Peshmerga forces 5 miles from Iraq’s Mosul in key battle against ISIS

Near Mosul, Iraq (CNN)Kurdish Peshmerga forces are within five miles (eight kilometers) of Mosul, commanders said Sunday, after days of fighting and sweeping territorial gains in theoperation to free the key Iraqi city from ISIS control.

A coalition of 100,000 troops have been closing in on Mosul since Monday, liberating surrounding communities village by village and making quicker-than-expected gains.
The coalition vastly outnumbers its opponent. No more than 5,000 ISIS fighters are in Mosul, a US military official said, although the terror group’s supporters put the number at 7,000.
Officials and analysts say that entering Mosul is likely to kick off intense street fighting as coalition forces try to retake what has become the cultural capital of ISIS’ envisaged caliphate, or Islamic state.

Latest developments

  • Turkey says it provided troops, weaponry to assist the Peshmerga in Bashiqa.
  • ISIS executed about 40 people celebrating the “liberation” of their villages by Iraqi forces, a Mosul official said.
  • Dozens of ISIS militants were killed in the Peshmerga push to Mosul’s outskirts
  • Two Christian towns — Hamdaniya and Bartella — were freed over the weekend, Iraqi military officials say
  • Hundreds of people near al-Qayyara were affected by a fire at a disused sulphur factory, sources said
  • ISIS launched a dawn attack south of Kirkuk city Sunday after an attack there Friday
  • US Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Irbil
Iraqi forces hold position on the frontline near Tall al-Tibah on Friday

‘Freed’ and then forgotten

Two Peshmerga factions linked up after surrounding the empty town of Bashiqa, about eight miles east of Mosul, with the support of coalition air power, the Peshmerga’s general command said in a statement Sunday.
They were able to cordon off eight villages in an area measuring approximately 38 square miles (100 square kilometers) and secure a significant stretch of the Bashiqa-Mosul highway to limit ISIS’ freedom of movement, commanders said. Hourslong clashes left dozens of ISIS militants dead, they said.
Turkish troops supported the Peshmerga in the battle, and Turkey has provided them with artillery, tanks and Firtina howitzer vehicles, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.
With this weekend’s gains have come pockets of horrific losses. ISIS executed about 40 people who were celebrating the apparent liberation of their villages by Iraqi forces, a Mosul City Council official said Sunday, citing local sources.
The official said that although Iraqi troops passed through the village where the executions took place — near Nimrud, south of Mosul — they did not leave units behind to ensure that ISIS militants stayed out.
These follow executions on Thursday and Friday, when ISIS militants rounded up and shot dead 284 men and boys, an Iraqi intelligence source told CNN. The reported massacres were a savage show of force as the coalition tightened its noose around Mosul.
Iraqi Special Forces soldiers hold a cross found in the town of Bartella on Saturday

Church bells ring

Lt. Gen. Riyad Jalal, commander of the Iraqi ground forces, told state-run al-Iraqiya TV Sunday that the town of Hamdaniya, also known as Qaraqosh, had been freed and that authorities were now in the process of bringing back local officials to reopen main public buildings and plan the repair of infrastructure.
Why Mosul matters

Since Mosul’s capture by ISIS fighters in June 2014, Mosul has been a vital stronghold for ISIS.

The largest city under ISIS control in Iraq and Syria, it was the city from which the group first declared the establishment of its so-called caliphate.

Since then, ISIS has gradually lost its other Iraqi cities — Ramadi, Tikrit and Falluja — to government forces.

About 1 million people are estimated to remain in Mosul, once a cosmopolitan trade hub of 2 million residents.

Iraqi forces and a Christian paramilitary group entered the town earlier in the week and faced fierce resistance from ISIS fighters for several days. Forces on Thursday had pushed the militants into the town center, where they were pounded by coalition air strikes supporting the assault.
Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Maliki, commander of the Iraqi 9th armored division, said at least 50 ISIS militants were killed and much of their equipment destroyed in the assault. His forces now are cleansing the city from IEDs and sweeping buildings in case any ISIS militants might be hiding, he said.
Most Iraqi Christians from Hamdaniya fled their hometown of Irbil, when ISIS sezied control in 2014. They have celebrated Iraqi forces' attempts to reclaim their hometown.

A few kilometers to the south, church bells rang out in town Saturday for the first time since ISIS seized it more than two years ago, local networks reported. Iraq officials claimed that some 200 ISIS fighters were killed in the assault.

