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 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:57 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In the USA..United Swat Teams of America........'Land of the Free' ..

Here is what America has become: a police to view this video taken in Ferguson, Mo.
8/12/2014 -- Heavily Armed Police march in North St. Louis -- Machine guns , Tear Gas + MRAP trucks

America's Foes Crow over Ferguson Shooting Unrest

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 August 2014, 12:54

Usually, it is the United States that doles out rebukes over human rights abuses to the troublesome country of the day.

However the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager and subsequent crackdown on protesters in the Midwestern state of Missouri has America's foes crowing about the flaws in the land of the free.

Teargas, arrests of journalists, racial tensions and footage of militarily equipped police training their weapons on protesters.

These are images more easily associated with one of the nations regularly chided by Washington than the small town of Ferguson, rocked by days of violent protests.

Many of the countries at the stinging end of these criticisms have seized upon the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the ensuing clashes to scold the United States for hypocritically lecturing the world on human rights while ignoring the plight of its own people.

They also say the shooting underscores how far America has to go to resolve its racial tensions.

In China, which Washington regularly accuses of human rights abuses, the Ferguson story has been getting prominent media coverage.

- 'Human rights flaws' -

In a commentary entitled "Ferguson riot reveals U.S. racial divide, human rights flaw", the official news agency Xinhua berated America.

It said the Ferguson shooting "once again demonstrates that even in a country that has for years tried to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender, there is still much room for improvement at home".

"What the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others," it added.

While China censors reports of local unrest in its domestic media, state broadcaster CCTV has covered the Ferguson riots. On Tuesday, it showed National Guard troops on the streets, with a reporter taking advantage of the greater access available to media in the United States, describing tear gas and other weapons used by police.

On Chinese social media, some echoed the state media line.

"This is human rights in democratic countries," wrote one user of the Twitter-like Sina Weibo service.

But others noted the repression was light compared to that meted out to protesters by the Chinese government. In 1989, hundreds were killed during the armed suppression of protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

- 'Oppressed' Americans -

Iran also latched on to the Ferguson story as evidence of the racial divide in America and what it called double standards on human rights.

"The targeted discrimination against the black in America by the U.S. police and the judicial system and the suppression of protesters are clear instances of violations of human rights of people of colour in the U.S.," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted: "Today like previous years, African-Americans are still under pressure, oppressed and subjected to discrimination."

Even Egypt -- where at least 1,400 people, mostly Islamist protesters, have been killed in clashes with security forces -- weighed in.

Interior ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Lattiff, said the U.S. police were using "excessive" force.

"The police are using heavy weapons that are used in war. We didn't see the protesters even using Molotov cocktails or shotguns. They have legitimate demands."

Egypt’s foreign ministry said Tuesday it was "closely monitoring" the situation in Ferguson and echoed a U.N. call for restraint.

Russia, which has been under fire for months over its intervention in Ukraine and is a favourite target for allegations of authoritarianism, has also given the Ferguson story wide coverage.

Konstantin Dolgov, the foreign ministry's representative for human rights, said the U.S. should take care of its own problems before interfering in the affairs of other nations.

He said the events in Ferguson "are clear evidence of the high degree of tensions in U.S. society, which remains split along racial lines".

It was a view echoed by rights group Amnesty International, which for the first time has deployed observers within the United States.

The "U.S. can't tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won't clean up its own human rights record," the group wrote on Twitter.

The irony of the situation was not lost on the Internet.

One website published a satirical take on how American media would cover the story if it were happening anywhere else in the world, referring to "a remote Missouri village that has been a hotbed of sectarian tension".

Dramatic footage from the protests sweeping social media prompted reactions from activists in more troubled parts of the world.

Mariam Barghouti, a student from Ramallah in the West Bank, tweeted some advice to the Americans: "Keep calm when you're teargassed, the pain will pass, don't rub your eyes!"


Ferguson: Eric Holder says justice will be upheld in Michael Brown case

US attorney general visits community where youth was killed by police, while prosecutor warns of lengthy grand jury process

Rory Carroll and Chris McGreal in Ferguson, Thursday 21 August 2014 05.28 BST     

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, has visited Ferguson to assure residents that justice will prevail in the police shooting of an unarmed teenager – but a local prosecutor has warned it will probably be two months before a decision is taken on whether to charge the officer involved.

Holder on Wednesday met the family of Michael Brown, whose death on 9 August triggered protests and riots in the St Louis suburb, and stressed the Obama administration’s commitment to civil rights in this and other cases.

A grand jury convened for the first time to hear preliminary evidence about the encounter between Brown, 18, and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fired six bullets under disputed circumstances.

Robert McCulloch, the county prosecutor, warned of a substantial wait before the jury would decide whether or not there was probable cause that a crime had been committed.

“Our target date is the middle of October,” McCulloch told ABC News, referring to when his office would finish presenting evidence and ask the jury to make a decision. “They will have absolutely everything there is, every piece of paper, every photograph, every bit of physical evidence, all of the forensic information.”

The wait will test the patience of protesters who have marched each day and night in Ferguson since the shooting. The demonstrations have frequently escalated to looting and violent confrontations with police. Police and national guard units, which arrived on Tuesday, braced for more clashes after sunset on Wednesday.

Protesters have questioned the impartiality of McCulloch, who has deep family ties to local police, including his father, an officer who died during an encounter with a black man. Dozens of people demonstrated in front of McCulloch’s office. “People do not trust McCulloch in this particular case,” said Antonio French, a local alderman.

The Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, has put pressure on the prosecutor to step aside. “There is a well-established process by which a prosecutor can recuse themselves from a pending investigation and a special prosecutor be appointed,” Nixon said. “Departing from this established process could unnecessarily inject legal uncertainty into this matter and potentially jeopardize the prosecution.”

However the governor has stopped short of ordering a recusal, and in a radio interview McCulloch, who has defended his impartiality, challenged Nixon to take a stand one way or the other. “Step up and say I’m on the case or off the case.”

On Wednesday night, rain, a diminishing crowd of protesters and a decision by the police to keep a relatively low profile led to a largely uneventful evening at the scene of nearly two weeks of demonstrations.

There was a brief confrontation after two white people, a man and a woman, arrived with signs in support of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown. They started marching along the street near demonstrators who were demanding that Wilson be put on trial.

Some of the demonstrators grew hostile and pursued the pair, shouting “white bitch” and “fuck them up”.

The man, who identified himself only as Chuck, was carrying a sign that said: “Justice for police officer Darren Wilson”. He told the Guardian that he was not being deliberately provocative and that he was marching because “people shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for what they believe in”.

Two minutes later the police bundled both of them into a van as an increasingly agitated crowd surrounded them.

Late into the evening only a few dozen protesters remained. The police kept a low profile, largely remaining away from the road. On previous nights officers in riot gear formed a barricade that protesters complained was provocative and raised tensions.

On his visit to Missouri, Holder, the country’s first African American attorney general, walked a fine line between showing federal engagement with the case, which has prompted a renewed debate about race in the US, and not politicising it.

In addition to private meetings with officials and Brown’s family he told students at a Ferguson community college about his own personal experiences with racism. “I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man.”

He recalled police pulling him over while driving on the New Jersey turnpike and while walking to a cinema in Georgetown. “I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.”

The US could and would change, Holder said, highlighting the justice department’s increased scrutiny of police forces across the US. “We have a very active civil rights division. I am proud of what these men and women have done. As they write about the legacy of the Obama administration, a lot of it is going to be about what the civil rights division has done.”

The FBI announced last week that it was carrying out an investigation into the shooting of Brown to determine whether it amounted to a civil rights violation. It may be widened to examine police practices in Ferguson, where the community is two-thirds black but 50 out of 53 police officers are white.

The federal probe will run parallel to McCulloch’s state investigation.

Local police scored another own goal when video footage emerged of a highway patrol officer threatening protesters during Tuesday night’s demonstrations. The ACLU of Missouri said in a letter that the officer, a member of the St Ann police force, “pointed an assault weapon at civilians and threatened to kill them” and then told them to “fuck themselves”. The Missouri state highway patrol responded swiftly, relieving the officer of duty and suspending him indefinitely.

Dozens of people were arrested during Tuesday’s protests, which were galvanised by the fatal shooting earlier that day of Kajieme Powell, 25, a mentally ill black man who brandished a knife at two police officers in St Louis. Each officer fired six times.

Compared with previous nights, however, it was a relatively peaceful, without gunshots, teargas or Molotov cocktails.

Ron Johnson, a highway police captain who commands law enforcement in Ferguson, said violent agitators were being weeded out of the protest movement. “I think our community is turning against the criminals,” he told CNN.


African immigrants must be Ferguson strong: we are black, and we're targets

Pretending that we exist outside the consequences of blackness is an injustice to ourselves, African Americans and all black people

Hannah Giorgis, Thursday 21 August 2014 14.15 BST   

As protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri, however calmly now, I have found myself increasingly disappointed in the silence of my fellow African immigrant communities. There has not been the coordinated outrage I saw for Ethiopian domestic workers experiencing abuse in Saudi Arabia or Eritrean migrants in Israel. Instead, there have been too many dismissals of African-American pain, veiled attempts at insinuating these kinds of things only happen to those kinds of blacks.

Too many black immigrants believe ourselves removed from the threat of police violence, saved somehow by the allure of our accents or the false safety of our refusal to openly question American racism.

My father, a dark-skinned man with hair so tightly curled my aunt once joked he didn’t need an umbrella in the rain, immigrated from Ethiopia in the early 1980s to escape political turmoil, and acquired US citizenship in time to vote in the 2000 election. He does not see the police as an enemy; he often waves to them. He does not see my fear of paramilitary civic servants as legitimate.

And he is not alone in his sentiments. Buoyed by racist perceptions of Africans and West Indians as more hard-working than our African-American counterparts, black immigrants often actively distance ourselves from issues like police brutality, which we too often believe to be relevant only for native-born black people. The divide is neither new nor altogether surprising. Black immigrants often cling to ethnic ties, resisting the American categories of race that lump us into a monolithic designation that we too often feel is inauthentic.

But in a nation with such an entrenched history of white supremacy, we are black, and we are targets. Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo was not asked about his native language before officers emptied 41 bullets into his body. When Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was brutalized by NYPD officers, none of them paused to inquire if he was the “right” kind of black to be torturing. Our international flavor of respectability politics will not save us from the sin of our skin.

The unwillingness of my fellow Africans to stand in solidarity with African Americans is about more than just a desire to remain in touch with our heritage – or even a failure to believe in global blackness as an authentic marker of identity. I have overheard relatives lament the “sensitivity” of “lazy” African Americans who “look for racism everywhere”, blissfully unaware of the ways in which the violent legacy of American slavery informs every facet of black life in America. And while having been socialized in the United States as a black woman will never allow me to condone this form of intra-racial violence, I do understand the internalized racism and heartbreak that fuel it.

(Open contributions: Help the world hear your police racial profiling story)

There is pain in accepting that the country you thought would save you from your homeland doesn’t want you. There is trauma in realizing that you are not wanted here, that your accent doesn’t make you special, that you are subject to violence based on the color of your skin in a nation that was supposed to be your promised land. We don’t want to believe that our blackness turns the American dream into a nightmare – that our bodies are the monsters.

