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October 2011

Oct 1  Analysts express concern that the revolt in Syria, which began peacefully six months ago, is evolving into an armed conflict. According to state media, government forces have taken control of the town of Rastan after days of fighting against defectors who joined rather than fire upon the protesters. Deserters have been described as forming their own units around Rastan. However pacifistic the analysts and some of the protesters, the deserters are criminals in the eyes of the Assad dictatorship, and they appear not inclined toward begging helplessly for regime change as do some others.

Oct 2  The logic of Assad's continuing violence against protesters plays out – different from events in Morocco, where protesters were not fired upon. According to Anthony Shadid of the New York Times, in Syria's third largest city, Homs, "The semblance of a civil war has erupted." There, armed protesters call themselves revolutionaries and gun battles erupt every few hours.

Oct 4  India's Supreme Court has ruled that the government's fiscal constraints cannot apply to its school meal program. The court has ruled that children have a right to food. Despite this program, according to a report yesterday on the News Hour, malnutrition "remains the root cause of 2,500 child deaths in India every day."

Oct 5  Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council regarding sanctions against the Assad regime reduce hope of a peaceful road to democracy in Syria. Western diplomats are angry at Russia and China. US Ambassador Susan Rice speaks of Russia and China having "to answer to the Syrian people." Russian and Chinese flags are being burned in Syria. Meanwhile Turkey continues its embargo and is moving toward greater conflict with Syria as civil war in Syria begins. Rebels using arms to defend their dignity and their lives will be fighting from centers too numerous for the Assad regime to control.

Oct 6  "What is important is, how do we get the productive parts of America working harder, with greater exports, with more investment, in the things that will grow the economy? That's the only conversation that matters. Everything else solves itself with growth." So says Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. in other words, paying off the debt and more jobs will come with growth.

Oct 8  Yesterday across Syria were more peaceful demonstrations following Friday prayers, and we have news of at least eight of the demonstrators shot dead. Today's news describes security forces killing several people at the funeral in the town of Qamishii (in the northeast) for the murdered Kurd leader Mishall al-Temmo. Yesterday al Jazzeera reported that an army colonel, Riad al-Asaad, has taken refuge in Turkey and has established the "Syrian Free Army". And yesterday Russia's President Medvedev sent a message to the Bashar al-Assad that he must reform or go – as more Russian flags were burned by protesters.

Oct 9  Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni describes uprisings in the Middle East as an "Islamic awakening" and predicts that the uprisings will follow the path Iran took with its 1979 revolution. Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan instead is supporting secular democracy. He was greeted by cheering crowds on his recent visit to North Africa, with the Iran regime accusing him of "acting in line with the goals of America." Iran is supporting the Assad regime in Syria, as is the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, al-Maliki. The Iran regime describes the behavior of Turkish statesmen toward Syria as "wrong" and predicts that if Turkey doesn't correct itself "it will have both the Turkish people turning away from it domestically and the neighboring countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran [reassessing] their political ties." (Haaretz.com)

Oct 10  Demonstrations on Wall Street and other places leave people in the US with something they already know: that there are people who blame their frustrations on corporate greed. Meanwhile, people are being bombarded with ideas slightly more complex. Fareed Zakaria said it yesterday on his TV show: "The United States is slipping by most measures of global competitiveness. In category after category – actual venture capital funding, research and development – America has dropped well behind countries like Japan, South Korea and Sweden." The columnist Thomas Friedman joins in with his new book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. It claims that the US no longer leads in innovation. People are also being told that the US is falling behind in education, which is foremost in the economic competitive game. Nations surpassing the United States in various categories have revenues much higher as a percentage of GDP (except for Singapore) than the US. The suggestion is that more taxation is needed – an idea that continues to be denounced by those who believe that taxation inhibits economic development.

Oct 12  Prime Minister Julia Gillard is elated by the passage of a carbon tax law. She has announced: "Today is a significant day for Australians and the Australians of the future who want to see a better environment."

map of Syria for World News

In Syria, Homs is the unofficial capital of the revolution.

Oct 12  Burmese are joyous over the freeing of 180 political prisoners. Last March a new civilian-led parliament was sworn in and the military government officially dissolved. General Than Shwe remains Chairman of the State Peace Development Council. The head of state is his hand-picked successor. Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy is not represented in parliament. And, according to the BBC, Burma still has around 2,000 political prisoners.

Oct 12  Iran's Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, demonstrates his grasp of reality with the statement that the Wall Street protests "will grow so that it will bring down the capitalist system and the West." (The Guardian)

Oct 13  Nir Rosen has been in Syria writing for Al Jazeera. He reaches into Syria's recent past and describes the persecution of the Alawite sect to which the ruler Assad belongs. The persecutors have been the Sunni majority. The Alawites have done well integrating with the rest of society. They fear the conflict in Syria turning sectarian and are worshipping Assad as their protector.

Oct 14  What began as continuous shooting of peaceful protesters is turning into civil war, while the Assad regime claims that it is merely going after terrorists and armed gangs. Writing undercover from Syria, Remita Navai describes townfolk hiding her and two young members of a new revolutionary group as Assad's forces attack the town of Madaya (40 km northwest of Damascus) – in today's Huffington Post.

