Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Carlos Montes Court Hearing to Uncover FBI Lies

Friday, March 2, 2012:

Montes Court Hearing to Uncover FBI Lies

March 2 - Call:
-- President Obama at 202-456-1111 &
-- Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-514-2001

Demand: “Drop the charges against Carlos Montes. There is no evidence!”

Contact us and let us know how your calls went:

The FBI is relentlessly persecuting Carlos Montes. At his next court hearing on March 2 in Los Angeles, Carlos Montes’ lawyer will make discovery motions on how FBI special agent Matt Weber worked with L.A. Sheriff Detective Don Lord and the Joint Terrorism Task Force in this frame-up attempt.

If you are in the Los Angeles area...

Join us at the Court!
Friday, March 2
8:00 AM
Criminal Courts Bldg.
211 West Temple St, Los Angeles
Dept. 123 on the 13th floor

For more info go to

More info:

Last May, the Los Angeles Sheriffs smashed down Carlos’ door at 5 a.m., waving automatic weapons, ransacking his home, and carting away his life’s work of notes and papers. A FBI agent attempted to question Carlos about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization while he was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.

Chicano leader and long-time activist Carlos Montes is one of 24 anti-war and international solidarity activists hit by FBI and grand jury repression since Sept. 24, 2010. Like others caught up in this witch hunt, Montes of Los Angeles was one of the organizers of the massive protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minnesota. When the FBI raided the Minnesota Anti-War Committee (AWC) office, Carlos Montes’ name appeared on the warrant for investigation. An undercover law enforcement officer “Karen Sullivan” lied about her identity and spied on the AWC, including Carlos Montes, for two years.

Repression of the ‘60s Is Back

Carlos Montes is well known as a co-founder of the Brown Berets and for leading the immigrant rights mega-marches in L.A. The FBI is trying to railroad Carlos for his political organizing.

Montes' defense is challenging the state’s claim that he has a felony record from his 1969 arrest for leading a student strike that demanded Chicano, Black and Women’s Studies at an East Los Angeles college. Also, the legal record does not support the claim of a past felony, thereby ruling out the District Attorney going ahead with this case.

Nevertheless, the government is alleging it was a crime for Montes to buy several guns at a local sporting goods store over a ten-year period, because of the (nonexistent) felony record. The FBI are relentless in their frame-up.

The prosecution is basing their evidence on this 42-year-old incident, where, during the 1969 student strike and rally, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department invaded the East Los Angeles college campus, beating and arresting student protesters. In the aftermath of the turmoil, Montes was arrested while driving home with a fellow activist and family.

He was charged with assaulting a Sheriff’s Deputy. Just like today, the Sheriffs targeted Montes because of his politics - he was a leader of the La Vida Nueva on campus and the Brown Berets in the community.

Support Grows! Solidarity Will Bring Victory!
Support for Montes and the other activists under attack by the FBI and U.S. Federal grand jury is growing. Recently, Montes received a letter of support from the 350,000-member California Teachers Association and the 40,000 members at LAUSD United Teachers of Los Angeles and the UAW Local 2865 at UCLA. On Feb. 27, the San Francisco Labor Council approved a resolution in support of Montes and many others targeted by ICE and FBI repression.

Facing up to 18 years of prison time, Carlos Montes is preparing to go on trial. Here is what you can do:

1. Organize a solidarity protest and demand, “Drop the Charges! No FBI Frame-Up of Carlos Montes!” on March 2, 2012. Send your announcement to for posting.
2. Pass a resolution in solidarity with Carlos Montes or write a letter.
3. Sign the petition at
4. Sign the Pledge at
5. Donate to the Legal Defense

Copyright © 2012 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!

Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
Minneapolis, MN 55414

US Africa Command Sets Stage for Deeper Continental Interventions

US general: 3 Africa terror groups may collaborate

By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press
Posted:02/29/2012 09:22:58 AM PST

WASHINGTON—Terrorist groups in Somalia, North Africa and Nigeria are eyeing ways to coordinate their training, funding and terror activities, triggering increased U.S. national security worries, the top American commander for Africa told Congress on Wednesday.

Army Gen. Carter Ham said terror leaders from al-Shabab, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram in Nigeria want to more closely synchronize their efforts. If they are able to better share their training and funding, "that presents a real challenge for us," he told the House Armed Services Committee.

The three groups represent the greatest threats to security in the region, and all three have strong ties to al-Qaida. And Ham laid out ongoing efforts by the U.S. to provide training, equipment and support to a number of nations across northern and east Africa where militants have launched a range of dramatic attacks over the past year or more.

Increased U.S.-backed operations around Mogadishu, largely by Ugandan and Burundian troops as part of an African Union force, have weakened al-Shabab. And Ham said the recent announcement of al-Qaida's formal alliance with al-Shabab suggests the Somalia-based insurgency has been weakened and is looking for greater international support.

"It's not quite a last gasp," Ham said, but it indicates that al-Shabab is under duress by the military operations that are working to free swaths of Mogadishu from the insurgents' control.

He added that the formalized merger of al-Shabab and al-Qaida, announced Feb. 9 by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, may allow the groups to focus on threats against American interests.

In other comments, Ham said there are small pockets of foreign fighters who were involved in the resistance in Libya that ended up fighting against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq. And he said al-Qaida may be trying to re-establish those insurgent networks.

Members of the committee questioned why the headquarters for U.S. Africa Command is in Germany, and why the command has so much fewer resources than U.S. European Command, when much of the emerging threats against America come from Africa.

Ham said the African nations don't necessarily want a big U.S. presence in their countries.

And Navy Adm. James Stravidis, head of U.S. European Command, said it is important to keep a strong presence in Europe because those are the allies America will turn to in a crisis.

The U.S. military is cutting the number of Army combat brigades in Europe from four to two and pulling out two other smaller units—a total reduction of about 12,000 troops. The cuts will leave about 68,000 U.S. forces in Europe, down from a high of about 400,000 at the height of the Cold War.

Stravidis and Ham also told the committee that the forces in Europe can more quickly get to hotspots in the region, including the Middle East, Eastern Europe or Africa. They pointed to last year's Libyan conflict as an example.

Senegal Prepares for Runoff Election

February 29, 2012

Senegal Prepares for Runoff Election

Nick Loomis | Dakar, Senegal

Election officials announced late Wednesday that Senegal's presidential election will go to a second round by March 25. President Abdoulaye Wade's opponent laid out his plan for a runoff earlier in the day.

Three days after the initial vote, and one day late, Senegal's National Census Commission announced the provisional results of Sunday's election. President Abdoulaye Wade faced 13 opponents and needed 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election -- something he did not achieve it.

Mr. Wade received 942,546 ballots or 34.82 percent of the votes cast.

Anticipating the result, his apparent opponent in a runoff, Macky Sall, held a press conference to thank the Senegalese people and announce his agenda for a second round of voting.

Sall said that from the first day of his term, he would take immediate steps to reduce the price of staple goods.

Many Senegalese complain that life has become too expensive under Abdoulaye Wade's 12 years in office. The political opposition says Mr. Wade squandered state funds on corrupt deals and vanity projects.

Macky Sall was the president's longest-serving prime minister and a senior member of Mr. Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party. Under the banner of "Macky 2012," Mr. Sall denies allegations that he would continue Mr. Wade's governing style, if elected.

Sall told supporters that the most important thing is to have a democratic leader who respects the constitution. He said there must be a balance of power in the country and that a president cannot do whatever he wants.

