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Thursday, January 31, 2013

MSM wrong on Libya again

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Libya in Transition Exhibit @ UNHQ's

The pictures in this photostream document Libya’s early challenges and accomplishments as the nation strives to become a democracy in the aftermath of the Gaddafi regime’s legacy of repression and the fighting that led to its overthrow.

All images are part of an exhibition entitled “Libya in Transition: Helping to Build a New Democratic Libya”, which was produced by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), a political mission overseen by the Department of Political Affairs, and displayed at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 29 January to 6 February 2013. More...
New look Libyan Dinar arrived in Libya earlier today
This was the old money:

Slowly but surely, Libya is recovering from four decades of dictatorship.

The Libya Herald ran an opinion piece today I wanted to share with you:
How international media get Libya wrong

By Nigel Ash
Tripoli, 1 February 2013
In the past few days, thousands of calls and messages will have been sent by anxious relatives and friends to foreigners living and working in Libya. Almost certainly, each will have have asked if the recipients really think it safe to stay in the country, given the dire warnings from the European and North American governments of imminent terror attacks, first in Benghazi and then against the British Embassy in the Tripoli Towers.

The urgent changes to the travel advice of these countries, stating that none of their citizens should visit any part of Libya, unless their journey was essential, flashed around the globe. Taken with the steady stream of media reports of shootings and assassination attempts, particularly in Benghazi, the picture the outside world is receiving of Libya is of a country teetering on the brink of chaos, with armed militiamen defying the government, under whose command they are now supposed to fall.

Given the 11 September murder of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues at the Benghazi consulate, the earlier attempt on the life of the former British ambassador Dominic Asquith and the later shooting up of the vehicle carrying Italian Consul-General Guido de Sanctis, this portrait of a Libya plunging into anarchy seems entirely credible to people overseas.

However, there is a problem with much of the international media reporting of Libya. There are relatively few foreign journalists on the ground here, but there are a great many writers sitting in their distant offices, who may never have visited the country but who have been busy following “the story”. Unfortunately “the story” all too often consists of what other writers, also sitting in distant offices, have been penning.

Thus half-truth and misunderstanding are piled one upon another to create an ill-informed narrative that misleads the average reader, as well as other journalists. Among the posse of British pressmen that accompanied British PM David Cameron on his Thursday visit to Tripoli, there were some who demonstrated the problem.

One journalist asked the Libya Herald if it was really true that the government’s writ did not extend beyond the outskirts of Tripoli. Of Cameron’s 15-minute walkabout in Martyrs square, another wrote that the British politician was “100 yards from Gaddafi’s old palace”. He also described Martyrs’ square as “ the site of the start of the revolution against Muammar Qaddafi nearly two years ago ”.

To journalists on a flying visit, such errors may appear a trivial price to pay in providing “colour” to what was, for them, largely a political story of the meeting between the Ali Zeidan and Cameron. But such mistakes confuse and mislead their readers and are unprofessional. Some pretty basic preliminary research would have established that the revolution began in Benghazi and that Qaddafi’s Bab Al-Azizya compound was not near the square.

Security in Libya is indeed poor and as the second anniversary of the revolution approaches, there is widespread concern over terror attacks. Yet as foreigners who have had to reply to anxious family and friends well understand, Libya is not Iraq nor Afghanistan, nor the anarchic mess described by overseas media.

Click here for a list of my other diaries on Libya

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More thoughts on Obama's 'No MANPADS for you!' policy in Syria

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For all the carping and name calling that my first diary on this generated, I haven't seen a single argument in the comment gallery that even speaks to, let alone undermines, my basic thesis that Obama's "No MANPADS for you" policy with regards to Assad's opposition in Syria, which he claimed was to assure that no MANPADS fell into the hands of jihadists has, in fact, led to MANPADS falling into the hands of jihadists.

Once again, by the numbers let me spell it out because I am dense.

1) We know that al Nursa Front [declared an official terror group --- by Obama?!] has MANPADS now that they didn't have a few months ago. Other Islamic extremist groups in Syria as well as the FSA are also getting them.

2) And where are they getting them? From taking Assad's bases and raiding his armories.

3) And how did al Nursa and others like them get to form up in Syria? Because this war has dragged on so long that they have been able take advantage and establish themselves. In other words, they have been able to use the past year of inaction by all the permanent members of the UNSC to put themselves in a position where they could avail themselves of Assad's MANPADS, among other things.

4) And why has this war dragged on for so long? Largely because Assad lacks the army or popular support to win it for him and the opposition lacks, or did until recently, the heavy weapons, especially MANPADS, to defeat his armor and air force .

As an aside: I recently read a long series of posts on a military board, Brown Moses pointed to them, that took apart one engagement between the FSA and three of Assad's tanks in which Assad lost some.

These military minds thought the SAA showed good tactics with how they positioned the tanks. The fatal flaw, they agreed, was that he sent his tanks forward without infantry, which is like tank warfare 101. Tanks can't do it alone. They are too easily ambushed by themselves. The tanks need to be protected by the infantry.

They couldn't understand why he didn't send out his infantry with his tanks.

But we know why, don't we?

He can't trust his infantry. Given half a chance, they defect. He is losing soldiers everyday that he can't replace and I'll wager he's losing a lot more to defections than he is to rebel fire.

Poor Assad, don't look at each defection as losing another soldier, think of it as gaining another enemy!

I've heard stories recently about one of Assad's pilots, and an Alawite besides, that showed him what defection really means. He bombed his own troops and then bailed out over opposition held territory. I've got one video but I haven't had a chance to research it or confirm it or turn it into a diary but I hope its true and I hope it gives Assad some sleepless nights.

Normal procedure for clearing out "armed terrorist gangs" from among civilian populations is to send in something like SWAT, which is suppose to be surgical and take care not to kill the civilians.

Assad can't trust any but his own "armed terrorist gangs," his ideologically driven shabiha, so he relies on long range weapons that kill everybody.

That is one reason this conflict has been so bloody.

But then too, he is not dealing with "armed terrorist gangs" using civilians as "human shields" as a few Kossacks here would have you believe, he is dealing with an armed uprising of his people.

It wasn't at first, but when he started shooting them, they armed themselves. So his basic tactic is to so brutalize the people that they submit to his continued rule.

That is the other reason this conflict is so bloody.

5) So why did Assad's opposition not receive MANPADS and other heavy weapons until they could take them from Assad? Was there no one that would supply such weapons? Saudi Arabia and Qatar wanted to supply the life saving MANPADS. They could also be purchased on the black market and from Africa.

6) So why didn't this happen? Because Obama exercised his "veto" and marshaled the CIA to see that it didn't happen.

7) So why did he do this? Because he was afraid that MANPADS would fall into the hands of jihadists.

I predict that my thesis, first laid out here at the Daily Kos, will be widely adopted because it is true. No amount of donuts can change that. Syria will be seen as one of Obama's biggest foreign policy blunders.

So while I'm at it, let me point out another way that is true.

The whole dust up yesterday over the Israeli air strike in Syria is another expansion and complication. It is claimed the Israelis were interdicting a shipment of SA-17 missiles to Hezbollah.

That may or may not be true, but there can be little doubt that in his desperate attempts to cling to power, Assad will be arming HZ and his shahiba with more and more lethal firepower. So it won't just be the opposition that end up with weapons pumped into Syria by Russian and Iran, but left over from the conflict, it will be some even more unsavory characters that Assad has working for him.

In this regard, what has been happening in northern Mali is most instructive because the weapons that became the gasoline that was poured on that particular fire came from Libya. They are weapons that were traded to Qaddafi for Libyan oil by the permanent members of the UNSC, that were in turn made available to mercenary Tuaregs from northern Mali by Qaddafi.

When Qaddafi was defeated. They took their new toys and went home.

