Mend ways, Trump tells U.N.

UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump on Monday opened his first visit to the United Nations since taking office with a polite but firm call for the 72-year-old institution to overhaul itself and a veiled threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

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In a meeting with counterparts from around the world, Trump said the U.N. had grown too bureaucratic and ineffective and should reorient its approach. He complained that spending and the staff at the U.N. had grown enormously over the years but that “we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

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Still, he pledged U.S. support for the world body he had excoriated as a candidate, and his criticisms were more restrained than in years past.

“That’s why we commend the secretary-general and his call for the United Nations to focus more on people and less on bureaucracy,” Trump said, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sitting beside him. “We seek a United Nations that regains the trust of the people around the world. In order to achieve this, the United Nations must hold every level of management accountable, protect whistleblowers and focus on results rather than on process.”

He added that any overhaul should ensure that no single member “shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden, and that’s militarily or financially,” a sore point for many American conservatives who bristle at the share of U.N. costs borne by the United States. Trump said nothing about whether he would pursue his proposal to cut U.S. funding for the organization.

The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, reflecting its position as the world’s largest economy. It pays 25 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget and over 28 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget.

The short remarks at a forum on U.N. overhauls were a precursor to today’s main event, when Trump will address the U.N. General Assembly for the first time, a speech awaited by world leaders concerned about what the president’s “America first” vision means for the future of the world body.

Trump riffed on his campaign slogan when asked to preview his central message to the General Assembly, saying: “I think the main message is ‘make the United Nations great’ — not ‘again.’ ‘Make the United Nations great.'”

“Such tremendous potential, and I think we’ll be able to do this,” he added.

But even as the president chastised the U.N., he pledged that the United States would “be partners in your work” to make the organization a more effective force for peace across the globe.

He later met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the first of a string of sessions he will conduct with counterparts during four days in New York, and used the occasion to once again hint that he could pull out of the Iran deal negotiated by President Barack Obama, the other four permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Netanyahu planned to press Trump to either revise the agreement or scrap it.

Asked by reporters whether he would withdraw, Trump said, “You’ll see very soon. You’ll be seeing very soon.” He added: “We’re talking about it constantly. Constantly. We’re talking about plans constantly.”

The meeting with Netanyahu was followed by another with President Emmanuel Macron of France where the two traded warm words and recalled Trump’s visit to a Bastille Day military parade in Paris in July. He mused about ordering up a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to rival the one he witnessed in Paris.

Trump also hosted a dinner Monday night with leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Panama and Argentina. Venezuela’s deepening economic and political crisis was under discussion.

The U.S. president also lashed out against Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, calling his presidency “disastrous.” He said that people in Venezuela “are starving and the country is collapsing.”

The U.S. “has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable, and we’re prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on a path to imposing authoritarian rule,” Trump said. He thanked the Latin American leaders for “condemning the regime.”

Brazil’s President Michel Temer said all leaders “agreed on maintaining pressure on Venezuela’s government” but that further sanctions on the country should be “verbal.”

FOCUS ON IRAN

The president has until mid-October to certify under a U.S. law whether Iran is complying with the deal, a certification he has made twice already this year but that he has told advisers he does not want to make again. If he were to refuse to do so, it could potentially unravel the agreement.

The meeting with Netanyahu focused on Iran, although Trump also repeated his commitment to finding peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. “I think there’s a good chance that it could happen,” he said. “Most people would say there’s no chance whatsoever.” He will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday.

Trump and Netanyahu discussed Iran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East and spoke about the need to prevent Iran from establishing any deep roots or organizing in Syria, according to a readout provided by Brian Hook of the State Department.

In a harsh message to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors compliance with the nuclear agreement, Trump on Monday warned that the United States could withdraw if the accord is not properly policed. “We will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal,” Trump said in a message read by Rick Perry, the energy secretary, at the agency’s annual meeting in Vienna, according to news reports.

