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Sunday
Jul242011

Afghanistan and Iraq Snapshot: $34 Billion "Wasted" by US Government on Contracting (Hodge)

The U.S. has wasted or misspent $34 billion contracting for services in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a draft report by a bipartisan congressional panel, the most comprehensive effort so far to tally the overall cost of a decade of battlefield contracting in America's two big wars.

The three-year investigation comes from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was established by Congress in 2008.

Its final report, expected to be sent to Capitol Hill in the next few weeks, lays out in detail the failure of federal agencies to properly manage and oversee grants and contracts set to exceed a total of $206 billion by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

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Saturday
Jul232011

The Latest from Iran (23 July): A Furlough in Repression

1840 GMT: The Slain Scientist --- Confusion Alert. We have been working throughout the day on the initial report that the scientist slain today in Tehran was a 35-year-old "Professor of Physics" named Dariush Rezaei, as initially reported by Iranian media (see 1503 and 1530 GMT).

This led us to Dariush Rezaei, also identified as Dariush Rezaei-Ochbolagh, a faculty member at Mohaghegh Ardabili University (see 1600 GMT). However, there is a curiosity in Rezaei's profile --- he is listed as 46 years old.

(Mehr, however, do seem to have a consistent story, with Rezaei a 45-year-old professor at the University, which is in the city of Ardebil in northwest Iran.)

Now Fars and IRNA that the victim, named Dariush Rezaeinejad, is actually a postgraduate student in electrical engineering at Khaje Nasir University in Tehran. IRNA, from an "informed source", says Rezaeinejad was "cooperating with a number of universities and scientific centers".

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Saturday
Jul232011

Norway Opinion: A Time for Restraint

We all need to look at how the Norwegian people and Government are dealing with this tragedy, following their lead and admiring their unflinching strength in the face of this gut-wrenching disaster. We need to allow them time to grieve in peace. They deserve the dignity of being able to bury their loved ones, care for their wounded, and find some measure of national solitude before we unleash a barrage of speculation from the impulse that we need to get to the bottom of the truth even if there is insufficient information to back up our ponderings.

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Saturday
Jul232011

Norway Analysis: Questions and Lessons from Friday's Attacks in Oslo and Utoeya

Photo: GettyFinally, this case is an example of the dangers of a “rush to judgement” without the full facts. I am as guilty of this as anyone else with my analysis yesterday, potentially linking the attacks to Al Qaeda. Others went even further with media appearances and Twitter messages connecting the attacks to a so-called "jihadist" group that does not appear to exist. In turn, the media were only to happy to lap this up and this groundswell of misjudgements can have real consequences for ordinary people.

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Saturday
Jul232011

Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Critical Mass?

Claimed video of military cadets marching for the opposition in Aleppo in Syria on Friday

1925 GMT: The AP is now carrying a story we've been reporting this afternoon, the clashes in Cairo, Egypt:

A crowd estimated at around 10,000 people set out from downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square but was stopped from reaching the military headquarters in the eastern Abbasiyah neighborhood by a line of army barricades. Along the way, they chanted slogans against the military council's delay in implementing their demands.

Bands of men armed with knives and sticks set upon them from side roads, setting off pitched street battles in which both sides threw punches and hurled rocks. Gunfire was heard, but it was unclear who was shooting.

1919 GMT: Bahraini police harass protesters with tear gas in Maameer:

1911 GMT: The situation might be winding down in Egypt:

RT @Sandmonkey: The #abassia battle seems to be over. People are getting out now.

1901 GMT: There are reports of an escalating situation in Egypt. According to Rasha Abdulla:

AlJazeera: More than 70 protesters injured in #Abbasiya clashes #massira

An activist is also sharing this picture, reportedly showing smoke in the air after a car was lit on fire and molotov cocktails were thrown (there appears to be fire in the background as well).

