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19 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

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

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

Le Monde>>

View All>>

Group is now designated ‘with ties to white nationalism’ according to report produced by Washington law enforcement

Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, center, founder of the far-right group Proud Boys, is surrounded by supporters after speaking at a rally in Berkeley, California on 27 April 2017.

Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, center, founder of the far-right group Proud Boys, is surrounded by supporters after speaking at a rally in Berkeley, California on 27 April 2017. Photograph: Marcio José Sánchez/AP

The FBI now classify the far-right Proud Boys as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism”, according to a document produced by Washington state law enforcement.

The FBI’s 2018 designation of the self-confessed “western chauvinist group” as extremist has not been previously made public.

The Proud Boys was founded by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. McInnes has insisted that his group is not white nationalist or “alt-right” but the Proud Boys have a history of misogyny and glorifying violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists them as a hate group.

The document also says: “The FBI has warned local law enforcement agencies that the Proud Boys are actively recruiting in the Pacific north-west”, and: “Proud Boys members have contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.”

The report, and the FBI’s warning to south-west Washington police agencies about the Proud Boys’ role in escalating violence at these events came in August, two months before the group was involved in an infamous weekend of street violence in New York City and Portland, and not long after they participated in street violence in downtown Portland on 30 June.

The document, provided to the Guardian by government transparency Property of the People, was part of an internal affairs investigation into a probationary deputy in the Clark county sheriff’s department.

The former clark county deputy, Erin Willey, was fired last July after a photo of her wearing a “Proud Boys Girls” sweatshirt was published by the Vancouver, Washington newspaper the Columbian. The Proud Boys Girls is the female auxiliary of the men-only group founded by McInnes in 2016.

The author of the document, headquarters commander Michael McCabe, is in charge of internal affairs, training, background investigation and courthouse security in the Clark county sheriff’s department.

After confirming the authenticity of the document, he told the Guardian in a telephone interview that the FBI’s classification of the Proud Boys as an extremist group was revealed to him in “a briefing we were given by the FBI” on 2 August, at Clark county’s west precinct.

The briefing included agency heads from local law enforcement, and in it the FBI said that they “have been warning (local law enforcement) for a while” about the Proud Boys, “not just in Washington but around the nation”.

The briefing including the Proud Boys was delivered by an FBI analyst, according to information forwarded to the Guardian by McCabe.

It touched on topics including “How the FBI tracks hate/extremist groups”, “Brief history of these groups in the Pacific NW”, “A description of currently active groups with a focus on the Portland/Vancouver area”, and “Current trends or concerns over law enforcement officers/employees involvement with these groups”.

Street fighting in Portland, with men in ‘Proud Boys’ uniform to the fore.

 

Street fighting in Portland, Oregon, with men in ‘Proud Boys’ uniform to the fore on 30 June. Photograph: John Rudoff/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

The document says that Willey was an active Proud Boys Girls member between November 2016 and October 2017, and in February 2017 she “actively participated in the manufacturing, advertising and selling of Proud Boys Girls’ merchandise on a website”.

The document concludes that membership in the Proud Boys may constitute a violation of the Clark county sheriff’s department oath to support and protect the laws of the United States, since Proud Boys “members have been documented as having called for the closure of all prisons, the issuing of firearms to everyone, the legalization of all drugs, the deportation of all illegal immigrants and the shutdown of the government”.

Another concern expressed in the document produced by McCabe – which was handed to the sheriff, Chuck E Atkins, so he could make a decision on Willey’s future in the department – was the possibility that the deputy’s membership in the group would constitute a so-called “Brady violation”.

The Brady doctrine requires prosecutors to disclose any potentially exculpatory evidence to defenses in the discovery phase of criminal trials.

Membership in the Proud Boys, the document says, may constitute “evidence that a deputy is biased or has some motive to lie” which could constitute a prosecutorial risk.

According to the report, Willey was placed on administrative leave after the Columbian contacted the sheriff’s department on 2 July. She was fired on 17 July, before the report was completed, and just before the Columbian published their story.

The report also states Willey’s belief that the photo of her in a Proud Boys sweatshirt was given to the Columbian by her former boyfriend, and “active Proud Boy member”, Graham Jorgensen.

Jorgensen has been a regular participant in rallies organized by the Clark county-based Patriot Prayer group, whose events have included Proud Boys, and which have frequently culminated in violence.

Other law enforcement agencies have discovered Proud Boys in their midst and responded in a similar manner. A month after Willey was fired, Brian Green, a patrol deputy in Louisiana, was also let go after social media posts revealed his allegiance to the group.

Willey and Jorgensen could not be reached for comment.

