Australian man who allegedly recruited for Islamic State arrested on return from Turkey – 16 News

A wanted man has been arrested on his return to Australia from Turkey following a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) investigation into suspected terrorism offences.

The 30-year-old former Sydney man, who was the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant in NSW, was arrested at Melbourne International Airport by members of the AFP International Counter Terrorism Investigations Response Team after arriving on a flight from Turkey about 4pm yesterday (Saturday 8 May 2021).

The arrest warrant was sought by NSW JCTT – comprising the AFP, NSW Police Force (NSWPF), the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the NSW Crime Commission – following an investigation into the man’s alleged travel from Sydney to Turkey in 2013.

Authorities will allege the man then travelled from Turkey to Syria, where he allegedly facilitated the travel of foreign terrorist fighters to support Islamic State (IS).

The man will appear before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this morning via video link, where he will face a number of Commonwealth terrorism offences, including:

• One count of knowingly give support/resources to a terrorist organisation, contrary to section 102.7(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 25 years’ imprisonment.

• One count of engage in a hostile activity in a foreign state, contrary to section 6(1)(a) of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 20 years’ imprisonment.

• Three counts of provide support for another person to engage in a hostile activity in a foreign state, contrary to section 7(1)(e) of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 10 years’ imprisonment; and

• One count of entering, or remaining in, declared areas contrary to section 119.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 10 years’ imprisonment.

The man will undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine in Victorian corrections facilities before being extradited to NSW for the matter to be heard in a NSW court.

Australian Federal Police Commander Counter Terrorism Operations Stephen Dametto said the return of the Sydney man demonstrates that Australian authorities will continue working with overseas counterparts to support the management of terrorist threats offshore.

“Anyone who fights with, provides material support to, or associates with terrorist groups, is committing a serious crime and will be subject to the law,” Commander Dametto said.

“It has been an offence since 1978 to engage in hostile activity in a foreign country, unless serving in, or with the armed forces of the government of a foreign country.

“We have a responsibility to prevent our citizens from contributing to violence and instability overseas. Our laws are aimed at discouraging Australians from fighting in overseas conflicts and endangering their lives.”

NSWPF Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mark Walton, said this was another example of the strength of the partnerships and collaboration in the counter terrorism framework.

“The diligence and dedication of the NSW JCTT investigators was complemented by the significant work conducted by other colleagues both here and abroad, to achieve this result,” Assistant Commissioner Walton said.

“Counter terrorism investigations remain a priority in NSW, and any act or plan for an act that may impact on the safety of our community – regardless of when it occurred – will be acted on with the same tenacity.”

There is no current or impending threat to the community related to the operation.

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Second Cryptocurrency Platform in Turkey Shuts Down: Live Updates

Credit…Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

Turkish authorities arrested four employees of a cryptocurrency trading platform on suspicion of fraud after customer accounts were frozen, authorities said, the second collapse of a digital currency firm in Turkey within a week.

The collapse of Vebitcoin, one of dozens of cryptocurrency trading platforms that have sprung up in Turkey in recent years, came after the Thodex trading platform shut down last week, more than 60 of its employees were arrested, and its chief executive left the country.

Vebitcoin was a relatively small operation and the losses from it are unlikely to be big, said Turan Sert, who advises BlockchainIST, a cryptocurrency research center affiliated with Bahcesehir University in Istanbul.

Ilker Bas, the chief executive of Vebitcoin, told police after his arrest that the platform has 90,000 registered users and had a trading volume of 600 million lira to 800 million lira, or $72 million to $96 million, per month, the private news agency Demiroren reported. Customer losses are probably much smaller, because the same assets are typically traded repeatedly during the course of a month.

“Due to the recent developments in the crypto money industry, our transactions have become much more intense than expected,” Vebitcoin said on its website. “We have decided to cease our activities in order to fulfill all regulations and claims.”

Cryptocurrency trading is little regulated in Turkey, and the number of platforms has proliferated because of the relatively low cost of setting up. Off-the-shelf trading software costs around $100,000, said Mr. Sert, who also advises Paribu, one of the largest cryptocurrency trading platforms.

Mr. Sert estimated that there were more than 90 platforms, mostly “very small mom-and-pop shops.”

