Our daily editions ended December 31, 2013.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Assad Implicated in War Crimes

A Un inquiry into human rights violations in Syria has found “massive evidence” that President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for crimes against humanity.  Specifically, UN investigators have said that war crimes were authorized at the “highest level of government, including the head of state.”  Names and specific evidence remain confidential pending a possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Sadly, this is unlikely to do much, if anything, to help: Syria is not a member of the ICC, so any investigation would have to be mandated by the UN Security Council, where it would almost certainly be vetoed by Russia and/or China.

As of Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it estimated the number of dead had reached 125,835, over a third of them civilians. Today alone, dozens were reported killed in a two-day government assault in which ‘barrel bombs’ (oil barrels filled with explosives) were dropped on a residential market district.

Corporate Espionage Against Non-Profits

A new report by the Center for Corporate Policy (CCP) entitled Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations reveals that major corporations are employing highly unethical or illegal tools of espionage against nonprofit organizations with near impunity and often with the active help of government agencies.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON have all been linked to espionage or planned espionage against a variety of nonprofits, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.

The FBI has provided private intelligence firms with its classified files on certain groups and in some cases classified its investigations relating to nonviolent civil disobedience under ‘Acts of Terrorism.’

Hundreds of Thousands Blockade Ukraine Government Buildings

Thousands of demonstrators in Kiev are blockading the main government building, continuing protests against President Viktor Yanukovych’s abrupt decision to back out of a deal with the EU and calling for his ouster. Protesters repeatedly clashed with police over the weekend, at one point even threatening them with a bulldozer, and cops have now deserted the center of the city. Government employees cannot reach their offices, local officials in western Ukraine have openly sided with the protesters and major national television channels have scaled back their support of the government. Politicians have begun defecting the governing Party of Regions, and Yanukovych may even be at risk of losing a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

A trio of opposition leaders have demanded Yanukovych’s resignation and are now calling for snap parliamentary and presidential elections. Today, Yanukovych is trying to renew talks with the EU as a way to quell public anger.

Anti-Government Protests Escalate in Thailand

As violent protests raged against the government, opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban has threatened to escalate the campaign to topple the government, ordering his followers to storm police headquarters after they had fought all day with riot police. Suthep wants to replace the government with an unelected ‘People’s Council,’ reflecting the unique political divide in Thailand between those who want elected leaders (even corrupt ones) and the fantasy of unelected but trustworthy technocrats.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has vowed to do whatever it takes to “bring peace back,” up to and including her own resignation or the dissolution of parliament, but has refused the opposition’s “unconstitutional” demand to hand power over to an unelected council. Suthep has said Yingluck’s resignation and new elections would not be enough to stop the protests.

Panel Approves Egypt Draft Constitution

A 50-person panel has completed amending Egypt’s constitution, which was rushed through last year under ousted former president Mohamed Morsi amid protests by liberals, secularists and the Coptic Church. The new draft will be put to a nationwide referendum in January and if endorsed by a majority, elections would follow in the second half of next year. The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the new constitution, which bans political parties based on religion, gender, race, sect or geography while maintaining Islamic law as the main source of legislation. The draft also retains the privileged status given to the security forces, allowing the military to select the defense minister and to continue trying civilians in military courts.

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