Oct 16  Pundits dispute whether people demonstrating on Wall Street are expressing grievances that are justifiable. Steve Forbes, Republican, thinks the demonstrators are off the mark and blames government for the economic crisis that began in 2007. Paul Krugman counters, reminding people of the banking crisis that developed with credit default swaps and the reckless lending of money. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof lauds the demonstrators for publicizing the issue of inequality. Someone comments on his article saying he is with the demonstrators because education is not as affordable as it was in the 1970s.

Oct 17  Turki al Faisal, former chief of Saudi Arabia's intelligence service, speaks of al Qaeda "losing out everywhere" including in Saudi Arabia where "the al Qaeda cells that had been planted by Bin Laden have practically all been destroyed." He speaks of the Taliban in Afghanistan having "branched out" and that "other sects and ethnicities [are] fighting the presence of military troops there and I think that will grow as long as there are foreigners there." He says the US should have declared victory with the assassination of bin Laden and that now it would be best to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Oct 19  An editorial at arab news.com, out of Saudi Arabia, expresses disgust with Syria's Bashar Assad: "Hours after the Arab League called on the Syrian regime and opposition to hold 'dialogue within 15 days' the killing machine went into action doing what it does best: Kill, kill and kill. Dozens of people were killed in Homs and elsewhere on Monday." Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has broken relations with the Assad regime, and out of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba has come support for the Assad regime defending itself against "imperialism."

Oct 20  Qaddafi is shot dead in his hometown of Sirte where he was found hiding in a drainage pipe. His dream of a democracy based on brotherhood rather than representational government (expressed in his Green Book) is also dead. Qaddari financed the movie Lion of the Desert. That lion, Omar Mukhtar, was a hero among Libyans and to Qaddafi. Nasser of Egypt was another of his heroes. Qaddafi had a hero's bravado, but it wasn't enough.

Oct 21  In Spain, the ETA Basque separatists renounce armed struggle as a tool for achieving independence, ending their 40 years of violence.

Oct 21  The killing continues in Syria today (Friday) – more than twenty in the city of Homs. Here on You Tube are defiant people in that city. Videos exist via Twitter of crowds in other cities chanting for Assad's death.

Oct 24  A scientific study in the US on the question of global warming confirms previous studies. The most recent study was funded in part by the Charles G. Koch foundation, reputed to be conservative. The study leader, the physicist Richard Muller, had a reputation for healthy skepticism.

Oct 25  Amnesty International reports that in Syria authorities appear to have "given security forces a free rein in hospitals." The report describes blood banks at the hospitals as under the control of the defence ministry and blood being denied patients with gun shot wounds. The report declares, "In many cases hospital staff appear to have taken part in torture and ill treatment of the very people they are supposed to care for."

Oct 26  Tunisia's Islamist party, the Ennahda, is winning a plurality of seats in a new parliament and is working on the formation of a coalition government. Members have indentified their party as the Party of God – not a shocking claim to those in the US who think they have seen a similar identification among Republicans. Declarations from Ennahda leaders have led to expectations that power will enhance the party's respect for order, tolerance and rules of democracy, including cooperating with secular parties.

Oct 27  Warnings have been voiced about Tunisia's Ennahda party. Oren Kessler writing for the Jerusalem Post has reminded people that the party supported the 1979 embassy takeover in Iran, that evidence suggests it was responsible for bombing four tourist hotels in the 1980s and that in 1991 its leader, Rashid Ghannouchi, called for attacks on US interests in the Middle East in response to America's invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War. Kessler adds that Ennahda's founding ideology was largely shaped by Sayyid Qutb. Meanwhile, Tunisia's Ennahda party prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, claims that fears of Ennahda's power are unwarranted. He says that in addition to his committment to pluralistic democracy there will be no ban on bikinis or alcohol – bans that would threaten Tunisia's important tourist industry.

Oct 28  Following a European Union summit meeting in Brussels, banks accept a 50% loss on their loans (in the form of bonds) to Greece – up from a previous agreement of 21% in July. The move is being described as voluntary, but perhaps the banks felt they could do no better. Equity markets in Europe and the US soared yesterday in response, while there is no certainty that this latest concession to Greece's debt will enable Greece to recover and grow.

Oct 28  Post-election violence erupts in one town in Tunisia, and in his first news conference since the election the Ennahda party leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, calls on all Tunisians to reject violence. He adds that there would be a role for women in the new government and no requirements for women to wear a headscarf.

Oct 29  The 22-member League of Arab States denounces the killing of civilians and urges Syria (a member) to take "necessary measures" to protect civilians. Yesterday, according to reports, at least 37 protesters were killed, mostly in the cities of Homs and Hama.

Oct 30  A defiant Assad sends tanks and aircraft against Homs. In an interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph he warns of an "earthquake" and Syria becoming another Afghanistan if the West intervenes. YouTube.

Oct 31  The U.S air base a few miles northwest of Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan should go when its lease runs out in 2014, so says the country's prime minister, Almazbek Atambayev. BBC

Oct 31  World population reaches 7 billion.

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