The phenomenon is by no means limited to Turkey. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Dogecoin have attracted the attention of serious investors and become a hot topic on Wall Street. Coinbase, a U.S.-based cryptocurrency trading platform, sold shares to the public for the first time this month and is valued by the stock market at $58 billion. Regulators in the United States and other countries have struggled to keep up with the fast growth of digital money.

The Turkish Central Bank barred the use of cryptocurrencies for purchases this month, citing their riskiness and popularity with criminals, and signaled that more regulation of the sector is coming. The prospect of greater scrutiny could be prompting some platforms to shut down, Mr. Sert said.

Customers of Thodex may have lost $2 billion, a lawyer for the firm’s clients said last week, but Mr. Sert said that figure probably referred to the site’s trading volume and greatly overstated the potential losses. Many platforms exaggerate their trading volume to attract customers, he said.

The total losses to cryptocurrency investors, while devastating to some individuals, are not large enough to push Turkey’s already shaky economy into crisis, Mr. Sert said.

“I don’t think this will create any instability in the system,” he said.

The gap between executive compensation and average worker pay has been growing for decades. Chief executives of big companies now make, on average, 320 times as much as their typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1.

The pandemic compounded these disparities, as hundreds of companies awarded their leaders pay packages worth significantly more than most Americans will make in their entire lives, David Gelles reports for The New York Times.

In the course of his reporting, corporate public relations teams employed various tactics to justify their bosses’ big paydays:

  • A Hilton spokesman stressed that the figure in its latest proxy filing did not represent take-home pay for Chris Nassetta, because the company restructured several stock awards. “Said directly, Chris did not take home $55.9 million in 2020,” the spokesman said. “Chris’s actual pay was closer to $20.1 million.” Hilton lost $720 million last year.

  • Boeing wanted to make clear how much money Dave Calhoun “voluntarily elected to forgo to support the company through the Covid-19 pandemic” — some $3.6 million, according to a spokesman. Nonetheless, Mr. Calhoun was awarded $21.1 million last year, while Boeing lost $12 billion.

  • Starbucks, which awarded Kevin Johnson $14.7 million, was among many companies making the case that their chief executive was essential to future success. “Continuity in Kevin’s role is particularly vital to Starbucks at this time,” said Mary Dillon, a member of the compensation committee. The company made a $930 million profit in its latest fiscal year, down three-quarters from the previous year.

Technical glitches marred the Small Business Association’s first attempt at accepting applications for the grant program.
Credit…Zack Wittman for The New York Times

Music club operators, theater owners and others in the live-event market have been waiting nearly four months for a $16 billion federal grant fund for their industry to start taking applications. Their hopes were briefly raised two weeks ago when the program’s application website opened, then dashed as a technical malfunction prevented the site from accepting any applications.

Now, the Small Business Administration, the federal agency that runs the program, plans to try again on Monday at noon — but only after one last round of confusion and frustration.

Late Thursday, the agency announced that it would reopen its application system for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant on Saturday. After heavy pushback from angry applicants — especially Jewish business owners who do not use electronics on Saturdays in observation of the Sabbath — the agency changed course Friday night and rescheduled the reopening for Monday.

“We understand the challenges a weekend opening would bring, and to ensure the greatest number of businesses can apply for these funds, we decided to reschedule,” the agency said in a statement. “We remain committed to delivering economic aid to this hard-hit sector quickly and efficiently.”

The money will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis and is widely expected to run out fast. That means many applicants will feel pressure to submit paperwork as soon as the application system opens — even if it is at an inconvenient time.

Applicants were generally relieved by the shift to Monday, but annoyed by the whiplash.

“It’s been a mess on so many levels. I feel like they’re torturing us,” said Dani Zoldan, the owner of Stand Up NY, a comedy club in Manhattan. Mr. Zoldan is Jewish and had been vocal on Twitter about the obstacles of a Saturday start.

The National Independent Venue Association, an industry group that lobbied for the relief fund, said it endorsed the decision to postpone the start.

“While we’re all anxious to apply as soon as possible, we support the S.B.A.’s decision to reopen the portal Monday and encourage a fair and equitable process for all,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the group. “The S.B.A. has responded to our desperate need and we’re grateful for that.”

The Small Business Administration is also preparing to open a second grant program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which is a $28.6 billion support fund for bars, restaurants and food trucks. That program is planning a seven-day test to help the agency avoid the kind of technical problems that plagued the venue program.

