Sunday, November 22, 2015

Music Video - Kelly Clarkson - Piece By Piece

Will Turkey get tougher on ISIL?

Human Rights Watch report says Bahrain is torturing detainees


Britain’s close Gulf ally Bahrain has been torturing detainees during interrogation, a leading human rights watchdog says, undermining UK government claims that the island state has reformed its security forces and improved accountability.
report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) reveals the same sort of abuses by Bahraini personnel that were documented by an official commission of inquiry set up after popular protests against the Sunni-dominated government in 2011.
Accounts of the mistreatment of prisoners will bolster claims by Bahraini opposition figures that Britain is turning a blind eye to unacceptable practices, three weeks after the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, inaugurated acontroversial new British naval base near the capital, Manama.
HRW interviewed 10 detainees who said they had experienced coercive interrogations at the interior ministry’s criminal investigations directorate (CID) and in police stations since 2012, and four former inmates of Jaw prison, who said they had been tortured as recently as March. 
Mohamed Bader, who was arrested on his return from Syria in 2014, told HRW he was punched, kicked, stripped naked and blindfolded and handcuffed throughout his questioning. He signed a confession under torture.
Others described being subjected to electric shocks; suspension in painful positions, including by their wrists; forced standing; extreme cold and sexual abuse. Six said CID interrogators boasted of their reputation for inflicting pain on detainees.
Interviews were conducted by telephone and Skype because researchers were not granted visas to visit the country.
Activists say Hammond cancelled a planned meeting with opposition figures before meeting his Bahraini counterpart. Criticism has also mounted over the case of Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of al-Wefaq, the country’s predominantly Shia opposition movement, who was sentenced to four years in prison in June and has been adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.
Nabeel Rajab, another high-profile democratic opposition figure and human rights activist, is subject to a travel ban.
“I’ll show you why Wefaq calls Bahrain the capital of torture,” one former detainee quoted an interrogator as telling him. Another said a CID officer held something to his nose and told him it was “the blood of people who don’t cooperate”.
Britain’s argument is that Bahrain is not perfect but is following the recommendations of the Bahrain independent investigation commission (Bici) in taking steps to reform its police force, judicial system and prison service. UK policy is “to support Bahrain in its return to a stable and reformist state with a good human rights record,” the Foreign Office says.
Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The claims of Bahrain and its allies that authorities have ended torture in detention are simply not credible. All the available evidence supports the conclusion that these new institutions have not effectively tackled what the Bici report described as a ‘culture of impunity’ among security forces.”
Britain has taken the lead internationally in arguing that Bahrainhas reformed its security forces and accountability mechanisms, but HRW calls the operation of those mechanisms “seriously flawed”. It recommends that the UK government suspend funding for security service reform.
The UK insists strong trade and investment ties and close security and intelligence cooperation are helping reform and promoting stability in the Gulf. Its close relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also come under close scrutiny in recent months, in part because of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen and increasing awareness of human rights abuses.
King Hamad was on a private visit to the UK last week.
In 2012 and 2013, Bahrain postponed indefinitely the scheduled visit to the country of the UN special rapporteur on torture. Britain has not publicly called for it to take place. Bahrain often describes opposition activists as terrorists and claims they are working in the service of Iran.

Belgian police arrest 16, fail to find Paris attacks key suspect

German opposition slam hypocritical dealings Saudi Arabia

The co-chair of Germany's opposition Green Party, Cem Ozdemir, slams Germany and its allies for “hypocrisy and duplicity” in their dealings with Saudi Arabia.
Germany and its allies must re-examine their relationship with Saudi Arabia where arms are sent and oil returns, said Ozdemir at the party’s annual congress on Friday.
He noted that as long as this hypocrisy remains, success is unattainable in the battle against the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
"Saudi Wahhabism is not part of the problem," he said, stressing that, "It is the source of the problem."
Takfirism is largely influenced by Wahhabism, the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia and freely preached by Saudi clerics.
The Daesh terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, now control parts of Syria and Iraq. They have been engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.
Ozdemir made the remarks at a time that the monarchy’s forces were engaed in a deadly war on the impoverished Yemen, which has failed to prevent the West from selling arms to Saudis.
Just earlier this month, the Pentagon said that the US State Department has approved a $1.29 billion sale of smart bombs to Riyadh.

