Pope Urges End Of Violence In Venezuela And For Government To Respect Human Rights

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

Pope Francis urged on Sunday for an end to the violence that has marred the anti-government protests in Venezuela.

He called for the respect of human rights where nearly 30 people were killed in unrest this month.

Francis, speaking to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly address, decried a “grave humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population”.

Venezuela’s opposition is demanding elections, autonomy for the legislature where they have a majority, a humanitarian aid channel from abroad to alleviate an economic crisis, and freedom for more than 100 activists jailed by President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, respect human rights and seek a negotiated solution …,” he said.

Supporters say Leopoldo Lopez, the jailed head of the hardline opposition Popular Will party, and others are political prisoners whose arrests symbolize Maduro’s lurch into dictatorship.

Maduro says all are behind bars for legitimate crimes, and calls Lopez, 45, a violent hothead intent on promoting a coup.

Vatican-led talks between the government and the opposition have broken down.

Francis told reporters on the plane returning from Cairo on Saturday that “very clear conditions” were necessary for the talks to resume.

On Friday, Venezuela formally notified the Organization of American States of its intention to leave the regional body amid the protests at home and international calls for its embattled government to hold delayed elections and release prisoners.

Venezuelan interim ambassador Carmen Velasquez submitted a letter announcing the move in Washington to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, a strong critic of socialist President Maduro.

The notice begins a two-year exit process from the Western Hemisphere’s largest diplomatic body, which had become a forum for its neighbors to exert pressure on Venezuela.

“This is a historic moment that marks a new independence for Venezuela and the region,” said Velasquez, adding that Venezuela would be the first country to leave the Washington-based bloc this way. “We are not going to be participating in any OAS activities.”

On Friday, hundreds marched to a military prison outside Caracas to demand the release of opposition Lopez and other jailed activists they consider political prisoners.

The march was part of an intensifying campaign by the opposition to force Maduro from office. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in almost four weeks of street clashes.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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A Scourge To Human Morality: 110 Women And Children Have Starved To Death In Somalia In Last 48 Hours

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MAR 5 2017, 3:06 PM ET

Somalia: 110 Dead From Hunger in Past 48 Hours in Drought

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalia’s prime minister announced Saturday that 110 people have died from hunger in the past 48 hours in a single region as a severe drought threatens millions of people across the country.

It was the first death toll announced by Somalia’s government since it declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine.

Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire spoke during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll he announced is from the Bay region in the southwest part of the country alone.

Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the U.N. secretary-general last month in a $4.4 billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the U.N. chief said.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, was expected to visit Somalia in the next few days.

Image: Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse struggles to find a vein for an injection at a government run health clinic in Shada, Somalia.
Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse struggles to find a vein for an injection at a government-run health clinic in Shada, Somalia. Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images

Thousands have been streaming into Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. Over 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding center recently.

The drought is the first crisis for Somalia’s newly elected Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Previous droughts and a quarter-century of conflict, including ongoing attacks by extremist group al-Shabab, have left the country fragile. Mohamed has appealed to the international community and Somalia’s diaspora of 2 million people for help.

About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished,” the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned.

Because of a lack of clean water in many areas, there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, U.N. experts say. Some deaths from cholera already have been reported.

The government has said the widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks.”

The U.N. humanitarian appeal for 2017 for Somalia is $864 million to provide assistance to 3.9 million people. But the U.N. World Food Program recently requested an additional $26 million plan to respond to the drought.

Anywhere America Steps Back: China’s Communist Government Steps Forward

 

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

A new rift in world affairs appears to be opening up: a division between pro-globalization Asia, with China in the lead, and the transatlantic nations that have turned against globalization.

“President Xi’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week,” I write in a blog post this week, “comes at both an auspicious and inauspicious moment. It is an auspicious moment because President-elect Donald Trump has all but announced America’s withdrawal from the world it has largely made over recent decades — and from which Asia has most benefited.” Since Europe has become inwardly absorbed with anxieties over terror attacks, immigration and failed integration, I continue, “that leaves China as the one major power with a global outlook. Ready or not, China has become the de facto world leader seeking to maintain an open global economy and battle climate change. In effect, President Xi has become the ‘core leader’ of globalization.”

