Venezuela sends 2,000 troops to state hit by looting, protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Venezuela sends 2,000 troops to state hit by looting, protests

Workers of the health sector and opposition supporters take part in a protest against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello
By Anggy Polanco | SAN CRISTOBAL, VENEZUELA

Venezuela said it was sending 2,000 soldiers on Wednesday to a border state that is a hotspot of anti-government radicalism after a night of looting in which one 15-year-old died as political unrest rumbled on in the volatile nation.

Most shops and businesses in San Cristobal, capital of Tachira state on the Colombian border, were closed and guarded by soldiers on Wednesday, though looting continued in some poorer sectors, residents said.

People made off with items including coffee, diapers, and cooking oil in a country where a brutal economic crisis has made basic foods and medicine disappear from shelves.

Barricades of trash, car tires, and sand littered the streets, as daily life broke down in the city that was also a hotspot during the 2014 wave of unrest against leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

Hundreds of thousands of people have come onto the streets across Venezuela since early April to demand elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid and autonomy for the opposition-led legislature.

Maduro’s government accuses them of seeking a violent coup and says many of the protesters are no more than “terrorists.” State oil company PDVSA also blamed roadblocks for pockets of gasoline shortages in the country on Wednesday.

In Tachira, teenager Jose Francisco Guerrero was shot dead during the spate of looting, his relatives said.

“My mom sent my brother yesterday to buy flour for dinner and a little while later, we received a call saying he’d been injured by a bullet,” said his sister Maria Contreras, waiting for his body to be brought to a San Cristobal morgue.

The state prosecutor’s office confirmed his death, which would push the death toll in unrest to at least 43, equal to that of the 2014 protests.

’21ST CENTURY JEWS’

With international pressure against Venezuela’s government mounting, the United Nations Security Council turned its attention to the country’s crisis for the first time on Wednesday.

“The intent of this briefing was to make sure everyone is aware of the situation … we’re not looking for Security Council action,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters after the session.

“The international community needs to say, ‘Respect the human rights of your people or this is going to go in the direction we’ve seen so many others go’ … We have been down this road with Syria, with North Korea, with South Sudan, with Burundi, with Burma.”

Venezuela’s U.N. envoy Rafael Ramirez in turn accused the United States of seeking to topple the Maduro government.

“The U.S. meddling stimulates the action of violent groups in Venezuela,” he said, showing photos of vandalism and violence he said was caused by opposition supporters.

Venezuelans living abroad, many of whom fled the country’s economic chaos, have in recent weeks accosted visiting state officials and their family members.

Maduro on Tuesday likened that harassment to the treatment of Jews under the Nazis.

“We are the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler pursued,” Maduro said during the cabinet meeting. “We don’t carry the yellow star of David … we carry red hearts that are filled with desire to fight for human dignity. And we are going to defeat them, these 21st century Nazis.”

The German Nazis and their collaborators persecuted and killed six million Jews in the Holocaust during the 1930s and 1940s.

Social media has for weeks buzzed with videos of Venezuelan emigrees in countries from Australia to the United States shouting insults at public officials and in some cases family members in public places.

Maduro’s critics say it is outrageous for officials to spend money on foreign travel when people are struggling to obtain food and children are dying for lack of basic medicines.

But some opposition sympathizers say such mob-like harassment is the wrong way to confront the government.

Graphic on Venezuela’s economic woes: here

(Reporting by Anggy Polanco, additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Brian Ellsworth, Girish Gupta and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas, Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations in New York; Writing by Girish Gupta and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Andrew Hay)

Hannover evacuates 50,000 over World War Two bombs: (If This Type Of Event Were On An American City; It Would Be The Lead News; Not Silence!)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Europe selected

  • 1 hour ago
  • From the section Europe
Elderly people from a senior care facility wait to board a bus as part of the evacuation of 50,000 people on 7 May, 2017 in Hannover, Germany.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Elderly people are moved out of a care home in the evacuation zone

About 50,000 people in Hannover have been evacuated from their homes while experts defuse three British bombs dating from World War Two.

The operation is the second largest of its kind carried out in Germany, and has affected around a tenth of the city’s population.

The buildings evacuated included seven care homes, a clinic and a Continental tyre plant.

Officials hope those affected will be able to return home by the evening.

The evacuation deadline was 09:00 (07:00 GMT) and residents were advised to take necessary items like medication with them, as well as turning off gas and electrical appliances.

Local news outlet Hannoversche Allgemeine reported [in German] on Sunday afternoon that two unexploded bombs had been defused, and a third – which was severely damaged – might have to be made safe using a specialised cutting machine.

Two other suspected bombs had turned out to be harmless scrap metal, it said.

No firm deadline has been given for when the restricted zone will return to normal. Road blocks have been set up to prevent cars from re-entering the area.

Emergency shelters have been established at three schools, and tens of thousands of soup portions prepared.

Bomb disposal experts had initially checked as many as 13 suspicious objects, but only five were found to merit further attention – two on a building site at the city’s Wedelstaße, and three others nearby.

The city has set up a programme of museum tours, children’s films and sporting events to help evacuees spend the day as pleasantly as possible.

A view of the location where unexploded bombs from World War II might possibly lie underground on May 7, 2017 in Hanover, Germany.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Experts believe unexploded bombs may be underground on this building site
Residents wait for the tram as part of the evacuation of 50,000 people on May 7, 2017 in Hanover, Germany.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Locals wait for the tram as the evacuation deadline approaches

Allied planes bombed Hannover heavily during World War Two, killing thousands and destroying much of the city.

On 9 October 1943, an especially deadly night, 1,245 people were killed and 250,000 left homeless by 261,000 bombs.

The largest bomb-related evacuation since the war happened on Christmas Day last year, in Augsburg.

Some 54,000 people had to be moved after a 1.8 tonne bomb was unearthed during building work.

Other WW2 bombs recently discovered in Germany


Are you in the Hannover area? Have you been affected by the evacuation process? You can share your experience by emailing [email protected] with your stories.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below

Your contact details Name Your E-mail address (required)Town & Country Your telephone number Comments (required)
If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.Terms and conditions

Related Topics

How The World Sees Trump, 100 Days In—(And It Isn’t Pretty)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

How the world sees Trump, 100 days in

Updated 4:53 PM ET, Sat April 29, 2017

(CNN) The world was dumbfounded by the election of Donald Trump, and his first 100 days in office have done little to alleviate a deep sense of uncertainty and unpredictability. Indeed, as one observer put it, the last few weeks alone have caused a severe case of global geostrategic whiplash.

