18 Jun

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

GUARD: Method of attack on tankers remains key evidence against Iran

Release of colour images adds more clarity to debate but fails to prove responsibility

An image the US says shows the Iranian military removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous

An image the US says shows the Iranian military removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous. Photograph: US navy/Reuters

The sophistication of the attacks on two shipping tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week had already led most independent analysts to conclude Iran was responsible for the high-profile explosions.

But there has been scepticism from some key countries, including Germany and Japan, after the US initially released a grainy black and white video it said showed Iranian forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the two targeted ships. Iran has denied involvement.

The fresh set of colour images released by the US Department of Defense overnight add a little more visual clarity to the diplomatic debate, including an image of an armed speedboat with troops in red life jackets on board, and life-jacketed personnel by the side of the Japanese vessel that was struck last week.

A photo the US says shows an Iranian patrol boat

A photo the US says shows an Iranian patrol boat after reportedly removing an ‘unexploded limpet mine’. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

But the principal evidence used to justify Iranian involvement has been the method employed. The two tankers were mined above the waterline – damaging them, but not sinking them – prompting the conclusion the actions were designed to make a point. There were no fatalities in either case, with both crews rescued.

Jack Watling, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute thinktank, said the attacks were “very precise, to avoid the risk of an oil spill”, to make the point that “Iran can impose a cost on the United States, and that the US can’t police the waterway around the strait of Hormuz”.

Both ships hit last Thursday were operating 19 and 21 nautical miles off Iran – just beyond the 12-mile territorial limit – in the crowded waterways through which 40% of the world’s internationally traded crude passes. Oil prices rose 4.5% on the day.

The mines used were small. Another photo released by the US shows a limpet mine attached to the Japanese vessel, the Kokuka Courageous, which did explode, creating a hole 1.5 metres high and 1.1 metres wide; dramatic enough when pictured, but again not enough to threaten the ship.

A hole blasted in the side of the Kokuka Courageous

A hole blasted in the side of the Kokuka Courageous. Photograph: US Department Of Defense/EPA

The wider argument used to justify Iran’s involvement is that it would make sense as a response by the country to what it perceives as the economic warfare waged by the US in withdrawing from the nuclear deal and imposing sanctions. “The status quo for Iran is unacceptable,” Watling said.

David Wearing, a teaching fellow at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, cautions that the US and its regional allies are “not reliable narrators”, partly because it is in Washington’s interest “to narrow debate to the question of whether or not Iran is guilty of these attacks to present their own aggression as defensive”.

But he acknowledged the evidence so far suggested it was probable Iran was directly involved. “They would likely be attempting to strengthen their hand in this standoff by demonstrating their ability to impose costs on their opponents,” the analyst added.

An image the US has said shows an unexploded limpet mine

An image the US has said shows an unexploded limpet mine used in an attack on the Kokuka Courageous. Photograph: US Department Of Defense/EPA

The release of the images was followed by the announcement that the US was sending another 1,000 troops to the Middle East, a modest show of strength designed to reinforce Washington’s argument about culpability.

A British assessment has also concluded Iranian forces were responsible for the tanker attacks, but there is not understood to be any immediate plans for the UK to step up its military commitment to the region.

Watling believes Tehran can avoid further recrimination “as long as there is sufficient ambiguity”, partly because few believe that Donald Trump, who campaigned on an isolationist agenda, wants war – and because the backing obtained from other countries remains limited.

GUARD: ‘The Saudis couldn’t do it without us’: the UK’s true role in Yemen’s deadly war

Britain does not merely supply the bombs that fall on Yemen – it provides the personnel and expertise that keep the war going. But is the government breaking the law?


For more than four years, a brutal Saudi air campaign has bombarded Yemen, killing tens of thousands, injuring hundreds of thousands and displacing millions – creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. And British weapons are doing much of the killing. Every day Yemen is hit by British bombs – dropped by British planes that are flown by British-trained pilots and maintained and prepared inside Saudi Arabia by thousands of British contractors.

The Saudi-led military coalition, which includes the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, has “targeted civilians … in a widespread and systematic manner”, according to the UN – dropping bombs on hospitals, schools, weddings, funerals and even camps for displaced people fleeing the bombing.

Saudi Arabia has in effect contracted out vital parts of its war against Yemen’s Houthi movement to the US and the UK. Britain does not merely supply weapons for this war: it provides the personnel and expertise required to keep the war going. The British government has deployed RAF personnel to work as engineers, and to train Saudi pilots and targeteers – while an even larger role is played by BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms company, which the government has subcontracted to provide weapons, maintenance and engineers inside Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi bosses absolutely depend on BAE Systems,” John Deverell, a former MoD mandarin and defence attache to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, told me. “They couldn’t do it without us.” A BAE employee recently put it more plainly to Channel 4’s Dispatches: “If we weren’t there, in seven to 14 days there wouldn’t be a jet in the sky.”

The British bombs that rain down on Yemen are produced in three towns: Glenrothes in Scotland, and Harlow and Stevenage in south-east England. Bombs roll off production lines owned by Raytheon UK and BAE Systems, firms contracted by the government to manufacture Paveway bombs (£22,000 apiece), Brimstone bombs (£105,000 apiece), and Storm Shadow cruise missiles (£790,000 apiece) for the Saudi Royal Air Force. BAE, under government contract, also assembles the jets that drop these bombs in hangars just outside the village of Warton, Lancashire.

Once these weapons arrive in Saudi Arabia, Britain’s involvement is far from over. The Saudi military lacks the expertise to use these weapons to fight a sustained air war – so BAE, under another contract to the UK government, provides what are known as “in-country” services. In practice, this means that around 6,300 British contractors are stationed at forward operating bases in Saudi Arabia. There, they train Saudi pilots and conduct essential maintenance night and day on planes worn out from flying thousands of miles across the Saudi desert to their targets in Yemen. They also supervise Saudi soldiers to load bombs on to planes and set their fuses for their intended targets.

Around 80 serving RAF personnel work inside Saudi Arabia. Sometimes they work for BAE to assist in maintaining and preparing aircraft. At other times they work as auditors to ensure that BAE is fulfilling its Ministry of Defence contracts. Additional RAF “liaison officers” work inside the command-and-control centre, from where targets in Yemen are selected.

Aircraft alone have never defeated a guerrilla insurgency. Despite atrocities committed by the Houthis on the ground, the rebel group’s domestic support has only been bolstered by outrage over years of Saudi bombing. Facing up to this reality, last year Saudi Arabia decided to deploy significant ground forces across the border – and here too, the British have joined the mission. In May 2018, an unknown number of British troops were sent to Yemen to assist Saudi ground forces. Since then, multiple newspapers have published reports of British special forces wounded in gun battles inside Houthi-controlled territory.

Under British law, it is illegal to licence arms exports if they might be used deliberately or recklessly against civilians – or in legal terms, to violate international humanitarian law. There is overwhelming evidence that the Saudis are flagrantly in violation, and yet when questions are raised in Parliament about Britain’s role in the atrocities occurring in Yemen, Conservative ministers typically limit themselves to three well-worn responses.

First, they claim that Britain operates “one of the most robust arms export regimes in the world”. Second, they say that while Britain may arm Saudi Arabia, it does not pick the targets in Yemen. Third, they say that the Saudi-led coalition already investigates its own alleged violations of international humanitarian law.

These responses have long since been overtaken by the bloody reality of the Yemen war. In fact, as the conflict has continued, the killing of civilians has actually accelerated. According to Larry Lewis, a former US State Department official who was sent to Saudi Arabia in 2015 in an attempt to reduce civilian harm, the proportion of strikes against civilians by Saudi-led forces almost doubled between 2017 and 2018.

The UK government’s argument that it does not pick the targets in Yemen resembles nothing so much as the logic of the American gun lobby, with its infamous claim that it’s not guns that kill people, but the people who use them. Since 2016, many countries have revoked or suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia – including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. But Britain and the US, whose planes constitute the backbone of Saudi Arabia’s combat fleet, are still holding out.

This could soon change. Three of Britain’s most senior judges are now mulling whether the government’s licensing of billions of pounds of arms to the Saudi Royal Air Force has been legal. The court of appeal’s judgment, expected this week, could force the government to suspend the licences that keep the bombs and spare parts flowing to Saudi Arabia, which would ground half of Saudi Arabia’s fleet in a matter of weeks.

