themcglynn.com

22 Feb

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

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The dead & suffering children of Iraq.

Video From Ten Years Ago

The War Criminals

The war criminals of the Bush regime lied and fabricated evidence to go to war.

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Powell are war criminals and today they are enjoying freedom.

The thousands dead, the region in chaos, the creation of Islamic State and the trillions of dollars cost and for what? The worst of all is that they were so desperate for war that they had no plans for peace.

So where are the protests and demonstrations today in the US to bring Bush, Chaney, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld to Justice? There are none. There has been none. And now the US people ask – why do we have so many enemies and why do peoples from other cultures hate us?


Shaima Naif’s daughter, Jannat, who was killed in Mosul

We condemned children to death, some after many days of writhing in pain on bloodstained mats, without pain relievers. Some died quickly, wasted by missing arms and legs, crushed heads. As the fluids ran out of their bodies, they appeared like withered, spoiled fruits. They could have lived, certainly should have lived – and laughed and danced, and run and played- but instead they were brutally murdered. Yes, murdered!

The war ended for those children, but it has never ended for survivors who carry memories of them. Likewise, the effects of the U.S. bombings continue, immeasurably and indefensibly.

The McGlynn

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War News

REU: At least 15 dead in air strike in northern Yemen: residents

DUBAI (Reuters) – At least 15 people were killed in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition air strike in northern Yemen, residents said.

They said the aircraft hit two cars transporting passengers and a truck on a main road south of the Saada provincial capital. They said 15 people died in the strike while several others were wounded.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition could not immediately be reached to comment on the report.

The coalition – which has intervened in Yemen in 2015 against Iran-aligned Houthis who had ousted the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – says it does not target civilians.

Residents said the explosions damaged the main road linking the capital Sanaa and the northern province of Saada, where the Houthi tribe which controls much of northern Yemen comes from…………..The Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and put the country on the verge of famine.

Read full story »

NYT: Who Has Innocent Syrians’ Blood on Their Hands?

It is now tragically apparent that degrading the Islamic State has not created an opening for peace in Syria. Instead, the country’s vicious president, Bashar al-Assad, and his enablers in Russia and Iran have exploited the battlefield successes against ISIS to unleash a new round of carnage on civilians, as the leaders of the United States and other world powers largely stand by, unwilling or unable to do anything to stop it. Shame on them all.

The Assad-led bombardment of eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb of about 400,000 people and one of the last rebel-held areas, is being called one of the most violent episodes of the seven-year war. Since Sunday at least 310 people, many of them children, have been killed. That’s in addition to nearly 500,000 Syrians killed countrywide since 2011.

Ghouta has been under siege for years, although it’s technically part of a negotiated de-escalation zone, leaving the district facing chronic shortages of food, medicine, medical personnel and other necessities.

This week’s massive attack — which has involved rocket fire, shelling, airstrikes and helicopter-dropped barrel bombs that struck hospitals and other civilian infrastructure — intensified the misery. It seems intended to force rebels to surrender so the government can reclaim the territory. Most of the civilian casualties resulted from airstrikes on residential areas, the United Nations’ human rights office said. There have been signs that a government ground assault may soon follow………………This week, as reports of new Syrian casualties rolled in, aid groups and political leaders once again condemned, lamented and called for action. Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency, may have been more honest. Unable to muster more bromides, it issued a statement saying only, “No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones.”

Read full story »

AP: The Latest: Group says Syria death toll tops 100 for the day

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria

A monitoring group says the death toll from government shelling and airstrikes outside Damascus has exceeded 100 people for the second straight day.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 106 people have been killed under the government’s ferocious bombardment of the capital’s rebel-held Eastern Ghouta suburb region.

It says the toll from two days of shelling and airstrikes has reached 250 killed and over 1,000 maimed and wounded.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, which runs hospitals and clinics in Syrian opposition areas, says it has recorded 115 deaths from the onslaught on Tuesday.

Ahmad al-Dbis, an official at the Union, says ten hospitals have been damaged by airstrikes or shelling in 48 hours.

