20 killed in Israeli shelling of UN school

The shell hit a UN school, used as a shelter for those displaced by the ongoing Israeli offensive, at around after 5:30am (02:30 GMT).

A UN official confirmed the shelling, saying it hit a bathroom and two classrooms in the school, but gave a lower initial death toll of 13 to 15, AFP reports.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW


One million barrels of Iraqi oil ‘stranded’ off coast of Texas

According toAl Jazeera, Baghdad has filed a lawsuit in Texas claiming the oil – which was sold by northern Iraq’s Kurdish region without the permission of the central government – and insisting that it is the only authority in Iraq capable of selling the country’s resources.

Although US District Judge Nancy K. Johnson has ordered the seizure of the $100 million shipment, she also said that unless the tanker enters the territorial waters of the US it’s out of American jurisdiction.

As the Associated Press noted, if the ship moves closer, a US Marshal has been ordered to confiscate the cargo.

As Iraq continues to face violence and turmoil due to the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the relatively stable Kurdistan region has used the moment take control of areas in Kirkuk that are flush with oil. The Kurds have long wished for independence from Iraq, and in May sold 1.05 million barrels of oil to Turkey, keeping the profits for themselves and triggering criticism from the central government.

Back in June, an attempt by Iraq’s central government to make Kurdish oil sales illegal was shot down by the country’s Supreme Court.

In response to Johnson’s ruling – which also stressed the involved parties to resolve the situation in their native country – Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad reiterated Baghdad’s claims to all of the country’s oil.

“The Iraqi government considers these oil shipments to be illegal and we hope that everybody in the world will respect our measures,” he told the AP.

For its part, the US State Department has publicly backed Baghdad’s assertion, though it has not barred companies from purchasing oil from the Kurds. It has, however, cautioned that doing so could result in legal action.

“We believe that Iraq’s energy resources belong to the Iraqi people and certainly have long stated that it needs to go through the central government,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday, as quoted by the AP.

Whether or not the Kurds are successful in their bid for independence remains to be seen.US officials have raised concern over the possibility that Iraq could be broken up into multiple parts, while others – including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – have voiced support for the Kurds, arguing they are effectively an independent state already.


Plane sinks in melting asphalt at Moscow airport

As temperatures peaked at 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, an S7 flight from Domodedovo Airport enroute from Moscow to Novosibirsk took off at 16:00 local time instead of a scheduled take-off at 11:15.

“At 11.15 our aircraft, Boeing 737, had to take off,” Evgeny, a passenger on board the flight told Komsomolskaya Pravda. “However, we were informed that the flight is delayed by 45 minutes due to the fact that the plane still has not arrived. At 11.50, when it finally arrived, we were allowed to go on board. The Boeing then drove off and having left the airport building stood up to wait in line for take-off.”

The Boeing 737 could not take off, since the rear landing gear was stuck in a pothole about 10-15 centimeters deep as the heat melted asphalt underneath the weight of the plane.

“But when it came time to fly, he could not budge. The asphalt melted and rear wheels sunk in it by 10-15 centimeters,” Evgeny says.

The passengers had to disembark as the maintenance crew worked on getting the plane back in take-off mode.

“Abnormally high temperatures have led to minor defects to the local seat covers of aircraft parking,” Daria Korshunova, a spokeswoman for the airport told Komsomolskaya Pravda. Korshunova also said that flights coming in and out of Domodedovo airport were not affected.

The temperatures in Moscow region are expected to climb in the coming days. Wednesday’s forecast calls for 31-33 C in the city, with 35 C predicted by the weekend. Meanwhile ecologists from environmental monitoring agency issued a “red” alert pollution warning.

The warning extends to those suffering from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, pregnant women and the elderly. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the city for July 29 was in 2010 when the air hit a scorching 38.2 C (100 F).

Every two hours, some 600 specially equipped trucks spray the streets of the Russian capital to cool the pavement. Water is also being handed out to metro passengers and at railway stations.

“In the subway, at 10 stations where there are problems in terms of temperature based on historical observation, paramedics are stationed there,” Maksim Liksutov, the head of Moscow’s Transportation Department was quoted by Moscow city portal, FlashNord.

Liksutov also said that “184 metro stations are equipped with water coolers, as well as water distributors at all Moscow’s railway stations.” In addition, Moscow authorities announced that specially designed “cool rooms” are available for public use in the center of the city.

Moscow’s health authorities said that since the beginning of the heat wave, only 2-3 people a day have asked medical assistance related to heat strokes, in comparison to over 7,000 patients that seek medical care in Moscow daily.

Meanwhile in Japan, a heatwave there has taken away the lives of at least 15 people over the past week. Over 8,000 Japanese sought medical attention with heatstroke symptoms, official figures showed Tuesday, AFP reports.

