TRIPOLI, Libya — In coffee shops, in their homes and on the streets, Libyans bemoan the struggles for power and money that have prevented their country from developing into a secure and functioning state since rebels declared victory on Oct. 23, 2011.
Two years after the capture and death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a new saying has emerged in Libya: “Before we only had one Gaddafi, but now we have hundreds.”
As GlobalPost chatted to locals in the streets of Tripoli, all complained of the current situation, but none openly showed any love of their former ruler.
“I’m glad we got rid of Gaddafi of course, but it’s tough now,” said banker Taher Giuma. “Libya is ruled by militias who enforce their agenda on the government, but I hope it will improve in time.”
After Gaddafi: Two years on, Libyans don’t have much to celebrate
Analysis: Jury’s out on Libya? At least it’s not Syria
GlobalPost Flashback: Gaddafi’s capture and death (VIDEO)
Photos by AFP/Getty Images
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'Look, France, we know you're mad about us bugging your lines, but that's not how it went down. Just listen to us. Sorry, bad choice of words.’ That’s Washington to Paris right now after allegations surfaced this week that US spies had been recording tens of millions of phone calls made by French citizens.
What the papers described, what the French government decried, what the US ambassador was summoned to awkwardly explain — that wasn’t an accurate picture, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said. He declined to say what was instead the case, only that the claim that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million recordings of French citizens’ telephone data is “false.” (It was actually 80 million! Jokes.) Refusing to reveal what they do collect, however, isn’t likely to appease France’s furie: President Francois Hollande plans to raise the issue of Washington’s surveillance at a European Union summit tomorrow, where he hopes new rules on how much the US can spy on her allies will be set.
After Gaddafi. It’s two years to the day since Libyan rebels declared the defeat of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship. Today, as Libyans mark their third ever Victory Day, how much reason is there to celebrate? In Tripoli, people will tell you there’s a common refrain on the streets of the new Libya: “Before we only had one Gaddafi, but now we have hundreds.”
It’s pretty obvious that Libya’s not perfect, but hey — at least it’s not Syria. Here’s are a few reasons to be cheerful about Libya after Gaddafi, and why the US needs to listen up.
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Bye bye, bishop of bling. A big-spending German cleric who became infamous for allegedly lying about how much he dropped has been suspended by his higher-ups in the Catholic Church.
Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Bishop of Limburg, was on a collision course with the Vatican and its frugal new occupant after reportedly spending more than $40 million renovating his official residence and flying first-class to visit the needy in India. Now his bosses have deemed it “appropriate” that he take an undefined period of leave. Unpaid, we should hope.
Did the Boston bomber have form? The late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, elder of the brothers Tsarnaev and along with the younger Dzhokhar accused of detonating homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line, has been linked to the murders of three men found stabbed in Massachusetts in September 2011.
According to papers filed by prosecutors making the case against his brother, one of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s acquaintances — since shot dead — that Tsarnaev had helped kill the three men, one of them a close friend of his, for reasons connected to drugs. There’s no question of charging him, of course; he was killed on the run from police. The accusations against him will serve only to determine how much information is made available to lawyers now defending his younger brother, the sole remaining suspect in the Boston attack.
Some things don’t need sharing. Like videos of gruesome deaths, for instance. Facebook has finally come to the same conclusion after drawing flak for its decision to allow its users to upload and access recordings of extreme violence— including, in one stomach-churning instance, a clip of a woman being beheaded.
The social network had defended its policy on the grounds that anything that didn’t explicitly glorify gore was alright by them. Various concerned users, the UK prime minister and even its own safety advisors said that was shirking its responsibilities. Now, to the disappointment of snuff video enthusiasts and precisely no one else, Facebook has dropped the decapitation and agreed to toughen its community standards to ensure that graphic content is viewable only with an appropriate warning, and only by an appropriate audience. You’ll still never see boobs on there, though, no sir. We have to draw the line somewhere.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Everything that wobbles ain’t good. The world’s oceans got jelly, and we’re not talking the fruity kind. Scientists say jellyfish are reproducing too much and not dying enough. They’re clogging up power plants. They’re messing with fishing hauls. They’re making swimming in the sea a no-go.
