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world timeline

August 2013

Aug 1  In Egypt, supporters of ousted President Morsi continue their sit-in despite warnings from the military. Reuters reports that "Behind a barricade made of bricks and sandbags, rocks had been piled up to use as ammunition." A protester is reported as saying: "We are ready. We are ready to die for legitimacy." The Obama administration has called on Egypt to respect freedom of assembly.

Aug 1  In Israel a minor riot erupts in the town of Beit Shemesh when ultra-orthodox, Haredi, believers try to force a woman to move from where she was seated, at the front of the bus. The Times of Israel reports, "The driver said it was not his first time being attacked by Haredi crowds and that similar incidents had occurred in Jerusalem as well."

Aug 3  In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980 and "president" since 1987, is declared as having won just over 61 percent of the votes against nearly 34 percent for his opponent, Tsvangirai. Of the hundreds of comments to BBC News, one reads: "Of course you get elected if you control the police, paramilitaries, the courts and much else, by putting your cronies in key positions and threatening or rewarding others... it will take decades for Zimbabwe to rebuild its institutions, industry and agriculture." Another, probably British, writes: "Don't give to African charities; most of it will end up in the wrong pockets." A third calls Mugabe a dictator as says "you don't get rid of dictators that easy."

Aug 5  Egypt's military backs down in its demand that pro-Morsi sit-ins disperse. Egypt's army-installed government says it will give mediation a chance and speaks of "the rights of citizens regardless of their affiliations." But it also warns of a time limitation.

Aug 5  US and Russian plans to talk about mediation in Syria appear headed for the usual failure. Syria's dictator, Assad, gloats over recent military successes and announces his solution to the conflict in Syria: striking his opponents, whom he calls terrorists, "with an iron fist." As expected, he says nothing about state terrorism or the right of Syrians to self-defense. In his 45-minute speech he says: "I don't think that any sane human being would think that terrorism can be dealt with via politics... The opposition is not reliable ... and it has no role in solving the crisis."

Aug 6  In Turkey civilian rule over the military asserts itself, perhaps with unnecessary intensity and injustice, as a court sentences generals and journalists to prison, some for life. The accused were charged with planning the overthrow of Prime Minister Erdogan's Islamic oriented government -- the so-called Ergenekon plot. General Basbug, who led the army from 2008 to 2010, was the leading defendant. The military had seen itself as the protector of Turkey's secular state, founded by Ataturk. Since 1960 it had launched three military coups. General Basbug has declared the changes against him fanciful. Critics of the trial say there is little evidence for the charges. They describe it as a show trial and accuse the government of trying to silence its secularist opponents. Outside the courtroom protesters dispersed by police reported as using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. Meanwhile Erdogan's government is reported as having "very good relations with the [new] top brass of the military, currently headed by General Necdet Ozel," elevated to his position following the fall of General Basbug.

Aug 7  Italy agrees to take 102 migrants refused by the island nation of Malta. The migrants are aboard an oil tanker which had rescued them at sea. Malta is a member of European Union, and an EU commission had ordered Malta to accept the migrants as a humanitarian duty, but Malta refused. BBC News reports that Malta receives "thousands of illegal migrants heading to Europe each year." Three days ago, before this latest incident, 111 migrants arrived at Malta in a dinghy. Unlike Europe, Africa has a fast growing population, and individuals are seeking opportunity in Europe. The migrants aboard the oil tanker are from Libya. Opinion in Malta appears to favor resisting the invasion and humanitarian appeals.

Aug 8  Denmark's Social Democratic government in the person of its minister for social affairs, Karen Haekkerup, says, according to the Copenhagen Post, "too many young boys from immigrant backgrounds are growing up with a disregard for Danish community standards." She seeks a cut in benefits to parents who don't keep their children in school and obeying the law. Hoping to prevent the kind of unrest that has plagued Stockholm (in Sweden), she says immigrant families should resist development of a "parallel society" of crime and gangs. A reader asks "Why not all parents of truant/criminal children regardless of ethnicity?" Another comments: "Maybe she should also target firms that discriminate against ethnic minority job candidates, and won't give trainee places to ethnic minority young people."

