Friday, January 22, 2016

Video Report - Canada - Trudeau reacts to Saskatchewan school shooting

Video - British Report on Former Russian Spy's Death Intends to Defame Russia: Russian FM

Video - Egyptian woman's love affair with China

Video - Egypt's role in China's foreign policy

China's Xi Arrives in Iran for State Visit

Behind Turkish checkpoints

Mahmut Bozarslan

The two-story building in the foothills of the Cudi Mountains, not far from the Turkish-Iraqi border, can hardly be called a house anymore. It lays in ruins, hit by shelling from a tank or a howitzer.

“What wrong did I do to deserve this?” an elderly woman laments at the debris. One cannot help but wonder whether this is a scene from Syria. But no, this is Silopi, a town in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.
Home to some 121,000 people, Silopi saw some of the worst clashes that have raged in the southeast when security forces waged a ferocious campaign against militants of the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), the armed youth wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who had sought to gain control in a number of urban areas, digging trenches and erecting barricades to keep the authorities away.
Silopi was placed under a round-the-clock curfew on Dec. 14, effectively cutting it off from the outside world. The security operation there lasted more than a month, before the curfew was partially lifted and journalists were allowed to enter the town on Jan. 19.
Traffic on the road to Silopi was heavily snarled as thousands of trucks scrambled to make their way to the nearby Habur border crossing, which had also remained closed for weeks, leaving thousands of vehicles stranded.
One had to cross three military checkpoints to enter the city. Media vehicles were not spared from the tight controls and searches. “You never know what the organization can do,” said the soldier searching the car in which this reporter traveled. “They might have put something in your car on the sly.”
A flurry of military activity was the first thing that greeted the eye in town, with dozens of armored vehicles roaming the streets. The Habur crossing road, which cuts through the city, had become a demarcation line. The neighborhoods on its right side were easily recognizable as the theater of the clashes. One could barely walk through the area, let alone drive. The streets were dotted with craters — the result of explosions employed as a combat tactic by both sides. The security forces blew up barricades to advance, while the militants detonated trenches full of explosives to keep them away. The buildings along the streets were riddled with bullets, now the hallmark of neighborhoods where the clashes take place.
The Buluttekin family’s house was heavily damaged before it could even be finished. The balcony had collapsed, the windows shattered and a hole gaped in the wall of the ground floor. The owner, Feyruze Buluttekin, led this reporter in through the broken door, pointing to the bullet-riddled furniture. The family’s plight, however, was not limited to the devastation of its home. For several days, they had to live with the body of a relative killed in the street, unable to bury her.
"We stayed home, though some people left the neighborhood. On the 13th day [of the curfew], my cousin — a mother of seven  was killed at the entrance of her house. We kept the body at home for five days … and then we took it to the mosque,” Buluttekin told Al-Monitor. “On the 15th day, the soldiers surrounded the neighborhood and took us away to a sports hall. You see what has become of our house. What we went through was not less than what Kobani, Palestine or Sinjar have seen.”
Further down the mud-drenched street, groups of residents chatted. Seeing the journalists, an elderly man, Tajdin Aytis, invited them to his home. The façade of the building seemed intact. With bakeries yet to open, the man’s daughter made bread on a bonfire in the courtyard. Aytis wanted to show the journalists his living room, where a blanket covered one of the walls  or rather what was once a wall. Masked men tore down the wall with an earth-mover, Aytis told Al-Monitor, in what seemed to be a description of militants. “When the clashes began, soldiers and policemen raided our home and searched it. They told us to evacuate, and we went to the village,” he said. “I don’t know the men who tore down the wall. They broke all our furniture as well.”
In the Basak neighborhood, where the heaviest fighting took place, the local square seemed the only structure intact. A few meters away, people gathered at the wreck of a two-story house, which seemed to have been hit in an aerial strike. “Fortunately, no one was killed,” someone said. An elderly woman wept at the ruins. Introducing herself as Sariye Mutlu, she asked Al-Monitor, “What wrong did I do to deserve this? We lived in this house, a family of 15. My husband is sick and I have a handicapped daughter. What are we going to do now? Where are we supposed to go?”
Many residents of the neighborhood were outraged at the state for using disproportionate force. Some, however, were angry with the PKK as well. Unlike others, one did not hesitate to give his name as he slammed the militants. He said, “They were breaking the doors [of emptied homes], and I scolded them. ‘Those people are going to come back home,’ I said. They put a gun on my chest and threatened to kill me. “Go ahead,’ I said. Then, they went away. When the soldiers entered the neighborhood and we walked toward them [for protection], [the militants] opened fire behind us.”
After this the reporter bid farewell to the man, whose name will be withheld because of what came next: Another man came by and said in a low voice, “Don’t trust him. The YDG-H abducted his son because he was an informer. They were going to kill him, but then some people intervened to stop them.”
Residents were also incensed over the graffiti scribbled on the walls, apparently by members of the security forces. It included racist and obscene insults to jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and Selahattin Demirtas, Turkey’s top Kurdish political figure. Some warned journalists not to follow police vehicles because “mines could have been planted on their way.”
In the afternoon, the bustle in town increased as both the residents and the security forces prepared for the approaching curfew, now starting at 6 p.m. Dozens of armored vehicles sped into the city; others left. One resident remarked, “I’ve never seen that many military vehicles in my life. As if the state dropped anything else and only made military vehicles.”
Getting out of Silopi was as arduous as getting in. Crossing through the last checkpoint alone took 45 minutes as the security forces conducted lengthy searches while passengers waited pressed face-first against their cars. Even an ambulance carrying a sick person was searched on the grounds that the militants could use ambulances to exit the city in disguise. The nurse kept an eye on the patient while rummaging through her bag to produce an ID card.

