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Colombian Victims Meet With FARC in Havana

Saturday, for the first time, some victims of the decades of violence in Colombia met directly with FARC members at the Peace Talks in Havana.

The victims told the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Havana that they were listened to by the negotiators with a great deal of respect.

I was glad to see the victims of the right-wing paramilitary groups were also included. Some in Colombia (mostly FARC victims it seems) didn't think it was appropriate but:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay praised the move, calling it unprecedented and a potential model for other countries dealing with issues of justice, peace and reconciliation.

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ISIS Slaughters Detained al Sha'etat Tribe Members

Ten days ago, ISIS captured these members of the al Sha'etat tribe in Deir Ezzor, Syria. I thought they were going to be killed immediately but ISIS gave them a reprieve, allowing them to repent. Non violent photos of them when they were captured are here and after the reprieve here.

Apparently, many either didn't repent or repented then rescinded, because today ISIS reported and showed photos of their slaughter. They were beheaded, crucified or otherwise executed and the photos are disgusting. I'm not linking to the photos, but it's clear they are the same young men.

Also today, ISIS supporters deny killing Yazidi civilians or that ISIS intends to do so. [More...]

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Monday Night Open Thread

Check out this photo in this article from the National Post on the people fleeing Sinjar. The caption is "Iraqis from the town of Sinjar head towards the autonomous Kurdistan region on Aug. 4, 2014, as they seek refuge after ISIS militants took control of their town." Photo credits are to "AP stringer/Getty Images."

Now check out this one from 2013 in the New York Times -- it's the same same photo. The caption says "Syria-Iraq border, August 2013."

You really have to watch the media. (This photo and this one are really from yesterday.)

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Mexico Will Repeal New Sinaloa Law Gagging Journalists

Yesterday the LA Times reported the state of Sinaloa in Mexico passed a law prohibiting journalists from reporting crime details not obtained from official state sources. Under the new law, scheduled to take effect in October, journalists would not be allowed to tour crime scenes, or take photos or record video and audio of them.

The outcry by journalists was immediate and justifiable. Today Sinaloa legislators announced they intend to repeal the law in a special session to be held August 21. They say they didn't read the bill closely enough and that they agree it is likely to impermissibly infringe on the ability of the media to do its job. According to the head of the Sinaloa legislature's political coordination committee (Diputación Permanente): [More...]

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Israel Announcement on Tunnel Operation and War

Update: Israel has concluded the soldier it believed to be captured by Hamas, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was killed in battle in Gaza on Friday. A special committee reviewed pathological evidence at the scene and other information and made the determination.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today announced that Israel's tunnel operation is almost complete and by tomorrow, all known tunnels will have been destroyed. It is pulling back some troops from Gaza, but Netanyahu made it clear Israel is not ending its ground war. He said Hamas will have a heavy price to pay if it continues to attack Israel. More from his announcement:

“Every option is on the table to ensure long-term quiet to the residents of Israel,” he said. “I won’t say when we’ll finish and where we’ll go. We have no obligation outside of our security concerns.”

Hamas responds: [More...]

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U.S. Blasts Hamas for Breaking Ceasefire and Seizing Israeli Soldier

Update: Hamas' military wing, al Qassam Brigades, has released this statement:

“The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades has no information on this soldier. We have lost contact with one of our combatant groups, which was fighting in the sector where the soldier went missing and it is possible that our fighters and this soldier were killed,” the group said in a statement
They also say:

"We have no idea about where the Israeli soldier is or what is the situation. "We lost contact with the group who made the suicide mission near Rafah after it was done. "We believe everyone in this group was killed by an Israeli air strike including the Israeli soldier who the Israelis are talking about having disappeared."

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Israel Says Fate of One Soldier in Ambush is "Unclear"

Update: since writing the post below, the Israeli Defense Forces have posted on Twitter that they are trying to "identify" (not locate) the 7th soldier. Nor do they describe him as "missing."

A vehicle carrying 7 soldiers was attacked July 20. We have identified 6 of their bodies. Efforts to identify the 7th soldier are ongoing.

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On Sunday, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prossor, denied Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier.

Yet, today the Israeli Army says the fate of the one of the seven soldiers in an armored vehicle in Shujaiyeh, Gaza that was attacked by Hamas is "unclear." He is classified as "missing" but presumed dead. [More...]

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Israel Denies Hamas Captured Israeli Soldier

Earlier today, Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed it captured an Israeli soldier, Shaul Aron. Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prossor, now denies the claim.

"There's no kidnapped Israeli soldier and those rumours are untrue," said Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor.

It appears the soldier, whose name is Oron Shaul, was one of 13 Israeli soldiers killed yesterday, but was not captured alive. Hamas may have found his identification, or it may have taken his name from this leaked list of the 13 soldiers who were killed. The list is not from an official source.

Prior to the official denial, many reporters and analysts on Twitter doubted the claim. Here's why. [More...]

