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November 2012

Nov 2  In Greece, tax evasion remains news as journalist Costas Vaxevanis is on trial charged with having violated privacy laws when he published a list of names of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts. The list includes the names of members of Greece's commercial and political elite. A few Greeks including a mainstream daily newspaper have sided with Vaxevanis by publishing the list. Greece's center-right government, led by Antonis Samaras, has promised international creditors to crack down on tax evasion and is reported to be embarrassed.

Nov 2  In the last few days before elections in the US, presidential candidate Romney argues that as a man with business experience he knows how to get the economy moving again. He remains opposed to taxing the most wealthy of people as President Clinton had. Campaigning for President Obama, Bill Clinton continues to describe Romney as pursuing trickle-down economics – as "doubling down" on Bush economic strategy. Some on the Left are talking about Romney as a tax evader, and Romney continues to blame Obama for the condition of the US economy. Pundit George Will describes his philosophical difference with Obama as Obama being "indolent in mind," employing empty rhetoric, belious and as "promising to replicate his first term." Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post that Obama has been trying to reverse the Reagan Revolution, and that if Obama loses the election his presidency will have been "a passing interlude of overreaching hyper-liberalism, rejected by a center-right country that is 80 percent nonliberal."

Nov 3  A young man in Bahrain is sentenced to six months in prison for "defaming" King Hamad on Twitter. In Bahrain (as in other monarchical states without a tradition of democracy and freedom of expression) insulting the king and other members of the ruling family has been illegal.

Nov 3  In Syria an anti-Assad force has killed a dozen or so captured pro-Assad soldiers. Human rights groups describe it as a possible war crime. Before killing them, the anti-Assad force kicked their captives, some in the head, and called them Assad dogs. Ages ago, triumphant soldiers could sell defeated soldiers into slavery. In the 20th century, victors on the battlefield sent the defeated to state-run camps that fed them until the war ended. Anti-Assad forces in Syria are welcoming opponents who desert but are not showing an inclination to let those who had just been trying to kill them return happily to Assad's military.

Nov 5   Elections in the US are a couple of days away. Historian David McCullough speaks of the "unconscionable amount of money" being spent on campaign advertizing. "And what is it producing," he asks? He praises President Truman's authenticity. "It worked," he said.

Nov 6  In South Africa, police photos were taken after miners were shot dead during the strikes at the Marikana platinum mine – reported on this timeline on August 18, 2012. Examination of these photos results in accusations that the police planted weapons on bodies.

Nov 7 The US has its philosophical divides, and yesterday enough voters rejected big money attack ads against President Obama to an extent that allowed the president's re-election. And in significant number the voters rejected Mitt Romney's well publicized claims. But heard already today is analysis from those on the political right who give no credit to independent thinking by their fellow Americans. Instead they claim that Romney lost because of media bias.

Nov 7  Until yesterday, Mitt Romney was telling citizens that President Obama had no plan. In his victory comments, Obama speaks of working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges of "reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil."

Nov 8  Yesterday in Damascus anti-Assad forces managed to fire a couple of mortar rounds at Assad's palace. They are getting closer, but they missed. Weeks ago the Assad regime claimed to have rid Damascus of anti-Assad forces, whom they call terrorists. Britain's Prime Minister Cameron has announced that he is prepared to see that Assad is allowed safe passage into exile but that he favors Assad facing charges of war crimes. Today, Assad says that he "was made in Syria" and must "live and die in Syria." He described foreign intervention in Syria as shaking regional stability and said, "We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region." He said nothing about democracy as an instrument of stability. He is not expected to agree that with democracy in Syria there would have been no uprising.

Nov 9  Some who wanted and expected Romney to win the election are pondering why their candidate lost. The philosophy of less government, no taxes, of no redistribution of wealth and maximizing the economy by motivating the "job creators" (trickle down) lost the election, but what the Republican Party must do to avoid another such defeat, some are saying, is demographic. Pointing to how well Obama did with Hispanics, Bill O'Reilly and others are sayng that Romney should have had Senator Marco Rubio as his running mate. Some others are saying that the problem is their Republican candidate was not steadfastly conservative enough. Pundit Rush Limbaugh, who expected Romney to win, offers another view. Now he expresses disgust with the voters. "Conservatism, in my humble opinion, did not lose last night," he said. "It's just very difficult to beat Santa Claus." This meshes with a common view regarding Europe (all of Europe rather just a few countries). Limbaugh sees trouble in democracies not because of tax evasion and faulty banking but because people are lazy, want something for nothing and allow themselves to be bought off by liberal-socialists who promise them the moon. How putting Marco Rubio on the ticket would have countered this voter sinfulness remains unexplained.

Nov 10  Iranian officials have told the family of Sattar Beheshti that he has died in prison. He was arrested at his mother's home on October 30 by Iran's cyber police, FATA, established in January 2011 to enforce laws that regulate online speech. Human Rights Watch reports that "Iran's prisons are rapidly turning into death traps for detainees, including people who should never have been behind bars to begin with."

