Reader’s Links for December 15, 2018

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About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

134 Replies to “Reader’s Links for December 15, 2018”

  1. Pak-Afghan border fencing to be completed by end of 2019: DG ISPR (tribune, Dec 15, 2018)

    “The fencing work on Pakistan-Afghanistan border will be completed by the end of 2019, said the Pakistan Army’s spokesperson, hoping the massive unilateral undertaking will effectively benefit peaceful people of the two countries while restricting terrorists.

    802km out of 1,200km has been covered and work on 233 out of 843 forts has been completed in ‘pri 1 areas’, said Major-General Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a tweet on Saturday.

    According to the chief military spokesperson, the total length of the fenced border will be 2,611km. He said the armed forces are aiming a speedy completion of the project in ‘pri 1 areas’, adding that the full project will be completed by the end of 2019.

    Maj-Gen Ghafoor said the fenced border, once completed, will benefit peaceful people of Pakistan and Afghanistan while restricting terrorists.

    The military-led construction effort went into action last year. The pair of nine-foot wire fences, with a six-foot gap, and topped with barbed wire, runs along rugged terrain and snow-capped mountains as high as 12,000 feet.

    Officials estimate the project will cost over $550 million.

    Earlier in the day, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) over anti-terrorism cooperation between the three countries in Kabul.

    The MoU was signed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and their Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani.”

  2. ‘Turkey cannot tolerate state-like structures in Syria’ (AA, Dec 15, 2018)

    “Turkey cannot tolerate the creation of small state-like structures led by PKK and its wing in Syria, Turkish presidential spokesman said, stressing that Turkey will take every measure to protect its borders.

    “That poses a direct threat to our national security,” Ibrahim Kalin said speaking at 18th Doha Forum “Identifying a European Role: Navigating Polarization across the MENA Region.”

    Kalin said Turkey’s measures were not just for own interest but also for Syria’s territorial integrity.

    Turkish presidential spokesman said the U.S. presence in Syria went beyond its purpose and became “another theater for proxy games in the region.”

    “They say that now they are in Syria for three main reasons: One is the enduring defeat of Daesh. Number two is to provide stability and secure Syria’s territorial integrity and number three is, now they say it publicly, to get Iran and its forces out of Syria,” Kalin said.

    Kalin recalled his last meeting with his U.S. counterpart, during which he reported saying, “Look I can understand the first two goals, but good luck with the third one.”

    “That means Syrian issue is no longer about Syrian issue,” Kalin added.

    On Wednesday, Erdogan said that within days Turkey would launch an operation in Syria, east of the Euphrates, near Turkey’s borders, to clear the region of PKK/YPG terrorists.

    That operation would follow two successful Turkish operations since 2016 to foil the formation of a “terror corridor” along Turkey’s border.

    In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.

    – ‘Where are the Europeans in Syrian fire?’

    “Is Europe devising its own policies on its own or is it always looking for a signal from Washington?” Kalin asked questioning the European approach to the Syria and Palestine issue.

    “A lot of people think that on key geopolitical issues, the Europe has developed this tendency of looking at Washington what the signal is, what the position will be, and then they take a position or not, they get involved or not,” Kalin said.

    Kalin also criticized the Muslim countries for “lack of leadership” and said like European countries Muslim countries were also silent against Syrian and Palestinian issues.

    “Where are the Europeans in the Syrian fire? We understand that United States has big military and economic power, they naturally enter the game as a powerful player. That’s understandable but there are many other things that we can do,” Kalin said stressing that the Europeans were very hesitant to be an active player when it comes to political resolution in Syria.

    Kalin also recalled a Syria summit on October 27 in Istanbul with the attendance of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany.

    “For the first time we brought together Astana group members and the small group members and that produced two important results. One was the Idlib ceasefire agreement which is now an enduring ceasefire. Secondly, the constitutional issue. So, we made progress on those issues. Is that enough? Obviously not, because we still have a lot of work to do in Syria.””

