Tag Archives: Government

Russian troops join combat in Syria

Russian forces have begun participating in military operations in Syria in support of government troops, three Lebanese sources familiar with the political and military situation there said on Wednesday.

The sources, speaking to Reuters on condition they not be identified, gave the most forthright account yet from the region of what the United States fears is a deepening Russian military role in Syria’s civil war, though one of the Lebanese sources said the number of Russians involved so far was small.

U.S. officials said Russia sent two tank landing ships and additional cargo aircraft to Syria in the past day or so and deployed a small number of naval infantry forces.

The U.S. officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the intent of Russia’s military moves in Syria was unclear. One suggested the focus may be on preparing an airfield near the port city of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials have not ruled out the possibility that Russia may want to use the airfield for air combat missions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to his Russian counterpart for the second time in four days to express concern over reports of Russian military activities in Syria, warning that it could fan more violence.

The White House said it was closely monitoring the situation.

Russia says the Syrian government must be incorporated into a shared global fight against Islamic State, the Islamist group that has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq. The United States and Assad’s regional foes see him as part of the problem.

“We would welcome constructive Russian contributions to the counter-ISIL effort, but we’ve been clear that it would be unconscionable for any party, including the Russians, to provide any support to the Assad regime,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, using an acronym for Islamic State.


Assad’s forces have faced big setbacks on the battlefield in a four-year-old multi-sided civil war that has killed 250,000 people and driven half of Syria’s 23 million people from their homes.

Syrian troops pulled out of a major air base last Wednesday, and a monitoring group said this meant government soldiers were no longer present at all in Idlib province, most of which slipped from government control earlier this year.

Moscow confirmed it had “experts” on the ground in Syria, its long-time ally in the Middle East.
But Russia has declined to comment on the scale and scope of its military presence. Damascus denied Russians were involved in combat, but a Syrian official said the presence of experts had increased in the past year.

Reflecting Western concern, Germany’s foreign minister warned Russia against increased military intervention, saying the Iran nuclear deal and new U.N. initiatives offered a starting point for a political solution to the conflict.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said reports of growing Russian military activity in Syria were a cause for concern, while France said it made finding a political solution to the crisis more complicated.

Two of the Lebanese sources said the Russians were establishing two bases in Syria, one near the coast and one further inland which would be an operations base.

“The Russians are no longer just advisors,” one of the sources said. “The Russians have decided to join the war against terrorism.”


Moscow’s only naval base in the Mediterranean is at Tartous on the Syrian coast in territory held by Assad, and keeping it secure would be an important strategic objective for the Kremlin.

Another of the Lebanese sources said that so far any Russian combat role was still small: “They have started in small numbers, but the bigger force did not yet take part … There are numbers of Russians taking part in Syria but they did not yet join the fight against terrorism strongly.”

The Syrian official said: “Russian experts are always present but in the last year they have been present to a greater degree.”

Officials in the United States, which is fighting an air war against the Islamist militant group Islamic State in Syria and also opposes Assad’s government, have said in recent days that they suspect Russia is reinforcing to aid Assad.

Washington has put pressure on countries nearby to deny their air space to Russian flights, a move Moscow denounced on Wednesday as “international boorishness”.

Russia has set out the case for supporting Assad in the most forthright terms yet in the past few days, likening the Western approach to Syria to failures in Iraq and Libya.

Part of the diplomatic quarrel has centred around use of air space for flights, which Moscow says bring humanitarian aid but U.S. officials say may be bringing military supplies.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Wednesday that multiple Russian flights have passed over the airspace of Iran and Iraq to reach Syria.


The State Department said Russian use of Iranian airspace would not be surprising, given Tehran’s past support for Assad.

Spokesman John Kirby said the United States had advised “partners and our friends to ask the Russians tough questions about” overflight requests. He did not elaborate, saying only: “I’m not gonna detail diplomatic conversations.”

To avoid flying over Turkey, one of Assad’s main enemies, Russia has sought to fly planes over Balkan states, but Washington has urged them to deny Moscow permission.

On Tuesday, Bulgaria refused a Russian request to use its airspace citing doubts about the cargo on board. It said on Wednesday it would allow Russian supply flights to Syria to use its airspace only if Moscow agreed to checks of their cargo at a Bulgarian airport.

Turkey has not officially confirmed a ban on Russian flights to Syria but says it considers any requests to fly over its air space to Syria on a case by case basis.

Thus far in the war, Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah have been Assad’s main sources of military support. The momentum turned against Assad earlier this year.