Nov 11  At their meeting in Qatar, groups opposed to Bashar al-Assad choose a moderate Sunni cleric, Moaz al-Khatib, as their coalition head. Khatib has spoken recently for a political solution to save Syria from further destruction.

Nov 11  In Poland's Independence Day marches, rightists put in an appearance. Violence erupted when the super-patriots pelted police with firecrackers and lumps of concrete. Assaulting police is a crime in Poland, and the police responded with truncheons, forcing the demonstrators to disperse. Members of two rightwing organizations have been described as involved: All-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp. The All-Polish Youth manifesto states that "one's country is the greatest earthly good," that "after God, your foremost love belongs to the Homeland." It opposes "doctrines promoting liberalism, tolerance, and relativism." The National Radical Camp has origins from 1934, when it admired Mussolini. Today it professes anti-Communism and is known for anti-Semitism.

Nov 14  In Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France and Belgium, labor unions take part in a "Day of Action and Solidarity" against unemployment and economic hardship. Portugal's unemployment is a record 15.8 percent, Spain and Greece are reported as having 25% unemployment. Italy's is almost 11 percent. It is a protest against the austerity policies said to have aggravated recession, and a protest about wealth distribution. Reuters quotes a store owner in Barcelona saying, "Things have to change... Money has ended up with all the power and people none. How could this happen?" The left-of-center is out of power in these countries except for France and Belgium, which have Socialist Party governments and lower unemployment – 10 and 8.2 percent respectively. In the other countries, governmental response to the opinions of the protesters is not expected until those holding such opinions win elections.

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

Nov 15  China's Communist Party Congress concludes following expressions of determination to fight corruption and to improve the well being of Chinese citizens. Corruption was a problem with the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, and China's public often vents its frustrations by attacking corruption. Communists making revolution were risk taking non-conformists with whom opportunism was a dirty word. Communist parties in power were joined by opportunists, and opportunists in minor position of power if not higher up were tempted to seek advantages, and in the Soviet Union they were given advantages. According to accounts in the press, a foremost concern by the Party is survival of the Party's power. This means both announcing intentions to fight corruption and giving the appearance of unity. At the Party Congress just concluded was a look of extreme conformism in dress code, not a hair out of place or failure to applaud. None had the look of that non-conformist who opposed Maoism: Deng Xiaoping. There are differences of opinion among China's Communist Party members – as exists in every large group – but it isn't very apparent And, according to Reuters, in selecting new leaders the Congress "unveiled an older, conservative leadership line-up." The new General Secretary of the Party is Xi Jinping. He looks a little more like Deng than does his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who will be around as part of the Party's collectivist approach to power. Xi Jinping will succeed Hu Jintao as President of China in March.

Nov 17  After Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, rockets were fired into Israel at a rate of about a thousand rockets per year, according to Israeli sources. That number diminished following Israel's air and ground assaults into Gaza in early 2008, killing more than 120 Palestinians. Last year there was a return of the approximate rate of 1,000 per year, and in recent weeks the rate intensified. Rather than forbearance, Israel returned to its policy of assassinating Hamas leaders: a military chief, Ahmad al-Jabari, described by Prime Minister Netanyahu as having had a lot of blood on his hands. Rather than forbearance, Hamas employed a strategy of revenge, which gained for them an Israeli retaliation that blew up missile launching sites and various Hamas offices and government buildings. Israel has called up reservists and amassed a force on the Gaza border for another sweep into Gaza to destroy its rocket launching capability. During this last week, Gaza has lost 41 killed "nearly half of them civilians," according to Reuters. Israel's defensive shield had stopped some rockets in mid-air, but some get through, and Israel has lost three civilians killed. Israel complains that Hamas deliberately targets civilians and describes Israeli forces as trying as best it can to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas was founded in 1987 with the intention of creating an Islamic Palestinian state that includes where Israel now exists.

Nov 19  Today, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweets its count of 570 rockets fired at Israel in the last five days, 307 of them blocked by its "iron dome" defensive shield. The IDF complains that most rockets are being fired from inside Gaza City, a densely populated area. Reuters describes the death toll in Gaza as having reached 90. According to BBC News, in addition to missile sites Israel has been targeting "militant-owned buildings, weapons storage facilities and police stations, bringing its total to 1,350 sites targeted since Wednesday [the 14th]."

Nov 19  David Shambaugh, professor and director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, describes continuing "factional allegiances" within China's Communist Party. Potential reformers, he writes, are "likely to continue to be checked by an entrenched bloc of party conservatives and retired elders."

Nov 20  Russian lawmakers are reported as believing the time has come to remove Lenin's statues from town and cities squares.

Nov 20  Britain joins France in recognizing the coalition led by Moaz al-Khatib as the legitimate governing body of the Syrian people.

