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24 Apr

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

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.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

Forty-three percent of Americans live in places where they’re breathing unsafe air, according to American Lung Association

High-rise buildings in downtown Los Angeles, California, on a hazy morning on 21 September 2018.

High-rise buildings in downtown Los Angeles, California, on a hazy morning on 21 September 2018. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

An increasing number of Americans live in places with unhealthy levels of smog or particulate air pollution – both of which are being made worse by climate change, according to a new report.

Air quality in the US has been improving since the 1970s, but that progress may be backsliding and 43% of Americans are now living in places where they are breathing unsafe air, according to the American Lung Association report.

As temperatures rise, wildfires are getting worse and spewing smoke across the west. And more smog, or ozone, is forming on warmer days.

For the three hottest years on record, 2015 through 2017, about 141 million people lived in US counties that saw unhealthy levels of particle pollution, either in a single 24-hour period or over a year, or unhealthy levels of smog. That is 7 million more people than in the group’s last report.

“We’re seeing in this year’s report the impacts of climate change on air quality in really stunning terms,” said Paul Billings, a vice-president for the association.

Eight communities set records for days with spikes in particle pollution, surpassing the group’s data back to 2001, Billings said.

Western wildfires might be to blame for much of the uptick, and next year’s report counting 2018 is expected to be even worse, he said.

In California, Bakersfield and the Fresno area had among the worst air quality in the country, according to all three measurements. Los Angeles continued to rank worst for smog. Fairbanks, Alaska, ranked third for particle pollution, probably because so many people burn wood to heat their homes.

The report is the health advocacy group’s annual assessment of government data.

Both smog and particle pollution are linked with breathing problems, lung and heart complications and early deaths. Smog occurs when sunlight reacts with gases from cars and power plants. Particle pollution also comes from burning fossil fuels, as well as from burning wood in fireplaces or stoves, and from wildfires.

The federal government’s National Climate Assessment explains that smog levels can increase with warmer days and both smog and particle pollution can increase when weather is stagnant. Worse droughts could also lead to more wind-blown dust.

Air pollution has fallen for decades in the US, due to pollution laws like the 1970 Clean Air Act and the use of less coal and more natural gas.

One 2018 study found that deaths from air pollution in the US were cut in half between 1990 and 2010. But they still accounted for one out of every 35 deaths – more than from traffic accidents and shootings combined.

In comparison, more than 5.5 billion people worldwide, 75% of the population, live in places that do not meet the World Health Organization standard for limiting particle pollution, according to the University of Chicago.

The Trump administration has sought to roll back Obama-era environmental progress, including on air and climate pollution regulations, such as rules for power plants and cars.

Miles Keogh, the executive director for the National Association of State Air Agencies, said weakening air standards would mean “walking away from a winning strategy”.

“We’ve got the tools here,” Keogh said. “We’ve got to use them to shore it up, adapt them to a changing climate and not walk away from things that work.”

Climate activists say pressure growing on politicians to act as donations flood in

The Extinction Rebellion camp at Marble Arch in central London

The Extinction Rebellion camp at Marble Arch in central London. Photograph: Ollie Millington/Getty

Support for Extinction Rebellion in the UK has quadrupled in the past nine days as public concern about the scale of the ecological crisis grows.

Since the wave of protests began more than a week ago, 30,000 new backers or volunteers have offered their support to the environmental activist group. In the same period it has raised almost £200,000 – mostly in donations of between £10 and £50 – reaching a total of £365,000 since January.

The group said the figures showed the public was waking up to the scale of the crisis, adding that pressure was growing on politicians to act.

“What this shows is that Extinction Rebellion has spoken to people who have been wanting to act on this for such a long time but haven’t known how,” said a spokesperson for the group. “The debate on this is over – ordinary people are now saying it is time for politicians to act with real urgency.”

Diane Abbott backed the demonstrators in a speech to the eco-activists in Parliament Square on Wednesday.

The shadow home secretary told a crowd of up to 100 protesters – one of whom towered above the group on six-foot stilts while others wielded banners – that she acknowledged a “climate emergency”, one of the group’s key demands.

Abbott also emphasised that MPs needed to come together to host a “broad conversation” on one of the activists’ requests to bring the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

She said: “I wouldn’t be in politics if I didn’t think change was possible. If things can change on the issues that I campaigned on when I was a very young woman, I think that things can change … on climate change and we can move towards the 2025 target.”

