Monday, August 11, 2014
IRAQ SINKS DEEPER INTO CRISIS
The United States is providing weapons to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq as they battle Islamic State (IS) terrorists who are slaughtering civilian minorities, the AP reports. The Obama administration had previously said it would only sell arms to the Iraqi government, but that policy has changed.
The move comes as the U.S. launched airstrikes over the weekend, which apparently helped Kurdish Peshmerga fighters retake the towns of Gwer and Makhmur after heavy fighting, the BBC reports.
U.S. officials are continuing to try to evacuate thousands of Yazidi people in Iraq who have been trapped by IS fighters on Mount Sinjar, The Guardian reports. After four days of humanitarian relief from the U.S. and Britain, at least half of the 40,000 besieged civilians have escaped as of this morning, aided by Kurdish rebels who crossed from Syria.
In a televised address today, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he plans to take the country’s president, Fuad Masum, to court for violating constitutional rules, The Washington Post reports. Maliki, who is facing calls to step down amid the IS insurgency in the north of the country, criticized Masum for failing to intervene after the Iraq parliament declined to give Maliki a third term.
Reuters reports the terrorists have killed at least 500 Iraqi Yazidis. Some of them, including women and children, having been buried alive. Another 300 women are also reported to have been kidnapped as sex and domestic slaves.
"‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an Atlantic interview, using her harshest language yet to describe President Barack Obama’s foreign policy on Syria.
GAZA CEASEFIRE HOLDS, NEGOTIATORS GATHER
A new 72-hour truce in Gaza that started at midnight was still holding this morning as Israeli officials returned to Cairo to resume indirect talks with Hamas, AP reports. The ceasefire, brokered by Egyptian negotiators and preceded by rocket fire towards Israel, allowed Palestinians to leave homes and shelters and for humanitarian aid to enter battered Gaza neighborhoods. The month-long crisis between Israel and Gaza has killed at least 1,910 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis, including 64 soldiers.
BIG MOON RISING
A supermoon rose over Mount Eden in Auckland, New Zealand Sunday. To the delight of skygazers, it appeared bigger and brighter than usual as it reached one of its closest points to Earth during orbit.
HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL REFUSED EGYPT ENTRY
Cairo authorities refused to allow Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth and the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director to entry Egypt Sunday. They were due to meet diplomats and journalists in the capital to present a report on mass killings in Egypt last year, according to HRW.
Turkey’s outgoing PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan cruised to victory Sunday in the country’s first direct presidential election. Learn more about it in our By The Numbers feature.
MASS JAILBREAKS IN UKRAINE … AND HAITI
After being hit by an artillery shell, a high-security prison in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk broke into a riot, leading to the escape of 106 inmates, AP reports. At least one prisoner was killed and several were wounded. The Ukrainian military had been pounding areas on the outskirts of the city, which is held by pro-Russian separatists.
Meanwhile, another mass jailbreak occurred in Haiti as an armed gang attacked the country’s main high-security prison northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, Al Jazeera reports. A police spokesman said 899 inmates escaped and 10 had been recaptured.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
As La Stampa’s Flavia Amabile writes, there are thousands of Eritreans with Italian roots who are trying to make their way from Africa to Italy, where many even have citizenship but are nevertheless not acknowledged as such. “Today, though living safely and legally in Italy, Emanuele and Angelo are still in the middle of their journey,” Amabile writes of two brothers. “They're no longer Eritrean, but they're not quite Italian either — as is written on their identity cards. They don't have access to public housing, or to the grants that would allow them attend university. They get by however they can, living in one of Rome's many abandoned tenements, unable to find steady work.”
Read the full article, Italy's Abandoned Grandchildren Of African Colonization.
CLINICAL TRIAL FOR EXPERIMENTAL EBOLA VACCINE
An experimental vaccine against Ebola is set to begin clinical trials soon, Reuters reports. The outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 1,000 people and could continue spreading for months. For more on the epidemic, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece, Into The Ebola Triangle, As Doctors Risk All To Stop The Spread.
FIFTY SHADES OF FROZEN
Allow us to completely ruin Frozen for you with this expand=1] this mashupfeaturing dialogue from the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey film with scenes from the Disney blockbuster.
Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.
MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.
These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."
In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."
The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.
Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.
NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.
"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.
The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."
Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."
The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.
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