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#Bahraini regime jails 250 children on political grounds: Report

At least 250 children are behind bars on political grounds in Bahrain which is facing almost daily protests for years now, a report says.
According to a report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights released on Wednesday, the incarcerations violate Article 16 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Under the provision, no child should be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on their honor and reputation, it said. 
The center also called on the Bahraini regime to stop detention and interrogation of children on terrorism charges.
On Tuesday, a court in Bahrain sentenced a 17-year-old boy to an additional 10 years in prison over alleged acts of terror. Ahmad al-Arab had earlier been sentenced to 120 years in jail.
The ruling was the latest in a series of harsh punishments handed down to dissidents in Bahrain, a tiny Persian Gulf island nation that has been hit by anti-regime protests for years.
Many human rights groups have criticized the Bahraini judiciary for handing down long jail terms to protesters and activists.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have also censured the regime over “rampant” human rights abuses.
Bahraini protesters rallied in the northern village of Abu Saiba Tuesday, calling on officials to heed calls by UN and human rights organizations to release all political prisoners.
In the northeastern village of Samaheej, residents took to the streets to condemn Saudi Arabia’s recent execution of top cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
The protesters chanted anti-Saudi slogans, condemning the kingdom's targeting of activists.
Protest rallies in Bahrain have become a rule of the day since mid-February 2011, calling on the Al Khalifah family to relinquish power.
Aided by Saudi security forces, the Bahraini regime has responded heavy-handedly, killing scores of people and injuring hundreds others.

Bahraini people stage fresh anti-regime protests

Bahraini demonstrators have once again taken to the streets of the tiny Persian Gulf country to express their solidarity with detained political activists, including senior Shia cleric Sheikh Ali Salman.
The protesters staged rallies in Diraz village after Friday prayers, calling for the immediate release of Sheikh Salman, who heads Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, as well as all political detainees.
Sheikh Salman was detained on December 28, 2014 on charges of attempting to overthrow the ruling Al Khalifah regime and collaborating with foreign powers. He has strongly denied the charges, emphasizing that he has been seeking reforms in the kingdom through peaceful means.
In June 2015, a Bahraini court sentenced him to four years in prison on charges such as insulting the Bahraini Interior Ministry and inciting others to break the law. He was acquitted of seeking regime change.
During the Friday rallies, the demonstrators also stressed that they would continue peaceful protests for the fulfillment of their democratic demands.
They also condemned corruption in the country and the government’s economic policies that overburden the citizens.
Similar protests also took place in Nuwaidrat village where security forces fired toxic gas at peaceful demonstrators.
Separately, the Al Khalifah regime’s forces fired toxic gas at defied residents who staged protest rallies in Sitra Island to condemn Saudi Arabia’s recent execution of top cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
On Thursday, the wife of Sheikh Salman said that the authorities have banned all phone calls and visits to the jailed cleric.
Anti-regime protesters have been holding demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain since mid-February 2011, calling on the Al Khalifah family to relinquish power.
The ongoing heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful demonstrations has left scores of people dead and hundreds injured, and many more behind bars.

At least 33 civilians killed in fresh Yemen airstrikes

At least 33 civilians including 18 rescuers were killed in Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen's provinces of Saada and Hodeida, the Saba news agency reported on Thursday. 
In Saada, 18 people including kids were killed after an air raid hit them while they were helping a family whose house had been targeted by a previous raid in the district of Dhahyan, it said. 
Some 7 people were injured in the raid on the house of a citizen in the area, it said. 
In Hodeida, the Saudi-led coalition struck the Ras Isa Crude Export Terminal killing 15 citizens and injuring 14 workers at the terminal, Saba reported. 
Some of the bodies were completely burned and some of those injured were in critical condition, it quoted a medical source as saying. 
Two airstrikes hit the terminal destroying large parts of it and others caught fire, it said, adding that a third airstrike hit oil trucks at it destroying 8 of them, killing those who were inside the trucks and injuring others. 
The coalition, which has been bombing Yemen since March, carried out fresh raids in several cities including the capital Sanaa and Taiz today. 
The raids coincided with ongoing ground fighting between the pro-government and Houthi forces in Taiz, Dhali, Jawf, Marib, Sanaa and Baidha. 
Meanwhile, the coalition has been accused of killing more than 8.000 civilians including over 2.000 children in ten months of bombardment, a local organisation said on Wednesdayamid calls for international investigations into war crimes in the country. 
Moreover, airstrikes have damaged and destroyed most of the country's infrastructure.

