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26 Apr

Bill Cosby Found Guilty of Sexual Assault After Years of Accusations

Bill Cosby on Thursday for his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pa. CreditMark Makela/Getty Images

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago, capping the downfall of one of the world’s best-known entertainers, and offering a measure of satisfaction to the dozens of women who for years have accused him of similar assaults against them.

On the second day of its deliberations at the Montgomery County Courthouse in this town northwest of Philadelphia, the jury returned to convict Mr. Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, at the time a Temple University employee he had mentored.

The three counts — penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious and penetration after administering an intoxicant — are felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, though the sentences could be served concurrently.

It was the second time a jury had considered Mr. Cosby’s fate. His first trial last summer ended with a deadlocked jury after six days of deliberations.

Mr. Cosby sat back in his chair after the verdict was announced and quietly stared down. Several women who have accused Mr. Cosby of abusing them, and attended the trial each day, briefly cheered, then fell silent. Judge Steven T. O’Neill praised the jurors, calling it “an extraordinarily difficult case” and adding, “You have sacrificed much, but you have sacrificed in the service of justice.”

The Montgomery County district attorney, Kevin R. Steele, asked that Mr. Cosby’s $1 million bail be revoked, suggesting he had been convicted of a serious crime, owned a plane and could flee, prompting an angry outburst from Mr. Cosby, who shouted, “He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole.”

“Enough of that,” said Judge O’Neill who said he did not view Mr. Cosby as a flight risk and said he could be released on bail, but would have to surrender his passport and remain in his nearby home.

In recent years, Mr. Cosby, 80, had admitted to decades of philandering, and to giving quaaludes to women as part of an effort to have sex, smashing the image he had built as a moralizing public figure and the upstanding paterfamilias in the wildly popular 1980s and ’90s sitcom “The Cosby Show.” He did not testify in his own defense, avoiding a grilling about those admissions, but he and his lawyers have insisted that his encounter with Ms. Constand was part of a consensual affair, not an assault.

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26 Apr

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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American Lynchings

How white Americans used lynchings to terrorize and control black people

The Guardian is in Montgomery, Alabama, to cover the opening of America’s first memorial to lynching victims. The legacy of such brutal, racist murders is still largely ignored

by and

What were lynchings?

Historians broadly agree that lynchings were a method of social and racial control meant to terrorize black Americans into submission, and into an inferior racial caste position. They became widely practiced in the US south from roughly 1877, the end of post-civil war reconstruction, through 1950.

A typical lynching would involve criminal accusations, often dubious, against a black American, an arrest, and the assembly of a “lynch mob” intent on subverting the normal constitutional judicial process.

Victims would be seized and subjected to every imaginable manner of physical torment, with the torture usually ending with being hung from a tree and set on fire. More often than not, victims would be dismembered and mob members would take pieces of their flesh and bone as souvenirs.

In a great many cases, the mobs were aided and abetted by law enforcement (indeed, they often were the same people). Officers would routinely leave a black inmate’s jail cell unguarded after rumors of a lynching began to circulate to allow for a mob to kill them before any trial or legal defense could take place.

What would trigger a lynching?

One chief among the trespasses (occasionally real, but usually imagined) was any claim of sexual contact between black men and white women. The trope of the hypersexual and lascivious black male, especially vis-a-vis the inviolable chastity of white women, was and remains one of the most durable tropes of white supremacy.

According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), nearly 25% of lynching victims were accused of sexual assault. Nearly 30% were accused of murder.

“The mob wanted the lynching to carry a significance that transcended the specific act of punishment,” wrote the historian Howard Smead in Blood Justice: The Lynching of Mack Charles Parker. The mob “turned the act into a symbolic rite in which the black victim became the representative of his race and, as such, was being disciplined for more than a single crime … The deadly act was [a] warning [to] the black population not to challenge the supremacy of the white race.”

 

Left to right: The lynching of George Meadows, 1889. A crowd surrounds two African American lynching victims. A group of African Americans marching near the Capitol building in Washington DC, to protest against the lynching of four African Americans in Georgia. Composite: Library of Congress

How many took place in America?

Because of the nature of lynchings – summary executions that occurred outside the constraints of court documentation – there was no formal, centralized tracking of the phenomenon. Most historians believe this has left the true number of lynchings dramatically underreported.

For decades, the most comprehensive total belonged to the archives at the Tuskegee Institute, which tabulated 4,743 people who died at the hands of US lynch mobs between 1881 and 1968. According to the Tuskegee numbers, 3,446 (nearly three-quarters) of those lynched were black Americans.

The EJI, which relied on the Tuskegee numbers in building its own count, integrated other sources, such as newspaper archives and other historical records, to arrive at a total of 4,084 racial terror lynchings in 12 southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, and another 300 in other states.

Unlike the Tuskegee data, EJI’s numbers attempt to exclude incidents it considered acts of “mob violence” that followed a legitimate criminal trial process or that “were committed against non-minorities without the threat of terror”.

