Showing posts with label US. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US. Show all posts

February 27, 2017

Father of Dead Hero Refuses to See Trump Asks for Investigation



Miami Herald obtained this interviewed  with the father of William “Ryan” Owens
 
 A family photo of William ‘Ryan’ Owens, who was killed in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017. Owens was the first known U.S. combat casualty under President Trump. Courtesy of the Owens family

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article135064074.html#storylink=cpy
  

When they brought William “Ryan” Owens home, the Navy SEAL was carried from a C-17 military plane in a flag-draped casket, onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, as President Donald Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and Owens’ family paid their respects.

It was a private transfer, as the family had requested. No media and no bystanders, except for some military dignitaries.

Owens’ father, Bill, had learned only a short time before the ceremony that Trump was coming. Owens was sitting with his wife, Marie, and other family members in the solemn, living room-like space where the loved ones of the fallen assemble before they are taken to the flight line.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,’’ Owens recalled telling the chaplain who informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. “I told them I don’t want to meet the President.”

It had been little more than 24 hours since six officers in dress uniform knocked on the door to Owens’ home in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. It was not yet daylight when he answered the door, already knowing in the pit of his stomach what they had come to tell him.
 
Now, Owens cringed at the thought of having to shake the hand of the president who approved the raid in Yemen that claimed his son’s life — an operation that he and others are now calling into question.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens said Friday, speaking out for the first time in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Owens, also a military veteran, was troubled by Trump’s harsh treatment of a Gold Star family during his presidential campaign. Now Owens was a Gold Star parent, and he said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.

Ryan and as many as 29 civilians were killed Jan. 28 in the anti-terrorism mission in Yemen. What was intended as a lightning raid to grab cellphones, laptops and other information about terrorists turned into a nearly hour-long firefight in which “everything went wrong,” according to U.S. military officials who spoke to the New York Times.

Bill Owens said he was assured that his son, who was shot, was killed early in the fight. It was the first military counter-terrorist operation approved by the new president, who signed the go-ahead Jan. 26 — six days into his term.

“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?’’

In a statement from the White House Saturday, spokesman Michael C. Short called Ryan Owens “an American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.”

The White House did not address his father’s criticisms, but pointed out that the Department of Defense routinely conducts a review of missions that result in loss of life.

Bill Owens and his wife sat in another room as the President paid his respects to other family members. He declined to say what family members were at the ceremony.

Trump administration officials have called the mission a success, saying they had seized important intelligence information. They have also criticized detractors of the raid, saying those who question its success dishonor Ryan Owens’ memory.

His father, however, believes just the opposite.

“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” said the elder Owens, pointing to Trump’s sharp words directed at the mission’s critics, including Sen. John McCain.

“I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” he said. 

Next week, Ryan Owens would have turned 37. At the time of his death, he had already spent half his life in the Navy, much of that with the elite SEAL Team 6 — chasing terrorist leaders across deserts and mountains around the world. The team, formally known as DEVGRU,had taken part in some of the most high-profile operations in military history, including the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

At the time of the 2001 9/11 attacks, Owens was in SEAL training, arguably the most physically grueling and mentally grinding regimens in the military. The team, tasked with tracking terrorists and mythologized in books and movies, had once been dubbed a “global manhunting machine” by the Times.

Despite the lore surrounding the SEALS’ exploits, almost everything about them is kept secret, even their names. Bill Owens knows very little about the actions that his son participated in, but takes pride in the dozens of awards he earned during his 12 deployments. Among them: the Silver Star, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Ryan joined the Navy after high school, following in his brothers’ footsteps. His brother, John, 42, was also a SEAL, and his oldest brother, Michael, 44, a Hollywood police officer, was also in the Navy for a time.

They in turn were inspired by their father: Bill Owens served four years in the Navy, then joined the Army Reserves in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Ryan was born in downstate Peoria. While in the Reserves, Bill worked for Caterpillar tractor company, until he was laid off during the recession in the 1980s. Shortly thereafter, he saw a notice in a military magazine for new recruits for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and he successfully applied.

Owens and his then-wife, Ryan’s mother Patricia, moved with Ryan to South Florida. His elder sons remained with Owens’ first wife in Illinois.

Despite the distance between them, the half-brothers were very close, Owens said. They played sports and spent many summers and holidays together. Ryan and his brothers became interested in the military at a very young age. And Ryan dreamed of becoming a SEAL.

“He was always happy,” Bill Owens said of Ryan. “Every picture you see he has a smile on his face. He just had a real positive attitude.”

