Syria conflict: Opposition agrees framework for peace talks

A meeting of Syrian opposition politicians and rebels in Riyadh has produced a statement of principles to guide peace talks with the government.

The statement calls for the creation of "a pluralistic regime that represents all sectors of the Syrian people", according to the Reuters news agency.

It also stresses that President Bashar al-Assad and his aides can play no part in any transitional period.

Earlier, the powerful rebel group Ahrar al-Sham withdrew from the conference.

It complained that figures it regarded as too close to the government were being given too prominent a role.

World powers want negotiations between a unified opposition delegation and President Bashar al-Assad's government on a political solution to the four-and-a-half-year conflict to start by 1 January.


More than 250,000 people have been killed since an uprising against Mr Assad began in March 2011. Eleven million others have been forced from their homes.
'Unified vision'

The two-day conference in the Saudi capital brought together representatives of the main Western-backed political opposition alliance, the National Coalition, and of the National Co-ordination Committee, which is tolerated by the authorities in Damascus though its members have been harassed and detained.

Most of the main rebel factions, including Ahrar al-Sham, also sent delegations.

On Thursday afternoon, Suhair al-Atassi of the National Coalition told the AFP news agency that delegates had agreed a framework for negotiations.

"An agreement has been reached on... a unified vision for the settlement process and a supreme committee that would act as a reference for the negotiating team, the composition of which will be specified later," she said.

Reuters quoted a joint statement as saying that delegates had backed a "democratic mechanism through a pluralistic regime that represents all sectors of the Syrian people". It would include women and would not discriminate on religious, sectarian or ethic grounds, the statement added.

Delegates also committed to preserving state institutions and restructuring the security forces, but they insisted Mr Assad would have to leave power immediately.

Mr Assad's staunch ally Russia - which launched an air campaign in September to prop up his government - supports the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique, which calls for the establishment of a transitional administration.

But the president has said his departure is out of the question before elections are held, and recently warned that peace talks could not begin while the country was occupied by "terrorists" - a term he uses to describe all opponents.

Earlier, Ahrar al-Sham said it had withdrawn from the Riyadh conference because of the "main role" accorded to "personalities linked to the regime" - an apparent reference to members of the National Co-ordination Committee - and the inadequate representation of "revolutionary factions".

Ahrar al-Sham is an ultraconservative Islamist, or Salafist, rebel group that aims to topple Mr Assad and build an Islamic state, though it vows to achieve the latter through the ballot box and not force. It is part of Jaysh al-Fatah, an alliance that includes the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

US Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile said that the new International Syrian Support Group - which includes the Arab League, the EU, the UN and 17 countries - was "working toward the potential of a meeting in New York" on 18 December.

The Syrian Kurds, who control large parts of northern Syria, were not invited to Riyadh. They held their own conference, at the same time, on the future of Syria.


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Chicago police superintendent fired by mayor amid outcry over video of shooting

CHICAGO — The head of the Chicago Police Department was fired Tuesday amid widespread criticism over how authorities responded to the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer last year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he formally asked Garry F. McCarthy, the Chicago police superintendent, for his resignation on Tuesday morning, a week after video footage of the shooting was released and the officer was charged with murder.

“He has become an issue, rather than dealing with the issue, and a distraction,” Emanuel said. He added that while he is loyal to McCarthy, whom he praised for his leadership of the department, the needs of the city are more important.

Even as the embattled Emanuel dismissed his police superintendent and made other vows of increased police accountability, announcing a task force to review police oversight, another Illinois official suggested that federal intervention was needed for the Chicago police. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote a letter Tuesday asking the Justice Department to investigate possible civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department.

Anger has erupted in Chicago since authorities released footage of Jason Van Dyke, a city police officer, shooting Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old, last year. In the video, Van Dyke is seen firing a volley of shots at McDonald, many of them after the teenager had already fallen to the ground.

Emanuel said he began talking to McCarthy on Sunday, after several days of heated protests, about “the undeniable fact that the public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded.”

The end of McCarthy’s time atop the Chicago force marks a abrupt shift for a law enforcement officer who became nationally known as he worked in three of the country’s biggest police departments.

