Some of those rescued from the Algerian hostage crisis have begun to speak. But the crisis is still not over.
** QUICK HITS. The Algerian hostage crisis is still going on, despite yesterday’s raid by the Algerian military, with an unknown number of hostages still in the hands of an unknown number of jihadists, some of whom are still in the sprawling BP natural gas complex attacked yesterday under still murky circumstances by Algerian special forces, and some having perhaps made their way elsewhere. I hope this is vague enough for you, 36 hours after the rescue mission was launched. … At least one American was killed during the Algerian rescue mission, Texan Frederick Buttaccio. More Americans remain in terrorist hands, though the number is unclear. … The jihadists are demanding the release of two terrorists imprisoned in the US, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, a mastermind of the 1993 Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center, and US-educated neuro-scientist Aafia Siddiqui, convicted of attempting to murder American officials in 2008 after she was detained in Afghanistan. US officials noted again today that the US does not negotiate with terrorists. … House Republicans, caught between a rock and a hard place (both set up by the president), are caving in to President Barack Obama on the debt ceiling issue, agreeing to extend it for three months without anything in return. Of course, they will find themselves in the same place three months down the line, unless they believe in the power of PR miracles. … Governor Jerry Brown is not attending the Second Obama Inaugural. While some of the political world will be focused on Washington this coming Monday, Brown will be attending the funeral for Police Officer Kevin Tonn in Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento approaching the Sierra foothills. … University of California President Mark Yudoff announced his retirement today, effective August 31. A controversial figure, Yudof, who was not much of a public spokesman for UC, will have been president for five years, and gets a snazzy retirement package in addition to a teaching gig at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school.
** NEW SURVEY: EQUAL DISSATISFACTION WITH BIG CORPORATIONS AND BIG GOVERNMENT. A new Gallup Poll survey indicates major dissatisfaction with both big private and public institutions. Call it a crisis of institutions, a loss of faith in dominant forces in American life.
Yet the US Armed Forces are very highly regarded, as are federal agencies such as NASA, the FBI, and the Center for Disease Control.
The computer industry is also very highly regarded, distinguished from the rest of Corporate America and Wall Street.
Americans continue to be worried about the effects of big companies and big government, with 35% saying they are very or somewhat satisfied with the size and influence of major corporations, and 36% saying they are very or somewhat satisfied with the size and power of the federal government. Both of these levels of satisfaction are up slightly from the last two years, but significantly below satisfaction levels recorded in the early years of the last decade, when satisfaction with government was generally higher than satisfaction with major corporations. …
Attitudes toward the size, influence, and power of major corporations and the federal government directly relate to Americans’ politics. Democrats are more satisfied with the federal government and less so with major corporations, while Republicans show the opposite pattern. Still, even among Republicans, who traditionally have been the most supportive of big business, less than half say they are satisfied with the size and influence of major corporations. …
More than 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with the size and power or influence of major corporations and the federal government, highlighting the broadly negative reaction people have to “big” things in American society — at least on first brush. These reactions attest to the public relations challenges these entities face as they go about their business. …
** HOW NOT TO STAGE MANAGE THE WORLD. The new war in Mali and the subsequent hostage crisis in Algeria give us tellingly pointed reminders of the stark limits not only to our power, but to our knowledge.
With regard to the hostage crisis in Algeria, we’ve been remarkably uninformed. With regard to the war in Mali, it turns out that soldiers trained by our special forces to help stabilize the country have done much to create the crisis we were trying to avoid.
More than 24 hours after Algerian forces raided the BP natural gas facility seized by jihadists in the Sahara Desert, we still have no comprehensive report on what happened or, crucially, the fate of dozens of Western hostages, including seven or more reported Americans. U.S. officials have struggled to gain basic information about events on the ground, including how many American hostages were in play.
It looked to me late yesterday like it would fall to British Prime Minister David Cameron to lay it all out in a planned appearance this morning before the House of Commons in London. Cameron cancelled a long-planned address on the future of the European Union scheduled for Friday to deal with this crisis.
However, Cameron left as many questions dangling as answers provided.
He complained yesterday that Algeria — which has fought a ruthless and effective war against Islamists and may want to send a message about messing with its energy industry — moved on the facility without consulting or notifying the UK, which has a great deal of experience in special operations.
Other Western countries, including the U.S., also were not consulted. Japanese officials protested publicly and vehemently, insisting that the operation be suspended as it was underway.
U.S. media outlets, like the Obama administration, are lagging in providing information on all this. Perhaps that is because jihadists are demanding that the U.S. release two convicted terrorists in American prisons in exchange for remaining American hostages. And perhaps this is a dramatic example of our profound lack of knowledge.
Meanwhile, France continues ramping up its forces in Mali, their intervention there the express reason, according to the hostage-takers, for the hostage crisis in Algeria. Promised West African troops are just now beginning to move, but it will be several days at least before any can be pressed into service next to the French and Malian government troops fighting jihadists in the desert.
New French Socialist President Francois Hollande is rushing ground troops into the landlocked and impoverished African nation, with nearly 3,000 French troops slated to be on the ground. …
s we weigh our options, we would do well to consider that we have already screwed up there.