Where did most lynchings take place?

Unsurprisingly, lynching wereas most concentrated in the former Confederate states, and especially in those with large black populations.

According to EJI’s data, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana had the highest statewide rates of lynching in the United States. Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana had the highest number of lynchings.

Who attended lynchings?

Among the most unsettling realities of lynching is the degree to which white Americans embraced it, not as an uncomfortable necessity or a way of maintaining order, but as a joyous moment of wholesome celebration.

“Whole families came together, mothers and fathers, bringing even their youngest children. It was the show of the countryside – a very popular show,” read a 1930 editorial in the Raleigh News and Observer. “Men joked loudly at the sight of the bleeding body … girls giggled as the flies fed on the blood that dripped from the Negro’s nose.”

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by in Montgomery, Alabama

Vanessa Croft was driving home after work in Gadsden, Alabama, last month when she noticed something strange in her rear-view mirror. There were two huge flags bearing the starred cross of the Confederacy fluttering angrily behind her from the back of a menacing black pickup truck.

She had seen plenty of Confederate flags ­– almost every day she spots them on car licence plates or in windows in town. But this was different. It was after midnight, and as she drove the flags stayed behind her. She drove some more, they followed.

She turned into a McDonald’s, hoping that its surveillance cameras would protect her – they turned too, drawing up alongside her. Inside the truck were two white men who sat and stared at her. Croft, a 57-year-old black woman, stared back.

The truck kept trailing her all the way to her street, then disappeared as suddenly as it had come. But a chill lingered. “Two huge Confederate flags flapping in the night following me home. In Gadsden. In 2018. It still happens.”

The incident got her thinking about the secret that lay deep inside her family until just a few years ago. It concerned Uncle Fred, a beloved figure in her childhood who lived in New York. She knew him as her New York uncle, that’s all. Until her father told her the story.

It was in the mid-1930s, and Fred was 15. He was out at work one day when a posse of white men turned up at the family home. Where was the boy, they demanded. A little white girl had been pushed off a porch and her father, incensed by such disrespect, had decided it was Fred who did it and had to pay, even though the girl swore it was someone else.

When the men were told that Fred wasn’t there, they left a message. Tell the boy we’ll be back for him tonight.

There was no doubt what they meant. Fred’s father knew, as all black townsfolk in Gadsden knew, what had happened to Bunk Richardson.

The 28-year-old had been seized a few years back by a local mob of white men in relation to the murder of a white woman in which he had played no part. They took him to a railroad bridge over the Coosa river on the edge of town and flung him over, leaving him hanging from a rope for several days for all to see.

Fearful that the same fate awaited him, Fred Croft fled. His father told him to leave town as darkness fell and never come back. And he never did.

At the age of 15 Uncle Fred fled north, never to return.

World Politics

United States

Revelations that candidate Dennis Kucinich was paid $20,000 for a speech in London brings an unusual twist to the gubernatorial race

Dennis Kucinich has been hesitant to condemn the Syrian dictator and has met with him on several occasions.

Dennis Kucinich has been hesitant to condemn the Syrian dictator and has met with him on several occasions. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

Most Democratic primaries in 2018 have focused on bread-and-butter progressive issues like healthcare, education and gun control. In Ohio’s gubernatorial primary, however, domestic policy has increasingly been overshadowed by an unexpected figure: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria took center stage last week, after the two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich revealed in an amended filing with the state ethics board that he had received $20,000 for a paid speech to a pro-Assad group in London.

The former congressman has long been hesitant to condemn the Syrian dictator and has travelled to Damascus to meet him on several occasions, including for an interview for Fox News where Kucinich once served as a contributor. Kucinich’s idiosyncratic foreign policy views have earned him a seat on the advisory board of the Ron Paul Institute.

The candidate once interviewed Bashar al-Assad for Fox News.

The candidate once interviewed Bashar al-Assad for Fox News. Photograph: Sana/Handout EPA

Only days before his amended disclosure, the editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed Kucinich, but cautioned “he must never again make nice with Syrian butcher Bashar Assad”.

Andy Juniewicz, a spokesman for Kucinich, said that the candidate’s position on Syria was “not an issue in Cleveland”, adding that “most people don’t want to be engaged in foreign wars and it’s hard to see advocating peace being negative”.

But Kucinich’s main opponent and the current frontrunner, Richard Cordray, who is the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), has used Syria as a sledgehammer.

Last week, his campaign hosted a conference call with the former Democratic governor Ted Strickland, who previously served in Congress alongside Kucinich. “For years Dennis Kucinich has been an outspoken defender of the Assad regime in Syria even as they’ve killed countless people and used chemical weaponsagainst civilians,” said Strickland.

“On the campaign trail Dennis has refused to condemn Assad … What we now know goes further. Dennis wasn’t just defending Assad out of conviction, he was also being paid by a group that has been a vocal cheerleader for this murderous dictator.”