When Emanuel announced McCarthy’s appointment in May 2011, he praised him as someone who proved “reducing crime and working closely with the community are not conflicting goals.”

Before McCarthy, 56, came to Chicago, he served as the police director in Newark and was an officer and deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department. In New York, he oversaw the CompStat system, which is used to monitor crime data and was adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country. He spent a quarter of a century with the NYPD before the department said he retired in 2006 as deputy commissioner for operations and headed to Newark.

During his time in Newark, the number of homicides declined, according to FBI data. The same month his appointment in Chicago was announced, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the Newark police force, looking at reports of how officers used force and complaints of excessive force that occurred before and after McCarthy took over the Chicago police force. The Justice Department said last year it had found “patterns of misconduct” in Newark, releasing a report that did not mention McCarthy, and reached an agreement with the city to have its force overseen by an independent monitor.

When McCarthy arrived in Chicago to lead the country’s second-biggest local law enforcement agency, he was seen as an outsider who did not understand the nuances of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. He also stepped into a culture tainted by a legacy of police abuse going back decades. The city was struggling to confront that legacy through settlements with victims and an effort to rebuild trust on the streets — trust that, for many, was irrevocably broken. Gun violence also mounted: In his first year in office, homicides jumped above 500, creating a crisis that screamed across national headlines.

McCarthy also dealt with anger directed at the city’s top officials resulting from Emanuel’s decision in 2013 to close dozens of public schools as well as an ongoing foreclosure crisis that worsened neighborhoods that were already marginalized from booming development downtown.

Despite those challenges, police reform experts say McCarthy was a progressive in implementing preventive policing programs. Among them was the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy, a partnership funded by the MacArthur Foundation and led by several academic institutions, including the University of Chicago, that created a database to monitor gang activity to the granular level in order to predict and prevent violence.

Andrew Papachristos, a sociologist at Yale University who works with the Chicago Police Department in developing the database, said McCarthy was “a very forward-thinking cop” compared to his predecessors. He said McCarthy also implemented violence-prevention reform programs in Chicago that highlighted rebuilding trust and legitimacy before they took hold on a national level.

According to police data, civilian complaints against police have fallen 38 percent between 2011 and 2015.

“He was at the forefront of police leaders in this country,” Papachristos said. “From the research side of things, he opened the door and was one of the first people who said, ‘Let’s try this.’”

McCarthy had also been very outspoken about tightening gun laws, calling for harsher penalties for people who have violated gun laws and saying that illegal gun possession in Chicago was directly tied to the number of homicides.

“There’s very few police chiefs in the country that have his institutional knowledge of crime-fighting,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit that guides departments on policies and practices.

While Emanuel said Tuesday he had “a lot of confidence in the work” McCarthy has done in Chicago, he said the move was necessary to rebuild public trust and confidence in the police force.

City leaders and demonstrators had called on Emanuel to remove McCarthy, arguing that new leadership is needed to reassure a troubled public. Last week, a dozen members of the City Council’s black caucus gathered to reiterate these calls for new leadership.



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Iraqis think the U.S. is in cahoots with the Islamic State, and it is hurting the war

 BAIJI, Iraq — On the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State, suspicion of the United States runs deep. Iraqi fighters say they have all seen the videos purportedly showing U.S. helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants, and many claim they have friends and relatives who have witnessed similar instances of collusion.

Ordinary people also have seen the videos, heard the stories and reached the same conclusion — one that might seem absurd to Americans but is widely believed among Iraqis — that the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting U.S. control over Iraq, the wider Middle East and, perhaps, its oil.

“It is not in doubt,” said Mustafa Saadi, who says his friend saw U.S. helicopters delivering bottled water to Islamic State positions. He is a commander in one of the Shiite militias that last month helped push the militants out of the oil refinery near Baiji in northern Iraq alongside the Iraqi army.

The Islamic State is “almost finished,” he said. “They are weak. If only America would stop supporting them, we could defeat them in days.”

U.S. military officials say the charges are too far-fetched to merit a response. “It’s beyond ridiculous,” said Col. Steve Warren, the military’s Baghdad-based spokesman. “There’s clearly no one in the West who buys it, but unfortunately, this is something that a segment of the Iraqi population believes.”

