With New Security Agreement, U.S. Mission In Afghanistan Continues

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 02 2014

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The new security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan means nearly 10,000 American troops will stay in Afghanistan. What the U.S. troops will do during the next two years has mostly been worked out. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman provides a more detailed at the new mission.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Back in May, months after the security agreement was worked out, President Obama visited the troops in Afghanistan. He told them U.S. troops would soon be out of harm’s way.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And by the end of this year, the transition will be complete, and Afghans will take full responsibility for their security and our combat mission will be over. America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.

BOWMAN: Well, not exactly.

O’HANLON: We’re not going to be doing combat except when we might.

BOWMAN: Michael O’Hanlon is a defense analyst who has made numerous trips to Afghanistan.

O’HANLON: Part of that’s semantics. We’re all familiar with the use of semantics in these sorts of things.

BOWMAN: That’s because even though the U.S. combat mission is officially over, the Afghan war will continue. And whether it’s called combat or not, American troops will be in the middle of it. Most U.S. troops will train and advise Afghan forces on everything from bomb disposal and logistics to aircraft maintenance. They’ll work out of at least nine bases across Afghanistan.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM: They will almost always be on Afghan facilities in that mission.

BOWMAN: And that’s the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham, who acknowledges the risks.

CUNNINGHAM: We’re all in danger being here. It’s a conflict zone. But we’re all committed to getting the mission done wherever we are and whether we’re civilian or military.

BOWMAN: Even U.S. military personnel assigned to the training mission will be allowed to patrol outside their bases under the agreement, so they could find themselves in firefights with Taliban forces who are on the move throughout the country. Just today, suicide bombers in Kabul killed at least seven Afghan soldiers and wounded 20 others.

Besides the training mission, a smaller number of American soldiers will focus on counterterrorism. They’ll work with Afghan forces going after the remnants of al-Qaida and its affiliates. The security agreement says some of those troops could work at the tactical level, meaning they could go out on operations.

JAMES DUBIK: The counterterror guys incur the greatest risk.

BOWMAN: Retired Lieutenant General James Dubik served as one of the top U.S. trainers in Iraq.

DUBIK: They will be conducting direct operations. These direct strike operations are combat missions.

BOWMAN: And that, says Michael O’Hanlon, means more casualties next year, especially in eastern Afghanistan, the focus of future counterterror operations.

O’HANLON: No matter what we’re told about the combat mission ending, we better still expect a dozen or two fatalities in our troops in Afghanistan next year and probably several dozen wounded.

BOWMAN: Still, despite the danger, officials say those thousands of U.S. forces in Afghanistan can prevent a repeat of the failures in Iraq. All U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011. This summer, the Iraqi army crumbled, opening the door to forces with the group that calls itself the Islamic State – again, General Dubik.

DUBIK: We have to learn from our mistakes in Iraq where we focused too narrowly on the military dimension of security and not the governance dimension of security.

BOWMAN: Now a new Iraqi government is attempting to fix what led to the military’s collapse and rebuild those army units. Hundreds of U.S. military advisers are returning to help. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR’s prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/01/353048461/with-new-security-agreement-u-s-mission-in-afghanistan-continues?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

ISIS Threat Draws Northern Iraq Closer Together

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 02 2014

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters have had some success against militants with the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. The front line now cuts through Kirkuk. It’s a province long-contested between Kurds and Arabs. We spoke today with the governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim. He’s been in Washington, D.C., speaking with policymakers. Karim told us that U.S. airstrikes have forced ISIS militants to disperse into smaller groups, and he said the city of Kirkuk remains overwhelmed by refugees.

GOVERNOR NAJMALDIN KARIM: The burden is tremendous. We’re trying to have the UN help, and they are in the process of establishing a camp. The red tape is really preventing these measures to be done quickly. The government of Baghdad also has not been very efficient in providing help to Kirkuk. But we’re trying to manage the best way we can with our own resources because this process – it looks like it’s going to last a while.

MARTIN: Your city is in some ways a microcosm of Iraq as it’s often described – a diverse population made up of Arabs, Turkoman, Kurds, Shiite and Sunni Arabs.

KARIM: And Christians.

MARTIN: And Christians. Is the current crisis inflaming tensions among these groups? How are they handling it?

KARIM: Actually, the current crisis, I believe, has brought the people together even more because everybody realizes and sees the danger from the so-called Islamic State on the population – the way of their lives. And the people are banding together.

MARTIN: You say that the threat from ISIS has actually been a unifying force among the diverse ethnic groups in Kirkuk, but it’s my understanding that since ISIS surged into northern Iraq, Kurdish forces have moved into some areas that had been disputed between Kurds and Arabs and that has made Arabs nervous. Is it fair to say that Kurdish leaders have been exploiting this crisis for Kurdish efforts to build an independent state?

KARIM: Not at all. You know, when ISIS came in June, the army abandoned all their positions, and there was a big vacuum in the area, and had the Peshmerga not moved into those places, I think you would have seen ISIS in the city of Kirkuk with everybody suffering as a result of that.

