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Abortion video used in fight against law change in Spain

UK Times global - Mon, 2038-01-18 22:14
A graphic video featuring aborted foetuses was shown to teenage pupils at a Catholic school as part of a campaign against the Spanish Government’s planned abortion reform.
Categories: GlobalWire, MediaTorrent

Ashes: England face defeat as Australia inch closer to winning back urn

BBC UK Ed. - 22 min 30 sec ago
England face defeat in the third Ashes Test after closing day four on 132-4 in their second innings, still 127 runs behind.
Categories: MediaTorrent

Belgrave Middleway crash: Six dead in six-vehicle smash

BBC UK Ed. - 25 min 4 sec ago
A seventh person was critically injured in the accident involving six vehicles overnight.
Categories: MediaTorrent

Trump Russia inquiry: Mueller improperly obtained emails, lawyer says

BBC UK Ed. - 38 min 46 sec ago
A Trump ally says investigators on the Russia inquiry unlawfully obtained thousands of emails.
Categories: MediaTorrent

Puerto Rico: On top of Everything Else, GOP Tax Bill is Racist

Informed Comment - 1 hour 54 min ago

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Puerto Rica’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, sent a letter to all the members of Congress yesterday, begging on bended knee for a supplemental disaster aid appropriation.

That he had to write this letter is a profound embarrassment to the United States, since he had to remind the federal legislators that the 3.4 million residents of Puerto Rico are US *citizens*.

“No governor,” he said, “should be in the position of having to negate hope after a catastrophic disaster, owing to the inaction of Congress.”

He pointed out that “American citizens living in Puerto Rico …have been struck this year by two of the most catastrophic hurricanes in the modern history of the Island.”

Some 150,000 Puerto Ricans have been forced to leave the islands for the mainland because of lack of basic services like electricity and potable water, or 4.4% of the population!

Only 64% of the electricity has been restored, and clean water is also still not available to everyone.

But here is the kicker. Not only is it doubtful that Puerto Ricans will get the aid they deserve as an Americans, but the tax bill the Republican Plutocrats are in the process of passing screws them over big time.

The bill treats American firms investing in and operating in Puerto Rico as though they are in a foreign country.

Euronews reports,

“Rosselló said the compromise bill includes a 12.5 percent tax on “intangible assets” of U.S. companies, such as a pharmaceutical patent produced in Puerto Rico, and a minimum of a 10 percent tax on companies’ profits abroad. “They are treating Puerto Rico as a foreign jurisdiction so they are levying a full tax,” he said.

Puerto Rico’s problems come from in some part congressional tax policy. The islands lost their favorable tax status in the 1990s with the “contract on America” GOP congress, and also suffer from lack of favorable treatment in shipping tariffs.

I fear there is only one explanation for why Puerto Ricans, who are US citizens, are being treated this way by the Republican Party. It is that the GOP is latently white supremacist and that colors how they see such matters.

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Al Jazeera English: “Puerto Ricans frustrated over lack of aid”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Pentagon ran secret multi-million dollar UFO programme

BBC UK Ed. - 2 hours 3 min ago
US media reports say documents from the operation describe strange aircraft and hovering objects.
Categories: MediaTorrent

Pensions: Automatic saving to start at 18 under new plans

BBC UK Ed. - 2 hours 41 min ago
An extra 900,000 young people could automatically save into a workplace pension under the plans.
Categories: MediaTorrent

Billy Joe Saunders beats David Lemieux to retain WBO middleweight belt

BBC UK Ed. - 2 hours 55 min ago
Britain's Billy Joe Saunders outclasses David Lemieux to defend his WBO middleweight title for the third time in Canada.
Categories: MediaTorrent

Solar & Wind: How free electricity would change the world (Economist Video)

Informed Comment - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:57

The Economist | (Video News Report) | – –

“magine if heating and powering homes became free in the next decade. What would that mean for the world?”

