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 on: Aug 19, 2014, 05:46 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Iraqi Kurds mount attack against Islamic State as Obama vows support

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, August 18, 2014 19:25 EDT

Baqufa (Iraq) (AFP) – Kurdish fighters, backed by Iraqi forces and a new wave of U.S. air strikes, pressed their offensive against jihadist rebels Monday as President Barack Obama urged a joint counterterrorism effort.

Obama hailed the Kurds’ recapture of a major dam outside Mosul but warned Baghdad that “the wolf is at the door” and said it must move quickly to build an inclusive government.

Securing the dam was the biggest prize yet clawed back from the so-called “Islamic State” since it launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in June, sweeping aside Iraqi security forces.

“Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination,” Obama said, warning that the dam would have devastated cities downstream had it been breached.

“So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL.

“If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America,” he promised, in his clearest signal yet that the 10-day-old US air campaign against IS is far from over.

Obama said that Iraq’s new premier Haidar al-Abadi should rush to build an inclusive government to undercut support for extremists and underpin international action against the Islamic State.

“We will continue to pursue a long-term strategy to turn the tide against ISIL by supporting the new Iraqi government and working with key partners in the region,” he said.

U.S. Central Command, meanwhile, confirmed that US jets and drones had carried out 15 air strikes in support of the Kurdish-led offensive to retake the dam and push on into IS territory.

The jihadists, who have declared a “caliphate” in a region straddling the Iraq-Syria border, also came under attack in their Syrian stronghold of Raqa by Syria’s air force for a second straight day.

In Iraq, “the planes are striking and the peshmerga are advancing,” a Kurdish fighter told AFP near the shore of the lake formed by the vast Mosul dam.

- Dam ‘entirely liberated’ -

Jets flew overhead, as smoke rose from the site of a strike that a peshmerga member said targeted an entrance to the dam.

“In the beginning, they surprised us with their offensive. But now, we know their tactics, and they can’t take another yard from us,” Major General Sardar Kamal said at the frontline.

Fighting also broke out in an area to the south as engineering teams worked to clear booby traps and bombs left by jihadists, said Kawa Khatari, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party.

A senior peshmerga officer told AFP there was sporadic fighting in the town of Tal Kayf southeast of the dam, and that only a “small number” of jihadists remain in the dam area.

Iraqi security spokesman Lieutenant General Qassem Atta said the dam was entirely liberated in a joint operation by Iraqi “anti-terrorism forces and peshmerga forces with aerial support.”

While Washington and London hailed the breakthrough and promised more support, Pope Francis sounded a note of caution, calling for collective action through the United Nations.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the IS fighters that have been sweeping across Syria and Iraq a direct threat to Britain, and said all available tools must be used to halt their advance.

His Defence Minister Michael Fallon said Britain’s Iraq involvement now goes beyond a humanitarian mission and is set to last for months.

- Kidnap threat -

“We and other countries in Europe are determined to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism,” he was quoted as saying.

Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers are relieved by the departure of divisive premier Nuri al-Maliki, hoping his successor will be a unifying figure

In the north, members of minority groups including Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen, remain under threat of kidnap or death at the hands of the jihadists, rights groups say.

Amnesty International, which has been documenting mass abductions in the Sinjar area, says IS fighters have kidnapped thousands of Yazidis in this month’s offensive.


08/18/2014 04:16 PM

The Drama of Sinjar: Escaping the Islamic State in Iraq

By Christoph Reuter

Last week, thousands of Yazidis were evacuated from the Sinjar Mountains in Iraq, where they had fled due to marauding fighters from the Islamic State. Kurdish fighters from the PKK helped them escape, but it remains unclear if anyone can stop the IS jihadists.

On the eighth day up on the mountain, Bagisa gave birth to her first child, a girl. She named her Khudaida.

Bagisa and her husband Hadi had fled from the village of Sumari. The couple was lucky; they had left alone, allowing them to avoid the groups that came under fire from attackers. But being alone also meant that when they finally stopped running, in the shade of a cliff wall, they knew none of the others who likewise found shelter there. There was no one willing to share their valuable water with Bagisa. The couple now had a daughter, but they didn't have anything to drink.

Other families with infants joined together in order to provide a modicum of shade for mothers and babies and they saved a few drops from the spartan amounts of water rationed out each day. Or they divided up the few sips of water they spent hours each day collecting from the hollows of dried out mountain streams.

But nobody helped Bagisa, Hadi and their baby. They had to withstand the heat on their own -- until, on the day following Khudaida's birth, three Kurdish fighters, members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), finally appeared and brought them to the Newroz camp across the border in Syria.

Those who managed to find shelter in the Newroz camp have vivid stories to tell of the horrors they left behind. They describe how men from the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) announced via loudspeaker in the village of Garzarik, "Put down your weapons and we won't harm you," and then turned around and shot at all those who sought to flee.

They talk about the sheep that desperate refugees beat to death with a stone so as to drink its blood. And about the elderly who they were forced to leave behind. They speak of the corpses of men on the streets and of the women who pleaded with their families to kill them so that they wouldn't fall into the hands of the IS.

Overnight Return

But they also have stories of neighbors who suddenly became turned into their enemies, becoming accomplices to the IS. This attack, it appears, followed a pattern established in previous offenses. First, a discrete network of informants was established over a long period of time, including Arabs from surrounding villages, Turkmens and even some Kurds. The informants then directed the Islamist fighters to the houses full of valuables and showed them where Sunnis, Christians and Yazidis lived. The result was that the IS knew how strong their opponent was and who they should kill first. It's the same blueprint the group followed in their attacks on cities and villages in northern Syria and on the Iraqi city of Mosul at the beginning of June.

For almost two months, the people here thought they were safe, believing that the jihadist hordes would stay in the Arab regions. And initially, there seemed to be grounds for that belief. Having plundered materiel from the Iraqi army, the IS first took their new equipment to victory parades in Raqqa and continued to focus on the battle in Syria. But then, overnight, they returned.

On the morning of August 3, the first IS convoys attacked villages surrounding Sinjar. Some units belonging to the Kurdish peshmerga militia initially sought to slow the attacks. "But at dawn, one of the commanders suddenly said he had received an order to retreat," recalls one village resident, the elderly Blindkas Khalaf.

All of them, more than 7,000 men from the cities and villages in the region, were pulled out and they took their weapons with them as they headed north. They had confiscated many of the arms from the Yazidis in June.

"There were about 1,600 soldiers from Sinjar in Maliki's army," says Khalaf. "When it disbanded following the fall of Mosul and the peshmerga arrived here, they confiscated all our weapons and promised to protect us."


But then, on that Sunday morning, the peshmerga moved out of Sinjar. The Yazidis wanted to at least have their Kalashnikovs back so that they could protect themselves and they initially blocked the peshmerga convoy. But Khalaf says the Kurdish fighters turned their weapons on the Yazidis and fought their way free.

Brigadier General Holgard Heckmat, spokesman of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs in Erbil, denies that an order was issued to retreat. "Our soldiers simply ran away. It's shameful, which is why they apparently invented the order. But we are investigating the incident and those who allegedly issued the order," Heckmat says.

The peshmerga appear to have left the Yazidis to themselves -- later, their fate proved useful to push America and the world to finally intervene. That the peshmerga were unable to stop the jihadists -- even had they wanted to -- became apparent with the fall of Makhmour, a city in the Kurdish heartland that was held for several days by IS fighters.

It was a small unit of the Kurdish rebel group PKK, combined with US air strikes, that was decisive in retaking the city a few days later. But residents who returned to Makhmour for the first time last Tuesday didn't come to stay. They just wanted to get the rest of their furniture.