President Wade is seeking a third term, despite a constitutional provision limiting presidents to two terms in office. His candidacy was approved by the Constitutional Council, which is composed of judges he appointed. Mr. Sall wants the number of judges on the council be increased from five to seven, of which the president would appoint only three.

Find this article at:

Federal Reserve Chair Warns of Modest US Economic Growth,0,3412523.story

Fed chairman warns of only modest U.S. growth for rest of 2012

Ben S. Bernanke, in a report, cites housing market woes and other issues. He also says Fed policymakers do not expect 'further substantial declines' in the jobless rate this year.

By Don Lee, Los Angeles Times
March 1, 2012
Reporting from Washington

U.S. consumers and the economy started the year with more financial pep than previously thought, but Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke cautioned that economic growth probably would be modest through the rest of this year.

The nation's recovery from the brutal recession has been "uneven and modest," the Fed chief told Congress on Wednesday, and is being hampered by tight credit for borrowers, a depressed housing market, budget-strapped governments and uncertainties in resolving the European sovereign debt crisis.

Bernanke, in presenting his semiannual report on monetary policy and the economy, acknowledged recent improvement in the labor market, including the nearly 260,000 private-sector jobs added in January.

But he said that Fed policymakers did not expect "further substantial declines" in the jobless rate this year and that the sharp drop in the unemployment rate to 8.3% in January from 9.1% last August was somewhat out of sync with the moderate pace of growth.

"The job market remains far from normal," he told the House Committee on Financial Services. He said he remains especially concerned about near-record numbers of the long-term unemployed, whose skills tend to erode over time.

Bernanke had a more sanguine view of the recent increase in oil prices, which he said will pinch consumer pocketbooks, but only temporarily. He said inflation over the long haul probably will remain subdued, presumably at or below the Fed's 2% target.

He blamed the jump in crude prices on supply constraints stemming from tensions with Iran and elsewhere, but declined to say whether the U.S. should dip into the nation's strategic oil reserves, as some Republicans in Congress have urged.

Bernanke's remarks didn't seem to inspire confidence on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average opened moderately higher after breaking through 13,000 the day before, but then retreated. It closed down 53.05 points at 12,952.07.

Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS Investment Research, said investors might have been hoping Bernanke would suggest that further monetary stimulus was on the way. But the Fed chief gave no such hint.

Investors were cheered earlier by a Commerce Department report that showed economic output in the fourth quarter grew at a 3% annual rate, slightly higher than the 2.8% initially estimated. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, increased at a 1.8% pace in the third quarter.

More significantly, officials revised sharply upward their data on personal income. The new report said that inflation-adjusted, after-tax incomes rose 0.7% in the third quarter, as opposed to shrinking 1.9% as previously thought. Incomes rose 1.4% in the fourth quarter, nearly double the first estimate.

With the higher income figures, the fourth-quarter personal savings rate — what's left after taxes and expenses — was revised to 4.5% from 3.7%.

"As a result, household finances look to be on a much firmer footing than we were previously led to believe," Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note.

The Commerce Department's GDP report was released after the Fed had prepared its monetary and economic report.

In his prepared remarks to lawmakers, Bernanke cited flat household income and wealth last year as among the factors for the continuing weak "fundamentals" that support spending. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Final sales, which measure actual demand, rose slightly more than 1% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce report said. The bulk of the GDP growth came from an inventory buildup, as companies increased their stockpiles amid signs of stronger demand.

But a bigger-than-usual increase in inventories in one quarter tends to lead to slower activity in the next. Fed policymakers are projecting GDP growth of 2.2% to 2.7% this year.

That moderate pace isn't likely to bring down the unemployment rate much, assuming that productivity and the workforce population grow at average rates and more of the unemployed flood back into the job market.

Looking ahead, one of the biggest drags on the economy is budget-strapped governments. In the fourth quarter, reduced government spending sliced the GDP growth rate nearly a full percentage point.

Meanwhile, business spending remained solid and manufacturing was robust.

The Fed's so-called beige book released Wednesday showed factory output expanding at all 12 of its banking districts and signs of life in the housing market in most districts. On the whole, the report pointed toward an economy growing at a modest to moderate pace in January and early February.

As in his past appearances before Congress, Bernanke was caught in partisan wrangling over whether the Fed should focus on shrinking the nation's deficits or stimulating the economy.

Bernanke reiterated that it was important for Congress to develop a credible budget plan to bring down the nation's debts without snuffing out the recovery.

Under current law, "there's going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases" next Jan. 1, he said, referring to the scheduled expirations of the Bush-era tax cuts and the payroll tax holiday, among other things.

"I hope that Congress will look at that and figure out ways to achieve the same long-run fiscal improvements without having it all happen in one day," he said.

UN Envoy Echoes Imperialist Threats Against Syria

New Syria Envoy Says Assad Must Stop Killing

March 1, 2012 (AP)

The new U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria says President Bashar Assad must stop the killing and violence immediately and allow humanitarian agencies into the country.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday and told reporters that he will go to the Mideast very soon to help find a peaceful solution to the 11-month conflict.

He called it a "very difficult assignment." The U.N. estimates that more than 7,500 people have been killed since the anti-Assad struggle started in March 2011.

Ban strongly urged Syrian authorities to extend their full cooperation to Annan.

Ban said he was "extremely disappointed" that Syria has not allowed U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos to visit.

Tales of Two Conferences in London and Tunis

Tales of Two Conferences in London and Tunis

Imperialist-backed meetings set the stage for further interventions in Somalia and Syria

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

On February 23 and 24, back-to-back conferences were held aimed at determining the destiny of the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia and the Middle Eastern state of Syria. The fact that both gatherings took place outside the respective countries with the full support of the imperialist states guarantees that these efforts are not in the best interests of the people of Somalia or Syria.

In London, the British government spent considerable public relations capital in promoting the conference on Somalia as a turning point in the effort to purportedly stabilize the country which has been without a legitimately recognized regime since 1991. Numerous representatives of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) attended the event yet no one was invited from Al-Shabaab, the Islamic resistance movement that is under siege by the western-supported military forces occupying Somalia from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, and Kenya.

The African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is attacking Al-Shabaab supporters in the capital of Mogadishu. AMISOM is composed of troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. The Ethiopian Defense Forces have once again entered the fighting in Somalia having launched a major offensive in the central region taking control of the city of Baidoa.

Kenyan Defense Forces entered Somalia last October and reportedly have over 2,000 troops on the ground attacking supposed Al-Shabaab bases in an attempt to take over the port city of Kismayo and other areas in the south of the country. These military operations on the ground are being supported with U.S. drone surveillance and strikes, along with French naval forces and Israeli intelligence capability.

British Interests in Somalia

Britain’s interest in Somalia is related to its former status as a colonial power during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Most recently there have been several reports indicating that Britain is seeking to exploit and profit from the emerging oil industry in Puntland (a breakaway region of Somalia) and within existing Somalia.

The Observer newspaper published in London pointed out in an article that “Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country’s future energy industry.” The article continues noting that “away from the public focus of last week’s summit, talks are going on between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting oil reserves that have been explored in the arid north-eastern region of the country.” (Observer, Feb. 27)

This same article quotes Abdulkadir Abdi Hashi, the Minister for International Cooperation in Puntland, in north-east Somalia where the first oil is expected to be extracted in March, as saying “We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximize future earnings from the oil industry.”

The conservative estimates related to Somalia oil reserves are put at 4 billion barrels (worth approximately $500 billion today). Other claims say that Puntland alone has the potential yield of 10 billion barrels, placing it among the top 20 countries in the world for petroleum resources.