Airstrikes on Yemen kill dozens and destroy MSF ambulance

The Saudi-led military coalition has carried out a series of airstrikes acrossYemen, killing dozens and hitting an ambulance of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital, according to Yemeni officials, rebel media and a statement by the charity.
The charity, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said the ambulance driver had been killed in a strike on the northern town of Dahyan on Thursday. Dahyan is part of Saada province, the stronghold of Shia rebels who control much of the country including the capital, Sana’a. The rebels, known as Houthis, announced that airstrikes in Dahyan had killed 26 people.
In Sana’a, officials said that 22 people were killed in strikes that targeted the mountain of Nahdeen, which is believed to have weapon caches. In Dhamar, Taiz, and Jawf, similar airstrikes targeted gatherings of Houthis and allied army units.
In the port city of Hodeida, at least 10 civilians were killed when airstrikes targeted lorries carrying smuggled oil from the port, according to officials. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press.
Yemen’s civil war began when the Houthi rebels, allied with a former Yemeni president, overran the capital in September 2014. In March 2015, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia began airstrikes and later, a ground operation to retake the country.
More than 5,800 people have been killed and more than 80% of Yemen’s population is in dire need of food, water and other aid, according to the United Nations.

Video - China National Petroleum Corporation pumping new oil in Iran

Video Report - Saudi airstrike in Yemen kills at least 20 civilians incl rescuers, MSF paramedic

Video - Kurd Crackdown: Turkish forces allegedly fire on civilians with white flag (GRAPHIC)

Turkey in Panic Mode After Spotting Russian Engineers on Syrian Border

Amid rising tensions between Ankara and Moscow, Turkish President Erdogan has expressed concern over the alleged presence of Russian engineers near the country’s Syrian border.

The Turkish government has expressed alarm over Russia’s air campaign in Syria since it began last September. Along its Syrian border zone, Turkey has dug defense trenches and increased security forces, despite the fact that Moscow has repeatedly stated its goal is to combat terrorist groups in Syria.

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed new levels of panic, sounding the alarm over the alleged presence of Russian inspectors at an airport near the Turkish border.

"We have said this from the beginning: we won’t tolerate such formations (in northern Syria) along the area stretching from the Iraqi border up to the Mediterranean," he told reporters. "We maintain our sensitivities on these issues."

Erdogan said he plans to discuss the matter with US Vice President Joe Biden when the two meet on Saturday.
"I can say that Turkey is closely watching every military movement on its borders and especially the border with Syria," a Turkish government source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the president fails to address the underlying cause for any tensions in the border zone: Ankara’s downing of a Russian bomber in Syrian airspace. Following that incident, Russia was forced to move S-400 air defense systems to Hmeymim airbase.

"They thought that we would turn tail and run. No, Russia not that country," Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month. "We have increased our presence in Syria, have increased the number of combat aircraft deployed there. There was no Russian air defense system there – now there’s the S-400.

"If before, Turkey had constantly violated Syrian airspace, let them try it now."

Moscow also deployed warships to the Mediterranean to assist in the anti-terror campaing, as well as to protect Russian jets.

 Erdogan’s comments also come amid Turkey’s increased concern over the presence of Kurdish militants along the border. While the YPG has proven to be one of the most effective ground forces fighting against Daesh in northern Syria, Ankara has labeled the group a terrorist organization.

While Moscow has pushed for the inclusion of the YPG in Syrian peace talks, Ankara has refused, threatening to extend the bloody conflict.

"For us, there is no difference between PYD, YPG, PKK, or Daesh," Erdogan said. "We will discuss this with Biden tomorrow.

"I hope that this joint stance will be aimed at preventing this wrong Russian formation in northern Syria."

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Russia shows off submarine destroyer near Syrian coast

The Russian Navy gave journalists an onboard tour of the Udaloy-class anti-submarine destroyer that has been deployed to the Syrian port of Latakia to assist other Russian warships in their Mediterranean mission. The Vice-Admiral Kulakov is one of eight frigates of its class currently in service in the Russian Navy. Its main purpose is to detect and destroy enemy submarines, meaning its current Syrian deployment is in more of a supporting role.
While guarding the Russian flotilla off Latakia, the ship detected and tracked several foreign submarines on reconnaissance missions off the Syrian coast, but was not engaged in combat missions. The Vice-Admiral Kulakov's search and rescue helicopter, a Kamov Ka-27PS, is ready to respond to emergencies on the seas.

The operation in Syria has became a turning point for the military's public relations. The latest tour is one of a series in which the Russian military has invited journalists from Russian and foreign media outlets to high-security facilities. Earlier, the media were allowed to visit the Khmeimim airbase south of Latakia, from which Russian warplanes fly sorties, and the Moskva missile destroyer, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet.
Unlike most of the Russian Navy ships involved in the Syrian operation, which belong to the Black Sea Fleet, the Vice-Admiral Kulakov is based with the North Fleet in Severomorsk. Mixing ships from different fleets is a common practice aimed at building cross-fleet cooperation and fostering ties between officers and sailors.
The warship left its home base four months ago and started its mission off the Syrian coast in December.

Hillary Clinton on Detroit schools: 'No one would tolerate these conditions in a wealthy suburb'

Between the Flint water crisis and President Barack Obama's visit to Detroit Wednesday, the state of Michigan has received a whirlwind of national attention recently.
Now presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who last week said Flint residents deserve answers about their water, is joining the mix on another hot topic, failing Detroit Public Schools:
Though still the Democratic Party nominee favorite, recent polls show Clinton is losing ground to Bernie Sanders and in some states, trailing him.
On the day Obama visited Detroit, nearly 90 percent of Detroit Public Schools were shut down because of a coordinated union protest in which teachers simultaneously called in sick. 
Called "sick-outs" or the "Snyder flu," at least four such protests have shut down dozens of Detroit Public Schools in the last few weeks.
Clinton's comment on Twitter is similar to one made by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan when he toured several schools last week, after which he called for the full inspection of all public school and charter school facilities in the city.
"When I sit with a 4-year-old preschooler at 10 in the morning, who is wearing her coat in the classroom... that's not acceptable," Duggan said. "It's just not acceptable, and if this was a suburban community, parents wouldn't tolerate it."
During his visits, Duggan also observed a warped gym floor a dead mouse and other sub-par conditions.
Duggan took the opportunity to urge bipartisan support for Gov. Rick Snyder's restructuring plan, which the governor himself admitted hasn't yet received substantial political support.
  • Snyder says Detroit Public Schools are buried in deepening debt -- as much as $550 million by this summer -- and it's requiring nearly $1,100 per student on just debt financing, money the governor says should be going back into servicing the education of children.
His plan, costing the state about $715 million over 10 years and requiring contributions from districts across Michigan, would effectively eliminate the current Detroit Public Schools district, which has been under emergency management since 2009. It would remain for the sole function of paying off debt.
The legislature would then create a Detroit Education Commission, initially led by appointees selected by the mayor and governor. Oversight powers would return to an elected local body over a number of years.
"To be blunt, we have 19th century education system in the 21st century and it's time to ask ourselves why," Snyder said during his State of the State Address Tuesday.
"Let's solve the problem and help the kids," he said. "The time to act is now and avoid court intervention, which would cost us much more and be a lot more detrimental."
Meanwhile, Detroit teachers have proposed a plan that is almost the opposite of Snyder's.
They want local School Board powers restored immediately, the Emergency Manager Darnell Earley removed, former Detroit Public Schools now under state charter returned to the District, more charter school transparency and for the state to pay off the Detroit Public Schools debt.
  • Earley released a statement Wednesday criticizing the sick-out protests that have been shutting down schools.
"These ongoing illegal actions chosen by teachers represent an extreme disservice to the more than 44,790 students and their families who today lost another day of instruction and were again inconvenienced or caused to loose wages due to these closures," Earley said.
"... We have heard teachers' concerns and identified short and long-term solutions to several key issues. It's time for all of us to work together to ensure that there will be a school system in Detroit for future generations of the city's children."

Hillary Clinton Scores Endorsement From Biggest LGBT Rights Group

Willa Frej 

The Human Rights Campaign said it chose Clinton because she has presented the "most robust and ambitious LGBT plan any candidate for president has ever laid out."

The nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, Human Rights Campaign, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Tuesday.
"The endorsement comes at a time when the stakes could not be higher for the LGBT community," HRC said in a statement. 
HRC chose Clinton because "leading Republican candidates for president have threatened to halt progress as well as revoke, repeal, and overturn the gains made during President Obama’s two terms."
The group added that Clinton has presented the "most robust and ambitious LGBT plan any candidate for president has ever laid out," including her desire to drop the ban on transgender military service and fighting for equal rights through legislation like the Equality Act.
She also advocated for LGBT rights internationally while secretary of state, HRC said. Clinton famously gave a speech at the United Nations proclaiming that "gay rights are human rights."
The Democratic presidential hopeful has spoken at HRC events several times in the past. "I see the injustices and the dangers that you and your families still face," she said in October at the annual HRC meeting. "I'm running for president to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans."
Clinton plans to accept the endorsement Sunday, Jan. 24 in Des Moines, Iowa, alongside HRC President Chad Griffin.

#UsElections - Presidential Candidates, Silent on Presidential Power


DONALD J. TRUMP has declared that as president, he would bring back waterboarding “and more” as options for interrogating terrorism suspects. But anti-torture laws forbid that. Does he believe the Constitution would empower him, as commander in chief, to override those limits?
Hillary Clinton has suggested that she would shield undocumented immigrants from deportation if their children were granted temporary status under a 2012 program. But the Justice Department has told President Obama that such action would exceed his authority. What limits does she believe exist on executive power to not enforce laws against groups of people?
As the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary approach, voters appear unlikely to know the answers to such questions. Both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton — the leading candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations — declined to answer questions submitted by The New York Times about their understanding of the scope and limits of the powers they would wield if elected.
They are hardly alone. Of the Republican contenders, only Rand Paul responded. The campaigns of Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, among others, declined or did not answer. Mrs. Clinton’s two Democratic rivals, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, also turned down the survey.
By contrast, virtually all the serious candidates engaged with similar surveys I submitted during the last two presidential elections. This year’s silence suggests a striking shift in political calculus.
I first did the survey eight years ago while working at The Boston Globe. Nine of the 12 campaigns I contacted decided to participate, including both eventual nominees — Mr. Obama and John McCain.
“The American people need to know where we stand on these issues before they entrust us with this responsibility,” Mr. Obama wrote in his response in December 2007.
In 2011, working for The New York Times, I updated the survey to address new controversies and submitted it to the Republican primary field. Five of the seven campaigns I contacted participated, including the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, who said he agreed that all would-be presidents should tell voters their answers to such questions. “They deserve serious consideration by all candidates,” Mr. Romney wrote.
So last September, I again updated the survey and submitted it to the major campaigns.
The questions included: When can a president keep information secret from Congress or the public; detain or kill American terrorism suspects without trial; override statutes governing surveillance, torture and Guantánamo detainee transfers; and attack another country without congressional authorization?
Mr. Paul, in his response, wrote that he was willing to engage because he was seeking “to restore our constitutional system of separation of powers” after a decade of “unconstitutional claims of authority by the president.” (Back in 2011, after Mr. Obama authorized the bombing of Libya without congressional authorization, Mr. Paul denounced the move in a Senate speech while standing before a poster of a quote from Mr. Obama’s 2007 answers to my survey. Mr. Obama said then that the Constitution did not give presidents the power to do such a thing.)
But none of the other campaigns chose to answer the questions. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign did provide a general statement in which she expressed pride in helping the Obama team turn the corner on certain Bush administration detainee policies. She added that while she would fight terrorism “vigorously,” she would only appoint officials and adopt policies that protected human rights and were “faithful to the law.”
But when it comes to executive power, people often disagree about what it means to be faithful to “the law.” So why are the candidates so less willing this time to tell voters what they think?
The dynamics may be different for each party. Among Republicans, possible explanations include not wanting to acknowledge expansive views of executive power at a time when conservatives are portraying Mr. Obama as imperial, or to identify limits they might later exceed.
“Maybe this is the Obama lesson,” said Harold Bruff, a University of Colorado constitutional law professor. “ ‘I don’t want to say anything because someone will make hay of it.’ ”
Still, those factors existed four years ago, too. What seems to have changed is the Republican electorate’s attitude. The establishment candidates like Mr. Bush have advisers who worked in previous Republican administrations and could draft answers based on their experience. But Mr. Trump’s wild-card campaign is overshadowing those candidates. If expertise does not matter to primary voters, what’s the point of tackling hard questions?
“The front-runner has shown he doesn’t have to get into the weeds, so there is no percentage of doing it for the rest,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political-science professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “Why get specific and give someone a target to criticize?”
For Democrats, Mrs. Clinton’s demurral is especially noteworthy because she did participate in 2007. But that was a time when Democrats controlled Congress and liberals were upset about what they saw as Mr. Bush’s overreaching on executive power, including bypassing laws against torture. Now Republicans control the legislative branch, and many liberals have cheered Mr. Obama’s executive actions as a way to get things done despite what they see as congressional obstructionism.
Looking forward to 2017, Republicans seem likely to maintain control of the House. As a result, if a Democrat wins the presidency, the next White House would be likely to govern with the same playbook Mr. Obama has deployed since 2011: taking disputed executive actions, hoping Democratic lawmakers block legislation to undo them and weathering litigation. (Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging Mr. Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration.)
“I don’t think Hillary or Bernie or O’Malley want to say, ‘I promise not to be assertive in the use of executive branch authority,’ when they may have every bit as much trouble as Obama has had in getting Congress to work with them,” said Peter Shane, a constitutional law professor at Ohio State University.
If that is where we are headed, my survey’s very failure may still have told voters some things they should know.

Video - Latino Support for Democratic Ticket Could Determine Next President

President Barack Obama Allocates $80 Million For Aid In Flint Water Crisis

Over 8,000 children have been exposed to the lead-filled water in Flint, Mich. The instance reached its peak earlier this month, with organizations and people alike finding solutions to fix this crisis.
Now, President Barack Obama has allocated $80 million in federal funding to further remedy the emergency health issue, NewsOne reports. The water was treated and stored in a treatment plant, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, as a means to cut costs during their switch to another pipeline from Lake Huron. However, the water became contaminated with lead, which was brought to city officials’ attention by the residents of Flint since 2014.
The poisonous water has disrupted young children’s nervous system, something that Obama lightly touched on while in attendance at a U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. “Our children should not have to be worried about the water that they’re drinking in American cities, that’s not something that we can accept,” Obama said.
Since this news, many people have acted quickly to send bottles of water to Flint’s residents, also prompting Big Sean, a Detroit native, to launch #HealFlintKids which focuses on treating those affected by the water.

Afghan Music Video - Laili - Az Tu

How the US Blew Millions of Dollars Airlifting Cashmere Goats to Afghanistan

A new report accuses the Pentagon of pulling the wool over taxpayers' eyes.

The Pentagon airlifted Italian goats to Afghanistan as part of a failed $6 million project aimed at boosting the country's cashmere industry.
That's one of the latest findings from John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, who testified at a Senate hearing yesterday on the Department of Defense's efforts to boost the Afghan economy at a cost of more than $600 million. SIGAR, Sopko said, "has not been able to find credible evidence showing that TFBSO's [Task Force for Business and Stability Operations] activities in Afghanistan produced the intended economic growth or stabilization outcomes that justified its creation."
The Pentagon's cashmere project entailed importing nine rare, blond male goats from Italy, building a farm, and setting up a laboratory to certify the their wool. It's possible that the program created as many as 350 jobs. But according to Sopko, the Pentagon failed to track its spending, and the project's status is unknown. It remains unclear whether or not the goats were eaten.
Sopko has detailed other examples of waste and unchecked spending in Afghanistan, including $150 million for private security and rented villas for the Pentagon's business task force; a $47 million "Silicon Valley-type start-up incubator" that "did nothing," according to the contractor implementing the project; and a $7.5 million project to increase the sales of hand-knotted Afghan carpets. The Pentagon's business task force "claims to have created nearly 10,000 carpet weaving jobs through this program," Sopko's prepared testimony notes, "however our initial analysis has left us questioning the veracity of this figure."
Sopko's reports have been leaving lawmakers dumbfounded. At yesterday's hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) lambasted a $43 million natural gas station that could have been built for $500,000calling it "dumb on its face." She noted that the average Afghan earns less annually than it costs to convert a car to run on natural gas.

Afghanistan - 8 Haqqani terrorists arrested in connection to attack on Tolo TV workers

A group of eight terrorists of the Haqqani Network have been detained in connection to the deadly attack on Tolo TV workers in capital Kabul.
The Afghan Intelligence – National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the terrorists were arrested during a special operation from Hussain Khel village of Bagrami district in Kabul province.
A statement by NDS said the attack on Tolo TV workers on Wednesday was plotted and carried out by the Haqqani terrorist network.
This comes as the Taliban group claimed responsibility behind the attack on Tolo TV workers which left at least seven people dead.
The Taliban group had earlier issued a statement condemning the media agencies for covering incidents and war crimes committed during the fall of Kunduz city, which they claim were false.
Found in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the terrorist network is accused of staging numerous cross-border attacks from their base in North Waziristan, including the 19-hour siege at the US Embassy in Kabul in September 2011.
The network is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region and was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 7, 2012 by the US Department of State.

ولې یوازې لر او بر پښتانه په نښه کېږي؟

Students March As Pakistan Mourns Victims Of University Attack

Hundreds of students marched in Bannu, northwest Pakistan, as the country observed a day of mourning for 21 people who died in an extremist attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. (RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal)

Terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan Underlines Importance of Trust, Peace Talks

By Sanjay Kumar

Two horrifying terror attacks on the same day demonstrate that current strategy against the Taliban isn’t working. It’s time to do something about it.
January 20 was a bloody day for Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the space of a couple of hours, two different Taliban-affiliated groups carried out horrifying attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan saw a deadly terror attack on a university campus in the northwestern part of the country, claiming at least 22 lives and injuring more than 60 people. Bacha Khan University, located in the town of Charsadda in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was in the middle of commemorating the death of the legendary Pashtun leader, Badshah Khan, whom the university is named after. In the middle of a poetry recitation that was taking place as a part of the ceremony, gunfire erupted. The ensuing four-hour long gun battle claimed the lives of many students and teachers, who joined the tragic ranks of the many victims of terror in the country.
Terror also struck Afghanistan in the evening of that same day, when a bus belonging to the Afghan station ToloTV was attacked by a suicide bomber. Seven journalists are confirmed to have died, with many more wounded. This is the first time that so many journalists have been targeted by the Taliban in Kabul.
The two targets share one important commonality: the Taliban targeted “soft targets” that often criticize its behavior. Educational institutions and the media are vocal in their opinion against the Taliban and their methods.
The attack on Bacha Khan University almost coincides with the anniversary of the terrorist attack on an army school in Peshawar just over one year ago. That horrifying attack claimed more than a 150 lives, mostly children. The university is just 40 kilometers away from the school and interestingly falls in the same region where Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousufzai was once shot by the Taliban for her support of education for girls.
The Pakistani newspaper Dawn writes that the mastermind of the Peshawar school attack, Umar Mansoor of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group, has claimed responsibility for the attack through a post on his Facebook page, adding that four attackers were sent to the university.
However, Peshawar-based political analyst Rustam Shah Mohmand doubts the TTP’s claims. He says that the terror attack “could be in reaction to the ongoing operation against the Taliban in the northern Waziristan area.” In an interview with The Diplomat, the former government official believes that the “the hanging of the culprits of the Peshawar school attack last year may also be the reason for the brutality of some fringe elements belonging to Daesh could also be involved in the terror operation.”
The former Pakistani envoy to Afghanistan strongly argues that the attack on the university is in “no way in reaction to the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which is just in an embryonic stage. Furthermore, the most important Taliban actor, the Afghan Taliban, has not yet been included in these talks.”
Reacting to Wednesday’s development, Deputy Chairman Abdul Hakim Mujahid of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a body involved in the peace process, says that the best answer to terror attacks in the subcontinent is the peace process.
Talking to The Diplomat, Mujahid says that “the talks are important to end such regular violence.” The former Taliban representative to the United Nations underlines that “all the four states (Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China) will cooperate with each other in combating insurgency in any of their countries. I think they are working based on the mutual interest of all the four parties.”
However, the fact remains that the escalating violence in Afghanistan does not inspire confidence among people about the peace process. “The peace process is an illusion to keep people’s hopes up,” says Shahpur Akbari, a Kabul-based journalist.
Since the beginning of the new year, Kabul has experienced at least six bomb attacks, claiming scores of lives. Never before has the country seen this kind of heightened violence during the winter season. This shows that not only has the Taliban adopted a new strategy, but it is also attempting to keep the government on the defensive in order to further spread throughout the country.
The terror attacks on January 20 reinforce the fact that both Afghanistan and Pakistan need to build mutual trust to neutralize terror in the region. Their deep-seated distrust has fed the insurgency in both the nations. If they change their outlook and start building a new relationship based on trust, they will remain prisoners of terror.

Pakistan’s relentless terrorist menace

By Lal Khan
As terrorists struck another educational institution, the attack has stunned even a society where terrorism is not an extraordinary happening. Wednesday`s attack on Bacha Khan University`s Charsadda Campus in which 21 mainly students were killed and more than fifty injured, has raised the two-day death toll to more than 30.
Just when the media, the ruling elite and the state were trying to claim that Pakistan had “turned the corner” by nearly overcoming the behemoth of terrorism, terror is raising its ugly head again in a vicious vengeance. In the first 20 days of 2016 there have been more than 60 deaths in terrorist attacks across the country.
All this has raised apprehensions and the feeling of insecurity among ordinary souls that more is to come, with more horrific results. Such incidents in the last analysis add insult upon injury for the oppressed masses that are already facing the brunt of the economic and social crisis of this obsolete and cruel capitalist system.
Although the frequency of the attacks subsided in 2015, the menace of terror remains very much there and the attack on the university at Charsadda shows that their networks and threat are far from being eradicated, contrary to what is being proclaimed by the army’s spokesman. There have been intelligence-based operations, thousands of them, and scores of militants have been arrested or eliminated. The military operation had been launched two years ago but the notion that it will eliminate terrorism has proved to be futile. The grim reality is that it isn`t over.
Driven from their sanctuaries in the tribal borderlands, Pakistani militants have found sanctuaries close to the border in Afghanistan, where they continue to train and send death squads to Pakistan to sow mayhem. Khalifa Omar Mansoor, the former activist of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi who heads his own group within the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and who claimed responsibility for the Bacha Khan University Campus attack, operates from Naziyan district of Afghanistan`s eastern Nangrahar province. All phone calls were traced to Afghanistan. This commander of the terror outfit, who also goes by his alias Omar Naray, previously masterminded and executed other major attacks in and around Peshawar, including the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School and the assault on the PAF airbase in Badabher in September last year. The anti Shia sectarian attack on Imamia Mosque in Peshawar’s middle class district in February 2015 that left 20 worshippers dead was also his doing.
The day after the harrowing Peshawar APS attack, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif dashed to Kabul in an effort to seek Afghan President Ashraf Ghani`s help in eliminating terrorist sanctuaries in Nangrahar, Kunar and other areas. Mr Ghani wanted reciprocal measures.
However, nothing tangible took place nor could have been achieved. An intra-Afghan peace dialogue began and collapsed. With the deadline of the NATO forces withdrawal, the Afghan Taliban went on a new offensive in Afghanistan, capturing provincial capitals and district headquarters amid suicide bombings in Kabul and elsewhere. President Ghani waited but then lost his nerve, openly accusing Pakistan of waging an undeclared war against his country. Realising that he could not possibly salvage the situation without Pakistan`s help, he, reluctantly, reached out to Islamabad again. A video conference between the beleaguered Afghan president and Gen Raheel Sharif helped kick-start the process again, resulting in the resignation of the Pakistani security establishment`s long standing bête noire, the intelligence chief of Afghanistan`s National Directorate of Security, Rehmatullah Nabeel. President Ghani visited Islamabad to attend the Heart of Asia conference in December and offered a new, verifiable mechanism of a “military-to-military” and “intelligence-to-intelligence” relationship. Pakistan renewed an offer to “facilitate” the return of “reconcilable” Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.
A hotline between the directors general of military operations has been set up. An understanding on “intelligence sharing and cooperation” between the Afghan NDS and the ISI was also reached. But then suddenly renewed terrorist attacks on the diplomatic missions of India and Pakistan, two of the most hostile foreign adversaries in Afghanistan’s multifaceted proxy war took place. On Jan 4, the Indian consulate in the Afghanistan city of Mazar-i-Sharif was struck by the Afghan Taliban. On Jan 13, a suicide bomber attacked the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. The militant Islamic State group (Khorasan) accepted responsibility. In the same period, the Pathankot incident took place in India that was blamed by its media and regime on the Jaish a Mohammad, a Pakistan based terrorist organisation supposedly banned by the government. Then there was a sudden surge in terrorist attacks in Baluchistan and Peshawar. Pakistan’s military agencies are adamant that there is an undeniable link between these incidents.
There appears to be a tit-for-tat doctrine at work. Afghanistan’s NDS under Mr Nabeel masterminded this, the “if you can do this to us, we can do this to you” doctrine, and executed it in a masterly manner, the reverse of what it believed or still believed Pakistan’s establishment were doing to them. The example of Latif Mahsud former Tehrik Taliban Pakistan’s chief Hakeemullah’s trusted lieutenant is a case in point. The Americans captured him in October 2013 while being escorted by an NDS convoy for a meeting in Kabul. That game may not be over.
Once again as the Charsadda terrorists phone calls were traced back to Afghanistan, Pakistan’s military supremo, Gen. Sharif contacted and sought help from the Afghanistan regime to access and eliminate the masterminds and perpetrators of this heinous atrocity. Is this desperation or naivety? The reality is that the beleaguered Afghan President and his regime has hardly any control of the regions where the sanctuaries of these terrorist outfits are to be found.
The Afghan state is a poorly grafted tool of the imperialist invaders that has hardly much writ in large swathes of the country. Democracy under the shadows of NATO bayonets is a cynical farce. If the Pakistani state agencies could bring Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table, then sections of the Afghan regime have also links with the Pakistani Taliban that are wreaking havoc here. The hostility of Afghan state factions towards Pakistan is ubiquitous. There are also divisions within the state elites. Sections of the Pakistani state bring in India as the perpetrator, while Gen. Sharif and the Nawaz government have not ventured into that accusation. With the complexity of the quagmire in Afghanistan none of the possibilities can be ruled out. But such divergence of views amongst the top brass shows the strains in the edifice and the toll that this war of attrition is taking on the state.
Now most analysts in Pakistan are parroting an old truth that was for the first time publically confessed by Hilary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, that these Islamist terrorists were of their own making. The Pakistani state agencies were used as a tool to manufacture this vile terrorist network that was used to unleash the so-called dollar Jihad in 1978 to overthrow the revolutionary government in Afghanistan. The financial infrastructure based on drugs and heinous crimes was set up by the imperialists. That has metamorphosed into the main source of terrorist funding and now runs into billions of dollars. What were being used as proxies by the imperialists and the Pakistani and Saudi states for their own interests in the region have expanded and splintered, mainly over the share in the plunder and black money, into even more virulent vigilantes. They are now there in the terrorist market to hire and buy at risk of no guarantees by various regional and international imperialists who need proxies to plunder Afghanistan and Pakistan on both sides of the Durand line. The more vicious and bestial their acts of terrorism are, the more marketing advertisement these groups get with the increase in their renting costs and greater profits for their bosses. The adoption of the ISIL brand name by several of the groups in this region is more of a marketing ambition bon the part of their warlords than any real recruitment or organisational structuring by the pan-Islamic Daesh.
With a history of almost four decades of their association and collusion with the official bourgeois states of these countries they and their terrorism-based capital have infiltrated the structures and sections of these states. The veneer of this collusion is often called the ideology of political Islam. With societies in socio-economic decay and the masses in utter deprivation and misery they seem to provide some employment to the millions of youth suffering from chronic unemployment and prospects of a bleak future. The collapse of the Left and the betrayals of the left populist leaders have further added to this apathy and demoralisation of the masses. These Islamic vigilante proxies set up by the imperialists and the regional states have now ended up as Frankenstein’s monsters for them. Not only have they eroded the discipline and structures of the states, but also they are now posing a threat with their belligerent and bestial intrusion in states and societies. Like a black spectre of evil they have begun to haunt their mentors who created them to perpetuate acts against their adversaries and enhance their interests of greed and hegemony.
Now terrorism has become a worldwide phenomenon. From the Middle East to south Asia and Africa it is brutally ravaging societies. The imperialist military interventions and economic plunder have perpetrated this process. In the last analysis these Frankenstein’s monsters are the products of the manoeuvres of the states that substituted them for operations they conducted covertly for the lust of their bosses and ruling classes. Now they have to face the retribution of history. The failures of these states are also due to economic decline and the rapidly intensifying social turbulence where the states have become incapacitated and are losing their grip and writ on societies. But above all the crisis of the capitalist system is so acute that it exhibits flagrantly its historical obsoleteness and economic bankruptcy. Its rotting societies and the venomous froth of this filth in the form of terror and violence come to the fore in such periods of mild reaction and social stagnation. Terrorism can neither be eliminated through negotiated settlement with such inhuman creatures nor can it be crushed by the states that created and bred them. It is only through the revolutionary upheavals of the youth and the toilers that these forces of black reaction can be swept away. This objective situation and the epoch will not last long. We have seen movements of the oppressed masses in the recent years. New revolts will erupt sooner rather than later. This system that breeds such evils, in Lenin’s words, is a “horror without end”. Only through the revolutionary overthrow of this rotten capitalism can humanity get rid of this violent terror and socio-economic misery inflicted upon society for generations.