19 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Vermont senator’s camp claims a capitulation, but Democratic National Committee says move made only after Sanders complied with its requests

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has regained a vital voter marketing tool after filing a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has regained access to the Democratic party’s master voter file after a day of conflict and litigation between the insurgent Vermont senator and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Just hours after Sanders filed a lawsuit against the DNC, the national party agreed to restore the Sanders’ campaign access to a crucial voter database. In a statement, the campaign announced that the DNC “capitulated” and expressed its confidence that it would be able to return to normal by Saturday morning.

The DNC cut off its access to the all-important voter file, without which an effective presidential campaign cannot be run, on Wednesday after it was revealed that Sanders campaign staffers had improperly accessed confidential data belonging to the Clinton campaign. The staffers had been able to do so because of a glitch in the voter file during a routine software update by the vendor, NGP VAN.

The suspension of access to the voter file sparked an immediate uproar. In a Friday media conference, Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, accused the DNC of sabotage while his counterpart on the Clinton campaign, Robbie Mook, openly accused the Sanders campaign of committing theft on a conference call.

The DNC’s chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was a national co-chair of Clinton’s 2008 campaign, said in a statement: “The Sanders campaign has now complied with the DNC’s request to provide the information that we have requested of them. Based on this information, we are restoring the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter file, but will continue to investigate to ensure that the data that was inappropriately accessed has been deleted and is no longer in possession of the Sanders campaign.”

In contrast, Weaver said: “We are extremely pleased that the DNC has reversed its outrageous decision to take Sen. Sanders’ data. The information we provided tonight is essentially the same information we already sent them by email on Thursday.”………………….

Resolution signals rare show of unity from 15-nation council, although future of president Bashar al-Assad is not mentioned

The security council votes at the United Nations.

The security council votes at the United Nations. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

The UN security council has unanimously agreed a resolution endorsing an international roadmap for a peace process in Syria, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than 250,000 lives.

“This council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for a government that the long-suffering people of that battered land can support,” US secretary of state John Kerry told the 15-nation council after the vote.

The resolution came after Russia and the US clinched a deal on a text. The two powers have had very different views on what should happen in Syria, where Islamic State militants control considerable territory.

Kerry made clear that there were still differences on the future of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Russia and Iran. Western governments want him to be ousted. The resolution does not touch on the question of Assad’s fate.

“We are under no illusions about the obstacles that exist,” added Kerry. “There obviously remain sharp differences within the international community, especially about the future of President Assad.”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said about the resolution: “This is a clear response to attempts to impose a solution from the outside on Syrians on any issues, including those regarding its president.”

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said talks between the Syrian government and opposition would only succeed if there were “guarantees on the departure” of Assad………………

US military said one of several airstrikes it conducted on Friday against Isis targets may have resulted in the accidental deaths

A destroyed building

A destroyed building in the Isis stronghold of Fallujah, around 50km west of Baghdad. Photograph: Barcroft Media

The US military said it is investigating an American airstrike that may have inadvertently killed Iraqi soldiers near the city of Fallujah.

In a brief statement, the US military headquarters in charge of the war effort in Syria and Iraq said one of several airstrikes it conducted on Friday against Islamic State targets may have resulted in the death of Iraqi soldiers. It did not say how many may have been killed, but other officials said the Iraqis initially reported that 10 may have died.

The US statement said the airstrikes were in response to requests and information provided by Iraqi security forces on the ground near Fallujah, which is in Isis’s control……………

New rightwing government moves to take control of counterintelligence centre in attempt to consolidate grip on power

The sealed entry to the Nato Counter-Intelligence Centre of Excellence in Warsaw.

The sealed entry to the Nato Counter-Intelligence Centre of Excellence in Warsaw. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Polish military police have raided a Nato-affiliated counterintelligence centre in Warsaw in the latest of a series of moves by the country’s new rightwing government to consolidate its hold on power.

The raid took place at 1.30am on Friday at the temporary offices of the Nato Counter Intelligence Centre of Excellence. According to the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, senior aides of Antoni Macierewicz, the defence minister, accompanied by military police, entered the building using a duplicate key.

The centre’s night staff called the director, Col Krzysztof Dusza, but he was prevented from entering. A defence ministry spokesman said Dusza had not responded to an order to step down from the post.

Any such change of management was supposed to have been a matter of consultation with Nato and the Slovak government, which is a partner in the centre. Neither Nato nor Slovak officials could confirm whether any such consultation had taken place.

The former Polish defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters: “Nothing like this has happened in the history of Nato, that a member state attacks a Nato facility.”