How free electricity would change the world | The Economist

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

Iraq: Parliament Rejects Marriage for 8-Year-Old Girls

Informed Comment - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:45

Human Rights Watch | – –

Amendments Would Have Instated Discriminatory Laws on Family Matters

(Beirut) – Iraq’s parliament has rejected proposed amendments to Iraq’s Personal Status Law (PSL) that would allow religious judges to impose discriminatory law on family matters, Human Rights Watch said today.

The amendments would have covered areas including inheritance and divorce, and, by giving powers to impose family laws to certain religious communities, would have allowed girls to be married as young as age 8 under some of these laws. The head of the women’s rights committee in parliament rejected the initiative in mid-November, blocking the bill. However, two leading women’s rights organizations say that some parliament members have threatened to continue to push for the amendments to secure votes in some parts of the country in the May 2018 parliamentary elections.

“Parliament’s women’s rights committee has made a great contribution to Iraqi society in rejecting this effort to scuttle Iraq’s family law protections,” said Belkis Wille, senior Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Threats by lawmakers to dismantle protections under the current law and restore discriminatory laws would be devastating to women’s rights.”

Parliament members from several Shia Islamic parties, spearheaded by the Fadhila Party, to which the justice minister belongs, proposed the amendments on November 1. The proposed amendments would enshrine Shia and Sunni religious establishment control over marriage-related matters and require courts to make exceptions to existing legal protections.

Hanaa Edwar, founder and general secretary of Al-Amal Association, a leading Iraqi human rights organization, and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East Advisory Committee, said the members also threatened to continue to push for the amendments unless the women’s rights committee dropped key protections in a domestic violence bill pending before parliament since 2015.

“The proposed amendments seek to establish sectarianism and undermine the principle of citizenship and national identity of Iraq,” Edwar told Human Rights Watch. “The amendments would violate key rights enshrined in Iraq’s constitution and laws, and would treat women as inferior to men.”

The current law applies to everyone regardless of their religious affiliation, and is administered by Iraq’s secular court system. The proposed amendments instead would require the secular courts to apply religious law on marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The amendments also recommend – but do not require – establishing specialized Personal Status Courts, headed by religious judges, to adjudicate family law issues.

The current law sets the legal age for marriage at 18, but allows a judge to permit girls as young as 15 to be married in “urgent” cases. According to a 2016 The United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) report, 5 percent of Iraqi children are married by age 15, and 24 percent by age 18. According to a women’s rights lawyer, this is because many families arrange marriages through religious marriage contracts outside the legal system, though they are illegal.

The amendments also would undermine protections for divorced women. Under the current law, if a husband requests a divorce, the wife has the right to remain in their marital home for three years at the husband’s expense and to receive two years of maintenance and the current value of her dowry. If a wife requests a divorce, a judge can award her some of these benefits depending on the circumstances.

Because religious law offers fewer protections, under the proposed amendments, women would have lost many of these protections. For example, under the Jaafari Shia school of law, the woman has no right to the marital home, maintenance, or her dowry and children remain living with her for only two years, regardless of their age, during which she is not allowed to remarry.

Women would also lose some inheritance rights. Even under existing law, daughters inherit a lower proportion of a parent’s wealth than sons. But under some religious laws, daughters would inherit even less and if the family has no son to inherit the agricultural land, it would revert to the state.

“The current personal status law was drafted by taking the most rights-upholding aspects of the different sects in Iraq,” Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, told Human Rights Watch. “The push for these amendments is part of a political game linked to the upcoming May 2018 parliamentary elections.”

She said that while the driving forces behind these amendments came from a group of Shia Islamic parties, she feared that some Sunni members of parliament would also support them to give the clergy more authority over daily life. This is the second attempt in recent years to introduce discriminatory religious personal status laws. In February 2014 the Council of Ministers approved a draft law, the “Jaafari Personal Status Law,” which would have covered Iraq’s Shia citizens and residents, prohibited them from marrying non-Muslims, effectively legalized marital rape, prevented women from leaving the house without their husbands’ permission, and allowed girls younger than 9 to be married with a parent’s approval. After pressure from local human rights activists, parliament did not move the bill forward.

