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We continue to closely follow disturbing reports on April 7 regarding another alleged chemical weapons attack, this time targeting a hospital in Douma, Syria. Reports from a number of contacts and medical personnel on the ground indicate a potentially high number of casualties, including among families hiding in shelters. These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community.
The United States continues to use all efforts available to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable. The regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute, and in fact nearly one year ago on April 4, 2017, Assad’s forces conducted a sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed approximately 100 Syrians.
The Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately. Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks, targeting of countless civilians, and the suffocation of Syria’s most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons. By shielding its ally Syria, Russia has breached its commitments to the United Nations as a framework guarantor. It has betrayed the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118. Russia’s protection of the Assad regime and failure to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria calls into question its commitment to resolving the overall crisis and to larger non-proliferation priorities.
The United States calls on Russia to end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further, barbaric chemical weapons attacks.
Source Article from http://www.voltairenet.org/article200578.html
The Trump administration is proposing rolling back protections for close to 300 threatened animal and plant species.
A new proposal — “Removal of Blanket Section 4(d) Rule” — was posted Monday by the Department of the Interior on a government database and was spotted by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental nonprofit.
The proposal’s title refers to a measure in the Endangered Species Act that extends protections to hundreds of threatened plant and animal species.
An endangered species is in danger of extinction, while a threatened species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Threatened species include such animals as manatees, sea otters, the Guadalupe fur seal, wood bison, the gray wolf, the grizzly and polar bear, the northern spotted owl and other species of birds, snakes, corals and lizards, among others.
Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity said the proposed rule change is an attempt to ease restrictions for companies that operate in wildlife habitats.
“Trump is erasing America’s natural heritage to make his friends richer and allow polluters to ravage our environment,” Greenwald said in a statement. “If these critical protections for threatened species are eliminated, Trump will go down in history as the extinction president.”
Details of the specific proposal haven’t been publicly released. U.S. Wildlife Fish and Game spokesman Gavin Shire told CNN that the proposal is a “draft” currently under “internal review,” and that it would be “premature” to discuss it.
Shire told Courthouse News Service that public input will be invited once a detailed proposal is formalized.
The Interior Department’s move to eliminate the rule comes after two petitions to rescind it were filed by the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation.
Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke last week tapped Susan Combs — a rancher and fierce opponent of the Endangered Species Act with strong ties to the oil industry — to serve as acting secretary for fish, wildlife and parks.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/interior-department-aims-slice-section-131710064.html
A State Department position designed specifically to focus on anti-Semitism has remained empty since President Donald Trump took office. Jewish leaders have repeatedly urged the White House to fill the post, and this week they renewed their push.
The Anti-Defamation League, a national human rights organization, sent a letter to Trump on Monday calling on him to name a new special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.
With such hatred escalating globally, ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt wrote that the U.S. needs its “voice on anti-Semitism around the world.”
“That voice has been silent for the past fifteen months,” Greenblatt wrote.
Established by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, the special envoy position was most recently filled by Ira Forman, former executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Forman served from May 2013 until Jan. 20, 2017, when, like many other top State officials appointed by President Barack Obama, he was let go.
Past special envoys have provided input on anti-Semitism for State Department reports on human rights and religious freedom. The office also held trainings for individuals embarking on foreign postings so they would know how to identify anti-Semitism and what to report to the State Department.
“These are things that don’t happen unless someone is responsible in the State Department for making sure it happens,” Hannah Rosenthal, who served as the special envoy before Forman, told reporters last year.
“Mr. President, by nominating a respected and effective advocate, you will be reasserting America’s moral leadership against anti-Semitism and reassuring Jewish communities that America stands with them and their ability to live securely as Jews wherever they are,” Greenblatt wrote on Monday.
The ADL’s renewed call to fill the position comes at a time of heightened anti-Semitism around the globe. Last week, thousands of people took to the streets across France to decry the murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor whose death authorities have linked to anti-Semitism.