In Clark county, Proud Boys have been integral to the Patriot Prayer movement, which organizes rightwing street marches and rallies in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and other cities in the Pacific north-west.

Read Full Article>>

Related:

Who are the Proud Boys, ‘western chauvinists’ involved in political violence?>>

Twitter suspends Proud Boys on eve of deadly Unite the Right rally anniversary>>

 

World Politics

Great Britain

Labour leader addresses the CBI after Theresa May’s said businesses would lose out from plans to stop low-skilled EU workers coming to the UK

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference in London.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference in London. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Q: Why do you think your plan would be easier to negotiate with Brussels?

Corbyn says Labour would not be approaching negotiations with the EU on the basis of threats. He would not be threatening to turn the UK into Singapore.

The approach would be difficult.

Q: What is your view of people doing well from businesses they start or lead?

This is a philosphoical question, he says. He likes that. He says he does not have a problem with people doing well at all. He says people who start business all go through pain and work very hard. He does not have a problem with that. Some succeeed, some fail.

He says these people need support to launch their companies. If people do well, he invites them to share their wealth and pay their taxes. He says he does not think anyone want to walk past rough sleepers on the way to work.

Many firms do support their communities. But it is important to have public services too, he says.

Q: With 130 days to Brexit how can you get your measures agreed in time to get avoid a no deal Brexit?

Corbyn says there must be a sense of urgency. The deal on offer is not acceptable.

He says the government should recognise that, and go back to negotiate something that more acceptable.

He says he wants to finish on this point; it is important to understand why people voted as they did, and to put forward proposals that bring society together.

And that’s it.

I will post a summary soon.

Corbyn’s Q&A

United States

America’s border wars: three weeks in a land of trauma

 

Immigrant asylum seekers wait at a bus station after being released by US Customs and Border Protection in McAllen, Texas. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

As a war reporter, had witnessed people in physical trauma. In Texas, he met with lawyers, social workers and locals worn down by life in one of the world’s most militarized corners

I’ve come to look for trauma in every place I go. This practice began years ago when, as a war correspondent in Congo, I encountered entire populations reeling from conflict and displacement – and it’s continued ever since.

I remember the wild-eyed 10-year-old soldier in Bunia who had developed a stutter after watching his parents’ massacre. He was now the militia commander’s bodyguard and one of the most feared killers in the group. Or in Bukavu, the woman who lay in bed staring at the wall, practically comatose, after having been raped by a dozen men.

Such horror, of course, isn’t exclusive to war zones or the developing world. And here in the richest, most powerful country on earth is a vast landscape of trauma found everywhere, from city housing projects to suburban country clubs.

Just scratch the surface and you’ll find it, telling a story of the land and its people.

When I reported from Belle Glade, Florida, nearly every kid on the town’s high school football team had lost an immediate family member to Aids, guns, or prison. Last year, while covering southern Ohio’s opioid epidemic, I met caseworkers suffering severe PTSD from managing a never-ending surge of traumatized children.

Most recently, I spent several weeks in the Rio Grande Valley, driving across the border into Mexico. At migrant shelters and bus stations, I met families from Central America who fled from violence, survived the harrowing odyssey to America, only to be jailed and separated once here.

But I also encountered trauma in people you might not suspect.

I met lawyers experiencing secondary trauma – the compassion fatigue that comes from absorbing the suffering of others – after watching clients get deported back into harm’s way. Immigration judges are also dealing with the same stress.

And I spent time with local families – both documented and not – whose trauma has been triggered by raids, cartel violence, and the daily grind of poverty in one of the most militarized corners of the world.

In May, when the Trump administration imposed its zero-tolerance policy along the border and began separating families seeking asylum, pediatricians and mental health experts warned of the long-term damage children would suffer. Research now shows that prolonged exposure to toxic stress is linked to chronic health problems such as cancer and heart disease years down the road, a public health crisis that doctors are only beginning to grasp. Trauma brews like slow poison in the body and, when left untreated, spills over into loved ones, into the classrooms and the surrounding community, infecting every sector of society. And along the border, I found it everywhere I looked.

For Nora, who’s from Honduras, it was her six-year-old son who first showed signs of severe trauma. The boy had forgotten how to speak. Ever since Nora had awoken Alex and his two brothers in the middle of the night and fled their home, she’d noticed him slipping. They’d fled from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang which now terrorizes Central America, having been formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by migrants who settled there after fleeing the US-backed civil war in El Salvador and violence in Guatemala and Honduras, only to be deported back to their countries.