1856 GMT: Al Jazeera reports on events in Homs, where a general strike has been called and thousands protested today alongside the funerals of three people killed yetsreday:

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Saturday
Jul232011

Iran Analysis: Supreme Leader = Machiavelli? (Sadjadpour)

Khamenei's inflexibility has so far served him well. His unwillingness to bend, however, has made it more likely that the Islamic Republic itself will have to break. As a young advisor to opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi recently told me, "We don't want a revolution; we've seen how it turns the country upside down. But they're giving us no other choice."

Machiavelli died in 1527, distrusted by all sides and disliked by the people he aimed to serve. It would be poetic justice if one of his most practiced disciples suffered the same fate.

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Saturday
Jul232011

Norway Follow-Up: At Least 87 Dead in Oslo Bomb, Utoeya Shootings

Anders BreivikUPDATE 1230 GMT: The youth branch of the ruling Labour Party (AUF) has said it will return to the island of Utoeya, where at least 84 of its members were killed, and continue its summer camp to show it will not yield to terror.

The head of the branch, Eskil Perdersen, said, "[We] will not be silenced. In the face of this heinous and incomprehensible attack, we have this message: AUF and its ideas will survive as they always have. We are not abdicating in the fight for our convictions. We will return to Utoeya."

UPDATE 0850 GMT: Back from a break to find that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has appeared again on national TV to offer support for the injuries and families of the dead, although he could not express in words "how much I feel for all those affected....Many of those who lost their lives were persons I know. I know the young people and I know their parents." Stoltenberg said Utoeya Island had been "my youth paradise, and now it's been changed to hell".

Police have said Anders Behring Breivik, the main suspect in both the Utoeya shootings and the Oslo bomb appeared to a "Christian fundamentalist" from his websites. They said, "He is cooperating," while holding open the possibility that more than one shooter was involved.

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Saturday
Jul232011

Syria Snap Analysis: Will 22 July Be Marked by History as A Turning Point?

Hama, 22 July (Reuters)The security forces have withdrawn from Hama and Deir Ez Zor. They are trying to quell the protests in Homs and around Damascus and Aleppo, but they are not succeeding. It is hard to imagine that the regime has any strongholds of significance left. Through crackdowns, and threats of sectarian violence, the protests have only grown in both scale, scope, and reach. To repeat the rhetorical question I asked on Friday; Where AREN'T they protesting in Syria?

And now the follow-up rhetorical question: how can the Assad regime possibly expect to survive this level of democratic upheaval?

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Friday
Jul222011

Norway Special: The Oslo Bombing and the Threat from Al Qa'eda

Photo: APThe targeting of Norway should not be a surprise. In 2003, Al Qaeda --- through its current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri --- first threatened Norway, possibly because of the involvement of Norwegian special forces in Afghanistan. Since then, the Norwegian role in Afghanistan has expanded, although its troops are to be withdrawn later this year.

In July 2010, the Norwegian police announced the arrests of three suspected Al Qaeda members who may have been planning an attack. Two months later, the suggestion was that the attack they were planning was in retaliation for the publication of the cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad. In December 2010, there was the suicide attack in neighbouring Sweden by a British resident. On 12 July, an Iraqi-born cleric, facing deportation since 2005 as a security risk, was charged with issuing death threats against Norwegian politicians.

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Friday
Jul222011

Norway Video: Explosion in Prime Minister's Office Injures At Least 8

See also Norway Special: The Oslo Bombing and the Threat from Al Qa'eda

UPDATE 2045 GMT: As Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg delivers a message to the nation --- "You are not going to destroy us, you are not going to destroy our democracy" --- the Norwegian Minister of Justice says the shooter in the Utoeya attack is Norwegian.

UPDATE 1945 GMT: Police are now saying "9 or 10" people were killed in the Oslo explosion, caused by a car bomb outside the Prime Minister's office building.

UPDATE 1935 GMT: Alexandra Sandels of the Los Angeles Times passes on the first-hand observations of Swedish colleague Mattias Carlsson from the Utoeya shootings: "Between 15-20 bodies in water. Many young women. Groups of dead bodies at 4 different spots around the island. 8 people dead in one spot, 5-6 in another."

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