Saudi-UAE troops in Yemen preparing for major offensive

Reports that thousands of soldiers are arriving near the besieged port city of Hodeidah are raising fears of a new Saudi-UAE offensive after the US and UN backed the resumption of peace talks.

    The UN’s special envoy to Yemen is relaunching talks to try and end the war, as the Saudi-UAE coalition deploys thousands of soldiers to the main port city of Hodeidah.

    The build-up has come alongside a series of coalition air raids on a base in Sanaa that Saudi Arabia claimed is used to launch missiles and drones.

    Hodeidah, on the Red Sea, has served as a vital lifeline for humanitarian supplies into Yemen, where a deepening food crisis is affecting 11 million Yemeni children and the UN says 14 million Yemenis could face famine.

    Al Jazeera’s Mohamad ElBardicy has this report.

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    Islamic State says hits Syria's Raqqa with car bomb

    BEIRUT (Reuters) – A car bomb exploded near a military position in Syria’s Raqqa on Sunday, local authorities and a war monitor said, and Islamic State group said it was behind the blast.

    The blast came a day after the assassination of a local council leader in the city, the former Syrian capital of the militant group’s self-declared caliphate, which was seized a year ago by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters.

    Raqqa security forces said a civilian had been killed and several people, including civilians and fighters injured. The war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the blast caused “a large number” of casualties.

    Islamic State said in a statement that it had detonated the bomb, targeting fighters from the Kurdish YPG militia, the strongest element in the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) group that drove the militants from Raqqa last year.

    The SDF is battling Islamic State fighters in one of their last patches of territory in Syria, along the north bank of the Euphrates river close to the Iraqi border.

    The militants took advantage of bad weather on Sunday to attack SDF positions, killing a dozen fighters, the Observatory reported.

    Syrian state television reported on Sunday that the Syrian army was assaulting the jihadists’ other remaining pocket of ground in the desert area in Sweida province in southern Syria.

    Source: Read Full Article

    The West Block, Season 8, Episode 9

    Episode 9, Season 8
    Sunday, November 4, 2018

    Host: Mercedes Stephenson

    Guest Interviews: Corey Lewandowski, Max Boot, Scott Smith

    Location: Ottawa

    On this Sunday, the midterm elections loom large as America gets ready to vote in just two days. President Trump is out on the campaign trail. We’ll ask his former campaign manager about Trump’s campaign strategy.

    Then, both Republicans and Democrats are calling this the midterm election of our lifetime. Why?

    Plus, the privacy commissioner is investigating Statistics Canada for collecting your personal financial information. The move is costing Canadians more than just privacy, as the business community speaks out.

    It’s Sunday, November 4th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.

    On Tuesday, Americans will head to the polls to vote in what is being called the most important midterm election of our lifetime. Both Democrats and Republicans say the stakes have never been higher.

    President Trump is out stumping for the Republicans this weekend, talking about nationalism and immigration. But his critics say he’s using racially charged rhetoric to stoke fear and loathing on the campaign trail.

    In just a moment, we’ll talk to a strategist whose on the with the president. But first, here is what Trump said, last week:

    President Donald Trump: “These are tough people. These are not angels. These are not little angels. These are tough people and we’re not letting them into our country. They’re not coming in illegally.”

    Joining me now from Washington is Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President Donald Trump. Corey, you’re back out on the campaign trail with President Donald Trump. What is your campaign strategy now to try and get the Republicans elected across the country?

    Corey Lewandowski: Well, the strategy this president has employed is to remind the people who are going to the ballot on Tuesday what has been accomplished in the first two years of his administration. And you’ve seen this week, historic job numbers coming out. More Americans are working today than ever have in the history of our country. The unemployment rate for African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans are at record lows and the opportunity to continue that path of economic security is what the president and the vice president are reminding the people is on the ballot.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Now you’re talking about the economy, but it seems that the president is talking about immigration and the caravan and making some very racially charged comments. Why is the president focusing so heavily on immigration and doing so with this kind of tone?

    Corey Lewandowski: Well, because the issue of national security is a critical one to every American, and I believe it’s the president’s job, his foremost job, to make sure that all people of our country are safe from enemies both foreign and domestic. And there is no country in the world that would allow a caravan of thousands of people to simply come across their borders unstopped, unsolicited. So this president has gone out and said he will not allow that. We are a nation of laws and if we want to change our laws so that we have an immigration system based on how Canada does or Australia does, which is a merit-based system, then that’s a discussion we can have. But by no means are we a nation that simply allows people to come in unchecked, unsolicited, without following the protocols. And if these people who are coming here are coming to seek political asylum, they’ve had the opportunity to seek that asylum in the country of Mexico who’s offered them political asylum but they haven’t wanted that. So what this president has said, and what he has done, is draw a line in the sand.

    Mercedes Stephenson: But that line in the sand is 10-15 thousand troops on the border. And now the president’s saying on Thursday that he would have the military open fire on those migrants if they were to start throwing rocks. That seems like an extraordinary thing for a president to say. He’s characterizing this as an invasion but it’s not a military invasion. These are migrants walking up from Mexico.