Nora and her boys had covered more than 3,500 miles, across Guatemala to Tijuana and now to Nuevo Laredo, in north-eastern Mexico. Along the way, Alex had grown agitated and was constantly afraid. He had nightmares about his father, who had disappeared back home, and was wetting the bed. And his sentences, once rapid and cartwheeling, had become choppy and unformed, as if trauma was editing him down to a toddler.

Now there was more reason to be afraid. A man who’d offered to drive them from the bus station turned out to be a smuggler working for the local cartel. He’d brought them to a stash house in a run-down neighborhood, one of many used by smugglers to hold migrants while they extorted them for money. The smugglers demanded $6,500 to take them across the river into Texas, a journey of less than a mile. When Nora said she didn’t have it, they rummaged through her bag and took her cellphone, looking for relatives who could pay ransom. Then they put her and the boys in a room alone to ponder their chances. Her oldest son, who’s 10, asked what they all feared…………………….

A mother migrating from Honduras holds her one-year-old child as she surrenders to US border patrol agents near McAllen, Texas. Photograph: David J. Phillip/AP

In recent years, a growing body of research has revealed that people who experience prolonged levels of trauma, especially as children, have higher rates of chronic disease and mental illness. For migrants, the separation and isolation, experts said, both qualified as adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, that trigger the brain’s “fight or flight” mode and cause toxic stress.

Prolonged exposure to toxic stress raises blood pressure, heart rate, and floods the brain with cortisol and other chemicals, which can rewire neural pathways and change the very architecture of the mind. In children, too much toxic stress can sabotage the nervous system and affect learning, memory and decision making. It can elevate levels of inflammation in the body that cause heart disease, stroke and autoimmune disease, and disrupt growth and development. It can even alter your DNA and change how it gets expressed.

The list of ACEs, first introduced in a landmark study in the late 1990s, includes such things as physical, emotional and sexual abuse, mental illness or substance abuse in the household, a loved one being incarcerated, divorce, neglect, and others. By 18, most people are saddled with at least one ACE that therapy or resilience can sometimes overcome, depending on the experience – sexual abuse can leave deeper wounds than, say, divorce.

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Birdwatching with Jonathan Franzen: ‘Climate change isn’t the only danger to birds’

Freedom … Jonathan Franzen with Guardian writer Oliver Milman at Natural Bridges Farm in Santa Cruz. Photograph: Talia Herman for the Guardian

‘The two things I love most are novels and birds, and they’re both in trouble,’ says The Corrections author, one of the world’s most famous birdwatchers

by in Santa Cruz, California

 

Author and birdwatcher Jonathan Franzen, at Natural Bridges Farm where he goes to birdwatch in Santa Cruz, California, September 30th, 2018. Photograph: Talia Herman for the Guardian

Birdwatching was once an activity that elicited a sense of mild shame in Jonathan Franzen. The author stalked New York parks with binoculars in hand, rather than on a strap, carefully hiding from view the word “birds” on his field guide. Debonair friends in London recoiled in horror when told of his pastime. Franzen was furtive, almost embarrassed. Now, he is one of the most famous birdwatchers in the world.

“I totally let my freak flag fly now,” Franzen says as he scans for birds at a community garden near his home in Santa Cruz, California. His phone has an app that deciphers bird sounds. He travels the world to see recondite species. He has written about birds in essays, op-eds and novels.

“I was so socially unsuccessful in my youth and such a pariah in junior high that I really didn’t want to look like a dork,” says Franzen, the 59-year-old author whose best known works include The Corrections and Freedom. “I got over that. The success started to make me think: ‘Hey, it’s not me who’s got the problem.’”

Having taken up the birder habit in New York’s Central Park in his 40s, Franzen is now firmly ensconced in the world of twitchers, with their early mornings, their meticulously kept lists, their argot (the elastic harness attached to binoculars is called a “bra”). “Within the bird world the gull people are considered the super freaks,” Franzen confides. “They talk about ‘I think this is a worn alternate plumage of a second year whatever Iceland Gull which really looks a whole lot like a Herring Gull’. Oh, who cares.”

Unusually for most birdwatchers, Franzen’s circumstances have allowed him access to birds in places like Peru, Antarctica and Cyprus, the latter a place where he documented “the most intensive songbird-killing operations in the European Union”.

It has also provided him a glimpse of the existential perils that confront many bird species. In April, an exhaustive compendium of population data revealed that one in eight bird species are threatened with global extinction, with once widespread creatures such as puffins, snowy owls and turtle doves suffering punishing losses.

In all, 40% of all 10,000 or so bird species are in decline in the face of threats such as agricultural expansion, logging, invasive species and hunting. “The situation is deteriorating and the trends are intensifying,” said Tris Allinson, senior global science officer for BirdLife International, which produced the report.

