United States, "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria
US Department of Defense [18/12/15]:
U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Strikes in Syria
Attack aircraft conducted three strikes in Syria:
-- Near Ayn Isa, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar position.
-- Near Manbij, two strikes destroyed two ISIL fighting positions.
Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 19 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Baghdadi, a strike denied ISIL access to terrain.
-- Near Fallujah, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, cratered an ISIL-used road, denied ISIL access to terrain and destroyed three ISIL heavy machine guns, four ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL mortar position, two ISIL command and control nodes, and an ISIL-used bridge.
-- Near Kisik, three strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL light machine guns, two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun.
-- Near Mosul, four strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL heavy machine guns, two ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles and two ISIL assembly areas.
-- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun, six ISIL staging areas and an ISIL building.
-- Near Sinjar, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, suppressed an ISIL light machine gun position and destroyed four ISIL vehicles, two ISIL heavy machine guns, two ISIL light machine guns, two ISIL excavators, and an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed five ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL communications tower.
Additionally, there was an unreported strike on Dec. 15:
-- Near Fallujah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit, denied ISIL access to terrain and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL buildings.
Iraq soldiers killed by friendly fire, US military says [CBS News - 18/12/15]
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are rotating through coalition training in northern Iraq at the rate of 800 personnel every 25 days, enabling them to continue their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with minimal interruption, the commander of the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center said yesterday. ... [US Department of Defense - 18/12/15]
Gunfire rang out around the towns of Silopi and Cizre in southeast Turkey early on Friday, witnesses said, as state media reported security forces had killed 54 Kurdish militants in three days of urban fighting there.
The figures indicated a doubling of the death toll in the last 24 hours after President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters would be "annihilated". ... [Ahram - 18/12/15]
How many refugee boats did the Australian navy - with the approval of the political, media and human rights establishment - tow back today? ----> @MSF_Sea [19/12/15]: ... The @MSF @Greenpeace team have assisted 6 boats to safety on #Lesvos this morning and it's only just begun
@AstroSamantha - Sam Cristoforetti [18/12/15]: Guardia Costiera Thanks for your service to migrants & refugees in the Mediterranean. For saving them & for treating them w/ respect.
@Marodriguez1971 [18/12/15]: La Historia nos machacará. Lesbos #refugiados James Nachtwey
@Marodriguez1971 [18/12/15]: Todo normal. Lesbos. #refugiados Foto Anadalu
Eighteen migrants drown after boat sinks off Turkey's southwestern coast [Reuters - 18/12/15]
Stranded migrants chant "Open the borders!" at rally in Athens [US News - 18/12/15]:
... Mareman Azad of Afghanistan was among 1,000 protesters in Athens on International Migrants Day.
The demonstrators were protesting plans by Greece's left-wing government to start detaining migrants who are due to be deported.
They filed past an open air Christmas concert Friday at Athens' main Syntagma Square as a choir sang "Silent Night."
Azad, who traveled to Greece from Turkey after leaving her home in Kabul, says she has been learning Greek while she waits for an opportunity to try and travel north. ...
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a European Union summit on migration in Brussels Friday and reassured her that screening centers for migrants being set up on Aegean islands, the so-called hot spots, will be ready in two months’ time.
The meeting came on the second day of a two-day summit that saw both Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart Ahment Davutoglu, who also attended, come under pressure over their handling of a migrant influx heading from Africa and Asia into Europe.
Merkel was said to have been critical of Greek delays in setting up hot spots on five Greek islands. ... [Ekathimerini - 18/12/15]
Jordan begins deporting Sudanese asylum seekers [Arab News - 19/12/15]
Costa Rica's Solís bails on Central America summit over Cuban migrant standoff [Tico Times - 18/12/15]:
A summit of Central American leaders in El Salvador on Friday failed to break a regional impasse over the fate of 5,000 U.S.-bound Cuban migrants blocked in Costa Rica for weeks.
“There was no solution at this summit to the problem with the Cuban migrants. There was no consensus over what should be done — each country has its own point of view on the matter,” Nicaragua’s deputy foreign minister, Denis Moncada, told AFP.
He added that his country’s view was that the United States should step in to offer a solution.
The Cubans — another 1,200 of whom are also stranded in Panama — have been left in limbo for a month, since Nicaragua closed its border to them on Nov. 15 and posted soldiers and police to ensure none slipped in.
The migrants are the tail end of a stream of Cubans leaving their island in a bid to reach the United States, driven by a fear that thawing Washington-Havana ties might put an end to a Cold War-era U.S. policy of accepting Cubans who step foot on U.S. soil.
That stream spiked higher this year, before Ecuador ended its visa-free entry for Cubans this month.
That shut the door on their principal entry point to mainland Latin America before an overland slog through Central America and Mexico to the U.S. border.
Costa Rica, which in November dismantled a human-smuggling ring the Cubans had been relying on, has been trying in vain to get other Central American states to take in the migrants and let them continue their journey.
Nicaragua, though, has been steadfast in refusing them in.
Its stance spoke to longstanding tensions with Costa Rica over border disputes, one of which was this week ruled in Costa Rica’s favor by the International Court of Justice. Nicaragua’s alliance with Cuba’s government is also seen as a factor.
Nicaragua’s deputy foreign minister said Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís held bilateral meetings Friday with counterparts and Nicaragua’s official handling the issue, but no agreement was found.
“Nicaragua has given its position in the matter: that the situation should be resolved not by Central America but by the United States since it is the one that has prompted many Cubans to want to try to get to it,” Moncada said.
In a sign of Costa Rica’s frustration, Solis left the summit before its close without making a promised speech on the Cuban migrant issue.
Nicaragua’s government issued a statement to reporters after the summit that “demands that the United States find a solution for the immediate and safe transfer to its territory of the thousands of Cubans blocked on this dangerous transit route.”
Several of the other countries represented at the summit, which included host El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Belize and the Dominican Republic, called for a solution, but offered nothing concrete beyond insisting a consensus was needed.
The thousands of Cubans are being put up in schools and tents in northern Costa Rica, near the Nicaraguan border, waiting for their chance to continue their odyssey north.
Solís was set to address reporters in Costa Rica on Friday night.
As a human, I am deeply ashamed to see Australia has failed to protect him.
Hazaras in Indonesia [19/12/15]:
Mohammad Nasim Najafi who was died suspiciously at Yongha Hill Detention Centre 5 months ago, just has been buried in Rockingham, Perth.
He escaped war and persecution in Afghanistan and sought asylum to Australia.
Today he was buried to say good bye to those who self declared as human beings.
He thought Australia would protect him from harm.
As a human, I am deeply ashamed to see Australia has failed to protect him. ... [Hayatullah Rahimi]
... By Friday, July 31, Nasim was dead. As his body was carried from the centre, loaded into an ambulance under a white sheet, fellow detainees chanted in volleys of Arabic and English: “He did not kill himself, the immigration killed him.” ... [The Saturday Paper - 8/8/15]
Australians DO care.
The political and media establishment want us to deny our humanity.
Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) [11/12/15]:
RAC had a stall at today's shoebox appeal for asylum seekers in detention.
It was amazing to see such an outpouring of community support.
Next year we hope many more people will join us in the fight for their freedom and protection.
... We celebrate the season of “peace and goodwill to all men”, and they suffer, kept out of sight by a government too ashamed to let us know what the government is doing in our name. ... [Julian Burnside - 18/2/15]
Asylum seeker who lost eye during brutal attack on Manus concentration camp sues Australian government and G4S [ABC - 18/12/15]:
A case involving an asylum seeker who sued the Federal Government over a riot on [a brutal attack on the] Manus Island [concentration camp] appears to have been resolved.
The detainee in his mid-30s lost an eye and suffered severe facial injuries during a riot at [the brutal attack on] the detention centre [concentration camp] in February last year.
The riot [brutal attack] resulted in the death of 23-year-old Iranian man Reza Barati and dozens of others were injured.
Lawyers for the man, known as RN, claimed the Federal Government had failed in its duty of care.
Security firm G4S was also being sued.
The man was seeking damages for pain and suffering.
The Victorian Supreme Court was today told by the detainee's lawyers that an in-principal agreement had been reached and there was just further documentation to organise.
A directions hearing has been listed for February.
This was a brutal attack, not a “riot” - Refugee Action Collective – Manus Island Fact Sheet [2/3/14]
Submission 67 Nauru Senate Inquiry:
... We were expected to "manufacture" Individual Management Plans as this was what the Department of Immigration wanted.
After the murder of Reza Barati, we were told to lie to our clients and tell them it was a "riot" to deter them from protesting. ...
Australian Border Deaths Database
Media, political and human rights establishment maintain their excitement about a token gesture, yet continue ignoring Australia's ban on accepting refugees
Secret federal government documents cast doubt over whether Australia told Indonesia and the United Nations about a retrospective ban on taking refugees from official channels.
In November last year Australia announced it would no longer accept refugees who applied for resettlement through the UN’S refugee agency in Indonesia.
The ban applied to anyone who registered with the UNHCR from 1 July 2014.
An undated draft talking point document, released by the department of immigration under freedom of information, suggests Jakarta and the UNHCR were not consulted before the changes were made public.
“It has always been our intention to discuss these measures with the government of Indonesia and the UNHCR before any announcement was made,” the talking points say.
It was regretted information about the measures had “entered the public domain before these discussions could take place”.
But another document said the Australian embassy in Jakarta briefed Indonesian officials in September and November last year before an official ministerial announcement on 18 November.
The department insists the first document was a draft and was not used.
According to the UNHCR, there were 11,186 refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia in December 2014.
The documents show the federal government cut the refugee intake – for those who were registered with the UNHCR before the deadline – to 450 in the 2014-15 financial year.
The figure was 150 fewer than the previous two years.
The documents blamed an increase in places allocated to Syrians and Iraqis from the Middle East for the cut in refugees in Indonesia.
“This measure is designed to reduce the movement of asylum seekers to Indonesia and encourage them to seek resettlement in countries of first asylum,” they say.
Australia accepted more refugees from Indonesia than any other resettlement nation. In 2013 New Zealand resettled 78 refugees, Sweden seven and the US five. More than 186 refugees were resettled by other countries last year.
Throughout the seven months it took Samer and his family to make their way from Syria to the United States, he told himself that the risk and cost would be worth it they could swap their war-ravaged homeland for what he believed was a “land of opportunity, hope and peace”.
But the family’s arrival in the US has proved more stressful than the journey: days after they reached Texas they found themselves the unwitting subject of a national debate over potential terrorist infiltration.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said that Samer, his wife and two sons – aged two and five – could be the embodiment of America’s “worst nightmare”.
Donald Trump speculated that the family, who are Christian, could be members of Islamic State.
A month later, Samer and his family are still being held in indefinitely in separate detention centres – and his belief in America as a beacon for asylum seekers is dimming by the day. ... [Guardian - 17/12/15]
Facebook blocks messages "promoting terrorist propaganda" [Zee News - 18/12/15]:
Facebook blocks a million messages every week that promote terrorism or radical ideologies, said executive director of UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Jean-Paul Laborde.
"We must learn to move through social networks at the same speed or faster than terrorist organisations," Efe quoted Laborde as saying on Thursday.
He said this while addressing a meeting on balance between protecting citizens and maintaining their online privacy, which according to Laborde is "a great challenge" for law enforcement, civil society and private companies.
"We must find the balance between ensuring freedom and privacy online, but at the same time it is necessary to protect the lives of all citizens of the world," said Laborde.
"One area in which we must first defeat terrorist organisations such as Islamic State is the internet and social networks," he added.
To achieve these goals new relationships and connections must be forged between civil society, UN members and private enterprises like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter that control exchange of information online.
"Private companies do not want to look like the bad guy and are doing much to help," said Laborde and added YouTube cancelled at least 14 million videos of terrorist propaganda in the last two years.
In special meeting, UN weighs measures to prevent terrorists from exploiting the Internet, social media [Media Release - 18/12/15]
The militarism of US diplomacy [TRNN - 18/12/15]:
... Chris Hedges and author Vijay Prashad trace the acceleration of U.S. militarism since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and discuss the consequences of U.S. domination over global affairs.
... PRASHAD: And they begin to hammer an agenda through the United Nations. They begin to sideline the General Assembly with a great deal of robust pressure on the various, you know, institutions of the United Nations, focusing everything into the Security Council.
You know, if you look back at it, if you look before 1989, yes of course the Security Council was important. But the General Assembly had--was able to assert itself. You know, that is why when Moynihan is sent there his task--by the way, Moynihan's memoir of the years in the, in the UN, is called A Dangerous Place. Why was it a dangerous place--because the United States government couldn't force a policy through. It was constrained by the General Assembly. By the time Bill Clinton comes in the '90s, they pushed an agenda against the General Assembly, brought power to the Security Council, you know, invented this idea of humanitarian intervention. After Rwanda.
HEDGES: Samantha Power.
PRASHAD: Samantha Power comes even later than this, because Rwanda, when Susan Rice was at the African section of the State Department, Rwanda was to their mind a great error. But Rwanda allowed them, after Rwanda, it allowed them to push this theory that we can intervene and should indeed intervene to so-called help civilians. And from 1985-2005 when they passed the responsibility to protect directive of the UN, the idea of humanitarian intervention had narrowed so deeply from being help civilians to what serves U.S. interests. ...
CISA is now the law: How Congress quietly passed the second Patriot Act [Zero Hedge - 18/12/15]
Bernie Sanders' campaign on Friday sued the Democratic National Committee in federal court after the party organization withheld the campaign's access to a crucial voter database. ... [CNN - 18/12/15]
A Virginia county closed all of its schools Friday because of intense backlash over a class assignment about Islam, with some parents alleging that their children were being subjected to Muslim indoctrination and educators emphasizing the importance of exposing U.S. students to the world’s fastest-growing religion.
A high school geography teacher in rural Augusta County asked students to try their hand at writing the shahada, an Islamic declaration of faith, in Arabic calligraphy.
The task, community reaction to it, and a sudden influx of outrage from around the country — including angry emails, phone calls and threats to put the teacher’s head on a stake — led the school district to close rather than risk disruption or violence. ... [Washington Post - 18/12/15]
Chicago protesters call for Mayor to step down over police brutality [Reuters - 18/12/15]
@olsongetty [18/12/15]: Demonstrators in Chicago block police van to prevent it from leaving with prisoners. #LaquanMcDonald
@kgosztola [18/12/15]: Management of Gibson's complains to CPD sergeant. Patrons don't like seeing the rabble while they dine #ResignRahm
@kgosztola [18/12/15]: #ResignRahm marching down street lined with all stores where elites shop for posh clothing
Democracy Now [18/12/15]:
... University of Chicago has announced it will build a Level 1 adult trauma center for the South Side on its Hyde Park Medical Center.
The South Side has been without a Level 1 adult trauma center since 1991, forcing residents of communities with a disproportionate amount of gun violence to travel the furthest for life-saving care.
Black youth from the South Side of Chicago have waged a more than five-year-long campaign demanding the University of Chicago build this trauma center, staging dozens of protests, lockdowns and other actions.
The movement was sparked by the 2010 death of 18-year-old activist Damian Turner, who was shot only blocks from the University of Chicago, but who had to travel all the way to another hospital downtown, where he died.
Organizer Veronica Morris-Moore explained the significance of Thursday’s announcement.
Veronica Morris-Moore: "It means that black lives matter. It’s not just a hashtag, and it’s not just a movement. It is a reputable source for political changes. It means that people who believe that racism exists within the institutions, within the policies of this country have to organize with folks who believe what they believe and find a common issue to fight for that addresses the day-to-day lives of black people. The university has conceded its power to the demands of young black people and the people that have supported them and the community that they represent."
A Denver, Colorado, man has spent 28 years in prison based on a dream—and it wasn’t his. Now he could soon be free. In 1989, Clarence Moses-EL, who is African-American, was sentenced to 48 years in prison after a woman said she dreamed he was the man who raped and beat her in the dark.
The victim said she was raped in her apartment after a night out drinking at a party. She was beaten so badly during the attack that she suffered broken facial bones and lost the use of one eye. Initially, the victim named three men she had been drinking with as her possible attackers—none of them was Clarence Moses-EL. But police never investigated any of those men, because, a day and a half later, the victim said she had a dream that Moses-EL was the one who raped her.
Moses-EL has always maintained his innocence. But the police threw out a rape kit and any possible evidence, like bed sheets and her clothes. This summer, another man confessed to the attack, yet Moses-EL remained in prison.
Now a judge has lifted his conviction, but Moses-EL still remains in jail. He could be freed as early as Tuesday, when a bond hearing has been set. The District Attorney’s Office has not yet said if they will attempt to retry him for the crime. We speak with Colorado Independent editor Susan Greene, who has long covered the story, and with Moses-EL’s attorney, Gail Johnson. ... [Democracy Now - 18/12/15]
Chemical castration may lead to sadistic personality: Psychologist [Jakarta Post - 19/12/15]:
The government should consider many aspects before using chemical castration as punishment for child molesters as it may create a more sadistic person, a psychologist has said.
Psychologist Kasandra Putranto said on Friday that a child molester suffered disorders and did not get help to deal with the problem, while the psychological effect of chemical castration depended on the psychological state of the culprit.
“Although there has been no research proving that a chemically castrated person can become more sadistic, theoretically it may be that way. Chemical castration may bring someone’s sexual desire under control, but it cannot fix the cognitive and psychomotoric status of the culprit. Chemical castration could lead to a desire for revenge,” Kasandra said recently.
Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Yambise has stated that chemical castration would act as a deterrent to child sex offenders.
She also said that the plan to chemically castrate child molesters was in the final stage.
The ministry was assigned by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to formulate a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu).
“[Chemical] castration is one way to combat the sexual abuse of children,” said Yohana as quoted by Antara news agency on Dec. 15.
Kasandra said the best way to stop child sexual abuse was by intervention through the law, education, information technology and social and cultural movements.
She said that child abuse was allowed to thrive in terms of social and cultural aspects, such as by making the 16 legal age for females to marry.
She said the law simply made it legal for a child to be married off before they were physically and mentally ready.
Bali Police tightened security at Kerobokan Penitentiary on Friday morning following a clash that left two inmates dead and two others injured. ... [Jakarta Post - 18/12/15]
New Zealand government paid Serco $8m in bonuses [RNZI - 19/12/15]:
The government has awarded Serco $8 million in performance bonuses since it began running Mt Eden Prison four years ago, figures show.
Department of Corrections took over the running of the prison in July after allegations of fight clubs and assault surfaced, and more recently, it announced its contract would not be renewed.
Green Party justice spokesman David Clendon said each year, if Serco achieved its targets, it could get up to $3.1m in bonuses.
In its first year in 2011, the company got almost $1.3m due to "teething problems", he said.
"In the second year, they were paid $2.7m, the third year $2.9m and this last year it's dropped down to $1.1m given all its deductions about breach of contract that we know about."
A large slice of the $8m paid to Serco should be refunded, given the disaster that had unfolded particularly in the past year, Mr Clendon said.
Corrections spokesperson Julie Robertson said the performance-related payout was paid only if all targets set out in the contract with Serco were met.
The contract also allowed Corrections to claim back any fee paid out if the operator's performance was deemed to have failed for that year.
New Corrections Minister Judith Collins said the bonuses were an operational matter and she could not comment.
Indonesia's Speaker quits over Freeport fix [RNZI - 18/12/15]:
The speaker of Indonesia's Parliament has resigned after allegedly seeking to extort a US$4 billion stake in the operations of mining company Freeport McMoran in Papua province.
Setya Novanto quit as a parliamentary ethics committee was investigating his case which centred on a recording of secret talks related to onging negotiations over the extension of Freeport's current contract.
In the audio recording Novanto appears to be attempting to extort a 20 per cent stake from the gold and copper miner's Papua operations.
Novanto has admitted to being the recorded voice which references his closeness to Indonesian President Joko Widodo and another top minister with regards to approving a new mine contract.
He resigned his post hours before the committee recommended his removal.
However the disgraced lawmaker, who remains an MP for the time being, has claimed that he was just joking about Freeport cutting him in on a share of the deal.
With the end of the U.S. oil export ban approaching, traders of physical crude have been scouring the globe and poring over shipping rates to exploit what they hope will be the biggest new arbitrage in years: selling domestic crude abroad.
The trouble is, they can't seem to make the math work; and analysts say it could be months if not years before U.S. crude flows to foreign markets in any significant volume. ... [Reuters - 17/12/15]
A French court has ordered International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde to face trial over her role in the payment of some €400 million ($434 million) to French tycoon Bernard Tapie, legal sources said Thursday. ... [France 24 - 17/12/15]
Pharmaceutical boss Martin Shkreli, who sparked outrage after hiking up the price of an established medicine, has been arrested on separate fraud charges.
He is accused of fraud relating to a drug company he previously headed, Retrophin, and a hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management, where he was a fund manager.
He is currently chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
Mr Shkreli was arrested by the FBI.
He was arrested in Manhattan, New York, accused of running a "Ponzi scheme" where Retrophin assets were illegally used to pay off debts after MSMB lost millions of dollars. ... [BBC - 17/12/15]
Japan hangs two prisoners, including first convicted in lay judge trial [Japan Times - 18/12/15]
19 December 2015