China Pulls Football Game After Player’s Pro-Muslim Comments

Chinese state television pulled the scheduled live broadcast of a football (soccer) game following one of the players’ comments online criticizing the government’s treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority.

China’s CCTV was scheduled to broadcast the football game between Arsenal and Manchester United, but instead decided to show a taped game between Tottenham Hotspur and the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Arsenal footballer Mesut Ozil posted on Twitter Friday comments condemning China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the Western region, while also criticizing other Muslim countries for not speaking up against abuses.

“Korans are being burnt… Mosques are being shut down… Muslim schools are being banned… Religious scholars are being killed one by one… Brothers are forcefully being sent to camps,” Ozil wrote in Turkish on his Twitter account Friday.

#HayırlıCumalarDoğuTürkistan 🙏🏼

— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) December 13, 2019

The U.S., the United Nations and various human rights groups have accused China of detaining an estimated one million ethnic Muslims in so-called “re-education camps” in the remote Western province of Xinjiang in an attempt to force them to renounce their religion and heritage.

Chia’s state-run Global Times said on its Twitter account Sunday that CCTV made the decision to pull the game after Ozil’s comments had “disappointed fans and football governing authorities”.

Arsenal posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, that the the content Ozil shared was “entirely Ozil’s personal opinion”. The team has not posted a response on Twitter or released and official statement.



US Democrats Squabble Over Lessons of UK Election

Hours before the official result was complete for Britain’s general election, U.S. Democrats on the other side of the Atlantic were taking to social-media sites to draw quick conclusions on what Labour’s catastrophic defeat might mean for them and the electoral challenge they face with the 2020 White House contest.

Forewarned by an exit poll, which suggested Britain’s storied Labour Party was heading for its worst election rebuff since 1935, one of the first Democrats to hit the send button was Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security advisor to Barack Obama.

He tweeted: “There are a lot of factors that went into this massive defeat, but progressives have to learn from them to do better on both sides of the Atlantic.”

But that begs the crucial question: what lessons?

Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is seen near his home in London, Britain, December 14, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

On the British side of the Atlantic, Labour politicians can’t agree about what went wrong for them in what’s likely to be seen as the most consequential British election for a quarter-of-a-century, with some, including defeated party leader Jeremy Corbyn, insisting that the radical socialist policies he advocated, including the nationalization of a swathe of the British economy, were individually popular and that the blame should go on Brexit.

A key Corbyn ally, Len McCluskey, the leader of the powerful Unite trade union, said the policies in the party’s manifesto were “very popular,” but “we very evidently didn’t win the argument over Brexit” and the party’s policy of holding a second referendum on European Union membership. McCluskey said the party’s “biggest mistake” was “perhaps underestimating the desire for people who had voted Leave to leave the European Union.”

But many Labour moderates believe Brexit-favoring working-class voters who deserted the party in droves would have overlooked the issue of Europe, if Labour had had a more popular and centrist leader and a manifesto shorn of leftwing dogma. In a post-election opinion poll, only 17 percent of Labour defectors cited Brexit as the reason for their switch to the Conservatives.

“Jeremy Corbyn was destined to lead the Labour Party to a catastrophic defeat,” according to Jason Cowley, the editor of the New Statesman magazine, Britain’s leading leftwing weekly. “If he believed that the British would vote for the most radical socialist manifesto in our history, he was sadly deluded. The party has learned nothing from past defeats: the more it moves to the left, the more people are alienated,” he added in a post-mortem assessment for Britain’s The Times newspaper.

Cowley says Labour has lost touch with Britain’s working-class and the party’s defeat Thursday is a parable of what can go wrong when a party rejects pragmatism for “ideological purity.”

Some Democrats in the U.S.  worry that might be the case with their own party and say the British election should be seen as window on the 2020 presidential race.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., Dec. 8, 2019.

Former U.S. vice president Joe Biden, the current front-runner to win the Democratic nomination to take on Trump, has said that the British election should be taken as a warning against Democrats moving too far to the radical left ahead of the 2020 White House race.

Speaking to supporters in San Francisco, Biden argued that the radicalism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ultimately contributed to Boris Johnson’s landslide victory last week.

Others on the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, too, fear that Labour’s defeat may foreshadow trouble for their bid to vanquish Trump, especially if the Democrats pick a progressive nominee like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren as their champion in the 2020 presidential election.