A Meituan delivery worker in Shanghai. Last year the firm made more than 27 million food-delivery transactions per day.
Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

China’s fast-moving campaign to rein in its internet giants is continuing apace with an antitrust investigation into Meituan, a leading food-delivery app.

The investigation, which the country’s market regulator announced with a terse, one-line statement on Monday, focuses on reports that the company blocked restaurants and other merchants on its platform from selling on rival food-delivery sites.

Earlier this month, the regulator imposed a record $2.8 billion fine on the e-commerce titan Alibaba for exclusivity requirements of this sort. In a statement on Chinese social media, Meituan said that it would cooperate with the authorities and that its operations were continuing as usual.

Meituan is a powerhouse in China. It made more than 27 million food-delivery transactions a day last year and reported around $18 billion in revenue, making it larger than Uber by sales. Meituan’s main rival in takeout delivery in China is, a service owned by Alibaba.

Alibaba has been an early major target in China’s efforts to curb what officials describe as unfair competitive practices in the internet industry. But Beijing has made clear that it will be keeping a much closer eye on all of the sector’s biggest and richest companies.

Meituan was one of 34 Chinese internet firms that were summoned to meet with the antitrust authority this month. The following day, the regulator began publishing on its website statements from the companies, Meituan included, in which they vowed to obey laws and regulations.

Bodies awaiting cremation on Friday in East Delhi.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

NEW DELHI — With a devastating second wave of Covid-19 sweeping across India and lifesaving supplemental oxygen in short supply, India’s government on Sunday said it had ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to take down dozens of social media posts critical of its handling of the pandemic.

The order was aimed at roughly 100 posts that included critiques from opposition politicians and calls for Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, to resign. The government said that the posts could incite panic, used images out of context and could hinder its response to the pandemic.

The companies complied with the requests for now, in part by making the posts invisible to those using the sites inside India. In the past, the companies have reposted some content after determining that it didn’t break the law.

The takedown orders come as India’s public health crisis spirals into a political one, and set the stage for a widening struggle between American social media platforms and Mr. Modi’s government over who decides what can be said online.

On Monday, the country reported almost 353,000 new infections and 2,812 deaths, marking the fifth consecutive day it set a world record in daily infection statistics, though experts warn that the true numbers are probably much higher. The country now accounts for almost half of all new cases globally. Its health system appears to be teetering. Hospitals across the country have scrambled to get enough oxygen for patients.

In New Delhi, the capital, hospitals this weekend turned away patients after running out of oxygen and beds. Last week, at least 22 patients were killed in a hospital in the city of Nashik, after a leak cut off their oxygen supplies.

Online photos of bodies on plywood hospital beds and the countless fires of overworked crematories have gone viral. Desperate patients and their families have pleaded online for help from the government, horrifying an international audience.

Mr. Modi has been under attack for ignoring the advice of experts about the risks of loosening restrictions, after he held large political rallies with little regard for social distancing. Some of the content now offline in India highlighted that contradiction, using lurid images to contrast Mr. Modi’s rallies with the flames of funeral pyres.

People waiting to get vaccinated in New Orleans this month.
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

More than five million Americans, or nearly 8 percent of those who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, have missed their second doses, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than double the rate among people who got inoculated in the first several weeks of the nationwide vaccination campaign.

Even as the country wrestles with the problem of millions of people who are wary about getting vaccinated at all, local health officials are confronting a new challenge of ensuring that those who do get inoculated are doing so fully, Rebecca Robbins reports for The New York Times.

The reasons that people are missing their second shots vary. In interviews, some said they feared the side effects, including flulike symptoms, which were more common and stronger after the second dose. Others said they felt that they were sufficiently protected with a single shot.

Those attitudes were expected, but another hurdle has been surprisingly prevalent. A number of vaccine providers have canceled second-dose appointments because they ran out of supply or didn’t have the right brand in stock.

Walgreens, one of the biggest vaccine providers, sent some people who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get their second doses at pharmacies that had only the other vaccine on hand.

Several Walgreens customers said in interviews that they scrambled, in some cases with help from pharmacy staff members, to find somewhere to get the correct second dose. Others, presumably, simply gave up.