As 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures struck the island nation with high humidity on Saturday, nearly 8,600 people went to emergency rooms for heat-related symptoms by Sunday, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. Fifteen people have died.

In 2013 Japan experienced its hottest summer on record, with a record 41 degrees C (105.8 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country, causing tens of thousands to suffer heat-related symptoms.


Feds doled out millions towards Tor online anonymity tools

In fact, the large majority of the money gifted to the Tor Project has its origins in the State Department and the Department of Defense.

According to the Guardian, the US government delivered a little more than $1.8 million to Tor last year – an increase over the $1.2 million given in 2012. Some of that money was direct – the State Department issued $256,900 while the National Science Foundation donated $100,325 – but most of it was delivered through third parties and non-profit organizations.

“The two largest single grantors of federal money were SRI international, a non-profit research and development centre that aims to bridge the gap between abstract research and industry, and Internews Network, an international non-profit that funds programmes supporting democracy and human rights,” wrote Alex Hern at the Guardian. “The latter gave $555,413 in funding originally from the US Department of State, while the former gave $830,269 in funding ultimately stemming from the US Department of Defense.”

Also known as “The Onion Router,” Tor is a free internet browser that allows users to bypass online censorship as well as avoid surveillance. Although the browser was initially released back in 2002, it has gained notoriety ever since revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the US intelligence agency to be collecting large amounts of data on individuals. Snowden himself has recommended Tor to users looking to keep the government at bay.

Last year, a separate Guardian report revealed that the NSA and the United Kingdom’s GCHQ have made multiple attempts to break through Tor’s privacy settings, with limited success. As RT reported recently, Russia is also attempting the same, with its Interior Ministry offering $111,000 to anyone who can help the government crack the network.

Meanwhile, a report by PandoDaily in July showed that most of those involved with developing Tor – itself a project built in coordination with the Navy – were funded by and still used by the US government.

The website raised concern over the possibility that a conflict of interests could exist, since so much money for the project comes from the state. According to the project’s tax documents, Tor aided the Defense Department in areas related to “communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.”

As effective as Tor can be, it isn’t perfect. In May, Microsoft security expert Andy Malone said that while the network itself is still effective, there are weak points that can be taken advantage of by data collectors.

“At the moment the Tor network’s security has never been broken, but there are flaws around it that can be exploited,” Malone said at the time.

“Tor leaks do occur through third-party apps and add-ons, like Flash. If I was doing forensics on you and thought you were on Tor I wouldn’t attack the network I’d attack the weak areas around it.”


Shock and terror: Islamic State boasts mass executions in Iraq (GRAPHIC)

The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL, stormed through areas of northern Iraq last month, building on territory they had already seized in western Iraq and Syria.

The 36-minute video clip was released for the Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan, sheds a disturbing light on the mentality of the Islamic State extremists and the methods they use as the organization presses on with its campaign of hatred and murder.

The video begins with IS fighters sweeping through a town in quick hit raids. The insurgents then stand over dozens of terrified Iraqis many of whom are only teenagers. One militant mocks a soldier for wearing civilian clothes over his uniform and then shoots him dead.

Other soldiers are then led to a pit in the desert and murdered one by one. A jihadist, not satisfied that they are dead, then does the round again. Most of the men appear to be deserters from the Iraqi army.

Other sequences from the IS propaganda video include a commander firing up militants with promises that paradise awaits them, when they take the city of Samarra, which is only 100 km north of the capital Baghdad.

Some of the prisoners were led to the edge of a river where each one was shot in the head with a pistol and then shoved in.

The footage also shows the insurgents moving into a town in pick-up trucks and US Humvees, seized from the Iraqi army last month, although it is not clear if this actually is Samarra, which is still reportedly in Iraqi government hands.

Islamic State militants gain ground by driving past other vehicles and opening fire randomly on passengers who then lose control of their vehicles or lie dead on the seats in pools of their own blood.

The video also shows IS bulldozing mosques and blowing up Shiite shrines.

MORE: ISIS jihadists demolish mosques, shrines in northern Iraq (PHOTOS)

Islamic State insurgents appear to avoid heavy clashes and therefore casualties by conducting quick, ruthless and indiscriminate operations and by using psychological warfare.

READ MORE: Jihadists attract investors, fighters with annual reports & glossy PR

On Tuesday the Islamic State secured another strategic victory by blowing up a bridge between Tikrit and Samarra, as well as severing a tunnel which was also used by the Iraqi military.

Iraqi government troops have tried and failed to recapture Tikrit from the militants. As the Iraqi army proves to be increasingly inept and ineffective, Shiite militias now rival government forces in their will and ability to confront Sunni insurgents.