    Corey Lewandowski: Well, can you imagine for one second if any other country in the world had this going on? We have armed guards that protect and support the border between our two great countries. You don’t just get to cross into Canada or to come into the United States illegally. And we have the longest friendliest border in the world, so what makes this any different? What gives these people the right to come into our country unsolicited? Regardless of if they’re from Honduras or anywhere else. There is a process to become an asylum seeker into the United States. We take in over a million immigrants a year. More than any other country in the world, and to allow individuals who decide at their own discretion when they want to just come into the country would never be tolerated in any other country.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Here in Canada, we’ve had 36,000 people walk illegally across the border from the United States to Canada over the last two years and the Trump administration has done nothing to stop that.

    Corey Lewandowski: So we have to control this. We have to seal our borders. We have to make sure that we know who’s coming in and then we give people the right through a due process to come to the country legally. Why would that be so controversial? I don’t understand the issue of immigration as a controversy because no other country in the world would allow it. Canada would never allow 100,000, 10,000 or 5,000 people to simply come into their country illegally without knowing who those people are. Your immigration system—

    Mercedes Stephenson: But thousands have come across in the last two years.

    Corey Lewandowski: If Justin Trudeau knew that there was a caravan coming from Montana into Canada, what would he do? He would alert the Canadian Mounties. He would make sure that they were stopped at the border, particularly if you had no indication of who those individuals were, what their criminal histories were or why they were coming. And so we have seen now—unequivocally has been reported—individuals who are coming into this country as part of this caravan are not the best and brightest. Some are seeking asylum. Some are using men and some are using women and children as a ploy to get in and some are criminals. We know that. They’ve admitted so on television. Why should the United States allow those people into the country unvetted, unsolicited?

    Mercedes Stephenson: I think people understand that you want to vet who is coming into the country, but it’s the president’s tone using words like nationalism and globalism.

    Corey Lewandowski: Well look, the word globalism is not—

    Mercedes Stephenson: It is associated with that term.

    Corey Lewandowski: I’ve never heard that term being a xenophobic word. You know, this president, last week we had a disgusting massacre take place in Pittsburgh, where some deranged lunatic went and killed a number of Jewish people while they were at worship and do you know what the president did? The president, who by the way has a Jewish son-in-law, a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren, he went to that location and he was accused of being anti-Jewish if you can believe this. This president’s done more for the Jewish than any other president in history but he doesn’t get credit for it. So he’s not anti-Semitic.

    Look, the mainstream media wants to disparage this president for treating everyone the same. Being a globalist means you’re not putting American first. Justin Trudeau doesn’t put other countries first, he puts Canada first and that’s the difference. This president is putting America first for a change. That means that’s not anything other than being proud of your country and being there to represent the people who elected you to do it.

    Now, I know other countries don’t like it. It’s not America alone, it’s called America first. Just like every other world leader puts their country first, except we’re criticized for it because for too long, we’ve been taken advantage of and we’ve been unfortunately had bad trade deals and this president said no more. And it’s time for other countries to step up because the United States can no longer be the policeman of the world.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Doesn’t it behove the president and the office of the president of the United States to be above where others are in terms of tone and rhetoric, to unite people and not to make it more divided?

    Corey Lewandowski: The president did exactly that when he went to Pittsburgh last week to honour and respect the Jewish individuals who were killed at synagogue. And do you know what the media did? They criticized him for going, said he wasn’t welcome and that’s shameful.

    Look, the media has a significant role in the tenure and tone of what takes place. If you look at CNN and other major networks who say that the biggest plight to our society are white men. That’s what Don Lemon’s statement was. I mean that’s a disgusting thing to say and there’s been no recourse. And unfortunately, there is no pushback on it because it’s okay to do it when you’re on the left, but if you’re a Conservative it’s a bad thing.

    Mercedes Stephenson: If you see white nationalist groups picking up on the words, why not denounce that?

    Corey Lewandowski: What nationalist groups are you talking about?

    Mercedes Stephenson: The KKK for example. Why not say to these groups: there is no space for you here.

    Corey Lewandowski: I know you’re aware of how many times the president has denounced the Ku Klux Klan on numerous occasions. I don’t know what online groups are doing or who’s following them. I think it’s very clear the president wants nothing to do with that.

    Mercedes Stephenson: The president condones body slamming of reporters, overall, in terms of the broader tone, particularly when it comes to the press. Do you think the press is the enemy of the people?

    Corey Lewandowski: Look, I’m very concerned about some of the ways the media operates, to be very clear. But you know what? The American people are smart and they see right through the lies and the propaganda of the media and that’s why the mainstream media now has about a 15 per cent approval rating because they’ve gone from reporting the news to making the news. And those people aren’t elected but they’re trying to set a tenure and tone to insight chaos in this country and come Tuesday, election day, the American people are going to support the Republicans and the Trump-Pence agenda to keep our country economically secure, nationally secure and militarily secure because that’s what this agenda has been able to achieve over the last two years.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Thank you for joining us.

    Corey Lewandowski: Thank you.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Coming up, one former Republican is urging all Americans to vote against the GOP this Tuesday.


    Mercedes Stephenson: Sick and tired, that’s how former high profile Republican Max Boot says he feels about the Trump administration. And he’s urging all Americans to vote against Republicans in this week’s midterm election.

    It wasn’t always this way. For most of his life, Mr. Boot was part of the party faithful. But all that changed when Donald Trump became the president. Boot explains why in his new book, The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.

    Max Boot joins me now from New York. Mr. Boot, why are you encouraging Americans to vote against the Republicans?

