Thanks and Goodbye

We at The Property Gazette wish to thank all our subscribers, readers, and contributors for the good times we have had these past five years without asking for contributions from the reading public, and without any proceeds from adverts.

We equally thank WordPress.com for affording us the platform to contribute in our own small way to informing and generating news and features on this platform. The  time has however come to face reality, and we have resolved to shut down the Property Gazette.

We have equally resolved to set up in its stead, The Discuss Gazette, which would allow a greater level of participation by the reading public and contributors.

Thank you so very much, and goodbye.

Gabby Ogbechie.

Russian airstrikes in Syria reportedly killed 18,000 people

NEWS

A Syrian war monitor has claimed Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed more than 18,000 people over the past three years. But Russia says the figure is actually closer to 85,000.

    
Russian bombers (picture-alliance/Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation)

More than 18,000 people have been killed in Russian air strikes since Moscow started a bombing campaign in Syria exactly three years ago, a monitor said Sunday.

Russia’s military intervention in support of the Syrian government on September 30, 2015 changed the course of the war, allowing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to retake large swaths of the country.

Read more: Syria conflict: What do the US, Russia, Turkey and Iran want?

During those three years, Russian airstrikes have killed 18,096 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Of those, 7,988 were civilians, including 1,936 children and 1,199 women, the UK-based monitor said. Another 5,233 “Islamic State” fighters and 4,875 fighters of rebel and jihadi factions were killed, the Observatory said.

The West and rebel factions have accused Russian and Syrian warplanes of indiscriminate bombing and intentionally hitting hospitals, schools and markets.

Russia has denied targeting civilians. Its defense commission said Sunday “accurate” airstrikes had killed 85,000 “terrorists.”

The White Helmets, a Syrian rescue group, also put out a report on Sunday limited to Russian attacks its teams have responded to in opposition areas.

It said those Russian strikes had left 1,848 civilians dead, including 27 White Helmet volunteers.

Russia has “indiscriminately attacked civilian spaces, causing countless deaths and injuries, and massive infrastructural damage by bombing markets, bakeries, residential areas, IDP camps, schools, and hospitals,” the White Helmets charged.

The White Helmets

@SyriaCivilDef

Three years on the Russian intervention .. Field studyhttp://sumo.ly/ZNSh 

Russia also has special forces and military police on the ground in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have helped the Assad regime.

At the time of Russia’s intervention, the Syrian regime controlled only a quarter of the country’s territory compared to about two-thirds today.

In addition to Russia and Syrian warplanes, the US-led coalition against IS has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria since September 2014.

Read more: Rebuilding Assad’s Syria: Who should foot the bill?

Last week, the Observatory said coalition airstrikes have killed more than 3,300 civilians since it intervened against IS.

The Coalition has confirmed 1,059 civilian fatalities, including those in Iraq, where it has conducted airstrikes against IS since June 2014.

Airwars, a monitoring group, estimates that a minimum of between 6,575 to 9,968 non-combatants have been killed in Coalition action in Iraq and Syria from August 2014 to August 2018.

The Observatory says it determines whose planes carried out strikes according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions.

COURTESY: DW

German far-right terror suspects detained in overnight raids

GERMANY

Germany’s state prosecutor has ordered the arrest of six men charged with forming a far-right terror group known as “Revolution Chemnitz.” The men are accused of planning attacks on migrants in eastern Germany.

    
Chemnitz Neo-Nazis (picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Meyer)

Some 100 police officers raided several properties in the German states of Saxony and Bavaria early on Monday morning as part of an investigation into a far-right terror group called “Revolution Chemnitz,” named after the eastern German city that was the scene of recent far-right demonstrations following the killing of a German man allegedly by migrants.

The six men arrested, aged between 20 and 30, are suspected of forming a terrorist organization under the leadership of 31-year-old Christian K., who had already been arrested on September 14.

According to Germany’s state prosecutors, the men were planning attacks on “foreigners” and people who did not share their political views. Batons, an air-rifle, and computer hard drives were seized during the raids.