A makeshift ward for Covid-19 patients in Delhi. The rollout of vaccinations has been uneven around the world, allowing the disease to run rampant in some countries.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times
  • U.S. stocks were expected to fall on Monday with oil prices amid a surge in coronavirus cases, led by the outbreak in India. More the one billion vaccinations have been administered globally, but the uneven rollout has allowed the virus to continue spreading rapidly in some countries. And so, the daily average number of cases globally has reached a new high.

  • Futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, fell 1.8 percent to $61 a barrel. The S&P 500 index was set to open 0.3 percent lower when trading begins, after falling 0.3 percent last week.

  • European stocks are mixed and the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 index was little changed.

  • Still, stocks remained close to recent record highs, and on Monday, yields on U.S. Treasury bonds rose. The yield on 10-year notes climbed 3 basis points to 1.59 percent. Later this week, the Federal Reserve will announce its latest monetary policy decisions, but forecasters aren’t expecting a change. Policymakers have promised to telegraph any pull back in monetary stimulus well in advance.

  • Late last week, stocks on Wall Street rebounded from the news that the Biden administration was considering raising taxes on the wealthy, including nearly doubling the capital gains tax.

  • “With a lot of good news already priced into markets, stocks could be vulnerable to negative surprises, whether from growth disappointments, higher inflation, or policy missteps,” strategists at UBS Global Wealth Management wrote in a note.

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Turkey will explode if Biden recognises Armenian genocide

If the United States recognises the Armenian genocide, Turkey will explode. Washington risks complicating relations with its NATO partner, while Ankara may face a strong economic decline.

USA always avoided ruining relations with Turkey

On Saturday, April 24, US President Joe Biden is set to officially recognize the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, The Wall Street Journal reported. April 24 is Memorial Day that pays tribute to million of Armenians who were killed in the massacre and during deportation.

Until recently, all US presidents have tried to avoid using the word ‘genocide’ to describe the killings of Christians by Muslims. Barack Obama once promised to recognize the Armenian genocide, but he never did it.

“Every year there was a reason not to. Turkey was vital to some issue that we were dealing with, or there was some dialogue between Turkey and the Armenian government about the past,” Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, said in an interview back in 2018.

Former US President Donald Trump called the events of 1915 “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.”

In 2019, the US Senate passed a resolution recognizing the massacres of Armenians from 1915 to 1923 as genocide. The Trump administration had asked Republican senators to block the ruling as it could impede negotiations with Turkey on “sensitive issues.”

Joe Biden, as a presidential candidate, pledged that if elected, he would support the resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide and make universal human rights a top priority for his administration.

What will happen if the United States recognizes the Armenian genocide?

The relations between the United States and Turkey have deteriorated since 2016 after the attempted military coup in Turkey. Ankara accused Washington of supporting it. Then there was a conflict over the arrest of a US clergyman in Turkey, Turkey’s demonstrative purchase of S-400 missile systems from Russia, and Ankara’s military operation in Syria against the pro-American Kurds.

Two days ago, Washington officially notified Ankara of Turkey’s exclusion from the F-35 stealth fighter program. The US federal government is conducting an investigation against the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank into the transfer of $20 billion to Iran. Turkey’s support for Iran is a red rag for Washington.

Vladimir Avatkov, senior researcher at IMEMO RAS, Associate Professor at the Diplomatic Academy, believes that the US move towards recognizing the Armenian Genocide is connected with two things:

  • an attempt to win over Armenia that feels abandoned by the West;

  • an attempt to force Turkey to act within its own logic.

“To achieve this, the United States will stop at nothing. The Americans will resort to political, economic, military measures, and this will not lead to a warming of relations between Turkey and the United States, of course. This will cause even greater discontent in the Turkish society with the USA,” Vladimir Avatkov told Pravda. Ru.

Ankara has repeatedly warned Washington that a change in its position regarding the events of 1915 would jeopardize common interests, such as the agreement for the use of the Incirlik army base in the south of Turkey. Ankara may wish to purchase another battery of Russian S-400 systems and will continue cooperating with Iran. It is not ruled out that Ankara will return to the “research” in the Eastern Mediterranean — the territory that is considered to be Greek.

What consequences Turkey may face

Turkey strongly rejects accusations of Armenian genocide and always shows an extremely painful reaction to criticism on this issue. Ankara insists that the term ‘genocide’ should not be used in relation to the events of 1915. According to Turkey, it was not only Armenians, but also Turks who became victims of the massacre.

