Friday, December 11, 2015

Video - Ukraine parliament brawl! PM Yatsenyuk manhandled by MP

Video - Failing to add up: Busting the myth that men are better at maths than women

Video Report - Yemen: Bombing of schools by Saudi Arabia-led coalition

Western Powers Increase Pressure on Saudi Arabia Over War in Yemen

Frustrated at a worsening humanitarian crisis and rising civilian death toll in Yemen, Western nations are quietly increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia to seek a political deal to end the nearly nine-month conflict, U.N. diplomats said.
While much of that pressure has been applied through discreet diplomacy, they said, the United States will shine a global spotlight on the conflict when it chairs a public United Nations Security Council meeting on Yemen on Dec. 22.
It will be the first open council session on Yemen since Saudi Arabia led an Arab military intervention in March to try to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government and fend off what it sees as creeping Iranian influence. The Saudis say rival Iran has long supported Houthi rebels in Yemen.
"We expect the Saudis will hear some honest criticism when the council meets," one senior Security Council diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "It's long overdue."
U.N.-sponsored peace talks are due to begin on Tuesday with the aim of securing an agreement on a new government, which Western diplomats say would have to include Houthis.
The United Nations says at least 5,800 people, nearly half of them civilians, have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance launched air strikes in March against the Houthis and their allies. More than 21 million people in Yemen require some kind of humanitarian assistance to survive - about 80 percent of the population - making it one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused the Saudi-led coalition of failing to investigate killings of hundreds of civilians in Yemen. It also said Washington should look into violations of the laws of war in the conflict in which it has supported the Saudis, a key U.S. arms purchaser.
Last month the U.S. State Department approved the sale of $1.29 billion in smart bombs to Saudi Arabia to help replenish supplies.
"I am sensing a great deal of concern about Saudi Arabia from a large number of countries in the council and really people wanting to say, 'enough already, we need to focus on getting this (peace) process moving'," said another senior Security Council diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, Hadi wrote to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to tell him that he asked the coalition to begin a seven-day renewable ceasefire on Tuesday to coincide with the start of the peace talks.
"We're sort of ratcheting up the messaging privately to Riyadh that they must translate their military superiority into a political process rather than carrying on to seek complete military victory," said a third senior council diplomat.
Western diplomats said they hope the peace talks and ceasefire appeal are a sign the Saudis now want a political solution that will end the conflict. But they caution that previous ceasefires fell apart.
The Saudi U.N. mission did not respond to a request for comment. Riyadh says it backs a peaceful settlement and the Gulf Cooperation Council on Thursday announced plans to hold an international conference on reconstruction in Yemen after a peace deal is reached.
The United Nations has led public criticism of the Saudi-led coalition over the humanitarian crisis and mounting civilian death toll. Last week Ban slammed the coalition for again striking a clinic run by the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Public criticism from the United States and other Western powers has been scarce. Washington, however, is becoming more vocal.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said on Dec. 1 that the United States has "encouraged the coalition to be extremely discerning and to make every effort to ensure that anything that they are doing in Yemen is in compliance with international humanitarian law."

Saudi bombs unlawfully targeting Yemen schools – Amnesty

Saudi Arabian airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen have deliberately targeted schools, killing students and making education impossible for many children, a new report from Amnesty International suggests.
Published on Friday, the report claims 34 percent of Yemeni children have not been to school since the conflict began in March. Some 1.8 million children in the country do no attend school, and many have been killed in airstrikes supposedly targeting rebels.
During the nine month conflict, 5,000 people have died and 27,500 have been injured. The war has also devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, with hospitals and roads destroyed, making humanitarian aid difficult to deliver.
In the report, titled ‘Our kids are bombed: schools under attack in Yemen’, Amnesty investigated five airstrikes which took place between August and October 2015 in Hodeidah, Hajjah and Sana, and appear to have targeted schools.
Amnesty says the strikes were unlawful because they targeted civilian objects and “disproportionately harmed civilians and civilian objects in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the attack,” as well as failing “to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives.
Five people were killed and 14 injured in the strikes, as well as disrupting the education of 6,550 Yemeni children.
Amnesty says UK and US companies are complicit in the illegality of the airstrikes as both countries sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Under Article 6 of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which came into force in late 2014, a country is prohibited from authorizing an arms transfer if it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms would be used in the commission of attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party,” the report warns.
Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International, said airstrikes against schools are depriving Yemeni children of a normal life and the right to education.
Schools are central to civilian life, they are meant to offer a safe space for children. Yemen’s young school pupils are being forced to pay the price for these attacks. On top of enduring a bitter conflict, they face longer term upheaval and disruption to their education – a potentially lifelong burden that they will be forced to shoulder.”
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) told RT the UK must stop trading arms to Saudi Arabia to prevent further incidents occurred where civilians are killed.
This is another sign that the UK’s arms export system is broken. For decades the UK has focused on pouring arms into the Middle East and one of the results of that is the humanitarian catastrophe being unleashed on Yemen,” he said.
The UK needs to end arms sales to Saudi and revoke all licenses for arms that are being used in Yemen. By continuing to arm and support the Saudi bombardment the UK is complicit in the destruction taking place,” he added.

