Bombing people to save them? Western states line up to intervene in Syria

(Deutsche Welle) France, Australia and the UK are considering joining a US-led coalition flying air strikes in Syria. They cite the refugee crisis as justification for military intervention, but can bombing put an end to the conflict?

For British Prime Minister David Cameron, it’s not enough to act as a “moral humanitarian nation taking people, spending money on aid and helping in refugee camps.”

“Assad has to go, ISIL has to go. Some of that will require not just spending money, not just aid, not just diplomacy but it will on occasion require hard military force,” Cameron said, using an alternative acronym for “Islamic State.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has already announced plans for his country to join the US-led air campaign in Syria and he has not even ruled out the possibility of sending ground troops. France is already flying reconnaissance missions over Syria to gather information for potential air strike targets as President Francois Hollande announced his intention to join the US-led campaign in Syria on Monday.

‘Bombing people to save them’

But air strikes aimed at protecting civilians are rarely effective, according to Taylor Seybolt. Air strikes have a chance of success only at the start of a conflict – before the warring sides are entrenched – or at the end when they are exhausted. The strikes also have to defend a focused area for a limited amount of time, Seybolt told DW. None of these conditions are currently present in Syria.

“Bombing people to save them isn’t really a good practice,” said Seybolt, the author of “Humanitarian Military Intervention: The Conditions for Success or Failure.”

“The talk about humanitarian bombing is not focused on a particular safe area or population,” Seybolt said. “It’s just sort of a broad statement that we’re going to try to help people so that they stay were they are rather than come across to Europe.”

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Sanders pressures Democrats to adopt progressive stance

(By Deutsche Welle) With Donald Trump now the presumptive Republican nominee, attention is shifting to the Democratic race. The contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is more about the party’s values than about the nomination.

Even if Senator Bernie Sanders loses the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, he could well win the fight for the party’s future and have a major influence on the direction of US politics.

When Sanders launched his campaign last year, he was something of a political curiosity: an independent senator from the small state of Vermont and a self-identified democratic socialist.

Socialist is normally an insult in US political parlance.

But Sanders has proven to be a major political force since voting began in February. He has won 18 states and is about 300 pledged delegates shy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead.

The senator has mobilized a grassroots movement of predominantly young and working-class people. Since the start of his campaign, he has raised $182 million (160 million euros) from millions of individual small donors.

John Nichols, a reporter for The Nation magazine, has covered Sanders for 25 years. He said the senator would likely have enough delegates to contest the convention and pressure the center-left party to adopt a more progressive agenda.

“Some of the most interesting contested conventions have not been fights for the nomination,” Nichols told DW. “They have been fights to define the platform, values and program of a political party.”

The Nation, a progressive publication, has endorsed Sanders in the Democratic race. Continue reading

Loss in Ohio slows Trump’s march to Republican nomination

Long-shot candidate John Kasich has defeated Donald Trump in Ohio’s key presidential primary. Trump’s candidacy faces mounting resistance from moderate Republicans, DW’s Spencer Kimball reports from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Days after protests forced the Republican front-runner to cancel a rally in Chicago, Donald Trump has suffered a significant defeat in Ohio’s key primary.

John Kasich, the moderate governor of Ohio, managed to pull ahead in the neck-and-neck race on Tuesday, denying Trump all 66 delegates under the state’s winner-take-all rules.

The billionaire reality television star’s loss in Ohio slows, although it does not halt, his steady march toward the Republican nomination.

“Losing Ohio means he’ll have to deal with Kasich for a little bit longer, but it doesn’t end the process,” said David Nevin, a US politics expert at the University of Cincinnati.

“The way the map and the way the winner-take-all rules are set up, it’s going to get easier and easier for Trump to roll up big delegate totals from here on out,” said Nevin.

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Chicago protests force Trump to call off rally

Donald Trump’s political ascent is mobilizing fierce opposition. Days before a string of key primaries, the Republican front-runner was forced by protesters to call off a major rally in Chicago, reports Spencer Kimball.

