Sunday, December 04, 2016

Act in Tribute to Fidel Begins in Santiago de Cuba
Presided by Army General and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Raúl Castro Ruz, the people of Santiago and other eastern provinces are accompanied by friends, presidents and personalities from across the world

National news staff |
December 3, 2016 20:12:36

Photo: Cuban television images

Fidel is in Santiago. His Santiago of the Moncada assault, of November 30, of the Sierra Maestra and of the revolutionary triumph, the same city he awarded the honorific title of Hero of the Republic of Cuba, extensive to all its people.

These same people fill the Plaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo this evening, where the act in tribute to the Comandante en Jefe has just begun, before his ashes are finally laid to rest in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery tomorrow.

Friends, presidents and personalities from other parts of the world accompany Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, who will offer the central remarks.

Leaders of mass and social organizations and the Young Communist League will also participate as representatives of the Cuban people.

Fidel rests in Santiago

Santiago de Cuba’sPlaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo now bears the remains of the Comandante. The square will host a commemorative act in honor of Fidel this evening, with the presence of the people of Santiago, Party and government representatives, leaders of mass organizations and heads of state and important figures from across the world

Granma |
December 3, 2016 17:12:44

Around 1:50pm this December 3, the funeral procession bearing the Comandante’s remains completed the last stretch of its journey from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, arriving at the city’s Plaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo. Fidel’s ashes will rest here until his burial at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery tomorrow, close to Cuban National Hero José Martí.

Later this evening, the people of Santiago and other eastern provinces, will gather in this square to pay tribute to the leader of the Revolution.

While this site was built in honor of Antonio Maceo, a sculptural tribute to another hero of Cuba, Comandante Juan Almeida Bosque, can also be found here, on one of the walls of the surrounding Heredia Theater.

The funeral procession bearing Fidel’s ashes traveled a total distance of more than 1,000 kilometers over four days from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.
Throughout this funeral procession across the island, retracing in reverse the route of the triumphant Caravan of Liberty of 1959, hundreds of thousands of Cuban men, women and children have lined the streets to bear witness and pay their last respects to the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution.

Posthumous commemoration, today, for the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution in Santiago de Cuba

After the moving, unforgettable voyage of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro's ashes, following the Caravan of Liberty's route of January, 1959, the valiant people of Santiago, along with representatives of other eastern provinces, will honor the leader of the Cuban Revolution

National news staff |
December 3, 2016 08:12:29

After the moving, unforgettable voyage of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro's ashes, following the Caravan of Liberty's route of January, 1959, from Havana east, the valiant people of Santiago, along with representatives of neighboring provinces, will honor the leader of the Cuban Revolution, today, December 3, at 7:00pm, in Antonio Maceo Plaza la Revolución.

Present at the event will be heads of state and important figures from all parts of the world. Speaking in the name of our people will be leaders of mass organizations, social associations, and the Young Communists League.

The central remarks will be made by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, and President of the Councils of State and Ministers.

Cuban radio and television will broadcast the event live.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Qatar Partner in Tunisia's Democratic Transition, Says Rached Ghannouchi of Ennahda
03 Dec 2016 - 21:18
The Peninsula, Qatar

Qatar partner in Tunisia's democratic transition, says Rached Ghannouchi of Ennahda
Ennahda Party chief Rached Ghannouchi (Right) with The Peninsula journalist Mohammed Osman

By Mohammed Osman
The Peninsula

The just-concluded International Investment Conference- Tunisia 2020-  held in Tunis under the initiative of Qatar has reflected the importance Qatar has given to Tunisia and its democratic experience, says Rached Ghannouchi, chief of Ennahda Party, a member of Tunisia’s ruling coalition.

In an exclusive interview with The Peninsula in his office in Tunis, the Ennahda ideologue shared his views about the democratic process in Tunisia and Qatar’s role in developing the Tunisian economy.

“It is a historical event and I expect, after this conference Tunisia will not be the same as it was before. Our people have great confidence in the positive effects this conference will have in bringing opportunities for economic prosperity and a new life to them,” said Ghannouchi.

He said this international conference has presented Tunisia as a country of promise, attractive, stable and worth confidence because the event has hosted one third of the world’s countries.

Ghannouchi described Qatar’s participation and support as “extremely exciting” considering the size of the Qatari delegation and attendance of the Emir HH Shiekh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the conference.

“This is not the first Qatari initiative to support Tunisia, but Qatar has been incredibly generous and supportive and a partner in our revolution through the support we have got from Al Jazeera for the democratic transition in Tunisia.Al Jazeera introduced our cause, revolution and its figures to the world.” said Ghannouchi.

Qatar’s moral and financial support to Tunisia continued after the revolution to all successive governments, as Tunis has seen multiple transitions of power since 2011.

Qatar provided with generous loans, and deposits of $1bn in the Central Bank of Tunisia whose due time has been extended to contribute to balancing the budget of the state, Ghannouchi added.

“When Qatar gave millions of riyal to support Tunisia, it is not making a gift to a party but rather to the Tunisian government and administration, and we are happy to have Qatar as a partner and ally,” he said.

He added that Qatar being one of the leading economies in the world, its support has encouraged the world economic and financial institutions to invest in Tunisia.

Underlining the importance of the conference for Tunisia, Ghannouchi said that the international financial institutions like World Bank, IMF, European Banks and counties like Germany, France, Canada and many others have restored their confidence on Tunisia.

Another factor is the strong participation of the GCC states, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE thanks to the Qatari efforts that played a significant role in mobilizing their support.

Asked about the differences between this conference and the first conference held in 2014, Ghannouchi noted that Tunisia has now become stable.

“In 2014, the country was not stable, Ennahda decided to step down from power to maintain stability and the country was facing terror attacks and it was at a crossroad. We are very lucky to have overcome that difficult period and the country approved the constitution and elected President and established a coalition government of five parties. Tunisia today is more stable and managed to curtail terrorism and began to lay the foundation for economic growth and investment,” said Ghannouchi.

“ All these developments have made the country gain confidence of the international community  in the Tunisian democracy,” he added.

“This is not a conference asking for loans but for investment,” he said adding that Tunisia wants to present a win-win situation to the investors convincing that that it is a good deal to invest in a stable country.

“ We hope to increase our partnerships with Qatar, of course. The $1.25bn that the Emir has given to Tunisia need to be invested across various projects, farming, infrastructure etc, and we hope to do much more to promote Tunisian exports. The  Qatari support for Tunisia is a clear signal of its support for not only the democratic changes in Tunisia but also for the economic revolution which our country is moving towards,” said Ghannouchi.

“ Now, as 2016 comes to a close, the Tunisian government, representing liberal and conservative parties, is signaling to the world that it is ready to move forward on building its economy with  security, stability and peace. This has encouraged investors to come, who were not here before,  and countries who have already been investing have increased the volume of their investment,” he added.

Asked about fear of some counties about the Tunisian democratic experience, Ghannouchi said, “Tunisian democracy is not for export, it is only for domestic consumption and for cure of local diseases”.

“Tunisian democracy is not exclusive, it is built on a combination of Islam and democracy. The Tunisian experience in fighting terrorism has proved that fighting terror through democracy is more effective and cost less compared to military solutions,” said Ghannouchi.

“As I travel around the world, I have seen and felt the impact of the Tunisian example in building bridges between Islam and modernity, in combating terrorism through social cohesion, peace, and national consensus,” he added.

Asked about the fair distribution of the upcoming investments Ghannouchi pointed out that the revolution started in the  impoverished regions that had been marginalized for decades under the Ben Ali and Bourguiba regimes.

“Now, we need to pay special attention to building up these regions, to build their infrastructure and encourage greater investment through large-scale infrastructure projects that will make these regions desirable investment locations. We need to build roads, highways, railways, airports, hospitals and schools. Saudi Arabia is going to build a big hospital in the city of Kairouan, and France will do the same in Kasserine,” said Ghannouchi.