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Video - Ban Ki Moon: I count on leadership of Russia in fighting against ISIS

Russian premier: fight against terrorism possible only through coordination of all forces

An effective fight against terrorism is possible only by coordinating the efforts of all forces with reliance on the UN authority, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at the 10th East Asia summit on Sunday.
"It is clear today as never before that an effective struggle with this evil is possible only by coordinating all forces and with reliance primarily on the existing international institutions, including the UN," Medvedev said.
Over the past month alone, Russia has lived through two major terrorist acts, Medvedev said, referring to the airliner blown up by terrorists over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and the death of Russian nationals in a terror attack on a hotel in the capital of Mali.
"The threat coming from the Islamic State is felt today actually by all countries. These are Europe and America, Central and South East Asia," the Russian premier said.
"We have just lived through several horrible tragedies: the terrorists blew up a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula and staged a deadly massacre in the very center of Europe, in Paris. The world has shuddered from these inhuman terrorist acts," Medvedev said.
"The latest tragedy occurred in Mali where people were also killed, including six our pilots. This extended the mournful list of the latest events," the Russian premier said, adding that Russia and the world had to defend themselves.
It is exceptionally important to secure "a consolidated anti-terror position of the countries with large Islamic communities," to which Russia also belongs, Medvedev said.
The Russian premier said he hoped a statement, which the summit was adopting on information security, would also contribute to this effort.
"The use of technologies for terrorist purposes and criminalization of the information environment are poisoning the international atmosphere and simply bringing to naught the advantages of the global information world," the Russian premier said.
Architecture of equal security should become imperative for entire world - Medvedev
Measures to develop the architecture of equal and indivisible security should become an imperative for the entire world, including the Asia-Pacific region, Medvedev said.
"The elaboration of common and binding rules of the game, the development of the reliable architecture of equal and indivisible security should become an imperative for all of us, including the Asia-Pacific region," Medvedev said.
The challenges confronted by the international community today "are becoming ever more dramatic and multidimensional," the Russian premier said.
"A crisis of ‘the culture of compromises’ is felt ever more acutely in the world," he added.
"The risks of inter-confessional and inter-civilization rifts are intensifying," Medvedev said.
According to the Russian premier, "stability and sustainable development are seriously threatened by regional conflicts, terrorism and extremism, cross-border crimes, the shortage of food, epidemics and the problems of climate change."
"The analysis of conflicts and crises shows that unilateral actions, no matter how effective they may be, do not produce the required result. Collective fundamentals should be the main factors for the world to become more secure," Medvedev said.
Russia’s proposals on this score are well-known. Other states are also promoting their approaches for strengthening security in the region, the Russian premier said.
"I’m confident that we can reach substantive practical decisions by uniting our efforts. The success of our dialog on framework security principles would be the best confirmation of the authority of our summit, an example for other regions where similar mechanisms are absent or require them to become actualized," the Russian premier sad.
"Otherwise, there would be no support in the struggle against such security challenges as international terrorism and extremism," Medvedev said.

Police Making Arrests in Belgium’s Anti-Terror Operation

One suspect was detained during an anti-terrorist police operation in the city of Charleroi south of Brussels, local media reported.

Another police operation is currently conducted in the eastern Belgian city of Liege, according to the RTBF television.

The channel did not report any details of the operations after the Belgian Federal Police asked local media and social networks’ users not to disclose the exact locations in which anti-terror operations are conducted.
Local media also reported that Belgian Police detained six suspects during the searches in the center of Brussels, related to a terrorist threat. According to the Derniere Heure newspaper, one of the suspects was injured during the arrest.
Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the only extremist to survive the Paris attacks, was not among those detained, the media reported.

Belgian police is conducting an unprecedented anti-terrorist operation across several districts of Brussels, searching homes and arresting a number of suspects, local media reported.
According to previous reports, the operation was being conducted in the central district of Brussels, with officers blocking streets and asking local residents to stay away from windows.
According to the RTBF television, the police have now expanded their operations to the Molenbeek and the Etterbeek districts. The whole area of the immigrant Molebeek district was cordoned off, the media said.
On Saturday, the authorities raised the terror alert level in Brussels to level 4, the highest possible, in the wake of attacks in Paris earlier this month.
The Belgian police carried out a series of anti-terrorist operations detaining a number of people in Brussels, after it was revealed one of the Paris attackers had lived there. At least 16 suspects have been arrested, according to media reports.

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‘Pray for Paris’: Touching video tribute pays respect to terror attack victims

A touching video tribute to Paris has been posted online by a Russian filmmaker, showing an outpouring of love and support for those lost in the terror attacks. The creator told RT he opted for a video tribute because “too many words were already said.” The ‘Pray for Paris’ video, posted on Vimeo by filmmaker Alex Soloviev, features residents paying their respects at Place de la République, which has been transformed into a memorial for the victims.

Music Video - Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire

Paris attacks 'exploited' by immigration critics, claims Juncker


Opponent of immigration are “exploiting” the Paris terrorist atrocity, Jean-Claude Juncker claimed today, amid mounting evidence that the refugee crisis is being used by Isis to traffic terrorists into Europe.
Days after France announced an indefinite reintroduction of border controls, the president of the European Commission vowed to “fight” to keep the Schengen zone alive and lashed out at “cynics” who had linked the migration crisis to the Paris attacks.At least two of the Paris suicide bombers, as well as the plots’ mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, are believed to have taken the migrant trail from Syria via Greece to Belgium and Paris. Intelligence officials fear “dozens if not hundreds” have slipped through, it was claimed yesterday.
However, writing in a Maltese newspaper, Mr Juncker said he did not accept any connection between the refugee crisis and the risk of terrorism.“I cannot bear and will not accept an amalgamation of the topics of refugees and terrorism in the wake of the atrocious attacks in Paris. The cynics who exploit the suffering of Paris have not understood that those who perpetrated the attacks are precisely those whom the refugees are trying to flee.” “We will only save Schengen by applying Schengen. I will fight for this. I could not bear that my generation be the one to put up walls again in Europe – we have only just taken them down,” Mr Juncker added.
Member states backed France’s demand on Friday for every person entering Europe, including irregular migrants and EU-passport holders, to be subject to a full background check on the Schengen counter-terrorism database. The plan had been resisted by the European Commission, which is now tasked with revising the bloc’s border code. The Sunday Telegraph revealed yesterday how the European Commission had appeared to ignore warnings from Frontex, the EU borders agency, that the crisis which has seen hundreds of thousands of migrants cross into Europe was ripe for exploitation by Isil.
On Saturday Malta announced it could retain the suspension of Schengen indefinitely, following a temporary suspension for a summit of the Queen and Commonwealth leaders on the island at the end of this month. Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister, said the decision would be made on security grounds, following the discovery of a passport forgery ring.
That Malta, a small island nation which is already patrolled by a navy, could threaten to suspend Schengen is a sign of the gravity of the crisis affecting the passport-free travel zone. A string of countries imposed border controls to manage the refugee crisis, and Paris said it would retain border checks for as long as is necessary following the Paris atrocity.In a rare admission, Mr Juncker said that measures to crackdown on illegal people smuggling and speed up the registration of migrants should have happened “years ago”.
“As always in life, we cannot go back but we can do better in the future,” he conceded.On Friday Heinz-Christian Strache, the Austrian far-right leader, called for convicted militants to be jailed for life on an EU island prison."Maybe the Greeks will help us, or maybe the Italians with Lampedusa,” he said.