Read full story »

GUARD: ‘Unimaginable carnage’ as Ghouta barrage enters second week

With aid groups denied access to the devastated Syrian enclave, children pay the heaviest price

Ghouta.

A member of the Syrian Civil Defence group carries a boy who was wounded during airstrikes and shelling by Syrian government forces, in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

There was a time in Ghouta, amid the planes, bombs and hunger, when ways to ease the suffering remained within reach. Even as the siege closed in, residents in the suburb near Damascus had access to smuggled food and medicine, and a drip-feed of weapons and money kept the militants among them in the fight.

That came to a halt late last year. First, the supply lines of food slowed. Then, in January, a Jordan-based, US-run, military room that had provided weapons to two militant groups was shuttered. Regular cash transfers stopped being sent to rebel groups inside Syria. Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which had backed the militants after the popular uprising in 2011, had grown tired of the cause to oust Bashar al-Assad. And the Trump administration no longer wanted to underwrite their efforts.

The blockade of Ghouta, where a Russian and Syrian air blitz entered a second week on Wednesday, is now the most crippling in Syria, and the estimated 350,000 to 400,000 people below the bombs is the most desperate population group in the devastated country………………….Doctors inside Ghouta say up to 12 medical facilities have been bombed – most of them severely damaged – in the past three days alone. The violence has been described as the worst in Syria at any point in the past three years, belying claims that the war is winding down, or that internally displaced civilians and refugees who have fled Syria’s borders should consider returning.

“Blatant war crimes have been an everyday feature of the conduct of the war in Syria,” said Susannah Sirkin, the director for international policy at Physicians For Human Rights. “There is absolutely no doubt that the Syrian and Russian governments meant to harm the civilian population in eastern Ghouta, in direct defiance of international humanitarian norms.

Read full story »

REU: U.N. envoy sees difficult talks on Syria ceasefire deal

GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday he hoped the U.N. Security Council would agree a resolution to end fighting in the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta, but said it would not be easy.

A rescue worker holds an injured girl in the rebel held besieged town of Hamouriyeh, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

“I hope it will. But it’s uphill. But I hope it will. It is very urgent,” he told Reuters as he arrived at the United Nations in Geneva.

Asked what would happen if there were no deal, he said: “Then we will have to push for it to take place as soon as possible because there is no alternative but a ceasefire and humanitarian access.”

Read full story »

REU: Syria’s Ghouta residents ‘wait to die’ as more bombs fall

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Residents of Syria’s eastern Ghouta district said they were waiting their “turn to die” on Wednesday, amid one of the most intense bombardments of the war by pro-government forces on the besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.

At least 38 people died on Wednesday. At least 310 people have been killed in the district since Sunday night and more than 1,550 injured, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

The eastern Ghouta, a densely populated agricultural district on the Damascus outskirts, is the last major area near the capital still under rebel control. Home to 400,000 people, it has been besieged by government forces for years.

A massive escalation in bombardment, including rocket fire, shelling, air strikes and helicopter-dropped barrel bombs, since Sunday has become one of the deadliest of the Syrian civil war, now entering its eighth year.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia, which has backed Assad with air power since 2015, say they do not target civilians and point to rebel mortar fire on Damascus.

“We are waiting our turn to die. This is the only thing I can say,” said Bilal Abu Salah, 22, whose wife is five months pregnant with their first child in the biggest eastern Ghouta town Douma. They fear the terror of the bombardment will bring her into labor early, he said.

“Nearly all people living here live in shelters now. There are five or six families in one home. There is no food, no markets,” he said.

Read full story »

REU: Talks to end conflict in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta break down: Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian military said on Wednesday that talks to try to peacefully resolve the situation in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta had broken down and that rebels there had ignored calls to cease resistance and lay down their arms.

A child walks near damaged buildings in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Russia spelled out its view of the situation after residents in eastern Ghouta said they were waiting their “turn to die”, amid one of the most intense bombardments of the war by pro-government forces on the besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.

