Turkey vows to ‘eliminate any threat’ after US announces Syrian ‘border force’ of 30,000 that includes terrorists and Kurdish militia

US forces accompanied by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters patrol the Syria-Turkey border on Friday.

    

Ankara has slammed the plan to create a 30,000-strong force from the Kurdish-dominated SDF militias on its border with Syria, accusing its NATO ally of presenting its “unilateral” move as a joint decision of the US-led coalition.

The Turkish government perceives the so-called Syrian Border Force, that may be stationed along the Kurdish-controlled parts of the Syrian border with Iraq and Turkey, as well as in the Euphrates River Valley, as a threat to its national security, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in the statement on Sunday.

“Turkey is determined to eliminate any threats against it, and has all possibilities to do this,” it said, denouncing what it called “the persistence of the United State in this erroneous approach” of cooperating with the Kurdish militias.

The US-led coalition’s plan to set up such a force on the basis of the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) veterans, who are set to make up half of the recruits, was unveiled by US Army Col. Thomas Veale, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, on Saturday.

However, Turkey, which is also a part of the coalition to defeat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), was not consulted prior to the announcement, according to the ministry. It accused Washington of misleading the public into believing the decision was taken on behalf of the coalition, while in fact the US was likely acting unilaterally.

“It is unknown what coalition members made of this decision. Explaining the unilateral steps on behalf of the coalition is an extremely wrong move that could harm the fight with Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Islamic State],” the ministry said.

Turkey has been calling on the US to withdraw its support for the Kurdish YPG units, a cornerstone of the SDF militia, as Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed as a terrorist entity in Turkey. In November, Washington promised to wind down its support for “certain groups” fighting IS in Syria following a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis later confirmed Washington would stop arming the Kurdish militias, noting that “police forces” comprised of the local population would still be needed to “make certain that ISIS doesn’t come back.”

The creation of the thousands-strong force build on the shoulders of the SDF runs contrary to Washington’s assurances to Turkey, the ministry argued. “Continued US cooperation with the YPG [US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units], which is contrary to its [the US’s] own obligations, jeopardize our national security and [the] territorial integrity of Syria, and that is unacceptable,” the statement read.

The presence of the Syrian Border Force will pose a challenge to Turkey, which might eventually push it into confrontation with the US on the ground, defense analyst Ivan Eland told RT, arguing that preserving relations with NATO-ally Washington will take second place in these circumstances.

“They [Turkey] could run into even more tension with the US than they already have and their forces could run into conflict with these forces that the US is sponsoring and maybe even the US forces,” Eland said.

Given that the US officially considers PKK a foreign terrorist organization, it is “very strange” that Washington continues to support Syrian YPG units, Eland said, alleging there are indeed some close ties between the two Kurdish groups. “If they are not brother groups, they are certainly cousins,” he argued.

Although creating a brand-new SDF-dominated border force deepens Washington’s rift with Turkey, it is not on the list of its primary concerns, the analyst said.

“What the US is trying to do there is to establish some influence on the eventual settlement for Syria and to do that they want to control some territories and to do that they need to keep their allies supplied and trained.”

The presence of well-trained and armed units in the border area as part of the US military legacy in Syria, Eland noted, can become “a problem not only with Turkey, but also with the Syrian government and the Russian forces.”

The plan to establish the unit has also been condemned by Russian officials, who claimed Washington is pursuing shadowy goals in the region. “There’s a clear equivocation here, I think it’s an obvious attempt to reanimate the militants, who can flow from neighboring states, namely Iraq,” said the deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee Yuri Shvitkin. Creating such a “force,” the official stressed, can help the Washington “to achieve their geopolitical goals, escalate tensions, and, probably, attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected president Bashar Assad.”

You can watch the RT news report here.

Source Article from https://www.sott.net/article/374139-Turkey-vows-to-eliminate-any-threat-after-US-announces-Syrian-border-force-of-30000-that-includes-terrorists-and-Kurdish-militia

Largest Wildfire In California History Now Contained After Month Of Work

California’s largest wildfire in state history, known as the Thomas Fire, is now 100 percent contained after more than one month of work, officials announced Friday. In addition to causing massive destruction, the fire also contributed to devastating mudslides in the region earlier this week.

The Thomas Fire began Dec. 4 outside Ventura as a series of blazes cropped up across Southern California, but it eventually grew to be the largest, burning through around 281,893 acres ― or about 213,000 football fields ― in and around the Los Padres National Forest. 

