Sunday, August 31, 2014

U.S. Senate Seeks Further Hostile Military Actions Against Russia
Troops from Ukraine fascist government based in Kiev have suffered
numerous defeats in the east of the country. The US is threatening
further hostile actions against the anti-fascist forces.
Leading American senators have called for the US to send weapons to help Ukraine fight what they say is "a Russian invasion".

Robert Menendez, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Russia's President Vladimir Putin must face a cost for his "aggression".

Senator John McCain said: "This is not an incursion. This is an invasion."

Earlier, Mr Putin called for talks to discuss the matter of "statehood" for eastern Ukraine.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in April following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula a month before. Some 2,600 people have died since April.

Pro-Russian separatists have been gaining ground on Ukrainian forces in recent days, in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the port of Mariupol.

'On the table'

Speaking on CNN, Mr Menendez, a Democrat, said: "We should provide the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin for further aggression.

"This is no longer the question of some rebel separatists, this is a direct invasion by Russia. We must recognise it as that."

He said the issue "may very well be on the table right now" for President Barack Obama.

Senator McCain told CBS's Face the Nation that Mr Putin was "an old KGB colonel that wants to restore the Russian empire".

Mr McCain called for "strong sanctions", before adding that Ukraine must be supplied with weapons: "Give them the weapons they need. Give them the wherewithal they need. Give them the ability to fight."

Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News: "If we don't provide 'small and effective' now, you're going to get very big and very ugly later."

In Ukraine, there were reports of a first naval encounter in the conflict.

At the scene: BBC's Richard Galpin, Mariupol

As we drove south from Dnipropetrovsk to the strategic port city of Mariupol, we soon saw how the Ukrainian army is now building up its forces to protect the south-eastern city from the assault threatened by pro-Russian rebels.

A train carrying about 20 Grad multiple rocket-launchers as well as armoured vehicles, ammunition and troops, was heading in the same direction as us.

Further down the road we came across smaller groups of armoured vehicles with heavily-armed troops sitting on top. Like those on board the train, they were reluctant to talk about their mission.

But Mariupol is preparing for the worst with soldiers digging trenches and using huge concrete tank-traps to block roads.

It's not clear if or when the separatist rebels - and quite possibly Russian troops - will launch an attack on this port city of almost half-a-million people which lies on the coast of the Azov Sea.

But already the authorities in Mariupol say two coastguard ships came under attack on Sunday leaving six sailors injured.

Pro-Russian separatists fired artillery shells at a Ukrainian patrol vessel in the Azov Sea, with the Ukrainian military saying a rescue operation was under way.

The rebels have gained ground in the far south-east, pushing towards Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops and local residents are strengthening defences.

But many have fled the city of 500,000 people.

Ukraine and the West blame Russian military support for the recent rebel gains, saying armoured columns have crossed the border. Russia denies military involvement.

Earlier, Mr Putin said the issue of "statehood" for eastern Ukraine needed to be discussed to ensure the interests of local people were "definitely upheld".

"Russia cannot stand aside when people are being shot at almost at point blank," he said, describing the rebels' actions as "the natural reaction of people who are defending their rights".

The West, Mr Putin said, should have foreseen Russia's reaction to the situation, adding it was impossible to predict how the crisis would end.

Mr Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later said the president's remarks on "statehood" should not be taken to mean an actual separate entity, and that the Ukrainian crisis was a "domestic" one.

Mr Putin's comments came after the EU gave Russia a one-week ultimatum to reverse course in Ukraine or face more sanctions.

Mr Putin dismissed the EU threat, accusing it of "backing a coup d'etat" in Ukraine.
The EU and US have already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on many senior Russian officials and separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: "I think that we are very close to the point of no return. Point of no return is full-scale war."
Israel Seizes More Palestinian Land in West Bank Block
Clashes in the West Bank of Palestine during July 2014.
JERUSALEM — The New York Times News Service
Published Sunday, Aug. 31 2014, 8:36 PM EDT

Israel on Sunday laid claim to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement block near Bethlehem – a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area – defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion and challenging world opinion.

Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes the construction of settlements in the West Bank, said that the action Sunday might be the largest single appropriation of West Bank land in decades and that it could “dramatically change the reality” in the area.

Palestinians aspire to form a state in the lands that Israel conquered in 1967.

Israeli officials said the political directive to expedite a survey of the status of the land came after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June while hitchhiking in that area. In July, the Israeli authorities arrested a Palestinian who was accused of being the prime mover in the kidnapping and killing of the teenagers. The timing of the land appropriation suggested that it was meant as a kind of compensation for the settlers and punishment for the Palestinians.

The land, which is near the Jewish settlement outpost of Gvaot in the Etzion block south of Jerusalem, has now officially been declared “state land,” as opposed to land privately owned by Palestinians, clearing the way for the potential approval of Israeli building plans there.

But the mayor of the nearby Palestinian town of Surif, Ahmad Lafi, said the land belonged to Palestinian families from the area. He told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Israeli army forces and personnel arrived in the town early Sunday and posted orders announcing the seizure of land that was planted with olive and forest trees in Surif and the nearby villages of Al-Jabaa and Wadi Fukin.

The kidnapping of the teenagers prompted an Israeli military clampdown in the West Bank against Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza and that Israel said was behind the abductions. The subsequent tensions along the Israel-Gaza border erupted into a 50-day war that ended last week with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

The land appropriation has quickly turned attention back to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and exposed the contradictory visions in the Israeli government that hamper the prospects of any broader Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the announcement and called for a reversal of the land claim, saying that it would “further deteriorate the situation” and that all settlement was illegal.

Though Israel says that it intends to keep the Etzion settlement block under any permanent agreement with the Palestinians and that most recent peace plans have involved land swaps, most countries consider Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law. The continued construction has also been a constant source of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its most important Western allies.

The last round of U.S.-brokered peace talks broke down in April. Israel suspended the troubled talks after Mr. Abbas forged a reconciliation pact with the Palestinian Authority’s rival, Hamas, which rejects Israel’s right to exist. American officials also said that Israel’s repeated announcements of new settlement construction contributed to the collapse of the talks.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, who has spoken out in favour of a new diplomatic process, told reporters Sunday that he “was not aware of the decision” about the land around Gvaot and had instructed his team to look into it. “We are against any swift changes in the West Bank right now because we need to go back to some kind of process there,” he said. He added that the Israeli government was now talking to the Palestinian Authority about the situation in Gaza, “and this is a good thing.”

But Yariv Oppenheimer, general director of Peace Now, said that instead of strengthening the Palestinian moderates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “turns his back on the Palestinian Authority and sticks a political knife in the back” of Mr. Abbas, referring to the latest land appropriation. “Since the 1980s, we don’t remember a declaration of such dimensions,” Mr. Oppenheimer told Israel Radio.

Israeli officials said that the land declaration Sunday was open to judicial review and that interested parties had 45 days in which to register objections.

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Lesotho's Deputy Premier in Charge After PM Flees 'Coup'
Headlines in the Sunday newspaper on the coup in Lesotho.

MASERU (Reuters) - Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane accused Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing of helping to plan a coup by the army that forced the prime minister to flee the country.

Metsing took charge of the government once Thabane had fled the country for neighbouring South Africa. Thabane left on Saturday, after the army surrounded his residence and police stations in Lesotho's capital, Maseru.

Gunshots were heard in Maseru, where one policeman was shot dead and four others wounded, said senior police superintendent Mofokeng Kolo. But the army denied trying to force out Thabane, saying it had moved against police suspected of planning to arm a political faction in the small southern African kingdom.

Diplomats in Maseru told Reuters the army was largely seen as loyal to the deputy prime minister and the police force mostly supported the prime minister.

Regional power South Africa condemned the army's actions and invited the deputy prime minister to talks there on Sunday, Lesotho's Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Selibe Mochoboroane, told Reuters. He did not specify who the talks would be with.

"Constitutionally, in the absence of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister takes the reins," said Mochoboroane, who is also spokesman for Metsing's party.

