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Brian Ulrich’s blog – American Footprints

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in Back catalogue

Over the past few days, Israel has suddenly become awash with rumors that the end may be near for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. At issue are allegations that he accepted bribe’s from American businessman Morris Talansky during his days as Jerusalem mayor. Israel is under a tight gag order that even Reuters is forced to follow, so we rely on the New York Post to explain this development that could end what remains of the Annapolis peace process.  Of course, it’s not actually clear to me why this might force Olmert out when nothing else has.
Olmert’s coalition is actually at least temporarily down to 64 after three MK’s left the Pensioners to form a new Social Justice party linked to Russian billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak. However, they are interested in joining the coalition. Gaydamak has previously been rumored to have his sights on becoming Jerusalem’s mayor himself, and even toyed with making a supermarket chain he acquired kosher to appeal to the city’s religious voters.
“The agreement would be a temporary one – valid for five years – during which the PA would be granted some municipal sovereignty in the capital and would be allowed to provide various services to the Palestinian residents of the city.
“Ynet has learned that this new outline has been presented to Israel and the Palestinians by US mediators, and that the two sides have been discussing it in recent weeks. While both sides are reluctant to accept the proposal, a source involved in the talks said that American pressure may force them to do so…
Regular readers won’t be surprised, though, to learn I think this might be the best we can expect. The largest obstacle to peace right now, frankly, is the Qassam fire from Gaza. (And yes, I know Palestinians are just as bothered by IDF operations as Israelis are by the situation in Sderot, but the power imbalance is such that I simply don’t see that mattering much.) Resolving that will mean either dealing with Hamas or an improvement in Israel’s defensive technology that is still a few years away.
Imtiaz Ali discusses the Haqqani network, which is apparently the target of our recent missile strikes within Pakistan:
“On the Pakistani side of the border, Sirajuddin’s influence has been growing as a ‘revered jihadist commander.’ He strongly opposed Maulvi Nazir’s campaign against Uzbek and other foreign militants waged earlier this year by the militant tribal leader in South Waziristan (see Terrorism Monitor, January 11). He is reported to have played an important role in stopping the fighting between Maulvi Nazir’s tribal militia and Uzbek militants in Wana and the surrounding area in March last year. Sirajuddin took part in a tribal jirga, attempting to sort out differences between combatant foreigners and local militants, but the talks collapsed when Maulvi Nazir asked for the surrender of all foreign militants residing in the region bordering Afghanistan (Dawn, March 24, 2007). In late January, two arrested members of the Haqqani Network revealed that up to 200 suicide bombers had infiltrated into Pakistan’s cities in preparation for the current wave of bombings (Khabrain [Lahore], January 28)…
“Afghan officials as well as Coalition forces in Kabul have cited Sirajuddin’s use of North Waziristan as operational headquarter for his alleged cross-border terrorist activities as one example of Pakistan’s inability to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in its tribal areas. Though the Pakistan government regards these claims as baseless, it is known that two years ago Sirajuddin issued a circular urging militants to continue their ‘jihad’ against the United States and the Karzai government ’till the last drop of blood.’ But in the same statement he pointed out that ‘fighting Pakistan does not conform to Taliban policy… those who [continue to wage] an undeclared war against Pakistan are neither our friends nor shall we allow them in our ranks’ (Dawn, June 23, 2006). There are signs that this is no longer the policy of the Haqqani faction of the Taliban.”
Thursday night’s attack on the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem was clearly an unacceptable terrorist act. It is a radical yeshiva, the flagship institution of the religious Zionist movement associated with Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, but contrary to some reports, it did not combine study with military service, and in fact was involved in many charitable community projects. Most of the students killed were under 18, and children under international standards.
“The people directly affected by the deadly terrorist attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva are not just the students, their relatives and friends, but the much wider larger segment of the religious Zionist public. This segment of the population, already seething with anger, which started with the Disengagement in 2005, the Amona pullout, the government promises to America remove illegal outposts, the continued diplomatic process launched at Annapolis and its emphasis to talk about all topics, including Jerusalem, is going to be extremely unhappy about this attack. Together with the grief and sorrow, there is going to be a lot of angry talk about good and evil, about a religious war over the Holy Land…
“Being messianic religious people, the religious Zionists are going to see this attack through the prism of messianic prophecy. Already I am hearing on religious Zionist radio stations people talking about the attack in prophetic terms, such as Isaiah 59 verse 20: And a redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.
