Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

In Angola, two journalists charged over report on corruption

Angolan authorities should immediately drop charges against two journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Rafael Marques de Morais, who runs the anti-corruption website Maka Angola, and Mariano Bras, of the weekly, O Crime, were charged with “crimen injuria,” which is similar to insult laws, the journalists told CPJ.

Marques de Morais told CPJ a prosecutor questioned him for three hours on December 27 before charging him with crimen injuria over an article he wrote and published on Maka Angola in October. The article alleged wrongdoing by Angola’s attorney general, João Maria de Sousa, in his purchase of state-owned land.

China to ban domestic ivory trade by 2017

WWF and TRAFFIC welcomed today’s historic announcement that China will close down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017, signalling an end to the world’s primary legal ivory market and a major boost to international efforts to tackle the elephant poaching crisis in Africa.

The General Office of the State Council of China announced that China will “cease part of ivory processing and sales by 31 March 2017 and cease all ivory processing and sales by 31 December 2017”.

Iran’s Zarif Offers Plan to Help Eradicate Terrorism

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has proposed ways to pave the way for creating a mechanism to uproot terrorism and extremism worldwide.

In an article published in the Iranian Review of Foreign Affairs on Friday, Zarif said, “The twin problems of terrorism and extremism, far beyond the never-ending polemics among politicians, stand out as the natural outcome of intrinsic failings in the current (and recent) international situation.”

7 Key Events That Changed the Geopolitical Landscape This Week

This has been a big week in world events and we here at Geopolitics Alert have covered a few major stories. Here are your key takeaways for the week of December 25th:

Israel Reacts to the UNSC Settlement Decision.

After the United Nations Security Council bite last week calling for a halt to Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory, Israeli officials have been, in the words of some commentators, “throwing a tantrum.”

Israel Releases Thousands of Documents on Yemenite Baby Scandal

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The Israeli government has released 200,000 documents as a searchable data base for the roughly 1,000 Yemenite families who claim their children went missing after immigrating to the newly formed state of Israel decades ago.

The documents were not intended to be released until 2031, but in light of the recent UN resolution to halt Israeli settlements, the documents were likely released today for PR reasons.

Yemenite families who immigrated to Israel shortly after its formation found themselves in in-take camps with poor sanitation conditions. As a result many children became ill or were hospitalized. For about a thousand of those families, they were told their child had died. But the families say they never received any paperwork, cause of death, and were never allowed to see or bury the body. Many families believed their children had been given up for adoption to elite Ashkenazi couples.

‘Learning to Live with the Narco in Mexico’, Stories from Survivors of the War on Organized Crime

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Throughout the infamous “war on drug trafficking” in Mexico, both international and local media have regularly referred to the missing and the dead in statistical terms that fail to capture the enormity of human tragedy the war left in its wake. Moreover, coverage of drug barons like El Chapo Guzmán, head of the Sinaloa cartel, has seriously overshadowed the stories of the conflict’s victims.

Little attention is paid to the bereaved the day after a violent event, or communities that have learned to live with daily pain. Every corpse, every bone found in each of the hundreds of clandestine graves, is the testimony of countless parents, sons and daughters, friends and spouses, who harbour wounds that may never heal.

FOR OUR FOOD SYSTEM’S SAKE, LET’S SAY “NO” TO CORPORATE CONSOLIDATION

Mergers puts food workers and small-scale farmers at risk and increase vertical integration, hurting farm­ers’ ability to compete.

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 for Ensia’s 2017 print annual, Real Food Media founder Anna Lappé 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?

The food system is one of the largest forces impacting our planet’s environment and people’s health. The choices about what crops are grown, where and how they are produced, who gets access to that food and who makes those decisions all have global consequences.

The Shameful Netanyahu Government

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The recent resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council condemning the growth of the illegal colonial Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian land of East Jerusalem and the West Bank was a necessary reprimand for the Netanyahu Government. What made it all the more remarkable was the fact it passed the Security Council without being vetoed by the United States. Historically the United States has shielded Israel from censure by the UN Security Council but this time the Obama administration rightly abstained.

Now, I am about as pro-Israel as they come and feel very protective of Israel. I strongly believe in Israel’s right to exist and I am a huge admirer of the State of Israel and the Israeli and Jewish people. All my closest friends at university were Jewish and I attended meetings of the Cambridge University Jewish Society as well as speaking in defence of Israel at the Cambridge Union. It was one of the greatest privileges of my life to visit the great State of Israel back in November 2013. It was one of the most poignant and memorable trips of my life. My group were taken to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as the Israeli-Lebanese border and the Israeli-Syrian border up in the Golan Heights. We got to visit the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament where we had consultations with various Israeli MPs from the Labor Party, Kadima and Likud. We also visited the inspiring Shimon Peres Peace Centre as well as Galilee and Yad Vashem. I would one day love to live in Israel. A magnificent country, only the size of Wales, yet extremely dynamic, innovative, cultured and intellectual with a prodigious output and work ethic. Truly an amazing country and people. But it was not just Israel we visited. We went into the West Bank to Ramallah and met with the de facto Palestinian Foreign Minister as well as Palestinian peace activists.

Melting Greenland Ice to Stop Gulf Stream, Plunge Europe Into Cold

The mighty Gulf Stream, which keeps Northern Europe and parts of Western Russia warmer than other parts of the world that share their latitude, may collapse if greenhouse gas emissions persist, an international team of researchers warns.