The Observer article says that “it is the extent of oil deposits beneath the Indian Ocean that is most exciting Somali officials. One said the potential was comparable to that of Kuwait, which has more than 100bn barrels of proven oil reserves. If true, the deposits would eclipse Nigeria’s reserves—37.2bn barrels—and make Somalia the seventh largest oil-rich nation.”

In addition to Britain, where BP has expressed an interest, Canada, the U.S. and China are also seeking ways to get involved in the initial onslaught of production. Despite the claims made in regard to oil exploration, the British Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell denied the government had commercial interests in Somalia.

Nonetheless, this is not the first time that imperialist-oriented efforts to shape developments in Somalia have taken place. Previous direct and indirect military interventions in Somalia have failed to stabilize the country in the interest of the West.

In 1992-93, Somalis rose up and resisted the U.S. Marines and the United Nations so-called peacekeepers forcing them to leave the country. A 2006-2009 invasion and occupation by Ethiopia at the aegis of the U.S. failed to resolve the internal crises.

This current effort has drawn skepticism as well from various sources of opinion in Africa and around the world. Richard Dowden, the Director of the Royal African Society, an academic group in Britain, said in an essay that “The agenda of the Somali politicians at Lancaster House on Thursday (Feb. 23) was clear: to get the British and Americans to fight their war for them or pay others to do it and bomb their enemies.” (African Arguments, Feb. 27)

Yet the current politico-military situation in Somalia is not the war of the Somalian politicians but that of the imperialist states that will stand to benefit the most from the forceful subjugation of the country and the exploitation of oil, waterways and other strategic resources throughout the Horn of Africa region. Even Dowden noted that “Hilary Clinton spoke as if this was simply an extension of the American war on terror.”

In fact the U.S. policy in Somalia represents the continuation of the same policies from successive administrations as it relates to the region. “Terrorism” is abstractly used as a justification and rationale for escalating the process of destabilization.

Tunis Hosts “Friends of Syria” Conference

The following day on February 24 in the capital of Tunisia another conference was held under the sponsorship of the so-called “Friends of Syria.” This initiative grew out of the failure of the U.S. and other imperialist states to get the United Nations Security Council endorsement for a war against Syria.

Russia and China vetoed the resolution calling for the total isolation of Syria. Both Russia and China refused to recognize the conference in Tunis which was attended by over 60 nations and numerous opposition groups claiming to represent dissidents in Syria as well as high-ranking officials from the Western states and their Arab allied governments.

The conference was condemned by the Syria government which dubbed the gathering as the “Enemies of Syria.” Several hundred pro-Syrian demonstrators attempted to storm the conference saying that it should not be held inside the North African state which is undergoing a political transformation process since January 2011 after a popular uprising toppled former dictator Ben Ali.

Ezz Eddine Koutali, the spokesman for the Baath Party in Tunisia, stated that “The Baath party condemns the use of violence against protesters and the use of methods of oppression (by the Tunisian police) against our protesters. Although the popular movement that was on the sidelines of the cursed conference was peaceful and civilized, we were surprised by the use of excessive force by security forces directly under the orders of the Minister of Interior.” (Tunisia Live, Feb. 26)

Koutali also stressed that the “Friends of Syria” conference was held “under the supervision of American imperialism.” He also rejected the Tunisian government’s collaboration in this effort stating that “The conference was organized by figures representing American imperialism such as Hilary Clinton and the Zionist John McCain. We reject the use of our pure land to achieve conspiracies.”

Clinton struck out against Russia and China saying that their position in support of non-interference in Syria was “despicable.” A statement issued by the Russian government said “The invitations to attend the Tunis meeting were issued to some parts of the opposition, but representatives of the Syrian government were not invited.” (Middle East Online, Feb. 21)

According to Russia, “This means that the interests of the majority of the Syrian population, which supports the authorities, will not be represented. We cannot accept the offer to attend this meeting.”

Anti-Imperialists Must Oppose Imperialist Intervention in Somalia and Syria

Inside the western capitalist states it is important for the peace and anti-war movements to protest the current efforts by the imperialists to occupy both Somalia and Syria. The internal conflicts in Somalia and Syria must be resolved by the people of these respective countries absent of outside interventions.

In Somalia, the imperialists have regional designs on the Horn of Africa and other areas of the continent. The war against Libya is a profound illustration of the objective character of U.S. and European foreign policy during this period.

The war against Syria is also directed against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Syria has taken a principled stand against the Israeli Zionist regime that is backed by U.S. imperialism.

Iran is a close ally of Syria and both states support the Hezbollah resistance party in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Palestine. It is the aim of imperialism to seek the destabilization and liquidation of any political forces in Africa and the Middle East who take positions independent of the West.

Also both destabilization campaigns are directed towards weakening the influence of China and Russia who have opposed U.S. and British imperialism in Syria and Iran. Both Syria and Somalia will continue to be a focal point for western intrigue in Africa and the Middle East in the months to come.

Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Interviewed on CJAM Radio in Canada on African American History

OPIRG Windsor's The Shakeup: Radioadvocacy

Friday 4 -5PM EST

About.Feb 24: Ginny Sullivan and cycling along the Underground Railroad route; Abayomi Azikiwe on the meaning of Black History Month; Rockin’ Robbie in studio singing the Blues.

Feb. 24, 2012

Listen to entire program here:

February is Black History month and in recognition of this we heard about a new way to get up close and personal with the Underground Railroad thanks to an initiative by the Adventure Cycling Association.

The association bills itself as the “…premier bicycle-travel organization in North America with over 43, 500 members.”

The organization seeks to “… inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle.” Also, the organization has mapped 41, 399 miles in the Adventure Cycling Route Network and “…gives cyclists the tools and confidence to create their own bike-travel adventures.”

Five years ago, the Missoula, Montana based organization opened up its 2,000 mile
Underground railroad Bicycle Route, and this week representatives were in Detroit to unveil the 518 mile Detroit Alternative route which gives cyclists the ability to access sites of interest between Oberlin, Ohio and Owen Sound, Ontario.

This initiative seems to allow people to merge a passion for cycling with the lived experiences of African Americans who traveled the same routes at great risk for freedom.

On the phone from Missoula, Montana was Ginny Sullivan, Special Projects Director at the Adventure Cycling Association. She “manages two major projects for Adventure Cycling – the U.S. Bicycle Route System and the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route.”

Ginny Sullivan on the development of routes along the UGRR. In this clip she mentions the song Follow the Drinking Gourd :

Sullivan also commented on the success of working with cycling enthusiasts in Windsor and Detroit, while also seeming to challenge Windsorites to do more to make our history come alive by building more cycling infrastructure:

The New Center for Health Equity was an important partner with Adventure Cycling, both in terms of bridging the geographical distance between Montana, where the association is based, and the people and history of the states and provinces where the UGRR is.

In the second half hour, I spoke with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan African Newswire on the meaning of Black History Month.

Click on this URL for more on the Pan African News Wire:

He described how the concept was formed and implemented and what he
was involved in during the month.

China Says, US Has No Moral Right to 'Protect' Arabs

US has no moral right to ‘protect’ Arabs — China

Tuesday, 28 February 2012 00:00

An electoral official helps a Syrian man to vote at a polling station in Damascus on February 26, 2012

BEIJING. — China says the US has no right to “protect” Arab peoples, questioning “the sincerity and efficacy of US policy.” The country’s top newspaper replied to Hillary Clinton after she called China and Russia’s veto of a UN Syrian resolution “despicable”.

