The Bittersweet Player – Clear your browser cache to hear the latest play list.
7 January 2012
Syria – Haaretz reported: The Arab League ruled out considering a withdrawal of its widely criticized peace observers from Syria, ahead of a meeting Sunday in Cairo to assess the performance of the mission. Led by Qatar, an Arab League committee on Sunday was to review a report about the mission, which was dispatched two weeks ago to Syria to verify the Damascus government’s compliance with a plan to end a violent crackdown on dissent. According to leaked excerpts, the report cites continued violence by the Syrian government on pro-democracy protesters, Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera reported. The report mentions that Syrian authorities hold detainees in unknown places, Al Jazeera said. The Arab League’s assistant chief, Adnan Eissa, said Saturday it was unlikely for the meeting to discuss the possibility of recalling the observers any time soon.
Iran – The Salt Lake Tribune reported: Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday welcomed the U.S. Navy’s rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held hostage by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea, calling it a humanitarian act. But the hard-line Fars News Agency, which is close to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, dismissed the rescue as a Hollywood-style propaganda stunt intended to justify the U.S. Navy’s presence in the nearby Persian Gulf. U.S. officials announced the rescue Friday, saying sailors from the guided-missile destroyer Kidd had boarded an Iranian dhow Thursday and detained 15 Somalis after one of the fishermen was able to reveal in a radio communication that his vessel’s crew was being held captive. The U.S. officials pointed out that the destroyer was part of the same group of warships that Iran had said was no longer welcome in the Persian Gulf. “We consider the actions of the U.S. forces in saving the lives of the Iranian seamen to be a humanitarian and positive act, and we welcome such behavior,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told state television’s Al Alam Arabic channel Saturday. “We think all nations should display such behavior.”
Sudan – The BBC Africa Corps reported: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has offered to help Libya disarm former rebel groups, on his first day of a visit which has angered rights groups. He also said the fall of former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi was like a “gift” to the Sudanese people. Mr Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide in Darfur. Rights groups said the visit challenged the new Libyan government’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law. Libyan authorities have been struggling to disarm the many militia groups which formed to fight Col Gaddafi during the country’s eight-month civil war.
Nigeria – The BBC Africa Corps reported: Hundreds of people have been fleeing areas of north-eastern Nigeria, after a 24-hour wave of violence apparently targeting Christian communities. At least 29 people have died in four attacks in Adamawa state, prompting the state governor to impose a curfew. The Islamist Boko Haram group has said it carried out several attacks. One Boko Haram faction has warned all southerners – who are mostly Christian and animist – to leave the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. Last week President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Yobe and Borno states, as well as Plateau state in central Nigeria and Niger state in the west, following a surge in ethnic and sectarian violence. Adamawa, which borders Borno state where Boko Haram emerged, was not included. More than 500 people have been killed by the group over the past year.
Afghanistan – The Salt Lake Tribune reported: Afghan investigators accused the American military Saturday of abusing detainees at its main prison in the country, bolstering calls by President Hamid Karzai for the U.S. to turn over control of the facility and complicating talks about America’s future role in Afghanistan. The investigators also called for any detainee held without evidence to be freed, putting the U.S. and Afghan governments on a collision course in an issue that will decide the fate of hundreds of suspected Taliban and al-Qaida operatives captured by American forces and held indefinitely. Karzai took Washington by surprise Thursday when he ordered that the U.S. military turn over full control of the prison outside Bagram Air Base within one month, a seemingly impossible deadline given U.S. security concerns about the prisoners and the Afghan government’s weak administrative capacity. The countries had been working on phasing a transfer of responsibility of the prison, which hold 3,000 detainees, over two years. The demand was the latest episode of political brinkmanship as negotiations continued for a Strategic Partnership Document with America that will determine the U.S. role in Afghanistan after 2014, when most foreign troops are due to withdraw. Karzai has demanded an end to unpopular night raids by U.S. troops and control over detainees as a condition of the pact and could be seeking leverage by pushing the detainee issue now.
UAE – The Washington Post reported: An American human rights activist, who intended to observe a protest-related trial in Bahrain, was denied entry into the Gulf kingdom on Sunday despite authorities’ pledge of transparency. Richard Sollom, deputy president of the U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights, told The Associated Press that Bahraini airport authorities gave no reason for their refusal to allow him into the Gulf country, which was hit hard by political unrest during last year’s Arab Spring. Sollom charged that Bahrain authorities do not want international observers at the trial of doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters, which is set to resume Monday. International human rights organizations have harshly criticized the prosecution of the health professionals who were working at the state-run Salmaniya Medical Center during the massive protests in February and March. “I am quite stunned. This was the first time a member of an international rights organization came to Bahrain after authorities promised to respect human rights and told us we can come and see for ourselves,” Sollom said in a telephone interview after he landed in Dubai Sunday evening. “We can see now that not much has changed,” he added.