    Max Boot: Because I am so disgusted by what Donald Trump is doing. I mean, you see how in the closing days of the campaign, he is running the most openly racist and xenophobic campaign we have seen in many decades in America. He is vilifying immigrants. He is spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He is a disgrace to America and frankly, Republicans, my former party, are no better because they have embraced Donald Trump. There is no difference now between Donald Trump and the Republican Party. In fact, many Republican candidates are imitating Trump’s immigrant bashing and appeals to conspiracy mongering, hatred and bigotry and that is not something that should be rewarded at the ballot box. And that’s why I urge American voters to vote out Republicans, every single one because none of them in Congress can be trusted to stand up to Donald Trump.

    Mercedes Stephenson: You talk about the concerns about conspiracy theory, some of the language we’ve heard which reflects what you hear in white nationalist literature, anti-Semitic, the pipe bombings that we’ve seen or attempted pipe bombs that were sent out, the shooting at the synagogue. What kind of environment is the Republican campaign, and in particular, Trump’s campaign, contributing to politically in the U.S.?

    Max Boot: Trump and the Republicans are creating a climate of fear and hatred, which I think is radicalizing people. It’s leading a lot of otherwise mainstream Republicans to become conspiracy mongers and to propagate anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic sentiments. And at the very extreme end of the spectrum with people who may be already mentally unbalanced like the mil bomber or like the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, it can drive them over the edge into violence. And the really alarming thing here is that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care about this at all because he refuses to back down. He was asked to tone down his rhetoric and he said no, I’m going to tone it up. And that’s exactly accurate. He has not stopped vilifying Democrats on harsh terms. He has not stopped spreading crackpot conspiracy theories about the central American caravan. He has not stopped attacking George Soros, so he is continuing to foam at this climate of hatred in which we’ve already seen these horrifying incidents of right wing terrorism.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Now, I talked to Corey Lewandowski just before you on the program, Mr. Boot, and the Republicans are saying oh, we don’t know what you’re talking about with this Soros language and globalist language. That’s not code word for anything in white nationalist movements that we’re aware of, but we don’t know about these groups you’re talking about. Do they know what they’re doing and what vote they’re courting? And if so, why are they doing that?

    Max Boot: Well, of course they know exactly what they are doing. I mean, I can’t believe that Corey Lewandowski is as stupid as he sounds. I mean, he knows exactly what is going on, on the kind of base prejudices that Republicans are appealing to. I mean the Trump campaign just released an ad highlighting this cop killing illegal immigrant named Luis Bracamontes, which has been compared to the 1988 Willie Horton ad, but in fact, it’s much worse. I mean, it’s a pack of lies where they blame Democrats for letting this cop killer into the country when in fact, he came to the U.S. under President Bush and he was arrested and released by Sheriff Joe Arpaio who supports Donald Trump down in Arizona. They are just lying relentlessly, spreading conspiracy theories, spreading hatred. And the reason they’re doing it, obviously, is because they don’t think that Donald Trump has a positive agenda to run on. They don’t think that voters are going to respond to the tax cuts or the conservative justices and so they’re fear mongering hoping to rile up the base by pretending that there is this invasion of illegal immigrants going on, which is just simply false because actually, illegal immigration to America has fallen by 80 per cent since the year 2000.

    Mercedes Stephenson: And Lewandowski says look, no country in the world would allow people to just walk across their borders. This is all about security. You are a security expert. You used to write a lot about Iraq and Afghanistan. What do you make of 10 to 15 thousand troops being placed on the border to deal with a caravan that is weeks away?

    Max Boot: This is a shocking attempt to politicize the U.S. military. There is no threat on the U.S. border that justifies the deployment of these troops. There’s very little they can do anyway because they don’t have the legal right to arrest anybody but they’re utterly unnecessary because again, this caravan is not a security threat. It’s a few thousand people, many of them women and children who are desperate refugees seeking a better life. There is no evidence for the lies that people like Corey Lewandoski and Donald Trump are spreading about how this caravan is supposedly full of criminals and terrorists. They’re just making that up, just as they’re making up this claim that George Soros is somehow funding it. I mean this is part of their fear mongering and, you know what they’re doing—what Donald Trump is doing, misusing his powers as commander-in-chief to employ the military for these politics purposes is a shocking dereliction of duty.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Well, and he came out on Thursday and said that they would order the military to open fire if these migrants started to throw rocks. What went through your head when you heard that?

    Max Boot: Two words went through my head and those two words are war crime, because this would be in violation of the laws of warfare if this were to actually happen. Now, I don’t think this will actually happen because I suspect what will happen is that all of the officers involved, all the lieutenants and platoon leaders involved will get their troops around and say do not listen to the commander-in-chief. We are not shooting anybody unless we ourselves are shot at because we are not going to commit war crimes out here, because the U.S. military is an outstanding institution that understands the importance of adhering to international law, but Donald Trump does not understand that and he is a disgrace. But the commander-in-chief is issuing an illegal order. That should be a cause for some alarm.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Max, you know they like to blame the media. They say they’re going to win anyhow. If the Republicans do win on Tuesday, what will happen in America?

