Fifty Religious Groups Demand Gun Control in U.S.

Washington, Nov 13 (Prensa Latina) While the debate about gun control is still open in the United States today, local media published a letter in which 50 religious organizations demand that Congress take actions on gun violence.

The groups, which make up the Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence Coalition, called for Congress to 'take immediate action to curb the onslaught of gun violence plaguing our nation.'

The coalition noted the shootings that have taken place at houses of worship in recent years, including the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012.

In the letter, addressed to the Republican and Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives and the Senate and published on the website of The Hill, the groups noted, 'It is horrifying that innocents were massacred in a house of worship once again, a terrifying reality for all people of faith in this country who believe that their congregations are sanctuaries of peace, safety, life, and love.'

'We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our coalition's legislative priorities with you. All people in our beloved country deserve to feel safe in their houses of worship and their communities; inaction is immoral and wrong,' says the letter.

In the document, the groups called on Congress to take action to close loopholes that allow domestic violence offenders to own and buy guns, implement a universal background check system and pass an assault weapons ban, among other demands.

The letter on gun control was published when democrats and several social sectors are calling to take actions to prevent gun violence after the shooting in Texas and the worst shooting in U.S. history, as a result of which 58 people were killed in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 1.

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Cuba: US not cooperating in probe of harmed diplomats

Cuba has accused the United States of not cooperating with an ongoing investigation into the case of American diplomats who have mysteriously suffered physical harm in the Caribbean country.

“Washington is unwilling to fully help with the investigation,” said Colonel Ramiro Ramirez, who is the chief Cuban investigator in the case, on Thursday.

Other Cuban officials echoed Ramirez’s remarks, saying that investigators were being denied access to the victims and their medical records.

“US authorities have said the responsibility lies with Cuba to investigate the affair and decide on the case but has failed to play their part as the affected country,” Lieutenant-Colonel Francisco Estrada, a senior Cuban Interior Ministry official, said on Thursday. “We don’t even have access to the victims or the witnesses.”

Cuba has enlisted about 2,000 security officials and experts to investigate US claims that 24 of its diplomatic staff members have been affected by physical harm, including hearing impairment, in recent months.

The US has floated the idea that some form of “sonic attack” may have taken place. Cuban officials have rejected that as “science fiction.”

Washington expelled 15 Cuban diplomats and recalled more than half of the American diplomatic personnel in Havana earlier in October.

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Later, US President Donald Trump also accused Havana of being responsible for the physical harm done to the American diplomats.

Cuba and the US became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought the late Fidel Castro to power. They broke off diplomatic relations in 1961, and the US placed an official embargo against the country in 1962. Their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.

However, the administration of former President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015.

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Iraqi militias spill blood for their country while US is playing its own game – FM

Iraqi militias have made huge sacrifices for their country and has become a legitimate force on the ground, Iraq’s FM told RT, describing as hypocritical the US demand for Iranian-backed militiamen to “go home.”

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU/PMF) militias are sons of Iraq, whose sacrifices in the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists are immeasurable, and they deserve the “highest merits,” Ibrahim al-Jaafari told RT in an exclusive interview.
 
“Al-Hasd Al-Shaabi [the Arabic name for the PMU] fighters suffered huge losses, shed their precious blood for the sake of saving the Fatherland,” the official said.
 
“These fighters voluntarily went to other parts of Iraq and have been dying there. For what? What did they want to get there? They deserve the highest merits. These formations have the constitutional status and the real military presence on the ground.”
 
Recent demands by the US urging the “Iranian militias” to “go home” are a glaring example of US hypocrisy, al-Jaafari stated.
 
“The US is playing its own game, by own rules and relying on certain factions. Iraq, though, operates in its own territory within its own powers, relying on support of it sons, its political parties and movements, on support of those who sacrifice themselves for the good of their country,” the minister told RT.
 
The demands were voiced by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson last Sunday at a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir in Riyadh following a meeting with senior Saudi and Iraqi officials.
 
“Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against… ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said, referring to the PMU units, some of whom, to a certain extent, are backed by Tehran. “The foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control.
 
Tillerson’s demand was met by a firm rejection from Baghdad, which condemned Washington’s interference into internal affairs of their country.
 
