Thousands Of Refugees Flee Syria In Chaotic Scene At Turkey’s Border

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 22 2014

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A Syrian family waits near the Turkish-Syrian border after entering Turkey near the town of Sanliurfa Sunday. An estimated 70,000 Syrian Kurds have fled the extremist group the Islamic State this weekend.

Ulas Yunus Tosun/EPA /LANDOV


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Ulas Yunus Tosun/EPA /LANDOV

A Syrian family waits near the Turkish-Syrian border after entering Turkey near the town of Sanliurfa Sunday. An estimated 70,000 Syrian Kurds have fled the extremist group the Islamic State this weekend.

A Syrian family waits near the Turkish-Syrian border after entering Turkey near the town of Sanliurfa Sunday. An estimated 70,000 Syrian Kurds have fled the extremist group the Islamic State this weekend.

Ulas Yunus Tosun/EPA /LANDOV

An estimated 70,000 Syrian refugees have fled the violence brought by extremist group ISIS this weekend, choosing to cross into Turkey carrying whatever belongings they can manage.

The rush of predominantly Kurdish refugees came as fighters loyal to ISIS seized dozens of villages in the area. While a U.N. agency reported about 70,000 refugees this weekend, a Turkish official says 100,000 Syrians have come to Turkey for shelter in the past week.

Reporting from the Syrian-Turkish border, NPR’s Deborah Amos says she saw many cars of Turkish relatives parked along the road as people waited for a sign of family members crossing over from Syria.

But many of the newly arrived people were left to fend for themselves, she says, as officials struggled to keep up with the influx of refugees. Tensions have also erupted between police and Kurds on both sides of the border, Deborah says.

She describes one bizarre scene, when a truck that seemed to be delivering water at the border instead began hitting cars that had people in them:

“At first, I just thought it was bringing water for refugees, but there were police officers in uniform in that truck, and it backed into cars — it started running over cars, ran over three cars with passengers in them. And the crowd started hurling rocks at the truck — broke the windshield. And there were more police who were coming to get their comrades out of what was chaos.”

Those tensions have risen as ISIS and its fighters have now advanced far enough in Syria to be within eyesight of the border with Turkey.

“People were fleeing in the thousands over 24 hours,” Deborah says, “so most of them are just standing around on the streets in clusters. You see families with their kids, their suitcases, their blankets… people really don’t know what to do. There is no mass aid operation here at all.”

Turkey opened its border this weekend, welcoming the refugees who had made a difficult crossing.

“We have been prepared for this,” disaster management agency spokesman Dogan Eskinat said, according to the AP. “We are also prepared for worse.”

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says Turkey is building two camps to house the refugees; thousands more Syrians are expected to arrive in coming days. The agency has also brought 20,000 blankets and other materials to the border.

Hundreds of Kurds who live in Turkey have crossed the border to try to help fight ISIS’s advance, Deborah Amos says. Citing Turkish journalists, she says that Kurds in Syria found themselves severely outgunned at Kobani, a town that the U.N. says had, until recently, served as a gathering point for refugees from other parts of Syria.

“ISIS came, surrounded this town of Kobani with tanks, and they have been shelling the town,” she says.

According to the BBC, other clashes broke out on the border, when Turkish police tried to keep Kurdish fighters from crossing.

“Turkish security forces have fired water cannon and tear gas at crowds which had gathered in support of Syrian Kurdish refugees on the border,” the organization reports. “Police said they wanted to stop Kurdish fighters entering Syria, the Associated Press reported, while local TV said Kurds had been trying to deliver aid.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/21/350408107/thousands-of-refugees-flee-syria-in-chaotic-scene-at-turkeys-border?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Ugandan LGBT Activist Recommended For Asylum In U.S.

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 22 2014

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Ugandan gay-rights activist John Abdallah Wambere, right, embraces attorney Janson Wu, after announcing his application for asylum in May. The U.S. government has now formally recommended Wambere’s application for approval.

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Ugandan gay-rights activist John Abdallah Wambere, right, embraces attorney Janson Wu, after announcing his application for asylum in May. The U.S. government has now formally recommended Wambere's application for approval.

Ugandan gay-rights activist John Abdallah Wambere, right, embraces attorney Janson Wu, after announcing his application for asylum in May. The U.S. government has now formally recommended Wambere’s application for approval.