But we cannot continue to be dishonest with ourselves. We are here, and we are black. That is both blessing and curse, question and answer. To pretend that we exist outside the consequences of blackness in this country is to do both ourselves and African Americans a profound injustice. It makes us complicit in perpetuating dangerous stereotypes about African Americans – and by extension, all black people.

Dishonesty in identity politics endangers black immigrant youth by failing to prepare them for the extended mental assault that this country’s racism will have on their bodies – and for the physical assaults that could claim their lives more quickly.

Every 28 hours in this country, a black person is killed extrajudicially by police or vigilantes. Black immigrants are deported at numbers that far eclipse other immigrant groups because we are perceived as criminal. These facts do not exist independently of one another. By entering this country, we have woven ourselves into the racial patchwork of a nation that would rather soak its colored threads in blood.

We are here, working jobs and living our lives, only because of the profound sacrifices that black folks in this country have been making since its inhumane inception. We cannot pretend to only have inherited its riches; we cannot turn our backs on the kinfolk who made our existence here possible just because we falsely believe their concerns to not include us. We bear the beauty of blackness – now we must bear its responsibilities.


As Ferguson goes, so goes the nation. What happens to a national crisis now?

Police have cooled. Local leaders have promised. Eric Holder has come to town. Can a microcosm for American malice become a kind of peace?
Syreeta McFadden, Thursday 21 August 2014 12.15 BST   
As Missouri goes, so goes the nation.

My history teacher taught us that when I was 16 years old. It was in Missouri, after all, where Dred Scott sued for his freedom, where the US supreme court would take up his case and declare that black men “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”.

As Ferguson goes, so goes the nation.

The year 2014 taught us that. It was in Ferguson, after all, where fast-food workers at McDonald’s protested for higher wages, where the St Louis-area fry cooks get told “that’s all you deserve, that’s all you need”.


It was Missouri that joined the union as a slave state on 10 August 1821, then voted against secession and remained with the union, then witnessed a bloody massacre between secessionist and union loyalists.


It was Ferguson that fired the black superintendent of its schools in March, as a town with a 70% black population and a 97% white police force remained a town with an 85% white city council and a white mayor who ran unopposed, then witnessed 6% of its eligible black voters participate in the last election.

Why is Ferguson, Missouri, of all places, still the bellwether for our national conversation around race and representation? Why is Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of 21,000, just now the place to bear witness to assembly, to free speech, to free press, to democracy in action?

Why Ferguson? Why not Ferguson?

The protests of the killing of Michael Brown began while his body lay out on the street for four hours. In the nearly two weeks since, a nation has watched a gathering of outrage as civil action. For every act of civil disobedience, Ferguson and the St Louis County law enforcement community have met the protesters with force. They brought dogs and guns, tanks and teargas. They immediately feared the black and brown citizens of their small municipality – of just 21,000 – simply because black anger and outrage frightened them. For every scared cop, there was a little war. Their reaction to the black body became a microcosm for American malice.

So Ferguson is where the shit goes down. Where goes the nation now?
The social contract of every police officer – to serve the communities they are sworn to protect – is on the line.

And in Missouri, they have a questionable track record. Last year, in 86% of traffic stops and searches, 92% of those searches were of black citizens, while police officers were less likely to discover contraband on black drivers (22% black versus 34% white). In 2009, Ferguson police allegedly beat an innocent man and charged him with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms.

Nearly two weeks of excessive policing and harassment in Ferguson proves that the black body in public space is still criminal before innocent. Police must replace an ex officio policy of intimidation with a show of respect for the lives of people in the communities they protect equal to that of their own.
The faith in local government – to act as an intermediary between town and city and state and country – that, too, is on the line.

The St Louis County prosecutor appears sympathetic to law enforcement, the Ferguson mayor is in denial about any racial divisions in his town, and the governor is reticent to exert his powers to appoint a special prosecutor in responding to calls from Ferguson residents and a state senator.

St Louis County, with over 90 towns and suburbs sprung from decades of housing desegregation struggles, is a balkanized republic, and law enforcement has acted as an arm to reinforce these divisions by targeting blacks citizens for crossing town lines.

The foundation of American democracy – of our civil liberties and our constitution – are challenged, so long as our black bodies are mistreated, so long as we don’t do anything.

If a resident of Ferguson can be arrested for standing on her front lawn, what is freedom then? If a working man in Missouri can’t make it to the protest before the curfew, what good is his right to assemble? If a citizen of America is confined to a kind of house arrest where teargas seeps through the window-cracks, what does it mean to be an American anymore?

And if we are a nation of laws, shouldn’t they also apply to law enforcement when they act in error? The brazen lack of transparency by authorities in Ferguson is what set tempers aflame. An unarmed 18-year-old with his hands up in surrender was shot to death by a police officer; the public simply wanted to know why, the people wanted simple accountability. In the absence of trust, we turn to federal oversight. Attorney general Eric Holder is a temporary balm to a fractured community, promising to “work with the police, civil rights leaders, and members of the public” in “bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve”. But his justice department must do better: we don’t need a bridge – we need tectonics.

The mayor of Ferguson wants to the diversify the police force, to invest in programs for schools and businesses. Community leaders and residents of Missouri engaged in civil disobedience want to use the momentum – the relative calm of the last couple nights – to nurture reflective new leaders. America wants to look in the rearview mirror and look forward at the same time.

Brown will finally be laid to rest on Monday. His family will be waiting months for answers or even a charge for Darren Wilson, the man who killed their son. His American family will be doing the good and grimy work of correcting the fault lines of race and class – filling the unbridged space that was always there in all our Fergusons, all our Missouris. We will bear witness all over again, with our eyes open.


Ferguson: a blue collar town made desperate by years on the edge

The community, already struggling as America’s rustbelt decays, risks falling into abject poverty in the wake of clashes with police

Rory Carroll in Ferguson, Thursday 21 August 2014 07.35 BST       

When Wall Street investors take a financial hit they call it getting a haircut. For Thomas Bradley, a barber in Ferguson, the mayhem in this Missouri town has given the expression a literal meaning.

The 24-year-old sat in one of his own leather chairs, a bib around his neck, to receive a haircut from a colleague, Toriano Johnson. Why not? There were no customers.

Eleven days of protests triggered by the police shooting of an unarmed African American teenager have reduced business by 80%, leaving the barbershop’s 10 employees idle – and increasingly anxious.

“It’s bad. People don’t want to come to this area right now, everyone’s on edge,” said Bradley.

It one sense that is a familiar feeling: this blue collar outpost of St Louis has long lived on an economic edge, balanced between getting by and tumbling into poverty.

The clashes between riot police and protestors, furious over the 9 August death of Michael Brown, 18, have focused worldwide attention on militarised US policing but they have also damaged local businesses and pushed some of their workers and families closer to destitution.

One store is burnt and gutted, other businesses are smashed and looted, others are physically unscathed but bereft of customers.

“I’m down 99%,” said Kaye Mershon, owner of the Clip Appeal beauty salon. “The police shut down the street, people can’t get in. And by the time they open it people are afraid to come.” Consequences for her six staff were grave, said Mershon.

Sonny Dayan’s electrical goods store, which abuts the spot where police assemble armoured vehicles each night, has lost half its normal revenue, he said. “It’s not on purpose but police are hurting the local businesses more than the looters.” An assistant, Steve Beale, 27, fretted about losing shifts. “I can’t afford to lose a dollar.”

Some store owners have boarded up their windows and doors and said they haemorrhaged so much they may not reopen.

Mershon doubted that. “I have faith in recovery. It may take some time but we’ll be OK.”
Teargas lands in residential gardens in Ferguson, Missouri Teargas lands in residential gardens in Ferguson, Missouri Photograph: Jon Swaine

But reverting to normal, turning back the clock to how things were a fortnight ago, may not be enough.

Economic marginalisation, as well as heavy-handed policing, have driven the protests, said activists and analysts.

“People are stuck. It’s a grinding existence, you’re trying to make it, doing your best, but you’re falling down, and your kids are not making it,” said Clarence Lo, a sociologist at the University of Missouri who studies protest movements. “There are so many frustrations. And on top of that a cop harasses you for walking down the street.”

Ferguson is no Gothamesque slum of crumbling tenements and crack dens. It is a working class suburb of single-family homes and low-rise apartment blocks which used to be a gateway to the middle class. Manufacturing jobs offered decent wages and there was a decent public school system.

Something went wrong. You see it in the physical landscape of potholes and pawn brokers. And in the desperation. Some of it quiet: a mother counting out pennies, dimes and quarters to buy ice cream for her two children in McDonald’s. Some of it more dramatic: the owner of a burger bar bolting out onto the street after a skinny, grubby young man with shattered teeth. “You took from the tip jar! I saw you! Give it back.”

A major culprit is de-industrialisation. Missouri is part of the rustbelt of shuttered factories which arcs across the midwest.

The father of Bradley, the barber, used to work at a nearby Chrysler plant until it shut down. Then he worked at Boeing until it downsized and laid him off. It left his son little chance to go to college. “He earned $24 an hour in 1990,” marvelled Bradley. He did not know anyone in Ferguson who earned anything close to that now, 24 years later.

Toriano Johnson, 39, the colleague clipping Bradley’s hair, sighed. “Back in the day when people drove American cars you could get a good job and go to college. Times change.”
A customer prepares to enter the boarded up but still open Ferguson Market & Liquor store in an area where several businesses have been burned down. A customer prepares to enter the boarded up but still open Ferguson Market & Liquor store in an area where several businesses have been burned down. Photograph: Sipa USA/Rex

The closure of Chrysler, Ford and McDonnell Douglas plants cost thousands of unionised jobs in the area and triggered a vicious cycle, said Mark Esters, 50, a former Chrysler worker-turned vice-president of the St Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

Suppliers to the factories also went bust, costing more jobs. This devastated not just family incomes but the local tax base, degrading police salaries, the quality of schools and student test scores, among other things. “A downward spiral. It’s all linked,” said Esters.

When Ferguson and nearby suburbs were largely white and relatively prosperous they incorporated themselves into cities to gain independence from St Louis, a move which backfired when factories shut, said Lo. “Now those little enclaves are impoverished.”

Another blow was the closure of a bakery which made Twinkies after Hostess Brands tried to slash wages, prompting a dispute with unions.

Some 47% of African American men aged 16-24 in St Louis county are unemployed. Even that understates the economic crisis since many of those who do have jobs, men and women, earn a pittance in service jobs. “It used to be McDonnell Douglas was considered a good job. Now it’s McDonald’s,” said Teresa Mithen Danieley, rector of an episcopal church.

The scenes of looting, tear-gas and boarded up stores looked bleak, said Lara Granich, director of the Missouri branch of Jobs with Justice, an advocacy group, but they could herald positive change. “I hope we make this a turning point.”

The energy unleashed by the protests could galvanise efforts to unionise McDonald’s workers and give home care workers the right to collective bargaining, among other causes, said Granich. “Getting rid of the idea that there has to be poverty jobs is a very important step. Economic inequality and racism are mutually reinforcing forces.”