MARTIN: Although there have been reports that have indicated otherwise, according to a report by Amnesty International, Sunnis who live in Kirkuk say they have felt that they are being treated like they were part of the terrorist threat.

KARIM: I don’t know if – I haven’t seen anybody from Amnesty International come and talk to us about this. But I’m sure there are always disgruntled people. At times like this there are always incidents that happen. It has happened in the Kurdish neighborhoods. It has happened in the Turkoman and Arab neighborhoods.

We have tens of thousands of families that have come from the neighboring provinces, and we also have information that with these, some of the ISIS sympathizers have infiltrated their ranks and have probably setting up sleeper cells within Kirkuk. And these are the people who spread this kind of propaganda.

MARTIN: But you say sleeper ISIS cells being set up in Kirkuk, so the security situation is still not stable.

KARIM: Well, there might be sleeper cells in the United States and in France and in Germany and other places. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about these people have taken over the city or anything, but this is just a precaution that we take. When you get 100,000 people of all of a sudden marching on your city, there could be some bad guys among these, and we’re on the lookout for them.

MARTIN: You have been in Washington, D.C., meeting with lawmakers here. What do you need? What were you asking for?

KARIM: We know that there will be no ground troops in Iraq. The president has made that clear.

MARTIN: Do you want them? Do want U.S. forces on the ground?

KARIM: Well, that’s not for me to decide, but there are ground forces. There are the Peshmergas. There are Iraqi – remnants of the Iraqi Army and others – other people who are willing to take up the fight, and they are taking up the fight. We’re doing that in Kirkuk. It’s being done in other parts of Iraq.

MARTIN: You feel confident that those ground forces can leverage the opportunities created by the strikes even though ISIS may be dispersing.

KARIM: Listen, we would’ve liked for U.S. ground forces to stay in Iraq after 2011, but that’s not the case. They have left. The president has made it clear that they will not be back. But I think there are still other way is to fight ISIS successfully through intensive airstrikes and by arming and training the local Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Iraq and also Kurdish force is in Syria.

MARTIN: Najmaldin Karim is the governor of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Thank you so much for talking with us, Governor.

KARIM: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR’s prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/01/353048468/isis-threat-draws-northern-iraq-closer-together?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Ghosts Of The Past Still Echo In Beirut’s Fragmented Neighborhoods

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 02 2014

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Public art projects grace many Beirut neighborhoods. Here, a positive message climbs the stairs in Gemmayzeh, near Gouraud Street. People from all different backgrounds mix on Gouraud for the vibrant nightlife.

Tim Fitzsimons/NPR


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Tim Fitzsimons/NPR

Public art projects grace many Beirut neighborhoods. Here, a positive message climbs the stairs in Gemmayzeh, near Gouraud Street. People from all different backgrounds mix on Gouraud for the vibrant nightlife.

Public art projects grace many Beirut neighborhoods. Here, a positive message climbs the stairs in Gemmayzeh, near Gouraud Street. People from all different backgrounds mix on Gouraud for the vibrant nightlife.

Tim Fitzsimons/NPR

The heart of downtown Beirut is an elegant area, fringed with expensive buildings. But on a beautiful sunny day, you may not find anyone there — there’s no cafe, no park, no place for people to hang out.

Even though the Lebanese capital is a bustling and even glamorous place, the heart of Beirut is empty.

That’s because the ghosts of this otherwise vibrant city’s past still play out in Beirut’s neighborhoods. Decades after Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s, those divides still carve up the city and help determine who lives where and who interacts with whom.

To understand why, we’ll first head west to my neighborhood, the Hamra area. My neighbor, Mona Harb, is an architecture professor with the American University of Beirut. And, like me, she likes Hamra because it’s mixed in terms of sect, class and education levels.

But that’s rare, she says — much of Beirut is divided. “It is a fragmented city, made of more or less self-sufficient neighborhoods, or sets of neighborhoods, with clear, segregated lines,” Harb says.

Back in 1975, a civil war began here, which would ultimately create militias from all Lebanon’s factions — Palestinian, Christian, Sunni and Shiite Muslim minorities.

Harb says people who lived in mixed neighborhoods fled in fear, to be with their own people. Today, the city is still divided into the mostly Muslim west and mostly Christian east, with many subdivisions. The center, which saw the worst of the fighting, is empty.

There was never a real postwar attempt to bring people back together, Harb says. After the fighting ended, there was a lot of talk about unity — and a state-backed reconstruction campaign that funded the building of the town center.

But in the end, it was too expensive, and people mostly stayed where they were.

“At no point, urban policies that were developed by the state attempted to remedy the situation on the ground and started to think, like, ‘OK, let’s think about ways of making people interact more, of encouraging people to live in each other’s neighborhood,’ ” Harb explains. “You know, to activate people’s movement in one or other direction.