President Recep Erdogan said Thursday that Turkey would defend the truth in the face of false and politically motivated accusations on the part of the United States.

As a result, the Turkish lira fell by 2.2 percent against the US dollar the same day. The cheap lira makes imported goods more expensive and accelerates inflation, which already exceeds 16 percent. The weaker the Turkish lira, the more Turkey’s foreign currency-denominated debt grows. It goes about $450 billion as of late 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

The Turkish currency has already declined by 28 percent since the beginning of last year as investors are worried about Erdogan’s interference with the actions of the Central Bank.

Erdogan said Wednesday that the Central Bank may sell foreign exchange reserves to support the lira. This may repeat last year’s experience that exhausted the reserves. All this may trigger a wave of defaults for the Turkish economy.

Vladimir Avatkov believes that the National Action Party, the party of nationalists, which is in the ruling coalition with the Justice and Development Party (the party of Erdogan — ed.), will unequivocally perceive American actions as hostile and will demand retaliatory measures from the Turkish government.

According to him, the Americans want more subordination from Turkey, similarly to how it was during the Cold War era and during the 1990s, but “Turkey is not ready for this.”

Will Biden’s decision be a red line for Erdogan?

There is no unanimous opinion in the world on the issue of the Armenian Genocide. About 20 countries, including Russia, France and Canada, recognize it, whereas others, such as Israel and the UK, do not. At the same time, Turkey’s relations with Russia remain quite acceptable against this background.

Washington is solving a dilemma: the next step to recognize the Armenian genocide will push President Erdogan to dialogue either with the West or with the East. Biden may change his mind, Vladimir Avatkov believes.

Yevgeny Satanovsky, President of the Middle East Institute, believes that Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide will not be a “red line” for Erdogan.

“This will not affect Turkey’s relations with the United States, they are already bad, but Turkey’s reaction will be tough. For Ankara, such things are very painful,” the expert told Pravda. Ru.

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Turkey arrests hundreds linked to PKK after troops found dead in Iraq

Turkey has arrested more than 700 people it suspects of links to the Kurdistan Workers” Party (PKK), after it accused the group of executing 13 Turkish nationals.

The victims – soldiers, police and civilians who were allegedly abducted by the insurgents over the last few years – were discovered in a cave complex in the Gara region in Iraq, near the Turkish border.

They were found during an operation against the PKK, launched on February 10, that had aimed to free the hostages.

Twelve of the victims were shot in the head and one died of a shoulder bullet wound, the Turkish defense minister said on Sunday.

On Monday Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States of supporting Kurdish militants, calling the statement from the US “deplorable”.

“You say you don’t support the terrorists but you are actually on their side,” Erdogan said in a speech.

The US State Department had said on Sunday it “deplores” the deaths.

“If the reports of the deaths of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a classified terrorist organisation, are confirmed, we condemn these actions in the strongest terms,” it added in a statement.

The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turksih state since 1984, with tens of thousands of people killed in the fighting.

It is designated a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU. However US support for Syrian Kudish militias of the YPG, which began under the Obama administration, has for several years caused tensions between the US and Turkey, the latter claiming the YPG is linked to the PKK.

Turkey and US clash over support for Kurdish militias

“Did you not say you don’t support the PKK, the YPG or the PYD? You are with them and behind them pure and simple,” Erdogan said.

“If we are together in NATO, and if we are to continue our (alliance) in NATO, you have to be sincere toward us,” Erdogan said. “You must not take the side of the terrorists. You have to be on our side.”

Erdogan said 51 PKK militants were killed during the offensive and vowed to press ahead with cross-border offensives against the PKK in Iraq, and against the Syria-based militants.

In a statement carried by the PKK-linked Firat news agency, the PKK said “prisoners of war” consisting of members of the Turkish security forces and intelligence agency were killed as a result of Turkish air strikes.

Three Turkish troops also died during the operation to free the hostages and three others were wounded, the defense ministry has said.

The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Monday that security forces had arrested 718 people, including HDP leaders, on suspicion of links with the PKK.

“A large number of weapons, documents and digital equipment belonging to the (terrorist) organisation were seized during the searches,” the interior ministry added, adding that operations in 40 cities across the country were still under way.

The HDP had on Sunday expressed its “deep sadness” after the death of Turkish nationals in Iraq, calling on the PKK to release its remaining prisoners.