The United States asserts that Iran is obligated to open its military sites to agency inspection on demand if the agency suspects unreported nuclear activities at any of them. That’s something Tehran rejects, and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi urged the agency and its head, Yukiya Amano, to “resist such unacceptable demands.”

Iran has accused Trump of failing to comply with the deal by undercutting it and slapping sanctions on Tehran for other activities such as ballistic missile tests, an assertion it repeated in Vienna on Monday.

“The American administration’s overtly hostile attitude and actual foot-dragging policies and measures aim at undermining the nuclear deal and blocking Iran’s legitimate benefits from its full implementation,” Salehi said, according to news reports.

The U.S. stance has worried allies such as France, as well as Russia.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that tearing up the accord would be a blow to efforts to limit nuclear proliferation and “we’re trying to convince President Trump of the pertinence of this view.” All the signs are that Iran is respecting its obligations under the deal, he said at a press conference in New York.

When asked about the U.S. leader and Macron’s meeting with him, Le Drian said France would stress the value of the Iran deal for nuclear nonproliferation and international security. He suggested that France may be open to an extension of nuclear limits on Iran past 2025, one of the main demands of critics of the deal.

“I’ll try to convince President Trump,” that the deal can be rigorously enforced now, Le Drian said. Even if a follow-on deal or other changes are contemplated, “we need to acknowledge the validity of the agreement as it is.”

Russia opposes any renegotiation of the Iranian nuclear agreement, said a senior member of the Russian delegation to the U.N. meeting. “To go back on an agreement that was the result of colossal diplomatic efforts without any justification just because the new U.S. president doesn’t like it would be extremely dangerous,” Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian upper house of parliament, told reporters in New York.

WORDS TONED DOWN

The president’s comments to the U.N. meeting on Monday morning lasted only four minutes and included none of the criticism he had directed at foreign institutions in the past. As recently as December, after winning the presidential election but before being sworn in, Trump dismissed the U.N. as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

The tension has gone both ways. Last month, the U.N. human rights chief chastised Trump for his repeated attacks on the news media, saying that they could incite violence and set a bad example for other countries.

No mention was made during Trump’s opening appearance Monday of the global crises that the U.N. has rung alarm bells about: attacks on the Rohingya minority in Burma, climate change, the nuclear threat in North Korea, and a record 65 million people displaced from their homes.

Aides have said Trump’s address today will stress “sovereignty and accountability,” a contrast to his predecessors who used the annual occasion to rally joint action on issues like terrorism, weapons proliferation and climate change.

The cooperative relationship — at least in a few key areas — can be attributed to the relationship forged between two seasoned politicians: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor, and Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister who, like Trump, took office in January. While many UN officials watched with horror as the Trump administration vowed to slash spending on foreign aid, including the UN, by about one-third, Guterres and Haley found a way to target troubled peacekeeping efforts.

Those programs, in countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, had long been criticized for not protecting civilians and, in some cases, sexually exploiting the very populations they were meant to defend.

Source :  Democratic Gazette

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Kenya presidential election cancelled by Supreme Court

Kenya’s Supreme Court has annulled the result of last month’s presidential election, citing irregularities, and ordered a new one within 60 days.

The election commission had declared incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta the winner by a margin of 1.4 million votes.

Raila Odinga, Mr Kenyatta’s opponent, said the commission was “rotten” and demanded resignations and prosecutions.

President Kenyatta said he would respect the court’s decision but also branded the judges “crooks”.

Other elections in Africa have been annulled or cancelled but this appears to be the first time on the continent that an opposition court challenge against a presidential poll result has been successful. Continue reading…….,

South Africa: Statement – Stats Reveal That Cops Are Spying On 70,000+ Mobile Phones Every Year

Press Release

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Today R2K releases statistics from MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom that show that government accesses tens of thousands of people’s sensitive communications information every year using a loophole in South Africa’s surveillance policies.

These numbers show that, at a minimum, law enforcement agencies are spying on the communications of at least 70,000 phone numbers each year. As our analysis below shows, the actual number could be much higher.

Background to the requests

In May 2017, R2K asked MTN, Telkom, Vodacom and Cell C how many warrants they received in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act, in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (statement here).