Egypt – The Boston Globe reported: Egypt’s Christians yesterday celebrated their first Christmas after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, amid tight security and a display of national unity to allay fears of the growing power of Islamists. The Coptic Orthodox celebration follows an escalation in violence against the minority, an estimated 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, over the past year. Many Christians blamed a series of street clashes, assaults on churches, and other attacks on radical Islamists who have become increasingly bold after Mubarak’s downfall. Celebrations of Orthodox Christmas began with a late night Friday Mass at Cairo’s main cathedral, which was attended by prominent figures from across Egypt’s political spectrum. They included leaders of Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group whose associated political party has won nearly half the seats in Parliament. Members of the ruling military council that took power after Mubarak’s Feb. 11 ouster also attended, including the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Sami Anan, as well as the visiting top US diplomat for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman.
Iran – CNN reported: Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant is just weeks from operating at full capacity, the country’s top nuclear official said Saturday. Feireidoun Abbasi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, also said Tehran has shown its new Iranian-made centrifuges to a representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Bushehr plant, located along the Persian Gulf coast, will reach its full capacity of 1,000 megawatts by February 1, Abbasi said, according to the country’s official news agency, IRNA. The plant was connected to the country’s electric grid in September with a capacity of 60 megawatts. At 1,000 megawatts, Bushehr will be able to provide 2.5% of Iran’s current electricity consumption, the IAEA said. Abbasi made the announcement about Bushehr while attending a meeting on Iran’s nuclear achievements held in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas.
Iran – In a related story CNN reported: Beef from Brazil is on Iranian dinner tables. An Iranian-built hospital treats patients near Bolivia’s capital. Iranian-funded factories dot the Venezuelan countryside. Iran has forged hundreds of agreements with Latin American nations and pledged billions of dollars to fund them. More deals could be in store this week as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embarks on a trip that starts in Venezuela on Sunday and includes stops in Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador. Well before the Iranian leader’s arrival in Caracas, his plans for a Latin America tour grabbed global attention as tensions grow between many Western powers and Iran over the nation’s nuclear program.
Tibet – The Agence France Presse reported: A Tibetan died after he and another man set themselves on fire in southwest China, state media said Sunday, taking the total number of such acts in the restive region to 14 in less than a year. The incidents happened Friday near the Kirti monastery in Sichuan province’s Aba county — the scene of sporadic bouts of unrest since a young monk named Phuntsog set himself alight last March, the official Xinhua news agency said. Rights groups say nine monks and two nuns have set themselves on fire over the past year in Sichuan to protest against the perceived religious repression of Tibetan Buddhists, of whom at least seven have died. Another former monk had burnt himself in the Tibet Autonomous Region, where senior officials met Sunday “to strengthen the management of monasteries in the fight against the Dalai Lama group”, Xinhua reported. The latest acts involved two former monks at Kirti, Xinhua said. An 18-year-old died in a hotel room while another man, aged 22, was being treated in hospital after they set themselves ablaze.
8 January 2012
Iran – Bloomberg NEWS Presse reported: Iran has the ability to block the Strait of Hormuz “for a period of time,” and the U.S. would take action to reopen it, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey said. “They’ve invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz,” Dempsey said in an interview aired yesterday on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.” Should Iran try to close Hormuz, the U.S. “would take action and reopen” the waterway, said Dempsey, President Barack Obama’s top military adviser. Blocking the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic shipping lane linking the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf, would constitute a “red line” for the U.S., as would Iranian efforts to build a nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on the same program.
Syria – The New York Times reported: The Arab League called again on Sunday for Syrian security forces and armed groups to immediately halt the violence in the country, and urged the Syrian government to comply with the terms of a peace deal to end months of bloodshed. The call came on a day when activists said that at least 21 people were killed, despite the presence of Arab League monitors in the country. As officials of the league met in Cairo on Sunday, heavy fighting erupted in southern Syria following the defection of dozens of soldiers from the army, activists and Syrian human rights groups said. The defectors reportedly killed at least 11 soldiers in the town of Basr al-Harir in the southern province of Daraa. Those reports could not be independently confirmed, because Syria rarely allows reporters for foreign news outlets to work in the country. The league’s ministerial committee called on “the Syrian government and various armed groups to immediately halt all forms of violence and to return to protesting peacefully so that the Arab League observers’ mission in Syria can succeed.”
