Monthly Archives: May 2014

Forces loyal to rogue general storm Libya’s parliament, demand suspension

Armed men aim their weapons from a vehicle as smoke rises in the background near the General National Congress in Tripoli May 18, 2014.

Armed gunmen loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar attacked Libya’s parliament on Sunday, announcing its suspension. Forces loyal to Haftar claim to be purging the nation of Islamist militias while authorities accuse them of staging a coup.

Two people were killed and 55 others injured in the clashes in Tripoli’s city center following the attack on parliament, Reuters quoted the country’s justice minister, Saleh Mergani, as saying. The minister also called on all parties to put down their weapons and begin dialogue, according to his televised news conference.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the health ministry said up to 66 people were wounded in the fighting.

A Libyan colonel loyal to Haftar denied the move was a coup and stated that parliament has no legitimacy and should hand over power to the 60-member body that was recently elected to rewrite Libya’s constitution.

“We, members of the army and revolutionaries (former rebels), announce the suspension of the General National Congress,” Mokhtar Fernana said in a statement broadcast on two private TV channels, according to AFP.

The justice minister condemned the attack on parliament, as well as the claim that parliament’s operations had been suspended. Marghani said that Libya “condemns expression of political opinion with armed force,” adding that Haftar’s Sunday attack was not connected to his Friday assaults in Benghazi.

Details of the Sunday attack are unclear, but Haftar’s spokesman said the general’s forces were responsible, adding that the assault was part of their ‘Dignity of Libya’ campaign to rid the country of all Islamist militants.

“These are members of the Libyan National Army,” Mohamed al-Hejazi said. The Libyan National Army is the name of the irregular forces loyal to Haftar.

The Libyan National Army also rejected recently appointed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister on Sunday, according to AFP.

General Khalifa Haftar attends a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi on May 17, 2014.

Meanwhile, unknown attackers fired Grad rockets at Benghazi’s Benina Airport as clashes broke out in Libya’s second largest city early Monday, Reuters reported, citing army and security sources. Fighting was also reported in two other areas in Benghazi.

At least 70 people have been killed and 141 injured over the weekend in Benghazi in clashes between Islamist militias and army troops loyal to Haftar. The country’s authorities called the military offensive a “coup.”

Military aircraft and helicopters fighting for General Khalifa Haftar were involved in the clashes and were spotted flying over Benghazi, Libyan security officials said, as quoted by AP.

Haftar was an army commander under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi until the 1980s, when he defected. Following Gaddafi’s ouster, Haftar was appointed to rebuild the Libyan military, but was removed shortly after.

Following the ouster of Gaddafi in 2011, militias expanded in numbers, filling in the gap while Libya struggled with weak military and police forces.

Meanwhile, Libya’s parliament remains split by rivalries, with little democratic reforms made since 2011. The country is now under the rule of its third prime minister since March, and a new constitution is still not ready.

On May 5, Libya’s parliament confirmed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister. Deputy speaker Ezzedin al-Awami called the election invalid, but parliamentary president Nouri Abu Sahmain recognized the choice.

The new prime minister was elected after Abdullah al-Thinni resigned in April following an attack by gunmen on his family just one month into his term.

The prime minister before that, Ali Zeidan, escaped the country after being fired because he was unable to stop rebels from capturing oil fields.

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Self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic elects head, passes constitution

“People’s Governor” of the Lugansk Region Valery Bolotov (center) read an address to the residents of Lugansk at the rally devoted to the results of the referendum on the status of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) on May 12, 2014

The self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) elected its head and passed its own constitution on Sunday. This comes after the region held a referendum on May 11 and proclaimed itself independent from Kiev.

LNR’s state council – which acts as a temporary legislative body – has chosen Valery Bolotov as the head of the republic. The council also elected its speaker, Aleksey Karyakin, and Prime Minister – Vasily Nikitin.

Bolotov was born in Russia’s southern port city of Taganrog in 1974. He has two university degrees. He also worked his way up from a manager to the director at a meat factory. Before being elected as the head of the self-proclaimed republic, he was serving as the “people’s governor” of Lugansk region.

Deputies of the council who where elected earlier on Sunday on also adopted a temporary constitution of the Lugansk People’s Republic.