Global warming and the melting ice may seriously weaken the powerful Gulf Stream current and ultimately lead to its collapse, which would have incalculable consequences for precipitation, sea ice, sea levels and natural calamities in the North Atlantic and elsewhere on Earth, an international group of researchers predict in an study which was published in the scientific magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

According to Danish climate professor Sebastian H. Mernild, CEO of the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Bergen, Norway, the melting of, above all, the Greenland Ice Sheet may result in a marked freshwater influx that could substantially weaken the Atlantic Ocean’s intricate system of surface and deep ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream, which is responsible for keeping Europe temperate, Danish newspaper Berlingske reported.

Settlement Activities to Bring About Israel’s End: IRGC Spokesman

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The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) spokesman reminded the Tel Aviv regime of a certain defeat it will have to suffer in a war that may break out as a result of pressing ahead with illegal settlement construction in Palestine, saying it will result in Israel’s annihilation.

Speaking at a meeting in Iran’s northwestern city of Oroumiyeh on Thursday, Head of the IRGC Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif said Israel’s decision to continue settlement projects on occupied Palestinian territories will “definitely provoke a reaction”, noting that a possible subsequent war will certainly end in the Zionist regime’s defeat and complete destruction.

The general also described the US refusal to veto a UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlement activity on Palestinian territory as a sign that Washington has come to realize that the course of events and continued settlement construction will result in the collapse of the Zionist regime of Israel.

Erdogan Says He Has Proof of US Aiding Terrorists in Syria

Turkish President Recep Erdogan said in a press conference yesterday that he has proof of the US aiding terrorists in Syria such as the Kurdish YPG and PYD but also including the Islamic State (IS).

Erdogan said it was “very clear” that the US is arming and supporting “terrorist groups including Daesh (IS)” as well as the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) and PYD (Democratic Union Party). The US is currently at odds with Turkey over whether the YPG and PYD are actually terror groups and the US sees them as “reliable partners” in the war against IS despite Turkish claims of their connections to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). The PKK is agreed to be a terrorist group by the US, EU and Turkey.

The US does work with some Kurdish groups under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which also includes some pro-Turkish elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). State Department spokesman Mark Toner addressed these claims in his daily press briefing saying that the US has “never provided weapons to the YPG.”

Homeless People Outside Tehran Are Taking Refuge in Empty Graves

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Images of homeless people in Iran taking refuge in empty graves outside of Tehran have shocked Persian social-media users, leading to outrage and calls for the government to intervene.

The public uproar intensified after the newspaper Shahrvand, a publication believed to be close to the reformist government of Hassan Rouhani, ran a feature called “Life in the Grave.”

Since the story broke, Iranians have been discussing it heatedly online. One anonymous Twitter user called “Maktoub” quoted an ironic line by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, saying, “I prefer the ‘slum dwellers’ to the ‘palace dwellers.’” The irony of this statement was shown in the juxtoposition of an image of a homeless man living in a grave, with the image of the palace-like shrine, built with government money, that houses his tomb.

Israel Calls Off Vote on New Illegal Settler Homes in East Al-Quds

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Israeli officials have reportedly scrapped plans to build hundreds more illegal settler units on the occupied Palestinian territory, which would amount to a clear violation of the recent UN Security Council resolution demanding a halt to the regime’s land grab policy.

Hanan Rubin, with the Jerusalem (al-Quds) Local Planning and Building Committee, said on Wednesday that the bid to approve construction permits for nearly 500 homes in East al-Quds had been shelved upon the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rubin said the decision came as US Secretary of State John Kerry is to offer a purported “comprehensive vision” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a speech in Washington later in the day, according to Press TV.

Sprinting Towards Extinction: Cheetah Population Crashes

The world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah, is sprinting towards extinction and could soon be lost forever, according to a new study. It warns there are just 7,100 left in less than 9% of the species’ former habitat. Lead author Dr. Sarah Durant told Sputnik why the world needs to “hit the reset button” to save these big cats.

The cheetah may be able to sprint at speeds of 70mph, but not everything can be outrun.

With the threats posed by humans, whether it’s competition for land, hunting or the trade in exotic pets, these majestic animals are falling behind in the struggle to stay alive.

Africa: Sudan Issues New Humanitarian Directives

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The United States welcomes the Government of Sudan’s recent efforts to improve humanitarian access. Last week, Sudan amended the “Directives and Procedures for Humanitarian Action.” These revised directives represent a significant step toward improving humanitarian access in Sudan. We believe when implemented, these revised regulations will facilitate humanitarian actors’ efforts to get aid to those in need. We recognize this as a positive step and we expect to see sustained gains in humanitarian access.

We also welcome the recent access given to a U.N. interagency team to travel and conduct a multi-sector assessment in Golo, Central Darfur, which included the first civilian aircraft to land in Golo in five years. Access to this conflict-affected area has allowed the U.N. to conduct a full assessment; and — if sustained — regular air access would enable the international humanitarian community to support relief efforts to Golo and surrounding areas. The United States, as part of its longstanding commitment to the people of Sudan, will continue to support humanitarian efforts there, and will work with all parties to remove remaining impediments to full humanitarian access.