Thanks, Snowden! Now All The Major Tech Companies Reveal How Often They Give Data To Government

Google has been pumping out a transparency report for years, telling its users how often the feds and local law enforcement ask for information about its users. Up until this year, it was one of the few companies that did so. Then NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden happened. Amid allegations of programs like PRISM and the intel community having backdoor taps to the country’s most popular Internet companies — allegations the companies denied — Silicon Valley’s heavyweights started using transparency as a damage control tactic. Yahoo, Apple, and Facebook released transparency reports for the very first time this fall. Now there is a fuller industry perspective on how often these companies get government search queries and how many of their users are affected.

It is only with Google that we get a compellinghistorical perspective. With the release Thursday of its transparency report for the first half of 2013, it says that requests for users’ information have doubled over the last two years. This chart includes all of the companies’ reports for the first half of this year, with a focus on the United States.* The companies have released them over the last few months; Google’s report was the latest coming out this morning. The chart shows how many requests came in from U.S. feds and po-po, how many users/accounts were included in those requests and the percentage of requests for which the companies actually handed over their users’ data.

The challenge now is that the companies release their information in slightly different ways. Facebook and Apple have ranges because they include secretive National Security Letters in their reports (on the condition that they not be too specific about their numbers). We took the uppermost numbers from their ranges. Meanwhile, Google used to have a separate tallying of their NSLs, separate from other requests but has now been asked not to do that; same goes for Microsoft.

That makes the comparison process a little clunky, but one big takeaway is that Yahoo gets far broader information requests from the government than other tech companies, resulting in a comparable number of data requests affecting a significantly higher number of users. And Apple’s low number suggest that law enforcement is more likely to go to your mobile carrier than your mobile device maker for intel. Unfortunately, from a data perspective, companies such as Verizon and AT&T don’t do transparency reports. When we did get a little peek in 2011, the numbers were pretty astonishing, as noted by Chris Calabrese of the ACLU. “[A]ccording to disclosures they’ve made to members of Congress, law enforcement sought information from them on a mind-blowing 1.3 million users in 2011,” he wrote over at the ACLU blog.

There’s currently a bill being pushed by Sen. Al Franken, and supported by the tech giants, that would bring more transparency to government information requests, particularly the number coming from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which infamously ordered Verizon (and likely other phone companies) to hand over call records for millions of customers. The tech companies contend that if users could see how often they’re actually getting requests for info, they’d be less freaked out by the NSA stuff.



* Changed chart included in post initially to reflect Microsoft and Skype numbers for 2013.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Syria Opposition: Assad must Go!

WASHINGTON — Looks like the Syrian civil war will end in a stalemate, unless the Syrian opposition drops its demands that current president Bashar al-Assad must be removed as head of state.

syria assad declares victoryReuters reported that the Western- and Saudi-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, refused to push for a transitional government with Assad still in charge. They demanded that Assad be removed as head of state before negotiations continued.

The rebels demanded that women and children be released from Syrian jails in addition to relaxation of siege parameters by the Syrian government of rebel-held areas. The peace talks have been planned to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, but the date is still up in the air.

The civil war is now over 2 1/2 years old and has fractured the country into several portions: those under Assad government control, those under Islamist militia, Kurdish-controlled territory and portions under more secular rebel forces. It did not help that the U.S. caved and backed down to Russian demands, embarrassing President Barack Obama who had drawn a “red line” of chemical weapons use. He threatened the use of American firepower, but instead cut a dealwith the Russians to negotiate terms of chemical weapons disarmament.

Syria called the deal a “victory” for the country and Assad-led government.

Longtime American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia were deeply offended by Obama’s abandonment of support and have since collaborated on anti-Assad efforts.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Haniyeh meets with Gaza factions to discuss national ‘reconciliation’

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Gaza Premier Ismael Haniyeh met with leaders of various political factions in Gaza on Saturday, with the absence of Fatah representatives.

Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said that the meeting was called for by Haniyeh to discuss pressing issues in the Gaza Strip, including the ongoing siege as well as potential reconciliation among Palestinian political factions.