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Obama Blames Pro-Russian Separatists, Putin Blames Ukranians

The blame game continues as to who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. President Obama blames the pro-Russian rebels. So does British Prime Minister David Cameron. Russian President Putin blames the Ukranian armed forces. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk urged Western leaders to 'bring justice to those b*******' who brought down the flight. Obama also said that one American with dual citizenship with the Netherlands was on board.

Republicans in Congress are already using the tragedy to call for an increase in defense spending. This tragedy does not call for a military response by the U.S. This is not our fire, we didn't start it, it wasn't directed at us, and whether it was pro-Russian rebels or the Ukranians, they weren't intending to attack the United States. We can help with the investigation into who shot down the plane (which we are already doing)and press for a cease-fire and restitution for the families of the victims from those ultimately deemed responsible, but using the tragedy to call for increased military spending by the U.S. is just political gamesmanship.

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"Shot Out of the Sky": 1 American, Multiple Children on Board

Update: Later information shows either 1 American was on board.

Among those on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which was shot down over the Ukraine, near the town of Grabovo, not far from the Russian border: 9 Britons, 23 Americans (later revised to 1 or 3) and 80 children. All 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers were killed. The passengers were from all over: 154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 38 Malaysians. Also: 11 Indonesians, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian. Some of those aboard were headed to an AIDS conference in Melbourne.

Here's a reason it's nice to still have print publications: Check out the front page of Friday's Independent, "Shot Out of the Sky." [More...]

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Hamas Rejects Egypt's Proposal for Cease Fire

Egypt proposed a cease-fire plan for Israel and Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted it and will bring it to a vote before the Israeli Security Cabinet in the morning. (Added: The Israeli Security Cabinet has now approved it.) cabinet has approved it.)

Hamas has rejected it.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri already rejected the proposal late Monday night on the grounds that "we are still under occupation and resistance is the right of our people."

Here is the text of Egypt's proposal.

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Israel to Treat Alleged Killers of Palestinian Child as Terrorists

Israel's Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, today said the alleged kidnappers and killers of Palestinian teen, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, believed to be Jewish extremists, will be treated as harshly as Arab terrorists. Six are under arrest for the murder.

“These debased murderers don’t represent the Jewish people or its values, and they must be treated as terrorists,” the defense minister said. “We will not allow Jewish terrorists from our midst to disrupt the fabric of the many different communities in the state of Israel, and to harm innocents just because they are Arabs.” ...“We must battle the perpetrators [of such actions], and those who deploy them, with an iron fist.”

If a Jew kills they will be put to the court like any other criminal. There is no privilege, the law is equal to all and all are equal before the law. On that there is no compromise. We do not distinguish between blood and blood. The murder of a child is reprehensible, regardless of the religion or nationality of the child. It is our responsibility to secure life and to punish those who take it away from others.”

Israeli President Shimon Press said:[More...]

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Who Killed the Prisoners in the Military Convoy in Babil Province?

Bump and Update: We have the answer. As I suggested below on June 23, it was the police and army forces, not ISIS, who killed the inmates being transferred from one prison in Hillah to another. Will the Wall St. Journal and others issue a correction? As of now, the WSJ article still headlines "At Least 81 Iraqis Killed in Sunni Rebel Attack on Convoy" and begins:
Sunni militants brought their campaign against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki closer to Baghdad on Monday, attacking a police convoy just 20 miles from the center of the capital and triggering a shootout that left at least 81 people dead.

Original Post 6/23

Did major media, in a rush to get out breaking news, publish unreliable reports from one-sided sources and get it backwards? [More...]

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ISIS Holds Parade in Mosul, Encircles Baghdad

ISIS held a victory parade in Mosul today. You can view all the photos here. It was a big turnout, and lasted into the evening. Noticeably absent from the photos: women. I saw one figure that looked like a female in all of them (to the right of the headlights) and given her trench coat and purse and black head scarf, I'm wondering if she wasn't a reporter.

ISIS got whacked by Syrian jets near Al-Qa'im and Rutbah today. They lost some men, including Sheikh Abdul Majeed al Otaibi (@OT_48 on Twitter). They also were able to take two towns south of Baghdad, Iskandariya and Mahmoudiya.

The U.S. has sent its first group of advisors to Iraq. Here's the transcript of the Defense Department briefing.[More...]

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Saudi Arabia Seizes Shipment of 1/2 Ton Cocaine from S.A.

The penalty for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia is death, which it carries out regularly through public beheadings. Either the death penalty is not much of a deterrent, or some people are pretty confident they won't get caught.

The Saudi Government announced today it seized 1/2 ton of cocaine (526 kilograms)at the port of Jeddah on June 7. The drugs were in a shipment of refills of photocopy paper that came from an unspecified country in South America.

Where did the drugs ship from? Ecuador is a possibility. Last week, the foreign minister of Ecuador announced on Twitter that 4 tons of drugs had been seized at the port of Guayaquil, bound for Saudi Arabia. (The police later corrected him and said it was 400 kilos.) In January, 227 kilos were seized en route to Saudi Arabia from Ecuador hidden in pineapples. In April, 600 kilograms were seized en route from Ecuador to Saudi Arabia. hidden in bananas.[More...]

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