Cordray spent six years leading the CFPB, the consumer finance watchdog first conceived by Elizabeth Warren, is a comparatively conventional politician. He is a former supreme court clerk who previously served as Ohio’s attorney general and treasurer. Warren has endorsed his campaign and stumped with him and Cordray’s first television ad highlighted copious praise from Barack Obama.

Kucinich has attacked Cordray for his past support for gun rights. In a statement after Strickland’s conference call, the candidate said: “Cordray will do anything to change the subject from his NRA ‘A’ rating and his support for assault weapons on the streets of America.”

Richard Cordray, who is running against Dennis Kucinich, speaks in Cincinnati.

Richard Cordray, who is running against Dennis Kucinich, speaks in Cincinnati. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

Kucinich also lashed out at Strickland for participating in “unfounded and inflammatory” attacks that “grossly misportrayed” his visits to the Middle East.

Democratic observers unaffiliated with the race said while Assad was probably not a voting issue in Ohio, it did add to a broader narrative of Kucinich being an “unreliable Democrat”.

One well-connected state Democrat said “if [Kucinich] was making any progress in getting out of the box of being a little too quirky and a little too fringe this erased a lot of it.”

Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of the nonpartisan election website Sabato’s Crystal Ball and author of a book on Ohio politics, cautioned that not only is Kucinich better known than Cordray in the state but that his attacks on guns “seem like a more fruitful and topical line of attack than Syria does”.

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Report builds on evidence that site is unstable after sixth nuclear test and puts Kim Jong-un’s pledge to no longer use site in a new light

A north korea military parade

Chinese experts also flagged the need to monitor for radioactive leaks from North Korea’s nuclear test site. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea’s main nuclear test site has partially collapsed under the stress of multiple explosions, possibly rendering it unsafe for further testing and leaving it vulnerable to radiation leaks, a study by Chinese geologists has shown.

The findings could cast doubt on North Korea’s sincerity in announcing last weekend that it would stop testing nuclear weapons at the site ahead of Friday’s summit between the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.

The test site at Punggye-ri, in a mountainous area in North Korea’s north-east, has been the location for all six of the regime’s nuclear tests since 2006.

The findings, by scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China, suggest the partial collapse of the mountain that contains the testing tunnels, as well as the risk of radiation leaks, have potentially rendered the site unusable.

The study was published soon after Kim said his country would stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and close down Punggye-ri before his meeting with Moon just south of the countries’ heavily armed border.

Nuclear explosions release enormous amounts of heat and energy, and the North’s largest test, in September last year, was believed early on to have rendered the site – a network of tunnels beneath Mount Mantap – unstable.

The Chinese scientists collected collected data for their study following the most powerful of the North’s six nuclear tests, on 3 September.

The controlled explosion, which caused an initial magnitude-6.3 tremor, is believed to have triggered four more earthquakes over the following weeks. The study concluded that eight-and-a-half minutes after the test, there was “a near-vertical on-site collapse towards the nuclear test centre”.

 

A satellite image from 13 April 2017 shows North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Photograph: HO/AFP

The Chinese university paper, written by Tian Dongdong, Yao Jiawen and Wen Lianxing, said that was followed by an “earthquake swarm” in similar locations.

The yield of the bomb was estimated at more than 100 kilotons of TNT, at least 10 times stronger than anything the North had tested previously. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 had a yield of about 15 kilotons.

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26 Apr

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

The War Criminals

Rage Against The Dying

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

How many Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion 15 years ago? Some credible estimates put the number at more than one million. You can read that sentence again.

The invasion of Iraq is often spoken of in our country as a “blunder,” or even a “colossal mistake.” It was a crime.

Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of a mostly amnesiac citizenry. (A year ago Mr. Bush was on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” dancing and talking about his paintings.)

The war criminals, Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Powell who sold us the war still go on doing what they do.

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

War News

NYT: International Conference to Combat Terror Financing in Paris

PARIS — Ministers from more than 70 countries — including bitter rivals — are working on ways to combat financing for the Islamic State group and Al-Qaida at an international conference in Paris, which still bears scars of deadly terrorist attacks in recent years.

Participants scheduled to take part in Thursday’s international conference include countries that have accused each other of funding terrorism, notably in the Persian Gulf.

It was launched by French President Emmanuel Macron to coordinate efforts to reduce the terror threat in the long term. A string of attacks have killed 245 people in France since January 2015 and dozens of others have been thwarted.

France is pushing for international coordination and more transparency in financial transactions. But it recognizes how sensitive the issue is, and sees the conference as a first step to encourage political mobilization.

The French organizers noted that IS military defeats on the ground don’t prevent the group from pursuing its terrorist activities, along with al-Qaida —especially in unstable regions of Afghanistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa.

Terror groups don’t only rely on the cash economy — they’re using increasingly using hard-to-track tools like prepaid cards, online wallets and crowdfunding operations. A French top official said “we are still facing groups that are financially very strong and that use a lot the most anonymous kind of techniques to transfer money.”