The perception among Iraqis that the United States is somehow in cahoots with the militants it claims to be fighting appears, however, to be widespread across the country’s Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, and it speaks to more than just the troubling legacy of mistrust that has clouded the United States’ relationship with Iraq since the 2003 invasion and the subsequent withdrawal eight years later.

At a time when attacks by the Islamic State in Paris and elsewhere have intensified calls for tougher action on the ground, such is the level of suspicion with which the United States is viewed in Iraq that it is unclear whether the Obama administration would be able to significantly escalate its involvement even if it wanted to.

“What influence can we have if they think we are supporting the terrorists?” asked Kirk Sowell, an analyst based in neighboring Jordan who publishes the newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics.

In one example of how little leverage the United States now has, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi pushed back swiftly against an announcement Tuesday by Defense Secretary ­Ashton B. Carter that an expeditionary force of U.S. troops will be dispatched to Iraq to conduct raids, free hostages and capture Islamic State leaders.

Iraq’s semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, where support for the United States remains strong, has said it would welcome more troops. But Abadi indicated they would not be needed.

“There is no need for foreign ground combat troops,” he said in a statement. “Any such support and special operations anywhere in Iraq can only be deployed subject to the approval of the Iraqi Government and in coordination with the Iraqi forces and with full respect to Iraqi sovereignty.”

The allegations of U.S. collusion with the Islamic State are aired regularly in parliament by Shiite politicians and promoted in postings on social media. They are persistent enough to suggest a deliberate campaign on the part of Iran’s allies in Iraq to erode American influence, U.S. officials say.

In one typical recent video that appeared on the Facebook page of a Shiite militia, a lawmaker with the country’s biggest militia group, the Badr Organization, waves apparently new U.S military MREs (meals ready to eat) — one of them chicken and dumplings — allegedly found at a recently captured Islamic State base in Baiji, offering proof, he said, of U.S. support.

“The Iranians and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are really pushing this line of propaganda, that the United States is supporting ISIL,” Warren said. “It’s part of the Iranian propaganda machine.”

The perception plays into a widening rift within Iraq’s ruling Shiite elite over whether to pivot more toward Iran or the United States. Those pushing the allegations “want to create a narrative that Iran is our ally and the United States is our enemy, and this undermines Abadi, who is America’s ally,” Sowell said.

Iraqi government officials say they don’t believe the charges and point out that Abadi regularly pushes back against them. But Abadi’s own position has weakened in recent months. He is battling for his political survival against a variety of Shiite militia leaders whose power has been bolstered by the increasingly dominant role played on the battlefield by the militias, collectively known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or popular mobilization units.

Iraqi officials complain that their task is hampered by what is universally perceived as the lackluster U.S. response to the threat posed by the Islamic State.

“We don’t believe the Americans support Daesh,” said Naseer Nouri, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “But it is true that most people are saying they do, and they are right to believe that the Americans should be doing much more than they are. It’s because America is so slow that most people believe they are supporting Daesh.”

U.S. warplanes routinely fail to respond to requests for air support because of U.S. rules of engagement that preclude strikes if there is a risk civilians may be hit, he said. According to Warren, that standard frequently is not met. The United States has conducted more than 3,768 strikes in Iraq as of Nov.­ 19, according to the U.S. military, and the tempo of strikes has increased lately, U.S. officials say.

But it also appears that the fighters are unaware when they do receive U.S. air support. The U.S. military reported near-daily strikes in support of the offensive to recapture Baiji last month and continues to respond regularly to requests for strikes in the vicinity, Warren said.

The fighters there insist there have been no strikes by the Americans at all. “We’d be better off without them,” said 1st Lt. Murtada Fadl, who is serving with the Iraqi elite forces in Baiji. He said that the only air support had come from the Iraqi air force and that he wishes the government would ask the Russians to replace the Americans.

In a part of the world where outcomes are often confused with intentions and regional complexities enable conspiracy theories to thrive, the notion that the United States is colluding with the Islamic State holds a certain logic, according to Mustafa Alani, director of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center. Most Arabs are too in awe of American might to believe that the United States is deliberately adopting a minimalist approach, he said.

