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16 Mar

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

AP: For Syrians, 8 years of war leaves stories of loss and hope

Dia Hassakeh

In this Feb. 18, 2019 photo, Dia Hassakeh, 45, a fighter in the Kurdish-led U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, looks out of a building in Baghouz, Syria. Eight years of war have left their mark on Dia. In the early days of the conflict, two of his brothers were wounded fighting in the government military against the armed opposition. In November, another brother was killed by the Islamic State group. Now Dia is battling the militants at IS’ last holdout, a speck of territory along the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border called Baghouz. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

FILE – In this July 16, 2018 file photo, a man rides his bicycle through rubble in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, in Damascus, Syria. As Syria marks the eighth anniversary of its grinding war, the violence has left a trail of broken lives. What started as peaceful protests in 2011 asking for government change turned into one of the cruelest modern wars. Among the country’s pre-war 23 million population, now half are displaced, nearly half a million dead. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

BAGHOUZ, Syria (AP) — War is personal. And in Syria, after eight years of a grinding conflict, there are as many stories of loss, dispossession and desperate hope as there are people.

What started as peaceful protests in 2011 asking for government change turned into one of the cruelest modern wars and left a trail of broken lives among the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. Now half are displaced, nearly half a million dead and many live with permanent scars or have joined militias.

The years of war have left their mark on Dia Hassakeh’s 45-year old face. The Arab fighter in the Kurdish-led U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces has seen his family suffer on the conflict’s many fronts.

In the early days of the conflict, two of his brothers were wounded fighting in the government military against the armed opposition. In November, another brother was killed by the Islamic State group. Now Dia is battling the militants at IS’ last holdout, a speck of territory along the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border called Baghouz.

“As Syrians, every citizen has paid the price,” he said, speaking just outside Baghouz. He took the name of his hometown Hassakeh as a nom de guerre when he joined the SDF.

While the Islamic State group’s territorial defeat will close one bloody chapter, Syria is still wracked by conflict on the eighth anniversary of its long-running civil war.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government appears to have won the war against the insurgency trying to topple him. But much of the country is out of Assad’s hands. The northeast and east, wrested from IS, is largely held by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces. But their fate as well is uncertain. Though President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw American troops, the U.S. is apparently keeping a small force, hoping to encourage the Europeans to strengthen their presence to protect its Kurdish allies from their nemesis Turkey, and counter Iran’s expansion in the region.

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REU: Suicide attackers strike people quitting Islamic State’s last Syria zone

DEIR AL-ZOR PROVINCE, Syria (Reuters) – Three suicide attackers in women’s clothing killed six people leaving the last Islamic State enclave in eastern Syria on Friday in simultaneous blasts, the U.S.-backed forces besieging the area said.

The attack appears to be the first to target the many thousands of people who have poured out of the enclave at Baghouz over the five weeks since the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) began an offensive there.

People fleeing the area have included surrendering Islamic State fighters, their family members, other supporters of the group, civilians caught up in the conflict and captives of the jihadists.

The SDF and the U.S.-led coalition that supports it have described the remaining Islamic State fighters holed up in Baghouz as being the group’s most hardened foreign militants.

During the battle for the enclave, they have hidden in tunnels, deployed suicide attackers to strike advancing SDF troops and detonated car bombs.

An SDF spokesman, Mustafa Bali, said the attacks had targeted surrendering family members of Islamic State militants at three crossing points from the enclave into SDF-controlled territory.

Three SDF fighters were slightly injured and it was not yet known if the attackers were women or men in women’s clothing, Bali added.

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REU: French, German envoys write that fear stops Syria refugee returns

BEIRUT (Reuters) – German and French diplomats on Friday blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for “a climate of fear and injustice” which they said was the main barrier to millions of refugees going home.

The fate of more than 5 million Syrian refugees who fled to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan is one of the most urgent questions following Assad’s recovery of more than half of the country.

Writing in Lebanon’s English-language Daily Star newspaper on Friday, the eighth anniversary of the war, the French and German envoys to Lebanon said refugees wanted to go back, but could not do so with abuses still taking place in Syria.

The pair cited surveys by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR saying that while 83 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon wanted to go home eventually, only 5 percent of them planned to do so in the next year.

“Arrest, torture and killings continue to this very day. Detention by the Syrian security agencies is so arbitrary that no refugee can ultimately be sure of a safe return,” wrote French envoy Bruno Foucher and German envoy Georg Birgelen.

Refugees “know that structural injustices await them: from seized property to utility fees for years spent abroad, from punitive penalties for expired personal documents to a biased justice system that will not defend their rights,” they added.

Bush’s Five Big Lies That Led to the Iraq Quagmire

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection.

Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–present)

During the war in Afghanistan (2001–present), over 31,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence have been documented;[1][2] 29,900 civilians have been wounded.[2] Over 111,000 Afghans, including civilians, soldiers and militants, are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.[1] The Cost of War project estimated that the number who have died through indirect causes related to the war may be as high 360,000 additional people based on a ratio of indirect to direct deaths in contemporary conflicts.[3] These numbers do not include those who have died in Pakistan.

The war, launched by the United States as “Operation Enduring Freedom” in 2001, began with an initial air campaign that almost immediately prompted concerns over the number of Afghan civilians being killed[4] as well as international protests. With civilian deaths from airstrikes rising again in recent years,[5] the number of Afghan civilians being killed by foreign military operations has led to mounting tension between the foreign countries and the government of Afghanistan. In May 2007, President Hamid Karzai summoned foreign military commanders to warn them of the consequences of further Afghan civilian deaths.[6] The civilian losses are a continuation of the extremely high civilian losses experienced during the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s, and the three periods of civil war following it: 1989–1992, 1992–1996, and 1996–2001.

Casualties, Exclusive of Civilians

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

None

Cost of War in Iraq>>

Cost of War in Afghanistan>>

Care for Veterans:

PTSD: National Center for PTSDPTSD Care for Veterans, Military, and FamiliesSee Help for Veterans with PTSD to learn how to enroll for VA health care and get an assessment.All VA Medical Centers provide PTSD care, as well as many VA clinics.Some VA’s have programs specializing in PTSD treatment. Use the VA PTSD Program Locator to find a PTSD program.If you are a war Veteran, find a Vet Center to help with the transition from military to civilian life.Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk to another combat Veteran.DoD’s Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) 24/7 Outreach Center for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury provides information and helps locate resources.Call 1-866-966-1020 or email resources@dcoeoutreach.orgMilitary OneSourceCall 24/7 for counseling and many resources 1-800-342-9647.Need further assistance? Get Help with VA PTSD Care

Save The Children Organization

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

Syria War Children

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15 Mar

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

 

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>>

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Young people, inspired by Greta Thunberg, rally to press politicians to act on climate change – follow live updates

Students participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India.

Students participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India. Photograph: Altaf Qadri/AP

Spain

Students across Spain are joining the strike, with the biggest demos beginning in Madrid and Barcelona at midday. About 45 rallies involving young people from 1,000 Spanish towns and cities are scheduled to take place today.

Young People for Climate, the apolitical group that has led today’s action, says it had felt compelled to join the global push for action and was prepared to sit down with politicians of any stripe to discuss the issue.

“Most of the politicians we have right now won’t be alive in 50 years’ time, but we will, and we can’t rely on their interests and commitments,” one of the founders, Lucas Barrero, told the Europa Press news agency.

Spain’s minister for ecological transition, Teresa Ribera, tweeted her support for the strike on Thursday night, writing: “For your children, for the people you love, for the planet you love … express yourself, act, demand and support [it].

The UK environment secretary, Michael Gove, has praised the youth strikes for climate in a video message with other Conservative MPs.

“Collective action of the kind you’re championing can make a difference, and a profound one,” said Gove. “Together we can beat climate change.”

“It will require us to change the way in which our energy is generated, change the way in which our homes are built, change the way in which our land is managed and farming operates,” he said. “But that change is absolutely necessary.”

Rebecca Pow MP said: “Your passion is an inspiration.”

This contrasts with comments from prime minister Theresa May’s official spokesman after the 15 February strikes, who said: “Disruption increases teacher’s workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for.”

Cyprus

Students in Nicosia have been joining the protests.

Students protesting against political inaction on climate change in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Students protesting against political inaction on climate change in Nicosia, Cyprus. Photograph: Katia Christodoulou/EPA

Young Leo may have captured this young woman’s heart – but she may also be pleased with Old Leo, who has become a bit of an environmental activist and tweeted in support of the school strikers last week.

View image on Twitter

600 Schüler*innen um 8:30 in .

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Italy

  • New Zealand PM says attack was terrorism

  • Police find explosives attached to cars

  • Three held in custody and one man charged with murder

Mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques – rolling updates

Eyewitnesses describe horror of Christchurch mosque shooting – video

Forty-nine people have been shot dead and 48 injured in attacks at two mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch, the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said this was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” as police uncovered explosive devices attached to cars and commissioner Mike Bush urged all mosques across the country to close their doors for the time being.

One explosive had been safely detonated and another was in the process of being dismantled, Bush said, but the situation was still “evolving” with a real possibility of further offenders being explored. New Zealand’s entire police arsenal and personnel were deployed throughout the country and en masse in Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, which is known to have an active white-supremacist subculture.

Hotels in the inner city stationed security guards at their entrances, and armed police continued to protect landmarks of significance, including the courthouse and Christchurch hospital, which is believed to have been a further target of the suspected terrorist group, with a Christchurch spokesperson telling local media police were concerned the group had plans to target the victims of the mosque attack as they were transported to hospital.

