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30 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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US police killed 1,126 people so far this year. Will 2016 be any different?

The killing of Mike Brown in August 2014 made the world wake up to police gun use in America. But when the Guardian began looking for reliable data on how many civilians are killed by guns each year we found there was none. We decided to count them ourselves. Jamiles Lartey outlines some of the untold stories we found

The killing of Mike Brown in August 2014 made the world wake up to police gun use in America. But when the Guardian began looking for reliable data on how many civilians are killed by guns each year we found there was none. We decided to count them ourselves. Jamiles Lartey outlines some of the untold stories we found

Casualties of Moscow’s air war in support of President Assad include 792 civilians, among them 180 children

A man pulls a child from the wreckage after a Russian airstrike in Aleppo, Syria.

A man pulls a child from the wreckage after a Russian airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Three months of Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed more than 2,300 people, a third of them civilians, a monitoring group has said.

Russia began conducting its air war in Syria on 30 September in support of its embattled ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Moscow’s strikes on Syria have killed 2,371 people so far. The toll includes 792 civilians, among them 180 children.

The raids killed 655 Islamic State fighters, which Russia says it is targeting along with “other terrorist groups”.

Another 924 opposition fighters – ranging from US-backed rebels to members of al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate and Isis rival the al-Nusra Front – were also killed in the Russian strikes.

The Britain-based monitoring group has an extensive network of sources inside Syria. Russia, a US-led coalition and the Syrian airforce are all carrying out air raids in the country, but the Observatory differentiates between strikes based on the type of aircraft flown and the munitions used.

Russia has come under growing criticism from rebels, human rights groups and the west for inflicting civilian casualties.

Amnesty International last week said Russian raids had killed hundreds of civilians, many in targeted strikes that could constitute war crimes………………

Afghan journalists and analysts face attempts on their lives for criticising militants – and some point the finger at a ‘fifth column’ in the government

Afghan army soldiers in Kunduz

Afghan soldiers in Kunduz. During the siege of the city, the Taliban declared two broadcasters legitimate targets after they reported on sexual abuse committed by militants. Photograph: Ajmal Kakar/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Jawed Kohistani was not surprised that someone would try to kill him. In November the Afghan intelligence service sent him a letter warning that militants planned to murder him and other political analysts, including the prominent commentator Ahmad Saeedi.

On 24 November, after receiving the letter, Kohistani called Saeedi to warn him, but the phone rang out. He was too late. Minutes before the call, Saeedi had been waiting in a car for his wife to come out from a dentist appointment. He was fiddling with the car radio and looked up to see a clean-shaven young man in a suit on a motorcycle aiming a gun with a silencer at him. The man shot Saeedi twice in the face.

He survived but his hearing and sight were damaged. Speaking to the Guardian a day after his return to Kabul from India, where he had undergone surgery and skin transplants, he said: “I was shot less than 100 metres from the ministry of interior. Nobody targeted me but the government.” One bullet, he said, remained lodged against his cheekbone……………

The agreements that shaped the region may be forgotten in the west, but in the Middle East their significance still looms large

Fighters from Islamic State parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armoured vehicle down a main road in Mosul, Iraq

When Islamic State fighters broke through the desert border between Iraq and Syria they triumphantly pronounced the death of the Sykes-Picot agreement. Photograph: Associated Press

In an idle moment between cocktail parties in the Arab capital where they served, a British and French diplomat were chatting recently about their respective countries’ legacies in the Middle East: why not commemorate them with a new rock band? And they could call it Sykes-Picot and the Balfour Declaration.

It was just a joke. These first world war agreements cooked up in London and Paris in the dying days of the Ottoman empire paved the way for new Arab nation states, the creation of Israel and the continuing plight of the Palestinians. And if their memory has faded in the west as their centenaries approach, they are still widely blamed for the problems of the region at an unusually violent and troubled time.

“This is history that the Arab peoples will never forget because they see it as directly relevant to problems they face today,” argues Oxford University’s Eugene Rogan, author of several influential works on modern Middle Eastern history.

In 2014, when Islamic State fighters broke through the desert border between Iraq and Syria – flying black flags on their captured US-made Humvees – and announced the creation of a transnational caliphate, they triumphantly pronounced the death of Sykes-Picot. That gave a half-forgotten and much-misrepresented colonial-era deal a starring role in their propaganda war – and a new lease of life on Twitter.

Half truths go a long way: the secret agreement between Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot in May 1916 divided the Ottoman lands into British and French spheres – and came to light only when it was published by the Bolsheviks.

It also famously contradicted earlier promises made by the British to Sharif Hussein of Mecca before he launched what TE Lawrence called the “revolt in the desert” against the Turks. It did not draw the borders of Arab states – that came later – but it has become a kind of convenient shorthand for western double-dealing and perfidy.

And it was undermined too by the Balfour Declaration in November 1917 – mourned for decades by Palestinians remembering how “his Majesty’s government viewed with favour the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people” when Zionism was a novel response to European antisemitism and Jews a small minority in the Holy Land………………

Environment

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US politics

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

Opinion

The standard for inclusion is often based on a ‘predictive judgment’, a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that someone is a ‘suspected terrorist’

An aircraft takes off from Gatwick Airport, where a British Muslim family was denied permission to travel to Los Angeles earlier this month.

An aircraft takes off from Gatwick airport, where a British Muslim family was denied permission to travel to Los Angeles earlier this month. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

The No Fly List is not a government program easily challenged. Indeed, it operates in secrecy, from an undisclosed location, administered by an office – the Terrorist Screening Center – that doesn’t accept public inquiries. When challenged in court, the watchlisters routinely declare their methods safe but secret and fight the disclosure of their standards and criteria for inclusion.

The British Muslim family recently denied travel to Disneyland might soon discover this, despite the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron has been called upon to examine the case.

The Guardian reported that, despite prior US approvals, the entire family was turned away from Gatwick’s departure lounge. Without warning or a hearing, their freedom to travel was stripped away at great expense and deep humiliation. Instantly, they were reduced to the status of suspected terrorists by anonymous US officials working without any judicial oversight.

Imagine your family in their shoes. If you can’t, then you don’t understand the power of the US No Fly List.

Just ask Ayman Latif, an honorably discharged US marine who sought to return home from abroad to shore up his veteran’s benefits. Without any offered reason or warning, he was exiled by a system that he has spent the last five years challenging in federal court.

Or ask Rahinah Ibrahim, now a distinguished architect and scholar. As a Stanford University graduate student she found herself arrested and handcuffed in front of her young daughter when she sought to travel from San Francisco to an academic conference. Her eight years of litigation finally uncovered that an FBI agent had mistakenly watchlisted her; the presiding judge labeled it “a bureaucratic analogy to a surgeon amputating the wrong digit”. (Full disclosure: I testified on behalf of Dr Ibrahim at the first and only such trial held so far.)…………….

 

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