Ferguson Cop Who Killed Mike Brown Shot More Bullets Than The Entire British Police Force Did Last Year

By CrooksAndLiars
August 21, 2014 6:56 am

That's an interesting statistic, isn't it?

To give you some perspective on how militarized and trigger happy our police departments are here in America, Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown six to eight times,  fired more bullets than the entire British police force did last year.

The Economist reports:

    Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain's population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales's 43 forces during the same period.

    The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British police officer was killed by a firearm on duty was in 2012, in a brutal case in Manchester. The annual number of murders by shooting is typically less than 50.

Five Thirty Eight disputed the data, but added, "No matter how the numbers are counted, English and Welsh police officers fire guns much less frequently than do their American counterparts. Not every U.S. police agency reports discharge numbers."

The use of deadly force should be the last alternative, not the first.


‘I will f*cking kill you!’ St. Louis cop suspended for pointing rifle at peaceful protester

By Reuters
Thursday, August 21, 2014 9:20 EDT

By Carey Gillam

FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) – (Please note: there is strong language used by the police officer in paragraph seven)

A St. Louis-area police officer was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday for pointing a semi-automatic assault rifle at a peaceful demonstrator as tensions flared during protests over the Aug. 9 police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown.

The incident just before midnight on Tuesday punctuated the 11th straight night of racially charged demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, since Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was slain by a white police officer.

No one was hurt in the gun-pointing confrontation, but the incident underscored what many have criticized as heavy-handed and unprofessional police tactics that have helped stoke continuing civil unrest.

According to an official account from the St. Louis County Police Department, an unnamed policeman from the neighboring community of St. Ann leveled his weapon at a Ferguson protester “after a verbal exchange,” and that a superior county officer, a sergeant, quickly intervened.

The sergeant “immediately took action, forcing the officer to lower the weapon and escorting him away from the area,” a statement from the county department said.

In video footage of the episode widely circulated on social media, the white officer in question, wide-eyed and agitated, is seen pointing his rifle at numerous demonstrators and members of the media.

At one point, he is heard yelling, “I will fucking kill you, get back, get back,” before the sergeant calmly steps in to defuse the situation, orders him to lower the weapon and leads him away from cameras.

“The unified command strongly feel these actions are inappropriate, and not indicative of the officers who have worked daily to keep the peace,” the police statement said.

It said the officer in question had been relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely but gave no further details of any investigation or discipline he might face.

In an unrelated videotaped confrontation from earlier in the day in St. Louis that also went viral, police shot and killed a 23-year-old black man who they said brandished a knife at officers and yelled at them to “shoot me now, kill me.”

The two officers, who were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, opened fire after the man refused repeated orders to drop his weapon, police said.

The incident occurred a few miles from the scene of the protests in Ferguson near a convenience store where the man had snatched some drinks and snacks before police were called.

Footage of that incident, in which the man is seen moving toward police with his arms downward after exhorting them to shoot, led some observers to question why officers resorted to deadly force rather than use a Taser stun gun to subdue him.

“There are other ways to stop people if you feel you are in danger than shooting them,” said Linda Gladson, 63, a white resident of St. Louis who has spent 20 years as an urban planner in the city.

“We need to stop using lethal force as a first option,” she said, standing outside the St. Louis County Justice Center on Wednesday holding a homemade sign that read: “Taser Then Talk!!!”

The fatal shooting sparked concerns about a possible escalation of public anger in the aftermath of the Brown slaying, but as of late on Wednesday had yet to measurably add to the overall level of prevailing tension in the area.


Cop barred from Ferguson protests after telling reporter, ‘I’m going to f*cking kill you’

By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 17:45 EDT

A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri was removed from duty on Wednesday after being caught on video threatening to kill a reporter during the latest demonstration in the city.

The Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on its website that the officer’s removal followed a letter sent to state Highway Patrol Superintendent Cpl. Ron Repogle questioning his behavior.

CNN reported that the officer was relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely.

The video shows the officer approaching the reporter, identified by the Free Thought Project as Joe Biggs, with his firearm raised. The officer can be seen looking toward him and saying, “I’m going to f*cking kill you.”

When the person filming the encounter, who identifies himself as “Rebelutionary_Z,” asked the officer for his name, he replied, “Go f*ck yourself” before being led away by another officer.

The ACLU included a link to the video in its letter to Repogle, calling on him to identify and remove the officer from duty.

“This officer’s conduct — from pointing a weapon, to threatening to kill, to responding with profanity to a request for identity — was from start to finish wholly unacceptable,” the letter stated. “Such behavior serves to heighten, not reduce, tension.”

On its website, the ACLU said it was told by the Highway Patrol that the officer — whose name has still not been revealed — was a member of the police department in St. Ann, a town about 7 miles away. The police department there did not respond to The Raw Story’s request for his identity before publication.

Watch the video, as posted online on Wednesday, below.


Cop Tasers compliant teen into fit of seizures: ‘He was trying to kill my son,’ says mom

By David Edwards
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 13:45 EDT

An African-American teen in Connecticut is recovering in the hospital after being shocked by Hartford police with a Taser, even though his family said that he was obeying officers’ commands.

In surveillance video obtained by WTIC, 18-year-old Luis Anglero Jr. can be seen walking up to an officer, and then comes to a sudden stop and puts his arms to his side.

However, the officer continues to advance toward Anglero, and fires his Taser, causing the teen to fall to the ground.

Members of Anglero’s family who witnessed the incident said that the teen hit his head on the sidewalk, and started to bleed. In cell phone video recorded by witnesses, Anglero shakes uncontrollably as if he is having a seizure.

“The officer told my brother, if you move up more I’m going to tase you, so my brother he went like this, he went like this, he was standing like this and then the guy just shot him for no reason with the tase,” Nautigo Negron, Anglero’s sister, told WTIC.

According to Anglero’s mother, MaryAnn Yearwood, he was running to the aid of his sister, who had been involved in a fight at a nearby convenience store.

“This man could have just stopped and went like that and my son would have stopped. You took that out for no reason, you just wanted to shoot him for no reason,” Yearwood said.

As of Tuesday, Anglero was still in the hospital.

“The hospital wants to keep him over night because his seizing won’t stop. My son is barely 140 pounds,” his mother explained. “For him to hit my son with all that and keep his hand on it intentionally, I think he was trying to kill my son.”

Deputy Chief Brian Foley told WTIC that Anglero had been place under arrest, but declined to specify the charges. Foley also refused to watch the video evidence, saying that he could be accused of trying to influence the investigation.

“The supervisor told him not to go any further, he could clearly see that he was an agitator, I guess he took his shirt off at that point and disregarded the orders of the supervisor and continued toward the scene where there was quite a disturbance,” Foley insisted, adding that the officer had followed regulations by using a 5-second Taser burst on Anglero.

“If they have a claim of excessive force we’d be happy to listen to them. We have a system of checks and balances in place right now and if they feel that way, we encourage them to come forward,” he said.

The Courant reported that the officer, who was identified as Det. Shawn Ware, was still on active duty.


Los Angeles settles case of disabled man shot dead by police with $5 million payout

By International Business Times
Thursday, August 21, 2014 7:04 EDT

The Los Angeles City Council has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of an unarmed, disabled man, who was killed in December by local police. The settlement comes at a time when another city in the country is dealing with the fallout of a shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by local police.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, or LAPD, had chased Brian Beaird's silver Corvette for nearly an hour, after he ran several red lights and stop signs, and hit another vehicle, injuring the driver. The police then shot him several times after Beaird had stepped out of the car and briefly raised his hands. Beaird, who was a National Guard veteran until 1988, was reportedly under constant medical care after he underwent a surgery for brain tumor. Beaird's family had sought $20 million in the lawsuit.

"It implicitly says they acknowledge that the shooting was inappropriate and should not have happened," Dale K. Galipo, the Beaird family’s lawyer said, according to the Associated Press, or AP, adding that the family was grateful that the council agreed for a settlement. "It seems to take a video to really force their hand in settling a case like this," Galipo added, referring to the live broadcast of the incident on television, which was watched by several people, including Beaird's father.

Beaird was reportedly paranoid at the time of the chase and dealing with several emotional problems after his brain surgery, including the loss of six of his close friends in a helicopter crash.

"He couldn't understand why the police were chasing him, and he didn't know what to do," Galipo said, according to AP, adding: "He called his family during the pursuit and asked what he should do. And they told him he should pull over ... and he said 'I'm afraid' and kept going."

The lawsuit, which was filed against the LAPD by Beaird’s parents, charged the police to be inadequately trained, of using excessive force, and committing battery and negligence.

"It's very unfortunate on everyone's part, on the driver's part, and the officers involved," Joe Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer, said according to AP, adding: "In this case, you had a pursuit that lasted a long time, involved three agencies, and I felt that there's an opportunity to proceed and challenge the case."

The settlement comes at a time when hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to protest against the shooting death of an unarmed, black teenager -- 18-year-old Michael Brown -- by a police officer on Aug. 9. A federal investigation has been launched into the incident, which has triggered a nationwide wave of indignation over police behavior.


Video Of North St. Louis Shooting Tells A Different Story

By karoli
August 20, 2014 5:27 pm -

This video shot by a bystander shows the shooting of Kajieme Powell, age 25 in North St. Louis. Warning:
On Tuesday, another young black man was shot dead by police just a couple of miles away from Ferguson, but the press on the scene were assured the circumstances were very different.

Click to view:

Here is the official account released to the press yesterday:

    When police arrived, they said Powell walked toward them clutching his waistband. They say he then pulled out a knife and held it up in what Dotson described as an "overhand grip."

    The officers, who were still in the patrol vehicle, say Powell yelled, "Shoot me now, kill me now." The police officers yelled at Powell to drop the knife, but Dotson says Powell did not respond to verbal commands. Witnesses say they heard police giving verbal commands to Powell to drop the knife.

    Dotson says one officer got out of the patrol car, and when Powell displayed his knife, the officers drew their weapons.

    According to Dotson, Powell walked toward the officer still sitting in the patrol car, and when he moved between three and four feet from the vehicle holding the knife, both officers fired their weapons, striking him. The officers are identified as a 25-year-old man with 3.2 years of service and a 31-year-old man with 2.6 years of service.

The video is shocking and graphic. Be forewarned. If you don't want to watch it, here are my impressions:

I did see Powell walk toward the officers. I didn't hear them tell him to stop or turn around, though. Powell approaches, they shoot. And they shoot a lot of bullets. It all happens very, very fast. I also didn't see anything in his hands, nor did he bring them up in a threatening way. I don't see where they found it necessary to shoot him.

Powell's parents contend that he was mentally ill, but not violent.

Was deadly force the only option in that situation? Why no taser?

UPDATE: I missed this detail the first time around and it's a big one. According to the official police statements, Powell was holding that knife in an overhand grip.   

    In a statement delivered yesterday before a crowd near the scene of the shooting, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that both officers opened fire on Powell after the suspect came within three or four feet of police while holding the knife in an "overhand grip."