The world’s population of seabirds, a group that includes gulls, terns, albatrosses and others, has dropped by around 230m, a 70% slump, over the past 60 years due to slightly different group of maladies that also includes overfishing and plastic and oil pollution.

“What does that tell us? Tells us something is not good,” Franzen says of the seabirds, as he pads the garden, looking at a couple of California towhees through his binoculars.

Towhees, essentially bulkier everyman sparrows, are Franzen’s favourite bird, which is perhaps surprising given the planet is inhabited by cassowaries, bald eagles and iridescent birds of paradise. The birds are the subject of a passage in Freedom, a book that has a cerulean warbler adorning its cover.

“Well, look what it’s doing,” Franzen, an angular figure who wears a plaid shirt and jeans, says of the towhee. It has taken him a decade to confidently identify different sparrows. “It’s hopping back and forth. Scratching in the dirt. It’s got this wonderful taupe and then the peachy accent underneath the tail and it’s very, very beautiful.

“Little brown birds hopping around quietly in the underbrush, picking at seeds. They’re shy. Hard to see. It’s friendly.”

Climate change looms as a further hammer to birds but Franzen has argued conservationists have gravitated to climate campaigning at the detriment of more immediate threats, such as the loss of wetlands or, in the case of seabirds in remote locales, rats that eat hapless chicks alive.

“Right now climate change is among the four or five minimal reasons for decline, (there’s) very little direct effect on seabird populations so far,” he says. “For the moment the one big reason is cats, rats, and mice. It’s that simple.” Line-caught tuna, Franzen said, is decimating albatrosses, which lay at most one egg a year, to the point of no return. “You can do the math but it’s like 20 years and they’ll be extinct,” he says.

In 2015, Franzen had a minor spat with Audubon, the US bird conservation group, over the organisation’s finding that around half of all North American bird species face potentially dire changes to their habitats from warming temperatures.

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More On The Environment:

 

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19 Nov

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

.

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

Damn The War Criminals,Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England.

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

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

Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of a mostly amnesiac citizenry.

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

visit-ti-arlington.jpg

The McGlynn

War News

Photo

Children displaced from the port city of Hodeida eat at a shelter in Sana’a, Yemen

Children displaced from the port city of Hodeida eat at a shelter in Sana’a, Yemen. Photograph: Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

GUARD: Senior Houthi official calls on rebels to halt attacks in Yemen

Head of Higher Revolutionary Committee says his group wants a ceasefire

A high-ranking Houthi official has called on rebels to stop firing rockets and using attack drones in the conflict in Yemen, as a UN envoy prepares to travel to the country to finalise arrangements for peace talks.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Higher Revolutionary Committee and an influential political figure, tweeted: “We announce an initiative to call all official Yemeni parties to ask to end launching rockets and drones against aggression countries … in order to deprive them for any reason to continue their aggression and siege, along a readiness to freeze and stop all military operations on all fronts in order to reach peace.”

His comments come after the UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday he planned to travel to the rebel-held capital, Sana’a, in the coming week to finalise arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Thousands of people have died in the conflict, and fighting intensified last week after clashes escalated in the Red Sea city of Hodeidah, whose port serves as an entry point for nearly all of the country’s commercial imports and humanitarian aid.

“This is a crucial moment for Yemen,” Griffiths told the UN security council. “I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties … that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine.”

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REU: Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria talks November 28-29: Kazakh foreign minister

ASTANA (Reuters) – Russia, Turkey, and Iran will hold the next round of talks on Syria on Nov. 28-29 in Kazakhstan, Kazakh foreign minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on Monday.

Delegations of the Damascus government and the Syrian rebels are also set to attend, Abdrakhmanov told reporters.

 

REU: Syrian army advances against Islamic State in southeastern desert

AMMAN (Reuters) – Hundreds of Islamic State militants withdrew from the heart of a rugged area in southeastern Syria after holding up for over three months against a major campaign by the Syrian army and its allies to crush them, rebels and residents said on Sunday.

They said jihadists dug into the Tulul al Safa heights, east of Sweida province, had begun their retreat in the last few days as Syrian army tanks backed by heavy air strikes approached their last hideout.

Local leaders in Sweida city said the army and militias had suffered heavy losses in weeks of attempts to advance deep into the volcanic plateau area where the rugged terrain had long made it an ideal refuge for fugitives and insurgents……………The militants are believed to have fled to other areas to the west, including the towns of al Hasa and al Rahba, with many also melting into the vast sparsely populated eastern desert region, a former rebel source familiar with the area said.