The IS group also has invested in businesses and real estate to ensure its financing. Islamic State revenues alone were estimated at $2.5 billion between 2014 and 2016, according to the French president’s office.

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REU: Chemical weapons agency: Inspectors took samples at second site in Douma

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Inspectors with the global chemical weapons agency on Wednesday visited a second site in Syria’s Douma and took samples to help them determine whether banned toxic munitions were used there.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is investigating the deaths of dozens of people in the enclave outside of the Syrian capital on April 7.

The attack led to air strikes by the United States, France and Britain against sites in Syria. They accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons, possibly a nerve agent. Syria and its ally Russia have denied the accusation and said rebel forces staged the attacks.

The fact-finding mission (FFM) arrived in Damascus on April 14, but was delayed by a week before it could get to sites it deemed of interest.

Western powers accused Russia and Syria of stalling tactics to delay the process and of tampering with evidence that may have pointed to government involvement.

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REU: Iran’s Khamenei urges Muslim nations to unite against U.S.: state TV

ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran’s supreme leader called on Muslim nations to unite against the United States, saying Tehran would never yield to “bullying,” state television reported on Thursday.

“The Iranian nation has successfully resisted bullying attempts by America and other arrogant powers and we will continue to resist… All Muslim nations should stand united against America and other enemies,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

Iran’s top authority criticized Trump for saying on Tuesday some countries in the Middle East “wouldn’t last a week” without U.S. protection.

“Such remarks are humiliation for Muslims … Unfortunately there is war in our region between Muslim countries. The backward governments of some Muslim countries are fighting with other countries,” Khamenei said.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been locked in a proxy war, competing for regional supremacy from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon to Yemen.

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REU: Syria donors fall short without U.S. aid, warn of cruel end-game

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – International donors raised $4.4 billion in emergency aid for Syria and its neighbors this year on Wednesday, but the total fell well short of the U.N. target for 2018 after the United States failed to submit a pledge.

Humanitarian agencies also pleaded for peace before the Syrian military and its Russian and Iranian backers turn their firepower on the rebel-controlled Syrian city of Idlib, warning of civilian suffering on a greater scale than during the siege of Aleppo last year.

“What I fear is a very cruel battle engulfing Idlib. We cannot accept the war moves towards what is essentially a gigantic refugee camp,” Jan Egeland, a senior U.N. adviser on Syria, said of the northwestern region.

“There have to be talks to spare the civilians from the fighting,” he said, adding that 2.5 million people were at risk.

Britain, Germany and France were among those offering new money for refugees at the conference, which brought together 86 governments, aid groups and financial and regional institutions.

Pledges of $3.4 billion also came in for 2019-2020 and the EU’s humanitarian chief, Christos Stylianides, said the bloc and its member states offered the lion’s share of the sum.

But the figure was less than the $6 billion gathered for 2017 as U.S. President Donald Trump cuts foreign aid.

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AP: Red Cross says it’s flooded by missing requests for Syrians

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross has been “flooded” with about 13,000 requests in the last six months from Syrians looking for missing family members, its president said Wednesday.

Before then, Peter Maurer told a small group of journalists, the organization had gotten only “requests in the hundreds.” In the first three or four years of the conflict, it received between 30 and 50 tracing requests a month, he said.

Maurer said inquiries on the missing have come from all areas of Syria, neighboring countries, Europe, the United States and the rest of the world.

With the conflict now in its eighth year, the Red Cross chief said the surge in requests is probably related to Syrians returning to “precariously stable” places in the country where there is no active combat and worrying about family members. He said the organization has also been “slightly more pro-active” on the issue of missing Syrians.

Maurer said the Red Cross has had very limited success so far in reuniting family members, with numbers “in the tens to fifties rather than in the thousands.”

“So we recognize and we want to beef up our capacities to look in much more details to these requests,” he said.

Maurer said some of the missing may have died, some may be in prison and some may have fled.

The Red Cross has access to prisons, but in Syria it can only go into official detention facilities — state-run prisons, he said.

“We don’t have access to security detention facilities of the army and the secret services,” Maurer said. “Neither do we have access at the present moment to detention facilities of the opposition.”

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GUARD: The Deminer review – heartstopping tale of heroic bomb disposal expert

Hair-raising moments punctuate this home-movie-like documentary about a Kurdish officer disarming booby-trap devices set by jihadis in Iraq

There are moments of great tension in this film about the work of an extraordinarily brave mine-disposal expert, or “deminer”, in Iraq. It is of real value in the raw archive material it presents, though often frustrating in that its footage is mostly presented without editorial perspective, almost like a rough assemblage of videotape.

