Turkish police search villas in Khashoggi investigation
By SUZAN FRASER
Monday, November 26
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Police searched a mansion in northwestern Turkey belonging to a Saudi citizen on Monday after investigators determined that the man had been in contact with one of the suspects in the slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish officials said.
Crime scene investigators and other officials, aided by sniffer dogs and a drone, scoured the luxury villa near the town of Termal, in Yalova province, and later expanded their search to the grounds of the neighboring villa, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.
Police spent around 10 hours searching the two villas for the journalist’s remains, Anadolu reported, without saying if any evidence or trace had been found.
The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said Mansour Othman Abbahussain — a member of a 15-person squad sent from Riyadh to kill Khashoggi — had contacted the mansion’s owner, Mohammed Ahmed Alfaozan, by telephone a day before Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 killing.
“It is being assessed that this conversation was geared toward the disposal (or) the hiding of Jamal Khashoggi’s body after its dismemberment,” the prosecutor’s statement read. It did not mention any possible findings at the site.
Turkey has maintained pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of the U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post. Khashoggi was a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A 15-member assassination squad sent from Riyadh strangled and dismembered Khashoggi. His remains have yet to be found.
Ankara insists the orders for the killing came from the highest levels of the Saudi government, but not King Salman. The Saudi agents blamed for the killing included some members of the crown prince’s security entourage.
Saudi Arabia initially said Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate before shifting its account of what happened amid Turkish intelligence leaks. Riyadh is now seeking the death penalty for five members of the hit squad in a move that appeared to be aimed at defusing international outrage over the killing and distancing the operation from the crown prince.
Saudi prosecutors maintain that the 15-man team sent to Istanbul exceeded its authority when the lead negotiator in the team decided to kill Khashoggi for refusing orders to return.
Anadolu agency, without naming a source, said the owner of the mansion was outside of Turkey at the time of the killing and had not returned in the past two months. The focus of the search was a well on the grounds of the first villa, which was being drained of water with special equipment brought to the scene, the agency reported.
WHY ARE WE ALLOWING YEMEN TO STARVE?
By J.P. Linstroth
Some have dubbed the Yemeni civil war “the forgotten war.” It seems more intentionally ignored.
It is a humanitarian crisis on a mass scale. According to recent reports by United Nations officials as many as 14 million Yemenis are on the verge of dying from starvation. Save the Children, an international humanitarian organization, issued a report documenting some 84,700 children under five years old have starved to death since the US started “helping” Saudi Arabia wage the war in 2015.
How can the world simply stand by and let this humanitarian crisis happen? Moreover, what is to be done about it?
Yemen’s latest civil war began in 2015 and has directly killed as many as 56,000 people by bomb and gun, and far more by starvation. The country itself is considered to be the poorest in the Middle East. The war has caused the economy to collapse with the currency almost worthless and no job opportunities. Food is inaccessible.
According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), more than three million civilians have been displaced since the war commenced. Two-thirds of the 29 million population are food-insecure. This number includes three million children, as well as pregnant women and nursing mothers—all severely malnourished. Since 2016 more than 2,500 civilians have died from a cholera epidemic with at least a million people infected.
Conflicts in and around Yemen originated long before 2015, some claim as far back as the Sunni-Shia conflict which began in the 7th century, but more recent events, from the consequences from British and French colonialism, the outcome of World War I, and the Cold War have all exacerbated inner strife in that poor nation.
In 1991, Yemen opposed the US-led and as a result Western financial aid for Yemen was cut off. As financial woes plagued Yemen, vice president Ali Salem al Biedh, and former president of PDRY, led an unsuccessful secession effort and civil war to separate from the north in 1994.
In 1997 Al-Quaeda forces called for jihadi insurrection and instability in the east of the country (and along with ISIL still control a third of the country in the east). By 2004 in northern Yemen, Zaidi Shiite rose against the government and called themselves “Houthis” after their assassinated leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, also known as “Ansar Allah” (“supporters of God”).
Fast forward to 2011 and the “Arab Spring,” when Saleh tried holding on to power but could not. This was a period of massive protests in the streets of Yemen for reform as happened throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Saleh was replaced by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi who promised reforms but could not deliver.
The growing frustration and lack of reform in Yemen caused the civil war in 2015 with the Houthis rebelling in the north and garnering more support from the population and from former President Saleh.
The Houthis gained footholds in the west, overtaking the capital of Sana’a, and forcing into exile, President Hadi to Saudi Arabia. As a result, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait, declared the Houthi occupation a coup d’ état while Iran was accused of aiding the Houthi rebellion.
The Kingdom of Saud formed an international coalition to restore the exiled Hadi government. The coalition is composed of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal, and Sudan, with logistical support from the United States and Great Britain. This coalition has carried out continuous aerial bombardments against Houthi rebels and civilian infrastructure along with fighting the insurgents through coalition soldiers. In 2017 Saleh was assassinated by the Houthis in part because he tried diplomacy with the Saudis as well as accusations of corruption.