  3. Denying school lunch subsidies to immigrant children is discrimination, Italian court rules (thelocal, Dec 15, 2018)

    “A judge has ordered the northern Italian city of Lodi to scrap new rules that made it harder for the children of foreign parents to qualify for subsidised school meals.

    The court of Milan on Thursday ruled that requiring parents from outside the EU to provide proof of their assets both in Italy and their birth countries in order to get help paying for the school canteen and other services constituted “direct discrimination”.

    Instead, the judge said, non-European families should be able to access subsidies on the same terms as Italian or EU citizens – i.e., by demonstrating their income in Italy alone.

    “It’s a victory for legality and good sense,” commented Alberto Guariso and Livio Neri, two lawyers who mounted the legal challenge on behalf of child protection associations and charities.

    The requirements, which Lodi’s right-wing mayor introduced at the start of the school year, were widely criticised for effectively excluding immigrant children. Many people pointed out that expecting people to obtain official documents from distant countries – countries that in the cases of refugees are at war or in crisis – then to get them translated and notarised by the Italian consulate there was unrealistic.

    Parents who couldn’t produce the documentation saw the cost of sending their children to school triple. They were automatically charged the highest rate for school lunches, working out at around €5 per meal rather than the lower subsidised rate that is standard for Italian children, while kids who opted to take a packed lunch instead were forced to eat separately from their classmates.

    The same rules applied to creches and school buses, which ended up costing some foreign parents €210 per quarter.

    Their plight came to national attention via a widely watched report on TV show Piazza Pulita, which spoke movingly to some of the children affected.”

  4. Berlin Christmas market attacker Anis Amri did not act alone (DW, Dec 15, 2018)

    “The information, provided by Italian police, was apparently released just two weeks after the terror attack. It suggests Amri was part of a Salafist cell that helped him in the attack.

    German media reported Saturday that Anis Amri, the 2016 Berlin Christmas market attacker, was not a lone wolf and may have belonged to a terror cell.

    A 173-page police investigation report, which was apparently released to German authorities just two weeks after the December 2016 attack, and which has now been seen by various German media outlets, revealed the information about Amri.

    According to the police in the southern Italian city of Brindisi, the Tunisian perpetrator was likely supported in the attack by a “single terror cell” of Salafists linked to Berlin’s Fussilet mosque, which has since been closed down.

    So far, German authorities have insisted Amri was alone in carrying out the terror attack that killed 12 people and wounded dozens on Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz Christmas market on December 19, 2016. Amri was killed by Italian police on patrol near Milan shortly after the attack.

    Italian investigators said the information about Amri was based on intercepted phone calls. The reports suggest that German authorities did not follow up on the information.

    Irene Mihalic, spokesperson for Germany’s Green party, told the newspaper content provider RND that the “evidence is increasing that Amri was not a lone perpetrator” of the deadly Berlin assault.

    “The lone perpetrator theory is a total botch. But, unfortunately, everything deviating from this theory is not being investigated by German police,” Mihalic said.

    In the aftermath of the attack, the German government had been under fire from victims and relatives over their handling of the matter.

    Two years after the terrorist attack in Berlin’s Christmas market, the German government continues to pay compensation to the victims and their families, according to public documents made available on Friday.

    So far, nearly €4 million ($4.52 million) have been distributed to the families of victims and those injured in the Berlin terrorist attack.”

  5. French police warn the government: ‘We’re at breaking point’ (thelocal, Dec 15, 2018)

    “French police have sent a stark warning to the government after another weekend of violence in cities around the country left them “at breaking point”.

    The protests began in France four weeks ago against the government’s planned fuel tax hikes and got off to a mainly peaceful start.

    But since then they have grown increasingly violent and the list of grievances and gripes against President Emmanuel Macron and his government have ballooned.

    While the anger and hatred of protesters is directed at the president, it is being taken out on the country’s police forces. For the last three Saturday’s they have come under a hail of cobblestones and bottles, had fireworks aimed at them and at times simply been given the run around by rioters and looters.

