US Marine trainer guilty of abusing Muslim recruits

from November 10, 2017 at 01:33AM

A former US Marine instructor who abused Muslim military recruits – including ordering them into an industrial dryer and turning it on – will be sentenced to prison on Friday. 

Gunnery Sargeant Joseph Felix, 34, was found guilty of “maltreatment” on Thursday after he physically and verbally abused three American Muslims training to become US Marines at a facility in Parris Island in South Carolina state.

Felix “picked out Muslim recruits for special abuse because of their Muslim faith. He degraded their religion and put them in industrial appliances”, Lieutenant-Colonel John Norman, the prosecutor, was quoted as saying by the Washington Post.

Witnesses said they heard Felix use the terms “terrorist” and “ISIS” when addressing the Muslim men.

A $100m civil lawsuit has also been filed against the Marine Corps and the American government by the family of one Muslim man who fell 12 metres to his death.

Defence lawyers said it was a suicide, while the family of Raheel Siddiqui alleged the abuse he suffered led to him jumping.

Felix was also convicted of violating general orders, drunk and disorderly conduct, and making false statements.

Twenty Marine instructors, officers, and staff members have been investigated over abuse allegations against Muslim recruits since 2015 with 13 facing punishment, the Post reported.

Ameer Bourmeche and ­Rekan Hawez testified they were ordered into an industrial clothes dryer.

Navy Lieutenant Commander Daniel Bridges, a defence lawyer, argued Felix did not know the three men were Muslim.

Read more at: Al Jazeera English

Al Gore: ‘I tried my best’ but Trump can’t be educated on climate change

from November 10, 2017 at 12:39PM

Al Gore has accused Donald Trump of surrounding himself “with the absolute worst of climate deniers” and said he has given up attempting to persuade the president to reverse his dismantling of policies combatting global warming.

However, both Gore, the former US vice-president, and Jerry Brown, governor of California, told the Guardian they were confident the US will regain its leadership position on climate change if Trump is defeated in the next presidential election.

Gore, Brown and Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, are heading a broad coalition of climate change hawks from US states, cities and businesses in Bonn, where UN climate talks are being held. This alliance is in sharp contrast to the official US delegation, which is representing the only national government in the world that doesn’t want to be part of the Paris climate accords.

“I haven’t had any conversations with [Trump] since his speech to withdraw from Paris. I tried my best and thought he’d come to his senses but I’ve been proven wrong,” Gore, who met with Trump during the transition to try to influence his thinking, told the Guardian. “I don’t feel I have the ability to change his mind. He’s surrounded himself with the absolute worst of climate deniers who seem to have captured his mind on the issue.”

Trump has aligned with Scott Pruitt, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency who is a vocal critic of the Paris deal. Pruitt has cast doubt on whether carbon dioxide drives global warming, and claimed there is “tremendous disagreement” among scientists over climate change.

Several former and current members of the administration, including Stephen Bannon and Mick Mulvaney, have also previously dismissed evidence for climate science.

Gore, who is now one of the world’s leading voices on climate change, said other countries are “aghast” at Trump’s retreat from climate policy but said the backlash both within the US and abroad is encouraging.

“The US cities and states have made a tremendous difference and I think the reaction of the rest of the world has minimized the damage done by Donald Trump,” he said. “The reaction to Trump is if anything stronger than the actions Trump is taking.

“This experiment with Trump is less than a year old and in science, experiments are sometimes cut short early. I’m not saying this will happen this time, but this feels like a movie I’ve seen before.

“We went off the rails a bit in the last election. I think the rest of the world understands that the Trump period is an unfortunate departure from what the US is known for when we are at our best. Those who have appreciated US leadership grieve its loss and hope it’s temporary.”

Brown also said he sees little point attempting to sway the Trump administration. “The official policy of the US is that climate change is a total and complete hoax conceived by Chinese conspirators,” the California governor told the Guardian. “That is so preposterous that engagement on that basis is just useless.”

However, the California governor said mid-term elections in the US next year may pressure Trump to change position. “He’s an action orientated person, not a politician, so who knows,” he said.

“Ultimately we won’t have a denier in the White House forever. We are engaged in a great political struggle between the deniers who want to turn the world over to fossil fuel interests and scientists and concerned activists who want to see decarbonization.

“Donald Trump is a very small point in the overall climate factor. We are facing a moment of truth over whether we can decarbonize or see civilization itself decline over the next 100 years.

“We have a political sidebar we can tweet about but the existential problem is that species are being destroyed, ecologies are being degraded and mankind is on the chopping block. This isn’t the time for politics, it’s the time for courageous action.”

Brown has attempted to step into the vacuum created by US withdrawal by holding dozens of events and meetings with national leaders, UN officials and NGOs across Europe ahead of the Bonn talks.

The Democratic governor has taken on a role highlighting the impact of sub-national entities such as California, which would have the sixth largest economy in the world if it were a country and has implemented a ‘cap and trade’ emissions trading system that may soon be linked to a similar mechanism used by European Union countries.

“I want to strengthen the coalition of states and provinces in order to do everything possible to reduce carbon emissions,” Brown said.

“The great threat to the world is the radically changing climate and the level of indifference and inertia is so powerful that I find it incumbent to build a counterforce of mayors and governments to work together to protect our climate and get us off the carbon addiction.”

The Bonn talks, which will run until 17 November, are largely a technical exercize in helping countries implementing the goals of the Paris agreement, where nearly 200 nations agreed to limit global warming to 2C above the pre-industrial era.

Trump has vowed to pull the US from the agreement but under the pact’s rules he will be unable to do so until 2020. In Bonn, the US delegation is expected to follow the lead of the president, a vocal supporter of fossil fuels, by extolling the benefits of “efficient” coal, nuclear energy and natural gas.

Read more at: World news | The Guardian

Trump disapproval hits 67% in poll | The minute

from October 6, 2017 at 02:18PM

• As numbers plunge… Trump warns of ‘calm before the storm’… attacks contraception coverage… moves to nix banking regulations

• Get the day’s politics news in 60 seconds every weekday. By Tom McCarthy

Only 24% of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, according to an AP poll. That’s a 10-point drop since June. 67% of Americans disapprove of the job Donald Trump’s doing, including about a third of Republicans.

Read the report

Trump was expected to withdraw his endorsement of the nuclear deal with Iran next week, and used a group photograph before a dinner with military leaders and their spouses to warn cryptically that the evening represented “the calm before the storm”.

Read our coverage

Continue reading…

Read more at: World news | The Guardian

American Civil Liberties Union to sue over birth control rollback

from October 6, 2017 at 02:50PM

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Trump administration over its decision to rollback requirements under Obamacare that employers provide insurance to cover women’s birth control.

The new rule allows any employer, including colleges, universities and health insurance companies, to stop offering birth control in their insurance plans on moral or religious grounds.

More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act. Under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost

Democratic state attorneys general have also pledged to take legal action against the decision.

Read more at: News | Euronews RSS

Thousands flee escalating violence in Myanmar

from August 29, 2017 at 02:57AM

Thousands are fleeing Rakhine State in Myanmar as ethnic violence there reaches new levels of ferocity.

Amid claims by Human Rights Watch that many of their townships are on fire, Rohingya muslims are pouring into Bangladesh, which has said no new refugees will be allowed in. There are reports that some refugees between the two borders are being pushed back by Bangladeshi security forces.

Laila Begum, a Rohingya refugee, said:

“They took my husband away from our house and killed him. Villagers told me. They killed my husband and my son-in-law.”

It is difficult to determine exactly what is happening in the affected area, as police officers have been preventing journalists from travelling there. The Human Rights Watch claims are based on satellite imaging.

Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classed as illegal immigrants, despite a heritage there that can go back hundreds of years.

Attacks on security posts

The latest violence appears to have been triggered by a series of coordinated attacks on police check points and an army base carried out by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group previously known as Harakah al-Yaqin.

Injured policemen say that they were attacked with sticks, swords and knives. One policeman travelling to get treatment by boat said that he was attacked with a machete as he went to reload his gun.

Similar attacks were mounted last October, prompting brutal military reprisals that generated international criticism.

Buddhist population displaced

Buddhists, too, are being displaced, many fleeing Maungdaw, where the worst of the fighting seems to be taking place.

Many have turned to monasteries for shelter. One Buddhist Maungdaw resident, Hla Nu Sein, explained:

“I thought I was going to die while the clashes were happening. I couldn’t run fast as my knee isn’t good. There are some elders still left in the village. All we can do is bring our children here.”

The fleeing fear that the insurgent group behind last Friday’s attacks will strike again.

Read more at: News | Euronews RSS

Rohingya: Even babies were not spared by the army

from August 27, 2017 at 01:45PM

The Myanmar army has been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings in the restive Rakhine region, with residents and activists accusing soldiers of shooting indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks.

Authorities in Myanmar say close to 100 people have been killed since Friday when armed men, reportedly from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), launched a pre-dawn raid on police outposts in the restive region.

UPFRONT: Aung San Suu Kyi: Turning her back on Rohingya? (12:15)

The army has declared a war against “terrorism”, encircling the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, home to around 800,000 people, and imposed a curfew from 6pm to 6am.

However, advocates for the Rohingya have given a much higher death toll, telling Al Jazeera that at least 800 of the Muslim minority, including dozens of women and children, have been killed in the violence.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures. 

Aziz Khan, a Maungdaw resident, said the army stormed his village early on Friday and began “firing indiscriminately at people’s cars and homes.

“Government forces and the border guard police killed at least 11 people in my village. When they arrived they started shooting at everything that moved. Some soldiers then carried out arson attacks.

“Women and children were also among the dead,” he said. “Even a baby wasn’t spared.”

OPINION: Myanmar needs to get serious about peace

Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist and blogger based in Europe, said anywhere between 5,000 -10,000 people had been driven from their homes by the recent offensive.

Using a network of activists on the ground to document the conflict, San Lwin said mosques and madrasahs (religious Islamic institutions) had been burned to the ground, with thousands of Muslims stranded without food and shelter.

“My own uncles were forced to flee by the government and the military,” he told Al Jazeera.

“There has been no help from the government, instead people’s homes have been destroyed and their goods looted.

“Without food, shelter and protection, they don’t know when we’ll be killed.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera under a pseudonym, Myint Lwin, a resident of Buthidaung township said that “fear had gripped every household.

“People have been sharing videos of the killings on Whatsapp. Videos of women and children being killed. Innocent men being shot dead. You can’t begin to imagine how scared we are.

“Nobody wants to leave their home. Muslims are scared to go anywhere, hospitals, markets, anywhere. It’s a very dangerous situation.”

Videos uploaded on social media showed dozens of men, women and children fleeing with only the clothes on their backs while seeking refuge in rice and paddy fields.

OPINION: Regional actors should take a stand against Myanmar

Security has deteriorated sharply in Rakhine since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government sent thousands of troops into Rohingya villages and hamlets last October after nine policemen were killed by suspected Rohingya militia in attacks on border posts.

The security forces’ offensive has been beset by allegations of arson, killings and rape; and forced more than 87,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights, a human rights group, said with the “authorities treating all Rohingya as combatants”, the government’s account of the violence would be “dubious at best”.

“The government has refused to cooperate with a UN fact-finding Mission on Rakhine and there are serious allegations of the military attacking unarmed civilians,” he told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

“A lot of people are on the run and they need serious protection and the authorities have not made it easy to help them.”

Rakhine state is home to most of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya, who live largely in abject poverty and face widespread discrimination by the Buddhist majority.

The minority are widely reviled as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, despite having lived in the area for generations.    

They have been rendered stateless by the government and the UN believes the army’s crackdown may amount to ethnic cleansing – a charge the government of Aung San Suu Kyi vehemently denies. 

The Rohingya: Silent Abuse (45:33)

Source: Al Jazeera News

Read more at: Al Jazeera English

Tropical storm Harvey: death toll rises as ‘historic’ flooding hits Houston

from August 27, 2017 at 06:18PM

Fourth-largest city in the US could see 50in of rain as rescue workers struggle to keep up with calls for help and flood defences are tested to the limit

Tropical Storm Harvey has continued to batter Texas, hurling record rainfall at the nation’s fourth-largest city, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and testing flood control systems to their limits.

Related: Ex-hurricane Harvey: Houston flooded as catastrophe unfolds in Texas – latest updates

Continue reading…

Read more at: World news | The Guardian

‘Victory’: Thousands protest far right in San Francisco

from August 26, 2017 at 08:09PM

More than a thousand people have protested a right-wing group in the US city of San Francisco, condemning white supremacy and bigotry.

The protesters showed up to Alamo Square Park on Saturday despite the cancellation of a rally and press conference by the right-wing Patriot Prayer group after officials walled off the area.

“Right now, this is victory,” protester Benjamin Sierra told The Associated Press.

“They did not have enough gumption to do what they set out to do,” he said.

On Friday, Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, cancelled the so-called Freedom Rally over fears of a “huge riot”.

He said the group would instead hold a press conference on Saturday in Alamo Square Park.

‘Adopt a Nazi’: How groups are countering neo-Nazis and white supremacists 

But after police erected a fence around the park earlier in the day on Saturday to screen people as they entered, Gibson announced the event would be held indoors at a different location.

According to local media, Gibson eventually showed up to Crissy Field, the site of the originally scheduled rally, with about two dozen supporters.

They were eventually confronted by counterprotesters before leaving the area.

The Patriot Prayer leader has recently denounced white supremacy, but the group’s rallies in the past have attracted white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members and others from a number of right-wing organisations, leading to violent confrontations with counterprotesters. 

Many activists and rights groups have said Patriot Prayer seeks to provoke chaos and violence, especially because it often chooses to hold areas in more liberal communities.

‘Whose streets? Our streets’

A number of politicians, both at the local and national level, repeatedly voiced concerns that the previously scheduled event by the Patriot Prayer group would lead to clashes with counterprotesters.

The San Francisco Bay Area is considered a cradle for freedom of speech, and police in San Francisco have traditionally given demonstrators a wide berth.

However, after a man with links to a white supremacist group rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, San Francisco police and civil leaders began to rethink their response to protests.

Gibson criticised the city’s move to wall off the park as an attempt to silence his group’s message.

Campuses, cities reject far right after Charlottesville

But the city’s mayor, Ed Lee, defended the decision, saying that “if people want to have a stage in San Francisco, they better have a message that contributes to people’s lives rather than find ways to hurt them”.

Outside Alamo Square Park, protesters chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets” as they waved signs denouncing hate and bigotry.

Thousands of others took to the streets in the city’s Castro neighbourhood under the banner ‘United Against Hate’. 

“San Francisco as a whole, we are a liberal city and this is not a place for hate or any sort of bigotry of any kind,” protester Bianca Harris said.

“I think it’s a really powerful message that we’re sending to people who come here to try to spew messages of hate that it’s just not welcome in this city.”

Online, many used #NoHateInTheBay, #SFrally and #UniteAgainstHate to condemn white supremacy and racism.

Source: Al Jazeera News

Read more at: Al Jazeera English

Thousands of Rohingya flee Myanmar for Bangladesh

from August 23, 2017 at 02:06PM

Thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since Myanmar announced a military build-up in violence-hit Rakhine state earlier this month, according to community leaders.

Rohingya leaders in Bangladesh told AFP news agency on Wednesday that at least 3,500 had arrived in recent weeks, piling pressure onto already overcrowded refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazaar area near the Naf river that divides the two countries.

That is despite stepped-up patrols by Bangladeshi border and coast guards, who said this week they had pushed back a boat carrying 31 Rohingya, including children.

Myanmar offensive: Rohingya Muslims caught in the crossfire

“In the Balukhali camp alone, some 3,000 Rohingya arrived from their villages in Rakhine,” said Abdul Khaleq, referring to the camp nearest the river, where most of the migrants stay when they first arrive.

Kamal Hossain, a Rohingya elder in another, camp, said nearly 700 families had arrived in Bangladesh in the past 11 days.

Many were sleeping in the open because there was no more space in the camps, he said.

On August 12, authorities in Myanmar sent hundreds of troops into Rakhine in to boost security, drawing criticism from UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee, who warned the deployment was “cause for major concern”.  

Rakhine, in northern Myanmar, has been gripped by violence since October, when armed men attacked police posts.

Following the incident, Myanmar authorities have reportedly cracked down on the Rohingya community, which the United Nations believes may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority group.  

Deen Mohammad, another Rohingya man who entered Bangladesh on August 13, said Muslim villagers in Rakhine were not allowed to visit neighbours without prior permission from the army.

The 45-year-old farmer said he left home with his family after the army killed his 23-year-old son for travelling to a nearby village.

Myanmar border police patrol Buthidaung, an area in northern Rakhine state, near the border with Bangladesh [Reuters File] 

UN report of atrocities

Details of other alleged abuse last year have been recorded by the UN, whose special representative, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, presented his report on Wednesday to President Htin Kyaw in the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw. 

The UN said it had documented mass gang rape, killings, including of babies and children, brutal beatings and disappearances. Rohingya representatives have said approximately 400 people were slain during the security forces’ operation in October.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of the more than one million Rohingya who live in Rakhine, who are seen as interlopers from Bangladesh, and are denied citizenship and access to basic rights.

Bangladesh estimates that nearly 400,000 Rohingya refugees are living in squalid refugee camps and makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar.

The Rohingya: Silent Abuse

They included more than 70,000 who arrived in the months that followed the crisis in October, many bringing stories of systematic rape, murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar soldiers.

But Rohingya are also increasingly unwelcome in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, where police often blame them for crimes such as drug trafficking.

Dhaka has floated the idea of relocating tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote, flood-prone island off its coast, despite opposition from rights groups.

On Wednesday, the UN refugee agency said it was “deeply concerned” by the reports of a boat carrying Rohingya being turned back.

“UNHCR is deeply concerned by this incident, which as the coast guard reported, involved women and children who said they were fleeing violence,” an agency spokesman told AFP.

Source: News agencies

Read more at: Al Jazeera English

UN issues rare warning over ‘alarming’ racism in US

from August 23, 2017 at 05:18PM

UN human rights experts have called on the United States and its leadership to “unequivocally and unconditionally” condemn racist speech and crimes, warning that a failure to do so could fuel further violent incidents. 

THE LISTENING POST – Charlottesville, Trump and the media

The rare “early warning and urgent action” statement, which is reserved for serious situations, was issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Wednesday.

It stopped short of criticising US President Donald Trump by name.

The US president has been under constant condemnation after he blamed “both sides” for violence that broke out at a rally, organised by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month. 

At the rally, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed after James Alex Fields, a man linked to white supremacists, rammed his car into a group of anti-racist protesters.

CERD said it was “disturbed by the failure at the highest political level” of the US to reject racist demonstrations.

That failure could lead to “fuelling the proliferation of racist discourse and incidents” in the United States, the statement said.

“We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred,” Anastasia Crickley, who chairs the UN panel, added.

The UN experts said the alleged perpetrators of the violence should be prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crime.

OPINION: Charlottesville is America everywhere

US officials should also “address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination “, the experts said.

They added that officials should ensure that freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly “are not exercised with the aim of destroying or denying the rights and freedoms of others”.

The US is among 177 countries to have ratified the UN pact against racial discrimination. CERD monitors compliance and reviews countries’ records every few years.

Six in 10 Americans have said they disapprove of the way Trump has responded to the events in Charlottesville [Scott Eisen/Getty Images]

Prior to the UN warning, Trump again defended his response to the violence in Charlottesville at a rally in Arizona on Tuesday. 

“I didn’t say I love you because you’re black, or I love you because you’re white,” Trump said. “I love all the people of our country.”

He accused a “very dishonest media” of mischaracterising his response to the protest.

In a toned-down speech on Wednesday in Nevada, the US president called for a “new unity”, saying that it was “time to heal the wounds that have divided” the US.


Most Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to Charlottesville and believe he is dividing the country, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University.

Six in 10 Americans said they rejected the way Trump has handled race relations, and by a similar margin said they disapproved of Trump’s handling of the events in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a science envoy to the US State Department resigned over Trump’s response to Charlottesville.

READ MORE: Campuses, cities reject far right after Charlottesville

Daniel Kammen, an expert on renewable energy who was appointed as a science envoy under former President Barack Obama, announced his departure in an impassioned letter that contained a hidden message that spelled out ‘impeach’ using the first letter of each paragraph.

“My decision to resign is in response to your attacks on core values of the United States,” Kammen wrote in a letter he shared on Twitter. “Your failure to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis has domestic and international ramifications.”

Kammen’s resignation follows that of several actors and prominent arts figures from an advisory committee to the White House. The group, which included actor Kal Penn, photographer Chuck Close and author Jhumpa Lahiri, said they could not “sit idly by … without speaking out against” Trump’s words and actions.

The president was also forced to shut down four major business advisory councils over tensions with the business community following the events in Charlottesville.

LISTENING POST: Is Donald Trump giving a voice to white supremacists?

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Read more at: Al Jazeera English