The fire killed at least two people: Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula and Cory Iverson, 32, a firefighter from San Diego. Over 1,000 structures were destroyed, including many homes, and an additional 280 were damaged. 

“Los Padres National Forest would like to thank all the first responders and cooperators that responded to this incident over the last month and giving up the opportunity to spend the holidays with their families and the sacrifices they made,” a spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

The Thomas Fire was unusual for breaking out in December. While California wildfires generally occur in hot summer months, years of drought have created conditions where such disasters can occur year-round.

A series of wildfires in Northern California became the state’s deadliest late last year, killing more than 40 people.

After the Thomas Fire, the next-largest wildfire in the state’s history occurred in 2003, when the Cedar Fire near San Diego burned through 273,246 acres.

Early Tuesday, heavy rains across the region met scorched earth in the Thomas Fire region and triggered devastating mudslides that killed at least 18 people as water failed to absorb into the freshly burnt ground. 

Rain water mixed with ash, branches, boulders and other debris on the ground and ran downhill, slamming into structures and wiping more than 100 homes away. Many people in the area had just returned home from evacuations due to the wildfire. 

Fire, smoke and ash from the Thomas Fire is visible in the hills above Montecito, California, on Dec. 13.Fire, smoke and ash from the Thomas Fire is visible in the hills above Montecito, California, on Dec. 13.

The Montecito region near Santa Barbara, a wealthy area home to Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and other celebrities, was particularly badly hit. Almost the entire community of Montecito ― around 10,000 people ― was under a mandatory evacuation order Thursday as emergency responders continued to sift through the rubble.

“The only words I can really think of to describe what it looked [like] was it looked like a World War I battlefield,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said of the region on Tuesday. “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere.”

A house remains standing in front of an ash-filled hillside in Montecito, California, on Dec. 20. (FREDERIC J. BROWN via Getty Images)A house remains standing in front of an ash-filled hillside in Montecito, California, on Dec. 20. (FREDERIC J. BROWN via Getty Images)

On Friday, officials warned about the potential for additional mudslides, noting that the risk of flooding is high until vegetation returns ― which could take five years. Both federal and state emergency response teams are assessing the burned areas to identify places at particular risk of flooding or debris flow.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/largest-wildfire-california-history-now-200906969.html

Plane hangs horrifyingly close to Black Sea after runway slip (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

“We’re sorry to report that the Boeing 737-800 type TC-CPF registered aircraft of Pegasus Airlines Flight Number PC 8622 Ankara-Trabzon flight scheduled at 18:25 UTC tonight, had a Runway Excursion Incident during landing at Trabzon Airport (13 January 2018),” the airline wrote in an official statement about the incident.

“All 162 passengers, 2 pilots and 4 cabin crew have been disembarked safely from the aircraft. There has been no loss of life or injury to anyone on-board,” the company added.

While rainy conditions reportedly made the runway surface slick, the jet recorded speeds of 110 knots (204kph, 127mph) on the final third of the runway according to data from RadarBox. The airport was closed until 9am local time Sunday.

“We’ve taken all necessary measures. We will reopen the airport to air traffic as soon as possible,” Trabzon Governor Yücel Yavuz said Saturday night, as cited by Yeni Safak, adding that a crisis desk had been set up following the incident and that an investigation into the circumstances of the accident had already begun. He also confirmed that there were no reported issues with the runway.

Source Article from https://www.rt.com/news/415864-plane-cliff-edge-trabzon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

State Department ridiculed on Twitter after it warns citizens against travel to Russia

State Department travel map

    

The US State Department found itself the focus of social media jibes after an overhaul of its travel safety warning system downgraded Russia to the same category as Mauritania, Sudan and other trouble spots.

The move, explained as “due to terrorism and harassment,” comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow and just five months before Russia hosts the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The new State Department classification sees countries divided into four zones, when it comes to personal security. Russia has been bundled into the “orange” category (the 2nd most dangerous of the quartet), meaning US citizens should “reconsider travel” to this destination.

Twitter was ablaze on Thursday and Friday with condemnation of Russia’s “orange” status. For instance, Mark Galeotti, a pundit at US State Broadcaster RFE/RL described it as “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Whether a political move or stupidity, truly ludicrous,” the Russia watcher commented.