Aug 9  A clerk in Zurich Switzerland tells Oprah Winfrey she can't afford the handbag she is interested in. Winfrey, said to be one of the world's richest woman (Zhang Xin is richer), politely tries again and again, and with her usual class she says okay, smiles and walks out. A BBC News reader adds a comment about a clerk in an upscale store making a dumb assumption also regarding a customer's casual dress.

Aug 12  In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has won 160 of parliament's 210 seats. Mugabe rejects Prime Minister Tsvangirai's claim of fraud, and complaints from foreign observers. In a speech on Heroes Day (for those who died fighting against colonialism more than thirty years ago) Mugabe proclaimed: "Those who lost elections may commit suicide if they so wish. Even if they die, dogs will not eat their flesh." A man of measure, Mugabe didn't mention Tsvangirai by name. Tsvangirai has announced that he will not stay on as prime minister in what has been called a unity government. Tsvangirai has described Mugabe as having violated their original agreement by appointing governors "without consultations with me."

Aug 14  "Cairo crackdown!" "Egypt declares national emergency." According to Egypt's security forces, 95 people have been killed. A lot of blood is on the ground. At dawn, armored bulldozers began running over tents. Makeshift hospitals are set up. Interim president, Adly Mansour, announces that his government "has tasked the armed forces, in cooperation with the police, to take all necessary measures to maintain security and order and to protect public and private property and the lives of citizens." Egypt's foreign minister told the NewsHour yesterday that "the government needs to exert its authority and provide the layman on the street free access to their homes, their facilities and so on and so forth." This morning, someone else comments to the Washington Post that "it's a sad day for democracy."

Aug 15  Cairo's official death toll from yesterday's violence exceeds 520. There is camera evidence of protesters firing on police and police firing on the protesters. According to Al Jazeera, Egypt's interior ministry has instructed police to use live ammunition against anyone who attacks government buildings. President Obama says he "deplores the violence against civilians." France, Germany and Britain summon Egyptian ambassadors. Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, denounced "armed intervention against civilian people." Morocco's ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) describes the crackdown as a "horrible massacre" and calls on Egyptian authorities "to stand by their people not to drag the nation into a quagmire." Today the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt vows to bring down the "military coup" that toppled former President Mohammed Morsi and says it remains committed to peaceful activism. It added: "We will always be non-violent and peaceful." Also today in Egypt, there were attacks on Christian targets in several areas, setting fire to churches, homes and businesses. According to security sources and state media, the Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros has given his blessing to the military takeover that ousted President Morsi.

Aug 17   As war between Egypt's military and the Muslim Brotherhood continues, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah supports the crackdown on the Brotherhood, claiming that Egypt's interim government has the right to restore order, fight terrorism and violence and to protect properties. Saudi Arabia is "backed fully" by Bahrain. According to Al Arabiya, Jordan praises King Abdullah's support for the Egyptian government. And Kuwait supports the crackdown.

Aug 19  Following hundreds of deaths among Morsi supporters, Egypt's military leader, al-Sisi, speaks of his (the state's) responsibility in suppressing violence, and he says to Morsi supporters that in Egypt "there is room for everyone." He urges them to help "rebuild the democratic path" and "integrate in the political process." Al-Sisi's forces are thought to have been more than a little reckless in targeting Morsi supporters resorting to violence, and the violence against government forces goes on. Today, policemen were ambushed and killed in the Sinai. Saudi Arabia stands by its support for Egypt's government, saying it will make up for any loss of assistance from the United States. And Israel's former prime minister, Ehud Barak, tells journalist Fareed Zakaria: "...Sisi and the liberals, ElBaradei and others, they deserve the support of the free world. To whom else can they turn?"