In the U.K. last month, Jewish leaders said they would march to Parliament after Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn failed to assuage their concerns about his defense of an offensive anti-Jewish mural in 2012.
“The data confirms the anger and concern of these communities,” Greenblatt’s letter stated. “Violent anti-Semitic assaults increased 34 percent in Britain according to the Community Security Trust in 2017, and according to the French Ministry of the Interior, increased 26 percent in France during the same period.”
In the U.S., trends that indicated an anti-Semitic spike around the time of the 2016 presidential election have persisted. A report published by the ADL in February showed that the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose nearly 60 percent in 2017, marking the largest single-year increase the organization has ever recorded.
Trump’s administration has been fairly cavalier about the dangers of anti-Semitism, at times even peddling ugly stereotypes and conspiracy theories that promulgate bias. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last summer that he believed a special envoy dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism would actually interfere with the government’s efforts to combat bias.
A State Department official told HuffPost on Tuesday that although the envoy position remains vacant, “the Office of International Religious Freedom at the Department of State continues actively to support the mission of that office.”
“Combating anti-Semitism internationally is a priority for this administration,” the official said. “President Trump and Vice President Pence have publicly expressed their deep concern about high levels of anti-Semitism globally.”
This story has been updated with the State Department’s response.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/anti-semitism-rising-trump-won-202644450.html
Briefing by Russia’s Information and Press Department Director
by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org – Home – Stephen Lendman)
Information and Press Department director Artyom Kozhin (AK below) discussed Russia’s Foreign Ministry response to false Skripal incident accusations against the Kremlin, saying:
Blaming Moscow for what it had nothing to do with “constitutes an accusation against us without giving any evidence.”
European Council nations shamefully bowed to UK pressure in claiming “no plausible alternative explanation” about the Skripal incident – a bald-faced lie.
AK: “(E)very day more and more discrepancies” contradict the official narrative. Britain refuses to cooperate with Russia.
EU nations allied with Britain and Washington in conducting an “anti-Russia (smear) campaign…with an obvious goal to put another obstacle in the way of normalizing the situation on the European continent.”
On Syria, AK said conditions remain tense, international attention misreporting on East Ghouta liberating efforts.
“The goal is to eliminate the terrorist threat to Damascus from (US-supported) extremist armed groups, which took control of this densely populated suburb of the Syrian capital,” AK explained, adding:
“The operation is unusual in that to be successful, it is necessary to separate the terrorists from the civilians whom they are using as human shields.”
Around 90% of the enclave’s residents are now freed, leaving through Russian-established humanitarian corridors.
“Once free, the people started crying and talking about the suffering they experienced while held hostage by the terrorists. Their hatred of the extremist groups which arbitrarily killed civilians, robbed them of their property, appropriated humanitarian aid and forced ordinary people to starve, was running high,” AK explained.
Without international community help, they’ve been given vital humanitarian aid. Syrian forces captured foreign-supplied heavy and other weapons, along with 40 tons of CWs, mostly chlorine, to be used for terrorist attacks falsely blamed on Syria.
It’s unknown how much more of these CWs remain in the hands of US-supported terrorists. Most supplies are likely coming in cross-border from Turkey, Jordan and perhaps Israel. What’s been seized can be replenished for future planned attacks.
Turkish-supported terrorists seized Afrin in northern Syria from Kurdish control. Washington, its imperial partners, Ankara and US-supported terrorists flagrantly breached Security Council Res. 2401, calling for a 30-day nationwide ceasefire.
Fighting never stopped. War continues because Washington rejects resolving it diplomatically.
AK: “The security situation in Afghanistan causes us considerable concern. The Taliban movement is actively engaged in terrorist activities, systematically carrying out attacks in various parts of the country…”
“The activity of ISIS…remains an essential factor in the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan. ISIS is consistently increasing the number of militants in the north of the country. The network of ISIS camps set up in the north of Afghanistan for the training of militants…is cause for special concern.”