Political trends on one side of the Atlantic have often presaged trends on the other, although often with time lags because of misaligned elections. Both countries were moderately conservative in the 1950s and Republican and Conservative governments accepted the welfare systems established by their predecessors in office and ideological rivals, Franklin Roosevelt and Britain’s Clement Attlee.

In the 1960s both countries trended left, although were divided over the Vietnam War. In the 1980s, free-market conservatives — Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan — reshaped their nations’ politics.

FILE – Tony Blair and Bill Clinton hold hands during an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 10, 2018.

And in the 1990s “Third Way” Democrats, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, marched almost in lockstep to refashion their parties as market-friendly, seeking to blend center-right economics with center-left social policies. The 2016 Brexit referendum was seen by many, including Donald Trump’s then strategist Steve Bannon and Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief of staff, as foreshadowing Trump’s upset a few months later of Hillary Clinton, who saw her candidacy rebuffed in the fading towns of the “rust belt” states much like Corbyn was rejected in the post-industrial north of England.

Nationalist conservatives rule the roost now in Washington and London, prioritizing the nation state over multilateralism and favoring tough immigration restrictions. The skirmishing by Democrats over the British election result is enmeshing with the fight over who should get the party’s presidential nomination.

Democrats favoring a progressive candidate maintain there are no real lessons to draw from Johnson’s election win, echoing Corbyn supporters on the other side of the Atlantic by arguing Labour lost the election because of Brexit. “This UK election was ultimately an election about Brexit, and Brexit won. There’s no clean analogue to that in the U.S,” says Kate Aronoff, a senior fellow at Data for Progress, a progressive U.S. think tank.

“The UK election was undeniably bad for Labour, but it doesn’t at all vindicate centrists saying the U.S. should make one of them the Democratic nominee. Left policies are popular,” she tweeted.

Aronoff, like other U.S. progressives maintain that the kind of centrist politics espoused by establishment Democrats also got rebuffed by British voters in an election that dashed the hopes of Britain’s centrist Liberal Democrats, who presented themselves as a respectable alternative between the Conservatives and Labour. Their leader Jo Swinson even failed to get reelected as a lawmaker.

People stand behind a banner supporting the results of the general election, in London, Britain, Dec. 13, 2019.

Some commentators who’ve chronicled the rise of populist nationalism say neither moderates nor progressives have the grasped the full scale of the realignment of Western politics that’s underway. The UK vote wasn’t just any election, says Matthew Goodwin, an academic at Britain’s Kent University and co-author of the book “National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy.” “The old left versus right economic divide continues to make way for a new cultural divide.”

He says Brexit was just one factor prompting working-class voters to trade left for right, with other driving issues coming down to promises of immigration reform and prioritizing national independence. Conservative nationalists have hit on a winning formula by leaning left on economics, with promises of increased government spending, and right on culture when it comes to identity politics and pledges to get tough on crime.

Goodwin believes it is easier for the right to move left on economics than it is for the left to move right on questions of national identity which are worrying socially conservative working-class voters.



Afghan Officials Confirm US Troop Drawdown Plans

Officials in Afghanistan confirmed Sunday the United States plans to withdraw thousands of troops from the country, insisting the move stemmed from a mutual understanding between the two allied nations.

Sources in Kabul went on to tell VOA the drawdown process is expected to start in three months, though no official confirmation was available immediately about the timeline.

On Saturday, U.S. media reported that President Donald Trump’s administration intends to announce as early as later this week plans to reduce the number of American forces in Afghanistan by around 4,000.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insisted the troop reduction plan is not tied to the ongoing peace negotiations between Washington and the Taliban insurgency aimed at ending the 18-year-old war.

“The matter regarding the withdrawal of 4,000 troops had already been agreed upon in principle between the governments of Afghanistan and the United States,” Dawa Khan Meenapal told VOA. He shared no further details.

Currently around 13,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan who are conducting counterterrorism missions in addition to advising and training Afghan security forces battling the Taliban.

Trump had told an American broadcaster (Fox News Radio) in a recent interview he might reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to around 8,600.

The withdrawal of foreign forces has been at the center of a peace deal the U.S. has been trying to negotiate with the Taliban for over a year to end America’s longest war.

Trump had suspended the dialogue process in September citing the killing of an American soldier in a series of Taliban attacks in Kabul.