Even for the protesters, the news came as a surprise.

Donald Trump called off his rally in Chicago on Friday, citing “security concerns” amid reports of scuffles inside the university arena where he was scheduled to appear.

“Honestly, I’m shocked they called it off as quickly as they did,” said Annelise Steele, a 20-year-old student who showed up to protest against the Republican front-runner.

A large number of anti-Trump demonstrators descended on the University of Illinois Pavilion Center, many carrying signs and chanting slogans that panned the billionaire as a fascist and white supremacist. Activists said thousands had showed up to protest.

“I feel ecstatic. I feel like I actually have a voice,” said Uber driver Robert Willard as his fellow protesters celebrated their victory.

In a press release, Trump’s campaign said he decided to “postpone” the rally after landing in Chicago and discussing the situation with law enforcement. Supporters like Tayler Fuentes were disappointed in their candidate for not showing up.

“He should have stuck it out,” said Fuentes, a 28-year-old veteran and surgical assistant. “He always projects this image of being strong. What’s he going to do when China and Russia come knocking on the door?”

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Clinton: We have to ‘save capitalism from itself’

(Deutsche Welle) It was a substantive debate focusing on income inequality. Bernie Sanders has pushed the Democrats’ presidential nomination debate to the left, but Hillary Clinton showed that she won’t be relinquishing her lead soon.

It was a strange moment in American politics. Five presidential candidates were asked during a nationally televised debate on Tuesday whether they were capitalists. The answer is normally taken for granted in the United States.

Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, has shaken up the Democratic primary and rattled American political conventions. The self-declared democratic socialist has made significant gains against Hillary Clinton in early primary states and in the third quarter raised nearly as much money without the support big donors – $25 million (21.9 million euros) compared to Clinton’s $28 million.

“There is a mood this year in the electorate of a rejection of standard political discourse and standard political candidates,” Alan Schroeder, author of “Presidential Debates: 50 years of High Risk TV,” told DW. “Bernie Sanders has this message that’s resonating with a lot of people.”

His message is about income inequality and the system that produces it. Sanders has railed against the “billionaire class” and calls the campaign finance system “corrupt.” The senator points to Scandinavian countries, with their generous social welfare states, as role models for the United States.

While it might be the year of the political outsider, the establishment will only move so far: “We are not Denmark,” Clinton said during an exchange with Sanders over the merits of capitalism. “We are the United States of America.”

But Sanders has succeeded in pushing the debate to the left. Clinton agreed that something has gone wrong in America’s economic system, that capitalism has “run amok” and created inequities. According to Clinton, the next president must “save capitalism from itself.”

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Europe follows America’s lead on FIFA, VW scandals

First world soccer, now the world’s top automaker. The US has taken the lead in prosecuting trans-Atlantic white collar crime. Has Europe dropped the ball? Spencer Kimball reports from Chicago.

FIFA’s leadership has been decimated since the US Justice Department charged world soccer with racketeering and money laundering last May.

Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s long-time president, and two of his deputies have been banned from the organization for 90 days. Powerful sponsors such Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Visa are calling on Blatter to step down immediately.

Volkswagen is next in the firing line. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the automaker had been cheating on US emissions tests. Volkswagen’s stock value has plummeted and its chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, has resigned. The Justice Department is now investigating and criminal charges could be brought against Germany’s largest company.

Both FIFA and Volkswagen are based in Europe. Yet US regulators and investigators have been at the forefront in pursuing these white collar criminal cases. According to William Black, a former bank regulator, the US simply has more tools at its disposal than Switzerland, Germany or the EU.

“The United States, despite this record of catastrophic failure in responding to the white collar epidemics that drove the financial crisis, still has vastly better laws for regulating and prosecuting, and still has vastly greater willingness to take on powerful folks than is true in many places,” Black told DW.

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‘Americans are allowing the insanity of gun violence’

(Deutsche Welle) A mass shooting struck another school in America, this time a community college in Oregon. Jonathan Metzl, an expert on gun violence and mental health, says school shootings are on the rise in the US.