Josh Reynolds/AP

This past week, John Abdallah Wambere finally heard the seven words he had been waiting for:

“Your application has been recommended for approval.”

Wambere, a prominent Ugandan LGBT-rights activist, had applied for asylum in the United States, due to anti-gay persecution in his home country.

In a letter dated Sept. 11, 2014, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told Wambere that if he passes a background check, the government will formally grant the activist asylum.

Back in May, Wambere told NPR’s Arun Rath he no longer saw a future for himself in Uganda, after the country’s president signed into law the harsh Anti-Homosexuality Act, which made homosexual acts punishable by prison terms, including life in prison.

“I have nowhere to go,” he said at the time. “Home is not safe and it’s not even a place I would want to think about.”

When his lawyers called to tell him the news about his asylum application last week, Wambere said he was overcome with emotion.

“I felt like flying, screaming on top of my voice, telling the whole world,” said Wambere by phone from New York.

“I just felt so overwhelmed, overjoyed, felt like running in the streets of New York — screaming and jumping. It was a big achievement in my life.”

A Ugandan court invalidated the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality in August, but the situation for LGBT Ugandans still remains serious.

The Ugandan government has appealed the court’s ruling, and “same-sex sexual conduct, specifically sodomy, remains illegal under a British colonial-era penal code,” says Maria Burnett, a senior researcher in the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch.

“The situation is dangerous and remains precarious,” says Burnett, citing continued discrimination and widespread homophobia in Uganda.

Wambere said he is unsure of where he will ultimately settle in the U.S., but that he will continue to advocate for LGBT Ugandans “as long as we still have that battle to fight for that freedom and equality.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/21/349668587/ugandan-lgbt-activist-recommended-for-asylum-in-u-s?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Turkey Sees Influx Of Refugees Fleeing ISIS

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 22 2014

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

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Tens of thousands of terrified Kurds are fleeing the advancing forces of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and seeking refuge in Turkey. ISIS has attacked more than 20 border villages in Syria in the past week. An estimated 100,000 people have crossed into Turkey in the last two days after Turkish officials opened border crossings along its Syrian border. NPR Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos spent the day reporting there and is with us now. Hi, Deb.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Hi there.

RATH: Can you tell us about what you’ve seen?

AMOS: On the border it is chaos. These are people who have been walking for miles. It’s mostly women and children. The men stayed behind to fight. There are an estimated 220,000 people in this Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani on the other side of the border. And we have about half of them who have come across.

Syrian opposition officials are saying we have passed the 100,000 mark today. Many of them come with nothing. Suitcases, blankets – because they don’t know where they’re going. Some of them have relatives on this side of the border. And those are the lucky ones because they have a place to stay tonight.

RATH: Deb, it’s kind of hard to get one’s head around these numbers. And Turkey has already absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. How are the Turkish relief authorities coping?

AMOS: Well, this has been a complete surprise. It happened over 24 or 48 hours. And all of the aid organizations here have been thrown for a loop with this one. The UN is calling for urgent action. Turkish officials are beginning to move the, you know, mechanism of aid.

But it’s so many people. They were unexpected. So this has overwhelmed everybody on the border. And you could see that today. People don’t have water. They don’t have diapers for kids. They have nothing. They left with nothing because they saw that ISIS was advancing on these villages and they just fled.

RATH: Deb, Turkey has a difficult relationship with its own Kurdish population. How is the surge of Syrian Kurds complicating things there?

AMOS: It makes things very difficult and you could see that on the border today. There was tear gas when there were Turkish Kurds who were protesting to open the borders for Syrian Kurds. There are Turkish Kurds who are going in to fight. There are also Iraqi Kurds, who have announced they’re coming here to fight against ISIS.

The Turks are not particularly happy to have another 100,000 Kurds coming into the country. They are spreading out in towns all along the border. And you can see cars moving – relatives picking them up. You know, there’s great connections between this community between these borders – Kurds in Syria and Kurds in Turkey. And so the Turks were having a hard time -slow in opening the borders – opened two border posts today. They are trying to keep control of this, but 100,000 people – very difficult to do.

RATH: NPR’s Deborah Amos near the Syrian-Turkey border. Thanks, Deb.