The newly elected prime minister already identified what his first steps in the office will be. “As the prime minister I will form a new government. I will announce the specific candidates later. The members of the new cabinet will be determined in the second part of the day [tomorrow],” Itar-Tass quoted Nikitin as saying.

Last weekend, Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums in which the majority of voters supported self-rule.

In Lugansk region 96.2 percent of voters supported the region’s self-rule, according to final figures announced by the local election commission. Almost 90 percent of voters in Donetsk region have endorsed political independence from Kiev.

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Russia-China ties at highest level in history – Putin

Russia-China cooperation has reached its highest level ever, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said in an interview with Chinese media on the eve of his visit to Shanghai, where a record package of documents is expected to be signed by the two nations.

Below is the full transcript of the Russian president’s interview with Chinese Central Television, Xinhua news agency, China News Service, The People’s Daily, China Radio International, and Phoenix Television.

Question: What are your expectations concerning the upcoming visit to China? What results do you expect from the Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia in Shanghai?

Vladimir Putin: I am always happy to visit hospitable China. It is a pleasure to see how our neighbour is transforming right before our eyes. Shanghai is a vivid illustration of this.

Establishing closer ties with the People’s Republic of China – our trusted friend – is Russia’s unconditional foreign policy priority.

Now Russia-China cooperation is advancing to a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction. It would not be wrong to say that it has reached the highest level in all its centuries-long history.

I am looking forward to a new meeting with President of China Xi Jinping, with whom I have good working and personal relations. We will discuss how previous agreements are being implemented and outline new objectives for the future. I am sure that the upcoming talks will give a powerful impetus to further strengthening of bilateral cooperation in all areas and deeper coordination in the international arena. The summit’s results and future plans will be reflected in the Joint Statement by the Heads of State and a strong package of documents expected to be signed during the visit.

Russia and China have actively advocated establishing a new security and sustainable development architecture in the Asia-Pacific. It should be based on the principles of equality, respect for international law, indivisibility of security, non-use of force or threat of force. Today this task is becoming increasingly important. The forthcoming Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) serves to contribute to addressing this task.

CICA is a well-established cooperation mechanism. It has been successfully working in such spheres as security, new challenges and threats, economy, environmental protection and humanitarian issues, all of which are important for the region.

Russia has taken an active part in CICA’s activities. In mid-April 2014, members of the Conference approved the Statute of the CICA Business Council sponsored by Russia. I am confident that the launch of the Council will enhance practical ties between business communities of the Asian countries.

At the upcoming summit, the Secretariats of CICA and SCO are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding. That would serve as another step towards shaping a framework of partnerships between this region’s organisations and forums.

Q: China is consistently making progress towards the “Chinese dream”, i.e. a great national rebirth. Russia has also set a goal of restoring a powerful state. How, in your opinion, could our countries interact and help each other in fulfilling these tasks? What areas can be prioritised in this regard?

VP: Promotion of friendly and good-neighbourly partnership relations is fully consistent with the interests of both Russia and China. We do not have any political issues left which could impede the enhancement of our comprehensive cooperation.

Through joint efforts, we have established a truly exemplary collaboration, which should become a model for major world powers.

It is based on respect for the fundamental interests of each other and efficient work for the benefit of the peoples of our two countries.

Russia and China successfully cooperate in the international arena and closely coordinate their steps to address international challenges and crises. Our positions on the main global and regional issues are similar or even identical.

It is encouraging that both sides are willing to further deepen their cooperation. Both Moscow and Beijing are well aware that our countries have not exhausted their potentials. We have a way to go. The priority areas of collaboration at the current stage include the expansion of economic ties and cooperation in science and high-technology sector. Such pooling of capacities is very helpful in fulfilling the tasks of domestic development of our countries.

Q: Cooperation between China and Russia has been steadily increasing, but uncertainties in global economy persist. The emerging markets are faced with new challenges and slowdown of economic growth. How can our two countries help each other to counter these challenges? How can we ensure steady increase of mutual trade and reciprocal investments?