Hey, we don’t blame them. Who can bear a grudge against a brainless, heartless, eatin’-and-reproducin’ machine with mouth arms? (Mouth arms that’ll sting you, take note.) Really, we hapless humanoids are the ones messing up the underwater ecosystems that would otherwise keep their population in check. And as our punishment: the jellyfish are coming, to kill or at least mildly discomfort us. Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know — and some stuff you probably didn’t — about our future blobby overlords.
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It’s been a busy morning for Libya’s prime minister. No sooner was the world alerted that Ali Zeidan had been snatched at gunpoint from a Tripoli hotel than the news came that he was free.
Confused? Well, so are the people who took him. A group of former rebels — now paid by the interior ministry to provide security, or at the very least not to sow insecurity — says they were ordered to do it by the prosecutor general, after it came out that Zeidan’s government had known about the US raid to capture a Libyan terror suspect in Tripoli at the weekend. The justice ministry swiftly denied that was the case; though interior ministry officials said Zeidan was being held at the ministry’s anti-crime department. His release was apparently secured when other former rebels went to the site and began firing their guns. You see, it’s clear as mud.
If all that sounds like a shambles — it is. Observers say that today’s drama, more than any other, speaks to the chaos that reigns in post-revolution Libya.
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Egypt goes it alone. Or at least, without some of the hefty sums of US aid it’s grown accustomed to receiving for much of the past 40 years. Following Washington’s announcement, yesterday, that it was suspending certain deliveries of military systems and cash amid Egypt’s political crisis, the country’s interim leaders have denounced the decision as “wrong.”
"Egypt will not surrender to American pressure and is continuing its path towards democracy as set by the roadmap," a spokesman for the foreign ministry said today. Whether that path leads to democracy or not, Egypt’s unelected government will still be accompanied on it by US military support for counterterrorism and security in the Sinai Peninsula, as well as funding for education, health and private sector development.
The loneliness of the long-distance whistleblower. It’s not easy finding yourself on the wrong side of the West’s most powerful governments. (Just ask Julian Assange, whose converted bathroom inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London is looking pretty snug after nigh on 16 months.) Lucky for Edward Snowden, then, that his Russian hosts allow his family to visit — even if they do get followed while they’re doing it.
Lon Snowden, father of the US intelligence leaker, arrived in Moscow today to see his son for the first time since he dumped his confidential National Security documents and hightailed it out of the States. There was no sign of the more infamous Snowden at the airport (he must be sick of the sight of the place), but his father and his lawyer say they’ll be discussing the fugitive’s options with him — including extending his one-year asylum permit in Russia. “I’m not sure that my son will be returning to the US,” says Snowden Sr. With a possible 30-year prison sentence hanging over your head, would you?
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Vote-rigging for dummies: at least wait for the polls to open before you publish the results. You wouldn’t think there’d be much you could teach Azerbaijan’s long-time President Ilham Aliyev about the route to election success by now. After all, he’s enjoyed two landslide victories already — and his father before him had two under his belt himself. And yet, the latest President Aliyev still made a schoolboy error this time round: before a single vote had been cast in yesterday’s vote, Azerbaijan’s election commission over hastily published a “count” giving him more than 70 percent of the vote.
The figures, published prematurely on the commission’s mobile app, ended up doing Aliyev a disservice. Wouldn’t you know, he ended up with 92 percent according to exit polls! The app’s developers claim the numbers simply represented pre-vote surveys, rather than Aliyev’s favorite figures — but given everything else we hear about him and his “elections,” we’d say that story’s about as believable as, oh, a notorious autocrat being the top pick of 92 percent of his subjects.
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Egypt’s resurgent insurgents. At least five soldiers are dead after a series of attacks on Egyptian security forces. Gunmen opened fire on troops as they patrolled the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya; the same morning, a huge car bomb rocked a security headquarters in the southern Sinai.
The strikes come the day after more than 50 people were killed when police confronted protesters who’d converged to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, which this year became an occasion for supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi to denounce the military that deposed him and call for his return. The most violent crackdown on protesters in weeks, followed by some of the worst attacks on security forces? The link between the two isn’t clear; but many fear that the turmoil in Cairo is fueling the insurgency in Sinai, and vice versa.