“Settler radio talk-show hosts are interpreting this prophecy by saying that if the Jews don’t stop Hamas, the Palestinians, Hizbullah and any other Islamic fundamentalists God will force the Jews to do it. The talk-show hosts blame Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres, and several callers into the broadcasts are unanimous in their condemnation of the Israeli government and calling on its removal.”
“According to Pakistani authorities, Mehsud is behind the murderous bomb attacks that have shaken the country in the last year. They also accuse him of ordering the Dec. 27 killing of Bhutto, a charge that the CIA has backed up. Mehsud has denied any role.
“So many accusations have been hung around Mehsud’s neck that some observers question whether he can be so powerful. Others say his brutal rise is only beginning.
“Mehsud operates from South Waziristan, within a wild mountainous region bordering Afghanistan that’s known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He reportedly commands at least 5,000 armed followers — maybe many more — and models himself on Mullah Omar, the fugitive leader of the Afghan Taliban, with whom he acknowledges spiritual links.
“Cunning but not well-educated, Mehsud orchestrated the killings of more than 100 maliks — traditional tribal leaders — in his area, many of whom wanted to talk peace with Pakistani authorities. Late last year, he humiliated Pakistan’s army by kidnapping 250 soldiers, holding them for weeks and letting them go only in exchange for militants held in Pakistani jails.
From a political standpoint, Mubarak has no choice in the matter. If his troops had acted differently, they would be contributing to Palestinian suffering in a direct way rather than just the indirect way of providing Israel with diplomatic legitimacy for which he is criticized with Egypt. His actions here are a bow to political reality from which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should take lessons, as his people, apparently caught flat-footed, sputter that Hamas is trying to reap political benefits.
Hamas won this round even if they did manufacture the crisis, which I frankly don’t believe. The world sees people suffering more than those in Sderot saved by Hamas actions. I hate Hamas, and even I have some fuzzy feelings about this. Even sources in Israel’s Defense Minstry say that, “the situation did not unfold in recent days precisely as we would have wanted.” On the eve of the release of the Winograd Report, Ehud Olmert led Israel full throttle into international condemnation and probably a lasting defeat in terms of its ability to control the Rafah border crossing for the near future.
“On January 9, Kyrgyz officials announced that they had taken possession of a small load of radioactive substance discovered aboard a train bound for Iran. The material has been placed in a special area in Kyrgyzstan, but questions are being raised about the nature and quantity of the substance, who was behind its transport, and how the train carrying it crossed three border checkpoints before being detected…
“Kubanych Noruzbaev, an official from the Kyrgyz Ecology and Environmental Protection Ministry, said on January 10 that the material was Cesium-137, a product of nuclear reactors and weapons testing that is often used in medical devices and gauges. But it could also be used in a crude radioactive explosive device — a ‘dirty bomb’ — and underscores the fact that despite some progress since 1991, parts of the former Soviet Union are still littered with sites where lethal radioactive materials remain largely unsecured…
“The Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg reported on January 9 that the levels of radiation being emitted from the train car were so high that Emergency Situations Ministry asked for volunteers to go and unload the cargo. Four people wearing special protective clothing volunteered to venture into the wagon where they discovered the source of the radiation: dust and waste material on the floor, which they swept up and deposited in a bucket. The bucket was then sealed in concrete and stored in a special facility…
I’ve been traveling recently, and so haven’t been following the news as closely as I often do, but noticed that the individual Pakistan blamed for the attack on Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi was Beitullah Mehsud.  In my discussions of the Taliban in Pakistan, I have often noted his inclination to want to focus on the war in Afghanistan and accept the backing of the Pakistani government under Musharraf, as opposed to those who want to take on both at once.  I have also suggested that he may be a component of a Pakistani plan to co-opt the Taliban for its own strategic purposes in Afghanistan.
“The floodgates have opened. It is the beginning of the end for serious labor repression in the UAE, and the rest of the Gulf is likely to follow. Dubai’s employers have been forced to negotiate with (illegally) organized labor and come out second-best…
“These foreign workers have had just one thing going for them over the past few years- they have gotten a lot more organized. Earlier this year, for instance, a riot by dissatisfied workers at the construction site for the world’s tallest building, Burj Dubai, led to a sympathy strike by workers expanding Dubai airport, which lies on the other side of the city. Such coordination is not easy to arrange given that unions do not exist, and labor organizers are liable to be deported.