These requests aimed to understand how a legal loophole has allowed surveillance operations to take place using the Criminal Procedures Act, rather than the RICA law.

RICA is meant to be South Africa’s primary surveillance law. It requires law enforcement and intelligence agencies to get the permission of a special judge, appointed by the president, to intercept a person’s communications. In order to apply for this warrant, they need to provide strong reasons because such interceptions threaten peoples’ right to privacy so much. But policymakers have wrongly assumed that the information about the communication (such as the identity of who you have communicated with, when, and your location) is less sensitive than the content of the communication.

This has led to a ‘loophole’ in our surveillance laws: section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act allows law enforcement officials to bypass the RICA judge to get access to get your phone records – who you have communicated with, when, and where. According to this law, any magistrate can issue a warrant that forces telecoms companies to give over a customer’s call records and metadata. Policymakers are wrong to assume this information is less sensitive or private than the contents of the communication: metadata can reveal as much, if not more, about a person’s contacts, interests and habits than what they say over the phone or in a text message. When a person’s communications information is handed over using the Criminal Procedures Act, they are never notified, even if the investigation is dropped or if they are found to be innocent.

In one recent case, former SAPS Crime Intelligence officer Paul Scheepers faces charges in the Western Cape for allegedly using this legal loophole to spy on the communications of various people who were not under legitimate investigation.

What Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom revealed

All four companies complied with R2K’s information requests. Their answers show that law enforcement get call records for a minimum of 70,960 phone numbers every year. Due to incomplete records (only Vodacom and Telkom could say how many phone numbers were contained in the warrants it received) the actual number is estimated to be much higher. Extrapolating from this data, Daily Maverick journalist Heidi Swart points out the estimated total could be as high as 194,820 phone numbers each year.

All together, these numbers tell a staggering story about surveillance practices in South Africa.

In 2016, MTN received 23,762 warrants for customers’ call records, while Vodacom got 18,594 warrants. Cell C got 6455 warrants and Telkom got 1,271. Due to the fact that in some cases, the same warrant will be sent to several service providers, it is not possible to add these numbers together to get the total number of warrants issued across all service providers, as this would result in ‘double counting’ of some warrants.

The most recent statistics from the RICA judge’s office show that in 2014/2015, the RICA judge issued 760 warrants for interception. At a minimum, in the same year magistrates issued 25,808 warrants in terms of s205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

These statistics confirm for the first time that the vast majority of ‘authorised’ surveillance operations are happening outside of the RICA judge’s oversight, with no transparency or accountability.

R2K’s demands

It is clear that urgent reforms are needed for South Africa’s surveillance policies.

R2K has already pointed out that RICA does not do enough to protect people’s privacy — weak safeguards and a lack of transparency have enabled surveillance abuses. In fact, RICA already faces a legal challenge from investigative journalists whose phones were tapped by government agents.

Among the Right2Know Campaign’s demands for surveillance reform:

1) Call records must be given better protection

Metadata about your communication – information about who you contacted, when and where – must be given the same level of protection as the content of your communication. Interception of this information should only be authorised by a specially appointed judge with special insight on privacy protections and digital rights. The RICA judge is a specialist judge who must be specially positioned to weigh the interests of justice against the right to privacy. Magistrates and ordinary judges, on the other hand, may not be as sensitised to the privacy issues involved in deciding whether or not to release metadata records. This should not be authorized at the lower levels of our court system. The ‘section 205’ loophole should be closed immediately.

2) An end to mass storage of customers’ data

RICA requires telecommunications and internet service providers to store all users’ metadata (a detailed record of all messages and calls sent and received, all internet traffic, etc) for three to five years. This means even people who are not suspected of any crime are already being treated with suspicion.

3) An end to SIM card registration

SIM card registration violates privacy in that it limits the ability of citizens to communicate anonymously. It also facilitates the tracking and monitoring of all users by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

4) Greater transparency

We should not have to resort to legal action to get this information. Private companies should be publishing regular, detailed transparency reports about their role in interceptions, and the RICA judge must publish a much more detailed report, and it must be tabled in open Parliament.

