TDB Top 5 International Stories: Sunday 30th October 2016





“THE STRUGGLE FOR SYRIA,” as Patrick Seale titled his 1965 classic, has escalated steadily since Britain seized the territory from Turkey in 1918. The British turned it over to France in 1920 and took it back from Vichy in 1942. Following nominal independence in 1946, Syria became a theater of Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. The stream of military coups between 1949 and 1970 concluded with the Hafez al-Assad putsch that left Syria in the Kremlin camp. Assad, however, proved anything but subservient to his superpower benefactor. The struggle for Syria continued in desultory fashion as Syria irritated Moscow by flirting with the U.S. in Lebanon and sending troops to support the American reconquista of Kuwait in 1991. The U.S. soon reverted to form, labeling Syria a “terrorist state” and condemning both its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and its alliance with Iran. In 2011, the struggle became a war. The U.S. and Russia, as well as local hegemons, backed opposite sides, ensuring a balance of terror that has devastated the country and defies resolution.

The Russians, having lost Aden, Egypt, and Libya years earlier, backed their only client regime in the Arab world when it came under threat. The U.S. gave rhetorical and logistical support to rebels, raising false hopes — as it had done among the Hungarian patriots it left in the lurch in 1956 — that it would intervene with force to help them. Regional allies, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, were left to dispatch arms, money, and men, while disagreeing on objectives and strategy.

The Intercept

4: How Sensational Headlines and Puritanical Charities Hurt Sex Workers

Earlier this month a spate of headlines appeared in the UK, spouting messages like: ” Cash-strapped women are selling ‘survival sex’ for as little as £10.” They were reminiscent of a similar flurry in February, which included: ” UK sex workers selling themselves for as little as £5.” Selling themselves. Their very souls perhaps.

It turns out that the same charity—Changing Lives—is behind both reports. Based in the North East, Changing Lives is the operating name of The Cyrenians, a Christian charity working with “people experiencing homelessness, addiction, and a range of other problems.” Changing Lives isn’t new to controversy and was behind Newcastle’s ” No Need to Beg” campaign, which encouraged people not to give money directly to beggars.

The charity is a financial success, generating £15.1 million [$18.3 million] income in the tax year ending 2015 and owning tangible assets worth £12.6 million [$15.3 million]. “I suppose we’re probably more commercial than other charities,” chief executive Stephen Bell has said. “We know the bottom line of every scheme we operate.”

Vice News

3: Will the DOJ or FCC Stop the AT&T Merger from Creating World’s Largest Media Conglomerate?

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Telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to purchase Time Warner for $85 billion. If approved by federal antitrust regulators, the megamerger would give AT&T control over Warner Bros. film and television studios, along with CNN, TNT, HBO and many other brands. Critics warn of further limits to competition and higher prices for customers. The merger could also allow AT&T to give preferential treatment to streaming video from Time Warner’s companies, which would violate the principles of net neutrality. Meanwhile, AT&T is bracing for what is expected to be a lengthy antitrust review of the deal, which must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department and possibly by the FCC. “If you’re not a Time Warner shareholder, … if you’re not a Wall Street banker, there is very little in this deal for you,” says Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, which has come out against the multibillion-dollar merger.

Democracy Now


2: Shia militias open new front in battle for Mosul

Shia militias say they have launched an assault to the west of Mosul, opening up a new front in the battle to drive ISIL from the country’s second city and the group’s last major bastion in the country.

The coalition of militias, know as the Popular Mobilisation Units, had not played a heavy part in the fighting, but the offensive on Saturday indicates a bigger role than many observers had anticipated.

A spokesman for the coalition, Ahmed al-Asadi, told a news conference that seven hours into the operation 10 villages had been “liberated” from ISIL.

“This corridor is considered the main artery of the ISIL terrorist organisation between Mosul on one end and Raqqa in Syria on the other,” said Asadi.


1: FBI director Comey faces fury for cryptic letter about Clinton email inquiry

Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair on Saturday led a chorus of Democratic party fury over the FBI’s decision to review a new batch of her staff’s emails, which was announced just 11 days before the presidential election in a striking break with law enforcement tradition.

The Clinton campaign launched an extraordinary criticism of James Comey, the director of the FBI, who faced a torrent of criticism for his dramatic and late intervention in the race, which deviated from FBI protocol. Comey stood accused of betraying the bureau’s political neutrality, and came under growing pressure to make public everything he knows.

The latest twist in a topsy turvy election arrived on Friday afternoon, when Comey said in a letter to Congress the FBI would review whether there was any classified information in new “emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation”. In a carefully worded letter, the director said he wanted to “supplement my previous testimony” about the original Clinton email investigation, which he told Congress had closed this summer, and said “the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”

The Guardian