Author: Friends of TFC

MURDER OF ACTIVISTS IN LATIN AMERICA ‘OUT OF CONTROL’

Some in the United States may be familiar with the murder of Berta Cáceres, who led an indigenous resistance against the Agua Zarca dam in Honduras, earlier this year. But a new report from Oxfam warns there is a much bloodier campaign of violence directed at human-rights activists across Latin America.

Titled, “The risks of defending human rights: The rising tide of attacks against human rights activists in Latin America,” the report states that while 185 human-rights defenders murdered worldwide in 2015, 122 of these murders occurred in Latin America.

Much of this killing appears to be direct relation to protests against trans-national extractive enterprises, often involving firms from Canada and the United States benefiting from state support.

Yemenis Wrest Control of Several Villages in Saudi Arabia

Yemen’s army forces and allied fighters from Popular Committees seized several villages in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border province of Jizan amid Riyadh’s relentless military aggression against Yemen.

On Thursday, Yemeni forces gained control over the al-Qarn and Dafinah villages in al-Khobe district, located 967 kilometers (601 miles) southwest of Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, following fierce exchanges of gunfire with Saudi troops there, a military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, the official Saba news agency reported.

They also managed to wrest control over a number of villages located in eastern parts of al-Bahtit military base.

Iraq: Fleeing ISIS Forces Fired Toxic Chemicals

Courtesy of TRAJAN 117

Forces of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) launched at least three chemical attacks on the Iraqi town of Qayyarah. The use of toxic chemicals as a means of warfare is a serious threat to civilians and combatants in and around the embattled city of Mosul and is a war crime.

The attacks hit the town of Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul, in September and October after Iraqi government forces retook the town on August 25, 2016. The attacks caused painful burns to at least seven people consistent with exposure to low levels of a chemical warfare agent known as “vesicants,” or blister agents, a chemical weapons expert told Human Rights Watch.

This Could Be Our 1989

You might think that the greatest political, cultural, economic shock of our lifetimes, right here in the USA, would unleash a torrent of salient and incisive commentary. There’s been some good, some confused, some angry. But mostly what I’ve seen is a kind of mouth-open shocked.

What was once regarded as expertise lies in ruins.Here’s the problem: all the experts were wrong. I’m in the same boat as almost everyone else. We followed the cues we had – polls, betting odds, our own intuitions – but they were all misleading, and everyone underestimated the vulnerability of the status quo. Admitting this takes humility – vast oceans of it. It challenges us to throw away what we thought we knew and consider a new way of thinking.

Trump triumphed over every bit of conventional and establishment wisdom on the whole of planet earth. What was once regarded as expertise lies in ruins. Not even the people with skin in the game, those betting on the outcome, came close to being right. It’s the greatest smashing of a paradigm – a devastating crush of not only opinions but every existing establishment left, right, and center – I can imagine happening in real time.

It Can’t Happen Here (But It Just Did)

In the typical time travel story, an enterprising person from the future goes back to 1922 to assassinate young Hitler, or to 1963 to interrupt Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas.

This time, however, the smarter denizens of the future world didn’t save us from the horrors of the present.

Instead, Donald Trump somehow got control of the time machine and used it for the opposite purpose. He brought in voters from the past who remembered (or misremembered) a more prosperous, more homogenous, more imperially confident America. He also transported in a few denizens of the Jim Crow South and Nazi Germany to dust off their ugly anachronisms and rally the alt-right.

Liberian Land Rights Defenders on the Run after Threats from Police

Mr. Alfred Brownell, a campaigner for the land rights of Liberia’s local communities, and his staff at Green Advocates have gone underground after threats from the police. Warrants have been issued, and, at present, the staff of Green Advocates are in hiding, in response to the imminent threat of their arrest. This is the latest in a long history of threats, intimidation, and harassment against human rights defenders in Liberia.

Mr. Brownell is the founder of Green Advocates, an organization working with impoverished rural communities to protect their rights to the lands and natural resources they depend on. He and his colleagues are renowned internationally as advocates for community rights, and for ensuring that the rights of Liberian citizens are respected in the country’s pursuit of economic development.

“Liberia’s laws and constitution ensure that rural communities have a right to be consulted on development initiatives that affect their lands and livelihoods. Yet, that is not happening on a large scale. And when people stand up for their rights, all too often they face threats and violence,” said Mr. Brownell. “I will continue to stand with them any way I can.”

Donald Trump’s Victory: Prospects for Russia-US Relations

Opportunities should not be squandered. It is especially important at a time when the overall political relationship between Washington and Moscow has tumbled to a nadir. Donald Trump’s victory and the expected drastic changes in the US foreign policy open up new prospects for the improvement of bilateral relations.

It is useless to make predictions without the new president announcing who his foreign policy advisers will be. But it is possible to define in general terms what could and should be done to change the tide.

With arms control and non-proliferation in doldrums, the tensions over Ukraine, the standoff between Russia and NATO and the failure to cooperate efficiently in Syria, the mission seems to be more of a tall order, but it would be a great mistake to waste time.

Turkey Continues to Arrest Kurdish Politicians, Restrict Internet Use

Turkey’s post-coup crackdown continues to make international headlines in its fourth month, with November bringing an attack on independent media outlets and the arrests of multiple politicians from the pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democatic Party (HDP), including the party’s co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.

The party, which also advocates for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights alongside those of other minority groups as well as the Kurds, first entered parliament last year. There are a total of 59 HDP parliamentarians.

On November 4, Demirtas and Yuksekdag were arrested alongside eight other HDP parliamentarians in connection with an anti-terror investigation. Reports initially claimed arrest warrants had been issued for all 59 HDP MPs, though this has since been proven false. A total of 14 arrests warrants have been issued.

Nepal’s Child ‘Love Marriages’ Need Regulation Too

Ramita married when she was 12 years old and her husband was 15. She describes it as a “love marriage” – she chose her husband and decided to marry him. But it’s not a simple romance.

Ramita’s choice is a reflection of how marriage-related decisions are changing in South Asia. Although arranged matches are still the norm for many, young adults are increasingly likely to choose their own spouse. For some, this is a welcome break with tradition. Research shows that as women gain more education, their control over their choice of husband also increases – and more girls are going to school across the region.

But in the villages of Nepal, where I investigated early marriage for a new Human Rights Watch report, increasing numbers of children are choosing to wed. Arranged child marriages may be declining, but this achievement is threatened by a rise in “love marriages” by children. Though in these cases a girl may be choosing to get married, these child marriages can still come with their own devastating consequences, including leaving school early, poverty, health risks and an elevated threat of domestic violence.

US: Trump Should Govern With Respect for Rights

United States President-elect Donald Trump should abandon campaign rhetoric that seemed to reject many of the United States’ core human rights obligations and put rights at the heart of his administration’s domestic and foreign policy agendas, Human Rights Watch said today. Official results gave Trump the necessary electoral college votes to win.

“Now that he has secured victory, President-elect Trump should move from the headline-grabbing rhetoric of hatred and govern with respect for all who live in the United States,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. “He found a path to the White House through a campaign marked by misogyny, racism, and xenophobia, but that’s not a route to successful governance. President-elect Trump should commit to leading the US in a manner that fully respects and promotes human rights for everyone.”

The US presidential campaign was dominated by a number of controversial statements and policy proposals by Trump. When announcing his intent to run for president in June of 2015, Trump stated, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” He also proposed banning Muslims from entering the US.

Janet Reno: Justice Delayed was Justice Denied

In the early hours of November 7, Janet Reno died at the age of 78 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Her niece “confirmed to CBS News that Reno died peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends.” It’s unfortunate that, unlike many of her victims, she was permitted to shuffle off this mortal coil a free woman, unpursued by the hounds of justice. Janet Reno had a lot to answer for.

As state attorney for Dade County, Florida in the 1980s, Reno helped kindle a wildfire of moral panic in America over alleged widespread ritual child sex abuse, leading witch hunts in which children and witnesses were bullied and even tortured into making up the lurid stories Reno and her “expert” child psychologists wanted to hear. People went to prison for crimes that they had not committed — in fact, crimes that hadn’t actually occurred at all. Some may still be there.

Tanzanian president leads crackdown on elephant poaching

While inspecting the country’s seized ivory stockpile this week, Tanzanian President Dr John Pombe Magufuli ordered law enforcement officials to crack down on elephant poaching and trafficking syndicates.

“We are not going to allow our natural resources to be depleted,” Magufuli said, while offering federal security agencies his full support and urging them to “arrest all those involved in this illicit trade.”

Iraqi Kurdistan Asks Russia for Military and Humanitarian Aid

Iraqi Kurdistan has asked Russia for military and humanitarian aid. The request was made by Falah Mustafa Bakir, the head of the foreign department of Kurdistan’s Regional Government (KRG), after his visit to Moscow on November 1 to hold talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and North Africa Mikhail Bogdanov.

The KRG delegation made a trip to Russia to boost the bilateral ties, especially with regard to energy cooperation. Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned energy company, has been drilling in the Kurdistan Region for almost two years. According to Mr. Bakir, the KRG considered Russia as an ally, so it was only natural to asks it for all kinds of assistance, including military aid.

Massoud Barzani, the President of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, has called for Russia and the US-led coalition to joint efforts in the fight against Islamic State (IS). According to him, «The Kurdistan region… welcomes Russia if it supports the peshmerga in the fight against Daesh (IS)».

How a No Vote Works in the Market

This November, I chose not to vote for a presidential candidate, but maybe not for the reason you’d think.

I didn’t choose to withhold my vote from one candidate because I wanted to help their opponent; I realize that’s illogical because voting isn’t a zero-sum game.

I didn’t do it just because I know my vote isn’t decisive, either; I’m fully aware that I have somewhere around a 1-in-60 million chance of affecting the outcome of the Presidential election.

I chose to not vote for a Presidential candidate because I’m an advocate for liberty, and after some consideration, I realized my reasoning was rooted in my understanding of the virtues of a free market.

Turkey and US to ‘govern’ a city in Syria

The United States and Turkish government have made an announcement on Sunday outlining their plans to “seize, hold and govern” the Islamic State (IS) capital city, Raqqa in northern Syria.

The Department of Defense published news on their site yesterday of a meeting in Ankara, Turkey between US Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford and his Turkish counterpart Army Gen. Hulusi Akar. According to the press release the meeting was to work out long term plans for the ‘liberation’ and governance of the IS stronghold in Raqqa in the upcoming months.

The report noted that the fight in and around Raqqa has already begun yet direct Turkish involvement is set to escalate in the next few weeks. There are already points of tension between the US and Turkey in the fight for Raqqa who have been having trouble collaborating on multiple offensives in the war against IS.