Col Fakhir Berwari was a Kurdish army officer who was a US military liaison in Iraq between 2003 and 2008, disarming booby-trap devices set by jihadi insurgents using little more than a pair of pliers to snip the wires. With no small sense of his own heroism, Fakhir got a subordinate to film him with a videocamera (though this documentary never comments on the secondary heroism of this camera operator) and it gives us some hair-raising moments from this video cache that his son Abdulla later discovered.

Later, when Fakhir has been badly and inevitably injured in his work, we see him resume the anti-mine battle in Mosul and elsewhere, disabling devices set by Islamic State, which are triggered by cellphone calls. At this point, the footage is being more professionally shot by the film’s co-director Shinwar Kamal. When you see the indefatigable Fakhir picking his way around a mined building and you suddenly hear a mobile phone ring out, it is heartstopping.

I would have liked a closer look at this remarkable, but rather opaque figure. It is almost like a home movie. But what a home movie.

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AP: Attorneys urge appeals court to block Iraqi deportations

CINCINNATI (AP) — Civil rights attorneys contended Wednesday that the Trump administration tried to rush deportations of Iraqis who faced torture, sexual slavery and even beheadings in their home country.

A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel in Cincinnati heard arguments on the federal government’s request to lift a judge’s order blocking the deportations.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt told the panel that U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit last year was “faced with the nightmare scenario of signing people’s death warrants.” Many of the 1,400 Iraqis nationwide slated for deportation for immigration violations are Christians or members of other minority groups that ACLU attorneys say would be persecuted if returned.

Iraqis have fled persecution under Saddam Hussein, during the Iraq War and the subsequent rise of the Islamic State group. Although Iraqi forces finally routed the Islamic State group last year, minorities remain vulnerable to persecution and discrimination. Unlike other groups such as Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, many minorities do not have militias to protect them.

There are roughly 220,000 Iraqi-born people in the United States, according to federal estimates.

The case before the three-judge panel grew out of the June 2017 roundup of dozens of Detroit-area Iraqis amid more aggressive, broader immigration policies since Republican Donald Trump became president.

Federal attorneys say Goldsmith overstepped his jurisdiction and that the Iraqis could have challenged removal in immigration courts, and then to the federal appeals court.

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BBC: Iraqi women election candidates targeted for abuse gain UN support

The UN has condemned “defamation and violence” against women candidates in Iraq’s elections, after one candidate resigned over an alleged sex tape.

Dr Intidhar Ahmed Jassim withdrew from the race after the video – which she says is a fake – was released online.

Other women candidates have also reportedly faced online harassment.

The UN statement said the targeting of women not only “brings anguish” to the candidates, but “is a threat to the integrity of the electoral process”.

In Iraq, one quarter of the seats in parliament must be occupied by women.

But women running for office in the May polls are being subjected to “vulgar acts” on their election posters, as well as “attacks against [their] reputation and honour”, the special representative of the UN secretary general for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said.

Mr Kubis said he had met with some of the women candidates over the “alarming situation”.

“Those behind defamation, cyber bullying and harassment are trying to scare you off, afraid of educated, dynamic, qualified, courageous and open-minded women candidates that rightfully claim their space and meaningful role in political life of Iraq,” he said.

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Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants suffer heavy casualties in Nangarhar

By Khaama Press – Thu Apr 26 2018,

The anti-government armed militants including a member of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and some other foreign insurgents suffered heavy casualties during separate operations and clashes in Nangarhar province.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the Afghan intelligence Special Forces conducted a night operation on a compound of the militants in Shirzad district on Wednesday night, leaving at least six militants dead, including a member of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The statement further added that another militant was wounded and four others including two Taliban militant were arrested and two motorcycles along with some weapons and ammunition were destroyed.

In the meantime, separate clashes broke out in Lalpur and Ghani Khel districts late on Wednesday night which left at least 11 local and foreign insurgents dead or wounded.

According to the local officials, at least four militants were killed and five others were wounded during the clash in Ghani Khel district.

At least two foreign insurgents identified as Jahanzeeb and Daud Shah were killed during the clash in Lalpur district, the officials added.

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Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, died March 30 in Manbij, Syria as a result of injuries when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his patrol. The incident is under investigation. Dunbar was assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Ft Bragg, North Carolina.

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of seven airmen who were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. They died March 15 when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in western Iraq. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Captain Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

Captain Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, New York.
Captain Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, New York.
Master Sergeant Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack, New York.
Staff Sergeant Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, New York.

Master Sergeant William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida.
Staff Sergeant Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida.
Both were assigned to the 308th Rescue Squadron, Air Force Reserve, at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. For more information, media may contact the 920th Rescue Wing public affairs office at 321-615-0329.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.Sgt. 1st Class Maitland Deweever Wilson, 38, of Brooklyn, New York, died March 7 in Landstuhl, Germany from a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation.Wilson was assigned to the 831st Transportation Battalion, 595th Transportation Brigade, Manama, Bahrain.