“The demarcation line got reopened [and] people were able to circulate, but the idea of the ‘west of Beirut’ and the ‘east of Beirut’ was still very, very strong,” she adds.

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Lebanon’s parliament sits in Beirut’s rebuilt Nejmeh Square, near the center of the city. Unlike many of Beirut’s neighborhoods, the square is often mostly empty.

Tim Fitzsimons/NPR


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Tim Fitzsimons/NPR

Lebanon's parliament sits in Beirut's rebuilt Nejmeh Square, near the center of the city. Unlike many of Beirut's neighborhoods, the square is often mostly empty.

Lebanon’s parliament sits in Beirut’s rebuilt Nejmeh Square, near the center of the city. Unlike many of Beirut’s neighborhoods, the square is often mostly empty.

Tim Fitzsimons/NPR

A Refugee Camp-Turned Neighborhood

To see what Harb means about the city’s patchy re-integration, lets visit some of the places where folks mix — and where they don’t.

We’ll start in the west, at the site of one of the civil war’s bloodiest battlefields and a highly ghettoized neighborhood: the Chatila Palestinian camp, also known as the Shatila refugee camp.

“Camp” really doesn’t describe what you’ll see here. There are no tents. It’s a neighborhood, really, that’s grown up over decades, with narrow streets, houses clustered on top of each other, a tangle of chaotic electricity wires. But you can get the feeling here that you’re not in Beirut — that you’ve stepped into another place with its own politics and its own ideals.

The winding streets are too narrow for cars, so people use scooters or horses and carts to get around. There are pictures of Palestinian leaders everywhere. And here in Chatila, locals remember one of the worst atrocities of the war: a massacre of mostly Palestinian civilians by Christian militias helped by Israeli forces in 1982.

Hassan, who was a teenage fighter at the time, says the issues are still so sensitive that he won’t give his last name.

“It was killing and massacres of children. I was little, living in the same area where the massacre took place,” he says. “I was at home, but I got out after the massacre finished — we found the martyrs in the streets. All bodies piled on top of each other.”

These memories, he says, make it hard for Christian Lebanese and Palestinians to live alongside each other. And it doesn’t help that most Palestinians are poor and can’t afford to move.

Even so, it’s been 25 years since the end of the war, and some of those painful memories are fading. There is some mixing today — Hassan Ahmed, who makes kitchen furniture in a little workshop in the camp, says his customers come from both the camp and nearby suburbs.

Brought Together By Commerce And Nightlife

Some think this strong entrepreneurial spirit in Lebanon does more to bring people into other neighborhoods than any policy enacted by the relatively weak state.

Until recently, you could see this in action all over the place. In a market in a suburb known as Dahiyeh, to the south, the population is overwhelmingly Shiite. The shopping’s great, and over the years, people of all sects started to shop here.

But lately, as a sectarian war has raged next door in Syria, Sunnis and Christians have started to avoid the area, says young journalist Maytham Kassir.

Driving around, he points out the flags of the dominant Shiite factions. They symbolize who the local residents support, he explains. “The green one is for Haraket Amal,” he says, the party of Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also known as the Amal Movement. And yellow flags, he says, “means you are in the territory of Hezbollah supporters.”

More From The Series

The Shiite militant group Hezbollah is the most powerful group here. In the last couple of years, it has joined the highly sectarian fighting in Syria. So now, relations between the Sunni and Shiite communities in Lebanon are more strained than they’ve been in years.

And yet, there are some places in the city not defined by sect. Gouraud Street, in East Beirut, is close to the center of town, full of pretty old houses and good bars.

There are plenty of people in Beirut — Muslims, Christians and others – who aren’t really all that religious. They choose to dress in the latest fashions — showing plenty of tanned skin — and head here for a riotous night out.

Walking among the bars nestled in old houses, Yaser Abunnasr, a landscape architecture professor at the American University in Beirut, says, “You can call it a neutral ground, in a way, within this very contentious and polarized situation.”

Some homes have sprays of bullet marks on their carved balconies; one has gorgeous street art of the great singer Fairuz and several sell cocktails muddled with the herb blend za’atar, a Lebanese favorite.

So is Gouraud Street a place for escape?

“I would imagine yes, people would actually leave their context and their background and come here and do what they want to do,” Abunnasr says.

With the tour over, it’s time to take my usual route home — I walk west, jump into a shiny old taxi and head through the bright, empty heart of the city back to my own little sliver of lovely, fragmented Beirut.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/02/353042413/ghosts-of-the-past-still-echo-in-beiruts-fragmented-neighborhoods?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Israel Justice Minister: U.S. Shouldn’t Give Up On Palestinian Peace Process

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 01 2014

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now a talk with a Middle East peace negotiator, Israel’s Tzipi Livni. She’s also the Israeli minister of justice. Last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations General Assembly and accused Israel of genocide in its recent Gaza campaign. Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his speech at the UN and held Abbas responsible for what he called the war crimes committed by Hamas.

Tzipi Livni, welcome to the program. And if those two statements are a measure of where things stand, is the peace process just about dead?