The judiciary may now decide to curtail Britain’s ability to sustain Saudi Arabia’s doomed and destructive air war. The British and Saudi governments may also decide to send more aid to help the 24 million Yemenis now dependent on an underfunded UN relief fund. But a generation of Yemenis who have lost their families, their homes, educations and livelihoods will not get them back.

On a 2016 trip to Yemen, the Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell visited a school in the capital. It had been built, he said, with British aid – only to be destroyed, in all likelihood, by a British bomb. “I asked my host what the children were chanting,” he recalled to me in his Westminster office. His host translated for him: “‘Death to the Saudis’, ‘Death to the Americans’ – and in respect for your visit today, they have cut out the third stanza

On 27 March 2015, one day after the first bombs fell on Yemen, foreign secretary Philip Hammond told reporters that Britain would “support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat”. This would prove to be an understatement.

BAE and Raytheon production lines in Britain sped up to keep up with Saudi bombing. It is impossible to say how many bombs the UK has sent to Yemen, because the government in 2013 and 2014 granted BAE three special arms-export licences that permit the sale of an unlimited number of bombs to Saudi Arabia without requiring disclosure of how many have been sold. As a result, the full scale of the UK’s rearmament programme has remained hidden.

But even discounting this secret trade, British military exports to Riyadh multiplied almost 35-fold in one year, from £83m in 2014 to £2.9bn in 2015.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, can afford to buy these weapons, but it has traditionally lacked the skills and manpower to deploy them. A retired US defence official joked that in the past, all the kingdom’s pilots were selected from the king’s immediate family – because “only they could be trusted not to drop a bomb on his palace”.

British personnel have played a major role in picking up the slack. Government contractors carry out around 95% of the tasks necessary to fight the air war, one former BAE employee told Channel 4’s Dispatches – an estimate confirmed to me by a former senior British official who worked in Saudi Arabia during the air war………………………

Theresa May and Mohammed bin Salman in London in March 2018.

Theresa May and Mohammed bin Salman in London in March 2018. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty

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NYT: US Sending Troops to Mideast Amid Gulf Tensions Over Iran

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is sending 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as tensions in the Persian Gulf mounted Tuesday over Iran’s announcement it will not comply with the international agreement that keeps it from making nuclear weapons. At the same time, Iran insisted it was not seeking war.

Iran’s announcement Monday that it could soon start enriching uranium to just a step away from weapons-grade levels challenged President Donald Trump’s assurances to allies that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal last year made the world a safer place.

The Pentagon responded by ordering 1,000 more troops to the Middle East, including security forces for additional surveillance and intelligence-gathering. The escalation of American military might was aimed at deterring Iran and calming allies worried about the safety of strategic shipping lanes .

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, insisted Tuesday that while “we do not wage war with any nation,” Iranians will withstand mounting U.S. pressure and emerge victorious.

After Trump withdrew from the deal signed by President Barack Obama, he reinstated stiff economic sanctions, leaving the European and other partners in the accord struggling to keep Iran on board.

Iran’s announcement that it would not abide by a limit on uranium stockpiles established under the 2015 agreement puts the U.S. in the awkward position of demanding that Iran comply with a deal that Trump derides as the worst in history.

“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Monday.

The U.S. accuses Iran of attacking two tankers near the Persian Gulf; the Iranians deny responsibility. With details murky and no one owning up to the attacks, the Pentagon released new photos intended to bolster its case.

In announcing the new deployment, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the forces are “for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats” in the Mideast.

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Bush’s Five Big Lies That Led to the Iraq Quagmire

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection

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Save The Children Organization

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

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Iraqi War Child

Please Never Forget.

16 Jun

Opinion When We Kill

Opinion When We Kill

The McGlynn: Highly recommended read

Everything you think you know about the death penalty is wrong.

Nicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

“I hereby sentence you to death.”

The words of Judge Clifford B. Shepard filled the courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 27, 1976. Shepard was sentencing Clifford Williams Jr., whom a jury had just found guilty of entering a woman’s house with a spare key entrusted to him and then shooting her dead from the foot of her bed.

It was a bizarre verdict, for forensics showed that the shots had been fired from outside the house — through the window, breaking the glass and piercing curtains and a screen. Moreover, at the time of the shooting Williams had been attending a birthday party, an alibi confirmed by many in attendance.

