29 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


The Democratic presidential frontrunner is calling for war against Russia over Syria and hoping no one notices

The McGlynn: This woman is dangerous!


December 29, 2015

During the Dec. 19 Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News generally steered the candidates toward hawkish positions on foreign policy. She appeared to accept the premise that the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also called ISIS) is both necessary and urgent. But one position advanced by former Secretary of State and current frontrunner Hillary Clinton was so hawkish, so cavalier, that even Raddatz felt compelled to push back. After Clinton said she supported a no-fly zone in Syria in the context of fighting ISIL, Raddatz skeptically followed up:

RADDATZ: Secretary Clinton, I’d like to go back to that if I could. ISIS doesn’t have aircraft, Al Qaida doesn’t have aircraft. So would you shoot down a Syrian military aircraft or a Russian airplane?

CLINTON: I do not think it would come to that. We are already de-conflicting airspace. […] I am advocating the no-fly zone both because I think it would help us on the ground to protect Syrians; I’m also advocating it because I think it gives us some leverage in our conversations with Russia […] The no-fly zone, I would hope, would be also shared by Russia. If they will begin to turn their military attention away from going after the adversaries of Assad toward ISIS and put the Assad future on the political and diplomatic track, where it belongs.

Raddatz moved on, but this exchange illustrates the absurdity of Clinton’s support for a “no-fly zone.” A no-fly zone over Syria, as all parties understand, is a tacit declaration of war not only against Syria, but also against their longtime ally Russia, whose air force is currently flying over Syria to defend the government of Bashar al-Assad against both ISIL and various rebel groups, some overtly or covertly backed by the United States.

But most Americans don’t know what a no-fly zone is, because the media almost never explains what it would entail. Indeed, one has to look to paragraph 19 of an article in The New York Times from 2013 to get some specifics:

Imposing a no-fly zone, [Gen. Martin E. Dempsey] said, would require as many as 70,000 American servicemen to dismantle Syria’s sophisticated antiaircraft system and then impose a 24-hour watch over the country.

That was written before Russia entered the war in September 2015. The total number of U.S. servicemen needed to enforce a no-fly zone is likely now much higher, and the stakes for shooting down a Russian jet, intentionally or not, are much greater than for a Syrian one. Yet none of these inconvenient details are brought up in presidential debates……………….


Grand jury declines to indict white officer Timothy Loehmann and partner over shooting of 12-year-old, citing lack of evidence of criminal misconduct

and in New York and in Cleveland

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty confirmed that a grand jury in Cleveland has cleared two police officers in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014, adding that there was not enough evidence to charge them

The white police officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice, an African American 12-year-old, will not face criminal charges, it was announced on Monday – more than a year after the shooting in Cleveland.

A grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire on Tamir less than two seconds after arriving at a park where the 12-year-old was playing with a toy gun on 22 November 2014. Loehmann’s partner, Frank Garmback, will also face no charges, Cuyahoga county prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced at a press conference.

McGinty argued that Tamir’s death was caused by a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day” but there was no evidence of criminal misconduct by police. The two officers believed they were responding to a “potential active shooter situation” and had not been provided with crucial details of a 911 call reporting that Rice was likely a juvenile with a gun that was “probably fake”, McGinty said.

“Had the officers been aware of these qualifiers, the training officer who was driving might have approached the scene with less urgency; lives may not have been put at stake,” McGinty said.

Subodh Chandra, an attorney for Tamir’s mother Samaria, said they had been given no information about the announcement beforehand and had learned it was taking place through a public statement made by the county prosecutor’s office about an hour earlier.

McGinty said he had spoken to Samaria Rice shortly before the decision was made public. “It was a tough conversation,” McGinty said, adding “she was broken up”.

In a statement, Tamir’s family said they were “saddened and disappointed” by the outcome, “but not surprised”……………….


With the release of a film telling his story, Bennet Omalu describes the process of discovery that led to clashes with the league – and how his own encounters with depression helped enhance his understanding

Bennet Omalu<br>12/16/15 Nigerian born forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu describes his work and beliefs at the Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan. He published findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in American football players. He is also the central character portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 film, Concussion. Photograph by Joshua Bright

Bennet Omalu describes his work and beliefs at the Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan. Photograph: Joshua Bright for the Guardian

The film begins much like the real story, with number 52: Iron Mike Webster.

The day he was inducted into the NFL hall of fame, Webster, a Pittsburgh Steelers legend and stalwart center of one the greatest dynasties in league history, was at the beginning of a very public unravelling. It was late July 1997 in Canton, Ohio, and Webster’s acceptance speech rambled and dragged, running beyond his allotted time by a good 13 minutes. It wasn’t without its lucid moments, though. “You know it’s painful to play football, obviously,” Webster said. “Two a day drills in the heat of the summer and banging heads. It’s not a natural thing.”

Five years later, at age 50, Webster was dead, of an apparent heart attack. The man scheduled to perform his autopsy might have known less about Iron Mike than anyone in the city of Pittsburgh. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist, only knew what he’d seen on television earlier that morning, that this favorite son of the steel city was disgraced – sleeping in his truck, estranged from his wife, busted for forging prescriptions.