AMOS: 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/2014/09/21/350413151/turkey-sees-influx-of-refugees-fleeing-isis?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

When The U.S. Backs Rebels, It Doesn’t Often Go As Planned

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 21 2014

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Afghan rebels, or mujahedeen, climb on a Soviet helicopter they shot down in 1981. U.S. assistance helped the rebels drive out the Soviet forces. But the chaotic conditions in Afghanistan allowed al-Qaida to take root in the 1990s.

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Freedom House/AP

Afghan rebels, or mujahedeen, climb on a Soviet helicopter they shot down in 1981. U.S. assistance helped the rebels drive out the Soviet forces. But the chaotic conditions in Afghanistan allowed al-Qaida to take root in the 1990s.

Afghan rebels, or mujahedeen, climb on a Soviet helicopter they shot down in 1981. U.S. assistance helped the rebels drive out the Soviet forces. But the chaotic conditions in Afghanistan allowed al-Qaida to take root in the 1990s.

Freedom House/AP

As the U.S. steps up arms and training, Syria’s “moderate” rebels are joining a long line of resistance movements the Americans have backed over the decades, from Angola to Afghanistan.

The high-water mark was President Reagan’s administration in the 1980s, when the U.S. supplied weapons to three rebel groups on three separate continents in Cold War proxy fights designed to undermine the Soviet Union.

So how have they worked out?

Well, it’s complicated.

U.S. support has consistently given rebels a boost in the short term, sometimes leading to outright victory. But battlefield success is never the end of the story. Unanticipated consequences often play out years later, casting the mission in a very different light.

President Obama is well aware of this. He gave a major foreign policy speech in May, warning about the potential hazards of foreign entanglements and indicating that he intended to emphasize diplomacy more and rely less on U.S. military might.

“I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” the president said.

Yet just four months later, the president has called on the military to confront the Islamic State and a key component of his plan will be to work closely with Syria’s rebels.

Here’s a look at several prominent cases in recent decades:

Afghanistan: This major CIA operation spanned the 1980s, as the Afghan rebels, or mujahadeen, steadily chipped away at the occupying Soviet army. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989, it was considered a huge success and also seen as a factor in accelerating the Soviet Union’s decline.

But then the U.S. and everyone else abandoned Afghanistan. The ensuing chaos among the well-armed rebel factions proved fertile ground for the eventual rise of the Taliban, which in turn played host to al-Qaida.

Now, more than 30 years after the CIA’s initial intervention, the U.S. is withdrawing combat troops from a country that remains fragile and plagued with violence.

One of the many takeaways is that the goals of the U.S. and the rebel groups can diverge sharply. Another is that the rebels aren’t going to give those weapons back.

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Nicaragua’s Contra rebels in 1990. The U.S. backed the Contras in the 1980s, which led to the ouster of the leftist Sandinista leadership. But the U.S. aid violated American law and contributed to the biggest scandal of President Reagan’s administration.

Michael Stravato/AP


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Michael Stravato/AP

Nicaragua's Contra rebels in 1990. The U.S. backed the Contras in the 1980s, which led to the ouster of the leftist Sandinista leadership. But the U.S. aid violated American law and contributed to the biggest scandal of President Reagan's administration.

Nicaragua’s Contra rebels in 1990. The U.S. backed the Contras in the 1980s, which led to the ouster of the leftist Sandinista leadership. But the U.S. aid violated American law and contributed to the biggest scandal of President Reagan’s administration.

Michael Stravato/AP

Nicaragua: The Reagan administration armed the Contra rebels in their fight against the leftist Sandinista government throughout the 1980s. The war as nasty, with some 30,000 killed, but neither side scored an outright battlefield victory.

However, in 1990 elections, President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas were voted out in favor pro-American candidate Violetta Chamorro.

While events in Nicaragua played out to the liking of the Reagan administration, there was big trouble in Washington. The administration had secretly sold weapons to Iran and funneled the proceeds to the Contras in defiance of a congressional law. The resulting Iran-Contra controversy was the biggest scandal of the Reagan years and several members of his administration were convicted of crimes.

Ortega, meanwhile, was re-elected in 2007 and remains in office. Relations with Washington are cool, though no longer hostile.

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President George Bush meets Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi at the White House in 1989. The CIA began backing Savimbi’s movement in the 1980s against Angola’s Marxist government. Savimbi was killed in fighting in 2002 and Angola’s long-time president remains in power.