Defense secretary commends the Peshmerga

The coalition pushing through Nineveh Province marks an extraordinary union of factions that have long stood on opposing sides in Iraq’s history, with Kurdish forces, Christians and Shia Muslims fighting alongside the majority Sunni Arabs.
Nineveh itself is the center of Iraq’s diversity and is home to Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, Turkmen, Sunnis and Shias alike.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Irbil on Sunday to meet with Kurdistan Regional Government’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.
“I’m here to commend you and your forces. I’m encouraged by what I see,” he said.
A unit of what appeared to be US special forces advisers entered ISIS territory with the very first armored convoy of Peshmerga last Monday, a CNN team observed, placing American forces at the front of the fight to retake Mosul.

Iraqi army advances as burning sulfur sends hundreds to hospital

The Iraqi army has said it has captured the town of Hamdaniyah, near Mosul, as the offensive to drive out the “Islamic State” continues. Fumes from a nearby sulfur plant set ablaze in the fight have claimed casualties.

Iraqi forces wear protective masks after winds brought fumes from a nearby sulfur plant (Reuters/A. Al-Marjani)


Relief organizations prepare for Mosul refugees

Almost a week ago, the anti-“IS” coalition launched the Mosul offensive. The civilian population faces the threat of being caught in the crossfire and bombing. Yet attempts to leave the city are punished. (22.10.2016)

Dozens of ‘Islamic State’ militants killed in Iraq’s Kirkuk offensive

US claims agreement in principle between Turkey and Iraq on retaking Mosul

The Iraqi army said Saturday that its 9th Division had raised the Iraqi flag over the town of Hamdaniyah, also known as Qaraqosh and Bakhdida, but that “Islamic State” (IS) fighters continued to put up resistance on its outskirts.

The move into Hamdaniyah came amid the ongoing offensive by Iraqi government forces to drive the so-called “Islamic State” from nearby Mosul, their last major stronghold in the country.

Hamdaniyah is largely uninhabited. In 2014, when IS swept through the region, Hamdaniyah’s residents fled the town, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) southeast of Mosul, to seek sanctuary in Kurdish areas.

Meanwhile, a sulfur factory south of Mosul, allegedly set ablaze by IS on Thursday, was still emitting toxic fumes and is considered a potential breathing hazard for nearby American forces and other troops.

According to the news agency AFP, two civilians in nearby villages had died from the fumes. Medics said up to 1,000 people were being treated, with many of them children and elderly people.

“We have had every type of person come in with breathing problems and burning eyes – children, adults, policemen, soldiers,” said Abdul Salam Jabbouri, the director of the nearby Qayyara hospital.

Winds shifted early Saturday, sending the fumes toward the Qayyara West airfield, a US hub for the Iraqi offensive, forcing some troops to wear protective masks.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter REUTERS/Yuri GripasCarter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

Carter visits Baghdad

Earlier Saturday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited with Iraqi leaders and commanders in Baghdad as Russia alleged that an airstrike Friday in the town of Daquq had killed 17 civilians taking part in a funeral procession. According to Moscow, two warplanes with the US-led anti-IS coalition were involved in the raid.

The US military has not yet commented on the Russian claim. More than 4,800 US troops are in Iraq, as well as 100 US special operations specialists operating with Iraqi units.

Daquq lies about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Kirkuk, where on Friday IS launched a surprise attack, apparently to divert attention from Mosul.

Kirkuk police commander Khattab Omer said at least 80 people, including Kurdish security forces personnel, had been killed in that assault. The bodies of 56 IS militants had also been recovered, he said.

While meeting with Carter, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the assault on Kirkuk was a terrorist attack and not a military breach.

“We have full control, except for maybe one area where they are being flushed out,” Abadi said.

Watch video01:43

‘IS’ leaves trail of destruction in Iraq

Lengthy battle expected

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell to IS in 2014. Its capture saw the jihadists conquer about a third of Iraq and declare a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria.

The operation to retake Mosul is the largest ever undertaken by Iraqi forces since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. It is expected to take weeks, if not months.

UN officials have voiced fears that a million people are still trapped inside Mosul and could be used as human shields by IS fighters.

“Given the sheer size of Mosul – and its experience of savage rule at the hands of the ‘Islamic State’ – revenge killing will likely be an issue in the days and months ahead,” according to the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm.

“A massive effort will be required to begin to heal what is a truly fractured city and society,” it added.

