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US mayors urge Congress to block Trump federal deployment against protesters



US mayors urge Congress
A protester is sprayed by federal agents during a protest against racial inequality in Portland, US, on July 18, 2020, in this still image obtained from a social media video. (Photo by Reuters)

Several US mayors have urged Congress to halt President Donald Trump’s deployment of federal forces to their cities, saying the move has escalated tensions at anti-racism protests in the country.

“We call on Congress to pass legislation to make clear that these actions are unlawful and repugnant,” the Democratic mayors of Portland, Chicago, Seattle, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Kansas City, Missouri and Washington DC, wrote in a letter to the leaders of both parties in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The request came on the same day the US attorney for Oregon announced the arrest of 22 people on charges stemming from clashes with federal and local police at the federal courthouse in Portland, Reuters said.

The deployment of federal agents to Portland and Oregon has drawn sharp criticism after they whisked away demonstrators in unmarked cars, beat a US Navy veteran and tear-gassed activist mothers and Portland’s mayor.

Portland has marked the 61st consecutive day of anti-racism protests with clashes between anti-racism protesters and authorities near the city’s federal courthouse.

The US Black Lives Matter protests, which erupted after the police killing of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, surged over the weekend, with an escalation in violence and the appearance of white supremacists and an armed Black militia.

US mayors urge Congress

One person was shot dead at an Austin, Texas, protest on Saturday and two others were struck by gunfire at demonstration in Aurora, Colorado on Sunday.

45 people were arrested in Seattle during a protest over the deployment of federal agents to Portland and a standby force to Seattle. Protesters in Los Angeles clashed with officers in front of the city’s federal courthouse.

Hundreds of people have so far been arrested for participating in the Black lives Matter protests across the United States since late May.

Violence also broke out in Richmond, Virginia after white supremacists posed as Black Lives Matter protesters, police said.

A Black militia group marched through Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by police who burst into her apartment.

‘Trump seeks to vilify peaceful protesters’

In California, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf condemned “agitators” for vandalizing downtown after violence erupted in the city.

“We celebrate passionate protest but Oaklanders need to know that when they attend protests after dark they may be providing cover for agitators who are more intent on stoking civil unrest than advancing racial justice,” Schaaf said in a statement.

US mayors urge Congress

She argued agitators in Oakland gave Trump the “images he wants” to justify sending federal agents into US cities, saying they make it easier for the Trump administration to vilify otherwise peaceful protesters.

“Vandalizing our downtown gives Donald Trump the images he wants and the justification he seeks to send federal troops into American cities,” she said. “We can’t be fooled and play into his twisted campaign strategy.”

Trump has said that federal forces are necessary to restore order to cities such as Portland, praising the role of the agents during the rallies.

US Attorney General to defend use of federal agents

Attorney General William Barr will defend the Justice Department’s use of federal agents to crack down on protests in Portland in a congressional testimony on Tuesday, saying attacks on the federal courthouse there represent “an assault on the government of the United States.”

“The most basic responsibility of government is to ensure the rule of law, so that people can live their lives safely and without fear. The Justice Department will continue working to meet that solemn responsibility,” Barr said in prepared remarks before the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Barr has faced heavy scrutiny from Democrats since the beginning of his tenure last February, starting with his decision to selectively release a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Barr claimed, “Trump has not attempted to interfere” in any criminal cases.

He will also accuse Democrats of falsely “conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the president’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions.”

The US Justice Department faces criticism for its role in sending federal agents to forcibly disperse protesters in Portland and Washington DC.

US mayors urge Congress

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US spy agencies identify suspected undeclared nuclear site near Saudi capital: Report



nuclear site near Saudi capital
An image taken May 27 showing, top right, two square buildings that some analysts think could be a Saudi nuclear facility. It is located near the Solar Village, bottom left. (Photo by Maxar Technologies/Google Earth)

American intelligence agencies have reportedly spotted what appears to be an undeclared nuclear site near Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh, scrutinizing attempts by the kingdom to process uranium and move toward the development of atomic bombs.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the agencies had in recent weeks circulated a classified analysis about Saudi attempts to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel that could potentially lead to the development of nuclear weapons.

The study shows “a newly completed structure near a solar-panel production area near Riyadh, the Saudi capital, that some government analysts and outside experts suspect could be one of a number of undeclared nuclear sites,” the report said.

The site is situated in a secluded desert area not too far from the Saudi town of al-Uyaynah, located 30 kilometers northwest of Riyadh, and its Solar Village.

“The analysis has raised alarms that there might be secret Saudi-Chinese efforts to process raw uranium into a form that could later be enriched into weapons fuel, according to American officials,” the report added.

A day earlier, an article in The Wall Street Journal said that Western officials were concerned about a desert site in northwestern Saudi Arabia just south of the town of al-Ula.

It was part of a program with the Chinese to extract uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, according to the article.

Frank Pabian, a former satellite image analyst at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said the desert site appears to be a small mill for turning uranium ore into yellowcake as it has a checkpoint, high security fences, a large building about 150 feet on a side and ponds for the collection of uranium waste.

Last week, the US House Intelligence Committee included a provision in the intelligence budget authorization bill requiring the administration to submit a report about Saudi efforts since 2015 to develop a nuclear program.

The provision obliged the US government to include in its report an assessment of “the state of nuclear cooperation between Saudi Arabia and any other country other than the United States, such as the People’s Republic of China or the Russian Federation.”

The US State Department has not commented on the reported intelligence findings.