'Legal and appropriate.' That’s how the US describes its raid on Libya this weekend that saw American special forces snatch an alleged Al Qaeda operative from outside his home in Tripoli. Libya, unsurprisingly, takes a different view.
The Libyan prime minister has called the capture of his countryman Anas al Liby, who’s wanted in connection with the bombing of US embassies in East Africa in 1998, a “kidnapping.” PM Ali Zeidan says he’ll demand an explanation from the US, suggesting that his government wasn’t informed — let alone consulted — about the operation beforehand. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is.) US Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, says Liby is “a legal and an appropriate target for the US military” who’ll now face justice in a court of law. But with raids like this one seemingly becoming more common — remember, the Libyan operation was just one of two this weekend — Kerry and his colleagues will have to get used to answering these and trickier questions.
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Red alert in China. The deceptively named Typhoon Fitow— its alias is a type of flower — slammed into China’s southeast coast early today, killing at least two people and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
With winds of up to 93 miles per hour and as much as 11 inches of rainfall in some areas, Fitow has wreaked more than $330 million of damage so far. The storm is forecast to weaken as it heads inland, but for the moment, authorities have placed the region on highest alert.
It’s that time of year again: Nobel season is upon us. Kicking us off is the Nobel Prize for Medicine, which has just gone jointly to two American scientists, James Rothman and Randy Schekman, and their German colleague Thomas Suedhof for “discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic.” (You know… cells… and stuff.) Richly deserved, we’re sure, even if we couldn’t quite tell you why.
No offense to Chemistry, Physics, Economics and even Literature, but this year more than any other what everyone’s really waiting for is Peace. After some less than inspiring winners in recent years, will the jury pick the laureate everyone loves (unless you’re the Taliban, andeven then it’s a struggle) in the form of Pakistan’s education rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai? And should they? Or is 16 years old simply too young to be the world’s best hope for global harmony? We’ll find out Friday morning.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Are the Greek gods trying to tell us something? No sooner had the Olympic flame arrived in Russia for the Sochi Winter Games than it went out. Call it divine judgment, call it Siberian gusts, but video of this weekend’s torch relay in Moscow shows the, ahem, eternal light flickering out as it passes through the Kremlin gates. (Not for long, though, since one pragmatic security guard quickly steps in to rekindle the sacred flame… with his lighter. Well, it’s a lot simpler than all that business with a parabolic mirror.)
Such blips are to be expected if you will insist on parading a naked flame through town, but in this case the timing is every symbolist’s dream. The Olympic torch extinguished, right as it enters the seat of the government that’s made the Sochi Games the most controversial in decades? Who wouldn’t imagine a riposte to the architects of Russia’s ban on “promoting” homosexuality by the original non-conventional family themselves, the gods of Mount Olympus? The Games haven’t even begun, but we’ll chalk this one up as Olympic spirit 1, Putin 0.
GlobalPost correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky remembers Ambassador Chris Stevens:
Chris was impressive as hell. In many of the shocked, initial articles that were published when he died Chris appears as a utopian figure: the son of musicians, a young guy who served in the Peace Corps before embarking on a life-long career representing his nation in one of the most problematic parts of the world. All that is true.
He was also experienced, open-eyed and smart, with nothing green about the gills or naïve about him. He loved this region and its peoples and languages, but he was anything but guileless.
On the anniversary of Chris Stevens’ death, the region he loved is in turmoil
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I say intervention, you say diplomacy… let’s call the whole thing off. US President Barack Obama has postponed a vote by Congress on whether to authorize the use of force in Syria, while the world examines whether there isn’t a less air-strike-y solution to the crisis. In a televized address to the nation last night, Obama said he was willing to wait and see if a Russian proposal to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons produced verifiable results — but would be keeping the military on standby nonetheless.
The thing is, there’s not much to verify right now. The closest thing to a concrete proposal so far was the draft UN resolution submitted to the Security Council by France, only to be shot down by — you guessed it — Russia. Apparently Moscow didn’t like the clause about Syria declaring its full chemical stockpile within 15 days or facing consequences. So how else can we be sure that the Syrian government will comply? And what would Russia rather see instead? As the world clings to the magic solution that has yet to prove it’s not just illusion, GlobalPost rounds up who wants what — and what they’ll do to get it.