“The inauspicious aspect is the reverse,” I go on to say. “The general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party is speaking to the converted from the pulpit in the foremost church of the global elite that gathers annually in Davos. Aligning with the global business elites in such a high profile manner places China even more squarely in the negative sights of the populist wave sweeping the Western democracies. It affirms in their minds that China is the main enemy of the working and middle class in the West.” China’s increasing show of force in the South China Sea this week in response to what it sees as provocations by the incoming U.S. administration also does it little favor in Western eyes.

Alexis Crow makes the counter-case that globalization continues to be beneficial to the West, saying trade is closely correlated with economic growth. “Increased wages in Southeast Asia boost demand for goods from new economy sectors in the West,” she writes. She also notes, as a case in point, how Chinese investment is creating thousands of jobs in Ohio.

Writing from Vladivostok, Artyom Lukin wonders how heightening conflict with China, as Trump tilts toward a closer embrace of Moscow, will play out. “Given Trump’s obvious hostility to China and his friendliness to Russia,” he writes, “Moscow may move into the apex spot of the triangle, having better relations with Beijing and Washington than they have with each other.” As Lukin sees it, Russian President Vladimir Putin may well seek to, “position himself as a sort of mediator between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.”

Based on his experiences with Putin, Alexey Kovalev offers some advice as a Russian journalist to his American colleagues who this week faced their first press conference with Donald Trump. “Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him.” He welcomes his American colleagues to “the era of bullshit.” Fearing this is only the beginning of what’s to come in the battle between Trump and the press, Howard Fineman writes, “It’s not a video game. It’s Washington in the Trump era, and we’ve just seen an unsettling preview.”

Many Africans are also wondering how a Trump presidency that is hostile to China will unfold for them. As Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden report, while America’s role in the world is growing uncertain, China is becoming more predictably favorable. As the year opened, China outlawed its domestic ivory trade and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is making a visit to Africa his first overseas trip of the year. China has also committed $60 billion in financing for African projects.

Writing from Singapore, Parag Khanna takes another tack entirely, suggesting that an America caught up in the turmoil of a populist backlash might learn a thing or two not only from other successful states like Germany, but from China as well. America, Khanna observes, “is caught in a hapless cycle of flip-flopping parties and policies while overall national welfare stagnates. Populism has prevailed over pragmatism.” He further remarks that, even in the West, there is grudging admiration for, “China’s ability to get things done without perpetual factionalism holding up national priorities, such as infrastructure.”

The populist drift in both the U.S. and Europe deeply concerns the Human Rights Watch organization, Nick Visser reports. “They scapegoat refugees, immigrant communities, and minorities. Truth is a frequent casualty,” he cites the watchdog’s director, Kenneth Roth, as saying. Nick Robins-Early looks at the trend of populism in Europe, noting that this year will be a test for the far-right, specifically in France, Germany and The Netherlands.

Writing from New Delhi, Swati Chaturvedi fears the consequences of the anti-Muslim and anti-woman hate speech that seems part and parcel of a Hindu brand of populism taking hold in India today. “Trolls,” she says, “are the goons of the online world. … lies and violent words can have deadly consequences in the real world.”

In an interview, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr sees opportunity for the regime in a Trump presidency where others see only trouble. “Khamenei’s supporters believe not only that Trump will maintain the Vienna nuclear agreement,” he says, “but also that his policies in Syria and the Middle East will maintain the interests of the regime.”

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also has a positive spin on the negativity surrounding President-elect Trump. He thinks Americans are more than capable of rising to disruptive challenges of new technologies behind so much political anxiety today. Wheeler argues that the slogan “‘Make America Great Again’ became a surrogate for ‘Make me secure again amidst all this change.’ Great swaths of the electorate sought stability in a world where everything seemed to be changing.” Wheeler reminds his fellow Americans that they’ve been here before: “Like today,” he says, “the technology revolution of the 19th century produced a longing for stability. But instead of retreating, Americans pushed forward to build a new security around new concepts. Universal education, employee rights, governmental offsets to abusive market power and other initiatives targeted the new problems. The result was the good old days many now long for.”

Writing from Geneva, Richard Baldwin sees a double blow to the labor market – in both rich and poor countries ― of both offshoring and robots. “Rapid advances in computing power and communication technology,” he contends, “will make it economical for many more people to work remotely across borders.” As medical costs rise in the rich countries, for example, Baldwin expects to see more and more “telesurgery” where the patient and doctor are divided by hundreds of miles.