"Everyone is afraid that the crazies will return," said one man as he was unscrewing an air conditioning unit from the wall of his home. "If the Americans hadn't bombed, they would already be in Erbil. Our peshmerga can't protect us."

The IS advance has shattered the peshmerga's self-confidence. It has also, at least for the moment, brought together erstwhile adversaries. The PKK, which originally formed in Turkey, and the Kurdish leadership in Iraq have mistrusted each other for years, but now they have joined forces out of necessity. Kurdish President Massoud Barsani even traveled to Makhmour to personally thank the PKK commander there.

Indeed, it is largely thanks to the guerilla fighters of PKK -- a group that had recently seemed stuck in the past -- that up to 50,000 people could be evacuated from the Sinjar Mountains within a week. Prior to the Sinjar operation, the PKK had seemed exclusively focused on continuing their training for a war against Turkey -- a conflict which hasn't seemed likely for years.

'Everything That Could Drive'

But it was the PKK fighters who controlled the region on the Syrian side of the border and who liberated the road to Sinjar, establishing a series of camps for the refugees along the way. They reached the thirsty mountain refugees by foot, carrying down older women and children on their backs before loading them into small trucks and pick-ups for the rest of the journey.

"We used everything that could drive," says Alvar Khalil, head of the Newroz camp, which provides Yazidis shelter as they wait for transportation to continue their journeys. Most only remain for a few days before they are taken onwards into Iraq. Every day, huge numbers of people arrive at the camp while equal numbers leave. At the end of last week, estimates for the number of people being cared for by the PKK there ranged from 3,000 to 6,000, with exact numbers being hard to come by.

At the same time, the US Pentagon was considering ways to rescue the Yazidis from the ridge by way of an airlift. But when US Special Forces landed there last Wednesday for a closer look at the situation, they were surprised that the number stranded there was much lower than expected. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that a US rescue mission was less likely as a result. It says something about the chaos in Kurdistan that even the US military appears to have been largely unaware of the systematic evacuation of those stranded in the mountains.

Last Wednesday evening, what were thought to be the final groups of refugees arrived in Newroz. Most of the trucks returning from the Sinjar Mountains were empty; one of them had loaded up nothing but a few lost sheep. Mabada, the first intermediary camp located just behind the border, had been instrumental in previous days in providing water and first aid to the fleeing refugees, but it too was largely empty.

"Nobody knows if more people will come down from the mountain," says one doctor. "The ridge covers an area of 100 square kilometers and nobody can search all of it. But we will stay here a few more days to wait and see."

Despite the PKK's success, the precision air strikes launched by American F-18 fighter jets have not stopped the IS. To be sure, the partial recapture of the Mosul dam, which was taken by IS on August 7, was possible only with the help of massive concentrated US air strikes on IS positions there. But a Peshmerga commander at the site warned that "without heavy weaponry we will not be able to hold the dam." Furthermore, assault weapons and rocket-propelled grenades have proven ineffective in stopping the jihadist fighters, equipped as they are with armored Humvees, rocket launchers and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is weaponry that was initially delivered to the Iraqi military by the United States.

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama announced that the siege of Sinjar had been broken. But at almost exactly the same time as he made his statement, IS fighters once again closed the circle around the town for several hours.

Burying Khudaida

A SPIEGEL team was on the road into the Sinjar Mountains at the time and suddenly mortar rounds struck near the street, kicking up large clouds of dust that were then carried off by the wind. Truck drivers swerved across the road and shouted at oncoming vehicles: "They're shooting!"

On the morning of August 14, the tiny daughter of Bagisa and Hadi stopped breathing. Khudaida was four days old.

The exact cause of her death was impossible to determine, says the doctor who treated Khudaida in the Newroz camp. "Everything," is his diagnosis. The heat in the mountains, thirst, wind full of dust and excrement, hunger. She was already too weak when she arrived at the camp, the doctor says.

Hadi used a piece of plastic to dig a grave a few meters behind the tents of the camp. A Syrian medic saw him there with the small bundle in his arms. Wanting to help at least provide them with a measure of dignity, the medic asked at the village cemetery nearby if there was room for little Khudaida. Just a small grave.

As the refugees in the camp climbed onto trucks heading for Iraq, Hadi and his wife Bagisa were sent back-and-forth for a half a day between the cemetery management, the PKK security service and the camp leadership. Nobody wanted to be responsible for a dead Yazidi child from Iraq in Syria.

But finally, in the late afternoon, the cemetery gave in. And allowed Hadi and Bagisa to bury their daughter.

 on: Aug 19, 2014, 05:42 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
German Search for non-EU Skilled Migrants Nets Just 170

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 18:58

A German program to attract specially qualified workers from non-EU countries has netted just 170 successful candidates in its first year, official data showed Monday, sparking complaints from an employers group.

The group cited a number of obstacles to recruitment including difficulty in learning German; hurdles to the acceptance of foreign qualifications; inadequate marketing of the program; and shortcomings in Germany's drive to welcome foreigners.

Europe's biggest economy, with a low birth rate and ageing population, has sought to attract specialized workers to fill labor market gaps, from multi-skilled engineers to plumbers and geriatric nurse.

The offer, designed to draw workers from as far afield as Russia, Thailand and South Africa, was meant to help companies facing acute shortages of qualified applicants by getting rid of red tape.

However, since the program was launched in June last year, just 170 candidates have qualified, according to Federal Employment Agency figures.

The Federation of German Employers' Associations said that the effort fell far short of fulfilling current needs.

"Especially jobs that require dual (workplace and academic) training -- such as in the metal and electronics industries or in elderly care -- there is still often a lack of qualified professionals," it said.

The group blamed a lack of German language skills and problems with measuring foreign qualifications, but it also urged the government to "do more for the establishment of a genuine culture of welcoming" people from abroad.

 on: Aug 19, 2014, 05:37 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Iceland volcano eruption risk level raised to orange for aviation

Intense seismic activity at the Bardarbunga volcano indicates the potential for a disruptive ash event similar to 2010

The Guardian, Monday 18 August 2014 16.53 BST   

Iceland's meteorological office has raised its risk level to the aviation industry for an eruption at its Bardarbunga volcano to orange, which is the fourth level on a five-grade scale.

Ash from the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days, affecting more than 10 million people and costing $1.7 billion.

There has been intense seismic activity at Bardarbunga since August 16, although there are no signs of eruption yet.

Iceland met office seismologist Martin Hensch said the risk of any disruptive ash cloud similar to the one in 2010 would depend on how high any ash would be thrown, how much there would be and how fine-grained it would be.

Bardarbunga is Iceland's largest volcanic system, located under the ice cap of the Vatnajokull glacier in the southeast of Iceland. It is in a different range to Eyjafjallajokull.

The met office said in a statement it measured the strongest earthquake in the region since 1996 early on Monday and it now had strong indications of ongoing magma movement.

"As evidence of magma movement shallower than 10km implies increased potential of a volcanic eruption, the Bardarbunga aviation colour code has been changed to orange," it said.

"Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood and ash emission."

The colour codes, which are in accordance with recommended International Civil Aviation Organisation procedures, are intended to inform the aviation sector about a volcano's status.

Hensch said the biggest risk in Iceland itself was from flood waves from any eruption under the glacier. He said the area of Iceland mainly at risk of flooding was mostly uninhabited but that roads in the area had been closed.

Eurocontrol, the Brussels-based agency responsible for co-ordinating European airspace, said in a statement it was aware the Icelandic Met Office had revised the status of the volcano and it was following the situation closely.