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The worst anniversary. For 11 years, September 11 was the day that Americans remembered the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil. But in 2012, the day acquired an extra, terrible weight: when armed militants assaulted the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, it also became the day of one of the worst — and most divisive — terrorist attacks on Americans abroad.
Twelve years after the World Trade Center attacks, and one year on from the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, the region so closely bound up with both events and their aftermath, the Middle East, is in turmoil. (Just this morning, a car bomb targeted a Libyan foreign ministry building in Benghazi.) It’s no coincidence. On America’s darkest day, GlobalPost traces the long shadow from 9/11 to today’s Syria, and remembers the man who would have understood it better than anyone: late US Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The Delhi four await their fate. The men convicted yesterday of fatally gang-raping a 23-year-old woman aboard a Delhi bus are in limbo. Hate figures for most of India, victims of a miscarriage of justice according to their lawyers, the four are waiting to learn what their punishment will be. Sentencing hearings began today, and adjourned with the judge saying their fate would be pronounced on Friday.
It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death: the prosecution has, as demanded by the victim’s family, demanded that they be hanged. The next hearing is due on Friday afternoon.
Save the rainforest. Please. There’s added urgency to the plea now that newly released satellite pictures suggest that Brazil’s deforestation of the Amazon has rocketed in the past year. If the data is confirmed, it’s proof that more than 1,000 square miles — an area more than twice the size of Los Angeles — was stripped of trees between August 2012 and July 2013.
That’s particularly worrying since Brazil was meant to be a good news story: just last year, Amazon deforestation was shown to be at a record low after a concerted effort to rein in the loggers, farmers and miners who value land over trees. If Brazil has dropped its guard, that achievement will prove short-lived.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Need to escape a hungry polar bear? There’s an app for that. We’re not sure what one lucky Canadian did with his cellphone to make a looming predator scamper off but whatever it was, someone patent it, quick. Garett Kolsun, 40, claims to have fought off a 300-pound polar bear in the streets of Canada’s “bear capital” of Churchill, Manitoba, by whipping out his device just long enough to distract the beast and make a run for it. (Beat that, iPhone 5S.)
Kolsun indeed escaped, though not unharmed. “I heard he was bit in the ass,” one laconic Churchillian said. Hey, what do you expect if you whoop a polar bear at Angry Birds?
In Focus: Libya’s Long, Slow Recovery
Nearly two years since the overthrow of the dictator Moammar Qaddafi, Libyans are still struggling to return to normal lives. A temporary national assembly just cleared the way for a new constitution to be drafted by the end of this year. Some of the rebel militia groups who banded together to oust Qaddafi have donned uniforms and become members of the police and army of the new government. Other rebel groups have maintained independence, clashing with those who seek unity under rule of law. The economy continues to suffer: Oil production is way down, and tourism has nearly evaporated. But foreign aid has increased, reconstruction in Benghazi has picked up, and Libya is bidding to host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament.
TRIPOLI, Libya — “I have waited my whole life for tomorrow, which will be a new day for Libya,” an elated Haja Nowara told Human Rights Watch on the eve of Libya’s first democratic national elections in July 2012. “We sacrificed a lot to get here.”
We met Nowara as she held a lonely vigil in the square outside the courthouse in Benghazi, where she had spent many evenings supporting the revolution since early 2011. She proudly displayed her voter registration card around her neck and waved Libya’s new national flag while people approached her to pay their respects. She had become an icon due to her steadfast participation in the protests that started the revolt that eventually led to the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi.
Commentary: Women face challenges as Libya moves toward a new constitution
Samer Muscati and Hanan Salah of Human Rights Watch
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
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Afghanistan blast. A suicide bomber blew up an explosives-laden Toyota Corolla next to a NATO-led convoy of armored vehicles in the southeast of Kabul this morning. It was the first major attack on the Afghan capital in two months.
At least six Afghan civilians were killed, including two children, and more than 30 people injured in the powerful blast that destroyed several mud-built houses in the area. There are unconfirmed reports that US nationals died in the attack.
An insurgent group linked to the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami, claimed responsibility for the attack and said the intended target was American advisers.
Texas twisters. At least six people are dead after a tornado ripped through a town in Texas, local officials have said, destroying hundreds of houses including many built by the non-profit group Habitat for Humanity.