In the latest setback, state television reported government troops had surrendered an air base in northwestern Syria to a rebel alliance after nearly two years under siege.

This meant the last government troops had withdrawn from central Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the conflict.

The Tories Are Set to Destroy Our Country

The day after the election one BBC commentator perfectly articulated the misleading narrative that has propelled the Conservative party into victory. He suggested that voters now had to ‘make a choice between social justice and economic efficiency’, with economic efficiency apparently being the obvious choice.

The Conservatives have won this election by painting all deviations from their ‘long-term economic plan’ as absurd and dangerous, aided by a Labour Party utterly unable to form a counter narrative, a deliciously hypocritical yet depressingly successful manoeuvre. They have, just as Thatcher did, managed to convince just enough of the electorate that there are ‘no alternatives’ to austerity, privatisation, poverty and inequality to romp home to victory. This clever ploy may have boosted them to a majority in the Commons, but it’ll bring the country to its knees.

Higher levels of state spending may be sneered at by The Sun but thankfully people with actual souls and brains realise that it is both a morally right and economically sound thing to do. To continue to believe that a small state and big business, achieved by austerity, privatisation and deregulation has even the minutest ability to solve our problems is to ignore economic evidence and historical precedent. The best way out of a recession and to get the economy going is for the populace to start spending more: government cuts restrict certain sections of the public from being able to do just that. Cuts look good in the short term but help no one in the long term. The U.S spent their way out the biggest recession in history, why did we assume we couldn’t?

Even the IMF (an organisation that has been forcing austerity upon developing countries for decades) has recently admitted that it had ‘massively underestimated the effects of austerity’ and that much of the research supporting it had been discredited. Nobel Laureate and economics professor Paul Krugman described the ideology as ‘intellectually bankrupt’, deriding Cameron for following an economic approach that has long been abandoned by others. Krugman points out that the little growth the UK has enjoyed over the past parliament only came about post-2012, when the worst of the cuts were already over.

Inequality is also estimated to have kept our economy a good 20% smaller than it would otherwise have been, a problem set only to worsen under a government determined to cut top rates of tax and inheritance tax whilst slashing welfare and worker’s rights. The truth is that state spending, done properly, is an investment that can produce economic returns. Much of the economic evidence is now suggesting that the potential for state spending to fiscally multiply (i.e gain the country money in the long run) has been underestimated, meaning the damage austerity can actually do is much higher. As strange as it sounds, the best way to reduce the deficit can be at times be to spend more in the short term. This also has the minor side effect of improving, rather than ruining, people’s lives too.

The Conservative’s complete failure to grasp this has already left us with a dark legacy. Over a million using food banks per year, at least 1.4 million zero-hours contracts , almost a third of all children are living in poverty, nearly 50,000 people dying simply because they couldn’t heat their home and we have burgeoning private debt. This is on top of tripled tuition fees, cuts to legal aid, massive public sector job losses and arbitrary and unthinking welfare caps (now set to be lower than even the minimum wage).

The future looks equally as bleak. Research by Oxfam suggests that an additional 800,000 British children will live in poverty over the next decade, as well as an extra 1.5 million working age adults, and by 2018, 900,000 public sector workers will have lost their jobs: and this is just based off what the Tories have already done. The very real possibility of even higher tuition fees and student debt, £12 billion of welfare cuts (that we’ve just seen will actually hold back growth as well put many others in misery) and cuts to various government departments look set to plunge us even further into a broken ideological crusade.

Our freedom, that rally call for many on the right, is also in for a hit. The ‘Snoopers’ Charter is back on the agenda, giving the government increased powers to snoop on your calls, texts and emails even if you’re not suspected of any crime. The chilling phrase tucked away in their Bill of British Rights proposal hints of the future of our human rights too: “There will be a threshold below which Convention rights will not be engaged.” What this essentially means is that your human rights will no longer be unequivocal: this government gets to determine what they are and when they apply. Then there’s the flip side of giving more rights to corporations (highlighting the truly backward and depraved morality we must now endure) enshrined in TTIP, allowing corporations to sue governments for any potential loss of profit, effectively destroying the NHS and any chance of environmental regulation crucial to halting climate change.

This is without even getting onto deeper and systemic issues concerning spiralling national and global inequality and the degradation of the planet that continuous growth and consumerism is inflicting upon us, issues the Tories are not just ignoring but actively exacerbating.