The number of campaign promises that have morphed into presidential U-turns is staggering. Allies and adversaries alike are trying to figure out whether a Trump Doctrine is emerging, or whether, as former CIA Director Michael Hayden recently told me, a discernible doctrine does not exist in what resembles a family-run business of policy from the White House.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster “has hired a very bright woman to write the US National Security Strategy,” he said. “It’s a tough job. I did it twice for George H.W. Bush. But I was building on precedent and historic consensus. It’s really going to be interesting to see what an America First national security strategy looks like when you’ve got to write it down.”
Long-time American allies are comforted, though, knowing McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis make up an experienced national security team. NATO partners also welcomed Trump’s declaration that he no longer considers the transatlantic military alliance obsolete.
They, along with regional allies, supported Trump enforcing the previously declared US red line in Syria against the regime’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. After such an attack that the West attributed to the Syrian government earlier in the month, Trump launched retaliatory strikes.
But Asian allies, such as South Korea and Japan, are worried about US policy on North Korea. They welcome the tougher stance against Kim Jong Un’s ramped up nuclear missile program, but they were rattled by the USS Carl Vinson debacle, when for a time it was unclear if the aircraft carrier was steaming towards North Korea or not. It raised the question of whether the administration really has its deterrence policy in order, and South Korea was said to feel utter confusion, even betrayal, when the carrier was actually found to be steaming away from, not towards, the Korean Peninsula.
On Iran, signals are slightly harder to read. On the one hand, the State Department again certified Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Yet a day later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly hinted the US could walk away from it, or try to link it to other issues it has with Iran. So far the deal remains in place and neither the EU nor the UN would agree to reimpose international sanctions on Tehran, which helped bring the country to the negotiating table.
On the Paris Climate Accord, Trump’s closest advisers seem to be having an almighty tussle about whether he should stay or stray from the historic deal. Big US companies like ExxonMobil are urging the US to abide by the deal and thereby have more say at the table.
Trump has also hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate, and seems to have reversed many of his pledges to play hardball with Beijing. But on trade, just recently a Financial Times newspaper headline blared: “Trump Fires First Protectionist Warning over steel Industry,” saying this paves the way for a global showdown on steel and possible sweeping tariffs on steel imports.
In his first 100 days, President Barack Obama visited nine countries. President George W. Bush visited two. Trump has visited none. But next month he visits Brussels for a NATO summit, and Sicily, for a meeting of the G7. Whether he can convince America’s allies that they have a trust-worthy friend with a strategic worldview as their most powerful ally remains to be seen, abroad and at home.
“I think I know what the policy is,” Hayden told me. “I have more difficulty, Christiane, putting this policy into a broader global view. And I think that’s causing unease with you, with me, and with a whole bunch of other folks who are trying to see, ‘Where are the Americans going globally?'”

Afghanistan

Nick Paton Walsh
It was the mother of all statements, but he may have had nothing to do with it.
The MOAB (officially know as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast) wiped out an ISIS tunnel complex in the volatile eastern part of the country last week, killing around 90 militants.

Why did the US use the MOAB?

Why did the US use the MOAB?
It was the largest non-nuclear bomb used by the US in combat, but whether the new commander in chief personally approved its use is unclear.
The airstrike was immediately followed up by National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster visiting Kabul and assuring President Ashraf Ghani his country had a friend in the US and a strategic review was under way.
Yet outside of the huge bomb and its message of might, little has changed — as the new White House is inheriting the exhaustion of both resolve and policy options of the last.
A massive troop surge? Talks with the Taliban? A lighter footprint training Afghan security forces to secure the country? All have been tried, and all have failed to stop the insurgency controlling or contesting over half Afghanistan, and the heavy-handed rise of ISIS. Add to that the intense and escalating in-fighting in the Kabul political elite, and there is a very messy summer ahead, with few decent options.

China

David McKenzie
It’s arguably the world’s most important bilateral relationship.
But when President Donald Trump was inaugurated back in January, several Chinese policy experts told me there was a lot of nervousness about the incoming leader.

China's delicate balance with North Korea

China’s delicate balance with North Korea
After all, during the campaign Trump said he would name China a currency manipulator on Day One of his term and threatened a trade war.
As President-elect, he spoke to Taiwan’s president on the phone and openly questioned the ‘One China’ policy, a cornerstone of Washington-Beijing relations in which the US recognizes Taiwan as part of China. And Trump accused China of not doing enough to put pressure on North Korea.
100 days on? Well, it’s a 180-degree shift.
In his first phone call with President Xi Jinping, Trump reaffirmed the One China policy. He has praised Beijing for taking some positive steps on the North Korea issue and he recently said that China is not manipulating its currency.
Trump denies these positions represent a flip-flop; the businessman-turned-president is saying it’s all part of a deal.
“I actually told him (Xi Jinping), I said, ‘You’ll make a much better deal on trade if you get rid of this menace or do something about the menace of North Korea.’ Because that’s what it is, it’s a menace right now,” Trump said last week.
Trump said he has developed a strong relationship with Xi Jinping and that their scheduled 15-minute meetings at the Mar-a-Lago summit stretched into “hours.”
But Yan Xuetong, a foreign policy expert at Tsinghua University, told me that the Chinese are skeptical. He said that if North Korea goes ahead with its nuclear program, then China will take the blame.
“Trump will use China as scapegoat to tell (the) American public that it is not his problem,” said Yan.
In Yan’s eyes, at least, the Chinese suspect more Trump policy turns.

Egypt

Ian Lee
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was the first foreign leader to congratulate President Donald Trump after he won the November 2016 presidential election. The two leaders had instantly hit it off when they met a few months earlier in New York.
Their views are more aligned than were those of President Barack Obama, which reacted coolly to the 2013 coup by Egypt’s military — led at the time by Sisi. When he became president soon afterward, he ushered in a new low between Washington and Cairo.

ISIS claims responsibility for church blasts

ISIS claims responsibility for church blasts
It was an open secret that Cairo wished for a Trump victory over Obama’s former secretary of state, Hilary Clinton. Trump was perceived by Cairo as a pragmatist who had little interest in human rights.
In his first days in office, Trump invited Sisi to visit him in Washington. The Egyptian president arrived with three main objectives: deepen military cooperation, strengthen the war against terror and revive Egypt’s economy. The invitation to the White House also gave the Egyptian president a legitimacy that the Obama administration had previously denied him.
Recently, in a gesture of good will and eagerness to cooperate, American Aya Hijazi was released from an Egyptian prison after Trump directly intervened to secure her release.
Expect relations to remain warm as long as Trump’s administration keeps the lid on any criticism of Sisi.

Germany

Nic Robertson
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took heat from Donald Trump even before he was sworn in as president.
He accused her of making a “catastrophic mistake” on migrants, only being as trustworthy as Vladimir Putin, and intentionally trying to take business from the US.

Pence reassures NATO allies in Munich speech

Pence reassures NATO allies in Munich speech
For Europeans, Trump’s attitude to Merkel is symptomatic of wider issues: his like of Brexit and his dislike of the EU’s single market and liberal trade values.
At the EU leaders summit in Malta this February, both French and German leaders said openly that Trump’s attitude was uniting Europe to stand on its own feet.
Since then, Trump has said the EU is “wonderful” and he is “totally in favor of it.” Yet he still supports Brexit and seems unaware of the instability and frustrations Europe feels because of it.
It’s not the only cross-Atlantic reversal he has had. Coming into office, he said NATO was “obsolete.” He told the alliance nations they need to pay their way, and has given them a deadline to promise they will.
In recent weeks Trump has changed his tune. NATO, he said, is “not obsolete” — but he still wants members’ money.
Merkel’s March visit to see Trump at the White House did little to quell European concerns over his attitude to Europe, and trade in particular.
That Merkel was ignored by Trump when asking for a handshake in the Oval Office, and embarrassed by him again at the news conference that followed with an awkward comment about being spied on, reveals this relationship has some way to go before it gets on an even keel.
Iran
Frederik Pleitgen
Iran’s leadership realized that Donald Trump was an unknown commodity, but many in the country’s senior leadership hoped they would be able to deal with the new man in the White House.
“We hope that he will have a pragmatic approach,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister, Amir Hossein Azamaninia, told me in an interview during the transition period shortly before Trump took office. He suggested that perhaps President Donald Trump would similar to the businessman Donald Trump — a shrewd dealmaker, whom the Islamic Republic with its oil wealth could possibly even strike deals with.

