A ruling said the murders of two Americans were the result of a “secret investigation” of Americans’ political activities in Chile by the United States Military Group in Santiago.
A brawl broke out at a St. Louis City Hall meeting on civilian oversight of police on Wednesday night, according to reports from the scene.
— Robert Cohen (@kodacohen) January 29, 2015
While it was not immediately clear who started the fight or for what reason, the meeting allegedly took a turn for the worse after an exchange between St. Louis Alderman Terry Kennedy and Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Nicholas Pistor reported. Photos from the scene showed Roorda wearing a bracelet that said, “I Am Darren Wilson,” the Ferguson police officer who shot the unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown.
— Staci D Kramer (@sdkstl) January 29, 2015
People in the crowd started shouting, KSTL’s Staci Kramer said. Some reports claimed that Roorda had been aggressive with other attendees.
— Staci D Kramer (@sdkstl) January 29, 2015
Order was eventually restored and the meeting brought to a close. There were no immediate reports of injuries and arrests.
The meeting was one of four to discuss policing in the St. Louis area in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The meeting on Wednesday night was considering a bill calling for civilian oversight of police.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
LONGVIEW, Texas (AP) — Authorities say a teenager was fatally shot in an East Texas police station lobby after she lunged at an officer with a butcher knife and a Taser failed to stop her.
Longview Police Chief Don Dingler and spokeswoman Kristie Brian provided new details Wednesday about last week’s shooting of 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard. They also released video. The video shows an officer scuffling with the girl. Officials say he broke away when she reached for the knife. Another officer who had arrived to help fired a Taser. When Coignard didn’t stop, two officers shot multiple times.
The girl’s family has said she had mental health problems and have questioned why police had to shoot her.
The girl’s family could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Texas Rangers is investigating.
By James M. Dorsey
Egyptian-general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s efforts to lend legitimacy to parliamentary elections scheduled for this spring have gotten off to a murky start with the appointment of a controversial, reportedly United Arab Emirates-backed human rights NGO as one of five foreign election monitors.
The appointment of Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) alongside four other foreign and 63 local NGOs followed statements by the European Union and The Carter Center that they would not be monitoring the Egyptian parliamentary election in March and April. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the African Union would be sending 50 monitors. International NGO’s complained that they were given only a week to enter bids for the monitoring of this spring’s election.
GNRD has in the last year taken partisan stands by seeking to thwart Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, promoting the autocratic UAE as a model of adherence to human rights and backing Mr. Al Sisi despite his poor human rights record and brutal crackdown on his opponents.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it would only deploy a small expert mission to report on the parliamentary elections scheduled for March and April. It said the reporting would focus “on the political environment and the electoral campaign.” The Carter Center closed its Cairo office in October and justified its decision not to monitor the parliamentary election because “the political environment is deeply polarized and that political space has narrowed for Egyptian political parties, civil society, and the media. As a result, the upcoming elections are unlikely to advance a genuine democratic transition in Egypt.”
By contrast, GNRD, declared after monitoring last year’s election of Mr. Al Sisi as president, that Egypt had embarked on “a unique process toward democratic transition,” ignoring the fact that the president before shedding his uniform had in 2013 toppled Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president; outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, a significant political force; allowed security forces to brutally suppress protests, killing more than a 1,000 people; incarcerated thousands of his opponents; and ensured that Egyptian media excel in self-censorship.
Founded in 2008, GNRD is headed by Loai Mohammed Deeb, a reportedly Palestinian-born international lawyer who has a track record as a human rights activist, owns a UAE-based consultancy, and operated a fake university in Scandinavia, according to veteran Middle East author and journalist Brian Whitaker.
The group is funded by anonymous donors to the tune of €3.5 million a year, much of which is believed to come from the UAE, a major backer of Mr. Al Sisi’s autocratic regime. GNRD says it aims to “”to enhance and support both human rights and development by adopting new strategies and policies for real change.”