    Max Boot: I think it’ll be a very dark day for America because you are seeing how they’re campaigning. They’re demonizing the most powerless people in our society. They are vilifying immigrants. They are fear mongering about Latinos. They are spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They’re misusing the military. It’s a disgrace what Republicans are doing to win. And if those tactics pay off, they will see winning as the ultimate justification because whenever Donald Trump is confronted by any of the horrendous things that he says or does, his response is invariably well it worked. And in his mind, anything that works is justified. So if this kind of fear and loathing campaign is rewarded at the ballot box, you’re going to see this times ten in 2020 and I think this will also give Trump the green light to further assault our institutions in the way that he is undermining the apolitical nature of the military right now. He’s probably going to wind up cleaning out the justice department to stop the investigation of him. I think it would be a nightmare for America if under the current circumstances; Republicans retain control of both houses.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Mr. Boot, thank you so much for joining us today.

    Max Boot: Thank you.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Great. Thank you so much.

    Max Boot: Thank you.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, why is the business community upset that Statistics Canada is collecting Canadians personal financial information?


    Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Last week, Global News broke the story that Statistics Canada was collecting the personal financial information about hundreds of thousands of Canadians across this country without their knowledge or consent.

    The privacy commissioner has now launched an investigation and the business community is warning that the collection of this data may force banks to break private sector laws and could have an impact on small businesses.

    Joining me now for more on that is Scott Smith, the data and privacy expert with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

    Scott, what is it about Statistics Canada gathering this information that is objectionable from a business perspective?

    Scott Smith: Well, I’m not surprised individuals have a lot of consternation about the collection of their banking data. Banking data is second only to health data in terms of the sensitivity. But from the business perspective, we’re more concerned about the precedent that this sets. There is a distinction between private sector laws and what the public sector is required to do when it’s collecting, using and disclosing personal information. And what Stats Canada is doing is basically amplifying that distinction and we’re concerned that that has unintended consequences.

    Mercedes Stephenson: So basically the private sector is getting a pass to do something that—pardon me—the public sector is getting a pass to do something that the private sector would not be allowed to do.

    Scott Smith: Yeah, I would say that’s true and they may have perfectly legitimate reasons for doing that. Our concern is more around the issue of the general data protection regulation in Europe, which has been in the news for the last 18 months or so which was just implemented in May, has an extra jurisdictional application. So Canadian businesses that want to do business in Europe or with European citizens, have to comply with that law, particularly now that CETA is in place and we have a very good working relationship with the Europeans. We’re concerned about adequacy. And adequacy simply means that the legislation in Canada is substantially similar to that in Europe. The problem is our public sector privacy law is not substantially similar and by amplifying this element of the distinction, it may threaten that future relationship.

    Mercedes Stephenson: So, if I have this straight then, basically what’s happening is that we have to comply with a certain, I’d assume, high standard of privacy in order to do deals with Europe and that what Statistics Canada is doing wouldn’t meet those standards so it could actually jeopardize that trade relationship.

    Scott Smith: I think it could. I think, you know, our private sector regulations are fairly robust. They are principle-based. They are technology neutral and they have stood the test of time for the last 12-13 years. Our private sector laws—public sector laws have not been updated since 1983. And what would have been fine in 1983 for collecting information on files and filing cabinets is no longer relevant in the digital age.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Is it time to update the law?

    Scott Smith: I think it’s absolutely time to update the law. I think the government has an obligation to do what they preach in terms of expectations from the private sector and be transparent in the information that they want to collect, be judicious in how much information they collect, and they should be obligated to have some form of consent.

    Mercedes Stephenson: I find it fascinating that this could actually affect trade. It could affect some of these small businesses abilities to get a deal or sign a deal because now they’re going to say: sorry, you don’t measure up, Government of Canada.

    Scott Smith: Well, I think that’s true and I think it’s also true that there is no quid pro quo here. That as an individual you sign up for a social media site or you sign up for—or you’re querying a search engine. There’s a value exchange there. Yes, you are giving out personal information in exchange for a product or service. In this case, Stats Can is asking for information from the banks that they have spent money procuring and in storing, archiving and protecting over decades and there is nothing coming back to the banks for that. And Stats Can actually when they collect this information, they collate and they analyze and then they turn around and sell it back to the public sector—sorry to the private sector.

    Mercedes Stephenson: So they’re selling your information.

    Scott Smith: Well, they are selling aggregated information. They’re not selling the personal information. Let me be clear about that. They are selling the aggregated information but they are selling it without any value exchange back to the banks for the information that they have collected.

    Mercedes Stephenson: How do the banks feel about that?

    Scott Smith: I’d have to let the banks answer for themselves on that, but I would say that the Stats Can has put the banks in a very uncomfortable situation.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Just lastly, you work with sensitive information all the time. How sensitive would people’s banking information be considered in the private sector when you’re dealing with that data and protecting it?

    Scott Smith: As I said, it’s second only to health care information. Your banking information means your credit rating. It means all the transactions that you’ve had. So, you know, who you bought things from, where you bought them, when you bought them, how much money you spent compared to how much money you have in your account. It’s incredibly invasive.

    Mercedes Stephenson: Well, so Statistics Canada potentially jeopardizing some business deals and along the way, selling your information. It’s quite a story and we appreciate you sitting down with us today and sharing the perspective of the business community.

    Scott Smith: Thanks very much, Mercedes.

    Mercedes Stephenson: That is our show for today. Thanks for joining us. I’m Mercedes Stephenson. See you next week.

