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16 Aug

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

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

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Irish Examiner>>

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Spiegel>>

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Syria’s White Helmets and the long history of attacking wartime humanitarians

The evacuation of 422 White Helmet volunteers from Syria seemingly marks the end of a daring five-year humanitarian mission in one of the world’s most war torn countries, writes James Crossland.

A White Helmet volunteer holds a pigeon as a symbol of peace during a solidarity protest in al Ghouta, Syria, in August 2017. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED BADRA.

Founded and initially trained by a retired British officer and comprised of local recruits, the White Helmets (AKA the Syrian Civil Defence) were formed in 2013.

Their aim was to carry out search and rescue operations for victims of bombings in rebel held areas of Syria.

The White Helmets, who claim to have saved the lives of more than 100,000 people, stand as a beacon of light for much of the international community amid the darkness of the Syrian civil war.

They have becoming the subject of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary and earned a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2016.

But this rosy picture of humanity at its best has been tainted by the politicisation of the outfit’s activities and the establishment of a counter-narrative in which the volunteers appear as anything but battlefield angels.

Propaganda and smear campaigns

The White Helmets have been demonised by Russian-backed propaganda outlets as everything from being partial to the rebel cause (despite the group’s motto being “to save a life is to save all humanity”) to collaborating with ISIS, to staging chemical weapons attacks, to simply being an all-purpose front for unofficial Western meddling into Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s affairs.

The latter claim, in particular has been repeated in press outlets sympathetic to the Syrian president, which reference the fact that the White Helmets have been funded primarily by Western governments.

Aside from this smear campaign, the White Helmets have also been the victims of more direct action.

This has included the bombing of several of their hospitals and, most unambiguously, a midnight raid on one of their safe houses in August 2017 in which seven of the volunteers were executed by assassins still unknown.

This might read like chapters of a modern war thriller – indeed, the tale of the White Helmets is scheduled to become a George Clooney-led film.

Wartime humanitarianism

So much of their experience is neither new nor unique. The triumphs, travails and tragedies of the White Helmets are just the latest instalment in the long, brutal story of wartime humanitarianism which stretches back over 150 years.

Similar tales were played out on the battlefields of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and the Balkans Uprisings (1875-1878).

Both involved cases of clearly identified humanitarians being targeted for violence and having their motives questioned.

In these instances, it was not White Helmets, but Red Crosses and Red Crescents that distinguished the volunteers from the fighters.

They were the symbols enshrined by the articles of the Geneva Convention as indicating the neutrality of battlefield medics. But these “sacrosanct” symbols did not protect the volunteers from suspicion and attack……………..

Coralie Cahen who treated thousands of wounded in 1870. International Committee of the Red Cross.

But the fact remains that the murky grey area between political agendas and “neutral” humanitarian action has always existed, along with slur campaigns and violence from those who are threatened by the work of humanitarian volunteers.

In this sense, the White Helmets’ evacuation from Syria may mark the end of their individual story.

But, if history is any guide, the sobering and sadly familiar aspects of their tale will continue elsewhere in future.

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World Politics

United States

  • Sarah Sanders attacks Brennan’s ‘erratic conduct and behavior’

  • Access to classified information for James Comey under review

John Brennan, the former CIA director, in 2017. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump has revoked the security clearance of John Brennan, the CIA director in the Obama administration, citing “erratic conduct and behavior”.

Brennan has been a vocal critic of Trump.

The move comes as the White House has been rocked by allegations against the president by former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, including the claim thatan audio tape exists of Trump using “the N-word”.

Reading a prepared statement from President Trump in the White House briefing room, the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, railed against Brennan. She claimed “he has leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive info to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations, wild outbursts on internet and television about this administration”.

Sanders also said Brennan’s “lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets”.

Brennan called the move “an abuse of power” in an interview with MSNBC.

And on Twitter, Brennan responded by saying: “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr Trump to suppress freedom of speech and punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.”

He added in an MSNBC interview: “This is not going to deter me at all. I am still going to speak out.” He described it as an effort “to cow individuals inside and outside the US government” and compared it to behavior from “foreign tyrants and despots”.