The US opposes “the spread of enrichment and reprocessing” and attaches “great importance” to continued compliance by the Saudis to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it said in a statement to the New York Times.

The State Department also urged Riyadh to conclude an agreement with Washington “with strong nonproliferation protections that will enable Saudi and US nuclear industries to cooperate.”

Last year, a document, titled “Updates on Saudi National Atomic Energy Project” and posted by the Vienne-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), detailed a plan for building nuclear reactors as well as fueling them through the “localization” of uranium production.

The kingdom was looking for uranium deposits in more than 10,000 square miles of its territory and had teamed up with Jordan to make yellowcake, according to the report.

“The IAEA is unhappy with Saudi Arabia because they refuse to communicate about their existing program and where it is going,” said Robert Kelley, a former inspector for the UN nuclear watchdog.

Saudi Arabia’s attempts to speed up its nuclear and missile projects have raised fears that it aims to acquire nuclear weapons. Observers believe that a nuclear Saudi Arabia — where warmongers are currently at the helm — could pose a serious security threat to the Middle East region.

Riyadh has so far turned a deaf ear to calls by the IAEA to implement proportionate safeguards and an inspection regime that would prevent possible deviation towards nukes.

In March 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Riyadh would quickly go for nuclear bomb Iran does so.

Iran has repeatedly enunciated its nuclear program as exclusively civilian, subject to the most intensive UN supervisions ever.

Tehran signed a nuclear agreement with six world countries, which forged close cooperation between Iran and the IAEA, but the US severely undermined the pact by abandoning it in May 2018.

nuclear site near Saudi capital

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Amnesty International condemns excessive use of force by US police against protesters



Amnesty International condemns
Courtesy: ABC News

A prominent human rights organization has condemned the excessive use of force by the US police against demonstrators protesting racial injustice.

Amnesty International USA released a report on Tuesday documenting over 120 separate incidents of police violence against protesters, medics, journalists and legal observers in more than 40 states during May and June protests. 

Many observers maintain that the report, “The World is Watching: Mass Violations by US Police of Black Lives Matter Protesters’ Rights”, is the most comprehensive human rights analysis of police violence so far.

The researchers of the AIUSA have conducted more than 50 interviews over several weeks in June 2020, highlighting people’s experiences in the context of the protests.

Amnesty International condemns excessive use of force by US police

“The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest. The research shows that people who were simply exercising their human right to peacefully protest were met with such violence that they lost eyesight, survived brutal beatings, and suffered seizures and severe wounds,” said Ernest Coverson, AIUSA’s End Gun Violence campaign manager. 

“The Trump administration is now doubling down on military-style crackdowns against protesters, with Attorney General William Barr’s egregious defense of the use of federal troops in Portland and threats to deploy more agents to other cities. President Trump’s actions represent a slippery slope toward authoritarianism and must immediately stop. We need the country’s approach to the policing of protests to be changed from the ground up at the local, state, and federal levels,” said Justin Mazzola, a researcher at AIUSA.

The report comes as the US Attorney’s office in Portland announced on Tuesday that it has produced no evidence linking dozens who have been arrested in anti-racism protests to the antifa or anarchist movements.

“We have not alleged defendant affiliation with any specific groups or ideologies in our cases stemming from recent Portland protests,” said Kevin Sonoff, the spokesman for the US Attorney’s office. “Our cases focus purely on the criminal conduct alleged.”

US President Donald Trump and other officials, however, have repeatedly applied these labels to the Portland protesters.

“I think there are anarchists and far-left groups involved in the violence in Portland,” Attorney General William Barr said in testimony before Congress last week. “I think antifa is involved in Portland.”

Meanwhile, the US Congress announced on Tuesday that it has launched an investigation into the activities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its involvement in the crackdown on anti-racism protesters following reports of misuse and abuse of power. 

The US cities, including Portland, had seen more than two months of violent protests following the brutal murder of unarmed African American George Floyd during a May 25 arrest in Minneapolis.

In early July, Trump sent the federal agents to Portland to protect the federal courthouse, but, according to the local officials, their presence made things worse. Last week the federal agents pulled back.

Amnesty International condemns excessive use of force by US police

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Alleged war crimes by British Special Forces in Afghanistan set to have major repercussions



Alleged war crimes by British
Members of the Special Air Service (pictured) and its sister unit, the Special Boat Service, were active in Afghanistan during the British military presence in the war-torn country

New evidence has come to light that British Special Forces in Afghanistan routinely committed war crimes by shooting dead unarmed civilians.

The fresh material follows an investigation by BBC Panorama which focuses on the concerns of the Special Forces top brass that the units under their command were routinely killing unarmed men and women as part of their operations.

At their height, the operations, dubbed the “night raids”, occurred on a virtually nightly basis and were ostensibly targeted at senior echelons of the Taliban militant movement.  

The new documents – held by the courts – were recently released to the solicitors Leigh Day as part of an active case at the High Court, which is set to rule on whether allegations of unlawful killing by British Special Forces were originally investigated properly.

The original complainant in the case is Afghan national, Saifullah Ghareb Yar, who claims four members of his family were “assassinated” by UK Special Forces in the early hours of February 16, 2011.

The case is of seminal importance especially in the light of the British government’s consistent refusal to properly investigate alleged war crimes committed by British troops – both regular and Special Forces – in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation has deteriorated to the point that the International Criminal Court (ICC) intervened back in November 2019 by stating its willingness to investigate the British military for the first time.

The ICC’s intervention has been widely interpreted as a major embarrassment to the British government and military alike.  

Alleged war crimes by British

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