Iranians worried about US-Iran relationship

Iranians worried about US-Iran relationship
But Iran soon learned that the new administration was going to take a harder line towards Tehran than President Barack Obama had. When Iran tested ballistic missiles in late January — which the US believes could strike targets in Israel — then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn came down hard and fast on Tehran, announcing there would be new sanctions. He also said the US was “putting Iran on notice,” without specifying what that meant.
This harsh reaction and subsequent statements by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley have sowed further uncertainty in Tehran about America’s strategy on Iran. The tough talk and action have put a severe damper on any notion the Rouhani administration had that its fairly constructive relations with Washington during the Obama years would continue.
At the same time, the Trump team’s hard line seems to be having an effect on Iran’s behavior.
There have so far been fewer reports of incidents and close encounters between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf’s narrow Strait of Hormuz than during the end of the Obama administration. And during Iran’s National Revolution Day in February, the leadership did not display ballistic missiles as it usually has.
This has led some experts to believe that Tehran — for all its harsh rhetoric — is making an effort to not further antagonize an American president and Cabinet whom the Iranians view as erratic and very hostile towards the Islamic Republic.
If this was the Trump administrations intent, it could be working.

Iraq

Ben Wedeman
“I would bomb the s**t out of them,” declared candidate Donald Trump, summarizing his strategy to defeat ISIS. “I would bomb those suckers … and I’d take the oil.” The crowds loved it.
A decisive victory over ISIS, plus a grand prize of a lot of cheap oil, sounds great, but the real world just doesn’t work that way and slowly, perhaps, the new administration has learned this in its first 100 days.

Trump's son-in-law visits Iraq

Trump’s son-in-law visits Iraq
For one thing, the battle to liberate the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, Iraq — now into its seventh month — has underscored just how hard it is to defeat the extremists. Since the push in the western part of the city began in February, both the US-led coalition and Iraqi forces have been bombarding ISIS as promised, using much heavier firepower than during the battle for west Mosul in the waning months of the Obama administration.
But the tactic has come at a high cost in terms of civilian casualties, brought home by what US officials concede was probably a US-led airstrike on March 17 that mistakenly killed almost 150 civilians. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still in western Mosul, often exploited by ISIS as human shields.
But even with the heavy assault, the Trump administration is largely settling down and following the same slow, deliberate approach of the Obama administration.
The battle for Mosul has taken more than half a year and may take many more months. In neighboring Syria, there are nearly a thousand US boots on the ground, backing a mixed Kurdish-Arab force that aims at overrunning the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS. When this will happen is anyone’s guess.
And then there’s that other topic Trump has toyed with: taking Iraq’s oil. That was decisively shot down by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who flew to Baghdad in February and told reporters, “We’re not in Iraq to seize anyone’s oil.”

Israel

Oren Liebermann
Donald Trump’s fiery pro-Israel rhetoric during the campaign had the right and far right in Israel salivating at the prospects of a Trump administration, while Palestinians worried about an American government adopting a more hostile stance.
Trump pledged to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, “dismantle” the Iran deal, reduce funding to the United Nations and cut aid to the Palestinians. At the same time, Trump said he wanted to close “the ultimate deal” — a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump ties to Israeli settlements

Trump ties to Israeli settlements
Save for the last, Trump has moderated his stance and backed off his positions in his first 100 days in office. The Trump administration has said its still considering an embassy move, but has also called Israeli settlements in the West Bank unhelpful for peace and acknowledged that Iran is sticking by the terms of the nuclear deal. Some analysts in Israel have pointed out that Trump’s positions on the region are beginning to resemble Obama’s positions.
The Israeli right wing’s fervor over Trump has cooled somewhat, but it still expects him to be a friend in the White House. From Israel’s perspective, the big star of the Trump administration so far is US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who has repeatedly criticized the United Nations for focusing disproportionately on Israel. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly praised Trump, refusing to suggest even the slightest hint of criticism, since he entered office.
Meanwhile, a recent visit by Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, left Palestinians cautiously optimistic that prospects weren’t as grim as initially feared and that Trump was serious about attempting to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet Trump in Washington shortly after Trump hits the 100-day mark. The meeting could be a litmus test of how the dynamic between Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas develops.

Mexico

Leyla Santiago
President Trump still has yet to meet face-to-face with Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, after an awkward encounter during the 2016 campaign. According to Mexican government officials, no plans are in the works, signaling tensions remain between the two leaders.

Mixed messages as top U.S. diplomat visits Mexico

Mixed messages as top U.S. diplomat visits Mexico
Twitter exchanges, however, have cooled down since a public war of words in January between @EPN and @realDonaldTrump over payment for a wall along the US-Mexico border. Mexico still maintains it will not pay for Trump’s muro (wall).
Many Mexicans still fear Trump could cut off a portion of their income, if he imposes taxes on remittances as a form of payment for the wall.
The Mexican government says, though, that its No. 1 concern is human rights violations. It has invested $50 million to expand legal services at its consulates and embassies in the US in an effort to help Mexicans fearing deportation.
Major questions also loom over the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has called the 23-year-old deal that allows free trade between Mexico, Canada and the US a one-sided agreement.
If a good deal is not renegotiated, Mexico plans to walk away from the pact. The uncertainty in trade relations has led Mexico to strengthen ties with other countries and explore opportunities in Asian, European and South American markets instead of the US.
After Mexico featured repeatedly in the US elections, Trump himself is now playing a role in who will become Mexico’s next leader. Anti-Trump rhetoric has become a central part of Mexican campaigns heading toward the 2018 election. Leading candidates are hoping a stance against Trump will protect Mexico’s interests and win over voters.

North Korea

Will Ripley
When I ask ordinary North Koreans about the impact of President Donald Trump on their lives, they give strikingly similar answers. The response is usually something like this: “It doesn’t matter who the US president is. All that matters is that they discontinue America’s hostile policy against my country.”