    Source: Read Full Article

    UN chief demands Yemen peace, warns of humanitarian 'precipice'

    Without resolution to ongoing conflict, Yemen could face world’s ‘worst famine’ for decades, Antonio Guterres says.

      UN chief Antonio Guterres has demanded an “immediate” halt to fighting in Yemen, as he warned that the country stands on a “precipice” and could face the world’s “worst famine” for decades if violence continues unabated.

      Addressing reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York on Friday, the secretary-general said the warring parties must seize on the “opportunity for peace” presented by UN-brokered talks scheduled to be held in Sweden later this month.

      “First, violence must stop everywhere – with an immediate halt around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas,” Guterres said, echoing a similar ceasefire call issued by the United States earlier this week.

      We must do all we can now to end human suffering and avoid the worst humanitarian crisis in the world from getting even worse,” he added.

      The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country and home to an estimated 28 million people, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi rebels, who toppled the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

      Concerned by the rise of the Houthis, believed to be backed by Iran, a US-backed Saudi-UAE military coalition launched an intervention in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government. 

      According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition entered the conflict. The death toll has not been updated in years, however, and is likely to be far higher. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an independent watchdog, recently said around 56,000 Yemenis had been killed in the violence.

      In his comments to the media, Guterres also called for an increase in foreign aid and for “food, fuel and other essentials” to be allowed to enter Yemen “without restrictions” in order to alleviate the suffering endured by the 22 million Yemenis deemed by the UN to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

      On Thursday, Yemen’s internationally recognised government said it was ready to restart peace talks with the Houthis after recent efforts to meet ended in failure.

      Discussions between the warring factions were planned for September in the Swiss city of Geneva but fell apart after Houthi representatives refused to attend, saying the UN had failed to meet the group’s pre-summit demands.

      Following the collapse of the talks, which would have been the first of their kind in nearly two years, the coalition announced it was relaunching an assault on Houthi-held Hodeidah, a strategically important Red Sea port city.

      Possible war crimes

      On Friday, the AFP news agency reported that a fierce battle between forces loyal to Hadi and Houthi fighters near Hodeidah resulted in the death of at least 34 rebels and six pro-government troops. 

      The clashes came hours after the Saudi-UAE alliance said it had bombed Sanaa International Airport and an adjoining airbase.

      Earlier this week, the coalition sent more than 10,000 new troops towards Hodeidah before a new offensive aimed at securing “areas liberated” from the Houthis, according to Yemeni government officials.

      Hodeidah is the only port held by the Houthis and serves as the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and aid supplies.

      The coalition has imposed a blockade on the port, however, allegedly as part of efforts to prevent the Houthis from using it as a landing point for weapons supplied by Iran.

      Both Tehran and the rebels deny the port is being used to smuggle arms from Iran into Yemen.

      A UN report published in August said the blockade, part of wider coalition-enforced restrictions on access to Yemen’s other ports and the country’s airspace, may have violated international humanitarian law.

      The report was critical of all parties to the conflict, however, and concluded there were “reasonable grounds” to believe “a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law” had been committed by pro-government forces, the coalition and the Houthis.

      Possible violations included deadly air raids, rampant sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers, it said.

      Inside Story

      Can the UN revive talks to end the Yemen war?

      Source: Read Full Article

      RCMP investigating after overnight crash in Surrey kills 1, injures 3 others

      A fatal crash in Surrey has left one person dead.

      Just after midnight on Nov. 4, RCMP responded to an incident in the 13-400 block of 88th Avenue.

      Four people were reportedly in the vehicle. The driver was pronounced dead on scene, while three others are in hospital with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.

      The Surrey RCMP Criminal Collision team is investigating the cause of the crash.

      Source: Read Full Article

      Nigeria: 'Villages totally burned' in deadly Boko Haram attacks

      Boko Haram fighters attacked two villages on outskirts of Maiduguri as well as a camp for internally displaced people.

        At least 12 civilians have been killed in multiple Boko Haram attacks targeting two villages and a camp for those displaced by fighting in northeastern Nigeria, according to residents and civilian militia.

        Boko Haram fighters arrived in seven trucks late on Wednesday and attacked Bulaburin and Kofa villages, as well as a camp in Dalori village outside Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

        “The terrorists attacked and completely burned Bulaburin and Kofa villages and burned half the Dalori 2 IDP (internally displaced persons) camp,” Babakura Kolo, civilian militia leader, told AFP news agency.

        “They killed nine people in Bulaburin, two people in Dalori, and one in Kofa and looted food supplies before setting them on fire,” Kolo said.

        Musa Goni, a Kofa resident, said the fighters opened fire indiscriminately and killed one person as residents fled.

        “They then moved to nearby Bulaburin where they gunned down nine people and burned the village after stealing food,” Goni told AFP.

        At Dalori 2, which houses 10,000 people, the fighters engaged troops and civilian militia guarding the IDP camp in a shoot-out before overrunning the makeshift facility, civilian militia camp member Solomon Adamu said.

        “When the Boko Haram gunmen came they stopped on the road overlooking the camp and started firing,” Adamu, who took part in the fight, told AFP.

        “Soldiers and civilian JTF (militia) at the gate engaged them in gunfight but were forced to withdraw into the camp because we were outgunned,” he said.

        Residents were forced to flee and two were killed while several were wounded, according to Adamu.