In this world so afflicted by hatred and violence, Turkish novelist Kaya Genc also sees a way to unite amidst division, finding beauty and peace in the quotidian event of a winter snowfall. “Snow saved Istanbul,” he writes this week from his beloved hometown on the shores of the Bosphorous. “As flakes fell from the sky, the city was relieved of its status as the new destination of international terror. … There was a hint of something chilling in the air, and I felt relieved that it was not man-made.” 

40,000 Christians Feel Safer Under President Assad: Terrified ‘Rebels’ Will Return

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TED SHOEBAT’S WEBSITE)

Forty Thousand Christians Say That They Feel Safer Under Bashar Al-Assad And Are Terrified Of The Islamic Rebels Returning To Their Neighborhoods

By Theodore ShoebatForty thousand Christians living in Aleppo feel safer now that their city is under Bashar al-Assad — thanks to Russia — and fear the return of the Islamic rebels, as we read in one report:

The estimated 40,000 Christians in Aleppo are not among the civilians who are dreading the fall of the city to the Russia and Iran-backed regime of dictator Bashar al Assad, according to a charity group that helps persecuted Christians. These Christians instead reportedly fear the return of the rebels to Aleppo, particularly the jihadi coalition known as Jaish Al Fatah, or ‘Army of Conquest,’ that includes the likes of the Syrian al-Qaeda branch formerly known as the Nusra Front before it became Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant).

Jaish Al Fatah has been “heavily involved” in the battle for Aleppo and the persecution of Christians in the city, claims the charity group Barnabas Fund.

Until recently, Aleppo city had been roughly divided between Assad regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since 2012.

The Russian government and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the ongoing civil war in Syria, have declared that the Assad regime is now in control of Aleppo.

Russian-backed Assad forces and their Iranian-allied counterparts operating on the ground have been accused of “genocide” against civilians in the former rebel stronghold of eastern Aleppo.

Anti-Democracy Democrats Riot In Portland Oregon: Lock The Law Breakers Up!

 

Portland’s anti-Trump protest turns violent, as rioters rampage in Pearl

Jim Ryan | The Oregonian/OregonLiveBy Jim Ryan | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on November 10, 2016 at 6:30 PM, updated November 10, 2016 at 10:32 PM

A third consecutive day of anti-Trump demonstrations turned violent Thursday night, as protesters began with a march and chanting but eventually smashed cars at a dealership and rampaged through the Pearl District shattering business windows.

Police declared the demonstration a “riot” more than three hours after its 5 p.m. start, citing “extensive criminal and dangerous behavior.” The bureau said it warned the crowd about the designation, then tweeted that rioting is a class C felony.

The crowd – at least on par with the 2,000 that gathered the night before — started at Pioneer Courthouse Square in the early evening before taking off on a route that included a stop at the Portland waterfront and trip over the Hawthorne Bridge into Southeast Portland.

It eventually moved into Northeast Portland, where at least 19 cars at Toyota of Portland were vandalized, according to a sales manager.

Protesters then made their way west across the Broadway Bridge and into the Pearl District, where business windows along Northwest Lovejoy Street and elsewhere were smashed.

About 9:45 p.m., police in riot gear confronted the crowd and shut down the North Park Blocks area. They warned that some protesters were preparing “gas and flares” and that participants should leave for their own safety.

Police said protesters should return to Pioneer Courthouse Square to continue peaceful protest, and those remaining would be arrested.

It was unclear if any arrests had been made by 10 p.m. Most protesters were moving in the direction of Pioneer square; a few remained in the park blocks area.

Cries of “destroy the Pearl!” That’s a fancy area. Lots of money there.

 (THIS KIND OF HUMAN TRASH IS WHAT IS ACTUALLY WRONG WITH THE UNITED STATES, THEY THINK THAT THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO SHOULD HAVE ANY RIGHTS, CIVIL OR OTHERWISE. ARREST THE ONES THAT ARE DOING THE RIOTING, EVERY ONE OF THEM, CHARGE THEM AND LOCK THEM UP!)(TRS)

Protesters stayed off freeways as of 8 p.m. — a departure from the previous two nights’ anti-Trump efforts. Authorities briefly closed freeways as a precaution, TriMet trains and buses were affected, and traffic was disrupted where protesters passed.

