“…. All told, the trajectory of recovery has been flatter than initially reported; but for the last quarter of 2009 and the last quarter of 2011, when growth rose to 4%, output has expanded less than 3% every single quarter of the recovery and below 2% a full third of the time. Since the recovery began in the third quarter of 2009, the output gap has scarcely closed at all, falling from roughly $1 trillion to about $800 billion. Little wonder that unemployment remains well above its long-term rate.
The poor performance will open up additional room for criticism of President Obama by his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. But even slow growth has typically been enough to carry incumbents to victory…”
The former head of the UN mission in Syria says President Assad’s fall is “only a matter of time”, as Syrian forces renew an assault on Aleppo.
Go to Source
[Note: With all the current battles going on in the Middle East, here is a novel on one that took place a very long time ago.]
The Battle of Poitiers: Charles Martel and ‘Abd al-Rahman
Authored by Jurji Zaidan
Translated by William Granara
Published by CreateSpace, April 2, 2012
ISBN/EAN13: 0984843507 / 9780984843503
It is the year 732 AD. Ten years after the Arab conquest of Spain in 711AD, Emir Abd al-Rahman Governor of Spain, conquered and became Governor of southern France. He is moving northwards towards Poitiers to confront the Franks under Charles Martel and then overrun Rome and Constantinople and reach Damascus, the capital of the Islamic Empire. Will Europe be able to thwart the plan to bring Islam to the whole Mediterranean basin? As the armies of Abdel Rahman and Charles Martel confront each other at Poitiers, the future of Christendom in Europe depends on the outcome of this epic battle…
Romance and intrigue provide the central plot of this historical novel that are woven into the events culminating in the Battle of Poitiers. The beautiful Maryam is a woman of extraordinary honor and great courage who has fought in many battles. She has many suitors: Hani, Captain of the Arab Cavalry and Bustam his rival and Chieftain of a Berber Tribe. Last but not least Emir ‘Abd al-Rahman, is also enamored with her. A fast paced game of spies and counterspies is played out as the identity and true loyalties of many of the novel’s main characters, straddling both the Christian and Muslim worlds, is revealed — influencing the outcome of the Battle of Poitiers and the contest for Maryam’s heart…
Mitt Romney, astonishingly, managed to turn what should have been an easy set of photo-ops and feel-good platitudes into a diplomatic comedy of errors that raise strong questions about his readiness for the presidency.
First, an adviser to the Romney campaign referred to “our” common Anglo-Saxon heritage with the United Kingdom, and said that President Obama doesn’t share that sentiment (apparently because one drop of African blood not only makes one African, it wipes out empathy for all other racial groups). Romney said that he did not agree with whoever the official in his campaign was, who made that observation. Note that Romney appeared to acknowledge that some official close to him did say it.
Then, Romney said, in an interview with Brian Williams, of London’s Olympic games,
“”You know, it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because there are three parts that makes Games successful.”
Why would you use language like “disconcerting” and “not… encouraging” about the London Olympics on a diplomatic tour? Is Romney so competitive that his Salt Lake City Olympics has the be the best ever? Is he also running for Prime Minister of the UK against his host David Cameron? Is he just better than everybody else?
The government of Prime Minister David Cameron was furious at Romney’s slam at London. A senior British foreign ministry official told the Guardian: “What a total shocker. We are speechless.”
Cameron had been put in a difficult position by Romney’s visit, because protocol does not allow the British government to treat him as it would an elected head of state. But Cameron bent over backwards to accommodate Romney, only to be blindsided.
Then David Cameron was, like, “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.” He was having fun with Romney’s boasts about his role in the Salt Lake City Olympics, in Utah.
Then a spokesperson for the mayor of Salt Lake City, Ralph Becker, said: “(David Cameron) can stop by any time. We’d love to have him and are happy to send a map so he doesn’t run into any trouble locating the middle of nowhere.”
Then Romney met secretly with the head of MI6 (British overseas intelligence), which was supposed to be a secret meeting. He casually announced that he had met with the official. That sort of thing is supposed to be kept confidential in the UK.
Imagine that you were hiring a consultancy firm to go in and make good relations with a foreign concern. And imagine that the guy you sent in starts a shouting match between that company and your own because of his incompetence.
Would you later on hire the same consultant to prepare the way for an even bigger deal with multiple companies?
While it is all in good fun, there is some real annoyance being generated here.
If Romney couldn’t get the UK right, you wouldn’t want him leading the free world.
If one thing is clear in the build-up to the 2012 presidential election, it is that the Republican candidate Mitt Romney is less someone most Americans want to vote for than Barack Obama is someone that many people do not want to vote for. The elephant in the debate room, or at least one of the herd that has swelled with the ramping up of polemical rhetoric on all sides, is Islam. Not the real Islam, which most Americans would have a hard time recognizing anyway, but two prominent distortions. The most conservative born-again, Bible-believing Christians, often lumped together in the loose term “Evangelical,” have long viewed Mormonism as a dangerous cult modeled after Islam. Some of these same folk, including those less devout who drink a redneck portion of beer and say they belong to a tea party, have decided that President Obama is really a Muslim. So for the conspiratorial fringe, this election boils down to voting for one Muslim (or should I say Mohammedan) or another.
