Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

Fixing throwaway culture

Sweden introduces tax breaks for repairs in bid to cut waste

The Swedish government has proposed several tax changes designed to incentivize consumers to repair broken items instead of discarding them.

Lawmakers from the ruling Social Democrat and Green Party coalition added provisions into the most recent budget, reducing Sweden’s value-added tax for all bike, clothing and shoe repairs to 12 per cent from 25 per cent. In addition, households that pay to repair appliances such as washing machines will be eligible for a tax deduction. The two initiatives are projected to cost the national treasury $114 million annually, but will be partially offset by a controversial new levy on electronics that contain chemicals the government describes as dangerous to humans. These include the fire retardant pentaBDE, often found on cellphone covers. The initiatives will be voted on later this month, but are widely expected to pass.

Kurdish-Led Operation in Raqqa ‘Saved Thousands of Civilians’

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The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are continuing their fight against Daesh in the Syrian city of Raqqa. In an exclusive interview with Sputnik Turkey, spokeswoman for the operation command group on Raqqa’s liberation and commander of the Kurdish YPJ female battalion Cihan Sekh Ehmed commented on the current situation in the city.

According to Ehmed, the recent military operation in Raqqa helped to save the lives of thousands of civilians.

During the second stage of the Euphrates shield operation to liberate the city of Raqqa which started on December 10, more than 15 villages near Raqqa were liberated from Daesh militants, Ehmed said, adding that the terrorist group has taken heavy losses.

2,300 US Soldiers Headed to Afghanistan This Winter

In one of his final moves in office, president Obama has committed another 2,300 US troops to Afghanistan to help the government curb the resurgence of the Taliban.

After a year of territorial gains by the Taliban in their fight against the weakened Afghani government, the US is sending around 2,300 troops from armor and aviation brigades to assist in attempting to turn the tide. The troops are being sent as part of operation Freedom’s Sentinel to “advise and assist” the Afghan security services in their ongoing fight.

The Afghan forces are also combating the still-active al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan as well as a new cell of the Islamic State that materialized in the country earlier this year. The US forces have have their work cut out for them judging by the failures of the Afghan government in the past few years as well as the rampant corruption within the security services.

Mexico Reportedly Moves Ahead With Controversial Pipeline, Despite Moratorium

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A new pipeline under construction in northern Mexico has become a major controversy involving the local Yaqui indigenous community, which is less that pleased about the Agua Prieta tube’s route (straight through Yaqui territory).

Things went from bad to worse on Oct. 21, when the pipeline’s supporters attacked a group of protesters, killing one, wounding eight, and causing no small amount of property damage.

The Yaqui tribe, which has endured a long history of repression, also has a history of mounting various resistance movements. Like other indigenous communities in Mexico, members of the Yaqui tribe have lost their lives fighting against invasive private companies and non-indigenous authorities. Just two years ago, before the conflict over the Agua Prieta pipeline, the Yaquis protested against a large-scale aqueduct that would have diverted what was left of their sacred river to the city of Hermosillo.

Gambia: UN chief ‘dismayed’ at military takeover of electoral commission

Expressing dismay at the takeover of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) premises by the military in Gambia, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the security forces to immediately vacate the Commission and to refrain from any further acts that could jeopardise efforts towards the peaceful transfer of power.

“This action violates the independent status of the Commission under the Gambian constitution, and could compromise the sensitive electoral material under the IEC’s custody,” said Mr. Ban, according to a statement issued by his office.

“He condemns this outrageous act of disrespect of the will of the Gambian people and defiance towards the international community at a time when a high-level Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation was in the country to broker a peaceful transfer of power,” the statement added.

Rise in child recruitment as conflict in South Sudan enters fourth year

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Three years after fighting first erupted in South Sudan, children continue to be recruited by armed forces and armed groups, with 1,300 children recruited in 2016, UNICEF said today. This brings to more than 17,000 the total number of children used in the conflict since 2013.

“Since the first day of this conflict, children have been the ones most devastatingly affected by the violations,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala. “Now, as the fighting intensifies – and despite repeated pledges by all to end child recruitment – children are once again being targeted.”

Ghanaians Call Out CNN for Misrepresenting Their Country in Post-Election Coverage

Following a successful and peaceful election on December 7, Twitter was awash on Sunday, December 11 with messages from Ghanaians saying that they had attended to church to give thanks to God for the smooth outcome or to celebrate with the winning party.

However, a tweet from Ghanaian sports journalist Gary Al-Smith (@garyalsmith) struck a much different note. Gary had published a screenshot of part of an article written by American broadcaster CNN about Ghana’s election in which the country was characterized as suffering food shortages. In his tweet to his over 166,000 followers, using the hashtag #CNNGetItRight he said:

Tackling antisemitism doesn’t mean clamping down on criticism of Israel

The government has formalised a flawed definition of antisemitism that includes ‘exceptional criticism’ of Israel.