Video Report - Turkey's invasion: Focus on Iraq after Syria policy failed

Chinese President stresses "precision" poverty relief

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged governments at all levels to beefup "precisionpoverty relief measures as the country plans to lift all poor people out ofpoverty by 2020.
Xi made instructions on Dec. 8 that local authorities should implement "precisionpovertyrelief measures with local characteristics and seek innovation in relief methods.
Xi spoke highly of fixed-point poverty alleviation carried out by government institutionsand enterprisesnoting it is an important part of poverty alleviation with Chinesecharacteristics and also an important showcase of the merits of China's political system.
In his instructionsPremier Li Keqiang said fixed-point poverty alleviation has been aneffective way for departments of the central authorities to participate in poverty relief.
Li urged beefing up fixed-point poverty alleviation during the 13th five-year plan period,when a decisive battle for the victory of the war against poverty will be fought.
Attending a meeting on fixed-point poverty alleviation by departments of the centralauthoritiesVice Premier Wang Yang also called for further improving work in this field.
Since 2012, 320 departments of the central authorities have participated in fixed-pointpoverty alleviationcovering all poverty-stricken counties.
A total of 1,266 officials from these departments were sent to the poor areas on povertyrelief missionsalong with poverty relief funds.
China still has 70 million rural people living below the poverty line.

What is Erdogan's Game in Syria and Iraq?

The - predictable - reaction across the West over the Russian Defense Ministry's very serious denunciation of Ankara embedded with ISIS/ISIL/Daesh still begs to be regarded as no less than astonishing.

The actual evidence is not even discussed by Western corporate media. It's all dismissed as "Russia claims…" Yet not only Sultan Erdogan has been systematically unmasked as a serial liar; the accumulating evidence points to Ankara both as an indirect ally and shady sponsor of the fake "Caliphate".
Whatever the Atlanticists can come up with to "excuse" the Erdogan system, at least the devastating PR debacle for the "democratic West" is now a fact of life all across the Global South. At the same time an elaborate shadow play is in progress. NATO issues non-denial denials — after all it can never back off from its usual "Russian aggression" meme — while the Obama administration, predictably, wallows in doublethink; Turkey may not "support" ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, but Turkey must seal the border with Syria anyway.
Sultan of Divide and Rule
Since Gezi Park it's clear the AKP model for Turkey has derailed into a Sultanate dictatorship with a slight electoral veneer. Divide and Rule is the norm. Sultan Erdogan's bête noire, internally, is the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Erdogan wants Kurds — a substantial 20% of the overall population — to choose between the AKP's Islamist take on Turkish nationalism and the HDP's Kurdish nationalism with a leftist feel. He's playing Kurds against Turks no holds barred.

South of the border, Erdogan actively supports Salafi "moderate rebels", especially his fifth column Turkmen, heavily infiltrated by Turkish fascists of the Grey Wolves kind, in northwest Syria. But Ankara is clever enough not to — directly — support ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Turkmen have struck de facto alliances with Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria. NATO covers Erdogan's back. 

Russia's entrance with — literally — a bang in the Syrian war theatre blew up Erdogan strategy's to smithereens. Couple that with the Obama administration's penchant to support Kurds across "Syraq".   

The only thing Erdogan wants from NATO is a "safe zone" — an euphemism for a no-fly zone that Ankara will use to prevent YPG Syrian Kurds from unifying their three cantons along the Turkish-Syrian border. For Erdogan, the prospect of Kurds preventing Turks from providing logistical bases and weapons to the whole Jabhat al-Nusra galaxy, and of course ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, is anathema.  