Sanders had in July floated removing Brennan’s clearance along with a number of other Obama administration officials. At the time, the House speaker, Paul Ryan, laughed off the threat, telling reporters of Trump: “I think he’s trolling people, honestly.” A spokesperson for Ryan declined to comment on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Sanders repeated a long list of others from whom the White House was considering revoking security clearances. They were:

James Comey, former FBI director

James Clapper, former director of national intelligence

Sally Yates, former acting attorney general

Michael Hayden, former director of national intelligence

Susan Rice, former national security adviser

Andrew McCabe, former deputy FBI director

Peter Strzok, former FBI agent

Lisa Page, former FBI attorney

Bruce Ohr, former associate deputy attorney general

All but Ohr, who is still serving in the federal government, have criticized Trump.

Most recently, Brennan condemned Trump’s characterization of Manigault Newman as “that dog”.

Brennan said: “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility and probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent and honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our nation.”

Hayden shrugged off the announcement that his clearance was under review. In a statement to CNN, he said “with regard to the implied threat today that I could lose my clearance, that will have no impact on what I think, say or write”.

On Twitter, the Virginia senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said: “This might be a convenient way to distract attention, say from a damaging news story or two. But politicizing the way we guard our nation’s secrets just to punish the president’s critics is a dangerous precedent.”

John McLaughlin, the former deputy director of the CIA under George W Bush, called the decision “ridiculous” and said in an interview with MSNBC that it indicated “an authoritarian attitude in [Trump’s] governing style”.

However, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky hailed the decision. Paul, who had long pushed for Trump to revoke Brennan’s clearance, said: “I applaud President Trump for his revoking of John Brennan’s security clearance.

“His behavior in government and out of it demonstrate why he should not be allowed near classified information. He participated in a shredding of constitutional rights, lied to Congress, and has been monetizing and making partisan political use of his clearance since his departure.”

As the public spat between Donald Trump and former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman continued, the White House was unable to guarantee that no recordings existed of the president using the ‘N-word’. Manigault Newman, a former contestant on the reality TV show The Apprentice, is promoting a memoir, Unhinged, in which she recounts her time in the Trump administration before she was fired last year

Jorginho Guajajara’s killing is believed by members of his tribe to be the result of conflict with loggers in their Amazon territory

Indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon are mourning the murder of a community leader who campaigned to protect the forest from logging amid escalating violence in the region.

Jorginho Guajajara, a cacique, or leader, of the Guajajara people, was found dead near a river in the city of Arame, Maranhão state, at the weekend.

Members of the tribe say his death was the result of a fierce conflict provoked by the incursion of loggers into their land. Up to 80 Guajajaras have been killed in the area since 2000.

“Jorginho’s body was found dumped by a stream which is renowned for being a dumping ground for Guajajaras killed by loggers or people connected to them,” said Sarah Shenker, a senior researcher at Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.

Guajajara supported a group called the Guardians of Amazon, who have taken direct action to reduce illegal logging in the Araeibóia reserve in Maranhão state: tying up loggers, burning their trucks and tractors, and kicking them off the reserves.

The Guardians say they defend the forest for their families and for the uncontacted Awá people that live in the same territory.

“Given they are uncontacted, they are extremely vulnerable people, who will face a catastrophe unless their land is protected,” Shenker says. “Survival International has been pressuring the Brazilian government to protect the land and also to protect the land defenders – as well as to investigate and bring all criminals to justice.”

Indigenous activist Sônia Guajajara, – who is from the Araribóia reserve and is currently running as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party, said: “Our people are dying on their land. This was not an isolated case, but part of an ongoing genocide.”

Guajajara’s candidacy has cast the spotlight on the Guajajaras, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous groups, who inhabit more than 10 protected areas in the eastern margin of the Amazon in Maranhão.

This area is subject to intense deforestation, and according to government data, 70% of the biome in the state has already been cleared.

“Maranhão is a state with a high rate of indigenous conflicts,” she said. “The loggers enter our territories to exploit our natural resources, and the violence escalates. Many leaders are being threatened by these invaders and we urgently need to end this situation; we do not want to lose any more relatives who fight and protect our Mother Earth.”

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