"For now there hasn't been any arrangement, but it goes without saying the deputy prime minister will still oversee other issues that need to be taken care of until the prime minister returns," he added. On Saturday, Mochoboroane echoed the army's assurance that no coup had taken place.


The prime minister, who expected to be back in Maseru in two days time, said he believed his deputy was behind the plans for a coup. The two would not be holding talks in South Africa, he said.

"I have no much reason to absolve him from blame," Thabane told Reuters. "Looking from a distance, he is very active in this show."

Relations have been stormy between Thabane's All Basotho Convention party and Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democsracy (LCD) group, which formed a coalition with another party after elections in 2012.

Thabane dissolved parliament in June to avoid a no-confidence vote against him amid feuding among the ruling parties. Metsing later said he would form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

The African Union said on Sunday it would not tolerate any illegal seizure of power.

Thabane told Reuters on Saturday he had fired an army commander, Lieutenant-General Kennedy Tlali Kamoli, and appointed Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao to replace him. But on Sunday Kamoli said he was still in charge of the military.

"I haven't gotten any formal letter from anybody and that is to say that I am still the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force," Kamoli told Reuters.

Lesotho, a mountainous state of two million people encircled by South Africa, has undergone a number of military coups since independence from Britain in 1966. At least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting in 1998.

Besides textile exports and a slice of regional customs receipts, Lesotho's other big earner is hydropower. The power is exported to South Africa from the massive mountain ranges that have made it a favourite of trivia fans as "the world's highest country" - its lowest point is 1,380 metres (4,528 feet) above sea level.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Writing by Helen Nyambura; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Larry King)
Lesotho Leaders to Meet South African President
South African President Jacob Zuma to meet with Lesotho rival
By Associated Press August 31 at 9:14 AM

JOHANNESBURG — Lesotho’s prime minister is in South Africa to meet with leaders of his country’s coalition government and South Africa’s president to discuss recent unrest in the mountainous kingdom, a Lesotho official said.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has said that he fled to South Africa after an alleged attempt by the military to take over the country of about 2 million people. Lesotho’s Defense Forces deny any attempt at a coup although they say the military exchanged gunfire and disarmed two police stations in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, on Saturday.

Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing is running the government while Thabane is out of the country, according to the constitution, said Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa. Political tensions have been high between the two and within the coalition government in the tiny kingdom since June when Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence. Thabane’s All Basotho Convention party and Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy formed a coalition with a third party after 2012 elections and since then conflict has been simmering.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and Namibia’s president are meeting with Lesotho’s coalition leaders, including Metsing, on Sunday to discuss the unrest and to work toward resolution, said Tsekoa. The countries are a part of the 15-nation regional group, the Southern African Development Community, which has taken action to resolve conflicts in Lesotho before.

There was little evidence of the conflict Sunday in Maseru, where people went about their daily lives.

Lesotho’s defense forces spokesman Ntlele Ntoi said the military had gathered intelligence that the police were going to arm factions participating in a demonstration planned for Monday by one of the coalition parties, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy. The military disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, to avoid bloodshed, Ntoi said.

An exchange of gunfire between the military, youths and police injured one soldier and four policemen, Ntoi said. Radio stations were also off for hours on Saturday.

“The arms have been removed and they are in military custody. The military has returned to the barracks,” Ntoi said, denying reports of any coup attempt. “We are not in a position now or in the future to stage a coup. All we do is to carry out our mandate to secure our country and property.”

But Lesotho’s prime minister told South Africa’s eNCA television that the military actions amounted to a coup. He said he did not give permission for the action and that something like this should not be happening in a democratic state.

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operations said the actions bore the hallmarks of a coup d’etat, and called for the military to allow the democratically elected government to return to business.

The U.S. said it is “deeply concerned” by the clashes and “calls upon government officials and all parties to remain committed to peaceful political dialogue and to follow democratic processes in line with the Lesotho Constitution and principles of the rule of law, according to a State Department statement from spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called upon the African Union and the Southern African Development Community “to monitor the unfolding developments in Lesotho and continue to work with the people of that country to maintain law, order and democracy.”

The demonstration planned for Monday has been called off, according to Lesotho’s news agency.

The landlocked country’s first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power. The coalition has since been fragile.

Lesotho has seen unrest in its past and has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

The constitutional government was restored in 1993, after seven years of military rule. Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces. Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002.
Lesotho's Deputy Premier Takes Reins After PM Flees 'Coup'
Ousted Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane has fled to South 
by VOA News

Lesotho's Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing is now running the government after the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled the country accusing the army of staging a coup, a minister said on Sunday.

Gunfire rang out in the capital, Maseru, on Saturday, according to witnesses, who said soldiers patrolled the streets, occupied government buildings and surrounded Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's official residence.

Thabane left with his family for neighboring South Africa after receiving intelligence that he was the target of a military assassination attempt. He said the military action amounts to a coup.

In a phone interview with VOA, the prime minister said the situation involved "total indiscipline" in the army. He said soldiers were "running around the streets, threatening people" and "quite openly stating that they want my neck."

Thabane accused a former top military commander of leading the unrest. He said he would return to his country as soon as he knew he "was not going to get killed."

Military officials in Lesotho have denied plotting a coup. Officials said they moved against police elements suspected of trying to arm a political faction. They said soldiers have returned to their barracks, the streets have quieted and the country has returned to normal.

Thabane told VOA the attempt to overthrow his administration stemmed from his fight to root out corruption in Lesotho. He urged the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help restore order.

Leadership unclear

A military spokesman Major Ntlele Ntoi said the army only responded to an imminent threat from what he called "political fanatics" whom members of the police force were trying to arm.

"What happened this morning was that the command of the Lesotho Defense Force was acting after receiving several intelligence reports that amongst the police service, there are some elements who are actually planning to arm some of the political, party political youth fanatics who were on the verge of wreaking havoc," he said.

A South African government spokesman, Clayson Monyela, said no one is claiming leadership in Lesotho. However, he said the military's actions have the markings of a putsch.

"Although no one has claimed to have taken over government through the use of force, by all accounts the activities of the Lesotho defense force thus far bear the hallmarks of a coup d'etat," he said.

Military officials in Lesotho say soldiers have returned to their barracks and the situation in the country is calm.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing said tensions have been high since Thabane made a "unilateral" decision to dissolve parliament. News reports say some members of the country's military are loyal to Metsing, instead of the prime minister.

A rocky recent history

The mountainous kingdom, surrounded by South Africa, has repeatedly been beset by political instability since gaining independence in 1966. Until then it had been a British protectorate known as Basutoland.

A peaceful election in 2012 produced a three-party coalition government that many observers hoped would bring lasting stability — but the fragile government reportedly collapsed several months ago.

In June, South Africa had issued a stern warning to Lesotho after the prime minister suspended parliament in what appeared to be an attempt to dodge a no-confidence vote.

Instability is inherent in Lesotho’s political system, says Tom Wheeler, a former South African diplomat who is now an independent analyst.

"Well, I suppose the problem is it’s a democracy," Wheeler said, noting that coalition partners and the opposition disagreed "with what the prime minister is doing, and therefore have pulled the plug on the coalition. And I think that’s the cause of the instability.

"This man who’s the prime minister is a democratically elected person from a not-majority party, and that sort of instability is built into the system."

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a king whose powers are largely ceremonial. The kingdom had been a British protectorate known as Basutoland.

South Africa’s role

Wheeler said South Africans should not be overly concerned about upheaval in the enclave, despite their history of armed intervention in Lesotho's previous political crises.

"It’s not going be a big issue," he said, recalling that in 1998, Mangosuthu Buthelezi — a tribal leader who’d held senior positions in the African National Congress — was South Africa’s acting president while Nelson Mandela was abroad. He sent an SADC force to Lesotho to try to prevent a coup. The troops “were repulsed by the Lesotho army. It was a great embarrassment to South Africa,” Wheeler said.

"So I think we would stand back and say, ‘Get on with it, boys, it’s not our problem,’ and not be worried about it."