Washington is responsible for deploying ISIS terrorists to Afghanistan, part of its agenda for endless war in the country, now in its 18th year, no prospect for resolution in sight because neocons running US foreign policy oppose peace and stability throughout the region and beyond.
US-led NATO operations near Russia’s border in the Baltic Sea region have been increasing, AK explained, a disturbingly hostile sign, risking “dangerous incidents with far-reaching consequences,” he stressed.
AK: “We have noted the resumed frenzy in the German media and the spreading of reports on Russia’s involvement in an alleged attack on the computer system of the German government by Russian hackers. It is alleged that that attack damaged sensitive personal data of the German Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Defense.”
No Russian cyber attacks occurred against Germany or any other countries, no threatened ones.
Claims otherwise are malicious and false, fueled by Russophobic hysteria – orchestrated in Washington, European and other countries supporting its hostile anti-Russia agenda.
VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at email@example.com.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
On March 20, militants in the village of Ein Tarma in Eastern Ghouta, which is controlled by Faylaq al-Rahman (the al-Rahman Corps), launched rockets at the Kashkoul market in Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus with a mostly Christian and Druze population. According to the latest information, 37 people have been killed and another 35 wounded.
The Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides has reported that four attacks on Damascus originated from Eastern Ghouta that day. Four civilians were killed and two wounded in the Mezzeh municipality.
Moscow strongly condemns these heinous terrorist attacks as a link in the long chain of provocations aimed at disrupting the nascent positive trends in Eastern Ghouta and the rest of Syria. They are also evidence of the extremists’ stubborn disregard for the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2401.
In this context, any attempts to prevent the Syrian government army from eliminating the terrorist strongholds in Eastern Ghouta can be interpreted as the tacit encouragement of terrorists. Obviously, Syria does not need a situation where the terrorists have a free hand, but rather resolute progress towards restoring peace and unity in Syria through a political settlement based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi.
Source Article from http://www.voltairenet.org/article200299.html
We note with satisfaction that the situation in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus where terrorists and extremists had ruled supreme and had sporadically shelled the capital of Syria and committed other crimes for a long time, is now becoming more stable. The government forces have reestablished control over most of this district’s territory. Talks, now underway with credible members of military units, aim to end the confrontation as soon as possible.
At the same time, representatives of the Russian Armed Forces are conducting a unique and unprecedented in scale operation in keeping with the unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2401. The only aim of the operation is to help the residents of Eastern Ghouta. As a result of this operation, over 70,000 civilians have been evacuated via humanitarian corridors. In addition to this, the UN, the Syrian Red Crescent Society and the International Red Cross Committee have sent in three humanitarian convoys there.
Those Syrians who have escaped from Jihadist captivity are openly talking about the crimes of extremists and lawlessness, including the confiscation of humanitarian aid, the use of civilians as a human shield and efforts to hamper voluntary evacuation.
Representatives from the UN humanitarian agencies working on the ground unequivocally praise the efforts of Russia and Syria to resolve Eastern Ghouta’s humanitarian problems in extremely difficult conditions. However, it appears that these reports are being suppressed by senior UN Secretariat officials and are also being ignored by Western politicians as well as media outlets that prefer to circulate unverified and openly false stories, including those about the alleged use of chemical weapons by the government forces. Their only goal is to discredit Moscow and Damascus, no matter what.
The initiative of some Western members of the UN Security Council to hold a special meeting on March 19, to invite UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who is known for his biased and subjective opinions concerning the situation in Syria and in many other countries and whose actions as well as comments are unacceptable for such a senior UN official, and to review the human rights situation in Syria speaks volumes in the context of the propaganda campaign. But their plans aiming to organise yet another emotional show at the UN Security Council, to slander Russia and Syria and to formalise human rights matters in the Council’s agenda (in violation of its mandate) were not realised. Indicatively, this initiative did not receive the required support at the UN Security Council. Mr Al Hussein’s successor will have to work hard in order to restore the high reputation of the responsible position of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that he had undermined.
Source Article from http://www.voltairenet.org/article200294.html