So what mischief will all the weapons Russia and Iran have pumped into Syria cause once Assad goes down?

This will also be the legacy of all of those who have opposed arming the rebels because "that would only add more weapons to the conflict," because Assad supporters certainly haven't hesitated to do that.

And thanks to the lack of support the whole world has shown to the people fighting the Assad regime, they've had time to ship a lot more weapons.

So we can also see that the refusal to arm Assad's opposition because that would only introduce more weapons into the conflict, has in fact, led to many more weapons being introduced into the conflict.

I would only add in closing that I am tech savvy enough to know there are many protections and controls such as "expiration dates" that could have been built into any MANPADS we supplied to the FSA, and while nothing is fool proof, there certainly are no such safeguards or agreements limiting the use on the MANPADS that are now falling into the hands of al Nursa and worst.

If an airliners is ever brought down by a MANPADS as blowback from this conflict, and I hope that never happens, I don't think the passengers are going to care much that the terrorist got hold of Russian MANPADS and not US MANPADS as a result of Obama's "No MANPADS for you!" policy.

AFP has this out today:
'World giving Bashar al-Assad licence to kill' - Syrian Opposition

January 31, 2013 12:14AM
It comes a day after dozens of young men were found shot execution-style in the city of Aleppo.

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the war in Syria had reached "unprecedented levels of horror," telling the UN Security Council it had to act immediately to halt the carnage.

Witnesses and activists said the bodies of 78 young men, all executed with a single gunshot, were found on Tuesday in a river in Aleppo, adding to the grim list of massacres committed during Syria's 22-month conflict.

Rebels blamed the regime for the killings, but Syrian authorities accused the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front of having carried out the massacre.

The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition alliance, called on rights groups to investigate the slaughter and "bring the killers to justice."

The "ongoing global inaction towards human rights violations in Syria encourages the killers to continue their crimes ... The extreme complacency in the positions of most countries ... gives the green light for the perpetrators of genocide to continue what they are doing." More...

Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria
9:18 AM PT:

Was Israeli air strike in Syria for Assad's benefit?

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What ever happened to Assad's vaunted air defense systems? You know, the ones that were said to be so formidable, so far above what Qaddafi had, that the very idea of imposing a "No Fly Zone" over Syria was unthinkable?

After all, it hasn't even been degraded yet, except by Assad's turning his fighters into bombers so that he could use them for destroying his nation instead of defending it. All his ground based air defenses should be intact and yet Israeli jets were able to penetrate miles into Syria unopposed and hit targets near Damascus.

What's up with that?

Is it possible, like some people think was the case with our own Pearl Harbor or Tonkin Gulf attacks, that Assad kinda just let this happen because he could see that the political advantages that could flow from such an attack would far out weigh the material damage done. Certainly, Assad is not going to worry about a couple more Syrian corpses on that pile that is already 65,000 bodies high.

This also raises the question of why did Israel do it? They have claimed all along that while they would like to see the awful Bashar Assad go as much as everybody else, they have stayed out of it because they knew that even the slightest appearance of support for Assad's opposition would be like the kiss of death for them.

So now they strike at Syria and for the first time in a long time, the Arab League is in Assad's corner. They had to know that was likely to be the result of their air strike. That and a lot more.

Therefore striking a single military research center makes no sense. What would it accomplish? Even if there were WMD there, they aren't all in one place so hitting just one site, and putting Assad in a "use'm or lose'm" situation with regards to the rest would be very dangerous.

Striking a convoy makes sense if they thought something very bad was going to Hezbullah. Still they would have to know that any such strike would be a big propaganda boon to Assad, a political advantage to him worth a lot more than a truck load of SA-17s.

Still, I don't see Israel looking to pick a fight with HZ right now when they are much more focused on killing fellow Arabs than killing Jews.

It is even possible that Assad authorized such a transfer, and made sure the facts were well known, with an eye to provoking just such a strike.

But if you are a regular reader of my diary, you already know that I think Israel likes Assad, and that my favorite Latin phrase is "Cui Bono".

So at this point I think it very likely that Israel initiated this attack and Assad allowed it to happen all for the benefit of Assad in these troubling times and the rest of us are just being played.

Some people here have an attitude like this about the conflict in Syria: "I've looked all over the map of the US and I can't find Syria!" To them I say:

No offense, but if you don't think the world will pay a high price for allowing Assad to wreck his country, then you are a fool!

Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 6:14 PM PT:Business Insider has come out with this very interesting report on Israel's Strike on Syria. They are confirming the Assad regime's claim that it was a military research center and not a convoy that was hit. It would appear that this strike happened 48 hours before it became news and that US officials knew they where lying when they said that the strike was against SA-17 missiles headed for Hezbollah. That was just a cover story.

If this is true, it strengthens my view that the Israeli strike, which has given political support to Assad, from the Arab League and in other quarters, was designed to do just that.

While I could chalk up a strike to stop a high-tech missile transfer to Hezbollah to exigent circumstances, I have not yet heard any reason why this military research center needed to be hit right now, just when Assad is on the verge of losing Damascus.

Unless that is the reason.

And, frankly, if the target was Assad's WMD, it might even make sense that the charge of FSA assistance could be true.

They wouldn't want foreign troops landed to secure them. They wouldn't want them and they certainly wouldn't want them to fall into the hands of some of their "allies." The site is said to have been guarded by 3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the FSA wouldn't mind seeing them get bombed.

Michael Kelley wrote:
Israel's Strike On Syria Was A Brilliant Tactical Move

Feb. 1, 2013, 1:09 PM
Much like the air campaign against Hamas targets inside the Gaza strip, Israel's airstrike in Syria looks like a well-timed tactical move—and the confusing media reports regarding the attack may be part of the plan.

The Jerusalem Post reports that a Western diplomatic source told Iraqi daily Azzaman that the attack took place more than 48 hours before it was leaked by Israel.

Furthermore, the source said the reports about a strike on a convoy carrying weapons into Lebanon were probably meant to divert attention away from the operation's main objective: To use F-16 aircraft to fire at least eight guided missiles at a military research center near Damascus.

On Wednesday U.S. officials — who said they were given forewarning of the strike — told The Wall Street Journal and other outlets that the Israelis were targeting a convoy of trucks allegedly carrying Russian-made SA-17 missiles to Hezbollah.

Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria

Monday, January 28, 2013

"unlocking" your smartphone can now land you in jail!

After the tragic and untimely death of Aaron Swartz, we are all going to have to do a little bit more to make up for his loss. If he was still alive, I suspect I'd be receiving a letter from him about this very important development because our rights in Cyberspace are under attack again. Since he's not, I'll take up some of the slack by alerting you to this very important attack.

As of Sunday any iPhone, Blackberry or Android you purchase will be a lot less yours than it was the day before. Sunday it became illegal for you to "unlock" your smartphone. In two years it will also be a crime to "root" or "jailbreak" your smartphone. From the Atlantic



PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.*

So what does that mean in little words?

As you are no doubt already aware, your smartphone is nothing less than a computer in your pocket, in fact, together with the tablet, they represent the fastest growing segment of the computer market.

All computer operating systems have a top-level administrative user that has "rights" to do anything on the system, such as delete or modify files that the ordinary user doesn't have "permission" to access, such as system files.

In the past, just about any computer system you were likely to buy gave you access to these administrative rights. In the MS Windows PC's this "super user" is called the Windows Administrator, in UNIX systems, which includes Linux, the Mac OS, the iPhone and Android, this super user is known simply as "root."

"Rooting" a phone simply means making available this super user so that you can make software modifications to the computer in your phone that you otherwise wouldn't be able to make. All computer makers make root access a special case because it is really easy to screw up your computer or phone if you wield those powers without knowing what you are doing, but before smartphones, you always got this "master key" whenever you bought a computer.