As he moved through the examination, weighing, measuring, and testing, eventually Omalu arrived at Webster’s brain. When he opened the skull, Omalu was surprised to find that by all outward appearances, it was completely normal. On a whim he ordered an assistant to “fix the brain”.

Over the ensuing decade, that decision would bring Omalu face to face with the billion-dollar National Football League and its army of lawyers, doctors and public relations experts. The conclusion he would come to, that the human brain cannot withstand an unlimited number of traumatic impacts, presented a profoundly inconvenient truth for America’s game.

Omalu’s research suggested that eventually the collisions, large and small, which characterize a contact sport like football take their toll. Speaking to the Guardian in New York, Omalu said: “There is no equipment that can prevent this kind of injury.”

Now that his findings are mainstream, in the form of the just-released movie Concussion starring Will Smith, the future of the game is more in doubt than ever………………

The uncle and cousins of the three-year-old whose drowning brought worldwide attention to the refugee crisis have arrived in Vancouver

Mohammed Kurdi and his wife, right, arrive with their family at Vancouver airport on Monday.

Mohammed Kurdi and his wife, right, arrive with their family at Vancouver airport on Monday. Photograph: Darryl Dyck/AP

Relatives of a Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach, sparking worldwide concern for the refugee crisis, have landed in Canada.

Mohammed Kurdi, his wife and their five children arrived in Canada as refugees on Monday, sponsored by Mohammed’s sister Tima Kurdi, who wiped away tears as she greeted her relatives at Vancouver airport’s arrival gates.

Speaking through his sister, who translated from Arabic, Mohammed Kurdi thanked Canadians and the government for making his dream come true.

“I’m happy! Very happy!” he said in English to a crowd of reporters gathered around the family.

His teenage son Shergo said he was looking forward to going back to school and starting a new life.

The reunion comes at the end of a traumatic year for the family.

Tima and Mohammed’s three-year-old nephew, Alan Kurdi, drowned along with his five-year-old brother and their mother while crossing the waters between Turkey and Greece in September……………

Tima Kurdi holds up her nephew Sherwan Kurdi as she welcomes her brother Mohammed and his family at Vancouver airport on Monday.

Tima Kurdi holds up her nephew Sherwan Kurdi as she welcomes her brother Mohammed and his family at Vancouver airport on Monday. Photograph: Jimmy Jeong/Reuters


US politics

After Sanders criticism, Donald Trump flip-flops: US wages ‘are too low’

Guantánamo Bay lawyers call bluff on Obama’s promise to close prison

Bernie Sanders vows to curb Wall Street by purging Federal Reserve of bankers


After the killings of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in Chicago on Saturday, the city needs to see serious solutions to injustices against black communities


Another day, another death to absorb and many are numb.’ Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

Calling 911 should not be a death-wish. On Saturday, police were called to Quintonio LeGrier’s home because he was suffering from a mental health episode which frightened his family. Legrier, a 19-year-old college student, and 55-year-old grandmother-activist Bettie Jones ended up dead – both were shot by Chicago police.

LeGrier’s father, who called the police, said that his son had “emotional issues”. It’s still unclear how police came to shoot Quintonio seven times. Police say Bettie Jones, a neighbor, was “accidentally” shot. The officers involved in this shooting are on desk duty for at least 30 days pending a department investigation into their actions. There may be no video this time. Few in Chicago expect accountability.

In a city like Chicago, those with mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to police violence; since Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed half of the public mental health clinics in 2012, police are our mental health first responders. Sins Invalid, a disability justice-based performance project, issued a statement on police violence last year suggesting that “disabled people who are autistic, who are deaf, who live with mental health impairments, or cognitive impairments, epilepsy or movement disorders, are at highest risk of being assaulted by police”.

Given these statistics – and the recent incident in Chicago – some might wonder whether it is best to avoid calling the police altogether. Yet, for many black people, law enforcement is ever-present in our overly surveilled neighborhoods. We don’t have to call them to encounter them. They are already here and always ready to harass, target and kill us.

Black residents of Chicago are also suffering from more than just police violence. As Joao Vargas writes: “Police brutality is just one aspect of a constellation unendingly generating anti-black forces.” Black communities have been and continue to suffer from overall divestment and neglect. Our politicians seem content to leave black people to die.

This was the conclusion reached by Anna Jones. This summer, the 36-year-old mother, took part in a 34-day hunger strike to protest against the closing of Dyett high school. Dyett was the last open-enrollment public high school in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community. After the first 18 days of the strike, Chicago Public Schools announced that Dyett would reopen as an arts-based school rather than as the green technology one demanded by the hunger strikers.

Jones told the Chicago Reader: “I hated to end the strike because I didn’t want the mayor or the aldermen to feel like we were giving up. But we had to end it because we knew that the mayor would leave us out there to die.”

These words explain so much of what we face in Chicago in this historical moment………………..



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