“The reason is that the Americans aren’t doing the job people expect them to do,” he said. “Mosul was lost and the Americans did nothing. Syria was lost and the Americans did nothing. Paris is attacked and the Americans aren’t doing much. So people believe this is a deliberate policy. They can’t believe the American leadership fails to understand the developments in the region, and so the only other explanation is that this is part of a conspiracy.”

On the streets of Baghdad, most Iraqis see no other explanation.

“The image of the U.S. was damaged in the region, so they created Daesh in order to fight them and restore their image,” said Mohammed Abdul Khaleq, a journalist for a local TV station who was drinking coffee in a cafe favored by writers, most of whom said they agreed.

A rare dissenting voice was offered by Hassan Abdul-Wahab, 23, selling luggage in a nearby shop. “It is true that most people believe that,” he said. “But it’s not based on reason. It’s based on racism — because Iraqis don’t like Americans in the first place.”





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Can Nigeria's president defeat oil industry corruption?

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took power promising to tackle the "mind-boggling" level of corruption in his country's oil industry. But can he succeed?

Although oil is said to account for 75% of the Nigerian economy, no-one knows how much the country actually produces or refines because hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil are stolen every day, at each level of the supply chain.

President Buhari has taken personal control of the oil ministry and split the state-owned NNPC oil company into two entities in a move aimed at reducing corruption.




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Vincent Kuagbenu fired as YEA boss

Chief Executive of Youth Employment Agency Vincent Kuagbenu has been relieved of his post.

A statement signed by Chief of Staff Julius Debrah said Mr Kuagbenu has been asked to handover to his successor latest by Tuesday, December 8, 2015.

“H.E. the President has identified Mr. Kobina Beecham, whose curriculum vitae is attached hereto, to be considered for appointment as the chief Executive of Youth Employment Agency,” the statement dated November 27, 2015 noted.

Mr. Kuagbenu, has been asked to return to the presidency with immediate effect.

Prior to his appointment at YEA, Mr. Kuagbenu was assigned responsibility in the Office of the President to coordinate the rationalization and re-registration of Government vehicles.

Vincent Kuagbenu, a former National Service Secretariat (NSS) boss, took over from Kobby Acheampong in June this year when the President reshuffled a number of heads of public institutions and departments.


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Planned Parenthood: Three die in shooting at Colorado clinic

A shooting at a family planning clinic in Colorado Springs has left two civilians and a police officer dead, with the suspected gunman under arrest.

Nine other people were injured during the standoff at the Planned Parenthood clinic, which lasted five hours before the suspect surrendered.

A number of people were trapped inside the building as shots were exchanged.

The motive remains unclear. The Planned Parenthood group has drawn anti-abortion protests in the past.

Colorado Springs Police Department identified the suspect as Robert Lewis Dear, from North Carolina.

"I want to convey to the loved ones of the victims, this is a terrible, terrible tragedy that occurred here in Colorado Springs today," Mayor John Suthers told a news conference.

"Obviously, we lost two civilian victims. We mourn the loss of a very brave police officer."

The dead policeman was named as Garrett Swasey, 44, who was married with two children.

President Barack Obama said: "We have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Enough is enough."

He has previously expressed his frustration after other fatal shootings about not being able to do more on gun control.


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Gov’t won’t pay for power from barge; consumers will – John Jinapor

The Power Ministry says consumers will be responsible for paying for power from Karpower barge. Government is only a facilitator.

Deputy Power Minister John Jinapor confirmed to Joy News government will not play any role in paying for the services of the power barge from Turkey.

“The payment will be done by the end-user. It will not be done by the government” he was emphatic.

The Karpower barge was reported to have set off on November 7 from Turkey and its progress on high seas has been keenly monitored by Ghanaian media.

Billed as an important saviour from an increasingly irritating power rationing regime, the barge will inject about 225 megawatts.

Government has been conscientizing consumers to expect to pay more for power.

 “Government is only a facilitator....but at the end of the day whatever power that will be generated ought to be paid by the end-user” Jinapor said.