The State Department itself claims the changes are part of an “effort to streamline information on threats overseas and present it in a clearer, more direct fashion” at a “time of increased travel – 2017 was on track to be a record year for the number of Americans travelling abroad. In 2016, there were over 80 million Americans who went overseas.”

Some users have suggested the decision may be more political than practical.

Leonid Ragozin, an author at Lonely Planet, protested “if travel advisories are a tool of punishing countries for aggressive behavior, of which Russia is clearly a culprit, then fair enough. But if the idea is to provide accurate info for citizens, then it is a piece of garbage.


Comment: Here’s a clue for you, Leonid. The State Department isn’t about providing accurate info for citizens, and that includes lies about Russian aggression.



Ukraine, currently enduring a civil war in its east and frequent social unrest in the capital, is placed in the yellow band, which only requires Americans to “exercise increased caution.” Meanwhile, Kosovo, a partially recognized
entity associated with human-organ trafficking, widespread corruption and organized crime is also considered safer than Russia.

Crucially, both Kosovo and Ukraine are US allies, whereas Russia is regarded one of the top foes in Washington amid unproven allegations of election meddling and geopolitical tensions in Europe and the Middle East.

The advisory includes a warning that “terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Bomb threats against public venues are common,” which could equally be applied to any other major European country these days including Germany, France and the United Kingdom – all of which have category two safety grades.

As reporter Fabrice Deprez pointed out, the French Foreign Minister has declared Russia “all safe, except for the South (sic) Caucasus.” The North Caucasus, located in the south of Russia, is a region where counter-terrorism operations are frequent.

The State Department also advised against travelling to Crimea. “The US government is unable to provide emergency services to US citizens travelling in Crimea as US government employees are prohibited from travelling to Crimea,” it contends. However, Russian authorities do not prohibit US government employees from visiting the peninsula. Instead, it is actually the US government which has introduced the ban, for its own reasons.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the move “another unsubstantiated statement, whose primary goal is to trigger another round of anti-Russian hysteria in the US, and to cultivate blind fear of Russia among Americans.”

Foreign travelers to Russia spoke of experiences that were far from scary. Ciaran Deely, from London, explained: “In Summer 2017 I travelled [for] 3 weeks [on] the Trans-Siberian Railway through [St] Petersburg, Moscow, Vladimir, Suzdal, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm, Yekenterenburg, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan Ude… and can honestly say not once did I feel unsafe. Welcoming people! Far more danger in London or Dublin.”

The renowned Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa recalled a 2017 visit. “Sevastopol. Taking city walks at 2am, myself with my kid, to feed dozens of cats. Using [a] flashlight on dark street stairs and alleys without fear of strangers in the dark. An eerie feeling of time travel back to USSR, where, as a kid, the fear of strangers or crime didn’t exist. (),” she wrote. Lisitsa compared it to her first visits to the US. “And then the culture shock of America: no, it’s not a good idea to take a walk in downtown Miami – or NYC Central Park after dark. And we thought [it was] Soviet propaganda and scare tactics when we read about it.

Meanwhile, Donal McAllister, an Oman-based Irishman, gave a slightly different testimonial. “Other than usual slightly menacing taxi drivers at [the] airport, [I] have to say [I] loved walking around Moscow, amazing city. At night, felt more uneasy but never had any hassle.”

Hunter Cawood, an American in St Petersburg, also disagreed with the State Department. “I’ve lived in Russia for a year and a half now, and I can genuinely say that I’ve never once felt unsafe,” he said.

And Michael Boyle, from Arizona, echoed his compatriot. “Very safe everywhere from St Petersburg to Irkutsk (including the Trans Siberian Railroad). The only questionable place was the St Petersburg-Moscow overnight train but even that was safe if you weren’t an idiot looking for trouble,” he tweeted.

London-based Chris McNee was even more positive: “I travel every few months to Russia and feel always very safe. More so than Paris London or NY. Worked all over and, touch wood, never really a problem.”

Source Article from https://www.sott.net/article/373959-State-Department-ridiculed-on-Twitter-after-it-warns-citizens-against-travel-to-Russia

‘Not the language used’: Trump after reports of ‘s***hole’ countries remark about African nations

READ MORE: ‘No other word but racist’: UNHR spokesman slams Trump’s reported remarks on ‘s***hole countries’

Trump expressed his discontent with the influx of immigrants coming from Haiti, El Salvador and some African countries at a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday, according to American media. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump had asked: “Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?”