Further northeast, the U.S.-led coalition was waging air strikes against the town of Hajin, east of the Euphrates River, in the last remaining Islamic State-held pocket in Syria near the border with Iraq.

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NYT: Car Bomb Blast Kills Five in Iraq’s Tikrit: Police, Medics

TIKRIT, Iraq — A car bomb blast killed at least five people and wounded 16 others in the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Sunday, police and medical sources said.

The blast set nearly a dozen vehicles on fire, the police sources said. Security forces have closed most of the city streets and deployed in case of any other incidents.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion. Such attacks have been rare in Tikrit, about 100 miles north of Baghdad, since Islamic State were defeated in Iraq in 2017.

Islamic State militants have switched from controlling territory to insurgency tactics such as bombings and attacks on security forces since their military defeat.

Analysts and security sources warn these attacks are likely to increase in traditional Sunni militant strongholds in the north and west of the country, although security in Baghdad has improved.

Iraq’s government said this week that about 2,000 Iraqi Islamic State fighters based across the border in eastern Syria were seeking to come back to Iraq, and that security forces were preparing to prevent militant incursions.

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18 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

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

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

Le Monde>>

View All>>

Case highlights failure to honour promise of free elections, say campaigners

Occupy Central founders Chan Kin-man, Benny Tai and Chu Yiu-ming

Occupy Central founders Chan Kin-man, Benny Tai and Chu Yiu-ming are facing various charges for participating in pro-democracy protests. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Nine leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement go on trial on Monday on various charges that each carry a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment.

The justice department has prosecuted leading activists from the 2014 protests, in which huge crowds turned out to call for political reform, with some barred from standing for office and others removed from the legislature.

Most of those prosecuted have been young campaigners but now it is the turn of the older generation who originally came up with the idea of taking to the streets to demand a fairer system.

Three leading pro-democracy campaigners – sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 59, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 74 – founded the Occupy Central movement in 2013. The campaigners called for the occupation of Hong Kong’s business district if the public was not given a fair vote for the city’s leader, who is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee. They urged people to join what became known as the Umbrella Movement as protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from teargas and pepper spray.

The campaign was overtaken by a student movement that took off in September 2014 when police fired teargas on gathering crowds.

The three men are among nine pro-democracy defendants facing public nuisance charges for their participation in the protests, which ultimately failed to win political reform, despite bringing parts of the city to a standstill for more than two months. The defendants accept that they encouraged citizens to occupy parts of the city-state but argue that the charges are unconstitutional.

Campaigners say that the case raises the question of whether Hong Kong’s 50-year governing agreement with China, due to expire in 2047, still stands. The one-country, two-systems arrangement negotiated by Margaret Thatcher promised free elections and a democratic Hong Kong. Twenty-one years since the city was handed to China by the UK, there is less autonomy and weaker civil rights.

Chan has spent years negotiating for democratic changes to Hong Kong’s election system. He said: “The reason we had this protest is that China did not honour a promise to Hong Kong to let it have democracy.

“We are just an example, showing how the rise of an undemocratic China can be threatening to the rest of the world.”

Hong Kong’s quest for electoral autonomy coincided with a drive for stability by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. He has worked to quell restive regions, most notably in Xinjiang, where up to 1 million Uighur Muslims are imprisoned in detention camps.

Hong Kong is different by design. It’s a place within China but not completely of China, with open courts, independent news outlets and many political parties.

Since the Umbrella Movement took off, the government has stifled protest and punished democracy activists, according to human rights agencies.

More than 200 people face prosecutions, including many who were sentenced to prison. Judges ejected six politicians from office, who were accused of deliberatly ignoring their official oaths. Several people were barred from seeking office because the government claimed that their political stances violated the constitution.

One young politician who joined a street brawl with police was sent to prison for six years. The tiny Hong Kong National party, an independence movement, was banned this summer. It was the first time a ban had been issued under national security law since the city’s handover. Soon afterwards, the city denied a work visa to Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet, who hosted the party’s convener at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Recently, he was barred from returning to the city.

“There is a snowball effect taking place here,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, the East Asian research director with Amnesty International, who is based in Hong Kong. “Those concerns about erosion of speech is what agitates young people in particular … Things are potentially more and more risky for people to speak their minds.”

Earlier this month, the UN’s Universal Periodic Review for China, a project that monitors the nation’s human rights record, recommended for the first time that China and Hong Kong strengthen civil liberties in the territory.

The head of China’s delegation, Matthew Cheung, disagreed sharply with the conclusions. “Any concerns that Hong Kong’s freedoms of speech and freedom of the press is under threat are totally groundless,” he said.

