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Entries in New York Times (126)


Syria Audio Analysis: The "No Secular Fighters" Myth --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24

The media's sensationalised mangling of the Syrian conflict went from bad to worse last weekend with a New York Times article that asserted --- on the basis of little evidence and a distorted quote --- that there are "no secular fighters" left in Syria.

Listen from the 18-minute mark on the Midori House homepage or in a separate pop-out window.

This morning I dealt with questions from Monocle 24's Midori House about the article to deal with wider points: 1. The insurgency is a collection of many factions, some of which have "secular" outlooks and members. Asking "are there any secular rebels left?" --- from the New York Times' "reader-baiting" approach --- is just as ludicrous as asking "are there any Islamists" in the insurgency.

2. This article and others have been fed by the escalating myths that the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra is "Al-Qa'eda linked" and is dominating the insurgency. To repeat: JAN is only one of many factions in the opposition and it is not tied to Al Qa'eda.

3. Nor does the myth of "radical Islamists" do us any good in appreciating the countries beyond Syria amid the "Arab Spring". The post-uprising Governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya do not fit that simplistic label.


US 1st-Hand: "11 Years of Detention in Guantanamo is Killing Me"

One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

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US Feature: How the Obama Administration Killed 3 US Citizens in Yemen (New York Times)

See also EA Video Analysis: Drones, President Obama, and Rand Paul's Filibuster --- "More Macbeth Than Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

Abdulrahman al-AwlakiThe missile strike on Sept. 30, 2011, that killed Mr. Awlaki — a terrorist leader whose death lawyers in the Obama administration believed to be justifiable — also killed Mr. Khan, though officials had judged he was not a significant enough threat to warrant being specifically targeted. The next month, another drone strike mistakenly killed Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who had set off into the Yemeni desert in search of his father. Within just two weeks, the American government had killed three of its own citizens in Yemen. Only one had been killed on purpose.

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Syria 1st-Hand: Battle in Damascus Takes Toll on Regime Soldiers (New York Times)

In this war of murky battlefield reports, it is hard to know whether the rebels’ recent forays past some of the capital’s circle of defenses — in an operation that they have, perhaps immodestly, named the “Battle of Armageddon” — will lead to more lasting gains than earlier offensives did. But travels along the city’s battlefronts in recent days made clear that new lines, psychological as much as geographical, had been crossed.

“I didn’t see my family for more than a year,” a government soldier from a distant province said in a rare outpouring of candor. He was checking drivers’ identifications near the railway station at a checkpoint where hundreds of soldiers arrived last week with tanks and other armored vehicles.

“I am tired and haven’t slept well for a week,” he said, confiding in a traveler who happened to be from his hometown. “I have one wish — to see my family and have a long, long sleep. Then I don’t care if I die.”

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Pakistan Feature: A Tribute to Activist Irfan Ali, Killed by Thursday's Bombs (Mackey)

Irfan Ali, in glasses, taking part in a demonstration in Islamabad in September

See also Pakistan News: 114 Killed in Thursday Bombings

On Thursday bomb attacks by insurgent and separatist Baluch groups in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Mingora killed at least 115 people. Among the dead in Quetta was Irfan Ali, a prominent human rights activist.

Shortly after the first bomb struck a local snooker hall, Ali tweeted that he had narrowly escaped harm. When the second bomb exploded, timed to hit rescue workers who had arrived on the scene, Ali was killed as he helped those injured by the first blast.

Ali’s death sparked an outpouring of grief and anger, as well as tributes to a life supporting human rights causes, across Twitter and the Internet.

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Iran Special: New York Times Notices Important Nuclear Story...Four Months Later

Because Washington still envisages that it can get Tehran to agree to its conditions --- a suspension of all 20% uranium enrichment, a shipping of the existing stock outside the country, and a halt to operations at Fordoo --- it gave the lead to David Sanger and James Risen for their article today.

Those clues to the politics and propaganda of the Obama Administration, rather than journalism on Iran's nuclear programme, is the real value of The New York Times coverage.

Even it is sometimes months late.

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Syria Feature: After Insurgent Victories, US Again Considers "Deeper Intervention" (Sanger/Schmitt)

David Sanger and Eric Schmitt write for The New York Times:

The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to government officials involved in the discussions.

While no decisions have been made, the administration is considering several alternatives, including directly providing arms to some opposition fighters.

The most urgent decision, likely to come next week, is whether NATO should deploy surface-to-air missiles in Turkey, ostensibly to protect that country from Syrian missiles that could carry chemical weapons. The State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said Wednesday that the Patriot missile system would not be “for use beyond the Turkish border.”

But some strategists and administration officials believe that Syrian Air Force pilots might fear how else the missile batteries could be used. If so, they could be intimidated from bombing the northern Syrian border towns where the rebels control considerable territory. A NATO survey team is in Turkey, examining possible sites for the batteries.

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US War on Terror Feature: Obama Seeks a "Formal Rule Book" for Drone Attacks

Aftermath of US Drone Strike in AfghanistanFacing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But with more than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the administration is still pushing to make the rules formal and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about exactly when lethal action is justified.

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Gaza 1st-Hand: "We are Trapped. That is Where Our Story Begins and Ends" (Aburamadan)

A Gazan woman in front of a destroyed house in Gaza City today (Photo: Mohammad Salem/Reuters)

Gaza, after all, is a very small place. Pick a point, any point, along its 25-mile coastline, and you’re seven or so miles — never more — from the other side. The other side is where my grandparents were born, in a village that has since become someone else’s country, off limits to me. You call it Israel. I call it the place where the bombs come from. One thundered to earth just now, as I was writing this.

I hear there are children there — like Hiba, Omar, Ranana — who might appreciate the simple textures of a day spent outside, of a sky that beckons and does not bellow. I wonder: would these children trade places with me now? No, I would not wish that upon them. Better yet, let us take a trip together, to some other shore, where there is not a single pockmark — not one.

But that is the stuff of movies.

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Iran Exclusive: Did Supreme Leader's Top Advisor Meet US Officials in Qatar?

Ali Akbar Velayati & Supreme LeaderAccording to well-placed EA sources, the Supreme Leader's top advisor for foreign policy, Ali Akbar Velayati, has met US officials in Doha in Qatar earlier this month. Velayati and the Americans discussed the renewal of high-level talks over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The account from our sources follows more than a week of reports and rumours about "back-channel" US-Iran discussions.

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