That didn’t matter, for Williams was an indigent black man with a public defender who didn’t call a single witness. The jury didn’t realize that he had an alibi or that the bullets had come from outside the house.

Judge Shepard, who was sometimes mocked in the legal community for harsh rulings and a weak intellect, ordered that “you be put to death in the electric chair by having electrical current passed through your body in such amount and frequency until you are rendered dead.”

The sentence came just three months after the Supreme Court had restored the death penalty in the United States, in the case of Gregg v. Georgia, saying that new safeguards meant that capital punishment would be applied only to the worst of the worst. “No longer can a jury wantonly and freakishly impose the death sentence,” Justice Potter Stewart declared in the majority opinion.


Hubert Nathan Myers, left, hugging his uncle, Clifford Williams Jr., during a news conference after their 1976 murder convictions were overturned In March.CreditWill Dickey/The Florida Times-Union, via Associated Press

Fast forward four decades. Williams, now 76, was freed in March along with his co-defendant and nephew, Hubert Nathan Myers; as they emerged from prison, two frail and elderly men, Myers knelt and kissed the ground. They had each spent 42 years in prison for a murder they did not commit — spanning the entire period of the modern death penalty and its supposed safeguards.

Williams survived because the Florida Supreme Court had overturned his death sentence by a single vote, in a 4-to-3 decision, back in 1980, effectively giving him life in prison instead. Then in 2016 Jacksonville elected a reformist prosecutor who reviewed this old case and concluded, “There is no credible evidence of guilt, and likewise there is substantial credible evidence to find these men are innocent.” A judge, noting that she had been only 3 years old at the time of the convictions, finally released the men from a justice system that had treated them wantonly and freakishly.

Support for the Death Penalty

Percentage of Americans responding to this question: “Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?”

President Trump is now calling for expanding the death penalty so it would apply to drug dealers and those who kill police officers, with an expedited trial and quick execution. A majority of Americans (56 percent, according to Gallup) favor capital punishment, believing that it will deter offenders or save money and presuming that it will apply only to the vilest criminals and that mistakes are not a serious risk.

All these assumptions are wrong.

My interest in the death penalty arises partly from a mistake of my own. At the beginning of 2000, I spoke to Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, who told me about a white man on death row in Texas, Cameron Todd Willingham, whom he believed to be innocent. I discussed with editors the possibility of doing a deep dive into the case but let myself be lured away by the sirens of that year’s Iowa caucuses instead. I never wrote about Willingham, and he was executed in 2004.

Subsequent evidence strongly suggests that not only was Willingham innocent but that no crime was even committed. He had been convicted of splashing gasoline around his house and then setting it on fire to murder his three little children. But experts later showed that there was no gasoline and that the fire was simply an accident that probably started with faulty wiring.

Imagine what it would be like to lose the people you loved most, then be convicted of murdering them and finally be strapped to a gurney and executed by lethal injection. A powerful new movie, “Trial by Fire,” with Laura Dern, tells the story of the Willingham case, and I hope it will prick the national conscience.

A photo of Cameron Todd Willingham when he was on death row.CreditMichael Stravato

Partly because I failed to investigate Willingham’s story, I have thrown myself into the case of Kevin Cooper, a black man on death row in California whose case reeks of prosecutorial misconduct. Cooper was convicted of the 1983 home invasion and murder of four white people in Chino Hills, Calif. After an extensive investigation, I argued last year that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department may have framed Cooper.

Nicholas Kristof on Kevin Cooper.

One Test Could Exonerate Him. Why Won’t California Do It?

Republican and Democratic politicians alike — including the state’s former attorney general Kamala Harris, now running for president — refused for years to allow advanced DNA testing in Cooper’s case, even though his lawyers would have paid for it. (Harris has apologized and says she now favors testing.) This summer crucial evidence from Cooper’s case is finally being subjected to that testing, 36 years after the murders. We may know the results by September.

DNA testing accounts for many of the 165 exonerations and prison releases because of dubious evidence since 1973, by the count of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Usually, though, there isn’t DNA available that can be tested to determine guilt or innocence. As in the Clifford Williams case, it’s more murky. The crucial evidence in his conviction came from an eyewitness who may have been a pathological liar.

But let’s be clear: The great majority of people executed are guilty. They have frequently killed with the utmost savagery.