VP: In the context of turbulent global economy, the strengthening of mutually beneficial trade and economic ties, as well as the increase of investment flows between Russia and China are of paramount importance. This is not just a crucial element of socioeconomic development of our countries, but a contribution to the efforts aimed at stabilising the entire global market.

Today, Russia firmly places China at the top of its foreign trade partners.

In 2013, the volume of bilateral trade was close to $90 billion, which is far from being the limit. We will try to increase trade turnover to $100 billion by 2015 and up to $200 billion by 2020.

Our countries successfully cooperate in the energy sector. We steadily move towards the establishment of a strategic energy alliance. A large‑scale project worth over $60 billion is underway to supply China with crude oil via the Skovorodino-Mohe pipeline.

The arrangements on export of Russian natural gas to China have been nearly finalised. Their implementation will help Russia to diversify pipeline routes for natural gas supply, and our Chinese partners to alleviate the concerns related to energy deficit and environmental security through the use of “clean” fuel.

At the same time, we are working actively to reduce dependence of bilateral trade on external market conditions. Therefore, in order to develop trade and economic cooperation we pay particular attention to the breakthrough areas such as higher energy efficiency, environmental protection, production of drugs and medical equipment, developing new information technologies, as well as nuclear energy and outer space.

We implement a list of joint projects in 40 priority areas with total investments of about $20 billion.

These areas include civil aircraft industry. An agreement has been reached on joint design of a wide-body long-range aircraft. In the future we will develop a heavy helicopter. I am sure that our companies can manufacture and supply competitive products to the world markets.

We also intend to actively develop investment cooperation, the scope of which obviously does not meet real capacities and needs of our countries yet. We have examples of successful projects. I would like to note the participation of Chinese capital in the reconstruction of an airport in the Kaluga Region and building of plants for production of automotive parts and construction materials in that Russian constituent entity.

To our mind, there are many other promising areas for investments. We can point to different branches of machine engineering, processing of agricultural products, mining operations, and development of transport and energy infrastructure.

We must also strengthen financial cooperation and protect ourselves from exchange-rate fluctuations among the world’s major currencies. Therefore, we are now considering how to increase mutual settlements in national currencies.

Q: Russia has recently announced the creation of a special economic zone in Vladivostok. What could, in your view, be the role of China in its creation and in the development of the Russian Far East as a whole?

VP: Accelerated socioeconomic development of Siberia and the Far East is one of Russia’s key national priorities for the 21st century. We are now implementing a whole package of programmes to modernise and upgrade transport, energy and social infrastructure in these regions.

We are aiming at the creation of special areas of advanced economic development with an investment-friendly environment.

Competitive conditions for launching export-oriented enterprises in non-primary sectors have been created.

In the areas of advanced development, new companies will enjoy some substantial benefits. These are tax holidays with respect to a number of taxes and reduced insurance premium rates; liberalisation of the customs regime, including free customs zones; special rules for access to land and for connecting to infrastructure facilities.

Today, the relevant federal law is being finalised. Development institutions are being created and promising centres are being selected. One of them will probably be established in Vladivostok on Russky Island where the APEC 2012 Summit took place.

Obviously, we are interested in Chinese businessmen making use of these opportunities and becoming one of the leaders here, since both Russia and China will benefit from an accelerated development of the Russian Far East.

It is important not to limit our relations to trade. It is essential to establish strong technological and industrial alliances; attract investments to the infrastructure and energy sectors; to jointly promote scientific research and humanitarian contacts; lay a solid foundation for a sustainable long-term development of our trade and economic relations. And the Russian Far East can and must become a natural venue for the said efforts.

Q: How would you rate the present level of cooperation between our countries in the humanitarian sphere and its prospects? Which projects within the framework of reciprocal theme years (national, language, tourism, youth exchanges) have impressed you most?

VP: The humanitarian contacts between Russia and China are in keeping with the steady development of the whole complex of strategic partnership relations between our countries. At the moment, their level is as high as never before. The major projects of national, language and tourism theme years in which millions of our citizens participated, have played a significant role in that.

It is noteworthy that a number of events are now being carried out on a regular basis. These are festivals of culture, film weeks, youth sports games, student festivals, camps for schoolchildren and students, fora for university principals, exhibitions of educational services and many other events.

