JFP 10/20: Woolsey and Payne Coddle Dictator in Bahrain
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October 20, 2011
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Woolsey and Payne Coddle Dictator in Bahrain
Lynn Woolsey and Donald Payne went to Bahrain and met with representatives of the country's largest opposition party. Their message? Don't expect anything from us, because we're friends with your oppressor.
***Action: Press Congress to Oppose the Bahrain Arms Sale
Rep. McGovern and Sen. Wyden introduced a resolution of disapproval to block the proposed arms sale to Bahrain. Congressional support for this resolution would increase pressure on the Administration to speak up about human rights in Bahrain.
Ask your Rep. and Senators to add pressure on the Administration to change its policy on Bahrain by signing the McGovern-Wyden resolution.
"Convenient" Base Is Unexamined Excuse for U.S. Silence on Bahrain Crackdown
The New York Times called the U.S. naval base in Bahrain a "convenience," but it's still being used as an excuse for U.S. silence on the crackdown in Bahrain.
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1) The Canadian magazine Adbusters, which sparked #occupywallstreet, is now calling for a global day of protest on October 29 for a financial transactions tax, the New York Times reports. Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, says such a tax could lead to less price volatility but would very likely hurt frequent traders on Wall Street. She calculated last year that a sales tax on Wall Street of about 0.5 percent "could raise up to $175 billion in tax revenue a year." The revenue from a 1 percent tax, extended to markets around the world, would certainly be far higher.
2) Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said the Gaza blockade featured prominently in negotiations with Israel that led to the release of Gilad Shalit, the Washington Post reports. "They should make an end to the blockade," said Zahar. But an Israeli official said Wednesday night that Israel had not agreed to ease the blockade it imposes on Gaza as part of the prisoner swap deal. [The Israeli official said Israel would continue to "inspect cargo," but key aspects of the blockade, such as blocking exports from Gaza and blocking Palestinians from traveling from Gaza to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, have nothing to do with "inspecting cargo" - JFP.]
3) Russia fears a U.N. report on Iran's nuclear program could undermine Russia's initiative to resolve the nuclear dispute, Reuters reports. "I think it is unlikely that Russia and China will consent to a new round of crippling sanctions before negotiations are given another chance," said Ali Vaez of the Federation of American Scientists.
4) The head of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the head of the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, hold fundamentally different views from Washington on how the war in Afghanistan should end, and they are sticking to them, apparently unbothered by threats to withhold billions of dollars of US military and civilian assistance, the New York Times reports.
The Pakistanis have told the Obama administration they would like, and deserve, a place at the peace table alongside the US and Afghanistan. But US officials balk at the idea, the Times says. The State Department insists it is working on reconciliation but it is too early to talk of a concrete peace process.
5) U.S. officials have complained that Pakistan is allowing groups in Pakistan to plan attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports. But now Pakistan is saying that the U.S. is allowing groups to attack Pakistan from Afghan territory. Some say the charge is an excuse; others say the US is allowing the attacks on purpose, as a form of pressure.
6) Senior Japanese leaders are pressing Okinawa to agree to move forward with relocation within Okinawa of a U.S. base ahead of Defense Secretary Panetta's visit, AP reports. But the mayor of the proposed relocation site angrily rebuffed Tokyo's pleas for support, saying there was "absolutely no room for negotiation." Okinawa's governor, who must sign off on the plan for it to be implemented, suggested other options be pursued and the plan will not work unless the Okinawans support it.
7) Senator Webb called on Defense Secretary Panetta to consider integrating a U.S. Marine base slated for relocation in Okinawa with an existing air base, Kyodo News reports. Webb said the alternative plan is "the most workable, cost-effective and least intrusive approach" to resolving the military realignment issue. Sens. Levin and McCain have supported the alternative proposal.
8) Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr said a US mission in Iraq would be acceptable after year-end if a complete withdrawal were carried out first and the US paid "compensation," AFP reports. "We still object to the American presence in Iraq," Sadr said. "We consider it an occupation. Keeping American trainers in Iraq is part of that."