No doubt many of the Bible-believing saints are praying for the Rapture before November. Let’s face it: what would Jesus do if his choice was between voting for a Mormon (that born-againers say are heretics) or a stealth Muslim (as the birthers contend)? I suspect few would quote the biblical passage (Matthew 22:21) where Jesus says “Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” since taxation is obviously Satanic. Besides, Caesar died a long time ago. And I imagine that the Sermon on the Mount mantra of not smiting back, when someone is cheeky. and not resisting evil would also not be quoted. If you happen to be a Mormon, of which there are over 6 million in the United States, then you would expect Jesus to vote for Mitt, since Mormons teach that Jesus has returned to visit various Mormon leaders here in America, as recently as 1918. Muslims are not very likely to vote for Romney because the Mormon church borrowed several ideas (like a divine book delivered by an angel and polygyny) from Islam. So the right wing that has come to vote Republican without thinking is really between the Rock of Ages and a hard place.
The last time I saw Omar Pasha was on Jan. 24, 2011 — on the eve of the Egyptian revolution. I was with a group of foreign-policy experts, business leaders, and philanthropists and we met in an auditorium at the GIS headquarters. It was hard not to notice the freaky, yoga studio-like music that was playing over the sound system. When Suleiman arrived, he sat alone on a dais and spoke into a microphone, even though the delegation numbered only about 25 people seated in the second row of the auditorium, behind a gaggle of GIS courtiers. During the meeting, we learned that the United States had supplied Egypt with the technology to turn off the Internet — something the Egyptians would employ in earnest, though not terribly effectively, less than 24 hours later.
By Jan. 24, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had already fallen and a wave of self-immolations in Egypt had led to widespread speculation about whether the revolution was headed east. Naturally, therefore, someone in our delegation asked Suleiman whether the Tunisian revolt could happen in his country. But even at this late hour, he was as contemptuous of change as he had been six years ago, when he slammed his first down on the Washington conference table. “No,” he responded. “The police have a strategy and the president is strong.” Even at the time, the hubris was astonishing.
One of my big regrets, never meeting Omar Pasha. I do have some insight accrued over years of keeping notes on him and talking to people who dealt with him — mostly foreigner diplomats and spies and some Egyptian ones too. The takeaway is that he was actually fairly mediocre behind all the bluster and powersuits and Cuban cigars, and there is no better illustration of this than his handling of the Hamas issue in Gaza. Suleiman’s declared policy of ultimately crushing Hamas failed all the way, to the extent that people who dealt with him on this issue would joke about the “three-point plan” (engage, contain, crush) he would systematically trot out. Suleiman (unlike some of his predecessors when Egypt was at war with Israel) was ultimately the product of a system that only sought to maintain itself, showed little initiative or daring in foreign policy, and — being so concerned with status-quo and so-called “stability” — appeared to mostly keep busy by keeping everyone going around in circles (exhibit A: Egypt’s handling of Palestinian reconciliation talks).
I find it pretty outrageous he was given a state funeral and am surprised people did not try to disrupt it. One day, US archives of Suleiman’s handywork, especially on the rendition program, might be open and we’ll find out the full extent of complicity in his shenanigans.
I’m two days late with this, but July 18 marked the 40th anniversary of Anwar Sadat’s expulsion of Soviet advisers from Egypt in July of 1972. In my musings last month on my own 40th anniversary of arriving in the Middle East for the first time, I noted that Soviet and East Bloc advisers were still very much on evidence when I got there. They remained so up to the 1973 war, but the expulsion of the military “advisers” (many of were actually flying aircraft, Manning SAM sites, etc., though that was not acknowledged) in the summer of 1972, was memorable, however. I was living in an apartment along the Nile, and as we looked out from our balcony one day after we’d been there a month or so, we watched waves of bit Antonov transports flying eastward over the city. In retrospect they were probably fling our of Cairo West and other bases to the west of the city, heading back to the USSR. At the time we feared it was a major buildup moving troops to the Suez Canal. Either later that day or the next day, all was explained when it was announced that the Soviet advisers (some 20,000 of them) had been kicked out.
A documentary on that era:
“… “I want everybody here to know under my administration, we haven’t just preserved the unbreakable bond with Israel, we have strengthened it,” Obama told a mainly older audience in Florida, an electoral battleground state with many Jewish voters.Obama is on a two-day campaign tour in Florida, where he and Republican rival Mitt Romney are neck and neck in opinion polls before the November 6 election.
“This is a moment of great uncertainty in the Middle East, given what’s happening in Syria and given what’s happening in other places. Now is the time to make sure that we do everything we can to protect Israel’s security,” Obama told the retirement community in West Palm Beach.…”
Britain earlier proposal to extend UNSMIS for a “final” time for 30 days…. was shot down by Russia.Yesterday, Moscow vetoed a Western-backed resolution which threatened among other things, sanctions against President Assad if he does not end the use of heavy weapons in the conflict…with Chptr. VII and all.
Russia supported a Pakistani draft resolution which stipulated to extend the UNSMIS’ mission for 45 days but WITHOUT any conditions on renewal!