Moscow, which has rejected suggestions its air force bears responsibility for civilian deaths in the district, earlier on Wednesday called for the U.N. Security Council to meet publicly on Thursday to discuss the situation in Ghouta.

Russia’s ceasefire monitoring center in Syria, which is run by the Russian military, said in a statement later on Wednesday that talks with the rebels aimed at ending the violence in the area had broken down.

In a statement, it also accused the rebels of preventing civilians from leaving the conflict zone.

Read full story »

AP: Afghan official: Taliban attack local police, killing 8

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says Taliban fighters have attacked a police security post in central Ghazni province, killing eight local police.

Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said Thursday the attack happened the previous night. He said the insurgents attacked from four sides using heavy weapons, including artillery, killing eight police and wounding another in a two-hour attack.

Government reinforcement reached the area too late to stop the attack, Noori said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, and said nine local police were killed and one other captured in the attack

Read full story »

5 Afghan intelligence staff killed in Parwan attack

At least five workers of the Afghan Intelligence Agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), were killed in militants attack in northern Parwan province of Afghanistan. According to the local government officials, the incident took place on Wednesday in the vicinity of Bagram district. The district administrative chief of Bagram Abdul Shukoor Qudoosi confirmed the incident

Read full story »

3 ISIS militants killed, 1 wounded in US drone strike in Afghanistan

At least three militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed in a US drone strike in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said the latest drone strike was carried out in the vicinity of Deh Bala district.

Read full story »

Iraq Coalition Casualties: Military Fatalities By Name>>

Afghanistan Coalition Casualties: Military Fatalities By Name>>

IRAQ BODY COUNT>>

This data is based on 51,544 database entries from the beginning of the war to 28 Feb 2017, and on monthly preliminary data from that date onwards. Preliminary data is shown in grey when applicable, and is based on approximate daily totals in the Recent Events section prior to full analysis. The full analysis extracts details such as the names or demographic details of individuals killed, the weapons that killed them and location amongst other details. The current range contains 36,537–38,380 deaths (20%–19%, a portion which may rise or fall over time) based on single-sourced reports.

Graphs are based on the higher number in our totals. Gaps in recording and reporting suggest that even our highest totals to date may be missing many civilian deaths from violence.

Total Dollar Cost of War>>

Cost of War in Iraq>>

Cost of War in Afghanistan>>

Recent Casualties

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

None

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Care for Veterans:

PTSD: National Center for PTSDPTSD Care for Veterans, Military, and FamiliesSee Help for Veterans with PTSD to learn how to enroll for VA health care and get an assessment.

All VA Medical Centers provide PTSD care, as well as many VA clinics.Some VA’s have programs specializing in PTSD treatment. Use the VA PTSD ProgramLocator to find a PTSD program.If you are a war Veteran, find a Vet Center to help with the transition from military to civilian life.

Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk to another combat Veteran.DoD’s Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) 24/7 Outreach Center for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury provides information and helps locate resources.

Call 1-866-966-1020 or email resources@dcoeoutreach.orgMilitary OneSourceCall 24/7 for counseling and many resources 1-800-342-9647.Need further assistance? Get Help with VA PTSD Care

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21 Feb

National Rifle Association Political Pay Offs

 

National Rifle Assn All Recipients OpenSecrets

NRA spending surged $100 million amidst pro-Trump push in 2016

The National Rifle Association goes to great lengths (and spends a huge sum of money) to defend the right to bear arms. It is opposed to virtually every form of gun regulation, including restrictions on owning assault weapons, retention of databases of gun purchases, background checks on purchasers at gun shows and changes in the registration of firearms.

The NRA’s influence is felt not only through campaign contributions, but through millions of dollars in off-the-books spending on issue ads. Lobbying expenditures for the National Rifle Association regularly exceed $1.5 million, as the organization’s lobbyists frequently try to exert their influence over government agencies including members of Congress, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Campaign finance totals for the current election cycle were released by the FEC on May 16, 2017 and by the IRS on August 15, 2016, lobbying data was released by the Senate Office of Public Records on January 25, 2017, outside spending data was released by the FEC on February 21, 2018, and PFD data was released by the House, Senate, and US Office of Government Ethics starting in June 2011.