North Koreans celebrate 'Army day'

North Koreans celebrate ‘Army day’
Of course, they are only repeating the same message given to them by their state-controlled media, the only media North Koreans have access to. Because US politics are not a primary focus of North Korean propaganda, the vast majority of citizens are blissfully unaware of Trump’s twitter account or the cloud of controversy that has swirled around the first 100 days of his administration.
But they are aware of a few key facts. They know that Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian regime air base, viewed by many as an indirect threat to Pyongyang. They also know that Trump dispatched the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula, albeit by an indirect route.
The reason North Koreans know these things is simple: The actions of the Trump administration play right into their government’s long-standing narrative that they are under the imminent threat of attack by the ‘imperialist’ United States.
People have been told for their entire lives that America could drop a nuclear bomb at anytime. Citizens always voice their unanimous support of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Of course, in an authoritarian country where political dissent is not tolerated, there are no opposing voices.
The North Korean government uses this ‘imminent threat’ to justify its substantial investment in weapons of mass destruction, even if this means citizens must sacrifice. And government officials in Pyongyang told me the policies of the Trump administration in its first 100 days only add to their sense of urgency to accelerate development of a viable intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the mainland US.
They say such a weapon is key to their survival as a nation, even as critics fear North Korea continuing down the nuclear road will only lead to further diplomatic isolation, economic hardship or worse.
There are signs that North Korea is monitoring and responding to the unpredictable rhetoric and actions of the Trump administration. After news broke that the USS Carl Vinson strike group was headed to the Korean Peninsula, I was hand-delivered a statement in Pyongyang saying, “The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US.”
We’ve never seen dynamics like this before. An untested US President who tweets in real time and isn’t afraid to launch missiles to prove a point. And a North Korean leader who has consolidated his power by purging opponents (including his own uncle) and has launched more missiles than his father and grandfather combined.
This could be a recipe for disaster. Or a recipe for lasting peace. Or perhaps a recipe for the continuation of a decades-long stalemate. If Trump’s first 100 days provide any clues, it’s going to be a wild ride regardless.

Russia

Matthew Chance
President Donald Trump entered the White House on a promise of improving the strained relationship between Washington and Moscow.
He was full of praise for his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, suggesting he might recognize annexed Crimea as Russian, cooperate over international terrorism and join forces in Syria.

Lavrov to US: Respect Syrian sovereignty

Lavrov to US: Respect Syrian sovereignty
It was all music to the Kremlin’s ears and talk was of a pivotal moment, of the Trump administration transforming the way in which the United States and Russia saw each other.
But 100 days on, none of that has come to pass.
“One could say the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved,” said Putin on April 12, “but rather has deteriorated.”
US officials have criticized Russia for fueling conflict in Ukraine, castigated the Kremlin for its treatment of sexual minorities, even bombed Russia’s Syrian ally while implying Moscow might have been complicit in dozens of agonizing deaths there caused by chemical weapons.
Part of the reason is undoubtedly the toxic political atmosphere in Washington, where lingering allegations of Russian interference in the US presidential election are being investigated by Congress.
But there is also a growing sense that the Trump administration, at 100 days old, has finally encountered a stark reality: Russia and the United States simply have different geopolitical priorities — whether in Syria, Ukraine or elsewhere — that won’t be easily reconciled.

Syria

Clarissa Ward
When President Donald Trump first assumed office, his strategy on Syria, like much of his foreign policy, was opaque. On the campaign trail he had said that his priority was to eliminate ISIS — indeed, he promised to put together a plan to do so in his first 30 days. He attempted to place a ban on any Syrian refugees entering the US, calling them a security threat. But on the subject of Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, and the brutal civil war he has presided over that has claimed more than 400,000 lives, he was noticeably silent.

Syria, a war on children?

Syria, a war on children?
Trump’s strong admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and interesting in getting the relationship with Russia back on track led many to assume that he would do little to interfere in Syria, where Moscow is closely allied with Damascus. This was reinforced by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment in March that it would be “up to the Syrian people” whether or not Assad would go, a demand long made by the Obama administration. Regime change, it seemed, was no longer desirable for the US.
Yet, within a few weeks, everything changed.
After seeing the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack in Idlib that killed dozens of children, Trump suddenly took action against the Assad regime. Two days later, dozens of American tomahawk missiles rained down on the regime’s Shayrat air base.
The Syrian people were stunned. Those who oppose Assad had dreamed of this moment for many years, but after President Barack Obama had chosen not to enforce his red line against Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2013, their dream had died. Suddenly, Trump was hailed as something of a hero. Some took to calling him by a new nom de guerre, Abu Ivanka al Amriki.
The strikes on Shayrat changed very little on the ground in Syria. The regime was continuing its daily bombardment within hours.
Still, after six years of standing on the sidelines, the shift in US policy (if it is a sustained shift) has given some cause for optimism. There is hope that perhaps Assad will think twice before using chemical weapons against his own people, that the US may now have more leverage at the negotiating table.
Yet the question still remains: What is the US’s policy on Syria? 100 days into the Trump presidency, we still don’t really know.

Turkey

Ian Lee
Relations with the Obama administration warmed under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when that suited him and then soured accordingly. They have yet to be really tested under President Donald Trump.
Since taking office, Trump has taken a softer tone in dealing with Turkey. Ankara responded positively to the United States’ missile strike on a Syrian air base. Trump congratulated the Turkish president for the success of his referendum, giving him significantly expanded powers, despite the process being deeply flawed according to international monitors, an opinion echoed by the State Department.

Turkish demonstrators protest vote result

Turkish demonstrators protest vote result
By the time President Barack Obama left office, US-Turkish relations had cooled. The two leaders had differing opinions regarding Syria. Where Obama wanted to focus on defeating ISIS while Erdogan wanted to oust President Bashar al-Assad. The United States saw Syrian Kurdish militants, the YPG, as an ally against ISIS, while the Turks viewed them as terrorists. And Obama criticized Turkey’s crackdown on the political opposition, intellectuals, activists and journalists and wouldn’t extradite spiritual leader Fetullah Gulen, on whom the Turkish blames July’s coup attempt. Elements of Erdogan’s party even accused the United States of supporting the failed effort.
There is optimism in Turkey among the government and its supporters that a new page can be turned, especially when both leaders plan to meet in Washington in May.
But Trump is likely to face similar tensions as Obama did. One of the toughest will be the upcoming operation against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria. Turkey wants to take part but won’t fight along side the YPG. Trump will likely have to choose between a NATO ally and a proven fighting force.

The UK

Phil Black
President Donald Trump helped create what is so far the most iconic image of Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May — the American president holding May’s hand as they walked outside the White House in January.
May later said Trump was “being a gentleman.”

Scotland calls for independence referendum

Scotland calls for independence referendum
She provided the opportunity for his gallantry by swiftly moving to be the first world leader to visit the new president.
May has unashamedly pursued a close bond with Trump, believing “the special relationship” between the UK and US is especially important as Britain prepares for a future outside the European Union.
May has pushed for a quick post-Brexit trade deal while also trying to persuade Trump to align with Britain’s traditional positions on key foreign policy issues like NATO (crucial) and Russia (deserves suspicion).
The British Prime Minister also threw in a sweetener. She invited Trump to visit the UK with full state honors. That usually means time with the Queen, banquets, parades and gilded carriages.
Such invitations are rarely offered to new presidents and it’s proved to be hugely controversial in a country where many disagree with Trump’s policies, including his attempts to block immigration from select, majority-Muslim countries.
More than 1.8 million people signed a petition opposing a state visit “because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.” Thousands protested on the streets and have promised to do so again when Trump arrives. That could create some awkward moments.
May’s efforts to stay close to Trump will likely be judged by whether she secures a free trade agreement with the United States. But they can’t even begin talking about that officially until after Brexit has taken place, so that’s at least two years away.