A blind reliance on perpetual growth and deregulated business to somehow make things ok sounds dubious theoretically: in practice it has proven to be downright disastrous. The next 5 years will see our treasured public services carved up for the rich, it’ll see increasing divisions and hostility between sections of society, the most vulnerable hit harder again and again, our freedoms eroded and irreparable damage due to climate change draw ever closer.

Many have pointed out that we’ve had an election and the Tories won it (even though they obtained less than 4 in 10 of the votes), so those that don’t like it need to just get over it. This not only fails to grasp just how catastrophic the next 5 years are going to be, but also profoundly misunderstands what democracy is about. Through a media that treats us as consumers, not citizens, and an aloof and archaic political system we have been fed the message that politics is a game played by the elite, watched by us.

A true democracy is where we are constantly engaging in the political conversation: our power does not start and end on election day, we have it all year round. So I will not sit silently as thousands suffer and die and the rich obtain even more power and wealth. I will be protesting, blogging, organising, debating and fighting this government with every inch of my being because that’s what is needed to save lives, and that’s what my democracy not only allows me but implores me to do. I hope that you’ll join me

Decriminalise ganja spliff now — Grange

OPPOSITION Spokesperson on Youth, Culture and Entertainment Olivia “Babsy” Grange has called on government to amend legislation to decriminalise possession of small amounts of ganja and to expunge the records of those persons, including artistes, who have been convicted for having a ‘spliff’.

Grange said that during recent discussions with a number of individuals in the music industry as well as young persons from various communities on different matters affecting them, she was again faced with how many lives are being affected by government’s delay in decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana.

According to Grange, the former administration had already started the process.

“A Cabinet decision had been taken and a Ministry Paper tabled in Parliament proposing to, through legislation, decriminalise possession of small amounts, and to expunge records of those persons previously convicted of such possession. After almost three years in office, when public and international attitudes have become even more supportive of the idea, the present administration continues to drag its feet,” Grange said.

She further pointed out that while the government delays in making changes to legislation, each week hundreds are locked up, prosecuted and fingerprinted for what is in essence, a victimless crime. “They are left with criminal records which define and constrain their entire potential,” she said.

“The horrible irony is that when they can’t get jobs, it adds to rising levels of unemployment and makes them even more susceptible to engaging in criminal activities,” she said, adding that the time had long come to change that.

Grange said she is of the understanding that magistrates can use their discretion regarding fingerprinting, and asked whether in these changing times, and pending new legislation, they might not apply a different context when deciding whether or not to fingerprint individuals for possession of small amounts of ganja.

“My focus, in urging the government to act now, is on the damage to the potential of young persons, most of whom are poor and from the inner cities. We must take every opportunity to reduce their marginalisation, and to create opportunities for employment. This issue also specifically affects young artistes who by reason of being caught with a single spliff find themselves unable to get a visa to travel and grow their careers, ” she argued.

My Heart Bleeds

My heart bleeds to see headlines like This is what drinking 24 cans,7 pints and a bottle of whatever every day does to 35 years old or whoever.

Has anyone ever stop to think or asked the question,”Did Alcohol ever says to anyone drink me or else?”, I guess the answer is no.

We all know the Medical effect of Alcoholic Consumption but seems to ignored such fact after which we then proceed to blame the Drinks and the Government for not doing much to help reduce these risk.

Firstly I believed that everyone should take responsibility for their own action, no body forces anyone to drink alcohol or take drugs, but most people sees these things as the only solution to whatsoever problems that they may have in life.

As for the young lady who is trapped in her bed with Cirrhosis to her liver,rotten teeth,cannot speak or feed herself,I am very sorry for her, but this was her doings, a choice that she made of her own free will. How many of us who read these stories ever acknowledge the very serious effect of Alcoholism,a few if any, but my message is Stop blaming Alcohol and the Government and point to yourself for what may befalls you of which ever alcohol or drugs abuse that you have chosen.

G4S and Serco face £50 million fraud inquiry

English: Serco central depot, Bar End Road, Wi...
English: Serco central depot, Bar End Road, Winchester (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Serco building next to DLR depot @ Poplar
English: Serco building next to DLR depot @ Poplar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whitehall contracts running into billions of pounds are being urgently reviewed after the Government disclosed that two major firms had charged the taxpayer to monitor non-existent electronic tags, some of which had been assigned to dead offenders.

In an announcement that throws the Coalition’s privatisation drive into disarray, the Serious Fraud Office was called in to investigate G4S, the world’s largest security company, over contracts dating back over a decade.

Serco, one of Britain’s largest companies, also faces an inquiry by auditors over its charges for operating tagging schemes.

The firms supply an array of services to the public sector from running courts, prisons and immigration removal centres to managing welfare-to-work schemes and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Between them the two companies receive around £1.5bn a year from the taxpayer, but their contracts are worth billions of pounds because the vast majority run for several years.

They were also hoping to cash in on moves by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to hand them further large contracts to operate prisons and supervise offenders in the community.

The process of awarding all contracts was put on hold last night as the inquiries got underway.

The MoJ began investigating all its agreements with the two firms, including the running of major prisons, while the Cabinet Office started scrutinising all other Government contracts with G4S and Serco.

Shares in both companies fell sharply after the announcement by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary.

Shares in G4S – which suffered torrid publicity over its mishandling of the last year’s London Olympics security contract – finished the day 12.6p down at 213p. Serco tumbled by 54p to 626.5p.

Each of the companies relies heavily on Britain both for income and burnishing its international reputation. The move by the Government is unlikely to result in the wholesale loss of contracts, as the firms have few competitors of the same size but is a blow to their standing worldwide.
Mr Grayling’s announcement came after an audit discovered G4S and Serco had overcharged taxpayers by up to £50m, billing them for offenders who were dead, back in custody or had left the country. According to one MoJ source, the companies charged for 18,000 offenders when the actual number was around 15,000.

Mr Grayling said latest estimates suggested taxpayers had been overcharged by the companies to the tune of “low tens of millions” since the electronic monitoring contracts were signed in 2005. He also disclosed that ministry staff could have known about the practice for five years and face possible disciplinary action.

He said in a Commons statement: “The House will share my astonishment that two of the Government’s biggest suppliers would seek to charge in this way.

”The House will also be surprised and disappointed to learn that staff in the Ministry of Justice were aware of the potential problem and yet did not take adequate steps to address it.“

Mr Grayling said he was asking the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the G4S contracts as the company had refused to co-operate with a further audit to rule out wrongdoing.

An investigation by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that overcharging could have dated back as far back as 1999 when earlier contracts were signed.

Serco has agreed to withdraw from the current tender process for an electronic monitoring contract worth up to £1m, while Mr Grayling plans moves to exclude G4S as it is still attempting to bid.

Serco had also been the leading bidder for prison contracts in Yorkshire, but Mr Grayling will delay their award until the fresh audit is complete.

An urgent review of contract management across the Ministry of Justice’s major contracts has also been launched and will report by autumn, he said.

G4S and Serco were also among companies preparing to bid for a range of payment-by-results contracts to supervise low to medium-level offenders across England and Wales.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers union, said: ”We’ve long maintained that these companies are unfit for purpose when it comes to holding important public contracts. The outcome of the initial investigation into G4S and Serco suggests a good deal of malpractice has been discovered.“

Ashley Almanza, the G4S group chief executive, said: ”We place the highest premium on customer service and integrity and therefore take very seriously the concerns expressed by the Ministry of Justice. We are determined to deal with these issues in a prompt and appropriate manner.“

Serco Group‘s chief executive, Christopher Hyman, said: ”Serco is a business led by our values and built on the strength of our reputation for integrity.

“These values lie at the heart of the many thousands of our people who are endeavouring to deliver the highest standard of service to our customers around the world. We are deeply concerned if we fall short of the standards expected of all of us.”

Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: “Given the scale of the allegations, the Government must immediately call in the police and the Serious Fraud Office to investigate both companies as fraud has potentially taken place.”

Security breach: Other G4S fiascos

* G4S faced fierce criticism last year following the botched handling of its Olympics security contract. It failed to deliver the numbers of security staff it had promised and the Government was forced to bring in additional armed forces personnel. The firm will take a £70m hit over the bungled contract with Games organisers, Locog.

* Earlier this week an inquest jury ruled an Angolan man who died after being restrained by three G4S guards as he was being deported from the UK was unlawfully killed. Jimmy Mubenga, 46, died on a plane bound for Angola in October 2010. The Crown Prosecution Service said it would reconsider its decision not to bring criminal charges in the wake of the verdict.

* In January, multimillion-pound plans by three police forces to outsource services to G4S collapsed. Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, said the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Strategic Alliance had discontinued negotiations with the firm.

However, last month it was revealed Lincolnshire’s police force now spends the lowest amount per head of population on policing in England and Wales after it handed over the bulk of its back-office functions to G4S.

‘Me know nuff gunman’ – Cop tells woman during quarrel

A vendor who accused a police corporal of taking fruits from her stall in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, and refusing to pay for them, got a scolding from the lawman when she grumbled about it last Thursday.