No he wasn't. I didn't see a knife, and I sure as hell saw no overhand grip. That's just not there.

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:37 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Neanderthals walked among us – study

Species now thought to have held out alongside modern humans in Europe for thousands of years but extent of mixing is unclear

Associated Press in Berlin, Thursday 21 August 2014 01.55 BST   

Modern humans and Neanderthals may have coexisted in Europe for more than 5,000 years, providing ample time for the two species to meet and mix, according to new research.

Using new carbon dating techniques and mathematical models, researchers examined about 200 samples found at 40 sites from Spain to Russia, according to a study published in the journal Nature. They concluded with a high probability that pockets of Neanderthal culture survived until between 41,030 and 39,260 years ago.

Although this puts the disappearance of Neanderthals earlier than some scientists previously thought, the findings support the idea that they lived alongside humans, who arrived in Europe about 45,000-43,000 years ago.

“We believe we now have the first robust timeline that sheds new light on some of the key questions around the possible interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans,” said Thomas Higham, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford who led the study.

While there is evidence that Neanderthal genes have survived in the DNA of today’s humans, suggesting that at least some interbreeding took place, scientists are still unclear about the extent of their contact and the reasons why Neanderthals vanished.

“These new results confirm a long-suspected chronological overlap between the last Neanderthals and the first modern humans in Europe,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Apart from narrowing the length of time that the two species existed alongside each other to between 2,600 and 5,400 years, Higham and his colleagues also believe they have shown that Neanderthals and humans largely kept to themselves.

“What we don’t see is that there is spatial overlap [in where they settled],” said Higham. This is considered puzzling, because there is evidence that late-stage Neanderthals were culturally influenced by modern humans. Samples taken from some Neanderthal sites include artefacts that look like those introduced to Europe by humans migrating from Africa.

This would point to the possibility that Neanderthals, whose name derives from a valley in western Germany, adopted certain human habits and technologies even as they were being gradually pushed out of their territory.

“I think they were eventually outcompeted,” said Higham.

Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, cautioned that the study relied to a large degree on testing of stone tools, rather than bones, and these had not been conclusively linked to particular species, or hominins.

“The results of this impressive dating study are clear, but the assumptions about the association of stone artefact with hominin types underlying the interpretation of the dating results will be undoubtedly rigorously tested in field – and laboratory – work over the near future,” said Roebroeks, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Such testing can now be done with a chronologically clean slate.”


Our life with the Neanderthals was no brief affair

By Reuters
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 14:55 EDT
By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) – Far from wiping out Neanderthals overnight, modern humans rubbed along with their shorter and stockier cousins for thousands of years, giving plenty of time for the two groups to share ideas – and have sex.

The most accurate timeline yet for the demise of our closest relatives, published on Wednesday, shows Neanderthals overlapped with present-day humans in Europe for between 2,600 and 5,400 years before disappearing about 40,000 years ago.

Pinpointing how and when the Neanderthals became extinct has been tough because the mainstay process of radiocarbon dating is unreliable for samples that are more than 30,000 years old, due to contamination.

The latest six-year project by researchers at the University of Oxford used modern methods to remove contaminants and accurately date nearly 200 samples of bone, charcoal and shell from 40 important archaeological sites across Europe.

The data showed that Neanderthals vanished from Europe between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago – but rather than being replaced rapidly by modern humans, their disappearance occurred at different times across sites from the Black Sea to the Atlantic.

“Now that we are using better techniques, the picture is becoming much more clear in terms of the process by which Neanderthals disappeared from Europe,” said lead researcher Tom Higham. “Our results suggest there was a mosaic of populations.”

Scientists already know from DNA evidence that there was some interbreeding between the two groups, although it is not clear whether this occurred once or many times. Recent studies have suggested between 1.5 and 2.1 percent of the DNA of modern non-African human populations originates from Neanderthals.

“In a way, our close cousins, as Neanderthals are, aren’t extinct,” according to Higham. “They carry on in us today.”

Paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the research, said the new findings were “striking” and backed up the idea that modern humans and Neanderthals may have learnt from each other.

He believes interbreeding probably first occurred in Asia soon after modern humans began to leave Africa around 60,000 years ago, so the latest evidence indicates the two populations may have been in some kind of contact for up to 20,000 years – much longer than in Europe alone.


Many scientists now reject the notion that Neanderthals were dim-witted brutes and point to evidence of use of symbolic objects, which may have been learnt from modern humans.

The Oxford team dated a number of items from sites of so-called transitional stone tool industries – viewed as either the work of the last of the Neanderthals or early modern humans – and found they were all between 40,000 and 45,000 years old, indicating a period of possible cultural exchange.

Interestingly, they found no evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans lived particularly closely together. Rather, Neanderthals probably survived in dwindling populations in pockets of Europe before dying out altogether.

It is unclear what killed off the Neanderthals, although theories include an inability to adapt to climate change and increased economic competition from more agile modern humans.

While the latest work provides the most robust timeline so far of the last days of the Neanderthals, there are still gaps in coverage, particularly in Siberia and eastern regions of Eurasia. That is something the researchers plan to address in follow-up investigations.

“Ultimately, our aim is to create kind of movies that show the arrival and departure of different sub-species of humans across Europe,” Higham said in an interview filmed in his lab. “We are part-way towards that but there is a still a lot more work we can do.”

Some scientists have hypothesized that late-surviving groups of Neanderthals lived in places such as Gibraltar after 40,000 years ago, but the latest dating provides no evidence of this, according to the Oxford team, whose findings were published in the journal Nature.

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:33 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Marina Silva secures Socialist party nomination for Brazil presidency

Former environment minister vying for second place in polls after death of Eduardo Campos in plane crash

Jonathan Watts and agencies in Rio de Janeiro, Thursday 21 August 2014 01.33 BST

The mixed-race daughter of a poor, illiterate family of Amazonian rubber tappers has been chosen as a Brazilian presidential candidate.

Marina Silva, a conservationist and former environment minister, met with members of the Brazilian Socialist party (PSB) in Brasilia who officially approved her as the new candidate. She replaces Eduardo Campos, who died in a plane crash last week. Polls suggest she has the popular support to challenge the president, Dilma Rousseff.

Rousseff, the Workers party candidate who in the 1970s was imprisoned and tortured for her role in a Marxist revolutionary group, remains the favourite. Polls show her in the lead with 38% support for the first-round vote on 5 October.

Until last week, her closest rival with just over 20% was Aécio Neves, the market-oriented head of the Social Democratic party, whose grandfather Tancredo Neves was elected president in 1985 but died before he could take office.

The PSB was in third place until the crash, but according to the latest polls, Silva is now vying for the runner-up spot with 21%. If there is a second round – which now looks almost certain – the two main polling companies put Silva narrowly ahead of the president, though the gap is so small as to be within the margin of error.

Last Wednesday, Silva was the vice-presidential running mate of Campos, a rising political star from the north-east who was in third place with just under 10% of the vote. The two of them planned to fly together from interviews in Rio de Janeiro to a campaign stop in São Paulo. However, Silva had a last-minute change of schedule and was not on the Cessna jet when it crashed into the residential neighbourhood of Santos, killing everyone on board.

The cause of the accident is still being investigated. According to the Brazilian air force, the black box on board the plane did not record the flight details. There has been no suggestion of sabotage. Pilot error and bad weather are thought most likely to blame.

The crash triggered a nationwide wave of mourning for Campos, who was a popular and effective governor of Pernambuco state. About 100,000 people crammed into the centre of the capital, Recife to see his coffin and watch a commemorative mass on Sunday. Among them were Rousseff, Neves and the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, but the focus of political attention was on Silva.

Whether the PSB would choose such an uncompromising environmentalist, devoted evangelical Christian and mixed-race woman as the successor to Campos, a Catholic pro-business "third-way" candidate, was the subject of intense speculation

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:31 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Argentina in latest debt default crisis pits 'motherland' against 'vultures'

President Kirchner is bearing down on a US ruling that benefits just a few bond-holders, but critics say her economic policies are anyway 'leading nowhere'

Stephen Phelan in Buenos Aires
The Guardian, Wednesday 20 August 2014 18.03 BST   

Happy hour is now in full swing at The Temple Bar, a busy British-style pub in the upscale Palermo Soho district of Buenos Aires. Over a pint of artisan pale ale, a young economist, Martin Trombetta, admits it is hard to tell from where we are sitting that his country is now in default again.

For many observers it is difficult to be sure whether this is even the case. Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, continues to insist that the country has not recently defaulted on its sovereign debt for the second time in 13 years, while her chief finance minister, Axel Kicillof, accuses all those who think otherwise of dealing in "atomic nonsense".

"We're in default all right," says Trombetta, a researcher in labour econometrics at the National University of General Sarmiento. "Leaving all the legal minutiae aside, our access to credit  is null today. The markets have corroborated it."

If the after-work crowd filling the pub don't seem particularly panicked by this, it may be because they have seen and heard it all before.

"I'm sure that a lot of people are worried and confused," says Trombetta. "But they're already living in a country with the second-highest rate of inflation in the world [after Venezuela], and I think they're pretty used to Argentina's economic cycles by now." It may also be, understandably, that they don't fully understand all the legal minutiae.

After almost 10 years of wrangling, the Kirchner government's US court battle against a small but powerful group of foreign creditors has become so internecine that even the presiding judge stands accused of misreading or ignoring certain terms of the swapped bonds in question.

According to the judge, Thomas Griesa, of the New York district court, the clause of pari passu stipulates that all holders be treated as equal. While a majority of Argentina's creditors accepted a vastly reduced payout, or "haircut", on their bonds when the external debt was restructured in 2005 and again in 2010, a minority of "holdouts" made no such agreement.

So, in Griesa's view, those investors – who own about 7% of the debt – have as much right to a return on the full value of their bonds as the 93% who settled for less.

In June this year Griesa ordered a block on the transfer of $539m (£324m) in interest payments from Argentina to the "haircuts", ruling that the "holdouts" would have to be satisfied first.

The Argentinian side (as Argentina has been referred to throughout the proceedings) argued in turn that Griesa was neglecting the "rights upon future offers" (Rufo) clause, which effectively inverts pari passu by prohibiting the full repayment of any one bond-holder without paying all the others the same at once.

If Rufo were activated, the $15bn liability could clear out half the nation's already depleted foreign exchange reserves.

So Argentina refused, the 30 July deadline for a settlement passed, and various ratings agencies downgraded the country to a status of "partial", "technical", "restricted" or "selective" default, all terms rejected by Kirchner and Kicillof. "They will have to invent a new name," said the president.

A name was duly invented by those who tended to blame the judge for this mess, and the hashtag #GrieFault has been trending on Twitter. On Tuesday, Kirchner used a national television address to announce plans to circumvent Griesa's ruling by making payments on its bonds via an Argentinian bank – a move that stunned the bond market.

As the dispute has ground on the holdouts have become better known as vultures. The hedge funds involved, and especially Paul Singer, of Elliott Management, the figurehead of the lawsuit, are now characterised as enemies of the state in government-endorsed graffiti and official hoardings all over Buenos Aires which invite the population to pick a side: "Patria o buitres" (motherland or vultures). For most residents, this is no choice at all.