Charles Tasnadi/AP


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President George Bush meets Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi at the White House in 1989. The CIA began backing Savimbi's movement in the 1980s against Angola's Marxist government. Savimbi was killed in fighting in 2002 and Angola's long-time president remains in power.

President George Bush meets Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi at the White House in 1989. The CIA began backing Savimbi’s movement in the 1980s against Angola’s Marxist government. Savimbi was killed in fighting in 2002 and Angola’s long-time president remains in power.

Charles Tasnadi/AP

Angola: The CIA began supporting Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA rebels in the mid-1980s against the Marxist Angolan government. Reagan and President George H.W. Bush both invited him to the White House during the long, devastating war.

A peace deal was reached in 1994, but Savimbi never embraced it and relaunched his rebellion in 1998. He was killed in battle in 2002. With the Cold War long over, the main U.S. interest had shifted to Angola’s huge oil reserves.

Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled since 1979, is now known more for his country’s oil exports than its long-abandoned Marxism. When it comes to U.S. oil imports, Angola consistently ranks among the top 10 suppliers.

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Libyan rebels celebrate in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 27, 2011. U.S. airstrikes later that year helped the rebels overthrow Gadhafi, but the country has since descended into chaos.

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Hussein Malla/AP

Libyan rebels celebrate in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 27, 2011. U.S. airstrikes later that year helped the rebels overthrow Gadhafi, but the country has since descended into chaos.

Libyan rebels celebrate in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 27, 2011. U.S. airstrikes later that year helped the rebels overthrow Gadhafi, but the country has since descended into chaos.

Hussein Malla/AP

Libya: The U.S. and NATO air campaign on behalf of Libya’s rebels in 2011 turned the tide in that country’s civil war. The rebels were in retreat and in danger of being wiped out by dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The air campaign put the rebels on the offensive and within months they seized the capital Tripoli. Gadhafi was captured and killed a short while later.

The operation seemed like a model of success at the time. The Libyan dictator was ousted. The military and financial costs for the U.S. were modest. And Libya, which its deep oil reserves, appeared to have a shot at a decent future.

But Libya rapidly descended into utter chaos as multiple militias continue to battle for power.

Obama says he regrets that his administration didn’t better prepare for what would come after the revolution.

“Then it’s the day after Gadhafi is gone, when everybody is feeling good and everybody is holding up posters saying, ‘Thank you, America.’ At that moment, there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies that didn’t have any civic traditions,” Obama told The New York Times. “So that’s a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, ‘Should we intervene, militarily? Do we have an answer [for] the day after?’”

All this brings us back to Syria.

Obama long resisted major American involvement but says the rise of the Islamic State increased the threat to the U.S. The Americans will be backing rebels who have been faring poorly on the battlefield and are fighting on two fronts — against both the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army.

Yet beating back the Islamic State could benefit Assad’s army. With countless rebel factions involved in the fighting, predicting the war’s trajectory is anyone’s guess.

And Syria is just part of the equation. The U.S. is also bombing in Iraq, where it’s working with Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Pesh Merga fighters.

While most Americans now support Obama’s plan, critics say the president has failed to meet his own standard of planning for “the day after.”

Commentator David Frum, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, acknowledges the shortcomings in launching the Iraq war in 2003.

“Those of us associated with the Bush administration bear the burden of having launched a war on false premises that then yielded disappointing results,” Frum writes in The Atlantic. “But it’s one thing to fail to achieve your aims. It’s another to start a war with no discernible aims at all.”

“Obama is now preparing another intervention — this one vastly more important — in Syria and Iraq with no clearer idea of what he hopes to achieve than he had in Libya,” argues Frum.

Greg Myre is the international editor for NPR.org. Follow him @gregmyre1.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/09/20/349549267/when-the-u-s-backs-rebels-it-doesnt-often-go-as-planned?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Dozens Of ISIS Hostages Freed And Sent To Turkey

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 21 2014

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

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Congress has approved President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels in the fight against the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State. That plan also includes expanded airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria. The President says the fight also has the support of some 40 other countries.

Germany has said it would help, but within some limits. We’ll talk to the German ambassador about what those are in a moment. First, the news from perhaps the most critical partner in the region, Turkey. Turkish authorities today announced the release of 49 hostages who were being held by ISIS. They include Turkish diplomats and their families. NPR Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos joins us from the Turkey-Syrian border. Hi, Deb.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Hi.