9) A popular Saudi video blogger was detained this week, along with his crew, after his report on poverty in the kingdom's capital was viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, Robert Mackey reports in the New York Times. Mackey likens the blogger, Feras Bugnah, to US filmmaker Michael Moore.
1) After Igniting Wall St. Protests, Magazine Proposes One Clear Demand
J. David Goodman, New York Times, October 18, 2011, 5:17 PM
Three months ago, the Canadian magazine Adbusters called for a protest on Wall Street, providing the spark that began a wildfire of protest across the country and, over the weekend, in an increasing number of cities around the world. That first call included a poster of a ballerina on the Wall Street bull, and a question: "What is our one demand?" At the time, the answer was simple: gather in downtown Manhattan.
Now the magazine is attempting to push the protesters who have since heeded that call in New York and elsewhere - and have so far been united in little more than a shared anger - toward a more concrete, lasting and political set of demands. It is, in part, a reaction to the charge that the protesters lack any common ideas, and a fear that without one, the movement may fizzle.
"As the movement matures, let's consider a response to our critics," the magazine's editors write in their latest "tactical briefing," sent in a blast e-mail to 90,000 activists and readers on Monday. "Let's occupy the core of our global system. Let's dethrone the greed that defines this new century. Let's work to define our one great demand."
The e-mail, which was also posted on the magazine's Web site, goes on: "On October 29, on the eve of the G20 Leaders Summit in France, let's the people of the world rise up and demand that our G20 leaders immediately impose a 1% #ROBINHOOD tax on all financial transactions and currency trades. Let's send them a clear message: We want you to slow down some of that $1.3-trillion easy money that's sloshing around the global casino each day – enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world."
The magazine then asks readers to take the idea for this "Robin Hood" tax on financial trades - and a global march on Saturday, Oct. 29 - to the so-called general assemblies that have been at the center of many of the Occupy protests and sit-ins.
Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, wrote in The Times's Economix blog last year that such a tax on financial transactions could lead to less price volatility but would very likely hurt the frequent traders on Wall Street:
'It is variously called a "transactions tax," a "financial transactions tax," a "security transaction excise tax" or a Tobin tax (after the Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin, who famously argued for its application to foreign exchange purchases in the late 1970s). By any name, Wall Street hates it, because it would cut into trading profits. But proponents like Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research assert that it would primarily affect short-term "noise traders" and discourage speculation rather than productive investment.'
She calculated last year that a sales tax on Wall Street of about 0.5 percent "could raise up to $175 billion in tax revenue a year." The revenue from a 1 percent tax, extended to markets around the world, would certainly be far higher.
Whether the magazine still holds enough sway among those protesting to get people into the streets again on a specific date is an open question. As with the first call, in which the magazine created an #OccupyWallStreet hashtag for Twitter, Adbusters has suggested using the tag #RobinHood in order to spread word of its proposed tax.
The magazine has been planning this month to make Oct. 29 a date for global protests. But, independently, activists organizing online since the summer created a day of global protests last Saturday. Members of one of the groups behind the organizing of the global protests, Take the Square, said they simply took the Adbusters idea and expanded it.
"We don't have any formal connection with them," said Alice Khatib, a spokeswoman for Take the Square. "After the calling of 17 September (entirely planned by them as far as we know), we just liked the idea and decided to make it global."
She said that her group supported the Oct. 29 protest call and that the Web page from Saturday's protest has already been updated to October29.net, where the new Adbusters message was reposted. It was a small sign that the magazine's latest call was gaining traction, at least online.
2) After Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, Hamas hopes for eased Gaza blockade
Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post, October 19
Gaza City - Newly released Palestinian prisoners held rambunctious homecoming receptions Wednesday as leaders of the Hamas militant group that secured their freedom expressed hope that Israel would ease the blockade it imposes on the Gaza Strip.
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said in an interview that the blockade featured prominently in negotiations with Israel that led to the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "They should make an end to the blockade," said Zahar, a physician who co-founded Hamas.