These new proposed amendments violate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Iraq ratified in 1986, by giving fewer rights to women and girls on the basis of their gender. They also violate the Convention on Rights of the Child, which Iraq ratified in 1994, by legalizing child marriage, putting girls at risk of forced and early marriage and susceptible to sexual abuse, and not requiring decisions about children in divorce cases to be made in the best interests of the child. The draft amendments appear to violate the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by granting fewer rights to certain people on the basis of their religion.

The draft amendments also starkly contrast with article 14 of Iraq’s constitution, which prohibits “discrimination and distinction between Iraqis” and guarantees the equality of all Iraqis “without distinction to religion, faith, nationality, sex, opinion, economic or social status.” Article 13 of Iraq’s constitution stipulates that it is the “supreme law” in Iraq and that “no law that contradicts this Constitution shall be enacted.”

The CEDAW committee, the body of international experts who review state compliance with CEDAW, concluded in 2013 that, “identity-based personal status laws and customs perpetuate discrimination against women and that the preservation of multiple legal systems is in itself discriminatory against women.”

In its 2013 review, the CEDAW committee has previously recommended that Iraq repeal discriminatory legal exceptions to the minimum age of marriage for girls. It said that legal exceptions to the minimum age of marriage should be granted only in exceptional cases and authorized by a competent court for both girls and boys, and only in cases in which they are at least 16 and give their express consent.

“While lawmakers may have failed this time around, the threat of these terrible amendments still looms, and is being used as leverage to try to whittle away at key human rights protections in the domestic violence law,” Wille said. “Iraqi parliamentarians should reject these efforts to reverse the progress Iraqi society has made in creating laws that protect all of its citizens.

Via Human Rights Watch

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Iraqi MP “How can we have a healthy society if 9 year old girls are up for marriage?”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

St. Croix River in Winter

Minnesota Flickr - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:27

Tony Webster posted a photo:

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway - Boat launch on the St. Croix River, on the Minnesota side across from Osceola, Wisconsin.

Categories: Minnesnota

Frozen St. Croix River - Interstate State Park, Minnesota

Minnesota Flickr - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:27

Tony Webster posted a photo:

Interstate State Park on the St. Croix River, Taylors Falls, Minnesota.

Categories: Minnesnota

Global Heating: 3 Largest Wildfires in California History all have Raged since 2012

Informed Comment - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:27

The Watchers | – –

The Thomas Fire in California is burning for the 13th day in a row and has now grown to 259 000 acres (104 813 ha), making it the third largest wildfire in the history of California. As of December 16, the fire is only 40% contained and is still growing. One firefighter has lost its life.

Since the fire started on December 4, a total of 95 000 people have been placed under mandatory evacuation. New evacuations were ordered Saturday, December 16, as wind gusts up to 105 km/h (65 mph) brought it toward Montecito, the wealthiest community in Santa Barbara County, Summerland, and a portion of Santa Barbara City.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff has issued [evacuation orders]. . .

A complete list of evacuations and road closures may be found at: http://www.countyofsb.org/ and http://www.readyventuracounty.org/

Authorities remind the public to stay vigilant on current fire conditions. "Please continue to adhere to road closures and evacuation orders. Drive slowly and yield to emergency personnel in the area," the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office said. 

As of early December 16, the Thomas Fire has grown to 259 000 acres (104 813 ha), making it the 3rd largest wildfire in the history of California. The only fires larger than this one were the Cedar Fire in 2013 at 273 246 acres (110 578 ha) and the Rush Fire in 2012 at 271 911 acres (110 083 ha).