Qatar last year briefly detained two GNRD investigators who were in the Gulf state to investigate the working and living conditions of migrant workers. Qatar has been under severe pressure to reform its controversial labour system that puts employees at the mercy of their employers. A FIFA executive committee warned recently that Qatar could lose its 2022 World Cup hosting rights if it failed to move forward with promised labour reforms.
Relations between Qatar and the UAE have long been strained as a result of deep-seated and long-standing resentment by Emirati leaders of Qatar’s support for the Brotherhood. The UAE, alongside Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, returned in December its ambassador to Doha after a nine-month absence in a move that papered over their differences without Qatar conceding any real ground to demands that it cut its ties to Islamist groups.
As a result, GNRD’s credentials for judging Qatar’s labour record or the forthcoming Egyptian election are questionable. The group’s International Human Rights Rank Indicator (IHRRI) last year listed the UAE at number 14 as the Arab country most respectful of human rights as opposed to Qatar that it ranked at number 94.
The ranking contradicts reports by human rights groups, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR), which said it had credible evidence of torture of political prisoners in the UAE and questioned the independence of the country’s judiciary. Egypt’s State Information Service reported in December that GNRD had supported the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and called for an anti-Brotherhood campaign in Europe.
An Emirati human rights activist told Middle East Eye: “They are supported by the UAE government for public relations purposes. The GNRD published a fake human rights index last year that wrongly praised the UAE.”
With offices in offices in Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Sudan, Jordan and the UAE, GNRD is part of a network of reportedly Emirati-backed groups in Scandinavia and France that seek to polish the UAE’s image while tarnishing that of Qatar. It fits a larger Emirati effort that involved hiring a US lobbying firm established by former high-ranking US Treasury officials at a cost of millions of dollars to plant anti-Qatari stories in the US media, behind-the-scenes pressure on the Obama administration to revisit its relationship with Qatar and assessment of the Brotherhood; and the creation of religious groups to counter organizations headed by Doha-based Sheikh Yousef Qaradawi, an influential, controversial cleric with close ties to the Brotherhood.
The UAE has taken an increasingly activist role in opposing Islamist and jihadist groups with its participation in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls a swath of Syria and Iraq, and its military support for anti-Islamist forces in Libya. Nevertheless, its’ apparent effort to fuel calls for depriving Qatar of its World Cup hosting by highlighting the labour controversy backfired with the exposure of the two GNRD investigators and disclosure of its PR campaign in the US. The effort contrasted the UAE’s official backing of Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup.
The backfiring raises questions about GNRD’s credentials to act as an independent monitor of the Egyptian parliamentary election that would offer an unbiased assessment of the polling. Its appointment appears to be a nod to the UAE, which is a major financial contributor to the Al Sisi government and investor in Egypt, which is dependent on massive Gulf funding. UAE funding appears designed in part to strengthen the military’s already significant stake in the Egyptian economy.
Global Risk Advisors, an international consultancy, noted that Gulf states use their financial muscle “to expand their regional soft power. This type of soft power is usually expensive to acquire and often easily lost,” it warned. In the case of GNRD, the risk to the UAE and Egypt is primarily reputational rather than financial.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a forthcoming book with the same title.
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A woman admitted on Wednesday that she helped two of her children conceal evidence of a gang-related double slaying that occurred at her home, where the bodies were buried in a yard.
Arnetta Welch pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension, Camden County prosecutors said. The 42-year-old is expected to get a two-year probation term when she’s sentenced in March. Welch bought cleaning supplies and helped with the removal of evidence following the February 2010 killings of Michael Hawkins and his girlfriend, Muriah Huff, prosecutors said. The couple were tortured, beaten, shot and buried in the backyard of Welch’s Camden home, prosecutors have said.
The bodies of Hawkins, of Mount Holly, and Huff, of Cinnaminson, weren’t discovered for three days.
Hawkins, 23, was killed over a gang dispute and a stolen bottle of liquor, authorities say. Huff, 18, had accompanied Hawkins to the home and was killed to prevent her from identifying the attackers, they say.