Carson and Trump's refugee rhetoric is a whole new breed of dog-whistle politics

What used to be called “dog whistle” politics became a shrill blast heard around the world this week as American politicians reacted to the Paris terrorist attacks with an anti-refugee backlash that sounded ferocious even by the standards of the 2016 presidential race.
Where once immigration rhetoric came coded in a different frequency – designed to stir the conservative base while remaining inaudible to most – now the tone is unmistakeable, employing language that could scarcely be more offensive, to Muslim ears in particular.
“If there is a rabid dog running around your neighbourhood, you are probably not going to assume something good about that dog and you are probably going to put your children away,” said presidential candidate Ben Carson as he called for a US ban on all Syrian refugees, “rabid” or otherwise.
“By the same token we have to have [better] screening processes in place to determine who the mad dogs are,” added the retired neurosurgeon, who currently lies second in opinion polls for the Republican nomination.
Others went further still. In recent days, Republican frontrunner Donald Trumphas called for all Syrians to be deported, endorsed the surveillance and closure of mosques and even appeared to agree with suggestions that all US Muslims be placed on a government database.
“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,” Trump said. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he added when asked how such a religious watch-list might work. “Right now, we have to have a border, we have to have strength, we have to have a wall.”
Ted Cruz, a Texas senator once seen as a conservative outlier but now lying third in the presidential polls behind Trump and Carson, has introduced legislation that would bar refugees from Iraq and Libya too.
A similar bill passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday, with the support of 47 Democrats giving it potentially enough momentum to override a threatened White House veto.
Both Cruz and Jeb Bush, a candidate once seen as the face of the Republican party establishment, have proposed limiting the US refugee programme in the Middle East to Christians only – discussing how religious tests might separate out Muslim applicants. Bush did criticise Trump’s comments, though, saying: “You talk about internment, you talk about closing mosques, you talk about registering people. That’s just wrong.”
Barack Obama has been swift to condemn the new tone in American politics as “offensive and hysterical”, as he pinned his hopes on Democrats in the Senate to stem what the White House views as a disturbing xenophobic tide.
“When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful,” said Obama during a trip to Asia. “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
But the mood has spread far beyond the Republican presidential field. Both Democratic and Republican state governors have joined the bipartisan calls in the House for refugee reform. “We are at war whether people like to admit it or not and we want to keep Mississippi out of that war here on the home front,” said that state’s governor, Phil Bryant, in a typical response this week.
Others have suggested US politicians are only mirroring the mood in the media, where CNN suspended a reporter who criticised the House refugee bill on Twitter but allowed another to urge Obama to “take out the bastards” with more robust military attacks on Syria. Fox News lambasted the president’s spokesman for a White House response to Paris that it characterised as “aloof, apathetic and cavalier”.
“When you have a major terrorist incident you are about as likely to have good politics as you are good journalism,” says Anthony Cordesman, a former government security and intelligence analyst now based at the Center for Strategic and Intelligence Studies. “You have a posturing contest … everyone wants instant progress in complex areas where you can’t achieve it.”
And the mood is not restricted to discussion of refugee policy or the appropriate number of bombs and troops to drop on Syria.
Intelligence officials have used the Paris attack to mount a concerted pushback against recent surveillance reforms, demanding the death penalty for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden with little evidence or questioning of their claims. “I would prefer to see him hanged by the neck until he’s dead, rather than merely electrocuted,” the former CIA director James Woolsey told CNN. “I think the blood of a lot of these French young people is on his hands.”
For some, like Obama, or the suspended CNN reporter who suggested the Statue of Liberty would be “bowing its head in shame” at the refugee bill, the new mood is distinctly un-American.
But for now, the far louder response from those on the right suggests some US attitudes toward immigration and civil liberties have come a long way.
“The Statue of Liberty says bring us your tired and your weary, it didn’t say bring us your terrorists and let them come in here and bomb neighbourhoods, cafes and concert halls,” concluded Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. “It’s illogical and irrational to take people out of their culture, their language, their religion, even their climate, and put them in a place where they are going to be completely disoriented.”