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5 Surprising Health Benefits of Turkey

Turkey is always the main course on everybody’s mind over the holidays, but did you know that in 2019, the National Turkey Federation (yes, it’s a real organization) estimated that Americans ate 5.3 billion pounds of turkey—or 16.1 pounds per person. In 2017, 44 million turkeys were consumed on Thanksgiving alone.

The consumption of turkey—a bird that Benjamin Franklin once referred to as “respectable” and a “Bird of Courage”—has actually doubled in the United States over the past 25 years. So if you indulge (or overindulge) this year, know that you’re not alone.

That being said, turkey should actually be one of your go-to’s this holiday season (in addition to plenty of veggies on your plate). One three-ounce serving of skinless turkey breast comes with 26 grams of protein and only one gram of fat (120 calories total). If you’re a dark meat fan, both drumsticks and thighs are 140 calories with 24 and 23 grams of protein of protein, respectively.

Some things to keep in mind: take it easy on the gravy. While it’s delicious, the brown juice will only add an irresponsible number of calories to your plate an dilute the quality of your plate. Try to also take the skin off when you can—that’s where a lot of the fat will be.

While the holiday season may feel like one giant cheat day, it doesn’t have to be, especially when turkey’s on the table. Here are the surprising health benefits of the big bird at the table, so you and your family can gobble up guilt free.

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Arrests in Turkey over LGBT flags poster

Two students have been arrested in Turkey on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values over a poster depicting Islam’s most sacred site with LGBT flags.

Their arrest late Saturday came after top Turkish officials slammed the poster, displayed at an exhibition in Turkey’s most prestigious Bogazici University.

For weeks, students at the university have been protesting the Turkish president’s appointment of a controversial new rector who has links to the ruling party and clashes have broken out with police.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu tweeted that “LGBT perverts” had been detained for “disrespecting the Great Kaaba.”

The Kaaba in Mecca is the holiest site in Islam with believers across the world praying in its direction.

The poster placed a mythical creature of half-woman and half-snake found in Middle Eastern folklore on the site of worship along with the flags of LGBT, lesbian, trans and asexual people. The text below said the artwork was a critique of traditional gender roles.

Top government officials from Turkey’s conservative, Islamic-based ruling party condemned the poster. The spokesman for the staunchly secular, main opposition party also slammed the artwork as a provocation, calling it an attack on holy values.

Their statements came after the university’s Islamic research club slammed the poster on social media, prompting people to take to Twitter with hashtags denouncing the poster, LGBTs and the university.

The country’s director of religious affairs, who previously created a stir by saying homosexuality brings disease and was defended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he came under criticism, said he would take legal action.

Police searched the fine arts and LGBTI+ student clubs at the university. The statement said police found books on an outlawed Kurdish group and rainbow flags.

Melih Bulu, the rector under protest, tweeted that an attack on Islamic values was unacceptable and had no place in the university’s values.

Istanbul governor’s office said five people were initially detained and police were seeking two more suspects. One person was released, two put under house arrest and two were jailed pending trial.

The university’s LGBTI+ group tweeted they stood with their friends and said they reject the new rector “who targeted his own students”. They say the rector should be elected, not appointed.

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Are Russia and Turkey Likely to Clash Over Syria?

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Moscow and Damascus have been allies since the 1960s, and Moscow’s only naval base outside Russia is the Syrian port of Tartus.  Determined to stop Syrian rebels who came close to overthrowing the government, Moscow committed Russian planes that – along with troops from Iran and Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah – were instrumental in enabling the battered Syrian army to recapture most of the country.

Turkey and Russia are hardly equal in size or military capability.

But should Turkish and Russian forces actually engage in combat in Syria, Turkey would have the edge, according to one American analyst.

“The correlation of forces is decidedly against Russia in Syria,” says Michael Kofman, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analyses thinktank, and an expert on the Russian military.

How could this be? Russia is a former superpower that still retains a large military and the world’s biggest arsenal of nuclear warheads. Turkey, though one of the strongest members of NATO, is a middleweight power that lacks nuclear weapons.

But as in real estate, location is everything. Russia’s overall military superiority doesn’t translate into superior strength on the ground in northeastern Syria, where Moscow’s Syrian ally has launched an offensive to recapture Idlib province – on the Syria-Turkish border – from Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.