So Erdogan had been using the Turkmen against the YPG. Russia went for the jugular. And the Sultan, predictably, went bonkers.

Russia's strategy — coordinated with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) — will only intensify. The priority is to completely rout Turkmen and al-Nusra all across the Bayirbucak region. Two objectives are crucial. 1) to secure Latakia and thus Russia's Hmeymim air base. 2) to get rid of the Chechens, Uzbeks and Uyghurs infiltrated among the Turkmen (crucial for Moscow, aware of the "900 km from Aleppo to Grozny" syndrome, and also for China.) 

As for the notion that Erdogan will now abandon his Turkmen strategy and start fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, that's a myth. Erdogan will never accept the American support for the YPG. The thing is there's not much he can do about it. 

Sultan Changes the Subject

The downing of the Su-24 was a crude attempt by Erdogan to force NATO to choose his Turkmen/al-Nusra/anti-Kurd strategy instead of any possible coordination with Russia to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

Talk about a monumental blowback; Erdogan handed Moscow on a plate the deployment of the S-400s to Hmeymim. Short-term, this means any Turkish F-16 entertaining funny ideas over Syrian skies will be summarily shot down. Mid-term, this means the "Assad must go" obsession is now six feet under. But the cherry in the cake is long-term; Russia has solidified a permanent strategic stake in the eastern Mediterranean.

Across the battlefield, the most important development is that Russia, and not Iran, has taken over tactics, planning operations and also re-equipping the SAA with everything from 152-millimeter MTSA-B guns to the absolutely devastating TOS-1A Solnitsa rocket launcher, able to fire 30 220-mm thermobaric (incendiary) rockets in a single salvo.

Freshly arrived Russian Marines are also about to advise the SAA counter-offensive against Daesh in Tadmur, western Palmyra.

The Russian tactic is essentially to blow everything up, big time. Of course this implies a serious risk of civilian casualties — something that can only be alleviated by good ground intel, provided by the SAA. It's the SAA that is actually capturing those areas on the ground.

With his back against the wall in Syria, Erdogan — what else — changed the subject and made a play in Iraq, via the now famous "incursion" of alleged 150 Turkish troops along with 20-25 tanks.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu swears Ankara had been "invited" in by the Nineveh provincial government, with Baghdad's approval (a bald-faced lie). A spokesman for the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq said everything is legit.

Turkish daily Hurriyet spun it as Ankara holding a permanent military base in Bashiqa, near Mosul, to train Peshmerga forces, a deal signed between KRG President Massoud Barzani and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu earlier last month.
But Ankara, we got a (huge) problem. Mosul and Bashiqa are not even part of the KRG.
So this has nothing to do with training Peshmerga — as much as Erdogan and the AKP heavily hedge their Kurd hatred: the KRG racket and the Peshmerga are "good Kurds", while the PYD/YPG and the PKK are "bad Kurds". 
When in doubt, follow the oil. The Barzani Mob is selling oil that belongs to Baghdad to Turkey — illegally. They literally own the oil racket in the KRG; and they make a killing, thanks to cozy relations with partner Genel oil, whose chairman is Tony "Deepwater Horizon" Hayward.   

It has been widely proved that Erdogan's son in law cum Energy Minister Berat Albayrak holds the exclusive rights to move KRG oil through Turkey. Following evidence collected by the Russian Defense Ministry, Daesh stolen oil may well be mixed with KRG oil along the way. And a key beneficiary of the whole scheme is Erdogan's son Bilal, a.k.a. Mini Me, through his BMZ shipping company which delivers the oil mostly to Israel. Mini Me is now self-exiled in Bologna, Italy, where he manages untraceable amounts of cash safely ensconced in Swiss bank accounts. 

Obviously none of this is seriously examined in Atlanticist circles, thus providing Erdogan with some solace; if the stolen Syrian oil racket may be moribund, the Iraqi side of the op seems to be untouched. 

So what we have now in effect is Turkey "violating" the borders of Iraq (remember those famous "17 seconds"?) Baghdad is actually part of the "4+1" coalition (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah). Turkey knows it. The "incursion" is yet one more — serious — provocation. If Russia — and Iran — decide that's one too many, Erdogan's oil racket protecting tanks better get ready to meet their maker.

