Category Archives: News

Mexico says 43 missing students were definitely murdered

via Euronews

Mexico says it is now sure that 43 students who disappeared in September were murdered on the orders of a drug cartel which mistook them for members of a rival gang.

Authorities made the announcement despite the fact that the remains of only one of those missing have been formally identified so far.

Citing confessions obtained and forensic evidence, Mexican
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, told a news conference:

“These and many other elements retrieved during the investigation enabled us to make a logical, reasonable analysis and conclude, without a doubt, that the trainee teachers were deprived of their freedom, killed, incinerated and thrown into the San Juan river, in that order. This is the historical truth of the facts.”

Until now, the government had said only that the students were almost certainly killed after clashing with corrupt police officers who handed them over to a drug gang.

The mayor of the southwestern city of Iguala and his wife were arrested as two chief suspects.

But relatives of the students remain unconvinced by the official version of events, dismissing the latest statement as an attempt by authorities to close the investigation. Many refuse to give up hope that their loved ones are still alive.

The students’ disappearance on the night of Sept. 26 in Iguala led to street protests across Mexico and international condemnation of its security situation, embarrassing President Enrique Pena Nieto and plunging his administration into its biggest crisis.

Israel attacks after ‘Syria rockets’ hit Golan Heights

via Al Jazeera

Tensions have soared along the ceasefire line since a January 18 air strike attributed to Israel killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general near Quneitra in Syria [Reuters]

Two rockets fired from Syria have hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights region, prompting Israeli forces to return fire, the Israeli army has said, reporting no injuries.

Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner said on Tuesday that the Syrian fire was “intentional, not spillover from the Syrian civil war” as has sometimes been the case in the past, though no government or group has claimed responsibility for the alleged attack.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later warned that Israel was “ready to respond with force” to any attack.

In response to the alleged attack, the Israeli army carried out overnight raids against Syrian army artillery posts. There were no reports of casualties in Syria.

Tensions have soared along the ceasefire line since a January 18 air strike attributed to Israel killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general near Quneitra on the Syrian-held side of the strategic plateau.

Hezbollah spokesman Mohammad Afif told Al Jazeera that he has no comment on any group activity in the Golan Heights.

Army deployments

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Friday that Israel was prepared for any retaliation by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is operating in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Israel will hold responsible governments, regimes and organisations on the other side of our northern borders over any violation of Israel’s sovereignty, or an attack on soldiers or civilians,” he said during a tour of the Golan and the nearby border with Lebanon.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem, Nisreen El-Shamayleh, said that “the situation at the border remains tense,” especially since Israel’s January 18 attack, “with lots of [Israeli] army deployments and even reports that the Iron Dome missile defence system” is being moved to the area.

There has been repeated fire across the ceasefire line since the uprising in Syria erupted in March 2011, not all of it stray.

In September, the army fired at a Syrian military position in response to what it said was stray fire from fighting between soldiers and rebels close to the armistice line on the Golan.

In August, five rockets fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights and, in July, Israel shelled Syrian army positions when a rocket struck its territory.

Israel seized 1,200 sq km of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.


Student Settles with Philadelphia Police after Airport Arrest for Carrying Arabic Flash Cards

from January 28, 2015 at 12:40PM

The Philadelphia Police Department has agreed to settle out of court with a college student who was arrested for trying to board a plane with Arabic flash cards.


Nick George was bound for Pomona College in 2009, carrying a set of Arabic-language flash cards and “Rogue Nation,” a book critical of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, when he was detained at Philadelphia International Airport by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents.


TSA agents were concerned about the flash cards, and according to George, asked him: “Do you know who did 9/11?”


George replied: “Osama Bin Laden.”


The TSA supervisor then asked him if he knew what language Osama Bin Laden spoke.

“Arabic,” George replied.


To which the TSA supervisor replied: “So do you see why these cards are suspicious?”


Then, a Philadelphia police officer approached George and handcuffed him. He spent five hours under arrest, cuffed the entire time.


With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, George sued the police department, which will pay him $25,000. The settlement also calls for Philadelphia police to be instructed on proper procedures involving detention of travelers.