“Wha you seh a while a go, seh you nuh like police,” the corporal from the Island Special Constabulary Force demanded from the female.

“Cause if a dat you seh eno, you can’t stay ya so,” he told the woman, in reference to the spot where she and other vendors had their wares on display.

‘a you me no like’

Seeking to explain herself, the vendor responded saying she does not have a problem with the police, “a you me no like.”

She later told THE STAR that her dislike for the policeman was because on more than one occasion he has taken fruits from her stall but has refused to pay.

However, her explanation only infuriated the police corporal who was dressed in full uniform and was apparently on patrol with a subordinate.

“Me no fraid a nobody eno cause none a oonu caan do me nutten. Me know the baddest set a gunman and badman dem,” boasted the lawman, who by then was enraged.

He then demanded that the female vendor remove her stall.

“As a matter of fact, lef ya so,” he ordered, as his subordinate tried to restrain him.

“Are you an imbecile ma’am, are you an imbecile?” he shouted to the woman as he was being ushered away by his subordinate.

Girl’s body found naked in front of church .

English: Title: Ms. 3 Weddasé Māryām, Anqaṣa B...
English: Title: Ms. 3 Weddasé Māryām, Anqaṣa Berhān, Yewédeswā Malā’ekt, Mālk’ā Māryām, Malek’ā Eyasus Project : Ethiopic Manuscripts Content Type : Manuscript (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Ethiopian orthodox church in Addis Abeba
English: Ethiopian orthodox church in Addis Abeba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Taken in Jeffery Manor, Chicago, IL, United States
Taken in Jeffery Manor, Chicago, IL, United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Soldiers of the United States Army Criminal In...
Soldiers of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division inspecting a crime scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The rock-hewn Church of Saint George in Lalibe...
The rock-hewn Church of Saint George in Lalibela, Ethiopia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Crowds gather at the Fasiladas' bath in Gondar...
Crowds gather at the Fasiladas’ bath in Gondar, Ethiopia, to celebrate Timket – the Epiphany for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Chapel of the Tablet at the Church of Our ...
The Chapel of the Tablet at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion allegedly houses the original Ark of the Covenant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Abeba
English: Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Abeba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

RESIDENTS of 89 Maxfield Avenue were in shock yesterday morning as they woke up to find the body of a naked teenaged girl at the gates of the St Phillips Anglican Church.
The body was not identified up to press time yesterday but a police officer on the scene told the Jamaica Observer that the deceased appeared to be between the ages of 16 and 19.
“She appears to be an adolescent,” said the policeman from the St Andrew South Police Division who secured the crime scene.
A report from the Constabulary Communication Network said the body was of brown complexion, slim build, about 163 centimetres (5 feet 4 inches) long with braided extensions.
Police said the body had several stab wounds in the neck and abdomen. A bloodied underwear was found several feet from where the body lay in a pool of blood and the brassiere was cut off her body.
The young woman‘s unclad body was near the entrance to the Norman Manley High School and due to police yellow tape some students of the institution were inconvenienced as they were prevented from entering school as officers tried to preserve the crime scene.
Staff at Norman Manley High, Glenhope Place of Safety and the Maxfield Park Children’s Home — all located at that section of Maxfield Avenue which is close to the communities of Frog City and McDonald Lane — were given a chance to view the corpse in a bid to ascertain the victim’s identity. However, none of the persons who viewed the body were able to identify her.
“It seems she was not from around here either as none of the residents who saw her could identify her. No one seems to know her,” a policeman said.
One man who resides at the nearby Ethiopian Orthodox Church complained that thieves were plaguing persons who traversed the road on foot and said a woman was robbed of her cellular phone and slashed several times as she made her way to work one morning about 8:00 am.
“This road is very dangerous as they rob people very regularly even in the day. We have reported this to the police and asked them to patrol the road regularly. It gets worse at night as the road is pitch dark. The thieves use the football field as their escape route,” he said, suggesting that those robbers could be responsible for the young woman’s demise.
A woman who had gathered behind the yellow tape said it was possible that the young woman was raped and killed at the spot where her body was found. “It coulda happen right there as when night come not many people walk around there,” she said.
After the police handed over the body to funeral home workers and the curious crowd converged on the spot where the woman’s body lay, a knife blade was seen at the blood-soaked earth by the residents who showed iti to the police.
The blade was retrieved and taken into evidence.
The police said vaginal swabs will be conducted on the body to find out if the female was sexually abused.