For it turns out that we already have a checkered past in Mali, the former French colony which few Americans have heard of and where we have remarkably little history. The counter-insurgency doctrine which has been much in vogue for most of the past decade was in use in Mali for the past several years, with U.S. Special Forces trainers trying to spin up the Malian military.
As Mali underwent a complex series of insurrections last year, involving a few factions, including mostly secular Tuareg ethnic militants and vehemently Islamist insurgents now busily instituting harsh sharia law in their occupied territories, several U.S.-trained units defected from the government ranks, joining the insurrectionists.
Then a U.S.-trained Malian Army captain, at the crucial moment, led a military coup that crippled the democratically-elected government’s ability to respond to Islamist moves. …
Bernice King, youngest daughter of civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. says President Barack Obama’s use of her father’s bible during inauguration will be an affirmation of MLK’s work.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … HOW NOT TO STAGE MANAGE THE WORLD.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama has no scheduled public events today.
He is of course prepping for his 2nd Inaugural Address on Monday.
And there are several other matters on his desktop.
More than 24 hours after Algerian forces raided the BP natural gas facility seized by jihadists, we still have no comprehensive report on what happened or, crucially, the fate of dozens of Western hostages, including seven or more reported Americans.
It looked to me late yesterday like it would fall to British Prime Minister David Cameron to lay it all out in a planned appearance this morning in London. Cameron cancelled a long-planned address on the future of the European Union scheduled for Friday to deal with this crisis.
However, Cameron left as many questions dangling as answers provided.
He complained yesterday that Algeria moved on the facility without consulting or notifying the UK, which has a great deal of experience in special operations.
US media outlets, like the Obama Administration, are lagging in providing information on all this. Perhaps that is because jihadists are demanding that the US release two convicted terrorists in American prisons in exchange for some American hostages.
A small group of jihadists are still holding part of the Ain Amenas natural gas plant in eastern Algeria, where they are surrounded by government forces after a fierce battle that reportedly cost the lives of some 30 hostages.
Reports from the remote desert region said that about 60 foreign contractors at the site have still not been accounted for, following the surprise Algerian assault on the hostage-takers on Thursday. However, it was impossible to confirm that figure independently.
David Cameron told the House of Commons this morning that “quite significantly” fewer than 30 British citizens were still at risk. The Guardian understands the actual total of those unaccounted for may be less than half that figure.
“We are still dealing with a fluid and dangerous situation where a part of the terrorist threat has been eliminated in one part of the site, but there still remains a threat in another part,” the prime minister said.
Radio France’s correspondent in Algeria reported that between seven and 10 attackers armed with explosives were still in the Ain Amenas plant’s machine room.
Later two unnamed British men who were said to have been in the compound during the siege gave interviews on Algerian television about their experience. “I think they did a fantastic job,” one man said. “I was very impressed with the Algerian army.
“It was a very exciting episode. I feel sorry for anybody who has been hurt but, other than that, I enjoyed it.”
A second man said: “The gendarmes did a fantastic job. They kept us all nice and safe and fought off the bad guys. I never really felt in any danger, to be honest.”
The Algerian Press Service quoted a security official as saying: “[The army] is still trying to achieve a ‘peaceful outcome’ before neutralising the terrorist group that is holed up in the [facility] and freeing a group of hostages still being held.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking this morning at the House of Commons in London, says that Algerian forces are pursuing terrorists and possibly hostages, following an attack on a gas plant.
Japan said three of its nationals had escaped but 10 were still not accounted for. The US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, who met the prime minister in London, said “somewhere in the vicinity” of seven or eight Americans had been taken hostage. The Norwegian government said one of its citizens escaped from the gas complex overnight and was recovering in hospital, but that it did not know the fate of eight others. …
Meanwhile, French and Malian forces report capturing the key town of Konna, the fall of which last Thursday triggered France’s sudden intervention on Friday.
Obama is monitoring several other geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: West Africa is eight hours ahead of Pacific time, the Persian/Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown spent a second day on Thursday at the University of California Board of Regents meeting, getting to know university leadership and seeking to win them over to his general point of view after winning support Wednesday for his plan to to introduce online courses to the curriculum mix.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Finance found major problems at the Public Utilities Commission in an audit of its financial practices. The audit characterized the situation as one of “general confusion and lack of knowledge,” including an $81 million typographical error and poor forecasting on consumer programs.
The PUC has been under fire since the disastrous natural gas explosion in the Bay Area city of San Bruno in 2010.
** POWELL POSITIONS THE DEBATE OVER CHUCK HAGEL. … From my January 14th essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S NEW BUDGET FOR POST-CRISIS CALIFORNIA: DISCIPLINE BEGETS OPPORTUNITY. … From my January 11th essay.
** WHY THE HAGEL BATTLE MADE MORE SENSE FOR OBAMA THAN THE RICE BATTLE. …
From my January 9th essay.
** CALIFORNIA’S FUTURIST AGENDA: A TALE OF THREE GOVERNORS. … From my January 4th essay.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new film, The Last Stand, opens today around North America. It’s garnered mostly positive reviews.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $95 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $61 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $19 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum. You can send me a private tip by clicking on the “Contact” button in the upper right.