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Military Opportunity » American Footprints

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Back catalogue

Just as a follow-up to what’s below, the more I think about this, the more I suspect the military leadership is seizing the opportunity to install Omar Suleiman now and forestall the possibility of a Gamal Mubarak presidency. It definitely will not be that easy. Many of the protest leaders have drawn lines that won’t walk away from easily, but even if Suleiman can win temporary acceptance as a transitional leader, remaining regime elements can manipulate the system as they go. The two key pillars are economic corruption and foreign aid rent, and neither is incompatible with a period of greater political openness.

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Egyptian Uncertainties » American Footprints

Posted by on Mar 19, 2014 in Back catalogue

Today, Husni Mubarak met with the military:
“President Hosni Mubarak, clinging to power despite unprecedented demands for an end to his 30-year rule, met on Sunday with the powerful military which is widely seen as holding the key to Egypt’s future.
“In surreal scenes, soldiers from Mubarak’s army stood by tanks covered in anti-Mubarak graffiti: ‘Down with Mubarak. Down with the despot. Down with the traitor. Pharaoh out of Egypt.’
“Asked how they could let protesters scrawl anti-Mubarak slogans on their vehicles, one soldier said: ‘These are written by the people, it’s the views of the people.’
Opposition leaders led by Muhammad el-Baradei have also expressed a desire to negotiate with the military. What is happening within it? Publicly they have sided with the demonstrators, using force mainly to try and bring order by rounding up looters, as just reported a few seconds ago by al-Jazeera English from Alexandria. They may be hoping that if their credibility increases, they can work a transition to the military-friendly Omar Suleiman rather than risk the unknowns of a non-NDP government following a successful revolution.
At the same time, regime moves bear scrutiny. The curfew, widely ignored, has been extended, and police are expected to return to the streets. I believe that the withdrawal of the police was part of a broader plan to defuse the protests through generalized instability, a plan which failed. It also seems like the police are still supporting the NDP, especially away from the Cairo/Alexandria/Suez trio that has dominated television coverage. Will the police crack down again, as the cameras fade away with the press crackdown?
I don’t think we are out of the woods yet on possible repression. One possible scenario is an attempt by various security services to manage some sort of transition to Suleiman. The overwhelming majority of protesters will not accept this. On the other hand, maybe the military is trying to maintain its command structure by not risking a revolt of foot soldiers and the lower officer corps if they give protest suppression orders which are not followed. An assumption could also be that they could be a power in any new regime that is formed, simply by threatening a coup.
This is far from over.

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When the Nearsighted Play Chess – American Footprints

Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Back catalogue

Bush, as expected, has threatened to veto the bill.  That should not be a reason for the Democrats to abandon the effort though.  Make him veto it.  It would be an unpopular move, and for good reason.  There is little justification for holding our soldiers to a certain legal standard, while leaving mercenaries under the protective shroud of absolute sweeping immunity.  Surely the more “efficient” mercenary forces can operate effectively within the same parameters as the US Army and the Marines. Unless someone wants to argue the other side?
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the story wends down a similar path:
The panel also found that 13 Iraqis were killed, not 11 as earlier disclosed, according to al-Waili told AP.
U.S. military reports from the scene of the Sept. 16 shooting incident involving the security firm Blackwater USA indicate that its guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force against Iraqi civilians, according to a senior U.S. military official.
….The U.S. military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government’s contention that Blackwater was at fault in the shooting incident in Nisoor Square, in which hospital records say at least 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded.
“It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” said the U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident remains the subject of several investigations. “The civilians that were fired upon, they didn’t have any weapons to fire back at them. And none of the IP or any of the local security forces fired back at them,” he added, using a military abbreviation for the Iraqi police. The Blackwater guards appeared to have fired grenade launchers in addition to machine guns, the official said.
…minor, though (as quibbles usually are):