• This article was amended on 19 August 2014. An earlier version referred to the Vatnajokull glacier in the southwest, rather than southeast, of Iceland.

 on: Aug 19, 2014, 05:35 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

How Ireland's abortion laws made me feel like a criminal

Ruth Bowie had to go to England to terminate for medical reasons. She now offers help to others in the same situation
Henry McDonald   
The Guardian, Monday 18 August 2014 19.45 BST       

Ruth Bowie wanted a baby, not an abortion, but the Dublin-based nurse was told at her 12-week scan that the foetus she was carrying had a fatal condition and wouldn't survive if she went full term.

"This was a much-wanted pregnancy, and as you can imagine we were devastated," she says more than three years later. "The hospital we attended couldn't do anything for us as legally their hands were tied."

With abortion in Ireland completely illegal in 2009, she and her husband were given the "option" of either going ahead with the doomed pregnancy or a termination across the Irish Sea. Reluctantly, they chose the latter.

"We ended up going to a horrible abortion clinic as we didn't have information about places like Liverpool Woman's Hospital where so many Irish couples have received great care. We caught an early morning flight the week after the diagnosis.

"Once inside the clinic, it was like a conveyor belt; I was finished by lunchtime. Our flight back was not until late that night. We had nowhere to go. We literally wandered the streets of an English city. I was bleeding, cramping and I'd just lost my very much wanted baby, and all I wanted to do was go home to my own bed and my mum.

"If I had my time again, I would have gone to court to test Ireland's barbaric law."

Instead, Bowie helped set up campaign group Terminations For Medical Reasons Ireland two years ago, only to find herself still disappointed at the awful treatment handed out to pregnant women in Ireland.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act passed by the Irish parliament last year is supposed to allow women an abortion if their life is at risk, including risk from suicide. Designed to avoid controversies such as the case of Savita Halappanavar, where a young mother, sensing she was in mortal danger due to sepsis and asking for an abortion, was denied a termination at Galway University Hospital and subsequently died. Women with fatal foetal abnormalities are still excluded from the law.

When the Fine Gael-Labour party government drove the legislation through the Irish parliament last year, they might have hoped that the abortion controversy, while not disappearing entirely, would fall far down the political agenda.

Yet the law only allows for limited abortions in Irish hospitals: when a woman's life would be in danger were she to go full term, or in cases where a woman is suicidal in such instances as rape and incest. Critics say the latest controversy, where a young suicidal rape victim was denied a termination, proves the "suicide" clause in the legislation is unworkable and loaded against women.

As for Ruth Bowie, this latest outrage is a reminder of the stark choice she faced five years ago. "I will never get over been kicked out of my own country and made to feel like a criminal at my time of need."


Ireland and abortion: the law is failing women

The latest case of a woman denied an abortion and forced to have a caesarean shows the situation for vulnerable women is still dire

Mara Clarke   
The Guardian, Monday 18 August 2014 19.45 BST          

A young woman, variously described as "suicidal", an "immigrant", and a "rape victim", tried to demand an abortion under Ireland's widely promoted but ultimately useless abortion legislation. What she got was a state-mandated caesarean section at 25 weeks and a premature infant placed into the care of the state.

People often ask why I set up Abortion Support Network, an almost entirely volunteer-run charity that helps women living in Ireland and Northern Ireland have access to abortions. The story that's been splashed over the news in the past few days is a pretty good reason. As are many of the 345 calls or emails we've received this year asking for our help.

"I was raped last month but never did anything about it because I blamed myself," says one. "I have now discovered I'm pregnant. I can't possibly bring a child into this world at this time in my life and I would rather die than go through with this pregnancy. I need to have an abortion but I haven't got a lot of money to spare. That's another reason I can't have this child, as I'd have no means to support it."

"My teenage daughter is pregnant and the stress of it has made her suicidal," says another. "But I'm afraid putting her through the process of obtaining an abortion legally will put too much strain on her mental state. Can you help us?"

"I'm freaking out about how far gone I am. I can't have a baby for many different reasons but I have no money and I'm so afraid because the price of an abortion almost triples the longer gone you are."

Let's be clear. ASN does not hear from the "average" woman needing an abortion. Most women who need abortions have things like jobs, credit cards, bank accounts, family they can reach out to for help. ASN only hears from the women who are so desperate to raise the funds they need that they are willing to contact strangers and involve them in their abortion decision. Asked to talk about the worst case I'd ever heard, I'm at a loss: is it the refugee who was raped and tortured by prison guards before escaping to Ireland only to find herself pregnant but unable to obtain a visa to travel for an abortion, or the 17-year-old girl who was considering taking her own life after becoming pregnant as a result of a violent rape? The woman overcoming a recent bereavement and suffering from severe depression whose prayers were literally answered when she had a miscarriage rather than needing to travel to England, or the mother-of-four trying to figure out how to crash her car badly enough to induce miscarriage but not badly enough to kill or permanently injure herself?

The law, as it stands, fails not only the woman in the C-section case, but all women in Ireland. When you make abortion against the law, or restrict it in any way, women only have options if they have a passport, a credit card, someone to watch their kids, and the £400 to £2,000 it costs to travel and pay privately for an abortion.

"My finances are very stretched with caring for my family. I live in rural Ireland and the travel alone is more than I can afford," says one caller.

Since we opened in 2009, ASN has heard from 1,500 women, ranging in age from 51 down to 13, who were in or escaping abusive relationships, had serious mental or physical health issues, were carrying wanted pregnancies with fatal foetal anomalies, women and families with children unable to afford more. On 12 June, the UK Department of Health published its Abortion Statistics report for 2013. These numbers showed a reduction in women from Ireland and Northern Ireland travelling to England to access a safe and legal abortion – 4,481 down from 4,887 – the lowest reported number since 1969. These numbers do not include the women who come to England and give the address of a local friend or family member, the women who travel to other countries to access abortions, or the hundreds – if not thousands – of women who obtain early medical abortion pills online from Women on Web. They also do not capture those who cannot travel for reasons of cost, childcare or anything else.

In 2013, ASN was contacted by 446 women and couples seeking support in order to access a safe and legal abortion, up from 363 in 2012 and 253 in 2011. The total so far this year does not include any emails and calls that have come in while the volunteer with the phone this week is at work.

I wish we at ASN could express shock and outrage at this case that has been in the news. Unfortunately, we know that in five minutes or a day or a week we will hear from another woman in dire circumstances, at her wits' end, trying to salvage her life from the disaster it becomes when faced with an unplanned pregnancy in a country that criminalises abortion.

 on: Aug 19, 2014, 05:28 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Ukraine Presses Offensive, Claims Rebel Strike on Refugees

by Naharnet Newsdesk
19 August 2014, 13:42

Ukraine on Tuesday pressed on with a punishing offensive to win back its war-torn east, after claiming that pro-Russian rebels had killed "dozens" of fleeing civilians in a rocket strike.

Kiev said "street battles" with insurgents had erupted in the heart of the rebel bastion of Lugansk, which has endured brutal shelling and weeks without running water or electricity as Ukrainian forces seek to roust separatists there.

The military on Monday accused the insurgents of using Russian-supplied missiles to blow up adults and children who were attempting to escape the besieged city in a convoy flying white flags. The attack left "dozens of dead", according to Ukraine's security spokesman Andriy Lysenko.

Fifteen bodies have been recovered after the convoy, Lysenko said on Tuesday.

The rebels denied the allegations, which could not be independently verified.

But the claim of a strike on civilians drew calls for restraint from the United Nations and Washington, after weekend talks between Russian and Ukrainian top diplomats failed to make any breakthroughs.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the "tragic incident makes the urgency of a ceasefire and a diplomatic solution even more stark."