Smartphone makers, on the other hand, have generally made this super user completely unavailable. That is why it is also called "jail breaking" your phone when you do make it available. Beyond the possibility that you could really screw up your phone, it makes it possible to "un-lock" your phone's dependence on a single carrier and take it to the competition. That is one of the main reasons the major carriers have tried to make it technologically impossible and, having failed at that, have now used their clout with the government to make it illegal.

Beyond the freedom to take your smart phone to a different carrier, why would you want to "jail break" your smartphone?

One of the principal reasons sophisticated users "root" their phones is so that they can delete those apps that the carriers force on you that you may not need or want, such as Amazon MP3, Amazon Kindle and Blockbuster. They take up space and smartphone resources but they make the carriers money so they make it so you can't delete them, unless you can get root access.

There are also a lot of 3rd party apps out there that can be installed only if you have root access.

Finally, there is the question of privacy - especially from government snooping. Friends in the phone security business tell me that they can't secure iPhones or Blackberries. They can only secure Androids because they are open source, meaning we know exactly how they work and we can secure them. Provided, of course, that we have root access.

I know that there has been at least one other diary on this law. I wrote this dairy because I think more light needs to be shined on this law that will slip under most people's radar.

You see its a lot more than "The most crazy new law of 2013" or an attempt to keep you from jumping carriers with your new smartphone.

It is the first step in taking away rights that we have always taken for granted when we purchased a computer and a big step in taking away our control over the technology we use everyday.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also published an article on this today:
Is It Illegal To Unlock a Phone? The Situation is Better - and Worse - Than You Think

January 28, 2013 | By Mitch Stoltz
Legal protection for people who unlock their mobile phones to use them on other networks expired last weekend. According to the claims of major U.S. wireless carriers, unlocking a phone bought after January 26 without your carrier's permission violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) whether the phone is under contract or not. In a way, this is not as bad as it sounds. In other ways, it's even worse.

What changed? The DMCA prohibits "circumventing" digital locks that "control access" to copyrighted works like movies, music, books, games, and software. It's a fantastically overbroad law that bans a lot of legal, useful, and important activities. In what's supposed to be a safety valve, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress have the power to create exemptions for important activities that would otherwise be banned by the DMCA. In 2012, EFF asked for - and won - exemptions for jailbreaking or rooting mobile phones to run unapproved software, and for using clips from DVDs and Internet video in noncommercial vids. Consumers Union and several smaller wireless carriers asked for an exemption for unlocking phones. The Copyright Office granted their exemption too - but sharply limited the window to just a few months.

First, the good news. The legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up - it'll protect us at least through 2015. The shield for unlocking your phone is down, but carriers probably aren't going to start suing customers en masse, RIAA-style. And the Copyright Office's decision, contrary to what some sensational headlines have said, doesn't necessarily make unlocking illegal. More...
So those who have pointed out that "unlocking" is not the same as "jail breaking" or "rooting" are correct. Both are deemed illegal by the draconian DMCA.

As of yesterday "unlocking" your phone became illegal but your "right" to gain full access to the phone you legally own will expire in 2 years if nothing is done.

Also the EFF points out that:
If a court rules in favor of the carriers, penalties can be stiff - up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit, and $500,000 or five years in prison in a criminal case where the unlocking is done for "commercial advantage." And this could happen even for phones that are no longer under contract. So we're really not free to do as we want with devices that we own.
So this rule applies even when the phone is no longer under contract and you have fulfilled your legal obligation to the carrier who subsided your purchase.

Bunny Huang has put out a petition supporting the EFF on this, 27143 people have signed it so far:

You bought it. You own it. Tell the Copyright Office: let me install whatever software I want on my phone, tablet, or video game system.Dear Ms. Pallante,

Whether it's patching a security vulnerability or homebrewing video games and apps, people who own smart phones, tablets, and video game systems are finding inventive ways to use and improve their devices. Often users need to gain full administrative access, through a process known as "jailbreaking," to innovate and take advantage of the device's full potential.

But right now, jailbreaking a device can lead to legal threats. That's a vulnerability in the law: we need you to create a "patch" so users who jailbreak devices won't be at legal risk.

Three years ago, the Copyright Office agreed to create an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so that folks could jailbreak their smartphones. But that exemption is about to expire. We need you to renew that exemption and expand it to cover jailbreaking gadgets with similar computation potential. These are all siblings to the PC, yet unlocking their potential as versatile and powerful computers is burdened with legal murkiness.

We need these exemptions to conduct security research on devices to help safeguard everyday users from security threats. Furthermore, users of these products benefit from the flexibility to choose their own operating systems and run independently developed software. We need the law to catch up with how people are using technology.

Jailbreaking is helping to make technology better, more secure, and more flexible. Please defend the rights of users.

Thanks for enabling us to keep technology innovative, secure, and focused on the users.

The Tech News Daily wrote last February:
Software is considered to be copyrighted work, so jailbreaking your phone by changing its software could be considered "circumvention." The penalties, at least on paper, can be severe -- up to $25,000 – though it's unlikely to go that far. "I'd say people will be more at risk of getting threatening letters from lawyers," said Mitch Stoltz, staff attorney at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF.

Cellphone tinkerers got a reprieve in July 2010 when the U.S. Copyright Office agreed – based on input from EFF -- to exempt mobile devices from the DMCA. But the exemption is temporary, and will expire later this year if the government decides not to renew it.

Even now, it applies to only "wireless telephone handsets." It doesn't mention iPads and other tablets, though they often run the same software as the phones. It certainly doesn't cover other gadgets such as game consoles. In fact, Sony sued a man named George Hotz in 2011 for jailbreaking the PlayStation 3 to run additional software and for offering downloads on his website that would enable other people to do the same.

(We asked Sony on Wednesday and Thursday to comment, but they were unable to reply in time for publication. The same happened with Apple and Google.)

For that reason, EFF is asking not only for extension of the phone exemption, but also for protection for hacking tablets and game consoles. Stoltz is upbeat. "We're pretty confident that we've shown that there are a lot of legal and valid reasons for jailbreaking devices," he said.
So I think the essential thesis of this diary is correct, if premature. The government is intend on making you a criminal for "jail breaking" or "unlocking" you wholly owned computing device, and will unless enough people raise their voices above the clamor of the carriers for laws that enhance their profits.

This site sells software to root your Android. I have no connection to it and I'm not recommending that you purchase anything from them, you can do it for free, but it does have some very good info on the advantages of a rooted Android.

I haven't blogged on this subject much since the Arab Spring took over my life. There are some related diaries I've written in the past:

Happy 25th Birthday, Internet Engineering Task Force
EMERGENCY: DKos Must Act Now to Protect Tunisian Bloggers!
--- this dairy was my first link to the Arab Spring, it developed, oddly enough, from my blogging about Internet freedom!

Free Software & Internet Show Communism is Possible
Let a 100 Websites Blossom, Let a 100 Rooms of Chat Contend!
Bank of America Buying Abusive Domain Names
FCC Internet Rules! It's Not About Net Neutrality
WikiLeaks Revelations Spur UN & US Internet Takeover Plans!
BREAKING - Digital Sit-Ins: The Internet Strikes Back!
Cyber War Report: New Front Opens Against Internet Coup d'├ętat
Operation PayBack: 1st Cyber War Begins over WikiLeaks
The Internet Takeover: Why Google is Next
BREAKING: Goodbye Internet Freedom as Wikileaks is Taken Down
BREAKING NEWS: Obama Admin Takes Control of Internet Domains!
From update to my diary of 19 Nov 2010:

But not to worry. Even if COICA passes the House and Senate and is signed into law by Obama, the DailyKos won't be affected. Not at first. It will be a death of a thousand cuts. First they will come for thepiratesbay.org because it's such an obvious target, and we can blog about that. Then they will come for WikiLeak, which is hosted by thepiratesbay servers, because not only are they disseminating materials in violation on copyright, they are threat to national security, and we can blog about that. By the time your bookmark for the DailyKos returns, "Server Not Found", they'll be no place left to blog.

UPDATE: VICTORY for now!!!!

I just receive this update from Aaron Swartz of DemandProgress.org:

Clay -- big news! Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send the Internet blacklist bill to the full Senate, but it was quickly stopped by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who denounced it as "a bunker-buster cluster bomb" aimed at the Internet and pledged to "do everything I can to take the necessary steps to stop it from passing the U.S. Senate."

Wyden's opposition practically guarantees the bill is dead this year -- and next year the new Congress will have to reintroduce the bill and start all over again. But even that might not happen: Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Hollywood's own senator, told the committee that even she was uncomfortable with the Internet censorship portion of the bill and hoped it could be removed when they took it up again next year!
This is incredible -- and all thanks to you. Just a month ago, the Senate was planning to pass this bill unanimously; now even the senator from Hollywood is backing away from it. But this fight is far from over -- next year, there's going to be hearings, negotiations, and even more crucial votes. We need to be there, continuing to fight.

Stop Internet Blacklist Bill Now!
Sweet Victory on Internet Censorship: Senate Backs Off!
Internet Engineers tell the Senate to Back Off!
Why is Net Neutrality advocate Free Press MIA?
Obama's Internet Coup d'├ętat
Julian Assange on Threat to Internet Freedom
FCC Net Neutrality's Trojan Horse

Would Net Neutrality Law Block WikiLeaks?
Free Press: Country Codes for the Internet?
The Mountain comes to Mohammad
Keith Olbermann's Deception
Court rules -> Google Must Be Evil & Maximize Profits
Where Al Franken is Wrong on Network Neutrality
EFF on the Google\Verizon Net Neutrality Proposal
Google-Verizon: What is the Free Press Agenda?
End of the Internet As We Know It!
Free Press would make this Illegal!
Will Android make Google Money?
Google Verizon Announce Terms of Deal

How Obama's 'No MANPADS for you' policy in Syria is backfiring

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been vicious in his use of air power against his opposition. That is the principal reason the death toll has been so high, counting more than 65,000 Syrian dead since 15 March 2011, the start of the uprising.

Almost from the beginning he was quick to use his attack helicopters against protesters and he has continuously escalated to the point that now he is dropping cluster bombs and incendiaries on opposition neighborhoods. Ever since the first Friday of "The No-Fly Zone" on 28 October 2011, the Syria people have demanded that a Libya type "No Fly Zone" be established to protect them from Assad's "Death from Above."

This has been denied them and the cost has been enormous in terms of human lives. President Barack Obama has been the most adamant of all the NATO leaders in denying the Syrian people a "No-Fly Zone" or the Syrian opposition any military support.

But Obama has taken it one step further, he has made it the business of the United States to see that the Syrian opposition received few heavy weapons from its supporters. Most especially, he has used our country's clout to "veto" precisely the weapon that the Syrian opposition has needed and demanded the most, MANPADS.

MANPADS are portable anti-aircraft missiles and everyone has known all along that they would be a game changer in Syria, as they have already proven to be in recent months since Assad's opposition, against Obama's best efforts, has managed to get their hands on them.

Bashar Assad has been able to slaughter his own people so easily from the air only because they lacked effective modern weapons with which to shoot down his aircraft. The lack of these weapons has probably allowed Assad to hang on for a year longer than he could have otherwise and cost the Syrian people, on both sides of this conflict, more than 50,000 unnecessary deaths.

Obama's "No MANPADS for You!" policy has had a very high price in Syrian blood. His stated reason for denying the Syrian opposition MANPADS has been his fear that they would fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.

Below the fold I will show how Obama's "No MANPADS for You!" policy with regards to the Free Syrian Army, has not only allowed Assad to hang on and extend this conflict into a third year, undoubtedly costing tens of thousands of Syrian lives, but also has had the unintended consequence of accomplishing precisely what Obama was seeking to avoid.

Now, as a result of Obama;s "No MANPADS for You!" policy, Islamic extremists in Syria are acquiring more MANPADS every week.

The Guardian wrote about these questions on 28 Nov 2012, more than a month ago when MANPADS first started showing up on the Syrian Battle field:
Just as the clamour for supplying the Syrian opposition with sophisticated new weapons looked to be reaching a tipping point in the Gulf and the west, the rebels have clearly got hold of some arms of their own.

A video of a government gunship being brought down by a missile outside Aleppo, a first for the rebels, emerged at the same time as European diplomats agreed to change the terms of the EU arms embargo on Syria. From Saturday, it will be rolled over for only three months, signalling to President Bashar al-Assad that weapons deliveries to the rebels could start at short notice if the aerial bombardment of rebel-held areas continues.

"This sends a strong message to the regime that all options remain on the table and makes clear the need for real change. The regime's indiscriminate use of violence against their people will not be ignored,"
a Foreign Office spokesman said.

The warning came as the rebels' principal backers, in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been chafing ever more loudly against the US veto on supplies of sophisticated, potentially decisive weapons such as shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles (widely known as Manpads – an acronym for man-portable air-defence systems) to the rebels.

The US veto was motivated principally by the fear of such a weapon falling into the hands of a jihadist group that would then use it to bring down a civilian airliner, as al-Qaida tried to do with an Israeli plane in Mombasa in December 2002. Some in the Gulf states have argued that there are precautions that could be taken against such proliferation. But until now, they have stuck by the ban.

"We did this as a favour to Obama," a Gulf source said. "But now Obama has been re-elected, there is a question of whether we should still be bound by such an undertaking." Shoulder-launched missiles could be bought in Pakistan or in Africa, the source added.

So far, there is no evidence that any of the ground-to-air missiles used to date have come from outside Syria, according to Peter Bouckaert. Emergencies director for Human Rights Watch. (emphasis added by me)
In the sub-title to this article, the Guardian say that access to MANPADS by the opposition "could mark a turning point in the conflict."

While the danger of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists is real, over 900 civilians have been killed with them since 1970, it was and is a real problem with regards to Libya and anywhere else they have been distributed like Afghanistan in the '80.

Against that possible negative outcome, this also must be considered:

More than 55,000 people have been killed in Syria in the past year. They are now beiung slaughtered at the rate of 5,000 a month. Many, if not the great majority have been killed by Assad from the air. In addition, his continued domination of the air has been most important in enabling the continued existence of his regime and thus all the killing he is doing and as well as the lives taken by the people trying to defend themselves from Assad's assaults.

Therefore I conclude that Obama's veto over these defensive weapons has cost tens of thousands of lives and has played a key role in allowing Assad to stay in power this long.

From the beginning, Obama has been reluctant to demand Assad's removal. What has been most important to Obama is that:
Syria is at the center of most every tacit alliance/agreement/understanding that keeps the Middle East from descending into complete chaos.
As a commenter to an earlier diary put it. By Syria, he means Assad. These are agreements made with Assad, not with "Syria."

I think the reasoning goes like this: So what if he's a murdering bastard to his own people? The US has a long history of working with and even supporting such "leaders", what's really important is (for Israel's sake especially) that he is key to preserving the "stability" of the region.

Russia supports Obama's stand, I'll bet Assad does too. After Obama's inaugural address Michel Martin of NPR titled her piece "Did Syrian President 'Rejoice' In Obama's Speech?"

