Aug 21, 2014

US attorney general visits Missouri town after fatal shooting

US Attorney General Eric Holder met with community members in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday and vowed a thorough civil rights probe into the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Holder, the first African-American to head the Justice Department, met with students and then community leaders at a community college during a visit to Ferguson for a briefing on a Justice Department investigation into the August 9 killing of the 18-year-old college student, whose death has sparked 11 nights of racially charged unrest.

Holder’s visit came hours after nearly 50 protesters were arrested in the latest demonstrations since the shooting. Many of the protests have been peaceful, but others, especially smaller ones late at night, have been punctuated by looting, vandalism and clashes between demonstrators and police.

The turmoil has thrust the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people into the international spotlight as a symbol of often troubled US race relations.

Ferguson is majority black, but its police force, political leadership and public education administration are dominated by whites. Activists and demonstrators have complained that Brown’s death was the culmination of years of unfair police targeting of blacks.

'Lack of trust'

Among students meeting with Holder at the Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College was Molyric Welch, 27, who told Reuters her brother died three years ago after Ferguson police used a stun gun on him.

“A lot has happened here,” she said. “(Holder) promised things were going to change.”

Another student, who asked not to be named, told FRANCE 24’s special correspondent Philip Crowther that the protesters were not willing to give up until the police stopped using violent tactics to constrain nightly demonstrations.

Sending Holder to Ferguson, she said, “really shows the lack of trust there is in this community towards the police”.

'Rallying against the criminals'

Holder also met briefly with Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who was put in charge of security days after Brown’s death. The National Guard has been called in to help keep the peace.

“We’re rallying against the criminals,” Johnson said. Asked whether he had confidence in the local investigation of the police officer, Johnson said: “General Holder, by being here, is a guarantee on that.”

Holder also was meeting with Brown’s parents Wednesday evening.

The visit came the same day a grand jury was expected to begin hearing evidence to determine whether the officer should be charged in Brown’s death.

Prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch said his office could continue presenting evidence to the grand jury – which meets once a week – through mid-October as he confronts conflicting pressures for speed and thoroughness.

“On one side, people are saying: ‘You’re rushing to justice,’ and on the other side, they’re saying: ‘You’re dragging this thing out,’” he told a news conference. “We’re going to present this as expeditiously as possible, but we are not going to present it in a half-hearted manner.”

Protesters call for officer’s arrest

Outside McCulloch’s office, a few dozen protesters called for his removal from the case and the immediate arrest of the officer involved in the shooting. The officer, 28-year-old Darren Wilson, has been placed on leave and gone into seclusion.

“The criminal justice system in America … is as racist as it was 50 years ago,” 62-year-old black minister Stanton Holliday told Reuters, adding that prosecutors were taking too long.

Accounts of Brown’s slaying differ. According to police, Wilson reported that Brown reached into the policeman’s cruiser when Wilson approached him on the street, then grabbed for the officer’s gun.

A companion of Brown said the teenager was initially shot after the officer tried to grab him through the car window and again after Brown staggered back with his hands in the air.

In the meeting at the community college, Holder said he had assigned the most experienced agents and prosecutors to the investigation, according to a briefing note from his office. Hundreds of people have already been interviewed and federal medical examiners have performed an independent autopsy, the third conducted in the killing.

Holder, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and other officials have appealed for public calm.

The post was originally posted by France 24 at

Aug 21, 2014
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Aug 20, 2014

As the liberation of the Nineveh Plains gets underway, Kurdistan bishop waits for Pope Francis

The taking of the Mosul dam is an important first step, which marks a “change” in the political and military situation in Iraq and the start of the “liberation” of the villages in the Nineveh Plains. However, teams of bomb disposal experts are needed to clear the anti-personnel mines laid down by Islamic State militants to halt the advance of Iraqi troops and peshmerga, said Mgr Rabban Al-Qas, bishop of Amadiyah, in Kurdistan, which together with other diocese is helping out tens of thousands of displaced people from Mosul, Qaraqosh and Ankawa.

When asked about a possible visit by Pope Francis to Kurdistan as a sign of peace to the whole country and comfort to the victims whatever their ethnicity and religion, the Kurdish prelate answered without hesitation: “We look forward to his coming.”

Today Iraqi security forces launched a major operation to push Islamists out of Tikrit, hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. Their rapid military advance in places like the Nineveh Plains has been however hampered by mines and unexploded bombs left on roadsides, not to mention snipers. At the same time, the US Air Force is continuing its strikes. In recent days, the air campaign forced the Islamic State to pull back from the Mosul dam, which it had seized on 7 August.

On Sunday, Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) and regular Iraqi army began a joint ground offensive, facilitated by 25 US air strikes that hit jihadist-held strategic locations. More than 500 Islamist militants were driven from the area, retreating to areas under their control, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which has been in Caliphate hands since June.

"The peshmerga are afraid of advancing," Mgr Rabban, "or entering towns and villages taken from terrorists because of mines. This is why we need to start large-scale mine clearing operations with the help of experienced and qualified staff."

The peshmerga, the prelate said, are “ready for war”, but we need “weapons” and support from the international community in order to “stop the terrorists and isolate them.”

The bishop of Amadiyah reports the “beginning of the liberation of the villages in the Nineveh Plain,” but for now, Christians “cannot return to their homes.” Once roads and land are cleared of mines, and homes secured, “we must have the courage to return home and resume everyday life.”

At present, the prelate said, the aim is “to expel the terrorists from Mosul,” despite indications that “another 5,000 terrorists are ready to enter Iraq from Turkey to fight the jihad.”

"As scary such reports are, Christians are still alive and despite losing their material possessions, they should not lose hope."

On the humanitarian front, Mgr Rabban spoke about the decision by the Kurdish Prime Minister to allocate US$ 12 million for Christian refugees from the Nineveh Plains.

With its priests, the Chaldean Church has begun to conduct an actual census of households and register people in order to hand out the aid.

"We want to have the exact figures," said the bishop, "the number of families, how many children they have, place of origin and where they are housed. More than 36,000 Christians could benefit from the funds made ​​available by the Kurdish government."

The post was originally posted by Asia News at,-Kurdistan-bishop-waits-for-Pope-Francis-31930.html

Aug 20, 2014

Man who modified Maserati to resemble ‘Transformers’ Decepticon charged with impersonating police

A driver who modified his Maserati to resemble a Decepticon from the Transformers films is being prosecuted for “impersonating police” in America.

It is unclear whether officers in Braintree, Massachusetts, understood the meaning of the car’s decoration.

The luxury Italian vehicle was painted black and white, with police-style identity numbers and “speed enforcement” written on the rear bumper.

But instead of the slogan “protect and serve”, “Decepticons punish and enslave” is emblazoned on the white car door.

It appears to resemble a Decepticon called Barricade, who appears in the 2007 Transformers film with a team of evil transformers trying to take over the world and build an army of machines.

In the Transformers comic book series, Decepticons are the enemies of Autobots – robot aliens who protect humanity.

They transform into everyday vehicles to conceal themselves on Earth, such as the police car.

A patrolling officer pulled the Maserati over earlier this month when he noticed its unusual markings.

Deputy police chief Wayne Foster told The Patriot Ledger that the driver told officers he was actually assisting police “because other drivers noticed him and slowed down, thinking it was a police vehicle”.

The officer who flagged the car down reportedly mistook it for a police car at first, before realising that local forces used Fords or Chryslers, not £60,000 Maseratis.

The driver, who has not been named, was charged with impersonating a police officer and summoned to Quincy District Court.

The post was originally posted by The Independent at

Aug 20, 2014
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