The reports have triggered a strong reaction from the UN, with its High Commissioner for Human Rights calling the statement “racist” on Friday. At the same time the Haitian government has summoned a US official to explain the president’s behavior.

Source Article from https://www.rt.com/usa/415708-not-language-used-trump-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

14-year-old girl pulled from 'tangled mess of a house' after California mudslide

Firefighters in Montecito, California, were able to rescue a 14-year-old girl trapped inside her mangled home on Tuesday following a deadly mudslide that claimed the lives of at least five people, according to NBC News

Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said that Lauren Cantin was discovered by a team of firefighters and rescue dogs who traced her muffled screams to her house, which had been swept away by floodwaters. 

See photos of the disaster: 

Responders spent six hours in the pounding rain digging Cantin out of her “tangled mess of a house” using the jaws of life and other tools, Eliason said.

“To be able to have her come out safely and as unscathed as she was, it was pretty phenomenal,” said Andy Rupp, a Montecito Fire Protection District firefighter.

Among those surprised by the astounding rescue was Cantin herself. “I thought I was dead there for a minute,” the shaken-up teen, who was caked in mud, told her rescuers as she was carried away on a stretcher.

Tuesday’s mudslide tore through Southern California after the region, which was recently scorched by wildfires, received over five inches of rain, causing the over-saturated hillsides to send massive runoff rushing onto Highway 101 below.

Multiple homes were reportedly ripped from their foundations by the powerful mudslide, while other homes in the area burned down due to a gas line explosion related to the storm.

About 21,000 people in the wealthy Montecito neighborhood were given mandatory evacuation orders by Monday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.

County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said that only 200 of the 1,200 residents contacted in person had left their homes by Monday evening.

Santa Barbara County authorities report that there is currently a backlog of 75 calls for rescue or evacuation from the area.

Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/14-old-girl-pulled-apos-205130422.html

Australia Launches Anti-Bullying Campaign After Former Child Model Commits Suicide

The suicide of a 14-year-old girl who was once the face of iconic Australian outback hat maker Akubra has left the nation shocked. Her grieving family has launch a campaign to raise awareness of cyberbullying.

Amy “Dolly” Everett, who at 8 years old was an Akubra model, took her own life last week. Her family said her death came after she was victimized by cyberbullies.

A national anti-bullying campaign has been launched in the wake of Dolly’s death, and thousands have paid tribute on social media under the hashtags #doitfordolly. 

Her parents, Tick and Kate Everett, thanked the community for its response to their grief and asked for time to celebrate her life.

“This is all we are capable of at the moment and ask for your respect to give us time to grieve,” the family said in a statement to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. 

“Our daughter Dolly was the kindest, caring, beautiful soul, and she was always caring for animals, small children, other children at boarding school who were less fortunate than herself.”

In an earlier Facebook post, Tick Everett challenged Dolly’s harassers to come to her memorial service later this week “and witness the complete devastation you have created.”

“If we can help other precious lives from being lost and the suffering of so many, then Doll’s life will not be wasted,” he said. 

Akubra said in a statement on Facebook that the company was shocked. When Dolly was 8, she was in Christmas advertisements for Australia’s unofficial national hat. 

“Dolly chose to end her life last week due to bullying. She was not even 15 years old,” the company said. “To think that anyone could feel so overwhelmed and that this was their only option is unfathomable. 

“Bullying of any type is unacceptable. It is up to us to stand up when we see any kind of bullying behaviour.” 

According to the National Centre Against Bullying, 1 in 5 Australian children reported being bullied in the past 12 months. The Australian Institute of Family Studies says about 10 percent to 20 percent of children and young people have been cyberbullied. 

In response to a post about Dolly, Australia’s internet safety commissioner, Julie Inam-Grant, said her office is committed to fighting online bullying.  

“This is a global fight and we need to figure out the best strategies to call out abuse and disrespect when we see it and encourage young people to report and seek help,” she said on Twitter. 

“They are not alone – there is a Global alliance of people that want to help support & empower.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/australia-launches-anti-bullying-campaign-034219825.html

MSNBC Hosts Wrongly Claim Ohio Purges Nonvoters After Just Two Years

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Source Article from https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/brad-wilmouth/2018/01/11/msnbc-hosts-wrongly-claim-ohio-purges-nonvoters-after-just-two