An Israeli official said Wednesday night that Israel had not agreed to ease the blockade it imposes on the Palestinian enclave, home to more than 1.6 million people, as part of the prisoner swap deal, which was mediated by Egypt.
But Zahar said Hamas leaders would like to see Egypt persuade Israel to ease the restrictions that have isolated the residents of Gaza.
Israel imposed an airspace and maritime blockade as well as limits on construction materials and other restrictions after Hamas assumed power in Gaza in 2007, following its victory in parliamentary elections the year before. Those measures were intensified after the 22-day Gaza war that ended in January 2009 to make it harder for Hamas to stockpile long-range rockets and build bunkers. The blockade was widely seen as a punitive measure driven in large part by the outrage that Shalit's abduction in 2006 generated in Israel.
But after Shalit and the first wave of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners included in the deal were released Tuesday, Hamas leaders said they would continue to attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers to use as bargaining chips for future swaps.
"Anyone who saw the celebrations yesterday in Gaza would say that any illusions that the Hamas regime in Gaza is moderating have evaporated very quickly," said the Israeli official, who works in the prime minister's office and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. "We are very concerned and will continue inspecting cargo for obvious reasons."
Under international pressure, Israel started easing the blockade after the May 2010 raid on a Turkish flotilla in which nine activists were killed. But Israel will lift it entirely only "if the enemy in Gaza were to stop being such a mortal enemy," the official said.
Although Shalit's release removes what was perhaps the biggest irritant in the relationship between Israel and Hamas, leaders and supporters of the militant movement said Wednesday that armed resistance had proved to be the most effective tool Palestinians have.
"The Palestinian resistance should capture more soldiers and swap them for more Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails," Khalil Abu Ulbah, who was released Tuesday, said as he received a long line of well-wishers who kissed him on the cheeks and forehead.
Zahar, the Hamas leader, said the movement would start looking for a new Israeli solider to abduct unless there is another mechanism to get more prisoners released. The remaining prisoners in the Shalit deal are due to be released in the next two months. After that, Israel will still hold more than 4,000 Palestinians. "If they are going to continue their aggression and if people in the international community fail to pressure the Israelis, the process is imminent," he said, referring to a new kidnapping.
Ordinary Gaza residents expressed mixed views about the prospect of a new kidnapping. "I think it's the best way to get prisoners released," said Muna Shawa, a young mother who was sitting in a park in downtown Gaza at sunset.
But university student Fadi Helles, 29, disagreed. "The resistance must have a better strategy and think of the consequences of that," he said. "Think of how many people have been killed and wounded. Palestinians have paid a heavy price."
3) Russia concerned about Iran nuclear report: diplomats, Reuters, October 19, 2011
Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Wed, Oct 19 2011
Vienna - Russia fears a U.N. report which is expected to heighten suspicions about Iran's atomic ambitions could undermine Moscow's initiative to help resolve a nuclear dispute with Tehran, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.
Russia's concern about the timing of the U.N. report, due next month, contrasts with the hopes of Western states that the document will strengthen their case to step up pressure on the Islamic state over its nuclear program.
Russia's concerns may be a sign of differences among the six major powers involved in the search for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear row -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- on how to best approach the Iran issue.
Russia, which has commercial and other links with Iran, has proposed a step-by-step diplomatic effort to defuse the nuclear standoff but Western diplomats have given the plan a cool response.
Moscow and Beijing have backed four rounds of U.N. sanctions on Iran since 2006 over its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear work that could have both civilian and military uses.
But they criticized the United States and the European Union last year for taking additional unilateral steps against the major oil producer and it is uncertain whether they would back any new Western sanctions push at the United Nations. "I think it is unlikely that Russia and China will consent to a new round of crippling sanctions before negotiations are given another chance," said Ali Vaez of the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington-based think tank.
Since negotiations between the powers and Iran foundered in January, Russia has advocated a phased plan in which Tehran would address concerns that it may be seeking nuclear weapons, and be rewarded with an easing of sanctions.