VOA's English to Africa service contributed to this report. Anita Powell contributed reporting from Johannesburg.
Ferguson Rally Marks Three Weeks Since Brown’s Death
Memorial to Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
By Associated Press
August 30 at 4:56 PM

FERGUSON, Mo. — Hundreds converged on Ferguson on Saturday to march for Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a white police officer three weeks ago to the day. His death stoked national discourse about police tactics and race, which the rally’s organizers pledged to continue.

Led by Brown’s parents and other relatives, Saturday’s throng peacefully made their way down Canfield Drive in the St. Louis suburb to a makeshift memorial that marked the spot where Brown was shot Aug. 9 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

“We know that his life is not going to be in vain,” the Rev. Spencer Booker of St. Louis’ St. Paul A.M.E. Church said into a megaphone, standing in the middle of the street amid candles, placards, stuffed animals and now-wilted flowers. “We know you’re going to even the score, God. We know you’re going to make the wrong right.”

Brown’s parents — mother Lesley McSpadden and father Michael Brown Sr. — encircled the memorial with other family members during prayers, including one by a Muslim clergy member.

Hours later, hundreds of protesters again gathered in front of the suburban police department and fire station, blocking the road. Fiery speeches by way of speakers mounted to a car gave way to another march, with chants of, “If we can’t have it, we’re shutting it down.”

Some lobbed angry insults at a line of Ferguson officers and state police who stood guard at a taped-off section of the city parking lot, but the numbers of protesters dwindled to double digits by late afternoon.

Wilson, a six-year police veteran, has not been charged. A St. Louis County grand jury is considering evidence in the case, and federal investigators are sorting out whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.

There was a muted police presence Saturday during the march, which began on a West Florissant Avenue stretch that became the nexus of nightly protests — some contentious and violent — and looting in the days after Brown’s death. Many of the businesses’ windows remain boarded up, though most have reopened. Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, whom Missouri’s governor put in charge of security in Ferguson, was there, at times posing with rally attendees for selfies.

Saturday morning’s gathering included tailgaters and people hawking T-shirts memorializing Brown or featuring slogan, “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” — a phrase that reflects what witnesses have said Brown did in surrender before being shot. Police have said the shooting happened after a struggle between Brown and Wilson in Wilson’s patrol vehicle, though authorities have said little else, citing the investigations.

“We’re just three weeks into this, and this is only the beginning of this movement,” said Jerryl Christmas, a St. Louis attorney who helped lead Saturday’s march and others in the past. He’s intent on keeping Brown and the resulting turmoil and questions “in the forefront of America.”
At Ferguson March, Call to Halt Traffic in Labor Day Highway Protest
Demonstration in Ferguson, MO marking three weeks since the police
killing of Michael Brown.
New York Times
AUG. 30, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. — Activists on Saturday called for mass civil disobedience on the highways in and around this St. Louis suburb to protest the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, with the leaders of one coalition encouraging supporters to stop their cars to tie up traffic on Labor Day.

The appeal came at a peaceful if at times tense march and rally on Saturday that drew what appeared to be well more than 1,000 demonstrators to some of the same Ferguson streets where the police clashed with protesters in the days after the killing of Michael Brown. Mr. Brown, 18, was shot Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, and his bloody body lay on Canfield Drive for about four and a half hours before it was removed.

Organizers at the rally called on demonstrators to drive on Interstate 70 and other area highways at 4:30 p.m. Monday, turn their hazard lights on and stop their vehicles for four and a half minutes to symbolize the four and a half hours that Mr. Brown’s body lay in the street.

“We’re going to tie it down, lock it down,” Anthony Shahid, one of the lead organizers of the rally, told supporters from the stage at a park. The following week, if the coalition’s demands were not met, including that Officer Wilson be fired and arrested on charges of murder, another four-minute traffic shutdown would occur on two days instead of just one, he said.

“I want the highways shut down,” he said of the Monday protest. “I know it’s a holiday, but it won’t be no good holiday.”

Mr. Shahid’s announcement was met with applause by many marchers, but it was unclear how many people would take part. Only a few hundred demonstrators were in the park when Mr. Shahid made the appeal, and another organizer suggested that the plan for Monday could change because the action was still under discussion. It was also unclear what the authorities intended to do in response to the civil disobedience plan.

“There will be an appropriate, measured response based on conditions, but we cannot discuss the specifics of operational plans,” said Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

The march and rally were organized by a coalition of black activists and leaders largely from the St. Louis region, including state legislators, lawyers, and representatives of the Nation of Islam, the N.A.A.C.P., the New Black Panther Party and the Green Party. Organizers with the group, called the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition, said they wanted Saturday’s event to be peaceful and had coordinated with city, county and police officials. They estimated the crowd at 10,000. For much of the event, the police had a light presence compared with the show of force seen at other protests.

“They’ve already seen the whole world look at the missteps that they made, how they handled the black community like an army going to war in Iraq,” said Akbar Muhammad, an organizer of the demonstration and a top aide to Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. “If they had any sense, they will handle it in a tactful manner.”

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
The march on Saturday showed how difficult it may be to direct the actions of a young, decentralized and assertive protest movement. A mile into Saturday’s demonstration, the march seemed to split, with some heading to a scheduled rally in a public park and others insisting that the marchers continue to the Ferguson police station. Few seemed to know whether the turn into the park was the plan all along or an unscheduled deviation, and several marchers began a chant of “Ain’t no justice in the park!”

“If they stop here a lot of people will feel misled,” said Trinette Buck, 40. She said that the younger protesters were not waiting on leadership, nor were they concerned about what might happen if things turned ugly at the police station.

“There is no fear anymore,” she said. “It’s either stand up or die.”

A few marchers began heading to the police department without waiting for official word, peeling off in small groups and walking along the shoulder for two miles of road, drawing supportive honks from cars along the way. By the time the main body of the march, as well as the demonstration’s leaders, arrived at the police station, well more than a 100 had already gathered and were chanting in a somewhat tense face-to-face confrontation with a line of police officers.

Shortly after 5 p.m., one of the marchers who had been taunting the police line was surrounded by law enforcement officers and was apparently placed under arrest. It was unclear why.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lesotho 'Coup' Forces Prime Miniter Thabane to South Africa
A Lesotho army tank. The military has reportedly staged another
coup on Sat. Aug. 30, 2014. Prime Minister Thabane has fled to
South Africa.
The prime minister of the southern African kingdom of Lesotho has fled to South Africa, alleging a coup by the army and saying his life is in danger.

Speaking to the BBC, Thomas Thabane said he would return from South Africa, which surrounds Lesotho, "as soon as I know I am not going to get killed".

Reports say the capital, Maseru, is now calm after soldiers seized buildings. The army denied staging a coup.

Lesotho has seen a series of military coups since independence in 1966.

Mr Thabane has headed a unity government since, but suspended parliament sessions in June amid feuding in his coalition.

He denied accusations that his actions had undermined his government.

'Illegal coup'

Mr Thabane said the army had rendered the government "dysfunctional", an action that amounted to a coup.

"I have been removed from control not by the people but by the armed forces, and that is illegal," he said.

"I came into South Africa this morning and I will return as soon as my life is not in danger. I will not go back to Lesotho to get killed."

At the scene: Basildon Peta, Maseru, Lesotho

This whole thing started around 03:00. There were gunshots since early morning. The city is currently calm. People are playing it safe within their homes, but there is basically a media blackout.

To all intents and purposes it is a military coup with the aim of ousting the prime minister. There can be no other reason of soldiers behaving the way they have been behaving other than to seize power.

So far we have no reports of killings. It would be correct to call it a bloodless coup attempt. But I am not going to stick around. The chances are the situation may deteriorate. One does not know what is going to happen.

Basildon Peta is the publisher of the Lesotho Times

The army is understood to have acted after the prime minister attempted to remove its chief, Lt Gen Kennedy Tlai Kamoli.

The army said the general was still charge, saying the military "supports the democratically elected government of the day," Reuters news agency reported.

A spokesman, Maj Ntlele Ntoi, denied staging a coup, saying: "There is nothing like that, the situation has returned to normalcy... the military has returned to their barracks."

Earlier, troops were seen on the streets of Maseru and there were reports of gunfire.

Radio stations were taken off air and phone lines were cut, although later reports suggested they were working again.

Sports Minister Thesele Maseribane told the AFP news agency that troops had surrounded State House, a key government building.

Are you in Maseru or elsewhere in Lesotho? You can share your views and experiences by emailing .
Lesotho Military Seizes Control of Police HQ, Jams Radio Stations: Says Maseribane
Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane is threatened with a military
Lesotho's military seized control of the tiny African kingdom's police headquarters and jammed radio stations and phones in the early hours Saturday, a government minister and member of the ruling coalition told AFP.
"The armed forces, the special forces of Lesotho, have taken the headquarters of the police," sports minister and leader of the Basotho National Party Thesele Maseribane said, describing a possible coup attempt in the small nation located in eastern South Africa.
"At four o'clock this morning (0200GMT) they were driving around the residence of the prime minister and my residence," he said.
"There have been some gunfighting since 4 (am) up until 7 or 8."
"They've jammed phones, they have jammed everything," he added.
Maseribane said he fled hours earlier after being warned.
"The commander said he was looking for me, the prime minister and the deputy minster to take us to the king. In our country that means a coup," he added.
He insisted Prime Minister Tom Thabane's government was still in control.
"The prime minister and myself, (we are) still the coalition government. The prime minister is still in power."
Thabane was "fine", he added, declining to elaborate where the prime minister was.
"There's still a lot of danger. People who have arms are running around Maseru."
The government secretary was unreachable for comment.
A shaky coalition has governed the kingdom, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, since elections two years ago. Coalition partners patched up the fragile deal through mediators in June.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Boko Haram Captures Another Borno Town In Fresh Attacks
Damage from fighting in Borno State in northeast Nigeria.
Written by Njadvara Musa, Maiduguri
Nigerian Guardian

BOUYED by their recent gains and capture of communities in Borno State, Boko Haram gunmen, operating in over three dozen Toyota Hilux vehicles and motorcycles at dawn on Thursday, invaded Dikwa town in the state, forcing many residents, including the Shehu of Dikwa, Muhammad Mast II Ibn Alamin Elkanemi, to flee to Maiduguri and other border villages with Cameroun.

  Dikwa is a border council headquarters and 85 kilometres Northeast of Maiduguri, the state capital. Although there were no reported loss of lives and property, Modu Bukar, who fled to Maiduguri yesterday morning, said some residents were scattered in different directions because of the insurgents.

  “Some of us had to flee last night along with members of our families to safer places, like Maiduguri. These gunmen are never to be trusted because they will say one thing today and the following day, they change and commence slitting people’s throats for not joining to fight their own cause.  

  “Their capture of towns and villages in Borno continued yesterday with the invasion of our town, the council headquarters of Dikwa, a border town with Cameroun,” Bukar said.

  He recounted how Dikwa was invaded: “There were sounds of explosions and gunfire heralding their arrival in this town and some of us immediately fled for fear of the unknown. The Shehu of Dikwa also fled his palace along with his family members and courtiers.”

  He also claimed that the insurgents took over the town and hoisted their flag with little resistance from security forces.

  Military sources yesterday in Maiduguri also confirmed the incident, stating that there were attempts by suspected insurgents to attack one of the border towns in northern Borno last night.

  “As at the time of receiving this report from Dikwa last night, there were no casualties on both civilians and property.  The insurgents are on rampage of claiming some towns and villages in Borno State,” said the military source.

  The invasion of Dikwa brings to 16 towns and villages already captured, including Gwoza, Marte, Ashgashiya, Wulgo, Banki andGambouru in central and southern parts of Borno State.

  The Nigerian military had earlier dismissed Boko Haram’s declaration of an “Islamic caliphate” as “empty,” insisting that no part of Nigeria would be conceded to the insurgents.

  Also yesterday, Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jets bombed selected targets in Gwoza areas in an attempt to reclaim the capturedcouncil headquarters from the insurgents.
Palestinians Hold Parade, Rally in Gaza
Palestinians in Gaza celebrate victory of IDF in 50-day war.
Sat Aug 30, 2014 1:21AM GMT

People of the Gaza Strip continue festivities for victory against the Israeli regime after seven weeks of aggression on Palestinians, Press TV reports.

On Friday, the Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad staged a parade and rally in Gaza City to mark the victory following 50 days of fighting.

The demonstrators praised armed resistance against the recent Israeli onslaught.

“Israel was broken during this war and the resistance fighters you see standing around here are determined to fight with the Zionist enemy until the complete liberation of Palestine,” said Dawud Shehab, a senior Islamic Jihad official, at the demonstration.

“We kept fighting until the last minute before the start of the truce and we will continue to train and equip our forces until the next battle with the enemy,” added Shehab.

The Egyptian-brokered truce, which took effect after Cairo negotiations on Tuesday, stipulates the ease of Israel’s seven-year-old blockade as well as the provision of a guarantee that Palestinian demands will be met.

Israeli warplanes and tanks started pounding the blockaded enclave in early July, inflicting heavy losses on the Palestinian land.

Nearly 2,140 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including women and children, were killed in 50 days of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. Around 11,000 others were injured.

Tel Aviv says 69 Israelis were killed in the conflict, but Hamas puts the number at much higher.
Revolutionary Guards Commander Chief Says Iran Will Continue to Support Palestinian Resistance
Rockets from Gaza fired into Israeli occupied territories. 
Fri Aug 29, 2014 1:1PM GMT

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says the Islamic Republic will continue to support the Palestinians against the Israeli aggression.

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said in a message on Friday that resistance by the Palestinians in the face of the 51-day Israeli military aggression against the besieged Gaza Strip was the starting point for the collapse of the Zionist regime.

The Iranian commander also said the “revolutionary people of Iran and the IRGC” will continue to provide “defense and social” support to the Palestinians.

Elsewhere in his message, Jafari said the Palestinians’ defense infrastructure has to be strengthened as much as possible in the occupied West Bank, adding, “You (Palestinian resistance fighters) should increase the volume, range and precision of your missiles.”

The remarks come after Palestinian resistance groups and Israeli officials reached an agreement on a permanent ceasefire for the besieged Gaza Strip on August 26.

The Israeli regime launched a military campaign against Gaza in early July and later expanded its operation with a ground invasion.

More than 2,130 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip. Some 11,000 others were wounded.

Hamas Political Bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal, has flatly rejected any attempts to disarm the Palestinian resistance movement.

“The weapons of the resistance are sacred and we will not accept that they be on the agenda” of future talks with the Tel Aviv regime, Meshaal said at a press conference on Thursday.
Paris Considers Inviting Iran to Conference on ISIL Takfiris
EU Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton with Iranian counterpart.
Fri Aug 29, 2014 8:27AM GMT

French President Francois Hollande is considering inviting Iran to a conference he has proposed to address terror activities by the ISIL Takfiri group in Middle Eastern states.

In an address to a group of French diplomats, Hollande said the Islamic Republic could be an interlocutor on ways to deal with the dangers posed by the ISIL terrorist group that is wreaking havoc on Iraq and Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

“It’s true that the crisis in Iraq has demonstrated our preoccupations aren’t always on diverging paths,” added the French leader.

The French president has proposed holding an international conference on the ISIL threats in the capital Paris within the coming weeks.

In similar remarks on August 20, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the country’s parliament that Paris plans to bring together Iran, Arab states and the permanent members of the UN Security Council to coordinate a comprehensive response to the ISIL Takfiri militants.

Having taken control of parts of Syria, the ISIL terrorist group sent its militants into neighboring Iraq in early June and quickly seized large swathes of the territory there.

The foreign-backed Takfiri militant group has terrorized various communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and Izadi Kurds, in their advances in Iraq.
Pentagon: Iraq Operations Costing U.S. More Than $7.5 Million A Day

Zeke J Miller @ZekeJMiller  2:21 PM ET    

The U.S. air and advisory campaign against the militants in Iraq is costing American taxpayers more than $7.5 million per day, the Pentagon said Friday.

The daily cost of the effort, which has included airstrikes and sending American military advisors to assist the Iraqi military on the ground, has hit $7.5 million on average, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby. The daily cost in recent weeks has been higher.

“So as you might imagine, it didn’t start out at $7.5 million per day. It’s been—as our [operational tempo] and as our activities have intensified, so too has the cost,” Kirby told reporters, offering the government’s first official assessment of the cost of the operation.

U.S. ground advisors were ordered into Iraq in June, while U.S. Central Command began airstrikes against the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), as well as humanitarian drops to assist encircled Iraqi minorities in early August. CENTCOM announced Friday that it had conducted four airstrikes in the vicinity of the critical Mosul Dam on Friday, bringing the total number of strikes since August 8 to 110.

Kirby said the Pentagon continues to believe it will be able to fund the operations through the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30 using its existing resources.

The dollar figure comes as the Pentagon is drawing up plans to expand the military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and potentially into Syria following the killing of American journalist James Foley more than a week ago. President Barack Obama said Thursday that no decision on strikes in Syria is imminent, but said he may have to ask Congress to provide additional funding for the campaign against ISIS for the next fiscal year.
Lavrov: No Proof Given For Western Allegations About Russian Troops in Ukraine
Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
August 29, 2014 09:10

Russia’s only reaction to NATO accusations of interfering militarily in Ukraine will be a consistent position of putting an end to bloodshed and establish dialogue between warring parties in Ukraine, Russia’s FM said.

No facts about Russian military being present on the territory of Ukraine have ever been presented, Sergey Lavrov pointed out, while speculation on the issue has been voiced repeatedly, he stressed.

“It’s not the first time we’ve heard wild guesses, though facts have never been presented so far,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow.

“There have been reports about satellite imagery exposing Russian troop movements. They turned out to be images from videogames. The latest accusations happen to be much the same quality,” he said.

“We’ll react by remaining persistent in our policies to stay bloodshed and give a start to the nationwide dialogue and negotiations about the future of Ukraine, with participation of all Ukrainian regions and political forces, something that was agreed upon in Geneva back in April and in Berlin [in August], yet what is being so deliberately evaded by our Western partners now,” Lavrov said.

Sergey Lavrov pointed out that the only means to decrease the number of casualties among the civilian population in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions is by self-defense militia pushing Ukrainian troops and National Guards out.

“From a military point of view self-defense militia are doing a very simple thing – they are driving Ukrainian troops and National Guards from their positions used to shell peaceful cities, destroying kindergartens, schools, hospitals, Orthodox churches and infrastructure, and killing a large number of civilians,” Lavrov said.

“Definitely, to stop all this given the conditions of Kiev and its sponsors unwilling to fulfill unconditional ceasefire obligations, the only way to save lives of civilians and diminish the number of casualties is to force the Kiev forces out of their positions used for bombardment,” he said.

Russia prepares second humanitarian convoy to Ukraine combat zone

The Russian foreign minister says that in-principle consent on dispatching another batch of humanitarian aid for the devastated provinces of southeastern Ukraine has been reached with Kiev.

“The day before yesterday we received a note in answer from the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, in which they gave in-principle consent to the proposal to send Russian humanitarian aid to the southeast and shared their considerations regarding logistics of the second convoy,” Sergey Lavrov said.

“Yesterday we sent a second note to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, which took into account observations of the Ukrainian side,” the minister said, stressing that an answer to Kiev has been already sent.

A contact group will coordinate security guarantees of the second humanitarian convoy within days, Lavrov announced.

“We intend to reach an accord on the procedures with the Ukrainian side with participation of the International Red Cross, as well as negotiate security guarantees: of the Russian side in delivering the aid to the border, the Ukrainian side of transporting the aid through the territory controlled by the Kiev authorities and the self-defense forces ensuring secure passage of the convoy through the territory controlled by them,” said Lavrov at a press conference.
‘Anything US Touches Turns Into Libya or Iraq’: Putin Tells Youth Forum
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putiini addressing the Seliger
Annual Youth Forum on Aug. 29, 2014.
August 29, 2014 20:23

Vladimir Putin has criticized Washington’s unilateral actions on the international arena, saying that whatever it touches seems to be turning into Libya or Iraq. Below are the top 10 quotes from the Russian President’s speech at the Seliger youth forum.

Unilateral decisions made outside the United Nations are usually doomed to failure, Putin said Friday, while speaking at the “Seliger-2014” annual youth forum.

“Do you remember the joke: ‘Whatever Russians make, they always end up with a Kalashnikov?’ I get an impression that whatever Americans touch they always end up with Libya or Iraq,” Putin told the participants of the 10th forum held on Lake Seliger in Tver region, some 370 km north of Moscow.

“When decisions are made unilaterally, they always turn out to be short lived. And the other way round: it’s difficult to reach consensus at the UN because often opposite opinions and positions collide. But that is the only way to achieve long-term decisions,” he said.

When a decision is balanced and supported by key members of the international community, Putin said, everyone starts working in order fulfill it perfectly.

'UN won’t be needed if it serves only US and its allies'

Putin totally disagreed that the UN is inefficient. But the organization needs to be reformed and its instruments should be used efficiently.

The reform should become a result of a consensus reached by the overwhelming majority of the members of the organization, he said.

It is also necessary to preserve the fundamental grounds of the UN’s efficiency. In particular, only the Security Council should have the power to make decision on sanctions and the use of military force, Putin said. And these decisions must be obligatory for everyone. Such mechanisms should not be eroded. “Otherwise the UN will turn into the League of Nations,” the Russian President said.

The organization will lose its purpose if it is only an “instrument to serve foreign policy interests of only one country – in this case the US and its allies,” Putin. “Then it is not needed.”

Putin compared the shelling of east Ukrainian towns and cities by Kiev army to actions by the Nazi forces during the World War Two.

“Sad as it might seem, this reminds me of the events of World War II, when the German Nazi troops surrounded our cities, like Leningrad, and directly shelled those cities and their residents,” Putin said.

“Why they (Kiev) call this a military-humanitarian operation?” he said, adding that the conflicting sides should get to a negotiating table.

Ukrainians who did not support the coup mounted by “our western partners” with the backing of radical nationalists, are being suppressed by the military force, Putin said speaking about the situation in the neighboring state.

“We’re no fools. We saw symbolic cookies handed out on [by Victoria Nuland] Maidan, information support, political support. What that means? A full involvement of the US and European nations into the process of the power change: a violent unconstitutional power change.”

“And the part of the country that disagreed with that is being suppressed with the use of jets, artillery, multiple launch systems and tanks,” Putin said. “If these are today’s European values – I’m gravely disappointed.”

Putin said that Russia did not “annex” Crimea, as the peninsula’s reunion with Russia is often described by foreign media and politicians.

“We didn’t not annex it, we didn’t take it away. We gave people an opportunity to have their say and make a decision, which we took with respect. We protected them, I believe.”

“We had to protect our compatriots, who live there (in Crimea). When we look at events in Donbass, Lugansk, Odessa, it becomes clear to us what would have happened to Crimea if we had not taken measures to provide free expression of will to people.”

'Russia to beef up nuclear deterrence potential'

Russia is going to boost its military forces and nuclear deterrence potential, Putin told the youth forum.

“Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear states. It’s not words, it is the reality,” he said. “We are strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces, we are strengthening our armed forces…We are beefing up our potential and will continue doing so.”

This is being done “not to threaten anyone, “but to feel secure,” he added.

'Russia is not going to get involved in large-scale conflicts'

Russia will not get engaged in any large conflicts, but will defend itself in case of aggression, Putin warned.

“Russia is far from getting involved any large-scale conflicts. We don’t want that and we are not going to do it. And, naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression against Russia,” Putin said.

“Our partners – whatever condition their countries are in and whatever foreign policy concept they adhere to – should understand that it’s better not to mess with us,” Putin said. “Thank God, I believe it doesn’t occur to anyone to unleash a large-scale conflict with Russia.”

'Russia will seek acceptable compromises on Arctic'

Russia admits that other states have their interests in the Arctic – the region that is thought to contain vast reserves of oil and gas.

Both Russia and Canada, who along with the US, Norway and Denmark constitute the five states with Polar claims, have made legal attempts to secure their rights to large swathes of the Arctic, which is thought to contain 15 percent of the oil reserves and 30 percent of all natural gas in the world.

“We will take the interests of these states into consideration and seek acceptable compromises,” Putin said, adding that Russia would “naturally” also defend its own interests.

The five Arctic states - Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russia and the US – have for several years now been in a bitter dispute over how to divide up this resource-rich ‘pie’.

'Crimea recognition will be long and tedious'

It will take a long while for Crimea to be internationally recognizes as part of Russia, Putin believes.

He said he finds it “strange” and referred to an example with the recognition of Kosovo independence where a political will and desire were enough to make such a decision “easily.”

He also recalled that in case with Kosovo, no referendum was held: the decision on independence was made by the parliament of the Serbian breakaway republic. In the situation with Crimea, there was both a decision by the parliament and a referendum. In Putin’s view, the latter was a more democratic way for a nation’s self-determination.
NATO Planning Rapid-deployment Force of 10,000 Troops to Counter Russia – Report
German troops who are a part of NATO-ISAF.
August 30, 2014 01:12

NATO is reportedly working towards the creation of an expeditionary force composed of 10,000 troops from seven different member states as a result of escalating tensions with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

According to the Financial Times, the force’s creation will be spearheaded by Britain and involve contributions from Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, and the Netherlands. Canada is also interested in joining the group, but it’s not known what its final decision will be.

Although no formal announcement has been made, British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to declare its formation at the upcoming NATO summit in Wales on September 4th.

Many specifics have yet to be worked out or announced, but planners are reportedly implementing ways to increase the number of soldiers involved even more if necessary. Air and naval units will be integrated into the group, as well as ground troops led by British commanders.

As noted by the Times, the creation of the force comes as a response to Russia’s involvement in the ongoing Ukrainian crisis, with the ultimate goal being to “create a fully functioning, division-sized force for rapid deployment and regular, frequent exercises.” NATO has accused Russia of deploying more than 1,000 troops into Ukraine to bolster separatists in the eastern part of the country.

Russia, however, insists that it does not have troops operating inside of Ukraine and has dismissed NATO’s assertions.

Despite the fact that NATO has opted not to act militarily in Ukraine – unnamed sources told Foreign Policy on Friday that there are no plans to confront Russia with anything more than stronger sanctions – Jonathan Eyal of the London-based Royal United Services Institute said the group needs to demonstrate that its eastern European members are just as integral to the alliance as other states.

“We need to end the idea of different zones of security in Europe,” he told the Financial Times. “We need to be talking about prepositioning, regular rotation of troops and making it very clear that we do not accept that the eastern Europeans are in some different category of membership of NATO.”

The revelation also arrives just a few days after NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed interest in forming “a more visible presence” in Eastern Europe in the form of facilities capable of rapidly receiving “response forces” needed to counter Russia.

For his part, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, said any attempt to push stretch further into the region would impact Moscow’s own security planning.
Ten Ukrainian Soldiers Killed in East Ukraine in Past 24 Hours — Security Council
Donetsk People's Militia is prepared to allow a safe corridor for
encircled Ukrainian troops fighting on behalf of the US-backed
regime in Kiev.
August 29, 16:12 UTC+4

Militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics are carrying out operations to push Ukrainian troops far back from large cities

Militia in southeast Ukraine needs no Russian military aid — commander

KIEV, August 29. /ITAR-TASS/. Ten Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and another 30 wounded in Kiev’s military operation in the country’s east in the past 24 hours, the National Security and Defense Council said in its Twitter account on Friday.

Self-defense militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics are carrying out operations to push Ukrainian troops far back from large cities and deny them a possibility to shell densely populated residential areas with artillery and mortar fire.

Luhansk fighters are actively advancing north of the city, the local news agency Novorossiya reported on Friday, citing the militia’s combat reports.

“The situation in the north of Luhansk has improved and the militia has been able to seize the settlement of Privetnoye after a fourth attempt, making an advance from the village of Stukalova Balka,” Novorossiya said.

The militia headquarters “have received information that our fighters are storming the enemy positions in Shishkovo,” Novorossiya said.

Luhansk fighters have also approached the town of Schastye, the news agency said.

Luhansk militias have shelled a column of pro-Kiev troops near the city’s airport, wounding several Ukrainian servicemen and destroying four pieces of the armor, according to preliminary data.

The east Ukrainian militias have also shelled the Ukrainian army grouping encircled near Ilovaisk in the Donetsk Region with mortar fire on Friday morning, Novorossiya reported.

The Ukrainian army command confirmed that the militia shelled the pro-Kiev troops’ positions twice near the settlement of Chervonaya Polyana and the checkpoints near the villages of Georgiyevka and Luhanskaya. The shelling of the checkpoints near the town of Lutugino and the settlement of Gerasimovka continued for almost four hours.

The Luhansk fighters entered the town of Lutugino two days ago and approached a local TV tower after battles with the Ukrainian troops, the Novorossiya news agency said.

“The enemy smashed the tower with mortar salvoes, killing ten our soldiers,” the agency said. “The militias are engaged in heavy battles. The enemy is breaking into the apartments of residents to set up fire pockets there,” Novorossiya said.

Ukraine’s authorities have sent 150 police from the Kiev region as reinforcements for the Ukrainian troops, which are sustaining heavy losses, the news agency said.

“A new battalion dispatched to the east is composed of district police inspectors and personnel of the patrol and post service, investigation and other units of the regional police,” the news agency said.

The death toll of Ukrainian servicemen from the military operation that Kiev launched in the the country’s east on April 14, 2014 nears now to 789, press secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

Ukrainian troops trapped by militias near Donetsk

The east Ukraine militia headquarters earlier reported that the Donetsk People’s Republic, which had formed united armed forces, launched a counteroffensive on August 24 and 25, encircling three large groupings of Ukrainian troops.

The Donetsk self-defense fighters blocked over 7,000 Ukrainian troops and over 400 pieces of the armor, the militia headquarters said.

The encircled pro-Kiev grouping included over 40 tanks, about 100 infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and airborne combat vehicles and about 50 Grad and Uragan multiple launch rocket systems, the militia headquarters said.

Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said on Tuesday that militias had intensified fighting in the eastern and southern fronts in the Donetsk Region.

Pro-Kiev troops and local militias in the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk regions are involved in fierce clashes as the Ukrainian armed forces are conducting a military operation to regain control over the breakaway regions, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums.

During the military operation, Kiev has used armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. Many buildings have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have had to flee Ukraine’s embattled east.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Missouri Police Sued for $40 Million Over Actions in Ferguson Protests
Ferguson cops attack demonstrators in the aftermath of the killing
of Michael Brown.
5:06pm EDT
By Carey Gillam

(Reuters) - A group of people caught up in unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after a white officer killed a black teenager, sued local officials on Thursday, alleging civil rights violations through arrests and police assaults with rubber bullets and tear gas.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, says law enforcement met a broad public outcry over the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown with "militaristic displays of force and weaponry," (and) engaged U.S. citizens "as if they were war combatants."

The lawsuit seeks a total of $40 million on behalf of six plaintiffs, including a 17-year-old boy who was with his mother in a fast-food restaurant when they were arrested. Each of the plaintiffs was caught up in interactions with police over a period from Aug. 11 to 13, the suit allege.

Named as defendants are the city of Ferguson, St. Louis County, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Delmar, Ferguson police officer Justin Cosmo, and other unnamed police officers from Ferguson and St. Louis County.

Neither the city, county nor police departments had any immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit followed nearly two weeks of racial strife in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, where Brown's killing prompted protesters to take to the streets. Some stores were looted in nightly protests, and police responded with riot gear and moved in military equipment to try to quell the turmoil.

One of the plaintiffs alleges she and her son were in a McDonald's restaurant when several police officers with rifles ordered them out. According to the suit, an officer threw her to the ground and handcuffed her, with she and her son both arrested.

Another plaintiff alleges he was trying to visit his mother in Ferguson when several police officers in military uniforms in her neighborhood shot him with rubber bullets. When he fell over, he was beaten and sprayed with pepper spray, the lawsuit says.

Two other plaintiffs say they were peacefully protesting when officers in riot gear fired on them with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. A separate plaintiff says he was trying to record footage of the protests when police took his camera and arrested him.

"This is a blatant example of how police handle African-Americans ... how it can go terribly, terribly wrong. You have a right to peaceful assembly," said attorney Reginald Greene who brought the case.

Police have said police officer Darren Wilson shot Brown in an altercation on a residential street when the officer asked him to move out of the road. Some witnesses have reported that Brown was holding his hands up in surrender when he was shot multiple times, including twice in the head.

A St. Louis County grand jury has begun hearing evidence in the case. The U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Peter Cooney)
South African Minister of Defense Mapisa-Nqakula: EFF's Parly Actions a National Security Threat
South African Minister of Defense Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
While evading questions about what measures might be taken against the EFF, the defence minister has accused the party of undermining Parliament

27 Aug 2014 07:26
Andisiwe Makinana
South Africa Mail & Guardian

The protest by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs during a parliamentary question and answer session on Thursday posed a threat to national security. This is according to Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who told journalists on Tuesday morning that the EFF’s actions were a threat to national security and to everything else.

“It posed a threat to everybody inside that chamber but also to the institution. It undermined the institution of Parliament, it undermined our Constitution and everything which we are representing here,” said Mapisa-Nqakula, responding to a question from a journalist in Parliament.

The definition of national security is widely contested in South African politics. Opposition parties and civil society organisations have over the years voiced their unhappiness over the ANC’s proposed definition of national security, saying it was too broad, vague and open-ended and would give ministers unchecked discretion to decide what constitutes national security.

This was during Parliament’s processing of the controversial Protection of State Information Bill between 2010 and 2013. On Tuesday, Mapisa-Nqakula said that the security cluster ministers have instructed senior government officials to make recommendations on how to prevent such incidences.

While she evaded questions about the exact measures that might be taken against the offending MPs, her colleague Police Minister Nathi Nhleko revealed that the new measures would make it easy for police to arrest and remove from the Parliament precinct any person who is disrupting a sitting of the House or a committee of Parliament.

Measures put in place

Mapisa-Nqakula said that while Parliament was independent from the executive, the cluster could not stand idle. Mapisa-Nqakula said certain measures had been put in place with immediate effect by the security cluster to ensure that such an event never occurs again.

She pointed out that the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, which governs the conduct of MPs and members of the provincial legislatures, made provision for the police to arrest and remove from the precinct – on the order of the speaker – any person who creates or takes part in any disturbance in the precinct while Parliament is sitting.

“There are certain activities ... impede the exercise by Parliament .... interfere with Parliament ... section 11 of the Act provides that if any person who creates or disturbs the house may be arrested and removed from the precinct,” she said.

The police did not move in because there was no instruction from the speaker to do so, Mapisa-Nqakula said. “When the police came, they said they needed a clear instruction from the speaker of the National Assembly, because there was confusion in terms of the rules,” she said.

A number of senior ANC members have criticised the police’s delayed reaction and the fact that they did not arrest EFF MPs on their arrival in Parliament. Mapisa-Nqakula also revealed that it was she who instructed the police to ensure that when they go into the National Assembly chamber to evict EFF MPs who had staged a sit-in, there should not be a scuffle nor violence or manhandling of the MPs, but to rather ensure that they vacated the assembly.

She denied that the executive was interfering in the legislative arm of state, saying that if a similar incident had occurred in the courts, they would have reacted similarly. “There are rules and privileges and if you look at those rules, they say when there is immediate danger to the life or safety of any person or damage to any property; members of the security services may without obtaining such permission enter upon and take action in the precinct in so far as it is necessary to avert that danger,” she said.

According to Mapisa-Nqakula, while there was no heavy handedness in dealing with the matter, in future things will be different as there will be measures put in place to prevent a repetition of the incident.


Nhleko revealed that he had been the one who called the public order police to Parliament “because the order of the House had degenerated”. He said the police and other people on the scene, including ANC members, exercised “a lot of restraint” including in terms of the interventions from the security management’s point of view.

Nhleko described Thursday’s events as completely abnormal and said the measures that were being put in place had nothing to do with heavy-handedness “and everything to do with how we execute and enforce the provision that we have in the law”. This would allow for when or as a situation like Thursday’s arises, that requires the removal of MP or anybody from the Parliament precinct, for the police to effect arrest and relevant measures when the speaker makes such an order.

There were a lot more police in Parliament on Tuesday, the first day of a parliamentary sitting since the EFF disruption, than usual possibly as a result of the new security measures. Security was tighter at the entrances to Parliament and to parliamentary building with police who normally facilitate access into the precinct very strict in checking the credentials of those going in and out of the institution.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has raised concerns over the involvement of the security cluster ministers in public security matters, saying that it appeared to violate the most basic principle of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said he will request an urgent meeting of Parliament’s highest decision-making body, the Parliamentary Oversight Authority, to discuss the matter.

He said Mapisa-Nqakula’s statements that the executive “cannot stand idle as our democracy is undermined” was a veiled threat, which completely ignores Parliament’s responsibility to uphold its own rules and therefore handle the matter. “If anything, it is because the executive does not take parliamentary accountability seriously that we have ended up in this situation in the first place. It is important to note that Parliament holds the executive to account and not the other way around,” said Steenhuisen.

He said the parliamentary oversight authority must reject the infringement of its powers, and independence as a separate arm of the state, by the executive.
SACP Central Committee: Advance and Deepen Our Second, More Radical Phase of Democratic Transition
A SACP woman supporter.
24 August 2014

The SACP Central Committee (CC) met in Kliptown, Soweto over the weekend 22 - 24 August 2014. The CC discussed and contributed to a secretariat political report focused on the important African National Congress (ANC) December 2012 Mangaung National Conference resolution calling for a radical second phase of our democratic transition. The CC also discussed and took resolutions on several contemporary issues - including the serious challenges in the financial sector, the threat of proto-fascist hooliganism to our hard-won democratic advances, and the situation in Gaza, Palestine. The CC also used the opportunity to hold community meetings for several hours in Kliptown and nearby Eldorado Park on Saturday morning.

Giving context and content to the call for a second radical phase of our democratic transition

The CC noted that the ANC`s 2012 National Conference, the Alliance`s 2013 national summit, and President Zuma`s 2014 inauguration speech all placed the imperative of a second radical phase of our democratic transition centre stage. Since the 1994 democratic breakthrough a major redistributive programme has been under way, impacting significantly on the working class and poor. This massive redistributive effort has included 3 million subsidised houses, the extension of social grants to over 16 million South Africans, one the largest roll-outs of subsidised solar water heaters in the world, reaching over 400,000 poor households, and much more. Yet, despite this impressive and in many respects internationally unparalleled effort, there is the stubborn persistence of crisis levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

This reproduced crisis is rooted primarily in the untransformed character of our productive economy:

high levels of private monopoly concentration,
the domination of an increasingly financialised mineral-energy-banking complex that reproduces a weak manufacturing and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise sector, and
SA`s subordinate location in the global imperialist value chain as a producer of un-beneficiated mineral resources.

The CC resolved that, in the coming weeks, the SACP will release a fuller discussion document that seeks to provide substantive context and content to the imperative of a second radical phase, and a programme of action to achieve it. The objective will be to stimulate discussion across our Alliance and in the wider public. The paper will seek to expose those who refuse to accept that there is a systemic crisis in our economy, and who favour business as usual. In defending the imperative of radicalism, the paper will distinguish a genuine radicalism from those who seek to reduce radicalism to hooliganism, or to a more aggressive promotion of private accumulation by a small elite of aspirant black capitalists.

The demise of African Bank and subsequent events in the past two weeks have dramatically illustrated precisely one of the core systemic choke-points within our economy.

A financial sector that continues to bleed SA dry

The SACP has never regarded the views of ratings agencies as anything other than self-interested advice to speculators. Moody`s downgrading of all SA`s banks in the aftermath of the demise of African Bank had little to do with its disapproval of speculative activity preying upon the poor, and everything to do with its disappointment that the Reserve Bank`s partial bail out and restructuring of African Bank was not loaded entirely onto the South African tax-payer, with major investors in the Bank being forced to take a 10% "haircut".

Nevertheless, whatever Moody`s reasoning, the fact is that the downgrade had its origins in the reckless promotion of unaffordable lending to working people and the poor. The CC noted that the involvement in one way or another of so-called reputable banks (and retailers) in these practices, has now emerged as a major threat to the reputation and credit-worthiness of the country. Those commentators who have grown accustomed to blaming the struggles of the working class for negative credit ratings must surely now be obliged to acknowledge the role of speculative profit-seeking by financial institutions.

The problem runs deeper than just the conventional financial institutions. The symbiotic relationship between African Bank and Ellerines underlines the degree to which wide swathes of our economy have become financialised. Increasingly, major retailers in basic consumer lines like furniture, clothing and food are gouging their profits not so much from what they sell as from punitive interest on credit advanced.

The SACP calls on all regulatory authorities, including the Reserve Bank and the National Credit Regulator, to root out "business models" predicated on promoting indebtedness among workers and the poor.

Beware of false rumours being spread about retirement funds

The SACP calls upon workers and public servants not to resign on the basis of unfounded rumours that government is planning to take away people`s hard-earned pensions and prevent them from accessing their funds. In some cases these rumours are being deliberately fanned by anti-Alliance elements in the union movement for their own narrow political ends. We are aware of teachers and health-care workers who are resigning from their jobs in order to access their money in the mistaken belief that they may be denied access to their funds in the future.

Those fanning these rumours are acting in the most irresponsible way. Not only are the rumours wrong, they expose those panicked into resigning to serious losses. For instance, if you resign in order to withdraw your retirement funds only R25 000 of those savings are tax free. Whereas on retirement R500,000 is tax free.

The rumour-mongers are deliberately confusing retirement reforms under way directed at provident funds. There are currently no measures in place to force workers on resigning from their jobs to preserve their retirement savings. What will take effect from March next year is that only when they retire will members of a provident fund be obliged to use two-thirds of what they have saved after March 2015 to purchase an annuity (a monthly pension). However, whatever has been saved up till March 2015 will still be available as a lump sum on retirement.

In the case of public servants, their pensions are regulated in terms of the Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF) rules. The GEPF will not change at this stage. Government is obliged to consult workers before any proposals or reforms can be put into law. Proposals by government aimed at lowering charges on pension funds, encouraging workers to keep their savings until retirement, and convert some of their retirement savings into income at retirement are some of the proposals for consultation with all workers.

The SACP calls upon Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration to disseminate information to all workers, assuring them that the law has not changed and that workers have access to their hard-earned pension funds.

Defend our democratic institutions from hooliganism

The Communist Party way back in the 1920s was the pioneering political formation in calling for a democratic, non-racial, one-person one-vote parliament in our country. Communists have suffered persecution and even death in the struggle for this important objective. Parliament is a critical institution within our new democracy. It is a place in which the people`s representatives develop and pass legislation and hold the executive publicly to account. In our multi-party democracy we should welcome robust debate and all parties, whether a majority party or a minority party should be respected. Even the smallest party in Parliament has the honour of and obligation to represent the hundreds or tens of thousands of South Africans who voted for it.

While major strides have been made since 1994 in the transformation of Parliament and other legislatures in our country, the SACP agrees with those who believe that Parliament must continue to move away from what is sometimes a limiting decorum inherited from an earlier colonial era.

We believe that all political parties, whatever the differences among them, currently represented in Parliament share these general views and values - with one exception. The leadership of the EFF is in Parliament in order to discredit and smash it. As the German playwright Bertolt Brecht observed of the 1930s, while the emergent National Socialist Nazi party engaged in provocative hooliganism in the Reichstag, one of the hall-marks of fascism is its inclination to turn politics into theatre. In its formative years, it is the politics of pseudo-military hooliganism. In power, IF they come to power, the theatre turns into Nuremburg-style, mass military displays of leader worship and nationalistic chauvinism. We cannot allow this trajectory to take hold within our institutions. We call on all South Africans, including those members of the EFF parliamentary caucus who are themselves increasingly alarmed by the bus they have boarded, to isolate this dangerous cancer within our body politic.

The leader of the EFF, whose case with receiver of revenue SARS is back in court tomorrow, is acting with all of the reckless disdain of someone with nothing to lose. His behaviour, not just in Parliament in Cape Town last week, but in the Gauteng legislature, continues along the same trajectory of anarchic plunder and wrecking of anything in his way that characterised his conduct in Limpopo and as leader of the ANC Youth League, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Long before Malema`s belated expulsion from the ANC, the SACP characterised this tendency as "embryonic fascism". We stand by this characterisation. Some commentators today, like German liberals in the 1930s, dismiss this characterisation. We are told that for fascism to breed it needs to be suckled by sectors of capital. But this is exactly the case here - Malema has long been supported by wealthy funders, principally but not only the most decadent factions of capital. We welcome reports that SARS is investigating the source of payments for Malema`s tax debt. It is SARS on behalf of the people of South Africa that needs to be saying to Malema and his dodgy backers: "Pay back the money".

Parliament is not the only corner-stone of our democracy under threat. The Party is deeply concerned at the ongoing turmoil in the NPA. Likewise, while respecting the office of the Public Protector, the Party is concerned at the constant over-reaching by Advocate Thuli Madonsela that wittingly or unwittingly plays into an anti-democratic regime-change agenda that seeks to portray the entirety of government as corrupt. At the same time as members of the ANC-led movement we must acknowledge that corruption and maladministration within government and within our movement does exist - always with the active complicity of private sector elements. We must deal decisively with corruption and unethical behaviour in order to defeat the threat to our democracy.

Apartheid Zionist Israel is guilty of war crimes and genocide

The horrific mass death and destruction in occupied Gaza continues. The SACP reaffirms its condemnation of the multiple war crimes and genocide perpetrated by apartheid Zionist Israel. The Party salutes the growing numbers of South Africans, including a growing number of South African Jews who have actively come out to express horror and condemnation. This has included one of the largest marches in South Africa`s history involving hundreds of thousands in Cape Town. The SACP and Young Communist League of SA have been active participants along with a wide range of formations in these activities.

The Central Committee expressed its full support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement`s campaign for a boycott of G4S Security company. This is the company that runs Israel`s illegal detention facilities, torture centres and prisons. G4S has a strong presence in SA, including at ACSA airports. We say: boycott G4S. The CC also calls on our authorities to deal decisively with South African citizens who are illegally serving in the Israeli army.

Swaziland autocracy continues

The CC condemned the arrest of the President of Pudemo who has now been charged, for the third time, with sedition. The charge carries a potential death sentence and it is particularly concerning that Swaziland recently advertised for the position of an official state hangman. The SACP is also concerned about recent moves by our own Department of Home Affairs to expel Swazi political refugees living in SA. We have taken up this matter with the department and we insist that these comrades must not be returned to Swaziland to face certain detention, torture and possible murder.


The CC received a brief report on government`s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The CC commended the rapid precautionary measures put into place by government. The Party also noted the opportunism of DA Gauteng leader Jack Bloom in spreading rumours about a non-existent Ebola case in SA. What is required is calm heads, vigilance, and a common and united South African response - not party political opportunism.

Issued by the SACP Central Committee, Kliptown, Soweto

Alex Mashilo: Spokesperson
Mobile: 082 9200 308
Office: 011 339 3621/2
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Twitter: @2SACP