The two adversaries returned to the negotiating table in Qatar a week ago but Washington paused the talks again on Thursday in retaliation to a Taliban raid on the largest U.S.-run military base of Bagram, north of Kabul. The attack killed two Afghan civilians and injured scores of others.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators after months of meetings had concluded a draft agreement that outlined Taliban’s counterterrorism guarantees in exchange for a phased withdrawal of American and allied forces. The document would also require the insurgent group to reduce violence and enter into intra-Afghan negotiations to seek a permanent end to decades of hostilities in Afghanistan.

Critics have cautioned against an abrupt withdrawal of foreign forces, fearing it will embolden the insurgents.

“The conditions for withdrawal should be achieved so that Afghan security and defense forces are able to fill the vacuum, otherwise it can have a negative impact on the (battlefield) situation,” sayid Nadir Khan Katawazai, a member of the Afghan parliament.

But former Afghan military general, Atiqullah Amarkhel, insisted as long as Afghan forces continued to receive financial assistance to sustain their operational costs, the reduction in foreign troops will not have any impact because neither U.S. nor NATO troops are taking part in battlefield activities.

Reports of the U.S. withdrawal come just days after the Washington Post released hundreds of documents showing U.S. officials and military commanders had been lying about the progress of the war. The revelation has encouraged the Taliban to intensify its propaganda against the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and justify the violence.


Major States Snub Calls for Climate Action as UN Summit Grinds to Close

A U.N. climate summit ground towards a delayed close on Sunday with a handful of major states resisting pressure to ramp up efforts to combat global warming, prompting sharp criticism from smaller countries and environmental activists.

The Madrid talks were viewed as a test of governments’ collective will to heed the advice of scientists to cut greenhouse gas emissions more rapidly in order to prevent rising global temperatures from hitting irreversible tipping points.

But the conference was expected to endorse only a modest declaration on the “urgent need” to close the gap between existing emissions pledges and the temperature goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

Many developing countries and campaigners had wanted to see much more explicit language spelling out the importance of countries submitting bolder pledges on emissions as the Paris process enters a crucial implementation phase next year.

“These talks reflect how disconnected country leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens in the streets,” said Helen Mountford, Vice President for Climate and Economics, at the World Resources Institute think-tank. “They need to wake up in 2020.”

Brazil, China, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United States had led resistance to bolder action, delegates said, as the summit — known as COP25 — began wrapping up.

It had been due to finish at the two-week mark on Friday but has run on for two extra days – a long delay even by the standards of often torturous climate summits.

Earlier, talks president Chile triggered outrage after drafting a version of the text that campaigners complained was so weak it betrayed the spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The process set out in that deal hinges on countries ratcheting up emissions cuts next year.

The final draft did acknowledge the “significant gap” between existing pledges and the temperature goals adopted in 2015.

Nevertheless, it was still seen as a weak response to the sense of urgency felt by communities around the world afflicted by floods, droughts, wildfires and cyclones that scientists say have become more intense as the Earth rapidly warms.

“COP25 demonstrated the collective ambition fatigue of the world’s largest (greenhouse gas) emitters,” said Greenpeace East Asia policy advisor Li Shuo.

The Madrid talks became mired in disputes over the rules that should govern international carbon trading, favored by wealthier countries to reduce the cost of cutting emissions.

Brazil and Australia were among the main holdouts, delegates said, and the summit seemed all but certain to defer big decisions on carbon markets for later.

“As many others have expressed, we are disappointed that we once again failed to find agreement,” Felipe De Leon, a climate official speaking on behalf of Costa Rica. “We engaged actively, we delivered our homework, and yet we did not quite get there.”

Smaller nations had also hoped to win guarantees of financial aid to cope with climate change. The Pacific island of Tuvalu accused the United States, which began withdrawing from the Paris process last month, of blocking progress.

“There are millions of people all around the world who are already suffering from the impacts of climate change,” Ian Fry, Tuvalu’s representative, told delegates. “Denying this fact could be interpreted by some to be a crime against humanity.”



Чотири обстріли і один поранений – в Міноборони розповіли про ситуацію на фронті з початку доби

З початку доби до 12:30 15 грудня бойовики незаконних збройних угруповань чотири рази обстріляли позиції Збройних сил України в зоні Операції об’єднаних сил. Про це повідомив на брифінгу Міністерства оборони полковник Максим Праута.

За його словами, всі обстріли зафіксували на Луганському напрямку.