Welch’s children, 19-year-old Shatara Carter and 24-year-old Dennis Welch, were among 10 defendants who have been convicted or pleaded guilty for their roles in the slayings.
Dennis Welch pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in 2013 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Carter, who was 14 at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty as an adult to aggravated manslaughter last year and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
WASHINGTON — The first legislative act by Alaska’s new senator, Dan Sullivan (R), turns out to be a gun control measure — but one that will only affect federal agents.
Sullivan, who ousted Democratic Sen. Mark Begich last fall, is hoping to get a vote this week on an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill that would ban police officers who work for the Environmental Protection Agency from carrying firearms.
“When the EPA initially was stood up, it didn’t have employees who were armed,” Sullivan said at a Monday news conference when asked about the measure.
The Alaska Republican is framing his amendment as a first step toward reducing the scope of the federal government. In particular, Sullivan said, members of the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division have shown a tendency to overstep their authority. He pointed to a clean water inspection at a remote Alaskan gold-mining settlement a year and a half ago, in which EPA agents angered a group of miners by showing up armed and wearing body armor.
“We had in Chicken, Alaska, summer of 2013, a raid — rifles, shotguns, body armor, helicopters — for a potential Clean Water Act violation in our state,” Sullivan said. “None were found. From our perspective, from my perspective, one of the things I got elected on was looking at the responsibilities of the federal government, and starting to limit those responsibilities.”
The freshman senator has decided to begin that effort with the EPA’s special agents.
“We think it’s an area, both from a strategic perspective, starting to limit the federal government in terms of some of its power and authority, but also in terms of oversight,” Sullivan said Monday. “If you have to get together with the local trooper to go execute a warrant, you might think twice. So I think that it’s something we’re looking at bipartisan support for.”
Alaskan state officials were apparently aware of the EPA’s actions in Chicken, although they did not participate in the operation. A report on the incident later found that employing criminal investigators was probably overkill, but that the agents had conducted themselves properly.
EPA officials have insisted armed investigators were needed in the remote Alaska area. In response to Sullivan’s Keystone amendment, the agency said its police officers should be armed just like any other law enforcement officers.
“These officials receive training and follow the same rules and regulations as other law enforcement officials,” said EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi in a statement. “Their work involves the potential for confrontation, and to remove this basic law enforcement tool from the hands of EPA agents could put the safety of the officers — and the public — at risk.”
But Sullivan doesn’t seem inclined to keep his efforts confined to the EPA.
“There’s a lot of people who are concerned about certain agencies that have grown in terms of responsibilities, who are armed,” Sullivan said. “The Department of Education has a SWAT team. Do we really need that? We don’t think we need that with regard to EPA.”
The measure will require 60 votes to get added to the Keystone bill, and Sullivan believes the amendment has bipartisan support. But even if all Senate Republicans support him, he will still need six Democrats to cross the aisle, which at this time seems unlikely.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
The afternoon of January 27th, 1945, a vanguard unit from the Red Army crossed over into Hell: Auschwitz. The SS, pressured by the Eastern advancement of the Soviet Army, had quickly evacuated, pushing the thousands of deportees who could still hold themselves up, and whom they had not had time to exterminate, through the cold and the snow towards the West. These “death marches” leave dark traces today across the landscapes the unfortunate prisoners traversed while living their last breaths, to be felled by their escorts.
At Auschwitz, hundreds of thousands of cadavers lay scattered in the paths separating the barracks for as far as one can see. Such are the phantoms of this realm of inhumanity, silhouettes of unbelievable mass, who look, prostrated, at their liberators, or slowly approach them. A Dante-like spectacle that General Vassili Petrenko, commander of the 11th Artillery Division, will never forget. Much later, he would confide: “Emaciated detainees, in striped clothing, approached us and spoke to us in different languages. Even if I had seen so many men die on the front lines, I was shocked by these prisoners, transformed by the Nazis’ hidden cruelty into living skeletons. I had read many pamphlets about the Nazi treatment of Jews, but I read nothing about the extermination of children, women or the elderly. It was at Auschwitz that I learned the fate of Europe’s Jews.” Likewise forever marked is Sergeant Ivan Sorokopound, of the 507th Regiment of Riflemen: “Through the holes in their rags we could see their fleshless limbs and bodies. In their case, the expression to be nothing but skin and bones was not just an image; it was the precise reality. They had a putrid odor, these living dead. They were dirty beyond any description. Their eyes appeared enormous and consumed their entire faces. Their pupils were abnormally dilated. An inhuman, animal look emanated from them, indifferent to those surrounding them.”
