The Bittersweet Player – Clear your browser cache to hear the latest play list.
26-27 November 2011
Egypt – The New York Times reported: Defying expectations of chaos and violence, unexpectedly large crowds of voters turned out at dawn Monday to cast their votes in Egypt’s first parliamentary election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February. By 9 a.m, voters had formed long and peaceful lines under the watchful eyes of a heavy police and army guard to cast votes in rich and poor neighborhoods across Cairo. In several places, queues stretched as long as a block along the banks of the Nile, and there were similar reports from Alexandria and Port Said. The Muslim Brotherhood, the group that defined Islamist politics, poised to win a dominant role in the Parliament of the country that for nearly six decades was the paradigmatic secular dictatorship of the Arab world. But the prospect of that historic turn has been largely overshadowed here by another, more urgent contest unfolding outside the voting booths: between the military council that seized power at Mr. Mubarak’s ouster and a resurgent protest movement demanding the council’s exit.
Syria – FOX NEWS reported: Syria’s economy minister says economic sanctions approved by the Arab League against Syria are “a dangerous precedent” that will harm the Syrian people. Mohammed Nidal al-Shaar added in remarks published Monday in the Syrian pro-government daily Al-Watan that once the sanctions are put in force Damascus’ “sources of foreign currency would be affected. The Arab League overwhelmingly approved sanctions Sunday against Syria to pressure Damascus to end its deadly eight-month crackdown on dissent, an unprecedented move by the League against an Arab state. Before the vote, Damascus slammed the vote as a betrayal of Arab solidarity. Besides punishing an already ailing economy, the sanctions are a huge blow for a Syrian regime that considers itself a powerhouse of Arab nationalism. At a news conference in Cairo, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said 19 of the League’s 22 member nations approved the sanctions, which include cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria. Iraq and Lebanon abstained. “We aim to avoid any suffering for the Syrian people,” bin Jassim said. The sanctions are the latest in a growing wave of international pressure pushing Syria to end its violent suppression of protests against President Bashar Assad, which the U.N. says has killed more than 3,500 people since March.
Pakistan – CNN reported: The Pakistani foreign minister Sunday described a NATO attack that killed dozens of soldiers as “totally unacceptable,” saying it plunges the nation’s relationship with the United States into deeper crisis. NATO helicopters attacked a military checkpoint in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers, authorities in the nation said. The attack wounded 13 others in Mohmand Agency, one of seven districts in the volatile region bordering Afghanistan, the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. Many of the wounded were in critical condition, military officials said. The officials did not want to be identified because they are not allowed to talk to the media.
Iran – Haaretz reported: The Iranian legislative watchdog Guardian Council on Monday approved a bill to expel the British ambassador to Tehran and downgrade bilateral ties to the charge d’affaires level. ISNA news agency quoted council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei as saying the bill was approved and legally binding on the government. The Guardian Council is in charge of examining the compatibility of parliamentary bills with the country’s constitution, and is the final instance for approving legislation. The parliament on Sunday gave the government a two-week deadline to expel the British ambassador, following London’s decision to cut all financial ties with Iranian banks. Some 87 per cent of lawmakers voted for the bill to downgrade diplomatic ties and reduce economic and commercial cooperation to a minimum.
Iraq – VOA reported: Iraqi officials say a suicide bomber has exploded a vehicle outside a prison near Baghdad, killing 19 people and wounding at least 22 others. The blast happened Monday morning at the entrance to the al-Hout prison in the town of Taji. Authorities say the dead include at least 10 security personnel and several civilian workers. The car bombing is the third major attack in Iraq in the past week. Bombings and shootings in and around Baghdad killed at least 15 people Saturday, while a triple bombing in the southern city of Basra killed at least 19 people Thursday. Violence has declined across Iraq since a sectarian conflict peaked in 2006 and 2007, but deadly attacks remain common as U.S. troops prepare to leave the country at the end of this year. Iraqi authorities say 258 people were killed in violence in October, including civilians and security personnel. U.S. and Iraqi officials have said insurgents may intensify attacks in the final stage of the U.S. military pullout to take advantage of a perceived power vacuum. But, they say Iraqi forces will be ready to deal with the country’s security problems on their own.
