Puppet MastersS


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Foreign fighters seek Islamic state in post-Assad Syria

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© Reuters Photo/George OurfalianSyrian soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are seen in Khan al-Hariri district in Aleppo on January 12, 2013.
Huddled around a fire in a bombed-out building in Aleppo, foreign jihadists say they are fighting for a radical Islamic state in Syria - whether local rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad like it or not.

Among their fellow revolutionaries and civilians, these foreigners draw both respect for their iron discipline and fear that if Assad falls, they may turn on former allies to complete the struggle for an Islamic caliphate.

One Turkish fighter in the devastated Aleppo district of Karm al-Jabal expressed an unbending determination to achieve a state under Sharia Islamic law that worries many Syrians, the West and even regional backers of the anti-Assad rebellion.

"Syria...will be an Islamic and Sharia state and we will not accept anything else. Democracy and secularism are completely rejected," said the fighter, who called himself Khattab.

War Whore

The war in Libya was seen as a success, now here we are engaging with the blowback in Mali

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Our Government and media may often ignore the price of Western interventions, but in future conflicts and fuel for radical Islamist groups, it is still paid nonetheless.

No scrutiny, no build-up, no parliamentary vote, not even a softening-up exercise. Britain is now involved in yet another military conflict in a Muslim land, or so we have been informed. British aircraft are flying to Mali while France bombs the country, arguing that Islamist militia must be driven back to save Europe from the creation of a "terrorist state". Amnesty International and West Africa experts warned of the potential disaster of foreign military intervention; the bombs raining on the Malian towns of Konna, Léré and Douentza suggest they have been definitively ignored.

Mali's current agony has only just emerged in our headlines, but the roots go back generations. Like the other Western colonial powers that invaded and conquered Africa from the 19th century onwards, France used tactics of divide-and-rule in Mali, leading to entrenched bitterness between the nomadic Tuareg people - the base of the current revolt - and other communities in Mali.

To some Westerners, this is a distant past to be ignored, moved on from, and certainly not used to preclude noble interventions; but the consequences are still being felt on a daily basis. Initially, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, suggested its colonial legacy ruled out a France-led intervention; its sudden involvement is far more rapid than expected.

USA

Mali and the scramble for Africa: A new wave of barbarism

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The French military intervention into Mali on Friday - France's second in as many years into a former African colony - was reportedly "seconded" by the United States. This ought to come as no great surprise, given the Pentagon's deepening penetration into Africa.

According to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the Pentagon plans on deploying soldiers to 35 different African countries in 2013. As NPR reports, upwards of 4,000 U.S. soldiers will "take part in military exercises and train African troops on everything from logistics and marksmanship to medical care." (The Malian army officer responsible for the country's March coup just so happened to have received U.S. military training.)

Of course, the U.S. military already has a significant on-the-ground presence in Africa. For instance, the "busiest Predator drone base outside of the Afghan war zone" - with 16 drone flights a day - is located at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

But as the Army Times notes, "the region in many ways remains the Army's last frontier." And in order to satiate the U.S. appetite for global "power projection," no frontiers are to be left unconquered.

Thus, as a June report in the Washington Post revealed, the preliminary tentacles of the U.S. military already extend across Africa. As the paper reported, U.S. surveillance planes are currently operating out of clandestine bases in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya, with plans afoot to open a new base in South Sudan.

Heart - Black

Israeli forces shot youth in the back as he ran away, say Palestinians

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© Photograph: Issam Rimawi/Zuma Press/CorbisRelatives of Samir Awad mourn his death at a hospital in Ramallah, to where his body was taken after the shooting.
Samir Awad, 17, shot dead at separation barrier near Budrus where IDF says group of youths were trying to enter Israel.

A teenage boy was killed by Israeli soldiers on the separation barrier close to the West Bank village of Budrus yesterday, shot from behind as he was running away, according to Palestinian accounts.

Samir Awad, 17, was among a group of boys who had just completed an exam on the last day of school before a midterm break when they approached the barrier, reports said. The Israeli Defence Forces said the youths were "attempting to infiltrate into Israel", and its soldiers "responded immediately". It confirmed live fire was used.

According to villagers, Samir was grabbed by soldiers who were concealed in a trench. He broke free and was running away when a soldier or soldiers opened fire. He was hit by three or four bullets, in his head, torso and leg.

Ayed Morrar, a member of the village popular resistance committee, said: "They shot him in cold blood, they shot him in the back. He wasn't threatening them." He said there had been no stone-throwing at the time of the shooting.

Crusader

François Hollande pledges to fight until Islamist rebels in Mali are wiped out

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© Photograph: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty ImagesFrench soldiers in armoured vehicles leaving Bamoko as African defence chiefs met there to speed up the UN-backed African action against hardline Islamists in northern Mali.
Air raids continue 'day and night' in battle with insurgents, but French president dismisses suggestion of colonialism.

France will only end its intervention in Mali when political stability and an election process have been restored to the chaotic west African country and Islamist groups have been wiped out, the French president said on Tuesday, raising the prospect of a drawn-out engagement on hostile desert terrain.

The French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said a "relentless" fight with Islamists was continuing on Tuesday night and France would stay "as long as necessary".