“No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s said Monday, according to a Facebook statement issued by his office.
 
Tens of thousands of Iraqis joined militia units in 2014 after Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for a national uprising against IS terrorists by issuing a non-sectarian fatwa. Though there are no official statistics, PMU units numbered up to 100,000 fighters, according to some estimates. Iran has been funding and training some of the PMU units which fought alongside the Iraqi Army in the battle of Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities.
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North Korea Warns of a Hydrogen Bomb Test amid US Threats

A senior North Korean officials warned of “the most powerful detonation” of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific if the country felt hostility from the United States.

A senior North Korean diplomat warned that the United States could witness a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean unless discussion of military intervention ceased.

RELATED:  US Reps Pass "Harshest Sanctions Ever" Against North Korea

This latest development comes amid joint U.S.-South Korea war games and a heavy navy presence in the Pacific ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the region. Trump’s visit is expected to solidify regional commitments to security against North Korea, which the U.S. sees as a threat.

During a session of the United Nations General Assembly last month, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said that Pyongyang would conduct “the most powerful detonation” of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific if the country felt hostility.

“The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally,” said Ri Yong Pil, a senior diplomat in North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, to CNN, warning that North Korea “has always brought its words into action.”

Members of the international community, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, have accused the U.S. of stoking nuclear tensions through decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, despite no evidence of noncompliance, and aggression against North Korea.

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed the ‘The Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions Act’ that would level the “harshest sanctions ever” against North Korea. The sanctions would also target international business partners of North Korea, most importantly China, if signed into law.

President Trump has also coupled sanctions with threatening words.

“You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be,” Trump said in a FOX News interview. “Would it be nice not to do that (military intervention)? The answer is yes.”

Trump, in a conference with top military officials, called present tensions “the calm before the storm.”

“The U.S. is talking about a military option and even practicing military moves. They’re pressuring us on all fronts with sanctions. If you think this will lead to diplomacy, you’re deeply mistaken,” Ri said.

The U.S. has bolstered its military presence around the Korean peninsula since the war of words began. The U.S. military has also put nuclear-capable B-52 bombers on a 24-hour alert, which has not happened since the end of the Cold War.

RELATED:  Russia 'Opposes' Latest Massive US-Led War Games in Waters off Korea, Japan

“The joint military exercises conducted by the U.S. one after another all the year round on the Korean peninsula are clearly aggressive war exercises in their nature and scale,” Ja Song-nam, North Korea's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said in a letter to Francois Delattre, the current President of the United Nations Security Council.

“No other country in the world than the DPRK (North Korea) has ever been subjected to such an extreme and direct nuclear threat from the U.S. for such a long time and witnessed on its door such nuclear war exercises which are the most vicious and ferocious in their scale, style, aim and essence,” the letter continued.

With building tensions, the international community has encouraged dialogue between both sides. China introduced a “double freeze” tactic, identical to previous North Korean proposals, that would see North Korea end its nuclear program in exchange for promises by the U.S. to end hostility. The U.S. denied this plan as it has done in the past.

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‘Interference’: Iraq PM’s office rejects Tillerson’s call for Iran-backed militias to ‘go home’

In a tight-lipped statement, Baghdad rejected a call by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for Iran-backed Shia militias to “go home” after the demise of Islamic State in Iraq.

Earlier on Sunday, Rex Tillerson said at a rare meeting with top Iraqi and Saudi Arabian officials that Iraq’s Shiite militias – also known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – and their Iranian advisers need to leave Iraq as the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is nearing an end.

But Baghdad seems reluctant to go along with Washington’s request, judging by a polite but robust remark made on Monday by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office.

“No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” the statement posted on Facebook reads. It added that many PMU members were native Iraqis who made “enormous sacrifices to defend their country and the Iraqi people.”

The Iraqi government was surprised by Tillerson’s suggestion, according to the release.

During the Sunday meeting, Tillerson said “Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against… ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home.”

Foreign fighters in Iraq “need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control,” the secretary of state said, amid US efforts to contain Tehran’s growing presence in the region.

Meanwhile, Tillerson also called on other countries to sever business ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which the US itself recently designated as a terrorist organization.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis joined militia units in 2014 after Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for a national uprising against Islamic State terrorists by issuing a non-sectarian fatwa. Shiite PMU units were often referred to as part of the Iraqi security apparatus.