The proposal, described by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in July in Washington, seeks to revive negotiations to put to rest suspicions that Iran may be seeking nuclear arms.
Iran has said it is willing to resume discussions, but its insistence that other countries recognize its right to enrich uranium is a major stumbling block, particularly for Western diplomats who see it as an unacceptable precondition.
Western diplomats have raised doubts about the Russian plan's ability to defuse the long-running row and also noted that Tehran has yet to give a clear answer to Moscow.
4) The Fight Over How To End A War
Jane Perlez, New York Times, October 19, 2011
Islamabad, Pakistan - An unusually powerful phalanx of President Obama's top officials, charged with organizing an orderly exit from Afghanistan, will face an outwardly confident, almost defiant Pakistan during talks that open in an atmosphere of rancor here on Thursday night.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; the new C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus; and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, will, among other things, be asking the Pakistani Army to tamp down the terrorist actions of the Haqqani network that are killing Americans in Afghanistan, according to American officials and Pakistanis with knowledge of the situation.
The head of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, may even agree to try to help on that particular American request, the officials said. There were some very recent signs he was already doing so, a senior American official said.
But General Kayani, and the head of the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, hold fundamentally different views from Washington on how the war in Afghanistan should end, and so far, they are sticking to them, apparently unbothered by threats from Washington to withhold billions of dollars of American military and civilian assistance.
The Pakistani generals are anticipating the American drawdown from Afghanistan that is to begin in December, are watching as the war, in their view, goes badly and are waiting for their share of the Afghan spoils. As they do so, they appear to have little incentive to bargain away their demands or to modify their side of the ledger, officials and analysts here say.
"I see this as a test of wills," said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general, who is considered one of the few pro-American former Pakistani senior military officers. "There are such deep divergences of policy. Both sides are stuck."
In essence, General Kayani says he wants a "stable" Afghanistan, a phrase that seems to deliberately echo what the Obama administration says it wants, too. It is an idea the general outlined in a 14-page paper he gave Mr. Obama during a meeting at the White House a year ago, but to which, the general tells people, he has never received a response.
For General Kayani, a sphere of influence for the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan - in Paktia, Paktika and Khost Provinces - that abuts Pakistan's tribal belt is essential, Pakistanis and Americans say.
That is the area where the Haqqanis, who operate as assets of Pakistan inside Afghanistan, have long held sway. They have used the territory, as well as their havens in Pakistan's tribal areas, to stage attacks on American and NATO facilities in and around Kabul in the last several months.
The strength of the Haqqani forces in these three provinces is particularly galling to Washington, General Masood said, because in comparison, the Americans have been relatively successful in curbing the Taliban, who are Haqqani allies, in the south of Afghanistan.
Another Pakistani demand that clashes with American objectives is a post-conflict Afghanistan that is free from the encroachment of India, Pakistan's most mortal enemy.
Last month the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, visited New Delhi and sealed a strategic accord that included arrangements for India to train Afghan Army officers. The last thing Pakistan wants is Indian officers replacing NATO troops as trainers in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said. The Pakistanis were "furious" that the Americans did not halt the accord, a senior American official said.
The very effort by the Americans to build a 350,000-strong Afghan Army is a contentious matter with General Kayani. He has said publicly and privately that he doubts the $12 billion annual expenditure by the United States is sustainable. Some American officials have begun to agree, given the growing economic pressures in Washington.
To iron out some of these differences, the Pakistanis have told the Obama administration they would like, and deserve, a place at the peace table alongside the United States and Afghanistan. American officials balk at the idea. The State Department insists it is working on reconciliation but it is too early to talk of a concrete peace process.
In fact, the Pakistanis say they watch in bewilderment as the administration pursues a war and talk strategy, one that calls for American troops to kill the Taliban in Afghanistan while American diplomats search for "reconcilable" Taliban to talk to.
"Pakistan will want clarity on whether the Obama administration has one or several contradictory policies on how to approach the approaching Afghan transition," said Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. "Pakistan's preference is for a talk-talk strategy, while the United States is still pursuing a fight-talk one."