        The fighters invaded the camp after overrunning troops and the militia and “burned half the camp” by setting fires and firing rocket-propelled grenades on buildings.

        “One grenade didn’t explode and is still lying in the camp, waiting for bomb disposal units to evacuate it,” Adamu said.

        In a statement, Nigeria’s military said one civilian was found dead after Boko Haram had ransacked Dalori’s market, set buildings on fire and fled when soldiers approached.

        The area has been attacked multiple times before by the Boko Haram faction loyal to Abubakar Shekau.

        Despite government insistence that Boko Haram is near defeat, northern Nigeria is still beleaguered by heavy fighting.

        Since the group launched its campaign in 2009, Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and forced two million others to flee their homes in northeast Nigeria.

        Over the years, the armed group – which wants to form a breakaway Islamic state – has kidnapped thousands of adults and children.

        Source: Read Full Article

        U.S. warns its citizens in Tanzania ahead of anti-gay crackdown

        DAR ES SALAAM(Reuters) – The United States has warned its citizens in Tanzania to be cautious after commercial capital Dar es Salaam announced a crackdown on homosexuality, which is a criminal offense in the East African country.

        In an alert on its website late on Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania advised Americans to review their social media profiles and internet footprints.

        “Remove or protect images and language that may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity,” it said.

        The alert said any U.S. citizen who was detained or arrested should ensure the Tanzanian authorities informed the embassy.

        Dar es Salaam’s administrative chief Paul Makonda said on Wednesday that a special committee would seek to identify and punish homosexuals, prostitutes and online fraudsters in the city from this week.

        Last October, at least 12 men were arrested at a Dar es Salaam hotel in a raid on a gathering which authorities said was to promote same-sex relationships.

        President John Magufuli has cracked down on homosexuality since winning power in 2015, and a conviction for having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” could lead to a sentence of up to 30 years in jail.

        Homosexuality remains taboo across much of Africa and gay people face discrimination or persecution, with rights groups often reluctant to speak publicly in defense of gay rights.

        In neighboring Kenya a conviction can lead to a 14-year jail sentence, although in recent years campaigners for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LGBT) rights have become increasingly vocal.

        Uganda abolished the death penalty for homosexuality in 2013 but some offences are still punishable by life in prison.

        In 2016, Tanzania banned non-governmental organizations from distributing free lubricants to gays as part of efforts to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, even though some health experts warn that shutting down such outreach programs could put the wider population at higher risk of infection.

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        Yemen troops make gains as air raids pound Houthi-held Hodeidah

        Saudi-backed Yemeni forces claim to have captured two areas on the outskirts of the port city of Hodeidah.

          The Saudi-UAE military alliance at war with Yemen’s Houthi rebels says it has advanced towards the western city of Hodeidah, hours after residents reported a barrage of air raids targeting the strategic port city.

          Residents in Hodeidah told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the United States-backed alliance launched more than 25 air raids, targeting rebel-held locations on the city’s edges.

          Yemeni journalist Manal Qaed said the sound of fighter jets dropping bombs pierced through the sky late into the afternoon, with civilians fearing to venture out of their homes.

          The Houthi-affiliated Al-Masirah news outlet said more than 60 raids targeted Kilo-16 and its surrounding areas, wounding four civilians.

          Kilo-16 is the main highway linking Hodeidah city with the rebel-held capital, Sanaa.

          Aid agencies have long warned that fighting in Hodeidah risks escalating the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where about half the population – some 14 million people – could soon be on the verge of famine.

          “This is not the first time the city has been attacked and sadly residents have grown accustomed to the sounds of air strikes and shelling,” Qaed said.

          “Throughout the day, we’ve heard the sound of jets in the sky, intense shelling and air strikes,” she added. “As for me, I will only leave once clashes flare in the city.”

          Meanwhile, the dpa news agency reported that Yemeni forces, backed by the Saudi-UAE alliance, gained territory on the eastern and southern outskirts of Hodeidah.

          A military source told dpa on condition of anonymity: “The forces will not stop until they take control of the strategic Hodeidah port.”

          On Tuesday, the alliance sent more than 10,000 troops to Hodeidah in a new offensive aimed at securing the so-called “liberated areas”.

          So far, the Yemeni forces and the alliance had held Kilo 7 and Kilo 10, areas which sit less than five kilometres from the city’s busy fish market.

          Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general

          ‘Losing Hodeidah will be a big blow’

          Adam Baron, a Yemen analyst and visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, called the port city a “key prize”, adding it would be a “big blow” if the Houthis lose control of the installation just weeks before peace talks demanded by the United Nations and the US are to be held.

          “Hodeidah is arguably Yemen’s most important port and is one of the Houthis’ main sources of revenue,” Baron said.

          “In any conflict [control of a port is] a key prize. It would be a big blow [if the Houthis lost the port to the alliance], but not a killer blow,” he added.

          Analysts expect the rebels to use Hodeidah as a bargaining chip when they enter into UN-brokered talks scheduled in Sweden later this month.

          The UN has repeatedly warned a military campaign on Hodeidah would have devastating consequences for the country’s residents.

          Addressing reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York on Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the warring parties must seize on this “opportunity for peace”.

          “To avert imminent catastrophe, several steps are required. First, violence must stop everywhere with an immediate halt around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas,” he said.

          We must do all we can now to end human suffering and avoid the worst humanitarian crisis in the world from getting even worse,” he added.