Iran’s Supreme ‘Fraud/Liar’ Will Never Allow Honest Elections Or Any Semblance Of Honesty Or Freedom!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Iran Blocks Telegram

It is not strange that Iran is the only country in the Middle East that blocks services which are considered essential now like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp as part of its continuous blackout policy. Tehran even disturbs the signal of several broadcast channels blocking citizens from any external media access.

Of all international social media applications available, Iranians are only left with the messaging application Telegram.

Telegram was formed by two Russian brothers and is headquartered in Germany. Almost 40 million Iranians use its voice messages, while 20 million use the application for texting. Being the only application available, this precious service is in high demand among Iranians who amount up to a quarter of Telegram’s users across the world.

But then the government quelled Iranians’ sole source of joy by blocking most of Telegram’s services, precisely the voice messages under the pretext of protecting national security.

The truth is that the regime blocked the application fearing it would affect the course of the upcoming elections; a course that had already been engineered.

Thousands of local candidates are “filtered” according to the criteria of the “democratic Iranian religious clerics”. In the end, only those whom they are satisfied with are allowed to run for elections. It is not a secret system and, eventually, no one is allowed to win the elections or even run for it if the Supreme Leader doesn’t agree.

The 2009 elections caused a great embarrassment both domestically and internationally because those who diverted from the leadership were figures licensed by the leaders of the regime to run for the elections.

The supreme leadership decided that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would become president and forged the results accordingly. This angered the candidates who had the best chance in winning and led to the famous “Green Movement” revolution, during which many died or were injured and arrested. The memory of the uprising has been haunting the authorities that believe this massive antagonist movement wouldn’t have been possible, especially in Tehran, hadn’t it been for Twitter and Facebook.

Indeed, back then al-Arabiya Channel relied almost completely on the videos, photos and information it received from those two platforms to cover the Iranian events after the authorities shut down its office and expelled its correspondent. The results were astounding! The regime was in confusion after images of the protests, clashes, and injuries were broadcast on international media outlets.

After reading a report published about a month ago in the Los Angeles Times about the influence of Telegram inside of Iran, I sensed the regime’s fear and anticipated its next move. The report mentioned that the security authorities had already begun warning users of political messages and forced anyone who owned a channel with over 5,000 subscribers to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture. The government then began a series of arrests for active users on the application.

Iran has now shut most of Telegram’s services hoping to contain the atmosphere of the parliamentary and presidential elections, which are mostly an encore of the same charade. Results can be partially or completely forged, even after the filtration and suspension done during the early stages of candidacy.

The regime is really concerned with controlling the reactions of the Iranian street to avoid the repetition of the Green Revolution.

No surprises on the level of the presidential elections are expected because the approved candidates are just copies of each other.

Even former President Ahmadinejad, despite his importance and history, was banned by the Supreme Leader from running for this election. Ahmadinejad shocked everyone and announced himself a candidate with a series of clarifications and apologetic statements saying he didn’t disobey the directives of the Supreme Leader. He pledged to withdraw from the elections after the first round and said he only participated to support his friend, a presidential candidate, and give him the media and public attention.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

More Posts

World leaders for Silk Road talks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

World leaders for Silk Road talks

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and host the round table summit of the leaders, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Xi has championed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will also be attending the forum.

British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as Prime Minister Theresa May’s representative, while Germany and France will send high-level representatives.

Wang confirmed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents.

“This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in,” Wang said.

“One Belt, One Road is to date the most important public good China has given to the world, first proposed by China but for all countries to enjoy,” said.

“The culture and historical genes of One Belt, One Road come from the old Silk Road, so it takes Eurasia as its main region,” he said, adding that representatives of 110 countries would attend the forum.

A section of the New Silk Road is in Pakistan, where some projects run through the disputed Kashmir region.

Wang dismissed concerns, saying the Pakistan project had no direct connection to the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

“Indian friends have said to us that One Belt, One Road is a very good suggestion,” he said.

During the forum, China is expected to sign cooperative documents with nearly 20 countries and more than 20 international organizations, Wang told reporters.

China will work with countries along the route on action plans concerning infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment, which will help to turn the grand blueprint into a clear roadmap, he said.

Another task of the forum will be to push forward delivery of cooperative projects, Wang said.

During the forum, parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center.

China will also work with all parties on a set of measures that will include improved financial cooperation, a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection, and enhanced exchanges and training of talent.

Participants will sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects, Wang said.

China will use the forum to build a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system, Wang said.

Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

BEFORE the term “lao si ji,” literally old driver, became a popular pun for a hardened philanderer, it used to be an honorary title bestowed on skilled drivers.

Like me.

Although I only started to sit behind the steering wheel about two years ago, I believe that these two years of intensive practicing, training and adaptation on Shanghai’s highly risky roads have turned me into a “lao si ji.” Well, quite.

In order to earn that badge of honor, one simply has to be vastly resourceful and extremely responsive to every possible risk on the road. For example, since many Chinese drivers have the annoying habit of never bothering to signal when making a lane change, it is strongly advised to place one’s foot constantly on the brake, to be on alert for a potential rear-end collision.

During my days as a novice driver, I encountered several situations in which I had to hit the brake violently to avoid crashing into the cars that suddenly cut in ahead of mine. Fuming, I could not help letting loose a torrent of abuse.

Once during the evening rush hours, I was inching forward on an off-ramp from the Yan’an Elevated Highway. Without signaling or approaching the median line, a man driving a Toyota sedan on my right suddenly swerved left. I gasped, slammed on the brake and narrowly escaped hitting the sedan.

Road rage

In an outburst of road rage, I pulled up beside the Toyota, glared at the driver and honked once to protest. He didn’t even stare back. He couldn’t care less. Obviously he is an expert at this willful escapade.

Before long, I realized that there are plenty more of such douche bags on Shanghai’s roads, and since they cannot be made to see how rude they are, the choice left is either to tolerate their derring-do, or as the old adage goes, if you cannot beat them then join them.

On several occasions I did find myself joining this sorry bunch after reconciling myself with the fact that those who don’t signal actually have a good reason for not doing so. Only a handful of motorists, at least in my own experience, showed their civility by yielding to cars signaling for a lane change.

Over time, this led to bewilderment, followed by disillusionment. Despite having spent time to regurgitate the traffic rules to pass the written test for the driver’s license, many seem to give little thought to these rules in reality.

Instead, to be able to survive China’s roads, one of the cardinal principles appears to be to unlearn what is learnt at the driving school and make impromptu changes where necessary. For example, even the forbidden practice of overtaking a slow car from the right side is sometimes an option. Forget about road civility, this is a mere afterthought.

It is with mixed feelings that I salute the recently updated traffic regulation, said to be the strictest ever to be adopted in Shanghai.

On the one hand, I do believe that the laws must be made to have teeth to deal with public hazards like the Toyota driver; to crack down hard on illegal driving behavior that makes Shanghai’s roads a free-for-all where the only rule that applies is “who dares wins.”

On the other, I am less optimistic than some about the odds of the new regulation succeeding in drilling some much-needed sense of civility and road manners into the minds of daredevils.