«Після опівночі у районі Луганського та близько 11-ї години неподалік Кримського окупанти відкривали вогонь по наших позиціях зі станкових протитанкових гранатометів. Ще один раз поблизу Кримського противник вів вогонь з ручних протитанкових та підствольних гранатометів з 10.00 до 10.10. Автоматичні гранатомети ворог вранці застосував біля Хутора Вільного», – сказав він.


За даними Міноборони, один український військовий поранений. Водночас, як зазначив полковник Праута, стан двох поранених напередодні військових задовільний.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».


За даними ООН, від березня 2014-го до 31 жовтня 2019 року унаслідок збройного конфлікту на Донбасі загинули 13 000 – 13 200 людей.

Police Targets of Both Love and Anger in Hong Kong Rallies

Several thousand people shouting words of thanks to the police turned out in Hong Kong on Sunday in an unusual display of support for a force broadly criticized as abusive by the territory’s protest movement.

People made heart signs with their hands at officers, with some calling them heroes for their policing of six months of demonstrations.

The rally attracted a bigger crowd than a protest against the government a few hundred meters (yards) away. It brought together a few hundred people in a square.

There were also scattered small protests against the government in shopping malls.

Tensions flared in one mall after police arrested about eight protesters. Police used pepper spray when people threw bottles of water at them.

Strong Quake Kills 1, Collapses Building in Philippines

A strong earthquake jolted the southern Philippines on Sunday, causing a three-story building to collapse and prompting people to rush out of shopping malls, houses and other buildings in panic, officials said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the magnitude 6.9 quake struck an area about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) northwest of Padada town in Davao del Sur province. It had a depth of 30 kilometers (18 miles).

Ricardo Jalad, who heads the Office of Civil Defense, said his office received an initial report that a small three-story building collapsed in Padada as the ground shook and that authorities were checking if people got trapped inside. The building housed a grocery store, Jalad said without elaborating.

Officials in the southern cities of Davao and Cotabato, where the quake was felt strongly, suspended classes for Monday to allow checks on the stability of school buildings. Some cities and town lost their power due to the quake, officials said.

The Davao region has been hit by several earthquakes in recent months, causing deaths and injuries and damaging houses, hotels, malls and hospitals.

The Philippine archipelago lies on the so-called Pacific “Ring of fire,” an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

За добу на фронті один військовий загинув, двоє поранені – штаб

Один український військовослужбовець загинув, ще двоє отримали поранення внаслідок обстрілів бойовиків незаконних збройних угруповань в зоні Операції об’єднаних сил, повідомляє штаб.

За його даними, протягом доби бойовики вісім разів обстріляли позиції ООС.

Читайте також: Розкол, мова, резонансні убивства: генерал СБУ розповів, як спецслужби Росії намагаються дестабілізувати ситуацію в Україні​

«В районі відповідальності оперативно-тактичного угруповання «Схід» російські окупаційні війська здійснили п’ять обстрілів: неподалік Авдіївки – з ручних протитанкових гранатометів та кулеметів великого калібру; двічі поблизу Красногорівки – з гранатометів різних систем, великокаліберних кулеметів та іншої стрілецької зброї; біля Пісків – зафіксовано снайперський вогонь; неподалік Павлополя – з ручних протитанкових і автоматичних гранатометів та стрілецької зброї, з великокаліберними кулеметами включно», – йдеться в зведенні.

Ще три обстріли відбулися поблизу Новолуганського, Зайцевого та Травневого.

З початку доби, додають у штабі, бойовики обстріляли позиції ЗСУ в районі Луганського зі станкових протитанкових гранатометів, втрат не зафіксовано.

Збройне угруповання «ДНР» заявило про обстріл українськими військовими окупованої ним території 14 грудня. Аналогічне угруповання «ЛНР» таких заяв за попередню добу не робило.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».

За даними ООН, від березня 2014-го до 31 жовтня 2019 року унаслідок збройного конфлікту на Донбасі загинули 13 000 – 13 200 людей.


Protests Rage as US, UK Warn About Travel to Northeast India

Protests against a divisive new citizenship law raged Saturday as Washington and London issued travel warnings for northeast India following days of violent clashes that have killed two people.

Many in the far-flung, resource-rich northeast fear the new legislation will grant citizenship to large numbers of immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, whom they accuse of stealing jobs and diluting the region’s cultural identity.

Several thousand protesters rallied in New Delhi late Saturday to urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to revoke the law, some holding signs reading: “Stop Dividing India.”