Watch video00:18

Iraqi PM: No role for Turkey in Mosul fight


pj/cmk (AP, dpa, AFP)


AT&T reaches $85.4 billion mega-deal to buy Time Warner

Telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to buy media company Time Warner in a deal worth $85.4 billion. The deal, the world’s largest this year, could shake up the media landscape but still needs regulatory approval.

USA | AT&T Außenaufnahme Shop (Reuters/S. Stapleton)

AT&T Inc. has announced an agreement to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion (78.4 billion euros) in a deal that should transform the telephone company into a media giant with production studios and a large library of popular content across its platforms. The agreement has the potential to reshape the media industry.

The Texas-based multinational telecommunications conglomerate has agreed to pay $107.50 a share for Time Warner, it said in a press release late Saturday. The deal is half cash and half stock.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson will head the new company and Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes, who has been in the post since 2008, will leave after an interim period following the deal, a person familiar with matter told the “Wall Street Journal.”

New York Time Warner Center (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Altaffer)The Time Warner Center in New York

Reviewing the deal

The company said that the US Department of Justice would review the deal and that the companies were determining which Federal Communications Commission licenses, if any, would  be transferred to AT&T in the deal.

“Such a massive consolidation in this industry requires rigorous evaluation and serious scrutiny,” US Senator and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Richard Blumenthal said after the deal was announced.

AT&T is the second-largest provider of mobile telephone services and the largest provider of fixed telephone services in the US.

It also provides broadband subscription television services through DirecTV, which it bought in 2015 for $48.5 billion to become the nation’s largest pay TV provider with more than 25 million customers.

DirecTV Now service is due to launch within months targeting the 20 million people in the US who don’t have pay TV. The company has planned for it to be the primary TV platform by 2020, according to Bloomberg, allowing viewers to view a TV package over the internet without a cable box or satellite dish.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them still (2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC. All Rights Reserved.)The latest film in Warner Bros’ Harry Potter franchise, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” is out next month

Telephones and movies

Time Warner owns HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and Hollywood’s biggest television and film studio, Warner Bros.


Trump lays out plan for first 100 days in ‘Gettysburg Address’

Donald Trump has laid out plans for his first 100 days in office, if he is elected president. The Republican candidate slammed the women accusing him of harassment and pledged to unwind “horrible” trade deals. (22.10.2016)

AT&T in advanced talks to acquire CNN owner Time Warner

Report: US telecom giant AT&T a key partner in NSA surveillance

Its programming includes the Harry Potter film franchise, DC Comics, “The Big Bang Theory” and “Game of Thrones” and classic cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny.

It is made up of three divisions; Home Box Office Inc. (HBO), Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., and Warner Bros. The Turner unit has rights to basketball, baseball and e-sports.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a speech on Saturday that, should he become president, his administration would not approve the deal because it would give AT&T “too much concentration of power.”

“We’ll look at breaking this deal up,” Trump said.

It is unclear where Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton stands on the deal. Her website outlines plans to protect consumers by strengthening antitrust laws and enforcement in order to “promote competition” and “address excessive concentration” of power among corporations.

AT&T had $147 billion in revenues in 2015 and Time Warner reported $28 billion.

jm/cmk (Reuters, AP)

Mosul offensive: ISIS kills hundreds of men and boys, Iraqi source says

Story highlights

  • US Defense Secretary arrives in Erbil, southeast of Mosul
  • Peshmerga forces launch new offensive from Mosul’s northeast

(CNN)ISIS rounded up and killed 284 men and boys as Iraqi-led coalition forces closed in on Mosul, the terror group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, an Iraqi intelligence source told CNN.

Those killed Thursday and Friday were used as human shields against attacks forcing ISIS out of southern parts of Mosul, the source said.
ISIS dumped the corpses in a mass grave at the defunct College of Agriculture in northern Mosul, the intelligence source said.
The victims — including children — were all shot, said the source, who asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. CNN could not independently confirm the killings.

Latest developments

  • US Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Erbil on Sunday, after commenting that the Mosul operation was going to plan
  • Peshmerga forces started an offensive from two fronts in Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, the Peshmerga General Command said Sunday
  • Prime Minister Abadi reiterated his view that Iraq does not need Turkey’s assistance in the battle
  • Kurdish officials accused Sunni Arabs in Kirkuk of supporting ISIS a day after attacks killed dozens
  • Iraqis displaced by the Mosul offensive are seeking shelter in camps, the UN refugee agency said

Freeing a Christian town

The Iraqi military intensified its offensive Saturday to retake Hamdaniya — also known as Qaraqosh — from ISIS, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command center said. Iraqi forces and a Christian paramilitary group entered the town Wednesday, but face fierce resistance from ISIS fighters, 200 of whom were killed in one day of clashes.
ISIS using drones in battle for Mosul