More than two years have passed since 20 children and six adults were massacred by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Americans were shocked and horrified. There was a push by President Barack Obama to pass stricter gun control laws. But those efforts failed over the opposition of a powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association. In the United States, though most Americans support some form of gun control, there’s a constitutional right to own firearms.

Since the Newtown massacre, there have been at least 141 school shootings in the United States, according to the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. That’s nearly one school shooting a week.

On Thursday, it happened again. A gunman opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. According to local authorities, at least nine were killed and seven were injured. Earlier reports had put the number of injured as high as 20.

Deutsche Welle spoke with Jonathan Metzl, an expert on gun violence and mental health, at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

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‘Clock’ incident reflects US suspicion of Islam

(Deutsche Welle) In Texas, a 14-year-old Muslim student was briefly arrested at his school after he plugged in a ticking box he later described as a clock. Muslim rights activists say this is part of a series of discriminatory events.

An audience member at a Donald Trump rally in New Hampshire had a serious question for the leading Republican presidential candidate.

“We’ve got a problem in this country,” the middle-aged man said. “It’s called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American. We have training camps growing where they want to kill us…when can we get rid of the them?”

Trump’s response: “We’re going to be looking at that and a lot of different things.”

The man’s comment – and Trump’s failure to confront it – was only the latest in a string of anti-Islamic incidents that have taken place across the United States in recent days.

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Kim Davis, gay marriage, and the death of Christian privilege in America

Arrested for denying marriage licenses to gay couples, Kim Davis is now being championed by the Republican candidates as a hero. Her imprisonment signals the end of Christian privilege in the US. Spencer Kimball reports.

A gay couple, surrounded by media, stands at the counter in the county clerk’s office and asks to be served. They would like a marriage license. Two months earlier, the highest court in the United States had legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

But in this small county in the state of Kentucky, the clerk obeys laws different than those weighed by the Supreme Court. Kim Davis, an evangelical Christian, refuses to issue the marriage license. When asked by the couple under what authority, she responds: “God’s authority.”

Davis was ultimately found in contempt of court and arrested. Though now in jail, she’s still officially the county clerk in Rowan County. As an elected official, Davis can only be removed from office by the state legislature. She receives a salary of $80,000 (72,000 euros) a year from the taxpayer.

Bill Leonard is a Baptist minister and an expert on American religious life at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. According to Leonard, if Davis can’t fulfill the oath she took as county clerk to execute the laws of the land, she should resign.

“It’s fine for her to oppose this on the basis of liberty of conscience, a lot of people do that,” Leonard told DW. “But she’s contradicting the oath she took. She can’t have it both ways. She can’t keep making $80,000 a year and not fulfill her oath.”

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Assertive Saudi King Salman visits Washington

King Salman is visiting Washington for the first time since ascending the Saudi throne. DW‘s US correspondent Spencer Kimball reports that the US faces a kingdom that has become very assertive in its foreign policy.

For decades, a simple quid-pro-quo formed the basis of US-Saudi relations. Riyadh provided the oil, Washington provided the security.

“It’s become infinitely more complicated than that,” James B. Smith, the American ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009-2013, told DW.

On Friday, US President Barack Obama welcomes Saudi King Salman to Washington for the first time. Salman, 79, ascended the throne last January after his half-brother Abdullah passed away.

When the two leaders meet, President Obama will represent a nation that’s become increasingly self-reliant in energy production, while King Salman will represent a nation that’s become increasingly self-assertive in its foreign policy.

Last March, Riyadh launched a military intervention in neighboring Yemen after Houthi rebels drove the US-Saudi backed government from power. Though the US has provided intelligence and logistical support, Washington is largely on the sidelines, according to Smith. For the first time, Saudi Arabia is clearly in the driver’s seat.

“Traditionally they’ve operated in the shadows, using money or influence,” Smith, now president of C&M International, said of the Saudis. “The Yemen campaign indicates a much more muscular foreign policy. I don’t know if this is an aberration or a trend, it’s too early to tell.”

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