Mali is in political disarray after a coup last year and the fall of the vast northern desert to Islamist groups who operate a drug trafficking and kidnap economy in several Sahel countries.

French air raids continued "day and night" in the vast area seized by the Islamist alliance, which combines al-Qaida's north African wing, AQIM, with Mali's home-grown Movement for Oneness and Jihad in west Africa (Mojwa) and Ansar Dine rebel groups.

Snakes in Suits

Obama to demand gun control measures while surrounded by children

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With recommendations from Biden in hand, president expected to opt for legislative options rather than executive action

Barack Obama is to step up pressure on Congress to act on gun violence by surrounding himself with schoolchildren from across the country when he unveils proposals on Wednesday aimed at preventing a repeat of the Newtown massacre.

While Obama can take implement some measures almost immediately through executive action, these are limited in scope. The wide-ranging proposals he is looking for require legislation but he faces opposition from Congress, particularly among Republicans, backed by the National Rifle Association.

By bringing schoolchildren to the White House press conference, Obama can tap into some of the emotion aroused by the Connecticut massacre in December that left 20 children and seven adults dead.

At a White House press conference Tuesday, the president's spokesman Jay Carney said: "I can tell you that tomorrow the president and vice-president will hold an event here at the White House to unveil a package of concrete proposals to reduce gun violence and prevent future tragedies like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.

Snakes in Suits

U.S. gives Afghanistan fleet of drones

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© AFP Photo / Patrick BazA US army soldier with the 101st Airborne Division Alpha Battery 1-320th tries to launch a drone outside Combat Outpost Nolen in the village of Jellawar in The Arghandab Valley
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his recent meeting with US President Obama gave him nearly everything his country hoped for - including a fleet of aerial surveillance drones that Afghan officials have long been requesting.

Karzai held a news conference on Monday in which he proudly announced the promised fleet of drones, as well as an upgraded fleet of aircraft including 20 helicopters and at least four C-130 transport planes. The Afghan president noted that the surveillance drones would be unarmed, but will nevertheless help spy on enemy combatants and watch over coalition forces. Western forces will train Afghans to fly, use and maintain them before giving complete control to the Karzai government.

The US will also provide Afghanistan with intelligence gathering equipment "which will be used to defend and protect our air and ground sovereignty," Karzai said. The US has also pledged to speed up the handover of detainees currently imprisoned and held by American forces. Karzai has previously called this a violation of promised Afghan sovereignty and the issue has built up tension between the two nations.

"We are happy and satisfied with the results of our meetings," the Afghan president told journalists at the presidential palace. "We achieved what we were looking for."

USA

'Aaron was killed by the government' - Robert Swartz on his son's death

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© Reuters / Noah BergerAaron Swartz
The father of information activist Aaron Swartz blames US prosecutors for his son's death, RT's Andrew Blake reports from an emotional Tuesday morning funeral outside of Chicago.

Aaron Swartz, 26, was found dead on Friday of a reported suicide. Swartz had been instrumental in designing software that aimed to make the Internet easy and open for everyone, and also co-founded both Reddit.com and Demand Progress - one of the most visited sites on the Web and an highly touted activism organization, respectively.

But while friends, family and loved ones recalled Swartz' compassion for technology and his utter selflessness during Tuesday's service, those in attendance did not shy away from acknowledging the tremendous legal trouble that plagued the activist in recent years.

In 2011, federal prosecutors charged Swartz with a series of counts under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, crimes that could have sent him away to prison for upwards of 35 years if convicted. Swartz, said the government, entered a building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloaded millions of academic and scholarly papers from the service JSTOR with presumably the intent of distributing them for free.

"Aaron did not commit suicide but was killed by the government," Robert Swartz said during Tuesday's service at the Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois. "Someone who made the world a better place was pushed to his death by the government."

Bad Guys

Prosecutor pursuing Aaron Swartz linked to suicide of another hacker

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© Reuters / Noah BergerAaron Swartz.
One of the prosecutors investigating Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide this weekend, has also been accused of driving another hacker to kill himself.

In 2008 Jonathan James killed himself after being implicated in the largest personal identity hack in history. The case was spearheaded by Massachusetts Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heymann, who was also integral to the investigation against Swartz, Buzzfeed reports.

Heymann reportedly pursued James with zeal, he was the first minor to be taken into custody for a federal cybercrime case.

In the criminal complaints filed with the US District Court in Massachusetts, James was believed to have been identified as "JJ."

Two weeks after the Secret Service raided his house in conjunction with the investigation led by Heymann into the theft of tens of thousands of credit card numbers, James was found dead.

In his suicide note, James wrote the decision to take his own life was a direct response to the federal investigation implicating him in a crime he says he did not commit.

Nuke

Iraq Sunni MP killed by suicide bomber

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Fallujah has been the scene of recent Sunni demonstrations against the Shia-led government
A Sunni member of parliament has been killed by a suicide bomber in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, officials have said.

The bomber pretended he was greeting MP Eifan Saadoun al-Issawi and then blew himself up. Two bodyguards also died.

The attack come just days after the Sunni Finance Minister, Rafie al-Issawi, survived an assassination attempt as he travelled to the city.

Anbar province has seen growing protests by the Sunni minority against the Shia-led central government.