Aug 20  From Cairo, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers told the NewsHour yesterday that the Egyptian government and population is bitter about news coverage by the international press corps. She said, "I can tell you that I was at an event a couple days ago. And a police officer yelled at the men around me that I was an American and therefore should be beaten. And the men began to manhandle me in an effort to suggest that I was somehow part of the problem. And it's been, I dare say, a systematic campaign going on by this government because there's so much anger that the international community has suggested that what they're doing is anything short of defending the state." From others than Nancy Youssef come reports that those supporting the former president Morsi are also angry with the US, while in the US the common view is that what is happening there is for the Egyptians to solve. Today, the Huffington Post describes a new poll indicating that a majority of Americans support cutting aid to Egypt, at least until "democracy is restored."

Aug 21  Pfc Bradley Manning is punished with a 35-year sentence in prison for leaking secret government documents -- wikileaks. Last week, in near tears, he said he was sorry for the "unintended consequences of [his] actions." Someone comments about knowing that Manning now "loves big brother" -- a view perhaps from the Left side of the political spectrum. A snap poll by Slate Magazine in early August indicates that around 25 percent believe Manning should serve more than twenty years. Those for imprisonment for less than one year (including zero years, presumably) were around 12 percent.

Aug 22  The world responds to a poison gas attack in the Damascus area reported as having killed more than a thousand. The Assad regime denies culpability but to this moment has not allowed UN people to investigate. Russia speaks of the likelihood of opposition forces being responsible. China is standing with Russia. These two prevent a strong statement from the United Nations. Meanwhile, Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, a Sunni and hostile toward the Assad regime he once embraced, complains that a red line has been crossed. And to this moment President Obama is silent -- nothing about the red line he spoke of last year. He also has voter opinion as a concern. But it is moral outrage that is spoken by Britain's foreign secretary, Douglas Haig, and France speaks of using force against the Assad regime if it is proved as having used chemical weapons against it own people.

Aug 23  In a stadium and with a large banner next to him reading "Zimbabwe will never be a colony again," Robert Mugabe is sworn in for a seventh term as president. Fear of being colonized is no longer a useful fear, but the slogan boosts Mugabe's status as a liberating hero to the cheering crowds. The opposition in Zimbabwe, meanwhile, complains that during the election bribery was employed, along with manipulation of voter rolls, that voters were turned away from polling stations and that there were many instances of voters being intimidated.

Aug 24  The scholar Joshua Landis, Director of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at Oklahoma University, has spoken against intervention in Syria by the US. On the NewsHour on the 22nd he said, "If America goes in and helps one side conquer the other, things could become -- it's not going to solve the problem." He drew a parallel with the US invasion of Iraq and also asked whether intervention by the British or French to stop Americans from killing each other during the US Civil War would have made America a better place. "I'm not sure," he said, "it would have." A different approach to the Syria tragedy exists among those who don't see Syrians as having the luxury of a certain and comprehensive solution. They want to remove -- the sooner the better -- what they see as the major problem in Syria: the Assad regime. They want to end fighting that is radicalizing and dividing people and to begin the always imperfect business of building a functioning democracy. This is definitely not the view today of a majority of the US public. And President Obama in an interview yesterday on CNN vaguely appeared to be on the same page as Landis. He said that "...the situation in Syria is very difficult and the notion that the US can somehow solve what is a sectarian, complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated."

Aug 25  Germany's budget surplus is recorded as having jumped up to 0.6% of GDP in the first half of 2013. BBC News reports that German firms are "investing more in equipment and are not so hesitant anymore." Taxes and other revenues in Germany are listed by World Factbook as 45.1% of GDP compared to 15.6% for the United States. The US is still running a budget deficit.

Aug 25  Human Rights Watch describes police corruption in Liberia: "no money, no justice."