He was also driven. Ryan was so determined “to be the best” his father said, that when he failed the dive phase of SEAL training, he went out and hired a private instructor to get more training on his off time, and was initially certified as a civilian.

“He went out on his own and became more proficient. That’s the kind of dedication and determination that he had,” his father said.

Bill Owens’ marriage to Ryan’s mother ended soon after they moved to South Florida, and Patricia, who also became a Fort Lauderdale police officer, eventually moved with Ryan and her new husband back to Peoria. She died in 2013.

Ryan spent summers and holidays with his father and brothers in Fort Lauderdale and played catcher during the school year for the Illinois Valley Central High School baseball team, the Grey Ghosts.

  Ryan dreamed of serving in the military from a very early age, his father says. In this family photo, he is playing soldier with his older brothers. Courtesy of the Owens family
A SEAL’s heartache

Standing 6-4, and weighing about 225 pounds, Ryan loved the physical part of the job and serving his country, even though it took him away from his family much of the year.

“I always kept hoping that we would eventually make up for lost time, but that’s not going to happen,” his father said.

Ryan’s military career wasn’t always filled with the adrenaline of hostage rescue missions and midnight raids. In between, there were endless hours of training and planning.

There was also the heartache of losing his military brothers. Ryan was tasked in 2011 with escorting the bodies of 17 of his fellow SEALS home following a CH-47 helicopter crash in Afghanistan, his father said.

“He came back from Afghanistan and had to go to their funerals. It’s unnerving to go through something like that. It was one of the worst days in SEAL history as far as casualties go. He didn’t talk about it,” his father said. “A lot of them, they don’t talk about it, even with their parents.”

Doomed mission

Owens and his SEAL commandos set out in the dark of night. Planning for the Yemen raid began last year during the Obama administration, but the execution was tabled because it was decided it would be better to launch the operation on a moonless night, which wouldn’t occur until after President Trump took office Jan. 20.

According to a timeline provided by the White House, then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn briefed the president about the operation Jan. 25 over a dinner that included Vice President Mike Pence, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and top security aides. It was not held in the Situation Room, as had been a practice under previous administrations.

President Trump signed the memo authorizing the action the next day, Jan. 26.

  The younger Owens served under three presidents and met one of them: Barack Obama. This photo is from a visit to the White House. Courtesy of the Owens family
“This was a very, very well thought-out and executed effort,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Feb. 2 as questions first arose about the mission. He stressed that it had been thoroughly vetted and planned on Obama’s watch.

Colin Kahl, a national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, however, tweeted his contention that Spicer was mistaken.

“Obama made no decisions on this before leaving office, believing it represented escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen,” he wrote on Twitter.

At the time of the firefight, Trump was not in the Situation Room, where he would have been directly involved in monitoring developments. Spicer said he kept in touch with his national security staffers, who were directly plugged in. White House officials also pointed out that, in general, counter-terrorism operations are routine and presidents are not in the Situation Room for every mission.

U.S. forces, targeting a suspected al-Qaida compound, immediately faced armed militants, a sign that their cover had been blown. The Washington Post reported that militants, some of them women, fired from the rooftops. Three other commandos were injured when an MV-22 Osprey, sent in to evacuate the troops, crash-landed. It was later destroyed by a U.S. airstrike to prevent it from falling into militant hands.

Some reports have said as many as 23 civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed.

Afterward, McCain characterized the mission as a failure, and Trump responded with a series of tweets defending the Yemen action, and criticizing McCain. The rancor further escalated when Spicer later stated that McCain — or anyone — who “undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and a disservice to life of Chief Owens.”

There is no SEAL mission that is without risk, said Don Mann, a 21-year veteran Navy SEAL, now retired. Mann, the author of “Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America’s Elite Warriors,” said that if the assault team knew ahead of time that it had been compromised, the SEAL commanders on the ground had the ability to abort the raid at any time.

Some reports said that they did know, and went forward anyway.

“The SEALS, unlike other forces, make their decision on the ground and that decision — in this case — cost a life, which is very very tragic, but that’s war,” Mann said.

“These people are good human beings. It weighs heavily on them. Seeing one person die, especially a teammate or friend, is beyond comprehension.”

He said it’s natural that Owens’ loved ones would have questions about what happened, but they shouldn’t be swayed by the politics surrounding the tragedy.

“Nobody knows the truth of what happened except the person on the ground. When politicians get it, they warp it far from the truth,” he said.

