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Tue, 15 Oct 2019
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More than 16,000 flee violence in Indonesia's Papua region

Indonesia Papua residents violence airport
© Antara Foto/Gusti Tanati/Reuters
Security officers stand guard as residents from Wamena arrive at Sentani Airport in Jayapura
Residents evacuate Wamena city, military says, following deadly protests fuelled by racism against indigenous Papuans.

More than 16,000 scared residents have fled an unrest-hit city in Indonesia's Papua region, the military said on Monday, as one of the deadliest eruptions of violence in years sparked calls for an independent investigation.

Several dozen people were killed when violence broke out in Wamena city last month, with some victims burned alive when buildings were ablaze, and others stabbed in the chaos, according to authorities.

Since mid-August, Papua has been hit by waves of mass protests and violence fuelled by racism against indigenous Papuans by Indonesians from other parts of the archipelago, as well as calls for self-rule in the impoverished region.

The majority of Papuans are Christian and ethnic Melanesian with few cultural ties to the rest of Muslim-majority Indonesia.


Passenger train from Germany showing signs of radioactivity causes alarm in Moscow

© Ruptly
A passenger train that arrived to Moscow from Germany was evacuated and inspected for elevated levels of radiation after causing alarm on the border crossing with Belarus. Officials said those on board were not in danger, however.

One of the cars in the train, which originated in Berlin, is said to have registered increased levels of background radiation during an inspection on the Belarus-Russia border. Upon arrival at Moscow's central Belorussky station on Tuesday evening, the entire train was evacuated, and the platform was sealed off by the police.

Specialists from the government watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, nuclear waste management company Radon, and city services personnel were all involved in the inspection. A mobile laboratory, which allows for rapid on-site analysis of samples, has also been deployed.


Baghdad protests: 15 killed in clashes with police

© AP/Hadi Mizban
Anti-government protesters take over a vehicle before they burn it during a demonstration in Baghdad.
At least 15 people were killed in Baghdad following clashes between Iraqi security forces and anti-government protesters as police continue to exert violence in ongoing rallies in the city, the Shafaq news agency reported on Monday, citing health officials.

According to the health sources, as cited by Shafaq, renewed clashes took place in the Sadr City suburb. Police used tear gas and bullets against the protesters.

On Sunday, the Waid news agency reported that clashes in Iraq's capital had renewed during the night, with the Iraqi Interior Ministry putting the overall death toll at 104 since the protests broke out last week.

On Saturday, Mustafa Saadun, the head of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, announced that about 450 people had been detained during the ongoing protests, with half of them being released.

Comment: From RFE/RL, 7/10/2019: Iraqi president condemns violence, vows reforms
Iraqi President Barham Salih has condemned violence against protesters after more than 100 people were killed in less than a week during antigovernment demonstrations across the country.

The wave of protests -- the deadliest unrest since the Islamic State (IS) extremist group was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 -- is seen as the first major challenge to Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi's government, nearly a year since he came to power.

In a televised speech on October 7, Salih also announced a series of measures to combat corruption and provide the better job opportunities and services demanded by protesters.

Iraqis have called for an end to a political system that has existed since 2003 when U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein.

Afterward, a government-appointment system was installed that is based on sectarian or ethnic quotas, rather than on merit, Renad Mansour, a research fellow at Chatham House, told BBC.

"Aggrieved Iraqis say this has allowed Shia, Kurdish, Sunni and other leaders to abuse public funds, enrich themselves and their followers and effectively pillage the country of its wealth with very little benefit to most citizens," he said.

"The right to protest and freedom of expression are guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution," Salih said. A committee of independent figures will be formed to open a dialogue with the protesters and come up with a "binding roadmap" to help the government fight corruption and provide better services.

Salih also proposed a government reshuffle and a review of the electoral law that meets the "national ambitions" of the people.
See also:
Rebellion in Iraq: Is someone trying to destabilize Iraq?


Ellen DeGeneres shredded by fans for failing to understand why being friendly with George W. Bush is worse than 'problematic'

george bush
© Reuters / Matthew Emmons
Bush and his wife at the fateful football game - just a normal friendly couple
Viewers tore into TV comedian Ellen DeGeneres after she offered a lukewarm 'can't we all just get along' explanation for laughing it up with former president and regime-change aficionado George W. Bush at a football game.

Assuming the fans' initial rage had to do with "a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president" at a Dallas Cowboys football game over the weekend, DeGeneres stressed that just because her political views didn't align with the president who started two long and bloody wars, didn't mean they couldn't be friends.

"I'm friends with George Bush. In fact, I'm friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs that I have," she said on her show on Tuesday, comparing her disagreements with Bush to disagreeing with her "friends who wear fur."



Presidential candidate Julián Castro escorted migrants to US southern border; all were returned to Mexico

Julian Castro
© Twitter
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro
Democrat presidential hopeful and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro escorted a group of migrants to the United States-Mexico border, but they were all returned to Mexico.

On Monday, Castro traveled to the Brownsville, Texas, region of the southern border where he escorted 13 migrants in Mexico to U.S. Border Patrol agents in an effort to get them released into the interior of the country while their asylum claims were adjudicated.

The Texas Civil Rights Project confirmed that all the migrants escorted to the border by Castro were returned to Mexico as part of President Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy. Castro said the migrants identify as "members of the LGTBQ community" who have been "beat up," and one is disabled.

"We presented them to these border agents and said that they should not be ... they should not be in Mexico," Castro said.

"The Trump administration has chosen cruelty," Castro said. In a separate post, Castro accused Trump of purposefully "killing people."