About the international award he received from Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation in India recently, Ghannouchi said that the award was for promoting Gandhian values outside of India.

“ In the past this award to given  to Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and many other notable international personalities who have used peaceful means to solve problems and resolve crises. This gift was not to me as an individual, but to the people of Tunisia and their experience in democratic transition.”

“ This award has opened new prospects for Tunisia –India ties. India is the largest democracy in the world, with more that 700 million voters, a democracy which never experienced rigging or attempt of coup,” he added.
Tunisia Breaks Up 160 Militant Cells in First 10 Months of 2016: Ministry
Tunisian security forces dismantled 160 jihadist cells in the first 10 months of this year, about 45 percent more than during the whole of 2015, the interior ministry said on Friday.

Tunisia has been the only Arab state to achieve a relatively peaceful democratic transition since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 but has struggled to contain Islamist militancy, partly because of a spillover of instability from neighboring Libya.

An interior ministry statement said the number of terrorism suspects arrested between January and October this year was 850, compared with 547 for all of 2015.

Security forces stepped up efforts to track down militants after the North African country suffered three major deadly attacks last year, including two targeting foreign tourists.

In March this year, security forces repelled an attempted Islamic State takeover of the town of Ben Guerdan near the border with Libya.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Mark Heinrich)
US Defense Secretary Says Pentagon Should Continue to Occupy Iraq

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The American military, along with its international partners, will need to remain in Iraq even after the expected defeat of the ISIS group, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Saturday.

Carter said the U.S. and its coalition partners must not stop after completing the current campaign to expel ISIS from Mosul.

He said the militants are on a path to lasting defeat.

"But there will still be much more to do after that to make sure that, once defeated, ISIL stays defeated," he said, using an alternative acronym for the ISIS group, which is also known as Islamic State. "We'll need to continue to counter foreign fighters trying to escape and ISIL's attempts to relocate or reinvent itself. To do so, not only the United States but our coalition must endure and remain engaged militarily."

"In Iraq in particular, it will be necessary for the coalition to provide sustained assistance and carry on our work to train, equip and support local police, border guards and other forces to hold areas cleared from ISIL."

He did not say how long this continued U.S. military presence might be necessary or how many troops would be required. At any rate, those decisions are likely to fall to the Trump administration after it takes office in January.

In describing recent Pentagon actions to put a stranglehold on the ISIS worldwide, Carter said the Obama administration has directed the secretive Joint Special Operations Command to prioritize destroying the militant group's ability to conduct attacks in the West.

Carter said that in his final weeks in office he is focused on ensuring a smooth transition to his successor. Earlier this week, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he intends to nominate retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be his defense secretary.

Carter congratulated Mattis, who is a former commander of U.S. Central Command overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I've worked with Jim for many years, he's a friend, and I hold him in the highest regard," Carter said.

He made no mention of the aspect of the Mattis selection that has drawn the most attention: the fact that his nomination will require legislation by Congress to exempt Mattis from a legal prohibition on a retired military officer serving as secretary of defense before he has been out of uniform for a minimum of seven years. Mattis retired in 2013.

Carter made his remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. 
Ronald Glasser Shot Unarmed Joe McKnight--Hours Later, the Police Released Him
McKnight was the second former NFL player shot to death in a road rage incident in Louisiana this year.

12.02.16 4:40 PM ET

“I told you don’t you fuck with me.”

Standing over his victim, according to a witness, 54-year-old Ronald Gasser fired a final shot. No one knows how the verbal altercation began, but a former NFL running back was shot dead in the middle of the day Thursday in what authorities say was a “road rage” incident in Terrytown, a suburb of New Orleans. Witnesses say Joe McKnight, who once played for the New York Jets, was attempting to apologize as Gasser kept shouting at him.

The coroner will not say how many times the 28 year old was hit. Paramedics attempted to revive him, but McKnight, who was unarmed, died at the scene.

Despite statements from multiple eyewitnesses who say McKnight was not the aggressor, his killer has been released from custody after questioning. The Jefferson Parish sheriff’s department said they could see no reason to hold him. “Authorities said [McKnight] got in an argument with Gasser on a highway in the suburb of Terrytown and was shot outside his vehicle,” according to NBC News.

Witnesses say McKnight —who was the top running back recruit in the country when he came out of John Curtis Christian School in Louisiana—was actually pulled from his vehicle before he was shot.

Sheriff’s deputies plan to consult with prosecutors, who may consider taking the case to a grand jury. Charges in the killing are far from guaranteed.

A witness, who was leaving a nearby store on Thursday afternoon, told the Times-Picayune that she saw a man believed to be Gasser yelling at McKnight near the intersection of Beherman Highway and Holmes Boulevard. Their cars—Gasser’s blue Infinity and McKnight’s silver Audi SUV—were seen parked side-by-side at a traffic light. McKnight was standing next to his car trying to defuse the situation and apologize, she said, when Gasser, who was yelling, shot him.

The Louisiana native never stood a chance.

“He didn’t deserve it,” said Roxanne Lundy, McKnight cousin who came to the scene. “He was a good guy. It was 100 percent unnecessary.”

There is no way to know if race played a role in McKnight’s fatal shooting or how law enforcement has chosen to approach the investigation. But, the strictures of race are easily felt in the suburban New Orleans enclave of less than 25,000. Situated along the westerly banks of the Mississippi River, African American and white residents both account for around a third of the population.

Gasser is white. McKnight was black.

Gasser—who remained at the scene and turned over his gun to police—was held briefly overnight before being released. They let him go based, in part, on how Gasser described the incident.

Investigators plan to meet Friday to review the case to decide if any charges will be brought and will seek a search warrant for his car.

“There’s no timeline for when this has to be done,” Col. John Fortunato of the parish sheriff’s office told the Daily News. “We want to get it right.”

Those assurances were widely met with derision and disbelief. Reaction was swift and passionate from McKnight’s former NFL teammates.

“I don’t get it,” Antonio Cromartie, who played with McKnight tweeted. “How in hell do you release someone who killed my brother, my friend a father a son a brother without charging him. Bull Crap.”

Family and friends rushed to defend Gasser, who was described by those who know him as a “loner” and a å“generous” man who works in telecommunications. But, if witnesses are correct, he was anything but generous when he took McKnight’s life. Gasser allegedly stood over McKnight—already bleeding from the first shots—and pumped another round into his body.

“This is some bullshit!!! He stood over him and shot him in broad daylight!!!” Kyle Williams, a former Kansas City Chiefs teammate tweeted. “And fucking stayed there!! Released and not charged!!?!?!?”

McKnight’s stepfather said he son always dreamed about playing professional football. “I’ve been knowing him from six, and this is just senseless, and it has to stop. Somewhere it has to stop.”

Video of the aftermath shows paramedics attempting to revive McKnight but, by then, it was too late.

A woman’s voice called out from behind the camera.

“It could have been any one of us,” she can be heard saying. “That man just got out and shot that man.”

McKnight, who spent four seasons in the NFL before joining the Canadian Football League, became the second person who’d played in the NFL to die in a road rage incident in Louisiana this year.

Retired Saint Will Smith was shot and killed in April, in Orleans, after a fender bender. His wife was also shot in the leg.

McKnight was about to be signed by the Minnesota Vikings, said his stepfather Elmo Lee. “I just want people to know that this was not a troubled kid. The boy was just trying to make it back in the NFL, that’s all he wanted to do.”

McKnight, a young father who turned 28 last April, will never get that chance.
Joe McKnight's Shooter, Ronald Gasser, Released From Custody
Residents in Ronald Gasser's Gretna neighborhood identified the man shown in this photo, taken by a witness, as Gasser. The photo was taken minutes after former NFL player Joe McKnight was gunned down at the corner of Behrman Highway and Holmes Blvd. in Terrytown on Thursday, December 1, 2016. (Handout Photo)

Jonathan Bullington,
The Times-Picayune
By Jonathan Bullington
December 02, 2016 at 5:14 PM

Ronald Gasser, the man authorities say shot and killed former NFL player Joe McKnight, was released from custody overnight without being charged, Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office authorities said Friday morning (Dec. 2).

Gasser, 54, has not been formally charged, said JPSO spokesman Col. John Fortunato. Investigators are consulting with the district attorney's office on the decision whether to formally charge Gasser, Fortunato said.

As the investigation into McKnight's death continues, Fortunato asked anyone with information about the shooting to contact department homicide detectives at 504-364-5393.

McKnight, 28, was shot about 3 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 1) at the intersection of Behrman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown. A witness, who declined to give her name, said she saw a man at the intersection yelling at McKnight, who was trying to apologize. The man shot McKnight more than once, the witness said. She said he shot McKnight, stood over him and said, "I told you don't you f--- with me." Then the man fired again, she said.

Evidence and autopsy results show Gasser, the man authorities say admitted to fatally shooting Joe McKnight, did not fire on the former NFL player while standing over him, Jefferson Parish authorities said.

Authorities named the shooter as Ronald Gasser, 54, and said he stayed at the scene and turned his gun in to officers. Gasser was in custody and was being questioned, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said. The sheriff said McKnight did not have a gun, and deputies did not find a gun outside McKnight's vehicle.
Ex-Panther, Now 80, Sees His Hopes for Freedom Fade as Board Again Denies Parole
By Tanasia Kenney
Atlanta Black Star
November 30, 201602193

Former Black Panther, Sundiata Acoli, was sentenced to life in prison for the death of a N.J. state trooper.

Just one week shy of his 80th birthday, former Black Panther Sundiata Acoli got the news he’d be spending the next 15 years of his life in jail. Acoli, who is serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper, was denied release from prison yet again.

According to The Guardian, New Jersey state police have fiercely opposed the former Black Panther’s release from jail since he first became eligible for parole in the fall of 1992. Still, this latest denial was a shocking blow to supporters who’ve fought time and time again to get him out of prison.

“This is a punch to the gut,” said Soffiyah Elijah, an attorney and executive director of the Alliance of Families for Justice ,who has represented Acoli for many years and successfully handled countless other cases to free former Black Panthers.

On that fateful day in May 1973, Acoli and his companions, Assata Shakur and Zayd Malik Shakur, were ambushed by state troopers while driving on the New Jersey turnpike. Both Zayd Malik and state trooper Werner Foerster were killed in the gunfire, while Assata Shakur was wounded and arrested. She later escaped to Cuba and has been there under asylum since 1979.

Acoli was captured by authorities days later.

According to, the ex-Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member was ultimately convicted in Foerster’s death and sentenced to life plus 30 years in the Trenton State Prison. In July 1987, he was transferred to the federal maximum-security prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

The judicial board swiftly denied Acoli’s request for parole when he first became eligible for release in 1992, ignoring the fact that he’d done excellent work while behind bars, had an outstanding academic and disciplinary record and received thousands of letters that spoke favorably of him, the website stated. Instead, he was handed a 20-year hit, the longest in New Jersey state history, that required he serve another 12 years before becoming eligible for parole again.

The Guardian reports that in 2014, a panel of New Jersey judges ordered the board to “expeditiously set conditions” for the ex-Panther’s release. The judges cited his good behavior, remorse for his involvement in the state trooper’s death and an expert’s testimony that Acoli now posed only a “low to moderate” risk of re-offending.

However, a higher court invalidated the the judges’ order in February — a decision New Jersey state police deemed “a victory for law enforcement.” According to The Guardian, the overturned order led to a new parole hearing in June, which was ultimately denied.

“[It was] primarily about the events on the turnpike and almost nothing about my many positive accomplishments,” Acoli wrote of the June hearing. He recalled one of the board members asking him, “Aren’t you angry that they broke Assata out of prison instead of you?” to which he responded, “I don’t or wouldn’t wish prison on anyone.”

In March 2015, Cuban officials issued their final word on Shakur, asserting that they would not extradite her back to the states. Atlanta Black Star reported that U.S. lawmakers and law enforcement have vigorously been trying to get their hands on Shakur, who has spent the past 30 years under the protection of the Cuban government, especially since President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced plans to normalize relations between the two countries last year.

Meanwhile, Acoli has spent the past four decades of his life locked up in “supermax” federal facilities.

“They are determined to bury him alive,” Elijah told The Guardian. “[But] we are equally determined to get him out.”

ABS has reached out to Elijah for further comment on Acoli’s previous requests for parole and efforts for his release but have not heard back yet.
Gen. Wesley Clark’s Son With Veterans’ Group To Protest Dakota Access Pipeline
Reporter, The Daily Caller
1:57 PM 12/03/2016

The son of retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark heads a veterans’ group committed to preventing law enforcement from evacuating Dakota Access Pipeline protesters. The group plans to arrive at the encampment Sunday.

The group will supplement the few veterans who already arrived at one of the encampments earlier in the week and and demanded that law enforcement lay down their firearms.

Wesley “Wes” Clark Jr. and former U.S. Marine Michael Wood Jr. lead Veterans Stand for Standing Rock. Clark’s father was also a 2004 Democratic presidential primary candidate.

The younger Clark graduated from Georgetown University and served four years in the Army before moving to Hollywood to pursue a writing career. (He does not appear to have any screenwriting credits in his 20-year career.)

Clark, whose Facebook page lists his interests as “history, music, gaming, futurology, foreign affairs, sex and saving the planet,” is a climate activist who protests against oil companies. Law enforcement claims he “supports activists who commit crimes to stop oil pipelines, which he believes is supported by his Christian beliefs.”

He claims the Standing Rock protests are more about issues related to clean water and the U.S. Government acknowledging a promise to pay the tribe revenue created by a river dam. Clark has claimed he would “instantly” turn over to police any protesters committing violence, but then claimed it’s the police who are instigating violence.

However, the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council sent a letter to the “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock” group asking them not to go to the southern part of the state where the protest camps are located, the Associated Press reported, because tension would likely increase and place a burden on law enforcement, Council president Russ Stabler said.

Stabler, who said that the Council has no opinion on the pipeline, also said the veterans coming to Standing Rock have been misinformed and should not be advancing a movement that has “broken laws, destroyed property and attacked law enforcement.”

But, he added, “They intend on coming anyhow.”

There are a “lot of different emotions and opinions” about the protest, and the veterans from across the country aren’t going to be swayed by the letter from Stabler, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock spokeswoman Ashleigh Jennifer Parker told The AP.

The main protest camp, Oceti Sakowin, is on federal land. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said because of the severe cold winter ahead, all federal lands north of the Cannonball River – including the camp — will be closed to the public on Monday, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued a mandatory evacuation of the camp, but both have said that protesters will not be forced to evacuate.

Read more:
U.S. Veterans Build Barracks for Pipeline Protesters in Cold
Veterans have a demonstration on Backwater bridge during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

By Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester

U.S. military veterans were building barracks on Friday at a protest camp in North Dakota to support thousands of activists who have squared off against authorities in frigid conditions to oppose a multibillion-dollar pipeline project near a Native American reservation.

Veterans volunteering to be human shields have been arriving at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the small town of Cannon Ball, where they will work with protesters who have spent months demonstrating against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, organizers said.

The Native Americans and protesters say the $3.8 billion pipeline threatens water resources and sacred sites.

Some of the more than 2,100 veterans who signed up on the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock group's Facebook page are at the camp, with hundreds more expected during the weekend. Tribal leaders asked the veterans, who aim to form a wall in front of police to protect the protesters, to avoid confrontation with authorities and not get arrested.

Wesley Clark Jr, a writer whose father is retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, met with law enforcement on Friday to tell them that potentially 3,500 veterans would join the protest and the demonstrations would be carried out peacefully, protest leaders said.

The plan is for veterans to gather in Eagle Butte, a few hours away, and then travel by bus to the main protest camp, organizers said, adding that a big procession is planned for Monday.

Protesters began setting up tents, tepees and other structures in April, and the numbers swelled in August at the main camp.

Joshua Tree, 42, from Los Angeles, who has been visiting the camp for weeks at a time since September, said he felt pulled to the protest.

"Destiny called me here," he said at the main camp. "We're committed."


The protesters' voices have also been heard by companies linked to the pipeline, including banks that protesters have targeted for their financing of the pipeline.

Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) said in a Thursday letter it would meet with Standing Rock elders before Jan. 1 "to discuss their concerns related to Wells Fargo's investment" in the project.

There have been violent confrontations near the route of the pipeline with state and local law enforcement, who used tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses on the protesters, even in freezing weather.

The number of protesters in recent weeks has topped 1,000. State officials on Monday ordered them to leave the snowy camp, which is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, citing harsh weather, but on Wednesday they said they would not enforce the order.

"There is an element there of people protesting who are frightening," North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said on Thursday. "It's time for them to go home."

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier spoke by phone on Friday with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but assistance for law enforcement and a timeline for a resolution to the situation were not offered, the sheriff's office said.

Lynch said in a statement that the U.S. Department of Justice has been in communication with all sides in an effort to reduce tensions and foster dialogue. She said senior department officials will be deployed to the region as needed.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday he supported the completion of the pipeline, and his transition team said he supported peaceful protests.

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said on Wednesday it was "probably not feasible" to reroute the pipeline, but he would try to rebuild a relationship with Standing Rock Sioux leaders.

On Friday, Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz said his office has been working in conjunction with the governor's office to meet with tribal leaders soon.


Since the start of demonstrations, 564 people have been arrested, the Morton County Sheriff's Department said.

State officials never contemplated forcibly removing protesters, and Dalrymple said his evacuation order stemmed mainly from concerns about dangerously cold temperatures.

The temperature in Cannon Ball is expected to fall to 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) by the middle of next week, according to forecasts.

The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline project, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP.N), is mostly complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

Protesters, who refer to themselves as "water protectors," have been gearing up for the winter while they await the Army Corps decision on whether to allow Energy Transfer to tunnel under the river. The Army Corps has twice delayed that decision.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and David Gaffen in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler)
Hundreds of Veterans 'to Put Our Bodies on the Line’ in Pipeline Protest
Kevin Hardy, The Des Moines Register
8:50 p.m. EST December 3, 2016
(Photo: Brian Powers/The Register)

OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP, N.D. — Tasheena Cloud said Saturday that she and the hundreds of other veterans who have been filing into this protest camp near the Dakota Access pipeline will remain peaceful when they put themselves between law enforcement officers and passionate demonstrators in coming days.

But she said she has no idea how police and the North Dakota National Guard will respond.

“I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I just know I’ll put myself in harm’s way.”

In the snowy prairies of North Dakota, the Oceti Sakowin Camp has become the longest-running protest in modern history, as thousands of American Indians and environmentalists seek to halt completion of the 1,172-mile pipeline.

In the coming days, the demonstrators will be aided by military veterans who have come to give occupiers a respite and call attention to what they say are human rights violations committed by local law enforcement. Demonstrators have described being attacked by security dogs, sprayed with tear gas, shot with rubber bullets and blasted by water cannons.

Police officials have defended their tactics but promised to keeping the veterans' demonstrations peaceful.

"A lot of people are coming here expecting to see a confrontation," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney told reporters Saturday, "and it’s not going to happen."

Cloud, 32, of Wisconsin said she cried watching images of security dogs attacking pipeline opponents. And she was disgusted when police doused protesters with water cannons in subfreezing temperatures here.

“I feel humiliated as a veteran,” said Cloud, who was deployed three times in her eight years serving in the Navy. “I went to war. I protected this country. For this to be happening at home, it’s embarrassing.”


Members of the nearby Standing Rock Sioux tribe began the occupation of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, arguing that the pipeline’s crossing underneath the Missouri River threatens their drinking water, as well as that of millions of Americans downstream.

The tribe’s dissent has quickly grown into a spiritual movement for indigenous peoples from across the world, and the camp has for months housed the largest gathering of natives in modern American history.

The corps did not authorized the occupation and has told protesters they must leave the camp by Monday for their own safety, as brutally harsh winter conditions set in.

The group Veterans Stand for Standing Rock was formed by screenwriter Wes Clark Jr. and former Marine Michael Wood Jr. Clark’s father, Wesley Clark, is a retired general and former supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe.

Organizers predict some 3,000 veterans will amass at the camp by the time official demonstrations are expected to begin Monday.

Clark declined to be interviewed, but he wrote on Facebook that veterans here are following in the footsteps of Civil Rights giants Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Ghandi. A four-page operations order he posted outlining the week’s actions rings of military jargon and warns veterans they may face mace, tear gas, rubber bullets and police batons on the front line.

“In the ultimate expression of alliance, we are there to put our bodies on the line,” that document reads, “no matter the physical cost, in complete nonviolence to provide a clear representation to all Americans of where evil resides.”

On Saturday, law enforcement officers said they held productive discussions with leaders of the veterans group. Police have agreed to retreat and move their militarized road blockade further away from the camp, so long as demonstrators agreed to keep their distance and stay off of private land in the area.

“We had a good discussion and walked away with a mutual commitment to maintaining peace ... mutual respect for one another and ensuring adequate space between law enforcement and protesters,” said North Dakota National Guard commander Gen. Alan Dohrmann.


Retired Army Maj. Gen. Spider Marks, a member of the pro-pipeline Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, says the veterans at the camp do not represent all military veterans. Many vets work on the pipeline construction crews, he said, as well as in the ranks of local enforcement. And he noted that the pipeline company has followed the law and regulations in its work.

Marks, a decorated retired general with 30 years of experience in the Army, said he supports veterans’ First Amendment rights to participate in lawful protests.

“Protest is one thing, riots are illegal,” he said. “There will be inevitably some form of a confrontation. I just pray that veterans don’t get mauled and try to make a stand here.”

Marks recently visited the front lines of the protest just north of the Oceti Sakowin Camp. Near a bridge on North Dakota Highway 1804, law enforcement officers have erected concrete barriers, razor wire barricades and amassed several military vehicles to keep protesters from approaching them or pipeline workers. The general said the scene reminded him of the heavily guarded compounds he lived in during deployments to Iraq.

“That’s what’s most embarrassing,” Marks said. “I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me, this is America. We’ve got to protect our workers."

Marks doubts that this week’s events will draw 3,000 veterans as advertised. He believes many in the camp are "professional protesters" and said the movement there has “nothing to do with Native American rights.”

“There is probably a very core element of them that are anarchist,” he said, “that just want to be a pain in the neck.”


At dawn on Saturday, about 150 people huddled close together near the icy Cannonball River for a daily water ceremony.

They bobbed up and down and swayed back and forth to keep warm as temperatures hovered in the 20s.

The men and women sang, prayed and chanted “water is life” in English, Spanish, sign language and the native Lakota language. Others watched on in silence.

Speakers stood on wooden pallets placed atop the frozen mud of the river bank. They preached about their connection to the elements. One prayed to the four directions. Another talked about the spotlight the veterans would bring to their cause.

"The whole world is watching now," one said.

As the sun peered out from a ridge opposite the river, dusty flakes of snow fell on the multiple layers of flannel, fleece and parkas wrapped around occupiers. Beatrice Menasekwe Jackson, a Native American from Michigan, said she performs a water ceremony like this each morning no matter where she is at the time.

"We have all the prayer we need to stop this pipeline from ruining our lives," she said, as shepherds, retrievers and huskies bounced around in the snow banks behind her.

Jackson, 67, said she wished she could confront every pipeline worker to tell them how important the water is. She is frustrated with the pipeline company, but not deterred.

"We have to win," she said.

"We're already won," a man chimed in.

She looked behind him, where a few camp fires slowly lifted rings of smoke into the foggy skies. Her view was a nearly endless tapestry of teepees, motorhomes and tents.

He's right, she agreed: "They just don't know it yet, huh?"

Contributing: Danielle Ferguson, (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader
Posthumous Commemoration, Today, for the Historic Leader of the Cuban Revolution in Santiago de Cuba
After the moving, unforgettable voyage of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro's ashes, following the Caravan of Liberty's route of January, 1959, the valiant people of Santiago, along with representatives of other eastern provinces, will honor the leader of the Cuban Revolution

Author: National news staff |
december 3, 2016 08:12:29

Photo: Granma

After the moving, unforgettable voyage of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro's ashes, following the Caravan of Liberty's route of January, 1959, from Havana east, the valiant people of Santiago, along with representatives of neighboring provinces, will honor the leader of the Cuban Revolution, today, December 3, at 7:00pm, in Antonio Maceo Plaza la Revolución.

Present at the event will be heads of state and important figures from all parts of the world. Speaking in the name of our people will be leaders of mass organizations, social associations, and the Young Communists League.

The central remarks will be made by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, and President of the Councils of State and Ministers.

Cuban radio and television will broadcast the event live.
Egyptian Nubian Activists Postpone Protests Against Sale of Toshka and Forkund for One Month
Zeinab El-Gundy
Ahram Online
Thursday 1 Dec 2016

The decision comes following Wednesday meetings with Egypt's prime minister and speaker of parliament in which the two promised to study the demands of Egyptian-Nubian activists

Egyptian Nubian activists announced on Thursday not to renew their two-week-old protests against the sale of Nubian land in the areas of Toshka and Forkundin Aswan to non-Nubians for one month after the prime minister and parliament speaker promised to study their grievances.

Marathon meetings, which lasted for a total of seven hours, were held on Wednesday between the Nubian-Egyptian activists and PM Sherif Ismail and parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal were held in Cairo at both the Cabinet and the parliament headquarters.

The Nubian activists demanded the government stop the planned sale of 110,000 feddans of Toshka and Forkund land as part of its "New Valley Project" of economic development in the south.

The New Valley Project, also known as the Toshka Project,aims to build a system of canals to irrigate parts of Egypt's Western Desert.

On Wednesday, Egypt's prime minister and parliament speaker agreed to form a committee which includes cabinet members, Nubian activists and MP Yassin Abdel Sabour of Aswan governorate to revise maps for Toshka and Forkund, and remove the areas from the project.

Parliament speaker Abdel-Aal promised the Nubian activists parliament would discuss a draft law of Nubian resettlement and development, but did not specify a timeframe.

"Tomorrow and next week we will hold a meeting with other Nubian activists across the country, starting with those who reside in Alexandria, to discuss the latest developments and next steps" Abdel-Aal said on Wednesday.

"We decided to suspend the [protests] for one month," Mohamed Azamy, the head of the Nubian Union and one of the organizers of the sit-in, told Ahram Arabic news website on Thursday.

"After that, there would be an escalation in our protests," Azamy added.

On 19 November, a group of Egyptian-Nubian activists blocked the Abu-Simbel –Aswan highway in Aswan governorate for four days to protest the government's decision.

The activists sit-in was suspended on 23 November following meetings between Nubian activists and officials in Aswan.

In Wednesday's meetings, the Nubian-Egyptian activists also demanded an amendment to Presidential decree 444 - which designated areas along Egypt's southern border as military areas -to allow the return of Egyptian Nubians to historic villages.

However, the parliament speaker said 444 was a "sovereignty decision" by the president and a question of "national security", and therefore, could not be discussed by parliament.

"We also demanded that parliament begin a discussion on a draft law of Nubian resettlement and development in the current parliamentary year," Azamy told Ahram Online.

In 2014, a draft law to develop Nubian communities and resettle those displaced by the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s per the 2014 Constitution was prepared by the cabinet of then-prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab, but has not been submitted to parliament.
Egypt Increases Tariffs on 'Luxury Imports'
Ahram Online
Friday 2 Dec 2016

Egypt has raised tariffs for the second time this year on some "luxury imports" including some fruits, cosmetics, stationary and electronic gadgets, with an increase between 40 and 60 percent.

A decree by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was published on Thursday in the official gazette that revealed the items on which the new tariffs will be applied.

The items include fruits such as avocados, pineapple, guavas, mangoes, and oranges, among others. Other foods include cocoa, biscuits and ice cream. Some hair products, deodorants and facial masks are also included, as well as pens pencils and receivers.

Last January, the same items were subject to a 30-40 percent tariff increase.

In2014, Egypt embarked on a plan to introduce a number of fiscal reforms, including fuel subsidy cuts that increased prices up to 78 percent, as well as imposing new taxes to ease a growing budget deficit.

Earlier this month,Egypt's central bank decided to freely float the pound and raise key interest rates as part of a set of reforms aimed at alleviatinga dollar shortage and stabilising the country's flagging economy.

The Egyptian government is planning a second phase of economic reforms,Al-Ahram Arabic website reported earlier this week, which will include imposing progressive taxation and a further cut in subsides.
Egypt Announces New Investments in Oil and Gas Exploration Worth $200 Million 
Ahram Online
Friday 2 Dec 2016

Egypt has accepted investment offers in oil and gas drilling and exploration worth $200 million, the petroleum ministry announcedon Friday.

The companies that won the bids include Shell, British Petroleum, Apache and Apex, the ministry said in a statement.

The oil and exploration deals are for Egypt's Gulf of Suez and Western Desert.

Egypt is seeking to attract investments in the energy sector to revive an economy battered by years of political instability.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Syrian Army Advances in Eastern Part of Aleppo City, Killing Scores of Terrorists in Homs and Daraa
Provinces, SANA –Army and Armed Forces units continued on Friday their military operations against the Takfiri terrorist organizations in a number of the provinces, establishing control over new areas in Aleppo.


Army units, in cooperation with allied forces, achieved new progress in their continued operations to eliminate Takfiri terrorist organizations in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city.

SANA reporter in Aleppo said that army units and allied forces engaged in heavy clashes during the past few hours with Takfiri terrorist groups in Karm al-Qaterji, a neighborhood to which the army restored stability and security to the eastern part of after killing a number of terrorists while the rest fled away.

The reporter added that army units also restored stability and security to large parts of the neighborhoods of al-Bab Road and al-Hilwania in eastern Aleppo after inflicting heavy losses on terrorists while others fled, leaving their weapons behind.

Later in the evening, a military source told SANA that an army unit, in cooperation with supporting forces, restored security and stability to blocks of buildings covering an area of 2 by 1 km in the neighborhoods of al-Halawaniya and al-Jazmati in eastern Aleppo.


An army unit on Friday destroyed a hideout for terrorist organizations as it targeted their positions in the surroundings of al-Rastan city, 20 km north of Homs city.

A military source confirmed that a number of terrorists positioned in the hideout were killed or injured, including leaders of terrorist groups.


An army unit carried out precise bombardments against gatherings and axes of movement of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in the surroundings of al-Bajabjeh neighborhood, al-Nazihin camp and east of al-Sad (Dam) road in Daraa al-Balad area in Daraa province.

The bombardments resulted in destroying the terrorists’ positions and killing a number of them.

H. Said/Ghossoun
4 Civilians Killed, Many Others iInjured in Terrorist Rocket Attacks on Aleppo’s Residential Neighborhoods
Aleppo, SANA-Four civilians were killed and tens others were injured on Friday due to terrorist rocket attacks on the residential neighborhoods of Aleppo city.

A source at Aleppo Police Command told SANA reporter that 3 civilians were killed and 17 others were injured when terrorist organizations fired rocket shells on the neighborhoods of al-Mohafaza, al-Mogambo, al-Mirdian and al-Furqan.

The source said earlier that 12 citizens were injured when terrorist organizations fired a rocket shell on a temporary housing center in Tishreen Street where tens of families who were liberated by the Syrian Arab Army and the allied forces from the eastern neighborhoods live.

Terrorists also fired a number of rocket shells on the neighborhoods of Maissaloun and Bab al-Faraj, killing a civilian and injuring three others.

The attack also caused material damage to citizens’ properties.

Manar al-Frieh/Manal
People Start Returning to Massaken Hanano Neighborhood in Aleppo
Aleppo, SANA – Residents of Massaken Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo city have started to return to their houses after the army units and supporting forces have expelled the terrorists, established security and removed mines and bombs planted in the neighborhood,.

Governor of Aleppo Hussein Diab said in a statement on Thursday 100 families including 600 members have already returned to the neighborhood and their houses after they had been staying at the makeshift centers.

Diab noted that Aleppo Governorate is working around the clock to provide all services to the families that have arrived in the neighborhood and rehabilitate the damaged infrastructure and facilities in the area and reopen blocked roads through removing debris and the terrorists’ barricades.

He went on saying that starting off next week, schools will be opened after being closed for more than four years under the terrorist siege and public buses will be rerun, stressing that food and fuel supplies and all other necessary requirements will be provided to the families in the neighborhood.

In a relevant context, families fleeing the terrorist-besieged eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city continued to leave them.

Diab said that the Governorate has welcomed more than 350 people, raising the total number of people who managed to leave those neighborhoods to over 20,000.

H. Said
Iraq: UN Says Mosul Death Toll ‘Staggering’
December 2, 2016 at 1:02 pm |
Middle East Monitor

A wounded man is taken to hospital after clashes between Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government's peshmerga forces and Daesh terrorists in Mosul on November 17 2016 [Hemn Baban/Anadolu]
December 2, 2016 at 1:02 pm

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has described casualty figures it released on the ongoing battle for Mosul as “staggering”.

Figures for November showed that 1,959 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and its allies were killed in the battle for Mosul, while the UN’s data for October, when the operation to recapture Mosul from Daesh began, showed that 672 ISF and other units were killed.

This brings the total death toll suffered by the Iraqi alliance against Daesh to 2,631, and the United Nations also said that the figures are likely to be much higher due to troubles with collating reliable data from highly unstable Iraqi provinces such as Anbar.

The number of Iraqi military deaths for the battle for Mosul, now nearing the end of its seventh week, emerged yesterday with UN officials describing additional hundreds of further civilian casualties, reporting that 926 non-combatants had been killed.

“The casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims,” the top UN envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, said.

Kubis added that the rapidly growing death toll was largely a result of the extremist Daesh organisation’s ferocious defence of Mosul, the city where they proclaimed their now crumbling “caliphate” in 2014.

The UN toll includes members of the army, police engaged in combat, the Kurdish Peshmerga, interior ministry forces and pro-government Shia paramilitaries from the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

Iraqi losses closer to 4,000

While high casualty tolls were expected for what has been Iraq’s toughest battle against Daesh, to date few figures had been released. The government in Baghdad rarely divulges casualty figures during military operations.

Following the conclusion of the sixth week of fighting, MEMO reported that the casualty figures offered by Daesh suggested that ISF, Peshmerga and PMF Shia militias had suffered a death toll that is closer to 4,000.

According to Amaq news agency, Daesh’s news organisation, and its week by week tally of targets it claimed the extremists had killed or destroyed, the losses amounted to 3,699 pro-government fighters.

The UN’s figures, in addition to its announcement that the toll was likely far higher due to unreliable data, now shows that Amaq may have been accurate in their accounting for the battle thus far.

The Iraqi government launched a US-backed offensive to recapture Mosul from Daesh on 17 October. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, is mainly populated by Sunni Arabs who Human Rights Watch and others have said are victims of PMF and ISF atrocities.
Battle for Mosul: Beating ISIS Won’t End Iraq’s Civil War, UK Experts Tell RT
2 Dec, 2016 14:08

A family walks past a destroyed M-1 Abrhams tank in Gogjali.
© Gabriel Romero / Global Look Press via ZUMA Press

Caught in the crossfire, driven to hunger, held as human shields – civilians trapped in Mosul face a living nightmare, as coalition forces attempt to topple the last urban stronghold of ISIS in Iraq, while meting out sectarian punishments of their own.

The battle to retake Mosul, captured by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in summer 2014, began in October when Iraqi security forces, Shia and tribal militias, and the Kurdish Peshmerga launched an audacious ground assault with British and US-led air support.

Fierce IS resistance and concern for the estimated 1.5 million civilians still trapped inside the city, however, have stalled the operation’s progress, casting doubt over the swift liberation that Baghdad and coalition strategists had hoped for.

Speaking to RT’s Rob Edwards, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, chair of the AMAR Foundation and Britain’s trade envoy to Iraq, says Mosul’s civilians now face a desperate humanitarian situation.

“They will pour out of Mosul traumatized, some of them having been bombed, some of them having lost limbs and there may be one and a half million people in that condition,” said Nicholson. “So inevitably there’s going to be a huge amount of damaged humans.

“AMAR specializes in that, it’s exactly why we exist – it’s to help people when they’re in desperate situations and to patch them up as fast as possible, save their lives and to get them into secure locations.”

The AMAR Foundation, established in response to Saddam Hussein’s persecution of the Marsh Arabs, launched its Mosul Appeal in October to provide medical services and education to Iraq’s internally displaced.

“The fall of Mosul is a terrifying prospect for the inhabitants of Mosul and AMAR has to be ready to save as many lives as possible,” Nicholson added.

The Liberal Democrat peer is unambiguous in her assessment of what lies in store for Islamic State’s captive subjects.

“The Islamic State have captured and kidnapped a lot of people. Some of them were already residents of Mosul, others not residents of Mosul, and they’re really using them as human sacrifices.

“They are using them to demonstrate their extreme cruelty, and they’re using cruelty to cow a resident population into submission and to frighten away others.

“They are also using cruelty to attract global sadists who come to practice their sadism. There’s a small proportion of the human race that are born sadists, sadly, or born without any understanding of inflicting pain on others. They don’t have that feeling in them.

“So it’s not really human shields that are being used. Now, I’m sorry to say, it’s basically human sacrifices and those people will probably die. But many others will escape. And we must save as many lives as possible in the AMAR Foundation.”

Atrocities committed by IS militants against civilians are well documented, but a growing body of evidence suggests torture, home demolitions, and extrajudicial killings are not confined to jihadist ranks.

Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy and her team recently uncovered evidence of Iraqi federal police apparently executing Sunni Arab villagers in revenge for IS attacks – allegations vehemently denied by the Iraqi government, which has refused to launch an inquiry.

“In one particular incident, on the 21st of August, we found that armed men wearing federal police uniforms tortured and killed at least six villagers in the south of Mosul on suspicion that they might have had links with the armed group calling itself the Islamic State,” Eltahawy explained.

“According to information that we have, these were villagers who had stayed behind while fighters had moved the majority of the civilian population out of the area, so Iraqi forces present on the ground appear to have been suspicious that anyone who remained behind might have been a fighter.

“But these are individuals who did not pose any threat, they were villagers who handed themselves over to the Iraqi forces, who carried white flags and who lifted their shirts to show they didn’t have explosive belts. And after that they were beaten, they had their beards pulled and in one case burned before a group of them were taken aside and shot dead.”

Iraq is a majority Shia country, but Mosul and its hinterland are home to many millions of Sunni Arabs. The Islamic State has sought to exploit sectarian resentment among Sunnis who have been effectively disenfranchised by Baghdad’s Shia dominated establishment.

Revelations of sectarian abuse perpetrated by Mosul’s supposed liberators do not bode well for reconciliation.

Tallha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy & Security Institute, says the blame for this simmering resentment lies with the policies of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his successor Haider al-Abadi’s failure to address Iraq’s burning civil rights question.

“The issue here is that after 2008, the Maliki government marginalized the Sunni Arab community. So right now the Sunni Arab community are thinking ‘why should we put our necks out on the line only for you to revert back to your sectarian policies?’

“So even with Daesh [IS] being defeated, and even considering that they have a lack of support among the vast majority of Sunni Arabs, Sunni Arabs have no interest in fighting them because, frankly, they see the Iraqi government and, to a lesser degree the Peshmerga units that are doing this, razing homes, they see them as being the same as Daesh, not any better.”

Abdulrazaq says a far-reaching political solution is required to work in tandem with the Iraqi government’s military strategy, otherwise the conditions that allowed IS to grow and maintain its grip for so long will remain unchanged.

“If we restore equal rights to all Iraqis, whether they’re Kurdish, Sunni, whether they’re Arab Sunnis, whether they’re Shia Arabs, whether they’re Shia Turkman, it doesn’t really matter, so long as they’re treated equally as Iraqi citizens, we will have a solution to Daesh. Right now, that doesn’t exist.”

“The best case scenario is for the Iraqi military, including the popular mobilization forces and the tribal militias, to stop any and all atrocities right now, because if they manage to get the civilians on board, if the people of Mosul and the Iraqi community, the Sunni Arab community especially, manage to see this is different from Falluja, this is different from Tikrit and all these other places where atrocities have been committed, there’s a chance at some kind of reconciliation.

“But that’s very unlikely to happen. So, I’m afraid all I have for you is a worst-case scenario – that atrocities continue, sectarian rule is restored over the city of Mosul and the threat of Daesh doesn’t disappear – it remains because they have no partners on the ground who are able to effectively neutralize them, as happened in 2008 with Al-Qaeda.”

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would have been his first public appearance, at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014. © Reuters
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would have been his first public appearance, at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014. © Reuters
The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate as a territorial edifice within Iraq will no doubt strike a devastating blow to the jihadist group’s morale and global reach. Its survival as a guerrilla force, however, capable of continuing some form of asymmetric warfare, remains a pervasive fear.

“The best case scenario would be if the vile Baghdadi drops down dead, as it were, and all his people ran away,” said Nicholson. “The question is where they run to.”

“The worst case scenario is when they run into the undergrowth and they 
Mosul Offensive Takes Toll as Iraq Casualties Soar
The scope of the toll the six-week old battle for Mosul has taken on Iraqi forces emerged Dec. 1, with U.N. figures showing that around 2,000 had been killed in fighting last month alone, while 926 civilians were also killed in fighting in the past month.

While high casualty tolls were expected for what has been Iraq’s toughest battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to date, few figures had been released.

The United Nations’ mission in Iraq released monthly casualty figures for November that showed 1,959 members of the Iraqi forces were killed just last month and 450 others wounded.

The U.N. toll includes members of the army, police engaged in combat, the Kurdish peshmerga, interior ministry forces and pro-government paramilitaries.

The U.N. statement also said at least 926 civilians were killed, bringing to 2,885 the number of Iraqis killed in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict last month.

“The casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims,” the top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, said.

The U.S.-led coalition assisting anti-ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria admitted Dec. 1 to “inadvertently” killing 54 civilians in both countries between March and October.

“Although the coalition makes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties, in some cases casualties are unavoidable,” the coalition said in a statement.

A July 18 strike that killed 100 ISIL fighters also killed as many as 24 civilians, the statement added.

Officials from the Kurdistan region’s peshmerga ministry said more than 1,600 peshmerga fighters were killed since ISIL took over large parts of Iraq in June 2014.

“Since the beginning of the war against Daesh [ISIL], which means June 2014, until Nov. 30 [2016], the total number of martyrs is 1,614 and the wounded are 9,515,” peshmerga ministry secretary-general Jabar Yawar told AFP.

Denmark to pull F-16 fighter jets from Syria and Iraq

Meanwhile, Denmark decided not to extend military operations of its seven F-16 fighter jets in Syria and Iraq from mid-December after six months in action.

Instead the Danish contribution in Syria and Iraq will primarily consist of training and analysis teams, which to a large extent will work closer to Iraqi military units.

“We are pulling our airplanes out as planned. We have offered the coalition extra help with some construction and engineer troops,” Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said after a meeting in the foreign political council.

On Nov. 28, a U.S. military investigation said Danish war planes were involved in a Sept. 17 coalition air strike, where a series of “unintentional human errors” killed fighters aligned with the Syrian government instead of the targeted ISIL militants.

Turkey, Lebanon call for immediate Syria cease-fire

The Turkish and Lebanese foreign ministers on Dec. 2 called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil in Beirut, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey and Lebanon had a common understanding of the situation in Syria.

“The cease-fire [in Syria] should go into effect immediately… the situation in Aleppo and Syria is a source of concern for all of us,” he said.      

Çavuşoğlu said both Turkey and Lebanon agreed on the need for a political solution to the conflict.

Battle for Iraq's Mosul Could Take 'Months’
by FRANCE 24

The Iraqi government’s assault to retake the city of Mosul could take months, prompting more and more civilians to try to flee to avoid being trapped between front lines, an International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.

A growing number of wounded, more than 100 on some days, are emerging from rural areas surrounding the city of one million that is held by Islamic State group (IS) forces, Dominik Stillhart, director of ICRC operations worldwide, told Reuters.

“What we see now on the ground is indeed that the fight in Mosul is not just going to stop anytime soon because the resistance is very strong,” Stillhart, back from visiting Iraq, said in an interview on Thursday at ICRC's headquarters in Geneva.

“It is likely that we will see long, drawn-out fighting with very serious suffering of a population that will once again be caught between two front lines,” he said. “It is reasonable to expect that this is going to take weeks if not months.”

Thousands displaced

More than six weeks into the offensive against the IS group’s last major city stronghold in Iraq, the army is trying to dislodge militants dug in among civilians in the eastern districts, the only side Iraqi troops have been able to breach.

“The original idea of the government as they told me, government officials, is that people should stay in their houses as much as possible,” Stillhart said. “But of course the longer the fighting will be drawn out, the more people will probably try to flee.”

Some 70,000 people have been displaced so far, a relatively low number that he said suggested the Iraqi military was giving consideration to protecting civilians.

“But looking at what is happening elsewhere in the Middle East, we are of course concerned about yet another situation where we have intense urban warfare with large-scale destruction, which will of course heavily impact on the civilian population.”

The ICRC is focusing on providing food and shelter to civilians who have fled Mosul, and it is working on water and sanitation projects, Stillhart said.

Iraqi officials have allowed ICRC officials to monitor the condition of those fleeing Mosul who are questioned or detained, he said. “We have free access to these screening centres, we can monitor the screening,” he said.

ICRC findings on treatment and detention conditions are confidential, as is the case with the group's prison visits across Iraq.

The ICRC has nearly 1,000 staff members in Iraq, its second largest operation worldwide after Syria. Its first full surgical team of six people will start working next week in Shikhan hospital, north of Mosul, Stillhart said.

It has provided first aid training to 900 health workers and supplied hospitals with dressing kits and surgical instruments.

“But it is true, as soon as the fighting intensifies and there are big battles, that there are situations where individual hospitals will have difficulties to cope with the number of wounded,” Stillhart said.

IS group forces are alleged to have used chemical weapons earlier this year in northern Iraq.

“We have trained and equipped our staff for possible small-scale use of chemical weapons, but we have also prepared some of these medical facilities with training and equipment to receive people affected by chemical weapons,” Stillhart said.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

For Rio Tinto, Another African Corporate Problem
U.S. authorities examine timing of $3 billion charge in Mozambique, as company investigates Guinea payment

Rio Tinto’s plans to ship its Mozambique coal along the Zambezi River proved unworkable because of problems dredging the river and securing government approvals. PHOTO: GORAN TOMASEVIC/REUTERS

Wall Street Journal
Dec. 1, 2016 6:56 a.m. ET

SYDNEY—Rio Tinto PLC’s new chief executive faces another regulatory headache, as U.S. authorities investigate the mining company over an impairment booked in 2012.

The Anglo-Australian miner said on Thursday it is cooperating with a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which it said started in 2013. The company was responding to media reports that the SEC is examining the timing of $3 billion in impairment charges on a Mozambique coal deal.

The write-down came as part of $14 billion in charges—including against another ill-timed deal, Rio’s 2007 acquisition of Alcan Inc.—that in early 2013 triggered the departure of Tom Albanese as chief executive.

News of the investigation comes as Rio Tinto pursues a separate internal investigation of payments made to a consultant who helped it acquire mining rights in Guinea. Rio Tinto has said it turned over emails and additional information about the payments to authorities in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.

That probe prompted the company last month to fire one of its most senior operational executives and its head of legal and regulatory affairs, sending shock waves through the executive ranks.

“I take integrity and our code of conduct very, very seriously,” Jean-Sébastien Jacques, who has led the global miner since July, said at an industry event in Melbourne, Australia last week. He declined to comment further on the Guinea situation.

On Thursday, Rio Tinto said it would be “inappropriate to comment further” on the Mozambique probe while the investigation continues. A representative for the SEC couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Rio acquired its Mozambique coal business in 2011 through its $3.7 billion takeover of Riversdale Mining Ltd., as coal prices were rocketing on ballooning demand from Asia and supply disruptions in major coal-producing countries. Riversdale projected Mozambique would become one of the world’s big coking-coal exporters.

But coal prices then fell as new mines planned during the boom moved into production.

In Mozambique, Rio Tinto had planned to ship the coal along the Zambezi River. That proved unworkable because of problems encountered dredging the river and securing the required government approvals. The coal’s high ash content also required costly processing, while the miner downgraded estimates on how much coal it could actually recover from the deposit.

When announcing the large write-down, Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis described it as “unacceptable.” Doug Ritchie, who led the acquisition and integration of the Mozambique coal assets, also stepped down at that time.

It turned out to be a costly deal for Rio Tinto. In 2014, the company sold the Mozambique business, which included a majority stake in the Benga mine and other coal projects in the Tete province, to an Indian investment group for $50 million.

—Ian Walker contributed to this article.

Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at
Rethinking Africa’s Resource Curse: Lessons From Guinea And Mozambique
The Market Mogul

The mining world was rocked earlier this month after swirling corruption allegations stemming from the Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea led to the dismissal of two top-level Rio Tinto executives and cast even more doubt over a project that has languished for two decades.

In a separate development, Mozambique’s government has been tussling with the IMF and its international creditors, after it used state-backed loans to buy several patrol boats to protect its huge offshore gas reserves and rich tuna grounds from illegal incursions.

The Curse Of Wealth

While seemingly unrelated, the two cases are a painful reminder of the many forms the resource curse can take in Africa and show just how hard it is for resource-rich countries to monetise their wealth. In their bid to improve living standards for their populations, the two countries have actually achieved the opposite effect – but for a host of different reasons.

Over two billion tonnes of high-grade iron ore with an estimated value of $80bn and the potential to add $6bn to the country’s GDP sit idle in Guinea’s Simandou, waiting to be collected by Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto.

The project has been held under license by Rio Tinto since the early 1990s, but Guinea’s deep-rooted corruption prevented it from ever seeing the light of day. In 2008, Rio Tinto lost a portion of the northern tracts to the whims of former dictator Lansana Conté, who sold the remainder to BSG Resources (BSGR).

BSGR then sold half of what it had purchased to Brazil’s Vale. After a review of the leases by current President Alpha Condé in 2014, BSGR was stripped of its licenses by the government, alleging that BSGR obtained its rights by way of corruption.

Enter The Lawsuits

Still reeling from the loss of billions of dollars of easily-harvested iron ore, BSGR was served with a lawsuit by Vale seeking $1.1bn in damages due to losses the firm alleges it sustained from BSGR’s actions in Guinea.

Likely passing Vale’s process server in the hallway at BSGR’s headquarters was a server sent from Rio Tinto with papers notifying BSGR that it was suing both them and Vale for allegedly stealing its concessions in Guinea by using confidential and proprietary information to aid it in pulling off the alleged heist.

Though Rio’s lawsuit was ultimately dismissed for failing to file before the statute of limitations had run, the legal (and possibly illegal) wrangling over ownership rights has caused what has been called the El Dorado of iron ore to waste away. Experts believe it could be up to a decade before any of the high-quality iron ore hits the market and the people of Guinea finally reap a fraction of the benefit of their iron ore resources.

This entire legal kerfuffle was made possible by Guinea’s pervasive climate of corruption. At the same time that Rio Tinto, Vale and BSGR were suing each other, China Hongqiao, the world’s top aluminium company, quietly bought the rights to a massive bauxite mine in Guinea – which is expected to become one of the biggest in the world and create thousands of jobs in the process.

But even here, the resource curse rears its ugly head. Chinese bauxite mining tends to be highly destructive to the environment, leading to the contamination of water sources with radioactive materials and increasing the incidence of cancer cases among the native population. The Boké bauxite mine in Guinea might turn out to be a devil in disguise, harming the country’s population in ways unseen since the Probo Koala toxic waste dump in Cote d’Ivoire.

The Inability To Monetise

Guinea is scarcely alone when it comes to a seemingly chronic inability to benefit from the wealth beneath its feet. However, much of the continent finds itself unable to make full (or any) use of its natural wealth due to environmental and political factors.

Nigeria, Angola, Papua New Guinea (Bougainville), Chad, and Sudan have all experienced internal conflicts in recent years fueled at least in part over control of petroleum resources. Economists have even found a strong correlation between a country’s dependence on the export of commodities (especially petroleum) and the likelihood of civil war.

Mozambique, the other country making headlines, found itself handcuffed by forces beyond its control when it attempted to market its sixteen trillion cubic feet of natural gas, discovered offshore in 2012. The effort at bringing it to market is known as the Coral South Project, an endeavour launched by Italian firm Eni.

The company has invested billions in the project, which was expected to begin production in the year 2018. However, the investment was thrown into doubt after the IMF raised questions over a series of loans taken out by Mozambique aimed at protecting its piracy-prone coastline.

Fighting Pirates

Although not at the frenetic levels of 2010, piracy in the Mozambique Channel is still a very real problem, and it is a problem that the country’s government could not address. A few years ago, Mozambique had a total of one oceangoing vessel capable of occasionally patrolling the area. As a result of budget and equipment realities, the Mozambique navy (such as it was) generally stayed in port until needed, which means its arrival is usually far too late to do anything other than count bodies.

With billions of dollars hidden beneath the ocean floor, Mozambique decided to ramp up the protection of its waters through a series of loans taken out by government-backed agencies, anticipating a spike in piracy once mining operations started.

However, this action was not without its own negative repercussions, as the IMF temporarily cut off funding to the country. Further criticism has also mounted over the use of the assets such as patrol vessels, which remain stationed at the port not being used.

Outside Obstacles

The paradox of the resource curse struck again, this time in a different form: in its bid to create the infrastructure that would improve the population’s living standards, Mozambique was blocked by international creditors. Unlike Guinea, there is a silver lining in Mozambique’s saga: on November 21, Eni’s Board approved the Coral project, which is expected to start shortly.

Africa is already the world’s fastest-growing continent, with consumer spending set to double in the next ten years. By 2050, its population will have doubled (to more than 2.2 billion people), and its GDP could grow from around $2trn today to $29trn, depending on economic trends. The path is, therefore, clear: Africa is set to prosper – the only question is just how zigzagged its road to success will be.