Obama: Counterterrorism operations in Yemen not affected

January 26th, 2015 No comments

Protesters hold posters against Houthi Shiite rebels who hold the capital, Sanna, amid a power vacuum as they hold a demonstration in Sanaa on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. Some 20,000 marched Saturday across the capital, where demonstrators converged on the house of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who resigned Thursday along with his Cabinet. Arabic writing on the banner at right reads, "Militias do not build a country." (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)NEW DELHI (AP) — President Barack Obama defended his counterterrorism strategy in tumultuous Yemen Sunday, saying efforts to root out a dangerous al-Qaida affiliate there would not be affected by the political vacuum in the country.

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Shayma’ As-Sabbagh: a socialist martyr from Egypt

January 26th, 2015 No comments
It is clear: Western media can’t get to concede that there are Arab socialists, communists, and anarchists.  In most Western media, Shayma’ As-Sabbah was identified as a “liberal”. Where did you get that? She belonged to an organization that is titled as Popular Socialist Democratic Alliance. 

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Japan working to gain IS hostage’s release, analyzing video

January 26th, 2015 No comments

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media after he signed a book of condolence for the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tokyo Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Abe said earlier in the day he was "speechless" after an online video purportedly showed that one of two Japanese hostages of the extremist Islamic State group had been killed, and he demanded the release of the other. The Associated Press has not verified the contents of the video, which varied greatly from previous videos released by the Islamic State group. It holds a third of both Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)TOKYO (AP) — Japan was working Monday to coordinate efforts with Jordan and other countries to save a hostage held by the extremist Islamic State group.

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Senators: More US special ops troops may be needed in Yemen

January 26th, 2015 No comments

Yemeni protesters burn representations of American, French and Israeli flags during a demonstration to show their support for Houthi Shiite rebels in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. Thousands of protesters demonstrated Friday across Yemen, some supporting the Shiite rebels who seized the capital and others demanding the country's south secede after the nation's president and Cabinet resigned. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)WASHINGTON (AP) — Two influential senators are calling on President Barack Obama to send more U.S. special operations forces to hotspots around the Middle East.

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Eighteen killed in Egypt protests

January 26th, 2015 No comments

At least 18 people are killed in Egypt during street protests marking the fourth anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising.
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Revolution and Despair

January 25th, 2015 No comments

I have great respect for Asef Bayat’s work and there are insights in this essay published on Mada Masr, but I find it hard reading on a day when people are being chased and killed in Cairo for celebrating the anniversary of the January 25 uprising:

Truth be told, there is a limit as to how much states, even authoritarian ones, can control societies without turning totalitarian, such as the likes of Communist East Germany where the secret police Stasi kept files on one third of the total population. There are ironically more favorable spaces to pursue this strategy, [“active citizenship”] in such settings as Egypt, than under the liberal democratic states like the US, where the apparatuses of surveillance, legal or technical, seem to be much more pervasive and detailed than our repressive but soft states. In our region, there remain vast informal sociascapes, the free zones within which alternative norms counter to state logic may be instituted. Eric Garner, the black American who was apprehended and choked to death by a police officer, was selling cigarettes illegally on the streets of New York City. Millions of Eric Garners work on the streets of Middle Eastern cities informally and illegally without states being able to do much about them.   

Informal life, the relations and institutions that lie at the margin of state control, make up a vast swath of social existence, where some of the most creative (as well as anti-social) endeavors take shape, as shown in the circles of family, kin members, friends, or among those who operate in the localities, communities, and informal worksites. Spaces from among the art world, intellectual circles, book publishing, cultural production, new social media, independent journalism, legal and architecture profession, or social work may produce alternative speech and unorthodox ways of being and doing things. Even the state-regulated institutions such as schools, colleges, municipalities, neighborhood associations, city councils, student clubs, workers’ unions, and professional syndicates often turn, by critical and creative users, into spaces where some of the core social and political values are contested.

Active citizenry of this sort, in the meantime, is bound to subvert the ability of the authoritarian state to govern, because the state usually rules not from above or outside the society, but from within, by weaving its logic — through norms, relations, and institutions — into the social fabric. Challenging those norms, relations, and institutions would by definition diminish the state’s legitimacy and impair its ability to govern. In fact, active citizenry could go even further to possibly impel and even acclimatize the state to behave in line with the values that subaltern citizens may cultivate in society. No wonder the prohibition law in the US looked absurd when by the early 1930s so many citizens were unlawfully consuming alcohol; the law had to change. The absurdity of preventing women from driving should be clear even to the Saudi rulers who cannot help  but see women as capable of doing more or less what men can. An authoritarian state cannot govern with peace and for long a democratic citizenry.