The People’s Daily commentary says: “The
United States’ motive in parading as a ‘protector’ of the Arab peoples is not difficult to imagine. The problem is, what moral basis does it have for this patronising and egotistical super-arrogance and self-confidence?”

The newspaper recalls the US-led invasion of Iraq. “Even now, violence continues unabated in Iraq, and ordinary people enjoy no security.

This alone is enough for us to draw a huge question mark over the sincerity and efficacy of US policy.”

The commentary repeated China’s argument that its unwillingness to take sides in the conflict best reflects the interests of the Syrian people.

Russia, which also voted against what it called a “Syria regime change resolution” in the UN, has also criticised the US stance on Syria.

In his latest article on foreign policy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned the West against the temptation to resort to a “simple, previously-used tactic: If the UN Security Council approves of a given action — fine; if not, we will establish a coalition of the states concerned and strike anyway.”

Russian and Chinese criticism over US policies comes after Clinton was quoted as saying there is no enthusiasm in Washington for war. However, while on a visit to Morocco she urged those who still support Syria’s President Assad, especially members of the Syrian military and business community, to turn against him.

“The longer you support the regime’s campaign of violence against your brothers and sisters, the more it will stain your honour,” Clinton said.

On Sunday Syrian authorities held a national referendum on a new constitution amid continuing violence.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that at least 31 people died including civilians, soldiers and opposition fighters.

Ballot counting is currently underway, with official results expected later yesterday. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says if approved the referendum will lead to a multi-party parliamentary election in three months’ time.

Most Syrian opposition groups boycotted the vote, demanding Assad abandon power altogether, while they say the referendum could keep him in power until 2028. The US and its allies dismissed the vote as a “farce” meant to justify the bloody crackdown on dissent.

The United States is beginning to realise the complexity of the situation in Syria and is showing signs of slightly backing off from its previous energetic push for regime change in the country, Jeremy Salt, a professor at Bilkent University, told RT.

“While we hear a lot of rhetoric from Hillary Clinton, she herself is showing signs of being more aware of complexities inside Syria,” Salt said. “She was talking about the complex factors, saying ‘Well we want to do something, but we do not know what to do,’ and she was talking about the fact that while there are problem areas in Syria, there are large areas in the country unaffected.”

“You can see there is certain change of the discourse here which indicates the Americans are not certain what step to take next,” the professor added. — RT.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Egyptian Judges Withdraw From Trial of 16 Americans

Egypt: Judges withdraw from trial of 16 Americans

4:59 PM, February 28, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — All three judges on Tuesday pulled out of Egypt's trial of 43 pro-democracy workers, including 16 Americans, according to a court official, throwing into question the case that has ripped U.S.-Egypt relations.

The defendants are charged with using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest that has roiled Egypt over the past year. The pro-democracy groups and the U.S. flatly deny the charges, and U.S. officials have hinted that foreign aid to Egypt is in jeopardy.

Lead Judge Mohammed Shoukry said Tuesday that "the court felt uneasiness" in handling the case, according to the court official. He did not elaborate.

The official said new judges will be assigned to the case. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The trial has proceeded only as far as its opening session, and it would need to be restarted with a new panel of judges. Coupled with indications that the two countries are trying to find an acceptable resolution to the crisis, it was seen possible that the trial might be called off at some point.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told two Senate panels on Tuesday that the United States and Egypt are "in very intensive discussions about finding a solution."

"We've had a lot of very tough conversations," she said. "We're moving toward a resolution."

"It's important that they know that we are continuing to push them," she said.

Egyptian lawyer and rights activist Ahmed Seif al-Islam said it was hard to interpret what was behind the resignations.

He said that judges pull out of cases over relationships with defendants or their lawyers. In other cases, especially the political ones, judges might feel pressure and prefer to stay away.

"In general, the main reason is that the judge feels that he cannot act as a real judge, and his rulings would be unfair or influenced," Seif al-Islam said.

The affair began in December when Egyptian security raided 17 offices of 10 pro-democracy and human rights groups, confiscating documents and equipment. It led to charges that the groups have financed protests over the past year with illegally obtained funds and have failed to register with the government as required.

The groups insist their financing is transparent, and all their efforts to register have been stalled by the Egyptian government.

The charges dovetail with constant pronouncements from Egypt's military rulers that protests against their rule are directed by unnamed, dark foreign forces, a claim that is ridiculed by Egyptian activists.

Furious over the charges and travel bans against civil society workers, the United States has threatened to cut off aid to Egypt, putting at risk $1.3 billion in military aid this year and another $250 million in economic assistance. Egyptian officials claim the matter is entirely in the hands of the judiciary, and many of them view the U.S. threat as unacceptable meddling.

The trial began Sunday, but the foreign defendants were not present. Shoukry declared a two-month adjournment to give lawyers time to read the case files, said to be in excess of 1,500 pages, and for authorities to find interpreters for non-Arabic speaking defendants.

Of the 43 defendants in the case, 16 are Americans, 16 are Egyptians, and others are German, Palestinian, Serb and Jordanian. Of the 16 Americans, seven have been banned from leaving Egypt, among them Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Several have taken refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

The 43 worked for the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, a group that trains journalists and a German nonprofit organization. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison.

Primary Voters Cite Economy As Top Issue

Voters Cite Economy as Top Issue

By PETER Journal

For all the attention paid to social issues in the run-up to two state primaries Tuesday night, voters in Michigan and Arizona identified the economy as their overriding concern—a preference that stood to benefit Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

According to exit polls, Republican primary voters in Michigan and Arizona are most concerned with the economy. WSJ reporter Joe White has been talking with voters in Michigan and shares what he learned with Deputy Managing Editor Alan Murray.

Polls in Michigan and in most of Arizona saw supporters of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spar over efforts by Santorum to get Democrats to vote in Michigan's contest. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

John Tamny, Editor of RealClearMarkets, talks about how Republican Primary talking points sounds a lot like class warfare. He points out weakness in Mitt Romney's and Rick Santorum's proposed economic policies.

Surveys of voters as they left polling places in those two states ranked the economy as the most important issue in the race, far above abortion and immigration. Mr. Romney has staked his campaign on his business acumen and promise to revive the troubled economy. Some social conservative have been suspicious of him because of his previous support for abortion rights.

In the Michigan primary, Mr. Romney's top rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, solicited votes from Democrats looking to embarrass Mr. Romney in his home state. About 1 in 10 primary voters were Democrats, according to exit-poll data released by various media outlets. Of those voters, half backed Mr. Santorum, compared with 15% for Mr. Romney.

Before the election, Santorum's campaign had put out automated phone calls seeking votes from Democrats, who are allowed to vote in the GOP primary.

Exit polls showed that Michigan voters disapproved of the government's bailout of the auto industry by a margin of 51% to 43%. All four leading GOP candidates opposed the bailouts, but Mr. Romney was most vocal in his opposition, making it a central element of his campaign in Michigan.

What voters wanted in a candidate was someone who could beat President Barack Obama in the fall. Electability ranked ahead of a candidate's experience, moral character and conservatism as qualities important to voters, exit polls showed.

Those who turned out to vote tended to be wealthier than the general population, another dynamic that worked in Mr. Romney's favor. His support has been strongest among upper-income voters in prior nominating contests. About 3 in 10 voters had household incomes topping $100,000 a year.

Sudan In US Foreign Policy: Who Could Anticipate Normal Relations?

Sudan Vision News Daily

Sudan in US Foreign Policy :Who Could Anticipate Normal Relations?

Ibrahim Al-Jack

According to Foreign Minister's statement released recently the Sudanese/American relations are fluctuating.