RATH: So the Turkish government says that they did not pay ransom for these hostages. What do you know about how they were released?

AMOS: Not only not paid ransom – they said that there was no armed clash, that it appears to be a negotiation. In fact, on the social media of ISIS, they claim credit for releasing the hostages. They said it was because of Turkey’s position within the U.S. coalition against ISIS, which is – the Turks have not signed on. This is a big deal here. It has been on live television all day – on Turkish television as the hostages got off the plane in Ankara and met their families for the first time.

RATH: Turkey has been so far reluctant to join the coalition of countries putting up military forces to fight the Islamic State. Part of that, apparently, was because they feared for the hostages. So does the return of the hostages change the calculus for Turkey?

AMOS: There’s been a lot of talk from Turkish commentators today asking just that question. And I don’t think we know yet. The Turks have said that they will not allow Incirlik Air Base here to be used for any military purposes. It seems unlikely they will change that position.

They have a little bit more room now to think about what role they’re going to take in the coalition. But we’ll have to see. Now this all comes as U.S. officials are reported to be lobbying allies to join them in airstrikes, in particular in Syria. So far, no one has signed on. The French have carried out their first airstrikes in Iraq, but they have said explicitly no to Syria. So we’ll see where Turkey is headed.

RATH: Deb, Congress has approved the President’s plan to arm and train Syrian rebels. What effects do you expect that to have on the ground?

AMOS: In the short term, it will be a matter of managing expectations. Everybody here reads the same news that we do and they know that that vote has happened. So on the one hand, certainly rebels in Syria are ecstatic that the vote happened. On the other hand, they want it to happen tomorrow. They want this switch between a covert CIA arming program, which has now vetted some 18 groups here. And they are getting limited amounts of weapons. They want it to ramp up quickly. They are fighting ISIS. And they expect this to go fast. I think U.S. officials have been very clear to say slow down. It’s not going to happen that fast.

RATH: NPR Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos. Deb, thank you.

AMOS: 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/2014/09/20/350155794/dozens-of-isis-hostages-freed-and-sent-to-turkey?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Afghan Rivals Prepare To Sign Power-Sharing Agreement

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 21 2014

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Abdullah Abullah (left) and Ashraf Ghani, shown here on August 8, have been contesting the results of Afghanistan’s runoff presidential election for months. They are expected to sign a power-sharing deal on Sunday.

Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images


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Abdullah Abullah (left) and Ashraf Ghani, shown here on August 8, have been contesting the results of Afghanistan's runoff presidential election for months. They are expected to sign a power-sharing deal on Sunday.

Abdullah Abullah (left) and Ashraf Ghani, shown here on August 8, have been contesting the results of Afghanistan’s runoff presidential election for months. They are expected to sign a power-sharing deal on Sunday.

Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election appears to be finally coming to a close. A spokesman for the current president, Hamid Karzai, says that the two rivals for the presidency have reached a power-sharing deal that will formally be signed on Sunday.

The deal would create a national unity government and delegate limited powers to the loser of the election.

Last month, NPR’s Sean Carberry reported that the long drama of this election was moving at a snail’s pace. “Afghans voted for a president on April 5. Then they cast ballots June 14 in a runoff between the top two candidates. Now all 8 million votes from that second round are being audited, a laborious process that includes daily arguments, occasional fistfights and yet another deadline that seems to be slipping away,” he wrote.

Abdullah Abdullah came out on top in the initial election. But in the runoff, Ashraf Ghani was the front-runner, which led Abdullah to declare election fraud and launched the lengthy audit of the votes.

During the recount process, Secretary of State John Kerry met with the candidates, who then announced a plan to come to an agreement and inaugurate a president by the end of August.

Carberry reports for our Newscast division that the agreement was delayed by Abdullah’s demand that the final results of the election not be made public:

“He has alleged that the U.N.-supervised audit of the vote did not eliminate what he has called industrial-scale fraud in favor of opponent Ashraf Ghani. Abdullah asked that the terms winner and loser not be used.

“While the details have not been released, President Karzai’s spokesman says the candidates have agreed to the language for the announcement of the results. It’s widely expected that Ghani will be declared Afghanistan’s next president.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/20/350154821/afghan-rivals-prepare-to-sign-power-sharing-agreement?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

British Ambassador To U.S. Says Scottish Vote Is ‘Decisive’

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 20 2014

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Peter Westmacott is Britain’s Ambassador to the United States. Welcome. And the news is you’ll continue to speak for Scotland. Good to see you.