ISIS using drones in battle for Mosul 02:43
The city is about 15 kilometers (nine miles) southeast of Mosul.
Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga — as the Kurdish fighters are known — have made progress and isolated Hamdaniya, a US military official said in Baghdad, speaking on background.
Iraqi troops on Saturday entered the al-Askary neighborhood and liberated the mayor’s building and the main hospital, raising the Iraqi flag over those buildings, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Maliky said.
At least 60 ISIS fighters have been killed since Friday when Iraqi security forces launched an attack on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Gov. Najmaldin Karim said.
“Life will be restored to normal in the next few hours” Karim said Sunday, adding that security checkpoints in the city would be reopened. He did not mention how many security forces and civilians were killed in the ISIS offensive.

Tal Kayf is next target

Iraqi troops are also advancing toward Tal Kayf and plan on storming the Chaldean town, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said Saturday.
Iraqi army and militia forces arrive Thursday in Saleh village in the offensive to wrest Mosul from ISIS.

Tal Kayf is about 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Mosul.
It’s the closest Iraqi security forces have come to Mosul, a CNN analysis indicates.
The US military official said US and coalition aircraft were providing air support as needed Saturday. The official said land forces were working through “a hard outer crust,” and resistance would intensify as the offensive neared Mosul.
The official said ISIS fighters have infiltrated towns cleared earlier, including Bartella, requiring renewed efforts to combat them.

Clashes in Kirkuk, Laylan

Kurdish security forces were going house to house Saturday in Kirkuk following a major ISIS attack a day earlier. Kirkuk is 175 kilometers (109 miles) southeast of Mosul.
Kirkuk’s police chief said 48 ISIS militants were killed during hours of clashes.
Security officials told CNN that at least 40 others were killed and 76 wounded in the attack, the majority of them Kurdish Peshmerga.
The ISIS attacks continued in the area Saturday, with an attempt to infiltrate the town of Laylan, 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Kirkuk. Nine militants were killed, according to the mayor of Laylan, Mohammed Wais, and some security force members were injured.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani described ISIS’ attack on Kirkuk as “a failed attempt by terrorists to make up for the defeats they have suffered at the hands of the Peshmerga on the front line.”
Previous attacks by ISIS militants on Kirkuk have been attempts either to capture the city from the Peshmerga or divert Kurdish troops from the fight in Mosul.

Kurdish officials accuse local Arabs of helping ISIS

In the wake of the Kirkuk attack, Kurdish officials accused local Arabs and some displaced in camps around the city of helping ISIS.

Kirkuk’s police chief, Brig. Gen. Khatab Omar, said the militants had probably infiltrated the 600,000 internally displaced in and around the city.
Gen. Hallo Najat, another police official, told local media to expect further fighting because 30% of the Arabs there supported ISIS rather than the government or Kurdish authorities.
Najmaldin Karim, Kirkuk’s governor, said: “We have prior knowledge that an operation like this could happen; we were preparing for it, but the timing was not known exactly.”
He said a curfew would remain in force for another day and urged the internally displaced community in Kirkuk to help track down militants.

US defense chief briefed on Mosul operation

Carter, the US defense secretary, paid an unannounced visit Saturday to Baghdad, where he was briefed on the Mosul offensive and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
U.S. Sailor killed by roadside bomb in Iraq identified

U.S. Sailor killed by roadside bomb in Iraq identified 03:02
Carter then addressed about 50 US service members at Baghdad International Airport, recalling the US naval officer killed this week in northern Iraq and the risks taken by all those serving.
The defense chief told the crowd he was encouraged by what he has seen so far in the fight to retake Mosul.
“So far it is proceeding according to our plan,” Carter said. “We’ve got tough fighting ahead and the US will continue to play its part.”
US forces in Iraq are providing air support for the Mosul operation as part of an international coalition. US special operations forces are also advising Iraqi and Kurdish units on the ground.
After meeting with Carter, Abadi repeated his view that Iraq does not need Turkey’s assistance in the battle for Mosul, while acknowledging the importance of maintaining good relations with its northern neighbor. “If we (need) help, we will ask for it from Turkey or from other regional countries,” he said.
The Turkish leadership has expressed a desire to join the push to oust ISIS.