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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25 Apr

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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Since 2014, Flint has received millions of dollars in aid, and the state of the water is improving – but residents are still left with physical ailments and lifelong fears

Activist LeeAnne Walters, who led the movement that tested Flint’s tap water: ‘I know as far as the lead in the water that’s OK, but it’s the lack of trust that was never rebuilt.’

Activist LeeAnne Walters, who led the movement that tested Flint’s tap water: ‘I know as far as the lead in the water that’s OK, but it’s the lack of trust that was never rebuilt.’ Photograph: Michael Gleason/2018 Goldman Environmental Prize

LeeAnne Walters was one of the activists who brought Flint’s brown, lead-laden water to the world’s attention, thrusting plastic bottles of dingy liquid into camera lenses and the national consciousness.

Four years later, you might think things have improved in the Michigan city. But Walters is still bathing her kids in bottled water, which she heats on the stove in four separate pots and a plastic bowl in the microwave.

“I know as far as the lead in the water that’s OK, but it’s the lack of trust that was never rebuilt,” said Walters. “How do I put my kids in that, knowing they’ve suffered?”

On Wednesday it is four years since the city’s water switched to the Flint river, without lead corrosion controls, prompting the public health crisis.

In the aftermath, Flint received presidential visits, millions of dollars in donations and government aid. It is the subject of scientific studies. It has a Netflix series, Flint Town. Walters has now won the Goldman Environmental Prize for activism, which comes with a $175,000 unrestricted prize. And, importantly, the state of the water is improving.

Debra Furr-Holden, a researcher at Michigan State University who received a five-year National Institutes of Health grant to study how to deliver health resources to Flint residents, said even though federal agencies flung themselves at the city, “the impact of their presence is not known or real for the residents”.

Rather, a paradox has taken hold.

Most attention directed at Flint goes to cleaning up the city’s water supply, an undeniably vital goal. But it also feels like a bizarre one in a city where many people are unlikely to ever drink another drop of tap water so long as they live.

LeeAnn Walters has won the Goldman environmental prize for activism, which comes with a $175,000 unrestricted prize.

LeeAnn Walters has won the Goldman environmental prize for activism, which comes with a $175,000 unrestricted prize. Photograph: Michael Gleason/2018 Goldman Environmental Prize

“The biggest thing that people are not talking about is the psychological damage,” said Walters. “I’ve seen people go into full-on panic attacks, hyperventilating, trying to take a sip of water at a restaurant, and they just can’t do it. I know of a 17-year-old who is terrified to take a bath.” She added: “These things have not gotten better.”

Multiple government workers were criminally charged over the disaster. The city switched its water supply back to Detroit’s water, away from the Flint river. But for the roughly 100,000 people who live here, the damage is done.

The list of physical ailments is long. Flint resident Keri Webber’s daughter caught pneumonia-like legionnaire’s disease and has permanent lung damage. Her husband of 27 years suffered an eye stroke and has uncontrolled high blood pressure. Her daughters, variously, have kidney damage, fatty liver, anemia and lead-laden bones. Webber suffered a mini-stroke, where her memory was “fried”. When the crisis was at its worst, the family had 17 doctor’s appointments in five days.

Other Flint residents have had recurring skin rashes. Luster needed a hysterectomy after she developed debilitating abdominal pain during the crisis. There were so many miscarriages in Flint, University of Kansas economists found the fertility rate dropped by 12%, and fetal death shot up by 58%.

The mental scars are as tangible as the physical. Webber can only talk about water at a friend’s house – not in her family home – because her daughter has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her daughter stopped her mother from doing dishes because she can’t stand the sound of running water; had carafes of water removed from restaurant tables, as anxiety peaked; and ripped fellow students backward from water fountains when they leaned in for a drink. Webber smacks her lips three times before she says this sentence, irritated: “We’ve been guinea pigs.”

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The officer, identified as Ken Lam, arrested Alek Minassian, who allegedly drove a van into pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring dozens

Toronto police officer single-handedly arrests van driver suspect – video

A Canadian police officer is being hailed for the restraint and professionalism he showed in arresting the suspect in the Toronto van attack without firing a single shot.

On Monday afternoon, a white van ploughed into pedestrians along one of Toronto’s busiest streets, killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others in what one official described as “pure carnage”.

Soon after, the alleged driver of the van was arrested by a lone police officer in a confrontation lasting less than a minute and caught on video by bystanders.

“Get down,” the officer, identified by sources as Ken Lam, shouts repeatedly.

“Kill me,” the man responds. “I have a gun in my pocket.”

Lam’s voice remains calm as he again orders the man to get down, warning that he will shoot if the man does not cooperate. “Shoot me in the head,” the suspect replies.

The officer then begins advancing towards the suspect. The suspect steps backwards, dropping what he was holding and raising his hands in the air. Lam proceeds to single-handedly arrest the suspect.

The arrest came as police forces across North America – including in Toronto – have been criticised for using excessive force to subdue mentally ill or unarmed suspects.