    Although their response to violence has not always been exemplary as some videos on social media can attest to the French police say they are tired of being the punchbag for Macron and his government..

    Last weekend all police leave was cancelled in Paris and 8,000 officers took to the streets of the capital. The previous weekend there were 5,000 on duty when they were overrun by rioters and looters.

    Rocco Contento, representative for the Paris Unité-SGP police union, told Franceinfo that the police had been stretched to their limits.

    “Police resources are not inexhaustible. We were practically at our maximum. 89 000 members of the armed forces throughout France… We can’t do any more,” he said.

    He went on to warn that an untenable amount of pressure has been put on the police to manage a crisis that politicians are responsible for.

    “We also want to take off our vests. Not the yellow vests, but our blue vests if this continues. That’s the message that I want to give to the highest state authorities. We are in a political crisis. It’s not up to the police force to get us out of it, it’s up to politicians,” he said.

    Working back-to-back days of long hours in hostile conditions, with breaks and meal times often cancelled, has left police officers exhausted according to Denis Jacob, the spokesman for national police union Alternative Police.

    They said of last Saturday’s protests: “If the police have managed the situation perfectly well, with the number of injured significantly lower than the number of those taken in for questioning (1723) the fact remains that we are very tired and weary after successive missions.”

    While the police “risk their lives” at work Alternative Police states that unpaid overtime and underpaid night shifts have left them suffering the same poor living conditions as the yellow vests they confront at the weekends.

    “Between their responsibility to carry out their missions, maintain order and guarantee everyone’s safety and the feeling that they too are affected by the demands of the yellow vests when it comes to spending power, the police are at breaking point,” they said.

    The union has called on the government to deploy an emergency budget to compensate police officers “as a way of showing the gratitude that they like so much to assure us of.”

    If their demands are not met they warn the consequences could be serious.

    “The police, exhausted, could end up putting down their helmets and shields,” said the union

    The union also sent an open letter to French lawmakers on Monday with a list of demands aimed at improving pay and working conditions of police across the country.

    The letter signed by Denis Jacob spoke of the “exhaustion, weariness and deep anger” of the police.

    “Since November, police have been permanently mobilized for the different gatherings and demonstrations of yellow vests which have share of violence, looting

    “The police officers have shown great professionalism and great self-sacrifice and self-control which are matched only by their willingness to
    serve the nation and their fellow citizens.

    “However, the police are also men and women, fathers and mothers, and like any citizen they are concerned by the social crisis and the purchasing power.””

  6. Four family members of Strasbourg gunman released: prosecutors (france24, Dec 15, 2018)

    “Four family members of the gunman who went on a deadly shooting spree at a popular Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg were released from custody on Saturday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

    Three more people close to the attacker Cherif Chekatt, who was shot dead by police on Thursday, were still being held, it said.

    But his parents and two of his brothers were freed “due to the lack of incriminating evidence at this stage”, the prosecutor’s office added.

    More than 700 French security forces had been hunting for 29-year-old Chekatt since Tuesday night’s bloodshed, in which four people died — the latest in a string of jihadist attacks to rock France.

    France’s interior minister on Friday dismissed a claim by the Islamic State (IS) group that it was responsible for the attack.

    Police have been focusing their investigation on whether Chekatt had any help in carrying out his attack or while on the run.

    In an interview broadcast on Saturday evening, a man identified as Cherif Chekatt’s father said his son had become a follower of IS.

    “He would say Daesh is fighting for a just cause,” the man, named as Abdelkrim Chekatt, told France 2 television, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

    “I told him ‘Forget about Daesh, don’t listen to what they say. Don’t you see the atrocities they commit?'”

    He added that he had had no knowledge of the attack.

    “If he had told me about his plans, I would have reported him to the police, that way he would have not killed anyone or been killed himself,” the man said.”

  7. Iranian man, 33, arrested in SAS raid who had ‘explosive chemicals and 8,000 matches in Newcastle home’ appears in court charged with plotting terror (dailymail, Dec 15, 2018)

    “An Iranian man has appeared in court accused of buying a knife and chemicals in preparation for a terror attack in the UK.