Tensions flared at times between protesters and motorists, with police tweeting they received reports of “vandalism and aggressive behavior” in the protest crowd. Altercations included a motorist’s windshield being cracked while she tried to navigate through protesters, saying she needed to tend to an emergency.

Some observers reported that a woman apparently was injured after some demonstrators said she was throwing liquid Tide at protesters. A bottle of Tide lay on the ground nearby as demonstrators called for protest medics to tend to the woman, who stayed on the ground for a few minutes.

Trump tweeted mid-Thursday night about the protests that have erupted across the country, calling them “unfair” and prompted by the media.

Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

A new activist group galvanized by Trump’s election promoted the protest, which was one of multiple demonstrations Thursday in Portland. Dubbed Portland’s Resistance and composed of students and youth from protests that took over freeways Wednesday morning and night, spokesman Gregory McKelvey said the organization will use anti-Trump efforts to prop up local movements.

Protest chants included the rallying call of “Not my president,” in reference to the newly elected Trump. Some protesters carried signs, among them: “Oppression thrives off isolation. Stand united.” “We reject the fascist agenda.” “You’re fired!”

Halim Byron said he decided to join in the latest protest partly because he believes Trump flouts convention — then flaunts it.

“He does what he wants to, and he’s made that a cornerstone of his campaign,” said Byron, a 60-year-old Portland resident.

Kaden Burdick, a 20-year-old Portland resident, said he sees the election of Trump as a rise of white supremacy and wants to fight against racism, xenophobia and homophobia that Trump’s comments appear to have unleashed.

As the larger Waterfront rally gathered, a smaller, faith-based group remained back in the small, tiered space in Pioneer Courthouse Square’s northwest corner. Leaders from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and First Nations faiths spoke to the crowd that lingered long after the larger Trump protest embarked onto downtown Portland’s streets.

The leaders put together the event to coincide with the march, said Rev. Michael Ellick, senior minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ.

Follow along below for updates.

Ellick, who served as emcee for a parade of speakers, said before the event in a news release: “For just about anybody who isn’t white, for anybody who isn’t in the top 1 percent and — you know — for all women everywhere — there is a lot of fear right now. So it’s more important than ever for the spiritual and moral adults on this planet to show up, speak clearly and get organized.”

The audience lingered at least an hour after the larger group departed, mostly listening to speakers and occasionally breaking into song, such as the spiritual, “We Shall Overcome.”

They were dwarfed by a 75-foot Douglas fir that had been set up just hours earlier in preparation for the city’s annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony on the day after Thanksgiving.

Video by Maxwell Radi/The Oregonian/OregonLive

TriMet earlier had warned again that MAX lines and most buses would likely experience significant delays because of the protests — in Pioneer Square, as well as elsewhere around the city, including Mt. Tabor Park and Holladay Park. Some stations and stops may close for safety reasons, the agency said.

TriMet tweeted an appeal for protesters to not block public transit. The agency said it respects the right to peacefully demonstrate, but “if you’re out there making your voice heard, please don’t disrupt transit service. … Similarly, we ask that you don’t vandalize our equipment.”

While the smashing was going on across the river, a group of about 50 people sat on steps or stood waiting to take a microphone along the downtown waterfront as a scattering of votive candles flickered on the ground. They talked about losing a loved one to HIV, supporting Hillary Clinton and even laughed at ways to best challenge Trump.

Two people sat side by side with a sign that said “We shall overcome.” A woman with children listened intently.

— Jim Ryan and Allan Brettman
[email protected][email protected]

New ISIS ‘Minister Of War’ Was Trained In U.S. Military Intelligence Procedures!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

MOSCOW — In a propaganda video released last year, an Islamic State militant wearing a black bandanna and cradling a sniper rifle made the usual grim threats against the United States. Now, there may be a new twist to his warnings.

The militant, Gulmurod Khalimov, a former police commander from Tajikistan, boasted of his extensive American military training — truthfully, it turns out. But some news accounts say he was subsequently promoted to military commander of the Islamic State.

“I was in America three times,” Mr. Khalimov said in the video, which appeared online last year. “God willing, I will come with this weapon to your cities, to your homes, and we will kill you.”