Russia has only one major airbase in Syria – Khmeimim airbase near the port of Latakia in northwestern Syria – and a naval base at Tartus. This creates a vulnerability, as does the dependence of Russian forces – estimated to include several thousand troops and dozens of warplanes – on ships to bring their supplies Those vessels must transit from the Black Sea – through the Bosporus straits which are controlled by Turkey – before they can reach Syrian ports in the eastern Mediterranean. And unlike the U.S.,  Russia does not have a substantial airlift capacity to sustain an overseas expeditionary force.

These infrastructure and logistical constraints mean Russia can’t beef up its present forces in Syria much beyond their present level, Kofman believes.  “In a scenario where Russia has one airbase, a presence that is not scalable, a presence that requires access to the Bosporus for logistical support, the Russian forces are actually in a very vulnerable position,” he says.

A Russian retaliatory strike on Turkey itself would also be risky. While NATO is unlikely to support Turkey’s campaign in Syria – which is outside the alliance’s zone – it would be obligated to aid a member whose national territory has been attacked.

To be clear, neither Turkey nor Russia is looking for a military confrontation with each other. Indeed, in early March 2020, Turkish president Recip Erdogan flew to Moscow to sign an agreement with Russian president Vladimir Putin that calls for a cease-fire in Idlib, and a security corridor along the M4 highway that will feature joint Russian-Turkish patrols.

The situation resembles the Cold War, where the U.S. and Soviet Union avoided direct clashes and instead battled through proxy forces. In February 2020, after Syrian airstrikes killed 33 Turkish soldiers, Turkey retaliated with its own strikes – including attacks by armed drones – on Syrian troops and shot down three Syrian warplanes. While a Turkish F-16 did shoot down a Russian Su-24 strike aircraft in 2015, both countries have otherwise managed to avoid coming to blows.

Yet Turkey has an estimated 7,000 troops in northern Syria, backed by drones and aircraft. Russian aircraft are supporting Syrian government troops attempting to wrest back Idlib – the last rebel-controlled territory in Syria. There are also Russian advisers and military police, and Russian mercenaries, in the area. It’s easy to envision multiple scenarios where Turkish and Russian forces engage in direct combat. For example, a Turkish attack on Syrian troops might injure Russian advisers, who call for air support from Russian planes. Or, Turkish aircraft accidentally shoot down Russian aircraft mistaken for Turkish planes, and then Russia might retaliate by downing Turkish jets.

While neither Moscow nor Ankara wants a direct fight, neither can afford to back down from a fight, Kofman says. “While both sides are working to avoid a conflict, neither side can accept loss of life without taking some kind of measures.”

Turkey and Russia have a troubled history, including a series of wars from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century (“those wars have not gone well for Turkey,” Kofman quips). But ironically, the Syrian flashpoint comes as Moscow and Ankara have drawn closer over recent years. Once the southern anchor of NATO against Soviet expansion, Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles angered the U.S. to the point that the Trump administration kicked Turkey out of the F-35 stealth fighter program.

The question is whether Turkey and Russia have irreconcilable goals, or merely differing goals that can be mutually satisfied. Turkish troops occupy northeastern Syria, ostensibly to create a buffer zone between Syrian Kurds who have formed a breakaway region from the Syrian government, and Turkish Kurds who have long battled the Turkish government in a bid for independence. Turkey would also like to see the demise of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, not least because the Syrian offensive in Idlib has driven nearly a million refugees toward the Turkish border.

For its part, Russia is determined to preserve the Syrian regime. Moscow and Damascus have been allies since the 1960s, and Moscow’s only naval base outside Russia is the Syrian port of Tartus.  Determined to stop Syrian rebels who came close to overthrowing the government, Moscow committed Russian planes that – along with troops from Iran and Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah – were instrumental in enabling the battered Syrian army to recapture most of the country.

“It is understood that the Russian military will intervene on behalf of the Syrian regime if the regime’s stability and survival is in question,” Kofman says. “But it is not going to intervene on behalf of Syrian forces in Idlib. Russia doesn’t need Idlib.”

However, experts believe that any cease-fire agreement in Idlib will be temporary at best. “Ultimately, the Russians will back the Syrian government’s desire to reclaim those territories,” predicts Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “But in the meanwhile, Putin is happy to kick that can down the road while Syria swallows and digests territory which the opposition had controlled.”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest, and a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook. or his  Web site. This article first appeared last year.