Scotty Morrow, a black man from Georgia, indisputably committed a brutal murder in 1994. He fought with his ex-girlfriend, Barbara Ann Young, and, as her 5-year-old son watched, shot her in the head and killed her.

Morrow also shot dead another woman in the house, Tonya Woods, and shot a third woman, LaToya Horne, in the face. Horne was able to stagger down the road before collapsing. She suffered permanent injuries.

Not surprisingly, Morrow was sentenced to die — but let me throw in a bit of complexity.

Morrow grew up in a violent home where he was raped and beaten as a child, and he never received mental health support to deal with his trauma; that justifies nothing but may help explain something. He desperately wanted to reconcile with Young, and when told that she had been exploiting him for money while she waited for her “real man” to return from prison, he “just snapped,” as he put it. After the murders, he prepared to commit suicide but was arrested; he then prayed daily for 25 years for the families of the women he had killed.

An undated booking photo from the Georgia Department of Corrections shows Scotty Morrow, a death row inmate.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Rarely in my career as a prosecutor and a judge did I witness this level of remorse and acceptance of responsibility,” reflected Judge Wendy Shoob, one of the judges who dealt with Morrow’s appeals over two decades. The only disciplinary report against him in a quarter-century in prison was for intervening in a fight to protect an inmate who was being stabbed with a shank. Several correctional officers wrote letters appealing that his life be spared.

“Scotty Morrow is literally the only inmate I would do this for,” said a correctional officer with 16 years in law enforcement, Nathan Adkerson. Sgt. Tajuana Burns described him as “just a really nice man.” Lindsey Veal Jr., a mental health counselor, said Morrow “actually makes the prison safer,” and added: “There are very few inmates I can call fully rehabilitated. But, without question, Scotty is one of them.”

William L. Buchanan, a psychologist who worked with Morrow, recalled that one correctional officer “looked me straight in the eyes and stated to me, ‘This is the best man in the world.’”

Yet in the end the State of Georgia did with meticulous planning what Morrow had done impulsively in a spasm of fury. It executed him last month by lethal injection. In his last moments in the execution chamber, Morrow apologized again to the families of the women he had killed, adding to the 20 witnesses: “I’m truly sorry for all that happened. I hope that you all recover and have healing.”

Was the man strapped down on a gurney truly the same person as the enraged brute who had shot dead Young and Woods 25 years earlier?

The death penalty has been applied to at least 222 crimes in the Anglo-American legal system, including marrying a Jew and stealing a rabbit. For a time in America, stealing grapes was punishable by death. So was witchcraft, as we know from the Salem trials.

For centuries executions were public affairs. The last public execution in the United States was in August 1936 in Owensboro, Ky. Perhaps 20,000 people gathered to see a black man, Rainey Bethea, 22, hanged for the rape and murder of a white woman. The carnival atmosphere and “hanging parties” led Kentucky to ban public executions, although public lynchings continued.

16 Jun

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

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.


Irish Examiner>>

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The Age>>

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

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Prime minister’s wife admits to lesser charge in plea bargain and pays £12,000 fine

Sara Netanyahu

Sara Netanyahu, who illegally spent £79,000 of public money on catering, has been fined £12,000. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s prime minister, has been convicted of illegally misusing thousands of pounds of public funds on lavish meals.

A Jerusalem court on Sunday accepted a plea bargain in which Netanyahu agreed to admit to a lesser charge than the original fraud accusations. She will pay about $15,000 (£12,000) in fines and reimbursements to the state.

The sentencing ended one of the long-running cases against the family. However, Benjamin Netanyahu still faces the prospect of three corruption indictments later this year that may end his decade as leader and even result in a prison sentence. He denies all charges.

According to the original indictment against Sara Netanyahu, of fraud and breach of trust, she and a government employee were accused of spending roughly $100,000 (£79,000) on catering from expensive restaurants between 2010 and 2013, despite having a in-house cook provided by the state.

In Sunday’s settlement, she admitted to taking unfair advantage of another person’s mishandling of state money and reduced the overspending charge to $50,000. Former caretaker Ezra Saidoff also reached an agreement with the prosecution and was fined $3,000.

“As in every plea bargain, each side makes concessions, sometimes hard concessions,” said the prosecutor, Erez Padan, at the Jerusalem magistrates court. “It is right and proper for the public interest to bring this case to an end.”

Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yossi Cohen, told the court his client had already been punished by public humiliation in the closely watched investigation. “Four years of ugly leaks and denigrations” constituted “inhuman punishment”, he said.

“No other person could have withstood this. This lady is made of steel,” he added.

The 60-year-old child psychologist has been a controversial presence at her husband’s side throughout his political career. In addition to the fraud case, she has faced mistreatment accusations from employees and was described in a newspaper as “Israel’s Marie Antoinette”.

In 2017, Netanyahu was ordered to pay tens of thousands of pounds in damages in a dispute with two former domesticstaff who accused her of bullying. She faces a third lawsuit from an employee who alleged staff were treated like “slaves”.

Last year, an audio recording emerged of Netanyahu furiously scolding a family publicist over a gossip column. She was angry with him for not highlighting her professional qualifications in the press.

“BA, MA,” she was heard shouting, exclaiming each syllable in reference to her bachelor and master’s degrees. Her husband responded to public shock over the tirade, saying on Facebook that everyone “gets angry and says a few words that [they] didn’t mean”.

Benjamin Netanyahu is entangled in a series of more severe corruption investigations and is due to appear at a pre-trial hearing in October after Israel’s attorney general announced his intention to indict in all three cases.

He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.

One case, called Case 1,000, involves allegations of receiving gifts, including cigars, champagne and jewellery, from billionaires, among them the Australian casino operator James Packer, allegedly in exchange for favours. In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is accused of colluding with the country’s top-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favourable coverage.

The third and most damning, Case 4,000, involves allegations that Netanyahu offered incentives to the Israeli telecoms provider Bezeq in exchange for positive stories on an online news website it owns.

Netanyahu has denied all accusations, dismissing them as part of a witch-hunt orchestrated by the press. He will fight for re-election in September, weeks before the pre-trial hearing is due to start.

A win for Netanyahu has been portrayed domestically as a lifeline to block the graft cases as some of his parliamentary allies have suggested they might back laws to grant him immunity.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

World Politics

United States

Since Kushner entered the White House, a firm he founded has received over $90m in foreign funds. The public has a right to know the sources

Senate Democrats have asked the Federal Reserve to scrutinize Deutsche Bank over allegedly suspicious transactions tied to President Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Senate Democrats have asked the Federal Reserve to scrutinize Deutsche Bank over allegedly suspicious transactions tied to Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The stench surrounding Jared Kushner has grown more pungent with every passing day.

On Monday, the Guardian’s Jon Swaine reported that, since Kushner entered the White House as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, a company Kushner co-founded has received over $90m in foreign funding, channeled through secretive offshore companies.

The public has no idea where this money is coming from – a major problem given that Kushner is not just one of Donald Trump’s chief international envoys, he is the de facto chief envoy.

The former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former defense secretary James Mattis found Kushner’s interference in Middle East diplomacy opaque, irritating and – by the summer of 2017, when he greenlit a blockade of Qatar, a country with a US airbase – downright dangerous. His zeal for settling a “deal of the century” for the Israeli prime minister, “Bibi” Netanyahu, an old family friend, has made him the US government point person in a region notorious for attempting to curry US political favor with dollars.

Even a whiff of potential conflicts of interest undermines Kushner’s diplomacy – something that would be unacceptable in any other administration.

But this is Trump World. There is only one guiding rule, which the principals barely bother to hide: pay to play. The corruption and self-dealing by Trump and his family is on so vast a scale that if it wasn’t so horrifying you’d almost admire the audacity.

Kushner founded the company in question, an online commercial real estate broker called Cadre, with his brother, Joshua, in 2014. “Cadre is going to make us billionaires,” Kushner announced to colleagues shortly afterwards. He refused to give up the entirety of his stake when he joined the Trump administration. (Kushner claims he divested from most of it, but shareholders were not notified of any sale, which is highly unusual.)

Worse: on his initial financial disclosure form, which he filed in March 2017 with the Office of Government Ethics, Kushner did not even list his stake in Cadre, which was worth up to $25m at the time. After the glaring oversight was reported by the Wall Street Journal, a lawyer for Kushner said that the omission was inadvertent and would be rectified. By June 2018, Kushner’s stake in Cadre was valued at up to $50m, or between 3% and 6% of the company.