That prospect remains highly unlikely. But there is no doubt that as he rose in the ranks of a special police force in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, Mr. Khalimov received extensive taxpayer-funded military training from the United States to help counter drug-running and extremism along the border with Afghanistan.

Continue reading the main story

Now, Mr. Khalimov appears to have become the second senior commander of the Islamic State, the terrorist group he defected to last year, to have benefited from American military training provided to former Soviet states.

Mr. Khalimov’s precise rank is unclear; he could be the group’s so-called minister of war, or military commander-in-chief. In any case, the State Department, which oversaw his training, thinks he is important enough that on Aug. 30, it offered a $3 million reward for information on his whereabouts. The Islamic State’s previous military commander was killed in an airstrike earlier this year.

The State Department has been publicizing the reward in Tajikistan, where relatives or acquaintances might have salient information.

Kurt R. Rice, the department’s acting assistant director for threat investigations, told Tajik journalists in September that Mr. Khalimov’s American training made him a particular danger, but he did not elaborate on Mr. Khalimov’s role in the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“He can use this knowledge to create difficulties for our countries,” Mr. Rice said. “He’s a person who can create difficulties.” Mr. Rice’s office declined a request to interview him about Mr. Khalimov’s training, citing his travel schedule.

After the State Department announced the reward, an Iraqi news agency, Alsumaria, reported that Mr. Khalimov had been promoted to military commander for the Islamic State, replacing Omar al-Shishani, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia who was killed in the airstrike. Russian news outlets have also said Mr. Khalimov was promoted, but neither those accounts nor the Iraqi report could be independently verified.

“The U.S. putting a bounty on his head is significant,” Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, in London, said in a telephone interview. “But it’s not possible to know if he’s the strategist of military operations.”

Further muddying the picture, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist propaganda, has found no formal Islamic State announcement of Mr. Khalimov’s position, according to Adam Raisman, an analyst who studies the group’s postings.

If Mr. Khalimov was, in fact, promoted, he would be the second Islamic State commander-in-chief to have been trained in American military aid programs in the former Soviet Union. Mr. Shishani, whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, had served in the Georgian Army, which is equipped and funded by the United States as a bulwark against Russian expansion.

American military aid to Tajikistan is more narrowly focused on fighting terrorism and narcotics, because the country is a close ally of Russia. The aid has flowed even though Tajikistan is ruled by an eccentric and authoritarian president, Emomali Rakhmonov, whose police forces are often accused of abuses.

Along with jailing dissidents and using excessive force — in one case, killing 20 civilians in a paramilitary action — Mr. Rakhmonov’s police forces have been accused of more unusual human rights abuses. A provincial governor recently said that he had forcibly shaved the beards of 13,000 men suspected of sympathizing with fundamentalist Islamists.

Muhiddin Kabiri, the exiled leader of Tajikistan’s main opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Khalimov “was always against the moderate opposition” and that his police unit was known for abuses, but that the United States had turned a blind eye.

The State Department provided five training courses for Mr. Khalimov, three of them in the United States, including at least one run by the company once known as Blackwater in Baton Rouge, La. A spokesman has said the department vetted Mr. Khalimov and did not violate the Leahy Law, which prohibits the government from providing military training to foreign military units that violate human rights.

With American training programs on his résumé, Mr. Khalimov became commander of a paramilitary police force in 2013, raising alarm among human rights groups about the training even before he defected to the Islamic State.

“The U.S. military has been providing a lot of expertise and training to abusive and repressive governments in Central Asia,” Steve Swerdlow, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a telephone interview.

“Military cooperation has to be contingent on human rights,” Mr. Swerdlow said. “Tajikistan got a free pass despite the atrocious situation with human rights.”

American military training programs are generally carried out by the Defense Department but overseen by the State Department, an arrangement that broke down in Tajikistan, according to a 2015 report by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General that looked into the American response to the Tajik police operation that killed 20 civilians in 2012.

Mr. Khalimov, then a deputy commander of the special police unit, took part in that operation but still continued his American military training until 2013.

The report found that the Office of Military Cooperation, the Pentagon group that arranged training for the suspect police units, had also conducted the investigation into the killings — effectively determining that Mr. Khalimov’s training was legal — rather than the political section of the United States Embassy in Tajikistan, which should have overseen the military education programs.