But who says the state has or will govern “with peace”? And disturbed as one may be by surveillance and policing in the United States, isn’t it ridiculous to argue that there is more space to oppose and organize in Egypt?

I appreciate the desire to offer some encouragement to Egyptian citizens who supported January 25, and I agree that it is important to keep thinking of how to be active, even under these terrible circumstances (the site Mada Masr itself is a great example of this). I also agree that we are not just back to the old days — there was a huge rupture, and even if the hopes it raised were defeated, the repressive techniques employed to achieve this (media propaganda; Saudi subsidies; massive repression; a shameful politicization of the judiciary) are destabilizing and seemingly untenable in the long-term. But I take a much darker view of the kind of days we’re in. People used to say that the revolution had brought down the wall of fear and it could never be back up; I think the army and police have done a great reconstruction job. Virtually every institution in Egypt is worse off than it was four years ago; a big segment of society has been complicit — out of fear, ignorance, self-interest — with the falsification of its own history and with granting impunity for state injustice and violence. 

One also cannot assume — as a certain school of academic writing does — that every bit of economic informality is an act of political subversion or active citizenship. Is there any evidence that informal vendors in Cairo are challenging the norms of society (rather than replicating them by, say, harassing women and taking the state’s side against protesters?). Let’s not romanticize the margins and the people who live there. The fact that they are resourceful and determined to scrape together a living or navigate a corrupt, repressive state is not a victory — it’s normal human behavior, and it’s a waste (think what they could accomplish if given better, fairer chances). Keeping big swaths of the population on the margins — invisible and illegal — is an effective strategy of social and political control. The avenues for active citizenship are violently barred. 

I was moved by this reflection by Yasmine El Rifae on memory and violence in Egypt these days:

The gunmen and their bosses have made it clear that unauthorized memory will not be tolerated. Neither will grief. Public language, thought, and opinion is either legal or illegal, patriotism or treason.

What we have been authorized to do is to spend a week mourning the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, whose Wahabi tradition teaches those in grief not to demonstrate it in public. Perhaps the regime would prefer this of us.

We have been authorized to mention the word “martyr” in the context of January 25 as long as we agree that what they died for is what lies in front of us. We can speak of Egypt’s youth in the context of political participation, meaning participation in parliamentary elections. We have not yet been authorized to speak about the dead of June 30 and its bloody summer in any tone other than gratitude.


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"We have a deal" – insurance may unlock India-US atomic trade – Reuters

January 25th, 2015 No comments

Livemint
"We have a deal" – insurance may unlock India-US atomic trade
Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama on a three-day visit to India. Full Coverage · India this week · Inside Davos · Preparing for Republic Day · North Korea's supreme factory leader · Auschwitz survivors, 70 years on · » Click here for …
India, US reach nuclear deal; Obama uses executive powers to waive intrusive Times of India
US and India agree nuclear power dealIrish Times
When Modi called Prez by first nameHindustan Times
Politico -The Hindu -The Indian Express
all 4,587 news articles »

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Greece’s anti-bailout Syriza party wins vote – USA TODAY

January 25th, 2015 No comments

USA TODAY
Greece's anti-bailout Syriza party wins vote
USA TODAY
Greece's radical left-wing Syriza party looks to have won a decisive — and historic — victory in Sunday's national elections that threatens renewed turmoil in global markets and throws the country's future in the eurozone into question. It was unclear whether …
Greek Leftist Party Syriza Set to Win Election, Interior Ministry ProjectsWall Street Journal
Syriza Rides Anti-Austerity Wave to Decisive Victory in GreeceBloomberg
Anti-austerity Leftists Winning Greek ElectionVoice of America
Washington Post -BBC News -CBC.ca
all 2,320 news articles »

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‘Historic and destructive’ storm could hit Massachusetts – CNN

January 25th, 2015 No comments

CNN
'Historic and destructive' storm could hit Massachusetts
CNN
(CNN) A potentially "historic and destructive" winter storm and blizzard will likely hit areas of Massachusetts beginning Monday night, dumping heavy snow and bringing strong winds, state emergency officials said Sunday. Areas of New York, including the …
Major Nor'easter to Disrupt Travel for Millions Bringing Heavy Snow and Blizzard ABC News
N.J. Blizzard: The best and worst case scenarios for potentially historic stormNJ.com
Pittsburgh officials announce preparations for snowstormPittsburgh Post Gazette
WCVB Boston -Reuters -New York Daily News
all 1,945 news articles »

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‘Islamic State’ releases new video / Audio claims ‘Yukawa dead,’ demands freeing of bomber

January 25th, 2015 No comments

Japan News, ‘Islamic State’ releases new video / Audio claims ‘Yukawa dead,’ demands freeing of bomber
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