Iraqi Christians have also fled the IS controlled city of Mosul, the second biggest in Iraq, following threats of execution if they did not convert to Islam or pay a religious tax.

The only forces making headway or at least holding their ground in the battle against the IS insurgents are the Kurds to the north and the forces of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Islamic State militants in Syria briefly captured the Al-Shaar gas field near Homs and killed at least 200 Syrian army soldiers before it was recaptured by President Assad’s forces Monday.


Pakistani man sues UK govt for complicity in decade of torture

In a lengthy 60-page document drawn up by his legal team, the 31-year-old Yunus Rahmatullah describes the torture and inhumane treatment he was subjected to after his capture in Iraq by UK special forces in 2004. Shortly after the detention, Rahmatullah was stationed with American troops. He was subsequently transferred to Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison before being sent to Bagram jail in Afghanistan.

In a statement of claim, the Pakistani’s lawyers argue he was beaten unconscious and stripped using a pair of scissors to shred his clothes. Later on, a soldier poured water on Rahmatullah’s face, after covering his mouth and nose with a cloth to create a “sensation of drowning”. While hooded and chained, the man lost consciousness as was forcefully attacked and hurled against a wall, the document reveals.

The 31 year-old was also hung upside down and “repeatedly dunked into a tank of water”, according to the court document. At one particular juncture, he was taken into a room and presented with a distressing scene of “six or seven naked detainees piled on top of each other,” the statement notes.

On one occasion, Yunus was wrapped tightly in duct tape from head to toe, according to his lawyers. He was also allegedly kept in solitary confinement in an unsanitary cell populated with rats and cockroaches, and denied any form of daylight for years.

READ MORE: UK journalists could be labeled ‘terrorists’ for attempting to uphold public interest

Following his decision to protest this inhumane treatment with a hunger strike, Rahmatullah was force-fed on six different occasions. Other than restricted communication with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) representatives, he had absolutely no contact with the external word – including his own family – until 2010.

British special forces’ decision to hand Rahmatullah over to US soldiers – who covertly transferred him to Afghanistan – defied an international law agreement signed by the US and Britain. The agreement highlights the rights of war prisoners and civilian detainees as outlined in the Geneva Conventions.

Rahmatullah’s lawyers condemned British authorities’ treatment of their client. The UK government’s “servants and agents” were “recklessly indifferent to the illegality of their actions,” they told the high court.

The former captive is believed to have first been detained at Camp Nama, a secret prison facility in Baghdad that British troops helped to run. Initially a covert operation, his capture wasn’t disclosed to British MPs until 2009. Rahmatullah was released without charge by American authorities in May 2014.

In 2011, Britain’s court of appeal ruled that Yunus had been unlawfully detained and ordered a writ of habeas corpus to be issued – the ancient British right to be released from arbitrary detention. However, in the Supreme Court the UK government’s lawyers subsequently argued that British ministers had no power to ensure Rahmatullah was released from Bagram. They were successful in their case.

‘A disgraceful episode in UK history’

Legal director at UK human rights group Reprieve, Kat Craig, recently visited Rahmatullah.

“Yunus Rahmatullah has been through 10 years of frankly unimaginable horror. Now that he has finally been able to speak freely to his lawyers, there is no longer any doubt that the British government bears responsibility for his torture and illegal rendition to Bagram”, she said on Tuesday.

“Yunus was robbed of ten years in the prime of his life; a time when he wanted to find a career, choose a partner and build a family”,
she added.

“The government must now come clean about the full extent of British involvement in this disgraceful episode in our history – only then will Yunus be able to move on and try to rebuild his life”, she concluded.

The British government claims Yunus’ case is currently under state investigation. But Yunus’ lawyer, Rosa Curling, expresses serious doubt over these claims.

READ MORE: Senate report points to UK ‘complicity’ in US extraordinary rendition

“The UK government states it is investigating our client’s allegations of wrongdoing by UK soldiers. However, to date, the UK government has refused to investigate its role in the decision taken to transfer our client in to US custody, when it knew there was a real risk such a transfer would expose him to torture, mistreatment and abuse”, she said on Tuesday.

Curling sharply criticized British authorities’ treatment of Yunus, emphasizing he was unlawfully transferred to the US base. The UK government’s subsequent failure to initiate proper steps to ensure he was returned safely is utterly unacceptable, according to Curling.

“This case exposes a catalogue of errors on the part of the Brits, which have ruined a young man’s life,” she insists. “Justice must now be done, and done swiftly.”


Why are massive numbers of sea creatures dying along the West Coast right now?

Never before have we seen so much death along the west coast of North America. Massive numbers of sea stars, bluefin tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring, oysters, salmon, marine mammals and marine birds are dying, and experts are puzzled.


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