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World Politics

Great Britain

Ben Jennings on Theresa May and the Tory rebels – cartoon

Plan allows two extra years for negotiation, but would cost billions and enrage Tory Brexiters

Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has raised the prospect of the UK remaining under EU control until the end of 2022, a proposal that would cost billions and infuriate Tory Brexiters.

At a special meeting with ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member states, Barnier floated the prospect of extending the Brexit transition until the end of 2022. His idea would allow an extra two years to negotiate a trading relationship, but means the UK would continue to follow EU rules and pay into its budget with no say for six and a half years after the 2016 vote to leave.

Both sides have already agreed a transition period of 21 months, until the end of 2020, as well as the chance to extend once by mutual consent. The length of the extension is still to be finalised by negotiators.

The transition period, which the British government prefers to call the implementation period, would see the UK following all EU laws and European court of justice rulings, while having no ministers or MEPs in the EU decision-making process.

Theresa May has previously suggested an extension of only a few months would be needed, but the EU is still waiting on the UK to make a formal proposal.

Negotiations between the EU and UK were continuing on Sunday as Brexit talks entered a critical final week, ahead of a special summit on 25 November when both sides hope to seal the deal.

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United States

Hundreds displaced by wildfires who are gathered in a parking lot have more pressing concerns than the president’s comments

‘I don’t agree with his statements’: residents react to Trump’s California wildfire visit – video

As Donald Trump landed in northern California on Saturday morning, hundreds of evacuees at a Walmart in Chico were frantically trying to figure out their next steps – which shelter they would go to, and if they should stay close to what’s left of their homes in the fire-ravaged town of Paradise.

At the giant box store, which has become a refugee camp for those forced to flee their homes when the worst blaze in state history incinerated their town, people ate lunch and packed their belongings and worried about the future.

There was little talk of Trump, even though his motorcade was just miles away.

The president flew by helicopter to the city of Chico to meet first responders and victims after Air Force One arrived at Beale air force base, about an hour’s drive from the devastated town of Paradise.

Trump was criticized for his initial response to the fire and threat to withhold funding, after he tweeted: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

When asked about the president’s visit to the area, Kirk Ellsworth, whose adult children lost their homes in the fire, shook his head in disgust.

“My kids lost everything. I voted for him – and now? He can kiss my red ass,” Ellsworth said. “What he said was ridiculous. It hurts my heart. A lot of us voted for him and he [talks] down to us?”

Still, the hope for many evacuees was that Trump’s visit might draw attention to their plight and bring help for those who need it most. Nearly 10,000 homes were lost in the fire, which has killed 71, razed Paradise and caused severe damage to the smaller communities of Magalia and Stirling City.

“The president of the United States to come here and meet the most vulnerable – that’s important whether you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Tammy Mezera said. “[He] has a responsibility to do that.”

Mezera hadn’t given much thought to Trump’s visit, she said. She’s been “frantic” trying to pack up the tent that has been her home since 8 November, when the Camp fire first erupted.

Meanwhile, Ryan Belcher and his wife Casey have been doing the same, preparing to leave Walmart and find a new home for their two children. They hope Trump better understands the struggles of evacuees after seeing the devastation and shows more sympathy.

“We are not the ones to blame. We are not in charge of managing the forest,” Ryan said, frustrated, as he held two toys someone donated for his children.

“I hope he sees how this community has come together,” he added, trailing off as someone asked if he and Casey were fire victims, and handed them gift cards.

”People are still here helping us. it’s an amazing thing and I hope he sees that,” Casey said, wiping away tears.

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Democrat Bill Nelson poised to lose Senate seat as Florida recount ends and Scott leads>>

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18 Nov

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

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

Damn The War Criminals,Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England.

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

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

Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of a mostly amnesiac citizenry.

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

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The McGlynn

War News

AP: Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help

Saja Ahmed Saleem

In this Monday, Nov. 5, 2018 photo, Saja Ahmed Saleem, who was injured in an explosion in 2007, talks to The Associated Press before her reconstructive surgery in Baghdad, Iraq. Those whom treatment not available at state-run hospitals and can’t afford treatment at private clinics rely on social media to make appeals that grab attention of some surgeons to help them regain a chance at life. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

BAGHDAD (AP) — It was spring 2007 in northern Iraq when 6-year-old Saja Saleem raced home from school with the good news about her excellent grades, hoping to receive the gift her father had promised her.

“All of a sudden, I found myself spinning into the air with fire trailing from my school uniform after a loud boom,” Saleem, now 17, recounted to The Associated Press.

Saleem lost her eyesight, right arm and an ear in the explosion, set off by a roadside bomb. Months later, her disfiguring injuries forced her to drop out of school after other students complained about her “scary face.