          According to the Yemen Data Project, the Saudi-UAE alliance carried out at least 335 air raids on Hodeidah between June 1 and September 30, with civilians frequently bearing the brunt.

          At least 15 people were killed in September when raids hit a road linking Hodeidah with Sanaa.

          The Saudi-UAE military alliance acknowledged mistakes in its air operations, but has mostly defended its record.

          It has denied deliberately targeting civilians, but Riyadh’s narrative over its actions in Yemen has faced mounting criticism following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist.

          The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of by the Houthi rebels, who toppled the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

          Concerned by the rise of the Houthis, believed to be backed by Iran, the Saudi-UAE military-led coalition launched an intervention in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government.

          Earlier this week, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an independent watchdog, said around 56,000 Yemenis had been killed in the violence. The UN says the conflict has killed at least 10,000 people, but has not updated its death toll in years.

          Inside Story

          What can a UN investigation achieve in Yemen?

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          New twists in Sri Lanka's political crisis fuel uncertainty

          Week-long turmoil shows no sign of abating as legislators protest against plan to call off parliament vote on rival PMs.

            Colombo, Sri Lanka – For a brief moment on Thursday, it appeared as though Sri Lankan politicians might be able to return soon to the country’s suspended parliament to thrash out their differences over who should be prime minister – and thus end an acrimonious power struggle that has shaken the South Asian nation.

            The idea took shape in the morning when newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told academics at his office that President Maithripala Sirisena had decided to lift the suspension and resume sessions on Monday.

            The declaration was nearly as shocking as Sirisena’s decision on October 26 to fire Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replace him with Rajapaksa, a popular and controversial former leader that the president had defeated in a 2015 election.

            Critics said Wickremesinghe’s removal was the first illegal transfer of power since Sri Lanka established an electoral democracy in 1931. Citing constitutional amendments passed in 2015, they argued the president does not have the authority to sack a prime minister.

            Still, many expected Sirisena to withstand mounting local and international pressure and stick to his apparent plan to give Rajapaksa time to muster support in the 225-member legislature.

            That’s why Wickremesinghe, who maintains that he commands a majority in the House and has been calling for a parliamentary vote, was quick to celebrate when the news of Rajapaksa’s statement broke.

            “The people’s voices have been heard,” he said in a triumphant post on Twitter. “Democracy will prevail.”

            The mood at Temple Trees, the prime minister’s official residence, where Wickremesinghe has remained holed up over the past week, was jubilant. 

            But the day dragged on without an official statement from the president’s office. Then, in the late afternoon, two associates of Rajapaksa made an abrupt u-turn in a news conference, saying Sirisena will keep parliament shut until November 16 in line with his initial suspension order.

            Legislators Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Susil Premajayantha did not stop there. They said that even when parliament reconvenes, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) – a coalition between Sirisena and Rajapaksa’s parties – does not plan to hold a confidence vote and allow legislators to choose between the two leaders claiming the prime minister’s role.

            “We have decided to convene parliament on November 16,” Aluthgamage told reporters. “That’s because we need time to present a people-friendly budget.”

            He added: “There is no vote scheduled for November 16.”

            Tug of war

            Then, as morning broke on Friday, more than 100 legislators from all major political parties except the UPFA showed up at the parliament house, and submitted a motion with 118 signatures, demanding Speaker Karu Jayasuriya defy the president’s suspension and convene the House immediately. 

            The figure is five more than the majority of 113 a prime minister requires to stay in power.

            Jayasuriya told legislators Sirisena made a verbal commitment the previous day to summon parliament on November 7.

            “I am trying my best to resolve this non-violently, but if that fails I have to think of alternatives,” he told the politicians in an apparent sign he was not willing to back down on resuming parliament.

            There was still no comment from Sirisena’s office.

            But the huge show of strength once again reignited hopes Wickremesinghe may survive as prime minister.

            “This tug of war will continue for some time,” said Rajitha Keethi Tennakoon, a Colombo-based political analyst.

            “It’s very difficult to predict what might happen – the only place to watch is the president’s secretariat,” he said.

            Tennakoon, like many in Colombo, believes Wickremesinghe’s chances at remaining in the post would fade the longer Rajapaksa stayed in power.

            Prior to the crisis, the deposed prime minister, whose popularity has declined amid widespread anger over the rising cost of living, had a slight edge over the Sirisena-led UPFA, commanding the support of 106 legislators compared with his rivals’ 96.

            But the more Rajapaksa consolidated power, Tennakoon said, the more likely he was to gain an upper hand and tempt defections from the UNP itself.

            Already, at least five legislators from the UNP have switched sides, taking up positions in the cabinet headed by Rajapaksa, who insists his appointment was legitimate. The former president has his sight set on the UNP because key minority parties have either pledged not to support him or abstain in any vote of confidence.

            The Tamil National Alliance, which commands the support of 16 legislators, said they will not back Rajapaksa, who ruled the country from 2005 to 2015 and has been accused of grave human rights and abuses, because of his treatment of the ethnic minority at the close of the country’s 26-year civil war in 2009, analysts said.

            The remaining six legislators of the People’s Liberation Front are expected not to take any sides because of anger at both leaders.