Video - President Obama Speaks at a Civil Society Roundtable in Malaysia

Hillary Clinton to propose $6,000 tax credit for caregiving costs

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will on Sunday propose a $6,000 tax credit for costs associated with caring for elderly and disabled family members, and allowing caregivers to accrue Social Security retirement benefits for such work.
The caregiving credit will be the latest in a "range of tax cuts aimed a boosting the take-home pay for middle-class families" that Clinton will announce over the coming weeks, according to a campaign aide.
Clinton, who will appear in Iowa Sunday, has previously announced a tax credit of $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family to cover high healthcare costs and another credit that would cover some of the expense of attending college.
There are about 12 million people in the United States who need long-term care and that number is expected to grow to 27 million by 2050 as the population ages. Clinton's campaign estimates that the economic value of the unpaid work provided by family caregivers of the aging and disabled was $470 billion in 2013.
Assisting adults caring for their aging parents - often while also raising their own children or helping with grandchildren - has become a theme at Clinton's campaign stops.
Clinton met New Hampshire resident Keith Thompson before a September appearance. Thompson told the former secretary of state and U.S. senator he sometimes takes his elderly mother with him to his part-time job because they cannot otherwise afford reliable care.
"You know your story is so incredibly moving and it's also a story for so many people, that's what I keep finding, everywhere I go," Clinton told Thompson in a video of the exchange provided by the campaign.
Clinton has cited Thompson's story frequently since.
Taxes are shaping up to be a differentiator between Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and her challengers, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.
Clinton's campaign says she is committed to not raising but cutting taxes for the middle class and criticized some of Sanders' proposals, such as his healthcare plan, saying it would necessitate raising taxes on moderate wage earners.
Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters "the most important moment" for the campaign during last week's second Democratic debate was when the three discussed taxing the middle class and to expect Clinton to discuss it more fully in the coming days. 

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Afghan Investigation Says Weak Leadership Led To Fall Of Kunduz

Afghan investigators have blamed poor leadership, misuse of resources, and lack of coordination between Afghan security forces for the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz city in September. 

"On the day of the crisis, nobody knew who was in charge," said Amrullah Saleh, a former chief of the national intelligence agency, at a news conference in Kabul on November 21.

Saleh was named by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to head the investigation. He did not single out any military or government officials but proposed reform of the National Security Council.

Taliban militants took control of the city on September 28 and held it for three days before government forces, backed by U.S. troops and aircraft, helped them drive the militants out of the city.

Around 200 residents, police, and soldiers were killed in the fighting in Kunduz.

Afghanistan Ghor Girl Dies After 'Public Lashing'

A 26-year-old girl died following an alleged public lashing by armed groups in western Ghor province after being accused of running away from home.
Ghor is where the recent stoning to death of 19-year-old Rokhshana occurred.
Shirin Gul, who was from Herat province, had reportedly gone to Shahrak district of Ghor to visit her uncle's family, her immediate family said.
Footage of the incident, which has gone viral, shows a man lashing a girl with a whip in public.
According to her family and some locals, Gul died after she was meted out the lashing.
But local officials only confirmed the lashing but denied claims the girl died as a result of her injuries.
"When we contacted Shirin Gul's father, he confirmed his daughter died from the lashing," said Mohammad Hassan Hakimi, a social activist in Ghor.
Meanwhile, governor of Ghor Sima Joyenda said an investigation has been launched into the incident.
"Although the police chief of Shahrak district denies this, the victim's father says his daughter died of the lashing. Although it is not impossible, it should be investigated," she urged.
In addition, the interior ministry said investigations have been launched in this respect.
"This incident and the incident of Rokhshana should be seriously investigated," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. "Investigations are underway by the assigned fact-finding team."
This comes only three weeks after 19-year-old Rokhshana was stoned to death by the Taliban after having been accused of eloping with a man.

Afghanistan risks chaos as political divisions produce power vacuum

Afghanistan Kidnappings Rekindle Ethnic Fears

Afghans carry a banner bearing a picture of one of the seven from the Hazara minority, beheaded allegedly by a group claiming affiliation to Islamic State, during a protest in Herat, Afghanistan, earlier this month. A group of Hazaras was kidnapped in Zabul province on Saturday, the same area where the beheadings took place. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Fears of ethnic strife were rekindled in Afghanistan on Sunday, the day after a group of ethnic minority Hazaras were kidnapped while traveling a major highway in the latest attack targeting the Shiite Muslim group.The attacks have centered on the southern Afghan highway from which the group of Hazaras, which local officials said numbered between 14 and 30, were taken at gunpoint on Saturday.At least five other Hazaras traveling on a bus bound for Kabul were saved by other travelers who helped hide their identities, after it was stopped by militants armed with AK-47s and machine guns, said a local activist, who spoke to witnesses.Until now, majority Sunni-Muslim Afghanistan has been largely spared the sectarian tension that has plagued a number of other Muslim countries.
But​ a​ string of​ attacks targeting Hazaras over the past year—including some linked to Sunni extremist group Islamic State—are fueling concerns that the group, which suffered under the Taliban, is again being targeted.
“These kidnappings have been occurring for months. This is now a national problem for Afghanistan,” said Zaki Daryabi​, a Hazara activist, who helped organize the large protest that took place after the decapitated bodies of his compatriots were discovered earlier this month.Afghanistan has no reliable population data, but Hazaras are considered the country’s third-largest ethnic group and the only one that is predominantly Shiite.“Hazaras are very concerned about these waves of kidnappings. They don’t feel safe,” said Mohammad Ali Alizada, a Hazara lawmaker from Ghazni. “We have raised the issue with central government.”
Local officials blamed the Taliban for Saturday’s kidnappings and said a rescue operation was under way.
“We are aware of the hostage situation and we are gathering information,” said Sayed Zafar Hashemi​, a ​spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “Our forces are doing everything to ensure the safety and security of all citizens.”
Saturday’s kidnappings come weeks after the Hazaras were rattled when seven of their members, including a child, were found decapitated in southern Zabul province, where many in the group live.
The beheaded bodies were delivered to provincial elders, sparking a large protest in Kabul that was led by Hazara activists and widely supported by a wider Afghan population frustrated with the steep decline in security since foreign forces mostly withdrew from the country last year.Uzbek militants, a number of whom are allied to the Islamic State, are also active in Zabul. They have previously targeted Hazaras, including the seven who were decapitated earlier this month.The Taliban follow Sunni Islam and some​consider Shiites to have rejected the Muslim faith and target them for their religious beliefs. The militant group, which is fighting to overthrow the government in Kabul, denied any involvement in Saturday’s attacks and officially says it respects ethnic groups.
“Our Mujahideen are not involved in the kidnapping,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahideen said Sunday. “We are investigating the incident and trying to rescue the abductees.”
In recent months, rival Taliban groups have been battling each other in lawless parts of Zabul province, where many of the attacks have taken place, adding to security concerns.Militants loyal to the group’s recently-appointed head, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, are fighting others who reject his leadership.Afghan forces have struggled to hold ground in the country since the withdrawal of most foreign forces in 2014. A small U.S.-led coalition remains to support its Afghan counterparts.
In September, Kunduz became the first major city to briefly fall under Taliban control since the start of the war, collapsing in hours and almost without a fight.
A report released by a government-appointed commission on Saturday said corruption and poor leadership among Afghanistan’s government and military institutions were to blame, and that U.S. airstrikes had prevented a worse disaster.