Though there are no official statistics, at some point PMU units numbered up to 100,000 fighters, according to US military estimates dated last year. The forces’ estimates ranged from 80,000 to 100,000, according to military spokesman Colonel Chris Garver. 

READ MORE: Iran-backed Shiite forces in Iraq now estimated at 100,000 – US military spokesman

Iran has secured major strategic gains in the war against IS in Iraq over recent years, as it funded and trained the PMU which fought alongside the Iraqi Army in the battle of Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities. In contrast, US ally Saudi Arabia, a Sunni kingdom, has been on bad terms with Shiite-majority Iraq for more than two decades, after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, despite attempts to mend ties in recent years.

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Mysterious Sounds and Scary Illnesses as Political Tools

President Trump has long signaled his desire to reverse President Barack Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba, so it’s no surprise that his administration has begun to do just that by withdrawing most employees from the United States Embassy in Havana.

But a part of the justification for the move — the reports that embassy employees were victimized by a “sonic attack” that caused a range of physical symptoms — fits a troubling pattern. It’s just the latest example of the way Mr. Trump has attempted to harness vague, unspecified threats to inspire fear and advance his political agenda.

The Associated Press first reported on Aug. 10 that State Department employees had been targeted by these attacks. According to the spokeswoman Heather Nauert, they caused “a variety of physical symptoms.” It was also reported at this time that the State Department had already retaliated for these attacks by expelling two Cuban diplomats from the United States on May 23.

Since then, much of the news coverage of the incident has turned to a discussion of technical questions about sonic weaponry. A few articles quote experts who are skeptical, to put it mildly, but a majority of the coverage has accepted and even reiterated the State Department’s explanation wholesale.

The truth is, the sort of sonic weaponry that might cause the concussions and persistent memory loss that the State Department claimed to have found in its diplomats doesn’t exist, as far as experts in this field know. “Nothing about this story makes any sense to us,” said a marketing director of a firm that manufactures acoustic devices, quoted in Wired. To imagine that such weapons have not only been covertly developed but also were then somehow hidden near the embassy is even more fanciful, for a variety of logistical and technical reasons. The fact-checking site Snopes.com provided a review of scientific data on sound and sonic weapons, concluding that it was false to claim that such weapons could be responsible for what happened to the United States diplomats in Cuba. Yet, this has not stopped the reverberation of sonic-weapon rumors. The press has continued to amplify the story, and the Trump administration has carried on with its narrative, even issuing a Cuba Travel Warning based on the “specific attacks” that it says targeted embassy employees.

The State Department’s explanation — that sound was used to make people sick — is perfectly tailored to frighten us. It plays on the well-established way humans tend to associate sound and illness with hidden, unknowable threats. Mr. Trump as both candidate and president has routinely exploited fears of vaguely defined hidden menaces as a justification for policy and politics.

None of this is to say that no attacks occurred — there may have been chemical exposure, for example. However, not only is the cause unknown (if there is one), but also no evidence of a deliberate attack has been offered.

Sound, despite being a physical material, is often described as intangible, simply because we do not see it. We distrust sound for its invisibility (consider the misery of hearing noisy neighbors but being unsure of what they’re actually doing; consider the meaning of the term “hearsay”), just as we may be drawn to it for its mystery. Even though sound is measurable, we tend to experience it as spectral, as something beyond our rational understanding. It is thus the perfect stand-in for a Cold War-style cunning enemy, who is surely out there, doing something, even though we can never seem to pin him down.

Mr. Trump exploits people’s preconceptions about sound in a manner similar to his exploitation of illness, to signify a hidden, never-quite-graspable threat to the nation. Like the unspecified (and perhaps unverifiable) sonic cause of these health attacks, the reported illnesses are vague and unspecific. Mr. Trump has often turned to illness politics — portraying his opponents as weak, sick and neurotic.