As a card-carrying member of Partido Obrero, the Argentinian Trotskyist workers' party, Trombetta has no more sympathy for the "vultures" than anyone else. "They knew what they were doing when they bought those bonds for pennies on the dollar, hoping to score big off a struggling country. They're like gamblers who try to sue the casino when they put a little money on black 31 but it came up red 32."

Trombetta believes that, in political terms, the concept of sovereign debt is "a mechanism of capitalist oppression". Like many Latin American leftists he considers the borrowing of US dollar treasury bonds by the military juntas of the 1970s to be the "original sin" at the root of the region's economic problems.

This view is relatively common in Argentina, where the outstanding national debt is contaminated by still-painful memories of the unelected dictatorship that first ran it up, and the later neoliberal governments whose failure to control it led to the domestic deficit crisis of 2001 and the biggest default in history.

As an economist, though, Trombetta cannot bring himself to side with the president or her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, who effectively legitimised the debt when he restructured it in 2005 and swapped the bonds for more favourable interest rates under New York law.

"To make this an ideological fight against the vultures seems entirely false to me," he says. " And Griesa is not the enemy either. He gave the Kirchners nine years to solve this problem with the holdouts, and instead they spent all that time and money on bad economic policies leading nowhere."

Others in the capital still cannot get their heads around the idea of Griesa having jurisdiction over their country.

"I'm an ordinary man, the man in the street," says Rogelio Dolavaraz, who owns the Don Pollo grocery shop in the middle-class neighbourhood of Nuñez. "I'm not familiar with all the details. But I don't agree that a judge from another country should be able to put us in checkmate like this. And his judgment will have repercussions because money has no borders. Money has no friends. When money is involved, the truth is silenced."

Dolavaraz wants to know why Barack Obama is allowing this to happen. And he is not the only one to ask.

Yet another legal clause, in the US constitution, could supposedly solve the entire problem.

"Under the principle of 'comity'," the investigative journalist Greg Palast wrote in the Guardian in August, "Obama only need inform Griesa that Singer's suit interferes with the president's sole authority to conduct foreign policy. Case dismissed."

While Kirchner and Kicillof have seized on this, other commentators say there is no such mechanism in the US for executive override of a court decision. And three weeks into the default, the repercussions remain to be seen.

Internationally, it is nothing new for Argentina to be labelled an economic disaster, and there was no stock market rout in Buenos Aires. The Buenos Aires index has been stable in response to Kirchner's hard line, and the world keeps turning as she said it would – though the bond market reacted negatively to her gambit on Wednesday.

And if Kirchner prints more money to stay afloat through this crisis and maintain her public-spending programme, the country's already astronomical inflation rate is likely to rise yet higher and faster.

The effects, as ever, will fall hardest on the poorest. On the outer edge of the capital in Villa 11-14 – among the biggest and most notorious of the surrounding shantytowns – Susana Arino, a volunteer drug rehab worker, says she does not doubt that the default "will eventually affect the people around here". She adds: "You don't hear much talk about it because they've got bigger day-to-day problems, but it's not going to make their lives any easier."

It is often claimed by Kirchner supporters that her party's social programmes have helped integrate the shanty dwellers, and by her opponents that she has simply bought the vote of Argentina's underclass. As a resident of the neighbouring Barrio Juan XXII, Arino says she has not seen much evidence of improvement since the catastrophic year of 2001, or the subsequent debt restructures of 2005 and 2010 that supposedly allowed the Kirchners to get poverty and unemployment under control.

"It seems to me things are getting worse again," Arino says, citing factory closures and layoffs as proof of a new recession now happening. She believes, she says, the country should just pay its debts. Even if it clears out the reserves? Arino shrugs. "No one in this neighbourhood would ever see that money anyway."


Who to blame for Argentina's disastrous default? Its lawyers, of course

Hedge-fund manager Hans Hume, experienced with national debt and Argentina’s default, argues that the country needs to make a fresh start and fire the law firm that advised default was a good idea

It’s the end of Argentina as we know it and the world feels fine:

Hans Humes, Wednesday 20 August 2014 13.00 BST          

The Argentine nightmare continues. Attempts by local institutions, then international banks, have failed to either prevent or end last month’s default by Argentina, its second in 13 years. The antagonistic rhetoric has heightened and Elliott Associates and the other so-called “holdouts” are squaring off against Argentina’s leadership, including President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and finance minister Axel Kicillof.

This is familiar ground for me. I co-chaired the Global Committee of Argentina Bondholders leading up to the country’s 2005 exchange of its bonds for better terms. I have been involved in more than 20 country debt restructurings and I had never before or since encountered representatives of a country who were more duplicitous, arrogant or who demonized the representatives on the other side of the table more.

At the time, Argentina presented a unilateral offer that only 76% of the creditors accepted (only 63% of international investors accepted), despite our attempts to suggest a modification of their offer that would have been less expensive for the country in the long run and would have garnered over 90% of the bondholders to accept the offer.

This was only the beginning of Argentina choosing to engage in antagonistic and self destructive behaviour rather than engage creditors in a negotiation.

This second looming battle of scorched-earth tactics will benefit no one, least of all Argentina itself. The country has followed the course laid out in the 2 May memo written by its law firm, Cleary Gottlieb. The essential problem faced by Argentina is that “holdout” US hedge funds, including Elliott Capital Management, want repayment of Argentina’s bonds on the original terms – stretching back over a decade ago. These funds have taken the case of Argentina’s bonds to US courts. American judge Thomas Griesa, who has presided over the case for years, has recently handed Argentina decisions it does not like, requiring the country to pay the holdouts.

Cleary Gottlieb’s solution: on 2 May, the law firm advised Argentina to intentionally default on its bonds, in order to force a renegotiation of the debt and to take the case away from American judges.

    The best option for the republic could be to permit the supreme court to force a default and then immediately restructure all of the external bonds so that the payment mechanism and the other related elements are outside of the reach of American courts.

This is bad advice, and Argentina continues to follow it. If Argentina moves to restructure all its debt outside the United States to avoid the jurisdiction of the courts, it will deepen its status as a pariah country. The government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner risks leaving deep structural problems for any subsequent administration, not only in the Argentine economy but in the legal and financial relationship with the developed world, all of which may take years to repair.

This path, while recommended by Cleary, does not have to be followed over the precipice. The Kirchner administration can choose to deviate from this path, repair its relationship with Washington and the international financial community. This way out can actually be quite easy.

So what to do?

Argentina needs to fire Cleary Gottlieb.

Blaming the lawyers is a time-tested and proven strategy. But in this case, it gives Argentina a very easy way to change course. I do not for a moment think that the situation Argentina finds itself is not of the current and prior administrations’ doing. The Kirchners have been, and are, obsessed with political control over economic rationality.

But at this stage, it would be expedient for the country to lay the responsibility for the country’s losses in the US courts at the feet of their US law firm. This simple act will be a complete break from the past. It is hardly unprecedented. Ecuador fired Cleary Gottlieb prior to its 2009 buyback. They have since retired almost all their holdout debt and recently issued debt in the international markets.

Firing Cleary would provide a legitimate way to ask Judge Griesa for a stay. I suspect it might also clear some of the toxic atmosphere in the dialogue with the holdouts. Argentina could certainly benefit from legal advice that isn’t contaminated with a decade of being vested in the fight – advice that might de-emphasize the danger of Rufo (more on which shortly), and look for constructive solutions and a dialogue rather than years of continued battle. While hourly billing may drop, the outlook for Argentina and its international reputation will rise.

The Rufo clause: not the big deal you would believe

The circumstances facing Argentina do seem daunting. The country claims it cannot pay the holdouts because a clause in the 2005 and 2010 debt negotiations would require the country to pay all of the bondholders the same amount of money. This clause is called, in legal terms, the Right on Future Offers, or Rufo clause. If Argentina pays the holdouts, it would also have to pay current bondholders their back interest, which would negate the whole purpose of the original debt restructuring. Argentina says the cost of the Rufo clause could be $120bn.

What Argentina and Cleary Gottlieb seem to overlook is that the Rufo clause seems not to apply to this situation. Let’s take a quick look at the clause that has created so much paranoia in the Argentine government’s mind.

It seems pretty straightforward. It hinges on one word: “voluntarily”. The Rufo clause holds that if Argentina voluntarily makes an offer to exchange or purchase the bonds held by the holdouts, its officials will have to make the same offer to the bondholders who already exchanged their Argentinian debt at a lower price in 2005 and 2010.

Argentina, however, is not voluntarily doing anything. It has been required by the courts to pay the holdouts. Therefore, it seems a little bit of a stretch to think that anyone could argue that – with a court order – there would be anything “voluntary” about Argentina settling. Moreover, virtually no other financial institution has the appetite or ability to litigate like Elliott. In my estimate, the chance of anyone litigating for, and winning equal terms, is nil.

Argentina could ask for a waiver of the Rufo clause. A consent to waive would be cumbersome; it would require wrangling agreements from hundreds of bondholders. However, a number of exchange bondholders have already offered to do exactly that. No bondholder has yet threatened to sue Argentina to get equal treatment if the holdouts get paid. The simple act of requesting a waiver would signal to the market that Argentina is looking to resolve rather than exacerbate the issues facing it.

Argentina’s obsession with Rufo and its inaction on requesting a waiver have heightened the perception that it isn’t these issues that are preventing the country from resolving this issue.

More and more, the market and the banks who are attempting to negotiate with Argentina see this as merely a pretext for ignoring the court judgment, and increasingly believe that Argentina’s desire to negotiate in January will be as nonexistent as it appears now.


Argentina files legal action against the US at The Hague over debt default

Argentina asks the international court of justice to act over an alleged breach of its sovereignty after hedge funds dispute

The Guardian, Thursday 7 August 2014 19.46 BST   

Argentina has asked the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague to take action against the United States over an alleged breach of its sovereignty as it defaulted on its debt.

Argentina defaulted last week after losing a long legal battle with hedge funds that rejected the terms of debt restructurings in 2005 and 2010.

A statement issued by the ICJ, the United Nation's highest court for disputes between nations, said Argentina's request had been sent to the US government. It added that no action will be taken in the proceedings "unless and until" Washington accepts the court's jurisdiction.

The US has recognised the court's jurisdiction in the past, but it was not immediately clear if it would do so in Argentina's case.

The default came after Argentina failed last week to strike a deal with the main holdouts among investors, hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management.

Buenos Aires maintains it has not defaulted because it made a required interest payment on one of its bonds due in 2033, but a judge in the US district court in Manhattan blocked that deposit in June, saying it violated an earlier ruling.

Argentina said in its application to the court that the United States had "committed violations of Argentinian sovereignty and immunities and other related violations as a result of judicial decisions adopted by US tribunals."

Latin America's third-largest economy defaulted on about $100bn (£59bn) of sovereign bonds in 2002. Most holders of those bonds accepted less than 30 cents on the dollar in the 2005 and 2010 restructurings. But a minority of holders opted to sue in the US courts for full repayment.

