Reading Digest – 16 August 2012   Leave a comment

“Hey, GI Joe, your sign’s broken.  We’re already in Australia.” – Bart Simpson
“Actually, sir, the embassy is considered American soil, sir!” – U.S. Marine

Diplomatic Respect for Me, But Not for Thee:

aljazeeralogo1 UK issues ‘threat’ to arrest Assange:

Britain has warned Ecuador that it could raid its London embassy if Quito does not handover WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been taking refuge at the mission since mid-June.

In Quito, the Ecuadorean government said that any such action would be considered a violation of its sovereignty a
"hostile and intolerable act".

"Under British law we can give them a week’s notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection," a Foreign Office spokesperson said on Wednesday.

And how is that legal?  Well . . .


The law the UK has informed Ecuador it could use in the case is the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.

It allows the UK to revoke the diplomatic status of an embassy on UK soil, which in this case would potentially allow police to enter the building to arrest Mr Assange for breaching the terms of his bail.

The act was introduced after PC Yvonne Fletcher was shot outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984.

Wikipedia has the background, but the long and the short of it is that she was shot outside the embassy by gunfire from inside the embassy.  Assange may or may not be guilty of the sexual assault the Swedes ostensibly want him for, but he sure as shit hasn’t shot any cops. 

nytimeslogo1 Ecuador to Let Assange Stay in Its Embassy:

The government of Ecuador is prepared to allow Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, to remain in its embassy in London indefinitely under a type of humanitarian protection, a government official said in Quito on Wednesday night.

So it looks like he isn’t going anywhere for a while.  As the U.S. and U.K. pursue their reverse-Chen Guangcheng, Juan Cole has the details on the absurd hypocrisy of this (if only the authorities cared this much about most rape cases, eh?). 

Pakistani Airbase Assaulted:

aljazeeralogo1 Several killed in Pakistan airbase raid:

At least nine men, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, have stormed an air force base in Kamra, northwest of the Pakistani capital, killing five soldiers, security officials say.

Eight of the attackers were killed, a military spokesperson said, after the assault at the Minhas Airbase led to a fierce firefight that lasted several hours. The ninth attacker was killed when he exploded his suicide vest outside the perimeter of the base, the military said.


The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, the Reuters news agency reported.

"We are proud of this operation. Our leadership had decided to attack Kamra base a long time ago," Ahsanullah Ahsan, a TTP spokesman, said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

bbclogo1 Gunmen storm military air base in Pakistan – Sure this is embarrassing for the Pakistani military, but this is a great quote from their spokesman:

Air force spokesman Tariq Mahmood said the attackers then scaled a wall to get inside the base, though they did not reach the hangars there.

He added: "We are checking every inch of the complex to make sure there are no other miscreants."

No word in either report on whether or not Minhas is one of the bases from which our not-so-secret killer robot planes fly. 

Violence in Iraq (Day 3,500ish):

bbclogo1 Iraq violence: At least 19 dead and scores injured:

At least seven people were killed and about 30 injured in a car bombing in the Husseiniyah district of Baghdad, officials said.

In Daquq, a town in Kirkuk province, six policemen died when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a counter-terrorism department’s compound, AFP reports.

Other attacks were reported in al-Garma, Tuz Khurmatu, Dibis, Fallujah and Baquba, officials said.

The violence is thought to be linked to Sunni groups trying to undermine the Shia-led government.

More than 300 people died in attacks across Iraq in July – the highest monthly death toll since August 2010, according to government figures.

But wait, there’s more!

aljazeeralogo1 Deaths in wave of bombings in Iraq:

Just north of the capital, in the city of Taji, yet another parked car bomb went off next to a passing police patrol, killing one person.

Eight people, including police and civilian bystanders, were wounded, two other policemen said.

Thanks again, George. 

Japan vs. Both Chinas:

aljazeeralogo1 Japan weighs fate of pro-China activists:

Japan is weighing what to do with 14 people it arrested after pro-China activists landed on a disputed island, with China angrily demanding their immediate release.

Five of the activists, who were arrested on the island on Wednesday, were in the Okinawan capital Naha where they would face questioning, police said on Thursday.

The other nine detained at sea were set to arrive later in the day.

bbclogo1 Activists questioned amid Japan-China island row:

"They all deny the allegation of illegal entry, saying the islands are part of Chinese territory," a police spokesman was quoted by Agence-France Presse news agency as saying.

Small groups of protesters in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong demanded that the activists be released. They held signs that declared the disputed islands part of China and shouted anti-Japanese slogans.

Al Jazeera has a video report, including footage of the arrestees clambering onto land holding both the Chinese flag and a Taiwanese one. 

The Deadly Quest for Non-Reactive Metals:

bbclogo1 DR Congo mine collapse: Dozens killed:

At least 60 miners have been killed after a shaft collapsed in a gold mine in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, officials say.

The miners were about 100m underground when the accident happened in Orientale province on Monday, local media says.

Rescue efforts were hampered as crews had difficulty reaching the mine, which lies in a jungle area where armed groups operate, a local official said.

Such accidents are common in DR Congo, where mines are often unregulated.

aljazeeralogo1 Landslide leaves scores dead in DR Congo mine:

Hundreds of thousands of people work in unsafe conditions, some of them forced to mine by some of the armed groups and government soldiers who illegally profit from Congo’s massive mineral resources.

Mining companies AngloGold Ashanti and Randgold operate in the region, which is known to be rich in tin and gold

Don’t worry, semi-respectable mining companies are well practiced at insulating themselves from these kinds of places. 


aljazeeralogo1 Dozens killed in Syria air raid on rebel town:

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Antakya, a Turkish town near the Syria border, said: "We know that it started around 3 o’clock in the afternoon when the jets came and started bombing an area of the town, their target we were told was a former Baath headquarters which is now where the Free Syria Army have their base.

"But as you could see from those pictures it is mostly civilians who where affected by the air strikes. A whole row of residential homes have been completely levelled, with horrific pictures of children trapped underneath the rubble."

And in today’s episode of the hit soap opera “As Syria Turns”:

Also on Thursday, Valerie Amos, the United Nations humanitarian chief, have said on Thursday as many as 2.5 million people were in need of aid in Syria, where al-Assad’s forces have been fighting rebels seeking his overthrow for 17 months.

Speaking in Syria where she met Wael al-Halki, the Prime Minister, and other officials this week, Amos urged government forces and rebels to do more to protect civilians caught up in the violence.

nytimeslogo1 Syrian Conflict Imperils Historical Treasures – You can always tell that the international press and world governments are getting bored with a conflict when the Times starts running stories like this one:

Among the significant archaeological sites endangered is the Temple of the Storm God, which dates from the third to the second millennium B.C. and which Ms. Burnham identified as one of the oldest structures in the world. Never opened to the public, the recently discovered temple and its huge carved reliefs are protected only by sandbags and a flimsy corrugated tin roof, she said.

Aleppo’s labyrinthine streets reveal a microcosm of human history. Beneath the Citadel are remains of Bronze Age friezes and Roman fortresses. The entire walled Old City, with its 12th-century Great Mosque, thousands of pastel-colored medieval courtyard houses, Arab souks and 17th-century stone madrasas, an Ottoman palace and hammams, is recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, the United Nations cultural arm.

Fit to Print:

nytimeslogo1 Montana Tribe Divided on Tapping Oil-Rich Land – The saddest paragraph in a sad story:

Blackfeet elders say they have already collected about $30 million, primarily from three oil companies, the Anschutz Exploration Corporation, the Newfield Exploration Company and Rosetta Resources. The tribe has used signing bonuses to pay off debts from building the Glacier Peaks Casino. It built a tribe-owned grocery to compete with the IGA in Browning, the reservation’s largest town. The tribe’s approximately 16,500 members each got $200 in trickle-down payments from the drilling last year, and the oil companies have donated money to the local basketball team and to buy children toys and jackets last Christmas.

nytimeslogo1 Years After Haiti Quake, Safe Housing Is Dream for Multitudes – The saddest paragraph in another sad story:

Two and a half years after the earthquake, despite billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the most obvious, pressing need — safe, stable housing for all displaced people — remains unmet.

In what international officials term a protracted humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands remain in increasingly wretched tent camps. Tens of thousands inhabit dangerously damaged buildings. And countless others, evicted from camps and yards, have simply disappeared with their raggedy tarps and rusty sheet metal into the hills.

nytimeslogo1 Pennsylvania Judge Keeps Voter ID Law Intact:

In his ruling on Wednesday, Judge Robert Simpson of Pennsylvania, a Republican, said that there might have been a partisan motive behind the law and that it might indeed cause difficulties for tens of thousands of voters on Nov. 6. But neither matter is enough to stop it, he concluded, because judgments from both the state and federal Supreme Courts give legislatures leeway to regulate voting unless done in a clearly discriminatory or burdensome way. The Pennsylvania law, he said, passed muster.

Hey, Robert Simpson?  Fuck you.  The appeal is pending but seems to be doubtful. 

Posted August 16, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Reading Digest, The Simpsons

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