Abbott suggested meeting Extinction Rebellion for a detailed discussion of policy aims – a proposal met with rapturous applause. She reiterated her commitment to learning and listening to protesters and said that, in the long term, climate change was more important than Brexit.

The group’s organisers said the number of people on the streets for the protests had dwindled from a high over the Easter bank holiday weekend but that the number of people who had signed up to support future demonstrations had risen from 10,000 before the protest to 40,000 by Wednesday morning.

The Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said the group was also becoming more diverse – attracting more working-class and black and minority ethnic supporters. “But that is definitely a work in progress – there is still more work to do in that area,” she added.

The figures came a day after Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student who sparked a global youth-based movement when she began a “climate strike” outside Sweden’s parliament last year, visited Westminster.

In a speech to MPs, she said: “You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before.”

Extinction Rebellion’s youth group wrote to MPs on Wednesday, as parliament restarted after the Easter break, pleading with them to act swiftly to address the crisis.

Extinction Rebellion: a week of protest in three minutes – video

The letter states: “We are writing to ask you to hear the science, to feel the public’s change of heart and to act now to save our futures … Now the time has arrived to stand up and be counted – you are our elected representatives and we need your help.”

More than 1,000 Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested in the past week in a campaign of mass non-violent direct action to highlight how little time there is to halt manmade ecological breakdown.

Protesters occupied four sites across the capital and staged acts of civil disobedience including blocking roads, disrupting a train line and conducting a protest at Heathrow.

On Tuesday, the group said it intended to carry out further action in the next few days – including blocking roads in and around the City of London on Thursday. It is debating how and when to stop this stage of the protests.

On Tuesday, senior Labour figures backed the protesters, likening them to the Chartists, suffragettes and anti-apartheid activists.

Speaking in response to an urgent question in the Commons, the shadow energy minister Barry Gardiner said alongside the school strikes, the Extinction Rebellion protests were reminiscent of previous struggles.

“All of those victories were won by citizens uniting against injustice, making their voice heard. And Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers are doing just that,” he said.

Inside the chamber, the former Labour leader Ed Miliband said the government must declare a climate emergency and introduce a “green new deal”.

Responding for the government, Claire Perry, the energy minister, rejected the idea of a climate emergency – “I don’t know what that would entail” – and said she had reservations about the Extinction Rebellion protests.

She said though she was glad such arguments were being heard, they had caused “disruption for many hundreds and thousands of hardworking Londoners and had required a heavy policing presence.

“I worry that many of the messages we are hearing ignore the progress that is being made, and as such make people fearful for the future rather than hopeful.”

More On The Environment:

Agbogbloshie: the world’s largest e-waste dump – in pictures

World Politics

United States

President’s remarks to Washington Post come as White House battles subpoenas and treasury misses deadline to provide tax returns

Donald Trump told the Washington Post: ‘I don’t want people testifying to a party.’

Donald Trump told the Washington Post: ‘I don’t want people testifying to a party.’ Photograph: Kevin Dietsch/Pool/EPA

Donald Trump has said he is opposed to current and former White House aides testifying to congressional committees about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference.

In an interview with The Washington Post, the US president claimed his administration cooperated with Mueller’s investigation and did not need to comply with congressional committees examining possible obstruction of justice on his part.

“There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan – obviously very partisan,” Trump told the Post. “I don’t want people testifying to a party, because that is what they’re doing if they do this.”

The remarks pointed to a deepening power struggle between the White House and Congress as shock waves from the Mueller report continue to reverberate in Washington.

The House oversight committee has been investigating security clearances issued to senior officials, including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former White House aide Rob Porter.

The committee subpoenaed Carl Kline, a former White House personnel security director, following testimony from a whistleblower that dozens of people in the administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds. But on Tuesday Kline, following White House instructions, did not turn up for a scheduled deposition.

Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the committee, said the administration has adopted the “untenable” position that it can ignore requests from Democrats, who assumed the majority in January.

“It appears that the president believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight,” Cummings said in a statement.

Cummings is consulting with other members and staff about scheduling a vote to hold Kline in contempt of Congress. He told the MSNBC channel: “We will hold a vote of our committee shortly to hold him in contempt and then we will check with House counsel … to see where we go from there.”