Some time ago President Al Bashir emphasized that US Administration promises a lot but delivers none.

The U.S Administration still is holding a “carrot” for Sudan in case it changes its positions toward opening the door before foreign organizations to bring in relief aids to victims in Blue Nile and South Kordufan states. The government sees that for the organizations to operate in these particular regions will help provide supplies, ammunition and needed equipment to rebels, which will strengthen their will to launch more wars in the regions after the quelling of the rebellion has become clear to all. The government also wants signal a message to the U.S Administration that it has got tired of promises that have never been honored, and that whenever the government agrees to a condition, the U.S Administration sets other conditions. The government paints the U.S policies toward Sudan as “transferable agenda”.

New promises

The U.S Administration through its special envoy for Khartoum Princeton Lyman called for supporting the United Nations, African Union and Arab League Tripartite Initiative to provide humanitarian assistance to the needy in South Kordufan and Blue Nile states.

The Sudanese government affirmed to the envoy, who concluded a 2-day visit to Khartoum that it would soon reply to the tripartite initiative after consideration and assessment, pointing out that a report prepared by a task forces made up of representatives from the World Food Organization and UNICEF and Sudan would be announced soon.

The Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Ambassador El-Ebeid Ahmed Marawah, following a series of meetings with the U.S envoy and Sudanese government’s delegation to Addis Ababa negotiations with the government of South Sudan, said that the Minister of Foreign Ali Ahmed Karti discussed with the U.S delegation a number of issues concerning relations between the two countries and development of situation in Sudan, pointing out that Lyman believes that among other reasons for not reaching an agreement is attributed to a great degree to weak confidence between Sudan and South Sudan. The U.S envoy hoped that the two countries would overcome the barrier of confidence in next rounds, noting his welcome of Sudan government’s design to assess humanitarian situation in South Kordufan and Blue Nile through involving regional and international organizations.

Marawah said the Sudanese government represented by the Foreign Minister demanded the U.S and the international community focus on the heart of the problem, not just deal with its side-effects, indicating that the state’s institutions are still considering the proposal of the tripartite move regarding humanitarian situation in South Kordufan and Blue Nile.

He affirmed that Lyman demonstrated his country keenness to ease tension between Juba and Khartoum, adding it hopes that the two countries will avoid all acts that may contribute to increasing tension. He noted that his country meant to send a positive signal to Sudan by signaling to support steps toward writing off its debts by including that in the U.S budget for next year.

NCP Rejects U.S conditions

The ruling National Congress Party has rejected conditions the U.S administration announced to write off Sudan’s foreign debts in return for the government’s consent to allow in foreign organizations in South Kordufan and Blue Nile states and hold a plebiscite in the region of Abyei. The party stressed that it does not trust Washington’s steps toward Khartoum no matter it dispatches one envoy or thousands, saying that normalization of the relations is conditional on dealing with it as a rival and respect.

The NCP officer for mobilization Haj Majid Suwar said in press statements yesterday that the successive U.S administration has been dealing with Sudan with more attempts of ignorance “therefore we don’t trust them and their positions because it promised prior to the signing of Naivasha agreement to remove Sudan’s name from terror list and cancelling sanctions on it but has not delivered and repeated the same behavior in Abuja agreement and backed down on its obligations.” He added: “the agreements we are making now are according to our political will. We are carrying on with them. We are satisfied with them and don’t need U.S administration’s incentives in this connection.”

Suwar affirmed that his party would continue to implement the agreement, which stipulated a plebiscite in Abyei, but the party that doesn’t acknowledge and want that is Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which is controlling South Sudan and holding citizens hostages in South Kordufan using them as human shields, in addition to committing crimes by SPLA division 9 in the region.

The officer for mobilizations affirmed his party’s rejection of the U.S conditions saying: “We don’t approve any of it and that if it is [U.S] willing to improve relations with Sudan, it is more willing, but if it responds to internal pressure groups, that is its business.”

In a reference to the U.S envoy for Darfur, he said: “if the U.S administration dispatched on envoy or thousands, we don’t trust steps it is taking because it has preconceived conviction and steps against the government…I don’t think it will add anything new.”

He criticized the remarks of South Sudan chief negotiator, Pagan Amum regarding the ejection of Chinese oil companies accusing them of involvement with Sudan in theft of South Sudan oil, saying that Amum’s remarks will contribute to further tensions between Sudan and South Sudan so that no agreement will be reached. He added that South Sudan has the right to expel Chinese companies or leave them, but the equation of oil production and sharing revenues is pretty clear because the wells are limited and known, citing that the last minister of oil was a southerner when Sudan was united, who knows the amount of oil and operating wells.

We will not bet on U.S promises

The NCP reiterated its rejection of U.S promises and allowing in foreign organizations to operate in Blue Nile and South Kordufan. The head of political sector with the party, Dr. Qutbi Al Mahdi in statements to the press pointed out diminishing confidence in Washington, and demanded it be more serious if it wanted to reach understanding and normalize relations with the government.

He noted that some organizations wants enter those regions to acknowledge reality created by the SPLM by violating the agreement, affirming they will not “reward” SPLM for the crimes it committed and humanitarian situation it has brought about in areas under its control.

Qutbi showed cautious welcome to the U.S Congress’ step calling for lifting support to organization that have been taking a hostile line against Khartoum such as Save Darfur and International Crisis Group. “We showed good will towards the U.S Congress’ step, although we have not seen its translation into actions…we have regard it as a natural response to positive development Darfur is seeing, especially in the sphere of development,” Al Mahdi said.

He noted that huge amount of money was gathered in the name of Darfur by those organizations, but the money has not gone to Darfur. he reiterated the government’s call for slimming down UNAMID in Darfur and transforming its budget to reconstruction and development in the regions estimated at hundreds of billion dollars.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez In Good Condition After Surgery In Cuba

Posted on Tue, Feb. 28, 2012

Officials: Hugo Chávez in good condition after surgery

Jim Wyss
Miami Herald

BOGOTA — Colombia Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was in good condition Tuesday after undergoing a fresh round of surgery to remove a lesion that he feared might be malignant. But there’s still no word on the long-term prognosis of the ailing president.

On Tuesday, Vice President Elias Jaua announced that doctors in Cuba had successfully removed the “entire lesion and surrounding tissue” from Chávez’s pelvic region. Speaking to the National Assembly, he said the samples would be analyzed “in coming hours to determine the optimal treatment.”

By late Tuesday, however, there had been no official word about those findings.

Most U.S. hospitals have pathology labs directly off the surgery theater, where tissue can be analyzed immediately to determine if it’s malignant, said Gustavo León, a general surgeon in South Florida with more than 30 years of practice.

“This is something that you can do within minutes,” he said. “You wouldn’t have to wait hours or days for that.”

Chávez, 57, traveled to Cuba on Friday after he announced that doctors had discovered a 2-cm lesion, less than an inch, near the site where a cancerous tumor was removed in June. The president has never said what kind of cancer he had, or what organs were affected, but doctors have speculated that it could be prostate, colon or bladder cancer.

The secrecy surrounding Chávez’s condition has fueled rumors, including persistent reports that the illness had spread. Before heading to Cuba, Chávez speculated that the new lesion might be cancerous but he said the disease had not metastasized. On Tuesday, Jaua said no “neighboring organs” had been affected. He also said Chávez was surrounded by family and has remained in touch with his cabinet.

The health scare comes as Chávez is heading into a tight presidential race Oct. 7 against Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles Radonski. Chávez has vowed to beat the illness, stay in the race and trounce the opposition.