Police identified Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from the nearby town of Richmond Hill, as the man who had been arrested. He appeared in court on Tuesday, charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

Officials refused to comment on a motive, but said the suspect did not represent a threat to national security.

Video of the dramatic confrontation between the suspect and the police officer was hailed on social media, where praise poured in for Lam.

Many said he deserved a medal. A columnist for Maclean’s magazine contrasted Lam’s calm demeanor with the chaos and horror that had unfolded minutes earlier. “I am paid to explain things and sound confident doing so,” he wrote. “But I honestly don’t know what to make of this terrifying, remarkable moment.”

Mark Saunders, the city’s police chief, credited the force’s high calibre of training. “The officer did a fantastic job with respect to utilising his ability of understanding the circumstance and environment and having a peaceful resolution at the end of the day,” he said.

Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, said Lam – a constable who has been with the force for more than seven years – would have been justified if he had decided to fire at the suspect. “He was constantly assessing, constantly watching what was going on and determined he could handle it the way that he did,” he said. “People are right: this guy is a hero.”

He had spoken to Lam, who was left shaken. “It’s stressful enough when you’re confronting somebody who is trying to get you to kill them,” said McCormack. “And then you add the layer that this person that you’re dealing with has just murdered 10 innocent people, injured another 15. It really is sinking in with him right now.”

As commendations poured in from the around the world, Lam’s focus was on the many residents affected by the attack. “He was more concerned about the victims. He was devastated when we kept hearing the casualties going up, as we all were. It was a horrific scene,” said McCormack. “He said ‘Mike, I followed my experience and my training. Okay I made this arrest, which is great, but I’m just doing my job.’”

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World Politics

European Union

EU citizens’ rights and the shadow of Windrush – Brexit Means … podcast

Will EU nationals find themselves treated in similar fashion to the Windrush generation? Jon Henley and the team discuss

Anti-Brexit Campaigners Protest Outside Parliament
Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

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As much as it is about big concepts such as trade and the economy and Britain’s place in the world, Brexit is about real people, whose lives it will affect and is already affecting. This week we discuss the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK.

It’s safe to say the British government’s treatment of the Windrush generation hasn’t gone unnoticed in Brussels, which was already shocked by the treatment of dozens of EU citizens who have tried to apply for permanent residency in the UK since the Brexit vote. Will EU nationals at some stage find themselves being treated in similar fashion?

With Jon to discuss this are Lisa O’Carroll, the Guardian’s Brexit correspondent, and Tanja Bueltmann, professor of history at Northumbria University.

United States

Guardian investigation reveals $64bn fund includes investments in companies involved in bribery and major environmental damage

A man covers his hands in crude oil during a protest against oil spills in Bonga, Nigeria.

A man covers his hands in crude oil during a protest against oil spills in Bonga, Nigeria. Photograph: George Esiri/EPA

The United Nations is facing calls for a full review of its staff pension fund after the Guardian uncovered that it has around a billion dollars invested in companies whose activities are or have been incompatible with core UN principles and programmes.

Established in 1948 by the UN general assembly, the fund provides retirement, death and disability benefits to employees. At present it has 203,050 beneficiaries and a market value of $64bn (£45bn), of which nearly $1.5bn is invested in 24 publicly traded companies. Many of those companies have been or are being prosecuted for corrupt practices, implicated in human rights abuses or in environmental catastrophes.

“These investments clearly undermine the credibility of a well-respected organisation,” said Thomas Küchenmeister, managing director of Facing Finance. “How can I promote sustainable development and the protection of human rights and simultaneously benefit from violations of these?”

The fund’s largest investment is $210m (£150m) in Shell shares. A 2011 report by the UN environmentproject examining environmental damage from oil spills in Nigeria’s Ogoniland found Shell to be partially responsible, noting that Shell had failed to adhere to its own internal procedures, “creating public health and safety issues”, the restoration of which “could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken”, with an estimated cost of $1bn.

Three years on from the study, Amnesty and other groups said little had been done to clean up the pollution, while further claims are ongoing over the continuing contamination caused by the spills. Shell insists it is following international best practice in its operations in Nigeria.

Barnaby Pace, from Global Witness’s oil, gas and mining team, told the Guardian that “as a global leader”, the UN must invest responsibly and “leverage its investment positions to demand that all companies it invests in … embed robust anti-corruption measures in practice”.

“This will help ensure UN investments are not wasted in companies that compete on bribery instead of quality and allow public money to line the pockets of kleptocratic elites,” said Pace.

Declining to comment on specific companies, the UN special rapporteur for human rights and the environment, John Knox, said: “The United Nations has moral and legal responsibilities to take the lead in promoting and protecting human rights, including the rights undermined by environmental degradation … and [should] seriously consider how to ensure that its investments are consistent with those responsibilities.”

The fund also holds a combined $244m in HSBC and Barclays. The pair have been pursued by authorities in recent years over allegations of handling covert financial transactions, and have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines or settlements, most recently Barclays in 2015, over failings in anti-money laundering processes.