Users must also be notified when their data has been intercepted. This is a legal requirement of many surveillance laws across the world. The current situation is ripe for abuse, as people who are targeted for surveillance have no way of knowing that their rights have been violated. Only under exceptional circumstances should the judge have the power to delay notifying a user that their data has been intercepted.

Time to end surveillance abuses!

This is no time for half measures and cosmetic reforms. Right2Know Campaign will not relent on challenging surveillance abuses. The people of South Africa can and will take back control of their privacy!

Source : Right2know

Sierra Leone Declares Seven-Day Mourning After Mudslide Tragedy

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Sierra Leone’s government has declared seven days of mourning for victims of Monday’s deadly flooding and mudslide tragedy.

The country’s national flag will fly at half-mast from today to Tuesday (Aug 16 – 22), the government said in a statement in which it also called for a minute of silence at midday on Wednesday in honour of the 300 people who died in the capital Freetown.

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According to government figures, the death toll stands at 297 and includes 109 children, 83 women and 105 men. Information deputy minister Cornelius Deveaux said the figure is based on a body count at the city’s main morgue at Connaught hospital.

Aid agencies, assisting in search and rescue operations, put the death toll at over 300.

More than 500 people are still missing with thousands others left homeless after their houses were destroyed.

About 150 people were buried on Tuesday evening with government planning a mass burial on Thursday for those who will not have been identified and claimed by their families.

A prayer vigil at the National Stadium in Freetown will precede the burial.

President Ernest Bai Koroma with his Guinean counterpart Alpha Conde Tuesday visited Regent, the worst-hit area.

Part of Mount Sugar Loaf, where Regent is located, collapsed Monday following torrential rains, submerging houses and sweeping away others, many of which were makeshift settlements.

The two leaders also visited the morgue at Connaught hospital which has been overwhelmed by bodies.

President Conde was in the country in show of solidarity with the Sierra Leoneans following one of the worst natural disaster to hit the capital.

Source : The East African

Ethiopia widens anti-corruption crackdown with asset freezes

Ethiopia has widened an anti-corruption crackdown with asset freezes on 210 individuals and 15 companies.

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The individuals and companies sanctioned are suspected to have links with recently arrested government officials, business people and brokers on allegations of corrupt activities, according to report by state owned Ethiopian News Agency on Friday. Continue reading……..

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South Africa: Do Not Open Unknown Emails

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Pretoria — South Africans have been warned not to open any unknown emails and to urgently update their security software as a global cyber ransom attack spread on Friday.

Friday’s global cyber-attack has affected more than 200 000 victims in 150 countries and regions, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said on Sunday.

Hackers reportedly used a tool known as Eternal Blue and a malicious software called WannaCry to lock users’ computers and to demand a payment for the decryption.

The global cyber-attack has so far swept across more than 100 countries including the United States, Britain, Germany and China. Cyber security experts said it could be the biggest cyber-attack of its kind ever.

“Many of those victims were businesses, including large corporations. The global reach is unprecedented,” Wainwright said in an interview with Britain’s ITV.

Wainwright said he was concerned that the numbers of those affected would continue to rise when people returned to work on Monday morning.

“We’re in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up,” he said, adding that the current attack was unprecedented.

Wainwright told ITV that the world faced an escalating threat, and there was concern about the level of potential attacks on Monday morning.

Wainwright warned the healthcare sector “in many countries” was particularly vulnerable, but that all organizations should ensure they prioritise cyber security and update their systems.

The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments.

Russia and Britain were among the worst hit countries.

Dozens of Russian public institutions including the Bank of Russia said on Saturday that they have thwarted a massive cyber-attack and prevented vital data loss.

The central bank’s security and information protection division, responsible for monitoring computer attacks in the credit and financial sphere, has registered massive spread of malicious programs, but no instances of compromise were detected, said the Bank of Russia, quoted by Sputnik, a major media outlet in Russia

The Russian Interior Ministry and Health Ministry also said earlier in the day that they have “repelled” such attacks as the virus was promptly detected and localized, according to Russian news agencies.