Since Saleh’s death, the civil war has gone from bad to worse for the civilian population with the majority of people in Yemen on the verge of starvation.
The Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation (WPF), anthropologist Alex de Waal, has claimed that recent strategic tactics of warfare have included “mass starvation” from economic blockades and militarily targeting civilian populations and their food production. A major concern is whether or not those responsible for such tactics will be ultimately penalized as no such sanctions currently exist in international law.
A report by anthropologist Martha Mundy cites how coalition forces have been militarily targeting civilian food production in Yemen, especially farmlands and fishing boats. Additionally, economic blockades have been systematically used by the coalition to contain the Houthis, all resulting in mass starvation in Yemen.
This past week, as of November 14th, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KAS) coalition forces have put a temporary ceasefire in place to allow critical humanitarian supplies to reach the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. How long this ceasefire will last is anyone’s guess.
The International Red Cross (IRC) has demanded the following humanitarian measures be taken immediately: combatants must: spare civilians and save civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools; avoid civilian zones in combat; allow for free civilian passage away from warfare; allow for the free movement of medicine and food to reach civilian populations; and allow for humanitarian aid to operate within the country.
In sum, all of us—all people across the United States and across the globe—should be very concerned about systematic starvation of civilian populations as a war tactic. This needs to stop. There needs to be accountability for such humanitarian atrocities and there needs to be passage of international law to put an end to these military practices. Otherwise, unnecessary and unfortunate suffering as is happening in Yemen will continue. US support for Saudi Arabia—just reinforced by Trump despite his own CIA concluding that the Crown Prince bin Salman ordered the ghoulish assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi—is key to the ongoing killing and starvation of Yemeni civilians. Politicians with a conscience are now calling for an end to such aid, including cessation of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. For the children of Yemen, that would be a relief.
J. P. Linstroth is an Adjunct Professor at Barry University. He is author of Marching Against Gender Practice: Political Imaginings in the Basqueland (2015).
Hundreds of Native American Women are Missing and Not Even Police Records Can Find Them
By Erin Mundahl
Native American women are one of the most victimized demographics in America today. On reservations, rates of violence can be up to 10 times higher than the national average, and murder is the third-leading cause of death for Native American and Native Alaskan women. But the vast majority of Native Americans (71 percent) live in urban areas, where local law enforcement should be responsible for investigating any deaths or disappearances. A new report by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) shows that this is not happening in far too many cases.
The UIHI recently conducted a study of missing and murdered indigenous women across the United States. It hoped to learn why obtaining data on this violence is so difficult and how law enforcement was responding to the problem.
What it found was a mess. Patchy data and errors in how a victim’s race was recorded meant that many of these women and girls ended up going missing twice — first when they disappear from their communities, and again when their cases fall through the cracks in federal and state databases.
“The lack of good data and the resulting lack of understanding about the violence perpetrated against urban American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls is appalling and adds to the historical and continuing trauma American Indian and Alaska Native people have experienced for generations,” the report’s authors wrote, laying out a grim picture of how little is known about the widespread problem.
Using Freedom of Information Act requests, the UIHI requested all case data on missing and murdered Native American women from 1900 to the present from 71 cities across the country with large urban Native American populations. It found 506 records, even as the data range was left broad to try to capture more records. Roughly two-thirds of the records recovered are from the last eight years.
These numbers are unusual, since the National Crime Information Center listed 5,712 reported cases of missing or murdered indigenous women in 2017 alone. But the Department of Justice’s missing persons database only included 117 of them.
While some of the difference between the two totals is due to the urban/reservation distinction, the size of the discrepancy shows that the current record keeping system is flawed. Exacerbating the problem, the UIHI received no records from some of the law enforcement agencies, and was able to find an additional 153 cases that never appeared in police records at all. These missing persons cases were discovered through searches of news reports, government databases, and social media.
“If this report demonstrates one powerful conclusion, it is that if we rely solely on law enforcement or media for an awareness or understanding of the issue, we will have a deeply inaccurate picture of the realities, minimizing the extent to which our urban American Indian and Alaska Native sisters experience this violence,” the report concludes. “This inaccurate picture limits our ability to address this issue at policy, programing and advocacy levels.”
The report focuses only on the records, without digging into potential causes for this lack of communication. While the missing women are a serious concern, focusing on the records is a curious starting place. Gaps in databases and records reflect gaps in cooperation between a victim’s family and friends and law enforcement, and between different law enforcement organization.
“I think that this report is really looking at things at the end of the pipeline,” said Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of “The New Trail of Tears,” a book critiquing federal policy toward Native Americans. She sees the problem of missing records as the last step in a broader step of issues relating to how government handles Indian tribes and reservations.
“They are saying that they are having trouble getting information about these women, that the media is not reporting enough on these. I think that something much earlier is going on.”
Riley believes that confusion about jurisdiction on reservations is a “government failure.” Even in cases where missing women may live off the reservation, this confusion extends to uncertainty about who should handle the cases and how. It also makes it more difficult for family and friends to offer help.