Nov 20  A court in Pakistan drops the case of blasphemy against the 14-year-old Christian girl accused by her neighbor of burning pages from the Koran.

Nov 20  The israelis are dropping flyers over Gaza, warning civilians to stay away from Hamas operatives and facilities. (9 AM in New York, 4 PM in Gaza)

Nov 21  Carbon emissions levels dangerous to Europeans are reported by a UN Environment Program. It indicates increasing damage from extreme weather, also damage to health, forests, agriculture, bio-diversity and rising sea levels.

Nov 22  A cease fire is agreed to by Hamas and Israel, brokered by Egypt's President Morsi, whom Secretary Clinton is praising as an agent of stability. The agreement gives Israel the right to resume its assaults if any more rockets are fired from Gaza, and promises severe military action if it happens again. The Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal declares the agreement as a triumph. "We have come out of this battle with our heads up high," he says. Israel he adds has been defeated and has failed in its "adventure." He thanks Iran for supplying Gazans with financing and arms. How Israel has actually been defeated or has failed, Meshaal hasn't said, but it seems to satisfy Gazans in general, who celebrate in the streets, some of them having supported rocket fire against Israel not as a tactic other than that old emotion revenge. The eight days of fighting killed a reported 150 Gazans and 3 Israelis. A big gain for the Gazans would be Israel lifting its blockade of the Gaza Strip, a blockade deemed necessary to hold down a weapons flow into Gaza, which hasn't been all that successful.

Nov 23  NBC newsman Richard Engel has described Hamas as claiming that its rockets (Iran's rockets actually) forced Israel to agree to yesterday's cease-fire, a claim that conflicts with media descriptions of Israeli thinking but which serves the Hamas claim of victory. Engel speaks of Hamas as seeing itself as having gained some recognition and the truce as having transferred Gaza back into to "Egypt's lap." (Until the Six-Day War in 1967, the Gaza Strip was administered by Egypt.) Today, CNN reports that Israel has killed a Gazan who with others, whom Israel describes as "rioters," stormed a border fence. Hamas claims the Gazans were farmers trying to reach their land.

Nov 25  Israel appears to be trying to ease tensions with Gazans. It has eased some restrictions on Gazans that it had created to limit an arms buildup in the Gaza Strip. Israel is now allowing Gazan fishermen to go as far as six miles from shore, beyond Israel's previous three-mile limit. And Israel is allowing farmers to visit land near its security fence. Meanwhile, Hamas leader Mussa Abu Marzouk, holding to the view that sending rockets into Israel accomplishes something, announces that weapons smuggling will continue.

Nov 26  On CNN yesterday Fareed Zakaria spoke of Latin America's middle class expanding by 50 percent between the years of 2003 and 2009. The proportion of people in poverty during this period, he said, fell from 44 percent to 30 percent. "As the rest of the world became more unequal," he added, "Latin America was the only region to decrease the gap between rich and poor." He described 70 million women in Latin America having joined the labor market in recent years "contributing to a reduction in extreme poverty" and children now spending "three extra years in school, compared with a decade ago thanks to targeted government initiatives."

Nov 27  China begins its plans for $7.87 billion inner-city transportation projects, and its state planning agency approves a feasibility study for an inter-city rail line between Fuzhou and Pingtan (an island off the coast of Fujian) thought to cost another $3.5 billion and to be completed in four years. This is being done in part, according to Reuters, to boost economic growth.

Nov 27  Anti-Assad forces in Syria describe themselves as having moved from defensive operations to the initiative. In the last ten days they have overrun at least five army and air installations. They have captured a modest supply of weaponry, and they are still very much alive in the capital, Damascus. But Assad still has a strong military force and air power. The anti-Assad forces predict months more of warfare.

Nov 29  David Cay Johnston tells the News Hour that the common cable television, telephone and internet package in the United States costs about $160 per month. "If you go to France," he says, "you get the same package for the equivalent of $38 a month, and you don't get two-country calling. You get worldwide calling to 70 countries. You get live TV from all around the planet and your internet is 20 times faster uploading and 10 times faster downloading." According to Wikipedia, France has had intense competition among its internet service providers.

Nov 30  The United Nations General Assembly has voted 138 for and 9 against in recognizing Palestine as sovereign state – a sovereign state with non-member status within the UN similar to that held by the Vatican. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downplays the significance of world opinion, calling the vote "negative political theater." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton displays anger and denounces the UN vote as "unproductive" and as putting "further obstacles in the path of peace." The nine opposed were the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama. Since its victory in the 1967 war, Israel has claimed the right to control Palestine. Talks between the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and Netanyahu's government has floundered on Abbas' demand that Israel halt settlement building on Palestinian territory. Today, according to Reuters, Israel has revealed plans to build 3,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in response to the Palestinians' success at the United Nations.

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Copyright © 2012 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.