The tornado that tore through Granbury, about 70 miles west of Dallas, was one of three to hit northern Texas late last night. Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds warned the death toll could rise as daybreak approaches and rescue teams search the area.
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Malarial mosquitoes follow their noses. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have found that mosquitoes carrying malaria are more attracted to us smelly humans than non-malarial ones are.
Those carrying the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum visited a fabric covered with a person’s sweat three times as frequently, the researchers found. Plasmodium’s ability to manipulate its hosts could help explain its ability to infect so many people.
However, the researchers don’t know how the parasite manipulates mosquitoes’ sense of smell. Nor is it clear what it is about human odor that is so attractive to the infected mosquitoes.
The Benghazi files. Faced with criticism over its handling of the crisis, the White House has released nearly 100 pages of documents and emails regarding the response to the terror attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff last year.
The CIA drafted “talking points” for US politicians to use with media in the days following the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, last September, the newly released documents show.
Will this put an end to persistent accusations that the Obama administration fumbled the incident? Probably not. Even with the release, Republicans say they still have unanswered questions, including the handling of the investigation into the Benghazi attacks by the Accountability Review Board.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Cat sushi. Yes, cat sushi. A new ad campaign by a peanut company in Japan has people wondering what kind of hallucinatory drugs were needed to create this idea.
Nut company Tange & Nakimushi created a series of photos of cats transformed into sushi, and a video inventing a bizarre back story. Even the cats look surprised at what they’ve been asked (forced) to do.
Odd? Very, but not out of line for Japan, which is after all the home of Cat Prin — a “cat tailor” whose costumes include the “frog transformation set” and the “Anne of Green Gables is under cleaning” cat wig.
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Diplomatic nonimmunity in Libya. France’s embassy in Tripoli was car-bombed early this morning, in what authorities are calling a terrorist attack.
Two French guards were injured and part of the embassy destroyed by the explosion outside the mission compound, a blast powerful enough to blow out windows more than 200 yards away. It’s thought to be the first major attack on any foreign mission in Tripoli (though not, of course, in Benghazi), and France called it “odious.” President Francois Hollande has urged the Libyan government to hunt down the perpetrators of what he says is an assault on “all countries in the international community engaged in the fight against terrorism.”
Remaining silent. US federal prosecutors have now filed charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old naturalized American they accuse of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing in collusion with his since-killed brother. So we know what they believe he did, but not why he might have done it.
Tsarnaev hasn’t yet proved able or willing to answer that pressing question; seriously injured in hospital, the only word he’s recorded to have said to authorities so far is “no” (when asked if he could afford a lawyer).
As police search for means and motive, GlobalPost is following the investigation from Boston to Chechnya and beyond. Find our full coverage here.
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From bomb plots to foiled plots. Two men are due in court in Canada this morning, charged with conspiring to derail a passenger train somewhere between Toronto and New York. Canadian police say their year-long investigation suggests the suspects were backed by “Al Qaeda elements in Iran.”
The US has long alleged that the Iranian government, despite belonging to the Shia branch of Islam that’s naturally at odds with Al Qaeda’s Salafist ideology, tolerates the terrorist group’s presence. Tehran, however, has always denied those accusations and now dismisses these latest claims as part of a campaign of Iranophobia by “Canada’s radical government.” Which, we’ll bet, is the first time anyone called Canada that.
Contracted pupils. Foaming at the mouth. These are sure signs, according to Israeli military intelligence, that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are using chemical weapons against the people of Syria.
The government’s army has fired what’s suspected to be the deadly nerve agent sarin at rebel forces “on a number of occasions in the past few months,” Israel’s top intelligence analyst, Brigadier-General Itai Brun, said today. The charge has long been rumored but never yet confirmed; if it is, the US has said, it will be “a game-changer.”
STRANGE BUT TRUE
From Portland to Pyongyang. The “third wave of coffee,” it seems, has reached all the way to North Korea. Visitors to the capital report there’s a new coffee shop in town, and it serves the specialty, artisan brews you’d expect from your local independent roastery.
Those who’ve been recommend the espresso (“bursting with nutty flavors,” apparently). At around $3.50 a cup in a country plagued by famine, it had better be good.