Iran – Bloomberg NEWS reported: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, facing tighter U.S. sanctions and rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, will turn to his diminished group of allies in Latin America for support this week. Ahmadinejad arrived in Venezuela yesterday to kick off a four-nation tour to push investment projects such as a hydro- electric power plant in Ecuador. He’ll be joining forces with leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Raul Castro in taking shots at the U.S. in its own backyard, defying attempts to isolate Iran over its nuclear activities. Iran’s Latin American allies shouldn’t expect too much in return. Iran has yet to fulfill pledges made by Ahmadinejad on previous trips — he’s made five since 2005 — to build a port in Nicaragua and an oil refinery in Ecuador. Unlike during his last regional tour in 2009, he won’t visit Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff has shown little interest in deepening ties forged by her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Philippines – Bloomberg NEWS reported: Philippine President Benigno Aquino warned of a possible terrorist attack during an annual Roman Catholic procession today that is estimated to draw as many as nine million devotees. “The sad reality of the world today is that terrorists want to disrupt the ability of people to live their lives in the ways they want to, including the freedom to worship,” Aquino said in a hastily called briefing yesterday in Manila. Police and the military will increase security, he said, urging people to stay at home. At least 80 people were injured as crowds pushed forward in a bid to touch the sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying a cross at the start of the procession today, ABS-CBN News reported. The feast of the Black Nazarene draws one of the biggest crowds among festivities held in the capital, Aquino said. About 3 million people had joined the procession as of 9 a.m., police chief Nicanor Barolome told reporters in Manila.
Nigeria – Reuters Africa Corps reported: Nigerian unions launch a nationwide strike on Monday to protest against the axing of a fuel subsidy which many ordinary people saw as one of the few benefits they ever got from the state. Nigeria’s fuel regulator announced the end of the subsidy on January 1 as part of efforts to cut government spending and encourage badly needed investment in local refining. Those who support scrapping the subsidy say it only served to fill the fuel tanks of the rich and middle classes at the expense of the poor, fed corruption and siphoned off billions of dollars of public funds to a cartel of fuel importers. “It was 25 percent of total expenditure in the budget, the single biggest item – more than education, health and agriculture combined,” said Bismarck Rewane, chief executive of Lagos-based consultancy Financial Derivatives. “As long as they spend the money right, removing the subsidy has to be good.” But unions and ordinary Nigerians are furious that overnight, the price of a litre of petrol has shot up to around 150 naira from about 65 naira before. Last week thousands of Nigerians gathered in cities, including the capital Abuja and commercial hub, Lagos, to show their anger, and mass demonstrations by ordinary Nigerians are planned to coincide with the strike on Monday.
Iran – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: Iran has begun enriching uranium at a new underground site, a leading Iranian newspaper reported Sunday. The Fordo nuclear complex, built into a mountain near the Shiite Muslim holy city of Qom, is said to have more sophisticated centrifuges used to enrich uranium and to be better protected from possible air strikes by foreign powers than a facility in Natanz in central Iran. “The transfer of uranium enrichment to Fardo means that the option of a military threat against the nuclear program of Iran is taken off the table for good,” the Kayhan daily reported Sunday. “The West will have to gradually accept the immunity of the program against any interference by foreigners.” The announcement came at a time of escalating tension over Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States and its allies suspect is intended to develop weapons. Iran maintains that the program is for peaceful purposes only.
Yemen – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: Yemen’s Cabinet on Sunday approved a law granting President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and anyone who has worked under him, immunity from prosecution for any crimes committed during Saleh’s 33-year rule. The decision came as a surprise to many in Yemen, who believed that a power transfer deal he signed in November granted him and his family immunity from prosecution for the killings of protesters, but would not extend to cover his 33-year rule and anyone who worked in government, including military and security personnel. The Cabinet approved the law despite nationwide daily protests demanding the longtime leader be put on trial for the killing of hundreds of people in raids on protest camps, the use of snipers and armed attacks on marches during the country’s 11-month popular uprising. Activists say that the country’s Revolutionary Guards, run by Saleh’s son, are responsible for most of the attacks on protesters.
Afghanistan – The (AP) reported: The Afghan military says a man in an Afghan uniform opened fire on a group of Americans at a base in the south of the country, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding another. Spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi says the gunman was also killed in the shootout on Sunday. He said an investigation is trying to determine whether the gunman was a member of the Afghan military. A NATO statement late Sunday said only that a coalition service member had been killed in the incident, apparently by an Afghan soldier, but provided no further details on the victim’s nationality. Azimi said the shooting occurred inside one of the Afghan National Army’s bases in Zabul province, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Kabul.