And this paradoxical mentality became even more agonizing following my recent trip to Germany and Austria. During the eight-day trip, I drove some 2,000 kilometers. Despite the fatigue resulting from long hours of driving — I once drove non-stop for about 450 kilometers from Munich to Vienna — I remained mentally at ease throughout the journey.

Since sections of the German Autobahn, or expressways, are exempt from speed limits, it’s common to see cars hurtling at over 200 kilometers per hour. And I remember being told by a German friend, beaming, that the recklessness often seen in Chinese motorists is nowhere to be found on German roads.

Paradox

To put his assertion to the test, I once hit the gas pedal to take my diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf Variant to over 180kph, only to slow down when my ashen-faced wife begged me to in a trembling voice. Although my palms were sweaty from an adrenaline rush and from gripping the wheel a bit too tightly to avoid lane departure, my mind was fairly relaxed. I even had time to take in the pastoral beauty of the Bavarian countryside and breathe in the crisp March air adulterated with a thick smell of cow manure.

It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s safer to drive 200kph on German motorways than 60kph on Shanghai’s elevated highways. This appears to be born out by statistics. According to a 2015 WHO report, Germany has one of the world’s lowest road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants: 4.3 compared to China’s 18.8.

The key to understanding the paradox between general road safety and the (partial) absence of speed limits lies perhaps in the German conformity to order and rules.

Given my observation, almost every vehicle would spontaneously leave the fast lane on an Autobahn after overtaking a car in front; you can literally careen down the road at the sight of inverted yellow triangular signs that suggest you have the indisputable right of way; and whenever I slowed down on urban roads, trying to follow the GPS directions, no German driver ever honked at me or intimidated me with high beam headlights. They just followed patiently behind. When their patience did wear thin, they overtook me at a safe distance. By the way, they were more willing to yield to cars that signaled.

In my opinion, one of the most admirable aspects of German traffic is that the rigidity of the rules enforced is softened by a dose of flexibility for personal touch — civility shown to pedestrians is reciprocated with a nod, a smile or a thumbs-up. Respect begets respect.

Culture shock

I experienced a culture shock (or should it be reverse culture shock?) in the first days upon my return to Shanghai. During the morning madness I tried to play the German card in a lane change.

To my dismay, I signaled for 10 seconds, but no cars slowed down to let me pass. In a sign of cussedness, some even revved up the engine and zoomed past me.

Seeing that the German ways didn’t work, I switched back to the Chinese mode: I swerved to force my way into a column of vehicles.

It is reported that Shanghai’s updated traffic regulations include clauses that oblige motorists to yield to pedestrians when making a left/right turn.

For this clause to work, however, stricter law enforcement is critically needed in addition to a public awareness campaign. Until we have a police officer deployed at every intersection to ensure compliance, allow me to be mildly skeptical about the effects of the rule.

In a similar vein, until many drivers learn to treat other “lesser beings” on the road with a little more respect and dignity, they are unworthy of the “lao si ji” title, however skilled they might be.

Referendum Inflames Concerns Over Turkey’s Grip in Germany

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND REUTERS)

The Cologne Central Mosque in Germany is covered in windows that allow outsiders and Muslims to have a view of each other’s worlds. CreditThilo Schmülgen/Reuters

COLOGNE, Germany — The impressive Islamic complex here, Germany’s largest, boasts towering minarets and a soaring prayer hall. But what Turkish officials here seem most proud of are the hundreds of windows, which allow outsiders and Muslim worshipers to glimpse each other’s worlds. The idea, they say, is transparency.

Yet it is what lies beneath the surface these days that concerns both Germans and Turks as Turkey prepares to vote on Sunday in a referendum that could vastly expand the powers of its already authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose reach into Germany — both open and concealed — has become an increasing point of friction.

Since Turks arrived for work in the 1960s, Germany has maintained the largest Turkish diaspora in Europe, now some three million people. For many years, Germany was happy to let the Turkish state provide and pay for prayer leaders and other provisions for its emigrants. This now includes overseeing more than 900 Muslim associations and training and appointing many of Germany’s imams. The large mosque complex here is a part of that network.

But Turkey’s resulting grip in Germany is coming back to haunt both sides. German intelligence agencies and politicians now charge that Mr. Erdogan is using the decades-old arrangement to hunt down and punish opponents as he pursues a desperately wanted victory that would make his authority all but unchallengeable. Roughly half of the Turks who live in Germany hold Turkish citizenship and are eligible to vote.

Continue reading the main story

The Germans have accused some imams sent by Turkey of spying on Turks living in Germany and of denouncing individuals and institutions critical of the president — right down to kindergartens. Such spying, the Germans said, has allowed the Turkish government to track down, detain and harass their targets’ families and associates back home in Turkey as part of a sweeping purge of Erdogan opponents.

Already, Mr. Erdogan’s long shadow over Germany’s Turkish communities is palpable. On the heavily Turkish Keupstrasse, a street in Cologne, some Erdogan critics voiced apprehension about posting opinions on social media. They waited until they were alone with reporters to express their opinions, speaking freely but then declining to be identified by name.

“Do not underestimate the danger,” said Lale Akgun, a former Social Democratic member of the federal Parliament, an Erdogan opponent and a longtime observer of German-Turkish relations. “This is like a mini-Turkey. Everything they have there, we have here, too,” she added, alluding to Turkey’s many potentially explosive political rifts.

The tensions and the turn toward a more authoritarian Turkey carry worrying implications not only for Germany, but for all of Europe.

In neighboring Belgium, the Flemish authorities this month shut down a Turkish mosque — the second biggest in the country — over its alleged ties to Mr. Erdogan’s governing party. Since then, Belgium’s intelligence chief said, Turkey has halted intelligence cooperation.

In Germany, the spying accusations surfaced in February. Afterward, Turkey’s state religious authority, Diyanet, said it had quietly withdrawn an unspecified number of imams “in order not to damage 40 years of relations.”

Nonetheless, the matter is roiling relations across the board. Turkish-Germans who have lived here for decades said they had trouble recalling a tenser time between Turkey and Europe.

Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, recently held urgent meetings with Turkish community leaders, worrying aloud that 20 to 30 years of “successful work at living together can get broken.”

Mr. Erdogan and his associates hurled charges of Nazism at leaders in Germany and the Netherlands after those countries, sometimes citing sudden security concerns, banned rallies by Turkish ministers ahead of Sunday’s vote.

German leaders have denounced a retreat of democracy in Turkey, citing especially the detention — so far, without charges — of the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel.

As it has for years with members or supporters of the outlawed P.K.K. movement for Kurdish independence, Turkey has handed German officials dossiers with the names of more than 300 people in Germany whom Ankara sees as working against Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey.

Allegedly, many of those who were named support the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally now accused of orchestrating last summer’s failed coup in Turkey. Mr. Gulen lives in Pennsylvania.

The dossiers included material obtained by illegal Turkish espionage on German soil, German officials said.

“It is certainly one of the most difficult phases in Turkish-German relations,” said Michelle Müntefering, who heads the Turkey committee in Parliament and was named in one of the dossiers.