An intergovernmental project of the Russia-China Youth Friendly Exchanges Years planned for 2014–2015 was launched this March. The performance of the recently created Russian-Chinese philharmonic youth orchestra, headed by the artistic director and principal conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre Valery Gergiev, has become a highlight of the theme years’ launch in St Petersburg.

Of course, we are not going to settle down. The mutual interest of youth in history, culture and traditions of the peoples of China and Russia is increasing. It is an objective process, and we are committed to fully supporting it in the future.

Q: In 2015, our countries will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Victory over fascism. What is the impact of joint Russian-Chinese efforts to oppose the attempts aimed at challenging the results of World War II?

VP: It is true that the attempts to rewrite and distort history are becoming more frequent.

Four years ago Russia and China adopted a Joint Statement on the 65th Anniversary of Victory in the Second World War.

We share an idea that it is unacceptable to revise the results of the war, as the consequences will be extremely grave.

It is clearly evident from the tragic events currently unfolding in Ukraine, where violent neo-Nazis are waging a real campaign of terror against civilians.

I would like to express my gratitude to our Chinese friends for cherishing the memory of thousands of our compatriots, who sacrificed their lives to liberate Northeast China from invaders.

Next year we will hold a range of joint events to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory both in the bilateral and the SCO format. During these events, youth will be in the focus of our work.

We will certainly continue to oppose attempts to falsify history, heroize fascists and their accomplices, blacken the memory and reputation of heroic liberators.

 

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24 killed in Libya clashes, authorities close Benghazi airport

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Twenty-four people were killed in Friday clashes between two militias and army troops loyal to a rogue general in Libya. The country’s authorities called the military offensive a “coup” and closed Benghazi‘s airport.

Military aircraft and helicopters fighting for General Khalifa Haftar were involved in the clashes and were spotted flying over Benghazi, Libyan security officials said, as quoted by AP.

At least 24 people have been killed and 124 wounded, AP reported, citing several health officials. However, Reuters reported that 19 people died in the unrest.

“We have closed the airport for the safety of passengers as there were clashes in the city. The airport will be reopened depending on the security situation,” Reuters quoted Ibrahim Farkash, director of Benghazi’s Benina Airport, as saying.

Haftar’s troops surrounded the bases of Islamist militia Rafallah al-Sahati and a militant group known as February 17, according to officials.

According to Haftar’s spokesman Mohammed al-Hegazi, some Libyan military units have joined the fight against the Islamist militias in an operation he called “Dignity of Libya.”

Meanwhile, the commander of the Rafallah al-Sahati brigade, Ismail al-Salabi, referred to the attack as a coup. Another commander, Fathi al-Obeidi, said Haftar’s attack is “a rebellion against revolutionaries, the state and the legitimate revolt.”

Libya’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Salam Gadallah al-Obeidi, said he will ban any military forces from entering Benghazi to join Haftar, AP reported. He described the unfolding events as a “coup.”

Meanwhile, special forces spokesman Milad al-Zowi has denied that his troops were involved, LANA news agency reported.

In the wake of the recent unrest, Algeria has sent a team of special forces to evacuate its ambassador to Libya and embassy staff in a military plane after a militant threat to its embassy, Reuters reported, citing officials and a security source.

Robert Naiman from think-tank Just Foreign Policy told RT that these types of clashes could plunge Libya into a new civil war.

“It is already the case that one part of the military is apparently not following orders from the central government. It is already the case that the central government does not control the country…that there are rival centers of military power,” Naiman said. “Until now, the central government has been tolerated by these militias, but now apparently there is a faction of the government that wants to restore central control of the country. That is sure to provoke more fighting.”

Former Libyan commander Major General Khalifa Haftar

Naiman also suggested that the troops attacking the militias might be making a power play in order to gain support from the West.

“We don’t know all the causes that are behind this, but it certainly is a striking confluence of events that the US military has announced that it positioned new forces in the region. It is also a striking confluence of events who is being attacked – militias in Benghazi. At the time when the Obama administration is under pressure to go after the groups that it judges responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” Naiman said.

