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18 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Israel’s wall: Security or apartheid?

AJ+ tours Israel’s imposing and controversial separation barrier and reports on its impact on Palestinians

Israel’s separation wall is a controversial and imposing structure, 280 miles in length and up to 26 feet in height. Though Israel says it’s necessary to keep out Palestinian attackers, Palestinians say its placement in the West Bank effectively allows Israel to annex more territory and make life difficult for them. They even call it the apartheid wall.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice at The Hague sided with the Palestinians, ruling the wall illegal and ordering Israel to tear it down. Nevertheless, the wall remains and is even being expanded.

AJ+’s Dena Takruri went to the West Bank, where Palestinians have been living under Israeli military occupation since 1967, to tour the barrier and report on its impact on Palestinian lives……………

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Democratic National Committee halts access to crucial voter file after Sanders staffer briefly accessed information about rival’s operations

US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

The campaign of US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been denied access to a crucial voter file. Photograph: Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters

Less than 12 hours after Bernie Sanders received his biggest endorsement of the presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has cut off his access to the Democratic party’s all-important master voter file. The result is that his campaign is now unable to perform all the most basic aspects of voter contact such as knocking on doors and making phone calls in any functional way. While the Sanders campaign can still talk to voters, it has no way of actually keeping track of their identity and whether they support the Vermont senator’s candidacy.

After NGP-VAN – the company that administers the DNC’s voter file – updated its system on Wednesday, a glitch reportedly made some confidential data from Hillary Clinton’s campaign briefly accessible to the Sanders campaign and one campaign staffer was able to access that information. The staffer has since been fired. The glitch was first reported by the Washington Post.

As a result of this temporary breach, the DNC has indefinitely cut off the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter file, which functionally halts its field operation. The move by the DNC raises eyebrows as many Democrats, including Sanders and fellow presidential candidate Martin O’Malley have long accused the DNC’s chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, of attempting to rig the presidential process to benefit Clinton. In particular, they have raised questions about the relative paucity of debates, which have been scheduled for weekend evenings and to coincide with other events such as a major University of Iowa football game.

The action by the DNC happens less than 48 hours before the third Democratic debate, which is scheduled for Saturday night, only a few days before Christmas and at the same time as a nationally televised NFL game. The news also broke less than 12 hours after Sanders received his biggest labor endorsement yet from the Communication Workers of America as well as the backing of the influential progressive activist group Democracy for America. However, national polls show Clinton with a steady lead of well over 20 percentage points over Sanders and the Vermont senator has struggled to keep pace with Clinton in the key early caucus state of Iowa as well…………………..

Concerns grow after disclosure Google enlisted US politicians to pressure EU brought attention to tech giant’s close relationship with Washington politicians

Obama Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell

Barack Obama stands next to speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Photograph: UPI / Landov / Barcroft Media

Google has made political donations to 162 members of the US Congress in the latest election cycle, figures show, as concerns grow over the internet giant’s lobbying influence in Washington.

On Thursday the Guardian revealed that Google enlisted American politicians whose election campaigns it had funded to pressure the European Union in a carefully coordinated campaign to drop a €6bn antitrust case that threatens its business in Europe.

The disclosure underlined the close relationship between the company, the US Congress and even the White House, where the chief technology officer is among several ex-Google employees. Critics say that, while the firm born in a garage in 1998 tries to present itself as breaking the mould, it has an army of more than a hundred lobbyists and buys influence just as big corporations have done for decades.

Google has reportedly spent more more money on federal lobbying than any other company since 2012. And its political action committee (Pac) has given donations between $1,000 and $10,000 to some 34 senators and 128 members of the House of Representatives in the 2016 cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In the Senate this breaks down as $78,500 to Republicans and $46,500 to Democrats; in the House, as $126,250 to Republicans and $131,500 to Democrats.

Jamie Court, president of the pressure group Consumer Watchdog, said: “Google’s founders had a motto, ‘Don’t be evil’, but they’re oozing evil these days in the political realm. They’ve gone from neophytes to mobsters in Washington. They’ve become brass knuckle influence peddlers and Obama has been their biggest fan.”

Tech pioneer Microsoft’s wings were clipped in 2001 following a lengthy antitrust law case that accused it of becoming a monopoly. Google, however, has been……………

Facebook post, accompanied by four pictures, said 20 armed soldiers arrived wearing bulletproof jackets

US soldiers in LIbya

Photographs showed three Americans armed with assault rifles. Photograph: Libyan Air Force/Facebook

A secret US commando mission to Libya has been revealed after photographs of a special forces unit were posted on the Facebook page of the country’s air force.