UN ‘gravely worried’ over human shield use

The United Nations expressed concern Friday that ISIS has taken 550 families from villages around Mosul to use as human shields.
Pain still raw for Mosul's Christians in Jordan

Pain still raw for Mosul’s Christians in Jordan 02:52
Two hundred families from Samalia village and 350 families from Najafia were forced out Monday and taken to Mosul in “an apparent policy by ISIS to prevent civilians escaping,” Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, told CNN.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “We are gravely worried by reports that (ISIS) is using civilians in and around Mosul as human shields as the Iraqi forces advance, keeping civilians close to their offices or places where fighters are located, which may result in civilian casualties.”

Iraqis flee violence

The first influx of Iraqis — 144 people — arrived at a new camp, Zelikan, set up to shelter what is expected to become a flood of families displaced by the Mosul offensive, the UN refugee agency said Saturday.
UN data indicate some 3,900 people — or 650 families — have so far been forced from Mosul and Hamdaniya districts, agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing Friday in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UN refugee agency is working to establish 11 camps, five of which are already in place, to house those forced from their homes by the battle. The camps will have capacity for about 120,000 people, the agency said.
As many as 600,000 could be helped if the refugee agency obtained sufficient funding, it said. Mosul is believed currently to have a population of about 1.5 million people, it added.
Concerns over mass displacements in Iraq
Concerns over mass displacements in Iraq 04:15
The charity Oxfam warned Saturday that more must be done to provide safe routes for those fleeing the conflict.
People who escaped from Hawd, 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) south of Mosul, told Oxfam that many civilians had been injured.
A woman told Oxfam her children had respiratory issues after breathing in thick smoke from oil wells that ISIS militants set afire to provide cover from coalition air attacks.
The smoke also concerned US and coalition troops at an airfield near Qayyara, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Mosul. Forces were assessing Saturday whether the smoke was putting them at risk, and troops have been told to limit their outdoor activity, the US military said.

Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court legacy

Story highlights

  • Justice Clarence Thomas marks 25 years on the Supreme Court Sunday
  • He may still be best known for his controversial confirmation hearing
  • He’s the court’s most consistent adherent to the conservative judicial philosophy of “originalism”

(CNN)It’s been almost a quarter century since George H.W. Bush left the White House, but perhaps his most lasting legacy lives on at the Supreme Court: Justice Clarence Thomas.

Justice Clarence Thomas breaks 10-year silence
Justice Clarence Thomas breaks 10-year silence 01:39
This month, Thomas celebrates his 25th anniversary on the bench and serves as a reminder that Supreme Court nominations often endure long after a president leaves office.
Those close to him say that he’s there to stay. Thomas has said as much, once comparing his job to a calling.
“I never thought that I would treasure doing my job, and I have reached that point,” the conservative justice told an audience in 2013 during a talk with federal appeals court Judge Diane S. Sykes. “I’ve gotten to a point where it’s like the priesthood, this is what I was called to do.”
Thomas was only 43 when he was chosen as the second African-American nominee to the court and he faced immediate and scathing resistance from the civil rights community for some of his legal positions. That was immediately followed by the bombshell sexual harassment allegations against Thomas from Anita Hill that turned both into household names.
He’s gone gray on the bench and has cemented a reputation as the court’s most consistent adherent to the conservative judicial philosophy of “originalism.”
“More so than any of the justices he’s served with during his 25 years on the Court, there’s a coherent theory behind almost every one of the opinions he writes,” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN contributor and law professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
From his earliest days on the bench Thomas has stuck with a rare discipline to his view that the Constitution should be interpreted based on its original public meaning.
“He has exceeded all of our expectations about the magnitude of his talent,” C. Boyden Gray, who worked in the White House Counsel’s office on the Thomas nomination, said recently.
Although he largely stays out of public view, Thomas still attracts plenty of controversy and much of it concerns his opinions on race. The coming term will be no exception. He confounds his critics who seek something different from the man who replaced Justice Thurgood Marshall, a famed civil rights lawyer, on the court but delights his supporters for looking at the Constitution through what they believe is a color-blind lens.
His supporters were stunned when the Smithsonian opened a major museum meant to promote and highlight the contributions of African-Americans last month and almost entirely ignored the achievements of a black man who rose up from poverty to reach the highest pinnacle of the federal judiciary. His name came up only in reference to Hill’s Senate testimony. They question why there is so little attention to Thomas’ overall jurisprudence and so much time spent analyzing why he chooses to remain largely silent during oral arguments.