Russia – The Sydney Morning Herald reported: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the West of meddling in his nation’s forthcoming elections. Speaking as he was endorsed by 614 votes to 0 as United Russia’s candidate for the March presidential election, Mr Putin said other countries were paying non-government organisations in Russia ”to eventually influence the course of the election campaign in our country”. ”Useless work, wasted money,” he said. ”First, Judas is not the most respected biblical figure among our people. And second, it would be better if they used this money to pay off their national debt.”
Afghanistan – The (AP) reported: Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that the nation’s forces will soon take charge of security in areas of the country that are home to half of Afghanistan’s population. The handover, expected to begin by early next year, is the second step in a transition that Karzai hopes will leave Afghan forces in control of the entire country by the end of 2014, when the U.S.-led coalition’s combat mission is scheduled to end. After that date, a much smaller foreign force will remain to continue training Afghan soldiers and police and battle militancy. A successful handover is key to NATO’s plan to withdraw most of its combat forces from Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting there. Western officials and experts have expressed pessimism about the ability of Karzai and his armed forces to assume command of their country. If they fail, the militant Taliban could stage a comeback.
Yemen – The New York Times reported: Ignoring calls by his opponents to stop announcing decisions that affect the country, President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a general amnesty on Sunday for people who had committed “follies” during the uprising and political crisis that began in Yemen 10 months ago. But Mr. Saleh, who handed over power to his vice president last week, made an exception for those responsible for the bombing that badly wounded him at his presidential palace in June, saying those “groups or parties or individuals” should be brought to justice. Mr. Saleh, who announced the amnesty during a meeting of his governing party, did not elaborate on the offer; it was unclear whether he meant to pardon his own forces accused of killing protesters, or fighters commanded by his rivals during months of bloody infighting. Yemeni lawmakers are already supposed to grant Mr. Saleh and other government officials immunity from prosecution, a condition of the power-sharing deal that has caused anger among protesters.
Israel – Haaretz reported: One female Israeli scientist and three male scientists have received Nobel Prizes in Chemistry in the past decade. That’s a real miracle in light of the fact that all these chemists live in a country dominated by alchemists. One female Israeli scientist and three male scientists have received Nobel Prizes in Chemistry in the past decade. That’s a real miracle in light of the fact that all these chemists live in a country dominated by alchemists. Alchemy was a subject for research during the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Enlightenment period. Already in ancient times it was known that various metals, which look like an entirely different substance, could be extracted from their chemical alloys. The ancients explained it as the creation of new substances, and the alchemists drew a parallel from it: Just as it was possible to create copper from a green stone called malachite, it would be possible to create gold from another heavy substance such as lead. The ancients had no way of knowing that gold and lead are natural elements, and in order to turn one element into another the structure of its atomic nucleus must be changed. Nor did the alchemists have means for creating the energy required to implement changes in the structure of the atomic nucleus. But people stopped engaging in alchemy even before the difference between creating copper from malachite and creating gold from lead was understood. They did so based on the continual failure of all efforts to engage in alchemy.
Morocco – Time Magazine reported: The victory of an Islamist Party in Morocco’s parliamentary elections appears to be one more sign that religious-based parties are benefiting the most from the new freedoms brought by the Arab Spring. Across the Middle East, parties referencing Islam have made great strides, offering an alternative to corrupt, long serving dictators, who have often ruled with close Western support. The Justice and Development Party dominated Morocco’s elections through a combination of good organization, an outsider status and not being too much of a threat to Morocco’s all-powerful king. By taking 107 seats out of the 395 seats, almost twice as many as the second place finisher, the party ensured that King Mohammed VI must pick the next prime minister from its ranks and to form the next government out of the dozen parties in Morocco’s parliament.