The challenge of the Clinton trip is how to square this. Suspicions are high among American officials that the Pakistanis want to participate in any peace talks to "game out" the solution to Pakistan's advantage, the senior American official said.
Meanwhile, the Pakistanis were defiant. General Kayani gave the tenor of his outlook when he invited the Pakistani Parliament's two defense committees to his headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.
Washington could continue to withhold military assistance because the Pakistani Army could well survive without it, he said, according to accounts in the Pakistani press. The civilian aid was so small it was not worth worrying about, he added.
"I could feel the bitterness," said Tariq Azim, a senator who sits on the Defense Committee. "He was saying that for all we have done we are getting peanuts."
The army has suffered 12,829 casualties since 2001, including 3,097 killed and an unusually high ratio of one officer killed for every 16 soldiers since it began fighting the Taliban inside Pakistan as part of the American-led war on terrorism, the general told the gathering.
Asked by Mr. Azim if he thought the United States would perhaps bomb or invade Pakistan's tribal areas, where the Haqqanis keep bases, in a fashion similar to the American bombing of Laos and Cambodia to hit the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, General Kayani gave a rousing answer, the senator said.
The United States would have to think "10 times" before acting that way, he said, according to the senator's account.
After all, the general said, according to Mr. Azim, Pakistan is a nuclear power, not a weak country like Afghanistan or Iraq.
5) Pakistan turns tables on U.S. accusations about sheltering militants
Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, Thursday, October 20, 6:30 AM
Islamabad, Pakistan - High in the mountains, a nation's troops are regularly attacked by insurgents who easily come and go from sanctuaries across a porous international border. Armed forces in the neighboring country, nominally an ally, do little to stop the rebels. Resentment in the capital is growing.
For several years, that is how frustrated U.S. officials have described the challenge for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, which they say is battling Taliban enemies who operate freely from hilly hideouts in next-door Pakistan, an American ally and aid recipient.
But in the past several months, Pakistan has turned the tables, adopting a mirror-image argument in its own defense.
According to this increasingly assertive account, Pakistani Taliban fighters flushed out by Pakistani military offensives have now settled into a security vacuum created by NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan whose attention is focused elsewhere. That territory, Pakistan contends, is the new regional hub for Islamist militants of all stripes, one that the U.S.-led coalition must better control to prevent attacks on American forces as well as strikes inside Pakistan.
Some analysts here say Pakistan is now pushing this case as an excuse for not pursuing the Haqqani network, an Afghan Taliban faction that U.S. officials assert operates unmolested from Pakistan. Others say the opposite: that the Americans are boosting pressure on Pakistan by allowing the attacks inside Pakistan.
Either way, the dueling narratives have become the latest illustration of the disconnect between Washington and Islamabad, and they help explain why the ever-prickly security partnership has plummeted to such lows that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Islamabad on Thursday night with an extraordinarily high-level American delegation that included CIA director David Petraeus.
The disconnect, which also involves differences over negotiations and the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan, was on center stage during a stopover by Clinton in Kabul, where she sternly warned Pakistan that it would face dire consequences if it failed to eliminate militant sanctuaries on its soil. In Pakistan, talk show pundits encouraged Pakistani officials to take an equally hard line with the Americans by insisting they show appreciation for the nation's help, not condemnation.
In an interview, a Pakistani intelligence official said Pakistani leaders expected to be confronted with evidence of state support for the Haqqanis and threats of aid cuts. But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said "many in our security establishment" had decided that the real U.S. target is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, and that Pakistan will offer little help unless the United States limits the role of India, Pakistan's prime rival, in Afghanistan. "Any breakthrough is unlikely in the talks," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pakistan had already escalated its complaints this week, faulting NATO forces for failing to hunt down an infamous militant cleric whom Pakistani troops expelled from its Swat Valley in 2009. Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told Reuters that Maulvi Fazlullah is now in Afghanistan. From there, Abbas said, Fazlullah has directed a series of recent cross-border strikes that have killed more than 100 Pakistani security forces. The U.S.-led coalition has ignored Pakistan's pleas for action, he said. "The problem refuses to go away," Abbas said.