Powerful hands

There were so many SEALS at Ryan’s service at Arlington National Cemetery that his father’s arm got tired from shaking so many muscled hands. At the end, before his coffin was lowered, each of the SEALS removed their badges from their uniforms and pounded them one by one into the casket. When it over, the casket was covered in gold eagle tridents.

Bill Owens doesn’t want to talk about Ryan’s wife or his three young children. There are other things that he believes should remain private. He spoke out, he says, at the risk of offending some of his family and friends.

  William Owens said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.Emily MichotMiami Herald Staff
“I’d like some answers about all the things that happened in the timeline that led up to it. I know what the timeline is, and it bothers me a lot,” said Owens, who acknowledges he didn’t vote for Donald Trump.

One aspect of the chain of events that nags at him is the fact that the president signed the order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, on Jan. 27 — the day before the mission.

Owens wonders whether that affected friendly forces in Yemen who were assisting with the raid.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to do something to antagonize an ally when you’re going to conduct a mission in that country,” he said. “Did we alienate some of the people working with them, translators or support people. Maybe they decided to release information to jeopardize the mission.”

These are only some of the many questions that Owens believes should be thoroughly examined, including the possibility that the decision to move forward with the mission was motivated by politics.

“I think these are valid questions. I don’t want anybody to think I have an agenda, because I don’t. I just want the truth.”

[McClatchy reporters Vera Bergengruen and Anita Kumar contributed from Washington.]


July 22, 2016

US Backed Syrian Fighters Give IS Ultimatum of 48 hrs To Get OUT Manbij


U.S.-backed fighters in Syria Thursday gave Islamic State jihadists 48 hours to evacuate their stronghold in the northern city of Manbij. The forces surrounded the city last month and have been slowly closing in on it.

According to a statement from the Manbij Military Council, the IS fighters would be afforded the opportunity to leave the city with light weapons, without interference.

"This initiative is the last remaining chance for besieged members of Daesh [IS] to leave the town," said the Manbij Military Council, part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.
The SDF is allied with the U.S.-led coalition of forces fighting against IS in northern Syria. The statement from the military council comes at the same time as tensions are flaring in the country following the reported deaths of dozens of civilians in air raids carried out by coalition forces.
Heavy civilian toll

Air raids near Manbij Tuesday killed at least 56 civilians, including children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Activists are planning protests across Syria and opposition government leaders are now calling on Western countries to halt airstrikes.

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters man a checkpoint as civilians on pick-up trucks evacuate from the southern districts of Manbij city after the SDF advanced into it in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, July 1, 2016.

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters man a checkpoint as civilians on pick-up trucks evacuate from the southern districts of Manbij city after the SDF advanced into it in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, July 1, 2016.

By Thursday, activists had taken to social media to organize protests and ask people from around the world to take to the streets to call attention to the casualties. One Syrian news page on Facebook encouraged its followers to demonstrate in opposition to “the massacres carried out by coalition warplanes.”
“We ask all Syrians, whatever their affiliations or sects, and all free people of the world and especially the people of Manbij to stand in solidarity with our devastated city on Sunday, July 24," wrote one page that publishes local news about Manbij.

Several other local news pages from Manbij posted photos from protests that took place Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition leader has called for the air strikes to be halted until a full investigation can be conducted into Tuesday’s civilian deaths.

“It is essential that such investigation not only result in revised rules of procedure for future operations, but also inform accountability for those responsible for such major violations," Syrian National Coalition President Anas al-Abdah wrote in a letter to foreign leaders.

The UN has also condemned the raids, which it said caused the deaths of more than 20 children.
“Such horrific incidents confront parties to this conflict with their shared responsibility to respect international humanitarian laws that protect children in war," said UNICEF's Syria representative, Hanaa Singer.

In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition said that it had conducted the air strikes and it was gathering information about the reports of civilian casualties.
Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition leader has called for the air strikes to be halted until a full investigation can be conducted into Tuesday’s civilian deaths.

“It is essential that such investigation not only result in revised rules of procedure for future operations, but also inform accountability for those responsible for such major violations," Syrian National Coalition President Anas al-Abdah wrote in a letter to foreign leaders.

The U.N. has also condemned the raids, which it said caused the deaths of more than 20 children.
"Such horrific incidents confront parties to this conflict with their shared responsibility to respect international humanitarian laws that protect children in war," said UNICEF's Syria representative, Hanaa Singer.
In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition said that it had conducted the air strikes and it was gathering information about the reports of civilian casualties.