Britain’s official emergency committee, known as Cobra, met in London on Saturday afternoon to discuss the cyber-attack that has caused widespread disruption to the country’s National Health Service (NHS).

Around 45 NHS organisations in England and Scotland, including hospitals, family doctor surgeries, and health services, were hit in the cyber-attack which prevented doctors, nurses and staff from accessing vital patient information.

However, Wainwright said Europol was working on the basis that the cyber-attack was carried out by criminals rather than terrorists, but noted that “remarkably few” payments had been made so far.

“Most people are not paying this, so there are not a lot of money being made with this by criminal organisations so far,” he said. – Xinhua/Sputnik

Source : S.A news

Cleveland Facebook Killer Steve Stephens Tortured Pets as a Teen, Neighbor Says

The self-described ‘monster’ was ‘not normal’ even as a child, according to someone who grew up around him. Across town, a family heard the shot that rang across social media.

DANIEL MCGRAW

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CLEVELAND—Soon after he shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin—who was walking down the street and picking up cans after eating Easter Sunday dinner with his family— Steve Stepehens posted video to facebook of the murder that he just committed.

Then he kept posting his personal reasoning for his deranged behavior, explanations showed that there was a deep anger within this man that suddenly snapped.

“I fucked up,” he said, with little emotion on his face. “I’m at the point where I snapped… I got a lot of built up anger and frustration.”

“All my life,” Stephens continued, “I’ve been a monster.”

That line by the man now known as the “Facebook Killer” was shocking to many who heard him say it on social media, but not so much so for Tony Henderson. He lived across the street from Stephens for decades—that line that this man was a “monster” didn’t seem that crazy. The kid always seemed somewhat “out there,” Henderson said.

“I never quite understood that kid through his entire life, because on some days he would talk to you, and then on others he would be mean and staring at you and very quiet,” Henderson said. “It’s not like he was running around the street scaring old people when he was a teenager, but what he did on Easter Sunday doesn’t surprise me.”

On the Monday after the shooting that was getting worldwide attention, Henderson was cleaning up the vacant property next to his house, which is directly across the street from Stephens’s mother’s home. Police in two cars were staked out on the street to keep media and angry residents from causing trouble for the killer’s family. But for Henderson, 55, what he saw on television shows and online media reporting over the past day made more sense to him than most anyone.

“How can I put this?” he said, as he paused. “That kid was not normal as we as normal people know it from the beginning. He was in his early teens when the family moved in there, and I was in my late twenties, but I could see something wasn’t right. He was smart, but some days he seemed OK with talking to people on the street, but on other days he was staring off into space with a blank face. He was very up and down.”

Then Henderson told a somewhat disturbing story.

“He asked me to come in and see his pet bird, so I went in their house. He had a parakeet and he had that bird crawl from the cage and on to his finger. Then he slapped the bird as hard as he could with his other hand, and the bird was lying on the floor. The bird looked dead to me. I looked at him and he was smiling and laughing as he looked at me and that bird.”

“Hey, animals don’t make you weird like that,” Henderson said. “He was that way before he got that bird. Heard he used to torture other pets he had. He was like that from the time I first met him.”

An aggravated murder warrant has been issued, and police said early Monday that Stephens may have fled Ohio. Police warned residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Michigan to be on the lookout. The FBI is providing assistance to the Cleveland police and taking over the national manhunt. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his whereabouts.

Stephens has a valid concealed-carry gun permit, Cleveland police said at a news conference Monday morning. Police Chief Calvin Williams said guns were seized from a home in the city of Twinsburg, a suburb of Cleveland, that is listed in court records as the home occupied by Stephens and his girlfriend at the time, Joy Lane. Williams said he was unsure how many guns were seized and whether they were registered to Stephens.