Four people were taken into custody – three men and one woman – for what Ardern described as a terrorist attack. One person was later released.

Police officers secure the area in front of Al Noor mosque after the shooting.

Police officers secure the area in front of Al Noor mosque after the shooting. Photograph: Tessa Burrows/AFP/Getty Images

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, called the massacre a “rightwing extremist attack” and said one suspect was Australian-born, without giving further details.

A man in his late 20s has been charged with murder and will appear in Christchurch court on Saturday. The police have not named him.

Ardern condemned the ideology of the people behind the shootings, saying: “You may have chosen us but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

New Zealand’s threat level has been raised from low to high and none of the suspects were on terrorism watchlists, Ardern said.

As dusk fell, people who escaped the two shootings returned to the scene, where they waited at the police cordon in an attempt to reach an unknown number of people still being held in a back room of the Al Noor mosque, where 30 people were killed in the first attack. Ten people were subsequently killed at the Linwood Islamic Centre, four miles (6km) away.

Relatives of those inside estimated about 100 people remained locked inside the mosque.

A small trickle of Christchurch residents stood with the victims keeping vigil, rubbing their shoulders, offering food and logistical support. “We’re so sorry,” they repeated, and: “This is not us, this is not New Zealand.” Some in typical New Zealand fashion were using black humour, evidently as a coping mechanism in the midst of an overwhelming tragedy.

‘Where are we safe now?’

Hassan, 29, a Sri Lankan Muslim who has lived in New Zealand for six months, said he came to the country for its “peace, and because there are no wars”. He did not wish to give his last name.

He was at the Linwood mosque’s Friday prayer service when the shooting began, and hit the floor as women around him rose up and screamed at the gunmen: “Do not come here,” some of them charging towards the shooter.

“The shooter was screaming a lot and waving the gun in every direction, shooting, shooting, shooting,” he said. “I don’t know who of my friends is dead or alive now. I am waiting. Police told me: ‘I am sorry, this is the first time this has ever happened in this country.’”

Hassan’s home is within the Al Noor police cordon, and he was unable to return on Friday night.

Mohammed, a Fijian Muslim who also did not wish to give his last name, was in the Al Noor mosque when the shooting started. He escaped through the back door, but said his son-in-law was shot in the shoulder, and his nephew was trapped inside.

“I am happy that I am alive,” he said. “I am new to New Zealand and at the mosque you find your friends and family. They are after the Muslims. They only see religion … They don’t see people any more.

“We are not safe any more. Where are we safe now?”

The New Zealand national flag is flown at half-mast on a parliament building in Wellington.

The national flag is flown at half-mast on a parliament building in Wellington. Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

As shots began to ring out, police put the city in lockdown and evacuated nearby climate change protests, with children separated from their relatives looked after by council staff until it was safe.

Those who live near the two mosques reported people climbing over fences to escape the shooter, and begging for help as the massacre unfolded.

The gunman entered the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch and opened fire at 1.40pm local time.

An estimated 400 people were inside for Friday prayers. Witness Len Peneha told Associated Press he saw a man dressed in black enter the Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running away in terror.

He said he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived. Peneha said he went into the mosque to try to help: “I saw dead people everywhere.”

World Politics

United States

Irish PM delivers pointedly pro-LGBT speech to Mike Pence: ‘We’re all God’s children’

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14 Mar

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

AP:Yemen warring sides divided over US Senate vote on the war

FILE – In this Oct. 1, 2018, photo, a woman holds a malnourished boy at the Aslam Health Center, in Hajjah, Yemen. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHAU.N. warned in a report Tuesday, March 12, 2019, that thousands of Yemeni civilians caught in fierce clashes between warring factions are trapped in the embattled northern district of Hajjah. The number of displaced in the district has doubled over the past six months, the humanitarian agency said. (AP Photos Hani Mohammed, File)

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s warring sides were divided Thursday over the U.S. Senate vote to end America’s support for the Saudi-led war in the impoverished country, with the Yemeni government condemning it while the Iran-backed rebels welcomed the development.

Information Minister Moammar al-Iryani denounced the vote, saying it would only “embolden Iran and empower its proxy,” the rebels known as Houthis.

The rivals Houthis — who are at war with the internationally recognized government and its backers from the Saudi-led coalition — hailed the Senate step, saying that U.S. support has “prolonged the conflict.”

The Senate vote on Wednesday brought the Congress one step closer to an unprecedented rebuke of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. It also put Congress on a collision course with Trump, who has already threatened to veto the resolution.

“In reality, America is the one … selling weapons, and providing support” to the coalition, top Houthi negotiator and spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam told The Associated Press.

In this way, the U.S. only “prolongs the conflict and the humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Yemen’s conflict erupted in 2014, when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee abroad. A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states intervened the following year, waging a destructive air campaign in support of the government. Thousands have been killed and millions pushed to the brink of starvation.