Tensions over the remote Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier area have simmered for months amid reports of cross-border attacks. U.S. and Afghan officials complain of steady rocket fire emanating from Pakistan. Pakistan says its soldiers have been besieged by militant armies from Afghanistan. Both sides accuse the other of inadequately patrolling the frontier.
U.S. officials have said they would not pursue the Haqqanis in unilateral ground raids inside Pakistan. But the CIA has increased drone strikes near Miram Shah in North Waziristan, which American officials say is the Haqqani network's stronghold. The strikes are extremely unpopular in Pakistan.
Disagreement over the Haqqanis is only the latest friction point in the bilateral relationship, which both sides say is warming despite the heated public rhetoric. Even so, many here say Pakistani officials are likely to turn one of the most despised Washington arguments back on Clinton.
"From the day the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, the same mantra has been endlessly repeated to Pakistan: It must 'do more' in the fight against terrorism," the editorial board of the Express-Tribune wrote Wednesday. "Finally we have the opportunity to say the same thing to the U.S."
6) Japan pushing Okinawa ahead of Panetta visit
Eric Talmadge, Associated Press, October 20, 2011
Tokyo - Japan is stepping up efforts ahead of new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's visit next week to break a stalemate over the relocation of a Marine base that has stalled the restructuring of U.S. military forces in Asia.
Moving the base is an essential step in Washington's big-picture plan to reposition about 8,000 Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the tiny U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which is set to become a crucial regional hub for the U.S. Marines, Air Force and Navy.
Senior Japanese leaders have held repeated meetings in recent weeks with top politicians on Okinawa to seek their cooperation in moving the base - Marine Corps Air Station Futenma - to a less-crowded area of the island.
Japan is hoping to compile an environmental impact assessment by the end of the year.
But after a meeting with Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba on Wednesday, the mayor of the proposed relocation site angrily rebuffed Tokyo's pleas for support, saying there was "absolutely no room for negotiation."
Okinawa's governor, who must sign off on the plan for it to be implemented, suggested other options be pursued and told Genba it will not work unless the Okinawans support it.
The standoff has long been a sore point in Japan's otherwise strong military alliance with the United States.
Though they welcome the transfer of Marines to Guam, Okinawan leaders do not support the construction of a replacement facility within their prefecture (state). They say Okinawa already bears too much of a hosting burden and instead want Futenma closed and its successor built elsewhere in Japan or moved overseas.
Japan hosts about 50,000 U.S. troops under a post-World War II mutual security pact and relies heavily on the U.S. forces to counterbalance potential threats from China, Russia and North Korea. But more than half of the troops are concentrated on Okinawa. About one-fifth of the island is taken up by U.S. bases.
Local opposition to the bases is strong because of concerns over crowding, safety and troop-related crime. Okinawans are also wary of the military presence because of their bitter memories of World War II. Futenma is seen by many as a symbol of the problems caused by the bases. The plan to close Futenma, which is in a particularly crowded area, came up after the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three servicemen caused a huge uproar on the island in 1995.
7) U.S. Senator Urges Panetta To Study Integrating Futenma With Kadena
Kyodo News, October 20, 2011
Washington -- U.S. Senator Jim Webb on Wednesday called on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to consider integrating a U.S. Marine base slated for relocation with an existing air base in Okinawa Prefecture, as part of efforts to resolve the contentious issue.
In a letter to Panetta, Webb, a Democrat from Virginia, said, "I would suggest that you seriously reexamine carefully the proposals" that urge the U.S. government to examine the feasibility of integrating the Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station with Kadena Air Force Base, both located in the prefecture, saying the alternative plan is "the most workable, cost-effective and least intrusive approach" to resolving the military realignment issue.
The senator sent the letter to Panetta ahead of the defense chief's trip to Japan next week.
In May, Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan and chairman of the Senate Arms Services Committee, John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and Webb jointly made the proposal.
In the letter, Webb noted that he was repeatedly told by senior Pentagon officials and high-ranking military officers that there are "deep concerns regarding the affordability and workability of the 2006 road map agreement for basing on Okinawa and Guam."
He also asked Panetta to explore the possibility of sharing facilities of Japan's Air Self-Defense Force in the prefecture.
Japan and the United States crafted a road map in 2006 to build a replacement facility for Futenma on the coast of Nago in Okinawa. The relocation plan for the Futenma base, situated in a residential area of Ginowan in the prefecture, has been deadlocked due to strong opposition from local governments and residents.
8) US Trainers OK After 'Full Withdrawal': Sadr
AFP, Wed, Oct 19, 2011
A US mission in Iraq would be acceptable after year-end if a complete withdrawal were carried out and the US paid "compensation," radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Wednesday.
"It has been said that the weapons (Iraq is purchasing) are American, so the trainers should be American also," Sadr said in an address broadcast on Al-Masar television. "We say that shall not happen unless a full withdrawal of the occupiers happens, and then a new agreement is signed after the payment of compensation," he added, without giving details of what he meant by compensation.
Sadr's remarks were his first public comments since returning to his movement's home base in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in southern Iraq on Monday.
The statement from Sadr comes with Washington and Baghdad at an impasse over negotiations for a future US military presence in Iraq.
American officials have conditioned any post-2011 mission on their troops having immunity from prosecution, but Iraqi leaders have said such protections are unnecessary.
"We still object to the American presence in Iraq," Sadr said in his Wednesday address. "We consider it an occupation. Keeping American trainers in Iraq is part of that."
9) Saudi Video Blogger Reportedly Detained for Showing Poverty in Riyadh
Robert Mackey, New York Times, October 19, 2011, 1:42 PM
[video showing poverty in Riyadh at link - JFP.]
A popular Saudi video blogger was detained this week, along with his crew, after his report on poverty in the kingdom's capital, Riyadh, was viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, human rights activists said.
The blogger, Feras Bugnah, was arrested on Sunday with his colleagues Hosam al-Deraiwish and Khaled al-Rasheed, in connection with the latest episode of their online show, "We Are Being Cheated," according to the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association.
The group said that the team's video report on conditions in an impoverished district of Riyadh, which has been viewed more than 800,000 times, "contained realistic scenes, interviews and comments that are all considered familiar to the majority of Saudi society." In a statement condemning the arrests, the group also accused the kingdom's interior ministry of "trying to control the new Internet media" and sending a message to other young Saudis not to initiate such projects.
Eman Al Nafjan, who writes as @Saudiwoman on Twitter, drew attention to a copy of the original video with English subtitles added by a Saudi living in Manchester, England.
The report was the fourth episode of the show posted on YouTube in the past two months. Each of the slickly produced short videos features Mr. Bugnah on camera, narrating the reports and interacting with his interview subjects in a lighthearted but impassioned style not unlike that of the American filmmaker Michael Moore. Mr. Bugnah's look at poverty in Riyadh blends comedy with activism right from the start, as he first asks well-off residents of the city if they are doing well. When they reply that they are, he then cuts to impoverished children who say, no, they are not doing well.
When they set up the show's YouTube channel this summer, the filmmakers declared: "we are going to talk about the subjects/ systems that are badly implemented in our country. We want our voice to reach to the decision makers so they can make changes that will make the people who love in this country more satisfied." Near the end of the report on poverty, Mr. Bugnah called on wealthy Saudis to do more to tackle the problem and encouraged one of the men he interviewed to make a direct appeal to King Abdullah for help.
At least two of the filmmakers were being held at a jail in Riyadh on Tuesday night, according to Ahmed Al Omran, a Saudi blogger who is working as a social media intern at National Public Radio in Washington. Mr. Omran wrote on his personal blog, Saudi Jeans, that a local journalist who tried to visit Mr. Bugnah and Mr. Deraiwish at the jail on Monday was told that they were there.
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