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Showing posts from October 1, 2014
by Neil Macdonald


Back in July, Barack Obama signed an executive order punishing anyone responsible for some of the hideous excesses of the Congolese civil war.



Hardly anyone noticed Obama's order. But for the record, the people it targets have reportedly committed: mass rape (of men and women, by rebels and government soldiers) often in front of communities and families, or forcing people to rape each other, as a weapon of war; inventive torture (forcing men to copulate with holes in the ground lined with razor blades, forcing women to eat excrement or flesh of relatives); casual and varied forms of murder (including firing weapons up women's vaginas); use of child soldiers; and ethnic cleansing.


The list goes on.


The Congo war has killed five million people, directly and indirectly, since 1998 — more than the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq put together, as one national newspaper here noted recently.


Obama's punishment for the culprits? Financial discomfort.


He broaden…

Isis an Hour Away from Baghdad

By Patrick Cockburn

The Iraqi army, plagued by corruption, absenteeism and supply failures, has little chance against Islamist fanatics using suicide bombings and fluid tactics. And US air strikes are making little difference.

US air strikes are failing to drive back Isis in Iraq where its forces are still within an hour’s drive of Baghdad.


Three and a half months since the Iraqi army was spectacularly routed in northern Iraq by a far inferior force of Isis fighters, it is still seeing bases overrun because it fails to supply them with ammunition, food and water. The selection of a new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to replace Nouri al-Maliki last month was supposed to introduce a more conciliatory government that would appeal to Iraq’s Sunni minority from which Isis draws its support.


Mr Abadi promised to end the random bombardment of Sunni civilians, but Fallujah has been shelled for six out of seven days, with 28 killed and 117 injured. Despite the military crisis, the government h…

Shocking NASA pics show Aral Sea basin now completely dry

The Aral Sea in 1989 (left), and now (NASA Earth Observatory)


Once the fourth-biggest lake in the world, the eastern basin of the Aral Sea in central Asia is now completely dry. It is the result of a Soviet-era project to divert rivers for agriculture and a lack of rainfall at its source.

“This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times,” Philip Micklin, an Aral Sea expert from Western Michigan University told NASA’s Earth Observatory, which captured fresh satellite images of the lake. “And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation [drying out] associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea.”




Children run past ruined ships abandoned in sand that once formed the bed of the Aral Sea near the village of Zhalanash, in southwestern Kazakhstan (Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov / Files)



In a bid to drive up production of cotton in nearby steppes, Soviet engineers diverted the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, the two…

‘Join the invisible to make the impossible’: Israel’s Mossad now recruits agents online

Image from mossad.gov.il



Israeli intelligence has given up to modern trends and introduced an online questionnaire for would-be spies. Unlike the businesslike CIA or MI5 web draft campaigns, Israelis are luring volunteers with mystery halo always shrouding Mossad’s activities.

Mossad has become one of the last intelligence agencies in the world that vouchsafed to recruiting volunteer spies online, facilitating the induction process for those who always wanted to be a secret agent, but considered it unattainable.

The agency’s online recruiting website, available in Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, Persian and Russian, looks like a creatively designed product, wrapping spy activities in bright and attractive packaging. The intelligence outlet calls on to potential candidates to “create history,” make their life and “join the invisible to make the impossible.”

The internet resource contains general information about Mossad, its history, directors and an initial online job application. In c…

Afghan, US officials sign long-awaited pact to ensure troops stay past 2014

U.S. troops keep watch at the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul August 10, 2014. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)


The new President of Afghanistan Ghani Ahmadzai has paved the way for US troops to stay in the country. He has signed a security deal with the US, which will see just under 10,000 American soldiers present, to help train and assist Afghan forces.

National security adviser Hanif Atmar and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the bilateral security agreement in a televised ceremony at the presidential palace, a day after Ghani was inaugurated as the new Afghan president.

"As an independent country, based on our national interests, we signed this agreement for stability, goodwill, and prosperity of the our people, stability of the region and the world," Ghani said in a speech after the signing, according to Reuters.

Aside from the 10,000 US soldiers, another 2,000 NATO troops will also boost numbers. They will stay on after the US and its allies formally end their c…