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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

France to Send 1,000 Troops to CAR

The UN deputy secretary general warned today that the Central African Republic was descending into “complete chaos,” and called for urgent action. While the UN Security Council debates a possible peacekeeping mission – whether it should be French, African or UN-led, how many troops should be involved, and how quickly they can be mobilized – France has said it would triple its military deployment in CAR by sending another 1,000 troops.

Whether the French forces will save lives largely depends on the degree to which they venture outside the capital and into the country’s lawless provinces. Human Rights Watch has said that while atrocities have been committed on both sides, most recent human rights violations occurred in territory controlled by the Seleka (the Muslim rebels behind March’s coup). The group has identified Seleka general Abdallah Hamat as the man responsible for a raid in which his soldiers looted and torched hundreds of homes and called for his suspension.

Thai Protesters Call for Uprising

Protesters have forced the closure of more government offices throughout Thailand as their leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, announced for the first time that their goal is to topple the current government and replace it with a non-elected council. They claim this is the only way to rid the country of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s political machine. Thailand’s criminal court issued a warrant for Thaugsuban, a former opposition lawmaker, today. Demonstrators surrounded the Interior Ministry, then cut the electricity and water to force people out; security personnel locked themselves behind the ministry’s gates.

It’s not clear how or whether the government can regain control and reassert its authority, especially when a sizable part of the population says they have lost all faith in democracy.

The CIA Program to Turn Gitmo Detainees into Double Agents

Even as the US government was justifying imprisoning people indefinitely, the CIA was releasing dangerous, less-than-trustworthy people from prison to (hypothetically) work for the CIA as double-agents. The CIA saw the influx of prisoners as a way to finally infiltrate al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and offered prisoners large amounts of money and promised to ensure the safety of their families. At least 16% of those released to act as double agents rejoined the fight against America; an additional 12% are suspected to have done so.  Meanwhile, detainees without significant ties to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups were left in limbo in Guantanamo.

Abu Zubaydah was neither of the above – at the time, the CIA believed he was number 3 in al-Qaeda’s hierarchy (which was almost certainly false) and used him as a guinea pig for the Bush Administration’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ His newly-released diaries document, however, how those techniques only drove him to create well-developed systems for misleading his interrogators. 

Food Pantries Struggling to Meet Demands

Recent cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) have been in effect for less than 30 days, and families are turning to local food banks to find staples like rice and cereal.  The increased number of people relying on food banks has already begun to strain their capacity. At a food pantry in Brooklyn, staff members reported that their stock was being “wiped out” and at the rate people were lining up, their pantry would be bare before the weekend.

In its annual report on Tuesday, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger said one-sixth of all New York City residents and one-fifth of its children live in homes without enough to eat (in the Bronx, it’s one-third of residents and one-half of children). Those percentages have not improved for three years.

Nigerian Gunmen Kill 37

Herdsmen from the Fulani ethnic group opened fire on four villages primarily inhabited by the Berom community at around 2am this morning. Nigeria’s Plateau state, where the attacks took place, lies on the fault line separating the country’s Muslim-majority north and Christian/animist-dominated south. The Fulami are semi-nomadic, cattle-herders and are mostly Muslim; while the Berom are settled farming peoples and primarily Christian. Hundreds have been killed in similar territorial/ethnic clashes over the past year.

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