At least 31 people were killed and 235 were injured when Libyan militiamen opened fire with anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades on demonstrators marching through Tripoli.
The protesters had been carrying Libyan and white flags as they demanded that the country’s militia groups be disbanded. There are hundreds of militias in the country, many of them funded by the government, and the march was the biggest show of public anger at them to date.
Gunfire continued into the night after groups of protesters armed themselves and were joined by rival militia forces.
Ali Zidan, Libya’s Prime Minister, blamed militiamen for the deaths of “31 martyrs”. He said: “The demonstration was peaceful and had been permitted by the interior ministry, and then the protesters were fired on when they entered the Gharghur district.”
Al-Taher Basha Agha, commander of Misrata-based militia, dismissed claims the protesters were unarmed and said it was they who first opened fire. He said his force would leave “dead bodies” rather than leave Tripoli.
[(The rats are fleeing the sinking ship (SEE: State insurance regulators hesitate to embrace Obamacare fix).]
In a mild rebuke to President Barack Obama, more than three dozen House Democrats broke with their party Friday in supporting a measure the GOP said would help reverse cancellation of Americans’ individual insurance plans.
Lawmakers debate a bill that would let Americans hold health plans in the coming year that do not comply with the Affordable Health Care Act.
Thirty-nine Democrats voted with all but four Republicans to pass the bill, which was sponsored by Republican Fred Upton of Michigan.
The White House had feared that more politically vulnerable Democrats, loathe to be accused of voting against a measure that could help constituents who have received a cancellation notice, might support the legislation in a tacit rebuke of Obama’s handling of the health care issue.
The revolt by House Democrats was still relatively modest, signaling that the party is mostly satisfied with the “administrative” fix Obama announced yesterday during a contrite press conference at the White House. GOP aides had suggested that as many as 60 Democrats might break with the president.
The vote came as Republicans continue to condemn the underlying Obamacare law and Democrats seek to insulate themselves from its slumping popularity. The GOP proposal prompted stern opposition from Democratic leaders and a veto threat from the White House, and the Democratic-led Senate is expected to ignore it.
House Democrats also gave their members another option with their own legislative alternative as well, which failed. That proposal would have continued plans for one year only for current enrollees – not new customers — and it would authorize the Health and Human Services Department and state insurance commissioners to go after bad actor insurance companies.
Upton’s bill, which clocks in at under 200 words and bears the title of the “Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013,” would allow insurers to keep offering individual health coverage plans in 2014 that don’t meet the minimum requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Top Democrats said the GOP proposal is little more than another attempt to dismantle Obamacare by allowing insurance companies to sell new customers plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.
‘H.R. 3350 rolls back the progress made by allowing insurers to continue to sell new plans that deploy practices such as not offering coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men, and continuing yearly caps on the amount of care that enrollees receive,” the Obama administration said in the statement formalizing its threat to veto the House bill. “The Administration supports policies that allow people to keep the health plans that they have. But, policies that reverse the progress made to extend quality, affordable coverage to millions of uninsured, hardworking, middle class families are not the solution.”
“When you have a group of folks who has continuously tried to destroy the legislation, you become very suspicious when you see a ‘fix,’” Rep Jose Serrano, D-N.Y. warned Thursday. “You wonder what kind of a fix it could be.”
Luke Russert and Frank Thorp contributed to this report.
Twelve years ago this week, the Taliban regime retreated from Kabul. Children were finally free to fly kites, women emerged from behind their burqas and girls could again dream of going to school. Women and girls have made hard-won advancements. Afghan women have seats in parliament, run businesses and even serve as police officers and park rangers.
In its treatment of women, the Taliban was one of the most brutal regimes the world has ever known. That legacy lingers in even the most basic aspects of life.
For girls and women, something as seemingly simple as attending school requires great bravery. In November 2008, as Shamsia Husseini walked to school in Kandahar, a masked man ripped off her veil and sprayed acid across her face. Now 22, Shamsia has defied her attacker and works as a teacher. “I want to show that education is important and that women can do more than work in the kitchen,” she recently told Agence France-Presse.
Despite such risks, girls are desperate to learn. Shamsia’s all-girls school in Kandahar has 2,600 students, ages 6 to 20. Even with tents pitched outside the building, the school cannot accommodate the many girls who want to study. Under the Taliban, only 5,000 Afghan girls were enrolled in school. By 2011, there were 2.4 million.
Yet these gains are fragile, and there is a real danger that they will be reversed. In the first half of this year, according to the United Nations, Afghanistan’s civilian death rate rose precipitously. Because of improvised explosive devices and the deliberate targeting of civilians by anti-government forces, the death rate for women and children jumped 38 percent from the same period last year. Many prominent women have been ruthlessly targeted by the Taliban.
Last year, two female acting directors of women’s affairs in Laghman province were assassinated. This August, a female member of parliament was kidnapped, and a senator was injured in an ambush of her car and her 8-year-old daughter was killed. Soon after, the country’s top female police officer was fatally shot as she left her home. Last month, Afghanistan’s only female candidate for next year’s presidential election was disqualified. Khadija Ghaznawi was running on a platform of education and jobs to give young men better options than joining the Taliban.
For many Americans, the situation in Afghanistan seems too complex and too far away to confront. I worry that the message we are sending to Afghan men, women and children is that their lives are not worth our time or attention. That message must change. We cannot abandon them.
As our military forces leave, key organizations that provide educational and economic opportunity for women are staying. They are not giving up on Afghanistan or its women.