The White House has blocked the oversight panel in various investigations. On Monday, Trump and his business organisation sued Cummings to prevent a subpoena that seeks years of the president’s financial records, arguing that it “has no legitimate legislative purpose”.

Cummings said the White House “has refused to produce a single piece of paper or a single witness” in any of the committee’s investigations this year.

A spokesman for the top Republican on the oversight panel, Jim Jordan, said Cummings was choosing confrontation over cooperation. “Chairman Cummings rushed to a subpoena in his insatiable quest to sully the White House,” Russell Dye told the Associated Press.

Officials also said the administration plans to fight a subpoena issued by the House judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler for ex-White House counsel Donald McGahn by asserting executive privilege over his testimony, according to the Post. The Mueller report chronicles how McGahn ignored many of Trump’s directions to obstruct justice and fire Mueller.

Hogan Gidley, the White House deputy press secretary, told Fox News’s America’s Newsroom: “What I am concerned about … is that Democrats like Jerry Nadler continue to try to attack this president and attack members of this administration repeatedly.

“He’s not going to learn anything else about Don McGahn or this administration that Bob Mueller didn’t find in two years of wasted time and energy. The only thing he is going to gain quite frankly, are maybe some political allies at the far left who are conspiracy theorists and think somehow it was a sham.”

On yet another front, the White House defied a demand from the ways and means committee chairman, Richard Neal, to turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns by the close of business. In a letter to Neal, the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, asked for more time and said he would give the panel a final decision by 6 May.

Mnuchin is consulting with the justice department “due to the serious constitutional questions raised by this request and the serious consequences that a resolution of those questions could have for taxpayer privacy”, he wrote.

The White House and Congress could be digging in for a long battle all the way to the courts. Speaking at the Time 100 Summit in New York, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Now we see the administration engaging in stonewalling of the facts coming to the American people.”

Kamala Harris calls for impeachment as CNN hosts 2020 contenders>>

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‘No women anything’: Trump Fed pick Stephen Moore’s list of misogynistic remarks>>

Trump says aides need not testify to Congress amid growing power struggle>>

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23 Apr

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

AP: After IS fall, some women who joined plead to come home

In this March 26, 2019, photo, Aliya, a 24 year-old Indonesian national, poses for a portrait with her son, Yahya, at Camp Roj in north Syria. Aliya said that back home she grew up in a conservative Muslim family but was not herself practicing. Then her boyfriend broke up with her and, brokenhearted, she threw herself into religion. To “make up for” her past, she said she went far to a hard-line direction, watching videos of IS sermons. “I believed they were the real Islamic state … They said when you make hijra (migration to the caliphate), all your sins are cleared,” she said. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

AL-HOL, Syria (AP) — They came from around the world, four women drawn to the Islamic State group’s “caliphate.” They said it was out of misguided religious faith or naivety or youthful rebellion, but whatever the reason, they tied their lives to a group that became notorious for its atrocities.

Now after the militants’ defeat, they say they made a mistake and are pleading to come home. They are among tens of thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and foreign women and children who belonged to the caliphate now held in camps in northern Syria overseen by the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Many remain die-hard supporters of IS. Inside the camps, they have tried to recreate the caliphate. Some women have re-formed units of the militants’ feared religious police, the “Hisba,” and enforce rules and punishments on other residents.

The four women interviewed by The Associated Press at al-Hol and Roj camps insisted they had not been active IS members, and they all said their husbands were not fighters. Those denials and much in their accounts could not be independently confirmed.

“How could I have been so stupid, and so blind?” Kimberly Polman, a 46-year-old Canadian woman, said of her decision to join the caliphate.

To many, their expressions of regret likely ring hollow or self-serving. Travelling to the caliphate, the women joined a group whose atrocities were well known, including sex enslavement of Yazidi women, mass killings and grotesque punishments of rule-breakers, ranging from public shootings to beheadings and hurling from rooftops.

Their pleas to return home point to the question of what to do with the men and women who joined the caliphate. The SDF complains it is being forced to shoulder the burden of dealing with them.

Governments around the world are reluctant to take back their nationals. Some are focusing on repatriating children and not the parents.

Current Belgian policy, for example, is to bring back children under 10. “Up to today our priority remains to return these kids because they are the victims, so to speak, of the radical choices made by their parents,” said Karl Lagatie, deputy spokesman of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Samira, a 31-year-old Belgian woman, is in the camp with her 2-year-old son after fleeing the caliphate in January 2018 along with her husband, a French citizen she met in Syria.

