TDB Top 5 International Stories: Friday 28th July 2017

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5:  The Mystery Drug Killing New Zealanders
4:  US-trained Iraqi army unit ‘linked to Mosul war crimes’
3:  The First Openly Transgender Infantry Soldier in U.S. Army Speaks Out on Trump’s New Military Ban
2:  DESPITE WHAT THE PRESS SAYS, “MAVERICK” MCCAIN HAS A LONG AND DISTINGUISHED RECORD OF HORRIBLENESS
1:   Britain’s new aircraft carriers to test Beijing in South China Sea

5:  The Mystery Drug Killing New Zealanders

Police call it synthetic cannabis. Eight people are dead. We talked to users and people who have lost loved ones.

“We call it the ‘synnie dance’,” Fabian Fahey, 18, told me, sheltering from the wind under the wintry limbs of pōhutukawa twisting over Emily Place Reserve. He was referring to the seizure—now depressingly familiar, after being splashed across TV screens over the past week—that can follow smoking synthetic cannabis. A box of Jim Beam bourbon and colas sat in the centre of our little circle as Fabian and two friends, Blackjack, 23, and Matt Mokaraka, 22, told me of their experiences with the drug.

They had all, they said, last smoked the substance four days ago, not too long after the police and the coroner had issued a joint statement warning of its dangers: eight people have now died after smoking the drug this month. Blackjack, the trio’s obvious leader, with thin, dirty, shoulder-length ginger hair and a dirty bandana of the same colour wrapped around his wrist, explained the experience. “You’re instantly just numb. It’s hard to say because you forget—it totally blanks your mind. You turn into like a zombie.”

Vice News

4:  US-trained Iraqi army unit ‘linked to Mosul war crimes’

A US-trained Iraqi army division allegedly executed dozens of men in the final phase of the battle against ISIL fighters in Mosul’s Old City, Human Rights Watch has claimed.

The rights group on Thursday urged the US government to suspend all support for the 16th Division of the Iraqi army pending an investigation into what it called war crimes, evidence of which was seen by two international observers whom the group did not name.

The claims could not be independently verified as Iraqi authorities have restricted media access to the Old City since July 10, following Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s victory declaration over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

Spokesmen for the Iraqi government and military could not be reached for comment.

Aljazeera

3:  The First Openly Transgender Infantry Soldier in U.S. Army Speaks Out on Trump’s New Military Ban

In a move that shocked even the Pentagon, President Donald Trump has barred transgender people from serving in the military. He made the announcement via Twitter on Wednesday. The move could impact as many as 15,000 servicemembers. The New York Times reports Defense Secretary James Mattis only learned of Trump’s plans on Tuesday. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he learned of the policy change through Trump’s tweet. Politico is reporting Trump may have made the snap decision in an attempt to secure congressional funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. A spending bill—which included money for the wall—was facing possible defeat in the House because some Republican lawmakers wanted to ban Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations. We speak to Staff Sergeant Patricia King. She was the first infantry member to reveal she is transgender. King has served in the Army for 18 years, including three active combat deployments to Afghanistan.
Democracy Now

2:  DESPITE WHAT THE PRESS SAYS, “MAVERICK” MCCAIN HAS A LONG AND DISTINGUISHED RECORD OF HORRIBLENESS

WHAT SORT OF PERSON takes a break from taxpayer-funded cancer treatment and flies 2,000 miles to cast a vote that could result in 22 million people losing their health insurance and tens of thousands of them also losing their lives, then makes a big speech about how messed up the whole process is?

Perhaps the same sort of person who relentlessly agitated for an invasion and occupation of Iraq that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and led to millions of others being displaced from their homes?

Or maybe the same sort of person who put personal and party interests ahead of the national interest when he picked the know-nothing, far-right demagogue Sarah Palin, the ur-Trump, as his running mate in 2008?

Meet John Sidney McCain III: Veteran Republican senator from Arizona and former GOP presidential candidate, who endured horrific torture and abuseat the hands of the Vietcong between 1967 and 1973, and who was tragically diagnosed with brain cancer last week — and who has also been a loathsome human being for most of his eight decades on this planet.

McCain, whose nickname in high school was “McNasty,” has a long and well-documented history of temper tantrums and vicious bullying. The victims of his profanity-laden tirades range from his Democratic opponents and their children — “Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father,” he joked at a 1998 Republican fundraiser — to anti-war protesters (“low-life scum“) to fellow Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (“fucking jerk“) and Peter Domenici (“asshole“).

He once compared the president of Iran to a monkey and still insists on calling his Vietnamese captors “gooks” (the fact that they brutally tortured him does not excuse his repeated use of a crude racial epithet). Then there is his poor wife. As journalist Cliff Schecter recounts in his 2008 book “The Real McCain”:

The Intercept

1:   Britain’s new aircraft carriers to test Beijing in South China Sea

Boris Johnson has committed the UK’s two brand new aircraft carriers to freedom of navigation exercises in the fiercely contested waters of the South China Sea.

In a pointed declaration aimed squarely at China, whose island-building and militarisation in the sea has unnerved western powers, the British foreign secretary said that when the ships came into service they would be sent to the Asia-Pacific region as one of their first assignments.

The Guardian 

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