“With some people calling for new authorization of military force in Libya, which the Obama administration is resisting, it certainly would be convenient from the point of view of the Obama administration if some other group of people would go after militias in Benghazi. So it may be the case, I am speculating, that in part, this group that is attacking these militias is making a play for external support.”

Following the ouster of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, militias expanded in numbers, filling in the gap while Libya struggled with weak military and police forces.

Just over a year ago, Libya lost US$1 billion due to a disruption in oil production. Violent incidents involving rival armed groups fighting over who gets to guard Libyan oil and gas facilities have become more frequent in post-Gaddafi Libya. Heavily armed militias have seized oil facilities, and local tribes have demanded revenue or jobs while blockading oil fields and sea terminals.

Haftar was an army commander under Gaddafi until the 1980s, when he defected. Following Gaddafi’s ouster, Haftar was appointed to rebuild the Libyan military, but was removed shortly after.

Meanwhile Libya’s parliament remains split by rivalries, with little democratic reforms made since 2011. The country is now under the rule of its third prime minister since March, and a new constitution is still not ready.

On May 5, Libya’s parliament confirmed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister. Deputy speaker Ezzedin al-Awami called the election invalid, but parliamentary president Nouri Abu Sahmain recognized the choice.

The new prime minister was elected after Abdullah al-Thinni resigned in April following an attack by gunmen on his family just one month into his term.

The prime minister before that, Ali Zeidan, escaped the country after being fired because he was not able to stop rebels from capturing oil fields.

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Explosions heard in Slavyansk, reports of fighting

Ukrainian soldiers and police take position at a checkpoint near the eastern Ukranian city of Slavyansk

Military action has reportedly resumed in the town of Slavyansk in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, with local residents reporting on social media loud explosions and a large number of signal bombs in the sky.

At least one self-defense activist was wounded as fighting resumed between Kiev forces and self-defense units, Hromadske TV reported, citing local residents.

“[There was a] very strong blast – it was heard in the center [of the town]. Windows are shaking on Artema Street,” one local said on social media.

“At 21:00 local time the battle began in Andreevka. The junta has artillery and is shelling from its positions on Mount Karachun. At the same time, Kiev troops delivered a blow from behind Semyonovka,” the self-defense forces of the People’s Republic of Donetsk told Politnavigator.net.

“The blast was so powerful…that I thought lightning struck a fence nearby,” one resident wrote.

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​State Dept lashes out over second Kerry subpoena to testify on Benghazi

US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The chair of House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry for the second time this month over the 2012 Benghazi consulate attack, prompting an angry rebuke from the US State Department and Democrat representatives.

Darrell Issa issued the second subpoena on Thursday for Kerry to appear on May 29 before his committee and testify on the Benghazi attack, in which four members of the US diplomatic mission, including US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, were killed. It came days after he revoked the first subpoena for May 21, which the State Department said was in conflict with the secretary’s schedule.

“I lifted the subpoena requiring Secretary Kerry to testify on May 21 because the State Department made reasonable arguments for an accommodation and told our committee they were seeking a suitable alternative date for his testimony on a voluntary basis. But soon after I lifted the subpoena, the State Department backtracked – stating publicly that we should accept ‘a more appropriate witness’ and refusing to commit to making Secretary Kerry available,” Issa said in a statement.

The State Department replied angrily to Issa’s move, branding his tweet announcing the second subpoena “a headline-grabbing, highly political” attack on “the integrity of the State Department itself.”

“This is not the way legitimate and responsible oversight is conducted, and it’s a departure from the days when Rep. Issa himself once lamented that a Secretary of State should not be distracted from the work of national security to testify at the barrel of a subpoena,” spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement.

“We will continue to work with the committee to resolve their request, but we have not made arrangements for a hearing date, and we hope to explore with them whether there are witnesses better suited to answer their questions and meet their needs for oversight.”

The Oversight Committee is one of five bodies in the House currently probing the Benghazi attack. Republican representatives voted Thursday on forming a Select Committee with an intention to merge the multiple probes into a single panel. Issa, a Republican, is not part of the select committee, and Democrats believe his second subpoena works against the Republican effort.

