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Ed Webb

Q&A: What ever happened to the Arab League? | Politics | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • the League's paralysis reflects its irrelevance since the 2000s, and that's the unprecedented part. There have always been high points of unity spurred usually by Israel, and low points of fragmentation caused by internal rifts - for instance, Egypt in 1978, Iraq/Kuwait in 1990
  • In the past, Israel, Jerusalem and the Palestinian plight were some of the few things that could create League-wide conformity; and yet today, it is an illustration of its division.
  • it's extremely difficult to dissolve a regional organisation, once created - not due to costs, but because it requires a collective act of admission that the entire venture was a failure, and most regional states will not admit that
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  • the League still exists because, despite the decline of pan-Arabism, there is still a romantic notion among Arab intellectuals and elites that regional unity is attainable, that Arabness can still be a force for change, and that the League can continue to act as a vessel for potential cooperation
Ed Webb

IRIN | Niger sends Sudanese refugees back to Libya - 0 views

  • Niger has deported at least 132 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers back to Libya, drawing criticism that it is flouting international law by sending them back to dangerous and inhumane conditions from which they recently escaped.
  • Human rights advocates expressed alarm at what they said was a violation of non-refoulement, the international law that prohibits states from sending refugees and asylum seekers back to countries where they may be in harm’s way.
  • a worrying precedent for hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who are increasingly trapped in Libya with no route of exit to safety.
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  • Agadez is a major transit hub for migrants travelling from West Africa to Libya en route to Europe. But since last December, more than 1,700 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers have fled from Libya to Niger, according to the latest UNHCR figures. This is a significant reversal of the trend of people travelling north from east and west Africa to the Libyan coast, to cross the sea and seek protection in Europe.
  • Since the beginning of 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard says it has returned almost 19,000 people to Libya. A recent lawsuit filed with the European Court of Human Rights alleges that these people were returned against their will and subjected to inhumane treatment, including beatings, rape, and torture.
  • The majority of the Sudanese who have come to Agadez are from Darfur, which has been embroiled in conflict since 2003. Many had previously been registered with the UNHCR in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sudan, or in refugee camps in Chad. They travelled to Libya in recent years in search of economic opportunity, or with the intention of crossing the sea to Europe, but got caught in the lawlessness and violence that has characterised the country since the 2011 revolution.
  • The Nigerien government has been wary of the presence of the Sudanese since they began to arrive in December, and has characterised many of them as mercenaries in Libyan militias.

    “We understood that there was a real danger because you have some people who were fighters in [the] south of Libya,” Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s interior minister, told IRIN in March. “They came here because now they expect to go to Europe.”

Ed Webb

This Palestinian Brewery Is Resisting Military Occupation, One Beer at a Time - MUNCHIES - 0 views

  • Palestine’s Taybeh Brewery successfully transported 50-kilogram kegs of beer across military checkpoints on donkeys while an increasingly violent and repressive occupation escalated around them
  • “I don’t think that any brewery in the world has ever had to take beer through checkpoints on a donkey. We did it. Because there was a bar that said, ‘I want Taybeh.’ The roads were closed and no cars could pass.”
  • 25 years ago, during a period of optimism following the Oslo peace accords, the Khoury family returned to their homeland from Boston to open the first microbrewery in the Middle East. Their goal was to invest in and boost the local economy by introducing new styles of hand-crafted, micro-brewed beers. In 1994, the brewery bottled its first batch of beer—500 liters in total.
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  • the company produces 600,000 liters of beer each year and exports to 12 countries— including Japan, Germany, and the US
  • “We were determined to show the whole world that Palestinians are normal and want the right to practice our daily needs—to have a beer, to go to school, to have running water,”
  • The inequalities of water access on Israeli settlements, built on land captured in the 1967 war, can be extreme. Despite the population nearly doubling, Palestinians today survive on the amount of water allocated to them in the Interim Agreement of 1995. Contrary to the unfulfilled promise of a ‘temporary’ 5-year period before the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel continues to retain 87% of water for exclusive use, controlling every well and pipeline in the West Bank.