He said government will only “assist the process to ensure that they [Karpower] have heavy fuel oil” to generate power

He said government was also working with "numerous" Independent Power Producers to augment Ghana’s weak generation capacity.

- Source:

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NPP invasion claims against government malicious- Omane Boamah

The government has described as malicious claims by the opposition New Patriotic Party that the government masterminded the invasion of its Headquarters, Monday dawn.
The opposition party at a press conference in Accra, Friday, alleged the government organised military and police personnel to invade its head quarters as part of an agenda to create the impression as though the party was in turmoil.
But a statement issued by the Communications Minister  Dr Edward Omane Boamah said the claims by the NPP are nothing more than a fabrication to shift the blame to government;
The following is the full government statement;


Government is constrained to correct a wicked and malicious falsehood peddled by the New Patriotic Party to the effect that Government acting through the Military and Police invaded the party’s headquarters in Accra in the early hours of Monday, 23rd November, 2015.
For the avoidance of doubt, Government wishes to place on record that this claim is a deliberate fabrication by the New Patriotic Party calculated at shifting blame for the horrendous leadership it has had leading to its rapid descent into chaos, violence, lawlessness, brutal killings and total confusion over the last year or so.
We are aware that the NPP routinely dabbles in anti-government propaganda of the most undesirable kind, but this latest falsehood against government marks a new low in the party’s resort to outright untruths to pursue its objectives. As it is to be expected, they have once again failed to provide a scintilla of evidence to back these noisy claims.
Over the last few years, the Government of President John Dramani Mahama has demonstrated its commitment to the maintenance of law and order and respect for the rule of law. This is manifest in the amount of investment that has gone into the biggest retooling ever carried out by any government of the country’s security Agencies.
This retooling has positioned them to respond adequately to contemporary security challenges. But for this state of readiness on the part of our security agencies, more bloodshed would have been recorded at the NPP headquarters which has become an outpost of lawlessness and violence instead of the administrative nerve-centre of a political party.
Government notes that the Police has been investigating the matter under reference with a view to bringing the culprits to book. We call on the NPP to cooperate with the Police in this regard and desist from the ridiculous gambit of blaming others for their woes.
Government also urges the leadership of the NPP to end their total abdication of responsibility and take steps to halt the internecine feud that has left the party in shambles. The persistent bickering, open brawls and violent attacks within the party has the potential to undermine public safety and security.
The NPP must pause and sip from the cup of wisdom and peace that preaches that constantly peddling falsehood about government and seeking to foist blame on it at a time when the evidence of dysfunctional leadership within the NPP is glaring will not suffice.
The Government of President Mahama remains focused on executing its mandate of changing lives and transforming Ghana in a manner that will enhance the well-being of Ghanaians. We will not be distracted by untruths and fabrications emanating from the NPP.
Edward K. Omane Boamah (Dr)
(Communications Minister)

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IGP shakes up police service

The Acting Inspector General of Police John Kudalor has announced a new shake up at the top ranks of the police service.
As many as 29 changes have been made at the top hierarchy of the administration with the changes expected to take effect on December 1, 2015.
The changes follow the announcement of John Kudalor who replaced Mohammed Alhassan as IGP only few weeks ago.
COP Rose Bio Atinga, Director-General/ Administration is now the Director General , Research and Planning at the National Police Headquarters, a statement signed by the IGP, Friday has indicated.
COP David Asante Apeatu who was Director General Research has been moved to the National HQ as Director General ICT.
COP Ransford Ninson who heads the Central Region as Regional Commander has been moved to the National HQ as Director General Administration.
COP Seidu Mohamadu Zakaria who was Director General , hospital now becomes the Director General , Medics at the National Police HQ, Accra.
Director General Public Affairs, DCOP Nenyi Ampah Benin now heads the Police Investigations and Professional Standards Bureau (PIPS), confirming SUP. Cephas Arthur as Director of Public Affairs.
Motor Traffic Department, Director General, DCOP Awuni leaves Accra to become the Eastern Region Commander.
The Regional commanders for Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Volta, Western, Upper East and Upper West remain unchanged. However, the Central Region will have a new commander in the person of DCOP Yaagy Akuribah.
- Source:


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