“Chairman Issa’s subpoena of Secretary Kerry calls into question the Republicans’ stated purpose of the Select Committee on Benghazi,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

She said “the Select Committee is a sign of no confidence in Issa just as Issa’s action today is a sign of a lack of confidence in the Select Committee.”

A similar assessment came from Elijah Cummings, senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.

“I don’t know if this is Chairman Issa’s attempt to reinsert himself into this investigation after the speaker removed him, but this looks more and more like the ‘sideshow’ and ‘circus’ Speaker Boehner said he would not tolerate,” Cummings said in a statement.

But Boehner’s office said the speaker supports Issa’s subpoena, while Issa last week defended the Select Committee idea, saying it would help focus the investigation on the White House actions in the wake of the attack.

Republicans believe that President Barack Obama administration hushed up details of the Benghazi tragedy to protect his re-election campaign. Democrats accuse the Republicans of spinning the investigation to score political points ahead of the November mid-term elections.

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Turkey mine fire: Image of aide kicking Soma protester stokes anger

Yusuf Yerkel, an aide to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, kicks a person who is being wrestled to the ground by two police officers during protests in Soma, Turkey, on Wednesday, May 14.

Soma, Turkey (CNN) — The image of an aide to Turkey‘s Prime Minister kicking a man protesting the mine disaster that has claimed nearly 300 lives has prompted outrage — and has become a symbol of the anger felt against the government.

The incident occurred as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the western city of Soma a day after the devastating mine fire.

The man, detained by special forces, can be seen lying on the ground as the suited adviser to Erdogan, identified as Yusuf Yerkel by Turkish media and CNN Turk, aims a kick at him.

The shocking image outraged many in Turkey, prompting an outpouring of anger on social media, and is seen as symbolizing the increasingly polarizing impact of Erdogan’s authority on the country.

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Operation American Spring : Militias promise to oust Obama, Boehner on Friday

A retired United States Army colonel expects as many as 30 million like-minded individuals will descend on Washington, DC this week and demand that President Barack Obama and other members of his administration be booted from office.

Those are just some of the demands that Col. Harry Riley, founder of “Operation American Spring,” said he’ll ask the Obama administration to adhere to when militia members and patriots of all sorts arrive in the nation’s capital on Friday and begin demonstrating against a government the group considers to be in violation of the principles established by the founders of the country.

“We are calling for the removal of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Eric Holder as a start toward constitutional restoration,” Riley told the Before Its News website during an interview earlier this year.

“They have all abandoned the US Constitution,” he said, and “are unworthy to be retained in a position that calls for servant status.”

Riley told Before Its News in January that he expects his Operation American Spring movement will provoke anywhere from 10 million to 30 million Americans to mobilize this week and arrive in DC, where they will participate in a “massive, gigantic effort as a last stand before America moves into a more devastating condition.”

“For more than five years, ‘we the people’ have been writing, calling, faxing Congress, the media, screaming in town halls, marching, rallying, demonstrating, petitioning, all to no avail,” he said. “Every branch of government looks at ‘we the people’ whom they have taken an oath to serve, as ‘pests,’ interfering with their political agenda, cramping their self-serving, greedy agendas. We have no faith in the ballot box any longer, as many believe this sacred secret box has been compromised.”

To bring about that change, Riley says he hopes his group succeeds at shutting down the federal government. Whether or not all 29,999,999 of his compatriots will follow through, however, remains yet to be seen — a similar protest against Pres. Obama’s administration arranged last year by a fleet of truck drivers fell well short of making the dent that that group hoped to make.

“Last October,‘10,000’ truckers were reportedly on their way to literally clog the Beltway and shut down traffic in protest of Washington politics,” Abby Ohlhiser wrote for The Wire on Thursday this week. “In reality, about 30 truckers showed up, and they caused no delays worth mentioning.”

Should Riley succeed in wrangling up 30 million Americans, Ohlhiser added, then he’ll have garnered the support of around one-tenth of the US population.

And though that goal — or the substantially smaller 10 million figure — is unlikely to be met, some individuals are already claiming on the official Operation American Spring forums to have arrived in the DC area ahead of Friday’s planned demonstration: on Thursday morning, one member of the message board wrote that his truck had already finished the 2,750 mile haul to the DC region in around 50.5 hours and had set up a base at a compound 27 miles outside of the city in rural Virginia.