Filling the void left by Scalia

After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and the possibility of more liberal justices joining the Supreme Court, Thomas’s importance now and historical role could only grow as the most consistent and active conservative on the bench.
Court watchers went into a frenzy in February, soon after Scalia’s death, when Thomas asked a series of questions from the bench for the first time in a decade. His questions — concerning the Second Amendment implications of a state law — surprised even his colleagues.
“Justice Thomas, after a 10-year silence, astonished all in attendance by asking nine questions, all in the same case,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg later remarked.
There was a scramble to divine why Thomas had changed course.
Was he spurred to ask a question because Scalia — who wrote a landmark opinion concerning the Second Amendment — was no longer alive to do so? Was this a turning point? Was Thomas taking on a new role at the court? Was it a sign of more to come?
To supporters of Thomas, those are all the wrong questions. The answer was simple: he had a question that no one else had asked, and he wanted an answer.
The notion that Thomas might be seeking to fill the void left by Scalia underestimates the work that Thomas is doing in his own sphere, court watchers say.
“It’s long been a mistake to view Justice Thomas as operating in Justice Scalia’s shadow,” said Vladeck. “Behind the fact that they often (albeit not always) ended up on the same side of disputes lurked some fairly significant differences in methodology, interpretative commitments and style.”

‘I think you have to say certain things’

It’s not likely that Thomas is going to suddenly fill Scalia’s vociferous role during oral arguments, or lurch to the center to attract more meaty assignments or even land a landmark opinion.
Instead, he will continue down a path of slow and steady commitment to his judicial approach no matter how the court changes in the next few years.
In the areas of deference to administrative agencies, federalism, the scope of the Commerce Clause, the reach of the Second Amendment and racial preferences among other areas, Thomas is laying the ground work for opinions that may be outliers now, but could plant seeds for the future.
“I think that I may lose,” he told Sykes, “but I think I’m obligated, in fact encouraged by my colleagues — that if you believe that, you write it.”
He referenced the fact that back in 1896, when a 7-1 court approved the principle of “separate but equal” only one justice — Justice John Marshall Harlan — dissented.
“I think someone should have kept writing that segregation was wrong,” Thomas said. “Regardless of what the precedent was, I think you have to say certain things.”
Last term, Thomas made good on that promise. According to Vladeck, he wrote an opinion in 38 of 62 Supreme Court cases with signed decisions — twice as many as the next busiest justice, Samuel Alito, a conservative appointed by George W. Bush.
Carrie Severino, who clerked for Thomas, knows how he approaches his job. “He looks at the actual text of the Constitution and studies the history and what it meant to those who ratified it — not just what the conventional wisdom might be today,” said Severino, now the policy director for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network.
“Justice Thomas is writing for history,” Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council and Ken Klukowski, a senior counsel at First Liberty Institute wrote for the Washington Times last summer. “Be right on the law, ignore politics and the passions of the moment, and have faith that one day America — through its president and Senate — may appoint a Supreme Court majority that agrees, and makes it official.”

Thomas on race

It is the issue of race that most triggers outrage from the African-American community, especially his opposition to race-based affirmative action plans in public universities.
William S. Consovoy clerked for Thomas in 2008 and also represented Abigail Fisher, a white woman from Texas who challenged the race conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas. Last spring, the court upheld the program.
Thomas wrote separately in dissent saying that the majority opinion rests on “pernicious assumptions about race.” He referenced a dissent he wrote in 2003 after a 5-4 court upheld a similar program at the University of Michigan Law School in a case called Grutter v. Bollinger.
“The Constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all,” Thomas wrote in 2003.
“Justice Thomas believes that any discrimination on the basis of race violates the Constitution,” said Consovoy. “He therefore has taken the position that the use of race by universities to favor people of one race over another is illegitimate.”
The roots of Thomas’ beliefs are outlined in his 2008 autobiography that tracks his journey from Pinpoint, Georgia, to the highest court in the land. In the book, he says that after he graduated from Yale Law School he was unable to find a job. “Now I knew what a law degree from Yale was worth when it bore the taint of racial preference,” he wrote.
In a controversial 1998 speech to the National Bar Association, the nation’s oldest and largest association of predominately African-American lawyers, judges, educators and law students, Thomas took on his critics.
“Any effort, policy or program that has as a prerequisite the acceptance of the notion that blacks are inferior is a non-starter with me,” he said.
He added that while it pained him deeply “to be perceived by so many members of my race as doing them harm,” he was addressing the audience “not in anger” but to “assert my right to think for myself, to refuse to have my ideas assigned to me as though I was an intellectual slave because I’m black.”