You don't have to be a rocket scentist to figure out why Russian and Syria so strongly support Obama's "No MANPADS for You!" policy. RIA Novosti reports:
“We are calling on all countries to stop feeding illegal armed formations in Syria, do everything possible to prevent MANPADS from getting into the hands of those whose actions are impossible to control, especially with account for militants’ threats to shoot down civil aircraft,” the Russian diplomat said.
Most likely the "militants" who threaten to shoot down civilian air crafts with MANPADS the FSA has been trying to get, work for Assad. That's how this game is played.

And we now know why Russia's opposition is only to "illegal" weapons going to Syria. They have been been supplying Russian cluster bombs to Assad. They wouldn't want anything to get in the way of their delivery to the targets.

Obama's argument that MANPADS shouldn't be supplied to the Syrian opposition in this critical struggle out of fear that they may eventually end up on the black market is undermined by the fact that thousands of MANPADS are already on the black market.

The cynic will say "So, what?" Even if there are thousands of MANPADS on the black market, why risk adding fuel to that fire? The answer is simply because there use, in the hands of those being bombed by Assad, can save thousands of lives now.

According to Al Arabiya:
Following the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, some intelligence experts estimated that as many as 10,000-15,000 MANPADs sets were looted from Libyan government stockpiles. The whereabouts of most of these are unknown.

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point suggests other sources of wild MANPADS:
Some reports suggest that missiles stolen from Libyan arsenals have spread as far as Niger, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula. In addition to AQIM, al-Shabab has been known to possess advanced MANPADS, allegedly provided by Eritrea.[7] Given that AQAP maintains ties to al-Shabab and has reportedly taken over multiple military depots in Yemen following the outbreak of civil unrest there,[8] it is not implausible to assume that AQAP could acquire additional MANPADS. There are also reports that the Taliban acquired MANPADS from Iran,[9] making it conceivable that elements of the group sympathetic to al-Qa`ida’s aims could provide al-Qa`ida with MANPADS for a future attack.

A May 2012 Stratfor report gives us more background about these MANPADS in the wild as well as some information on the danger they hold for civilian aircraft:
While we have not yet seen reports of the Tuaregs using these missiles, reports of close interaction between the Tuaregs in northern Mali and regional jihadist franchise al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) raise concern that AQIM could buy or somehow acquire them from the Tuaregs. We have seen unconfirmed reports of AQIM fighters possessing MANPADS, and Algerian authorities have seized MANPADS among the weapons being smuggled into the country from Libya. For example, in mid-February, Algerian authorities seized 15 SA-24 and 28 SA-7 Russian-made MANPADS at a location in the southern desert called In Amenas.
The SA-7 has a kill zone with an upper limit of 1,300 meters, while some newer models can reach altitudes of more than 3,658 meters. The average range of MANPADS is 4.8 kilometers (about 3 miles). This means that most large commercial aircraft, which generally cruise at around 9,140 meters, are out of the range of MANPADS, but the weapon can be employed against them effectively during the extremely vulnerable takeoff and landing portions of a flight or when they are operating at lower altitudes.
If that many MANPADS are already "in the wild" so-to-speak, then denying them to Syrian's that are being bombed daily by Assad on the grounds that those might eventually add to the thousands on MANPADS already on the black market, makes about as much sense as denying patients medical marijuana on the ground that some of it may end up on the street, or denying my grandfather a rifle to defend his family from KKK attacks on the grounds that it may eventually end up in criminal hands.

Unintended Consequence of Obama's policy "MANPADS for jihadists!"

Obama's "No MANPADS for you" policy has played a critical role in continuing this conflict and allowing Assad to stay in power but Obama's policy of denying MANPADS to the FSA is actually resulting in the very thing the claimed to be trying to avoid, namely MANPADS in the hands of jihadists.

By denying MANPADS to the FSA, Obama has caused this war to go on much longer than likely would be the case otherwise, this plus a lack of western military support has allowed jihadist such as al Nursa to come to the fore and grow. Because they have superior weapons and tactics as compared to the more secular FSA fighters, they have been able to have an influence over the development of the Syrian revolution that far outweighs their numbers or their support among the Syrian people. This is not good.

These jihadist have been in the forefront of the fighting and taking one of Assad's bases after another. This is having a snowball effect because every time the al Nursa or the other jihadists seize another of Assad's bases, they raid the armory and become even better armed. This in turn, allows them to have even more influence, recruit even more soldiers and seize still more bases.

So now these groups are taking Assad's bases and these groups are getting MANPADS, Assad's MANPADS, as we have seen on the battle field.

So the unintended consequence of Obama's "No MANPADS for you" policy is that the jihadist end up with the MANPADS and increased influence in the Syrian revolution because they can defend the children with them, while the secular FSA doesn't have them and can't.

Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Obama on Syria: They're still dying, he's still looking

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A lot has been happening in Syria lately and if I had the time I would have produced another half-dozen diaries on these events in the past few days but with rent due in a few days and less than that in the bank right now, I've been forced to focus my attentions elsewhere.

Still people still dying at a rate approaching 200 a day while many more continue to flee the country because the Assad regime is keeping up its shelling and bombing of many opposition districts, and Assad forces and the opposition fighters are still locked in a fierce battle that seems to be creeping ever so slowly towards the Presidential Palace in Damascus.

Also, this morning, I stumbled upon a very interesting interview with a Free Syria Army officer in Latakia, so I thought I's do this quick bit of scribbling to share this with you and also provide a space where those that have the time can discuss these events around Syria.

I have seen reports the the FSA in Damascus has gotten close enough to the Presidential Palace to start shelling it while reports proliferate that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is anywhere but.

Dueling tweets in the propaganda wars!

Here is the original tweet from a well respected journalist:

Here is the pro-Assad version that showed up minutes later:

This is another way the propaganda war is waged:

Even the Russian PM Medvedev is now saying that Assad's chances of winning this war grow slimmer by the day while the Russian are looking more and more like they are pulling their people out. Even Assad's mother has gotten out of Dodge.

Recently the Russians made the candid admission that they have continued to supply arms to Assad all along "honoring existing contracts." I think that has really been an open secret, even though it has at times been hotly contested even in comments to my diary. Most people knew that Assad hasn't been shelling and bombing his own people for almost two years with stuff he already had on hand. Now we have this valuable admission.

I find it quite ironic that the former Soviet Union is now using the sanctity of contracts as justification for being the chief enablers of a murder spree that has cost more than 65,000 Syrian lives so far.

As a matter of fact, I think that some Russians should be brought up on war crimes for that because no contract and be used to justify the continued shipment of cluster bombs to a regime that is using them to smear children's brains all over the playground.

Also yesterday, President Obama came out with a double-barreled defense of his do-little policy on Syria with and interview on CBS 60 Minutes and The New Republic, at the same time hinting that he is thinking about doing a little more. Obama said:
“We do nobody a service when we leap before we look, where we take on things without having thought out the consequences of it,”

This sounds very good and reasonable to most people here because they have lost no one in Syria and don't stand too. It sounds very different to parents who have been burying children for more than a year because there is no willing on the part of world powers to stop Assad from killing their children with his superior air power, in fact, they have given him an assist. While Putin has made sure Assad didn't run out of bombs, Obama has done his best to make sure those attempting to protect those children, have not had the means to knock Assad's bombers down.

So talk on, world leaders. This revolutionary war will be decided on the ground by Syrians.

Those with little do much while those with much, do little.

Syria Deeply carried this interview on Day 685 of their struggle:
Interview: I’m an FSA Battalion Leader

Karen Leigh – January 25, 2013
Abu Adnan and I meet on a cold dark night, a few days before the end of the year. He’s lean and grizzled in jeans and a dark overcoat. He holds a flashlight, standing at the precipice of an incline in the mountains along the Turkey-Syria border. He’s about to walk me down and looks wary, but determined, at the thought of yet another cross through this well-used smuggling route.

