By Allen Cone
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"
Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour
Sunday, August 20, 2017
The fact that there is a fair happening in Damascus tells us things are improving at least somewhat in the beleaguered country.
That Iran, Russia and Hezbollah are supporting Syria means there is no change in the status of Syria in the middle east. In other words, the proxy war has failed in spite of attempts with chemical weapons to turn the west against Assad. Israel is still Assad's enemy, that will not change and probably wouldn't have changed even if regime-change had occurred.
By Allen Cone
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks Sunday at the opening of the Foreign and Expatriates Minister Conference in Damascus. Photo by Syrian Arab News Agency/EPA
UPI -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday praised his allies, including Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah, for helping fight terrorists and Western nations' attempts to topple him.
"Our army is making territorial gains every day, week after week, crushing terrorists and clearing lands occupied by them," the president said during a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in the capital Damascus.
"We, in cooperation with friends, will continue to squash terrorists wherever they are."
But shortly later Sunday, a rocket struck close to the entrance of Damascus International Fair, the first time for the event since the conflict broke out in 2011. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said five people had died and about a dozen people were injured in the 10-day fair, which started Thursday. The state-run news agency said there were casualties but gave no further details.
Al-Assad had said allied forces' "direct support -- politically, economically and militarily -- has made possible advances on the battlefield and reduced the losses and burdens of war" and fought back against foreign-backed militancy.
"We have managed to foil the Western project," he said. "West is like a chameleon due to its behavior to fit different situations. The psychological war against the Damascus government has failed to discourage us from fighting terrorism or even frighten us. ... We have fought terror since day one, and we will continue to fight it until there is no terrorist in Syria."
He said Syria is rebuilding its economy despite some Western states' support for terrorism in Syria.
"There will be no security cooperation or opening of embassies or role for some states that say they are looking for a solution until they cut off their ties with terrorism in a clear and unambiguous way," al-Assad said.
The president praised Russia's and China's U.N. Security Council vetoes to block resolutions condemning Syrian forces or imposing sanctions on the country. Since 2015, Russia has also been involved in a military campaign.
He also said Syria welcomes Russian-brokered, regional ceasefire deals, and hopes they are extended in other places in Syria.
"We have an interest in the success of this initiative," al-Assad noted.
The president condemned U.S.-backed so-called "safe zones," which he said would only "give cover to terrorists."
Mt Hermon, Golan Heights
Al-Assad described Turkish Recep President Recep Erdogan as a "political beggar after his support for terrorists was exposed. We don't consider the Turkish side to be a partner nor a guarantor nor do we trust it."
And he said any Turkish soldier on Syrian soil will continue to be considered an attacker.
"The Syrian government and moreover many Syrian civilians will not be quick to forgive Turkey for a role in the Syrian conflict viewed as destructive," al-Assad said. "Because it is now a certainty that the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party will remain in power in Damascus, Turkey will likely eventually have to engage in a thaw with the Syrian government simply because Syria is a neighbor to Turkey, but this road may be long."
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Sunday his country is cooperating in establishing peace in Syria.
"We work together to ensure the ceasefire in Syria. We have a goal to make a lasting truce out of the temporary ceasefire," he said in Ankara before departing for Singapore.
Al-Assad said Syria remains committed to fighting Israeli occupation of Syrian territory and continues to be a perennial supporter of Palestinians.
Syrian territory would mean the western 2/3rds of the Golan Heights, an area which Israel took from Syria when Syria and other Islamic countries attacked Israel in 1967.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Chief strategist Steve Bannon exits Trump White House
Former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon is the latest casualty of White House power struggles. US President Donald Trump’s chief strategist has departed at the urging of the chief of staff, retired General John Kelly.
Bannon joined the Trump presidential campaign as chief executive in August 2016, and went on to become President Trump’s “chief strategist,” a position created specifically for him, while former GOP chairman Reince Priebus was appointed chief of staff.
Kelly and Bannon “have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
The president’s critics have called for Bannon’s removal almost from the very beginning, accusing the former Breitbart News chief executive of being a racist, white supremacist, and Islamophobe.
But mostly he was not 'Deep State'. His influence on Trump has been undermined from the beginning and now that he is gone, Trump remains the only obstacle between 'Deep State' resuming complete control over the US government.
Whether they can control Trump or feel they have to remove him will be seen by the first anniversary of his inauguration.
Bannon is a former US Navy officer who worked at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s and was one of the founders of Breitbart, a conservative news outlet.
Earlier this week, when reporters asked Trump about Bannon and his alleged support for white nationalism, Trump called him a friend.
“He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good person,” Trump said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I think the press treats him very unfairly.”
It was the same phrasing he used about his former national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, who resigned under media pressure in February.
On Wednesday, the left-leaning publication American Prospect published an interview in which Bannon talked about the US “trade war” with China and dismissed the prospects of military confrontation with North Korea. Bannon also described white nationalists as “losers” and “a fringe element” that needs to be crushed.
Bannon is the latest casualty of the purge of Trump’s senior staff that began in late July with the departure of press secretary Sean Spicer, followed by Priebus and communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who was on the job for only 11 days. Kelly, a retired Marine who previously headed the Department of Homeland Security, was appointed the new chief of staff to “restore order,” according to reporters covering the White House.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
University settles lawsuit with scientist fired after he found
soft tissue in dinosaur bonesBy Chad Dou —
CSUN scientist Mark Armitage found soft tissue in a dinosaur bone, a discovery that throws significant doubt on evolution. Then, two weeks after publishing his findings, he was fired.