In this God-forsaken place that has become the symbol of the Holocaust, more than 1.3 million deported humans were murdered, amongst which 1.1 million Jews and 200,000 children. Behind the armored doors of the gas chambers they were killed, by beatings, by hunger and thirst, by freezing cold and scorching heat, by slave labor, sickness, torture and medical experimentation. Never in the history of human existence had crime attained such an industrial level. The killing conglomerate-formed by Auschwitz 1, Birkenau-Auschwitz 2 and Monowitz-Auschwitz 3, in addition to some 40 secondary camps-devoured almost all of those deported on the 77 trains that left France, containing more than 75,000 Jews. In 1945, there were only 2,500 survivors, marked with a tattooed number, as if they were cattle.
Seventy years later, many have disappeared. Thus, the grave necessity weighs on us to document the accounts of the last remaining survivors. Only they can recount the daily life of what Samuel Pisar has named “the worst catastrophe ever perpetrated by men, against men.”
Simon Gutman, tattoo number 27815: “Dying or not dying was no longer a concern. We found ourselves beyond discouragement. Madness consumed us. We resigned ourselves before the perspective of a death that would abridge our suffering. By day and by night, we lived in death.”
Samuel-Milo Adoner, number B10602: “We knew we were condemned. Death bit at our heels. The ovens roared at full force. Despite all this, we held on. The will to live.”
Ginette Cherkasky-Kolinka, number 78599: “Returning from the worksites, we carried the cadavers. We didn’t feel sorry for the dead. We blamed them for dying in our unit. Despite their small weight, they were too heavy for us. We were so exhausted.”
Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard, number A7142: “In groups of three or four we shoveled quicklime on the heap overflowing with bodies.”
Jacques-Adolphe Altman, number 173708: “I saw the SS throw babies, young children, alive into the flames. The horror of horrors!”
Addy-Adolphe Fuchs, number 177063: “My morale left me. I wanted to finish myself off on the electric fences. My friends knocked me out in order to calm me down.”
Charles Baron, number A17594: “Birkenau. An odor of death, burned flesh, filth and dirt.”
Yvette Dreyfuss-Levy, number A16696: “Casually, an SS officer decided who would go to join the Himmel Kommando, leaving Birkenau through the chimney.”
Raphaël Feigelson, number B3747: “The SS and the Kapos had every right to kill. They didn’t keep themselves from exercising it.”
In If This Is a Man, Primo Levi, number 174517, would write, “The future rose up before us, grey and shapeless, like an invincible barrier. For us, history had come to an end.”
Since 1967, a monument has stood at the extreme end of the Judenrampe, where the death convoys dumped the human remains of Birkenau: a mound of somber stones, where at the base rest 21 engraved plaques in every language of Europe, including Yiddish. It reads, “For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe. Auschwitz-Birkenau 1940 – 1945.”
Today, the “cry of despair” has passed into the forgotten, and the “warning” is no longer heard. In Europe, and in France especially, anti-Semitic acts and phrases propagate like a virus. “Death to Jews” chanted in protests, anti-Semitic tags on Jewish-owned stores, shots fired at synagogues, Jewish graves defaced… In some neighborhoods, men do not dare to wear their yarmulkes out of fear of being insulted and harassed. In some schools, history professors gloss over the Holocaust for fear of causing a riot in class.