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Alaa Explains Next Choices for Egypt Revolution » American Footprints

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in Back catalogue

Sharif Abdel Kouddous, senior producer for Democracy Now interviews the youth activist and blogger, Alaa Abd El Fattah, in Tahrir Square on where the revolution stands now (Day 15, Feb 9). Alaa describes the contributions of the various groups driving the revolution, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and the challenges of making decisions among a disparate collection of protesting groups. He explains the complex options for pushing the revolution forward, such as whether to try to begin to replace regime structures from the ground up, and the entrance of the labor movement as a new factor. Especially noteworthy is that he treats seriously the pros-and-cons of both a go-slow approach to amending the constitution and the more radical option of rejecting the current constitution as illegitimate.
I highly recommend this ten-minute interview. Both optimistic and realistic, the interview shows how tricky the coming steps will be, seen both from Tahrir Square and from the White House or Foggy Bottom.
Even if the Egyptian government’s response to the expanding protests becomes more conciliatory, the central issue is that those supporting the protests cannot trust the regime leaders’ promises to reform themselves. Hence the significance of the readout of Biden’s phone call with Suleiman: the notion of “irreversible” as part of what constitutes “meaningful” change. Echoing Obama’s earlier statement that Egypt “can’t go back”, this was a critical step in the White House’s evolving public position. At least for the moment, this puts Obama on the same page as the protesters in assessing whether Suleiman’s actions reach the test Gibbs defined in Wednesday’s briefing: that the govenment meet a “minimum threshold” of change acceptable to the Egyptian public.

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WordPress Plugins » American Footprints