TZIPI LIVNI: I don’t want to use that word because I believe that peace is the interest of Israel and the Palestinians, and therefore I am trying to revive it each and every day. But yes, the speech of Abu Mazen was quite a horrific speech, if I may say – using these words against Israel, but this is not true.

SIEGEL: Your prime minister’s speech didn’t seem like the most – the strongest invitation to negotiations either.

LIVNI: Listen, it’s not about speeches. It’s not a debate contest between Netanyahu and Abu Mazen. And anyway, Netanyahu won this debate. It is more about realities. It is more about leaders making decisions for peace, and realities on the ground are those that would change the future and not just the speeches.

SIEGEL: Here’s Israel’s situation in the region it seems. You’re worried about the very movements and the very countries that worry the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Jordanians, the United Arab Emirates, the Turks, to a great extent – without a Palestinian agreement, though, they can’t deal with you as a public ally and partner in the region. Are regional concerns strong enough to lead the Israelis to say we’ve got to – we have to get a deal with the Palestinians to be above-board players in the Middle East?

LIVNI: This is what I believe in. The world is divided between the good guys and the bad guys. And we, Israel – of course, the United States – the legitimate Palestinian government, Egypt, Jordan are the Gulf States. We are part of the camp of so-called moderates or diplomatics against these terrorists. Now among us there is this ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian that affects…

SIEGEL: Whom you count as a member of the same good-guy camp that you’ve just described.

LIVNI: Yes, yes, yes, yes – the leaders in the outer world – they understand that we share the same traits, but yet, their public opinion is completely against Israel. So it’s difficult for them to sit with us publicly. We can meet them, you know, but, discreetly. And this affects our possibility – Israel’s possibility to be public part of this coalition against the evil that we are facing in the region.

SIEGEL: How important is it? How important is it to be a part of all that in the Middle East, as opposed to being some little offshore European country that happens to be located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean?

LIVNI: Listen, the nature of the state of Israel – by definition we are part of this coalition because of who we are, because of our values, because they see us as infidel like they see other more moderate Muslims, Christians and Jews. So we are there. But as you said, it’s a pity that we cannot work together.

SIEGEL: Minister Livni, I want to go back to the peace talks just for a moment here, which ended with a failure of Secretary Kerry to get both you and the Palestinians – your government and the Palestinians to agree to a framework for peace.

LIVNI: Everybody needs to understand the fact that we had negotiation after five years of stalemate is due to the fact that Secretary Kerry invested his time and efforts in order to convince both sides to do it, and I highly appreciate him for doing so.

SIEGEL: But, you know, it’s often said that this is the peace process. The problem with it is it’s often more process than peace – that there are talks, there are meetings, but there’s no results. There’s no agreement.

LIVNI: Yes, I know those sayings – skip the process and let’s have peace. But it was not in vain, these nine months of negotiations, because the United States, Secretary Kerry – they all understand now better what are the specific positions of both sides to all the core issues.

SIEGEL: Would it be helpful for the United States, rather than entering into another round of similar negotiations, to simply publish the framework and say, here’s what the United States thinks should be the framework for Middle East peace. And when the two sides agree to it, we’ll have peace.

LIVNI: Listen, it’s not for me to be the adviser of the president or the secretary of state, but I want to say the following. Both sides need this peace, but this is also an American interest. And by supporting peace, it’s not being pro-Israeli against Palestinian or pro-Palestinian against Israel. It’s being pro-peace, and I believe that the United States shouldn’t give up the peace process or peas just because of what we see now.

SIEGEL: Tzipi Livni, Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians – not that there are negotiations right now – and minister of justice. Thank you very much for talking with us.

LIVNI: Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR’s prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/30/352808212/israel-justice-minister-u-s-shouldnt-give-up-on-palestinian-peace-process?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Mexico Pays To Help Its Citizens Avoid Deportation From The U.S.

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 01 2014

Mexico is helping some of its citizens apply for a controversial immigration program in the U.S. called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

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Mexican consulates, like this one in Houston, are helping some unauthorized immigrants from Mexico pay application fees for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

WhisperToMe/Wikimedia Commons


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WhisperToMe/Wikimedia Commons

Mexican consulates, like this one in Houston, are helping some unauthorized immigrants from Mexico pay application fees for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Mexican consulates, like this one in Houston, are helping some unauthorized immigrants from Mexico pay application fees for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

WhisperToMe/Wikimedia Commons

Since the Obama administration created the program in 2012, more than 580,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors have received temporary relief from deportation and been given work permits that last for at least two years.

But 45 percent of those who are eligible for DACA have not applied, and the cost may be holding some back. Immigrants have to pay a total of $465 to the Department of Homeland Security for fees related to the work permit and for required fingerprinting.

Mexican consulates around the U.S. have been paying those fees for some applicants through a little-known program for Mexican citizens with financial need.

