ICYMI News-Saturday Morning Edition

Christmas Canary. Image by Lenny Ghoul.

As it was reported yesterday in the TNB story, Trump decided on Syria withdrawal in phone call with Erdogan, shocking everyone involved, where it was discovered Trump’s sudden announcement on Wednesday to withdraw US troops from engagement in fighting IS fighters in Syria – triggering the sudden resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis – “came during a phone call on December 14 with Turkish President Recep Tayyip,” the BBC had reported two days before President Trump’s phone call, that “seven mass graves near Albu Kamal in eastern Syria have been unearthed,” in strongholds the group formerly known as the Islamic State previously held.

The BBC reported that, according to the Syrian state media Sana news, of the “hundreds” of bodies discovered, including women, “most seem to have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment before execution.'”

According to the report, IS had been driven out of the Deir al-Zour province of Albu Kamal that borders with Iraq last year by Syrian forces.

At the peak of the group’s power, about 10 million people lived in IS-controlled areas, but the US military said earlier this year that the jihadists had been ousted from 98% of their former territory.


The Associated Press reported last month, that after driving out IS fighters last year from the northern city of Raqqa, “once the capital of the Islamic State group’s self-styled caliphate,” that “at least nine graves [had] been found in and around Raqqa.”

The Panorama mass grave, named after the neighborhood where it was found, is one of the largest of nine mass graves discovered so far, and is believed to contain around 1,500 bodies. Hammoud al-Shawakh, a local official involved in the work, said 516 bodies believed to be of Islamic State fighters and civilians have been exhumed.

Associated Press; Nov 27 2018

In April 2016, the BBC reported, after “the liberation of Palmyra by Syrian troops,” from IS fighters in the north-eastern part of the city, “a mass grave containing the bodies of men, women and children was unearthed,” while fighting “erupted south of the city of Aleppo.”

In other news….

“‘Tis the season . . . to punch your colleague. But in Ukraine, apparently, it’s always that season.”

Ukrainian lawmakers carried on a tradition of a sort when they began punching each other Thursday during a parliamentary session.

The brawl broke out when opposition lawmaker Nestor Shufrych called Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, an “agent” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Then, as he walked away from the lectern, Shufrych ripped down a poster showing Medvedchuk’s face.

That, it turned out, was a bridge too far.

Washington Post

In other Ukrainian Parliamentary “skirmishes,” captured on video available at the WaPo link, there was one in 2014 between “nationalists and pro-Russian” lawmakers “over fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

In early 2015, one session was “cut short” after allegations of bribe taking turned into blows and another one, not on the floor of Parliament, but out in the halls, was captured on video going on for almost a minute over “a bill on land ownership” before being broken up by security.

In late 2015, one member tried to physically remove the then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, however, in a show of “some decorum,” the lawmaker “before hoisting Yatsenyuk off his feet … handed him a bouquet of red flowers.”

Meanwhile, news out of New York….

On Friday, May 25th, the New York Times reported, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein had been arrested and perp-walked in handcuffs into a Manhattan courtroom and charged “with two violent B-felonies for two separate forcible sexual assaults against two different women.” Weinstein pleaded not guilty, posted $1 million in bail and surrendered his passport.

Mr. Weinstein’s appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court lasted barely 10 minutes, but stood not only as a breakthrough in the investigation into sex-crime claims against him but as a watershed in the larger #MeToo movement. After decades of harnessing his wealth and power to silence women — and after weathering an earlier criminal inquiry into groping allegations — his reign as a film-industry titan suffered a decisive blow in, of all places, the shopworn arraignment courtroom, where he was among the morning cattle call of defendants.

Washington Post; May 25, 2018

Since that time, Weinstein’s lawyers have been fighting against the New York County District Attorney Office “to get the charges tossed out with multiple court motions attempting to discredit the case,” saying the “encounters” were consensual, according to a BuzzFeed report.

In October, Weinstein’s lawyer Ben Brafman did manage to get one charge dismissed after it was discovered “the lead detective on the case failed to share information regarding a witness refuting actor Lucia Evans’s testimony of being forced” to perform a sexual act.

Brafam has attempted to discredit the case by discrediting the District Attorney Cy Vance, alleging Vance of running “defective grand jury proceedings,” accusing the District Attorney of “attempting to prosecute crimes that are past the statute of limitations, and overcharging his client.”

Representing one of the victims, Gloria Allred told BuzzFeed reporter, “All of the money poured into this case by the defense and time and effort, did not succeed in helping Mr. Weinstein avoid facing trial, avoid facing his accusers.”

On Thursday, Judge James Burke, who is presiding over the case, not only denied the defendant’s lawyers’ latest motions to have Weinstein’s charges dismissed and for an “evidentiary hearing request,” he also set May 7 for the pretrial hearing, saying in his ruling, “The court finds that the charge presented in the Grand Jury were supported by competent evidence and the proceedings were properly conducted.”

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