Thursday, July 28, 2016

African Farmers Need Urgent Help
July 29, 2016

ROME. — Some 23 million farmers in drought-hit Southern Africa need urgent help to prepare for the next planting season with only a few weeks left before it begins, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said yesterday.

FAO said failure to help farmers in time with seeds, fertilizer and tools would result in a smaller harvest in March 2017, and leave millions of rural families dependent on humanitarian assistance until mid-2018.

“We must make the most of this small window of opportunity and make sure that farmers are ready to plant by October when the rains start,” David Phiri, FAO subregional coordinator for Southern Africa, said in a statement.

“The main way people are able to access food is through what they themselves produce. Assisting them to do this will provide lifesaving support in a region where at least 70 percent of people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.”

More than 60 million people, two thirds of them in east and southern Africa, are facing food shortages because of droughts linked to El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, according to the United Nations.

FAO said the effects of the drought were expected to peak between January and March 2017.

Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe reported more than 640 000 drought-related livestock deaths due to disease outbreaks and a lack of pasture and water, FAO said.

It said it needed at least $109 million to help farmers and cattle herders in 10 countries that requested assistance: Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

On Tuesday, the Southern African economic bloc, SADC, declared El Nino-induced drought a regional disaster, and called for $2.4 billion to help 40 million people in the region fight hunger.

The United Nations weather agency said on Thursday a La Nina event, which brings below-average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, may develop in the third quarter of the year but it was likely to be weak and far less intense than the El Nino event that ended in May.

FAO urged investments in drought-tolerant seeds and climate-smart agriculture to enable rural families to prepare for and withstand future weather extremes.

— Reuters.
China, Russia Plan Joint Military Drills in South China Sea
Associated Press
2:30 p.m. EDT
July 28, 2016

BEIJING — China's military said Thursday it will hold joint exercises with Russian forces in the South China Sea, following a recent arbitration ruling that rejected Beijing's claim to almost the entire strategic body of water.

The air and sea drills will be held sometime in September and were aimed at deepening relations between the two militaries and boosting their capacity to respond to maritime threats, ministry spokesman Col. Yang Yujun said at a monthly news briefing.

Yang said the exercises weren't targeted at any third parties. He didn't disclose the specific location, and some areas of the South China Sea are not disputed.

Chinese ships have challenged vessels from the U.S., the Philippines and other nations in disputed waters, and China considers the tribunal's ruling earlier this month to be invalid.

Russia and China have held numerous joint drills in recent years, united in a desire to stem American power in the Asia-Pacific region, despite their own lingering mistrust over territory and influence in Central Asia.

Russia has also spoken in support of China's rejection of the move by the Philippines to bring the South China Sea case before the international arbitration body in The Hague, Netherlands, and argued that countries without a direct claim to territory should stay impartial, in a reference to the U.S., which has called on China to accept the ruling as binding.

In the wake of the ruling, China held live-fire exercises and said it would launch regular air patrols over the South China Sea while continuing with the construction of man-made islands equipped with harbors, airstrips and other infrastructure with military uses.

It has also launched a diplomatic campaign to denigrate the ruling that has so far persuaded other Southeast Asian countries that have similar disputes with it to back away. China kept any mention of the judgment from appearing in a joint communique issued at the conclusion of a meeting Tuesday between it and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Six governments in all claim territory in the South China Sea. China says all disputes should be settled bilaterally through negotiations.
Zimbabwe President Warns Foreign Embassies
July 28, 2016
Felex Share and Tendai Mugabe—
Zimbabwe Herald

Foreign embassies should stop meddling in local politics by sponsoring dissident groupings to subvert a constitutionally-elected Government, President Mugabe has said. He also cautioned churches against dabbling in politics, saying the ruling zanu-pf party would not tolerate “any nonsense” perpetrated in the name of religion. Addressing war veterans and party members at the revolutionary party’s headquarters in Harare yesterday, President Mugabe said conspiracies to effect regime change would come to naught.

He said he would only leave office at the behest of Zimbabweans, not foreigners.

“Foreign embassies in the country that are interfering with our politics, intervening or those doing it clandestinely, I want to warn them to desist from it,” he said. “The rules that govern them don’t allow them to interfere with our politics, to try to subvert our system of Government and to do things that amount to subverting the present Government and its authority. Please STOP IT!”

Western embassies such as the United States, Britain and France have been implicated as sponsors of demonstrations by shadowy groups such as Tajamuka/Sesijikile in the past weeks.

President Mugabe said zanu-pf was there to stay and would not be shaken by plots that had been tested and failed before. “Journalists, tell those you are representing that Robert Mugabe is still here, well and strong,” he said.

“My people will have me for yet some time. And those outside who don’t like me, I say well that’s your own concern. I say I don’t mind it. But please don’t interfere with us. We are free people and keep out of our country.”

The President went on: “Yes, they might run around here and there saying President should go. I am created as President by the people of Zimbabwe. I have always and always been, whether acting as President, now as I am doing or yesterday in the party as secretary-general, publicity secretary. If the party, when the moment comes, says we want change, sure we will have that change.

“The party overrides Government and you know our policies override the policies of Government.

“The policies of Government derive from the policies of the party. Once the party says you rest, yes (I will) or if I ask the party that I think time has come for me to rest, I will tell the party that.

“As long as the party still wants me to serve and if I still have the energy, the life and the blessings of God, I will continue. It’s the people all the time, the people’s right, the people’s authority over me and I am sure that’s the position over all of us in the leadership of the party and the Government.

“We are people-oriented, meaning we are governed by the wishes of the people, by their interests. Once we cease to be so we have gone astray. Hatisisina gwara kana tatsauka mugwara rezvido zvevanhu takuda kuzviitira isu tinenge tatopanduka.”

The President said pentecostal churches should stick to their mandate of preaching the word of God not to dabble in politics.

His remarks were directed to clergyman Pastor Evan Mawarire who recently led the #ThisFlag campaign advocating for protests to destabilise the country. The efforts failed dismally after Zimbabweans ignored his calls. Said President Mugabe: “Some rush to these new churches thinking you will get riches quickly. Even the educated, including my Ministers, are also going there.

“They now want to interfere in politics and we say to them NO! Bible renyu mati mariverenga mukaripedza here nhai?

“It will give you the right direction on how to lead. Leave the organisation of the party to us. You now say the party should do this, people are suffering, they should protest, Government should be changed and what kind of Government (do) you want which surpasses the one that brought you freedom and gave you land?”

He added: “I want to warm them very strongly that Zanu-PF will not tolerate any nonsense that is done in the name of religion. Keep to your religious side and we will respect you. Once you begin to interfere with our politics, you are courting real trouble. We know how to deal with our enemies who have been trying all along to bring about regime change in the country.

“We have the means to defend and protect our hard won freedom. That is crucial to us. We have brought unity to the people and people are united. Please don’t disunite our people.”
Zimbabwe War Veterans Boss to Appear in Court
July 29, 2016
Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe Chronicle

ZIMBABWE National Liberation War Veterans Association secretary for information and publicity, Mr Douglas Mahiya, who was arrested on Wednesday afternoon, is likely to appear in court today.

Sources yesterday said Mr Mahiya was assisting police with investigations and charges had been laid against him.

In an interview, Mr Charles Nyika of Nyika Kanengoni and Partners, who initially represented Mr Mahiya, confirmed the developments yesterday.

“All I am aware of, as of now, is that they have charged him and I’m not sure of the charges yet,” he said.

There were also reports that the association’s secretary general Victor Matemadanda had been arrested yesterday in connection with the same case but a source close to the investigations dismissed the allegations.

According to the reports, Matemadanda was said to have been picked up by police in Gokwe before being taken to Harare for further investigations.

Mr Mahiya courted controversy after he presided over a war veterans meeting that denounced President Mugabe last Thursday.

Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi said the treasonous communiqué issued after the meeting could be the work of Fifth Columnists. Government has already engaged its security apparatus to establish the origins of the communiqué and those behind its circulation.
Zimbabwe State Minister for Manicaland Calls for VP Mnangagwa's Expulsion
July 29, 2016
Elita Chikwati Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe Chronicle

VICE-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has scoffed at allegations by Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Mandiitawepi Chimene that he leads a faction within Zanu-PF, saying such claims will not distract him from performing his duties.

The Zanu-PF Second Secretary said the unsubstantiated allegations encouraged him to work even harder for the development of the country.

Cde Chimene on Wednesday all but called on President Mugabe to expel VP Mnangagwa during a solidarity meeting with war veterans and party supporters at the Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare.

President Mugabe indicated during his address to the gathering that there was no evidence that Cde Mnangagwa led the so-called Team Lacoste.

Responding to questions from journalists on the sidelines of his tour of a pasture project at Hunyani Farm in Zvimba yesterday, VP Mnangagwa said he would continue with his national duties undistracted.

“Izvozvo ndizvo zvinondipa simba. Kana zvikashaikwa ndinotoshaya simba rekushanda. Ko, ichokwadi here? Ko, ndidzo politics ka dzaunenge uchingonenegwavo asi iwe uchingoinda. Uchingoinda chete, vanovukura vachipa simba. Akange asisipo panenge pasisina simba. (Those false allegations will not deter me from performing my duties. Actually, it gives me strength. Are the allegations true? That is politics. People will accuse you, but you should continue with your work.

“People who discourage will always be there but it will give you strength),” he said.

Cde Chimene called on President Mugabe to replace Cde Mnangagwa, claiming that the Vice President was fanning factionalism in the party by allegedly leading a faction in Zanu-PF called Team Lacoste.

In his address, President Mugabe urged war veterans and party supporters not to rush to conclusions without concrete evidence.

The President said Zanu-PF would not change its top leadership based on unsubstantiated allegations, most of them sponsored by external forces seeking to cause divisions in the revolutionary party.

He said the freedom fighters should know that the enemy was using covert avenues to divide Zanu-PF.

“We shall keep together at the top,” said President Mugabe.

“We shall remain united. We know that accusations will continue to be made, allegations naturally, some true, some false, but Zanu-PF knows how to settle its contradictions. In our view, let us not accuse anyone of leading a faction when we don’t have evidence. Give it time. You must be mindful of the fact that our enemies want to divide the party, abusing our names. The truth shall come out but let’s be vigilant”.

Added President Mugabe: “During the liberation struggle we learnt a lot from China during Mao’s time on how they would solve internal differences.

“The Chinese sit down and discuss with squabbling parties, giving their ideas. Those ideas that conform to the party ideology will be taken on board. That is how contradictions were settled in China. That is how we were settling them also in our camps outside the country. Let us not fight each other. We don’t want war. We don’t want violence.”

President Mugabe said it was the duty of the party leadership to denounce those fomenting divisions.

“If accused, it is also up to us to tell the people that the accusations are false,” he said.

President Mugabe said unity was crucial at all levels of the party as it started preparations for the next elections.

“So let’s keep together and help us also with your unity at the base,” he said.

“The unity of Zanu-PF in the provinces and I want to thank the provincial chairpersons who are here. Your unity is crucial because that is the basis of the whole party.

“We can’t talk of a united party when the provinces are not united. We can’t talk also of a united party when the wings of the party — the Youth League, the Women’s League — when these are not united.

“So the unity of the party is crucial and I am glad that so far, we have maintained that unity and I hope that we shall maintain it until 2018.”
No Leadership Change in Zanu-PF
Crowd converged at the Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare yesterday

Tendai Mugabe and Felex Share
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mugabe yesterday said Zanu-PF will not change its top leadership based on unsubstantiated allegations, most of them sponsored by external forces seeking to cause divisions in the revolutionary party.

He was addressing a solidarity meeting of war veterans at the Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare.

He called for unity and dialogue wherever there were differences and contradictions.

The President’s remarks followed a suggestion by acting chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association Cde Mandiitawepi Chimene that the Head of State and Government should replace one of his deputies, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The solidarity meeting came in the wake of a treasonous communiqué clandestinely issued to the media by a clique of war veterans denouncing President Mugabe’s leadership last week.

Cde Chimene said that Vice President Mnangagwa was fanning factionalism in the party by allegedly leading a faction in Zanu-PF called Team Lacoste.

Instead, President Mugabe urged war veterans and party supporters not to rush to conclusions before gathering concrete evidence.

He said the freedom fighters should know that the enemy was tirelessly working through covert avenues to divide Zanu-PF.

“We shall keep together at the top,” said President Mugabe.

“We shall remain united. We know that accusations will continue to be made, allegations naturally, some true, some false but Zanu-PF knows how to settle its contradictions. In our view let us not accuse anyone of leading a faction when we don’t have evidence.  Give it time.  You must be mindful of the fact that our enemies want to divide the party, abusing our names.  The truth shall come out but let’s be vigilant.”

Added President Mugabe: “During the liberation struggle we learnt a lot from China during Mao’s time on how they would solve internal differences. The Chinese sit down and discuss with squabbling parties, giving their ideas. Those ideas that conform to the party ideology will be taken on board. That’s how contradictions were settled in China. That’s how we were settling them also in our camps outside the country. Let’s not fight each other. We don’t want war. We don’t want violence.”

President Mugabe said it was the duty of the party leadership to denounce those fomenting divisions.

“If accused, it’s also up to us to tell the people that the accusations are false,” he said.

“You give them the correct position and keep them informed. We don’t want to be divided. That’s what we don’t want. I don’t like it. We want to keep together but it’s our duty to denounce this together, to denounce these developments together outrightly and not to hesitate so the people continue to have total confidence in us.”

As the party started preparations for 2018 elections, President Mugabe said unity at all levels of the party was crucial.

“So let’s keep together and help us also with your unity at the base,” he said.

“The unity of Zanu-PF in the provinces and I want to thank the provincial chairpersons who are here. Your unity is crucial because that is the basis of the whole party.

“We can’t talk of a united party when the provinces are not united. We can’t talk also of a united party when the wings of the party – the Youth League, the Women’s League – when these are not united. So the unity of the party is crucial and I’m glad that so far, we have maintained that unity and I hope that we shall maintain it until 2018.”

Commenting on the treasonous communiqué, President Mugabe said those behind it would be punished ruthlessly.

“The party has set up a team to investigate that statement, so that they tell us who wrote it and those who distributed it around so that the culprits are punished and the party’s punishment is hard,” said President Mugabe.

“We had rebels during the liberation struggle.  We punished them.  We detained some of them in pits and we used to feed them while they were down there.  We never killed them but we held them underground, feeding them.  We released them when we and the British agreed that they be released just before independence in 1980.”

President Mugabe said Zanu-PF was a strong party with a long history that could not be destroyed through a piece of paper christened as a communiqué by rogue elements. He reminded detractors that his power derived from the people.

He thanked war veterans and other members of the party for showing him their unconditional support.
Russian FM Lavrov Refuses to Use 4-letter Words in Comments About Russian Hackers
26.07.2016 09:54

Russian FM Lavrov refuses to use 4-letter words in comments about Russian hackers.

Source: Pravda.Ru

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he could not exclude expletives from his comments about the Russian trace in the hacking of the US Democratic Party mail server. It was reported that Russian hackers could be involved in the recent cyber attack on the USA.

Last week, WikiLeaks published documents indicating that the party leadership was favoring Hillary Clinton in the fight for the right to become a candidate for US presidency to the detriment of Bernie Sanders.

"I would not like to use four-letter words," Lavrov said when asked to comment on the Russian track in the data leak.

The New York Times wrote with reference to computer security experts that the metadata of the documents of the Democratic National Committee contained traces of computers with Russian language settings.The traces were reportedly found in the code that was used to hack into the computer network of the national committee of the party.