Money A Big Factor

Before applying for DACA, Tania Guzman was worried about revealing to the U.S. government that she left Mexico City and crossed the border illegally when she was 7 years old.

Now 30, Guzman says she also worried about the cost, especially after she learned she would have to pay at least a couple of thousand dollars for immigration attorneys to help prepare her DACA application.

“It was a big factor,” says Guzman, who works as a part-time personal assistant and baby sitter in Los Angeles. “It’s a lot of money, and I was struggling.”

She finally managed to apply last October after her lawyer from Public Counsel, a pro bono law firm based in California, told her she qualified for financial assistance from the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. Since 2012, that consulate has set aside $250,000 to help, so far, more than 260 Mexican citizens apply for DACA.

Guzman, who was granted deferred action in May, says she paid $50. The rest of her attorney’s and application fees were covered by Mexico.

“We are here [in the U.S.] basically not doing anything for our country, I will say. So it’s a great thing to know that even though you’re not in Mexico, you still get help from them,” Guzman says.

Helping Mexicans Wherever They Are

The Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., does not keep track of how many DACA applications the consulates have funded nationwide, according to Julian Escutia, head of the embassy’s consular coordination and Hispanic affairs section.

Escutia, who oversees national programs for Mexico’s 50 consulates around the U.S., stresses that financial assistance for Mexican citizens applying for DACA is limited and based on need.

“This is on a case-by-case basis,” he explained in an interview at the embassy. “We are not in the position of assisting all of them financially.”

Paying for DACA applications, he added, is just one way Mexican consulates are trying to support Mexican citizens living in the U.S.

“If it’s a program that helps youth to work in this country, well, that helps our nationals, and that helps us,” he said.

When asked why Mexico is helping its citizens find ways to stay in the U.S., Escutia said that is not the Mexican government’s main objective.

“Our main objective is the well-being of our nationals wherever they are,” he said. “So what we want for them is that they are successful and really continue contributing to this country [the U.S.].”

An official with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which reviews DACA applications, told NPR that foreign governments are not restricted from providing filing fees because the agency has “no way of knowing where any fees might have originated.”

About 80 percent of immigrants applying for DACA come from Mexico, according to USCIS. Among the other top five countries of origin, neither El Salvador nor South Korea has provided financial assistance to applicants, while the embassies of Guatemala and Honduras did not return requests for comment by deadline.

Raising ‘An Eyebrow Or Two’

DACA has sparked heated debate in Congress, with House Republicans questioning whether President Obama had the constitutional authority to enact the program. In August, they passed a measure to end the DACA program, which was also the focus of a lawsuit by a group of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Escutia said the controversy about DACA was a “domestic issue” for the U.S. to sort out.

“We are not entering into the political debate about DACA,” he said. “It’s one option that is available to our nationals, and if they choose to apply for it, we are certainly happy to help them.”

Mexico’s support for DACA applicants may seem counterintuitive, says Emily Edmonds-Poli, a professor who teaches Mexican politics at the University of San Diego, but she said it shows that the Mexican government is acknowledging a decades-long migration trend that led to 9 percent of people born in Mexico now living in the U.S.

That has driven Mexico to build better relations with Mexicans abroad in hopes of maintaining remittance flows and other cross-border economic activity.

“I think the message that it’s trying to send is that the Mexican government supports its population living in the U.S.,” Edmonds-Poli says. “I don’t think that that is the message that will be received in the U.S.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/09/30/347748662/mexico-pays-to-help-its-citizens-avoid-deportation-from-the-u-s?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Kurds Retake Syria-Iraq Border Crossing As U.K. Begins Bombing

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Oct 01 2014

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A Kurdish peshmerga soldier who was wounded Sept. 30 in fierce battles in nearby Nineveh province with Islamic State group militants is brought to the Zakho Emergency Hospital in Dahuk, Iraq.

Hadi Mizban/The Associated Press


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Hadi Mizban/The Associated Press

A Kurdish peshmerga soldier who was wounded Sept. 30 in fierce battles in nearby Nineveh province with Islamic State group militants is brought to the Zakho Emergency Hospital in Dahuk, Iraq.

A Kurdish peshmerga soldier who was wounded Sept. 30 in fierce battles in nearby Nineveh province with Islamic State group militants is brought to the Zakho Emergency Hospital in Dahuk, Iraq.

Hadi Mizban/The Associated Press

Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq captured a border crossing with Syria on Tuesday, expelling Islamic State militants in heavy fighting that ground down to vicious house-to-house combat and close-quarters sniping.

In neighboring Syria, Kurdish militiamen were on the defensive as the extremists pressed ahead with a relentless assault on a town near the Turkish border. The attack on Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, has driven more than 160,000 people across the frontier in the past few days.

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Kurdish fighters man a weapon mounted on a pickup truck as they take position behind cement blocks Aug. 29 in the Iraqi city of Rabia on the Iraqi-Syrian border, where clashes with Islamic State militants were taking place. A month later on Sept. 30, Kurdish forces finally were able to retake the city.