The Slovak defence ministry said: “The Slovak side is following the situation in Poland very closely. Intensive consultations at various levels are currently ongoing. We expect a thorough clarification of the situation from our Polish partners.”………….


US politics

The Geminid meteor shower, Tim Peake’s journey to the International Space Station, Europe’s refugee crisis, Manchester United’s poor form – the best photography in news, culture and sport from around the world this week


Refugees and migrants on a dinghy approach the Greek island of Lesbos. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 920,000 people have entered the EU so far this year. The European commission has pledged to give €80m to Greece to help house refugees through schemes including an apartment rental programme, hotel vouchers and subsidies to families who will host refugees

Photograph: Santi Palacios/AP


Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at the Republican debate

‘And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air…’ Photograph: UPI/Landov/Barcroft Media

A poll on Friday by Public Policy Polling perfectly encapsulates the Republican presidential race so far: “30% of Republican primary voters nationally say they support bombing Agrabah.” That would be the fictional country in Aladdin.

Republican voters, urged on by the Republican candidates, are now eager to bomb anywhere that has a Muslim-sounding name regardless of whether it comes from a cartoon. While the poll itself may be amusing, it’s not exactly surprising given the cartoonish levels of tough-guy militarism that spews from the mouth of every Republican candidate as they try to one-up each other on who would start more wars harder and quicker.

Ted Cruz has spent the past two weeks calling for a “carpet bombing” of the Middle East in an attempt to destroy Isis, saying he wants to see if “sand can glow in the dark”. He defended this call on national television Tuesday while outright avoiding the question of whether that means he’s prepared to kill the hundreds of thousands of civilians that live in Isis’s de-facto capital of Raqqa, Syria.

Donald Trump, in between his calls for banning Muslims here at home, also called on American forces to commit war crimes by killing the families of terrorists. His meaningless calls to “bomb the shit out of Isis” naturally have led all the other candidates to trip over each other in an attempt to find more and more colorful adjectives to describe how their bombs would look.

Chris Christie, whose whole campaign seems based around trying to sound like he could beat the other candidates up for their lunch money, was perhaps the most absurd: he threatened war with both Russia and China during the last debate. Christie claimed he was totally willing to start a third world war with Russia over a no-fly zone in Syria and would shoot down Russian pilots immediately. His reason? To avenge the thousands killed by Assad, and the “millions running around the world, running for their lives”. So Christie’s position is: we will start the third world war to save Syrians, but we draw the line in at allowing five-year-old Syrian orphans into the United States.

Lost in the insanity of the rest of the debate where candidates were calling for carpet bombings, the killing of civilians and games of chicken with the world’s largest nuclear power was also Christie’s call for all out cyberwar with China. Apparently under a Christie presidency, the US would immediately respond to any hacking by the Chinese government has done by doxxing the entire country, essentially turning the United States government into Anonymous: “What we need to do is go at the things that they are most sensitive and most embarrassing to them; that they’re hiding; get that information and put it out in public.” I’m always for more government transparency, but the chances of this spiraling out of control and leading to actual war is hard to overstate……………

Soldiers open fire on protesters in West Bank and Gaza using live fire and rubber-coated steel bullets

Israeli forces on Friday shot and killed three Palestinians and wounded at least 78 others in clashes that raged across the occupied Palestinian territories for a second straight day, according to officials and local reports.

Forces killed a Palestinian driver they accused of trying to ram his car into a group of Israeli soldiers. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the assailant sped toward forces engaged in clashes with protesters in the town of Silwad, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Samri said the Israeli forces took cover behind concrete blocks and fatally shot the driver. She said no Israelis were wounded.

The alleged attack was the second to take place on Friday. In the earlier attack, which occurred at a West Bank checkpoint, the suspected assailant was wounded and subsequently arrested.

Clashes on Friday between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters occurred in a number of villages and cities across the West Bank, including Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem.

During the clashes, Israeli forces reportedly opened fire on protesters using a combination of live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets. At least 38 Palestinians were shot and injured in the violence, according to local Ma’an News Agency.

Of those injured, one protester who was shot in the chest in the village of Sinjil, near Ramallah, died in the hospital of his wounds. Another protester shot in the head at the Beit Einun junction near Hebron is in critical condition, Ma’an reported.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces on Friday shot and killed a Palestinian protester during clashes in the Gaza Strip and injured at least 40 others, according to the territory’s ministry of health.

Citing a health official, Ma’an reported the deceased as Mahmoud Muhammad Saed al-Agha, 20, of Khan Younis in southern Gaza……………


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