Category - Newswire

Surveillance planes spotted in the sky for days after West Baltimore rioting

Washington Post, By Craig Timberg, May 5

As Benjamin Shayne settled into his back yard to listen to the Orioles game on the radio Saturday night, he noticed a small plane looping low and tight over West Baltimore — almost exactly above where rioting had erupted several days earlier, in the aftermath of the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, in police custody.

The plane appeared to be a small Cessna, but little else was clear. The sun had already set, making traditional visual surveillance difficult. So, perplexed, Shayne tweeted: “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the last few nights?”

That was 9:14 p.m. Seven minutes later came a startling reply. One of Shayne’s nearly 600 followers tweeted back a screen shot of the Cessna 182T’s exact flight path and also the registered owner of the plane: NG Research, based in Bristow, Va.

“The Internet,” Shayne, 39, told his wife, “is an amazing thing.”

What Shayne’s online rumination helped unveil was a previously secret, multi-day campaign of overhead surveillance by city and federal authorities during a period of historic political protest and unrest.

US allows first ferry services to Cuba in over 50 years

AFP, May 6

The United States authorized commercial ferry services to Cuba for the first time in more than a half-century on Tuesday, another major step in improving relations between the two countries.

In what was hailed by ferry operators as “a historical event,” the US Treasury lifted a decades-old ban and at least one Florida company confirmed it had been licensed to launch boat services to the island.

That adds to the charter air services that had been permitted up until now, focused on enabling Cuban-Americans to visit their families.

The ferries will also be allowed to carry cargo to the communist island, which sits just 150 kilometers (90 miles) off the southern tip of Florida.

Alberta election 2015 results: NDP wave sweeps across province in historic win

Wildrose Party, led by newly elected leader Brian Jean, once again Alberta’s Official Opposition

CBC, May 5

It’s a massive shock that turns Canadian politics on its head: the NDP has won a majority government in Alberta.

“I think we might have made a little bit of history tonight,” leader Rachel Notley told her supporters Tuesday night. “Friends, I believe, that change has finally come to Alberta. New people, new ideas and a fresh start for our great province.”

The NDP won 53 ridings. Wildrose took 21 seats, while the PCs took 10. There was a tie in one Calgary riding — Calgary-Glenmore — between the PCs and NDP. A recount will take place in the next few days.

The Liberals and the Alberta Party each claimed one seat.

Notley believes the election was record-setting in terms of the number of women elected.

National Post: Electorate anger combined with strong NDP campaign brought end to Alberta PC dynasty
National Post: Alberta Tories’ 43-year reign ends: Prentice quits party, resigns his seat as NDP sweeps to majority

“There’s no greater fortune in life than to be a Canadian and an Albertan. We are all so very, very lucky.”

National Post: Alberta election results 2015: A riding-by-riding breakdown of the vote
CBC: Alberta Election 2015: Voters pick Wildrose Party as Official Opposition
Ian Welsh: Alberta Elects the New Democratic Party (NDP)

Protests over alleged police brutality in Israel turn violent in Tel Aviv

CNN, By Oren Liebermann and Kevin Conlon, May 3

Tel Aviv – Protests in Tel Aviv over alleged police mistreatment of Ethiopian Jews turned violent Sunday, resulting in twenty-three officers being injured, according to Israeli police.

The planned demonstration by the Ethiopian Jewish community — incensed over a video gone viral that shows a uniformed Israel Defense Forces soldier of Ethopian descent being assaulted by police — had been peaceful for hours before things took a violent turn.

Authorities employed horses, water cannons and smoke to disperse the crowd in Rabin Square, which had been chanting slogans such as “a violent cop should be in jail.”

Japan eyes ‘large scale’ cooperation with Cuba

AFP, May 2

Havana – The foreign minister of Japan said Saturday that Tokyo wants to launch “large scale cooperation” with Havana to support the island’s reforms.

In the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, speaking during a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, said Japan supports US and Cuban efforts to normalize relations and that Tokyo wants to take its own ties with Havana to “a new level.”

Kishida, who traveled with a delegation of 30 Japanese business leaders, said Japan wants to launch a “new scheme of Japanese cooperation of wide range, large scale” to support reforms undertaken by President Raul Castro.

He said the scheme was called “non-reimburseable financial assistance.”

“Secondly, we would like to consolidate our economic relations,” Kishida said.

Spying Close to Home: German Intelligence Under Fire for NSA Cooperation

US intelligence spent years spying on European targets from a secretive base. Now, it seems that German intelligence was aware of the espionage — and did nothing to stop it.

Der Spiegel, By Maik Baumgärtner, Nikolaus Blome, Hubert Gude, Marcel Rosenbach, Jörg Schindler and Fidelius Schmid, April 24

It was obvious from its construction speed just how important the new site in Bavaria was to the Americans. Only four-and-a-half months after it was begun, the new, surveillance-proof building at the Mangfall Kaserne in Bad Aibling was finished. The structure had a metal exterior and no windows, which led to its derogatory nickname among members of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German foreign intelligence agency: The “tin can.”

The construction project was an expression of an especially close and trusting cooperation between the American National Security Agency (NSA) and the BND. Bad Aibling had formerly been a base for US espionage before it was officially turned over to the BND in 2004. But the “tin can” was built after the handover took place.

The heads of the two intelligence agencies had agreed to continue cooperating there in secret. Together, they established joint working groups, one for the acquisition of data, called Joint Sigint Activity, and one for the analysis of that data, known as the Joint Analysis Center.

But the Germans were apparently not supposed to know everything their partners in the “tin can” were doing. The Americans weren’t just interested in terrorism; they also used their technical abilities to spy on companies and agencies in Western Europe. They didn’t even shy away from pursuing German targets.

The Germans noticed — in 2008, if not sooner. But nothing was done about it until 2013, when an analysis triggered by whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks showed that the US was using the facility to spy on German and Western European targets.

Via Naked Capitalism: Angela Merkel’s NSA Nightmare Just Got A Lot Worse

Seattle ‘riot’: Police deploy flashbangs, tear gas against May Day marchers (VIDEOS)

RT, May 2

Protesters at a May Day march in Seattle, Washington clashed with police during what law enforcement called “a riot” on Friday. Officers deployed flashbangs and pepper spray to try and get the crowd under control.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets Friday to participate in pro-worker, anti-police-brutality rallies, as well as one that was billed as anti-capitalist. According to the Seattle Times, one protester broke a window and others threw rocks at police before law enforcement responded with flash bangs.

[…]

Three officers have been injured at the scene of a melee at Broadway and Howell, the Seattle Police Department tweeted, two of which were hurt seriously. A total of fifteen people have been arrested across the city, police said.

AP-GfK Poll: Most favor drone strikes, even on Americans

AP, By Emily Swanson & Ken Dilanian, May 1

Washington – Most Americans support using drones to target and kill members of terrorist groups overseas, and a large majority think it’s acceptable to target American citizens if they are members of terrorist organizations, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

But fewer think such strikes are acceptable if an innocent American might be killed.

The poll was conducted in the days after President Barack Obama publicly apologized for a CIA drone strike in Pakistan that inadvertently killed American hostage Warren Weinstein and Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto. The strike also killed Ahmed Farouq, an American citizen who was an al-Qaida planning leader. Another strike killed Adam Gadhani, an American citizen who joined al-Qaida and became Osama Bin Laden’s spokesman.

Here are five things to know about Americans’ opinions on drone strikes:

Few Oppose Drone Strikes

Six in 10 Americans favor using drones to target and kill people belonging to terrorist groups like al-Qaida, while only 13 percent are opposed, according to the new AP-GfK poll. Another 24 percent say they don’t favor or oppose those strikes.

William Pfaff, Critic of American Foreign Policy, Dies at 86

New York Times, By Marlise Simons, May 1

Paris — William Pfaff, an international affairs columnist and author who was a prominent critic of American foreign policy, finding Washington’s intervention in world affairs often misguided, died on Thursday in a hospital here. He was 86.

His wife, Carolyn Pfaff, said the cause was a heart attack after a fall.

Mr. Pfaff, who moved to Paris in 1971, wrote a syndicated column that appeared for more than 25 years in The International Herald Tribune, now The International New York Times. He was a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and other publications, the articles informed by his deep knowledge of history and philosophy.

Mr. Pfaff (pronounced FAFF) also wrote eight books, which further examined American statecraft as well as 20th-century Europe’s penchant for authoritarian utopianism. In “The Bullet’s Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia,” published in 2004, he examined what drove European intellectuals to embrace communism, fascism and Nazism.

[…]

“What has occurred since 1945,” he wrote in its introduction, “has amounted to an American effort to control the consequences of the 20th-century crisis in Europe and the breakdown of imperial order in Asia, the Near and Middle East, and latterly in Africa while maintaining that supervisory role over the Americas first claimed by the United States in 1823” with the Monroe Doctrine.

U.S. Navy escorting American ships in Strait of Hormuz amid Iran tension

CBS/AP, April 30

A Senior Defense Department official confirms to CBS News that U.S. Naval forces have begun accompanying American-flagged maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.

The move is in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior in the Persian Gulf. Earlier this week Iranian naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship, and detained it and its crew. Iranian officials say the Maersk shipping line owes it money.

Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the Strait Friday.

“We’ve taken this step to prevent harassment or possible interdiction by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces,” the official told CBS News.

The Navy makes a distinction between accompanying ships and escorting them. The officials said the Navy won’t escort these ships but will let them know in advance that they will monitor the situation as they transit the narrow Strait from the Gulf toward the Arabian Sea.

California’s Fire Season Is Shaping Up to Be a “Disaster”

It’s already looking bad, and it’s going to get worse.

Mother Jones, By Tim McDonnell, April 30

On Monday, 200 firefighters evacuated an upscale residential neighborhood in Los Angeles as they responded to a wildfire that had just broken out in the nearby hills. Ninety minutes later, the fire was out, with no damage done. But if that battle was a relatively easy win, it belied a much more difficult war ahead for a state devastated by drought.

California is in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record, so bad that earlier this month Gov. Jerry Brown took the unprecedented step of ordering mandatory water restrictions. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is currently the lowest on record for this time of year. And the outlook for the rest of the year is bleak: The latest federal projections suggest the drought could get even worse this summer across the entire state (as well as many of its neighbors): [graphics]

That’s a very bad sign for California’s wildfire season. After several years of super-dry conditions, the state is literally a tinderbox. “The outlook in California is pretty dire,” said Wally Covington, a leading fire ecologist at Northern Arizona University. “It’s pretty much a recipe for disaster.”

[…]

But in California, the trend looks very different. The tally of fires so far this year is 967—that’s 38 percent higher than the average for this date since 2005. The number of acres burned is up to 4,083, nearly double the count at this time last year and 81 percent above the average since 2005: [graphics]

Istanbul Goes Into Security Lockdown to Stop May Day Rallies

NBC News, May 1

Istanbul — Istanbul went into a security lockdown on Friday as thousands of police manned barricades and closed streets to stop May Day rallies at Taksim Square, a symbolic point for protests.

Citing security concerns, authorities shut down much of the city’s public transport and dispatched riot police to block Taksim off from demonstrators. A traditional rallying ground for leftists, the central square saw weeks of unrest in 2013.

Hundreds of flag-waving protesters gathered in the nearby Besiktas neighborhood, where they were held back by lines of police. Thousands of protesters also gathered to march in the capital Ankara.

Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and the government have become more authoritarian ahead of June elections.

“This meeting is peaceful and is not armed,” opposition politician Mahmut Tanal, holding a pocket-sized book of the Turkish constitution, told Reuters in Istanbul. “People want to express their problems but the government doesn’t want those problems to be heard ahead of elections.”

Exclusive: Saudi troops refused Yemen’s ground invasion; deserted in large numbers

News786, April 28

Here is the real reason why Saudi Arabia halted operation `Decisive Storm’ and failed to launch a ground invasion of Yemen: in a stunning revelation, it has come to light that on 25-26th April, almost 4,000 Saudi forces fled their border bases in anticipation of Riyadh’s order for sending its troops inside Yemen.

“The intel gathered by the western intelligence agencies shows that the Saudi military forces have fled their bases, military centers and bordering checkpoints near Yemen in groups,” diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by Iraq’s Arabic-language Nahrain Net news website.

As per Independent News 786 sources also, European intel said that Saudi forces’ mass AWOL forced Riyadh to declare ceasefire and dissuaded it from launching ground attacks against Yemen.

Other reports also said that over 10,000 soldiers from different Saudi military units have fled army battalions and the National Guard.

Via Sic Semper Fidelis: Saudi Forces Desert Rather Than Invade Yemen

Over 150 injured in teachers’ protest in Brazil

Xinhua, April 29

Rio De Janiero – Over 150 people were injured on Wednesday in a confrontation between protesting teachers and the police in southern Brazil.

The bloodshed in Curitiba, Parana state, marked the second consecutive day of clashes since teachers in the state started camping outside of the State Assembly since Monday.

The protest was against a bill that makes changes in Parana Previdencia, the state civil workers’ pension and retirement system.

While the State Assembly voted the bill, police and protesters fought outside. The protesting teachers used sticks and stones to fight the cops, who used stun bombs, rubber bullets, dogs, pepper spray and tear gas against the teachers. In addition, the police threw stun bombs from a helicopter.

UN aid worker suspended for leaking report on child abuse by French troops

Anders Kompass said to have passed confidential document to French authorities because of UN’s failure to stop abuse of children in Central African Republic.

The Guardian, By Sandra Laville, April 29

A senior United Nations aid worker has been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.

Sources close to the case said Anders Kompass passed the document to the French authorities because of the UN’s failure to take action to stop the abuse. The report documented the sexual exploitation of children as young as nine by French troops stationed in the country as part of international peacekeeping efforts.

Kompass, who is based in Geneva, was suspended from his post as director of field operations last week and accused of leaking a confidential UN report and breaching protocols. He is under investigation by the UN office for internal oversight service (OIOS) amid warnings from a senior official that access to his case must be “severely restricted”. He faces dismissal.

The treatment of the aid worker, who has been involved in humanitarian work for more than 30 years, has taken place with the knowledge of senior UN officials, including Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, and Susana Malcorra, chef de cabinet in the UN, according to documents relating to the case.

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