PETER WESTMACOTT: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Is a 55 percent majority against independence a ringing endorsement of the constitutional status quo in Britain? Or is 45 percent for independence an alarming measure of how many Scots think life would be better outside of the U.K.?

WESTMACOTT: I think 55 45 is a pretty decisive result. It’s certainly a clearer one than a number of people thought or feared, depending on your point of view – even just a few days beforehand. So I think there’s a clear message there. And what we now look forward to doing, I think – across all the political parties in the United Kingdom – is working together now that the referendum has taken place. To try to ensure that the U.K. continues to agree effectively together. But with, interestingly, a greater say in their future. And greater powers devolved, not only to the Scots, but also to the English and the Welsh and Northern Island. Although Northern Ireland is in a rather special category.

SIEGEL: This isn’t a bargaining position that’s designed to talk down the Scott’s a bit. Do you think we’re likely to see this?

WESTMACOTT: Doesn’t seem to me that it’s a bargaining position. I think what is is a position based on equity. And the fact that if you are going to go down the route of devolution, greater devolved powers for people in Scotland, then it’s only right to do so for people elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

SIEGEL: The yes for independence campaign ran against the continued basing of the Trident nuclear submarine system in Scotland. That’s Britain’s nuclear deterrent force. In the coming discussions, is removal of Trident from Scotland completely off the table?

WESTMACOTT: It seems to me that in talking about devolved powers, we’re not talking about the defense of the United Kingdom or our commitment to a NATO alliance. So it seems to me, at the moment, that is not an issue which is on anyone’s agenda at the moment.

SIEGEL: If an independent Scotland had become part of the European Union, independence would’ve been a lot less daunting than it used to be. That is, EU members can travel, live, work anywhere in other member countries. I just wonder whether deepening European integration in the future is likely to inspire – who knows, Catalans, Walloons, Lombards – all sorts of people to tell their national governments give us a better deal, you know. Give us more autonomy or we’ll walk.

WESTMACOTT: The referendum that we’ve just held over Scotland was the direct result of the election back in 2011, which gave the Scottish National Party a majority in those local elections. And the Prime Minister…

SIEGEL: In their regional parliament?

WESTMACOTT: In their regional parliament, in the local election. So there’s a very, you know, clear link to a vote that was cast in the United Kingdom. And then the decision was taken by the government to address that in a democratic manner, and to give the people of Scotland a say about what they wanted for their future. I think we – you need to be careful about how you extrapolate from the Scottish example to other parts of the European Union, which have got different constitutional arrangements. And I think each country will look at this question from its own perspective.

SIEGEL: Earlier this week, had you been thinking about the message you would be delivering here this afternoon if independence had won in Scotland? And how to put some brave face on that outcome?

WESTMACOTT: (Laughter) I was certainly concerned during the week about where things were going. You know, I wasn’t thinking solely about what I might say on National Public Radio…

SIEGEL: Yes, I realize that.

WESTMACOTT: A few days earlier – but of course it was a very prominent thing in my mind.

(LAUGHTER)

WESTMACOTT: I will let you into a little secret. My role as a government servant was, of course, to inform and explain, not to campaign. My private view – which of course I was obliged to keep to myself – was that I very much hoped that my country that the United Kingdom, that I have the honor to represent, was going to remain intact. So I am pleased that that is the outcome. I certainly was thinking about what were the different options? And where would we be going from here? I was thinking about a number of the implications. You mentioned defense. You mentioned the European Union. I was also a bit concerned about where Scotland would find itself. Given that Scotland, by being a part of the United Kingdom does have a seat at all the top tables around the world. I personally think that’s very good for Scotland. It’s part of the EU, it’s part of the single market, and so on. So yeah, I was thinking about that, but fortunately I didn’t have to get to the stage of working out exactly how I was going to put a brave face on the news.

SIEGEL: Ambassador Westmacott, thank you very much for talking with us.

WESTMACOTT: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: That’s Peter Westmacott, who is Britain’s ambassador to the United States.

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Article source: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/19/349908416/british-ambassador-to-u-s-says-scottish-vote-is-decisive?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Sierra Leone: Where Colin Powell Felt His Roots

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 20 2014

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Braima Bangura, a caretaker, stands amid the ruins of Bunce Island’s slave castle. Africans destined for slavery in the rice fields of the American South were held here.