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REU: Islamic State says U.S.-led strikes kill 40 in militant pocket in Syria.

AMMAN (Reuters) – At least forty people, mostly women and children were killed on Saturday in the latest wave of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the last remaining Islamic State-held pocket in Syria near the border with Iraq, the militants and some local residents said.

Asked about reports of air strikes in the Buqan area near Hajin on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River on Saturday, the coalitio’s spokesman confirmed that there were strikes but denied there were civilian casualties.

Colonel Sean Ryan, the coalition spokesman, said “the coalition takes great measures to identify and strike appropriate ISIS targets in order to avoid non-combatant casualties.”

Islamic State’s Amaq news agency quoted a medical source as saying 40 people had been killed, a claim which was also made by Syrian state media.

Relatives of families from the area and Syrian state media said dozens of people have been killed in the last two weeks from U.S. coalition airstrikes in Hajin and areas around it.

The Syrian government protested just over a week ago to the United Nations about an air strike by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State which it said killed 26 civilians in Hajin.

The fighting is the latest phase of efforts by the U.S.-led coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to clear Islamic State from its last foothold east of the Euphrates River following last year’s defeat of the group in Raqqa, its Syrian headquarters.

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AP: US-led coalition denies reports it killed dozens in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — The U.S.-led coalition denied reports that airstrikes it carried out in a part of eastern Syria held by the Islamic State group killed dozens of civilians, while opposition activists reported clashes Sunday between government forces and IS in nearby districts.

The coalition said late Saturday that it struck only “legitimate” militant targets, and that another 10 airstrikes in the area were not carried out by U.S.-led forces.

IS controls an area in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border where some 15,000 people, including fighters and their families, live. U.S.-backed fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been trying to capture the area since September.

Syrian government forces and Iran-backed militiamen have also bombarded the IS-held area in recent weeks, according to opposition activists.

Syrian state media, a war monitor and an IS-linked news agency reported Saturday that coalition airstrikes killed 40 people, mostly women and children.

The coalition said in a statement late Saturday that it conducted 19 strikes in the area starting late Friday in support of ground operations against IS. It said no civilians were present near the targets it struck.

Syria and Russia regularly launch airstrikes against suspected militants, and Iraq has carried out cross-border strikes targeting IS.

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NYT: Report: US-Led Airstrikes Kill 40 in IS-Held Area of Syria

BEIRUT — U.S-led coalition airstrikes on the last pocket held by Islamic State militants in Syria near the Iraqi border killed at least 40 people, mostly women and children, a war monitor and Syrian state media reported.

The coalition confirmed strikes in the area but said no “civilian casualties are associated” with them, reiterating that it takes measures to avoid non-combatant casualties.

“We have witnessed (IS) using places of worship and hospitals as command centers against the laws of war, and innocent civilians as human shields,” Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coalition, said in an email to The Associated Press.

The remote area near the border with Iraq is difficult to access and it was not possible to independently verify the reports.

However, Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the early Saturday airstrikes hit homes in Abu al-Hassan village, near the town of Hajin, which lies along the border with Iraq.

Abdurrahman said the airstrikes killed at least 43 people, including 17 children and 12 women. He said it was not immediately clear if the men killed in the strikes were militants.

Syrian state news agency SANA also reported the strikes, saying 40 were killed in the remote area of Buqaan, another village next to Abu al-Hassan, in Deir el-Zour province.

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency also reported 40 killed, quoting a medical official in the Hajin area.

Activist Omar Abou Leila, who monitors the war in Deir el-Zour from Europe, also confirmed the strikes but said it was difficult to verify the death toll. Abou Leila said IS militants are preventing civilians from leaving the area, resulting in the high casualty toll among them……………..The Observatory has recorded at least 191 civilians killed since Sept. 10, including 65 children and 45 women. They are mostly Iraqis and believed to include family members of IS militants, the Observatory added.

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REU: Rebels say Syrian army steps up attacks in Idlib

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian rebels said on Saturday the Syrian army and their allies were intensifying attacks on a demilitarised zone in the northwest in an attempt to undermine a Russian-Turkish deal that has averted a major offensive on their last stronghold.

They said the army has stepped up its onslaught with hundreds of mortar and rocket attacks on a string of rebel-held villages and towns in northern Hama, southern Idlib and Latakia that fall within a demilitarized zone agreed last September between Russia and Turkey.

“The regime has targeted all the fronts in the demilitarised zone. We have responded by striking at their military posts that have struck populated villages and towns,” said Captain Naji Abu Huthaifa, a spokesman for the National Liberation Front, an alliance of Turkish-backed rebels.