Samira said that back home when she was young, she drank alcohol and went dancing at clubs. Then “I wanted to change my life. I found Islam.” She came to believe IS propaganda that the only place one could be a proper Muslim was in the caliphate, so she travelled there.

Read Full Article>>

AP: US voices disappointment at delay in Afghan talks

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Afghanistan’s president over the weekend to express Washington’s disappointment over the indefinite postponement of Afghan talks with the Taliban, according to a statement released Monday.

The talks were scheduled to start this coming Friday in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office, but were scuttled after a falling-out between the two sides over who should attend.

The gathering would have marked the first time that Taliban and Kabul government officials sat together, a potential milestone in efforts to reach a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest, and the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The State Department said that in his call with President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday, Pompeo encouraged both sides to come together to agree on participants, saying the talks are Afghanistan’s best chance for peace.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has met on several occasions with the Taliban and has pressed for Afghan-to-Afghan talks, had expressed hope the Qatar meeting would bring the sides closer to a “roadmap” for a future Afghanistan.

In a second statement released Monday, the U.S. State Department said Khalilzad would travel to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Qatar, as well as Russia and the United Kingdom, for further talks. It said the multi-country trip began Monday and will end May 11.

It said that in Kabul, Khalilzad will “consult with the Afghan government and other Afghans to encourage all parties to work towards intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations to determine a final peace settlement.”

In Qatar, Khalilzad will meet again with the Taliban to focus on “national security issues,” an apparent reference to guarantees Washington is seeking that Afghanistan will not again be used as a staging area for terrorist attacks. The two sides have also been discussing a timetable for the withdrawal of an estimated 14,000 U.S. troops, a longstanding Taliban demand.

Khalilzad has said they reached a draft agreement on both issues, without elaborating.

The statement said Khalilzad will also press the Taliban to participate in “inclusive” Afghan-to-Afghan talks.

The U.S.-backed government in Kabul has been sidelined for months from the talks with the Taliban because the insurgents refuse to meet with government officials. The Taliban have said they will only meet with Afghans as private individuals and not as government representatives.

Read Full Article>>

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.

 

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

DOD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three Marines who were supporting Operation Resolute Support.

The following Marines died April 8 while conducting combat operations in Parwan province, Afghanistan.

Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York.

Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania.

Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware.

These Marines were assigned to 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

The Pentagon has identified two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan while involved in combat operations Friday in Kunduz Province.

The men were identified Saturday as Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, and Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colorado. Collette was assigned to the 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, and Lindsay was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Both were based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

“The 71st Ordnance Group … is deeply saddened by the loss of Spc. Joseph P. Collette. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends,” Col. David K. Green, commander of 71st Ordnance Group, said in a statement.

The fatalities bring to four the number of U.S. soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan. The deaths underscore the difficulties in bringing peace to the war-ravaged country.

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>>

Child

Syria War Child

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22 Apr

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

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.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

The New York Easter parade and Bonnet festival – in pictures

 

World Politics

United States

The Massachusetts senator is the most senior Democrat to call for the start of impeachment proceedings against Trump

Warren’s remarks make her one of the most prominent Democratic voices to advocate for impeachment.

Warren’s remarks make her one of the most prominent Democratic voices to advocate for impeachment. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Elizabeth Warren on Friday became the most senior Democrat, and the first 2020 presidential candidate, to call for the start of impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump following the release of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 US election and the Trump campaign.

“To ignore a president’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways,” the Democratic senator from Massachusetts said in a statement Friday, one day after the release of a redacted version of a 448-page summary of Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.

“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States,” Warren said.

Mueller did not make a conclusion about whether the president unlawfully obstructed justice, but did outline nearly a dozen cases in which the president had attempted to stop the inquiry or narrow its scope.

Warren’s remarks make her one of the most prominent Democratic voices to advocate for impeachment, joining congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib. Those progressive House members have pushed a formal impeachment resolution.

Backers of impeachment have argued that the Democrats have a legal and ethical responsibility to launch the proceedings and continue the investigation into Trump and the question of obstruction of justice.