Katrina Manson/Reuters/Corbis


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Katrina Manson/Reuters/Corbis

Braima Bangura, a caretaker, stands amid the ruins of Bunce Island's slave castle. Africans destined for slavery in the rice fields of the American South were held here.

Braima Bangura, a caretaker, stands amid the ruins of Bunce Island’s slave castle. Africans destined for slavery in the rice fields of the American South were held here.

Katrina Manson/Reuters/Corbis

The media are focused on Sierra Leone this weekend, as the Ebola-embattled nation has set up a three-day lockdown to help control the disease.

Aid will be coming from the United Kingdom, which once ruled the West African nation. But the country also played a painful role in U.S. history, dating back to the dark days of slavery. Thousands from that part of Africa were captured, enslaved and sent to the sprawling rice plantations of Georgia and South Carolina.

Sierra Leone was first charted by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. In 1462, Pedro de Sintra gave the country its name — which means “Lion Mountain” in Portuguese — after the lion-shaped mountains above what was to become the harbor in Freetown, now the country’s capital. By the mid-1700s, this whole stretch of West Africa had become known as the Rice Coast because of the quantities of rice cultivated in steamy lowland paddies.

That drew the interest of American slave owners. They, too, were growing rice, but it’s tricky to cultivate. And the agricultural workers of Sierra Leone were skilled at planting, growing and harvesting the crop. Consequently a slave from Sierra Leone commanded a premium in the markets of Charleston and Savannah.

A fortress at Bunce Island, 20 miles from Freetown, quickly became the site of one of West Africa’s major slave trading operations.

Bunce Island continued to be a major slave exporting center until 1807, when Britain abolished the slave trade. Sierra Leone itself remained a British colony until April 27, 1961, when it gained independence. The United States formally recognized it as a sovereign nation that same day and has maintained diplomatic relations ever since.

As for the slave trading fortress on Bunce Island, it long ago fell into disrepair. In 1989, the U.S. National Park Service announced a preservation plan for the fortress, but those efforts fell through when Sierra Leone erupted in a brutal civil war. By 2008, the World Monuments Fund listed the rapidly crumbling ruins, along with other Freetown monuments, among the world’s top endangered historic sites. Since then, Sierra Leone has proposed Bunce Island for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site still has deep evocative power. Gen. Colin Powell visited Bunce Island while serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1992. That afternoon, he spoke at a departure ceremony at the Freetown airport: “I am an American. I am the son of Jamaicans who emigrated from the island to the United States. But today, I am something more. I am an African, too. I feel my roots, here in this continent.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/19/349880188/sierra-leone-where-colin-powell-felt-his-roots?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Social Media Get The Right Stuff To India’s Flood Victims

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 20 2014

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An Indian Kashmiri man in Srinagar uses a rope to cross over floodwaters in early September.

Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images


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An Indian Kashmiri man in Srinagar uses a rope to cross over floodwaters in early September.

An Indian Kashmiri man in Srinagar uses a rope to cross over floodwaters in early September.

Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

When the floods hit the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the first week of September, Delhi resident Raheel Khursheed was preparing to visit his hometown, Anantnag.

“By the middle of the week I realized that it’s not going to stop raining through most of the week, and I started to put my plans on hold,” says the 31-year-old New Delhi resident, who directs news, politics and government at Twitter India. “By Friday, Anantnag was flooded.”

Luckily, his family was safe. But as he followed the story from afar, it became clear the flooding was unprecedented.

The water in the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, was two or three stories high. Tens of thousands were reported to be trapped, unable to escape from the rising waters. The official number of deaths rose to 277 Friday, and more than 200,000 people have reportedly been rescued.

“It was clear that the problem was way bigger than anyone expected,” recalls Khursheed.

So he started a social media campaign to organize a nationwide relief effort to aid the flood victims in his home state.

Together with a colleague and a few friends, he created a website called JKFloodRelief, a Twitter handle and the hashtag #jkfloodrelief. Then they put out calls for people to donate. They reached out to people in Kashmir to list the items they needed most. Food, medicine, insulin, sanitary napkins, baby formula, and blankets were among them.