Russia and Turkey reached a deal in Sochi last September to enforce a demilitarised zone in Idlib and adjacent areas that are the last stronghold of rebels who rose against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.

REU: Turkey says U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish YPG a “big mistake”

ANKARA (Reuters) – The United States’ support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia is a “big mistake”, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late on Saturday, adding that the issue had strained ties between the NATO allies.

Turkey has been infuriated with Washington’s support for the YPG, which it views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

U.S.-Turkey ties have been strained over issues including U.S. policy in Syria, the case of an American pastor in Turkey, and Turkey’s demands for the extradition of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a 2016 failed coup.

Cavusoglu, who is in the United States on an official visit, said tensions between Ankara and Washington stemmed from U.S. support for the YPG and the issue of Gulen, against whom he said the FBI had launched an investigation.

“Despite knowing and acknowledging that (the YPG) is the same organisation (as the PKK), seeing this cooperation as necessary is really a big mistake,” Cavusoglu said, adding that he would discuss bilateral relations with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said he had told U.S. Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford that Turkey expected the United States to stop its support for the YPG as soon as possible, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency.

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NYT: U.S. Envoy Hopes for Peace Deal With Taliban in 2019: Media

KABUL — The U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan hopes to cement a peace deal with Taliban insurgents by April 2019, local media reported on Sunday.

Zalmay Khalilzad, in Kabul to lead talks between the United States, the Taliban and the Afghan government, told reporters he hopes “a peace deal is reached before April 20 next year”, when Afghanistan is planning to hold a presidential election.

The Afghan-born U.S. diplomat said he remained “cautiously optimistic” about the peace talks.

Khalilzad, chosen by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to hold direct talks with the Taliban, met the leaders of the hardline Islamist group in Qatar last month to find ways to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

On Sunday Khalilzad said the end state of the talks would be “peace and a successful Afghanistan, one that doesn’t pose any threats to itself and to the international community”.

The Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment but two senior Taliban leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Taliban leaders will present a new set of demands to Khalilzad.

The insurgents, fighting to expel foreign forces and defeat the Western-backed Afghan government, last month presented demands to Khalilzad that included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the release of senior Taliban from jails.

In October, Pakistan released one of the co-founders of the Taliban and another high-ranking commander.

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NYT: Roadside Bomb Kills 2 Local Officials in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan authorities say a roadside bomb has killed two local officials in the eastern Logar province.

Shah Poor Ahmadzai, spokesman for the provincial police chief, says that the acting district chief and intelligence director in the Baraki Barak district were killed in the blast late Saturday as they were heading toward the district headquarters.

The Taliban claimed the attack.

The insurgents carry out near-daily attacks targeting security forces and government officials, including by planting roadside bombs, which often kill civilians. The Taliban have seized control of nearly half the country in recent years.

Khalilzad eyes peace agreement with Taliban before presidential elections

The U.S. Special Adviser for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad eyes a peace agreement with the Taliban group ahead of presidential elections.

Ambassador Khalilzad cautiously expressed optimisms regarding the reconciliation between the Afghan government and Taliban and said he expects a breakthrough until April of 2019.

In the meantime, informed sources have told Western media outlets that Ambassador Khalilzad met with the Taliban political leaders in Qatar during separate meetings which lasted for three days.

The meetings were reportedly attended by Taliban leaders Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammad Afzal.

According to the reports, the Taliban militants have demanded the suspension of presidential elections and formation of a transitional government.

Khalilzad arrived in Kabul last week to the meet with the Afghan leaders and officials ahead of his trip to Qatar.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, said last week that Ambassador Khalilzad briefed President Ghani regarding the ongoing efforts for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and his planned trips to certain countries.

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Gen. Dunford says Taliban ‘are not losing’ in Afghanistan

The Chairman of the JointChiefs of Staff of the U.S. Military General Joseph Dunford has said that the Taliban ‘are not losing’ in Afghanistan.

Gen. Joseph Dunford has reportedly made the remarks in a security forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Emphasizing that much more needs to be done to bring peace to the war-torn country, Gen. Dunford has said “They are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say.”

Gen. Dunford further added “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”

He also added that there would never be a “military solution” on its own to bring peace to Afghanistan, the United States and its Nato partners are working to leverage military, political and economic pressure to convince the Taliban it is in their interest to negotiate a political solution to the crisis with the government in Kabul.

Gen. Dunford has said “Without going into detail here, we do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile. The key to success is to combine all that pressure to incentivize the Taliban” to negotiate.

This comes as the Afghan government and the international allies of Afghanistan are have stepped up efforts to end the ongoing conflict through reconciliation process.

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