Silvio Berlusconi says he intends to stand for European parliament

A wax impression?

3883.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=forma

Billionaire former Italian prime minister convicted of tax fraud cites ‘sense of responsibility’

He’s been convicted of tax fraud, barred from public office in Italy due to his criminal record and dogged by reports of his “bunga bunga” sex parties.

But, at what he described as “my lovely age of 82”, the billionaire former Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi has announced his intention to stand for the European parliament.

Continue reading…

Corbyn could face string of resignations if he backs ‘people’s vote’

Someone has to risk something to save Britain and Europe!

3500.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=forma

A number of Labour frontbenchers say they would consider their positions if leader backed idea

Jeremy Corbyn could face up to a dozen resignations from the Labour frontbench if the party backs a second referendum as a way out of the Brexit crisis.

A string of junior shadow ministers have told the Guardian they are strongly opposed to the idea of a second referendum, which they fear would expose Labour to a vicious backlash in leave-voting constituencies.

Continue reading…

Canceled Pelosi trip was to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan: spokesman – Number one national security leaker Donald Trump cancelled military plane and leaked her planned flight! #TraitorTrump

“The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said on Twitter. The congressional trip had not been announced for security reasons but Trump made it public in his letter canceling military transportation because of the partial government shutdown.

Source: Canceled Pelosi trip was to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan: spokesman

Syria’s Kurds: The new frontline in confronting Iran and Turkey

Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) line up during military exercises at a training facility in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, June 1, 2017. Photo: AFP

By James M. Dorsey
Jan 17 2019 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

US President Donald J Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy if Turkish troops attack Syrian Kurds allied with the United States in the wake of the announced withdrawal of American forces potentially serves his broader goal of letting regional forces fight for common goals like countering Iranian influence in Syria.

Mr Trump’s threat coupled with a call on Turkey to create a 26-kilometre buffer zone to protect Turkey from a perceived Kurdish threat was designed to pre-empt a Turkish strike against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that Ankara asserts is part of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish group that has waged a low-intensity war in predominantly Kurdish south-eastern Turkey for more than three decades.

Like Turkey, the United States and Europe have designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Turkey has been marshalling forces for an attack on the YPG since Mr Trump’s announced withdrawal of US forces. It would be the third offensive against Syrian Kurds in recent years.

In a sign of strained relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkish media with close ties to the government have been reporting long before the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that Saudi Arabia is funding the YPG. There is no independent confirmation of the Turkish allegations.

Yeni Safak reported in 2017, days after the Gulf crisis erupted pitting a Saudi-UAE-Egyptian alliance against Qatar, which is supported by Turkey, that US, Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian officials had met with the PKK as well as the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey says is the Syrian political wing of the PKK, to discuss the future of Syrian oil once the Islamic State had been defeated.

Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu Agency reported last May that Saudi and YPG officials had met to discuss cooperation. Saudi Arabia promised to pay Kurdish fighters that joined an Arab-backed force USD 200 a month, Anadolu said. Saudi Arabia allegedly sent aid to the YPG on trucks that travelled through Iraq to enter Syria.

In August last year, Saudi Arabia announced that it had transferred USD 100 million to the United States that was earmarked for agriculture, education, roadworks, rubble removal and water service in areas of north-eastern Syria that are controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces of which the YPG is a significant part.

Saudi Arabia said the payment, announced on the day that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the kingdom, was intended to fund stabilisation of areas liberated from control by the Islamic State.

Turkish media, however, insisted that the funds would flow to the YPG.

“The delivery of $100 million is considered as the latest move by Saudi Arabia in support of the partnership between the U.S. and YPG. Using the fight against Daesh as a pretext, the U.S. has been cooperating with the YPG in Syria and providing arms support to the group. After Daesh was cleared from the region with the help of the U.S., the YPG tightened its grip on Syrian soil taking advantage of the power vacuum in the war-torn country,” Daily Sabah said referring to the Islamic State by one of its Arabic acronyms.

Saudi Arabia has refrained from including the YPG and the PKK on its extensive list of terrorist organisations even though then foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir described in 2017 the Turkish organisation as a “terror group.”

Mr Trump’s threat this week and his earlier vow to stand by the Kurds despite the troop withdrawal give Saudi Arabia and other Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt political cover to support the Kurds as a force against Iran’s presence in Syria.

It also allows the kingdom and the UAE to attempt to thwart Turkish attempts to increase its regional influence. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt have insisted that Turkey must withdraw its troops from Qatar as one of the conditions for the lifting of the 18-month-old diplomatic and economic boycott of the Gulf state.

The UAE, determined to squash any expression of political Islam, has long led the autocratic Arab charge against Turkey because of its opposition to the 2013 military coup in Egypt that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother and the country’s first and only democratically elected president, Turkey’s close relations with Iran and Turkish support for Qatar and Islamist forces in Libya.

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt support General Khalifa Haftar, who commands anti-Islamist forces in eastern Libya while Turkey, Qatar and Sudan support the Islamists.

Libyan and Saudi media reported that authorities had repeatedly intercepted Turkish arms shipments destined for Islamists, including one this month and another last month. Turkey has denied the allegations.

“Simply put, as Qatar has become the go-to financier of the Muslim Brotherhood and its more radical offshoot groups around the globe, Turkey has become their armourer,” said Turkish scholar Michael Rubin.

Ironically, the fact that various Arab states, including the UAE and Bahrain, recently reopened their embassies in Damascus with tacit Saudi approval after having supported forces aligned against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for much of the civil war, like Mr Trump’s threat to devastate the Turkish economy, makes Gulf support for the Kurds more feasible.

Seemingly left in the cold by the US president’s announced withdrawal of American forces, the YPG has sought to forge relations with the Assad regime. In response, Syria has massed troops near the town of Manbij, expected to be the flashpoint of a Turkish offensive.

Commenting on last year’s two-month-long Turkish campaign that removed Kurdish forces from the Syrian town of Afrin and Turkish efforts since to stabilise the region, Gulf scholar Giorgio Cafiero noted that “for the UAE, Afrin represents a frontline in the struggle against Turkish expansionism with respect to the Arab world.”

The same could be said from a Saudi and UAE perspective for Manbij not only with regard to Turkey but also Iran’s presence in Syria. Frontlines and tactics may be shifting, US and Gulf geopolitical goals have not.

Dr James M Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. He is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, and a book with the same title, among several others.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

The post Syria’s Kurds: The new frontline in confronting Iran and Turkey appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Thousands more migrant children separated under Trump than previously known

3000.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=forma

Damning government report says ‘thousands of separated children’ put in care up to a year before policy became public

The Trump administration may have separated thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border for up to a year before family separation was a publicly known practice, according to a stunning government review of the health department’s role in family separation.

Related: The US detention center where sick children receive ‘the bare minimum’

Continue reading…

Israel’s new ‘apartheid road’ is about more than just segregation

Race states and walls

Israel claims the new road, which separates Israelis and Palestinians by an eight-meter wall, alleviates traffic for settlers while helping Palestinians travel around the West Bank. Critics say it will help create Israeli-only enclaves free of any Palestinian presence. 

Route 4370, known as the 'apartheid road,' just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Route 4370, known as the ‘apartheid road,’ just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel unveiled a new segregated highway in the occupied West Bank last week, with a giant eight-meter concrete wall separating Palestinian and Israeli drivers on either side. Labeled the apartheid road by critics, Route 4370’s official reasoning is to alleviate traffic for Israeli settlers commuting to Jerusalem, as well as creating a new way for Palestinians to travel between the northern and southern West Bank.

[tmwinpost]

Yet despite the stated reasoning, anti-occupation and human rights advocates argue that the segregated highway is another way to create Israeli-only areas — free of any Palestinian presence — in Palestine. And it is a sign that Israel, and Israelis, no longer view segregation as something to be ashamed of.

“While in the past there was a major effort to conceal segregation from the Israeli public, today it is now perceived as legitimate,” said Efrat Cohen-Bar, a planner and architect with Israeli NGO Bimkom. “In a country where a new discriminatory law is proposed every morning, one short segregated road no longer excites anyone.”

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the highway “an example of the ability to create coexistence between Israelis and Palestinian while protecting against existing security challenges.”

For Cohen-Bar, the highway cannot be removed from the entire system of segregated roads in the West Bank, which often forces Palestinians to use underpasses so as not to disturb the settler traffic above them. “Highway 4370 should be seen in a broader context as a continuation of [Israel’s] separation policy and the creation of Israeli-only enclaves.”

In the eyes of Daniel Seidemann, an attorney and activist who runs the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, and who has spent the last 20 years monitoring the city’s changing landscape, Route 4370 has a geopolitical dimension as well. The highway, he says, is part of Israel’s long-term strategy of “creating territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and the settlements that surround it,” particularly the highly-contested E1 area, the 12 sq. kilometer area located between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

Palestinian women walk on the Palestinian side of Route 4370, known as the 'apartheid road,' just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian women walk on the Palestinian side of Route 4370, known as the ‘apartheid road,’ just east of Jerusalem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

For decades, Israel has hoped to build up the area with settlements, connecting the settlement to Jerusalem and effectively bifurcating the West Bank.

Moreover, says Seidemann, the road is just the first step in Israel’s plan to entirely cut off Palestinians from using Route 1, parts of which serve both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. All of it, he believes, is meant to undermine the chances of establishing a Palestinian state and to advance the incremental annexation of large swathes of the West Bank.

“Netanyahu is engaged in a strategic thrust to determine unilaterally a de-facto border between Israel and so-called Palestine,” says Seidemann. “The road is being opened now because the prime minister’s policies are finally coming together. The end-game is the annexation of Area C of the West Bank with minimal Palestinian presence. This is what we’re seeing happening in E1.”

Route 4370 is not the first segregated highway in the occupied Palestinian territories for the exclusive use of Israelis. During the Second Intifada, Israel shut down Route 443, a second highway linking Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv area, to Palestinian traffic following several cases of fatal gunfire at Israeli vehicles. In June 2007, residents of the six villages near Route 443 petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice to re-open the road to Palestinians. Two-and-a-half years later, the court ruled that Palestinians must be allowed to use the West Bank road.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE’S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

SUBMIT

“The High Court ruled that Israel had to stop segregating Route 443, at least on paper,” Seidemann continues. “This case is different. It’s not ad-hoc policy, but rather well thought out long in advance. It is about building separate, parallel infrastructures for Israelis and Palestinians; this kind of thing has never been done before.”

“Route 4370 is intended to create a domino effect,” says Ahmad SubLaban, a field researcher for Jerusalem-based human rights group Ir Amim. The highway is part of a puzzle that will come together to eventually connect Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, the Ramallah-area settlements, and the settlement of Givat Ze’ev. Right now, it is an incomplete puzzle.”

For now, Israeli citizens who use the road will have an easier time traveling from settlements in the Ramallah area to Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods, especially during rush hour. Those driving on the Palestinian side will be barred from entering Jerusalem, yet the new road will also effectively shorten their journey from the Ramallah area to the southern part of the West Bank.

The post Israel’s new ‘apartheid road’ is about more than just segregation appeared first on +972 Magazine.

AFRICA/DR CONGO – Nearly 900 people killed in the West in clashes among communities

Kinshasa – Almost 900 people were massacred in four villages in community violence in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo , between 16 and 18 December. This was reported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The massacre took place near Yumbi, in the province of Mai-Ndombe, about 300 km north of the capital Kinshasa and it apparently it is not related to the tensions regarding the elections held on December 30th but to rivalry between the Banunu and Batendé communities.
In addition to the victims there are serious material damages: 465 private houses and public buildings were set on fire or looted. These include two schools, a health center, a clinic, a market and an office of the Independent National Electoral Commission . Over 16,000 people have taken refuge in the neighboring Republic of Congo .
Following the massacre, the authorities in Kinshasa decided to postpone the vote in the area scheduled for December 30th.