“Camp is up and we have been meeting the other state camps. Good solid folks all the way around,” he wrote in another post.

According to other posts on the page, fellow Operation American Spring participants planned to meet at Arlington National Cemetery a stone’s throw from the District of Columbia on Friday morning, then march to the capital and stay there for days. Others on the forum have been attempting to arrange travel accommodations from as far away as Tucson, Arizona, Des Moines, Iowa and southeast Texas, and have been debating on the website where to camp in the DC area or whether or not to bring firearms along for the ride.

On a separate page linked from the forums, Col. Reid wrote that “One million or more of the assembled 10 million must be prepared to stay in DC as long as it takes to see Obama, Biden, Reid, McConnell, Boehner, Pelosi and Attorney General Holder removed from office.”

“We must appeal to ten million and more American patriots to come and stay in Washington, DC to stop the White House and Congress from total destruction of the United States. It’s now or never. God help us,”
he wrote.

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Violent protest clashes in Turkey after mine blast kills over 280

Riot police run away from the flames of a fire bomb thrown by protesters as they demonstrate to blame the ruling AK Party (AKP) government on the mining disaster in western Turkey, in Ankara May 14, 2014.

Riot police run away from the flames of a fire bomb thrown by protesters as they demonstrate to blame the ruling AK Party (AKP) government on the mining disaster in western Turkey, in Ankara May 14, 2014.

Clashes have erupted across Turkey as residents rally in anger at a mining accident which killed 282 people in the western Turkish town of Soma on Tuesday. Eight hundred marched on Ankara’s Energy Ministry as police fired tear gas and water cannon.

Nearly 450 miners have been rescued in the efforts.

Violent protests have been reported in Soma itself, where relatives of the dead miners are unleashing their anger at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Those who keep up with privatization… policies, who threaten workers’ lives to reduce costs… are the culprits of the Soma massacre and they must be held accountable,” Turkey’s Public Workers Unions Confederation (KESK) said on its official website. The body is one of the major national trade union centers in the country, representing 240,000 employees.

PM Erdogan visited Soma, the site of the disaster, on Wednesday. There, he was confronted with a spontaneous protest with locals booing and whistling at him as he made statements regarding the disaster at a news conference.

Erdogan visited Soma, the site of the disaster, on Wednesday.

“We have witnessed one of the biggest industrial accidents in our recent history… We as a nation of 77 million are experiencing very great pain,” he said at a news conference.

He promised that investigations will be launched into the accident, but he rejected claims that the government was to blame.

Riot police fire plastic paintball gun pellets to disperse protesters during a demonstration blaming the ruling AK Party (AKP) government for the mining disaster in western Turkey, in central Istanbul May 14, 2014.

“Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,” he said.

Erdogan said that at least 120 might still be trapped. Reports from rescue workers on the scene say the figure could be higher, said AFP. Seven hundred and eighty-seven workers had been inside the Soma mine when the explosion hit a power unit.

Proteters run from Turkish police‘s tear gas in Ankara on May 14, 2014 during a demonstration gathering hundreds after more than 200 people were killed in an explosion at a mine.

The PM was soon confronted by a spontaneous protest, with locals booing and whistling at him as he made statements regarding the disaster at a news conference. Some locals were chanting “Erdogan resign.”

Erdogan was forced to shelter in a local supermarket to escape the enraged crowds.

Clashes also erupted in Istanbul, 480km northeast of Soma where police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse several thousand demonstrators. People were gathering in the city subway and outside the headquarters of the company which owns the mine. Graffiti alleging that the company had committed murder was daubed on the walls of the Soma Holdings office, while others painted their faces black in solidarity with the miners.

A fire is seen in a street of Ankara on May 14, 2014, during a demonstration gathering hundreds after more than 200 people were killed in an explosion at a mine

In Ankara, between 3,000 and 4,000 people marched on the energy ministry yelling anti-government slogans and hurling rocks. Law enforcers responded by deploying tear gas and water cannon against the protesters.

The company stood accused of sacrificing safety for the sake of profit.