    Since beer is almost 95% water, Taybeh brewery struggles under these restrictions.

  • “We have three settlements on Taybeh land and they have priority access to the water. We cannot schedule any brewing days because we never know when water will be available,”
  • The brewery had to purchase tanks of water to produce beer. Canaan says the cost was 7 times the amount what an Israeli company would have paid.

    “It limits our potential for expansion, it limits our export market. We simply cannot produce more beer,”

  • Taybeh has figured out how to eke out beer from less than 4 liters, reusing the water multiple times in production
  • “Because we’re under occupation, we can’t go through any road, we have to get permits, we have to go through commercial checkpoints, we have to pay extra fees for storage and security checks,” Canaan says.As a result, getting beer from the brewery to the port costs twice as much as getting it from the port to Italy does.
  • Taybeh brewery sells their beer as a product of Palestine all over the world—including Israel. The only exception is the United States. Since they don’t recognize Palestine as a country, Taybeh was made to change the label to ‘a product of the West Bank.’
  • “With Taybeh, you are getting the name Palestine, and a high-quality product out there. You are changing the way people see Palestinians.”
  • In February, Taybeh was expecting a bottle shipment from Eastern Europe. Israeli breweries also had an order on the same vessel. “We both had the same documents, same quality, same company. Everything was exactly the same. Yet, the Israeli breweries received their bottles roughly 2 months before we received ours,” Madees says. “Doing business in this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s more difficult, and every year it gets worse and worse.
  • Canaan and Madees are children of the Intifada: the lost generation. Living in Taybeh, on average it took them 2 hours to get to school in Ramallah—normally a 20-minute drive.

    “I’ve been through a lot on the way there, from getting tear gassed, shot at and beaten, to getting psychologically tortured by the soldiers and having to stand up on one foot, take off my shirt and so on,” Canaan recalls.

  • every single element of the brewing process is compromised by the occupation
Ed Webb

Russia Confirms Its Uran-9 Robot Tank Is On The Ground In Syria - 0 views

  • Russia has been on the forefront of building unmanned ground vehicles and last week the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that their armed drone tank Uran-9 was tested in Syria.
  • While the deployment of the Uran-6, a minesweeping drone, in Syria has been widely reported on, little has been said publicly about the Uran-9, and military observers and analysts have yet to see it in Syria.
  • the resurgent Russian military has battle tested an arsenal of new weapons including the Su-57 stealth fighter jet, the T-90 battle tank, ship-launched cruise missiles and air defense systems
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  • It remains unclear if the Uran-9 saw combat and where in Syria it was deployed, but the area has served as a proving ground for advanced Russian weapons.
  • “As we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” said Vladimir Shamanov, the head of Russian parliament’s Defense Committee and a retired military officer.
  • it is unclear how these systems will perform in hotly contested areas with heavy electronic warfare that could jam or hijack a controller’s system. In Syria, reports have emerged that Russian jamming has affected the GPS systems of small U.S. surveillance drones, disrupting their operations
Ed Webb

Under Sisi, firms owned by Egypt's military have flourished - 0 views

  • Maadi is one of dozens of military-owned companies that have flourished since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former armed forces chief, became president in 2014, a year after leading the military in ousting Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
  • In interviews conducted over the course of a year, the chairmen of nine military-owned firms described how their businesses are expanding and discussed their plans for future growth. Figures from the Ministry of Military Production - one of three main bodies that oversee military firms - show that revenues at its firms are rising sharply. The ministry’s figures and the chairmen’s accounts give rare insight into the way the military is growing in economic influence.
  • Some Egyptian businessmen and foreign investors say they are unsettled by the military’s push into civilian activities and complain about tax and other advantages granted to military-owned firms
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  • In 2016, the military and other security institutions were given exemptions in a new value-added tax (VAT) law enacted as part of IMF-inspired reforms. The law states that the military does not have to pay VAT on goods, equipment, machinery, services and raw materials needed for the purposes of armament, defense and national security.

    The Ministry of Defense has the right to decide which goods and services qualify. Civilian businessmen complain that this can leave the system open to abuse. Receipts for a cup of coffee at private sector hotels, for example, add 14 percent VAT. Receipts at military hotels do not. Employees at the military-owned Al-Masah Hotel in Cairo told Reuters that no VAT was charged when renting venues for weddings and conferences.

  • The Ministry of Military Production is projecting that operating revenues from its 20 firms will reach 15 billion Egyptian pounds in 2018/2019, five times higher than in 2013/2014, according to a ministry chart. The ministry does not disclose what happens to the revenues. The chairmen of two of the firms said profits go to the ministry or are reinvested in the business.
  • “I don’t want to be a local shop. I want to be a company that has the capacity to export and compete internationally.”
  • Egypt’s military, the biggest in the Arab world, has advantages.

    It enjoys financial support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, staunch supporters of Sisi since he toppled the group they see as a threat to the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood. Western powers see Cairo as a bulwark against Islamist militancy. Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid annually from the United States alone.

  • Among projects the Ministry of Military Production announced in 2017 was a plan to plant 20 million palm trees with an Emirati company and build a factory to make sugar from their dates. It agreed with a Saudi company to jointly manufacture elevators. The military inaugurated the Middle East’s biggest fish farm on the Nile Delta east of Alexandria.
  • The Ministry of Military Production signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s GCL Group last week to build a solar panel factory worth up to $2 billion. The military has taken over much of the construction of intercity roads from the Ministry of Transport and now controls the toll stations along most major highways.
  • Economists and investors say reforms tied to a $12 billion three-year IMF program signed in Nov. 2016 should lay the ground for economic expansion. But foreign investors are still shying away from Egypt, apart from those focusing on the more resilient energy sector. Non-oil foreign direct investment fell to about $3 billion in 2017 from $4.7 billion in 2016, according to Reuters calculations based on central bank statistics.  
  • foreign investors were reluctant to invest in sectors where the military is expanding or in one they might enter, worried that competing against the military with its special privileges could expose their investment to risk. If an investor had a business dispute with the military, the commercial officer said, there was no point in taking it to arbitration. “You just leave the country,” he said.

  • The chairmen of two military engineering companies, Abu Zaabal Engineering Industries Co and Helwan Engineering Industries Co, said in recent years it had become much easier to access financing through the Ministry of Military Production.
  • In 2015, the defense minister issued a decree exempting nearly 600 hotels, resorts and other properties owned by the military from real estate taxes
  • Military companies receive an exemption from import tariffs under a 1986 law and from income taxes under a 2005 law. Cargoes sent to military companies do not have to be inspected.
  • At bustling Cairo squares, people line up to buy subsidized meat and other food handed out from trucks sponsored by the military. Sisi said he had instructed the military to enter the market “to supply more chicken to push down prices.”

    Some disagree with such measures on the grounds the military’s mission is to protect the country from external threats.

    “We have reached a point where they are competing even with street vendors,”

Ed Webb

Erdogan Plans to Tighten His Grip on Turkey's Economy - Bloomberg - 0 views

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he intends to tighten his grip on the economy and take more responsibility for monetary policy if he wins an election next month.
  • Erdogan told Bloomberg TV in London on Monday that after the vote transforms Turkey into a full presidential system, he expects the central bank will have to heed his calls for lower interest rates. The central bank’s key rate is now 13.5 percent, compared with 10.9 percent consumer-price inflation.
  • The lira slid to its weakest level ever against the dollar after his remarks were published
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  • Erdogan last month called snap elections for June 24, when a victory would consolidate his one-man rule of a country he’s governed since 2003. Since defeating a coup attempt in 2016, Erdogan has used emergency rule to increase his control over the region’s largest economy
  • A referendum last year weakened the role of parliament and gave the president sweeping authority in the most radical constitutional overhaul since the republic was founded 95 years ago.
  • Turkey’s relations with its NATO allies fray and its diplomatic focus shifts toward Russia and Iran. The country faces the unprecedented risk of sanctions from the U.S., a risk that Erdogan downplayed
  • “If we’re allies with the U.S., we need solidarity, not sanctions.”
  • The rapidity of the changes to Turkey’s economic and foreign policies has shaken investor confidence, which is critical because Turkey’s current-account deficit demands steady inflows from abroad
  • Erdogan has routinely criticized the central bank for setting interest rates that he says have helped stoke rising prices, an argument that contradicts conventional economic theory
Ed Webb

Mega-donor Adelson, with access and influence, scores two pro- Israel victories | McCla... - 0 views

  • Adelson quietly slipped into the White House for a private meeting with Trump and three top administration officials: Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and an Adelson favorite, National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to two conservative sources familiar with the previously unreported private event
  • questions about the appearance of foreign policy being linked to big donations to Trump and other Republicans. Adelson, who will turn 85 this August, has been an influential donor with GOP political leaders who have courted him assiduously for almost a decade. But the casino tycoon seems to have reached new levels of cachet with the Trump administration in office.
  • Adelson’s cash also helped elect Trump — even though during the campaign Trump often asserted his independence of big donors to portray himself as a self-styled populist
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  • In 2016, Adelson gave almost $83 million in publicly disclosed funds to Republican groups and candidates, including $20 million to Future 45, a super PAC that backed Trump. He also threw in a record $5 million to the inaugural committee, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics
  • Last week’s visit to the Trump White House wasn’t the first for Adelson; he was also there, meeting and discussing policy with Trump and several advisers, in October.

    Today, he was in Israel with a delegation of several dozen board members from the RJC, another nonprofit he has generously bankrolled.

Ed Webb

Europe moves to safeguard Iran interests after U.S. pullout | Reuters - 0 views

  • “There is a realization among all European states what we cannot keep going in the direction we are headed today whereby we submit to American decisions,”
  • Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said transatlantic ties had been gradually damaged by shifts in U.S. policy. “We are prepared to talk... but also to fight for our positions where necessary,”
  • Paris was seeking U.S. waivers and longer transition periods over Iran for French companies including Renault (RENA.PA) and Total (TOTF.PA), while pressing for European Union measures to improve the bloc’s “economic sovereignty” in the longer term.
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  • French exports to Iran doubled to 1.5 billion euros ($1.79 billion) last year, driven by jets and aircraft and automobile parts, according to customs data.
  • Exports of German goods to Iran rose by around 400 million euros to 3 billion euros. Around 120 German firms have operations with their own staff in Iran, including Siemens (SIEGn.DE), and some 10,000 German companies trade with Iran.
Ed Webb

Israeli army launches retaliatory attack in Syria after Iranians strike Golan Heights -... - 1 views

  • the Israeli border with Syria
    • Ed Webb
       
      Absent a peace agreement, there is no Israeli *border* with Syria. There is a ceasefire line from the 1967 war. All land in the Golan Heights controlled by Israel is occupied territory according to international law, for all that Israel has announced its annexation of that territory.
  • This is the first time Israel directly accuses Iran of firing towards Israeli territory. During the Syrian Civil War errant fire struck the Golan several times; usually local organizations in southern Syria that are affiliated with Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime were behind those attacks
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Wednesday that Israel has attacked targets of the Syrian military on the outskirts of Quneitra in the Golan Heights. 
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  • a Syrian report Tuesday accusing Israel of carrying out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israe
  • The Israeli military set out on an extensive retaliatory attack against Iranian targets and military bases in Syria early Thursday morning after Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at army outposts on the Golan Heights overnight.  
  • Israel attributes the Iranian attack to members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. No injuries were reported as a result of the strike on Israeli territory
  • A source in the Israeli security establishment said this attack was the largest carried out by Israel since it signed on a disengagement agreement with Syria in May 1974. 
  • According to local reports in the Golan area, some of the targets attacked by the Israeli army were army posts as well as Iranian and Hezbollah militias in the Syrian Golan
  • The Israeli military further stated that the attack was specifically targeting Iranian posts in Syria and not in Lebanon
  • intelligence assessments earlier in the week anticipated that after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear accord, Israel was likely to be targeted by rocket fire and Iran would try to retaliate
  • Tehran has issued several threats over the past month, saying that it would hurt Israel in response to a slew of attacks that were ascribed to the Israeli air force. The latest attack, carried out on May 9, claimed the lives of seven Iranians in the Syrian air force base T4.
Ed Webb

Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for 'dirty ops' on Iran arms deal | UK news | The G... - 0 views

  • Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal
  • People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal
  • “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”
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  • It’s bloody outrageous
  • officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago
  • “The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it.”
  • Investigators were also apparently told to contact prominent Iranian Americans as well as pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence. They are believed to have looked at comments made by Rhodes in a 2016 New York Times profile in which he admitted relying on inexperienced reporters to create an “echo chamber” that helped sway public opinion to secure the deal
  • it is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed
  • digging up dirt on someone for carrying out their professional responsibilities in their positions as White House officials is a chillingly authoritarian thing to do
Ed Webb

Opinion | Why Are American Troops in the Yemen War? - The New York Times - 2 views

  • In the latest expansion of America’s secret wars, about a dozen Army commandos have been on Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen since late last year, according to an exclusive report by The Times. The commandos are helping to locate and destroy missiles and launch sites used by indigenous Houthi rebels in Yemen to attack Saudi cities.

    This involvement puts the lie to Pentagon statements that American military aid to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and intelligence, and is not related to combat.

    When senators at a hearing in March demanded to know whether American troops were at risk of entering hostilities with the Houthis, Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the Central Command, assured them, “We’re not parties to this conflict.”

  • In at least 14 countries, American troops are fighting extremist groups that are professed enemies of the United States or are connected, sometimes quite tenuously, to such militants. The Houthis pose no such threat to the United States. But they are backed by Iran, so the commandos’ deployment increases the risk that the United States could come into direct conflict with that country, a target of increasing ire from the administration, the Saudis and Israelis.
  • checks and balances have eroded since Sept. 11, 2001, as ordinary Americans became indifferent to the country’s endless wars against terrorists and Congress largely abdicated its constitutional role to share responsibility with the president for sending troops into battle
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  • Congress never specifically approved military involvement in the Saudi-Houthi civil war
  • While the war is effectively stalemated, Saudi Arabia’s rising new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seems committed to a military victory despite the horrors caused by the fighting. He has been emboldened by Mr. Trump, who has been willing to sell the kingdom almost any new military hardware it wants
  • Saudi Arabia is less secure now than when it began its air campaign three years ago
  • the United Nations is planning to put forward a new proposal to restart peace negotiations. Congress could improve the chance of success by cutting off military aid to Saudi Arabia and voting to bar the use of American troops against the Houthis in Yemen
Ed Webb

The Spy Who Came Home | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • In March, 2016, while visiting his aunt in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he gave a lecture on terrorism at the local World Affairs Council. “We have become the most fragile superpower ever,” he told the audience. While Al Qaeda aims to carry out what its operatives call “spectacular attacks,” he explained, ISIS obsesses over creating a “spectacular reaction.” As an example, he recounted an incident in Garland, Texas, in which two wannabe jihadis were killed after attempting a raid on a provocative anti-Muslim convention. The men had no coherent affiliation with ISIS; they merely followed its instructions—which have been widely disseminated by the American media—to post online that they were acting on behalf of the group. “If you strip the word ‘terrorism,’ two idiots drove from Arizona and got shot in a parking lot,” Skinner said. The real threat to American life was the response. “We shut down cities,” he said. “We change our laws. We change our societies.” He went on, “We’re basically doing their work for them.”
    • Ed Webb
       
      Yes yes yes-so much this!
  • “Getting killed by ISIS in Savannah is like expecting to get hit by a piano falling from an asteroid,” Skinner said. “It’s batshit insane. Day to day, it’s the people who are kicking in doors and stealing cars who are actually making life unbearable.”
  • Because local police departments pay poorly, “the people who have been trained to do this work best are never going to be doing it,” Skinner said. According to a study by Brown University, since 2001 the average American taxpayer has contributed more than twenty-three thousand dollars to veterans’ care, homeland security, and military operations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. “I used to spend more money on meals and entertainment for a couple of sources in Amman, each year, than the Savannah Police Department has to spend on cars,” Skinner told me. “And whatever the American people got out of my meals in Amman had way less impact on their lives than what was happening down the block.”
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  • in the nineteen-sixties a new chief started requiring officers to write reports. “The black officers—we were educated,” White said. Some of the white officers couldn’t write, and many of the more racist cops left the force. White became a detective, and when Martin Luther King, Jr., came to Savannah he served as his bodyguard. But, when people took to the streets after King’s assassination, White was forced to become the “principal arresting officer for eight hundred and seven demonstrators,” he recalled; his superiors thought that it would be better if white cops were not involved.
  • neighborhood gang violence, which accounts for most of the shootings in Savannah, is driven not only by small-group dynamics, the availability of weapons, and obsessions with vendettas but also by alienation from authorities. “It’s a fundamental break in the social contract,” he said. “If you’re in trouble, you have to take care of it yourself, because you can’t ask the police for help. So that becomes another shooting.” In high-crime areas, he continued, “the networks of perpetrators are essentially the same as the networks of victims.”
  • “We’ve invaded countries on worse information. But, if the C.I.A. taught me one thing, it is to always be acutely aware of the tremendous amount of shit I don’t know.”
  • New Year’s Eve, locals launched fireworks out of abandoned lots, and Cuyler-Brownsville erupted in celebratory gunfire. “Good trigger pull,” Skinner noted, as someone emptied what sounded like a .40-calibre pistol about thirty feet from the car. “Trigger control is half the battle.”

    Shots fired into the sky take about forty-five seconds to hit the ground. Less than ten minutes into 2018, two other officers, parked a few blocks over, fled Cuyler-Brownsville when bullets took out a street lamp overhead. All through the neighborhood, pavements and doorsteps glistened with brass shell casings. We heard hundreds of rounds—from shotguns, pistols of all calibres, a Kalashnikov.

  • Although schizophrenia affects a little more than one per cent of Americans, it’s a factor in a high percentage of police calls. A few hours earlier, Skinner had checked on a schizophrenic man who calls the police multiple times each night, reporting paranoid hallucinations; the department can never ignore a call, because he is the legal owner of a .357 Magnum revolver, and officers told me that he once tried to execute an intruder in his front yard. At times, Skinner feels as if the role of a police officer were to pick up the pieces of “something that has broken in every single possible way.”
  • Police officers are increasingly filling the gaps of a broken state. “They do it essentially on their own, usually without adequate training and preparation, often without the skills they need, and overwhelmingly without the resources and institutional connections that it would take to do those things well.”
Ed Webb

Saudi Crown Prince: Palestinians should take what the U.S. offers - Axios - 0 views

  •  
    Ugh
Ed Webb

Correction: Egypt-Nile story - ABC News - 0 views

  • Egypt's parliament has passed a law allowing the government to restrict the cultivation of crops that require a large amount of water, amid fears that a massive Ethiopian dam being built upstream could cut into the country's share of the Nile.

    The law passed late Sunday would allow the government to ban the cultivation of rice, bananas and other crops in some areas, with violators facing prison time and a fine of up to $3,000. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi would need to approve the law.

  • El-Sissi says the country is building desalinization plants on the Red Sea to reduce its dependence on the river as Ethiopia nears completion of the dam.
Ed Webb

The Meaning of Operation Olive Branch - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and other countries in the Middle East face destructive pressure from transnational forces that threaten their survival. Their difficulties in turn provide an excuse and opportunity for all sorts of interventions by all sorts of countries and nonstate actors. The result isn’t just a blood bath but massive migration and terrorist pressure against Turkey and the rest of Europe, which is at its doorstep. Their chaos also acts as an incubator of hatreds and threats against the United States. Resilient nation-states must form the basis of any order and stability in the Middle East. The vision of Bashar al-Assad will eventually lose, but a united Syria must ultimately win the long war.
    • Ed Webb
       
      Unsurprisingly, the representative of a sovereign nation state argues in support of the sovereignty of nation states.
  • Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch, which has involved a military incursion into Syria, is above all an act of self-defense against a build-up of terrorists who have already proved aggressive against our population centers. As host to 3.5 million Syrians, Turkey also intends Olive Branch to clear roadblocks to peace in Syria posed by opponents of the country’s unitary future
  • The second purpose of the terrorists’ encampments was to form territorial beach-heads for their own statelet to be built upon the carcasses of Syria and Iraq on the areas vacated by Daesh. Olive Branch stops the descent into a broader war and soaring terrorism that would engulf Europe and the United States
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  • It has been alleged that our operation impedes the fight against Daesh because the YPG terrorists are now focused on resisting the Turkish military’s advances. I think that this choice by the YPG demonstrates the folly of any strategy that involved relying on the group in the first place. But, rest assured, Turkey will not allow Daesh to regroup one way or the other
  • Turkey wants all Kurds to live in peace and prosperity in all the countries they straddle.
    • Ed Webb
       
      uh-huh
Ed Webb

Senators Demand Answers From Trump Team on Yemen - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Grilling top officials from the State Department, Defense Department, and U.S. Agency for International Development at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed frustration that the administration could not articulate a clear strategy, use its influence with Riyadh to safeguard civilians, or promote a diplomatic settlement.

    Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the committee, said the Trump administration’s approach to Yemen was marked by an “alarming absence of strategy.”

  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) questioned whether the Pentagon could confidently say its efforts have reduced civilian casualties, given that it is not able to provide numbers to back up that claim.

    “The proof is in the results, and we don’t know whether the results are there or not,” he said. “This is the U.S. reputation on the line, and we expect you to know if you report something. If you can’t report it, fine. But don’t make statements that you can’t back up.”

  • the Saudi-led coalition has carried out 16,847 air raids, or an average of 15 airstrikes a day
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  • Saudi-led airstrikes were responsible for 61 percent of the civilian death toll
  • Administration officials at the hearing painted the conflict as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its regional archrival, Iran
  • Aid groups that do work in Yemen say more than 8 million people on the brink of famine, more than a million people have contracted cholera, and more than 1,300 cases of diphtheria have been reported.
  • “Absent a compelling articulation of how continued U.S. military support to the coalition is leveraging movement towards a political track to negotiate an end to the war, it is reasonable to expect that the next vote on U.S. military support may have a different outcome,”
Ed Webb

Tens of the Tunisian fighters continue their rebellion against ISIS on the ea... - 0 views

  • internal fighting is continuing on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River, between the “Islamic State” organization against another group announced that “the organization and its leaders are infidels”
  • a group of about 50 members and commanders, most of them are Tunisians
  • the organization has executed 2 commanders of Tunisian and Egyptian nationalities in the past few days, who mainly contributed in forming the “Islamic State” organization inside Syria
Ed Webb

Palestinian sisters dig into history of last all-Christian village - 0 views

  • Aware of the rich history of Taybeh, known as the last all-Christian village with Caananite roots in Palestine, Farah and her sister Nusra worked to compile a comprehensive database on the history of their village using local and international sources and interviewing villagers. The database grew into an encyclopedia on the history of the village that was published in January.

    The village of 3,000, located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Ramallah, is indeed the only village solely inhabited by Christians. It's known for both its history that dates back 4,000 years and its Oktoberfest, which attracts tourists who come to enjoy the local Taybeh beer.

  • The 500-page encyclopedia is written in Arabic and English. The two sisters, who paid for its production out of their own pockets, printed 100 copies that they have distributed to schools, libraries, churches and other institutions in the village. Farah said that more can be printed, adding, “We do not seek financial remuneration or profits out of this. We want each family in the village to have a copy of the encyclopedia and to keep it as a reference.”
  • Christian pilgrims who travel from Jerusalem to Nazareth visit the village because of its historical and religious importance. According to Abu Sahliya, an estimated 15,000 pilgrims visit Taybeh annually, a major source of income for the hotels and the village in general.
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Turning Qatar into an Island: Saudi cuts off... - 0 views

  • There’s a cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the face aspect to a Saudi plan to turn Qatar into an island by digging a 60-kilometre ocean channel through the two countries’ land border that would accommodate a nuclear waste heap as well as a military base.

    If implemented, the channel would signal the kingdom’s belief that relations between the world’s only two Wahhabi states will not any time soon return to the projection of Gulf brotherhood that was the dominant theme prior to the United Arab Emirates-Saudi-led imposition in June of last year of a diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar.
  • The message that notions of Gulf brotherhood are shallow at best is one that will be heard not only in Doha, but also in other capitals in the region
  • the nuclear waste dump and military base would be on the side of the channel that touches the Qatari border and would effectively constitute a Saudi outpost on the newly created island.
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  • The plan, to be funded by private Saudi and Emirati investors and executed by Egyptian firms that helped broaden the Suez Canal, also envisions the construction of five hotels, two ports and a free trade zone.
  • The $750 million project would have the dump ready for when Saudi Arabia inaugurates the first two of its 16 planned nuclear reactors in 2027. Saudi Arabia is reviewing proposals to build the reactors from US, Chinese, French, South Korean contractors and expects to award the projects in December.
  • Qatar’s more liberal Wahhabism of the sea contrasts starkly with the Wahhabism of the land that Prince Mohammed is seeking to reform. The crown prince made waves last year by lifting a ban on women’s driving, granting women the right to attend male sporting events in stadiums, and introducing modern forms of entertainment like, music, cinema and theatre – all long-standing fixtures of Qatari social life and of the ability to reform while maintaining autocratic rule.
  • A traditional Gulf state and a Wahhabi state to boot, Qatari conservatism was everything but a mirror image of Saudi Arabia’s long-standing puritan way of life. Qatar did not have a powerful religious establishment like the one in Saudi Arabia that Prince Mohammed has recently whipped into subservience, nor did it implement absolute gender segregation.

    Non-Muslims can practice their faith in their own houses of worship and were exempted from bans on alcohol and pork. Qatar became a sponsor of the arts and hosted the controversial state-owned Al Jazeera television network that revolutionized the region’s controlled media landscape and became one of the world’s foremost global English-language broadcasters.
  • Qatari conservatism is likely what Prince Mohammed would like to achieve even if that is something he is unlikely to acknowledge
  • “I consider myself a good Wahhabi and can still be modern, understanding Islam in an open way. We take into account the changes in the world,” Abdelhameed Al Ansari, the then dean of Qatar University’s College of Sharia, a leader of the paradigm shift, told The Wall Street Journal in 2002.
  • if built, the channel would suggest that geopolitical supremacy has replaced ultra-conservative, supremacist religious doctrine as a driver of the king-in-waiting’s policy
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