Abu Adnan is not his real name; many of the FSA leaders in the mountains around Latakia City use the nickname “Abu” – “Abu Adnan” means the father of Adnan. A gentle-eyed 55-year-old, with floppy black hair he looks the part of the father of the pride. His own children, and wife, are not here.

When we are safely through the mud, he becomes chatty. At our safe house, with its mismatched carpets and a small generator-power TV blaring Al Arabiya’s news of a regime massacre in Damascus, Adnan talks candidly about the states of his battle, his mind, and Latakia’s sectarian tension.

“There is no problem between [everyday] Alawites and Sunnis. But we have tension with the regime, and those who support the regime are Alawite,” Adnan tells me. That said “the regime is mixed between Alawites, Christians, and Sunnis. We don’t have a problem with the people, we have a problem with the regime. We [in the FSA] are liberal people, we like everyone.

“If the regime falls, we will start a new fight with the shabiha, and they have 100 leaders. There are three big groups of shabiha that have famous leaders, like Rami Makhlouf [Assad’s wealthy cousin], who has 2,000 shabiha followers. Our problem isn’t Assad—everyone wants him to leave now. Our problem is with these 100 names. A lot of them escaped fromDamascus to Latakia, and now they’re preparing to fight.”

He lights another cigarette. He has been chain-smoking since we left the Turkish border. “Assad is from Latakia. Muammar Qaddafi, he went to Sirte at the end of his revolution. Assad, he will come back. I am sure he will come back to his village. Maybe he’s already here. Maybe he’s escaped already from Damascus. He won’t be in office more than two months. In the last two to three weeks, I feel that things have changed here [in our favor]. We have heard from the Alawites in Latakia City that they do not support him. The Alawites are scared [for their own safety, should Assad fall].”

According to Adnan,TurkmanMountainis a hundred percent Sunni. He says there’s a Christian village in Jebel Akrad that’s now under FSA control, but “there’s tension there.”

The battalion leaders in Turkman check in with Alawites on the ground; they monitor their allegiance, which has so far remained with the FSA. “There are two types of Alawites,” Adnan says. “There’s the shabiha, and we will fight them. There are families, and we will not fight them. This has nothing to do with them.

“Sometimes we call them and they say, ‘we are not with the regime.’ There’s one Alawite FSA fighter here, he’s in Jebel Akrad. There’s an Alawite nurse in the hospital. The Alawite people know it’s almost finished. It’s 50 kilometers from the border to this house, and it’s all under FSA control.”

In reality, the picture is a bit more complicated. Though the FSA does control much of the area, pockets are still under regime control. The front in these mountains, like in all guerilla warfare, shifts almost daily. But Adnan sees the situation developing in the FSA’s favor.

“There are 80 men in the Hateen Battalion now. There were 35 four months ago. Men here want to support it. The Hateen is getting support,” Adnan says. But, he adds, they still need people to take care of logistics, like managing the supply lines for weapons and food. “We lost two members—they died—about three months ago.”

He sips at a child-sized box of milk. What was meant for a school lunchbox now feeds the FSA.

“If Latakia falls, it will be under us, free. In the next week, we’ll take anti-aircraft weapons. We will control the sky.”

This is wishful thinking. When I ask who will provide the crucial anti-aircraft tools, Adnan is cagey. “Someone here promised me them,” he says.

“A lot of people want to defect. We have a lot of [supporters and would-be defectors] inside the regime now. The Syrian Army, they don’t like to kill Syrians. It’s the shabiha.” In the regime strongholds in these mountains, the force is comprised of seventy-five percent shabiha, according to Adnan.

Adnan’s personal story, like so many FSA leaders’, is a roller coaster. And like so many, there are holes he won’t fill in for a reporter.

“I escaped Syria 30 years ago. I left during the Muslim Brotherhood revolution. I was in Iraq for the next 26. Five years ago, Assad wrote me a letter saying ‘come back.’ My brother was kidnapped 32 years ago. I know the names of the men who have my brother. They are Alawite, with the regime.

When they fall, I will…I will wait for the new government, go to the police station, get the [whereabouts] of the kidnappers. I will catch them and send them to the police.”

Still, despite what Adnan envisions for the coming months, the war has taken its toll on his psyche. “I still don’t know in my head when this war will be over,” he says. “Ask me in a month.” When it’s concluded and the rebuilding stage has begun, “we [in the FSA] don’t want to go work for the new government. But we want rights, for everyone. They have to give us that.”

Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rape in Syria: Woman dies after encounter with rodent

Formerly titled Rape in Syria: 'He pushed a rat in her vagina' See comments for reason for this obscurification.
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Since I see my role in writing these diaries as comforting the afflicted, I want the story of these women spread far and wide.

I want the truth about the 80 students slaughtered at Aleppo University by the Assad regime a week ago well known and beyond dispute.

And in a world that has been willing to sit on its hands while these people get raped and slaughtered, I don't mind if I afflict the comfortable.

I hope the title of this dairy gave you a true picture of what is happening today in Syria. It is the way one women died.

You may prefer not to know her story.

Well, now you do.

From Rooni's Corner, Nour Al-Ali wrote this:
Accounts of Violations & Deaths: Syrian Women Defiled

A Syrian woman was raped to death with a rat. A rat was forcefully thrust in between her legs, while in captivity, and then she died. Stop for a moment and try to fully fathom that. This happened in Syria. Not a sick Hollywood movie. This happened to my sister, your sister, my mother, your mother, my aunt, your aunt, my grandmother, your grandmother; this happened to us, all of us. Charlotte Proudman of The Independent reports:
?”One woman described an assault on another prisoner, which she witnessed. “He pushed a rat in her vagina. She was screaming. Afterwards we saw blood on the floor. He told her: ‘Is this good enough for you?’ They were mocking her. It was obvious she was in agony. We could see her. After that she no longer moved.”
Another woman, who was taken for 48 hours, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR hereafter) reports, returned a corpse with “marks of torture and barbarianism” to her family. Survived witnesses also report to the SNHR that security personnel would urinate in the mouths of female detainees to break their will. Moreover, a detainee said that she was prevented from using pads during her period, which led her to sanitize herself using trash; hence, developing a “reproductive disease.” Male detainees similarly reported female prisoners being questioned while naked in separate cells.

Accounts of Gang-Rapes: Young Girls in Ruins

The Women Under Siege in Syria project (WUS hereafter), which is run by the United States based Women’s Media Center, curated 133 reports of abuse, rape, and sexual violations of Syrians, both genders included. In one report, WUS translates an alleged confession of a Syrian Army solider, who says they [solides] were given “two tablets of Zemax, a sexual stimulant, to swallow” two hours before being commanded to take captured women of Baba Amr, who had just witnessed their husbands, sons, and brothers shot point-blank, into separate rooms to rape them. “I raped three women. After the rapes we left the halls. I do not know what happened to those women,”says he says in a video.

Instances of gang-rape have become so often that it was reported to the IRC a young girl was “forced to stagger home naked” after being violated by a group of men. Another girl, now in a safe hostel, along with 16 other cases, told Al-Arabiya of being gang-raped, where she witnessed her mother’s death while being forcefully held down. She says (as per WUS translation):
“They took the older women and children away and kept us, the younger women, in the square. They started with me. One of them untied me. When I resisted he pulled my hair and pushed me to the ground. I hit my head. When I screamed, my mother recognized my voice. I heard her saying, ‘Please leave her, she is so young. Take me instead, I beg you.’ They just laughed.