Ban urged both Kiev forces and rebels to "allow safe passage to anyone attempting to leave areas of active military operations," a spokesman said.

The State Department in Washington said it had been unable to confirm who was responsible for the attack on the convoy and urged "all sides [to] take every precaution to protect innocent lives."

Four months of fighting in eastern Ukraine has left more than 2,100 dead and a brewing humanitarian crisis in the region. 

- No water, no ceasefire -

Lugansk, still in rebel hands, has been hardest hit. Water and power have been cut off for more than two weeks, and food is becoming increasingly scarce.

Ukrainian army sources said Tuesday "street battles" had moved into the center of the city after one rebel-held district had been "liberated".

If confirmed, any advance by government forces into the center of the industrial hub, once numbering some 420,000, would represent a major breakthrough for Kiev.

In the main insurgent stronghold of Donetsk, meanwhile, an Agence France Presse reporter heard the rumble of explosions around the city as government troops pounded rebels positions there.

Residents in that city, which had a pre-war population of one million, were again queuing for water after fighting cut supplies over the weekend.

An AFP photographer in the adjoining city of Makiyivka saw the bodies of one woman and two men killed by shelling sprawled in the streets.

Late on Monday, President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine was readjusting its military strategy following fresh rebel claims they were receiving troop reinforcements from Russia to prop up their ailing insurgency.

Poroshenko said government forces were "regrouping" as they sought to "continue the offensive".

Over 285,000 people have been forced to flee the fighting in eastern Ukraine and two senior U.N. officials -- Under-Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman and humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos -- are set to travel to Kiev later this week.

Kiev said it was also looking forward to a "very interesting visit" by German Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday, one day before Ukraine celebrates Independence Day.

Diplomatic efforts to defuse the fighting continued despite a crisis meeting between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France on Sunday having broken up without any agreement on how to end the violence.

Ukraine's top diplomat Pavlo Klimkin lashed out at Russia for refusing "to recognize the facts" of the continuing flow of weapons and mercenaries across its border.

Russia has consistently denied Western allegations that it is funneling weapons to the rebels and instead called on Kiev's forces to halt firing.

- Aid delayed -

A controversial Russian aid convoy was meanwhile still stuck waiting to be checked near Ukraine's restive border as haggling dragged on about letting it across.

Red Cross representative Laurent Corbaz is due in Moscow Tuesday to discuss with Russian officials the delivery of humanitarian aid to east Ukraine.

The Red Cross -- which is meant to oversee the delivery of the cargo -- says they have not yet received security guarantees on how it will cross rebel territory.

"We have no date, no hour" for when the convoy may go to the Ukrainian side, Paul Picard, a monitor for the OSCE at the border, told journalists.

Kiev and the West fear the shipment is a ploy to bolster the rebellion or provide a pretext for Russia to invade, allegations dismissed by Moscow.


Ukraine crisis: 15 bodies found after strike on refugee convoy

Military spokesman says search continues after convoy of buses and cars was hit by rocket fire near Luhansk on Monday

Alec Luhn in Moscow and agencies, Tuesday
19 August 2014 08.57 BST   

Fifteen bodies have so far been recovered from the site of Monday's rocket strike on a refugee convoy of buses and cars in eastern Ukraine, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

"By 7pm last night we had retrieved 15 bodies … The search continued into the night and is continuing today," the spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said.

Dozens of people, including women and children, were believed to be killed when the convoy carrying refugees was hit by rocket fire near the eastern city of Luhansk.

Government forces and pro-Russia rebels accused each other of the attack on the vehicles, which were evacuating civilians from the towns of Khryaschuvate and Novosvitlivka.

A Ukrainian military spokesman, Anatoly Proshin, said on Monday evacuees were being transported by military vehicles flying white flags, which were hit by mortars and Grad rockets. "There were a huge number of casualties. People were burned alive in the vehicles that were taking them out," he told the Ukrainian Pravda newspaper.

But Andrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, said the rebels did not have the ability to send Grad rockets to the area where the convoy was hit, and government forces had been bombarding that road with Grad rockets and air strikes.

"It seems they have now killed more civilians, like they have been doing for months now," he told Reuters.

The US state department condemned the attack but said it could not confirm who was responsible. "We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy that was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk and express our condolences to the families of the victims," the spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "Sadly, they were trying to get away from the fighting and instead became victims of it."

The BM-21 Grad, whose name means "hail" in Russian, is a fearsome weapon that can fire more than two dozen incendiary rockets in quick succession but it is notoriously inaccurate. Both sides have been known to deploy it in the conflict.


Germany's Merkel to Visit Ukraine on August 23

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 21:19

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Ukraine Saturday amid international tensions over fighting in the east of the country, Ukraine's foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin said.

"The visit is planned for the day before Ukraine's national holiday" on August 24, Klimkin told journalists, adding that the visit by the German leader would be "very interesting".

 on: Aug 19, 2014, 04:45 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Linda
Hi Rad,

I'll try and give this a go.

What's happened to everyone else who said they would participate in this thread?



 on: Aug 18, 2014, 06:21 PM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Emily
Hi Skywalker,

Thank you for you sharing this. It resonates deeply. Health and healing on many levels have been a strong focus throughout the Pluto in the 6th transit for me. Especially taking responsibility for my own health and experiencing empowerment through that.


 on: Aug 18, 2014, 08:09 AM 
Started by Wei - Last post by Rad
Hi Skywalker,

I would only comment on that by way of saying such things are just another example of 'beliefs' that humans need to create for themselves in order to have a sense of higher meaning and/ or purpose in their lives.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Aug 18, 2014, 08:05 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In the USA...United Swat Teams of America

Ferguson: Missouri national guard to be deployed

Announcement follows most intense violence since shooting of Michael Brown, with police firing teargas at protesters hours before curfew

Jon Swaine and Rory Carroll in Ferguson
The Guardian, Monday 18 August 2014 10.53 BST     

The national guard in Missouri is to be deployed to the city of Ferguson after the most intense night of violence since the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old, in which police used teargas against protesters hours before a midnight curfew came into effect.

Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, announced in the early hours of Monday that he had signed an executive order directing national guard troops to protect the northern suburb of St Louis from “deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson.

“These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory, and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served, and to feel safe in their own homes.”

The escalation in the crisis came after the eighth night of unrest since Brown was killed by a police officer, Darren Wilson, in disputed circumstances on 9 August. An autopsy released as the clashes raged concluded that Brown was shot six times, including twice in the head.

Bouts of gunfire rang out around Ferguson throughout Sunday night and early Monday morning. Three people were injured and a series of shops and restaurants were vandalised and looted. Heavily armed police repeatedly fired teargas and rubber bullets during running battles with the crowds. Several people were arrested for failing to disperse and journalists were detained and threatened by police with guns.

“Tonight, a Sunday that started with prayer and messages of unity, peace and justice, took a very different turn after dark,” Capt Ron Johnson of the Missouri highway patrol, which controls the policing of the protests, said at a 1am press conference on Monday.

“I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response. We had to act to protect lives and property,” he added.

Police launched their first barrage of gas and smoke at about 9pm on Sunday after fearing an advance on their command post – in a mall carpark just south of the centre of the clashes – by a largely peaceful protest march, according to Johnson. He said several molotov cocktails were thrown by those taking part in the march, which included children.

This was sharply disputed. “You need to pull these officers back,” Renita Lamkin, an episcopal pastor who has been trying to control the protests, told a police chief by phone, as teargas fell on the march. “There were no molotov cocktails,” she said.