The West, including the U.S., has provided the coalition with billions of dollars in arms, in addition to logistical support. In addition to arms, U.S. military experts have acted as advisers to the Saudi and Emirati command centers in Riyadh and elsewhere, and a U.S. pullout could also impact intelligence gathering.

As Saudi-led coalition airstrikes claimed thousands of lives over the years, mostly in northern Yemen where the Houthis are based, the U.S. insisted it plays no role in targeting Yemenis.

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GUARD: Russian and Syrian airstrikes intensify on rebel-held Idlib

Attack comes as Brussels pushes for Assad to agree to a UN-sanctioned political settlement

The aftermath of the airstrike in the jihadist-held city of Idlib, which is Syria’s last major rebel bastion

The aftermath of the airstrike in the jihadist-held city of Idlib, which is Syria’s last major rebel bastion. Photograph: Muhammad Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

Russia has sent in aircraft to attack the Syrian rebel-held province of Idlib in its first major assault for months, as foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to pledge as much $5bn (£3.8bn) to support countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where many Syrians have sought refuge.

The bombardment of the country’s last rebel-held enclaveby Russian and Syrian planes was the most extensive yet. A full-scale assault could lead to hundreds of thousands of refugees joining the four million who have already fled the country.

As many as three million people live in Idlib province, including many jihadist fighters who have been transferred to the region after the fall of other rebel enclaves, such as Homs and Aleppo………….Meanwhile, in eastern Syria, US-backed fighters besieging the final area of territory occupied by Islamic State said they had pushed further into the enclave following clashes and airstrikes.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said: “Our fighters advanced deep into areas controlled by the terrorist organisation and established a number of new points, following clashes in which terrorists sustained a number of deaths and injuries.”

In Brussels Syrian civil society groups used the first two days of the conference to set out how the Assad regime was wreaking vengeance on those refugees that chose to return. They also warned the hard pressed Lebanese and Jordanian governments, intent on preventing the refugees settling permanently, were trying to force the refugees home before their safety was guaranteed. Jordan houses more than 600,000 refugees, Lebanon 1 million – a sixth of the population – and Turkey has as many as 3 million.

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GUARD: Up to 3,000 Isis children living in ‘extremely dire conditions’

Unicef says numbers arriving from last enclave have overwhelmed Syrian camps

People at the al-Hawl camp in Syria, where as many as 30,000 people have arrived from Baghuz

People at the al-Hawl camp in Syria, where as many as 30,000 people have arrived from Baghuz. Photograph: Achilleas Zavallis/The Guardian

As many as 3,000 children born into Islamic State families are being housed in camps in north-east Syria, Unicef estimates, with many younger than six years old and living in “extremely dire conditions”.

The figure from the United Nations children’s fund is sharply higher than earlier assessments, driven in part by the arrival in al-Hawl camp of as many as 30,000 people from the last Isis enclave of Baghuz. The number of newcomers has overwhelmed camp officials, who are struggling to keep accurate records and provide food and shelter.

At least 1,000 more children born to at least one parent aligned to Isis are believed to be being held in Iraq. Many are housed with mothers who have been handed death sentences by Iraqi courts after summary trials in which little, if any, evidence is heard.

The fate of children in both countries has become a vexing issue for many nations whose citizens travelled to join Isis and now wish to return. There is some appetite for allowing children to return, but next to none for their mothers or fathers, many of whom face criminal charges and are deemed to pose a security risk.

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REU: Islamic State loses ground in final Syria enclave, hundreds surrender

BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) – Islamic State militants accompanied by relatives surrendered to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) by the hundreds on Thursday as the jihadists lost ground to a U.S.-backed assault aimed seizing the last shred of IS territory, the SDF said.

Islamic state fighters and their families walk as they surrendered in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said

Many of the men were limping as they crossed out of the enclave at Baghouz along a dirt path over a rocky hill, accompanied by weeping children and fully veiled women, dragging suitcases and backpacks behind them, a Reuters journalist said.

SDF fighters said many of them were foreign fighters.

IS insurgents have been mounting a desperate last-stand defense of the enclave at Baghouz, the final patch of Islamic State territory that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria and which has been besieged by the SDF for weeks.

The jihadists had sought to counter-attack three times in two days, the SDF said, deploying more than 20 suicide bombers.

In a statement, the SDF said its fighters had made progress into the remaining IS-held part of the enclave in eastern Syrian near the Iraqi border. It said 15 IS members had been killed on Thursday morning after they tried to attack SDF troops.

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REU: Syria’s Assad struggles to reap spoils after military gains

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Eight years since Syria began its descent into war, many of President Bashar al-Assad’s enemies have been defeated and the bulk of the country is back under his control. But he isn’t celebrating.

“We must not wrongly think, as happened in the last year, that the war is over. I say this not just to citizens but also to officials,” Assad told supporters in a speech last month.