Comment: See also:


Putin awards NASA astronaut with Order of Courage after failed Soyuz rocket launch

Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin
© Yuri Kochetkov / Pool via
Nick Hague, top, and Alexey Ovchinin boarding a Soyuz spacecraft ahead of the October 2018 launch
Vladimir Putin has awarded the Order of Courage to a US astronaut for the bravery he showed during a failed rocket launch which was supposed to take him and his Russian crewmate to the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were all set to join the ISS in October 2018 when their Soyuz launch was dramatically aborted just minutes after take-off due to a booster malfunction.

It was the first such failure for a Russian manned space launch for decades.

Comment: The launch was probably sabotaged by the usual suspects.

Roscosmos chief says Soyuz rocket could have been sabotaged in Kazakhstan before launch

Which makes Putin's response that much more classy.


Again? Another massive industrial blaze breaks out in France, 100 firefighters deployed near Lyons, France

industrial fire
© яévolte fiscale/twitter
Over 100 firefighters and 30 fire engines are involved in tackling a huge blaze at an industrial site in Villeurbanne near Lyons, France which started early on Tuesday morning.

No injuries have been reported. Emergency services shared footage of the huge plumes of smoke barreling out from the building and of some of the damage already inflicted by the blaze.

First responders have asked people to avoid the area, but have said there are no concerns about materials at the site requiring containment. The smoke could be clearly seen from neighboring Lyons.

Comment: Something similar happened in France just 10 days ago:

Rouen residents rally after chem plant blaze: 'We want to know what we're breathing!'

Farmers banned from selling produce after French authorities admit Rouen inferno burned 5,200 tons of chemicals

Magic Hat

Are Nordic countries socialist? A note for the Bernie bros

bernie sanders
© Reuters
As the American left embraces a platform that continues to look more and more like a socialist's dream, it is common for those on the right to counter with the example of Venezuela as the nightmare of socialism in reality. A common response from the left is that socialism (or democratic socialism) works just fine in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. It is certainly true that Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark are notable economic successes. What is false is that these countries are particularly socialist.

The myth of Nordic socialism is partially created by a confusion between socialism, meaning government exerting control or ownership of businesses, and the welfare state in the form of government-provided social safety net programs. However, the left's embrace of socialism is not merely a case of redefining a word. Simply look at the long-running affinity of leftists with socialist dictators in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela for proof many on the left long for real socialism.

To the extent that the left wants to point to an example of successful socialism, not just generous welfare states, the Nordic countries are actually a poor case to cite. Regardless of the perception, in reality the Nordic countries practice mostly free market economics paired with high taxes exchanged for generous government entitlement programs.

Comment: The confusion of terms is probably deliberate. Some leftists say they want socialism, when they actually don't, because they don't even know what the word means. ("It sounds good, therefore it must be good.") Others can then call their conservative and libertarian critics idiots, because labeling them socialists is a low blow - they're actually moderate and don't want a socialist economy. The critics are just using the American aversion to the word "socialism" to discredit them. But then, in the same room, you can have actual idiots who want actual socialism, and the more moderate but ill-informed leftists can't tell the difference and just assume they all want the same things.

For example, actual American socialist organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Workers Party, and Socialist Party USA think Sanders doesn't go far enough. (He doesn't want to replace capitalism, just reform it.) But they still support his presidential campaign. The DSA even called him "the only socialist in American history with a serious chance of winning the presidency," despite the fact that he arguably isn't even a socialist according to their standards, as he doesn't want to eliminate capitalism. But it doesn't help that Sanders himself has embraced the label "socialist" for himself. In short it's a mess.


Unrest in Iraq: Death toll rises to 110 during anti-corruption, anti-US protests

Iraq protests
© Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images
The death toll rose to 110 people in Iraq after a night of violence between Sunday and Monday when 15 more people were killed. The victims, on whom security forces carried out a harsh crackdown, were protesters demanding the removal of the United States backed government.

Sunday night, the violence spread out to the volatile and poor district of Sadr City where a third of Baghdad's eight million people live in narrow alleys, many with little access to electricity, water, and jobs. Unrest has been historically difficult to put down in Sadr City.

The clashes between protesters and security forces over the last week have ended two years of relative calm, unseen in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Many Iraqis, especially young people, say entrenched government corruption means they received no benefit from returning stability after years of foreign occupation and sectarian civil war.


Bloody scandal: Son of UK patient infected with HIV & hepatitis by NHS advocates for victims' rights

blood bags
© REUTERS / Danish Siddiqui
The UK let thousands of patients with a rare blood disorder become infected with HIV and hepatitis. Everyone agrees it's a scandal, but the government won't take responsibility for it, a victims' rights advocate has said.

The so-called contaminated blood scandal started in the 1970s, when a new method was developed to treat hemophilia, a condition that prevents blood from clotting properly.

Sufferers were offered a drug produced from donor blood that could be administered at home rather than at hospital.

The government started importing it in large quantities from the United States, where relaxed safety rules and a practice of paying donors for their donations generated a larger supply. It also meant that some of the imported batches were infected with HIV and hepatitis, which were passed to hemophilia patients in the UK.

Jason Evans, son of one of hundreds of people who died prematurely because of the scandal, is now a campaigner for the rights of the victims of contaminated blood. On Tuesday a public inquiry into the scandal was relaunched after his advocacy group, Factor 8, managed to obtain evidence that senior officials in the Department of Health knew, as early as 1974, that patients were being given lethal diseases, but simply ignored the warnings.

Comment: See also: