic country. A Saudi complains that, "Many more will be killed by the extremists in the name of religion." Another describes Pakistan as "the most dangerous place on earth" and is "sitting on a live bomb ready to explode any time." Meanwhile, Pakistan's parliament has condemned the US attack on Bin Laden and drone incursions into Pakistan and is reviewing its relationship with the United States. And Pakistan's prime minister hails China as his country's "best and most trusted friend."

May 18  In Uganda, rights groups criticize the police crackdown on protests. At least nine people have been killed. Ugandan journalists have been arrested and denied bail. President Yoweri Museveni criticizes the BBC and Al-Jazeera for inciting the protests. Museveni has been president since early 1986. In the 1990s he was lauded as one of a new generation of African leaders. In February he was re-elected with 68% of the vote. His opponent in that election, Dr Besigye, was one of the injured protesters. Museveni claims that he had "violently resisted arrest." Dr Besigye says he was cheated in February's election.

May 19  In Syria, President Assad says that his security services made some mistakes in handling demonstrations and that the "crisis" is over. The United States puts santions on Assad and six other senior Syrian officials – a symbolic move because these people have no assets in the United States. The Assad regime describes the sanctions as "serving Israeli interests."

May 19  In Misrata it's been three days since a bombardment by Gaddafi forces have hit the city. City defenders have pushed Gaddafi forces out of range. Supplies are arriving from Benghazi. The city is in a celebratory mood and congratulating their grinning armed fighters. In the east, meanwhile, anti-Gaddafi forces are gathering to move westward to Brega.

May 20  Research in the United States by evolutionary theorist Michale Lynch of Indiana University working with Ariel Fernandez of the University of Chicago finds a form of biological change heretofore unknown. This change takes place in proteins within a cell – in a region called dehydrons that becomes unstable in a watery environment. With this instability, "sticky" proteins are more likely to work together in building more complex networks of gene and protein interractions.

May 20  President Obama announces support for transitions to democracy in the Middle East. He scolds Bahrain and Syria's Bashar Assad and calls for a settlement with the Palestinians that includes land swaps and a return to 1967 borders. Israel's president, Netanhayu, is reported to be furious. Some Arabs see Obama's announcement as weak and ask why he does not support a UN resolution to that effect and against Israeli expansions – a move by Obama that would be counter to his declaration of friendship with Israel. Meanwhile it's Friday: more demonstrations in Syria and more deaths.

May 21  The report is out on the mine explosion that trapped and killed twenty-nine coal miners in West Virginia in April, 2010. The report faulted the mine owner, Massey Energy corporation, and found the US Mine Safety and Health Administration lax in its oversight and that it "failed its duty as the watchdog for coal miners." (Reported in detail on the News Hour on May 19, 2010)

May 23  The Australian Climate Commission complains that climate science is being attacked in the media by people with no credentials in the field – people questioning that human emissions are causing global warming. Australia is one of the highest per capita carbon emitters, and the government seeks public support for its proposed carbon tax.

May 23  In Spain, young leftist radicals, conservatives and others, including Basque and perhaps Catalan nationalists, are blaming Prime Minister Zapatero's "socialist" People's Party for three-years of economic crisis and 21% unemployment. In yesterday's parliamentary elections the People's Party suffered a substantial defeat. Zapatero has been pursuing unpopular austerity measures to combat Spain's debt problem, and his party's loss causes credit worries and Spanish bonds to fall.

May 24  Geometric logic is believed by some to have been a Western invention. A study of a tribe in the Amazon, the Mundurucu, reveals an intelligence about lines, points and angles on a plane and a spherical surface that is no less than that of French and US school children.

May 24  Syria's foreign minister describes the European Union's sanctions against the murderous dictator Bashar Assad as harmful to the Syrian people and as "a black page to their [Europe's] record of colonialism in the region." (French colonialism in Syria ended in 1946.)

May 25  Evangelical broadcaster, Harold Camping, postpones the Apocalypse date to October 21. He explains that it didn't come on the 21st of this month because he "miscalculated," suggesting a math problem rather than the usual misuse of metaphor and analogy. He says it has now "dawned" on him that God would spare humanity "hell on Earth for five months." Obviously he still believes that he can know God's mind – an ability claimed by many around the world, including some casting scorn upon him.

May 26  Another super-nationalist hater meets his come-uppance. The fugitive former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, is arrested in Serbia. He hated the Ottoman Turk 500-year occupation of Serbia. That ended in the 1800s. But Mladic failed to let go of the past and despised Bosnian Muslims as Turks for their progenitors having converted to Islam. General Mladic is now on his way to the International Criminal Tribunal in the Netherlands where he faces the charge of massacring at least 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

May 27  A planned protest packs Cairo's Tahrir square for "a Day of Anger." Protesters say they want a faster pace of democratic reforms, and there are expressions of fear that former president Mubarak and his family will be pardoned.

May 28  In Syria, eight more protesters are reported as having been shot and killed yesterday. Also yesterday a few hundred more were born than died, and a few hundred young people grew old enough for political action. A broad section of the public will continue to hate the Assad regime. Even authoritarians need broad support – church authoritarians and political authoritarians. Genghis Khan had the support of his fellow Mongols, and people centuries ago believed in their monarch and looked to him or her for help. Bashar Assad will never be able to rule without brutality. You are watching the Assad family destroy itself.

May 29  Computers and automation have eliminated a lot of jobs for Americans. So too have companies sending jobs overseas. A lot of recent college grads are unemployed or not working at a job that has anything to do with a college education. Many people can only find part-time work. A not uncommon ideological response to under-employment could be seen a couple of days ago expressed by Dennis Miller on Bill O'Reilly's "No Spin Zone." Miller thinks that the government is taking too much of his money. He repeated his mantra: "Help the helpless; forget the clueless." He proclaimed a Darwinian survival of the fittest solution to unemployment. O'Reilly appeared delighted. In 2008, Miller looked for a presidential candidate, gathered his clues and supported Rudy Giulani.

May 31  Civil war continues in Yemen. More than 50 killed during demonstrations in the city of Taiz after protest leaders warn followers not to "fall into the trap of violence."

May 31  Social change continues in Saudi Arabia as authorities release Manal Al-Sharif, 32, jailed on May 21 for violating the ban on women driving cars.

May 31  In Greece, conservative political leader Antonis Samaras has said that the government's new austerity plan would "flatten the Greek economy and destroy Greek society". The prime minister, Papandreou, a socialist, has been trying to gain a cross-party agreement for further spending cuts. Despite this, reports that Germany will make concessions to facilitate a new aid package for Greece sends the euro up against the dollar, which makes oil higher in the United States.

to April 2011 | to June 2011

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