Iran Election Guide

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Saturday
Jan082011

Syria Transcript: US Sends Ambassador so Damascus Can Challenge Hezbollah

On Saturday, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley briefed the press on the appointment of Robert Ford as the ambassador to Syria. His explanation of the decision was far from consistent. If the matter  has nothing to do with "placing ambassadors in countries with which Washington has significant disagreements", why is there no ambassador to Tehran or an attempt to build official dialogue with Hamas-ruled Gaza? Why just Damascus?

The answer? Washington wants to assign "a constructive role" to Syria, such as dealing with the "Hezbollah concern" in Lebanon and in the region.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan082011

WikiLeaks Latest: US Department of Justice Subpoenas Twitter Records of Volunteers (Greenwald)

Last night, Birgitta Jónsdóttir --- a former WikiLeaks volunteer and current member of the Icelandic Parliament --- announced on Twitter) that she had been notified by Twitter that the DOJ had served a Subpoena demanding information "about all my tweets and more since November 1st 2009.

What hasn't been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter -- which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested -- seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange.  It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks' Twitter account.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan082011

Algeria Latest: At Least 3 Dead in Friday's Protests

1755 GMT: Protests took place today in the Kabylie region east of Algiers on Saturday, including in the cities of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia.

The Government continues to combine denunciation and reassurance. Abdelaziz Belkhadem, a representative of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, condemned protesters. He said oil revenues were improving living standards for Algeria's 35 million people, but improvements would take time as there had been no investment during fighting between the government and Islamist groups in the 1990s.

Minister of Trade Mustapha Benbada said urgent measures would be taken and promised, "From the start of next week, the situation will get better." Possible measures included fixed profit margins on goods such as cooking oil and sugar.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in his third term, has not made any public comment on the protests.

1410 GMT: Minister of Interior Daho Ould Kablia has issued his first statement on this week's protests.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan082011

Egypt Video: Hundreds Dress in Black to Mourn Alexandria Bomb Victims

On Friday hundreds of Egyptians responded to an appeal via Facebook to mourn the victims of the 1 January bomb outside Al-Qiddisine church in Alexandria.

The one-hour ceremony took place on Alexandria's corniches, with mourners holding banners calling for national unity.

Saturday
Jan082011

Iraq Update: Al-Sadr Calls for Peaceful "Resistance" Against US "Occupiers" (Al Jazeera)

UPDATE 1200 GMT: Clarifying the use of "peaceful" in the headline, this is Reuters' report on the speech:

Sadr said occupiers should be resisted "by all means" but added that arms were for "people of weapons only," a comment that seemed to endorse the authority of the army and the police and could calm fears of a return of the [Sadrist militia] Mehdi Army.

---

Thousands of Iraqis have turned out in the central Iraqi city of Najaf to hear Muqtada al-Sadr's first speech since his return from four years of self-imposed exile.

The Shia Muslim religious leader called the US, Israel and the UK "common enemies" against Iraq in his speech on Saturday , and urged his followers to resist what he called "the occupiers" by all means.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan082011

Tunisia Audio Feature: Interview with Blogger Slim Amamou Before His Arrest

On Thursday afternoon, prominent Tunisian blogger Slim Amamou, a contributor to Global Voices Advocacy, was summoned to the Ministry of Interior and arrested.

Amamou had denounced attacks against Tunisian email accounts and organised protests against censorship. Last May, he was arrested and detained for more than 12 hours until he recorded a video calling for the cancellation of a rally.

The day before he was arrested, Amamou spoke to The World.

Listen to the audio....

Saturday
Jan082011

The Latest from Iran (8 January): Confronting the Enemy, Talking to the Enemy

1814 GMT: Sedition Watch. Gholam-Hossein Elham of the Guardian Council gets to the point: opponents and protesters are "mohareb" (enemies of God) and must be eradicated.

1810 GMT: Financial Mismanagement Watch. Another criticism of the Government's handling of energy revenues: the Baran Foundation reports that, although Iran had an $8 billion oil profit, not one toman was transfered to the treasury this year.

1805 GMT: Diplomatic Truths. Mehr reports on the increasing power of the President's "special envoys" and the chaos for Iranian diplomacy after the dismissal of Foreign Minister Mottaki.

1749 GMT: The Espionage Non-Story. Western media continue to take the tale of the "American-spying-through-her-teeth" seriously (see 1215 GMT), amidst these developments from Iranian officials:

She is no longer 55. She is 34.

Sometimes she is American. Sometimes she is Swiss.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan082011

North Korea Video Special: Kim Jong-Il Looks at Lots of Things in an Apartment

One of the breakthroughs last month in our international coverage was discovering how North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong Il Looks at Things. We have brought you the detailed evidence of Kim Jong Il looking at food, looking at pigs, and looking at wood.

Today we take our investigation up a level: here is the 13-minute video of Kim Jong Il Looking at Lot of Things in an Apartment. Like running water. And a wardrobe. And a crying girl. And a singing man. And toilet paper.

And there's more: a special guest appearance by the Next North Korean Dear Leader, Kim Jong Un, who seems to Look at Nothing in Particular....

Saturday
Jan082011

Tunisia Video: The Music That Got Rapper "El General" Arrested

On Thursday, amidst protests in Tunisia, rapper El General (Hamada Ben-Amor) was detained. His brother Hamdi Ben-Amor explained, ""Some 30 plainclothes policemen came to our house to arrest Hamada and took him away without ever telling us where to. When we asked why they were arresting him, they said 'he knows why'."

"Why" is making music critical of the Tunisian Government with lines such as "President, Your People Are Dying":

Saturday
Jan082011

Wikileaks Israel-Palestine Document: How U.S. Distributors Bribed Israelis to Bring Goods Into Gaza

Israeli officials may have told Americans in 2008 that "they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis" (see our separate entry), but another U.S. embassy cable from 2006 indicates a possible way around the siege: bribing Israelis were bribed to accept US goods into Gaza.

The US Embassy in Israel reported, "As of late May 34 shipments of American goods, amounting to nearly USD 1.9 million dollars, have been waiting three to four months to cross into Gaza." However, these could be released by paying Israeli officials "special fees" which was 75 times higher than the normal processing charge.

For example, for $3000 you could get the "first place in line" or a spot "near the head of the Israeli line, which does move". Some American firms were paying up to $28,000 for a single truckload to get into Gaza.

Click to read more ...