Though Stephens also said on Facebook postings that his need to kill people came because of a breakup with Lane (who treats youths with various mental disorders for a company different from the one Stephens works for), it appears he might have been having more problems with his fiancée. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer  reported  that Stephens had been evicted from his suburban apartment this past January for failure to pay rent. Five months before that, he had been evicted from another suburban apartment complex, and the property-management company successfully sued him and began garnishing wages from his paycheck.

Stephens had also declared personal bankruptcy in January 2015, according to the report, and at that time, Stephens said he had worked for Beech Brook, a suburban-based social-services agency for six years. He declared his annual salary to be about $28,800, but his wages were also facing garnishment then as well, for unpaid credit-card debt that he had been sued over in court for.

In another Sunday Facebook posting, Stephens talked of his financial issues, blaming some of it on Cleveland’s Jack Casino, Ohio’s first casino, which opened in 2012.

“The past year’s been really [expletive] up for me,” Stephens said. “You know, being with [his ex-girlfriend] drove me crazy, started making me gamble. I lost everything. I lost everything I have. I don’t have shit. I’m out of options.”

Besides the craziness of this murder—an employed man shooting an elderly man randomly and then posting it for all to see on social media—is how this murder does not fit in with all the other murders in Cleveland in recent years. There were 136 murders in the Cleveland in 2016, the highest number in 10 years. This high number of murders, despite the fact that Cleveland lost about 10 percent of its population (about 43,000) during those 10 years, has been linked to the city’s high poverty rate. Based upon 2016 figures, Cleveland’s poverty rate of 34.7 percent is the 11th highest in the country among cities of at least 65,000 people.

Many of the murders in Cleveland are driven by gangs, which themselves are partly blamed on high inner-city unemployment. One of the most violent and powerful gangs has the ironic name “Heartless Felons.” In some of these killings, children lost their lives because they were playing in a park or on a front lawn when the killers drove by.

The street on which Godwin was killed ends at Interstate 90 about five miles east of downtown. It is an odd place to do a killing, given it’s off-the-beaten path and abutting a crowded highway. “I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for this happening,” Cleveland’s police chief said at the press conference Monday.

For those living on that street, the killing was not only horrific to see, but so bizarre that many are still shaking their heads. Thea, a 25-year-old who lives directly across the street from where Godwin died, said her family had about 20 people coming over for East Sunday dinner. The killing, which happened at about 2 p.m. Sunday, occurred about a half hour before people started to arrive.

“This is a quiet street,” said Thea, who didn’t want her last name used. “It ends at the freeway. So no one usually drives their cars down here because it is hard to turn around and get out.”

“But it was so weird,” she continued. “My mom was outside talking to our neighbor, and they were just doing what moms do, talking about the recipes they had cooked, and then both went back in their houses. About one minute after she came in, we heard a gun pop and went outside and saw that old man lying dead on the sidewalk right across the street from our house.”

“What would have happened if they were out there one minute later?” Thea asked. “He might have just shot that man and my mom and the neighbor, too. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. How my mom might have been killed, too.”

Spanish authorities reveal details of huge black-market weapons cache

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Police in Spain have released photos of automatic rifles and other weapons covering a warehouse floor. Authorities fear the trove fed criminal and terrorist organizations in Europe.

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After two months of examination and categorization, Spanish police on Tuesday finally revealed the extent of the massive weapons haul they undertook in January 2017.

According to the published police statement, the cache included 9,000 CETME fully automatic rifles, anti-aircraft guns, 400 shells and grenades, pistols, and revolvers.

Photos published by the police show piles of assault rifles, guns and weapons parts lying in stacks and leaning against the walls of a warehouse.

 

Spanish police originally seized the firearms in a raid undertaken on January 12 and 13 in the northern regions of Catalonia, Cantabria and the Basque country. The operation was initiated after the May, 2014 shooting at the Jewish Museum in Belgium that left four dead and spurred authorities across Europe to crack down on black market weapons.


Five suspects were also detained in the January raids.

Europol and Spanish police cooperated on the operation

Police reported the group bought decommissioned weapons that they then reactivated. The pieces needed for such reactivation were found in the trove.