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Putin orders to destroy any targets that threaten Russian military in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian military to destroy any targets that threaten Russian Armed Forces in Syria.
"I order to act very tough. Any targets that threaten Russian forces or our infrastructure on the ground should be immediately destroyed," Putin told a session of the Defense Ministry’s collegium.
The president also warned against "those who will again try to organize any provocations against our servicemen." "We have already taken additional measures to ensure security of Russian servicemen and air base. It was strengthened by new aviation groups and missile defense systems. Strike aircraft will now carry out operations under cover of fighter jets," Putin said.
Putin said that the Russian military have caused a substantial damage to terrorists in Syria, adding that the actions of the Russian Armed Forces are worthy of praise.
"The combined operation of the Aerospace Defence Forces and the Navy, the use of newest high precision weapons systems has caused a serious damage to the terrorist infrastructure, thus qualitatively changing the situation in Syria," the president said.
The president also ordered the defense ministry to coordinate actions in Syria with Israel’s command post and the US-led international coalition.
"It’s important to develop cooperation with all countries really interested in destroying terrorists. I am talking about contacts on ensuring flight safety with the command post of Israel’s air force and forces of the US-led coalition," Putin said.
According to the official, terrorists in Syria pose a direct threat to Russia and Moscow’s actions are carried out to protect the country rather than due to abstract interests.
"Our actions there are not due to any unclear and abstract geopolitical interests and the wish to get training and test new weapons systems. This is not the most important thing. The goal is to avert the threat for the Russian Federation itself," Putin said at the meeting of the Defense Ministry’s board.
Putin stressed that representatives of various ethnic groups not only from Russia’s North Caucasus but also from other regions take part in the combat actions and also boast of participating in "punitive actions."
The gunmen in Syria have created "a true bridgehead." "Their plans were evident: to strengthen and spread their expansion to the new regions," the Russian president said.
According to Putin, the actions of Russia’s Armed Forces in Syria "were synchronized with the work of law enforcement bodies and special services on Russia’s territory." The Federal Security Service reveals terrorist cells, including of the Islamic State group, "on almost all the territory of the country."
"All this is a direct threat to Russia and our military in Syria first of all protect their country. Our actions there are not due to any unclear and abstract geopolitical interests and the wish to get training and test new weapons systems," Putin said.
"This is not the most important thing. The goal is to avert the threat for the Russian Federation itself," the Russian leader said.
Russia’s Aerospace Force started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia.

In mid-November, Russia increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria to 69 and involved strategic bombers in strikes at militants. As the Russian Defense Ministry reported, Russia’s air grouping has focused on destroying terrorist-controlled oil extraction, storage, transportation and refining facilities.

Russian Navy ships and submarines were also included in the operation.  

Assad calls Russia’s activities in Syria "act of defending Europe"

Russia’s activities in Syria are an "act of defending Europe," Syrian President Bashar Assad told EFE news agency in an interview published on Friday.
Answering a question on what Russian President Vladimir Putin asked for in exchange for helping the Syrian authorities in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization banned in Russia, Assad said: "He did not ask for anything in return for one simple reason — this is not trading." "In fact, normal relations between two countries are based on common interests," Assad stressed. "The issue is what interests do Syria and Russia share? Is Russia interested in growing terrorism in Syria, in the collapse of the Syrian state, in anarchy? No, [Russia] is not interested [in that]," Assad said adding that Moscow "wants stability in Syria, Iraq and in the region as a whole."
"We are located not so far from Russia, and let me also add, not far from Europe," the Syrian president noted. "In this respect, Russia’s activities in Syria represent an act of defending Europe." Assad added that recent terrorist attacks in Europe "are proof that what is going on" in Syria affects Europe as well.
The Syrian president stressed that Russia does not plan to open new military bases in Syria. "They [Russia] refuted it themselves two days ago. If they had planned something, they would have announced it," he added. Assad said Iran does not have any plans to open its own military bases in Syria as well. "No, they [Iran] have never thought about it, never raised or discussed this issue," the president noted.
On December 9 Russian Defense Ministry’s official spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Moscow will not open new air bases on the territory of Syria as there is no need in this. "One does not have to be a military expert to understand that it will take only about 30-40 minutes for any Russian plane to fly from the Hmeimim air base to any point on the Syrian territory. So, there was and is no need to establish additional Russian air bases on the Syrian territory contrary to what ‘strategists on sofas’ say," Konashenkov said.