Voice of America

February 27, 2016

The Most Dangerous Places in the US (Interactive map)


Although the world seems like an increasingly dangerous place abroad, with the rise of ISIS and widespread collapse of regimes, violent crime in the U.S. has continued its decline. While the U.S. is getting safer overall, high rates of crime continue to torment sections of the country, impacting people’s life decisions regarding housing, schooling, and travel. FindTheHome looked at the 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report (latest complete data), visualizing the data and identifying the counties with the highest violent crime rates. Violent crime is defined as offenses that involve force or threat of force. This list contains the top 30 counties in the U.S. with the highest crime rates per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate is the total number of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies within a county per 100,000 people. The data analysts used population estimates from the 2014 American Community Survey. Only counties with a population greater than 1,000 are considered. 

October 2, 2014

Henry Kissinger ‘Recommended Smashing Cuba by air strikes’ in 1976



 This 1972 file photo shows Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Communist party speaking to the press in Havana, Cuba



President Gerald Ford, (R) and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1975
Kissinger (left) has been described as being 'apoplectic' about Cuba's role in Africa in discussions with Ford  
Why would Assange target Kissinger?
 
US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger drew up plans to "smash Cuba" with air strikes nearly 40 years ago, government papers obtained by researchers show.

He was angered by Cuba's 1976 military intervention in Angola and was considering retaliation if Cuban forces were deployed elsewhere in Africa. 

The information comes from documents declassified at the request of the National Security Archive.

They show that Mr Kissinger was eager for the US to stand up to Cuba. 

The documents from the Gerald R Ford Presidential Library show that US officials devised plans to attack ports and military installations in Cuba in addition to measures ordered by Mr Kissinger to deploy Marine battalions based at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay to "clobber" the Cubans.
 
Kissinger... was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro's head”
  

Mr Kornbluh told the New York Times that Mr Kissinger was angered by what he felt was the decision by then Cuban President Fidel Castro to pursue his own foreign policy agenda in Africa rather than normalise relations with the United States.

The newspaper reports that Mr Kissinger has refused to comment on its story.

Mr Kissinger, secretary of state from 1973-77, initially supported underground efforts to improve relations with Cuba. 

But the newly released documents show he was infuriated by Cuban President Fidel Castro’s decision in late 1975 to send troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas. 

Mr Kissinger's planned intervention came 15 years after the Bay of Pigs fiasco of April 1961
"Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro's head," Mr Kornbluh was quoted in the newspaper as saying.

“You can see in the conversation with [US President] Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic," Mr Kornbluh said, describing the then secretary of state's language about doing harm to Cuba as "quintessentially aggressive".


"I think we are going to have to smash Castro," Mr Kissinger told Mr Ford in a White House meeting in February 1976, adding Mr Ford should defer action until after the presidential election that November.

"I agree," Mr Ford said.

US contingency plans drawn up on the options warned any military aggression by the US in Cuba could lead to a direct confrontation with the USSR.

 



Henry Kissinger was initially supportive of attempts to normalise relations with Fidel Castro's government
"The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war," one document said.

The plans were never undertaken, as Jimmy Carter was elected president that year.

Mr Kissinger's planned intervention came 15 years after a group of some 1,500 Cuban exiles trained and financed by the CIA launched an ill-fated invasion of Cuba from the sea in the Bay of Pigs.

The plan was to overthrow Fidel Castro and his revolution.

Instead, it turned into a humiliating defeat which pushed Cuba firmly into the arms of the Soviet Union and has soured US-Cuban relations to this day.
 

Henry Kissinger (left) is the oldest surviving former secretary of state in a list that includes James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton 

Supporters of Mr Kissinger say he played a key role in US foreign policy under presidents Nixon and Ford at the height of the Cold War, pointing out that he brokered detente with the Soviet Union, paved the way for President Nixon's landmark visit to China and who, they argue, negated the Communist threat in Latin America.

They argue that he was instrumental in securing peace deals in the Middle East and Vietnam.

But critics say he was the orchestrator of the controversial carpet bombing of neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War and helped Pakistan, Greece, Indonesia and Chile to embark on acts of repression.