Over the last 13 years, the charismatic leader has become the face and power behind his government, and some have accused him of stifling potential successors. Chávez did not name a temporary replacement for this trip.
Even so, on Tuesday, Jaua said the medical crisis has shown the government’s institutional strength.

“This has proved that, in tough times, the Bolivarian Revolution has represented and represents the guarantee of stability and strength of Venezuela’s democracy,” he said.
“Chávez will return, live and win,” Jaua said.

Read more here:

More Police Deaths Reported in Nigeria

Boko Haram again! 3 cops killed at police station

The Nigerian Sun
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gunmen attcked the Shuwa Divisional Police Station in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State on Sunday night killing three policemen on guard.

Report reaching Daily Sun yesterday from Shuwa indicated that the police and residents lived in fears and apprehension ever since the Sunday attack. Report also indicated that some improvised explosive devices were used by the attackers.

When contacted by newsmen on phone, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Assistant Superintendent of Police, Altine Daniel confirmed the ugly incident and that the deceased were of the rank of corporal.

Madagali Local Government Area borders Gwoza Local Government Area in Borno State, the home base of the dreaded Boko Haram Islamist sect that had in recent times claimed responsibility for such actions perpetrated in most parts of the northern state.

ASP Daniel also confirmed that besides the killing of the three policemen attached to the division, several other officers, including an inspector, had sustained injuries.

As at the time of filing this report yesterday, the police image-maker said more details of the attack were still expected as the Adamawa State Police Command had dispatched some senior officers to Shuwa.

“But I am authoritatively telling you that we lost three officers all of them corporals and three or four others are in hospital,” the image-maker said.

Impeccable sources from the area confirmed to Daily Sun that the number of victims of the incident was more than that given by the police command, disclosing that the gunmen equally carted away with some ammunition belonging to the division after the dislodge of the police command.

The sources also revealed that the said attackers came into the police division in pretence to lodge complaints while their motives were concealed but thereafter brought out their guns and shot the three police officers before shooting into the air sporadically to scare away other officers and residents of the town.

Given the ugly scenario, the residents have continued to live in fear and apprehension because such attacks had been unprecedented in the area.

Abuse of Autonomy In Nigerian Universities

Abuse of autonomy in universities

Tuesday, 28 February 2012 00:00 Editor Opinion - Editorial

A REPORT submitted to the government by a visitation panel to federal universities, which detailed vice-chancellors’ abuses of the autonomy granted the institutions, is quite revealing. It has clearly confirmed fears in many quarters of a systemic decay, and a lowering of values and standards in the citadel of learning over the years. The report is not a compliment to the culture of excellence associated with the academic community in the country. At the same time, government cannot be totally absolved of blame over the rot.

However, whatever transformation the government desires for the universities in its white paper must be total and comprehensive enough to free the institutions from the shackles that have held them back and embarrassingly edged them out of reckoning in continental and global rankings in recent years.

Government accused the administrators of, among others, politicizing processes and turning the institutions into private estates. The vice chancellors (VCs) had been embarking on projects that were bringing the institutions down, the findings said. A more weighty observation perhaps is that they have breached all known norms that had made the schools centres of universal learning. The university heads were also found to be creating unnecessary positions for friends as aides, manipulating the running of the ivory towers and unwittingly sacrificing merit for mediocrity in key official appointments.

Some of the schools veered into areas that are clearly outside their competence – for instance, a university of agriculture running programmes in Law and Management. Now, part of the reform process outlines that universities should henceforth refrain from running diploma and certificate courses and stop conferment of honourary degrees on questionable characters in the society. Again, universities should not exceed their carrying capacities to ensure standards. The Education Minister, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai had observed that lack of transparency in the deployment of resources, especially funds, engendered most of the rancour and bitterness within the university sector.

One relevant question in revisiting the systemic decay is: why is Nigeria blessed with a better yesterday? In the not-too-distant past, some of the country’s first generation universities occupied enviable positions among higher institutions in Africa. Sadly, that is now history. The fact that currently, none of them is found worthy of a place in the first 500 global rankings, has underscored how low standards have sunk.

The degeneration can be well situated in the continuous slide of the nation itself by whatever indices are used to measure growth. The embattled ivory towers are not any different. But universities ought to be the leading lights in situations like these because academics should, by calling, be intellectually equipped to push reform processes through learning and research. They should be in a position to rise above common societal challenges.

The decaying structures cannot convey a sense of pride in almost all the federal universities today. The visitation panel aptly captured a better part of it but the problems go beyond the vice-chancellors. As a stakeholder, the government should share the blame as some acts of officials clearly undermine efficiency and autonomy of the institutions, besides starving them of due funds.

Granting autonomy should not translate to a lowering of standard. The National Universities Commission (NUC) should, for example, set standards for feedback on investments. It is an open secret that many academic staff teach in up to four universities for purely monetary gains, and without checks and balances thus compromising standard. This should not be.

Many vice-chancellors and their registrars still regularly violate the law by establishing satellite campuses in the bid to shore up their revenue profiles. While this may be tailored to meeting the challenges of inadequate funds from the government to run the institutions, it nevertheless offends the spirit of the law against indiscriminate establishment of satellite campuses.

Always putting the wrong step forward for political reasons, government is also content with establishing more universities without corresponding teaching capacity or adequate infrastructure in line with statutory educational objectives. Instead of setting up more universities in which standards invariably suffer, government could easily have enhanced the capacity of existing schools to boost students’ intake and by extension the international image of the universities and their products.

Some of the appointees to Councils are not worthy of the positions, as such appointments are politically inspired. The selection process was corrupted until the recent reforms. The in-house mechanisms should be improved to correct the faults, including finding acceptable solutions to government’s underfunding without compromising the ideals. The NUC has also not discharged itself properly in its oversight functions, which include dealing appropriately with infractions by both the VCs and their institutions.

Vice chancellorship should not be seen as a position of power but rather as a means of fostering academic excellence. In other academic cultures, many VCs are eager to return to teaching and research at the earliest opportunity as a commitment to excellence. The government may need a re-definition of the autonomy issue. The universities are overdue for a move to the next level. No doubt, the current reform can set targets for a return to glory days in the ivory towers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Senegal Opposition Faces Post-Election Challenges

February 27, 2012

Senegal Opposition Faces Post-Election Challenges, Says Analyst

Peter Clottey

A poll worker helps a voter cast his ballot for president at a polling station in the Cambarene neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012

The head of Premum Africa, a Senegalese think tank, said opposition presidential candidates have a complicated task to form an alliance in their efforts to defeat President Abdoulaye Wade following Sunday’s first round election.

Provisional results so far released by the Independent Electoral Commission show none of the candidates garnered the required votes to win the first round.

Abdou Lo, who doubles as a political analyst, said the opposition parties have to overcome significant challenges in their bid to form an alliance in the next round of the presidential vote.

“Of course, President Wade is trying to declare himself winner of the first round. But, it is going to be complex with all the observers, as well as the international community, being in this country,” said Lo. “The conviction of all objective observers is that we are going to have a second round and that it’s going to be Abdoulaye Wade against Macky Sall.”

Wade told a news conference Monday that he is leading in the vote count. He said the results show him winning about 32 percent of the vote. He said the second-place candidate, whom he did not identify, has about 25 percent.

Both local and international poll observers praised the peaceful conduct of Sunday’s election, despite minor delays.

