By Robert A. Vella
Here’s a news roundup for this Friday after Christmas:
An evil fighter
Video recordings of the interviews obtained by The New York Times, which have not been shown publicly before, were part of a trove of Navy investigative materials about the prosecution of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher on war crimes charges including murder.
They offer the first opportunity outside the courtroom to hear directly from the men of Alpha platoon, SEAL Team 7, whose blistering testimony about their platoon chief was dismissed by President Trump when he upended the military code of justice to protect Chief Gallagher from the punishment.
“The guy is freaking evil,” Special Operator Miller told investigators. “The guy was toxic,” Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, said in a separate interview. “You could tell he was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving,” Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told the investigators.
Such dire descriptions of Chief Gallagher, who had eight combat deployments and sometimes went by the nickname Blade, are in marked contrast to Mr. Trump’s portrayal of him at a recent political rally in Florida as one of “our great fighters.”
A race warrior
“I’m the guy you’re looking for,” James Harris Jackson said, calmly slipping off his black jacket and setting it down in front of an officer. “There are knives in that coat.”
For the next five hours, in a videotaped interview that would later be entered into the court record, Jackson proudly told detectives how he had stabbed Timothy Caughman in the back with a Roman-style short sword simply because he was black.
Caughman, the 28-year-old Army veteran explained, was “practice” for a bigger attack in which Jackson aimed to kill as many black men with white women as he could.
“I was looking to get black men scared and have them do reciprocal attacks,” he said, “and inspire white men to do similar things.”
If the detectives really wanted to understand him, Jackson said, they should read the manifesto he had planned on sending to the media.
“The Racial World War starts today,” it began. “God has ordered us to eliminate the Negro races from the face of the earth for the good of all mankind.”
It stems from a basic white-supremacist belief: that whites are in imminent danger of being wiped out. Some adherents prepare for what they see as an inevitable cataclysm by stockpiling weapons and training for combat. Others go further, actively trying to spark racial strife while whites are still in the majority.
The Department of Homeland Security now considers white-supremacist violence as great a threat to the country as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, according to a report unveiled in September.
Related story from: Judge orders Alabama city to pay legal fees in school fight
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A mostly white Alabama city that tried to form its own school system must pay nearly $850,000 to attorneys representing black people who successfully fought the move, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Haikala ruled Monday that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and attorney U.W. Clemon were due legal fees and expenses from Gardendale, which she said “acted in bad faith” when it attempted the split, al.com reported.
The city formed its own school board and hired a superintendent in 2014 in an attempt to break away from Jefferson County’s school system. The Legal Defense Fund and Clemon, a former federal judge, claimed the move was an illegal attempt to preserve a white majority in the city’s schools.
The fall of farmers
Farmers around the country are struggling to pay for basics like groceries and electricity as farm bankruptcies rise and farm debt hits a historic high. Calls from farmers in financial crisis to state mediators have soared by 57 percent since 2015.
The decline in the dairy industry – driven by global overproduction and drop in American liquid milk consumption — hit rural New York hard, with the state losing more than 1,100 dairy farms since 2012, according to federal statistics. Then, last year came retaliatory tariffs from Mexico and China on dairy products after Trump-imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, a $125 million blow to New York’s dairy farmers, according to one state estimate.
Nonunion government workers who won a Supreme Court decision last year exempting them from paying unions for the cost of representing them at the bargaining table are not entitled to refunds of the dues they’ve already paid, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
Starting Jan. 27, Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia will permit students in seventh through 12th grades one excused absence each school year for loosely defined “civic engagement activities,” school system spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Such activities might include marches, sit-ins or trips to Richmond to lobby legislators, said Fairfax School Board member Ryan McElveen, who introduced the policy.
Fairfax Schools — whose approximately 188,000 students make it among the dozen largest school systems in the United States, and the biggest in Virginia — is probably the first district in the nation to adopt this kind of rule, said experts who have studied student activism. When McElveen searched for model policies in the months before debuting his own, he could not find one.
Alaska’s governor said the state may stop working with Goldman Sachs after the bank announced it will not finance future Arctic oil exploration.
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he is reconsidering whether Alaska should do business with Goldman, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
In addition to excluding investment in Arctic drilling, Goldman plans to prohibit financing for coal-fired power plants that do not have equipment to reduce carbon emissions.
When President Barack Obama was presenting his plans for the ACA, antiabortion lawmakers protested that it would illegally fund abortion, despite his assurances otherwise, through tax breaks and government subsidies. The ACA already requires insurers to itemize abortion coverage separately, but early on in the rollout of the plans, in 2014, a Government Accountability Office report found that many did not do so.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that providing separate bills is “an essential step” in remedying that issue. “The separate billing requirement fulfills Congress’ intent and reflects President Trump’s strong commitment to preventing taxpayer funding of abortion coverage,” he said.
More than 235,000 people have fled the Idlib region over the past two weeks, the UN said Friday, amid heightened regime and Russian attacks on Syria’s last major opposition bastion.
The mass displacement between 12 and 25 December has left the violence-plagued Maaret al-Numan region in southern Idlib “almost empty,” the UN said in a statement.
Since mid-December, Russian-backed regime forces have pressed with an assault on jihadists in southern Idlib, despite an August ceasefire deal and calls for a de-escalation from Turkey, France and the United Nations.
(Bloomberg) — Turkey is preparing to deploy troops and naval forces to support the internationally-recognized Libyan government, joining a planned push by Ankara-backed Syrian rebels to defeat strongman Khalifa Haftar.
In a deepening proxy war, Turkey aims to send its Navy to protect Tripoli, while its troops train and coordinate forces of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, according to a senior Turkish official. Turkey recently signed a critical maritime deal with oil-rich Libya that serves energy interests of both countries and aims to salvage billions of dollars of business contracts thrown into limbo by the conflict.
With Egypt and the United Arab Emirates aiding Haftar, Turkey’s deeper involvement in Tripoli could complicate international efforts to end the turmoil that has gripped the country since the overthrow of strongman Moammar Qaddafi in 2011.
They are among 5,500 people seized by police in Uttar Pradesh state alone in recent weeks in an intensifying clampdown on dissent. Twenty-four people have been killed in protests across India, 19 of them in Uttar Pradesh. Police deny accusations that they fired on protesters, detained people arbitrarily, ransacked homes and beat women and children. On Friday, authorities shut down the Internet in nearly one-quarter of the state. Human Rights Watch said police used “deadly force” against protesters.
The turmoil stems from India’s approval this month of a law that makes religion a criterion for nationality, a step that critics and protesters say undermines India’s founding secular ethos and moves the country closer to becoming a Hindu nation under Narendra Modi, the stridently nationalist prime minister.