September 23, 2014

New Pew Survey Suggests Gay Marriage Support is leveling off


                                                                         

A survey released Monday from the Pew Research Center indicates American support for same-sex marriage could be leveling off after several years of dramatic growth in acceptance of equal rights for gays and lesbians.
The study's authors caution it's too soon to draw any definitive conclusions. But the new poll released Monday found a 5 percentage point drop since February, from 54 percent to 49 percent, in Americans who want legal recognition for same-sex relationships. The percentage of those opposed increased during that same period, from 39 percent in February to 41 percent last month.
The poll of 2,002 adults, conducted Sept. 2-9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
"Since we've seen this upward trend for so long, we're cautious because it's too early to say what this means for long-term trends," said Jessica Martinez, a researcher in Pew's Religion and Public Life Project. "As we continue to ask this question in other surveys, we'll keep an eye on where this moves."
The findings were part of a survey in which nearly three-quarters of Americans said religious influence in public life was waning and most saw that as a negative trend. About half of respondents said churches and houses of worship should speak out more on public issues.
Nearly half of all the respondents said businesses that provide services for weddings, such as florists, should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples if the owners have religious objections. The Pew survey also found the percentage of people who consider gay relationships sinful had increased from 45 percent a year ago to 50 percent last month, although other surveys have found that people with religious objections don't always oppose legal recognition for gay relationships.
The campaign for recognition of gay marriage has grown to become a broad mass movement supported in recent years by a majority of Americans. A decade ago, only about 30 percent of Americans accepted same-sex marriage. Now, 19 states and the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage, while petitions for recognition in several other states are moving through the courts.
The Gallup organization said support for gay marriage first rose above the 50 percent mark in its surveys in 2011, and has remained above half since. Gallup's latest survey, this past May, found acceptance of gay marriage at a new high of 55 percent. But the group's researchers found support was increasing by smaller margins than it had during the era of fastest growth so far, between 2009 and 2011.
Martinez said the drop in support in the Pew poll was not driven by any particular religious or political group in the sample, but was a change across the board. Pew used similar groups of respondents in terms of political and religious views for both surveys, she said. The number of Americans who told Pew they were undecided on gay marriage increased from 7 percent in February to 10 percent last month.
Robert Jones, chief executive of Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit group that conducts surveys on religion and public life, said it's particularly challenging to interpret surveys on gay marriage because the numbers have changed so dramatically over a very short period. He noted that support has been driven by younger people, who tend to be far more accepting of same-sex relationships than their parents. He said polling by his organization over this past summer showed fluctuations in support, but backing remained between 56 percent and 51 percent.
"The fundamentals underneath the trend remain very solid — in the generational breaks that are driving this," Jones said. "The long-term curve on this trend doesn't show any retreat."
  http://www.pewforum.org

August 13, 2014

US Reassures China about encircling it with Australia and the Philippines


                                                                            
 War games US and Philippines

THE United States stressed Tuesday it welcomes the rise of China and wants to work constructively with Beijing as it signed a deal to deploy 2,500 Marines to Australia as part of its "rebalance" to Asia.
China bristled when the agreement to deploy Marines to the northern city of Darwin was first announced by President Barack Obama in 2011.
But after signing the deal at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Sydney, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was not interested in conflict with the Asian powerhouse.
"We welcome the rise of China as a global partner, hopefully as a powerful economy, as a full participating constructive member of the international community," he said.
"We are not seeking conflict and confrontation. And our hope is that China will likewise take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of it and be that cooperative partner."
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier defended the deal to bring US Marines and Air Force personnel to the Northern Territory, denying it was aimed at China which is embroiled in maritime disputes with neighbours.
"That's not what it is directed to do at all. It's about working closely with the United States to ensure that we can work on regional peace and security," she told a radio programme.
"The United States is rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific so it's ways we can work together to support economic development as well as security and peace."
After the talks Bishop, who also hosted US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the discussions were broad -- ranging from tensions on the Korean peninsula to the crisis in Ukraine and to conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan.
- Threat of foreign jihadists -
The threat of foreign jihadist militants fighting in these conflicts and then returning home radicalised was also explored. The US and Australia agreed to raise the issue at the United Nations.
Kerry said this problem, highlighted by images in local media of the seven-year-old son of an Australian jihadist in Syria holding a severed head, underscored the degree to which Islamic State fighters were "so far beyond the pale".
"This image, perhaps even an iconic photograph, is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photos ever displayed," Kerry said.
"It's no accident that every country in the region is opposed to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant)."
Bishop made no comment about the prospect of an increased US military presence beyond the Marines, some 1,200 of whom are already in the country.
But a communique issued after the talks said that enhanced aircraft and naval cooperation was discussed, while the allies would also examine options for Australia's contributions to ballistic missile defence in the region.
Bishop said there existed between Australia and the United States "a clear instinct for collaboration across a wide area of endeavour".
"There is a desire to share the burden of implementing regional and global peace and prosperity, security and stability," she said.
Bishop added that there was no more important security partner for Australia than the US and their longstanding alliance "had never been stronger".
But she said Canberra did not envisage Australian troops would return to Iraq, where the US is carrying out air strikes and humanitarian airdrops to try to combat jihadist fighters.
However, Australia has offered support for humanitarian relief.
Kerry also ruled out sending troops to Iraq.
Speaking at the start of the talks at Sydney's harbourside Admiralty House, he said the Australia-US relationship was "essential to the stability of the Asia-Pacific region".
“We do face new challenges," he said, citing North Korea and maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