Alongside the thousands of arms, authorities also discovered material needed to falsify arms documentation and tools required to change the weapons’ identification numbers. Europol, the EU police force that worked alongside Spanish authorities in the operation, believe the illegal firearms were intended for sale in Spain, France and Belgium.

“The seized weapons had an easy journey in the black market and posed a significant risk of being acquired by organized crime groups and terrorists,” Europol said in a statement.

Source :DW

Mexico opens legal aid centres to fight US deportations

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Mexico has opened legal aid centres at consulates in 50 US cities, in a move designed to protect its citizens from tougher immigration enforcement.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray reaffirmed concerns about the human rights of Mexicans in the US.

But migrant defence centres would not “promote illegality,” he said.

Mexico is worried about the impact that guidelines issued last month by President Donald Trump will have on the lives of its citizens.

Mr Trump ordered federal agents to join local police and immigration officers to enforce deportation procedures.

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Millions of Mexicans who have lived in the US for many years are suddenly facing the prospect of fighting a lengthy and costly legal battle against deportation.

The new defence centres will provide free legal assistance for Mexican citizens who feel that their rights in the US are being threatened.

‘Concern and irritation’

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Bilateral relations have reached its lowest point in decades.

A week after being sworn in January, Mr Trump reaffirmed his intention to build a wall along his country’s southern border, which extends for 3,200km (2,000 miles).

He insisted that Mexico would have to bear the cost of the proposed wall.

The remarks prompted President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel a visit to Washington on 31 January and to announce extra funding to protect the rights of Mexican citizens in the US.

During a visit to Mexico by last month by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Chief John Kelly, Mr Videgaray said President Trump’s policies towards Mexico were a source of “concern and irritation”.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. Six million of them are reportedly Mexican citizens.

Source : EIN News

Generals May Launch New ISIS Raids Without Trump’s OK

The commander in chief is taking heat—and hearing cheers—for a raid in Yemen that killed a SEAL. But for the next mission, Trump may take himself out of the loop altogether.

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Kimberly Dozier

The White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations like the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen that cost the life of a Navy SEAL, multiple U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. It’s part of an effort to step up the war on the so-called Islamic State.

President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants his defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, to have a freer hand to launch time-sensitive missions quickly, ending what U.S. officials say could be a long approval process under President Barack Obama  that critics claimed stalled some missions by hours or days.

In declared war zones, U.S. commanders have the authority to make such calls, but outside such war zones, in ungoverned or unstable places like Somalia, Libya, or Yemen, it can take permissions all the way up to the Oval Office to launch a drone strike or a special-operations team.

Trump’s subsequent defense of the Yemen raid, and discussion of accelerating other counterterrorist operations, shows his White House will be less risk averse to the possibility of U.S.—or civilian—casualties, unlike the Obama White House, which military officials say was extremely cautious to the point of frustrating some military commanders and counterterrorist operators.

Yet that added authority might give Mattis and senior military officers pause, after Trump blamed military leaders Tuesday for the loss of Navy Seal Senior Chief Petty Officer William”Ryan” Owens  during the fraught Jan. 28th raid against al Qaeda in Yemen, instead of accepting responsibility for the raid’s outcome as commander in chief.

“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News interview. “They explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

Owens’s father told Miami Herald  he believes the raid was rushed and unnecessary, and refused to meet Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son was returned home.

“I can understand people saying that. I’d feel—What’s worse? There’s nothing worse,” Trump said of the father’s reaction. “This was something that they were looking at for a long time… and according to Mattis it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”

In Trump’s first address to Congress, he saluted Owens’s widow, Carryn, who was there as a guest. Tears streamed down her face as the president hailed the fallen Navy SEAL as “a warrior, and a hero.”

He added that he’d just “reconfirmed” with Mattis that the raid was “highly successful” and “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” The amount of information gathered is still a matter of debate, however, NBC News reported Monday that after a month of examining what was captured on the scene, the raid has yielded little intelligence. The White House subsequently disputed that report.