Terrorist investigation

Investigators said the group had tried to acquire semi-automatic firearms, and on September 14 five of the seven suspects, including Christian K., had taken part in a coordinated attack on foreigners in Chemnitz using glass bottles, weighted knuckle gloves, and an electroshock weapon. One man was injured during the incident, which resulted in a number of arrests.

Investigators said there was evidence this had been a “practice run” for a larger attack planned for October 3, a national holiday celebrating Germany’s reunification.

Demonstrators with German flags (picture-alliance/dpa)Chemnitz was the scene of several neo-Nazi demos in late August

The prosecutors’ statement said the six men were all members of the “hooligan, skinhead, and neo-Nazi scene” in the Chemnitz area, and all considered themselves leading members of the far-right scene in Saxony. Prosecutors believe the group’s aim was “the overthrow of the democratic rule of law” based on their right-wing extremist ideology.

All seven men are due to be arraigned in a federal court on Monday and Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors, Frauke Köhler, said on Monday that they would be joining forces with Saxony counterparts to investigate “far-right structures” in the state.

DW Politics

@dw_politics

Six men arrested on suspicion of forming a far-right terror group, “Revolution Chemnitz,” were planning an attack on October 3 – German Unity Day – Germany’s state prosecutors have confirmed.

More in this report from @BenWernerKnight 📝 http://p.dw.com/p/35mJ2 

Köhler said prosecutors had decided to upgrade the investigation from a criminal to a terrorist one after assessing the group’s internal communications, which showed they had been planning attacks and working to acquire weapons.

Read moreLessons from Chemnitz – awash in anxiety

Chemnitz demos

The eastern German city of Chemnitz was the scene of several confrontations in late August and early September, after a German-Cuban man died from stab wounds following a fight with two asylum-seekers from Syria and Iraq. The Iraqi suspect was later released.

The death triggered a week of occasionally violent far-right demos and counter-demos, culminating in an anti-racism rock concert that drew a crowd of over 60,000 people. Köhler said the investigators had not yet established whether the suspects were involved in the far-right demos in Chemnitz.

The events have reignited tensions in Germany over the influx of refugees three years ago, with violence involving migrants attracting massive media attention and subsequent political fall-out: the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, lost his job after publicly questioning the authenticity of videos showing migrants being attacked in Chemnitz.

Germany’s failure to address the threat of neo-Nazi violence was brought into sharp relief earlier this year with the end of the five-year trial of Beate Zschäpe, a member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi cell that murdered at least ten people over an eight-year period in the 2000s. Zschäpe was sentenced to life in prison in July.

The NSU remained undetected largely because of systemic investigation failures by German police and intelligence agencies.

On Monday, German Justice Minister Katarina Barley said, “We learned from the crimes of the NSU that we have to be much more alert than before. That goes for the security forces and the judiciary, but also for the whole of society.”

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer welcomed the arrests. “This is the realization of our principle, ‘zero tolerance towards right-wing radicals and far-right extremists’,” he told DPA news agency in Munich. “The threat of terrorism remains high in Germany, which means that we have to be prepared for an attack at any time.”

Read moreViolence in Chemnitz: A timeline of events

 

Watch video05:14

Angry mobs take to the streets in Germany

COURTESY: DW

A new report estimates that more than 380,000 people have died in South Sudan’s civil war


Soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army prepare to head into the north of South Sudan in October 2016. Heavy fighting had broken out between government and opposition forces in Wajwok and Lalo villages, outside Malakal. (Charles Atiki Lomodong/AFP/Getty Images)

September 26

Years of brutal civil war in South Sudan have left at least 382,000 people dead, according to an estimate in a new State Department-funded study that far surpasses an earlier figure issued by the United Nations and points to the horrors of an often-overlooked conflict.

The findings of the study, conducted by a small team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine but commissioned by the U.S. Institute for Peace in partnership with the State Department, were released Wednesday.The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of the report.

In March 2016, U.N. officials estimated that the conflict had killed about 50,000 people, and for years, a more accurate death count has been missing as a metric to measure the bloodshed, even as the conflict raged on. Experts say an accurate death toll can be a critical tool for policymakers.