It is summer 2013, the height of the most recent Gaza war. With around twenty fellow members ‘Jewdas’ – a group of self-proclaimed leftwing Jewish anti-zionists, are assembled opposite Brighton Pavilion. I’m there to picket a demonstration by ‘Sussex Friends of Israel’. We read out the names of the Palestinian dead – a figure that by that point was already in the hundreds – only to be half drowned-out by the boos of the larger of demonstration.

From between two bulks of policemen, we were faced down by a gaggle of young men around the age to be fresh of the grand tour of Israel . who yelled at us that we were antisemites. Someone pointed out, as politely as possible whilst still being heard over the chanting, the cheers, the sirens, that we were in fact all Jews, or at least, Jew-ish. He replied that real Jews support Israel. Another Jewdas member shouted that antisemitism was not the same as anti-zionism, whilst someone else waded in to the effect that Jewish identity is complicated. From somewhere in the crowd someone lobbed a “self-haters!” at the picketers. This unlikely identitarian dispute was quickly broken up when an unprepossessing auntie-type (complete with cardigan and pearls) punched me in the arm and ripped up my “Zionism, Schmionism” sign.

IT’S TIME TO STOP OVERSPENDING OUR FRESHWATER BUDGET

If freshwater is to remain a renewable resource, we must balance supply and demand on farms, in cities, in industry and in power production.

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts. In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer, World Resources Institute Global Water Program director Betsy Otto responds to three questions: What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

We continue to overspend our budget when it comes to freshwater resources globally. No country is immune; this is not just a challenge for arid regions.

Assad: ‘West Is Telling Russia We Went Too Far in Defeating Terrorists’

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In an interview with RT, the Syrian President warned against taking statements by western governments at face value, as in Aleppo, they seemed to care more about saving terrorists than civilians. He also slammed the lackluster reaction to Daesh’s onslaught on Palmyra.

President Bashar Assad sat down for an interview with RT’s Maria Finoshina as the war in Syria has hit a new critical point with the Syrian Army’s liberation of Aleppo and Daesh’s return to Palmyra. Here’s a fragment of the interview, which is to be exclusively aired on RT on Wednesday.

Foreign Meddling in Our Vote? Remember How This Feels.

During the Cold War, the CIA did everything it’s accusing Russia of doing today — and more.

Even in an election year as shot through with conspiracy theories as this one, it would have been hard to imagine a bigger bombshell than Russia intervening to help Donald Trump. But that’s exactly what the CIA believes happened, or so unnamed “officials brief on the matter” told the Washington Post.

While Russia had long been blamed for hacking email accounts linked to the Clinton campaign, its motives had been shrouded in mystery. According to the Post, though, CIA officials recently presented Congress with a “a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources” that “electing Trump was Russia’s goal.”

Syria: Desperate Pleas for Protection from Aleppo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yikVv_YAvE&feature=plcp, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22023821

Protect Civilians, Grant Access to Independent Monitors

Syrian government and allied forces should immediately take steps to protect civilians and captured fighters as the government retakes control of Aleppo after a deal was reached with armed opposition groups there, Human Rights Watch said today. This includes allowing the safe evacuation of civilians and aid deliveries, and protecting civilians from summary executions and arbitrary detention.

The United Nations General Assembly should urgently mandate a UN monitoring team to travel immediately to areas of eastern Aleppo, now under government control, to deter future abuses, document crimes that have been committed, and visit detention sites.

“It has been heart-wrenching to hear the desperate pleas for protection from civilians stuck in the inferno that is Aleppo,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Syrian authorities should ensure that civilians are allowed to safely leave the city and to go where they want.”

U.S. Halts Saudi Arms Sale But Boasts Massive Sales to Other Gulf Allies

The United States has announced they will be canceling– or at least holding off– on an expected arms sale to Saudi Arabia due to the high number of civilian casualties in Yemen. However, military aid in other areas will continue flowing to Riyadh. Other Gulf allies complicit in the Saudi-led coalition will continue to receive military aid as well.

On December 8th, the U.S. Defense Department announced five major upcoming weapon deals including sales to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. If completed, the deals were expected to total a whopping $7.9 billion. These five are on top of the sales announced in November to Qatar and Kuwait. Well now Washington appears to be backing-out of the Saudi part of the deal– but not entirely.

A Reuters exclusive reported today that the United States would be halting some air dropped munitions destined for Saudi Arabia including precision-guided munitions. Instead, Washington has decided to focus on beefing-up security along the Saudi-Yemeni border and intelligence sharing. “It’s not a matter of how smart or dumb the bombs are, it’s that they’re not picking the right targets. The case in point … is the one on the funeral,” an official said.