Reuters /Landov


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Reuters /Landov

Kurdish fighters man a weapon mounted on a pickup truck as they take position behind cement blocks Aug. 29 in the Iraqi city of Rabia on the Iraqi-Syrian border, where clashes with Islamic State militants were taking place. A month later on Sept. 30, Kurdish forces finally were able to retake the city.

Kurdish fighters man a weapon mounted on a pickup truck as they take position behind cement blocks Aug. 29 in the Iraqi city of Rabia on the Iraqi-Syrian border, where clashes with Islamic State militants were taking place. A month later on Sept. 30, Kurdish forces finally were able to retake the city.

Reuters /Landov

Iraqi Kurdish fighters, known as peshmerga, were doing the bulk of the fighting on the ground as a U.S.-led coalition carried out an aerial assault against the Islamic State group in both Iraq and Syria. Britain joined the air campaign Tuesday, carrying out its first strikes against the extremists in Iraq — though it does not plan to expand into Syria.

On Tuesday, Kurdish fighters in Iraq said they saw some of the heaviest fighting yet. Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hekmat told The Associated Press the Kurds seized the border crossing of Rabia, which the extremists captured in their blitz across Iraq over the summer.

Rami Abdurrahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said the Kurds had retaken the border post. He said Syrian Kurdish militiamen, who control the Syrian side of the frontier, had helped in the fight.

Kurds wounded in the fighting were brought to a makeshift clinic in the town of Salhiyah, where dusty and exhausted, they described savage battles, with militants sniping at them from inside homes and from the windows of a hospital in Rabia.

“They’re such good fighters,” said one soldier, resting outside the clinic on a rock surrounded by blood-soaked bandages. He refused to be identified because he was not a senior officer. “They’re fighting with weapons the Iraqi military abandoned — so, American weapons really.”

Fighters at the clinic described how the peshmerga first took the town of Mahmoudiya near the Syrian border on Monday, then moved down the highway to assault Rabia. The two sides had intense clashes overnight, with Islamic State group snipers shooting from inside houses and setting off roadside bombs.

Peshmerga fighters advanced on a five-story hospital in the city, only to be ambushed by some two dozen militants inside, the fighters said.

Hekmat said the Kurdish fighters intended to push further south toward the town of Sinjar, which the extremists took last month, prompting the flight of members of the small Yazidi religious sect.

In Britain’s first airstrikes of the campaign, two Tornado jets hit a heavy weapons post and an armored vehicle being used by the militants to attack Kurdish forces in northwest Iraq, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in London.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said the U.S. and its coalition partners conducted 20 strikes in Iraq and Syria against fixed and mobile targets. So far, about 306 air attacks have been conducted — more than 230 in Iraq and the rest in Syria, he said.

He said the strikes were having an effect because the extremists have changed their tactics — blending in more with the local population, dispersing and refraining from communicating as openly as they once did.

But, he said, that “doesn’t mean they aren’t still trying, and in some cases succeeding, at taking and holding ground.”

“No one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate airstrikes,” he said. “We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/10/01/352876078/kurds-retake-syria-iraq-border-crossing-as-u-k-begins-bombing?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Modi Galvanizes Indian Diaspora On U.S. Visit

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 30 2014

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The new prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, is on his first visit to United States since winning the election last spring. Tonight he is dining with President Obama at the White House. It’s a small, private dinner – a stark contrast to last night when Modi headlined at Madison Square Garden.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Modi, Modi, Modi.

MARTIN: Modi entered the arena to a rock star’s welcome.

(CHEERING)

MARTIN: Those are the cheers of thousands of Indians and Indian Americans who packed into the Garden to see the new leader of the world’s largest democracy and a man whose promise to realize India’s potential as an economic powerhouse.

For more on how Narendra Modi plans to recast his own political party and reframe U.S.-Indian relations, we’re joined by Mitra Kalita. She’s a journalist with the online magazine Quartz and Quartz India. Thanks so much for being with us.

MITRA KALITA: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Mitra, I understand you were at the Garden last night. You were there taking in that scene. Indian Americans seem to be uncharacteristically enthusiastic about this new Prime Minister – why?

KALITA: So Narendra Modi came to office at a really interesting time in India’s economy. For the last 15 years or so the story very much has been one of rapid growth, but over the last few years a lot of that growth slowed. And so Modi comes in under this era of great promise – of returning India to the growth of that was, and that was very much the chords that he struck yesterday at Madison Square Garden.

MARTIN: Today, Prime Minister Modi has been meeting with a long list – a who’s-who of American corporate executives – Google, Pepsi, a host of other big names. What might he be looking for from those meetings?

KALITA: So he’s looking for investment. And part of the Modi promise is that he’s going to make it easier for companies to enter India – to do business in India. What I think he’s also pushing for is some sense of an alliance with India that’s truly legitimate. And, perhaps, in this trifecta of India, China and the U.S., is it more powerful to defeat the so-called threat of China under an alliance between the United States and India?