This mining corporation came out and talked about how successful they were. And then what happened? Together with this explosion, we’ve seen that no precautions were taken, the lives of the workers were not valued, and their lives were put in danger for more profit,” protester Emre Erkaslan told AP.

Riot police fire tear gas against protesters as they demonstrate to blame the ruling AK Party (AKP) government on the mining disaster in western Turkey, in Ankara May 14, 2014.

Thousands of relatives of the miners gathered outside the town’s hospital searching for information on their loved ones.

“We haven’t heard anything from any of them. Not among the injured, not among the list of dead,” a local woman, Sengul, told Reuters, “It’s what people do here, risking their lives for two cents … They say one gallery in the mine has not been reached, but it’s almost been a day.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz declared that the accident was likely to be the country’s worst ever mining disaster.

The cause of the fire is not yet clear, according to an emailed statement from the mine’s operator, Soma Komur Isletmeleri. However, “the subsequent spread of carbon monoxide is, unfortunately, the reason for the loss of life,” according to the statement.

Turkey’s last worst mining accident in recent years was a gas explosion in 1992 near the Black Sea port of Zonguldak, which left some 270 workers dead. Since then, Turkey has witnessed to several mining accidents.

Proteters clash with Turkish police in Ankara on May 14, 2014 during a demonstration gathering hundreds after more than 200 people were killed in an explosion at a mine.

Proteters clash with Turkish police in Ankara on May 14, 2014 during a demonstration gathering hundreds after more than 200 people were killed in an explosion at a mine.

Protesters run away from water canon fired by the riot police during a demonstration blaming the ruling AK Party (AKP) government for the mining disaster in western Turkey, in central Istanbul May 14

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Egyptian expats kick off presidential vote

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Egyptian expatriates in more than 140 countries on Wednesday began casting ballots in four days of voting for Egypt’s coming presidential election.

The country’s Presidential Election Committee urged Egyptians abroad to participate in the vote, which sees former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi run for Cairo’s top post.

Egyptian living in Jordan cast their ballot in the early voting for the presidential elections on May 26-27, at the Egyptian embassy in Amman, on May 15, 2014

Egyptian living in Jordan cast their ballot in the early voting for the presidential elections on May 26-27, at the Egyptian embassy in Amman, on May 15, 2014

The commission said in a televised statement on Wednesday that additional polling stations were opened in countries with more Egyptian expatriates.

The official spokesman of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Badr Abdul Ati said that voter turnout was “heavy” especially in Asian countries.

Salah Youssef, the general coordinator for Egyptians abroad, said the voter turnout is expected to increase through the weekend.

In Saudi Arabia, home to Egypt’s largest expatriate community, Al Arabiya correspondent reported long queues before the polling stations in Riyadh.

Egyptian ambassador to Kuwait told Egypt’s state TV that voting there was going “smooth and without problems.”

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In Dubai, Egypt’s General Consular Sharif al-Badawi said voting was “heavy.” He said the cancellation of the prior registration requirement for voting “gave the opportunity for many to participate in the elections.”

Egyptian living in Jordan cast their ballot in the early voting for the presidential elections on May 26-27, at the Egyptian embassy in Amman, on May 15, 2014.

Egyptian living in Jordan cast their ballot in the early voting for the presidential elections on May 26-27, at the Egyptian embassy in Amman, on May 15, 2014.

Nearly 6-8 million Egyptians live abroad, according to estimated official figures. But only 600,000 expats have registered to vote in the presidential elections.

Voters are required to register their names in voter lists using their national IDs or passports, the committee said.

An Egyptian national residing in Lebanon casts her vote in her country's presidential elections at a polling station at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut on May 15, 2014.

An Egyptian national residing in Lebanon casts her vote in her country’s presidential elections at a polling station at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut on May 15, 2014.

The four-day expat vote ends on May 18 and the presidential vote is scheduled to open at home on 26-27 May.

Sisi is widely expected to garner the highest amount of votes.

Egyptian nuns residing in Lebanon arrive to cast their vote in Egypt's presidential elections at a polling station at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut on May 15,

Egyptian nuns residing in Lebanon arrive to cast their vote in Egypt’s presidential elections at a polling station at the Egyptian embassy in Beirut on May 15,

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