July 29, 2014

US Tells Israel “This is not the way Allies treat each other” (state dept.)


                                                                            

The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry's latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a "misinformation campaign" against the top American diplomat.

 

"It's simply not the way partners and allies treat each other," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Her comments were echoed by the White House, where National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the U.S. was "dismayed" by mischaracterizations of Kerry's efforts. Israeli media reports have cast Kerry as seeking a cease-fire that is more favorable to Hamas and being dismissive of key Israeli concerns.
Kerry himself, in a speech to the Center for American Progress, noted the criticism but did not give ground.
"Make no mistake, when the people of Israel are rushing to bomb shelters, when innocent Israeli and Palestinian teenagers are abducted and murdered, when hundreds of innocent civilians have lost their lives, I will and we will make no apologies for our engagement," he said.
The coordinated pushback in Washington came amid growing U.S. frustration with Israel as Palestinian civilian casualties mount amid a sustained Israeli air and ground war in the Gaza Strip. In recent days, U.S. officials have been using subtle yet noticeably tougher language in pressing Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire.
The U.S. has made little progress in achieving that objective. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised speech Monday that his country must be ready for "a prolonged campaign" against Hamas in Gaza.
As Kerry returned from the region over the weekend, Israeli media commentators leveled almost nonstop criticism of his attempts to bring Qatar and Turkey — two countries viewed by Israel as strong Hamas supporters — into the cease-fire negotiations. Kerry was also accused of abandoning some of Israel's key demands during the negotiations, including demilitarizing Gaza.
In trying to implement the cease-fire over the weekend, "U.S. Secretary of State of State John Kerry ruined everything," wrote columnist Ari Shavit in Monday's Haaretz, Israel's leading liberal newspaper. "Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a 'strategic terrorist attack.'"
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer sought to distance his government from that view, saying, "The criticism of Secretary Kerry for his good faith efforts to advance a sustainable cease-fire is unwarranted."
"There is broad understanding between Israel and the United States about the principles for a sustainable cease-fire, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the United States to advance that goal and a durable solution to the problems in Gaza," Dermer said Monday.
U.S. officials disputed the notion that Kerry had formally presented Israel a cease-fire proposal and cast the document in question as a draft given to the Israelis as part of an effort to gain their input in seeking a weeklong cessation of hostilities. Officials said the draft was based on an earlier Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel had accepted but Hamas had rejected.
Psaki said the U.S. was "surprised and obviously disappointed" to see the draft proposal made public. She also argued that there was a difference between the characterization of Kerry's handling of the negotiations by Israeli media and what government officials were telling the U.S. privately.
"No one is calling to complain about the secretary's handling of the situation," Psaki said.
Earlier, Kerry had sought to debunk the notion that the U.S. had backed away from its support for the demilitarization of Gaza, which has been a top priority for Israel.
"Any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups," Kerry said.
While the Obama administration maintains that it supports Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas, officials are increasingly worried about the civilian casualties in Gaza. The White House has also taken a shaper tone in its characterization of President Barack Obama's calls with Netanyahu, noting in the readout of a conversation on Sunday that the U.S. has a "serious and growing concern" about the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.
More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed over the past three weeks, Palestinian health officials say. According to the United Nations, about three-fourths of them were civilians. Israel has lost 43 soldiers and two civilians, as well as a Thai worker.
_ AP

July 21, 2014

HIV Infections dropped by a third over a decade in USA




                                                                         