Posted by on Jan 7, 2013 in Back catalogue

There are 36 plugins used: 24 active plugins and 12 inactive plugins.
  Akismet 2.5.3
» Automattic (url)
Used by millions, Akismet is quite possibly the best way in the world to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. It keeps your site protected from spam even while you sleep. To get started: 1) Click the “Activate” link to the left of this description, 2) Sign up for an Akismet API key, and 3) Go to your Akismet configuration page, and save your API key.
  AskApache RewriteRules Viewer 3.2
» AskApache (url)
Displays the Internal WordPress Rewrite Rules in Detailed Glory.
  Bad Behavior 2.0.41
» Michael Hampton (url)
Deny automated spambots access to your PHP-based Web site.
  Broken Link Checker 0.9.7.2
» Janis Elsts (url)
Checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if any are found.
  Dagon Design Sitemap Generator 3.17
» Dagon Design (url)
Generates a fully customizable sitemap
  Google XML Sitemaps 3.2.4
» Arne Brachhold (url)
This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog.
  My Page Order 3.0a
» Andrew Charlton (url)
My Page Order allows you to set the order of pages through a drag and drop interface. The default method of setting the order page by page is extremely clumsy, especially with a large number of pages.
  Official StatCounter Plugin 1.5
» Aodhan Cullen (url)
Adds the StatCounter tracking code to your blog. After uploading this plugin click ‘Activate’ (to the right) and then afterwards you must visit the options page and enter your StatCounter Project Info to enable logging.
  Role Manager 2.2.3
» Thomas Schneider (url)
Role Management for WordPress 2.0.x, up to 2.6.x..
  SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam 2.6.4
» Mike Challis (url)
Adds CAPTCHA anti-spam methods to WordPress on the comment form, registration form, login, or all. This prevents spam from automated bots. Also is WPMU and BuddyPress compatible. Settings | Donate
  Sidebar Login 2.2.7
» Mike Jolley (url)
Adds a sidebar widget to let users login
  Sociable 3.5.2
» Blogplay (url)
Automatically add links on your posts, pages and RSS feed to your favorite social bookmarking sites.
  Wickett Twitter Widget 1.0.5
» Automattic Inc. (url)
Display the Twitter latest updates from a Twitter user inside your theme’s widgets. Customize the number of displayed Tweets, filter out replies, and include retweets.
  WordPress.com Stats 1.8.1
» Automattic (url)
Tracks views, post/page views, referrers, and clicks. Requires a WordPress.com API key.
  WP-DBManager 2.60
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (url)
Manages your WordPress database. Allows you to optimize database, repair database, backup database, restore database, delete backup database , drop/empty tables and run selected queries. Supports automatic scheduling of backing up and optimizing of database.
  WP-EMail 2.51
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (url)
Allows people to recommand/send your WordPress blog’s post/page to a friend.
  WP-PageNavi 2.73
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan & scribu (url)
Adds a more advanced paging navigation to your WordPress blog
  WP-PluginsUsed 1.50
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (url)
Display WordPress plugins that you currently have (both active and inactive) onto a post/page.
  WP-Print 2.50
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (url)
Displays a printable version of your WordPress blog’s post/page.
  WP-ServerInfo 1.60
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (url)
Display your host’s PHP, MYSQL & memcached (if installed) information on your WordPress dashboard.
  WP-Sticky 1.50
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (url)
Adds a sticky post feature to your WordPress’s blog. Modified from Adhesive by Owen Winkler.
  WP Ajax Edit Comments 3.02
» Ajay D’Souza, Ronald Huereca (url)
The most powerful comment-editing solution for WordPress. Users can edit their own comments for a limited time, while admins can edit all comments.
  WP Super Cache 0.9.9.8
» Donncha O Caoimh (url)
Very fast caching plugin for WordPress.
  Yet Another Related Posts Plugin 3.2
» mitcho (Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine) (url)
Returns a list of related entries based on a unique algorithm for display on your blog and RSS feeds. A templating feature allows customization of the display.
  Amazon Auto Link 0.1
» Joost de Valk (url)
Automatically add your referral ID to Amazon links.
  C4F Textarea Toolbar 1.0
» Code4Fun Team (url)
C4F Textarea Toolbar adds a toolbar for markup and emoticons insertion to WordPress comments’ textarea. Go to C4F Textarea Toolbar Options’ Panel to customize it.
  Comment Approved Notifier 2.2
» Yakup Gövler (url)
Send an e-mail to your commenters when you approve their comments.
  Comment Redirect 0.1
» Joost de Valk (url)
Redirect commenters who just made their first comment to a page of your choice.
  Contextual Related Posts 1.6.3
» Ajay D’Souza (url)
Show user defined number of contextually related posts. Based on the plugin by Mark Ghosh. Configure…
  Efficient Related Posts 0.3.5
» Aaron D. Campbell (url)
A related posts plugin that works quickly even with thousands of posts and tags
  Google Integration Toolkit 1.4
» Daniel Frużyński (url)
Integrate Google services (Analytics, Webmaster Tools, etc.) with Your Blog.
  Hello Dolly 1.6
» Matt Mullenweg (url)
This is not just a plugin, it symbolizes the hope and enthusiasm of an entire generation summed up in two words sung most famously by Louis Armstrong: Hello, Dolly. When activated you will randomly see a lyric from Hello, Dolly in the upper right of your admin screen on every page.
  Post Teaser 4.0.1
» WeyHan Ng (url)
Post Teaser generates a preview or “teaser” of a post for the main, archive and category pages, with a link underneath to go to the full post page. It includes features to generate a word count, image count, and an estimated reading time.
  Tags2Keywords 0.2
The plugin automatically adds keywords in heading from tags. Uses for this purpose one SQL-query as get_the_tags() works only in Loop. The ‘Quick META Keywords’ plug-in uses categories for keywords, this plug-in uses tags. The ‘Tags2MetaKeywords’ plug-in does not add automatically.
  WP-Stats 2.50
» Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (url)
Display your WordPress blog statistics. Ranging from general total statistics, some of my plugins statistics and top 10 statistics.
  WP MarkItUp! 1.3.5
» Stefano Verna (url)
Replaces the WordPress textarea + “quicktags” toolbar with MarkItUp!, the jQuery lightweight, customizable and flexible markup editor by Jay Salvat.

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