An unrelated shooting about 20 minutes later outside a branch of McDonalds prompted a stampede of people down West Florissant Avenue, the main road where conflict has flared since Brown was killed. Almost immediately, police deployed more gas and smoke grenades.

“That stuff doesn’t feel good,” said West, 23, who had tears streaming from his eyes. He said his throat was burning, adding: “You really feel like you’re going to die.”

Young men in bandanas taunted police, picking up gas canisters and throwing them back. One man picked up an item that landed near his feet and immediately threw it through the main window of McDonalds, as staff and customers screamed inside. Another picked up a nearby rock and threw it into another of the restaurant’s windows. Staff hid in a back room.

Another 20 minutes on, police turned on a high-pitch siren and fired repeated rounds of stun grenades into the crowd along with an even bigger gas bombardment. Yet dozens of protesters continued advancing back through the flashes and the fog towards the police. Many carried bricks and kerb stones they had broken to throw at officers. Others hurled bottles.

Police drove protesters with more gas northwards towards a burned out petrol station that was looted last Sunday. Some protesters smashed the windows of a hair salon and a storage facility as they passed. Then a burst of gunfire was heard over the road from the petrol station, sending people scrambling to the ground.

Protesters said they had no intention of backing down. “This is a revo-fucking-lution,” said DeAndre Smith, a 30-year-old barber. “Plain and simple, this is the revolution. The one everybody was waiting on. It happened like this. It’s the gain in culture by a people who want respect. African American people in this country.

“I been out here since day one. I was on the frontline. Mike Brown was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s when we said this is enough. That’s it.”

Following a standoff at the petrol station, police sent remaining demonstrators scrambling into side streets by speeding at them in armoured Swat trucks, firing yet more gas and smoke at people running away. The trucks continued driving up and down the main street doing this until it was cleared. As some reached a branch of Domino’s pizza, there were two more bursts of gunshots.

In Dellwood, just north of Ferguson, several people were injured when a crowd fled in their cars from a grocery store that was apparently being looted when police arrived. The injured were taken to hospital. There were still more than 40 minutes to go before the second five-hour long nightly curfew ordered by Nixon came into effect. But by midnight, most streets were empty. Later still, a standoff involving police took place on the street on which Brown was shot dead.

News of the results of the autopsy by Dr Michael Baden, a former chief medical examiner for New York, had begun circulating as protesters hid from police in side streets towards the end of the protest. “Shot six times,” people were heard saying.

The disclosure only looked likely to intensify the protests during their second week . “If they keep coming out here and doing this shit, then we’re gonna keep coming out here too,” said Smith. “They’re not gonna kill us off.”


In Ferguson the violence of the state created the violence of the street

Nobody in their right mind wants more violent protests. But, as Martin Luther King said, ‘a riot is the language of the unheard’

Gary Younge   
The Guardian, Monday 18 August 2014 14.30 BST           

In 1966, Martin Luther King started to campaign against segregation in Chicago only to find his efforts thwarted by violent mobs and a scheming mayor. Marginalised by the city’s establishment, he could feel that non-violence both as a strategy and as a principle was eroding among his supporters. “I need some help in getting this method across,” he said. “A lot of people have lost faith in the establishment … They’ve lost faith in the democratic process. They’ve lost faith in non-violence … [T]hose who make this peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable, and we’ve got to get this over, I need help. I need some victories, I need concessions.”

He never got them. The next year there were more than 150 riots across the country, from Minneapolis to Tampa.

As the situation escalates in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, where police recently shot an unarmed black man as he walked down the street, many are clearly losing faith. As the first day of curfew drew to a close, hundreds of police in riot gear swept through the streets, using tear gas, smoke canisters and rubber bullets against an increasingly agitated crowd. Earlier this morning the governor, Jay Nixon, deployed the national guard.

Protesters insist the police action was unprovoked. Police say it followed shootings, firebombs, looting and, crucially, an attempted attack on the area they are using as a command centre. Ronald Johnson, the Missouri highway patrol captain drafted by the governor to take over security in the town and calm the situation down, blamed “premeditated criminal acts”. Late last week, Johnson was the darling of the crowds as he expressed sympathy with their cause and frustration with the tactics of the local police department. Now the situation seems polarised once again.

Johnson said the attacks were clearly provocations against the police. “We had to act to protect lives and property,” he says. In a statement explaining his deployment of the national guard, the governor, Jay Nixon, blamed “deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent acts”.

“Tonight,” he said. “A day of hope, prayers and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organised and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk.”

Such statements ignore the nature, scale and source of the problem. When an 18-year-old is shot in daylight for walking down the middle of the street holding his arms up; and when his shooter is whisked out of town by the state, then the residents of Ferguson were clearly already “at risk” from those who would commit “premeditated criminal acts”. What could be more “deliberate” and “coordinated” than releasing a video that claims to be of Michael Brown stealing cigarillos the same day the police finally release the name of the policeman who shot him, when the alleged theft had nothing to do with the shooting. (Even if it had, since when has the charge for shoplifting been summary execution?)

According to a preliminary autopsy, Brown was shot six times including twice in the head. Dr Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who performed the autopsy at the request of the family, said: “In my capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times.’ Right now there is too little information to forensically reconstruct the shooting.”

For some then the police have come too late to the notion that they are there to “protect” lives. “The law,” wrote James Baldwin, “is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer.” Those who call for law and order now must understand that there is no order because men with badges have been acting lawlessly.

As I wrote after the riots in London three years ago: “Insisting on the criminality of those involved, as though that alone explains their motivations and the context is irrelevant, is fatuous. To stress criminality does not deny the political nature of what took place, it simply chooses to only partially describe it. They were looting, not shoplifting, and challenging the police for control of the streets, not stealing [policemen’s] hubcaps. When a group of people join forces to flout both law and social convention, they are acting politically.”

For good reason, the nature of such rebellions troubles many. They attract opportunists, macho-men and thrill-seekers as well as the righteously indignant and politically militant. Resistance to occupation is often romanticised but never pretty. And Ferguson – a mostly black town under curfew in which the entire political power structure is white, with a militarised police force that killed a black child – was under occupation.

Riots are also polarising. They narrow the base of support for campaigns, sending potential sympathisers into the arms of the state, demanding a police crackdown. People ask: what could violent protest possibly achieve? It is a good question. But it only has any validity if they also question the nature of the “peace” preceding it. Those who call for calm must question how calm anyone can be in the knowledge that their son, brother or lover could be shot in such a way.

People have a right to resist occupation, even if we don’t necessarily agree with every method they use to do so.

As I also wrote, following the British disturbances: “One should not overstate the case: [throwing firebombs and shooting at police] are not the hallmarks of political sophistication. But then nor are riots. They are the crudest tool for those who have few options. By definition, they are chaotic. Rich people don’t riot because they have other forms of influence. Riots are a class act.”

Nobody in their right mind wants more violent protests. But nobody wants more Michael Browns either. And those two things – the violence of the state and the violence of the street – are connected. “A riot,” said Martin Luther King, “is the language of the unheard.” The people on the streets don’t donate thousands of dollars to anyone’s campaign. They don’t get a seat at any table where decisions are made or have the ear of the powerful. But with four black men killed by the police in the country in the last four weeks, they have a lot to say, and precious few avenues through which to say it. The question now is who’s listening.


Ferguson police: a stark illustration of newly militarised US law enforcement

Critics say skyrocketing proliferation of heavy weaponry and equipment among local police lead to increase in violence

Jon Swaine in Ferguson, Missouri and Amanda Holpuch in New York, Thursday 14 August 2014 18.39 BST  

Michael Brown was shot dead by an officer from a police force of 53, serving a population of just 21,000. But the police response to a series of protests over his death has been something more akin to the deployment of an army in a miniature warzone.