    Fatah Mohammed Abdullah, from Arthur’s Hill in Newcastle, was accompanied by three police officers in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Saturday.

    The 33-year-old is alleged to have bought a knife, balaclava and ‘explosive pre-cursors’ including chemicals, more than 8,000 matches and a number of fuses.

    He is also alleged to have searched online for components, including a pressure cooker, to make an explosive.

    Adbullah, who represented himself, wore a grey tracksuit, sported dark stubble and sat with his hands clasped behind his neck for most of the hearing.

    He faces one count of engaging, between April 9 and December 11, in the preparation of an act of terrorism, contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.

    Asked if there was anything he wanted to say Abdullah replied: ‘I just want to go home.’

    The defendant was arrested in Newcastle on Tuesday during an intelligence-led operation planned as part of an ongoing investigation by the counter-terror unit.

    The court heard Adbullah came to the UK from Iran in 2005 and was granted leave to remain in 2010.

    District Judge Kwame Inyundo remanded Abdullah in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on January 14.”

  8. Somali-American Amazon workers demand better conditions (physorg, Dec 15, 2018)

    “A group of Amazon workers in Minnesota who are Somali refugees resettled in the Midwestern US state demanded better working conditions Friday during a protest outside one of the retailer’s warehouses.

    Hundreds braved frigid temperatures to demonstrate outside of the Amazon warehouse in the Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee—home to a sizable Somali immigrant population from which Amazon has heavily recruited.

    The protest was the latest effort by the workers, who say East African immigrants make up a majority of the workforce at the massive warehouse but go unheard.

    “We don’t have rights in the company,” worker Abdulkadir Ahmad, 30, told AFP.

    The workers, many of whom are practicing Muslims, say the required productivity rate is too high, the company is unconcerned about worker injuries and that the conditions don’t allow practicing Muslims to pray as they otherwise would.

    “We do not have enough time to pray. There is a lot of pressure. They say your rate is too low,” Ahmad said.

    The workers timed their protest during the busy holiday shopping season, hoping to force the online retailer to make changes.

    Amazon’s accommodations

    They already have had some success. Amazon says it has offered accommodations such as providing prayer mats for workers, converting a conference room into prayer space during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and approving shift transfers for fasting workers.

    “Additionally, we’ve continued to hire and develop East African employees. We’re a leader in this space and we feel really good about our record here,” Amazon spokeswoman Shevaun Brown told AFP via email.

    The company previously agreed to meet with workers to hear their concerns. The New York Times reported that it was the first known instance of any group succeeding in forcing Amazon to negotiate.

    But workers say Amazon’s efforts so far have fallen short.

    “We are appreciative they’ve sat down and talked with us, but we are not seeing real action,” activist Abdi Muse said.

    Muse is the executive director of the Awood Center, a union-backed non-profit that organized the protest and helps East African workers in the state.

    Protesters decry ‘hurt and harm’

    Demonstrating workers and community leaders who joined them in support on Friday say conditions at the warehouse are leaving people with serious ailments.

    “When workers leave Amazon, they still live with the back pain, chronic illness, and hurt and harm caused during their employment,” said Ahmed Anshur, the imam at the Al-Ihsan Islamic Center in the nearby state capital of Saint Paul.

    Protesters said they want the multibillion-dollar company to give back to the struggling community that has been a major source of its workforce in the Minneapolis area by giving money to a community fund to help struggling immigrant families.

    “It’s not a handout or a donation,” said Mohamed Omar, imam at another Minneapolis suburban mosque.

    “This is so Amazon can give back into the community a portion of what they have taken so much of.”

    The retail giant has faced past complaints from warehouse employees about working conditions.

    It has more than 100 “fulfillment centers” across the country where purchased merchandise is packaged and shipped. The centers employ more than 125,000 full-time employees, according to Amazon.

    Bloomberg reported this week that warehouse workers in New York have announced plans to unionize.”

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