Legacy of Marshall

Thomas’ critics lament that he took the seat of the legendary Thurgood Marshall, who as a young lawyer for the NAACP, travelled the country to argue against laws that discriminated on the basis of race. It was Marshall who was the architect of Brown v. Board of Education the landmark opinion that dismantled the idea that government could segregate races.
Unlike Thomas, Marshall was not an originalist, said Guy-Uriel Charles the director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics.
“Justice Marshall believed in the living Constitution,” said Charles, “the idea that the meaning of the Constitution can change.”
Charles believes that after his confirmation, “many African-Americans held out hope that even though Justice Thomas was conservative, that as a black person from Georgia and someone who invoked his racial identity in his confirmation hearings, he would be sympathetic on racial issues.”
Instead, he says, “The civil rights community by and large have expressed deep disappointment with Justice Thomas on race” because they “believe that a colorblind Constitution means that black people and people of color will always be at a disadvantage, the playing field will never be leveled.”
Charles points to an instance, when Thomas wrote a stirring opinion in a cross-burning case, when the civil rights community felt “hope” that he may shift course.
“In our culture, cross burning has almost invariably meant lawlessness and understandably instills in its victims well-grounded fear of physical violence,” Thomas wrote.
Charles said “this is a dissent that could have been written by Justice Marshall were he still on the Court” but he added the case, Virginia v. Black, was decided in the same year as Grutter.
“After 25 years on the court, he has an established record on race issues and no one is surprised by his racial conservative opinions and there is no expectation that he will decide cases differently,” Charles said.
He points to last term when the court ruled in favor of a death row inmate in a case concerning race discrimination in jury selection. Thomas was the sole dissenter.
The case concerned Timothy Tyrone Foster, an African-American, on death row in Georgia for the 1987 murder of an elderly white woman, Queen Madge White. The jury that convicted him was all white. Twenty years after his sentence, his attorneys obtained notes the prosecution team took while it was engaged in picking a jury, including marking potential jurors who were black with a “b” written by their name.
“The focus on race in the prosecution’s file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
In his dissent, Thomas said he believed the Supreme Court owed more deference to the lower court’s ruling that prosecutors had race-neutral reasons for striking specific jurors.
In his view, “The court today invites state prisoners to go searching for new ‘evidence’ by demanding the files of the prosecutors who long ago convicted them . …I cannot go along with that ‘sort of sandbagging of state courts'” wrote said.
To Ian Millhiser of the progressive Center for American Progress, the vote was unfathomable.
“A note on one of the prosecution’s internal documents suggested that the office did not want a particular juror to be seated because of the juror’s membership in a ‘Black Church’,” Millhiser wrote at the time. “And yet, even with all of this evidence and more at his fingertips, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Court should not rule that unconstitutional jury discrimination took place in this case.”

Confirmation controversy

Flashback: Anita Hill's explosive opening statement
Flashback: Anita Hill’s explosive opening statement 03:20
Flashback: Clarence Thomas responds to Anita Hill

Flashback: Clarence Thomas responds to Anita Hill 03:47
Thomas may still best be remembered for his conformation hearings when Anita Hill, an attorney worked for Thomas in the 1980s, came forward and accused him of sexual harassment. The nature of the allegations shook the country — but also for the first time brought the issue to the forefront of a national discussion. A quarter century later Thomas has stuck to his testimony.
“I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill,” he told the senators, and later famously referred to coverage of the scandal as a “high-tech lynching.”
Indeed, Thomas’ connection to Hill is the only mention of him in the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. In a gallery dedicated to “A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond” one display labeled the “1990’s” prominently features a picture of Anita Hill, and a video that excerpts her testimony at his confirmation hearing. Other items in the display feature Nelson Mandela’s election to the African National Congress, Colin Powell’s tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Magic Johnson announcing his contraction of the HIV virus, and Toni Morrison accepting the Nobel Prize. There is no direct mention of Thomas’ nomination to the highest court in the land.
The museum is arranged in most part by theme and doesn’t have a display dedicated to Justice Thurgood Marshall either, but there is a large picture of Marshall near the entrance and a copy of the Brown v. Board of Education opinion as well as a wall dedicated to one of his quotes.
For Severino, leaving Thomas out is a missed opportunity. “The museum was either playing politics,” she said, “or is blissfully ignorant of one of the most significant jurists in the country, perhaps because his commitment to a colorblind Constitution doesn’t fit into their narrative.”