This very month of January 2015, at the Porte de Vincennes in Paris, two days after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, four clients of the Jewish supermarket Hyper Cacher were killed by Amedy Coulibaly. The previous month, a man was beaten and his wife raped, in Créteil, in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris. In March of 2012, in Toulouse, three children were murdered by Mohammed Merah. In January of 2006, a young man named Ilan Halimi was tortured to death by Youssouf Fofana and his “gang of barbarians” in the Greater Parisian region. All of these victims were targeted for being Jewish.
In 1919, in a letter to his friend Adolf Gemlich, Adolf Hitler insists on his objective: “the irrevocable removal of the Jews in general…” Fourteen years later, he was in power in Germany. Twenty-six years later, the vanguard of the Red Army discovered Auschwitz and Europe prepared to celebrate with joy the end of Nazi Germany.
So today, Albert Camus’ final sentence in his work The Plague resonates as a word of warning:
He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and enlightenment of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.
This post was originally published on HuffPost France and translated into English.
Gun violence in America is a public health epidemic. And while this epidemic affects everyone, it has a disproportionate impact on black Americans — men and women, teens and adults.
My organization, the Violence Policy Center, educates the public about this epidemic through our annual report, Black Homicide Victimization in the United States. Our most recent report, issued this month, makes all too clear the scope of this ongoing national crisis.
Our report found that in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, the national black homicide victimization rate was 18.03 per 100,000. That is four times higher than the overall homicide rate of 4.50 per 100,000. It is nearly seven times higher than the homicide rate for whites, which is 2.65 per 100,000.
Overall, in 2012 there were 6,565 black homicide victims in the United States. Blacks represent 13 percent of the nation’s population, yet accounted for 50 percent of all homicide victims that year.
Our report also makes clear that the overwhelming majority of black homicide victims are killed with guns. When the weapon used could be identified, 84 percent of black victims were shot and killed with guns. Of these, 76 percent were killed with handguns.
For black men, the homicide rate was a staggering 32.78 per 100,000. For black women, the rate was 4.51 per 100,000, which is two and a half times the overall homicide rate for women nationwide.
It’s also important to understand that the majority of black homicide victims are not killed by strangers. When the relationship between the victim and offender could be identified, 70 percent of black victims were killed by someone they knew. When the circumstances could be identified, 69 percent of the homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony.
And while blacks in America are disproportionately impacted by homicide, the most common scenario as measured by overall homicide victimization is the same: The victim and offender are male and of the same race, the weapon used is usually a gun, and the killing is most likely to be between two people who know one another and not related to another felony crime.
Our report also ranks the states by their black homicide victimization rates. Missouri had the highest black homicide victimization rate in the nation, a position it has held for four of the past five years. The state with the second highest rate was Nebraska, followed by Michigan, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.
The Washington Post, using the data in our study, published a map comparing the black homicide victimization rates by state, which you can see here.
Gun violence destroys lives, tears families apart, and traumatizes entire communities. Too many elected officials have ignored this ongoing crisis, as well as the unacceptable fact that black Americans are more likely to die from homicide than Americans of all other races.
And make no mistake: We cannot end this crisis without taking a long, hard look at our nation’s gun laws. Time and again, we have found that states with stricter gun laws and lower rates of gun ownership have the lowest overall gun death rates in the country.
I hope our report can contribute to the necessary conversation among elected officials, community leaders, and average citizens about how we can stop this epidemic. As Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said in response to the report: “It’s a topic that is devastating neighborhoods, and I invite community leaders to speak more openly and forcefully about it.”
Below are the ten states with the nation’s highest rates for black homicide victimization:
Sen. Rand Paul, who has been cultivating an audience on Snapchat for the last year, spoke candidly in what is the first ever official Snapchat interview with a U.S. lawmaker.
The family of a woman whose partial skeletal remains were found on Robert Pickton’s farm in B.C. wants the case reopened and a new murder charge laid against the convicted serial killer. A member of the family will speak Wednesday at a news conference being streamed live by CBC.