“We have this romantic view sometimes that we are victorious. No. The war is not over.”

He said there was more fighting to be done before turning to his main point, the “siege” imposed by foreign states.

“The siege is a battle in itself,” he told a packed conference room in the capital, Damascus. “It is intensifying compared to previous years.”

The comments reflect an uncomfortable winter in Damascus, the eighth since the conflict began after protests on March 15, 2011. It is nearly a year since any mortar bomb hit the city but Syrians in government-held areas have been complaining of severe fuel shortages blamed by Damascus on Western sanctions.

Queues for state-subsidized bottles of cooking gas have pointed to wider economic difficulties the Syrian government faces despite military victories won with help from Iran and Russia.

While these allies have supplied critical firepower, they have offered little in the way of aid to rebuild cities devastated by a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven half of Syrians from their homes.

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NYT: Taliban Leader Optimistic About Peace, Tries to Reassure Afghans

KABUL — The Taliban political chief, who headed the Islamist militants’ delegation during the most recent round of peace talks with the United States, said on Thursday that he was optimistic and assured Afghans that they had no reason to fear a settlement.

The latest round of talks in Qatar lasted 16 days and finished on Tuesday, with officials from both sides saying that progress had been made, but there was no agreement on when foreign troops might be withdrawn.

“We are very hopeful for the peace talks, because the latest round had some good dialogues which paved the way to more progress regarding peace in the future,” Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said in an eight-minute audio tape of an interview conducted by the Taliban and posted online.

Making his first public comments since his release last year from a Pakistan prison, Baradar sought to reassure Afghans who have worried that peace with the Taliban could herald the return of its hardline Islamist values.

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NYT: Senate Votes Again to End Aid to Saudi War in Yemen, Defying Trump

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday again rebuked President Trump for his continued defense of Saudi Arabia after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting for a second time to end American military assistance for the kingdom’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers.

The 54-to-46 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, sets the foundation for what could become Mr. Trump’s first presidential veto, with the House expected to overwhelmingly pass the measure, possibly this month. The vote also might be the opening salvo in a week where Senate Republicans have the opportunity to hit back at the president’s aggressive use of executive power. On Thursday, the chamber will vote on a resolution that would overturn Mr. Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall.

“The United States Congress is going to reassert its constitutional responsibility over issues of war that have been abdicated for presidents, Democrats and Republicans, for too many years,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, encouraged lawmakers on Wednesday to oppose the Yemen resolution, calling it “inappropriate and counterproductive” and warning them not to conflate their displeasure with the administration’s response to Mr. Khashoggi’s death with the broader issue of the conflict in Yemen. But in a show of defiance, seven Republican senators broke ranks to join the resolution: Mike Lee, of Utah; Susan Collins of Maine; Steve Daines of Montana; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Rand Paul of Kentucky; and Todd Young of Indiana.

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NYT: Afghan Soldiers Killed in U.S. Air Strikes

KABUL — At least five Afghan soldiers were killed and 10 injured in air strikes conducted by U.S. forces in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan on Wednesday, Afghan officials said, in an apparent case of friendly fire.

The Defence Ministry said in a statement giving the casualty numbers the Afghan soldiers had been patrolling a checkpoint.

“This attack was caused due to lack of proper coordination,” a ministry official told Reuters.

The NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul said the United States conducted precision self-defense air strikes on people firing on Afghan and American forces who were conducting a ground movement near an Afghan army checkpoint.

It did not confirm or deny the air strikes caused casualties.

“The strikes were conducted after Afghan and U.S. forces came under effective small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire and (they) requested air support in self-defense,” said Debra Richardson, a mission spokeswoman.

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Bush’s Five Big Lies That Led to the Iraq Quagmire

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection.

Civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan (2001–present)

During the war in Afghanistan (2001–present), over 31,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence have been documented;[1][2] 29,900 civilians have been wounded.[2] Over 111,000 Afghans, including civilians, soldiers and militants, are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.[1] The Cost of War project estimated that the number who have died through indirect causes related to the war may be as high 360,000 additional people based on a ratio of indirect to direct deaths in contemporary conflicts.[3] These numbers do not include those who have died in Pakistan.

The war, launched by the United States as “Operation Enduring Freedom” in 2001, began with an initial air campaign that almost immediately prompted concerns over the number of Afghan civilians being killed[4] as well as international protests. With civilian deaths from airstrikes rising again in recent years,[5] the number of Afghan civilians being killed by foreign military operations has led to mounting tension between the foreign countries and the government of Afghanistan. In May 2007, President Hamid Karzai summoned foreign military commanders to warn them of the consequences of further Afghan civilian deaths.[6] The civilian losses are a continuation of the extremely high civilian losses experienced during the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s, and the three periods of civil war following it: 1989–1992, 1992–1996, and 1996–2001.