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:22 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
New study highlights precarious state of the world’s primary forests

By RedOrbit
August 20, 2014

An estimated 95 percent of the primary forests that existed prior to the advent of agriculture have been lost in non-protected areas, according to new research published online Thursday in the Society for Conservation Biology journal Conservation Letters.

The paper, which was prepared by an international team of experts in forest ecology, conservation biology, international policy and practical forest conservation issues, details what the authors are calling a global analysis of the ecosystem also known as old-growth forests and also features a map illustrating their findings.

Lead researcher Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and colleagues from organizations such as the US Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Geos Institute and Australian National University conclude that primary forest protection is a global concern and should be the responsibility of both developed and developing countries.

In a statement, the Wildlife Conservation Society said that old-growth forests, which are “forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted,” have been “largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats.”

The organization added that these forests “are home to an extraordinary richness of biodiversity, with up to 57 percent of all tropical forest species dependent on primary forest habitat and the ecological processes they provide.”

Their analysis has determined that nearly 98 percent of all primary forests can be found in 25 countries, and that roughly half of that figure is located in just five developed nations: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Russia and the US.

Professor Mackey cautions that human activities such as industrial logging, mining and agriculture pose a grave threat to these forest lands, especially those located outside of protected areas. He also said that new policies were urgently needed in order to reduce the pressure to make primary forests available for industrial land use.

“International negotiations are failing to halt the loss of the world's most important primary forests,” he explained. “In the absence of specific policies for primary forest protection in biodiversity and climate change treaties, their unique biodiversity values and ecosystem services will continue to be lost in both developed and developing countries.”

“Primary forests are a matter of significant conservation concern. Most forest-endemic biodiversity needs primary forest for their long-term persistence and large intact forest landscapes are under increasingly pressure from incompatible land use,” added co-author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Mackey, Watson and their colleagues devised four new actions that they believe could serve as a foundation for new international forest-protection policies, starting with the recognition of primary forests as a matter of global concern and not just an issue in developing countries.

They are also calling for the incorporation of these forests into environmental accounting, including acknowledgement of their services to the ecosystem, including freshwater and watershed services, and the use of a science-based definition to distinguish primary forests. In addition, they are calling for policies seeking to avoid further biodiversity loss and emissions from primary forest deforestation and degradation to become a priority.

Finally, they are calling for the universal acceptance of the important role that indigenous and community conserved areas play in the protection of these forests, calling on governments to use this issue as “a mechanism within multilateral environmental agreements to support sustainable livelihoods for the extensive populations of forest-dwelling peoples, especially traditional peoples, in developed and developing countries.”

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:19 AM 
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Ancient scourge? Myanmar still sees 3,000 new leprosy cases a year

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, August 21, 2014 5:22 EDT

High in the hills of Myanmar’s war-torn borderlands, a clutch of new leprosy cases among communities virtually cut off from medical help is a sign that the country’s battle with the ancient disease is far from over.

It took six days by plane, boat, motorcycle, bus — and an arduous mountain trek — for a group of medical workers to treat two leprosy patients in a remote corner of the country, where conflict and neglect are the legacy of decades of military rule and even access to basic medicines is a distant dream.

But the charity-funded medics were also on the lookout for evidence that the disease had spread.

They soon found three more leprosy sufferers, including one man who had such a severe case he required hospital care.

“I promised him that I would come back for him or I would send someone to pick him up,” said Doctor Saw Hsar Mu Lar, after the May expedition, as he returned to his hospital in Mawlamyaing, Mon state — one of only two specialising in leprosy in Myanmar.

Weeks later the patient was still waiting to travel as tensions between the Myanmar army and local rebels closed transportation routes.

Myanmar reached so-called ‘elimination’ status for leprosy in 2003 — meaning less than one person per 10,000 has the illness.

But there are still around 3,000 new cases found each year and medical workers warn that the debilitating disease could be on the rise once more as the country’s creaking healthcare system fails to reach those at risk.

Decades of civil war in ethnic regions have also left vast swathes of its border areas cut off from all but the most basic medical help, meaning the disease could be passing undetected.

“There can be pocket areas, hidden areas,” Saw Hsar Mu Lar told AFP.

“We have to tell the world that it’s not finished yet.”

- A curable curse -

Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest — and most feared — diseases.

The bacteria affects the skin and deadens the nerves, meaning sufferers are prone to injure themselves, which results in ulcers and can lead to limb loss. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear.

It is not particularly infectious, passing only through close contact over long periods, and modern medicine is able to cure patients relatively quickly.

But Myanmar has one of the world’s least developed medical systems, with government funding consistently among the lowest of any country, even with recent increases under a post-junta semi-civilian government.

State health workers are technically in charge of outreach and aid groups are banned from conducting leprosy awareness campaigns or looking for new patients — although they can treat people they find through dermatology clinics and during follow-up field trips.

The respected local aid group that organised the border expedition asked AFP not to give specific details of their work fearing that it could jeopardise future missions.

Saw Hsar Mu Lar’s Mawlamyaing Christian Leprosy Hospital, with its bright, simple wards, trained staff and plentiful supply of drugs, is a medical haven — funded mainly by international donations.

Most of the patients AFP met were farmers or had turned to begging to make ends meet.

“We had no medicine at our village even though we had a clinic,” said 40-year-old Mu Hai, who had travelled from western Rakhine state for treatment.

The hospital’s matron, Ni Ni Thein, is worried. In 2011 they saw 58 new leprosy cases, but that rose to 62 in 2012 and 68 last year.

“Now cases are increasing… the complication rate is increasing,” she said, adding that the age range for the disease had also appeared to have widened, with one four-year-old treated this year.

The fight to stop leprosy has been a major international success, with around 16 million people cured by multi-drug therapy (MDT) medicine in the last two decades.

But experts warn against complacency.

Myanmar is one of 18 countries that together account for almost all new cases of the disease.

The number of new cases it finds annually is dwarfed by its populous neighbour India, where there were some 127,000 new patients identified in 2011 according to World Health Organisation figures.

But while India managed an over 50 percent reduction between 2004 and 2011, Myanmar struggled to reduce its new incidences by 18 percent.

The WHO’s goodwill ambassador on leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, said stagnation in Myanmar’s new case numbers over several years could indicate authorities are not doing enough to root out the disease.

One problem is that the numbers affected seem small compared to other health challenges like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

“It is quite easy to be brought down the priority list,” he told AFP during a recent mission to the country.

- ‘He shall dwell alone’ -

Even if patients are cured, many around the world still fall victim to the stigma that clings to the disease, ending up living in segregated colonies.

Public vilification dates back over two thousand years.

The Bible says of leprosy sufferers: “he is unclean: he shall dwell alone”.

Saw Roger was chased out of his village when he started to show signs of leprosy aged 18 in the 1950s.

“I lived only with the animals in the jungle and I was frightened. I used to go into my village under the moonlight and I took rice and fish paste before going back into the dark forest,” the 76-year-old told AFP.

After two years sleeping in the woods, Roger was found by missionaries and taken to the Mawlamyaing hospital.

Roger, whose legs, left hand and eye have been ravaged by the disease, has found sanctuary there ever since.

Passing the time reading and leading the church choir, he said he has found happiness despite a lifetime of travails caused by the illness.

“I can continue to look forward,” he added.

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:17 AM 
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Liberia’s Ebola clampdown turns violent as local official and her family are evacuated

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, August 21, 2014 5:06 EDT

Violence erupted in an Ebola quarantine zone in Liberia’s capital Wednesday when soldiers opened fire and used tear gas on crowds as they evacuated a state official and her family.

Four residents were injured in the clashes that flared in Monrovia’s West Point slum which has been contained as part of new security measures aimed at containing the deadly virus.

The crackdown in Liberia comes as authorities around the world scramble to stem the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, which has killed more than 1,200 people across west Africa this year.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf quarantined West Point and Dolo Town, to the east of the capital, and imposed a night-time curfew as part of new drastic measures to fight the disease.

Residents of West Point, where club-wielding youths stormed an Ebola medical facility on Saturday, reacted with fury to the crackdown, hurling stones and shouting at the security forces.

“It is inhumane,” resident Patrick Wesseh told AFP by telephone.

“They can’t suddenly lock us up without any warning, how are our children going to eat?”

Liberia, with 466 deaths from 834 diagnosed cases, has seen the biggest toll among the four west African countries that have been hit by Ebola.

Deaths from the epidemic that has swept through west Africa since March now stand at 1,229 after a surge of 84 victims in just three days, according to the World Health Organization.

Fears that the virus could spread to other continents have seen flights to the region cancelled, and authorities around the world adopting measures to screen travellers arriving from affected nations.

Late on Wednesday Vietnam said it had released two Nigerian air travellers from isolation after their fevers subsided. In Myanmar a local man is still undergoing tests after arriving from Guinea with a fever.

- Health services ‘overwhelmed’ -

From its initial outbreak in Guinea — where 394 people have died so far — the virus spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, overwhelming inadequate public health services already battling common deadly diseases such as malaria.

Straining the situation even further, several top officials leading the fight have lost their lives to the disease.

A doctor who treated Nigeria’s first Ebola patient was named among the dead on Tuesday, taking the death toll in Africa’s most populous country to five.

Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said the doctor was “the most senior who participated in the management of the (first Ebola) patient,” Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, 40.

The UN’s new pointman on Ebola, David Nabarro is due Thursday to begin a visit to west Africa aimed at shoring up health services in the four affected nations.

The British physician said he would focus on “revitalising the health sectors” in the affected countries, many of which have only recently emerged from years of devastating conflict.

Efforts to contain the epidemic have also run up against local distrust of outside doctors, and stories of aid workers carrying the infection.

Liberia’s leader warned that local rituals were among the factors spreading the disease.

“We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government,” Sirleaf said.

- ‘Encouraging signs’ -

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib noted “encouraging signs” in Nigeria and Guinea, where prevention measures and work to trace lines of infection were starting to take effect.

The Nigerian outbreak has been traced to a sole foreigner, a Liberian-American who died in late July in Lagos. All subsequent Nigerian victims have had direct contact with him.

In Sierra Leone, where 365 people have died from the virus, the outbreak has also been traced back to one person: a herbalist in the remote eastern border village of Sokoma.

“She was claiming to have powers to heal Ebola. Cases from Guinea were crossing into Sierra Leone for treatment,” Mohamed Vandi, the top medical official in the hard-hit district of Kenema, told AFP.

No cure or vaccine is currently available for Ebola, which is spread by close contact with body fluids, meaning patients must be isolated.

Given the extent of the crisis, the WHO has authorised largely untested treatments — including ZMapp and the Canadian-made VSV-EBOV vaccine, whose possible side effects on humans are not known.

Three doctors in Liberia who had been given the experimental US-made ZMapp are reportedly responding to the treatment.

Countries throughout Africa and beyond remain on high alert, however, with the Equatorial Guinea airline, Ceiba Intercontinental, the latest to suspend flights to the whole region.

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:16 AM 
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German minister accuses Qatar of funding Islamic State fighters

By Reuters
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:36 EDT

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Development Minister Gerd Mueller accused Qatar on Wednesday of financing Islamic State militants who have seized wide areas of northern Iraq and have posted a video of a captive American journalist being beheaded.