The problem with India is that it’s repeatedly hobbled by red tape, getting things done, really poor infrastructure. And a part of Modi’s calculation here has to be, I will fix that which I can in India, but you have to believe me and put some money in that dream as well.

MARTIN: How much of this trip, though, is about burnishing his image and the image of his party, the BJP, back home in India? This is, after all, the Hindu Nationalist Party. It’s a party that has a very polarizing past.

KALITA: I think it’s fairly significant. I mean, Indians leaving India and coming back to India with ideas and vision is not a new thing, and I think Modi realizes this. Also, just in this era of increased communication via WhatsApp and Facebook and so many other mechanisms from the blue era grams (ph) that my family traded back and forth in the 1970s, there is this awareness and this feeling of belonging that we perhaps didn’t have before. And Modi needs to appeal to that because after all NRIs, as we’re known – nonresident Indians – are among a big source of investment for him.

MARTIN: As we mentioned, Prime Minister Modi is meeting with President Obama this evening. Does he have any specific asks? What does he want or need from his conversation with President Obama on this trip?

KALITA: I think Modi would like some assurance that indeed – on the China issue, that the U.S. sides with India. In exchange, I think Obama might be asking Modi for involvement in the affairs of the world. India’s been quite reticent to step into issues of Iraq or Syria, for example.

And I think a lot of sitting down with Obama tonight is going to be psychologically good for relations between the two countries and, again, an assurance that in this relationship among China, India and the U.S., that it might be the U.S. siding with India that makes them a lot stronger than the alternative.

MARTIN: Mitra Kalita writes for the online journal Quartz. Thanks so much for talking with us.

KALITA: Thank you for having me.

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Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/29/352538402/modi-galvanizes-indian-diaspora-on-u-s-visit?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Spanish Court Blocks Catalonia’s Independence Vote

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 30 2014

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Pro-independence Catalans protest in front of a Spanish government delegation in Barcelona Monday, after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended an independence referendum called by Catalonia.

Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images


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Pro-independence Catalans protest in front of a Spanish government delegation in Barcelona Monday, after Spain's Constitutional Court suspended an independence referendum called by Catalonia.

Pro-independence Catalans protest in front of a Spanish government delegation in Barcelona Monday, after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended an independence referendum called by Catalonia.

Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Two days after the region’s president announced a November vote on whether Catalonia should break away from Spain, the nation’s highest court has suspended that plan, making it illegal to continue organizing the referendum. It’s not clear whether the region’s leaders will abide by the ruling.

Spain’s central government in Madrid had appealed to the court to stop the vote, which was approved with strong support from Catalonia’s parliament and local governments. In accepting the appeal today, the court automatically suspended the referendum.

From Madrid, NPR’s Lauren Frayer reports:

“Catalonia’s parliament and president have already set a Nov. 9 vote on independence from Spain. They’ve outlined rules, and are setting up polling stations.
“But Spain’s central government says the vote is illegal. And the country’s Constitutional Court has now backed that claim, suspending Catalonia’s plans while it weighs their legality.
“‘It’s not illegal,’ Catalan President Artur Mas said in a televised statement. He suggested the vote would still be held.
“Meanwhile, pro-independence protesters have flocked to the streets of the Catalan capital, Barcelona.”

Earlier Monday, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the poll isn’t allowed under the country’s constitution. which doesn’t allow regions to opt out. He said that he was defending the rights of all Spaniards, including Catalans.

“Nothing and nobody, whether power or institution, can break this principle of single and indivisible sovereignty on which our coexistence is based,” Rajoy said, according to Euronews. “In other words, no one person or group has the right to deprive all the Spanish people of the right to decide what their country is.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/29/352545972/spanish-court-blocks-catalonia-s-independence-vote?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

European Activists Say They Don’t Want Any U.S. ‘Chlorine Chicken’

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 30 2014

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A poultry processing plant in France. Europe banned treating chicken carcasses with chlorine in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

Christophe Di Pascale/Corbis


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Christophe Di Pascale/Corbis

A poultry processing plant in France. Europe banned treating chicken carcasses with chlorine in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

A poultry processing plant in France. Europe banned treating chicken carcasses with chlorine in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

Christophe Di Pascale/Corbis

Mute Schimpf doesn’t want to eat American chicken. That’s because most U.S. poultry is chilled in antimicrobial baths that can include chlorine to keep salmonella and other bacteria in check. In Europe, chlorine treatment was banned in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

“In Europe there is definitely a disgust about chlorinated chicken,” says Schimpf, a food activist with Friends of the Earth Europe, an environmental group.

The chlorine vs. no chlorine debate has come up a lot recently in the context of a massive trans-Atlantic trade agreement. This week, negotiators from Europe and the U.S. are meeting in Washington for a seventh round of talks aimed at creating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

The agreement would create the world’s biggest free-trade zone and touch everything from banking to agriculture. But there’s a lot of opposition to TTIP in Europe, where some fear it would degrade their food standards. And activists have found the perfect symbol for their fight in chlorinated American chicken.