ARZU, a private company started in 2004 by an American woman, provides Afghan women with steady income by sourcing and selling rugs they weave. Women who work for ARZU are required to send their children, boys and girls, to school. The women are given a safe place to work and a haven for their children. By adding to their family’s income, these women earn greater respect from their husbands. I thought it was symbolically important to buy ARZU rugs for American public places such as the White House. Since returning to Dallas, I have ordered them for the Bush Institute and my home.
In Kabul in 2005, I announced the opening of the American University of Afghanistan, the country’s only private, not-for-profit university for men and women. This spring, enrollment reached 958 students – half of them women. Students are graduating with degrees in education, business, computer science and more. An International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development has opened at the university, and people can donate directly to the university to provide scholarships for young women.
Other nonprofits, such as the Aschiana Foundation, fill critical needs. Aschiana, which offers food, health care, literacy and vocational training for children, recently rescued a 6-year-old girl who was being sold into marriage by her family to pay off a debt. With the help of an anonymous donor, they kept her with her family.
Many American corporations and private organizations, including Kate Spade New York, Women for Women International and Sesame Workshop, are trying to improve the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan. They may not make headlines, but they are making a difference.
We know from our own history – from the Civil War to women’s suffrage and civil rights – how hard and long the path to freedom is. As the people of Afghanistan continue on their own hard path to freedom, they must know that we are with them.
The writer was first lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009.
By Laura Bush
[This devastating typhoon could not have come at a more fortuitous moment for the Imperialist power, allowing the US Navy to shine in its relief operations, compared to the paltry sums donated by the Chinese to their contentious little neighbors in dire need. The Spratly Islands are now in dire need of assistance, as is the rest of the Philippines.]
[While on the topic of the Spratly Islands in dispute…Why is Google Earth censoring the views of the islands? For some reason, on close-up view, all of the islands’ images have been distorted, cut-outs from other views, “air-brushed” details, such as the contentious Taiwanese airport being constructed on Taiping Island. Notice the Google view in the first snapshot below, and you see what looks like a dusty dirt-covered hamlet from somewhere else, compared to the actual image of the island airstrip in the following snapshot, from TerraServer.
Not the first time that I have run across such Google deceptions (SEE: Pentagon trained troops led by officer accused in Colombian massacre ; “Point West” Secret Contra Airstrip–Follow-Up On Google Map Censorship ]
This photo released April 21, 1995 by the Military Information Agency in Taiwan shows two Taiwanese warships docking near the shore of Taiping Island, the largest of the disputed Spratly Island chain, with the Taiping military base in the foreground. The Taiwan government recently announced plans to expand the military base on Taiping Island, which has strategic importance. (Military Information AGY/AFP/Getty Images)
The People’s Republic of China has continually ramped up the pressure on Taiwan, threatening it with ever more sophisticated military hardware and looking to expand into contested waters off Taiwan. Taiwan has recently pushed back, by expanding a military base in the Spratly Islands.
Taiping island, also called Itu Aba, is approximately 994 miles south of Taiwan. It is the largest of the Spratly Islands, and is also contested by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Philippines, and Vietnam.
The area is on a major shipping line for the PRC, and most of its oil supplies pass through the Spratly Islands, according to Global Security. It states Taiwan “could use the island as an attack submarine and aircraft base against Chinese merchant ships in the event of war.”
The Japanese used the island as a submarine base during World War II. The Kuomintang took control of the island in 1946. When the Chinese Communist Party took control of China, the Kuomintang established the ROC in Taiwan and retained control of Taiping island.
Taiping Island is one of few in the region where an airstrip could be built, and it is the only one of the Spratly Islands with a source of freshwater.
The Spratly Islands are situated between the southern parts of Vietnam and the Philippines, and north of Malaysia in the South China Sea. The area includes more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands.
Several of the islands and reefs are occupied by surrounding countries. Taiwan occupies 1 island and 1 reef; the People’s Republic of China occupies 9 reefs; the Philippines occupies 7 islands and 3 reefs; Vietnam occupies 6 islands, 16 reefs, and 6 banks; and Malaysia occupies 1 artificial island, 5 reefs, and 1 shoal.
Japan officially renounced its rights, title, and claims to the Spratly islands through the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951.
The territorial dispute in the Spratly Islands is just one of many in the region, including both in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Surrounding countries say they want to explore for resources in the region, with rumored deposits of oil and minerals. Yet, the strategic value of the area is what makes it important—particularly with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) trying to expand the areas it controls.
Expanding the Base
Taiwan has stated that the only forces present on the island are from its Coast Guard and has not garrisoned the island with troops. An editorial published on the Taiwan government website states, “Our government’s initial response has been appropriately cautious. It has denied any military buildup, out of fear that other countries would take countermeasures.”
At the same time, the Taiwan government notes how the Taiping Island base gives it an advantage in claims for the contested area.
“Compared to other countries’ small islets and and reefs, it has far greater strategic value. In future negotiations on the South China Sea, Taipei cannot be ignored,” states the editorial.
Taiwan will begin expanding its runway and dock on Taiping Island in 2014, and expects construction to finish in two years.
Due to the shallow waters surrounding the island, its dock is only accessible by small boats. They plan to extend the dock to 1,050 feet and dredge the harbor by 45 feet to allow access for larger ships, according to Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency.
Other work will be done on the airstrip, which currently stretches nearly the full length of the 0.8-mile island. Taiwan plans to add landing lights and a refueling facility, and improve rainwater drainage, according to the Central News Agency.