“People are not gathered here as Hindus or Muslims; people are gathered here as citizens of India. We reject this bill that has been brought by the Modi government and we want that equal treatment as is enshrined in our constitution,” said protester Amit Baruah, 55, a journalist.

Protests turned violent in West Bengal state, a hotbed of political unrest, with at least 20 buses and parts of two railway stations set on fire as demonstrators blocked roads and set fire to tires. No injuries were reported.

Epicenter of unrest

Tensions also simmered in Guwahati in Assam state, the epicenter of the unrest, where medical staff said two people were shot dead and 26 hospitalized late Thursday after security forces fired live rounds.

Assam police chief Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta told the Press Trust of India late Saturday that 85 people had been arrested in connection with the protests, and that officials were working to identify violent demonstrators caught on video.

Friday’s funeral procession for Sam Stafford, 18, who was killed in the demonstration, was attended by hundreds of angry and distraught mourners who shouted, “Long live Assam.”

“We were watching news all day on TV about the protests when my nephew left home in the evening. We asked him not to go but he went with his friends,” the student’s aunt, Julie Stafford, told AFP.

Anticipating further unrest, authorities extended an internet ban across Assam until Monday. Most shops were shut and anxious residents stocked up on supplies Saturday when the curfew was relaxed during the day.

The Citizenship Amendment Act allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities, including Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but not Muslims.

Samujjal Bhattacharya from the All Assam Students Union, which has been at the forefront of the protests, told AFP the group would continue its fight against the new law “in the streets and in the court.”

‘Exercise caution’

Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe postponed a summit that was reportedly due to be held in Guwahati beginning Sunday, and the United States and Britain warned their nationals to “exercise caution” if traveling to the wider northeast region.

Islamic groups, the opposition and rights organizations say the law is a part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims.

He denies this and says that Muslims from the three countries are not covered by the legislation because they have no need of India’s protection.

Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, on Saturday sought to reassure the northeastern states, saying the government would protect their “culture, social identity, language and political rights.”

Nellie massacre

Assam has long been a hotbed of ethnic tensions. In 1983, 2,000 people, mainly Bengali Muslims, were butchered in what became known as the Nellie massacre.

This year a citizenship registry left off 1.9 million people — many of them Muslims — unable to prove that they or their forebears were in Assam before 1971, leaving them to face possible statelessness.

“There has been this agitation [against] illegal migration from Bangladesh over many years,” Sanjoy Hazarika, a professor at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, told AFP. “They feel that their rights to land, to jobs, and the entire social fabric, education, existing social services and so on will be impacted by this.”

On Friday, university students in Delhi clashed with police, who used batons and tear gas shells to quell the protests.

The passage of the bill also sparked angry scenes in both houses of parliament this week, with one lawmaker likening it to anti-Jewish legislation by the Nazis in 1930s Germany.

Frustrated Climate Activists Dump Manure Outside Madrid Summit

Green activists dumped horse manure and staged a mock hanging outside the venue of a U.N. climate summit in Madrid on Saturday, airing their frustration at the failure of world leaders to take meaningful action against global warming.

Led by grass-roots group Extinction Rebellion, the actions were timed to coincide with the closing of the COP25 summit, where negotiators have been unable to agree on how to implement the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“Just like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, this COP’s fiddling of carbon accounting and negotiating of Article 6 is not commensurate to the planetary emergency we face,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement.

Twelve members of the group stood on melting blocks of ice, nooses drawn tight around their necks to symbolize the 12 months remaining until the next summit, when the Paris deal enters a make-or-break implementation phase.

Attached to the pile of manure was a short message to leaders saying, “The horses— stops here.”

In contrast to a protest held last weekend, in which hundreds of demonstrators blocked one of Madrid’s central shopping streets for a mass disco dance, the mood at the gathering was subdued.

‘Nothing has really changed’

“Even if they reach an agreement, it’s still not enough. This is the 25th COP they’ve had and nothing has really changed,” protester Emma Deane told Reuters from her perch atop an ice block, holding her young daughter in her arms. “She’s going to grow up in a world where there’s no food on the shelves, and that breaks my heart.”

Still, Extinction Rebellion spokesman Ronan McNern stressed the importance of humor in the face of the climate crisis.

“Out of s— comes the best roses. We hope that the international community comes together to create a beautiful future,” McNern said.