In June, computer security experts told The Washington Post that the headquarters of the Democratic Party were infiltrated by hacker groups that were allegedly associated with Russia. Spokespeople for CrowdStrike clarified that it goes about such groups as Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. According to the experts, the groups could be linked with the Russian FSB and the Central Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

The Kremlin has ruled out any involvement of Russian state structures in the hacking of computer networks of the Democrat Party. Later, lone hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 claimed responsibility for the attack. He promised that the hacked documents would be published on WikiLeaks.

On Monday, the head of the US Democratic National Committee (DNC), Debbie Wasserman Schultz, announced a decision to resign in connection with the scandal about the leak.

Pravda.Ru 
US Wants to Wage War Against Russia
27.07.2016 | Source: Pravda.Ru

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, resigned after leakage of correspondence. As it turned out, the party's top officials directly backed Hillary Clinton at primaries to the detriment of Bernie Sanders.

Representative of Clinton's campaign team claimed that servers had been hacked by the Russians and it allegedly evidenced Russia's intention to help Donald Trump. Trump, in his turn, refuted it strenuously.

Igor Ashmanov, Director General of the Ashmanov and Partners company, an expert on IT, artificial intelligence and software development, commented Pravda.Ru on the issue.

According to him, the US will not be able to provide any evidence of the Russian hackers being involved in it. It has been revealed recently that NATO is going to equate cyber attacks and cyber war with a real war.

'What for is it done? Now one won't have to step forward, waving a test tube with chalk around. Because it's impossible to prove that you were attacked by hackers from one of the states,' Igor Ashmanov claimed.

First of all, none of the special services can release such evidence. Secondly, such information can't be obtained in principle. The case is that hackers cover their tracks quite skilfully, there is a huge quantity of tools for it.

Thus, as Igor Ashmanov believes, the US makes such accusations to have sensational information grounds to accuse anybody without any evidence, and then wage war if there is such a wish.

'Now one don't have to mastermind that something is gong on in the country, that there are nuclear or chemical weapons. One can just say, 'and the NSA told us that this country attacks us!' and that is a reason for war, as we have equated cyber attacks with military acts,' Igor Ashmanov told Pravda.Ru.

Beside that, the expert added that even if there occur evidences, few people could read and decipher them. These would be logs of some servers. Even specialists won't cope with them. Moreover, such evidences can be easily fabricated. As hack of a server is not a real terror act or killing where there is a scene of the incident, evidences and so on.

'They can be fabricated, but as a rule they won't show them at all, but will just publish statements of various people who allegedly have relation to it. So, it's just a method of generating news grounds, the cheapest one. Just saying that we're attacked.

Prove it?

Our special services say that they attacked.

Where can we see it?

Nowhere.'

Pravda.Ru
- See more at: http://www.pravdareport.com/news/world/americas/27-07-2016/135138-leakage-0/#sthash.lpmV0gVE.dpuf
How Russia Responds to NATO’s Provocations
27.07.2016 | Source: Pravda.Ru

How Russia responds to NATO’s provocations. Sergey Shoygu

The Russian Defence Ministry takes all proper measures regarding escalation of military political situation at the South-West direction given NATO's military build-up and unstable situation in Ukraine, General Sergey Shoygu, the Russian Minister of Defence claimed.

'For the latest years military political situation at the south-west strategic direction has escalated. It is mainly connected with NATO's military presence build-up in the eastern Europe, situation in Ukraine and activity of international terror groups, including those in the North Caucasus,' Shoygu pointed out.

'Thus, we have to take adequate measures,' the Defence Minister said.

Speaking about significant changes within military training, Shoygu highlighted that 'more than 200 drills have been carried out in the Southern military district since 2013.'

For the time being 4 divisions have been formed, 9 brigades and 22 regiments. Beside that, 2 missile brigades equipped with Iskander-M complexes, have been created. The Defence Minister also noted that number of service men will be doubled this year.

'A self-sufficient group of troops has been deployed in the Crimea. More than 4,000 new samples of weapons and military equipment have been sent to the Southern military department. Coast missile complexes and advanced submarines have been deployed,' Shoygu reported.

Today active work is being held not only on the increase of combat potential of the district, but also on the upgrade of maintenance support, training base and public sites, Shoygu concluded.

Pravda.Ru
- See more at: http://www.pravdareport.com/news/russia/27-07-2016/135139-Shoygu-0/#sthash.G59QBwVa.dpuf
The West Has Raped, Killed and Destroyed the Whole World
25.07.2016
pravda.ru

How is the recent NATO summit associated with the terrorist attack in Nice? Is NATO getting ready for war with Russia? Are the Europeans sincerely afraid of the Russian aggression? Pravda.Ru editor-in-chief Inna Novikova talked about it in an interview with Russia's well-known journalist, Maxim Shevchenko.

"At the summit in Warsaw, NATO members have agreed that 4,000 troops will now be deployed in the Baltic countries and in Poland. Is Russia still the prime enemy for them? Do they understand it in Europe that NATO is directing its guns at Russia?"

"They are preparing for war. Remember, Hitler did not want to attack Stalin and concluded a non-aggression pact with him. Stalin did not have to go to Berlin - it was Ribbentrop who flew to Moscow.  Hitler wanted to inform the Soviet Union that he did not want to attack the USSR. NATO is now acting similarly. Like the Fuhrer, European officials say that they do not want to attack Russia."

"Will they continue to spend money to defend themselves against the so-called "Russian aggression?"

"They are the main aggressors. It is the West that drowns the whole world in the sea of blood. The West has raped, killed and destroyed the whole world. Look at the number of wars that NATO has held in the recent decades: Iraq war, Bosnian war, Yugoslav war, the war in Libya, second Iraq war, Afghanistan, Syria. Then there was the invasion of Somalia that ended with a failure. We have eight wars in 20 years. The "peaceful" North Atlantic Alliance - NATO - declares war on someone every two years, and they always find reasons for that.

"Milosevic was a bad guy, Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons, in Somalia, there were pirates and so on and so forth. They create reasons for wars before attacking other countries. I think that the NATO summit in Warsaw and the terrorist attack in Nice were connected to each other. The Nice attack was staged to stir up fascist sentiments among the population to turn the amorphous Europeans, who were accustomed to live in a secure cabinet of curiosities after the fall of the Soviet Union, into mobilized nationalist, fascist, easily to manipulate people. This is the first goal of the attack in Nice.

4,000 NATO troops in Europe is only a start

"The NATO summit says that the war is on the doorstep. They see Putin as their enemy, so 4,000 troops in the east of Europe is only a start. Hitler had occupied Yugoslavia to defend Germany's interests and security. He did not want Comintern forces to win in Greece and Yugoslavia. To protect European values, Hitler further went to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece and then to the USSR.

"They are pushing Europe to militarization and new fascism through Islamophobia. I am not calling the Freedom Party of Austria, or the National Front of France or Alternative for Germany fascist organizations. Quite on the contrary, these parties act within the framework of people's democracy. They take effort to protect democracy in Europe, in my opinion."

"But they are seen as radical and nationalist organizations in the West."

"I know Heinz-Christian Strache. The program of the Austrian party very much correlates with leftist programs. They want social justice and the protection of national identity. They are not opposed against different blood. However, there are other parties in Europe, like Jobbik of Hungary. The latter wanted the Parliament of Hungary to clearly designate who is Jewish and who is not.

"The issue of Jews is not a popular subject nowadays. Today, it's the question of who is Muslim and who is not. Therefore, the National Front, Alternative for Germany, the Free Austrian Party and the Italian League of the North are all parties of national dignity. They are against European bureaucracy. They criticize migrants, but they are not fascist parties. They are not allowed to come to power, which raises questions about the credibility of democratic institutes.

"The lack of trust towards democratic institutions will sooner or later end up with the burning of the Reichstag. I mean the burning of the Reichstag in 1933, when Hitler came to power. Chauvinism, fascism, radical nationalism, xenophobia - all this comes contrary to people's interests. People can only expect a war for the interests of global financial capital."