“This kind of conflict, this kind of a crisis always has a history … The ISIS troops, the weapons – these are lost sons, with some of them from Iraq,” Mueller told German public broadcaster ZDF.

“You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops. The keyword there is Qatar – and how do we deal with these people and states politically?” said Mueller, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the center-right Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Mueller did not elaborate and presented no evidence of a Qatari link to Islamic State. A German government spokesman said he was checking whether Mueller’s remarks reflected the official view of Berlin.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, a wealthy Gulf Arab state, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his accusation.

Qatar has denied that it supports Islamist insurgents in Syria and Iraq. Diplomats and opposition sources say that while Qatar supports relatively moderate rebels also backed by Saudi Arabia and the West, it also has backed more hardline factions seeking to set up a strict Islamic state.

In March, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, cited reports of Qatari backing for Islamist fighters in Syria and described this as a “permissive jurisdiction” for donors funding militants.

Qatar has also strongly backed Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed since the Egyptian military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013, and has given refuge to many foreign Islamists including from Hamas and the Taliban.

Proclaiming a “caliphate” straddling parts of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has overrun broad swathes of Sunni Muslim-populated northern and western Iraq with little resistance. They have pushed back Kurdish regional forces allied with the Baghdad central government and driven tens of thousands of minority communities including Christians and Yazidis from their homes.

Islamic State circulated a video on Tuesday that purported to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley in revenge for U.S. air strikes against the insurgents in Iraq.

Germany’s foreign and defense ministers said on Wednesday that Germany was prepared to send arms to Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq fighting Islamic State and would immediately deliver military equipment such as helmets and security vests.

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:12 AM 
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Hamas leaders die in wave of Israeli strikes on Gaza

Militants announce death of three senior commanders after Netanyahu foreshadows ‘struggle against terror lasting years’

Harriet Sherwood and Orlando Crowcroft in Jerusalem, Hazem Balousha in Gaza City, Thursday 21 August 2014 08.13 BST   

Three of Hamas’s most senior military commanders have been killed in pre-dawn air strikes on Rafa in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas announced the deaths of Mohammed Abu Shamalah, Raed Attar and Mohammed Barhoum on Thursday morning. The loss of the military commanders is a serious blow to the organisation.

There was still no definitive word on the fate of Mohammed Deif, Hamas’s top military figure, whose wife and eight-month-old son were killed on Tuesday evening when five one-tonne bombs struck a house in Gaza City.

Israeli military analyists said intelligence indicated Deif was at the house and that it was virtually impossible that anyone could have survived the destructive force of the bombing. A third unidentified person also died in the air strike.

The Israel Defence Forces said it struck 20 targets over Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

It confirmed it had “eliminated senior Hamas terrorists Raed Attar and Mohamed Abu Shamala” but made no mention of Barhoum.

“Raed Attar played a major role in tunnel infiltrations, terror attacks that killed Israelis, and the kidnapping of [Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit. Abu Shamala, commander of Hamas forces in [southern] Gaza, was directly involved in dozens of terror attacks, including the murders of IDF soldiers.” the IDF statement said.

As the death toll in Gaza rose well above 2,000 on Wednesday, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, compared the Hamas movement in Gaza to the Islamic State (Isis), calling the two groups a “branch of the same tree”.

At a press conference on Wednesday night Netanyahu said the Gaza war launched on 8 July “will be a continued campaign” aimed at restoring “calm and safety” to Israeli citizens.

He said the latest bout of Israeli military action in Gaza was “the harshest blow Hamas has taken since its foundation” and warned that if Hamas rocket fire continued Israel would hit back “sevenfold”. “This is a continuous campaign. The struggle against terror lasts for years,” he said.

The defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, added that Israel “had killed hundreds of Hamas terrorists” and would continue to do so.

The UN security council expressed “grave concern” at the resumption of hostilities and called upon the parties to resume negotiations to urgently reach a “sustainable and lasting ceasefire”.

The 15-member council also “called upon the parties to prevent the situation from escalating and to reach an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

Speaking at a press conference in Gaza City, al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida warned of rocket attacks on Ben Gurion airport on Thursday, calling for airlines to suspend flights from 6am.

He told Israelis to avoid public gatherings and warned citizens in the country’s south not to leave bomb shelters.

On Wednesday hundreds of Palestinians attended the funerals of Deif’s wife, Vidad Asfura, 27, and son, Ali, in Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza.

Hamas had urged Gazans to turn out in force for the funeral but witnesses said the thousands-strong crowds, militant presence and gunfire that often mark funerals in Gaza were conspicuously absent.

Hundreds of civilians who had returned to their homes after eight days of relative quiet in Gaza fled back to UN shelters as Israel called up thousands of reserve troops and massed tanks and armoured personnel carriers on the border. Hawkish members of the Israeli cabinet on Wednesday repeated calls for an occupation of the Palestinian coastal enclave, which Israel evacuated under Ariel Sharon’s leadership in 2005.

Efforts to reach a diplomatic resolution to the conflict drew to a halt dramatically in Cairo as fire resumed on Tuesday evening. Negotiations showed no sign of restarting on Wednesday. Israel withdrew its delegation as soon as violence broke out and Hamas called for the Palestinian delegation to return home.

Israel has blamed Hamas for breaking the ceasefire and triggering a resumption of violence with the firing of three rockets, which landed in open land near the southern city of Beersheba on Tuesday night.

The Palestinians have blamed Israel for the failure of the truce and the return to violence. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation suggested in a statement that the rocket attack that provoked the Israeli withdrawal could have been manufactured by Israel as an excuse to abandon the talks.

“Israel … alleges that it was responding to three rockets launched from the Gaza districts – which supposedly landed in open areas and caused no deaths, injuries or damage,” the PLO said in a statement.

“This launch has not been confirmed and no Palestinian resistance group has claimed responsibility. Israel has used the alleged rocket fire as a pretext for continuing to target Palestinian civilians.”

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was due to meet the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Doha, Qatar, late on Wednesday, as the Palestinian Authority continues to try to steer the peace process. Hamas signed a deal with Fatah in April this year to set up a unity government and the PA has taken the lead in talks between Israel and Hamas, who refuse to negotiate directly with each other.

With the Sisi government in Egypt hostile to the Islamist leadership in Gaza, Hamas is looking to Qatar for diplomatic support.

Michael Stephens, deputy director at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London, said: “Qatar is basically Hamas’s last ally. Given that Turkey is struggling and failing to insert itself into the process, Doha really is the only game in town.”

 on: Aug 21, 2014, 07:09 AM 
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Islamic State militants seize four more foreign hostages in Syria

Jihadists flush with arms and relying on shock tactics abduct Europeans and Japanese national as US strikes continue

Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 20 August 2014 20.54 BST   

Flush with looted weapons, buoyed by sweeping gains in Syria and eager to shock, Islamic State militants have seized four more foreign hostages near Aleppo in recent days, taking to more than 20 the number of foreigners they now hold.

The latest captives, two Italian women, a Dane and a Japanese national, were seized in or near Syria's largest city. All held are either reporters, photographers or aid workers taken near Aleppo or Idlib. They have been subsequently moved to Raqqa, the Isis stronghold in north Syria.

The abductions have controversially proved good business for Islamic radicals. In the past six months at least 10 hostages, including a Dane, three French nationals and two Spaniards, were freed after lengthy negotiations with captors, who demanded ransoms. Some organisations have insisted on information blackouts about nationals still being held.

One former hostage said the suspected killer who appeared in the recent video, apparently murdering the US journalist James Foley, was one of three Britons who had guarded him in Raqqa. He said the man had been responsible for negotiating hostage releases, dealing with families of captives via email.

Attention will now turn to the captives still in Isis hands. Steven Sotloff, a freelancer who had contributed to Time magazine and Foreign Policy, was kidnapped a year ago near the Syrian-Turkish border. According to the video of Foley's death, Sotloff's fate depends on whether the US continues its aerial campaign in north Iraq, which has driven Isis fighters back from the key Mosul dam.

There is no sign of a let-up in US air strikes despite the Isis threat. "We continue to conduct strikes in Iraq," said a Pentagon spokesman.

Though Islamic State (Isis) has been pummelled in Iraq in recent days, in Syria the group is not on the back foot. Using weapons seized from the fleeing Iraqi army, the extremists are back with a vengeance, seizing 12 villages to the north of Aleppo in the past week alone and once more menacing the city.

The fate of Aleppo will largely determine who prevails in Syria's devastating civil war and what remains of the country.

Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdish region security council, said: "They have five divisions' worth of Iraqi military weapons, all of them US-supplied, that they are using to turn on communities that are outgunned, and increasingly outmanned."

Hisham al-Hashimi, an Baghdad-based expert on the group, said: "They are around 50,000 strong on both sides of the border."

Kurdish officials say that the overall numbers are slightly less. Both Kurds and Iraqis agree that Isis had a recruiting boom in July. The group is thought to have successfully lured more than 6,000 new cadres in that month alone. Kurdish and Iraqi officials say the extremists' appeal stems from their capacity to deliver outcomes even through ruthless means that are at odds with values held by most Sunni communities.

The large numbers of foreign fighters are increasingly holding sway in many areas, enforcing hardline Islamic law and dispensing punishment with impunity.

A resident of the Syrian town of Azaz, which borders the Turkish town of Killis, said Isis members were now only about six miles away, after being ousted in January. "You could have used my name until last week," he said. "But they're advancing towards us in armoured trucks they stole from the Iraqis. We can't fight them."

Organised as Isis less than 18 months ago, the group had previously worked hard to cultivate a reputation as an all-powerful juggernaut. But as Iraq has collapsed and as Syria disintegrates, their success has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The return of the jihadists is likely to sound the death knell for the anti-regime opposition in north Syria. Already outgunned by the Syrian air force, the opposition has been desperately struggling to keep a supply line open to the north. Meanwhile, the regime and its backers, principally Hezbollah, have been slowly surrounding the city from the north-west and north-east.

But as they try to close the circle, Isis is trying to beat them to Aleppo from a stronghold 30 miles east of the city that it has controlled since late last year. And further east, past Raqaa, Isis launched an attack on Wednesday, on the Tabqa air base, the last regime base in the east of the country. If, as expected, the base falls, Isis will have a clear run to Syria's fourth city, Hama.

"This will be just as significant as Isis taking Anbar and Mosul," a western diplomat said. "What we are about to see could be the sum of all our fears."

US air strikes over the past fortnight have halted Isis's push north to the Kurds, but only after minority communities once protected by the Iraqi state had been "cleansed" along the way. West towards Aleppo and east towards Baghdad there appears to be no stopping what is now the world's best armed and fastest growing terror group as it imposes its rule across an increasingly irrelevant border.

Nor do there appear to be any limits to what Isis will do to terrorise its foes. The apparent beheading of Foley has sparked a wave of global fear and revulsion like that generated by al-Qa'ida in Iraq nearly 10 years ago, when orange-clad captives were murdered by the predecessors to Isis.

Less than a generation later, grainy images of condemned men in dank, dark, rooms have been replaced by slick productions filmed from multiple angles, which vividly showcase every horrific detail.