Russian military operation in Syria

On September 30 Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to launch a military operation in Syria against Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups. Russian Aerospace Defense Forces delivered first targeted airstrikes at militants’ positions on the same day. More than 50 jets and helicopters take part in the operation, including Su-34 and Su-24M fighter jets, Su-25 aircraft, Su-30SM fighter aircraft, and Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters. Since the start of the operation, Russian aviation made hundreds of sorties, destroyed dozens of ammunition depots, explosives production plants and command posts.

Video Report - Trudeau thanks volunteers for helping welcome Syrian refugees

White House Sends Ankara Two Warning Shots Over Daesh Oil Smuggling

Senior US government representatives on Wednesday and Thursday finally addressed the terrorist organization's smuggling of oil via Turkish territory.

Two senior US officials have conceded to Turkey's role in the Daesh oil trade, having previously supported Ankara's denials that it enables the terrorist group to profit by selling stolen Syrian oil. On Wednesday US State Department spokesman John Kirby admitted that Turkey was allowing Daesh to transport contraband oil across its border, and said the US government wanted Turkey to close its border with Syria.

 On Thursday US Treasury official Adam Szubin admitted that Daesh oil is smuggled into Turkey, along with the illogical conclusion that "ISIL is selling a great deal of oil to the Assad regime," and claimed that despite being enemies, the two are "still engaged in millions and millions of dollars of trade."

Szubin alleged that more oil is sold to the Syrian government that to Turkey.

"Some is coming across the border into Turkey," admitted Szubin. The official said that each month, the terrorists make as much as $40 million selling oil, and have earned more than $500 million from the oil trade so far.

The official was unable, however, to come up with any evidence to back up his claim that Assad's government is buying oil from Daesh. 

The claim was first put forward by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month, in order to deflect attention from the evidence Russia had produced to prove that the Turkish government is buying oil from Daesh.

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Donald Trump is unfit to lead the United States

Donald Trump, the obnoxious and, as of this week, noxious candidate for the Republican nomination, has a simple theory about why he is leading in many polls: “Every time things gets worse, I do better,” he boasted to supporters on Saturday in Iowa.
By “worse,” Mr. Trump was referring to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. A frightened public can be easy pickings for a demagogue, and two days later he put his theory to the test by calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
It didn’t work. Instead of doing better, Mr. Trump found himself under siege. His opponents jumped on his racist ban on Muslim immigration, accurately calling it unconstitutional and un-American. Republican state governors and other party faithful were equally vehement in their denunciations, as were the White House, the Prime Minister of France and the governments of several Muslim countries.
By Tuesday, you could tell it was getting to Mr. Trump: He used Twitter to hint that he might leave the Republican Party and run as an independent.
If only. By exploiting the fear and hatred of Muslims, Mr. Trump has moved the Republican Party into the dark territory of radical, far-right politics. He has made it clear that, as president, he would implement the kind of racist policies favoured by virulently nationalist anti-immigration parties. And he is forcing his party to either endorse his racism or lose him as a candidate.
If Republicans had any idea of what they stand for any more, they would kick him out of the race. But this is a party that is barely hanging onto its soul. From the Tea Party insurgency that began in 2009 to the wackiness of many of the candidates in the current race, it is becoming unrecognizable as a mainstream political entity. It could go a long way toward restoring its credibility by ditching Mr. Trump, but it doesn’t have the required self-awareness.
And so, by keeping Mr. Trump in the race, the Republican Party has become unfit to lead the country. Heightened times like ours require leaders who propose rational solutions in keeping with the values of a constitutional democracy, not weak demagogues who betray those values at the first sign of trouble.

Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen: Why the demagogues are winning


The ruling classes on both sides of the Atlantic are in shock. They’re losing ground to absurd figures who used to be jokes, rabble-rousers, fringe players on the margins of political life. Who would have thought, a year ago, that serious people would be in such a panic over how to stop the likes of Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump?
Over here, the appalling vulgarian has sucked up all the airtime, like some particularly virulent black hole. The more outrageous he gets, the higher his ratings soar. Mr. Trump degrades political debate. He poses a mortal threat to the Republican Party, which he airily dismisses as a gang of idiots. But they have no idea how to stop him.
Over there, Ms. Le Pen and her ravishing young niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, have trampled the mainstream parties under their chic high heels. Last week their far-right anti-immigration, anti-Europe party, the National Front, won nearly 30 per cent of the vote in the first round of regional elections. Reaction in Europe ranged from fear to panic to outright horror. “France’s fascist uprising,” blared Britain’s Independent. Political columnist Françoise Fressoz wrote, “The political reality in France can now be summed up in one question. Who can stop Marine Le Pen?”
The source of their appeal isn’t hard to find. In both countries, the dominant political class has failed miserably to understand and address the anxieties of large numbers of middle-class people.
“Donald Trump says things no one else dares to say,” his fans tell you. When he said the U.S. should deport its millions of illegal Mexican immigrants, they cheered. When he said Muslims should be banned from immigrating, the political and media class expressed universal horror. But in the fevered wake of the San Bernardino slaughter, many people thought: Why not? When arecent poll asked respondents if the values of Islam are incompatible with the American way of life, 76 per cent of Republicans answered yes. And 43 per cent of Democrats also answered yes.
That’s the genius of Trumpism. There’s Donald Trump – and then there’s everybody else, yelling that he can’t say that. That’s why he’s the Republican front-runner.
Populists come up with simplistic answers to complex questions – questions the elites would prefer not to address. Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant stance is purely opportunistic. But the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to tackle immigration reform in any meaningful way has left the field wide open.
It’s the same with Marine Le Pen. People take to her because she stands up for ordinary folks – especially the rural and small-town folks, the young and unemployed folks, the folks who’ve been hit hard by massive deindustrialization. Unlike Mr. Trump, she’s not a flame-thrower. She comes across as moderate and reasoned. She’s worked hard to scrub the party clean of its overtly overtly racist past. But she, too, has been able to capitalize on the the mainstream parties’ widespread failure to tackle France’s serious economic and immigration woes.
It’s fashionable to write off the people who respond to Mr. Trump and Ms. Le Pen as ignorant lowbrows, who can’t adjust to modernity, to progress and to newcomers. That has been the standard response of the pundits and political elites. And that is a big part of the problem. The triumph of two of them has less to do with the baser instincts of the voters than with the incompetence of the current leadership. “[Le Pen’s] success is due to the failures and vacuum of the centre right, the weak conservatism of the Socialist Party, and the inability of the EU to respond to serious European challenges,” The New York Times’s Steven Erlanger told Carnegie Europe. Similarly, Mr. Trump’s success is in large part due to the Republicans’ inability to craft an appealing alternative to the Democrats. In both countries, many people don’t see much difference among the old ruling parties. They’re all part of the same old gang, and only a new outsider can bust them up.
Both Mr. Trump and Ms. LePen have profited hugely from the shock of domestic terrorism. But the unease they feed on is much deeper than that. “This sense of fury has a long history,” wrote Alexis Brezet, editor of Le Figaro. “It is a cold, brutal, unsubtle, merciless fury. It has been brewed by 30 years of state weakness and government failures.” People feel the values they hold dear are slipping away. Mr. Trump and Ms. Le Pen are promising to bring them back again.
How far will they go? My guess: The Republicans will rally round another champion and Donald Trump will probably be gone by March. (Whether he’ll decide to run as an independent is anybody’s guess. Hillary Clinton can only hope so.) Marine Le Pen won’t go the distance either. Even so, their profound challenges to the old order aren’t going to go away. If our mainstream parties can’t rise to them, then someone else will.

First Aircraft With Syrian Refugees Arrives in Canada

The first plane carrying Syrian refugees arrived in Canada’s Toronto on Friday, local media reported.

According to the CBS News broadcaster, the 163 refugees were welcomed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

In late November, Canada’s Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Refugees Chair Jane Philpott announced that the country would welcome 10,000 asylum seekers from Syria by the end of the year, pushing the deadline to receiving the total of 25,000 refugees by the end of February, 2016.

According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) regional coordinator, the Canadian authorities started carrying out checks on Syrian refugees in Jordan that were slated for resettlement to Canada later in December.

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Video Report - Local educators respond to the new Every Student Succeeds Act

President Obama Finalizing Plan to Expand Background Checks—Without Congress

White House advisers are set to unveil a plan to expand background checks on gun sales without congressional approval, the Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon. The plan will include steps to close the "gun show loophole," which permits the sale of guns while background checks are still pending.
President Barack Obama reportedly requested that his aides draft the plans in the wake of the shooting at a community college in Oregon back in October. Throughout his presidency, Obama has expressed frustration with Congress for its failure to enact tougher gun safety legislation—despite increasing calls from the public to do so.
On Thursday, Connecticut became the first state to bar people listed on federal terrorism lists from purchasing weapons. Days after the terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, California, the president spoke from the Oval Office on Sunday, urging lawmakers to pass similar bans and calling the measure a "matter of national security."
"Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun," Obama said. "What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?"
"Like all Americans, I have been horrified by the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris," Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said. "This should be a wake-up call to all of us. This is a moment to seize in America—and today I'm here to say that we in Connecticut are seizing it."

Dear Media: President Obama Actually Did Address Radical Islamic Ideology

Tommy Christopher 

Republicans have a new thing to blame President Obama for, and it is Donald Trump‘sracist, fascist anti-Muslim platform. The theory goes that since President Obama won’t acknowledge the role of a twisted interpretation of Islam in attacks like those that occurred recently in Paris and San Bernardino, people have no other choice but to embrace Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from entering the country (temporarily!). This is an offshoot of thelong-running Republican Rumpelstiltskin theory that requires the use of the specific phrase“radical Islam” (which the President has used), but it goes even further to suggest that President Obama is completely ignoring the role of Islamic extremism in terror attacks.

The President Addresses the Nation on Keeping... by tommyxtopher
It goes without saying that Republicans are going to say dumb shit, but twice this week, respected members of the liberal media have utterly failed at correcting or following up on blatantly false iterations of this particular attack. On Thursday night’s All In, host Chris Hayes tried to do a good thing by getting Republican strategist Katie Packer to explain the obsession with the secret “radical Islam” password, but here’s the explanation she gave:
“I think it’s important that people feel like he understands what the problem is. And if he’s not willing to address that the problem is a very radical ideology, it’s a religious ideology, and some folks that are willing to give their own life in order to take other people’s lives in the name of their religion, it is important to identify that that’s what the problem is. And I don’t know — by contrast I don’t see what the problem is with the president acknowledging it, ha ha ha.”
In Hayes’ defense, he did get sidetracked by Packer’s incredibly stupid subsequent assertionthat people are more aware of Islamic extremism now than they were following 9/11, but Chris Hayes is the one guy you would expect to point out that President Obama just got done saying the exact thing that Packer claims he didn’t say. It was just last weekend, right before football!

We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.
That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally rejectthe hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.
But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.
Oh, thank God, I thought I’d hallucinated the whole thing.
This was not subtle, and it even pissed off some Muslims, but Republicans insist it never happened. On MTP Daily, former Pennsylvania Governor and first-ever Secretary of Der Homeland Security Tom Ridge also tried to blame Trump on Obama, and Chuck Toddjust let it drift:
 Chuck Todd: What do you say to Mr. and Mrs. America that doesn’t know many people who are Muslim, and only sees the reports? Make them feel better.
Tom Ridge: Chuck, I think that’s a wonderful question. And the person that should have addressed that is the incumbent president of the United Statesm and he had an opportunity to do that a couple of days ago. Remember, this is a president that drew a red line and then ignored it. But I would have encouraged the President, if he had called me about the context of that speech, is draw the red line, and talk about the hundreds of millions of law-abiding, peace-loving Muslims, not only among the 8 million Muslims in this country, but around the world. And on the other side of that line are the radicals, these fundamentalists, extremists who have wrapped themselves in this perverted ideology and interpretation of the Koran. He’s the individual that should have allayed the fears about the good Muslim men and women and children in this country.
The fact is that President Obama and his administration have been making this case all along, have consistently detailed ISIS’ ideology, including the religious texts from which they claim to draw inspiration. It’s bad enough that the media has consistently failed to call out the idiocy underlying the “radical Islam” catchphrase, but it is inexcusable to allow Republicans to blatantly lie about what the President has said.
In fact, current events would seem to validate the President’s preference not to use the term “radical Islam,” because the people who favor it most, Republicans, are currently engaged in the thing President Obama was trying to avoid, which is casting suspicion on an entire religion based on the actions of a few. By letting this narrative of lies flourish, the media is abetting them.