The rate of HIV infections diagnosed in the United States has fallen by a third over the past decade, researchers say.
After examining cases from all 50 states, the study found that the diagnosis rate fell to 16.1 per 100,000 people in 2011 from 24.1 in 2002.
Experts celebrated the findings as a hopeful sign that the Aids epidemic may be slowing in the country.
However, there was a rise in new cases of HIV among gay and bisexual men aged under 24 and over 45.
HIV is the virus that causes Aids, a disease which destroys the immune system.
The World Health Organization estimates 35 million people globally have the virus. More than 1 million people in the US are thought to be infected, with 18% unaware of their infections.
From 2002 to 2011, 493,372 people were diagnosed with HIV in the US, researchers said.
As well as an overall decline, declines were also seen in the rates for men, women, whites, blacks, Hispanics, heterosexuals, injection drug users and most age groups.
Researchers said the only group in which diagnoses increased was gay and bisexual men.
"Among men who have sex with men, unprotected risk behaviours in the presence of high prevalence and unsuppressed viral load may continue to drive HIV transmission," the report said.
The study also found diagnosis rates dropped even as the amount of testing rose.
In 2006, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended routine HIV testing for all Americans aged 13 to 64.
The percentage of adults ever tested for HIV increased from 37% in 2000 to 45% in 2010, according to CDC data.
Although experts say reasons for the US decline in infections are unknown, it is in line with a global downturn in the Aids epidemic.
Last week, the United Nations said that there were 2.1 million new HIV infections worldwide in 2013, down 38% from 2001.
The study was released online by the Journal of the American Medical Association ahead of the International Aids Conference that starts in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.

May 17, 2014

Gay or Straight are you ready for gay marriage? The judges are..

Boston, Ma., 6/14/07 Erin Dunn gets hugged after hearing that the state Legislature had voted against a proposed 2008 ballot question to ban gay marriage. The vote followed 3 and a half years of controversy and reaffirmed the state's first-in-the-nation same-sex marriage ruling, protecting the rights of gays and lesbians to wed in Massachusetts until at least 2012.. ( David L. Ryan Globe staff photo ) pow061107


This has been a big, historic week for gay marriage in America. On Saturday,Arkansas issued its first same-sex marriage licenses following a ruling that overturned the state's ban. On Tuesday, an Idaho judge struck down the state's constitutional prohibition against gay unions; the first wedding ceremonies will take place today. And on Wednesday, a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in Bostic v. Schaefer, the highly anticipated challenge to the same-sex-marriage prohibition in Virginia.
The important theme here is that the rapid expansion of gay marriage is being led almost exclusively by judges. Although there were three upheld court rulings in favor of gay unions before summer of 2013, most of the states that allowed gay marriage before the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor got there with legislation or ballot initiatives. Since Windsor, which struck down the federal ban on gay marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act, there have been nine rulings expanding the definition of marriage. Almost every state where same-sex unions remain illegal now faces a court challenge.
It's not a coincidence that the most liberal, pro-gay areas of the country were the first to embrace legal same-sex unions at the ballot box or the statehouse. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state senators in Vermont could afford to cheerlead for marriage equality; their constituents agreed with them. In these areas of the country, people's beliefs eased the way for social change.
But it's unclear how popular beliefs will evolve in the places where the future of same-sex marriage is now being decided. In 2004, 75 percent of Arkansans voted for a constitutional amendment that stated that "marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman." A decade later, clerks in counties across the state are issuing marriage licenses to gay women and men.

Legislative Action for and Against Same-Sex Marriage

Note that legislative efforts in a couple of states were mixed. In Arizona, for example, voters rejected an anti-gay marriage ballot in 2006 and then accepted it in 2008. The New Jersey legislature would have passed legislation enabling same-sex unions in 2012, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill. (Source: Freedom to Marry, Pew Research Center)


In the coming months, similar rulings may make same-sex marriage legal in many of other states that passed constitutional bans with strong majorities. More than three-quarters of Oklahomans voted for an amendment to outlaw gay unions in 2004; a ruling against that law is awaiting appeal. The same is true of Texas, where 76 percent of its residents voted for a similar amendment in 2005. Next month, oral arguments will be heard in a challenge to Louisiana's ban, which nearly 80 percent of residents voted for in 2004; many other case developments are expected in throughout the summer and early fall.