“Three faces got close to mine, and many hands started touching my body. Within seconds I was naked. I tried to fight back. I was trembling like a slaughtered hen. Their arms were like octopus arms squeezing me. I eventually stopped moving. I felt paralyzed. I felt like I was suffocating. They smelled rotten, like death. They shouted, ‘You want freedom? This is freedom, freedom, freedom.’ One monster hit me on the face and kicked my body. He stepped on my chest and I heard my bones cracking. Pain felt like a fire whipping me. I heard them cursing my screaming mom, ‘Shut up, you….’”
On the counts of mortality, The SNHR? documented the death of 3,517 that they know of, Syrian females, 1,079 being underage. Causes of their deaths vary from being shelled and victims of airstrikes to executions, rape, suicide, kidnap, and being tortured to death, SNHR adds. 495 females are currently detained, 27 of those not older than 18 years of age, SNHR says.

The Big Picture: Social Taboos & Laws Aiding Criminals

Those accounts, though ghastly gruesome, barely depict the entire reality of what happens to females in Syria. Discussing rape, abuse, and what have you of violations done to them is considered a taboo in Syrian societies. Women are hushed, deemed guilty, and killed for honor because their body was defied. In fact, in what the IRC called an “extreme case,” a father “shot his daughter when an armed group approached to prevent the “disgrace” of her being raped.” Even prior to the revolution, often stories of brothers shooting their sisters, and females jumping off balconies would make it to headlines with words like “shame” and “honor” describing them. What saddens me most is that this harsh reality I speak of is not news in the Middle East today.

There are laws in Jordan (article 308), Morocco, and other Middle Eastern countries that exempt rapists from the death penalty and let them marry their victim. When 16 year-old Amina Filali committed suicide, everyone went haywire for a while. And then, just like that, her story, her agony, her struggle, was buried along with her violated body. As a collective society, we get these momentarily collective outcries against the system, but then we move on to the next hot thing. As awful as it is, it is not only a matter of one female getting raped. It is the concept of aiding a perpetrator and thus reproducing a new generation of rapists, because as bad of a crime as it is, as easy of a crime it is to get away with in the Middle East.

With Syria, however, those violations have crossed every metaphorical line possible. The IRC reports that one of the leading causes that the 600,000 documented Syrian refugees have fled for was in fact fear of rape. “The situation for refugee women and girls is grim,” states the report. Even then, female refugees are not safe, with “elevated levels of domestic violence,” as they are in dire need of medical attention, and are forced, even sold, to marriage. Hassan Hassan of The National reported in September of 2012:
It is common to see on Arabic online forums requests by men “seeking marriage from Syrian girls”. At a price ranging from 500 to 1,000 Saudi riyals (Dh490 to Dh980), girls are reportedly being taken from refugee camps in Jordan. Saudi Arabia is most often named as the destination, but a similar trend is reported in other countries including Iraq and Turkey.

Where You Come In: Your Voice is Heard

I don’t know who you are, reading this right now. I dare not ask you to put yourself in a what if situation where this happens to someone you know. It is far too awful even for imagination to grasp. I ask of you, if you, just as I, do not have the power to stop this, raise awareness; condemn the violence; stand firm against it; and do not, please, I beg of you, do not be silenced by fear, nonchalance, or whatever your reasons may be. If not by a protest, then tell your friends. If not by a petition to your government asking them for support, then tweet about it, Facebook it, blog about it; do something, anything. You alone have a voice, and along with other voices, you make an echo loud enough to generate a difference. Be that difference. It does not end with just your voice, but it starts with it.

The Syrian American Council has started a petition, asking the US First Lady to condemn Assad for his crimes against females, sign here.

If you are considering starting an organization to aid raped / abused Syrian females; please email me. Let us start working towards a better tomorrow for Syria today.

Note: All quotes used in this post have been cited from and attributed to their original source.

Please Sign the Petition

Nour Al-Ali adds this note:
I spent more than twelve hours writing this post, eight of which I used on research and fact-checking; reading heart-wrenching accounts of rape, narrated by victims, or witnesses who were lucky to survive. I also went out for an unplanned 6 a.m. two hour walk, wearing hotel disposable slippers and nothing but my jammies. It led me to nowhere in specific. I was chasing sunrise. The closer I got to the sun, the further it went up towards the middle of the sky. In a sense, I feel as though my encounter with the sun is similar to attaining freedom in Syria. The more we walk towards freedom, the more we lose our soul, identity, and heart. This is the point of no return, you see. Our nation has been bent, altered, defiled in countless of ways from all sides contributing to destruction that retreating is as impossible as it is to touch the sun and not burn out. But there is this faint spark of hope that yearns to be proven right. This fight we will win, and our country we shall rebuild; brick by brick, stitch by stitch, and blood by blood, we will rebuild our Syria. By the time I had gotten home, my body was weary, but I was emotionally refined, for I had vouched to myself, to God, and now to all those bearing witness, that I, Nour Al-Ali, will dedicate my future, career, life, being and existence to aiding and helping all Syrian women who undergo (past, present, and future) rape / abuse recover from this ordeal. Rape is a can of worms that has been let loose in the Middle East, and I will spend every waking moment of my life disposing of it.

EAWorldView has this important followup to the attack that killed more than 80 students at Aleppo University on 15 January 2013

On 15 January, two explosions, three minutes apart, ripped through Aleppo University during the first day of final exams. At least 80 students were killed, and many more were wounded.
Within minutes, reports flooded social media that a regime warplane had fired two missiles at the campus. A student posted on Twitter:

A plane hit with two shells. We saw the plane with our own eyes. I am not going to doubt my eyes and believe regime media.
When the plane roamed above the university following the shelling, the university guards and soldiers told us, "Hide, the plane is back!"
Many witnesses saw an aircraft. Several contacts told EA that the aircraft was at a relatively high altitude when it fired, then it circled around and fired again. However, no videos appeared to show an airplane. One video may have revealed the puff of a jet vapor trail. but this was inconclusive.
The regime claimed that these were car bombs. With no hard evidence, the question of who killed the Aleppo students seemed destined to remain a mystery.
Until today.
This video shows the smoke rising from the roundabout, the location of the first blast. As the cameraman walks towards the blast, just around the 27-second mark, there is a loud sound. It is the roar of a self-powered subsonic aircraft-delivered explosive --- a missile.

This is not a car bomb. Neither the sound, nor the explosive pattern, nor the flash of flames, nor the debris field match that type of explosive.
Consider the damage pattern in this picture from the University. The cars are leaning to the left, away from the building and towards the road, indicating that the blast came from the right side of the road (click for full-sized image):

An analysis of the audio on the video reveals no evidence that this was faked. Moreover, a second video corroborates the audio, with a similar sound is heard immediately before the 2nd explosion.

Spectrographic analysis software indicates, the sound shares many characteristics with that on the first video, though the acoustics are different. This suggests that both videos have captured the audio of the same missile from different angles.
Another analyst looked more closely at the first video. Immediately before the explosion, one can make out the missile in four different frames. In frame 1. the missile is near the lamp post, in the 2nd frame it has moved forward, in the 3rd it is barely visible, and in the 4th there is an explosion (click for full size):

A question remains: was this a missile launched from an aircraft, or was this a missile launched from the ground? If it was the former, then this was a cold, per-meditated attack on the behalf of the pilot, and likely his commanding officers. If it was the latter, is it possible that the insurgents launched a surface-to-surface rocket or a surface-to-air missile, trying to hit a regime warplane, which went astray and struck the University?
In initial dissections of the event, the consensus of a group of arms specialists and military experts was that the insurgents do not have any weapons this advanced. No RPG or shoulder-fired missile has this destructive power. It is unlikely that a vehicle-mounted SAM could do this level of damage, and it is even less likely that such a weapon was in range. The insurgents have also not been seen with GRAD rockets or any other long-range surface-to-surface or surface-to-air missile that is capable of this kind of damage.
The first explosion was 400-500 feet north of the second, at the roundabout. The cameraman was walking north, towards the roundabout, and was about 400-500 feet away from the second explosion --- we can tell by video analysis and the audio delay). Felim McMahon of Storyful has created the map below:

View Double explosion at Aleppo University in a larger map
We know that the missile travelled from the south because we hear the missile before we see or hear the explosion. We also know that the two explosions were three minutes apart. The proximity of the blasts point away from a dumb-fired rocket or artillery shell, given their relativ lack of precision, particularly since there was a significant and unpredictable wind that day. The closeness of the two explosions could be explained if the missile or artillery shell were fired down the road from a relatively short range. But, in this case, the insurgents are almost certainly not responsible, since the western half of Aleppo is occupied by the regime, and to the south of the university are Assad's largest military bases in the region.
Nothing in the video is consistent with a surface-to-surface missile or artillery shell. All but the most advanced surface-to-surface missiles are not under active power when they strike their target. The rocket fires, propels the missile on a course, and then the rocket glides to its destination.
This audio does not sound anything like an unpowered rocket obtainable in Syria. It sounds even less like an artillery shell. It is the sound of a fully-powered missile, like the ones fired from jet fighters.
Furthermore, the larger surface-to-surface rockets would leave destroyed rocket casings and other tell-tale signs that we constantly see across Syria. None of this evidence is visible.
But where is the airplane? The answer may be in the first video we posted above. Around the 40-second mark, a low roar can be heard. Analyzing the frequencies of the audio. it is clear that the sound is not caused by wind --- that set of frequencies are only consistent with the roar of a jet fighter.
Here's what the evidence suggests. A regime jet fighter lined up on the main street that leads south to north through the center of Aleppo and fired a missile. The plane then circled, lined up on the boulevard again, and fired a second missile three minutes later.
While the evidence clearly supports this conclusion, it also raises a disturbing question. The precision of the two strikes suggests that this was a deliberate target --- a clearly non-military target --- with explosions designed to have maximum impact. Did at least some of the command structure of the Syrian military, and not just the individual pilot, have knowledge of this mission? If so, was the goal was to kill as many students as possible and then --- using the quick reaction of the Syrian media --- blame this attack on the insurgents?
Those are questions deserving further examination. But, at least on this occasion, it is possible to at least get past the initial "fog of war" to establish responsibility.

Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria

Sunday, January 20, 2013

UN reveals its real stand on Syria, giving Assad $500 million | #UNPaysAssad

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At first I couldn't believe the tweets I was seeing. I mean, you can say anything on twitter. You can say aliens have just landed. Don't make it true.

The very idea that the United Nations was planning to give to the government of Syria, and you know who that means, over $500 million dollars with no real control, meaning really no strings attached, was to me so incredible that at first I didn't believe it.

I have been saying for a long time that that world body, and even the United States, was in reality in Assad's corner, but this bold contribution to his war effort surprised even me. I had to read it for myself in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humantarian Affairs [OCHA] Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan for Syria (1 January - 30 June 2013)
All humanitarian assistance is, and will continue to be, delivered with full respect to the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic during the implementation of this Response Plan.
This Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan aims at supporting the Government of Syria’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to the affected populations. It will cover the period from 1 January 2013 until the end of June 2013. The financial requirements amount to $519,627,047

Now of course, the "Syrian government" is suppose to use this money for "humanitarian relief" while its still bombarding neighborhoods, and they are suppose to distributed it fairly, even to the hospitals that they are blowing up. And I suppose if Bashar al-Assad violates these rules, fails to stay in power, and finds himself in the Hague, they can add misappropriation of funds to the other charges he'll be facing such as mass murder, genocide and wanton destruction of many world heritage sites.

Other than that, its all good. Once these 500 clams are in his pocket, he can do with them pretty much as he likes. I mean, he has already shown how easily and throughly he can bully the UN on the ground.

And in case you think this money will find its way to NGOs that really are government independent in Syria, the International NGO Training and Research Centre has produced a 12 page report The NGO sector in Syria - an overview that you should take a look at:
"NGOs in Syria are required by law to register with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MOSAL)."

This "normalization of relations" with a government that is daily slaughtering its own people is a very dangerous thing for all of us!

The Syrian Institute for Progress (SIP) is asking you to petition President Barack Obama to:
Stop the U.N. from using the Syrian Government to hypocritically manage the Assistance Plan for Syria.

Press Release about the Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan for Syria 19 January 2013

The Syrian Coalition (SC) appreciates all efforts to provide aid and assistance to the needy of the Syrian people, especially in the difficult times they are experiencing for nearly two years now. The decision to allocate the amount of $ 519 million for Syrians inside Syria, as part of the Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan launched by the United Nations on 19 December 2012, is one the most important of those efforts; however, the coalition expresses its deep concern about the management of this aid, or whether it reaches the real needy inside Syria.

The plan* states that it aims at "supporting the Government of Syria’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to the affected populations," and that a “Steering Committee” will be “chaired by the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates (or whomever he delegates)" and that “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates is the [Syrian] Government focal point in charge of the supervision of implementation of humanitarian projects" in addition to other administrative and logistical tasks!

The SC sees a clear contradiction in dealing with the Syrian regime as a legitimate government doing its job like any other government, at the same time that the United Nations and its various institutions issues reports holding the regime responsible for the serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, including the current government that was assigned by the head of the regime based on his interests! The SC wonders how it can be committed to neutrality if it doesn’t have an independent decision? Is it logical to provide aid to a regime responsible for destroying cities, bombing hospitals and bakeries and displacing population, so it can fix the dire situation it had created!

Moreover, preliminary results of the assessment conducted by the Aid Coordinating Unit (ACU) last weeks show an almost complete inability to deliver the aid provided by the United Nations or other international organizations to the northern regions through Damascus. What was delivered hardly covers ten percent of the original need, taking in consideration that more than ten million people live in those areas, ie. nearly half the population of Syria.

The ACU of the Syrian Coalition is working on providing aid to all Syrian people without distinction or discrimination, and confirms its commitment to humanitarian laws and international conventions in this regard. The SC expects to receive the help and support pledged by the States that have recognized it, and fulfil their promises through supporting the ACU to assist it in assuming the tasks expected from it.

The SC also demands that the humanitarian aid to the widows and orphans, the hungry, wounded and displaced in Syria, should not be delivered to them through the same party that caused their suffering and pain, for it would be an added humiliation and degradation.

For further information contact the Media Office at media@etilaf.org

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Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 8:19 PM PT: The Syrian National Coalition is against the UN grant:

Syrian opposition against UN aid for regime

22 Jan 2013 - 02:41pm
The opposition Syrian National Coalition says it would pressure the UN to stop the delivery of any form of aid to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

'The participants decided to form a committee to move diplomatically and pressure the United Nations to stop delivery of any aid, approved under a plan to respond to Syria humanitarian needs last month, to the official Syrian institutions,' it said following talks in Istanbul on Monday.

The statement came as the UN explored a major humanitarian operation in the war-torn country, with its mission to Syria describing the need as 'enormous', having found people in dire need of medical and food aid.

During a two-day general assembly meeting in the Turkish capital, attended by over 60 delegates, the Syrian National Coalition was briefed by Free Syrian Army chief of staff General Salim Idris on developments on the ground.

Committees were formed to tackle a number of pressing issues, including ongoing hostilities between Kurdish residents of Ras Al-Ain and Islamist rebels and delivering $US250,000 ($A238,902) in emergency aid to the embattled town of Daraya.

Other committees are to focus on refugees from the conflict, rehabilitation for the wounded and border security.

The general assembly, which meets on a monthly basis, said it would act soon on a decision to form an interim government to manage areas 'liberated' by rebel fighters.

The Coalition will 'form a committee to communicate with political and revolutionary forces inside Syria, and with international organisations and governments to assure support for the interim government', it said, adding that a final decision would be taken in 10 days.

Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria

Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 7:05 AM PT: I'm with this side. Some here are with the other side. I think that explains the controversy: