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United States of America

Obama authorises air strikes in Syria

FT, By Geoff Dyer, August 3

Washington – The Obama administration has decided to provide air cover to the Syrian rebels it has trained if they come under attack by the Assad regime, potentially deepening the US role in the four-year old Syrian conflict.

The Syrian fighters are being trained by the US to take on Islamist militants from Isis but there is also a chance that they could also come under attack from Assad regime forces.

The administration has been reluctant to discuss any military action against the Assad regime for fear that it could lead to greater US involvement in the civil war, but felt it was necessary to provide greater assurances to the fledgling rebel force it has been building up.

The decision, made by President Barack Obama, comes after some US-trained rebels were attacked on Friday by elements of the Nusra Front, a jihadi group in Syria that is allied with al-Qaeda. The US was forced to conduct air strikes to defend the troops.

Ha’aretz: Obama Green Lights U.S. Airstrikes in Syria to Protect Rebels Against Both ISIS and Assad
Russia says any support for Assad’s rivals hampers Damascus’ fight against ISIS.
IBT: Obama Authorizes Airstrikes To Defend US-Backed Syrian Rebels From Assad Forces: Report

‘It was off the wall': FL police laundered millions in drug money overseas and enjoyed lavish lifestyle

Raw Story, By Bethania Palma Markus, August 1

An investigative report by the Miami Herald published today reveals that two local Florida police agencies engaged in a slick money laundering scheme ripped from a Hollywood movie, reaping a whopping $2.4 million for themselves in drug money.

The Tri-County Task Force, which consisted of officers from two small police agencies, the Glade County Sheriff’s Office and Bal Harbour Police Department, laundered millions of dollars via SunTrust Bank through countries including Panama and China, the Herald found.

Per the Herald:

The Tri-County Task Force turned a money-laundering investigation into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, spending lavishly on travel and dining while picking up suitcases stuffed with drug cash from as far away as Los Angeles and San Juan.

The officers used fake names to set up seven accounts, starting in 2009, with the help of SunTrust official Ivan Morales, laundering millions each month.

The so-called sting operation laundered a total of $71.5 million — but did not result in any arrests. The illegal cash was moved overseas despite U.S. policy that forbids it.

National Endowment for Democracy is first ‘undesirable’ NGO banned in Russia

Washington-based nonprofit funded largely by US Congress, is the first banned group under a law against ‘undesirable’ international organisations.

The Guardian, By Alec Luhn, July 28

Moscow – The National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based nonprofit funded largely by the US Congress, has become the first group to be banned in Russia under a law against “undesirable” international nongovernmental organisations.

According to its website, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world” and has funded local non-governmental organisations in more than 90 countries. But in a statement on Tuesday, the prosecutor general’s office said it “poses a threat to the constitutional order of the Russian Federation and the defensive capability and security of the government”.

“Using Russian commercial and noncommercial organisations under its control, the National Endowment for Democracy participated in work to declare the results of election campaigns illegitimate, organise political actions intended to influence decisions made by the authorities, and discredit service in Russia’s armed forces,” the statement said.

Pando: What Pierre did next
After helping the State Department fund revolution in Ukraine, Omidyar is reportedly ready to invest in Gawker.

Here It Comes: Puerto Rico Is Headed for a Debt Default

Slate MoneyBox, By Jordan Weissmann, July 31

So it looks like Puerto Rico has some fun weekend plans. After months of staggering under its $72 billion debt load, the island is expected to miss a bond payment due Saturday, which—despite what some government officials have claimed—means the island is probably heading for default. (We won’t know for sure whether it happens until Monday, according to Reuters, since the cash isn’t due until the next business day).

Think of this as a gentle warmup for a much bigger confrontation over Puerto Rico’s debt that’s still to come. The government is set to skip a relatively small $58 million payment on a set of bonds largely owned by Puerto Rican credit union members, who—unlike the many hedge funds among the island’s creditors—aren’t especially likely to sue for their money. Even if they did, not much would come of it, since the debts in question are “moral obligation” bonds—so-called because issuers only have a moral (ha), but not legal, obligation to pay them back.

Still, as Bloomberg puts it, this is basically Puerto Rico’s “warning shot to investors that officials aren’t afraid to default.” The island says it simply doesn’t have the cash flow to cover its obligations (which may well be true), and is working on a debt-restructuring plan it should have done by Sept. 1. But by skipping this weekend’s payment, it’s signaling to creditors that they should really consider making a deal or risk getting stiffed. Whether the act of defaulting on a group of credit-union members who lack much in the way of legal recourse will intimidate some steely hedge funders remains to be seen.

Mission Accomplished: Planned Parenthood Attacks Coordinated by High-Ranking Republican Operatives

RH Reality Check, By Karoli Kuns, July 31

To understand exactly how the most recent Planned Parenthood sting was planned and coordinated, you must go back to 2013. In July of 2013, Washington, D.C. reporter David Corn revealed the existence of a high-powered group of people who viewed themselves as a conservative army fighting a war on multiple fronts. From the wife of a Supreme Court justice to the chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz, members of this group were determined to stop all progress before it could even begin.

Just after Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, disappointed conservative thought leaders came together at the annual CPAC conference in Washington, D.C. to strategize. Demoralized but determined, they formed a plan to fight a “30-front war to fundamentally transform the nation.”

In early 2013, they formed an email group to begin the process of organizing for action and messaging coordination. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ key aide Danielle Cutrona was part of the group, as was Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Breitbart News Editor John Nolte, Family Research Council officials Jerry Boykin and Ken Blackwell, Tea Party Patriots Founder Jenny Beth Martin, Washington, D.C. attorney and public relations expert Diana Banister, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, former Congressman Allen West, former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, Frank Gaffney, and Ted Cruz staffer Max Pappas rounded out the top-tier of group participants, according to David Corn’s report.

Democracy Now!: Exposed: The Faces and Fake Names of the People Behind Planned Parenthood Attack Videos

An L.A. Cop Pressed His Gun Into the Chest of an Unarmed Man And Shot Him Through the Heart

GQ, By Jeff Sharlet, July 30

Five months after the March 1 Los Angeles police killing of an unarmed black man named Charly “Africa” Keunang—a story I reported in-depth for the July issue of GQ—the Los Angeles coroner has finally released the results of its autopsy. They are profoundly disturbing. Two of the six bullets that killed Charly entered his body through what are called “contact gunshot wounds”—which means the muzzle of the officer’s gun was pressed directly against Charly’s body. Like a slaughterhouse killing.

I’d already reviewed a less-detailed autopsy report commissioned privately by Keunang’s family and had access to leaked body-cam videos and recordings of internal police interviews with several of the officers involved. Even so, the autopsy report is startling.

There’s a moment in the body-cam video when it appears to me that Officer Francisco Martinez has his hand on Charly’s torso—Charly is on his back after having been wrestled down and tased—with his gun pointed at the body. I didn’t include that detail in my story because I couldn’t be absolutely certain. We still can’t be sure Officer Martinez’s hand is holding Charly down, but now we can be certain: He pressed his gun into the chest of an unarmed man who was lying on his back and pulled the trigger.

University of Cincinnati Officer Indicted in Shooting Death of Samuel Dubose

New York Times, By Richard Pérez-Peña, July 29

A University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted Wednesday on a murder charge in what a prosecutor called “a senseless, asinine shooting” of an unarmed man during a minor traffic stop. Officials say it was the first time such a charge had been leveled against an officer in the county.

The Hamilton County prosecuting attorney, Joseph T. Deters, released a much anticipated video of the shooting of Samuel Dubose taken by the officer’s body camera that he described as crucial evidence that Mr. Dubose did not act aggressively or pose a threat to Officer Ray Tensing, and that Officer Tensing had lied about being dragged by Mr. Dubose’s car. A grand jury, Mr. Deters announced, indicted the officer on a murder charge, punishable by life in prison, and a voluntary manslaughter charge.

“It was a senseless, asinine shooting,” Mr. Deters said at a news conference, using stark terms to denounce the July 19 killing, the officer’s claims and the officer himself. “This doesn’t happen in the United States, OK?” he said. “This might happen in Afghanistan. People don’t get shot for a traffic stop.”

NYT Opinion; Charles Blow: The Shooting of Samuel Dubose

The Guardian: Officers at Sam DuBose scene involved in death of another unarmed black man

‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen

New York Magazine, By Noreen Malone and Portfolio By Amanda Demme, July 26

More has changed in the past few years for women who allege rape than in all the decades since the women’s movement began. Consider the evidence of October 2014, when an audience member at a Hannibal Buress show in Philadelphia uploaded a clip of the comedian talking about Bill Cosby: “He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people … I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches … I guess I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns. Dude’s image, for the most part, it’s fucking public Teflon image. I’ve done this bit onstage and people think I’m making it up … That shit is upsetting.” The bit went viral swiftly, with irreversible, calamitous consequences for Cosby’s reputation.

Perhaps the most shocking thing wasn’t that Buress had called Cosby a rapist; it was that the world had actually heard him. A decade earlier, 14 women had accused Cosby of rape. In 2005, a former basketball star named Andrea Constand, who met Cosby when she was working in the athletic department at Temple University, where he served on the board of trustees, alleged to authorities that he had drugged her to a state of semi-consciousness and then groped and digitally penetrated her. After her allegations were made public, a California lawyer named Tamara Green appeared on the Today show and said that, 30 years earlier, Cosby had drugged and assaulted her as well. Eventually, 12 Jane Does signed up to tell their own stories of being assaulted by Cosby in support of Constand’s case. Several of them eventually made their names public. But they were met, mostly, with skepticism, threats, and attacks on their character.
Read More

Hillary Clinton unveils climate change policy

Los Angeles Times, By Evan Halper & Seema Mehta, July 26

Hillary Rodham Clinton sought to position herself as a crusader against climate change Sunday by unveiling some robust goals, even as she continued to avoid some of the more contentious battles around global warming.

Clinton announced that she will push to vastly expand the number of solar panels installed in the United States, as well as to boost overall renewable energy to the point that it will be able to fuel all homes and businesses by 2027.

The proposals reflect Clinton’s commitment to continuing the path on climate change set by President Obama, who champions numerous policies that bolster renewables and push a reduction in fossil fuel consumption.

The Clinton package is incomplete, however. Unlike her rivals in the Democratic presidential contest, Clinton has yet to take a position on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast ports. She also has yet to weigh in on a campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing nationwide, or to take a firm position on offshore oil drilling.

The proposal Clinton released Sunday for boosting solar installations by 700% is vague on details about how it would be funded.

Think Progress: Clinton Campaign Releases Horror Film Montage Of Climate-Denying Presidential Candidates

Turkey expands bombing raids to PKK targets in Iraq

PM’s office says jets bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, hours after planes pounded ISIL positions in Syria.

Al Jazeera, July 25

Turkish fighter jets have bombed military positions of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in neighbouring Iraq.

The air raids came just hours after Turkish planes pounded Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria on Friday morning, marking a significant shift in Ankara’s position on how to deal with armed groups in Syria and Iraq.

“Strikes were carried out on targets of the Daesh [ISIL] terror group in Syria and the PKK terror group in northern Iraq,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that shelters and warehouses containing PKK weapons were hit in the northern Iraq operation.

[…]

Turkey also approved the full use of its airbases by the US-led coalition against ISIL, according to the foreign ministry, marking a major change in its policy following a suicide bomb attack in Suruc, bordering Syria.

“The cabinet of ministers has given approval for the stationing in our country’s bases of manned and unmanned aircraft of the US and other coalition countries … taking part in air operations against Islamic State,” the foreign ministry said, adding that Turkey’s own aircraft would also be deployed.


RT: Turkey attacks Kurdish militia & ISIS positions – PM’s office

Prime Minister Davutoglu told reporters that some 590 suspected members of IS and PKK and other militant groups had been arrested in raids across Turkey that began on Friday, according to AFP.

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