Libya’s air force said 20 US soldiers arrived at Libya’s Wattiya airbase on Monday, but left soon after local commanders asked them to go because they had no permission to be at the base. It was unclear if another branch of the Libyan military had authorized the mission.

Pentagon sources confirmed to US media that the special forces unit was part of a mission sent this week, but it was unclear if the soldiers had left the country.

US soldiers in LIbya

Pentagon sources confirmed the presence of a special forces unit. Photograph: Libyan Air Force/Facebook

The Facebook post that revealed the unit’s presence said the 20 soldiers had disembarked “in combat readiness wearing bullet proof jackets, advanced weapons”.

The photographs show the Americans – three with assault rifles slung over their shoulders – posing in the sunshine with Libyan soldiers. Other photographs show the US troops boarding a blue and white-striped passenger plane and driving a yellow dune buggy……………….

Independent panel says UN’s lack of response allowed assaults on children by peacekeepers in Central African Republic to continue

A soldier from the French Sangaris force

Soldiers from the French Sangaris force are alleged to have encouraged children to take part in oral sex in exchange for food or money. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations’ failure to respond to allegations that French peacekeepers sexually abused children in Central African Republic amounted to “gross institutional failure” and allowed assaults to continue, according to an independent panel’s damning report released on Thursday.

The study, commissioned by the UN, found that children as young as nine were encouraged to take part in oral sex in exchange for food or money in the middle of a war zone. The alleged perpetrators were mainly French soldiers from a unit known as the Sangaris force which was operating under authorisation of the security council but not under UN command.

The inquiry report, entitled Taking Action on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers, exonerated Anders Kompass, the director of field operations for the UN’s office of the high commissioner for human rights – the whistleblower who first disclosed the abuse. He had been suspended for disclosing an internal report on abuse to French prosecutors.

Initial complaints in early 2014, the report said, were “passed from desk to desk, inbox to inbox, across multiple UN offices, with no one willing to take responsibility”.

Even when the French government became aware of the allegations and sought the cooperation of UN staff, its requests were met with resistance and “became bogged down in formalities”.

UN staff, it is said, became overly concerned with whether the allegations had been improperly leaked to French authorities and focused on protocols rather than action. Among those said to have looked the other way were the UN children’s agency, Unicef, as well as human rights officials.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, expressed “profound regret that these children were betrayed by the very people sent to protect them”. He said he accepted the panel’s broad findings………………..

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US politics

Opinion

Even for black law enforcement officers, it can often be hard to see through the societal gaze and be sympathetic toward the public they serve

freddie gray

‘If Baltimore explodes again, consider it a guilty verdict on behalf of the people placed on the entire system.’ Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The case against officer William Porter in the death of Freddie Gray may have been declared a mistrial on Wednesday – but it did succeed in one thing: destroying the overly simplistic mass media racial narrative.

The description of the events that led to Gray’s death highlighted the lack of empathy many people have for poor black communities and their residents, even other black people. There were six different officers implicated in Freddie Gray’s death, three of whom are black and one is a woman. At the time, the police commissioner was a black man, the mayor was a black woman and over half of the police department was composed of black officers.

This is significant because unlike Ferguson and many other places that have seen incidents of police brutality, the balance of political power (but not economic resources) and law enforcement is in the hands of black people.

The trial, then, underscores the need for officers to spend time in the vulnerable communities they police doing activities not related to police work, as well as time communicating with the public. What many lack after years of receiving calls is empathy for the residents, which is also a function of racism, classism and white supremacy.

Officers often begin to view the communities they serve by the socially engineered pathology and white supremacist, capitalist-nurtured dysfunction in which they live. Porter and the other officers’ racial backgrounds are irrelevant.

The dehumanizing assumptions made about Gray, based on what he looked like and where he lived, and which led to him being chased in the first place, are of the utmost importance. Only in poor communities, can “eye contact” or running through your own neighborhood be considered probable cause for a search.

Even for people who come from similar backgrounds, it becomes hard to see through the societal gaze and see humanity. I suspect this is why media outlets, both conservative and liberal cheered when they saw “Baltimore mom” Toya Graham repeatedly punch and slap her son in the head……………

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