Ghanaian peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan patrol in March in Leer, a town in South Sudan where famine has been declared since February 2017. (Stefanie Glinski/AFP/Getty Images)

But counting the dead is a challenge in war zones, where many people are displaced and crucial data is hard to come by.

By comparison, the new estimate puts the death toll from the violence in South Sudan on par with the impact of conflicts such as the war in Syria, where upward of 510,000 people are believed to have died in a significantly larger population.

Gordon Buay, deputy chief of mission at the South Sudanese Embassy in Washington, said he thinks the estimate is “not accurate.” He said he would put the death toll at fewer than 20,000 people.

“If you included disease and everything, it would be less than 20,000,” Buay said.

But Francesco Checchi, the lead epidemiologist who worked on the study, said his team’s estimate is conservative. He and other researchers at the London school statistically analyzed mortality data in the country to estimate conflict-related deaths between December 2013 and April 2018.

They compiled data from humanitarian agencies and media reports, piecing together factors including food security, presence of humanitarian groups and intensity of armed conflict to create a statistical model that predicts mortality by county. At the center of their research were around 200 surveys conducted by humanitarian groups across South Sudan.

Checchi called the process “painstaking.”

In South Sudan, a number of factors, including the dangerous nature of the conflict, have made calculating a death toll through a national survey and interviews with families nearly impossible.

The country broke away from Sudan seven years ago, after decades of deadly conflict that eventually led to shaky independence. But South Sudan soon fell back into war, after a rivalry between President Salva Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, and then-Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, turned violent.

The conflict started in Juba, the capital, and spread across the country. Journalists, human rights researchers and humanitarian workers have collected evidence of mass atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict, but rights groups say most attacks on civilians have been carried out by government troops. In some areas, entire villages were said to have been razed. Women were allegedly raped and children burned alive, and some families even reported forced cannibalism.

Meet Babacho Mama, former child soldier thinking of returning to the fight

Meet Babacho Mama, former child soldier thinking of returning to the fight 

Checchi’s team took into account assumptions about what the death rate would have been without civil war to find how many excess deaths the conflict has caused. The researchers factored in the reality that many people have fled or were killed in circumstances that might have been exacerbated by the conflict, such as outbreak of disease or malnutrition, he said. South Sudan experienced a man-made famine last year.

A State Department official said the study helps fill a gap in knowledge about the scope of the war in South Sudan.

“Having good numbers and seeing exactly what the human cost was was an important factual need for us,” the official said.

A U.N. spokesman in New York said in a statement that “the U.N. cannot accurately record the conflict related death toll for a variety of reasons, including a severely curtailed access to conflict areas and hence does not have an official casualty figure for South Sudan.”

More than 14,500 U.N. peacekeepers are deployed to the country, and the mission there cost the United Nations just over $1.1 billion in the last fiscal year.


South Sudanese demonstrators await the arrival of President Salva Kiir at Juba International Airport on June 22, 2018. (Akuot Chol/AFP/Getty Images)

Yet the violence continues. There have been a number of failed peace agreements since the war began, and another deal was signed this month. But government and rebel forces have clashed since then. There is little hope among observers that the accord will result in tangible change.

The conflict has prompted a refugee crisis in the region: More than 1 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring Uganda, and many others crossed into Sudan and Kenya. About two million are displaced within the country.

This refugee exodus became a useful indicator in Checchi’s death toll analysis because, in his experience, he said, “the extent of displacement is a good correlate of how violent things are.”

“People probably will tolerate some violence and will try to stick it out,” he said. But when mass displacement begins to occur, “it usually indicates very severe threats to life.”

Klem Ryan, a former official with the U.N. Mission in South Sudan who later served as the coordinator of the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan, said in an interview that this calculation seems plausible.

“I personally saw hundreds of dead,” he said. “I attended to two major massacres. That figure feels right if you look at all the stuff we saw, which was only a fraction.”


South Sudan’s then-first vice president, Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir sit to be photographed after the first meeting of a new transitional coalition government in the capital, Juba, in April 2016. (Jason Patinkin/AP)
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Live blog: Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford testify at Senate hearing

The high-stakes hearing comes a day before the committee is scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
by NBC News /  / Updated 

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee after Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, which lasted over four hours.

Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied Ford’s sexual assault allegation from when they were teenagers. Refresh for updates.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham got really, really mad at the Kavanaugh hearing

The red-faced South Carolina Republican shouted at Democrats and accused them of wanting to ‘destroy’ Kavanaugh’s life.
by Adam Edelman / 
Image: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford And Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Testify To Senate Judiciary Committee

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) shouts while questioning Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill Sept. 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.Win McNamee / Getty Images

A red-faced and livid Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday furiously blasted Democrats for orchestrating a “sham” hearing against Brett Kavanaugh and fiercely defended President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, telling him that he had “nothing to apologize for.”

At Kavanaugh’s hearing Thursday afternoon, Graham, like every other senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, had a five-minute window to ask Kavanaugh questions.

He came out guns blazing — and veteran Congress watchers said they had never seen him as angry, some said they’d never seen any senator that upset at a hearing.

Directing his anger at California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Graham said, “If you wanted an FBI investigation, you could have come to us.”

The remark referred to the fact that Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, had initially sent a letter to Feinstein and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., in late July about the alleged assault.

“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life,” Graham raged about Democrats on the committee. “To hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020.”

“Boy, y’all want power. God, I hope you never get it!” a sneering Graham shouted at Democrats, his face growing red.

“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” he continued. “And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you done to this guy.”

“I hope the American people can see through this sham,” he added.

Graham also told Kavanaugh, “You have got nothing to apologize for.”

“You’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time,” Graham said.

“You’re supposed to be Bill Cosby when you’re a junior in high school,” he added, referring to the former actor and convicted sex offender who was sent to prison this week.

“Would you say you’ve have been through hell?” Graham asked Kavanaugh as he wrapped up.

“I’d say I’ve been through hell and then some,” Kavanaugh replied.

COURTESY: NBC NEWS

Russia to supply Syria with S-300 defense systems

NEWS

Moscow will boost Syria’s armaments by sending them powerful S-300 missile defense systems, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said. Moscow claims Israeli jets caused Syrians to shoot down a Russian spy plane.

    
An S-300 system deployed in Syria (picture alliance/Russian Look/V. Savitsky)

Syrian regime troops will receive S-300 missile defense systems from Russia within the next two weeks, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

The modernized version of the Soviet-era system “is capable of intercepting aerial attacks at the distance of over 250 kilometers and simultaneously countering several targets,” the minister said.

The move comes after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing the destruction of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane last week. The incident claimed the lives of 15 Russian soldiers.

“We are convinced that these measures will cool down the ‘hot heads’ and keep them from ill-conceived actions threatening out troops,” Shoigu said in his televised address.

Read moreRussia encroaches on US war industry in Middle East

Israel denies responsibility

Russia’s spy plane was shot down over Syria last Monday. Both Russia and its allies from the Syrian regime acknowledge the missiles were fired by the Syrian military, but say the troops had targeted Israeli jets flying sorties in the area.

Moscow has blamed Israel for the loss of life, claiming that Israeli jets used the spy plane as a cover to avoid Syrian fire. Israel admitted bombing targets in Syria before the plane was shot down on Monday. However, they denied any connection with the incident.

Supplying Syrian army with advanced anti-aircraft capabilities is likely to raise the stakes in the volatile region, where Israel and several other countries often conduct bombing attacks.

S-300 delivery ‘not directed’ against Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially sought to deflate tensions with Israel, saying that “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances” caused the Russian plane to be destroyed. On Monday, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the deployment of S-300 was “not directed at any third country.”

At the same time, however, Peskov pointed the finger at Israel when speaking about the destruction of the Russian plane.

“According to the information provided by our military experts, the reasons for this tragedy are premediated actions of Israeli pilots, and that cannot but harm our ties” with Israel, Peskov said.

Time for an upgrade

Syrian military used the outdated S-200 missiles to respond to the Israeli attack. The systems, originally developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, have no capability to distinguish between friendly and hostile forces. Russian bases in Syria are already protected by the latest, S-400 systems, as well as S-300 also operated by Russian troops.