Profile for 2016 Election Cycle

CONTRIBUTIONS

$1,085,150
ranks 488 of 18,819

LOBBYING

$3,188,000 (2016)
$3,605,564 (2015)
ranks 154 of 3,787 in 2016

OUTSIDE SPENDING

$54,398,558
ranks 9 of 170

Independent Expenditures: $52,582,309
For Democrats: $265
Against Democrats: $37,010,516
For Republicans: $17,385,437
Against Republicans: $2,281

National Rifle Assn All Recipients OpenSecrets

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21 Feb

15-year-old shot 5 times protecting classmates from gunfire

 The McGlynn: A Hero in our midst.

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — A 15-year-old student who was shot five times during last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is credited with saving the lives of at least 20 other students.

A fundraising site says Anthony Borges was shot in both legs and his back while attempting to close and lock a classroom door last Wednesday. Seventeen people were killed.

Borges’ friend Carlos Rodriguez told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the two rushed to hide in a nearby classroom when they first heard gunshots. He says no one knew what to do, but that Borges “took the initiative to just save his other classmates.”

Borges’ father Royer Borges says his son called him while lying on the ground after being shot. The father asked him to stay on the line, but at one point, he couldn’t hear the teenager’s voice anymore.

“He told me later ’I had to drop the phone because I thought he was coming in and I wanted to pretend I was asleep so he wouldn’t continue shooting,” Borges told CNN’s Spanish language service.

Anthony Borges and his family are originally from Venezuela. His father says the boy is well-known among local sports clubs for his soccer skills, playing forward and training with Barcelona’s youth academy near Fort Lauderdale.

Moved by the Florida student’s actions, U.S. soccer player Landon Donovan rallied his soccer fans to donate to help the teenager’s family.

“One of our own was a hero last week and needs our help,” Donovan wrote on his Twitter account.

Borges’ GoFundMe had raised more than $446,000 as of Tuesday afternoon from nearly 14,000 donations. The legitimacy of the fundraising page was confirmed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

The hospital says it can’t release any details on his condition. It says only that he and three other injured victims from the shooting recovering at Broward Health hospitals are all in “fair condition.” The Sheriff’s Office says that he “has a long road ahead with more surgeries needed.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders thanked Anthony Borges on Tuesday for the “courage” shown during the shooting attack.

“We are all rooting for you,” she said.

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21 Feb

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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Opinion:The slaughter in Syria should outrage us. Yet still we just shrug

Trump, Brexit, even Strictly – we focus on anything rather than the bloodletting. That makes us complicit in these atrocities

Almost anything is more interesting than the massacre of civilians in Syria. Just look at today’s front pages. The Guardian leads on the slaughter of unarmed residents in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, but for the rest it’s a mix of continuing scandals in international aid charities, the tax record of a newly appointed financial regulator, and Brendan off Strictly having an unauthorised waltz with Camilla.

Against all that, the bloodbath in eastern Ghouta is deemed too dull to compete. Sure, the government of Bashar al-Assad may have pounded the rebel-held area so hard that it killed 194 people in 40 hours, many of them children. It may have targeted seven hospitals in two days, repeatedly hitting medical workers as they sought to rescue the injured and dying. And yes, this may signal the escalation of a siege that has denied supplies to a population of 390,000 for months, squeezing them between bombardment and starvation. All that may be meticulously documented by the UN. But who, if we’re honest, gives a damn?

Bodycam footage shows children being rescued from rubble in eastern Ghouta, Syria – video

The Guardian has Syria on the front page today, but there’s no moral high ground here for any of us. This bloodletting has gone on for seven years now, and for most of that time most of us – politicians, media, public – have looked the other way.

I look back at some of the things that have exercised me while this murder has continued day after day – at Donald Trump’s tweets, say, or the twists and turns of Brexit – and I know I’m part of this global shrug in the face of atrocity.

