Sunday, February 12, 2012

Iran's Penal Code Revised

Iran's penal code has been revised. It no longer allows for the execution of minors, nor the stoning of adulterers. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen still allow for the execution of minors. Pressure is now on those four countries to end the practice as well.

The stoning of various Iranian women, had been met by extreme criticism over the last year by the international community. And the last one's sentence of execution had been reversed due to the outcry by rights groups around the world.

Arab League Calls for UN Peacekeepers

The Arab League has officially asked for the United Nations to join them in a joint peace keeping mission in Syria. The League stated that a peace must be enforced by the Arab and international community. Further demanding that Syrian forces cease killing civilians and remove all military forces away from cities. The statement also called for all diplomatic ties to be cut off with President Bashar al-Assad's regime, and for the opposition to be recognized and given financial support.

This move comes as Al Qaeda forces throughout the world call for a jihad against the Syrian government. Forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Muslim Brotherhood of Jordan have been seen in Syria attacking Syrian troops. Since the beginning of the violence, Assad and his government have said they were under attack from foreign extremists, now it seems to be true.

It is unlikely that the UN will be able to make such a move, as both Russia and China have vetoed UN Security Council resolutions to impose sanctions. This despite the almost completely one sided, massacre level of violence being seen in the country. Russia has in fact continued to help arm Syria's military.

Welfare Drug Tests

A Republican measure to require drug tests for Colorado welfare recipients before they get benefits got its first approval amid criticism that it unfairly stigmatizes low-income people.

Republican Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg says the intent of his bill is not to pick on any group but to ensure government funds are going to people who need it, not to people who have money to buy drugs.

A House committee voted in favor of the bill on a party-line vote with Democrats voting against. Opponents say the bill draws on negative stereotypes of minorities and low-income people who are being used as scapegoats during tough economic times.

Utah is considering similar legislation. Florida passed a law last year but it's being challenged on constitutional grounds.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Syrian Violence Increases and Spreads

Government troops continue to pound opposition areas with artillery, tanks, and rockets. Over the past week hundreds have been killed as security forces besiege cities, towns, and neighborhoods that are homes to the protestors, opposition, and rebels. The fighting in Syria is so one sided that most of it is simply a massacre. There are places where rebels and troops that have defected are able to fight back, but for the most part they are simply just out gunned.

Lebanon, has also seen violence due to the Syrian conflict, hours after a mass rally against Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Street fighting has broken out in parts of Tripoli between groups that support Assad and groups that are for his removal from office. The Lebanese military has begun making raids into the neighborhoods, in an effort to enforce peace.

United States Ambassador Ford, who had been the head of the Syrian embassy until it was closed, has led a US campaign of sharing declassified satellite pictures from the Facebook for the embassy. The photos show Syrian military forces bombarding their own cities. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "Our intent here is to obviously expose the ruthlessness of the brutality of this regime and its overwhelming predominant advantage and the horrible kind of weaponry that it is deploying against its people".

The US is not the only country closing it's embassy. Several other countries have, whilst others kept theirs open but recalled their ambassadors. Others yet have had theirs forcibly closed by Syria. Tunisia and Libya, homes to successful anti-government revolts last year, both received messages that they had 72 hours to get out of the country.

Iran Expands Military as Sanctions Bite

Iran has announced the expansion of it's fleet with the addition of two Ghadir class submarines. Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari proudly declared that every component of the ship had been built and assembled in Iran. The Ghadir class is bragged to be capable of complete stealth running, and would specifically target American aircraft carriers.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had his own announcement. He declared that, "within the next few days the world will witness the inauguration of several big new achievements in the nuclear field." The only thing further he stated, about it, was that Iran would never back down from nuclear enrichment. A program which has caused ever increasing hostilities between Iran and the rest of the world. So far the world's answer has been in the form of sanctions.

Just last week the United States increased it's sanctions upon Iran. The European Union and other individual nations have placed their own sanctions on Iran, only Russia's vetoing of any United Nations sanctions has kept the UN from joining in. Despite Ahmadinejad and his government's assurances, the effects of the sanctions are becoming visible. Food prices have dramatically increased within the country, as many of it's suppliers either have their own sanctions on Iran, see no profit in trading with them, or are simply afraid to go near the area due to Iran's constant stream of threats to blockade the area. On March 2, there are parliamentary elections for Iran, and the displeasure of the people is likely to be felt in the ballot box. Protests against the government are planned for February 14. The last elections were followed by mass demonstrations as the people felt that Ahmadinejad's reelection was rigged, and that their votes had been ignored.

Meanwhile in Shiraz, a home, where Christians met to worship, was raided by state police. The worshipers have been detained in an unknown location, and their families have not been notified on what charges. Last month in Ahvaz an entire congregation was taken away during a raid, still yet to be heard from. Iran recognizes Christianity as a religion, but continues to persecute, torture, and or murder anyone who converts from Islam.

Argentina Accuses UK of Bringing Nukes

Britain has announced that the HMS Dauntless, one of the largest and most powerful ships of the royal fleet, will be making a routine trip to the Falkland Islands. Normally such a routine mission would be of little importance, but Argentina has accused the United Kingdom of "militarization" in the South Atlantic. Argentina is also accusing the UK of having nuclear weapons brought to the area around the islands.

Almost 30 years ago Argentina invaded the British islands, in a deadly war that killed many on both sides. Argentina has been rekindling the conflict for the last while, including convincing Mercosur, a South American trading bloc, to close all their ports to any boats flying Falkland colours.

Argentina is hoping to coerce the islanders to submit to Argentinian rule, so that the neighbouring country could control access to any possible off shore oil and or natural gas finds. Britain feels that the Falklanders should have self determination over whether to remain British or switch to Argentina. In a show of how important the sanctity of the islands is, the UK did last month transfer Prince William to the islands.