On the German equivalent of The Daily Show, called the Heute Show, American poultry has become a running joke. In one skit, a reporter is in the White House kitchen eating a chicken nugget.

“You can’t be mad at someone who makes such a tasty chlorinated chicken,” he quips. “Mmm, it has a slight aroma of kiddy pool.”

But the chlorine isn’t really a public health concern, says Scott Russell, a professor of poultry processing at the University of Georgia. “Most of these concerns about chemical use and those kinds of things are blown up in the media to become a problem that really doesn’t exist,” he says.

American processors use about a cap full of chlorine per gallon, or 50 parts per million, in a water tank that chills the chicken carcasses. That chlorine, he explains, is used to disinfect the poultry. He says it gets washed off and poses no health threat to consumers.

But the EU takes a different approach — it operates on the precautionary principle, a kind of abundance of caution when it comes to any substance that enters your body.

“In Europe, their efforts to control foodborne illness is all in the live bird. For example, the grandparent stock, the breeder stock that makes the egg of the chicken we eat eventually — all of those flocks of chicken are tested regularly for salmonella,” Russell says. If any of these chickens test positive, farmers have to get rid of the entire flock.

With this method, Europeans have reduced salmonella in their chicken to just 2 percent, Russell says, but the process took 20 years.

Europeans have pushed for some of the toughest food-safety standards in the world. They want to eat fresh chicken that’s air-chilled rather than dumped in chlorinated water tanks, says Cees Vermeeren, who manages the European Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade.

“The main principle of the European food policy is a farm-to-fork approach, and you may say that is fundamentally different from what’s happening outside Europe in many places,” Vermeeren says.

That strict food policy makes poultry production more expensive. A study by Wageningen University in the Netherlands found it takes about a dollar in Europe to produce a pound of chicken, compared with less than 80 cents in America.

Over 120 countries accept the U.S. processing method, says James Sumner, the president of the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council. It’s cheaper, he says, and Europe doesn’t want U.S. competition. “If the truth were to be known, that’s the real reason they don’t want is there, and chlorine is a convenient excuse,” he says.

For activists like Mute Schimpf who are trying to sway the public to reject a big treaty that’s full of legal jargon and complicated regulations, the chicken argument works. “Very often the chlorinated chicken is used as a symbol of what European citizens and consumers don’t want to have as an outcome from the trade talks,” she says.

Besides changes in chicken production, activists are also fighting the possibility of hormone-treated beef and genetically engineered crops entering the European market if TTIP succeeds.

Though the talks between the U.S. and the EU are held in secret, any agreement needs approval from the European parliament, which is elected by a public that worries a lot about its food supply.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/09/30/351774240/european-activists-say-they-dont-want-any-u-s-chlorine-chicken?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Sober And Sold-Out: Dance Club In Sweden Cuts Booze For A Night

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 29 2014

Breathalyzers were placed in the doorway of a nightclub in Stockholm this weekend, with an unusual purpose: to ensure no guests had been drinking alcohol. It was all part of a plan for a booze-free night out called Sober, where staff were also on the lookout for anyone who seemed to be on drugs.

The plan for a club in a hip Stockholm neighborhood to host a monthly alcohol-free night created a buzz, if you will, when it was announced by comedian Mårten Andersson last month. And it seems to have been a hit, with nearly 900 people packing the sold-out venue to hear DJs on two separate dance floors and sip boozeless cocktails, faux beer and sham Champagne.

According to a reporter who went to the club Friday night, the Sodra Theatre filled up early, with an eclectic crowd checking out music by Zoo Brazil, the Bee Gees and others.

“The crowd was much more diverse than you get at most European club nights,” Maddy Savage writes for Sweden’s The Local, “with curious teenagers joining former alcoholics in their fifties, clean-living yogis and breastfeeding mothers in their thirties.”

Speaking to Vice about Sober last month, Andersson explained that he got the idea for Sober after he stopped drinking. He wanted more people to try it — particularly in Sweden, where he said people spend too much time getting hammered.

“I’ve been sober for six months,” Andersson said. “It’s great — I’ve never felt better. I’m so much calmer these days. I feel better, I look better, and my self-esteem has never been this high. I’m proud of myself in a way I’ve never been before.”

In The Local, Savage reports that while many people seemed to be having fun, at least a few people were having second thoughts.

“People don’t usually dance when they are sober, so it is like an awkward social experiment,” a young man named Maximillian said.

“A lot of guys here in Sweden are kind of shy when they are not drinking,” his friend Hampus added.

Perhaps those guys will benefit from the type of contemplation Andersson encourages.

“The idea of SOBER is not only that there should be a club where you do not drink alcohol but something deeper than that,” Andersson wrote in a blog post on the event’s website. “We want to ultimately get people to drop their autopilot and take the time to stop and think about what you actually want out of life.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/28/352279829/sober-and-sold-out-dance-club-in-sweden-cuts-booze-for-a-night?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world