We should not kid ourselves. This silence of ours is complicity. The absence of noisy outrage has been a signal to Assad: keep on doing what you’re doing – no one’s going to stop you. If I were him, an occasional uptick in condemnation – with an enlightened Scandinavian denouncing me on the radio, or Unicef issuing a blank statement because “we no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering” – would be just fine. Because I would know that this brief flurry of concern would pass, and I would soon be allowed to return to the killing, just so long as I kept the daily numbers at a level everyone could safely ignore.

I would have learned that lesson in April last year, when I crossed the line by using chemical weapons against the civilians of Idlib province, gassing children, and the only consequence was a limited US cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield. So long as I wasn’t too blatant, and kept the murder within agreed limits, I would be left alone.

What explains this global indifference? Partly it’s because those of us far away have our own, legitimate preoccupations. Trump and Brexit are not mortal threats on a par with the barrel bombs of Damascus, but they have convulsed America and Britain alike. In recent days, it has not helped that the very aid organisations we might ordinarily expect to sound the alarm about an emergency such as Syria have been shaken by scandal and forced to look inward.

Part of it, surely, is that it has just gone on so long. For seven years we have known that a civil war is raining horror on Syria, and we’ve got used to it. The sound of Syrian children choking to death has become the background noise of this decade. And, crucially, we don’t know what to do about it.

I’ve written before that one of the consequences of the disastrous Iraq invasion of 2003 was the discrediting of so-called humanitarian interventionism – the belief that sometimes it is right to stop regimes from murdering their own people. With no one calling for intervention, with no public debate about what can be done to stop the slaughter, we soon stop talking about the slaughter altogether. It slips out of view.

But paying attention, making a noise, has value. Perhaps there’s no point addressing Assad, or for that matter the rebel groups shelling government-held neighbourhoods of Damascus. But Assad’s backers and enablers, the governments of Russia and Iran, are surely not beyond reach. We know from Moscow’s intense efforts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the millions it pours into RT, its TV propaganda channel, that it is, at the very least, sensitive to western opinion.

This war is not winding down. It is not quietly burning itself out. On the contrary, those watching it close up say it is escalating. For Ghouta, Monday was the most lethal day of the last three years. Until now the only message we have sent Russia, Iran and Syria is a silent shrug. If we want the killing to stop, we need to say so.

 

Israeli media report that Shlomo Filber has made a deal to testify after being arrested

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect, but may soon be questioned. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

One of Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants has turned state witness and agreed to incriminate the prime minister in corruption allegations, Israeli media have reported.

Police would not confirm whether Shlomo Filber would testify against Netanyahu, but all major Israeli media outlets said a deal to do so had been reached.

Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu, was arrested on suspicion of promoting regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the telecommunications company Bezeq. In return, Bezeq’s news website Walla! allegedly provided favourable coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

The reports came shortly after an allegation that a different longtime confidant tried to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu’s wife.

The prime minister, who was also the communications minister until last year, has not been named as a suspect, although he may soon be questioned. Netanyahu denies all the charges, calling them part of a media witch-hunt, and has vowed to carry on.

Senior cabinet ministers from his ruling Likud party, who until recently dutifully defended him, have largely remained silent. Netanyahu appeared ashen in video released late on Tuesday, when he described the the claims as “total madness”.

Aluf Benn, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Haaretz, said: “These are the final days of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule”.

Other leading columnists suggested that if Filber said everything he knew, Netanyahu would probably be more concerned about avoiding prison than staying in office.

Nahum Barnea wrote in the newspaper Yediot Ahronot: “When so many dark clouds accumulate in the sky, the chances of rain increase.

“His appearance lent the fight he is waging the dimensions of a Shakespearean tragedy. This isn’t the end. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. But it cannot have a different end.”

The latest developments come days after police announced that there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.

Avichai Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointment as attorney general, will make the final decision on whether to file charges, a process that is expected to take several months.

The prime minister is accused of receiving lavish gifts from the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and the Australian billionaire James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu operated on Milchan’s behalf on US visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper’s main rival, in return for more favourable coverage.