By using social media, they were able to regularly update their list. Once the Indian company Emami donated a large number of sanitary pads, Khursheed says, “We didn’t need pads anymore, so we took it off the list.”

People from around the country responded to the request for aid. They reached out to the JKFloodRelief team on Twitter and set up collection points across major cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. The team in Delhi had already set up collection centers in the city with the help of a growing number of volunteers, many of whom found the team through social media, says Khursheed.

But it wasn’t all about social media, he admits. He and his friends had to tap into their personal network, as well. Khursheed reached out to someone he knew at the Indian airline Indigo to seek help shipping the donations to Kashmir. His friend Vidya Krishnan, a health reporter for the newspaper Mint, reached out to people she knew at the biomedical company Cipla for medical supplies.

Similarly, the group worked with nonprofit organizations like Goonj and Sajid Iqbal Foundation, which have previously shepherded distribution of relief aid. “So there, social [media] didn’t come into effect that much because [cellphone] networks were down,” says Khursheed.

Still, it’s a groundbreaking effort that used crowdsourced information to create what Krishnan and Khursheed describe as a “humanitarian FedEx.” And that’s not just self-promotion. Basharat Peer, a Kashmiri journalist just returned to Delhi after working as a volunteer in his hometown, agrees: The group, he says, effectively used “social media for raising awareness, getting people and corporations to donate relief materials.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/19/349868432/social-media-gets-the-right-stuff-to-indias-flood-victims?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Rebel General Defends Assault In Eastern Congo

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Sep 19 2014

When asked what quality he valued above all others in a general, Napoleon said he liked the lucky ones. And Monday, at a military base in a remote village in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gen. Laurent Nkunda was feeling his luck.

The general was in a good mood: His rebel army now controls more ground than ever in the region, and his hand is stronger than ever in determining the future of eastern Congo, and perhaps even Congo itself.

Nkunda’s eyes were shining behind his spectacles. “Today we are strong because the international community understands that we are a cry for freedom,” he said. “We are, that is, spiritual, we are not physical.”

Longstanding tensions between Congo and neighboring Rwanda have fueled the destabilization of eastern Congo, where a humanitarian crisis is now brewing. Nkunda is said to have Rwandan backing.

Sitting in his upholstered chair, the tall and wiry rebel leader was expansive in his remarks. Nkunda, who is a Congolese Tutsi, says he fights to protect other Tutsis in eastern Congo from extremist Hutu militias bent on killing. But he also says he speaks for all Congolese people who have suffered through civil wars, poverty and neglect.

Nkunda blamed his nation’s leaders — from the Belgians to current president Joseph Kabila — for the suffering. The general’s territorial advancements have killed an untold number of civilians and pushed an estimated 250,000 Congolese to the point of desperation. But Nkunda saw no connection between the suffering then and the suffering now.

“That’s the cost of freedom,” he said. “I accept Congolese to suffer for one year, two years, three years, four years — but be free forever. Freedom is not a gift. You have to suffer for it and fight for it. And we are ready to suffer, but be free forever.”

Good luck selling that idea to Bibiyana, who goes by only one name. She was about 60 miles away from the rebel base, walking to the Kibati camp for internally displaced people outside Goma. The strap of a huge plastic bag was digging into her forehead. The bag was on her back, a baby was on her breast, she was pulling another child with one hand, and she had another bag in the other. Bibiyana hadn’t eaten in days.

“We are missing water. We are suffering,” she said. “We don’t have medicine to treat us. Maybe God will have to help us.”

Aid organizations are now moving to feed the people who have reached the outermost edge of desperation.

At the governor’s office in Goma, a kind of political desperation is sinking in. This Nkunda rebellion, if not resolved quickly, is potentially career-killing for Julien Paluku, the governor of North Kivu province in eastern Congo and part of the nation’s new, democratically elected leadership. Paluku is up for re-election in two years, and he says all of Congo’s current leadership will be judged by what happens in eastern Congo.

“We must do efforts to solve the problem,” Paluku said. “We can’t maintain the population in this condition, because after two years, it will be a problem for us. Because people will ask us, ‘Why you didn’t bring peace for us?’ “

Sitting in his upholstered chair in an immaculate blue suit and shiny black shoes, Paluku says the people will also blame Nkunda, who has aspirations to one day be in government. The general will then really have to be lucky — because everyone knows that a political campaign is one of the hardest fights of all.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96536508&ft=1&f=1004