Al-Batsh added that Haniyeh suggested forming a national committee to discuss the implementation of the 2012 Cairo and Doha agreements, both of which committed Hamas and Fatah to reconciliation and the setting up of a united national government. Neither were successfully implemented following their signing.

Haniyeh will meet factions again next week to form the committee and to find ways to implement the reconciliation, al-Batsh added.

DFLP leader Saleh Zeidan said that the meeting primarily focused on three issues: reconciliation, problems in Gaza, and relations with Egypt.

Haniyeh emphasized the importance of positive Palestinian relations with Egypt and all countries, and said that Hamas is a national movement that has no external dependency, Zeidan added.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Egyptian army accused of war crimes

Lawyers in the UK accuse Egypt’s military of committing crimes against humanity after July’s ouster of President Morsi.

More than 1000 people, mostly Morsi supporters, have been killed in clashes since July 3
Lawyers in the UK have accused the Egyptian military and the country’s interim government of crimes against humanity for the aftermath of the clashes since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July.

In a report released on Saturday, the high-profile legal team accused the military of a number of crimes and human rights abuses.

The report documented the findings of their investigation since August.

“Evidence we have collected in the course of our investigation shows a prima facie case that the following crimes occurred: murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, persecution against an identifiable group, and forced disappearance of persons and other inhumane acts of a similar character, intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or mental and physical health,” said Tyab Ali, a lead lawyer on the case.

He added that the key suspects include top army officers and soldiers.

The legal team, which includes UK-based human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield, and South African international law expert John Dugard, was appointed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom of Justice Party (FJP) and members of the Shura Council and led by London-based human rights law firm, ITN Solicitors.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Cairo, said that the legal team was examining what their next step with the case will be.

“The most likely avenues are either the International Court of Justice in The Hague or the International Criminal Court to try and find somewhere that they could actually turn this into a prosecution,” said our correspondent.

Egyptian state media reported on Saturday that a panel of Egyptian judges had made a non-binding recommendation to the administrative court that the FJP be dissolved, which is already deliberating a lawsuit to ban the party for its affiliation with the Brotherhood and contravening laws on the formation of religious parties.

Earlier on Saturday, a Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance said it was ready for a national dialogue to end the political standoff that has gripped the country and killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Morsi supporters, since July 3 after the army moved to disperse protesters.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Power cuts force Gaza’s youth to study in dark

Boys read by candle light

Yusri Balaha and his brother find it very exhausting to read by candle light.

GAZA (IRIN) — Since the beginning of November, Gaza’s only power plant has been shut due to shortages of industrial diesel. The result has been a major increase in power outages for Gaza’s nearly 1.7 million inhabitants, with electricity now absent for approximately half of each day.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the occupied West Bank and Gaza, James W. Rawley, has said the shutdown and fuel shortages will “impact all essential services, including hospitals, clinics, sewage and water pumping stations.”

The plant was only reopened last year after rehabilitation following an Israeli airstrike in 2006. According to the Gaza Energy Authority, it generates approximately 30 percent of Gaza’s electricity supply, the rest coming from Israel (120 megawatts) and Egypt (27 megawatts).

Since June, a security clampdown on the Egyptian side of the border has drastically cut the importation of fuel through tunnels, and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, in the West Bank, has stopped sending fuel because of a dispute over taxes.

To get an idea of the impact of the outages on Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, IRIN met with the Balaha family in Beach Refugee Camp.

“Electricity cuts in Gaza have always been severe, but now it is at a whole new level,” Fuad Balaha said in his ill-equipped barber shop in the heart of the refugee camp. There are few comforts for the handful of customers, and now even electricity is a luxury. “It is very difficult, and we are expecting things to get worse if nothing happens to fix the situation.”

Huge debts

Young man grooms another man sitting in barber shop chair

Fuad Balaha’s business has further suffered wtih increased power outages.

Fuad is married with a four-month-old baby and a family of 18 people, including his mother, brothers and widowed sister, who all depend on his small shop. His father died six months ago.

Huge debts hang over him because of his and his brother’s wedding, and the family also needed to take out loans over the past seven years to pay for the construction of their home.

With electricity out during much of the day, he often tells potential customers to come back later. “When outages were lasting eight hours, I was making between 50 and 60 shekels [nearly $15] a day, but now the power is off for 12 hours … This diminishes my revenue to 30 to 40 shekels, which is making a tight situation much worse.”

It is just before six in the evening in the Balaha family home, an unfinished three-story building in a crowded part of northern Gaza City, a few kilometers from the shop.

“We only have candles”

Fuad’s mother, Enshirah, 55, lights a candle as the shadows begin to lengthen, something that comes quicker as winter approaches. She keeps an eye on the load-shedding schedule from the power company to make sure candles are pre-positioned when the lights go out.

“We only have candles. Our generator was damaged a few years ago, and we could not fix it because it is expensive. And even if it is working, where can we get or how can we pay for fuel? So, we depend on candles.”

A major concern for the Balahas, and many other families, is the fire risk the candles pose. “I double-check them, because I heard about accidents and fires [that have] occurred in Gaza,” Enshirah said.

A month ago, her daughter and grandchildren were sleeping in the home when a candle on the television fell over and started a fire. Her daughter woke up because of the smoke, and the family escaped.

Enshirah’s other worry is making sure there is at least some light so her grandchildren can study. “It is a hard mission” she said, “but we have to do that to keep them studying.”


Yusri, 14, joins his younger brother at a low, small table, where they hunch around a single candle, preparing for the next day’s classes. Yusri, Fuad’s orphaned nephew, is helped by his uncle Mohammed, 24, who graduated from university three years ago but is currently unemployed.

“I try to do everything possible to finish reading when power is available, or use the daylight,” said Yusri. “The situation has affected me a lot recently. The darkness hasn’t left me much space to revise well. Midterm exams are coming up soon.”

When the power is off, he sleeps early, or stays outside the house for a while. His television and playing time has been limited. The whole family feels strained by the cuts, with few activities possible after hours.

Like Fuad, Mohammed is married and has a baby daughter. As his wife heated tea for him on a small gas cooker, he said, “This is not a life at all. It is miserable in all ways.”

His search for employment has not been successful. Longer power outages, in addition to ongoing gas and fuel shortages, are “making our life unbearable,” he said.

“It is the main question in Gaza now. What we need — as an essential right — is living healthy and sound, in a decent way. We want this to be a place where my baby, family and Palestinians can live with dignity.”

Pitch black

As soon as electricity comes on, there is a rush in the house to get all the postponed chores finished. Enshirah takes charge, preparing to bake, filling the tanks when water is available, washing, cleaning and cooking. “Sometimes we manage to finish, but in many cases we cannot, because of the short time of connection,” she said.

“We do not have a water pump to push the water up. We do not have a generator. What we have are candles and a fireplace to cook and heat water for domestic use, so my sons and grandsons collect and bring wood which we use.”

She added, “Sometimes, when power is off, we send the kids with clothes to wash them in my family’s house a few blocks away when they have some water and electricity available.”

Later in the evening, Fuad returns to his shop, where he uses a charged battery to help him through the power outage. When he returns home, the area is still pitch black.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Ministry: PPR isn’t a plague, but already existing disease

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Commenting on news reports circulated in Palestinian media claiming an outbreak of peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in the Palestinian Territory, and the failure by the Ministry of Agriculture to provide farmers with the needed vaccines, ministry officials say the disease affecting livestock “isn’t a plague” but rather an already existing disease.

The statements follow public outcry over the deaths of dozens of animals in the West Bank, which farmers have blamed on a lack of vaccines against a new plague affecting livestock. The ministry, however, says that the deaths are a result of peste des petits ruminants, also known as ovine rinderpest, a contagious disease affecting goats and sheep.

The Ministry of Agriculture has been endeavoring to provide vaccines from abroad through local Palestinian companies to avoid buying the vaccines for from Israel, the ministry’s undersecretary Abdullah Lahlouh told Ma’an Friday. He confirmed that a Palestinian company won a bid and would provide the vaccines in a few days. Minister of Agriculture Walid Assaf previously told Ma’an that Israel makes it difficult for the Palestinian Authority to import vaccines, instead trying to sell them to Palestinians for double the price.

The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, confirmed undersecretary Lahlouh, has been providing Palestinian farmers with vaccines against sheep smallpox, peste des petits ruminants, brucellosis and foot-and-mouth disease.

He added that the Ministry of Agriculture already bought 2000 shots of vaccine from Israel to be used temporarily against peste des petits ruminants until the company which won the bid brings the needed sum from abroad. The ministry estimates that 400,000 shots will be needed.

In the same regard, the Ministry of Agriculture’s general director of veterinary medicine Imad Mukarkir told Ma’an that peste des petits ruminants “has been extant in Palestine since the 1950s.” The disease, he added, does not break as a plague and older sheep are immune to the disease.

Mukarkir highlighted that in 2012 and 2013, about 650,000 heads of sheep were vaccinated against peste des petits ruminants. The majority of vaccines (450,000) were provided for free after the ministry received a grant from the Islamic Bank for Development.

Asked about the possibility of a quick outbreak of the disease, Mukarkir said the disease isn’t quickly infectious and doesn’t break as a plague. Only young sheep can be infected and the disease appears as diarrhea, but 95 percent of the infected young sheep recover after vaccination, or after they become older.

With regards to statistics, Mukarkir said the disease was diagnosed in 76 herds out of 24,000 herds across the West Bank. He added that 514 heads of sheep died out of 974 which were infected.

Mukarkir pointed out that “there could be a serious problem if the vaccines are not provided before the proliferation season begins in January 2014.”

Vaccines, says Mukarkir, are available for urgent cases diagnosed in the field.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Libya is in anarchy as US/NATO backed terrorists reign – Farazh Muftah

Protests in Libya

Protests in Libya

The entire western intervention in Libya was a lie fabricated from the very beginning to allow the US/NATO to prevent: gold-based dinars from damaging the dollar, an international law suit filed by Libya over the violations by the West of treaties, Libyan oil trade to be done in Euros, and a non-US controlled block to grow strong. The “humanitarian intervention” was never about protecting the Libyan people. It was only about money, geopolitics and resources. By providing air-support, funding and weapons to Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorists groups US/NATO was successful in destroying the government, completely freeing up the resources and assassinating the leader. The Libyan people now live in a state of anarchy being decimated by US/CIA/Al-Qaeda (the CIA data-base), and the West is silent. Where is the “support for the people of Libya” now? Farazh Muftah is a representative of the tribes of Libya and is in exile, he granted the VOR an interview on the real situation in Libya.

You are listening to part one of an interview with Farazh Muftah– a spokesperson for the tribal nations of Libya. You can find part 2 of this interview in the near future on our website at

Robles: Can you explain to our listeners about the real situation in Libya right now? What is really happening in Libya?

Muftah: Thank you so much for giving us a chance to explain everything to your people and to your listeners.

Our country was safe and secure until what happened with it in 2011. It was started by lies and dirty games by satellite from many journalists of CNN, al-Arabia, Al-Jazeera, BBC as well and Qatari channels which prepared all the propaganda before the game has been started.

They lied to the people and they said that they will come to Libya to protect the civilian people. They only used this reason as a pretext to destroy our country, destroy all establishment and destroy our regime.

You have to know that the majority of Libyans supported the former regime and we did not have any problem before 2011. Our regime was the fairest regime, it was against Al Qaeda and terroristic groups on the ground and around the world.

And our leader Col Gaddafi – the fairest guy – announced and reported to the United Nations Security Council, the US and other Western countries that they must arrest Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda groups, it was in 1987.

At that time no one listened to our side. The reality and the truth is that the Western world and especially the USA and the CIA, which gave control to America, they knew already that Bin Laden works with them.

Nowadays, they brought all the Al Qaeda terroristic groups to Libya at the beginning of the crisis and we call it a conspiracy against our country.

France, the United States, Italy, Qatar, Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups – they used Security Council resolution of 1971-1973 to launch and intervention and “protect” the civilian people. But they killed the people, as you know now approximately more than 500,000 people have been killed in Libya.

Robles: 500,000?

Muftah: Yes, about half a million has been killed in Libya since 2011 up to now. The majority of this number has been killed by NATO and the United States, the rest of them have been killed by militias and terrorist groups, and Al Qaeda as well.

Al Qaeda has a full control of Tripoli – the capital. There is no government, there is no regime, there is not an agency in Libya.

The solution now is to return the people who have been exiled to their country, to their land, to try to sort out all the problems in Libya.

Americans supported Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya and in Egypt as well.

Now in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime has been finished and destroyed by the Egyptian people, more than 32 million people went on the streets.

In Libya still America and some Western countries support Al Qaeda and terrorist groups, especially in Tripoli – the capital of Libya. This is the big problem facing the Libyan people that NATO and the USA supported Al Qaeda and terrorist groups.

And the American administration – Obama and John McCain – are representatives of Al Qaeda terrorist groups.

John McCain is their close friend, he supported them and he talks about them every day. They plan how to support them, how to protect them. This is the big problem which faces the whole world.

In the future, I warn all of the people, we report that in a few days it will become a big problem and danger facing the whole world, especially the Western countries.

Now the Libya is the main source for terrorists, the main source for Al Qaeda training, the main source of weapons, main source of crimes and criminal groups.

Now the danger has reached Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Chad – they get the resources and establish control over our cities in Libya. As you know, they burned more than four or five cities in Libya. In Tawergha all cities have been completely burned in 2011.

And where was Tawergha, now it is a place for Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood training.

Bani Walid attack of 2012 was by militias, about 20,000 militias attacked Bani Walid city to try to establish control over it, but it was hard for them, because the people in Bani Walid are brave and strong fighters, they were against and they defended their city. They got the out back to Misrata militias.

Now, we have another problem the international community must know about – the unknown and uncontrolled presence in Misrata and Tripoli which is controlled by Al Qaeda terrorist groups.

It is a hard situation for more than 30,000 Libyan civilian people inside the prisons. Nobody knows their fates. It is a situation of unknown presence without any control from the government, because there is no government.

Even the so-called Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been kidnapped by militias. And they still lie to the people, lie to the community, they lie to the media and he says he is the Prime Minister.

There is no Prime Minister in Libya, there is no parliament in Libya, there is no government in Libya, there is no regime in Libya now, only Al Qaeda and terrorist groups.

Let’s me tell you something about the problem with Interpol. When NATO and Americans invaded Tripoli with militias and terrorist groups, they attacked the Interior Ministry and the office of Interpol was taken over by militias.

The militias reported papers and documents to Interpol. That is why Interpol has now called and is asking (searching) for more than 200 Libyan people who are living abroad.

There is no Interpol in Libya, it is impossible. There are militias all cities,the whole country controlled by militias and where is Interpol? There is no Interpol in Libya.

2 million Libyan people have been exiled and they are living in a bad situation in Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Mali, Egypt, Malta and a small number of them in the Western countries. There is no United Nations that cares about us, there are no human rights organizations that care about us, there is no international community that cares about us.

This is the truth and this is the reality, and this is our story.

Nobody will bring control in our country, nobody will clean up our country, only Gaddafi loyalists know how to clean out the terrorist groups and Al Qaeda. And we have our own experts, more than 2,000 security experts outside Libya, they have been exiled. And they are followed by Al Qaeda terrorist groups.

Every day they kill an officer from our military, every day they kill one member of the security section in Libya, every day they kill civilian people, kidnap them, rape the ladies, rob stores and banks.

This is the situation now in Libya. This is the real story. This is the truth and this is what is happening in Libya right now.

Robles: It sounds like complete anarchy. Can you tell me what was life like before the NATO invasion? What was life really like for Libyan people when the US and NATO said they were oppressed and they were being killed, and everybody hated Gaddafi? What was life really like?

Muftah: No! This is not truth. The truth is that all the Libyan people liked Gaddafi, supported our leader. Our leader was an honest man. He was a patriot, a strong man and defended our country.

He was against the international law which allowed them to invade any country, to attack any country, to bomb any country.

You cannot imagine how is it to burn and attack civil cities, to burn them and then bomb for two months about three or four times every day. Did you think about this? How is it that the NATO forces, their airplanes, their military, which were prepared to fight against Russia and then attacked a small city like Bani Walid?

From February 2011 up to October 2011 NATO attacked and bombed.

Most of the cities, as I told you, have been burned and destroyed, all cities – Sitra, Bani Walid, Tawergha, Qawalish, Mashashita, Ar Rayaniya, now Tiji.

Every day now Tiji is exposed to attacks from militias in Zintan.

This is the truth and this is the real story. We were living in so good situation, nobody was against Gaddafi. There were a few people and they say that this is a political group. But they ran away from the military in 1971-1973 to America and America protected them, and America used them as spies, as Ali Zeidan.

Ali Zeidan has stolen money from our Embassy in India and ran away to Germany.

He’s stolen the Libyan Embassy’s money in Delhi which was sent to use to help Muslim people in India and he ran away to America.

America protected (Magallion?) and America used him as a spy.

(Magallion?) is a member of the CIA. Ali Zeidan is from Gestapo, a member of German intelligence. This is the truth, this is the story.

Robles: I see. Why do you think they want to keep a condition of anarchy in Libya?

Muftah: In Libya right now there is no control, there are no companies, there is no government, there are no embassies.

All the foreign people, all representatives of foreign companies, all diplomatic groups in Libya are threatened and killed by Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda announced a few days ago that they will start killing all diplomatic people in Libya.

And there is no infrastructure from 2011. There are no buildings, there is no development, there isn’t anything.

Even all the money in the Central Bank invested outside Libya has been stolen by these militias.

There is no money, there are no resources now because oil exports have been blocked by militias.

Robles: Who is in control of the oil right now?

Muftah: The militias since 2011 sell the Libyan oil in the Mediterranean Sea without any documents, without anything. It is a black market. Many groups from the eastern part did not allow Ali Zeidan, from the puppet government to sell oil unless they have a know and help to plan and organize how to sell our oil.

Robles: Is oil still flowing out of Libya right now?

Muftah: No, not any more. It’s been blocked by many groups in Ras Lanuf, Sitra, Zueitina. And even yesterday I think a group from west part militias has blocked gas, which is supplied to the south of Italy.

Robles: I’d like to ask you a question. In Egypt we now know the United States supported the Muslim Brotherhood, like they supported Al Qaeda, like they created Al Qaeda, like MI5 created the Muslim Brotherhood – the Egyptian people have filed crimes against humanity charges against the US and Barack Obama. Can the Libyan people do the same thing?

Muftah: Yes, we have a lot of things, we have a lot of documents which will show to the world what was happening because of Obama and the Western countries.

Of course, because they started to help the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood from the beginning of the conspiracy against Libya.

Robles: Is there any movement or any group of lawyers or former judges who could organize a formal criminal complaint and deliver it to Hague?

Muftah: Yes, our group and our lawyers, who have been exiled as well, they are preparing all the documents and all files to bring them to ICC or to any international court, to show them all the evidence how NATO and America destroyed the country and destroyed the land of Libya. They are working on it.

My friend John, you have to know that there is no stability, no development and infrastructure, there is no growth for all the countries who were invaded or attacked by NATO and America.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Palestinians set animal traps to protect lands from settler raids

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Palestinians seeking to protect themselves and their properties from Israeli settler attacks have begun using animal traps, sources say.

In response to recurring raids by local Israeli settlers targeting Palestinian homes and agricultural areas, farmers in villages around Nablus have began to use an old method to protect their fields.

Farmers in villages south of Nablus have begun laying animal traps, hoping to catch marauding settlers who attack their fields, chop olive trees, and burn down crops during the night.

Settlers are permitted by Israeli occupation authorities to carry guns, a privilege not afforded Palestinians. Thus, Palestinians are often helpless to prevent armed settlers from attacking their lands.

The raids are a common tactic used by settlers to force farmers off their fields and confiscate the lands to build more Jewish-only settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.

Sources told Ma’an that the traps being set for Israeli settlers were historically used primarily for hunting deer and pigs.

According to a 2012 report on Israeli settler violence released by the Palestine Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, every year the olive harvest period sees the highest peak in attacks on Palestinian civilians and property.

In 2012, there were 353 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Over 7,500 olive trees were damaged or destroyed by settlers between January and mid-October in 2012, according to OCHA.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Algeria: Bouteflika runs for 4th term

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 76, will run for another term despite having said publicly in April 2012 that his generation’s time had passed.
Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was officially nominated on Saturday as his party’s candidate for the president in the 2014 election, the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) said.