Russian diplomats in US could face criminal charges for monitoring November elections – embassy

The Embassy of Russia in Washington, D.C. © Reuters
Russian diplomats in the United States have been threatened by US officials with criminal prosecution if they attempt to monitor upcoming Presidential and Congress elections at polling stations, the Russian Embassy in Washington said in a statement.

According to the Russian diplomatic mission, it has not submitted any official request to monitor the elections, due to take place November 8.

“We have not submitted any requests to the Department of State regarding the election observation. As a matter of respectfully conducting our diplomatic duties we sent the information on our intentions to the Department of State,” the statement by the Embassy .

The facility said it has reached out to several local electoral commissions to “get acquainted” with American electoral procedures, but got a negative response. The diplomats were even threatened with legal action, the Embassy said.

“We received mostly negative responses, including threats that our interest and presence at polling stations could be seen as a criminal act.”

The US media earlier reported that the States of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana have reportedly received election-related inquiries from Moscow. Though not naming the exact parts of the US, the Russian Embassy noted that “some local authorities we approached coordinated their negative decision with the federal government.”

During Friday’s press briefing, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that Moscow is “welcome” to observe the polls as part of the mission by Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Moscow has so far denied filing a respective request to the OSCE, citing concerns over the work of the organization.

‘Americans should fear election hacking by US establishment, not Russia’ (Op-Edge by Annie Machon) 

Photo published for ‘Americans should fear election hacking by US establishment, not Russia’ — RT Op-Edge

‘Americans should fear election hacking by US establishment, not Russia’ — RT Op-Edge

Americans have more reasons to fear their own establishment’s interference with the elections, rather than a dastardly Cold War-style hacking plot that Russia is being accused of, backed by no…

Washington, in response, called Russia’s interest in observing the elections a PR stunt. “The fact that they [Russia] have chosen to not join the OSCE observation mission makes clear that this issue is nothing more than a PR stunt,” Kirby .

The Russian Embassy countered in its statement that any such monitoring is part of the normal “functions of a diplomatic mission” according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. The body also voiced its frustration over Washington’s “unfriendly way” of blocking Russia’s “desire to pursue normal diplomatic work.”

“The US did not invite any international mission to monitor their elections for a long time. Generally and principally did not invite,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told RIA Novosti.

On October 7, Washington accused Moscow of hacking US officials’ and organizations’ emails. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has responded, saying the accusations were “nonsense.”


Aleppo & Mosul: How Western rhetoric on anti-terror ops changes depending on location (VIDEO)

 Civilians return to their village, south of Mosul in Qayyara, Iraq (L) and women walk along a street after they were evacuated from an Islamic State-controlled neighborhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria © Alaa Al-Marjani / Rodi Said / Reuters
Despite the two Middle Eastern cities’ similar plights, with both of the densely populated areas caught in war with terrorism, Western officials’ position on active anti-terror campaigns is apparently different – depending on who is behind the security operations.

The US-led coalition has recently pushed ahead with its assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul, with its population of 1.5 million people, while Russia at the same time has been assisting the Syrian army in fighting militants in Aleppo, a city of 2 million people.

But when US officials comment on battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra and its allies in Aleppo, one is a sensible anti-terrorist operation, while the liberation of the other should immediately stop.

What needs to happen is a cessation of hostilities and the bombing needs to stop,” the State Department’s John Kirby recently commented on Aleppo.

Speaking about the situation in Iraq, Kirby’s colleague from the White House, Josh Earnest said: “The idea that we, that somehow the Iraqi security forces, should delay this operation because of their concern about the humanitarian situation in Mosul doesn’t make sense.”

BREAKING: Al-Nusra ‘not priority’ , State Department says as terror group shells civilians in 

While civilians “shouldn’t have to leave” Aleppo through humanitarian corridors, according to Kirby, displacement of civilians in Iraq is seen as “inevitable” collateral damage. “It’s not a question of whether we think they should or should not have to leave, but this displacement is somewhat inevitable in operation of this scale,” Mark Toner of the US State Department said.

This fantasy that the West is able to conduct a kind of clean war with no civilian casualties, and it’s only the Russians and the Syrians who [harm] innocent civilians is just that – a complete fantasy. The West always tries to sanitize its wars, and make it out as if it can conduct these clean wars in which only bad guys and soldiers and militants get killed – and that’s a fantasy,” political writer and journalist Dan Glazebrook told RT, adding that “the Western media would rather refocus on horrific scenes in Syria following Russian and Syrian airstrikes than horrific scenes in Iraq following US and British airstrikes.”