Aug 26  The death toll from the gas attack is being described as ranging from 500 to more than 1,000. The Assad regime warns that any military action against it would set the Middle East ablaze, that US military intervention would bring chaos and the Middle East would "burn." President Assad describes claims that his regime used chemical weapons as "nonsense" and an "insult to common sense." In comments to the Russian newspaper Izvestia he describes the US as facing failure if it attacks Syria, failure he says "just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to our days." Iran warns the US of "severe consequences" if it attacks Syria. Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov expresses his concern over talk about an attack. He says, "If anybody thinks that bombing and destroying the Syrian military infrastructure and leaving the battlefield for the opponents of the regime to win would end everything, that is an illusion."

Aug 27  More talk before the missiles fly. Syria's foreign minister says, "We will defend ourselves with the means at our disposal," and he says that his country has defenses that would "surprise" the world. Italy's foreign minister announces that her country will not be a part of any coalition that attacks Syria. She describes the chemical attack in Syria a war crime but says Italy's government will not support military action without Security Council authorization -- certain not to happen. Britain's parliament will discuss how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria on the 29th. BBC News, meanwhile, reports that Madonna is the world's top-earning celebrity for the past year, earning $125 million, more than Oprah Winfrey. Glenn Beck earned $90 million and Lady Gaga $80 million.

Aug 28  President Obama argues that for the treaty that outlaws use of chemical weapons to have meaning there has to be a body of nations willing to do something when the treaty is violated. The treaty is an international arms control agreement that went into effect on 29 April 1997 and was signed by nations except North Korea and Syria, Angola, Egypt and South Sudan. Today, arguing against the treaty having meaning is Lakhdar Brahimi, envoy for a recent vain UN attempt to talk Bashar al-Assad into ending his war against his opponents in Syria. Brahimi proclaims that any military intervention in Syria would need UN approval. This is Russia's postion, and Russia would no doubt veto any such approval. Also against Obama's argument are those hostile to the spirit of internationalism with which the UN was created -- for fighting fascist aggressions. In opposing military action in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, columnist George Will on ABC's This Week three days ago equated believing in the international community with believing in the tooth fairy.

Aug 29  From Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government says that "The Syrian regime must not hope to be able to continue this warfare that violates international law." In the US, arguing against military action on the NewsHour is the University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer. He says, "There is no compelling moral case for intervening in Syria. And, very importantly, it's not clear that using military force is going to do any good... You don't have nations of the world coming together... The United States has no vested interest in what is going on in Syria. This is not a strategically important country... it appears that about 1,000 people were killed by chemical weapons. But I would estimate that roughly 40,000 people have been killed by conventional weapons."

Aug 30  Yesterday, Britain's parliament voted against their country supporting Obama's call for a military strike to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons. Parliament voted against the Iraq war despite Prime Minister Cameron's energetic insistence that "this isn't Iraq." And there were those in parliament who wanted absolute certainty as to who was responsible for using the chemical weapons. Meanwhile, in Britain and the US, some who bother to interest themselves in foreign policy, war and peace are asking what would happen following Obama's attack against the Assad regime. Obama's position: if the Assad regime again uses chemical weapons there would be another attack. The purpose of the attack is to deter use of chemical weapons. Today, France's government gives its commitment to take action alongside the United States. But many in the US and elsewhere are sticking with their view of everything as uncertain and Obama as lacking purpose. (A BBC News video with opinions of Syrians who favor military action: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-23892594)

Aug 31  The United States government claims that the chemical weapons attack killed 1,429 people, including 426 children. The Obama administration has evidence of Syrian military chemical weapons personnel as operating in the area in the three days before the attack. The US has satellite evidence that shows rockets launched from government-held areas 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack. The US is aware of communications that were intercepted involving a senior Damascus official who "confirmed chemical weapons were used." Because of Iraq, some people consider US intelligence useless, as if the US is functioning in foreign policy dumb and blind. Today, President Putin seems to agree. He says it would be "utter nonsense" for the Assad regime to have used chemical weapons when it was winning its war, and he urges the US not to attack Syria and to present its evidence to the United Nations. Also on the side of more talk are many in the United States, from conservative Republicans to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, who want what-to-do debated in Congress.

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