“America is safe once again for people who like to study foreign languages and read books on foreign policy in airports,” Xeni Jardin wrote at Boing Boing about the case.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

I Was Arrested for Learning a Foreign Language. Today, I Have Some Closure. (by Nick George, American Civil Liberties Union)

Student Arrested for Studying Arabic Settles Lawsuit with Police (Sputnik)

American Student Arrested for Arabic Flash Cards in Airport after TSA Freaked Out Settles Lawsuit (by Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing)

ACLU Sues Over Unconstitutional Airport Detention And Interrogation Of College Student Carrying Arabic Flashcards (American Civil Liberties Union)

Student Can’t Sue TSA Agents Over Philadelphia Airport Detention For Arabic Flashcards (by Emily Babay, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Read more at: News – AllGov

Denver Cops Open Fire On Car Full Of Teens And Kill 17-Year-Old Girl

via TPM News

Police alleged the girl, identified as Jessica Hernandez, was driving a stolen car and had hit one of the officers who opened fire, according to the Denver Post. She was taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The officers have been put on leave while the investigation takes place.

The Post reported there were four other teenagers in the car at the time. The AP reported that none of them was injured.

Denver Police Chief Robert White said two officers fired multiple shots into the vehicle after the car hit one of them in the leg. The officer was taken to the hospital for his injuries, according to the Post.

Police did not say whether anyone in the car had guns or other weapons, the Post reported.

The shooting will be investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau, the Office of the Independent Monitor and the District Attorney, according to the paper.

The Post noted that this was the third time in recent months that the police force has shot a suspect who was allegedly using cars as weapons.

CBO: Deficit Shrinks To Lowest Level Of Obama Presidency

via TPM News

The U.S. budget deficit for the current fiscal year is estimated to fall to its lowest level during President Barack Obama’s presidency.

In a new budget and economic outlook released Monday, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the deficit for fiscal year 2015 would come in at $468 billion, down from $483 billion in fiscal year 2014.

Read More →

Cops Shot And Killed 17-Year-Old Girl At Texas Police Station

via TPM News

The Longview Police Department placed three officers on leave after a 17-year-old girl was shot and killed in the lobby of the station last week, the Marshall News Messenger reported.

According to officials, Kristiana Coignard entered the Texas police station on Thursday evening brandishing a weapon. Police spokeswoman Kristie Brian said Coignard used a phone in the lobby to call police dispatch and asked to see an officer.

Read More →

Israel jails Palestinian girl, 14, for throwing stones

via Al Jazeera

Ramallah, West Bank - Ali al-Khatib and his wife, Khawla, waited outside Ofer military prison on the outskirts of Ramallah for hours before they were allowed to attend a final court hearing for their 14-year-old daughter, Malak, who has been incarcerated since December 31, 2014.

In the course of at least three other hearings they heard the Israeli prosecutor make allegations about the 8th grader from Beitin, near Ramallah, that they did not believe to be true. Malak’s charge sheet included stone-throwing and possession of a weapon (a knife).

The Khatibs said they were shocked when the judge sentenced Malak to two months in prison, including time served, and a 6,000 shekel ($1,500) fine, making her the youngest Palestinian female held by Israel.

During the hearings, the Khatibs were not allowed to speak to Malak, who was brought into the courtroom handcuffed, her ankles shackled together.

“Malak was out near a bypass road when the army detained her,” Ali said. “They said she was throwing stones there. She was so scared, she confessed to whatever charges they brought before her.”

RELATED: Toddler caught up in Israeli crackdown

The young teen spent almost three weeks in detention pending sentencing. At the time of arrest, she was handcuffed and blindfolded before she was taken in for interrogation, where she was questioned without the presence of her family, the Khatibs said.

“She is a child,” said Malak’s mother, Khawla. “She should be in school, with her friends. She was framed. She did not throw stones, nor did she carry a knife.”

The Palestine chapter of Defence for Children International said 600 children were brought before military judges in 2014 – the average number of minors held in Israeli military detention stood at 197 per month.

By October, there were 18 imprisoned minors between the ages of 14-15, according to DCI’s most recent figures.

“The Israeli authorities’ policy of child detention contravenes with all international conventions on the rights of minors,” said the Palestinian Prisoners Society’s Jawad Bulous, who represented Malak.

Israeli authorities said they have made significant changes in practices related to child detention, which include requiring police officers to conduct interrogations using the minor’s own language.

Audio or video recordings of these sessions must be made if the interrogation is documented in Hebrew, and if the offences carry a sentence of more than 10 years.

Military Order 1745, which came into effect in September 2014, however, does not apply to children, like Malak, who are suspected of committing “security offences” such as throwing stones.

“Military Order 1745 is the latest attempt by Israeli authorities to provide cosmetic legal improvements that in the end have zero practical impact,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability programme director at DCI-Palestine.

RELATED: Palestinians mark Prisoners’ Day

The majority of Palestinian children arrested, detained or prosecuted through the Israeli court system are arrested for throwing stones, and so would not be protected by the new law.

The Israeli military says that stone-throwing can endanger lives, irrespective of the age of the assailant.

In November, Israel’s cabinet approved an amendment to the country’s criminal law which would have significantly raised the penalty for Palestinians convicted of throwing stones – up to 20 years.

The draft law, however, did not go through the necessary three Knesset votes.

The cabinet’s decision to back the draft law came during the height of tensions in Jerusalem, when a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was burned alive in apparent revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the legislation was meant to help restore security and calm to the Holy City.

And while the bill would have only applied to Israeli citizens or residents, including East Jerusalemites, some observers argued – at the time – that its message was clear; any “Palestinian caught throwing a stone will go away for a long, long time.”

Source: Al Jazeera

Kurdish forces ‘drive ISIL out of Kobani’ in Syria

via Euronews

urdish forces have been celebrating after claiming to have driven militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State out of Kobani in Syria.

A British-based monitoring group, theSyrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the town had been retaken.

A Kurdish flag was seen flying over Kobani, with jets in the air above.

The Syrian state news agency SANA cited local sources in saying the “terrorist organisation Daesh” had been expelled from the town.

But some ISIL fighters took to social media to say the battle was still raging, and in Washington the US State Department also said it was not over.

In a statement issued by the US Central Command, the American military praised “courageous” anti-ISILforces who now controlled “about 90 percent of the town”.

The statement went on to say that “ISIL’s failure in Kobani has denied them one of their strategic objectives”.

The Kurdish town close to the Turkish border has been on the front line of the battle against the extremist group which has terrorised civilians in enforcing a brutal form of what it claims to be Islam.

The celebrations have spread to Kurdish areas in Turkey. In Diyarbakir people poured onto the streets.

Thousands were forced into exile from Kobani after ISIL launched an assault last year.

Since then US-led forces have carried out almost daily air strikes while Kurdish fighters have battled on the ground.

UK Jews and Muslims team up against hate

via Al Jazeera

Rabbi Herschel Gluck is a veteran international conflict mediator and the founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum [Simon Hooper/Al Jazeera]

London, United Kingdom - Muslims and Jews living in the same North London neighbourhood are making a stand together against hate crime amid concerns of an increased threat to both communities in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Jewish communities in the UK have been on a heightened state of alert since a siege orchestrated by a gunman at a kosher supermarket in the French capital left four hostages dead, with police and Jewish neighbourhood watch groups stepping up security around synagogues and schools.

The government also pledged police support for mosques amid reports of an increase in anti-Muslim hate crime following the linked attack by gunmen claiming allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Meanwhile, a widely reported survey conducted earlier this month by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a lobbying group established last year, suggested that increased numbers of British Jews were questioning their place in their own country.

More than half of respondents said they were fearful that Jews had no long term future in Europe, and one in four said they had considered leaving the UK because of rising anti-Semitism.

Although subsequently criticised as methodologically flawed, and described as “incendiary” by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research think-tank, senior politicians expressed alarm at those conclusions.

“I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community would say they were fearful of remaining here in the United Kingdom,” said Theresa May, the home secretary. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, vowed the city would remain a “safe haven” for Jews.

It isn’t just that we acknowledge each other’s faith, cultures and ways of life. It is more to do with justice and fairness… Where justice and fairness are not there, division grows.

Eusoof Amerat, community advocate

Difficult times

But in the Stamford Hill neighbourhood of Hackney, north London, where Europe’s largest concentration of Haredi Jews and a substantial Muslim minority share the same streets, community leaders of both faiths said they stood united.

“The Jewish community and the Muslim community are facing difficult times at the moment, but it is not a case of them or us. We are all in the same boat,” Munaf Zeena, chairman of the North London Muslim Community Centre, told Al Jazeera.

“We have a big Jewish community here, and they have been victims in Paris. I think we have a responsibility to make sure that those who feel uncomfortable or unsafe feel supported. It is our role to give them that moral support and to stand by them in every way we can.”

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, a veteran international conflict mediator and founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum, a local initiative established in 2000, said Jews and Muslims were “not just living side by side”.

“There is a palpable feeling of warmth when one sees members of the other community in the street or going about our business,” Gluck told Al Jazeera. “It is not just that we tolerate each other. We actually engage constructively as very good neighbours with each other.”

Gluck said the idea for the forum, the first Muslim-Jewish interfaith organisation of its kind in the world, grew out of his involvement in peace and reconciliation work in conflict zones, including the Middle East, Kashmir, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Sudan.

“I thought, ‘Hang on a second, here I am working throughout the world, what’s happening in my own backyard? Is everything as rosy as it could be?’” he said.

“I felt that while things were okay, we were living in a changing world and you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. I thought, ‘Is our relationship strong enough to stand a crisis in the future?’”

‘Never forgot’

Relations between the two communities in Stamford Hill have deep roots, dating back to the arrival of Muslim migrants from South Asia from the late 1950s onwards. Among those who initially welcomed and helped them settle was a small community of Hindi-speaking Indian-born Jews.

“When we came we had nothing, and a lot of the estate agents and solicitors were Jews. Many of them were very helpful at a grassroots level. We never forget someone who helps us and the relationship grew and blossomed,” Eusoof Amerat, a community advocate, told Al Jazeera.

“It isn’t just that we acknowledge each other’s faith, cultures and ways of life. It is more to do with justice and fairness. When we deal with things we try to be just. If it is our side that is wrong we will accept that. Whether at a local, national or international level, where justice and fairness are not there, division grows.”

One recent initiative endorsed by both communities has been the work of the Shomrim, a police-trained voluntary Jewish community patrol that responds to reports of crime, anti-social behaviour and other incidents.

In recent months, information provided by the Shomrim has helped police make arrests following a number of cases of apparently anti-Semitic vandalism, with vehicles and a school sign daubed with swastikas, and dozens of cars, including many belonging to Muslim families, having their tyres slashed.

But Ian Sharer, a local councillor, said none of the reported incidents had involved anyone from the local Muslim or Jewish communities.

“There have been a few nasty things, but the number of incidents involving Muslims and Jews in the past year is nil and despite everything that has happened in the Middle East and Paris it is still nil. Relationships are not strained at all,” Sharer told Al Jazeera.

In 2013 Al Jazeera reported on how the Shomrim had added local mosques and other Muslim institutions to the sites monitored on their patrols following attacks on places of Islamic worship in the aftermath of the killing of a British soldier in London.

The group has also advised the Muslim community on protecting its own buildings, and Chaim Hochhauser, Shomrim’s supervisor, told Al Jazeera he would be “more than happy” to see a Muslim counterpart organisation established.

“We still do patrols around the mosque. We are there for the whole community. At the heart of Shomrim’s objectives is an ethos of supporting all Londoners’ safety. If any harm happens to the community everyone suffers,” said Hochhauser.

Last year the Shomrim were cited for their “courage” in supporting the Muslim community by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, in a speech introducing the US’ annual report on international religious freedom. Addressing an anti-Semitism conference in Berlin in November, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, also paid tribute to their efforts.

“The rights they were defending were not only the human rights of Muslims, but the human rights of Jews as well,” said Power. “The Shomrim understood that a Europe where anyone feels afraid or endangered because of the actions, beliefs, or speech of a neighbour is a Europe where everyone’s rights are at risk.”

Faithful cooperation

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Stamford Hill’s Muslim leaders have also been praised for standing in solidarity with their Jewish neighbours.

“I was greatly impressed with the cooperation between the Jewish and Muslim communities, and particularly with the work done at the North London Muslim Community Centre, which is available to everyone in the area,” Gillian Merron, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of the British Jewish community, told Al Jazeera during a visit last week.

“This is a great model of local cooperative engagement and something we all could learn from. It feels as if the community is really reaping the rewards of the many years of work through the Muslim-Jewish Forum.”

Munaf Zeena admitted that maintaining neighbourly relations sometimes meant agreeing to disagree on divisive issues, such as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Yet, he said, when local Muslims raised money for the victims of Israel’sassault on Gaza last year, a substantial donation was made by the Jewish community.

“Everything we do here, we have a bigger picture in mind,” he said. “Sometimes you ignore problems that exist because if you want to have peace in the world, if you want people to be able to live side by side, then you look at the bigger picture.”

For local Haredi Jews, many of whose families arrived in London as refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe or as Holocaust survivors, Tuesday’s Holocaust Memorial Day and 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, marks a grim reminder of the darkest days in their history.

But Rabbi Gluck said he believed the example of Stamford Hill proved the potential for Jewish and Muslim communities elsewhere in the world to flourish side by side.

“Historically, Jews and Muslims have generally got on well,” he said. “Of course, different situations have a different dynamic and we can’t say it works here so it will work somewhere else. But at the same time, if we do put in the work it will certainly make things better.”

Follow Simon Hooper on Twitter: @simonbhooper

Source: Al Jazeera

Police and protesters clash during anti far-right march in Italian town

via Euronews

Police have used tear gas to disperse protesters marching against far-right groups in the northern Italian town of Cremona.

Some of the demonstrators threw stones and flares at officers, as well as smashing shop windows.

The crowd had turned out in a show of support for far-left activist Emilio Visigalli, who was attacked earlier this month – allegedly by members of a far-right group called CasaPound.

Visigalli remains in a serious condition in hospital.