The report concluded that the lack of oversight undermined “confidence that the embassy provides a full and reliable picture of local developments.”

While it is unclear exactly what training Mr. Khalimov received, a 2008 diplomatic cable from the embassy released by WikiLeaks explained what the paramilitary police and other units requested.

The groups wanted training in “mission analysis and the military decision-making process, intelligence preparation of the battlefield, direct action, raids and ambushes, special reconnaissance, close quarters combat and battle, sniper and observe operations, military operations in urban terrain.”

Chinese security official elected Interpol chief

 

Chinese security official elected Interpol chief

Story highlights

  • Meng Hongwei is first Chinese official to head Interpol
  • China seeking international cooperation in hunt for corrupt officials overseas

Hong Kong (CNN)A top Chinese security minister has been elected president of the international crime fighting and police cooperation organization Interpol.

Meng Hongwei, China’s vice minister for public security and a former head of Interpol China, took the post Thursday at the organization’s general assembly in Bali, Indonesia.
According to a statement from Interpol, he said he stood ready to do everything he could towards the cause of policing the world. “We currently face some of the most serious global public security challenges since World War Two,” said Mr Meng.
The move could bolster China’s efforts to repatriate fugitive officials but critics have voiced concern that Beijing could use the crime-fighting body to track down dissidents based overseas.
He is the first Chinese official to become Interpol president, according to Xinhua.
Interpol’s secretary-general is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day work of the organization, currently Jurgen Stock.
The election of a Chinese policeman to head the world’s largest law enforcement agency is highly concerning, said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International regional director for East Asia.
“(This is) someone who presides over a police force notorious for human rights abuses and is a tool for political enforcement of a one party system,” he told CNN.
Bequelin also pointed to previous incidents where China has sought to use Interpol red notices — which place people on global wanted lists — against political dissidents.
According to Article 3 of Interpol’s Constitution, “it is strictly forbidden for the organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”
One Chinese dissident placed on an Interpol red notice by China is Dolkun Isa, despite his being granted political asylum by Germany, according to International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Isa is head of the World Uyghur Congress, which speaks on behalf of Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim minority living in China’s Xinjiang province.
Western governments have long refused to enforce the notice against Isa, but in 2016, he was denied a visa to visit India due to his status. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei justified this on the grounds that Isa is “wanted for violent terrorist activities.”

Foxhunt

As well as targeting dissidents, China has long pushed for international cooperation in seeking repatriation of corrupt officials who have fled overseas.
Operation Foxhunt has seen more than 2,000 “economic fugitives”, including 342 former officials, returned to China since 2014, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
“Western countries can’t become ‘safe havens’ for corrupt fugitives. No matter where they have escaped to, we will try every means to bring them back,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in 2014.
Bequelin said that “nobody is opposed to China exercising leadership roles in international organizations if it is done in a way that is in line with good practice.”
“But there are many areas where China’s own record is worrying in that respect and policing would definitely come at the top of this list,” he added.

American Military’s Lack Of Intelligence Again Bombs The Wrong People: 80+ Dead

(This article is courtesy of the BBC News Group)

Syria conflict: US air strikes ‘kill dozens of government troops’

Fighters of so-called Islamic State in Deir al-ZourImage copyrightAP
Image captionFighters of so-called Islamic State in Deir al-Zour, where they have been battling Syrian troops

The US-led coalition has admitted its planes carried out an attack in eastern Syria that the Russian army says killed at least 62 Syrian troops fighting IS.

The US said its planes halted the attack in Deir al-Zour when informed of the Syrian presence and would not knowingly strike them.

The strikes allowed IS jihadists to advance, the Russians said.

Russia earlier said the current ceasefire in Syria was in danger of collapse and the US would be to blame.

The cessation of hostilities does not include attacks by the US on IS or other jihadist groups.

The US Central Command statement said the coalition believed it was attacking positions of so-called Islamic State and the raids were “halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military”.

It said the “Combined Air Operations Center had earlier informed Russian counterparts of the upcoming strike”.

It added: “Syria is a complex situation with various military forces and militias in close proximity, but coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit. The coalition will review this strike and the circumstances surrounding it to see if any lessons can be learned.”

Russia’s defence ministry earlier said that if the US air strikes did turn out to be an error, it would be because of Washington’s stubborn refusal to co-ordinate military action with Moscow.