So far, the fire has destroyed 746 single family residences, 2 multiple residences, 2 mixed commercial/residential, 17 commercial structures and 242 other minor structures. 185 single family residences were damaged, 2 mixed commercial/residential and 42 other minor structures. 18 000 structures are still threatened.

A total of 8 370 firefighters are battling the blaze, 973 engines, 92 water tenders, 32 helicopters, 161 hand crews and 77 dozers. Firefighting costs have surpassed 100 million USD.

One firefighter (32) has died on Thursday, December 14 from burns and smoke inhalation.

For a larger image, click here.

Thomas Fire from space on December 16, 2017. Credit: NASA Terra/MODIS.

Firefighters in Santa Barbara County will continue constructing direct fireline where possible with support from air resources, working to tie into the Tea Fire and Jesusita Fire footprints, authorities said Saturday.

Crews will remain engaged in structure defense operations. The threat to the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito will continue.

In the eastern Ventura County, firefighters will improve the fireline that has been established to keep the fire out of the outlying areas of Fillmore. Indirect line extending north from Fillmore will continue, in preparation for future firing operations. To the north, fire spread within the areas of Bear Haven and the Day Fire will be closely monitored.

Fireline construction north of Camino Cielo connecting to the lighter fuels of the Zaca Fire footprint will continue. Fire growth to the west, north, and east will continue where lines have not been established.

On the north side of the fire, direct line construction and firing operations will continue in Rose Valley.

North to northeast winds, gusting between 40 –  65 km/h (25 – 40 mph), developed last night and this morning. With the northerly winds, relative humidity recovery was limited.

By this afternoon, the northerly winds will diminish but are expected to increase yet again late this afternoon and evening. Relative humidity will drop into the single digits and low teens once again.

A Red Flag Warning remains in effect for the Santa Barbara zone.

Via The Watchers

———-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

CGTN: “California wildfire becomes state’s 3rd-largest, more evacuate”

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

St. Croix River and Folsom Island, Interstate State Park

Minnesota Flickr - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:27

Tony Webster posted a photo:

Folsom Island and Interstate State Park (Minnesota) on the St. Croix River, as seen from Interstate State Park (Wisconsin).

Categories: Minnesnota

St. Croix River Bridge at Osceola - Highway 243, Wisconsin - Minnesota

Minnesota Flickr - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:27

Tony Webster posted a photo:

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway - Boat launch on the St. Croix River, on the Minnesota side across from Osceola, Wisconsin.

Categories: Minnesnota

Putin’s talk of Draw Down in Syria isn’t about Russia leaving, but staying

Informed Comment - Sun, 2017-12-17 01:19

By Moritz Pieper | (The Conversation) | – –

Standing on the Russian military airbase at Khmeimim on his December visit to Syria, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will withdraw the bulk of its forces from Syria following the “successful intervention” in Syria’s armed conflict.

This is Putin’s second withdrawal announcement within two years. And just like the first, in March 2016, this one is unlikely to lead to a genuine military pull-out.

Far from a genuine withdrawal, the first surprise announcement was followed by a reshuffling of Russia’s air contingent. It represented a draw-down of the air contingent at Latakia and a replacement of some of Russia’s tactical aviation with combat helicopters. But the 2016 announcement was also a diplomatic manoeuvre.

First of all, it was a public warning to Assad that Russia was not going to reconquer all of Syria for him, a nudge that Moscow had entered the war to help Assad’s troops get back on the offensive and reconquer territory themselves. As far as Putin’s domestic audience went, the mooted “withdrawal” reframed Russia’s military intervention as a victory. But it also reminded Assad just how much he depends on the Kremlin’s help – a reliance that endures to this day, virtually guaranteeing Russia a seat at the table for any international negotiations over Syria’s future.

No surprise then that, on a secret visit to Sochi in November 2017, Assad expressed his gratitude “on behalf of the Syrian people to you, Mr President, for our joint success in defending Syria’s territorial integrity and independence” and “to those institutions of the Russian state that provided assistance – primarily, the Russian Defence Ministry that has supported us throughout this operation”.