U.S. Court Cases on Same-Sex Marriage 

Note that the pending court cases in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee all concern the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, not the legality of same-sex marriage itself. Although no cases are currently pending in South Dakota, one may soon be filed. (Source: Freedom to Marry, Pew Research Center)



Pew Research Center

A lot has changed in the last decade—and not just in terms of legal status. In Pew surveys of nationwide attitudes toward same-sex marriage in 2012 and 2013, researchers found that many people had changed their minds over the course of 10 years. The graphic at right, for example, shows just how much perspectives have shifted: Last year, 60 percent of people said "homosexuality should be accepted by society," up from 47 percent in 2003. And the percentage of people who said they have a "favorable opinion" of gays and lesbians was up by 16 and 19 percentage points, respectively.
But even though Americans have clearly become more comfortable with homosexuality, the 2013 poll numbers indicate significant ambivalence. A majority of people still say that same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs. Forty-five percent of people believe it is a sin to participate in "homosexual behavior." Forty percent would be upset if their child were gay or lesbian, and perhaps most tellingly, only slightly more than half of people say they have a favorable opinion of gay men.

Pew Research Center

These views vary a lot by region. This geographic breakdown of attitudes toward the LGBT community from 2012 is slightly dated, but it gives a good sense of the places where people are most uncomfortable with homosexuality.
The states with the strongest opposition to gay marriage? Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. The states where gay marriage bans have recently been struck down, out-of-state unions have been ordered to be recognized, or rulings are pending appeal? Among them: Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Cases in Alabama and Louisiana are scheduled for hearings and arguments imminently.
This means the legal battle over same-sex marriage is about to take on a new feel. It's moving south, to the places in America where people feel the strongest moral opposition to homosexuality. As Arkansas has shown, the citizens of these states don't need to approve of gay marriage for it to become legal. Judges all over the country are ruling that bans against these unions are unconstitutional; from this standpoint, the moral sentiments of Arkansans and Texans and Oklahomans are irrelevant.
But it's unclear what the cultural reverberations will be. Perhaps the trend toward acceptance of the gay community will continue; as same-sex marriage becomes legal in more and more states, it will probably start to seem less novel and more mundane, just like every other marriage. This might help people feel more comfortable with homosexuality in general.
There will always be people in America who object to gay marriage, not to mention gay sex, or even "gay culture," which is part of what shapes those "favorable" and "unfavorable" opinions cited in the Pew study. For some, these are a deeply seated religious beliefs, and those are unlikely to change, regardless of what happens with same-sex marriage. But cultural changes started the chain reaction of legalization, and in turn, that chain reaction has helped shape culture. Individual judges will define gay marriage in the heartland, Dixieland, the Great Lakes states. But in time, gay marriage itself may come to change how American think.


theatlantic.com

April 18, 2014

India Has Gone Back in Time: US Watches with Concern

                                                                               
It should be clear to all, that the government of the United States is changed it’s human and civil rights policy for the LGBT Community. The president in a permanent way had said so and his cabinet, with the foreign service have been apprised of these changes that have been in place for three years now. The Supreme court of the land in all it’s ruling to date has supported the civil rights of all Americans including LGTB and the UN in it’s slow mechanism has for many years included those rights as human and civil rights. Having pointed to all those facts there is a country which many times has been referred as the largest Democracy in the world (true or not) which has reverse it self and it’s Supreme Court decision manned by old pre colonists from the times of the British empires have decided to go back in time make the laws as they were back then. 
"Despite progress in equal rights for LGBT persons around the world, our work is far from finished," Richard E Hoagland, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said on Wednesday in his address to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Hoagland said with about 80 countries worldwide criminalising homosexuality, LGBT persons around the world remain vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, harassment, discrimination and violence.
Monitoring gay rights situation in India: US

Monitoring gay rights situation in India: US

Even today, five countries still define homosexuality as a crime punishable by death, he noted. The US closely follow the situation in Uganda, where the newly enacted "anti-homosexuality act" not only provides for life imprisonment for homosexuality, but places significant restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly for all Ugandans.
"We track the state of affairs in Russia, where the new, so-called anti-gay propaganda law criminalise free expression with respect to what it terms as 'non-traditional' sexual relations. We monitor the situation in India, where the Supreme Court overturned a landmark ruling that found the ban on consensual homosexual activity unconstitutional," he said.
And yet, there are countries that serve as beacons for the rest: countries like Argentina, which pave the way for other countries in South America to follow its lead with progressive LGBT legislation, he said. In South Asia, Nepal's High Court overturned a previous ban on homosexuality in 2007 and has extended legal recognition to third-gender citizens, he added.
“In Pakistan, the Supreme Court recognised a third gender for its hijira community in 2009 and extended third-gender voter IDs to the population; just a few days ago, the Supreme Court in India did the same thing," the State Department official said.
Adam Gonzalez, adamfoxie blog

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