Ferguson police have deployed stun grenades, rubber bullets and what appear to be 40mm wooden baton rounds to quell the protests in a show of force that is a stark illustration of the militarization of police forces in the US.

“I’m a soldier, I’m a military officer and I know when there’s a need for such thing, but I don’t think in a small town of 22,000 people you need up-armor vehicles,” Cristian Balan, a communications officer in the US army, who was not speaking on behalf of the US military, told the Guardian. “Even if there’s an active shooter – are you really going to use an up-armor vehicle? Do you really need it?”

In the eyes of the government, the answer increasingly seems to be a resounding yes.

Since 2006, state and local law enforcement have acquired at least 435 armored vehicles, 533 military aircraft and 93,763 machine guns, according to an investigation by the New York Times published in June. This was made possible under a department of defense program that allows the agency to transfer excess military property to US law enforcement agencies. More than $4.3bn worth of gear has been transferred since the program was created in 1997, according to the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO).

The ACLU said there are no “meaningful constraints” to what a local police force could acquire, meaning that even a 10,000 person town with no history of major violence could request and receive a mine-resistant vehicle, like those that are currently available on the LESO site.

Forced to address the issue at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, spokesman Read Admiral John Kirby said that while the government made such equipment available in a “useful” program, it was up to local agencies to decide how to use it. “I’m not going to inject the Pentagon into this discussion,” he said. “How this equipment is used to serve local citizens is up for local law enforcement agencies to speak to.”

The increasing militarization of US police is also attributed to the skyrocketing proliferation of Swat teams across the US. There has been a more than 1400% increase in the amount of Swat deployments between 1980 and 2000, according to estimates (pdf) by Eastern Kentucky University professor Peter Kraska.

The police presence in Ferguson has centred around two large armoured trucks ferrying around officers in military-style uniforms. Officers wearing body armour and holding sniper-style rifles have been positioned atop them. Some have adorned night-vision goggles as the evenings grew darker.

Accompanying the trucks have been hundreds of officers from various forces from around the region. Some state troopers and county police officers have been kitted out in basic riot gear – shields, batons and helmets with visors – along with their standard handguns and plastic cuffs.

Others, whose affiliations are not made clear by their uniform, have been carrying what look like AR-15 assault rifles. They wear helmets and all-black body armour, some with partial urban camouflage.

On Wednesday evening, some such officers were carrying 12-gauge shotguns and “super-sock” bean-bag cartridges for shooting at protesters. Protesters have also been fired on with 60-calibre Stinger rubber bullets and what appear to be 40mm wooden baton rounds. Mini “flashbang” stun grenades, which are used by the US army to disorient combatants, have also been deployed.

But the most alarming sight for many protesters and residents has been the deployment of officers wearing army-style fatigues distinguished only from the military version by the word “POLICE” emblazoned in grey across their chest. Some have been carrying grenade launchers,apparently for shooting gas canisters. The remains of “triple chaser” grenades have been found on the streets. Others have carried paintball-style guns for shooting pepperballs.
ferguson gas smoke getty Plumes of smoke from tear gas canisters on the front lawns of homes in Ferguson. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty

“As we’ve seen in Ferguson, the militarization of policing tends to escalate the risk of violence to the communities,”said Kara Dansky, senior counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice and the prime author of its June 2014 report on the militarization of US police. “We think that historically, the police and the military have had different roles and that American neighborhoods aren’t war zones and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies.”

She said the trend of militarizing local police forces has continued over the past several decades and that communities of color bare the brunt of most military policing.

Representative Hank Johnson, a house Democrat from Georgia, said on Thursday that he plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”, which would end the department of defense’s military surplus program.

• This article was amended on 15 August 2014. An earlier version referred to “helmets with visas”.


Iraq vet: Ferguson cops have better armor and weaponry than we carried in a combat

By Rafael Noboa y Rivera
Monday, August 18, 2014 7:11 EDT

In my year in Iraq, I lost track of how many times my guys asked me why so many Iraqis viewed us with distrust when we were trying to help them. The question would arise while we were walking the beat with Iraqi police officers, manning checkpoints, or in our forward operating base after we went off-duty.

Invariably, my response went something like this: “Imagine that you’re back home, OK? Suddenly, you got a whole mess of Iraqi soldiers in your town. They’re all over the place, doing the same things we’re doing right now. How do you think you’d react? You’d probably get pretty hot, right?”

The notion that my illustration would become anything other than that scarcely crossed my mind. Yet, here we are in August of 2014, 10 years after I got back from Iraq, and the police agencies that have patrolled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri – until they were relieved of duty on Thursday amid public outrage over their heavy-handed tactics — have the kind of armor and weaponry that my men and I would have envied in the performance of our duties in an actual combat zone.

Let me repeat that: the police in Ferguson have better armor and weaponry than my men and I did in the middle of a war. And Ferguson isn’t alone — police departments across the US are armed for war.

The gear and weaponry worn by police officers in Ferguson aren’t just clothing and tools. They’re meant to accomplish certain tasks, and they will elicit certain responses from the people who encounter them. When my men and I donned our helmets and body armor, and carried our weapons out on patrol, we were at war. Our gear wasn’t just protective, it was meant to be downright unwelcoming. That was the point — it’s combat gear, not a costume you wear to look “tactical.”

But it goes beyond that. Nearly 40 years ago, Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage conducted the first study aiming to demonstrate something called “the weapons effect.” As Berkowitz pithily said, “Guns not only permit violence, they can stimulate it as well. The finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be pulling the finger.”

There’s truth in those words. I distinctly recall, even now, the small jolt of energy that ran through my body as I readied my weapon, put on my body armor and settled my helmet upon my head. Part of it was anxiety; nothing tenses you up more than not knowing where danger lies. Part of it, though, was anticipation; the motivation needed to face danger, and perhaps death, squarely in the eye. I remember the deep breaths I took to settle my spirits, but it was hard not to swagger a little bit while walking. I recollect that fraction of my soul making my eyes dart around, seeking out anyone who would challenge my authority.

That’s when the discipline and all those countless hours of training kicked in. Military discipline hones you to a point where you can acknowledge fear, yet not give in to it. That’s the difference between taking control of a dangerous situation — and lessening tensions; or losing control of the situation, and creating an even bigger disaster.

It’s that kind of training and discipline that’s been markedly absent from everything we saw this week in Ferguson. We saw police officers pointing weapons at civilians, firing their “less than lethal” ammunition in wild abandon, and posing ostentatiously on armored vehicles. I contrast those images with the photos I took of myself in Iraq; helmet off, smiling towards the camera, my weapon within easy reach but never in the frame. I count on one hand the number of times I raised my weapon in order to use it, and my ears still ring with the tongue-lashing my first sergeant delivered to a lieutenant whose weapon went off accidentally.

That’s how seriously we take this stuff in the military. It certainly doesn’t look like the police in Ferguson took it that seriously. And that matters, because it made a bad situation utterly disastrous.

Our rules of engagement (ROE) — the instructions for how to deal with enemy forces, never mind Iraqi civilians — were far more restrictive than what we’re seeing from the police in Ferguson. Primary among them: Treat all civilians and their property with respect and dignity.

This was drilled into our heads even before we left for Iraq. We were all issued “culture smart cards” intended to help us deal with Iraqi civilians. These cards — I still have mine — contained tips like, “Appear relaxed and friendly; social interaction is critical in building trust,” and “Be gracious; do not appear anxious to leave.”