HSBC was fined a record $1.9bn in 2012 for what US prosecutors described as wilfully flouting sanctions, allowing at least $881m in drug money to pass through its Mexican branches.

Also in 2012, the US Justice Department extracted $3bn from GlaxoSmithKline, in which the fund holds $78m of shares, after the pharmaceutical giant pleaded guilty to failing to report drug safety data, misbranding drugs, and marketing anti-depressants not approved for use by minors to children. The firm was fined $490m in China, where it was found guilty of bribing doctors and hospitals to push products.

Küchenmeister said there was some irony as the UN was a driving force behind the authoring of the “six principles for responsible investment” (PRI).

“With the investments in companies violating human rights, pollution, corruption, or international law the UN is violating its own principles of responsible investment,” Küchenmeister wrote in an email. “It is irresponsible and a no-go to generate pensions from dirty profits for UN people [working] their whole life [to counter] the harmful impacts of companies violating social and ecological standards.”

The PRI have at their heart environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG). Last year the UN staff pension fund was awarded an A+ PRI rating. However, an analysis of the fund’s top 10 biggest shareholdings by leading ESG ratings agency Sustainalytics categorised them as either of “significant controversy”, or “high controversy”.

The ratings reflect “impact on the environment and society”, as well as the degree to which they suffer from ESG issues.

Ian Richards is one of 11 staff representatives on the UN pension fund’s board. He told the Guardian that when the board met with the secretary general’s representative in charge of the fund’s investments in March, it voiced concerns about lack of oversight.

“Everything with the UN is quite complicated but that doesn’t prevent us having a closer look at this,” he said. “We don’t want to find that our pensions are being paid from companies that go against the values that we’ve been working for all our careers.”

A spokesperson for the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said that while the fund does not comment on specific investments, it “does not believe there is a conflict between its fiduciary obligation to its beneficiaries and core UN objectives”.

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Nine-month sentence described as ‘ridiculous’ by father of 17-year-old who posed no threat

Ben Deri was only tried over the death of Nadeem Nawara, one of three Palestinian teenagers shot with live rounds during a protest near Ofer prison. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

An Israeli border policeman who fatally shot a Palestinian teenager at a demonstration while he was posing no threat to soldiers, has been sentenced to nine months in prison after a protracted court process.

The father of 17-year-old Nadeem Nawara, whose case was covered by the Guardian and other international media four years ago, described the sentence as “ridiculous”, insisting that the officer Ben Deri had “murdered” his son.

Deri’s plea bargain was held up by the teenager’s family and others in comparison to the long prison sentences typically handed down by the courts to Palestinians found guilty of killing Israelis.

Nadeem was one of three Palestinian teenagers shot with live ammunition over a period of over an hour during a stone-throwing demonstration near Ofer prison on 15 May 2014, the day Palestinians mark each year the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, the war around the time of the creation of Israel in 1948.

Mohammad Salameh, 16, was also fatally shot an hour after Nawara. Mohamed al-Azi, who was 15 at the time, survived a gunshot wound to the chest.

An Israeli military spokesman had at the time tried to deflect outrage over the the shootings, claiming footage of the killings had been “edited” to portray an unfair picture of events.

The sentence on Wednesday comes as Israeli security forces use of live fire is again in the spotlight after the fatal shooting of several dozen Palestinians at the Gaza border fence in recent weeks

Deri, however, was tried only for firing the fatal shots that killed Nadeem as only the teenager’s family allowed the body to exhumaed and an autopsy to be carried out that showed he had been killed by an Irsaeli M16 roundto the chest.

The prosecution had demonstrated to the the court that although police and soldiers at the scene had been ordered only to use rubber coated steel pellets, Deri had replaced the magazine on his M16 with one containing live rounds.

At 1:45pm, four minutes after Nadeem threw a stone at Israeli forces, Deri shot him in the chest.

Video footage seen by the Guardian at the time and taken from a nearby security camera showed clearly that Nuwara, was between 80-200metres from the soldiers when he was killed.

The court agreed to a plea bargain which dropped the charge of manslaughter, describing Deri’s actions as having involving a “high degree of negligence” when he loaded his weapon with live bullets. Deri was also ordered to pay the victim’s family $14,000 (£10,000).

“This is not how justice is done,” said Nadeem’s father, Siam Nawara, after the sentencing. “I never expected the Israeli court to do justice for my martyred son, but I had to do all I can to present a solid case and to expose the Israeli judicial system before the world and I did.”

He added: “Ben Deri who murders – and I am convinced that he intentionally committed murder – gets nine months and in the height of chutzpah I hear that they are considering appealing the severity of the sentence.

“We are dealing with an entire system that discriminates on the basis of race and arrives at decisions that are far from just.”

The case leaves multiple questions unanswered including whether it was Deri or or others who fired the other live rounds. The court also accepted that Deri had made two weapons handling errors that led him to fire the live round.

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