“Missions of this type provide insights into AQAP’s disposition, capability, and intentions—information we otherwise do not have access to,” said Central Command spokesman Maj. Josh T. Jacques on Wednesday.

Despite the controversy, Trump has signaled that he wants to operate more like the CEO he was in the private sector in such matters, and delegate even more power to Mattis, which may mean rewriting one of President Barack Obama’s classified Presidential Policy Directives on potentially lethal operations in countries where the U.S. is not officially involved in combat.

The National Security Council spokesman was not immediately able to comment.

Former Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast they’d already streamlined the approvals process for counterterrorism raids, following the failed 2014 mission to rescue U.S. hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller, who were being held by ISIS in Syria. The hostages were moved shortly before U.S. special operators arrived on the scene.

“Obama gave a lot of leash to commanders in the field—but not on everything,” said one former senior Obama administration official. “It’s all about controlling escalation. Do I want to give someone else the authority to get me deeper into a war?”

The official explained that in some cases, Obama deemed it necessary to push authority down to his commanders, as when he gave the Navy SEALs the green light to shoot their way out of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, though firing on Pakistani troops might have triggered armed conflict with Islamabad.

Obama used to give Mattis pre-delegation authority to act when he was head of Central Command on some issues, but not others, the official said. “Will you delegate authority if an Iranian boat gets close, I can take it out? Most presidents will think carefully about that,” he said. “There’s usually a healthy back-and-forth to come up with the right balance.” The official spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive discussions on approving raids.

Trump officials believe loosening the permissions process can help turn up the heat against ISIS—and counterterrorist-focused agencies like the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are lining up new targets in anticipation of more numerous and more rapid approvals.

One model being considered is pre-delegating authority to Mattis on extremely sensitive operations like hostage rescues; for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets, that authority could be pushed much further down the chain of command—all the way down to the three-star general who runs JSOC. If his teams spot a target that’s already on the White House approved high-value target list, the elite force will be able to move into action, informing the national-security apparatus of the operation but not having to wait for permission.

Word of discussions about loosening permissions to strike comes despite criticism that the Jan. 28 raid in central Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was approved so quickly that it was launched without proper planning, and botched when al Qaeda fighters heard the SEALs approaching, kicking off a deadly firefight.

SEAL Owens was killed and six U.S. troops were wounded during the fighting, and the “hard landing” of the would-be medical-evacuation aircraft.

Owens’s father wants the decision process investigated. There are already three Pentagon investigations underway, according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis: the pro-forma investigation into the combat death; another into the loss of an Osprey rescue helicopter that was so damaged that it had to be left behind and destroyed; and another investigation into the allegations of civilian casualties from the raid.

Yemeni officials reported several women and children were killed. That included the 8-year-old daughter of former AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, according to the girl’s grandfather in comments to the AP.(Former AOAP cleric Awlaki, a U.S citizen, helped inspire followers with his online sermons until he was killed by a U.S drone strike in 2011.)

The Yemeni government reacted to the raid with a statement, reiterating “its firm position that any counterterrorism operations carried out in Yemen should continue to be in consultation” with Yemen’s civil-war-embattled government, and include “precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties.”

Special Operations Commander Gen. Tony Thomas pushed back on the notion that the raid was poorly or hastily planned. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., recently that the raid preparation was “absolutely not” rushed or in any way disorganized.

And the SEAL raiders never lost the element of surprise, two U.S. officials said. But the raiders “didn’t expect the whole town to come out armed and fighting,” said one. Pentagon spokesman Davis said women fighters came out firing from several locations as the SEAL team hit its target, contributing to casualties on both sides.

One U.S. official told The Daily Beast that the raid garnered possibly “the most intelligence ever netted” on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including information that will help U.S. intelligence map the network of AQAP followers and how they operate. Central Command stumbled when trying to prove that, however, by releasing an al Qaeda training video captured by the SEAL task force during the raid—but didn’t realize it had been disseminated by AQAP nine years earlier.

This story was updated to add comment from Central Command.

Source : The Daily Beast