Casualties, Exclusive of Civilians

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

None

Cost of War in Iraq>>

Cost of War in Afghanistan>>

Care for Veterans:

PTSD: National Center for PTSDPTSD Care for Veterans, Military, and FamiliesSee Help for Veterans with PTSD to learn how to enroll for VA health care and get an assessment.All VA Medical Centers provide PTSD care, as well as many VA clinics.Some VA’s have programs specializing in PTSD treatment. Use the VA PTSD Program Locator to find a PTSD program.If you are a war Veteran, find a Vet Center to help with the transition from military to civilian life.Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk to another combat Veteran.DoD’s Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) 24/7 Outreach Center for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury provides information and helps locate resources.Call 1-866-966-1020 or email resources@dcoeoutreach.orgMilitary OneSourceCall 24/7 for counseling and many resources 1-800-342-9647.Need further assistance? Get Help with VA PTSD Care

Save The Children Organization

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

 

Syria War Children

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13 Mar

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>>

Chief judge calls Pell’s crimes ‘breathtakingly arrogant’ as he sentences Pell to six years in jail, with non-parole period of three years and eight months

George Pell sentenced to six years in jail – live updates

Cardinal George Pell sentenced to six years in prison – video

Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years in jail after being convicted of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in 1996.

The former Vatican treasurer, 77, was handed a non-parole period of three years and eight months by the judge, who described his offending as “brazen and forceful” and “breathtakingly arrogant” because he believed the victims would never complain.

The sentence means he may spend at least three years and eight months in jail.

He is the most senior member of the Catholic Church to be convicted and jailed for child sexual abuse.

Pell was convicted last month on five charges of child sexual assault, following a committal hearing, a mistrial and a trial. He has lodged an appeal, which will be heard in June.

Chief judge Peter Kidd said the sentence carried a real possibility that Pell would not live to be released. “Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you,” he said.

Kidd’s sentencing before Melbourne’s county court on Wednesday morning was broadcast live around the world. Once the financial controller of the Vatican and confidant to the pope, Pell sat in the dock dressed in a black shirt and beige jacket, using a walking cane, and stared straight at Kidd, expressionless. Two police officers sat either side of him, and one directly behind.

In his sentencing remarks Kidd said Pell’s offending had “a significant and long lasting impact” on the complainant’s wellbeing. “I take into account the profound impact your offending has had [on the complainant’s] life.” Kidd referred to the complainant only as “J” throughout his sentencing remarks, and to the other victim, who died in 2014, as “R”.

“During the incident, J and R were crying and sobbing,” Kidd said.

Man outside court

A man listens outside court to the judge sentencing George Pell. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

“In my view, the first episode in the priest’s sacristy involved a brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims. The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending.”

Each of the five charges – one of sexual penetration of a minor under the age of 16 and four of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16 – carried a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Pell will be a registered sex offender for life, and will be required to allow police to collect forensic samples from him. He stood as the sentence was read.

The judge rejected sentencing arguments put forward by Pell’s defence team that, if the offending had occurred, Pell must have experienced a moment of irrationality.

“Your decision to offend was a reasoned, albeit perverted, one,” Kidd said. “Certainly you were confident your victims would not complain … the offending which the jury has found you have engaged in was, on any view, breathtakingly arrogant.

“As archbishop, you did have a relationship of approval in relation to the choirboys. In part, the choirboys were performing to please you as archbishop. The choirboys were the least powerful and the most subordinate individuals at the cathedral. The power imbalance between the victims and all the senior church leaders or officials, yourself included, was stark.”

Kidd reinforced the point several times during the sentencing, saying: “I conclude that your decision to offend was a reasoned, albeit perverted, one, and I reach that conclusion to the criminal standard.”

Protesters outside the court

 

Crowds watch the live stream of the sentencing of George Pell from outside Melbourne county court. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP

He said any breach of this trust should be seen by the law as “grave”.

Kidd said he had sentenced Pell “without fear or favour”.

“There has been extraordinary and widespread publicity and public comment which has surrounded you for a number of years,” Kidd said. “Some of this publicity has involved strong, trenchant and sometimes emotional criticism of you. Indeed, it is fair to say that in some sections of the community you are a publicly vilified figure. We have witnessed, outside of this court and within our community, examples of a witch-hunt or a lynch mob mentality in relation to you, Cardinal Pell. I utterly condemn such behaviour.”

Kidd made it clear to Pell he was sentencing him only on the basis of the offending considered by the jury and their subsequent conviction. He said his sentencing had nothing to do with the Catholic church and its failings, or community attitudes towards Pell.

At multiple points during the sentencing, Kidd referred to Pell’s arrogance.

“In my opinion, all of the offending across both episodes is made significantly more serious because of the surrounding or contextual circumstances – namely the breach of trust and abuse of power,” Kidd told him. “This elevates the gravity of each of the offences. In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.”

However, Kidd acknowledged Pell’s risk of reoffending was low, given his age and poor health.

Outside the court about a dozen protesters gathered in both support and defence of Pell. Pell was led to and from the dock through a back entrance of the court.

At the sentencing hearing on 27 February, Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter, had argued Pell’s sentence should be on the “lower end” because there were “no aggravating circumstances” to one of the offences. It was “no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating”, he said. Richter later apologised for that description.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson argued Pell should be given a significant sentence, describing the offences as “humiliating and degrading towards each boy”.

Crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC speaks to the media after chief judge Peter Kidd handed down his sentence for Cardinal George Pell

Crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC speaks to the media after chief judge Peter Kidd handed down his sentence for Cardinal George Pell. Photograph: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

At the trial, the complainant, now 35, said he and the another 13-year-old choirboy separated from the choir procession as it exited the church building. He and the other boy sneaked back into the church corridors and entered the priest’s sacristy, a place they knew they should not be. There they found some sacramental wine and began to drink. The complainant alleged that Pell had walked in on them.

Pell then manoeuvred his robes to expose his penis. He stepped forward, grabbed the other boy by the back of his head and lowered the boy’s head towards his penis, the complainant told the court. Pell then did the same thing to the complainant, orally raping him. Once he had finished, he ordered the complainant to remove his pants, before fondling the complainant’s penis and masturbating himself.

“There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other,” Kidd said.

A few weeks later Pell attacked the complainant again as he passed him in the church corridor, pushing him against the wall and squeezing his genitals hard through his choir robes, before walking off.

Researchers say dirty air is killing 800,000 people a year in Europe, and urge the phasing out of fossil fuel burning

Air pollution over London

Air pollution over London. The scientists’ figures suggest toxic air is causing more early deaths than tobacco smoking. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

The number of early deaths caused by air pollution is double previous estimates, according to research, meaning toxic air is killing more people than tobacco smoking.

The scientists used new data to estimate that nearly 800,000 people die prematurely each year in Europe because of dirty air, and that each life is cut short by an average of more than two years. The health damage caused by air pollution in Europe is higher than the global average. Its dense population and poor air results in exposure that is among the highest in the world.

The new research, published in the European Heart Journal, indicates that while air pollution hits the lungs first, its impact via the bloodstream on heart disease and strokes is responsible for twice as many deaths as respiratory diseases.

There was previously little data about the effect of high levels of air pollution and results from second-hand smoking studies were used instead, leading to an underestimate of deaths. There are now more than 40 large studies, including important research from China. Research also now covers a wider range of health impacts, including diabetes and high blood pressure, which also increases the estimated number of deaths.

The estimates of early deaths varied significantly between countries. In Germany, there were 154 early deaths per 100,000 people, with an average reduction of 2.4 years in life expectancy. In the UK, there were 98 deaths per 100,000 and a cut in lifespan of 1.5 years. Lelieveld said the UK’s lower number may be because Atlantic winds help to disperse pollution.

Münzel said small particles, less than 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5), are not paid sufficient attention when tackling cardiovascular disease. “The prevention guidelines for CVD must adopt air pollution as an important risk factor,” he said. The EU’s PM2.5 limit is more than double the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline used by Canada and Australia.

“The EU is lagging a long way behind,” Münzel said.“We as doctors and patients cannot alter the limits for air pollution, so the politicians have to stand up and give us an environment that keeps us safe.”

Prof Metin Avkiran of the British Heart Foundation said: “Air pollution is clearly a huge problem across Europe. We need to see WHO guidelines in UK law in order to drive decisive action to protect the nation’s health.”

Penny Woods, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “Toxic air doesn’t just cut lives short. It also seriously affects the health and quality of life of millions of people.”

The scientists acknowledge there are large uncertainties in their early death estimates for Europe, which range from 645,000 to 934,000. Some deaths could have been misattributed to air pollution, but it is as likely that the true number of deaths could be even higher, they said.

The effects of air pollution on infant deaths was not included, because the evidence is not yet as strong. The new work also only considered PM2.5 and ozone, and not other particles, nitrogen dioxide or other pollutants.

More On The Environment:

Resource extraction responsible for half world’s carbon emissions

World Politics

Great Britain

Opinion The Conservatives have left Britain with no real government

Theresa May is so consumed by her mismanaged Brexit she has no energy for anything else

philip hammond

It’s been true for a while that the Conservative party has become fundamentally ungovernable, its warring factions so far apart it’s all but impossible to have them marching in the same direction, at least when it comes to Europe. It’s a condition that afflicted the Tories under Theresa May’s predecessors, spelling doom for David Cameron, John Major and Margaret Thatcher. But today Britain has to face a condition that is new: not only are the Conservatives ungovernable but, under the Tories, the country itself is ungoverned. Functionally, the United Kingdom currently lacks a government.