            Tennakoon said he was “sure” Sri Lanka will see more UNP legislators defect to the UPFA in the coming days. Although the situation remained fluid, “it looks like Rajapaksa will win this and stay on as prime minister, regardless of whether this [his appointment] was constitutional or not,” he said.

            ‘Change political facts’

            Asanga Welikala, a Sri Lankan law professor at the University of Edinburgh, also said Sirisena, whose political future is now tied to Rajapaksa, was likely to recall parliament only when he had the numbers.

            “The whole enterprise is clearly illegal, but Rajapaksa is out to change the political facts,” Welikala said. 

            The former president, whose Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) trounced its opponents in local council elections in February, was now gearing towards “dissolving parliament and holding a general election”, Welikala said.

            That’s because Rajapaksa’s party, according to observers, has a high chance of winning early elections due of public anger over the failure of Wickremesinghe’s government to deliver on promises of economic reform, cracking down on corruption and accountability for war atrocities.

            The Sri Lankan rupee lost 12 percent of its value against the US dollar this year, while growth slowed to 3.3 percent in 2017 – its lowest level in 16 years.

            Rajapaksa has said he planned to hold snap elections as soon as possible, despite the Constitution stating that parliament cannot be dissolved before four-and-a-half years have passed since its election. That means the current parliament, which met for the first time in September 2015, cannot be dissolved until March next year, according to Welikala, the law professor. 

            But Rajapaksa was likely to disregard that provision because “they don’t care about legality or the rule of law,” he said. 

            “This is unprecedented. We’ve had many issues with our democracy, but one thing we’ve never had is an illegal transfer of power,” said Welikala.

            “If the government can clearly violate the constitution and get away with it, it sets a very dangerous precedent.”

            If Rajapaksa and his party were to win general elections, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, said he feared the former president would once again lift the two-term limit on the presidency and try to return to that post.

            The only way to protect Sri Lanka’s democracy was to defeat Rajapaksa in a vote, he said.

            And that would depend on how the country’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority, who regard Rajapaksa as a hero for ending the country’s bloody civil war, viewed the current constitutional crisis.

            “The argument for strong government seems to have prevailed over democracy at the moment. So the issue is as to whether the people are going to vote for a strong government or against the total violation of the constitution,” he said.

            But even though he went on to describe the future as “bleak”, Saravanamuttu said Sri Lankans are faced with a political drama that will undoubtedly twist and turn to the end.

            “We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.

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            New Caledonia votes against independence from France

            PARIS (Reuters) – The South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia voted against independence from France on Sunday in a long-awaited referendum that capped a 30-year long decolonization process.

            A “yes” vote would have deprived Paris of a foothold in the Indo-Pacific region where China is expanding its presence, and dented the pride of a former colonial power whose reach once spanned the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Ocean.

            Based on provisional results and with a participation rate of nearly 80 percent, the “No” vote stood at 56.9 percent around 1300 GMT, local TV station NC La 1ere reported on its website.

            “The New Caledonians have chosen to remain French…It is a vote of confidence in the French republic, its future and its values,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech on French television.

            The referendum was the first auto-determination vote to be held in a French territory since Djibouti in the Horn of Africa voted for independence in 1977.

            Voters in the largely self-governing territory had been asked the question, “Do you want New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?”

            Macron said he understood the disappointment of those who wanted independence, but added that the French state would ensure liberty, equality and fraternity for everyone.

            “The only loser is the temptation of contempt, division, violence and fear; the only winner is the process of peace and the spirit of dialogue,” Macron said.

            Tensions have long run deep between pro-independence indigenous Kanaks and descendants of colonial settlers who remain loyal to Paris.


            Over the past decade, relations between the two groups have improved markedly, but the “no” vote outcome was well below some early polls, which could encourage nationalists to try for a new referendum in coming years.

            Some 175,000 out of the 280,000 people living on the archipelago were eligible to vote, with polls showing earlier in the week that the islands were expected to vote to remain a French territory.

            Posters calling for a “no” vote said that “France is the only chance” while proponents of independence called in their posters to vote for “a multicultural, in solidarity, peaceful nation”.

            During a visit to the archipelago in May, Macron acknowledged the “pains of colonization” and saluted the “dignified” campaign for autonomy led by the Kanaks. He and his administration sought to strike a neutral tone on the vote.

            New Caledonia’s economy is underpinned by French annual subsidies of some 1.3 billion euros ($1.48 billion), nickel deposits that are estimated to represent 25 percent of the world’s total, and tourism.

            It enjoys a large degree of autonomy but depends heavily on France for matters such as defense and education.

            First discovered by the British explorer James Cook, the New Caledonia archipelago lies more than 16,700 km (10,377 miles) from France. It became a French colony in 1853.

            Under colonial rule the Kanaks were confined to reserves and excluded from much of the island’s economy. The first revolt erupted in 1878, not long after the discovery of large nickel deposits that are today exploited by French miner Eramet’s subsidiary SLN.

            More than a century later, in the mid-1980s, fighting broke out between supporters of independence and those who wanted to remain French, amid festering anger over poverty and poor job opportunities.

            A 1988 massacre in a cave on the island of Ouvea left 19 indigenous separatists and two French soldiers dead and intensified talks on the island’s future. A 1998 deal provided for a referendum on independence to be held by the end of 2018.

            Under the terms of that deal, in the event of a no vote two further referenda can be held before 2022.

            ($1 = 0.8783 euros)

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