He didn’t invent this political tactic. But he has enthusiastically embraced the approach. Mr. Trump and his campaign encouraged speculation that Hillary Clinton was hiding a secret, degenerative illness (Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy all circulated as possibilities), which if revealed would make most Americans realize she was not qualified to be president. Of course, these insinuations were most powerful precisely when nothing had been revealed and when speculation could thus fill in the blanks. Media coverage of these charges tended to focus on historical examples of sick presidents or presidential candidates, rather than on how Mr. Trump was deliberately playing upon fears of sickness — that is, engaging in illness politics. In this case, Mr. Trump didn’t invent the story of the attack (it’s relatively clear that something happened at the embassy) but he has latched onto its vague description to raise alarm in a way that’s broad and unsettling enough to provide support for any actions he wants to take in response.

This pattern of suggesting that the United States is under threat from vague and indeterminate dangers — secret illnesses, mysterious sounds — creates a political atmosphere almost miasmic in its effects. There are many facts we do not yet know about the Cuba incident. However, the pattern so far fits Mr. Trump all too well: Raise the volume on a fanciful scary story and tie it to an already desired policy shift in a way that appears to justify that shift. We shouldn’t fall for it.

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Washington: Trump’s mental health

Americans increasingly wonder whether their president is mentally fit to hold the office.

Why? La Jornada newspaper’s renowned analyst David Brooks answered it last Friday.

He headed his article plainly: “Mental health experts warn the world about Trump’s dangerousness”.

Then, he quoted, well-known psychiatrists and psychologists, who consider a mistake to treat him as “if he were a normal person”.

He also refers to a new book that is about to be published in the United States, The dangerous case of Donald Trump.

Its text, written by 27 mental health experts, says that his makes him a clear and present danger.

Because of that, they point out, it is impossible to apply on him rules of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which ban mental health specialists from publicly revealing their diagnoses of public figures they have't assessed. 

The book was prefaced by Dr. Banda X Lee, of Yale University, and Judith Herman, of Harvard.

They point out: "Collectively, we warn that anyone as mentally unstable as Mr. Trump simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency”.

They offer psychological variants to describe the health state of the president, some focused on his “malignant narcissism”. Experts recall such a concept was developed by psychologist Erick Fromm to characterize Hitler and his followers.

Retired Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor Lance Dodes notices that Trump’s sociopathic characteristics pose a danger to democracy in the United States.

Some quote a famous study on its 37 presidents until 1974, which concluded that half of them had mental problems.

And Trump? Combined in a “highly dangerous” toxic mixture.

May God, if he can, protect us.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi TranslationStaff

 

57 Countries Express Support to Venezuela at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Over 50 countries around the world expressed support for the constitutional government of Venezuela against foreign threats.

During the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, 57 countries signed an expression of support of respect for the sovereignty and independence of Venezuela.

RELATED: Venezuelan Delegation Travels to Dominican Republic for Peace Dialogue

“We condemn any action that disturbs peace, tranquility, and democratic stability... and that threatens sovereignty, including the recent threats of a possible foreign military intervention,” the jointly signed document read, that was read by Cuba's ambassador to the Council, Pedro Luis Pedroso.

The nations, among whom are Cuba, China, Bolivia, Russia, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Ecuador, Vietnam, South Africa, and Iran, expressed their “support for the constitutional government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in its commitment to preserve peace and maintain democratic institutions in the country.”

They expressed support for the calls and efforts of President Nicolas Maduro to political dialogue in Venezuela in order to “preserve peace and guarantee the stability of the democratic institutions."

RELATED: 'Latin America Must Be a Region of Peace’: Bolivia’s Morales on Venezuela Dialogue

Also read during the session was a declaration by the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America (ALBA) that echoed the calls for respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity in Venezuela. Presented by the Nicaraguan ambassador, Hernan Estrada, ALBA repudiated the “international media campaign” against Venezuela and condemned the recent threats of the United States President Donald Trump in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The Venezuelan representative to the council, Jorge Valero, also spoke, expressing solidarity to those countries who support Venezuela's sovereignty and saying that "peace reigns" in his country due to the democratic National Constituent Assembly.

“Thanks to the National Constituent Assembly, elected through the universal, direct, and secret vote of millions of Venezuelans, peace reigns in Venezuela," he said.

The 36th session of the Human Rights Council is currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, from September 11th to the 29th.

The support of ALBA and 57 countries around the world is an affirmation of the international support Venezuela has behind it, in a crucial moment as it has been subject to renewed attacks from the United States and its allied countries in recent weeks.

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