Consider that today Tory MPs will have a free vote not on one of the traditional issues of conscience – relating, say, to religion or personal morality – but on a question that is among the most significant to have confronted the UK in peacetime: namely, whether to crash out of the European Union in 16 days with no deal. By refusing to compel its MPs to vote one way or the other, May is saying that, even on “an issue of grave importance”, to use May’s own words, her administration has no official view. As the political scientist Professor Philip Cowley puts it: “On one of the most fundamental questions about Britain’s future, the government will be shrugging its shoulders and saying: ‘whatever’.”

That was the real meaning of May’s address to MPs on Tuesday night, after her withdrawal agreement was rejected for the second time by a three-figure margin. In effect, she was telling the Commons that she and her government had failed to solve what Danny Dyer famously – and rightly – called the “mad riddle” of Brexit, and that she was dumping the entire mess into the lap of parliament. Now it will be up to backbench MPs, led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and the Tories’ Nick Boles, to eke out some kind of solution. In the centuries-long contest fought in these islands over where power lies – with parliament or the executive – May’s retreat marked a significant moment, a shift from the latter to the former.

It’s worth stressing that today’s vote is not just free for Tory backbenchers, but for ministers too, including the most senior ones. May has, in effect, admitted that if she instructed her colleagues to rule out no deal – or, indeed, to refuse to rule it out – many would disobey her instruction. The former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine was right to tell Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that: “They’ve not only lost control of the House, they’ve lost control of the cabinet.”

For proof of this absence of government, look no further than today’s spring statement by the chancellor. Normally this would be a major news event, dominating the political cycle for the entire week. Instead, it’s been downgraded to little more than a B-movie before the main feature of the no-deal vote. Indeed, its chief purpose is Brexit-related, with Philip Hammond showing off all the shiny spending he would be able to commit to other things, if only he didn’t have to hold it back to soften the blow of a potential no-deal exit. His is the role of a TV gameshow host, tantalising the contestant by showing them what they could have won.

Read Full Article>>

United States

  • Ex-Donald Trump campaign chair faces up to 10 years in prison

  • Manafort already sentenced to roughly four years in Virginia

Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in Washington and last week was sentenced to 47 months for bank and tax fraud in Virginia.

Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in Washington and last week was sentenced to 47 months for bank and tax fraud in Virginia. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort faces his second sentencing hearing in as many weeks on Wednesday, with a judge expected to tack on additional prison time beyond the roughly four-year punishment he has already received.

Manafort, 69, faces up to 10 additional years in prison when he is sentenced on Wednesday in Washington in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A judge in Virginia last week sentenced Manafort to 47 months in prison, far below sentencing guidelines that allowed for more than two decades in prison, prompting national debate about disparities in how rich and poor defendants are treated by the criminal justice system.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington will decide whether the sentences should run consecutively or at the same time, and she is likely to take into account allegations by prosecutors that Manafort tampered with witnesses after he was charged and that he lied to investigators even after he pleaded guilty and pledged to cooperate.

The hearing may offer a window into tantalizing allegations that are not part of the criminal cases against him but have nonetheless surfaced in recent court filings — that Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate the US says has ties to Russian intelligence, and that the two men met secretly during the campaign in an encounter that prosecutors say cuts “to the heart” of their investigation.

The sentencing hearings for Manafort mark a bookend of sorts for Mueller’s investigation as it inches toward a conclusion. Manafort and business associate Rick Gates were among the first of 34 people charged, and though the charges against Manafort were not tied to his work on the Trump campaign, his foreign entanglements have made him a subject of intrigue to prosecutors assessing whether the campaign colluded with Russia to sway the outcome of the election.

Wednesday’s sentencing comes in a week of activity for the investigation. Mueller’s prosecutors on Tuesday night updated a judge on the status of cooperation provided by one defendant, the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and are expected to do the same later in the week for Gates.

The Mueller team has prosecuted Manafort in both Washington and Virginia related to his foreign consulting work on behalf of a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party. Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud in the Virginia case and pleaded guilty in Washington to two conspiracy counts, each punishable by up to five years in prison.

The decision by Judge TS Ellis III to sentence Manafort to 47 months stunned many who had been following the case given both the guideline calculation of 19.5 to 24 years in prison and the fact that the defendant was convicted of hiding millions of dollars from the IRS in undisclosed foreign bank accounts. But Ellis said during the sentencing hearing that he found the government’s sentencing guidelines unduly harsh and declared his own sentence “sufficiently punitive”.

“If anybody in this courtroom doesn’t think so, go and spend a day in the jail or penitentiary of the federal government,” Ellis said. “Spend a week there.”

Manafort has been jailed since last June when Berman Jackson revoked his house arrest over allegations that he and Kilimnik sought to influence witnesses by trying to get them to testify in a certain way.

Nancy Pelosi on impeaching Trump: ‘He’s just not worth it’ – as it happened>>

#BreakUpBigTech: Elizabeth Warren says Facebook just proved her point>>

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