“The central committee has chosen the president of the party, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to be the FLN candidate in the next presidential election,” said a party statement issued after a meeting in the capital.

The 76-year-old leader will run for another term despite having said publicly in April 2012 that his generation’s time had passed. He was referring to the independence-era leaders who have been running the country since the 1960s.

Recently, Bouteflika has taken a series of measures in what observers saw as paving his way to run up again for presidency.

One of these major steps included a shakeup of the country’s Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS), a strong government organ suspected of running the country behind the scenes.

Amar Saidani, chairman of the FLN, told Reuters Bouteflika was determined to create a “civil society” and limit the DRS’ political influence.

“The DRS will continue to play its role, but it will no longer get involved in politics, including in the political parties, media and justice,” Saidani said at FLN headquarters in Algiers’ Hydra district.

Political changes in Algeria are closely monitored in Europe and the United States. Algeria is a major supplier of gas to Europe and a U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism.

Bouteflika rose to power in 1999, and was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2009, after changes in the constitution which allowed him to stand for more than two terms.

Boutefika was recently in Paris for health issues, rising concerns over his ability to run for a new term.

(Source / 16.11.2013)

Egypt’s Brotherhood alliance calls for national dialogue, for a limited time

A statement on Saturday released by the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy reflects a shift in the coalitions rhetoric, calling for national dialogue and political plurality

Mohamed Ali Bishr

Egypt’s National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a pro-Morsi coalition, has called for a national dialogue as a way out of the country’s political strife, without explicitly demanding the return of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.The alliance said in a statement on Saturday, which is titled “A Strategic Viewpoint”, that Egypt needs a “serious discussion.” This cannot happen, the alliance stated, however, until “the arrests, bloodshed, and hate speech” ends.

The Brotherhood-backed alliance also called for respect for “political plurality.”

Mohamed Ali Bishr, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the alliance, said in a press conference on Saturday that the call for national dialogue is open to everyone, even those who took part in the 30 June protests that ousted Morsi, reported the Freedom and Justice Party online website.

However, Bishr, a leading figure in the on-and-off Islamists’ attempts to negotiate a political settlement with the interim government, said that the proposed dialogue is limited to a period of two weeks to expedite political groups’ participation.

This statement marks a  shift in the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy’s policy platform, as it was the first time since the coalition’s establishment four months ago that they did not demand Morsi’s reinstatement as president. It also did not call for the return of the Shura Council that was dissolved following Morsi’s ouster.

In addition, the alliance did not insist on bringing back the 2012 constitution, currently undergoing amendments by a 50-member committee appointed by the interim government. The alliance said that it agrees amendments could be applied to controversial articles to reach a “larger consensus.”

However, the alliance maintained its original contention that Morsi’s ouster was an illegitimate “military coup” and demanded what it described as an “end” to the resulting government.

The statement also called for respecting “the will of the Egyptian people through ballot boxes, and respecting the right to peaceful protest.”

Egypt’s interim authorities have launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since Morsi was deposed by the army on 3 July amid mass protests against him. In September, a court banned all Brotherhood institutions.

Hundreds of Brotherhood members have since been arrested in recurring protests, clashes and attacks against the interim leadership, mainly on charges of inciting violence. Major Brotherhood figures, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, face trial on similar charges.

Morsi himself is currently facing trial with 14 other Brotherhood members on charges of killing of protesters at the Ittihadeya Presidential Palace clashes in December 2012.

Since his removal from power on 3 July, Morsi has continued to state that he is the country’s legitimate president, refusing to recognise the court in the first session of his trial on 4 November.

The deposed president, who is in custody at Tora prison, issued a statement on 11 November saying that Egypt will not regain its stability until the “coup is overturned and those responsible for the bloodshed are held accountable.”

Almost a thousand people were killed in a nationwide wave of violence triggered by a deadly police dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo that left hundreds dead on 14 August.  Tens of Police stations and churches were attacked around the country, leaving dozen sdead.

All previous mediation attempts between the government and the Brotherhood since 3 July, including initiatives by the European Union and the United States, have failed.

(Source / 16.11.2013)