Destroyed buildings in a government-held area of Aleppo, Syria. Photo: 16 September 2016Image copyrightAFP
Image captionNumerous ceasefire breaches by Syrian government troops and rebel groups have been reported

Only if the current ceasefire – which began on Monday – holds for seven days, will the US and Russia begin co-ordinated action against the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, which was previously known as the al-Nusra Front, and IS.

Russia’s defence ministry quoted a statement by Syrian army general command as saying that the four coalition air strikes on Syrian troops had allowed IS to advance.

The Syrian statement said the air strikes were “conclusive evidence” that the US and its allies supported the jihadist group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll at least 80.

There have been no confirmed cases of US air strikes targeting Syrian troops. Last December, Syria accused the coalition of attacking a government army camp in Deir al-Zour but the US denied it.

‘Repeated messages’

Earlier, Russia’s military expressed fears for the ceasefire. It said rebel groups had increased attacks and it urged the US to act or be responsible for the collapse of the truce. Media caption Syrian family living in cemetery in Eastern Aleppo.

Russian General Vladimir Savchenko said “the situation in Syria is worsening”, with 55 rebel attacks over the past 24 hours, leading to the deaths of 12 civilians.

Gen Viktor Poznikhir said Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, was doing all it could to rein in Syrian troops.

“If the American side does not take the necessary measures to carry out its obligations… a breakdown of the ceasefire will be on the United States,” he said.

“The United States and the so-called moderate groups they control have not met a single obligation they assumed in the framework of the Geneva agreement.”

The terms require moderate rebel groups to separate themselves from jihadists.Media captionFootage appears to show Free Syrian Army rebels chasing US special forces out of the northern Syrian town of Al-Rai

Gen Poznikhir said: “Our repeated messages to the American side are left without a response. There is doubt that the US is able to influence the moderate opposition they control.”

A US National Security Council spokesman later said: “While there have been challenges on both sides, violence is considerably lower and the cessation is broadly holding.

“What we’re not seeing is humanitarian aid getting through and it will be hard to build confidence on the ground until that occurs.”

Some 20 trucks have been waiting since Monday for safe passage from Turkey into Syria and on to rebel-held east Aleppo.


Truce’s days may be numbered – BBC’s James Longman, Beirut

This was meant to be a trust-building exercise, but nearly a week after the truce began, the blame game has begun.

There was deep scepticism from the rebels about details in the plan which called for their separation from extremist groups. That is why they never formally accepted the deal.

It was always a major sticking point. Were US backed groups supposed to surrender territory to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham? Or were they required to fight them? It was never clear. Either way, the stipulation would leave them far weaker on the battlefield. But refusing and standing in the way of much-needed humanitarian aid would not have been popular.

Now this weekend, the main rebel groups are due to meet to discuss their position. Their mistrust of the government and its Russian allies runs deep. They see the obstruction of aid deliveries on the border as a stalling tactic, and one which they have seen before.

If aid doesn’t reach besieged areas soon, the ceasefire’s days are numbered. And coordinated strikes against IS won’t happen.

China’s Legal System To Introduce Concept Of Plea Deals

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)

Pilot study will reduce charges for defendants who enter guilty pleas

CHINA is to consider the introduction of plea bargaining in criminal cases, allowing suspects and defendants to plead guilty in return for reduced charges.

The measures will be piloted in 18 cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Guangzhou, according to proposals submitted by the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing yesterday.

According to the NPC Law Committee, the pilot aims to “further improve criminal procedures, implement a policy combining punishment with leniency and more reasonably allocate judicial resources.

“Suspects and defendants who are willing to confess, agree with prosecutors’ crimes and sentencing proposals, and sign affidavits, will be given mitigated punishments,” the statement said.

Zhou Qiang, the supreme court’s president, told lawmakers the pilot aims to “more timely and efficiently punish crimes in order to maintain social stability.”

Zhou said that, based on the Criminal Procedure Law, there should be no punishment in cases where there was doubt or insufficient evidence, but in practice it was often difficult to obtain sufficient evidence, especially in cases where concealment was involved.

Accordingly, he said that suspects and defendants should be encouraged to voluntarily confess, which would help prevent the obtaining of evidence through illegal methods such as torture.