We’ve seen a lot of things from the police response in Ferguson, but respect and dignity for the people living there aren’t among them. That lack of respect for civilians only serves to inflame the situation even more, and to me, at least, is indicative of a lack of discipline and professionalism.

There is no need to bring this level of militarization — or any level, really — to deal with what have been largely peaceful protests. One of the things we learned while we trained in crowd control techniques was that our mere presence could make an already-tense situation much more difficult. The emphasis, therefore, was on finding ways to de-escalate the situation in whatever manner we could, as quickly as possible.

This meant that we handled much more dangerous situations in Samarra, Balad, and Kirkuk with far less violence than we’ve seen from the police over the last few days. Our training emphasized the prevention of confrontation and violence, rather than exacerbating it. From “Civil Disturbances (ATP 3-39.33)”, the Army’s crowd control manual (PDF):

    Winning in this environment is not like winning in combat. US forces may appear to be invincible and formidable, but they risk being portrayed as oppressors. Thus, US forces can lose by appearing to win. Winning in this environment is about seizing and holding the moral high ground. US forces must maintain the authority and legitimacy of what they are doing.

I look at the police in Ferguson, and all I can do is shake my head. If the primary goal of the police was to win the trust of local citizens in order to calm the roiling waters caused by the murder of Mike Brown, then they have utterly failed in accomplishing that goal.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.


Missouri governor points finger at Ferguson police chief for new violence
Joanna Walters in New York and Jon Swaine in Ferguson
The Guardian, Sunday 17 August 2014 18.44 BST       

The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, on Sunday blamed the local police chief in Ferguson for renewed violence in the city, as the US department of justice stepped in to order an independent autopsy on the body of the teenager shot dead by a police officer a week earlier.

Nixon condemned the release by the local Ferguson force on Friday of security camera footage and a police report that implicated Michael Brown, 18, in a petty theft at a convenience store a few minutes before he was shot dead. The DoJ, which is leading a civil-rights investigation into the killing, also made it clear at the weekend that it had opposed publication of the pictures.

“I think it had an incendiary effect,” Nixon said in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

The unrest in Ferguson continued on Sunday night when police fired smoke canisters from armoured vehicles into a crowd of about 400 demonstrators, including families with children, and watching media.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said it was using the smoke canisters to disperse “aggressors” who were trying to infiltrate a law enforcement command post.

In Washington, a spokesman for Eric Holder, the attorney general, cited the “extraordinary circumstances” of the case for the decision to order the postmortem examination, which will be carried out by a federal medical examiner. The circumstances of Brown’s death remained murky and Brown’s family demanded a federal autopsy in an attempt to bring clarity.

The recriminations flew after police were forced to fire teargas at a hardcore of demonstrators who had refused to obey a midnight curfew imposed by Nixon on Saturday in an attempt to restore order in the town, which has been rocked since Brown was shot on 9 August by a Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson.

In the early hours of Sunday, as the midnight curfew took effect, police in riot gear fired teargas at protesters who defied orders to leave the centre of Ferguson. About 200 demonstrators ignored an order to return home at midnight made under a state of emergency declared earlier by Nixon.

Seven people were arrested for failing to disperse, according to Johnson, who had earlier promised that the curfew would not be enforced with teargas. One man was shot and is in a critical condition, and a police car was shot at. On ABC, Nixon pointed out that “not a single shot” was fired by police.

“I thought that last night with the help of the community a solid step forward was made,” he said.

Making the rounds of the US talk shows, Nixon expressed concern about the release by the Ferguson police of the surveillance footage and police report, at the same time as the officer involved in the shooting was named. Asked on ABC’s This Week whether he knew or approved of the release, he said: “We were unaware that they were going to release it and we certainly weren’t happy with that being released, especially in the way that it was.”

Nixon said there had been “serious discussions” between his office, county and local law enforcement officials after the local police released the video. “I disagreed deeply. To attempt to disparage the victim, well it’s just not right and it put the community on alert again,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

Earlier in the week, Nixon had replaced the St Louis County force, which had been patrolling the protests in a manner criticised for being overly militarised, with a commander from the Missouri state highway patrol, Captain Ron Johnson, an African American who grew up in Ferguson. That resulted in a calmer atmosphere on Thursday, but violence flared again on Friday after the release by Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson of the information that implicated Brown in the robbery.

The governor drew a direct link between Jackson’s actions and the renewed violence: “It made emotions raw and one of the reasons why … that second night, we saw folks getting upset,” he told ABC.
Ron Johnson, Jay Nixon Missouri state highway patrol captain Ronald Johnson, left, and Governor Jay

The governor promised action to improve the approach of the largely white police force operating in the majority black community.

“These are deep wounds and when you scratch them again they hurt. We all know there has been a long history of these challenges. I hope that we can get justice and move forward but there are deep, long-term wounds,” he told CNN’s State of the Nation.

“When justice is had, I hope the people who have spoken out will be part of the effort to help bridge these gaps.”

Nixon noted the difference in approach of Johnson, who made a point of walking with the crowds, dispensing with military hardware and using “less hard” tactics. “When Captain Johnson arrived, he came right into the community, he did not roll up in MRAV [armoured vehicle],” Nixon told NBC. “It’s very important that our officers are in the communities, to be part of the community when they need protection and not feel like an external force. Across the country, that’s a task we have to address.”

The Ferguson police has 55 officers, of whom only three are black, policing a largely black community; there have long been allegations of racism and abuse by the police.

Nixon repeatedly said he was grateful the Department of Justice has begun an investigation into the shooting, in parallel to county prosecutors, and that it had sent an additional 40 FBI agents to Ferguson to speed up the justice process.

By contrast, he said several times on CNN and NBC, the St Louis County prosecuting attorney, Bob McCullough, needed to “step up” and “do his job”.

McCullough said last week that he disagreed with Nixon’s decision to override the local police and put the county highway patrol police in charge in Ferguson. He has in the past faced accusations of soft-pedalling police abuse complaints and in recent days has been criticised for not yet bringing evidence in the Brown case before a grand jury, as the next step on proceeding towards a possible court case against the officer involved.

Nixon said: “When you see the FBI working in the community, I think having dual investigations will make sure it happens in a timely fashion and we get justice.”

Cedric Alexander, president of the National Organisation for Black Law Enforcement Executives, met Ferguson’s police chief, Thomas Jackson, this week and was advising him. He told ABC: “We certainly do agree there has been some missteps that he has made but the thrust of the conversations we have had has been around how does his department begin to develop a relationship with the community as they move forward.

“It’s clear there has been a lack of communication between police and community.”

Alexander said representation had to be improved. “How do they begin to diversify their department [so that it’s] more representative of their community? That will occur over time but they are going to have to develop a strategic plan on how to deal with that.”

Cornell William Brooks, the new president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, appeared on CBS to implore people to “turn your anger into action”, while condemning a violent response to Brown’s death.

“To sneak around under the cover of darkness, to steal, to loot, to burn down your neighbourhood – this does not require courage,” he said. “Courage is when you strive for justice.

“Martin Luther King did not live and die so that we may steal and lie in the middle of the night.”


Ferguson teenager Michael Brown felled by bullet to head, autopsy suggests

Rory Carroll and Jon Swaine in Ferguson and Chris Campbell in St Louis, Monday 18 August 2014 07.48 BST   
Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager killed by a police officer in the Missouri city of Ferguson, was shot multiple times and finally felled by a mortal wound to the head, according to a preliminary autopsy and an account of the shooting provided by the officer, Darren Wilson.

The disclosures came on a night marred by shootings and clashes between protesters and police, the worst in eight days of turmoil, which terrified residents and left Ferguson resembling a war zone.