"The shock value is essential to what they do," said a western diplomat. "And it's working for them."


James Foley: US reveals failed special forces rescue mission within Syria

Elite soldiers fought Isis militants during night-time raid to free US journalist and other hostages, but failed to locate them

Spencer Ackerman in New York and agencies, Thursday 21 August 2014 07.49 BST   

Elite US military forces secretly invaded Syria recently in a risky and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to free US journalist James Foley before he was killed by Islamic State (Isis) militants, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.

Confirmation of the failed night-time raid, which took place earlier this summer, came after a day of sharp questioning over whether the Obama administration had done enough to save Foley's life. It represented the first confirmation of US military operations within insurgency-wracked Syria, where Isis gestated into the jihadist organisation that has redrawn the borders of the Middle East.

The raid involved dozens of special operations forces from all US military services, including the 160th special operations aviation regiment. US forces flew into Syria in defiance of air defence batteries that senior military officials have described as highly threatening to pilots. Modified Black Hawk helicopters were involved, and "armed fixed-wing aircraft and drones" provided cover to forces on the ground, said an administration official.

Yet the operation, which took place in an area of Syria that officials declined to disclose, failed when "the hostages were not present at the targeted location," said rear admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Special operations forces got into a "firefight" with Isis forces, an official said, killing "several" of them. It took an unspecified amount of time for them to determine that the hostages were not at the scene, prompting a rapid departure. "They were shot at as they were egressing. One person had a minor injury," the official said.

The official said that Isis "did not know who they were fighting that night, and we assess Syria did not know" about the secret incursion.

It is unclear how many hostages the elite troops, which Kirby called "the best of the United States military," attempted to free. At least one other US journalist, Steven Sotloff, is known to be in Isis custody. Disclosure of the unsuccessful operation may have consequences for Sotloff, whom Isis has threatened to kill unless the US ends its bombing campaign against it.

US officials said on Wednesday there was concern about Sotloff after he appeared in the same Isis propaganda video depicting Foley's murder. US warplanes struck Isis vehicles and weaponry near the Mosul dam on Wednesday in tacit defiance of the Isis threat.

With Sotloff's fate an open question, Kirby said in a statement: "The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable."

White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the remaining hostages' families and their loved ones during this difficult time."

It is also unclear whether the intelligence on the hostages' location was fundamentally flawed or perishable by the time of the raid. Monaco said the US had "what we believed to be sufficient intelligence" justifying the strike.

Robert Caruso, a navy intelligence veteran, said Isis and similar organizations "lie about where they are, where they're going to be in two hours, and they definitely don't talk about it on the telephone."

Caruso also questioned the wisdom of releasing information about the raid.

"It's pretty cavalier for the administration to condemn Snowden and turn around and endanger the remaining hostages. That's not Opsec [operational security]. I've taught it, to the military and the state department. That's not Opsec," he said.

The US official, who was not cleared to speak for the record, acknowledged the risk of the disclosure to Satloff.

"There is concern that releasing this jeopardises the hostages that remain, but a number of news outlets got ahold of these details and were going to run with this story," the official said, saying that the administration was withholding significant details.

French journalist Nicolas Henin has described how he had spent seven months in captivity with Foley in Syria, including a week during which they were handcuffed together.

Henin, who was released in April this year, told the BBC he felt the UK and US governments were putting their people at risk by not negotiating with the terrorists, and that Foley, as an American, was "some kind of scapegoat" for the terrorists.

Henin said Foley had coped better than others with the conditions in captivity but had also been treated differently. "Being an American he was probably more targeted by the kidnappers. Well, he would be beaten a bit more probably, he was some kind of scapegoat," he told the BBC.

"Some countries like America but also like the UK do not negotiate and, well, they put their people at risk."

Henin paid tribute to his former colleague and friend, saying he had been generous with other captives if they were cold or hungry. He said he was horrified by Foley's killing but would focus on positive memories from their time together.

"I will try to just remember few, very few opportunities we had to laugh loud together – and it did happen actually a couple of times," he said.


British Isis militant in James Foley video 'guards foreign hostages in Syria'

Martin Chulov and Josh Halliday   
The Guardian, Wednesday 20 August 2014 17.42 BST   

Link to video: James Foley's killer speaks in an English accent – audio

The English jihadist who beheaded the American journalist James Foley is believed to be the leader of a group of British fighters holding foreign hostages in Syria, sources have told the Guardian.

As an international manhunt got under way on Wednesday, the English-speaking militant was identified to the Guardian by one of his former hostages as the ringleader of three British jihadists thought to be the main guards of foreign nationals in Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State (Isis) rebels.

The militant who appeared on the Foley video, who called himself John and is believed to be from London, was said to be the main rebel negotiator during talks earlier this year to release 11 Islamic State hostages – who were eventually handed to Turkish officials after ransom demands were met.

The FBI, MI5 and Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command were all on Wednesday night racing to identify the militant who fronted the propaganda video that showed the brutal murder of Foley, the journalist who had been missing in Syria since 2012.

Sources in Syria recognised the man as a point-man for hostage negotiations in Raqqa, where he is said to have held discussions with several families of jailed foreign nationals over the internet.

One former hostage, who was held for a year in Raqqa, told the Guardian the British executioner is intelligent, educated and a devout believer in radical Islamic teachings. The three UK-born militants were referred to as "the Beatles" by fellow hostages because of their nationality, the former captive added.

Experts in the the counter-terrorism and linguistics fields said the man appeared to be one of up to 500 British-born jihadists "brutalised" by Isis after fleeing the UK to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Security services in the UK and US were analysing the propaganda footage, with forensic phonetics experts among those thought to be involved in trying to identify the masked militant from his accent.

Prof Paul Kerswill, a linguistics expert at the University of York, said he believed the man spoke in "multicultural London English" most commonly found in London's East End. "He probably has a foreign language background but it sounds like multicultural London English, which is people from all kinds of backgrounds who mix in the East End, a new kind of cockney," he said.

Dr Claire Hardaker, a linguistics experts at Lancaster University, studied the clip and said the man's vowels marked him out as likely from the south-east of England, but most likely from London. "We're definitely looking at a British accent, from the south, and probably from London, Kent or Essex."

The involvement of Scotland Yard in the international manhunt was seen as significant by counter-terrorism sources, who indicated that the man is likely to already be on the police radar, either through previous criminal behaviour or because he is known to be waging jihad overseas.

Prof Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, at King's College London, said an English-speaking militant was chosen deliberately to front the video to cause maximum impact in the west. "This is significant because it signifies a turn towards threatening the west. They are saying we're going to come after you if you bomb us."

Neumann said British fighters had been carrying out "horrific acts" like beheadings, torture and executions for a year and a half, but this appeared to be the first with a western victim. He added: "It's not significant that British fighters have been beheading and torturing because that's been happening for a year and a half. The significant thing is that this was an American and was connected to a direct message that 'we are targeting you'."

Britain's security services have warned for months about the sheer number of homegrown terrorists leaving cities across the UK to fight in Syria or Iraq, with an estimated 500 Britons, joining up to 700 French and 500 Belgians on the frontlines in those embattled countries.

Dr Afzal Ashraf, of the Royal United Services Institute, said the video was the latest in a propaganda war waged by Isis, intended to strike terror in the US and UK and act as a recruitment tool for western extremists. "There will be a minor effect on recruitment. It will affect a certain kind of psychopathic individual but it's a very minority sport, fortunately. There will be far more people put off by these guys but there is a market for this sort of thing.

"The message that really motivates people is it's a way of hitting back at what they perceive to be the US bullying and domination of the Muslim world. They feel impotent when they see the awesome US air and land power and they see this as a way of hitting back and that's the principal motivation."

Rafaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the RUSI, said: "This video shows us that people are going out there and being really brutalised by this conflict. They're not just participating in some campaign against [Syrian president Bashar] al-Assad, they're involved in hideous actions against people they've taken hostage. We've known it's been going in this direction but this video is an affirmation of it."


The Guardian view on the murder of James Foley by Isis

If we target Islamic State, they will target us: that is the lesson of this horrific video

The Guardian, Wednesday 20 August 2014 19.07 BST   
Once we saw those plumes of smoke spiralling up from positions around the Mosul dam after American air strikes, it was dismally likely we would soon again encounter another familiar image. How many times have we seen, or been forced to imagine, that anonymous room, tent or corner of the desert where a kneeling hostage is about to be done to death, after a specious and sententious speech from his killer, as punishment for America’s crimes?

There is no action without reaction in the Middle East. At least since the Lebanese civil war, one way some of those in conflict with the United States and its allies have expressed their rage, taken their revenge and attempted to influence the policies of their enemies, has been to lead out an innocent man or woman and murder them. In recent years they have done it on camera. What made this case even more disturbing was the educated British accent of the killer as he excoriated President Barack Obama, justified the murder and said the life of another US journalist was at stake.

That one college boy from, perhaps, London should be the killer of another college boy from New Hampshire in a conflict over the future of the Middle East illustrates how far normal boundaries of state and class have been cruelly transcended.

American policy, of course, will not change, and nor will that of its close allies. But David Cameron has returned from his holidays to weigh the situation, while President François Hollande, saying events have not been as threatening since 2001, plans to call an international conference on the threat posed by Islamic State (Isis). The video is one of a number of developments that have sharpened our understanding of the risks inherent in a new military campaign in the region, even if limited and carefully conducted – that is, as limited and carefully conducted as an undertaking aimed at blowing up things and people can ever be. You can’t bomb without producing a response, and you can’t expect Isis will observe rules that they don’t recognise.

Bluntly put: if we target them, they will target us. The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, was right to say on Wednesday that we – Americans and British in particular – have always been in their sights as one of the “far enemies” they reckon with. But fighter bombers over the Mosul dam, arms for the Kurds and help for the Baghdad government bring us more into the “near enemy” category, and that has consequences. Consequences in the region and, potentially, consequences at home in the United States and Europe.

We should not be alone in a contest with Isis. Regional powers should take on a greater role, perhaps even military, but certainly a more coherent diplomatic role. There should be a suspension of the rivalries which helped create the opportunity Isis seized. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, even Syria, should be prominent at President Hollande’s conference. But the best way to contain a war which could grow even bigger is to move on as swiftly as possible from the purely military stage.

The only people who can really end the Isis threat, it is endlessly but rightly said, are the people of the regions they now control. At present they are either complicit with Isis, neutral or too scared to make a move. In Iraq, they may also believe that a still heavily Shia government and army in Baghdad is not an alternative they can embrace. The more time passes, the more some of their young men will be sucked into a poisonous apprenticeship with Isis and the more deluded adventurers from the west will arrive to join them.

We may believe Isis is too cruel, domineering and stupid to become a permanent feature of the Middle Eastern landscape. But it can be assisted into the disappearance which is probably its fate if, as well as military measures, there is a concerted international effort which concentrates on gaining the trust of Iraqi Sunnis, curbing sectarianism in Baghdad, re-opening the search for a settlement in Damascus and defusing the Sunni-Shia conflict which the regional powers have fuelled.

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