“It will be complicated, for some of the opposition candidates because they know that, if Macky Sall wins, he is going to be there for probably 14 years,” said Lo. “If it is Abdoulaye Wade who wins for the second round, they would have the probability to go in a competition in two or maximum four years. There is some kind of dilemma here for them. If they vote for Macky Sall instead of Wade, most of them will end their political career.”

The opposition candidates said they will not support Wade if he fails to win the first round. The parties and civil society groups that formed the M23 have said the presidential candidates should form an alliance to defeat Wade.

But, Lo cautioned that the opposition candidates will have a challenging task to overcome in the anticipated alliance negotiations.

“They will not align behind Macky Sall without any condition even though they are all in the opposition. Some of them want a short-term mandate, while Macky Sall wants a seven-year mandate, which is very long for the rest of the candidates,” said Lo. “They will try to negotiate to try to bring down the mandate from seven to five years and to try to put some [current] ministers who [embezzled] funds in prison.”

Lo said it will be difficult for some of the opposition presidential candidates to convince Sall to accept their proposal.

“Macky Sall doesn’t have a choice. He needs the other opposition leaders to back him if he wants to defeat Wade.”

The incumbent leader was challenged by 13 other candidates, including Idrissa Seck and Sall, both of whom served as prime minister under Wade.

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Egypt's Secular Parties Dissect Electoral Defeats

Egypt's secular parties dissect electoral defeats

Salma Shukrallah, Monday 27 Feb 2012

Liberal and leftist parties ponder reasons for electoral losses to their Islamist rivals in Egypt's first post-Mubarak parliamentary contests

Building on their electoral sweep of the People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament), Islamist parties dominated recently concluded polls for the Shura Council (the upper, consultative house of parliament), results of which were announced Saturday. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won 105 seats – more than 50 per cent of the total assembly – while the Salafist Nour Party finished second with 45 seats.

The country's oldest liberal party, theWafd, came in third with 14 seats, while the recently-established liberal Egyptian Bloc managed to secure eight seats.

Egypt’s first post-Mubarak elections were largely defined by the Islamist-secularist divide. While no Egyptian party overtly claims to be secular – a term with negative connotations in Egyptian popular discourse – Islamist parties have been accused by their critics of polarising voters by playing the religion card.

The Islamist electoral victory, however, can hardly be explained solely by Islamist parties' resort to religion, with members of non-Islamist parties citing a number of additional factors.

The Wafd's Sherif Taher, for one, says his own party's electoral performance had been affected by both "internal and external factors."

"The polarisation that first emerged during the [March constitutional] referendum had an impact," Taher said. "But this wasn't a religious polarisation, as some claim, as it did not pit Muslim against Christian. Rather, it was Islamist parties versus liberal parties. We were aware of this polarisation and should have dealt with it better.”

Taher added that his party’s electoral performance had been "good, given the circumstances."

"Old parties like the Wafd had been expected to disappear after last year's revolution, but instead we managed to secure almost three million votes," he said.

According to Taher, new parties counted on the post-revolution "euphoria" of their newly politicised members, who, he said, are more susceptible to political disappointments and – potentially – disenchantment. The Wafd, by contrast, relied on its older, traditional voter base and was thus expected to grow in coming years, he said.

Members of newly formed parties such as theEgyptian Social Democratic Party(ESDP) and theFree Egyptians Party– who together formed theEgyptian Bloc– believe their political immaturity ended up costing them parliamentary seats. Mahmoud Salem of the Free Egyptians, for one, said it was difficult to assess which of the party's 120,000 new members were suitably qualified to run in elections or manage electoral campaigns.

Unlike older parties with more experienced cadres, Salem said that even those running on the party’s lists were relatively unknown to the party’s board of governors. It was “virtually impossible to get accurate information about candidates in the short time we had," he said.

Salem explained that negotiations to form the liberal Egyptian Bloc from scratch and coordinate complex internal issues also cost the party badly-needed time.

Similarly, Khaled El-Sayed of theSocialist Popular Alliance(SPA) complained that his party had wasted both time and energy moving from one electoral coalition to another.

The SPA, formed in the wake of Mubarak's ouster, had initially been a member of the Egyptian Bloc before defecting to the Revolution Continues Alliance due to the Bloc's practice of recruiting candidates from Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP).

The lack of coordination between secular parties was also detrimental to their electoral prospects since they ended up competing for a similar constituency of voters, said Salem. For example, the Bloc's image was tainted by allegations by the SPA that it had recruited former NDP members, he explained.

Hisham Imbaby, an active member of the ESDP, echoed Salem's view that religious parties were simply better organised than their secular counterparts. The Nour Party had the broad-based Salafist Call movement to work with, while and the FJP worked in coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has long enjoyed widespread grassroots appeal. Newly-established secular parties, by contrast, had to build up their voter bases from scratch.

The ESDP fielded candidates in less than half of the country's electoral districts, said party member Mohamed Abou El-Ghar. "We're a new party, having registered exactly three and a half months before elections," he said. "We couldn't build the party in the Delta so we only worked in Cairo and southern Egypt."

Despite these challenges, Abou El-Ghar said his party had exceeded expectations at the ballot box. He also pointed to what he described as the "propaganda" directed against secular parties. “Islamist parties used terrible propaganda against us. They said we were sinful and that those who voted for us would go to hell – a discourse that met with particular success in poor areas.”

"The political debate focused largely on religion and not on the issues of social justice that we wanted to get across to the electorate," complained the SPA's El-Sayed. "And neither the liberals nor the Islamists will be concerned with social justice when sitting in parliament or when drawing up a new constitution."

What's more, both El-Sayed and Imbaby stressed the fact that liberal parties such as the SPA and ESDP had been closely involved in Tahrir Square sit-ins and demonstrations – both before and during the elections – while most Islamist parties had focused their energy primarily on electoral campaigning.

Although Islamist parties won a sweeping parliamentary majority, many secular parties express optimism that their popular bases will grow with time. They say they just need better internal coordination, more grassroots work, and stepped-up efforts to counter “Islamist propaganda” in order to reap better outcomes in future elections.

Sudan Rebels Claim They Killed 130 Army Personnel

Sudan rebels claim they killed 130 army members

Feb 28, 2012

Juba: Rebel groups in Sudan said on Monday they had captured a Sudanese army garrison near the border with South Sudan in an operation that Khartoum blamed on the south’s army.

The rebels said in a statement they killed 130 members of the government forces in the attack. The figure could not be independently verified.

The South Sudan government said none of its forces were involved, but the assault fuelled tensions between the neighbours already at odds over oil exports and border disputes. Any involvement of southern forces would have violated a non-aggression pact signed by the two sides this month.

A helicopter crash is seen in Al-Faw, an area of Sudan's Gedaref state. Reuters
The clashes on Sunday took place in the South Kordofan province on Sudan’s side of the ill-defined border with South Sudan, a flashpoint between the two countries.

The newly formed rebel umbrella group Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) said its forces were behind the assault on the military post around Lake Obyad, which lies near the boundary.

The SRF was formed last year between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), who operate in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), based in Darfur in the west of Sudan.

“It is a victory, the first victory under the umbrella of the SRF to have two forces fighting together,” SRF spokesman Arnu Ngutulu Lodi told Reuters by telephone.

The SPLM-N’s fighters fought alongside the forces of what is now the south’s ruling SPLM during Sudan’s civil war that ended with a peace deal in 2005 and led to southern secession in 2011.

The SPLM-N says it cut ties with the South after independence, but Khartoum accuses Juba of continuing to provide military and financial support to the rebels.

According to Lodi, the SRF captured hundreds of machine guns, dozens of heavy artillery and 200 vehicles from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), although he said it was too early to provide a number of casualties from either side.

Both countries trade accusations of supporting insurgents in each other’s territory. Tensions have also mounted in a dispute over how much Juba should pay Khartoum to export its oil.

Authorities in landlocked South Sudan say Sudan has since December stolen over $800 million worth of oil, which has to be exported via a pipeline through the north. Sudan says it seized the crude in lieu of what it calls unpaid transportation fees.

Sudan has threatened to file a complaint about what it says are the south’s violations of the non-aggression pact to the United Nations Security Council and the African Union, although the South said its forces were not involved.

“Those battles that have been fought for the last 72 hours are completely within the republic of Sudan and are between SAF and (SRF) and we are not party to that,” South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer said.

In turn, he said Khartoum violated the pact by bombing the South’s army at Jau the day after the security deal was signed. That is a charge that Sudan has denied.

“It is the government of South Sudan that should complain to international bodies like the Security Council,” Aguer said.

The United States has warned that South Kordofan could face famine conditions if Khartoum continues to deny aid agencies access to civilians in rebel-held areas.


Standard & Poor's Declares Greece in Default Already

S&P Declares Greece in Default

Wall Street Journal

Greece became the first euro-zone member officially to be rated in default, 13 years after the single European currency was adopted to strengthen the European Union.

Standard & Poor's cut Greece's long-term credit rating to selective default from double-C. The move was expected, as S&P said this month that it would consider Greece in default if it added "collective-action" clauses to its sovereign debt, effectively forcing all bondholders to accept a bond-swap offering. Greece's Parliament approved that measure last week.

A panel will decide whether S&P's move triggers credit-default-swap payouts. Above, demonstrators in front of the Greek Parliament last week.

Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings also are likely to place Greece in default. The ratings companies deem an issuer in default any time it fails to pay back creditors in full and on time.

The bigger question remains whether the action triggers payments on credit-default-swap contracts, a form of insurance against a bond default or restructuring.

The net payments that would change hands between buyers and sellers of credit-default swaps on Greece wouldn't total more than an estimated $3.2 billion, according to the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.

A committee convened by the organization that oversees those contracts, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, has been asked by an unidentified entity to decide whether Greece's restructuring should trigger the payouts.

Greece hasn't failed to make any interest payments to bondholders, and the official restructuring of the country's debt isn't complete.

The committee is being asked to consider whether Greek legislation to retrofit its debt with collective-action clauses, potentially forcing losses on private investors, should trigger credit-default-swap payouts because the decision won't include the European Central Bank and the new Greek bonds it received in an exchange, protecting the ECB from losses.

Under definitions published by the association, a change in the payment priority ranking of any obligation is one of the events in a restructuring that can trigger credit-default-swap payouts, as long as it results from a deterioration in credit-worthiness.

The association said in a statement that the committee will decide by Wednesday "whether to accept the question for deliberation or reject it."

If the committee reviews the case, it then would consider whether sellers of Greek credit-default swaps should pay buyers of the protection.

Write to Katy Burne at

North Korea Responds to Imperialist War Games

N. Korea's Kim III fires up rhetoric

Analysts study the new leader's words, actions for clues

By Donald Kirk
Christian Science Monitor
updated 2/27/2012 5:58:38 PM ET 2012-02-27T22:58:38

SEOUL — Thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops opened annual war games today against the background of strident rhetoric from North Korea.

The verbal blasts from Pyongyang appeared considerably more inflammatory than usual, raising searching questions as to the nature and intentions of a regime now ostensibly led by the untested third-generation heir to the North's ruling dynasty.

U.S. and Korean analysts worry about the meaning of the threats from North Korea as the country’s youthful new leader Kim Jong Un asserts his authority in increasingly strong terms. The critical question is whether the rhetoric is just a somewhat louder version of the denunciations regularly fired by North Korea during war games before the death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il in December.

"We don't know if Kim Jong Un plays by the same playbook or by something wholly different given his lack of experience and the need to legitimize himself as a 'strong' leader," says Victor Cha, who directed Asian affairs for the National Security Council during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Cha says he's watching "with greater apprehension any negative rhetoric coming out of the North. Before, we could chalk it up to typical North Korean tactics."

'Ready to fight'

Tensions escalated Monday as thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops opened two weeks of war games. Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency declared its forces "ready to fight a war" in which "the war mongers will meet destruction."

Kim Jong Un, in the role of "supreme commander" that he has had since his father died in December, vowed "powerful retaliatory strikes" if U.S. and South Korean troops enter North Korean waters.

Mr. Kim made the threat in a visit to a military unit by the Yellow Sea last weekend, evoking memories of the artillery barrage on nearby Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010 in which two South Korean marines and two civilians died. North Korea accused the South Koreans, who were conducting military exercises at the time, of opening fire on their territory.

By staging the current exercises, said the Korean Central News Agency, U.S. and South Korean forces were "guilty of unpardonable infringement upon the sovereignty of North Korea."

The U.S. command has been careful to stress the harmless nature of the exercises in which as many as 200,000 South Korean troops and several thousand Americans conduct exercises more often than not on computers. The command said the exercises -– called Key Resolve -– were "entirely non-provocative in nature."

More world news from the Christian Science Monitor ..North Korea fired its loudest rhetorical barrages after two days of talks in Beijing last week between the new U.S. envoy on North Korea, Glyn Davies, and the veteran North Korean negotiator Kim Kye Gwan. Mr. Davies, stopping here on the weekend, said the talks were "serious" and "substantive" and had made "a little progress" but did not go into details.

Hot-and-cold rhetoric

A spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry, explaining the hot-and-cold nature of its rhetoric, said Monday the North was "fully ready for dialogue and war" -– an ambivalent remark that suggested uncertainty among North Korean leaders.

It was North Korea, not the United States, that requested the talks, apparently to see about getting direly needed food aid, but North Korean rhetoric indicated the North was not about to yield to demands for signs of giving up its nuclear program. Instead, on Saturday, the North put out a reminder of the danger posed by long-range missiles capable of carrying warheads with a statement to the effect that "the U.S. is sadly mistaken if it thinks it is safe as its mainland is far across the ocean."

Scott Snyder, director of U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, assumes "the two sides failed to come to terms" in the Beijing talks but holds out hopes for eventually returning to six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program, last held in Beijing in 2008. The question, he says, is whether "something different has developed in North Korea’s leadership transition" -– possibly pressure to show military strength.

Kim Jong Un's ascension offers window to ease North-South tensions

"North Korean rhetoric has always been way over the top," says David Straub, former Korea desk officer at the State Department.

"Recently, however, the tone and the threats seem, if anything, even more menacing."

In view of North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and "uncertainties surrounding the new leadership," says Straub, associate director of Korea studies at Stanford, the U.S. and South Korea "need to be even more militarily vigilant than usual." At the same time, he cautions, "they need to take care not to gratuitously offend or give excuses to North Korea by word or by deed."

Martial arts display

Against the backdrop of strident rhetoric from the North, the agency responsible for the president’s security put on the display of defensive expertise Monday. Martial arts experts battered one another, armored black limousines roared and screeched, and explosions crackled on cue in front of the Blue House, the office and residential complex of South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak.

"We are well prepared to deal with any provocation. We are watching very seriously," says Eo Cheong-soo, chief of the presidential security service, as he watched his men.

Also in attendance was South Korean Lt. Gen. Shin Hyun-don, who said he was not worried. There was "no sign of North Korean troop movements," he says. "There’s always more of a threat. We go on preparing more defense."