Other Democrats fear that it would be politically unwise to begin the impeachment process close to the 2020 presidential election, raising concerns that a protracted political battle could alienate some voters and arguing that voters ultimately care more about issues like heathcare and the economy. Some have said they are also wary of vice-president Mike Pence replacing the president, given Pence’s conservative political record.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly said she is not in favor of impeachment. In March, Pelosi said the process would be “so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path”. She did not shift her stance after the release of the Mueller report this week.

Some Democrats have instead focused on their calls to have Mueller testify before Congress and for the justice department to release an unredacted version of the report.

So far, Warren is the only Democrat running for president in 2020 to formally call for impeachment hearings. Though Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, indicated earlier on Friday that he would support Congress opening impeachment proceedings. “It would be perfectly reasonable for Congress to open up impeachment hearings”, Castro told CNN.

Both senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker argued it was too soon to talk about impeachment. “I think that there is definitely a conversation to be had on that subject, but first I want to hear from Bob Mueller.” Harris said.

Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend mayor, said there was “evidence that this president deserves to be impeached”, but that it was up to Congress to make that decision.

Read Full Article>>

Trump and impeachment: where Democrats stand after Mueller>>

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Giuliani rails against Mueller report as Democrats mull Trump impeachment>>

Live Donald Trump sues House oversight chairman to block subpoena of his finances – live>>

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21 Apr

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

NYT: U.S. Service Member Dies in Non-Combat Incident in Iraq: Statement

WASHINGTON — An American service member died in a “non-combat incident” on Saturday in Ninawa Province, Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State said in a statement.

The statement did not identify the service member, nor give details of the incident, and said further information would be released “as appropriate.”

NYT: Separate Militant Attacks Kill Nearly 50 Syrian Soldiers

BEIRUT — Syrian government forces came under separate attacks from Islamic State militants and al-Qaida-linked insurgents in different parts of the country that killed nearly 50 soldiers and allied fighters, activists and a war monitoring group said Saturday.

In one attack, IS militants ambushed Syrian government forces in the desert of central Homs province Thursday night, setting off two days of clashes that killed 27 soldiers, including four officers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A pro-government militia, known as Liwa al-Quds, confirmed the ambush, saying it had sent its fighters to liberate the two besieged battalions, made up of nearly 500 soldiers, east of the town of al-Sukhna.

In a Facebook post, the militia said it successfully broke the siege and liberated the surviving soldiers before pulling the bodies of those killed and damaged vehicles to safety.

Liwa al-Quds, one of the elite militias operating side by side with government troops, didn’t give a casualty figure. It said the besieged battalions were out in desert looking for an army division that disappeared in the area over the last few days.

The Islamic State group lost its last territories in Syria in March after months of battles with U.S-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. But the militants remain active in the desert to the west of Deir el-Zour, where they have taken refuge and increasingly targeted government troops and allied militia.

The militant group, which once controlled large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, has kept a network of sleeper cells active in both countries. It has also kept up its media operations. The IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency reported the attack east of al-Sukhna, saying that in 24 hours of clashes its militants killed nearly two dozen Syrian soldiers and officers. It said the militants also seized Syrian government ammunition and vehicles.

Separately, government forces came under an attack from insurgents of al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahir al-Sham in northwest Syria, where a cease-fire is supposed to be in place.

The Observatory said the insurgents assaulted the government positions west of Aleppo early Saturday, killing 21 soldiers and allied fighters. Baladi news, an activist-operated news site, said the attack in Akrab village killed 27 soldiers, quoting an HTS operative. Akrab overlooks the Aleppo-Damascus highway.

BBC: Syria war: IS ‘kills 35’ government troops in desert attacks

Islamic State militants have killed 35 Syrian pro-government forces in desert attacks in recent days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

The UK-based monitoring group says the militants attacked in Homs and Deir al-Zour provinces.

IS media has spoken about the alleged attacks, but Syrian officials have not confirmed them.

It comes weeks after reports some IS militants had fled into the desert from Baghuz – their last stronghold.

The area was declared “freed” by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on 23 March.

Although the declaration marked the last territorial victory over the group’s caliphate, experts warn it does not mean the end of IS or its ideology.

Thousands of fighters and their families captured from Baghuz, including foreign nationals, remain in camps nearby.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say IS militants have killed 27 government troops and allied militia in the desert in the east of Homs province since Thursday.

Another eight were killed in the province of Deir al-Zour on Thursday night, the monitor reports.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman described it as the “biggest attack and the highest death toll among regime forces since the caliphate was declared defeated”.