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World Politics

Italy

Alessandro di Battista, main rival in Italy’s election, launches scathing attack on former PM

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi has been accused of ‘making the mafia stronger’ in the 1990s. Photograph: AFG/Rex/Shutterstock

Accusations about Silvio Berlusconi’s historic ties to a close associate of the Sicilian mafia are being revived by his main political rival as Italy heads into the final stretch of campaigning before the general election on 4 March.

Alessandro di Battista, a top official in the Five Star Movement, asked followers on Twitter to share his scathing takedown of the former prime minister, delivered at a rally earlier this month, in which he cited a court ruling against a former longtime aide to Berlusconi and the founder of Forza Italia, Marcello Dell’Utri, who is in jail because of his ties to the Cosa Nostra.

The attack against Berlusconi’s links to organised crime reflect the battle for votes in southern Italy that is under way between his centre-right coalition and the populist Five Star Movement, which has previously won strong support in the south but appears to have lost ground to the former prime minister.

Di Battista accused Berlusconi of “making the mafia stronger” at a time in the 1990s when it was at war with the Italian state and had murdered Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two high-profile judges revered in Sicily.

“You must know that there are millions of Italians who struggle every day, who raise their heads and speak up, who do not forget, who say out loud that the mafia is a mountain of shit and who think that jail is the only place where Mr Berlusconi belongs,” Di Battista said.

 

The statement has revived an issue that has not been widely debated in the Italian election campaign.

Berlusconi has always denied having ties to organised crime. But his entry into politics was guided by Dell’Utri, a man who is now sitting in prison for being an “ambassador” to the Cosa Nostra. Dell’Utri, who was also a longtime business associate of Berlusconi, was arrested in Lebanon in 2014 as a fugitive, having fled Italy a day earlier.

If Berlusconi’s coalition – which includes two parties on the far right – were to win the election, the 81-year-old would not be eligible to serve as prime minister because of a previous conviction on tax fraud. But he would have the power to select the country’s next prime minister and would have sway over that individual given his position as head of Forza Italia.

Read Full Article>>

Related:

Italy’s election: everything you need to know>>

Berlusconi pledges to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants from Italy>>

Giorgia Meloni, the friendly face of Italy’s surging far right>>

United States

Alex van der Zwaan charged with making false statements to special counsel investigating Trump campaign and its ties to Russia

Alex Van Der Zwaan, who is reportedly married to the daughter of a Russian-Ukrainian oligarch.

Alex Van Der Zwaan, who is reportedly married to the daughter of a Russian-Ukrainian oligarch. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

A lawyer who previously worked with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, marking another major development in the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump election campaign and the Kremlin.

Alex van der Zwaan, who married the daughter of a Russian-Ukrainian oligarch last year, admitted making false statements in connection to work he did in Ukraine, as part of a plea agreement with the special prosecutor on the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller.

It is unclear how – if at all – the case against Van der Zwaan is connected to the broader question of whether or not the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin. But the indictment shows that one focus of the Mueller investigation is Manafort’s business dealings with pro-Russia figures in Ukraine prior to becoming Trump’s campaign manager in 2016.

According to court documents filed in Washington and made public on Tuesday, Van der Zwaan failed to disclose a series of contacts in September 2016 with Rick Gates, a business associate of Manafort, and a person identified only as Person A, with whom Van der Zwaan spoke in Russia and who was described as a “longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates in Ukraine”.

That description appeared to match Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian army linguist whom federal prosecutors have “assessed to have ties” with Russian intelligence. Kilimnik ran Manafort’s office in Kiev after Manafort left Ukraine in 2014, and continued his work for pro-Russia interests in Ukraine.

The court documents allege that the undisclosed contacts in 2016 concerned work performed four years earlier by the US law firm Van der Zwaan worked for in London – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom – on behalf of the former pro-Russia Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort hired Skadden to defend Yanukovych from western condemnation after the 2011 detention of an opposition leader.