Now California State University at Northridge has paid Armitage a six-figure sum to settle his wrongful termination suit based on religious discrimination. While the university admits no wrongdoing, Armitage’s attorney said they feared losing a protracted lawsuit because of a “smoking gun” email that backed the plaintiff’s case.
The case of Armitage is the latest to show the mounting hostility Christians face in academics and other public arenas.
“Soft tissue in dinosaur bones destroys ‘deep time.’ Dinosaur bones cannot be old if they’re full of soft tissue,” Armitage said in a YouTube video. “Deep time is the linchpin of evolution. If you don’t have deep time, you don’t have evolution. The whole discussion of evolution ends if you show that the earth is young. You can just erase evolution off the whiteboard because of soft tissue in dinosaur bones.”
Armitage was hired as a microscopist to manage CSUN’s electron and confocal microscope suite in 2010. He had published some 30 articles in scientific journals about his specialty.
A graduate of Liberty University, Armitage adheres to the “young earth” view, against the majority of scientists who say our planet is 5 billion years old. He engaged students in his lab with Socratic dialogue over the issue of the earth’s age based on his and others’ research, he said.
In May 2012, Armitage went on a dinosaur dig at the famous fossil site of Hell Creek in Montana, where he unearthed the largest triceratops horn ever found there. Back at CSUN, he put the fossil under his microscope and made the startling discovery: unfossilized, undecayed tissue was present.
If the dinosaur were 65 million years old, the soft tissue could not have possibly remained, he says. His findings seconded groundbreaking discoveries by noted molecular paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, who triggered an earthquake in the world of paleontology when she published about soft tissue in dinosaur bones in 2005. (Schweitzer subsequently postulated that iron is responsible for preserving the soft tissue.)
Armitage’s February 2013 study was published in the peer-reviewed Acta Histochemica, a journal of cell and tissue research. Two week later, he found himself without a job.
A biology professor had come into his office and said, “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department.”
Armitage fought back. Professors and students alike had praised his work managing the microscope lab. His suit alleged he was excluded from a secret meetings of the microscopy committee. In a “smoking gun” email, university officials suggested they could ease Armitage out of his part-time position by making it full-time, Reinach said.
A colleague described the process as a “witch hunt,” according to Inside Higher Ed.
For two years, CSUN fought Armitage’s lawsuit. The university alleged his firing was simply a restructuring of their biology department and not a case of religious discrimination. But CSUN lost its bid to have the judge summarily throw the case out of court as groundless in July of last year.
So CSUN settled with Armitage for $399,500 in 2016, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Alan Reinach, Armitage’s attorney, hailed the settlement as precedent-setting.
“We are not aware of any other cases where a creationist received a favorable outcome,” said Reinach, executive director of the Church State Council, a nonprofit California public interest legal organization. “This was truly a historic case.”
CSUN has downplayed its decision to settle, saying in a statement that the university is committed to religious freedom and freedom of speech.
“The Superior Court did not rule on the merits of Mr. Armitage’s complaint, and this voluntary settlement is not an indication of wrong-doing,” according to a CSUN statement published in Retraction Watch. “The decision to settle was based on a desire to avoid the costs involved in a protracted legal battle, including manpower, time and state dollars.”
But Reinach countered: “They certainly would not have paid that kind of money if they did not recognize that we had them dead to rights. The state doesn’t put large, six-figure settlement money out unless they are really concerned they are going to lose.”
Prior to looking for soft tissue in dinosaur bones, Armitage studied diatoms, unicellular organisms that make up phytoplankton, which reveal a dizzying complexity and organization at the microscopic level.
According to Armitage, the beauty and complexity of diatoms lends credence to the idea they are a product of a Creator and not of spontaneous evolution.
“Evolution is structure supported by two pillars: one is chance, and the other is time. Chance is required because we obviously can’t say that a thinking force created life on earth. That is anathema for the materialists. If you kick out one of those two pillars the whole structure collapses,” Armitage noted. “If you kick out chance by showing incredible design, the structure of evolution starts to totter and it may crash. Because you cannot have design in a world that doesn’t have a Designer.
“The other pillar is time because you cannot get a man from a frog unless the princess kissed the frog. That’s a fairy tale. So in science you have to have deep time to get evolution.”
Subsequent to the controversy, Armitage has been on additional digs and found more soft tissue but is finding it difficult to get published. “I’m clearly being blackballed,” he said in The College Fix.
“Soft tissue in dinosaur bones destroys deep time.” Armitage said. “Dinosaur bones cannot be old if they’re full of soft tissue.”
Swedish scissor attack: Man suspected of ‘honor killing’ after female relatives & boys ‘shook hands’
A man in Sweden has been charged with murdering a family member with scissors, according to local media. The victim’s wife says it was an “honor killing” because the victim refused to kill his daughters after they had shaken hands with boys.
The incident, which occurred in May 2017 at Stensjön Lake in Grycksbo, involved “cutting or stabbing with scissors” in the victim’s neck, according to the indictment, which was seen by The Local.
The 46-year-old victim “died from bleeding as a result of the vascular injuries to his throat.”
The victim’s wife says the incident occurred after the suspect became offended that the victim’s daughters had shaken hands with boys – an action which the suspect believed damaged the family’s honor.
As a result, the 50-year-old suspect reportedly asked the victim to kill his daughters. The father refused and ended contact with the suspect.
However, the victim’s wife believes her husband was later lured to the lake and killed by the man in an “honor killing.”
It's utterly insane that girls shaking hands with boys is so dishonorable that it would require their murder to expunge the heinous act. It's also insane that murdering your brother, or cousin, because he wouldn't kill his own daughters for shaking hands with boys, is somehow supposed to restore the honor of the family. Girls touching boys is heinous; a man murdering his relative is glorious! That's insanity!
Prosecutor Gun-Britt Strøm has said the attack was carried out with intent and “could be called honor conflict,” SVT quoted her as saying.
The suspect has denied committing murder, saying he was assaulted by the man and merely used the scissors as a self-defense weapon.
The suspect says he had the scissors in his tackle box, as he was at the lake to go fishing. He claims he would have used another weapon in the box, such as a knife, if he had intended to kill the man, according to Expressen.
The suspect’s trial will include nine witness interviews, forensic evidence including blood samples, and an analysis of the alcohol in the suspect’s bloodstream at the time of the incident.
It comes just one month after six people were convicted of murder by a court in Gävle, Sweden, after a man was killed for having an affair with a married woman.
Honor crimes are those which are viewed as having brought shame upon the family in some way, with common “offenses” involving those who challenge, defy, or break strict rules imposed on them, such as a female refusing to enter into an arranged marriage.
Stensjön Lake in Grycksbo
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency blasted the Hamas terror group for putting young Palestinian students’ lives at risk.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees announced on Monday that it has sealed a Hamas terror tunnel built under two of its schools in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
The tunnel was discovered at the beginning of June, after the Maghazi Elementary Boys A&B School and the Maghaz Preparatory Boys School had closed for the summer. The Jerusalem Post reported that UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness has confirmed the sealing of the tunnel.
In a statement released when the tunnel was first discovered, Gunness said that “UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way.”
“The construction and presence of tunnels under UN premises are incompatible with the respect of privileges and immunities owed to the United Nations under applicable international law, which provides that UN premises shall be inviolable,” Gunness stated, adding that “The sanctity and neutrality of UN premises must be preserved at all times.”
In the past, UNRWA filed complaints against Hamas— the terrorist organization in complete military and political control of the Gaza Strip— for building tunnels under its premises, vowing that it intended to seal the group’s military infrastructure.
Heart of Hamas Strategy: Human Shields
At the heart of Hamas’s strategy is the use of Gazans as human shields–– a war crime and terrorist tactic aimed at exploiting the moral sensibility of the enemy.
Aimed mostly at fueling propaganda machines to make Israel look like they are indiscriminately killing civilians when it is Hamas who are setting these civilians up as targets. And these same poor people vote for Hamas. What insanity!
On Thursday of last week, the head of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, told reporters that Hamas had built tunnel systems beneath an apartment building and a family home in the northern Gaza Strip. “Our intelligence shows without any doubt that Hamas is building its infrastructure for the next round of fighting in the civilian arena,” Zamir explained.
The Times of Israel later reported that, despite detailed evidence provided by the Israeli military, Hamas dismissed the allegations as war propaganda to make excuses for any future action taken by the IDF in case of an escalation between Israel and the terrorist group.
The Palestinians' self-proclaimed knife intifada is the latest result of ongoing incitement against innocent Israelis. Israelis are being stabbed, shot and run over. Yet the world is silent.
The western hemisphere's longest running war, unless you count American, confederate, white-supremacists, has finally been brought to an end. And just in time for its previously peaceful and prosperous South American neighbour to start a civil war. Nothing good can come of the direction Venezuela has been heading under Maduro, but, at least, there is good progress in Colombia.
Well done, president Santos!By Andrew V. Pestano
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos waves at a trucker removing a container of FARC weapons from a disarmament zone on Tuesday. Photo courtesy Juan Manuel Santos
UPI -- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the last remaining weapons belonging to revolutionary rebels have been surrendered under the supervision of the United Nations, and will be smelted into peace monuments.
The weapons removal marks a monumental step in the peace process between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which had fought for a half-century. The last weapons container was taken out from the Pondores "reincorporation zone" in Colombia's La Guajira province.
"We are more optimistic because the impossible was fulfilled: departure of last container with FARC arms makes its disarmament definitive," Santos said in a statement Tuesday. "Today Colombia is a country without FARC, with presence of the government in the whole territory and opportunities like never before."
"We have just witnessed the final exit of containers with weapons in La Guajira: the last breath of the conflict with the FARC," he added. "Departure of the last container with weapons in peace zones puts an end to the abandonment of arms and [reincorporation] zones, and it initiates a new stage for Colombia."
The rebel group plans to become a fully functioning political party once the disarmament process ends. Key leader Iván Márquez said the former armed guerrilla group will maintain the use of its FARC acronym.
Most FARC members are being housed in so-called "reincorporation zones," in which the Colombian government and non-governmental organizations will help transition the ex-militants into civilian life. Santos' government will use the National Learning Service agency to educate the former militants.
More than 220,000 people died and 5 million were displaced during the Colombian conflict, which began after FARC's Marxist-inspired founding in 1964. The militant rebel group was involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund the insurgency. Peace talks between Bogota and FARC started in Cuba in 2012.
Officials said FARC's weapons will be smelted into peace monuments that will be displayed in Bogota, New York City and Havana, Cuba.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
By Yonhap News Agency
Tourists use binoculars to see North Korea from the Goseong Unification Observatory in the the demilitarized zone in Gangwon-do, South Korea. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, South Korea, (UPI) -- The North Korean government continued to punish those engaging in religious practices last year, with executions, torture and other abuse, the U.S. State Department said in an annual report Tuesday.
In the 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, the department reconfirmed human rights abuses the North has long been accused of, including its denial of the right to religious freedom.
"The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices through executions, torture, beatings, and arrests," the report said. "An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions."
Last year's report pointedly said the exercise of religious freedom continued to be nearly "nonexistent" in North Korea. But that word was dropped this year.
The report comes as tensions run high between Washington and Pyongyang over the communist regime's missile and nuclear programs.
North Korea releases Canadian pastor held since 2015:
state news agency
Aug 9, 2017
After languishing for more than two years in a North Korean prison, a Canadian pastor was released Wednesday, according to the country’s state news agency.
Hyeon Soo Lim, 62, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., had travelled to North Korea more than a hundred times, leading humanitarian programs and even opening an orphanage. But during his last trip in 2015, he was detained and charged with attempting to overthrow North Korea’s regime using religion.
In what is believed to be a coerced statement, Lim soon admitted to the crimes after being sentenced to hard labour for life.
In this file image made from July 30, 2015, video, Canadian Hyeon Soo Lim speaks in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo)
“There were rumours that he was affiliated with the uncle that Kim Jong Un had executed a few years back, and that was partly the reason for his incarceration," Jack Kim, a senior advisor with HanVoice, a Canada-based human rights organization that assists North Korean refugees, recently told CTV News.
Then, two years and dozens of delicate diplomatic communications later, a Canadian delegation led by Daniel Jean, a national security advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, travelled to Pyongyang this week to discuss Lim’s case in person.
"Pastor Lim’s health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the Government of Canada, and we are working to ensure that he receives any required medical attention," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
That delegation was pivotal towards securing Lim’s release, Ontario MPP Raymond Cho said.
“It is important that Kim Jong Un got the representatives from Canada, so we saved his face,” Cho, who is Korean-Canadian, told CTV News. “It is a very good gesture.”
Since being imprisoned, Lim’s health was reportedly failing. He suffers from high blood pressure and allegedly lost nearly 40 kilograms while incarcerated.
According to North Korea’s news agency, Lim was released on “sick bail.”
Monday, August 14, 2017
French police also say they thwarted seven terrorist attacks so far in 2017
French police with protective shields walk in line near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 14, 2015 © Christian Hartmann / Reuters
The number of radicals in France has gone up 60 percent over the last two years, with converts to Islam accounting for over 34 percent of the identified radicals, according to a report.
Notice the political correctness in the wording here. The report calls them 'radicals' not 'Muslim radicals'. And yet it talks about their conversion (to what? Radicalism? No! To Islam!). It also mentions their use of the term Allahu Akbar which is an Islamic phrase. Everyone knows they are Muslims, except Muslims.
Citing the Terrorism Prevention and Radicalization Reporting File (FSPRT), Le Figaro reports that 18,550 people are currently registered by the authorities as potential radicals, up from 11,400 in 2015, “The file is constantly evolving,” with individuals coming and going after being evaluated by various government departments, the newspaper said.
In addition to the usual information (name, place of residence, criminal record), this database, access to which is restricted, adds more sensitive elements (such as possible contacts with other radicals), according to Le Figaro.
According to the FSPRT, female radicals accounted for 26 percent of the cases; minors slightly more than 16 percent. Converts to Islam accounted for over 34 percent of the identified radicals.
“The FSPRT provides a global picture of radicalization in France, both geographically (with a strong presence [of radicals] in the departments of Île-de-France, the North, the Bouches-du-Rhône, the Rhône And the Alpes-Maritimes) as well as demographically,” Le Figaro reported.
On August 6, a man carrying a knife and reportedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” tried to force his way through security checks at the Eiffel Tower. French prosecutors launched a counterterrorism investigation.
France has been in a state of emergency following attacks in Paris in November 2015 which saw over 130 people killed. The measure has given police and administrative authorities more power.
“The terrorist threat remains very high,” French Minister of the Interior Gerard Collomb told Le Journal du Dimanche earlier this month.
“The Champs-Elysees has been targeted twice, and our services have foiled seven attacks attempts since the beginning of the year,” he said.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Kenyan opposition leader calls for strike
after disputed electionBy Andrew V. Pestano
Supporters of Raila Odinga, leader of the National Super Alliance coalition, protest as the final votes
from Kenya's general election are counted in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday. Provisional results of
the presidential poll shows the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta leading Odinga, who rejected the results.
Photo by Kabir Dhanji/EPA
UPI -- Raila Odinga, Kenya's opposition leader, on Sunday called for a day of mourning and for his supporters to strike over the disputed results of a general election.
Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said President Uhuru Kenyatta won the election with 54.3 percent of the vote, while Odinga came in second place with 44.7 percent.
Following the announcement of results, Odinga accused the Kenyatta's Jubilee Party of electoral fraud. Protests have escalated into violence since the Tuesday election and more than a dozen people have died.
Odinga, the leader of the National Super Alliance opposition coalition, also accused the Jubilee Party of carrying out the killings
"As we mourn Kenyans killed by Jubilee mandated death squads, let's observe tomorrow as a day of mourning for the fallen patriots," Odinga wrote on Twitter. "For weeks before 8th August, NASA [National Super Alliance] warned the world of Jubilee killer squads set to be unleashed after the polls. This wasn't taken seriously."
Tensions are rising in Kenya as officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of ethnic violence that occurred following Kenya's 2007 election, when more than 1,200 people died.
During a speech to about 4,000 supporters, Odinga said his followers should strike on Monday.
"This is a failed regime that is resorting to killing people instead of addressing the real issue. The vote was stolen. There's no secret about that," Odinga said. "We had predicted they will steal the election and that's what happened. We are not done yet. We will not give up. Wait for the next course of action which I will announce the day after tomorrow. But for now I want to tell you not to go to work tomorrow Monday."
The international Elections Observation Group, which deployed 8,300 observers, said its projected outcome for the results had Kenyatta wining with 54 percent of the vote, 0.3 percent shy of the official figure.
That sounds like a pretty honest election to me. I think if Mr Odinga doesn't have the character to accept a loss, he doesn't have the character to lead the country. Go home and be quiet!
By Ray Downs
Police tape cordons the area around of a terrorist attack at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou,
Burkina Faso, January 16, 2016. On August 13, armed gunmen attack a restaurant and a hotel
Burkina Faso, January 16, 2016. On August 13, armed gunmen attack a restaurant and a hotel
in the area, killing at least 17 people. File photo by Wouter Elsen/EPA
UPI -- Seventeen people were killed and nine others wounded after assailants attacked a cafe in Burkina Faso Sunday night, according to media reports.
The attack occurred at the Hotel Bravia and the Aziz Istanbul Restaurant in the capital of Ouagadougou, near the city's popular Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, reported the BBC.
Burkina Faso's Communication Minister Remis Dandjinou said it was unclear how many attackers participated in the shooting as they have not yet been apprehended.
"They are confined to one part of the building they attacked. Security and elite forces are conducting an operation," he said.
Witness reports indicate there were three shooters.
Police have closed off the city center and the U.S. embassy warned U.S. citizens to avoid the area.
The attack appears to be similar to the January 2016 attack in which masked gunmen stormed a four-star hotel catering to Westerners in Ouagadougou and killed 30 people, including many foreigners.
Al-Queda took responsibility for that attack, citing "revenge against France and the disbelieving West" as their motive.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
© Dado Ruvic / Reuters
An Ethiopian imam who allegedly publicly called for the killing of non-practising Muslims has been charged by Swiss prosecutors.
The Winterthur public prosecutor’s office said in a statement Friday that the imam was charged on August 2 with inciting violence and other offenses.
The religious leader is accused of invoking the murder of Muslims who refuse to participate in the common prayers during a sermon at An'Nur Mosque, Winterthur on October 21, 2016.
He allegedly called for the expulsions of such non-practising Muslims, adding if they still refuse to pray they should be burned and killed in their homes.
The imam, who has not been named, also stands accused of sharing brutal depictions of killings via Facebook and of violating the Aliens Act by working without a permit.
He has been held in investigative custody since November when police raided the mosque after receiving evidence about the sermon.
The prosecutor's office initiated criminal proceedings against four people, including the Ethiopian imam.
The mosque has been at the centre of a number of police operations over its alleged support for radical Islam. It closed at the end of June after the landlord refused to extend the rental contract.
Prosecutors are seeking an 18-month suspended sentence and expulsion from Switzerland for 15 years for the cleric.
That's awfully nice of them! How about 15 months in prison, 18 years suspended, and expulsion from Switzerland for life? Why would you want him back in the country after 15 years? Will Sharia and blood-thirsty insanity be more acceptable then? Good grief!
Friday, August 11, 2017
How the media controls the message
and why few people trust them anymore
German freelance reporter Claudia Zimmermann © RT
Rejected contributions, boycott calls and a public letter refuting her words were some of the tactics freelance reporter Claudia Zimmermann faced after exposing her employer, German public broadcaster WDR, for sticking to pro-government narrative on migrant crisis.
Speaking to RT Deutsch, Zimmermann said she fell out of grace with the bosses of WRD, which is part of the ARD group of Germany’s regional public-service broadcasters, after she revealed the pressure on the employees to refrain from criticism of German Chancellor’s Angela Merkel controversial “open door” policy towards refugees.
“We are a public broadcaster, we are paid with tax money and that means we interpret the government’s view and not that of the opposition,” Zimmermann said in an interview to Dutch radio station L1 Limburg in January 2016, adding that it was expected from WRD to cover Merkel’s migrant policy “in a more positive way.”
“There are various committees that determine the program policies, which instructed the editors to support the Merkel government policy,” she said.
‘I stand by what I said on migrant coverage’
The interview went on air on the heels of New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Cologne that were initially blamed on asylum seekers of North African and Middle Eastern origin. The violent attacks sparked outrage with the German public and opposition, highlighting the growing dismay with the “welcoming” approach, personally propelled by Merkel.
After Zimmermann’s insight into the WRD’s story selection started making rounds in German and international media, she was contacted by the broadcaster which sought to “minimize the damage” to its reputation. Although Zimmermann agreed and apologized, saying that she was “talking nonsense” while being “under pressure of live broadcast”, she told RT Deutsch that her repentance refers only to her failure to clarify the functions of Germany’s Broadcasting Council during the interview.
As for the essence of her message, Zimmermann says she stands completely by her words.
“In the media, not only in WDR, Merkel’s migrant policy received a very strong backing by journalists. Some journalists, including me, tried to offer more critical topics, but they weren’t approved,” she said.
“I haven’t apologized for my actual words. I have never disavowed them and I don’t disavow them now,” she said, noting that contrary to reports by some media, she has never mentioned receiving any “written instructions” from the government.
“It would have been too obvious and would have sparked a protest. The thing is, as I have already said before, pressure comes from above. Unfavorable topics are simply not greenlighted. So a journalist does not have even a chance to offer such a topic,” she said.
‘Colleagues advised to boycott’
While WDR publicly vowed not to sack Zimmermann and followed through with its promise up to this moment, many of her contributions have been since turned down. She noticed that some of her rejected topics were handed to other WRD journalists.
“I even complained about it,” Zimmermann said, noting that the topics she had covered for years, completely unrelated to politics, like international art fairs, suddenly changed hands.
Moreover, the journalist noted that she has been silently ostracized by WDR, saying that the broadcaster recommended her colleagues to steer clear of her and sign a public letter praising the company’s integrity and denouncing her remarks.
“The funniest part in this story was that the half of all employees did not sign this letter. There was a heated internal discussion among the employees,” Zimmerman said, adding that despite the majority refused to put down their signatures, some media outlets portrayed it as through it was a unanimous condemnation.
“I know that they, in WRD, asked that employees don’t have any contact with me, don’t talk to me. I was told so,” she said, adding that some of her colleagues have continued to back her in private while having to keep a distance in public.
‘One-sided coverage on Russia & Syria’
Speaking on instances of biased coverage in German media in general, Zimmermann said she believes the media are telling only one side of the story when covering Russia-related topics and its reunification with Crimea, in particular.
“I would like the coverage of this issue to be far more substantial and balanced,” she said.
The same could be observed in the way the German media is handling the Syrian conflict, Zimmermann said. She spoke about a colleague who last year proposed to make a story about the other side of Syria’s life, not scarred by the war.
“She wanted to tell about a beautiful Syria. About its beauty, about the way they celebrate holidays and that the war is not everywhere,”Zimmermann said, adding that her colleague was discouraged by the rejection.
“It means they needed only war reports on Syria, not beautiful images. I believe it is also a kind of a one-sided coverage.”
Most media outlets in the western world are run by liberals and are loath to report anything that goes against the liberal propaganda agenda. I'm fine with reporting the faults, and they are many, of Putin, Al Assad, and their like, but honest reporting would also allow the reporting of good news stories from Russia and Syria as well as criticism of leftist leaders and their hair-brained ideas. Rarely do you ever see that!
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Suicide, murder, rape and mental health conditions are skyrocketing in a stretch of Muslim-majority countries from Morocco to Pakistan, many of which have been wracked by violence and conflict.
A major study covering data from the last 25 years shows soaring rates of death by suicide or at the hands of others. In 2015 alone, the last year for which data was used, around 30,000 people committed suicide, while 35,000 were murdered. The figures do not include deaths in places which are at war, such as Syria and Iraq, and represent increases of 100 per cent and 152 per cent respectively since 1990.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
“In other parts of the world during the same period, the number of deaths from suicide increased 19 percent and interpersonal violence by 12 percent,” stated one of the 15 reports published this week in the International Journal of Public Health.
The researchers also found a “sharp increase” in mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. “Depression and anxiety disorders were the most common mental conditions,” according to the study.
“Intractable and endemic violence is creating a lost generation of children and young adults,” said Dr Ali Mokdad, the study’s lead author and the Director for Middle Eastern Initiatives at IHME. “The future of the Middle East is grim unless we can find a way to bring stability to the region.”
“I came to the absolute conviction that it is impossible…
impossible…for any human being to read the biography
of Mohammed and believe in it, and then emerge a
psychologically and mentally healthy person.”
- Syrian Psychiatrist Dr. Wafa Sultan
The research showed that the wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria in particular are taking a severe toll on the health of the population in those countries. Not only are the effects immediate in terms of death and injury, but “these events will lead to increased health burden in the future as the next generation…is being raised under the harsh conditions of malnutrition and lack of preventive health services.”
Yemen has the highest proportion of its population suffering from food insecurity,at 36 per cent.
Despite the fast increasing need for mental health professionals to address the psychological fallout of conflict and poverty, the region has very few psychiatrists and psychologists. Many of the countries have only 0.5 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people. By comparison, Europe has more than 40 per 100,000.
The study was conducted using estimates from the annual Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors study and focused on the 600 million people of the “Eastern Mediterranean”, which includes 22 countries from the Maghreb, Horn of Africa, the Middle East — including the GCC — and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The geographical area has endured, to varying degrees, conflict for decades.An estimated 208,179 people were estimated to have been killed by war, suicide and murder in 2015, of which 144,000 died in war. Such estimates are almost always below the true figures due to the difficulties of collecting reliable data in war zones.
But violence and the associated psychological disorders are not the only alarming findings about the region’s health trends.
“In recent years, many of the health gains for some countries have slowed and several health conditions that were under control are re-emerging,” Dr Mokdad said. “This study clearly indicates that the future health of the region is in danger.”
Even the wealthiest per capita countries of the GCC will be affected directly or indirectly by the impact of global warming and climate change. Some of the countries “face significant environmental challenges due to lack of water, rising temperatures, and sandstorms,” the study found. Air pollution also needs to be addressed.
In the UAE, Qatar and Oman, transport-related accidents were the second highest cause of death in 2015, at 14 per cent, 20 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. While such deaths are falling in all the countries except Libya, Pakistan and Egypt, they were doing so at a slower rate than elsewhere in the world.
The overall level of obesity in the Eastern Mediterranean has increased by 37 per cent since 1980, the study, but obesity is most prevalent in Qatar and Kuwait.
Child mortality also fell more slowly than the global rate in many of the 22 countries. Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan are all in the top ten countries with the highest child mortality rates. Eighty per cent of all child deaths occurred in those three countries along with Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
The study also found that most of the cases responsible for a tenfold increase in HIV and Aids-related deaths in the last 25 years occurred in three Horn of Africa countries — Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan.
“In this region, individuals infected with HIV are dying faster than the rest of the world,”said Charbel El Bcheraoui, assistant professor at IHME. ”This is a sign that HIV patients are not receiving proper treatment in an era where HIV can be well controlled with the appropriate treatment regimens.”
The countries studied are: Afghanistan, Egypt, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and the UAE.
Whether or not Deep State has been working to undermine Trump has been occupying my mind for a few days now. It seems obvious that they have been pulling his strings one way or another, and I wondered if they were not satisfied with that.
It then occurred to me that if they completely undermined Trump and got him impeached, that they would then have Pence to deal with. The next question is, is Pence Deep State? We will know if Deep State goes for Trump's jugular.
The usual caution: The report below came from RT.
It then occurred to me that if they completely undermined Trump and got him impeached, that they would then have Pence to deal with. The next question is, is Pence Deep State? We will know if Deep State goes for Trump's jugular.
The usual caution: The report below came from RT.
U.S. President Donald Trump with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (L)
© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
A controversial memo penned by a former National Security Council staffer has been released. The document states, among other accusations, that the “deep state” is trying to undermine President Donald Trump.
A copy of the “POTUS & Political Warfare” memorandum, dated May 2017, was published by Foreign Policy on Thursday.
Rich Higgins, who served as the director of strategic planning for the NSC, was the author of the seven-page memorandum. He resigned from the NSC in July after National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster discovered he was behind the memo.
Although it does not mention McMaster’s name specifically, the NSC chief is purportedly one of the people described in the memo as trying to restrain Trump, an unnamed source with first hand knowledge of the memo and events, said, according to Foreign Policy.
“The administration has been maneuvered into a constant back-pedal by relentless political warfare attacks structured to force him to assume a reactive posture that assures inadequate responses,” the memo stated.
“Having become the dominant cultural meme, some benefit from it while others are captured by it; including ‘deep state’ actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans,” the document reads.
After the memo reached McMaster, Higgins, who was working in the strategic planning office, was forced to resign by McMaster’s deputy, Ricky Waddell. Waddell told Higgins that if he didn’t resign, his security clearance would be revoked.
McMaster allegedly determined some NSC staffers that were holdovers from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s brief tenure were the type of people he had been looking to replace. This also led to the firing of top NSC intelligence official Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Derek Harvey, who controlled the NSC’s Middle East portfolio, according to Foreign Policy.
The most notable change resulting from the shake up is the removal of the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from his seat on the security council.
An unnamed source with first hand knowledge of the memo described McMaster’s decision-making after reviewing the document and discovering his inclusion, Foreign Policy reported.
“It was about H.R. McMaster,” the source said. “So, when he starts reading it, he knows it’s him and he fires [Higgins].”
The memo was purportedly first discovered by McMaster and the NSC after a search for staffers who were believed to be giving information to conservative author and activist Mike Cernovich, who seemed to have uncanny knowledge of operations at the NSC.
A subsequent “routine security” audit of NSC staffers’ communications eventually led to the finding of the memo, unnamed sources said, according to Foreign Policy. A different unnamed source explained the email audit as a McCarthyist-type leak investigation targeting staffers who had communication with Cernovich.
“McMaster was just very, very obsessed with this, with Cernovich,” an unnamed senior administration official told Foreign Policy. “He had become this incredible specter.”
Trump eventually saw the memo and was “furious” after learning the author was fired by McMaster, an unnamed senior White House official said.
“He is still furious,” the senior official added.
The fallout from the document has magnified McMaster’s difficulties at the NSC since taking over from Flynn. One unnamed source familiar with the NSC staff stated that the NSC chief “doesn’t really have any allies,” Foreign Policy reported. “It doesn’t seem as though he has the ear of the president, which is obviously essential to his survival.”
On Wednesday, the billionaire Sheldon Adelson-backed Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States, unleashed a report calling for McMaster’s reassignment to a post not dealing with issues concerning Israel or Iran. The group accuses McMaster of being a threat to Trump due to his firing of Flynn-era NSC staffers. Adelson contributed $5 million to Trump’s inaugural committee before he was sworn in as president.
Nepal criminalizes tradition of forcing menstruating women
Nepalese women sit by a fire in a chhaupadi hut © Prakash Mathema / AFP
The Nepalese government has made it a criminal act to force women into cowsheds while they’re on their periods. The ancient Hindu tradition sends menstruating females into the sheds to keep so-called “impurity” out of the home.
Although the practice – called ‘chhaupadi’ – was banned by the Supreme Court in 2005, it remains common in Nepal's remote west.
However, the government has now made the practice a criminal act that could come with jail time.
“The parliament has a passed a new law that makes chhaupadi a criminal act,” lawmaker Krishna Bhakta Pokharel, who headed a parliamentary panel that finalized the legislation, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Anyone forcing women into seclusion during their period can now be sentenced to three months in jail.”
The new law will come into force within a year, according to Pokharel, as authorities want to spread awareness of the legislation before cracking down on offenders.
Some Nepalese communities believe they will fall victim to misfortune such as natural disaster if females are not sent into isolation while menstruating.
However, the practice – which exposes them to rape by men and attacks by wild animals – has led to the deaths of several women.
Just last month, a 19-year-old died from a snake bite while she was staying in a shed in the district of Dailekh. In December, another girl suffocated to death in a poorly-ventilated shed in the Achham district.
In addition to sending females into isolation, some communities also ban them from drinking milk and feed them less food while they are on their periods.
The law against banishing women to cowsheds has been praised by the National Alliance for Women's Human Rights Defenders, a local Nepalese activist group, which has called the practice “inhumane.”
The group's head has called on community members and activists to “remain vigilant and report any case of chhaupadi.”
“Such vigilance will force the government to strictly enforce the law,” Renu Rajbhandari said, as quoted by Reuters.
The ban comes after the United Nations joined up with the youth-led organization Restless Development Nepal in April, in order to push for an end to the practice which the organization said subjects women to “cold and isolation, often at risk of illness and animal attacks.”
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
By Danielle Haynes
International Organization for Migration staff assist Somali and Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers on Wednesday. Photo courtesy they U.N. Migration Agency
(UPI) -- A human smuggler forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as their boat approached the Yemeni coast, killing at least 29 people, the United Nations' migration agency said Wednesday.
The International Organization for Migration said its representatives found the shallow graves of 29 people on a beach in Shabwa, a Yemeni governorate along the Arabian Sea, during a routine patrol Wednesday. Those who survived the incident rapidly buried the dead upon reaching the shore.
The IOM said at least 22 people were unaccounted for after being forced into the sea, and medical staff provided healthcare to 27 survivors. Others left the beach before assistance arrived.
"The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea, when he saw some 'authority types' near the coast," said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM Yemen chief of mission. "They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future."
In Yemen? Seriously?
The IOM estimates about 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa to travel to Yemen since the beginning of the year. More than 30,000 of them are under the age of 18 and from Somalia or Ethiopia. The average age of the passengers on the boat Wednesday was 16.
"This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean," an IOM release said. "Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants."
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Calling in the Air Force is taking the war on drugs to another level. But with drug-lords with private armies thinking they can do anything they want, this might actually get their attention. The danger here is two-fold: collateral casualties - bombs are not surgical, and the likelihood that some people will accuse political rivals of being drug dealers just to get rid of them.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to unleash the full might of the military against the private militias of corrupt politicians, including sending in fighter jets to bomb their positions.
The president was giving a speech in which he revealed he had expanded the list of politicians suspected to be involved in the drugs trade.
“Even if you have 100-200 armed men, that will not help,” he said, as quoted by the Manila Bulletin on Tuesday. “Why would you put up a fight? I have 12 FA-50 jets. I will drop five bombs on you. I will really use the force of the government.”
“I told you not to contradict the government. I will use the government because I have to protect the people who represent the government. I will not hesitate.”
Private armies led by politicians and powerful clans have long been a fixture in the Philippines, particularly in the southern island of Mindanao, wracked by conflict with communist and Muslim insurgents as well as the terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, linked to Islamic State.
Other than providing security, the militias are known to be used for settling scores: in November 2009, gunmen loyal to the powerful Ampatuan family massacred 57 people in the province of Maguindanao. Duterte himself has been accused of leading an armed group dubbed the “Davao Death Squad” prior to his election as president, which allegedly carried out the killings of thousands of accused drug dealers, users, thieves and other petty criminals. Some of the alleged former members of the squad have testified in court, either providing descriptions of the alleged extrajudicial killings, or dismissing the very existence of the group as “media hype.”
Duterte’s latest warning comes just over a week after Reynaldo Parojinog, mayor of Ozamiz City, was shot dead along with 13 others, including his wife and his brother, when a shootout erupted during an anti-drugs operation. Parojinog had been on Duterte’s “list” since 2016, and Duterte denounced him and his family as “gangsters.”
Allegations of using the war on drugs as a method of getting political opponents out of the way have also surfaced locally.
“I am the president of the barangay [village] council,” Vicente Yungco Jr told Marina Kosareva for RT’s documentary Project Duterte. “I was really surprised that I was linked with drugs. I’m on bail now, amounting to 80,000 pesos [$1,600] for illegal firearms and ammunition.”
“I think it was a political motivation. I have a political rival in my barangay. We were elected for three terms, they did not win. I’m afraid that certain local officials, they can do whatever they want.”
Over 7,000 people have been killed in the police crackdown on drug dealers since the start of Duterte’s presidency in July 2016, according to data from the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Philippines authorities have claimed that a large portion of those deaths have come from suspects resisting arrest in police operations while others have come at the hands of vigilantes or rival crime syndicates working outside the law. Meanwhile, human rights groups allege there is an unofficial state-sanctioned policy of exterminating drug suspects, while police officers actively collude with the vigilantes.