Without Russian air support, Assad’s forces could not have secured the “recapture” of Aleppo in December 2016 or declared victory over the so-called Islamic State in early November 2017. Assad knows that he owes his survival to the Kremlin.

Taking the lead

Russia’s diplomatic heft made a decisive difference too. Whereas the International Syria Support Group‘s UN-brokered peace talks stalled, Russia organised talks to negotiate a ceasefire in Syria together with Iran and Turkey. The trilateral talks were convened in Moscow in December 2016, paving the way for talks in Astana, Kazakhstan in early 2017 and the creation of “de-escalation zones” in the summer of 2017.

With the Astana process, Turkey, Iran, and Russia have effectively sidelined the Geneva peace talks on the future of Syria and, by the same token, the major Western powers. Western initiatives on the future of Syria are conspicuously absent. A joint Trump-Putin statement on Syria of November 11 2017 only reiterates the unsurprising talking point that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict.

The Astana group met again in Sochi in November to discuss a post-conflict political settlement for Syria. It was also in Sochi that Putin announced that Russia’s military operation in Syria would near its end. Russia remains the unofficial leader of this trilateral format – and Putin’s second withdrawal announcement, just like the first one in March 2016, is a sign of political leverage in Syria’s post-conflict scenario planning.

At the same time, the pull-out order also has domestic priorities in mind.

Playing to the crowd

With Putin recently confirming he will run for re-election in March 2018, the Kremlin is sending a soothing public signal to give the impression that the Syrian venture was a temporary and surgical operation, terminated in an orderly manner. But based on other information that is emerging, an impression is all it is.

A recent AP report suggests that Russian private contractors have fought alongside the regular army accountable to the Ministry of Defence. The practice of using mercenaries in conflict situation has been common practice on the part of the US government in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But it is also reminiscent of the Russian “volunteer” soldiers supposedly “on vacation” who fought alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

These methods help to keep the “official” death toll low in both Ukraine and Syria, easing the pressure of Russian public opinion while ensuring that Russia’s presence in Syria will outlast the regular army’s exit.

Securing oil and gas fields recaptured from Islamic State militias could be their longer-term purpose. And in addition, Putin stated that Moscow will continue to operate the Khmeimim airbase as well as its naval base in Tartus, making it fairly easy to reactivate Russian aircraft depending on military and political circumstances.

So on the face of it, the Kremlin conveys a message of managed retreat by declaring “mission accomplished” as Putin has ordered a military pull-out of Russian troops from Syria. But Russia’s post-conflict position in the country is bolstered politically and militarily more than ever. Whatever the future of Syria will look like, Russia is there to stay.

Moritz Pieper, Lecturer in International Relations, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

——–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Russia’s Putin visits Syria airbase and orders start of pullout – BBC News

Categories: IraqWire, Leftward Blogs

today2

Minnesota Flickr - Sun, 2017-12-17 00:20

Brett Whaley posted a photo:

Categories: Minnesnota

Newspaper headlines: Brexit warnings for Theresa May

BBC UK Ed. - Sun, 2017-12-17 00:04
Sunday's front pages carry messages to and from Theresa May ahead of the start of Brexit trade talks.
Categories: MediaTorrent

Howling into Two harbors

Minnesota Flickr - Sat, 2017-12-16 23:59

GLC 392 posted a photo:

Dynamic brakes howl, brakes squeal and the heavy train of Iron ore pellets start to slow down as they roll into Two Harbors yard after completing a round trip to the Iron Range and back. A few years ago this was the location that the Run away train derailed when coming down the hill into town.

Categories: Minnesnota

Iron Jct

Minnesota Flickr - Sat, 2017-12-16 23:59

GLC 392 posted a photo:

IC 6251 and 2 other EMD's roll through the cross overs at Iron junction to get onto the Iron Range Sub from the Missabe Sub.

Categories: Minnesnota
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