According to the court documents, Gates told Van der Zwaan to contact Person A in September 2016 to discuss impending criminal charges in Ukraine against Manafort, a former Ukrainian minister of justice and “law firm A”, an apparent reference to Skadden.

In particular, Van der Zwaan failed to tell prosecutors or his law firm about an email in Russian, dated 12 September 2016, in which Person A asked Van der Zwaan to use an encrypted method to contact him. Prosecutors said the lawyer deleted that and other emails in an effort to cover up his contacts.

Skadden Arps released a statement on Tuesday saying it had fired van der Zwaan last year, but without explaining why, and noting it was cooperating with the authorities.

The latest development reflects the special counsel’s determination to prosecute anyone found lying or omitting the truth in the ongoing criminal investigation. Two campaign officials – Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos – have pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and are now cooperating with the investigation.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to previous charges that he laundered money in connection to his Ukraine work. The alleged crimes pre-date his work for the Trump campaign. Gates also pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges but has reportedly decided to change his plea to guilty, and agreed to cooperate, in exchange for leniency.

Last year Van der Zwaan married Eva Khan, an art critic and daughter of German Khan, a Russian-Ukrainian billionaire. Khan is one of three people who sued the news website Buzzfeed for publishing a controversial dossier that made unproven claims about the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. Khan, Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven filed a defamation suit against the media group as representatives of the financial institution Alfa Bank that the dossier alleged was connected to the unproven Trump/Kremlin conspiracy, but without providing any evidence.

There is no evidence however that the criminal charge against Van der Zwaan is related to his family ties.

Last November Trump told reporters that he took Vladimir Putin at his word when the Russian leader denied meddling in the election. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that’, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” the US president said.

But on Tuesday Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, insisted that Trump has never denied Russian interference. She told reporters at the daily briefing: “One of the places where you guys seem to get very confused – and it seems to happen regularly – the president hasn’t said that Russian didn’t meddle. What he’s saying is it didn’t have an impact and it certainly wasn’t with help from the Trump campaign.

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Government loses third court case as judge says approach to tackling pollution in 45 local authority areas is ‘not sufficient’

The case is ClientEarth’s third legal challenge against plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The case is ClientEarth’s third legal challenge against plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

The government will have to do more to tackle illegal levels of air pollution after a high court judge ruled its current plans are “unlawful”.

Mr Justice Garnham told the London court on Wednesday the approach to tackling pollution in 45 local authority areas was “not sufficient”.

The ruling is the third victory against the government for environmental lawyers from ClientEarth over proposals for reducing levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide.

The court previously heard that, eight years after the UK was found to be in breach of legal limits on the pollutant, levels were still too high in 37 out of 43 zones across the country.

ClientEarth won two previous rulings against ministers over the levels, forcing the government to draw up new plans last year for reducing nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from vehicles, to within legal limits.

The measures included £255m to help local authorities come up with ways to improve air quality, and proposals to end the sale of all conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Its latest case was brought against the environment secretary and the transport secretary, while a claim against the Welsh government was discontinued after it agreed to work with ClientEarth on new proposals.

Mr Justice Garnham said the government’s plan was “seriously flawed” in respect of 45 local authority areas which are not expected to reduce pollution to within legal levels until 2021.

He said: “Because the obligation is zone-specific, the fact that each of the 45 local authority areas will achieve compliance in any event by 2021 is of no immediate significance.

“The environment secretary must ensure that, in each of the 45 areas, steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely.”

The judge rejected ClientEarth’s case in relation to the government’s monitoring and modelling and its plans for five cities, including London, which are not expected to reach compliance until 2028.

He said the Government’s approach to the five cities was “sensible, rational and lawful”.

ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “For the third time in the space of three years, the courts have declared that the government is failing in its obligation to clean up the air in our towns and cities.

“We are delighted that the court has today ordered the government to urgently take further action to fix the dangerous air pollution in our towns and cities.

“The problem was supposed to be cleaned up over eight years ago and yet successive governments have failed to do enough.

“The people who live in areas of the countries covered by this judgment deserve to be able breathe clean air and the government must now do all it can to make that happen quickly.”

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