Image: Reuters. 

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‘You Need to Back Up’: New York State Cop Has Conversation With Chatty Turkey

The Ramapo Police Department in New York’s Rockland County shared footage of one of its officers having a conversation with a turkey on January 22. Police said the footage shows a turkey approaching Officer Robert Navarro’s window on Pascack Road in Chestnut Ridge. Navarro tells the turkey, “I don’t care what he did. We’re not taking a report for that. You need to go away.” The department said Officer Navarro “was attempting to clear several parties from the roadway, when he was met with some resistance.” Credit: Town of Ramapo Police Department via Storyful

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Vaccine shipments to EU slow as Turkey, China put foot on accelerator

FILE PHOTO: Corina Naujoks, member of a German Red Cross mobile vaccination team injects the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at an employee of a retirement nursery in Dillenburg, Germany, January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

January 15, 2021

By Francesco Guarascio and Andrius Sytas

BRUSSELS/VILNIUS (Reuters) – Some EU nations are receiving fewer than expected doses of coronavirus vaccines as U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer slows shipments, while Turkey and China race ahead with inoculations to stem surging worldwide infections.

Six EU countries described the delay as unacceptable and said it impacted the credibility of the whole vaccination process.

Spooked by a fast-spreading variant first detected in Britain, governments in Europe have imposed tighter and longer lockdowns and curbs. They are pinning hopes on vaccines being rolled out across the continent.

But even when inoculations start en masse, pressure on health systems is not expected to lift for months, or until most people within a population get the shot.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer with German partner BioNTech started being delivered in the EU at the end of December. U.S. biotech firm Moderna began delivering its shot this week.

Yet about one third of the 27 EU governments cited “insufficient” doses at a video conference of health ministers on Wednesday, a person who attended the virtual meeting told Reuters.

In a letter sent on Friday, six EU governments asked the European Commission to pressure Pfizer-BioNTech “to ensure stability and transparency of timely (vaccine) deliveries”.

“This situation is unacceptable,” said the letter, seen by Reuters, signed by the health ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she had spoken to Pfizer and been reassured that scheduled deliveries will be made in the first quarter of 2021.

Pfizer said there would be a temporary impact on shipments in late January to early February caused by changes to manufacturing processes to boost production.

“Although this will temporarily impact shipments in late January to early February, it will provide a significant increase in doses available for patients in late February and March,” Pfizer said in a statement.


The German health ministry said Pfizer has informed the European Union that it would temporarily reduce deliveries due to construction work at its plant in the Belgian town of Puurs.

Belgium said it expected to receive only around half of the planned doses of the Pfizer vaccine in January. Lithuania said it was told this week its supplies would be halved until mid-February.

Pfizer and BioNTech have two contracts with the EU for the supply of up to 600 million doses this year. They have agreed to deliver 75 million doses in the second quarter and more later in the year.

Moderna has committed to delivering 10 million doses by the end of March and 35 million each in the second and third quarter. Another 80 million doses are also to be delivered this year but without a clear timetable yet.

Turkey, not an EU member, said it had vaccinated more than 600,000 people in the first two days of administering shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, among the fastest rollouts in the world.

“We are an experienced country in implementing nationwide inoculation programmes … We will win the battle with the pandemic together,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

Turkey vaccinated more people on the first day of its programme on Thursday than France had in nearly its first three weeks.

Rising infections are turning up the heat on China to strengthen its own pace of vaccination at home, even as it has been exporting millions of doses of vaccines to countries including Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil.

In the first nine days of January, about 4.5 million doses were given nationwide in China, triple the number given from July to November, Reuters calculations based on official data show. By Jan. 13, more than 10 million doses were given.

Two Chinese firms, Sinovac and Sinopharm, have developed vaccines. Sinopharm shipped more than 10 million doses domestically by Jan 4, while Sinovac delivered more than 7 million doses by Jan 10.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will on Friday outline his plan to ramp up vaccinations after an early rollout by the Trump administration which he called “a dismal failure”.

Biden has promised to get 100 million vaccine shots into the arms of Americans during his first 100 days in office.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux across the world; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Peter Graff)

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One man’s terrorist – Covid-19 and repression in Turkey | Europe

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