A violent altercation between protesters at around 9pm, which left a woman with a gunshot wound, triggered a swift response from police who had been preparing to enforce a curfew at midnight.

Officers fired multiple rounds of tear-gas and swept into the centre of Ferguson, prompting chaotic scenes as protesters and onlookers tried to flee. There were no immediate details about casualties.

Sunday’s revelation of an autopsy report of the 9 August killing, which has polarised opinion across the US, threatened to inflame tensions further. Brown, 18, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to a preliminary private autopsy performed on behalf of his family on Sunday, the New York Times reported.

One of the bullets entered the top of the skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck and caused a fatal injury, according to Michael Baden, a former chief medical examiner for the City of New York. He flew to Missouri at the family’s request to conduct the autopsy, which follows an earlier examination carried out for St Louis County, which is investigating the killing.

Baden said it was probably the last bullet to hit the teenager. Brown was also shot four times in the right arm. All bullets were fired into his front, the examiner concluded.

The absence of gunpowder on the body suggested the bullets were not fired from close range. That determination could change if there was gunshot residue on Brown’s clothing, to which Baden did not have access, he told the New York Times.

The autopsy’s revelaton that Brown was shot in the head mirrored Wilson’s account of the disputed incident, when he encountered Brown walking in the middle of a street in Ferguson with a friend, Dorian Johnson.

Wilson has not spoken publicly but a friend of the family, who declined to be named, told the Guardian that the officer admits he shot Brown in the head. However, his version of events contradicts aspects of the accounts given by some other eyewitnesses, including Dorian Johnson.

There appears to be little dispute that an altercation took place when Wilson encountered Brown and Johnson, shortly after a robbery at a convenience store. Brown then made off, but quickly turned back.

In Wilson’s version, Brown was moving towards the officer in a threatening manner when he was shot. The autopsy concludes that all the shots were fired from the front.

Wilson’s account is that Brown continued to move towards him even after the first shots were fired, and did not stop until suffering a mortal wound to the head. “He just kept coming,” the friend said, characterising Wilson’s account.

The Department of Justice, which is leading a civil-rights investigation into the killing, on Sunday took the unusual step of ordering a federal medical examiner to conduct a third autopsy on Brown’s body. A spokesman for Eric Holder, the attorney general, cited the “extraordinary circumstances” of the case for the decision.

Both sides in what is becoming an increasingly incendiary and politicised story are likely to offer different interpretations: that Wilson fired in self-defence; or that six bullets showed excessive force.

Friends of Wilson and his girlfriend, Barbara Spradling, also a Ferguson police officer, have expressed concern about the racial and institutional politics involved, worrying that the charged environment may unduly influence the case.

In addition to concerns for their safety, friends of Spradling and Wilson believe his reputation has been unfairly tarnished by a rush to judgment from the media and some members of the public.

One friend of Spradling believes the legitimacy of any evidence supporting Wilson’s version of events will be questioned by protesters.

Sunday night’s mayhem further poisoned the toxic relationship between police and Ferguson residents. It also raise urgent questions about Governor Jay Nixon’s decision on Saturday to declare a state of emergency and impose a midnight-to-5am curfew.

A coalition of civil rights groups condemned the move. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the order violated the constitutional right to free assembly.

The order fell short of legal requirements to define the area affected by the curfew, the groups said. “People have a right to know when and where their conduct is lawful under all circumstances, but especially when the government is restricting activities that are protected by the first amendment,” their statement read. “Restricting this most fundamental of all American values is not a solution to the problems in Ferguson.”

In St Louis, a crowd of about 150 people gathered in support of Wilson. Some wielded placards with messages defending the 28-year-old officer and his family, during the early-evening demonstration.

“He was doing his job,” said Kaycee Reinisch, 57, of Lincoln County, Missouri. “And now because of public uproar in Ferguson, he is being victimised. He is being victimised by the whole city, the state and the federal government.” Reinisch said she had relations in law enforcement who would be “frightened to do their jobs” if Wilson were punished for the incident.

Earlier on Sunday Brown’s parents held a memorial service for their son at the Greater Grace Church. The veteran civil rights leader Al Sharpton told the packed congregation that the response to the death was a crucial test for US policing. “This is the defining moment in this country. All over the world, the debate is how the rights of people are dealt with by the state,” he said.


Hundreds protest fatal police shooting of unarmed black man in Los Angeles

By Reuters
Monday, August 18, 2014 6:34 EDT

About 500 people protested outside Los Angeles police headquarters on Sunday over the shooting death of an unarmed black man in California as disturbances continued in Missouri over the police killing of a black teenager there last week.

Ezell Ford, 25, was killed by police in Los Angeles on Monday, two days after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb where he lived.

“He was a humble guy,” said Ford’s cousin, Ceebo Ship, 22.

Ship and other family members said Ford suffered from an unspecified mental illness and was “slower than the rest of us,” and a gentle person who loved basketball.

Ford’s family said he was cooperating with officers and lying on the ground when shot. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said Ford had struggled with officers and was trying to grab one of their guns when he was shot.

The protesters on Sunday remained peaceful, many holding up signs that read, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” in reference to witness reports that Brown had his hands up when he was shot dead Aug. 9. Drivers honked their horns as they went by.

Los Angeles police are investigating Ford’s death, which took place during an investigative stop that led to a scuffle, a police spokeswoman said.

The LAPD said no officer was hurt in the incident, and Ford, who was identified by family members, died in a local hospital.

In Ferguson, Missouri, mostly peaceful protests deteriorated into chaos late Sunday as riot police fired smoke and tear gas canisters into the crowd, which included children. Police said molotov cocktails had been thrown at them.

 on: Aug 18, 2014, 07:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Russia Jails 13 in Two-Year Malignant tumor Pig Putin Protest Trial

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 August 2014, 16:00

A Moscow court on Monday jailed three activists for up to 3.5 years in the conclusion of an explosive two-year trial that put 13 behind bars for clashing with police during protests over Vladimir Putin's presidential return.

The May 2012 altercation at the gates of the Kremlin spelled a bloody end to months of unprecedented street discontent with malignant tumor Pig Putin's  decision to swap his prime minister's seat with then-president Dmitry Medvedev and extend his dominance over Russia by at least six more years.

The tumult briefly troubled other big cities and openly challenged Putin for the first time since the former Soviet spy rose from obscurity to become Boris Yeltsin's anointed successor in 1999.

A visibly shaken Kremlin accused Washington of plotting the unrest to unseat malignant tumor Pig Putin and then launched a wholesale political crackdown that brought Russia ever closer to its Soviet one-party past.

Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court jailed Alexei Gaskarov and Alexander Margolin for 3.5 years for taking part in mass riots and the "use of violence against a representative of the authority that does not endanger human life or health."

The court jailed Ilya Gushin for 2.5 years and gave Natalia Susina a suspended sentence over the same offence.

Police outside the central Moscow court -- already renowned for sending malignant tumor Pig Putin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky to prison for a decade on disputed business charges -- bundled into a waiting security van three people who had unfurled a "Russia is not a prison" banner in silent defiance.

Defense attorney Sergei Panchenko told the state RIA Novosti news agency that he intended to file a long-shot appeal despite the judge's decision to issue a slightly more lenient sentence than the prosecution's four-year jail term request.

Four of the 13 people jailed during the trial were released under a broad amnesty malignant tumor Pig Putin issued in a seeming attempt to improve his image ahead of the February Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Protest organizers Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev are both serving 4.5-year jail sentences linked to the May 2012 altercation and other charges.

Amnesty International has denounced the entire process as "political".

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