“The Turkish government is increasingly following a course that leaves little room for discussion,” Ms. Müntefering said, referring to Turkey’s growing litany of complaints — from last year’s vote in Germany’s Parliament recognizing the Armenian genocide to a crude satire of Mr. Erdogan by the German comedian Jan Böhmermann.

The rise of a populist right wing in Germany does not help, she noted. “Integration requires moderation, not populist, illusory solutions,” she said.

Photo

Voters waited last week at the entrance to a polling station in the General Consulate of Turkey in Berlin. Almost 49 percent of Turks who live in Germany voted in a referendum that would greatly expand powers for Turkey’s president. CreditFelipe Trueba/European Pressphoto Agency

But it is Germany’s largest Muslim association, known as the Ditib, and its close association with Diyanet that is being singled out for special concern.

“Ditib must become independent of Turkey and its religious authority,” Ms. Müntefering said. And its imams, who also have a social function, should learn German and train at least in part in Germany, she added.

The chairman of Ditib, Nevzat Yasar Asikoglu, is counselor for religious and social affairs at the Turkish Embassy in Berlin. He was also directly appointed by Diyanet. Below him is a hierarchy of attaches who visit and advise Turkish-Muslim communities across Germany.

One way of avoiding the suspicion, said Zekeriya Altug, a Ditib spokesman, is to be more open and active. “We must make ourselves much more visible in this society,” he said in an interview at the Cologne mosque.

Others urge training of imams in Germany, “so that dispatching imams becomes superfluous,” said Haci Halil Uslucan, professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen and head of its respected Turkey institute.

But few universities in Germany offer Islamic studies. To a large extent, the root of the problem is a failure to acknowledge that the Turkish “guest workers” and their families who came here in the 1960s would stay. The result was delayed integration and an obstructed path to German citizenship.

In Turkish communities, therefore, Ditib is crucial, said Yildirim Petek, 59, manager of the Ankara Supermarket in Cologne. He cited the need for support and guidance if families raising children in German schools “get badly treated.”

“You see Turkish children here eating pork and wearing Christian crosses because it’s fashionable,” his wife, Eylul, said as she prepared a traditional breakfast at their three-bedroom home in a suburb of Cologne. “The situation is completely out of control.”

“We feel a part of the German community and make an effort to fit in,” she said. “But when we set foot inside this door, shoes come off and it’s a purely Turkish household.”

Between Germans and Turks, indignation often runs high, and social mixing tends to be low. Peter Pauls, a senior columnist for the local newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, recalled a Turkish wedding he recently attended. He was one of just a few native Germans among hundreds of guests, he said.

The ostracism Turks feel in Germany (whose bureaucracy can easily baffle and alienate natives) has helped fuel support for Mr. Erdogan. In past elections, Mr. Erdogan’s A.K.P. party, which has governed Turkey since 2002, has prevailed among Turks in Germany.

Fully aware of that support, Mr. Erdogan’s government sought to campaign vigorously here and elsewhere in Europe before the referendum. It wanted to make sure diaspora Turks voted, which they were entitled to do in the two weeks up to last Sunday.

Almost 49 percent of the Turks living in Germany and eligible to vote did so, an increase from about 41 percent in parliamentary elections in 2015.

Free buses ferried voters from Turkish neighborhoods to the Cologne Consulate, where several voters explained why they favored Mr. Erdogan.

“We have been treated well by the Germans, but now I must think of my daughter and son,” said Erdem Tasdelen, 47, a textile company manager. He said he had lived here more than 20 years and only recently became a supporter of the president.

“There is discrimination against Muslim communities here,” Mr. Tasdelen added, “and the only person sticking up for us is Erdogan.”

In earlier years, Mr. Erdogan wanted to guide Turkey into Europe, but Germans and other Europeans ignored him, said Aysegul Parlak, 38, a fashion designer from Adana, in southeast Turkey, who came to Cologne six years ago to work with her sister.

“They feel threatened by his potential and power, and they cannot handle the idea of a Muslim country progressing to their level,” she said of Germany and other European governments.

Echoing sentiments widely expressed among Germany’s Turks of late, Ms. Parlak said she did not feel as welcome as she once had felt.

“When I tell people I’m from Turkey, all they do is vent about Erdogan and talk about his authoritarian ways,” she said. “They should look in the mirror. If they faced as many internal and external threats as he does, they would also be firm.”

“There is a lot of hypocrisy,” Ms. Parlak concluded, “and the Turkish community here is becoming very resentful.”

Iraqi Christians Return To Ransacked Town With Fear And Hope

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Iraqi Christians return to ransacked town with fear and hope

A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica SEARCH
By Ulf Laessing | QARAQOSH, IRAQ

With Islamic State expelled, Iraqi Christians are trickling back to the ransacked town of Qaraqosh, beset by anxiety for their security and yet hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions.

The town, about 20 km (12 miles) from the battlefront with Islamic State in the northern city of Mosul, shows why Christians have mixed feelings about the future of their ancient community.

In the desecrated churches of Qaraqosh, Christians are busy removing graffiti daubed by the Sunni Muslim militants during two and a half years of control – only for new slogans to have appeared, scrawled by Shi’ite members of the Iraqi forces fighting street to street with the jihadists in Mosul.

But nearby a shopkeeper is doing a brisk trade selling Dutch beer, Greek ouzo and several whisky brands to Christians, Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds alike, with this kind of commerce perhaps offering a glimpse of how Iraq’s fractured communities could again live together peacefully.

Encouraged by security checkpoints and patrols by a volunteer force, up to 10 Christian families have returned to what used to be the minority’s biggest community in Iraq until Islamic State seized it in 2014.

Iraqi forces pushed the group out of Qaraqosh in October, part of a six-month offensive to retake Mosul. But residents are worried that the Shi’ite slogans signal a new kind of sectarian division.

“Oh Hussein” is daubed in red on the wall of a church torched earlier by Islamic State, praising the hero of Shi’ite Muslims who was martyred 1,300 years ago.

“We are afraid of this, of tensions,” said Girgis Youssif, a church worker. “We want to live in peace and demand security,” said Youssif, who returned after fleeing to Erbil, about 60 km away in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Shi’ites in the Iraqi government forces and paramilitary groups, mostly from further south in the country, have scribbled such slogans on buildings all over Mosul too.

Soldiers have also hoisted the flag of Ali in the city and on their on military vehicles. Shi’ites regard Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and the prophet’s grandson Hussein as his true successors.

Two Shi’ite flags also fly over Qaraqosh.

Most Sunnis, who are the dominant community in Mosul, have shrugged off the Shi’ite slogans as the work of a handful of religious zealots but Christians take them as a signal that their future remains uncertain.

“Of course we are afraid of such signs,” said Matti Yashou Hatti, a photographer who still lives in Erbil with his family. “We need international protection.”

Those families who have returned to Qaraqosh – once home to 50,000 people – are trying to revive Christian life dating back two millennia. However, most stay only two or three days at a time to refurbish their looted and burnt homes.

“We want to come back but there is no water and power,” said Mazam Nesin, a Christian who works for a volunteer force based in Qaraqosh but has left his family behind in Erbil.

By contrast, displaced Muslims have been flocking back to markets in eastern Mosul since Islamic State’s ejection from that part of the city, despite the battle raging in the Old City across the Tigris river which is the militants’ last stronghold.

ALCOHOL SHOP

Numbers of Christians in Iraq have fallen from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand since the violence which followed the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. Many Baghdad residents who could not afford to go abroad went to Qaraqosh and other northern towns where security used to be better than in the capital, rocked by sectarian warfare after the U.S.-led invasion.

But with the arrival of Islamic State, residents abandoned their homes with some applying for asylum in Europe. Germany alone took in 130,000 Iraqis, among them many Christians, in 2015 and 2016. But most ended up in Erbil with relatives or in homes paid for by aid agencies.

Supermarkets and restaurants remain closed in Qaraqosh, with windows smashed and burnt furniture strewn across floors.

One of the few businesses to have reopened is Steve Ibrahim’s alcohol shop in the town center; in the absence of cafes it has become a meeting point for local people. “Business has been good so far. Everybody comes here to stock up,” said Ibrahim, who has just reopened the store with his father.

They lost everything when Islamic State, known by its enemies as Daesh, wrecked their business. Now they have invested about $400 to refurbish the shop – new tiles shine on the walls – and customers are coming from beyond the town and from across the communities.

“I sell drinks to Christians and Muslims alike,” he said. “Many people come from Mosul or other towns.”

Many of Ibrahim’s customers ignore Islam’s forbidding of alcohol consumption. While he was talking, a Sunni Muslim from eastern Mosul drove up to buy a bottle of whisky and four cans of beer, packed in a black plastic bag to hide his purchase from the eyes of more religiously observant Muslims.

“You couldn’t drink during Daesh. I am glad this shop is open again,” said the man who gave his name only as Mohammed, shaking hands with Christians enjoying an afternoon beer. “I still only drink at home.”

Later a Shi’ite from a village south of Mosul arrived to pick up drinks. “I come here twice a week. It’s the only shop in the area,” he said, asking not to be named, before driving off.

Even Ibrahim comes every day from Erbil, bringing by car supplies and fuel for the generator to power the fridges filled with cold beer. Then he drives back at night.

Whether more Christians can live permanently in Qaraqosh depends on whether the security forces win their trust.

Army and police have tried to ease fears by stationing soldiers in front of churches, and even helping Christian volunteers to set up a massive cross at the town’s entrance.

On Palm Sunday last weekend, soldiers escorted a procession in preparation for Easter, Christianity’s most important festival, and provided chairs for worshippers during Mass.

Some Christian policemen joined in, singing “Hallelujah” with civilians. But walking along rows of burnt out homes and supermarkets, others were still afraid.

“The security measures are not sufficient,” said Hatti, the photographer. “We want security to surround the town.”

(Click here, reut.rs/2ordbfj for a Photo essay on this story)

(Editing by David Stamp)

Erdogan says Turks in Europe should defy ‘grandchildren of Nazism’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Erdogan says Turks in Europe should defy ‘grandchildren of Nazism’

Reuters April 3, 2017

Turkish President Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally for the upcoming referendum in the Black Sea city of Rize

View photos

 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally for the upcoming referendum in the Black Sea city of Rize, Turkey, April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
More

ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday called on Turkish voters in Europe to defy the “grandchildren of Nazism” and back a referendum this month on changing the constitution, comments likely to cause further ire in Europe.

Erdogan has repeatedly lashed out at European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, in campaigning for the referendum, accusing them of “Nazi-like” tactics for banning his ministers from speaking to rallies of Turkish voters abroad.

Both the Germans and Dutch have been incensed by the comparisons to Nazism and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the references must stop.

“With this determination, we will never allow three or four European fascists … from harming this country’s honor and pride,” Erdogan told a packed crowd of flag-waving supporters in the Black Sea city of Rize, where his family comes from.

“I call on my brothers and sisters voting in Europe…give the appropriate answer to those imposing this fascist oppression and the grandchildren of Nazism.”

Erdogan is counting on the support of expatriates in Europe, including the 1.4 million Turks eligible to vote in Germany, to pass constitutional changes that would give him sweeping presidential powers.

But ties with Europe have deteriorated in the run-up to the campaign. Erdogan last month said Turkey would reevaluate its relationship with the bloc, and may even hold a second referendum on whether to continue accession talks.

On Monday, he said he could take the issue of whether Turkey should restore the death penalty to referendum if necessary.

“The European Union will not like this. But I don’t care what Hans, George or Helga say, I care what Hasan, Ahmet, Mehmet, Ayse and Fatma say. I care what God says… If necessary, we will take this issue to another referendum as well,” he told the rally.

Turkey abandoned capital punishment more than a decade ago as part of its bid to join the European Union, but Erdogan has repeatedly told crowds calling for it following the July 15 failed coup that he would approve its restoration if parliament passed it.

Restoring capital punishment would all but end Turkey’s bid to join the EU, officials from the bloc have said.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk)

Freedom Of Religion: But What If A Religion Orderers It’s Followers To Kill All Politicians?

 

 

I used and extreme for the purpose of getting your attention, if you are reading this, it must have worked. No, I do not condone any violence except in the necessary need of self-defence.  But I am not most people, I’m just a broken down, old used to be Truck Driver. I can only comment on that which I know, or think that I know. For several decades I drove our Nation’s Interstates, Highways and back roads of the U.S. and Canada. You see people from all over Our Country as well as some visitors from other Countries. You see and you hear people in their own comfort zones. If you listen, you might get a pretty good idea on what people are thinking from all over our Country. Age, time, are they not supposed to give those of gray hair, wisdom, knowledge?

 

I got the idea for this article this evening from reading several news articles from around the World, some of those would be the BBC, CNN and Reuters. These articles were speaking of Free Speech and Freedom of Religion at the same time. Folks, is it possible for any country to have both at the same time? Somewhere there will become a boundary, a line that the human race must decide for itself that they will not allow to be crossed, in the name of Religion, or anything else. If a new Religion moved into your town, your State, your Country and they believed in eating small animals alive while they were being roasted on the fire, would that bother you? Would you join all of the local Animal Rights Groups? People would be outraged but would it continue to be allowed because it is being done in the name of a Religion?

 

O, wait, there is a compromise offer, the Religious Group agrees to quit eating all critters while they are still alive, if they will be allowed to have an open season on all Politicians, would you accept their offer? Are all things truly only able to be seen through the eyes of a true ‘Believer’? If in a Doctrine of a Religion, it’s very base fundamentals, teach, in fact they order, their followers to commit mass murder and to take the plunder. If you were a conscious observer would you not consider this ‘Group’ with its Charter, to be a ‘Terrorist Organization’? O, but wait, if this Organization says that they are protected, because they call it a Religion, when is it okay to arrest them if they are breaking lots of your other longstanding laws in the name of their religion?  There are a lot of  ‘Religions’ that are really nothing but Cults, some have only 20-30 members some have 5,000 members, some have a billion. Folks, countries like Germany and the Netherlands are fighting for their Nation’s Cultural Soul. When you load your house down with Rattlesnakes don’t act all shocked when you get yourself bit.