A whistleblower has alleged that Kushner’s business interests are among the reasons career White House personnel security officers recommended that neither he nor his similarly conflicted wife, Ivanka Trump, be given a security clearance – a recommendation President Trump ignored.

Many administrations suffer embarrassing exhibits of corruption from family members who see proximity to power as their opportunity to cash in. In the 1970s, Jimmy Carter’s little brother, Billy, tried to profit by endorsing Billy Beer. In 1999, Neil Bush, son of the 41st president and brother of the future 43rd, founded a classroom technology company that received investments from the Kuwaiti royal family, a Chinese technology executive and a Russian billionaire. That same year, Tony Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s now deceased brother, partnered with the political opponent of a United States ally to export hazelnuts from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

But those efforts were made outside the White House by relatives without top-level security clearances. They pale in comparison to what the Trumps and Kushners may have done.

Some highlights to date: first there is the issue of the president’s tax returns, which Trump has refused to disclose despite a law that says that the treasury secretary must provide them to Congress if requested. We also know that, starting in 2010, Deutsche Bank lent money to the Trump Organization not from the bank’s own balance sheet, but via the private banking division, which means that Trump’s business is on the hook to entities or individuals whose identity is obscured.

Meanwhile, as president, Trump has brazenly intermingled politics with his business by flaunting presidential access via Trump properties like Mar-a-Lago, the so-called “Winter White House”, and the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, which have been flooded with foreign occupants looking to curry favor with administration figures.

Then there was “the bangle”. On 16 November 2016, just days into the Trump transition, Ivanka promoted a diamond bracelet from her jewelry line on 60 Minutes. The next day, her company sent out a “style alert” advertising the bangle for over $10,000. For the next 17 months, Ivanka moonlighted as a White House adviser while keeping ownership of her company, which was awarded several lucrative foreign trademarks, sometimes around the time of her meetings or chats with those foreign countries’ leaders.

Meanwhile, her husband, Jared – nominal head of foreign outreach on behalf of the Trump transition – and his father, Charles, were meeting secretly with the Chinese and various Middle Eastern rulers, seeking funds to bail out their financially stricken building at 666 Fifth Avenue, for which they needed $1.4bn by February 2019.

History will judge corruption to be the most destructive and defining characteristic of the mob-like family

Ultimately a Canadian firm – Brookfield, whose largest outside shareholder is an uber-rich Qatari sovereign wealth fund – came to the rescue with a financial offer that, according to any normal real estate logic, made no sense: leasing the building for 99 years, for $1.3bn – and paying the entire amount up front. Coincidentally, around the time that deal was reported to be in the works, the secretary of state called on the Saudis to end their blockade of Qatar. In cynical parlance, this is called dollars for diplomacy.

Fortuitously for the Kushner family business, the blockade of Qatar continues, which means the Qataris are still vulnerable. In the spring, representatives of the Qatari government told me in person and by email that there was another payment due to Jared via an offshore fund in June – which happens, apparently, to be when Cadre received the $90m.

In any other administration, a senior government official (let alone son-in-law) who was revealed to have clung on to a $50m stake in a company while serving in office and not disclosed it would have been asked by the president to leave. But President Trump will do no such thing – so other parts of the government must.

The Department of Justice should investigate Jared’s initially non-disclosed $50m stake in Cadre, and the investments the company has since received.

And Congress must work harder to overcome stonewalling and investigate the strange relationships that Kushner Companies and the Trump Organization have had with Deutsche Bank, where senior executives ignored calls to report Trump and Kushner transactions to the government for potentially suspicious activity. At least Senator Elizabeth Warren is demanding that the government-backed mortgage firm Freddie Mac supply details about its $800m Kushner deal this spring.

Congress should also put the microscope on Jared’s private communications and unwavering alliance with the clearly dangerous – but rich – crown prince of Saudi Arabia. (The Saudis, it should be noted, were shareholders in the Canadian firm that bailed out 666 Fifth Avenue.) But somehow that message gets lost in noise about Russia and other red herrings.

History will judge corruption to be the most destructive and defining characteristic of the mob-like family occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And it will be – but only if Congress takes action.

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16 Jun

Happy Fathers Day

Image result for .father day greetings to the world

“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters” – George Herbert


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