Watch video25:59

Battle for Idlib: Endgame in Syria?

By delivering a revamped version of the more modern S-300 defense system, Russia seeks to reduce the risk of a similar friendly-fire incident. Moscow will also equip Syria’s anti-aircraft command centers with high-tech systems to improve coordination and monitoring. According to Shoigu, hostile aircraft will also face electronic interference above parts of the Mediterranean in Syrian airspace.

Israel did not immediately comment on the Russian move. Earlier this year, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman speculated that giving advanced weapons to Damascus could trigger a response.

“For us, it is important that defensive weaponry which Russia is supplying to Syria, is not used against us,” he told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, according to the Russian translation provided by the Interfax news agency.

“If they are, we will take action against them.”

dj/kms (AP, Reuters, Interfax, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

Outcry as Italy’s Salvini submits draft anti-migrant decree

NEWS

A decree to hasten expulsions has been adopted by Italy’s populist Cabinet. The bill next goes to parliament for 60 days of debate. Italian bishops have slammed it as a bid to criminalize asylum-seekers.

    
Italien Innenminister Matteo Salvini (picture-alliance/dpaA. Medichini)

Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, asserted Monday that his bill was a “big step forward” in what he termed the “fight” against migrant arrivals, including greater police powers to “make Italy safer.”

Salvini told the broadcaster La7 his intended decree against “excessive immigration” would save billions of euros, once debated in parliament and signed into law by President Sergio Mattarella.

At a press conference in Rome, he said future asylum bids could be voided if the applicant was declared “socially dangerous.”

Those convicted in the first instance of crimes such as drug dealing or shoplifting would be rejected. “Terrorists” would be stripped of Italian citizenship.

A lower level of residency – humanitarian protection – would be awarded only on six strict criteria, including whether an applicant had survived a natural disaster.

Two weeks ago, UN refugee agency head Filippo Grandi, while visiting Salvini, had urged Italy not to abolish such permits.

Nunzio Galantino, the secretary-general of Italy’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, described Salvini’s bill as a “bad sign” because an immigrant could in the future be prejudged as a public menace irrespective of how he or she behaved.

Italy's Nunzio Galantino (picture-alliance/dpa/EIDON/F. Frustaci )The secretary-general of Italy’s Bishops’ Conference has criticized the proposal for linking crime to refugees

Another flaw was that the bill dealt with both security issues and treatment of migrants, Galantino said.

Criticism had already come from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which since June has governed with Salvini’s far-right Liga Nord [Northern League].

Read moreRescue ship to loose Panama registration

Larger reception centers

Under the proposed decree, most asylum applicants would be kept in bigger so-called SRAR receptions centers.

Only unaccompanied minors and recognized refugees would be distributed across Italy, ostensibly to ease their integration, Salvini said, adding that streamlining would bring Italy into line with other EU countries.

The Interior Minister’s office said migrants due for repatriation could be held for 180 days in government detention centers.

Migrant checked after disembarking boat (Reuters/A. Parrinello)Just over 72,000 migrants reached Italy by sea between January and July, according to the UNHCR

The decree would let police be equipped with Taser stun guns and squatters would be more easily evicted by removing a provisional housing obligation for the most vulnerable.

Salvini on Facebook said Italy would emerge “stronger in the fight against the mafia and [people] smugglers.”

Law would ‘drive refugees underground’

Expanding reception centers would hinder integration and lead instead to more frustration and violence, said Fabiana Musicco, the founder and president of Refugees Welcome Italy.

If parliament passed Salvini’s draft it would be an “alarming step backwards,” she said.

It would drive numerous asylum-seekers underground, said Salvatore Casale, the director of a current reception center at Avvelino, inland from Naples.

The migration research center Fondazione ISMU says Italy examined 23,000 asylum requests in the first quarter of 2018.

More than 61 percent of such applications were rejected; 21 percent of applicants were granted humanitarian protection. Only six percent were given refugee status.

ipj/kms (KNA, dpa, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

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