Procedures will also simplify the imposing of a lesser charge where the defendant agrees to enter a guilty plea, he said, but prosecutions could restart if prosecutors later found crimes were omitted.

The new plans will enable courts to pass sentences without unnecessary investigation and debate, and before a defendant’s final statement is heard.

The pilot will continue to encourage “pleading guilty to a lesser charge” and will fully protect defendants’ rights and strengthen the judicial protection of human rights, Zhou said.

He said the pilot would boost judicial fairness and efficiency. Though China has seen a decline in serious criminal cases threatening social order, the number of minor cases is still large and not always efficiently dealt with by understaffed judicial departments, he said.

Defendants who face jail terms of under three years fall under the pilot program.

Suspects should be informed of their legal rights and the consequences of plea bargaining by police and prosecutors who should also listen to the opinions of suspects and their lawyers, Zhou said.

Cases concerning key state interests, those who voluntarily admit to crimes, and those involving suspects performing praiseworthy acts may be exempt from punishment.

Those who plead guilty non-voluntarily will not be included in the pilot, and judicial assistance will be provided to suspects to prevent judicial error, Zhou said, adding that the pilot will be strictly supervised by the Ministry of Public Security and the procuratorate.

Those involved in trading power for money, judicial corruption, or extorting confessions through torture will face severe punishment, Zhou said.

After two-year trial, the legislature will revise relevant laws.

Hillary Or Trump: The American People Lose Big

 

Hillary and Bill Clinton as well as Donald Trump have spent their lives trying to do one thing and one thing only and that is to make themselves richer. They are just like the Bush family and the Kennedy family in that regard. If you are a person that thinks that any of these people care one bit about you, your family, or your Constitutional rights it is my belief that you are being delusional. I have known of the Clinton’s since Bill’s second term as the Governor of Arkansas, he was known as Slick Willie to the people who knew him best and Hillary was known as nothing but a bitch. The only thing that has happened with either of them since then is that they are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, at a minimum and that they have grown wiser and slicker with age. Hillary is the Queen of habitual liars and almost all Americans know that and yet the people who call themselves Democrats just anointed her for the most security sensitive job in our country. It is my personal belief that she is guilty of treason against America’s military and security agency personnel by giving away Americas secrets and for leaving four of our people behind to die without even trying to do anything to help them in Benghazi Libya. On these two issues alone she should be in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth Kansas till the day she dies and should never ever be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office. There are many reasons that people should look real hard at Bill’s partnerships with George H.W.Bush. From first hand experience I know well that their friendship started when Bill was Governor of Arkansas and all the financial aid that the city of Mena got during that courtship. Hillary and Bill are and have been bought and paid for since the 1980’s. Check her record about representing rapists when she was a DA in Arkansas and how she bragged about getting men she knew were guilty of rape off. She cares nothing about anyone but herself, if she is elected we the people are only going to lose even more of our Constitutional rights.

 

Now, about ‘the Donald’. After that scathing first paragraph many my think that I am for Mr. Trump or at the very least a Republican, you would be wrong on both those issues. Donald Trump has made a lifetime out of only caring about himself, his ego, and being a bully for the purpose of making himself richer at any cost. Mr. Trump should be in prison along with Hillary for the scam that was Trump University, it is very obvious that he is nothing but a fraud and a bully. He sill has no intentions of releasing his federal taxes for examination either. For a man who likes to brag constantly about how many billions of dollars he is worth he shows that he is a fraud and a liar. He tells people that he is worth over ten billion dollars yet when it comes to paying his taxes he claims that he is only worth about one billion. Mr. Trump talks about going after companies who take their jobs out of America and moving them overseas for lower tax rates and lower wages when he has made truckloads of extra profits doing exactly that himself.

 

Both of these people have proven without a doubt that they have no ethics and no morals throughout their adult lives. Thinking that either these two 70-year-old ‘ shyster’s and con-artists are going to be elected President and all of a sudden they are going to put the American people before their own self interests is delusional at best. Do you remember an old Richard Pryor movie called Brewster’s Millions? He had the best political motto of all time when he was running for the Mayor-ship of New York City called “none of the above”. The American people are going to be the biggest losers if either one of these two frauds become our next President. If either of them wins may God help us because neither the Democratic Party leaders nor the Republican Party leaders have any interest in protecting the American people or any of our hard-fought human rights.

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