Last year, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, introduced a bill to standardize law enforcement protocols relating to missing and murdered Native Americans. Although the bill attracted 16 co-sponsors, it never made it out of committee.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, was an original co-sponsor of the bill and commended the UIHI report for confirming the problem of the lack of data.
“This painstakingly researched report is a much-needed wake-up call to policymakers and officials across the country,” Warren wrote. “The report confirms that the United States faces a crisis when it comes to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and the lack of accurate data and appropriate media coverage has played a crucial role in the epidemic.”
Data may help to find women who have gone missing, or to bring to justice the people who have hurt them. However, the problem is deeper than that.
“This is a difficult conversation for many people, but, statistically speaking, Native women are more likely to be sexually assaulted and more likely to meet violent deaths than women of other races,” Riley said. Preventing violence means being able to stop abusers earlier on.
Her solution is not more media attention. Instead, she advises treating it like a crime problem, with better policing, a reform of the court system, and better use of resources. When law enforcement struggles to gather the numbers, even that is difficult.
“American Indians are American citizens and they are due the same legal protections that the rest of us are. We wouldn’t want to live in communities that had this level of lawlessness and violence, and neither should they,” Riley concluded.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Erin Mundahl is a reporter with InsideSources.
Opinion: When Did Protecting Children, Pregnant Women from Mercury Pollution Become Controversial?
By Mary Anne Hitt
We should protect pregnant women and young children from toxic mercury pollution that spews out of dirty coal plants. This shouldn’t be a controversial statement, but after Donald Trump put two former coal lobbyists in charge of the EPA, with client lists that stretch from Atlanta to California, it’s become one.
Mercury pollution is serious business. It’s a powerful neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system in young children, and it’s a big concern for pregnant women who want to protect their babies from being exposed to mercury in the womb. It’s one of the reasons I signed on to become director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign around the time I gave birth to my daughter. I was flabbergasted at the threats mercury pollution posed to my then infant daughter in my home state of West Virginia, and to kids around the nation, so I decided to do something about it.
Congress required EPA to set mercury standards for coal plants back the 1990s, but the industry resisted any limits for decades. After years of lawsuits, awareness campaigns, and meetings with public officials, we finally got EPA to finalize the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) in 2012. Since then, nearly all U.S. coal plants have complied with the standards and we’ve seen massive drops in their dangerous mercury emissions as a result (of course, many other pollution problems from coal still remain).
However, despite this success, and the pleas of public health officials, elected officials, and even the owners of the remaining coal plants, former coal lobbyist and acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and his air policy chief, Bill Wehrum, both of whom are long-term employees of industrial polluters, have decided to use their positions to not only attack the MATS, but the entire Clean Air Act itself.
How did we get here? Well, since the MATS were finalized, there have been a handful of wealthy coal industry executives who supported Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid who have railed against the standards because it affected their bottom lines. They spent millions of dollars on litigation to get the MATS thrown out, but the Obama administration demonstrated time and again that the standards were lawful, and ensured that they remained in effect.
But when Trump came into office and appointed Wheeler and Wehrum to head up the EPA, they decided to aid their former clients by changing how EPA calculates the benefits of the MATS in order to lessen the significance of public health in its rulemaking. The scheme’s endgame is to apply the new benefits formula to the entire Clean Air Act. This could leave the MATS and dozens of other clean air protections vulnerable to more court challenges from polluters’ attorneys, arguing that such protections’ full benefits should be ignored by EPA. If Wheeler and Wehrum are successful, they could endanger thousands of communities that are currently protected by rules developed under the Clean Air Act.
Their scheme has been met with fierce resistance from public health groups, environmentalists and responsible industrial executives who believe it will put public health and significant pollution control investments in jeopardy. Making matters even worse, coal plants will continue retiring either way. After a decade of effective advocacy work, decreasing costs of clean energy, and drastic shifts in consumer demand, more than half of the United States’ coal plants have retired, or announced for retirement since 2010. Utilities are not building more coal plants because they can get a cheaper price with renewable energy and attract new electricity customers by offering it to large businesses, which is becoming a major ask from Fortune 500 companies looking to act on the climate crisis.
So what America will get, if Wheeler and Wehrum are successful, is increased pollution in our air and waterways from coal plants, with none of the long-term economic gains claimed in the Trump administration’s talking points. This means more asthma attacks, more heart attacks, more kids with developmental delays, and more premature deaths. All this just so that Wheeler and Wehrum’s former clients can squeeze marginally more profits out of coal plants that are going to eventually retire anyway.
There was a time when people wouldn’t look twice at the statement that we should act to protect pregnant women and young children from toxic pollution that spews out of dirty coal plants, but now it will become a rallying cry for thousands of communities across America demanding accountability for the coal industry. This should not be controversial, but with an administration so focused on polluter profits over public health, clearly it’s a fight worth having. We must not move backward.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mary Anne Hitt is senior director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.