At least six IS militants were also killed in the clashes, the monitor says.

The IS group’s news outlet, Amaq, allege its militants were able to seize army weapons during the Homs clashes, including a number of armoured vehicles and machine guns.

AP: Afghan official: Blast rocks country’s capital, kills 7

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide blast rocked Afghanistan’s capital Saturday during a gun battle with security forces, officials said, killing at least seven people a day after hopes for all-encompassing peace talks collapsed. At least eight people were wounded.

Police chief Gen. Sayed Mohammad Roshandil said the bomber blew himself up outside the Telecommunications Ministry, clearing the way for four gunmen to enter the building and the heavily guarded government compound in central Kabul.

Nasart Rahimi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said four civilians and three soldiers were killed during the attack. Eight civilians were wounded, he said.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, said the wounded people were evacuated to hospitals, three of them women.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Both Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan and have previously claimed attacks in Kabul.

The Taliban denied involvement.

Rahimi said the security operation ended at the Ministry of Telecommunication “after all four attackers were shot and killed by Afghan security forces.”

The attack came a day after Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks in Qatar were cancelled. It would have marked the first time that Taliban and Kabul government officials sat together to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan and a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the attack in a statement, saying the enemies of Afghanistan, by targeting civil servants, are trying to create terror among the people.

Rahimi said security forces blocked all roads near the attack site and that forced shot and killed four additional suicide bombers before the attackers could reach their target of the nearby central post office.

He said as many as 2,700 government employees and civilians were rescued by security forces after being stuck in several government buildings including the central post office.

An employee of the Telecommunication Ministry who was rescued, Hamid Popalzai, said “an explosion happened and then we heard the sound of gunfire and more explosions.” He added that a large number of people were inside the ministry, both women and men, when the attack started.

Live footage on local TV showed government employees fleeing neighboring Information and Culture Ministry buildings, with some climbing out of windows.

NYT: Why Did We Fight the Iraq War?

 

President George W. Bush with Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers in 2003.CreditJeff Mitchell/Reuters

LEAP OF FAITH

Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

By Michael J. Mazarr

The operative word in the title of “Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy” is the last one: tragedy. Drawing on extensive interviews with unnamed “senior officials” as well as recently declassified documents, Michael J. Mazarr attributes the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 to good intentions gone awry. Here is an example of “America’s worthy global ambitions” that went “terribly wrong.”

Yet the evidence Mazarr himself assembles refutes that conclusion. Chalking up the debacle of Iraq to “the messianic tradition in American foreign policy,” as he does, simply won’t wash. It’s akin to writing off a vehicular homicide because the driver happens to be a known alcoholic.

The Iraq war was not a tragedy. It was more like a crime, compounded by the stupefying incompetence of those who embarked upon a patently illegal preventive war out of a sense of panic induced by the events of 9/11. An impulse to lash out overwhelmed any inclination to deliberate, with decisions made in a “hothouse atmosphere of fear and vulnerability.” Those to whom President George W. Bush turned for advice had become essentially unhinged. Iraq presented an inviting opportunity to vent their wrath.

The handful of officials who shaped policy after 9/11, writes Mazarr, a political scientist currently with RAND, were “not evil or pernicious human beings.” Instead, Mazarr credits them with acting in response to a “moralistic sense of doing the right thing.” Viewed from that perspective, “the Iraq war decision was grounded in sacred values,” even if the evil and pernicious consequences of that decision continue to mount.

So Mazarr bats away what he calls “erroneous mythologies” attributing the war to a neoconservative conspiracy or describing it as a plot to protect Israel or seize Arab oil. He finds these explanations unworthy. The invasion of Iraq, he insists, stemmed from “America’s essential sense of itself” as “fundamentally messianic or missionary in character.”

As an account of the war’s origins, “Leap of Faith” offers few genuine revelations. It clarifies, confirms and fills in details. So, Mazarr tells us, within 24 hours of 9/11, even before Bush had unveiled the phrase “global war on terrorism,” a decision to overthrow Saddam “had been essentially sealed in cognitive amber.” All that remained was to work out the details while conjuring up a moral rationale that would conceal the absence of a strategic one. The dearth of hard evidence connecting Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda or confirming the existence of an Iraqi program for developing weapons of mass destruction was beside the point. The administration declared Saddam a threat; nothing more was required.

Mazarr affirms that an actual decision for war was never really made but merely assumed. “There was no single meeting,” he writes, “no formal options paper, no significant debate about the consequences.” None were required.

Recently, critics have lambasted President Trump for making decisions to pull out troops from Afghanistan and Syria without properly consulting the national security establishment. There’s been no process, the charge goes. During the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, in contrast, there was process galore, an endless stream of studies, briefings and planning sessions. It’s just that none of it mattered. Bush and his chief lieutenants were dead set on a course of action and nothing was going to prevent them from plunging ahead. Process was a charade.

Mazarr describes the result as “policy implementation on autopilot,” with doubters and dissenters frozen out or simply ignored. At echelons below the top level, he writes, “loyalty-enforcing groupthink” abounded. Military officers given to asking annoying questions “were particularly muzzled.” With the exception of a single four-star general who went off script by suggesting publicly that occupying Iraq might pose a stiff challenge, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff learned to keep their mouths shut.

Making matters worse was the dysfunction that prevailed at the top level. President Bush, Mazarr says, “believed in belief itself,” a tendency that obviated the need to challenge assumptions or solicit second opinions. Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, created his own foreign policy shop, which pursued its own agenda. Secretary of State Colin Powell lagged two steps behind his colleagues, never quite grasping that he had been marginalized. “To demonstrate his superiority, to dominate, to overawe,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blustered, accrued authority and protected his turf. Yet when it came to making tough decisions, he ducked and deferred. Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz, another important figure, was “moved more by grand ideas than by the bothersome trivia of execution.” Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, was herself given to what some of her associates called “magical thinking,” and never gained the respect of Cheney or Rumsfeld. All in all, according to Mazarr, a “truly astonishing degree of wishful thinking” permeated the upper echelons of government. It was like the court of Czar Nicholas II in 1917.

So while United States military commanders focused on the problem of getting to Baghdad, the question of what was to happen next became an orphan, ignored and unwanted. Rumsfeld in particular nursed the fantasy that the United States could “be liberator and hegemon at the same time” — freeing Iraqis from oppression, and then quickly converting Iraq itself into a compliant ally that would do Washington’s bidding, all with minimal muss and fuss. As a result, the disorder triggered by Saddam’s overthrow and the combined civil war and insurgency that ensued caught the war’s architects completely by surprise. For the next several years, American soldiers and Iraqi civilians were to pay a heavy price for what can only be described as malpractice on a Trumpian scale.

To explain all of this in terms of a misplaced messianic impulse — the self-described indispensable nation having a bad run of luck — may play well in Washington, where serious introspection is rarely welcome. Yet, ultimately, such an explanation amounts to little more than a dodge. After all, altruism rarely if ever provides an adequate explanation for the actions of a great power. Exempting the United States from that proposition, as Mazarr does, entails its own spectacular leap of faith.

The United States invaded Iraq not in response to a “vigorous missionary impulse,” but to avoid reckoning with this fact: Decades of wrongheaded policies in the Middle East had culminated on 9/11 in a cataclysmic episode of blowback.

National security policies conceived from the 1940s through the 1990s, reinforced after the Cold War by false assumptions of military supremacy, had produced the inverse of security. In the formulation of those policies, America’s missionary obligations had figured as the faintest afterthought, if at all. Sadly, Mazarr’s well-intentioned book is likely to provide yet another excuse to postpone reckoning with that failure.

 

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.

 

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

DOD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three Marines who were supporting Operation Resolute Support.

The following Marines died April 8 while conducting combat operations in Parwan province, Afghanistan.

Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York.

Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania.

Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware.

These Marines were assigned to 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

The Pentagon has identified two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan while involved in combat operations Friday in Kunduz Province.

The men were identified Saturday as Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, and Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colorado. Collette was assigned to the 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, and Lindsay was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Both were based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

“The 71st Ordnance Group … is deeply saddened by the loss of Spc. Joseph P. Collette. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends,” Col. David K. Green, commander of 71st Ordnance Group, said in a statement.

The fatalities bring to four the number of U.S. soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan. The deaths underscore the difficulties in bringing peace to the war-ravaged country.

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>>

Yemen War Child. With Yemen in the grip of the biggest and most rapidly spreading cholera epidemic on record, an estimated 80% of the population is in urgent need of aid. Clean water and food are hard to come and, with the millionth cholera case on the horizon, the country’s health system is on the verge of collapse

All photographs by Kellie Ryan/IRC

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