"The military-industrial capital?"

"The military-industrial capital is just a small part of the financial capital. Money makes the world go round. The financial capital crushed the industrial capital long ago. Nowadays, one can print money without securing it with any industrial assets."

Interviewed by Inna Novikova
Pravda.Ru 
Putin Integrates Crimea Into Russia’s Southern Federal District
July 28, 13:48 UTC+3

The Kremlin says the decision was taken to increase the efficiency of the federal state bodies' work

MOSCOW, July 28. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has consolidated the Crimean Federal District into the Southern Federal District, the Kremlin press service said on Thursday.

The Crimean Federal District, formed in March 2014 following the peninsula’s reunification with Russia, was merged with the Southern Federal District "for the purpose of strengthening the operating efficiency of federal state bodies," the Kremlin said.

Vladimir Ustinov, who served as Russia’s Justice Minister between 2006 and 2008 and was appointed Presidential Envoy to the Southern Federal District in 2008, will remain envoy to the united district.

The Southern Federal District will now comprise the Republics of Crimea, Adygea and Kalmykia, the Krasnodar Territory, and the Astrakhan, Rostov and Volgograd Regions as well as the city of Sevastopol. Thus, the number of federal districts has been reduced to eight.

Oleg Belaventsev, the former Presidential Envoy to the Crimean Federal District, was appointed Presidential Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District.

Sergei Melikov, the former Presidential Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, was appointed First Deputy Director of the Federal Service of the Russian National Guard.

More:
http://tass.ru/en/politics/891243
Ukraine to Offer UN Security Council to Pass Statement on Crimea
July 28, 21:00 UTC+3

UNITED NATIONS, July 28. /TASS/. Ukraine plans offering the UN Security Council to pass a statement in response to the Russian authorities’ decision to include Crimea in the Southern Federal District of Russia, Vladimir Yelchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN told reporters on Thursday.

He said he would circulate the official reaction of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry at the Security Council soon and would inform Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on his country’s position.

"We plan to propose the Security Council to issue a statement on the problem," Yelchenko said.

The presumable statement will reaffirm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will mention a resolution of the UN General Assembly on the issue. The latter document called on countries of the world to ignore the results of the March 16, 2014 referendum where the residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol voted overwhelmingly for reunification with Russia.

Earlier on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on merging the Southern and Crimean Federal Districts into the Southern Federal District, which embraces from now on the Republic of Adygei, the Republic of Kalmykia, the Republic of Crimea, the Krasnodar territory, the Astrakhan region, the Volgograd region, the Rostov region, and the federal city of Sevastopol.

On March 11, 2014 the Supreme Soviet of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Hall issued a declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimes and the city of Sevastopol from Ukraine in the wake of turbulent events in Kiev where a coup d’etat had been commiited and militant radical elements had seized control over the situation.

On March 16, 96.77% residents of the Republic of Crimea and 95.6% residents of Sevastopol voted for reuniting with Russia, from which they were torn away by through Nikita Khrushchev’s arbitrariness in 1954.

A treaty on accepting the new territories as administrative entities of the Russian Federation was signed in Moscow on March 18.

More:
http://tass.ru/en/world/891361
Trump's Words on Crimea Not Changed Russia's Attitude to Him — Kremlin
July 28, 18:06 UTC+3

On July 27, Trump said he was planning to look into a possibility of Crimea’s recognition as a Russian region and of lifting sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis

MOSCOW, July 28. /TASS/. U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump’s remarks about a possibility of Crimea’s recognition as part of Russia, if he is elected president, does not change Moscow’s attitude to him, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

"No, the attitude to this candidate for U.S. presidency cannot be altered. It seems impossible to draw conclusions on the basis of pre-election rhetoric," Peskov said. "We know perfectly well that candidates say one things in the heat of election campaign but later after taking office and under a burden of responsibility, the rhetoric changes, becoming more balanced."

On July 27, Trump told a news conference in Florida he was planning to look into a possibility of Crimea’s recognition as a Russian region and of lifting sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Answering a reporter's question if he would recognize Crimea as part of Russia and if he would consider a possibility of lifting sanctions from Russia in case he won the presidential race, Trump said that they would consider the issues but added no more details.

Crimea, where most residents are ethnic Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014. On March 16, 2014 more than 82% of Crimea’s electorate took part in the referendum, when 96.77% in the Republic of Crimea and 95.6% in the Black Sea naval port of Sevastopol backed splitting from Ukraine and spoke in favor of reuniting with Russia. On March 18, the treaty on Crimea’s reunification with Russia was signed.

In July 2014, the European Union and the US imposed sanctions against Crimea and Russia and have repeatedly extended and expanded them.

More:
http://tass.ru/en/politics/891329
Turkey's Top Military Commander Keeps Post
ASSOCIATED PRESS
JULY 28, 2016, 3:34 P.M. E.D.T.

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's top military commander, who was held hostage during an attempted coup, kept his post Thursday, while the general who served as acting chief of staff was promoted following a purge in the military following the failed putsch.

Hulusi Akar, a four-star general, retained his position as chief of staff, the presidency announced after a meeting of the Supreme Military Council, representing the commanders of NATO's second largest army.

The decisions came after Turkey discharged nearly 1,700 officers, including 149 generals and admirals, suspected of involvement in the July 15 attempted coup. A senior Turkish official described the actions as "dishonorable discharges."

Gen. Umit Dundar, the commander of Turkey's Istanbul-based first army, was promoted to second-in-command of the military staff, an apparent reward for declaring publicly that the coup attempt was not backed by the chain of command and for taking the lead while Akar was held captive.

The council, which determines promotions and retirements, met for five hours Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Two generals resigned as the meeting convened.

Turkey has declared a state of emergency following the failed coup that caused 290 deaths. Its clampdown seeks to target anyone suspected of ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government accuses of masterminding the plot.

Nearly 16,000 people were detained over alleged links to the uprising, about half of whom were formally arrested to face trial.

Tens of thousands of state employees also have been dismissed for alleged ties to Gulen while schools, dormitories and hospitals associated with his movement have been closed down. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Thursday that 88 employees of his ministry have lost their jobs, including two ambassadors.

The chief prosecutor's office in Ankara called Thursday for the seizure of assets held by approximately 3,000 detained judges and prosecutors, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

And authorities issued warrants for the detention of 89 journalists. Dozens of media organizations, mostly linked to Gulen, were ordered to close Wednesday night.

Gulen, who lives in the United States and runs a global network of schools and foundations, has denied any involvement in the coup plot. Turkey has branded Gulen's movement a terrorist organization and wants the cleric extradited. The United States has told Turkey to present evidence against him and let the U.S. extradition process take its course.

Cavusoglu warned allies that relations would sour if they refuse to cooperate with Turkey's extradition requests.

In an interview with CNN Turk television Thursday, Cavusoglu criticized Germany's slow response to Ankara's request for the extradition of several alleged members of the Gulen movement.

"Some judges and prosecutors with ties to the Gulen movement have fled to Germany. Germany must return them," Cavusoglu said.

The foreign minister said anti-U.S. sentiment in Turkey was on the rise and a refusal to extradite Gulen would harm relations.

He said Turkey had received intelligence that Gulen might flee to another country, so the foreign ministry was issuing "necessary warnings."

Turkey's post-coup purge has raised concerns throughout Europe.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was "right and important" for Turkey to pursue the coup plotters.

"But in a state of law ... the principle of proportionality applies," she told reporters. "This principle of proportionality must be respected under all circumstances. And my concern arises from the fact (authorities) are moving very hard and this principle of proportionality is perhaps not always at the center."

Before the military council meeting, the prime minister and top brass visited the Ankara mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder, where they vowed to overcome all security threats.

"There is no doubt that we will eradicate all terrorist organizations threatening our state, our nation and our territorial integrity," Yildirim said, reading from a message he wrote in the mausoleum visitors' book.

The military council meeting had been scheduled for early August but was brought forward following the coup attempt. Its location was moved from the military headquarters to the prime minister's office in a sign that the government intends to place the military under stronger civilian control.

Late Wednesday, the government issued a decree that transferred control of the paramilitary police force and the coast guard from the military to the government's Interior Ministry.

Turkish officials have said they believe the coup plot was launched in haste because of the planned August military council meeting, when many officers suspected of links to Gulen would have been discharged.
___

Associated Press reporters Elena Becatoros and Cinar Kiper in Istanbul and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.
Al-Nadori Warns Oil Vessels of Entering Libyan Territorial Waters Without Permit
July 26, 2016 - 19:36

The Chief of the General Staff of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives’ army, Abdulraziq Al-Nadori, warned foreign oil vessels of entering the Libyan territorial waters without obtaining a permit, adding that if any of them entered without a prior agreement with the parallel National Oil Corporation (NOC) of Al-Thanni government, they will be a target for the Libyan air force and land forces.

In a statement Tuesday, Al-Nadori urged all oil companies to coordinate with the parallel NOC in Benghazi before they enter the Libyan waters saying an official statement about this issue will be delivered later.

Likewise, Dignity Operation militias led by renegade General Khalifa Haftar and in control of oil fields in Al-Wahat district said they won’t allow oil to be pumped to the oil ports unless there is a coordination struck with Dignity Operation leaders and Al-Thanni government, which is not recognized by the international community.

Earlier, the Presidential Council of the UN-proposed government made a deal with the Chief of the so-called Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), Ibrahim Jodran, who has blockaded oil ports and fields, to re-export oil after three years of shutdown.

On the other hand, the internationally-recognized NOC in Tripoli announced through its CEO, Mustafa Sanallah, its rejection of the deal between Jodran and the Presidential Council as it includes a payment to be given to Jodran, saying this could encourage other armed groups to shut down oil fields and ports to get money.
Libya to Reopen Two Oil Refineries Despite Threats by Rebel Governments
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban

Guards of oil facilities in Libya announced the reopening of two major oil terminals after six months of closure. The event slated for Friday July 29 follows an agreement reached with the Government of National Unity (GNA).

“The oil terminals at Ras Lanuf (650 km east of Tripoli) and Al-Sedra reopen to begin crude oil exports,” Osama al-Hodeiri, spokesman for Guards of Oil Facilities (GIP) told the AFP on Thursday.

Even if “48% of tanks were damaged, exports will begin on Friday,” despite protests from the National Oil Company (NOC) that wants to reopen the ports without conditions.

Forces loyal to the rebel government in eastern Libya on Tuesday threatened to disrupt any oil consignment that would approach the Libyan coast for a transaction with the GNA.

These two terminals with a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) and 500,000 bpd, have been closed since January 2016, their tanks were set ablaze by attacks from the insurgent Islamic State (IS) group.

The agreement was reached after several members of the presidential council of the GNA moved to Ras Lanuf and accepted the terms of the GIP, Mr. Hodeiri said.

The guards claimed that the GNA pay their salaries and ensures that revenues from exports are properly partitioned. They further requested the construction of hospitals and schools in the area called the “Crescent Petroleum” including Ras Lanuf that hosts the largest refinery of the country.

“A shipment of 400,000 barrels was exported on Tuesday from Marsa Brega to Italy,” said Mr. Hodeiri. This terminal located in the east had not been closed.

The Libyan energy sector is managed by the NOC which split into two rival branches. They had announced their merger on July 3, a move which has still not been implemented.

Oil production in Libya, which has the largest oil reserves in Africa is estimated at 48 billion barrels. It however slumped from 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to 300,000 bpd in the aftermath of the fall of the government of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Goldman Banker Warned Colleagues Not to ‘Milk Libya’
Executive warned fellow bankers in an internal email not to sell complicated trades that he said Libyan officials weren’t prepared to handle

By SIMON CLARK
Wall Street Journal
July 28, 2016 4:24 p.m. ET

LONDON—A lawyer for Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund disclosed an internal email from a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker warning colleagues not to “milk Libya” by selling complicated trades that fund officials weren’t prepared to handle.

The internal email from Driss Ben-Brahim, who left Goldman in 2008, was cited in the High Court in London during closing arguments this week of a case in which the Libyan Investment Authority is suing Goldman for $1.2 billion to cover losses from derivatives it bought from the bank in 2008. The fund alleges that Goldman executives exerted “undue influence” over its officials, who didn’t understand the trades.

Goldman denies wrongdoing and said the Libyan fund understood the risks. A Goldman executive testified during the two-month trial that fund employees were too afraid to take responsibility for the investments because they lived in a country run by a dictator and feared for their lives.

Mr. Ben-Brahim wrote in July 2008, “The biggest risk now is the natural internal pressure to ‘milk’ Libya (I expect everyone and his brother at GS to be visiting them with one brilliant idea after another, some partners will want to prove they can print business and won’t have the instruments of trust). Don’t push hard to do big deals—not now—it has a high risk of backfiring,” he wrote. “Avoid as much as possible complicated derivatives (they are not ready).”

The fund alleges that Goldman already had taken advantage of the lack of financial sophistication of its employees by the time of the email. Goldman arranged nine equity-derivative trades in early 2008 that expired worthless in 2011. Goldman earned about $222 million from the trades, according to the fund. Goldman disputes the amount of profit it made.

Andrea Vella, a Goldman executive who testified during the trial, said in court that fund employees blamed Goldman for the investments because they were too afraid to take responsibility for them in a country run by a dictator, where they could possibly be executed.

“If we put ourselves in Libya at the time, it can’t have been easy to have been the person or the team that decides to make an investment and loses a billion dollars while the market is melting down,” said Mr. Vella, co-head of Asian investment banking at Goldman. “And so at that point you either get, you know, executed, maybe to use a hyperbole, or you put the blame on someone else.”

Closing arguments are expected to end Friday, and the judge will issue a decision this year.

During the trial, emails and documents showed how Goldman bankers worked to win business from the fund. At stake were hundreds of millions of dollars of fees for investing billions on behalf of the oil-rich nation. The fund started during the rule of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2006, after the U.S. removed Libya from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The bank’s dealings don’t portray it favorably, even if there wasn’t any wrongdoing, said William Cohan, the author of a history of Goldman.

“Goldman, like all firms, needs to do a better job managing people who sell these sophisticated products,” Mr. Cohan said in an interview. “They have to do a better job documenting that customers understand the risks they are taking.”

“We don’t recognize that characterization of the evidence and in any event have robust processes in place,” a representative for Goldman said.

The Libyan fund alleges that Goldman bankers tried to influence its staff with gifts and by awarding an internship to the younger brother of Mustafa Zarti, deputy chief of the fund.

Mr. Zarti was a close associate of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, a son of the former dictator, court documents show. A spokesman for Mr. Zarti declined to comment.

The fund alleged Youssef Kabbaj, a former Goldman banker who worked closely with the Libyans, paid for two prostitutes in Dubai to entertain himself and Mr. Zarti’s brother. Mr. Kabbaj denied paying for a prostitute for the young man. He declined to comment on whether he paid for a prostitute for himself.

Mr. Ben-Brahim wrote a number of emails in which he urged caution with the Libyans. In one email, he wrote, “We always need to be careful not to let greed take us from ‘commercial’ to ‘obnoxious.’ ”

The fund’s lawyer, Roger Masefield, argued in court this week that Mr. Ben-Brahim’s emails showed he knew the Libyans were unsophisticated investors. Mr. Masefield said this was why Goldman didn’t call Mr. Ben-Brahim to give evidence.

“Mr. Ben-Brahim could not in all honesty have supported Goldman Sachs’s pleaded case that the LIA was sophisticated and capable of understanding the disputed trades,” Mr. Masefield said.

Goldman’s lawyer, Robert Miles, said emails sent by Mr. Ben-Brahim and other executives showed they wanted to make sure “things are done properly.”

“What’s really going on again is these people saying, ‘look, we have got a close commercial relationship with them, we want that relationship to continue,’ ” Mr. Miles said Thursday. “We suggest that when you read those emails in context, that is what they are essentially about.”

Mr. Ben-Brahim declined to comment.

The fund’s lawyers argued that Goldman “crossed the line” from having an “arm’s-length commercial-banking relationship” to become an “in-house bank” and “part of the LIA,” a position from which it could potentially exert undue influence.

Mr. Miles said the bank had an arm’s-length relationship with the fund.

“The evidence at trial has confirmed the frailty of the LIA’s highly ambitious case, and has come nowhere near establishing a case of undue influence,” a representative for Goldman said. “It is clear that they understood the disputed trades and entered into them of their own volition.”

Write to Simon Clark at simon.clark@wsj.com
Egypt Hosting High-profile Libya Talks to Ease Deadlock
Thursday, July 28, 2016

CAIRO (AP) - Egypt is hosting high-profile talks among Libya’s top political and military figures aimed at resolving the war-ravaged country’s political deadlock, officials said Thursday.

The head of Libya’s U.N.-brokered unity government, Fayez Serraj, has met over the past two days with Aqila Saleh, the head of the Libyan parliament. Saleh is also to meet the head of the Cairo-based Arab League later Thursday.

The Saleh-Serraj meeting - the first in months - sought to “open direct channels of communications after a period of separation,” said Abdullah Behlek, the spokesman for Saleh’s parliament, which is based in the eastern Libyancity of Benghazi.

Libya’s powerful Gen. Khalifa Hifter, backed by Saleh’s parliament, is holding separate meetings with both Saleh’s and Serraj’s deputies.

Egypt has backed Hifter in the war against Islamic militias in eastern Libya over the past two years, including with training and weapons and logistics supplies.

Libya is bitterly divided among rival factions. Since 2014, it has been split between two governments and two parliaments, based in western and eastern Libya, respectively.
Haftar Forces Suffer Losses in Libya Fighting
At least 17 soldiers loyal to renegade general die in clashes with rival faction for the control of Benghazi city.

Clashes between two rival factions in Libya fighting for control of the eastern city of Benghazi have killed at least 19 fighters and wounded several more.

Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a renegade general, clashed with fighters loyal to the Shura Council of the Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR).

At least 17 pro-Haftar and two SCBR fighters were killed, and more than 20 were wounded.

Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army has carried out air strikes in Benghazi, under the control of the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, including in the city's Ganfouda district.

The attacks have endangered the lives of scores of detainees being held captive in Benghazi, according to Amnesty International, the international rights body.

Haftar and his forces have a strong presence in eastern Libya and have refused to recognise the UN-backed unity government.

The fighting in Benghazi came as a military commander in eastern Libya told AFP news agency on Thursday that French, British and US soldiers were reported to be in Libya to "monitor" the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.

"French, American and British soldiers are in the Benina base" near Benghazi, said Saqr al-Jaroushi, whose forces are allied with a government based out of the eastern city of Tobruk.

Foreign soldiers

Jaroushi said around 20 soldiers at the base were charged with "monitoring the movements of the Islamic State jihadists and how they store ammunition".

"There are no [foreign] pilots fighting in the place of our pilots and fighters," he said.

Other foreign military personnel carry out similar tasks across Libya, including in the capital Tripoli and in Misrata, a city in the west.

But Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) said on Tuesday it had summoned France's ambassador to protest against the presence of French special forces in eastern Libya.

The summons came after France confirmed last week that three of its soldiers had been killed when a helicopter crashed near Benghazi.

France said they were conducting intelligence operations.

Since the confirmation of the French deaths, there have been protests against both the French presence and the GNA's leadership in Tripoli and Misrata.

The GNA said in a statement it "considered the French presence in Libya's eastern region as a breach of international norms and sovereignty which it rejects".

Fayez Seraj, the GNA head, demanded from Antoine Sivan, the French ambassador, an official explanation "about the truth of what happened".

France and other Western powers have backed the GNA, the result of a UN-mediated deal signed in December. But the GNA has so far been opposed by Haftar and his allies in the east.

The confirmation of French special forces in Libya comes on the heels of the release of leaked tapes from the Benina air base, made public earlier this month, suggesting that British, French, Italian and US forces have been coordinating air strikes in support of Haftar.

Last year, Haftar launched a self-declared campaign to drive rebel fighters, including an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, from Benghazi. He refuses to support the UN-backed government because his forces were once loyal to a rival government.

Elsewhere, Libyan forces said they have recaptured Sirte from ISIL. The advance came after heavy fighting leading up to the weekend, which killed dozens of people.

Families are returning to the city after spending months away to escape violence.

ISIL had controlled the city since late last year.

Though a recent lull in fighting allowed businesses to reopen, a heavy security presence remains to ensure ISIL fighters do not return.

Sirte was ISIL's most important base outside Syria and Iraq; its loss would be a major setback for the group.
President al-Assad: US Administration’s Policies Go Against Interests of US People
28 July، 2016

Damascus, SANA-President Bashar al-Assad said the policy of the US administration in the region goes against the interests and values of the American people, adding that they are getting increasingly violent at the expense of logic and common sense.

During his meeting on Thursday with the US Peace Council delegation currently visiting Syria led by Henry Lowendorf, President al-Assad said the US policies are at a collision course with the interests of the US citizens and the peoples of the world, indicating that the role of the United States as a superpower should otherwise be positive and based on fostering knowledge, science and technology instead of chaos and destruction.

President al-Assad gave a concise review of the events in Syria since the start up until now, indicating that the crisis which later morphed into a war on the Syrian people was prompted by Syria’s rejection to have a regional role that runs counter to the interests of its people.

The delegation members said their visit is aimed at having a close look into the situation in Syria and conveying their first-hand accounts to the US public opinion, vowing to do their best to stop the war and US and Western interference in Syria.

They underlined their vehement opposition to the US belligerent and interventionist policies, pledging to exert efforts to change this policy.

President al-Assad, for his part, praised such visits for their importance in helping governments change their policies if they are willing to.

In a statement to journalists, Lowendorf said the delegation held “fruitful and constructive” talks with President al-Assad.

“We had the honor to meet President al-Assad. He was straightforward and wanted us to be so. We related to him what we saw and he provided rational, accurate and wise answers for our questions…He impressed us with his insight not only about the situation in Syria but also about world powers,” he added.
The Role of the West in Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen
A lucrative, devastating war

Jul 26th 2016
The Economist

NINETY years ago, Britain’s planes bombed unruly tribes in the Arabian peninsula to firm up the rule of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of the Saudi state. Times have changed but little. Together with America and France, Britain is now supplying, arming and servicing hundreds of Saudi planes engaged in the aerial bombardment of Yemen.

Though it has attracted little public attention or parliamentary oversight, the scale of the campaign surpasses Russia’s in Syria, analysts monitoring both conflicts note. With their governments’ approval, Western arms companies provide the intelligence, logistical support and air-to-air refuelling to fly far more daily sorties than Russia can muster.

There are differences. Russian pilots fly combat missions in Syria, whereas Western pilots do not fly combat missions on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Nor are their governments formal members of the battling coalition. Their presence, including in Riyadh’s operations room, and their precision-guided weaponry, should ensure that the rules of war that protect civilians are upheld, insist Western officials. But a series of recently-published field studies question this. Air strikes were responsible for more than half the thousands of civilian deaths in the 16-month campaign, Amnesty International reported in May. It found evidence that British cluster bombs had been used. Together with other watchdogs, including the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, it has documented the use of Western weaponry to hit scores of Yemeni markets, medical centres, warehouses, factories and mosques. One analyst alleges Western complicity in war crimes.

The war in Yemen has certainly been lucrative. Since the bombardment began in March 2015, Saudi Arabia has spent £2.8 billion on British arms, making it Britain’s largest arms market, according to government figures analysed by Campaign Against Arms Trade. America supplies even more.

Western support might have helped reduce Saudi Arabia’s ire at the nuclear deal America and other world powers signed easing sanctions on Iran. But it has also fuelled another conflict in the Middle East. Together with the ground war and the Saudi-led blockade, it has devastated infrastructure in what was already the Arab world’s poorest country, displaced over 2m people and brought a quarter of Yemen’s population of 26m to the brink of famine. Aid agencies warn that another refugee exodus across the Red Sea and on to the Mediterranean could be in the offing.

Negotiations aimed at ending the war resumed on July 16th in Kuwait. But both sides have scoffed at Kuwait’s threats to expel their delegations if they fail to conclude a deal within two weeks. Yemen’s president-in-exile, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who hopes to install his own government, has dismissed the UN envoy’s proposals for a power-sharing administration. He has shored up his own team with hardliners. A civil war in the 1960s, note observers gloomily, lasted eight years.

The bombardment has dented the fighting strength of Saudi Arabia’s foes—the remnants of the Yemeni Republican Guard under the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Houthis, a northern Shia militia. But it has failed to break the deadlock or expel them from Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Despite the bombastic pledge of Mr Hadi to “be in the capital soon”, fighting continues around Ma’arib, 120km (75 miles) from it.

A fragmenting country further complicates the peacemakers’ task. Southerners in the port city of Aden are increasingly seeking to resurrect a separate state. Further east, Gulf states led by the United Arab Emirates have struck at al-Qaeda’s build-up in Hadramawt, fearful of a spillover into their own states which have large Yemeni populations. Recent bombings in the Saudi cities of Medina, Jeddah and Qatif underscore the reach the jihadists already have.

As the war drags on, nervousness grows. President Barack Obama banned the dispatch of cluster bombs in April, though Congress later reinstated it. The Gulf states too seem increasingly unnerved by the costs. Had but a fraction of Saudi’s $87 billion defence budget gone on development in Yemen, says a long-time Gulf observer, the deployment could have been of consultants with pens in their pockets.
Yemen’s Ancient Art of Brickmaking Endures War
The war has taken livelihoods as well as lives, but brickmaking is a rare bright spot in Yemen

A labourer plays a flute as other labourers listen at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen.Image Credit: REUTERS

17:28 July 28, 2016 Gulf News
Reuters

Sana’a: Traditional mud brick tower houses have always been a source of pride to Yemenis, and over a year into a devastating civil war, they are also providing some much-needed jobs in the ancient capital, Sana’a.

At his traditional mud brick factory outside the city, Ali Al Sabahi oversees the process as it has was always been done, in happier days and now in dire ones.

Workers mix clay with straw, animal dung and water and leave the concoction to dry in the sun for several days before settling it into square moulds.

After drying once more, they are loaded into the kiln to be fired. The burning period ranges between 15 and 20 days.

Yemen, a poor country awash with weapons where the rule of law is weak, is no stranger to conflict. But the war that erupted last year brought widespread destruction in Sana’a and beyond.

The traditional houses of Sana’a, a Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) world heritage site said to have been founded by the son of Prophet Noah two and half millennia ago, have been spared — mostly.

Strikes killed at least six people and levelled several tower houses in the Qasimi quarter, one of the city’s oldest, in June.

The war has taken livelihoods as well as lives, but brickmaking is a rare bright spot in Yemen, which has been pushed into a humanitarian disaster by the civil war.

Working in a brick kiln in Sana’a, 25-year-old Ebrahim Al Omari is able to support his parents and family with his wages.

“This work doesn’t need a certificate or qualification. It needs muscles to be able to work here,” he said.

“It’s the work we’ve inherited from past generations ...

I’ve been working here since I was 12.” Despite the threat of destruction, a decades-long spread of concrete construction and tight war-time budgets, the appeal of the ancient art remains strong.

“The brick’s flexibility and ease to be customised for geometric shapes makes it attractive for customers for construction and decoration,” said brickmaker Mohammad Al Amari.

Through his efforts the city’s homes might yet maintain its distinctive beauty — its ochre walls glow amber and their whitewashed shining white at sunset — for generations.
Yemen Cracks Down on African Immigrants in Shabwa
Despite the ongoing war in the country, Africans continue to come to Yemen

18:29 July 28, 2016 Gulf News
Saeed Al Batati, Correspondent

Al Mukalla: Army troops and security services in Yemen’s southern province of Shabwa have arrested hundreds of illegal African immigrants fearing that they might be recruited by Al Houthis and militant groups like Al Qaida.

“Security services have rounded up at least 300 Africans in the first day of the campaign that started on Wednesday. Those unregistered Africans pose a real threat to the province,” a government official close to the governor of Shabwa told Gulf News.

Local officials and residents say that despite the continuing fighting between the government forces and Al Houthis across Yemen, Africans continue to flow into Yemen coast.

“For months, at least 200 Africans have been arriving daily on the coasts of Shabwa. Most of them say they are from Ethiopia, but we suspect that they are from different African countries,” the official said.

The oil rich province of Shabwa plunged into anarchy last year when thousands of army troops and policemen switched sides and backed Al Houthi fighters.

Marching from Aden, government forces drove out the rebel forces in August last year. But Al Qaida exploited the ensuing security vacuum to take control of some areas in the province.

The official said that the cash-strapped province couldn’t deal with the influx of African immigrants on its own. “We have no proper prisons or other facilities to incarcerate them. The local authority in the province is preparing an official appeal to the Saudi-led coalition, asking them to prevent the immigrants from reaching the Yemeni coast,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to reporters. Meanwhile, heavy clashes broke out between government forces and Al Houthis in Nehim district outside the Yemeni capital. Abdullah Al Shandaqi, a spokesperson for Sana’a resistance, said on Thursday that at least nine Al Houthi fighters and a government fighter were killed in the fighting and his forces captured some mountainous positions in Nehim.

Earlier this year, government forces made a major incursion inside Al Houthi-controlled territories in the province of Sana’a by seizing control of Nehim military camp. Despite getting heavy military reinforcements from the capital, Al Houthis and army units loyal to the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh have failed to push back the advancing forces.

In the province of Baydha, another flaring front-line, local media reported on Thursday resistance fighters launched attacks on Al Houthi military sites in the Naem district.
UN Coordinator Calls for Immediate Truce in Taiz
SANA'A, July 27 (Saba) - The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen called on Wednesday for an immediate humanitarian truce in Taiz province.

"I call on all parties to agree immediately to a humanitarian pause," said Jamie McGoldrick in a statement issued yesterday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

James McGoldrick voiced an alarm at increasing bloodshed in the southwestern Taiz province, particularly al-Serari area.

He expressed his concerns about the reinforcement of the closure on Taiz city as well as the escalation of hostilities in the area of al-Serari.

The UN official warned both parties that holding civilian populations hostage and depriving them of humanitarian assistance was illegal under international humanitarian law.

"All parties who violate international humanitarian law must remember that they could be held to account," he added.

McGoldrick urged them to protect civilians and cooperate with humanitarian agencies to help treat and evacuate war-wounded and deliver urgently needed medicine into the embattled zone.
Stumbling UN-backed Yemen Talks Set to Resume in Kuwait
UN's envoy to Yemen to meet representatives of war-weary country's dueling camps

By Mohamed al-Shubeiri and Zakaria al-Kamaali
Anadolou News Agency
KUWAIT CITY

Following a four-day hiatus, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Thursday will resume mediation efforts in the second round of Kuwait-hosted peace talks between Yemen’s warring rivals.

Ahmed plans to meet separately on Thursday evening with delegations representing the Yemeni government and the Shia Houthi group with a view to eventually holding direct peace talks.

A source close to the talks told Anadolu Agency that negotiations had been suspended for a four-day period to allow both Ahmed and Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mikhlafi (who also heads up the government delegation at the Kuwait talks) to attend this week’s Arab League summit in Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.

The source, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity of his position, declined to discuss the issues that would be raised at Thursday’s meeting between the UN envoy and the government delegation.

He did say, however, that the UN envoy "and the Gulf States in general are not eager to pursue the [peace] consultations" in Kuwait.

The fate of the talks remains shrouded in uncertainty, although delegations representing the Houthis and their allies reportedly want to continue the negotiations for at least one more week.

Thursday’s planned resumption of talks coincides with a recent renewal of fighting on the ground, especially near the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Houthi fighters in Yemen have reportedly staged a number of cross-border missile attacks, while Saudi-led coalition warplanes have bombed Houthi strongholds in Yemen’s northern Saada province.

Yemen has been racked by chaos since late 2014, when the Houthis and their allies overran capital Sanaa and other parts of the country, forcing President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his Saudi-backed government to temporarily flee to Riyadh.

In March of last year, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive military campaign in Yemen aimed at reversing the Houthi’s territorial gains and restoring Hadi’s embattled government.

In April of this year, the Yemeni government and the Houthis entered into UN-backed peace talks in Kuwait aimed at resolving the conflict, in which more than 6,400 people have been killed and another 2.5 million forced to flee their homes.

The on-again, off-again talks, however, have so far failed to produce any notable breakthroughs.
Yemen's Houthis, Ousted Leader Formalize Alliance
ASSOCIATED PRESS
JULY 28, 2016, 2:13 P.M. E.D.T.

SANAA, Yemen — Yemen's Shiite rebels on Thursday announced a formal alliance with the country's ousted president and his former ruling party by setting up a new political council to rule the country, a step described by the United Nations Envoy to Yemen as jeopardizing peace talks in Kuwait.

The rebels, known as Houthis or Ansar Allah, signed a deal with the General People's Congress, led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, agreeing to form a council of 10 members, five from each party. According to a statement posted by the official news agency SABA, the two sides said they will work together to confront the Saudi-led military coalition, which supports the internationally-recognized government months after it fled the country. The Houthis have controlled the capital, Sanaa, since 2014.

The parties which signed the deal said that it was prompted by "the insolence of the Saudi assault and its coalition in continuing to kill our people and destroy public and private properties."

Saleh and the Houthis have been already been allied since 2014. The two sides were adversaries when Saleh ruled Yemen and fought each other for six years until 2010. But the longtime autocrat was forced out in a 2011 popular uprising. Under terms of the deal brokered to remove him from power, Saleh received immunity from any prosecution. But he remained in Yemen and army and security troops loyal to him helped the Houthis drive the internationally recognized government from the capital.

While the northern region remains under Houthi control, much of the southern region is held by the Saudi-backed government and allied southern tribal militias.

The new agreement, which doesn't change much on the ground, is expected to bring back Saleh to the forefront of Yemen's conflict, and further complicate the difficult U.N. peace talks in Kuwait between the Houthis and the government.

Those talks have been stalling amid fundamental disputes over the agenda. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi demands implementation of the U.N. security council resolution which stipulates the withdrawal of militias from all cities. The Houthis demand a share of power in any new government.

The United Nations declared a ceasefire in April, however both sides have breached the truce several times.

Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said the agreement is "not worth the ink it is written with" but said it gave a clear-cut picture of the "coup partners" involved in the rebel takeover of the capital. He added in a phone interview with the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera network that the agreement also "fired a bullet at the talks."

The U.N. Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that the new alliance represents a violation of the international resolutions and urged both sides to "refrain from unilateral actions that undermine political transition."

"Announcing a unilateral governing arrangement is not in line with the peace process and endangers substantial progress made in Kuwait," he added in posts on his official Twitter account.
Michigan Political Prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney Denied Appeal in Unjust Conviction
Yesterday the Michigan Court of Appeals issued its opinion on Rev. Edward Pinkney's appeal. In short, we lost. Rev. Pinkney will have served his minimum sentence (30 months) in another 10 to 11 months. He is staying strong and his team will appeal and continue to fight this miscarriage of justice.

However, the implications of this decision for each of the rest of us is profound. If you believe you are safe from this kind of judicial and prosecutorial insanity, you have a false sense of security.

Here is Rev. Pinkney's statement in response to the opinion:

"We are living in a time when the court system and the prosecutor don't need evidence to send a man to prison. I know they don't have any evidence, because I didn't do it. And the prosecutor knows I didn't do it. You have got to be very, very careful today, because if you take a stand against the system they'll do everything in their power to crush you. Now they can send you to prison and keep you there without evidence. Better keep your eyes and your mind on freedom, and keep freedom on your mind.

"What do you do now? Now that you can be sent to prison with no evidence? What's the next step for you? Now that there is a 100% chance of you being convicted if you are charged, what can you do? What should you do? This is the question I hope we are all asking ourselves."

-Rev. Edward Pinkney, July 27, 2016
‪#‎Justice4Pinkney‬
http://www.bhbanco.org/2016/07/court-of-appeals-keeps-rev-pinkney.html

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Zimbabwe Herald Editorial Comment: War Vets Must Be Wary of the Enemy
July 28, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

There is no denying that the solidarity meeting organised by war veterans in support of President Mugabe in Harare yesterday was a rushed affair. The reason for the meeting was a communiqué attributed to war veterans who met at Raylton Sports Club in Harare last Thursday which denounced President Mugabe’s leadership and purportedly announced an end to the relationship between Zanu-PF and the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association. That the indaba turned out to be such a huge success speaks to the undisputed organisational capacity of the governing Zanu-PF party. It could have been an embarrassing disaster.

That said, President Mugabe rose to the occasion and demonstrated that he is still fully in charge. There were efforts to widen divisions in the party, to split the top leadership; in particular, to try and force the President to fire one of his deputies, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa.

There were anxious moments when people didn’t know what the President was being asked to do. When the President stood up to speak, he spoke the language of the leader that he is, speaking about the importance of unity in the party. He is more than conscious that Zanu-PF cannot get stronger by continually expelling members on the basis of every allegation. There are bigger issues to deal with in the country and the party and the need for unity cannot be over emphasized.

“Let’s keep together,” said the President. He said people were wont to make allegations which they could not substantiate, but still expected the leadership to act on. That would not happen, he said.

The President’s words must have shocked and embarrassed the gangs in the private media who have a morbid desire for the collapse of Zanu-PF as the only way foreigners can then have a free reign in Zimbabwe through opposition parties they have sponsored since the late 1990s.

President Mugabe also warned the party to be wary of the hand of the enemy within and external which was always looking for chinks to undermine and break up the revolutionary party. If anyone were in doubt as to the President’s sincerity about the need for unity in the party and ranks of the war veterans, such doubts must have been scrubbed off by the words of the Minister for War Veterans, ex-Detainees, ex-Restrictees and their Welfare Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube in his vote of thanks.

He said on his appointment as minister he was given two tasks by the President: to unite the war veterans and to work on improving their welfare. His point was that although he was angry and disappointed by the traitorous communiqué purporting to have been originated by war veterans, he didn’t find it in his mandate to denounce anyone.

He said that would be against the mandate to unite and bring peace among war veterans. That is the task he was given. In our view, this is an example of the leadership speaking with one voice. President Mugabe was not talking about his desire for unity for purposes of pleasing those had gathered in solidarity with him. He was continuing a message he had communicated as a mandate for one of his ministers.

He simply reinforced that desire in his speech, where low lifers expected him to denounce to hell those with different opinions. The biggest task now lies with members in the lower structures of the party. It is here that most are easily influenced by the private media, social media and other gossip and foreigners who use food donations as a bait to sell their vile propaganda.

It is there that the greatest vigilance is required. These are often hungry people who are most susceptible to manipulation by those who assert solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe while fighting their Government.

It is the same old, tried and tested divide and rule tactics of colonial times. The surprise is that they still have believers, worse among people we would expect to know better than the rural folk they despise as illiterate. All we can say is, united we stand. So far so good.