Archive for November, 2015

Turkish PM States Turkey Will Not Apologise to Russia for Downed Jet

Turkey PMTurkey won’t apologise to Russia for shooting down a warplane operating over Syria, the Turkish prime minister said Monday, stressing that the Turkish military was doing its job defending the country’s airspace.

Ahmet Davutoglu also said Turkey hopes Moscow will reconsider economic sanctions announced against Turkish interests in the wake of last week’s incident. The Turkish resort town of Antalya is “like a second home” to many Russian holidaymakers, he said, but refused to yield on Turkish security.

“No Turkish prime minister or president will apologize … because of doing our duty,” Davutoglu told reporters after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.

“Protection of Turkish airspace, Turkish borders is a national duty, and our army did their job to protect this airspace. But if the Russian side wants to talk, and wants to prevent any future unintentional events like this, we are ready to talk.”

Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian warplane on Nov. 24, sparking new Cold War-style tensions between NATO, of which Turkey is a member, and Russia. One of the Russian pilots later died, while a second was rescued.

In recent years, NATO has had both tensions and cooperation with Russia over issues ranging from Afghanistan and Ukraine to Syria and beyond.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday that he’s concerned about the Turkey-Russia tensions.

On Monday, the body of Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov, the Russian pilot who was killed, was flown back to Russia following a military ceremony in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Turkey’s military said.

Russia began airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 30 that it says are focused on fighters of the Islamic State group, but which some observers say target other rebel groups and are aimed at bolstering the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russia insists that the plane that was shot down didn’t intrude on Turkish airspace.

Davutoglu insisted a violation occurred, and said Turkey had repeatedly warned Russia about incursions into its airspace.

“We also made very clear that the Turkish-Syria border is a national security issue for Turkey. So it was a defensive action,” Davutoglu said. He repeated Turkish assertions that there were no IS fighters in the area.

“We have been telling our Russian friends that their bombardments against civilians on our border is creating new waves of refugees which do not go to Russia or to any other country, but coming to Turkey,” he said.

“And Turkey, after every bombardment, (is) receiving more and more tens of thousands of refugees from Syria,” Davutoglu added. “Turkey is a country paying the price of this crisis.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday called for sanctions against Turkey including bans on some Turkish goods and extensions on work contracts for Turks working in Russia. The measures also call for ending chartered flights from Russia to Turkey and for Russian tourism companies to stop selling vacation packages that would include a stay in Turkey.



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Christie Secures Big Endorsement in New Hampshire

Chris ChristieAn influential New Hampshire Republican who has been courted by multiple presidential candidates has finally picked her horse, deciding to place her money on a New Hampshire-focused underdog: Gov. Chris Christie.

Businesswoman and activist Renee Plummer, a well-connected Republican and frequent presence on New Hampshire talk radio, has hosted roundtables and intimate dinners for most of the Republican presidential candidates. Her endorsement was sought by Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Plummer is going with Christie, she said, because of his record of winning in a Democratic state, his handling of Superstorm Sandy and his professed willingness to work with others who disagree with him.

“People feel that he’s Reaganesque,” Plummer said. “That he’s going to take care of us, protect us.”

Plummer, who is on the board of Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, also cited Christie’s work on substance abuse issues in New Jersey as an important factor in her endorsement.

The endorsement may seem insignificant outside of New Hampshire, but it’s emblematic of how presidential politics work in the nation’s first primary state and the outsized power that local activists hold over the campaign. “Why Renee Plummer could decide the presidency” read the headline of one New Hampshire newspaper profile of her over the summer.

Christie is struggling in national polls but has a better standing in New Hampshire, where he has been generating positive headlines for his hard-working town hall schedule.

Asked why not Bush, another candidate who, like Christie, is pinning his hopes on New Hampshire, Plummer said she’s “not sure how his last name is going to play throughout the country.”


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Putin Signs Decree Imposing Sanctions On Turkey

Putin and Turkey sanctionsPresident Vladimir Putin signed a decree imposing a raft of punitive economic sanctions against Turkey on Saturday, underlining the depth of the Kremlin’s anger toward Ankara four days after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane.

The decree, which entered into force immediately, said charter flights from Russia to Turkey would be banned, that tour firms would be told not to sell any holidays there, and that unspecified Turkish imports would be outlawed, and Turkish firms and nationals have their economic activities halted or curbed.

“The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said hours before the decree was published.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters the sanctions would only worsen the standoff between Moscow and Ankara.

But aides to Putin say he is incandescent that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has yet to apologize for the Nov. 24 incident near the Syrian-Turkish border in which one Russian pilot was killed along with a Russian marine who tried to rescue the crew of the downed SU-24 jet.

Senior Russian officials have called the episode, one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century, a pre-planned provocation.

Erdogan has been equally robust. He has said Turkey will not apologize for downing the jet, saying Ankara was fully within its rights to defend its air space. On Saturday, he appeared to soften his rhetoric a little, saying the episode had saddened him.

Putin’s spokesman suggested the Russian leader was ready for a long standoff however, saying he was “fully mobilized” to tackle what he regarded as an unprecedented threat from Turkey.

The decree, posted on the Kremlin’s website, spoke of the need to protect Russia’s national security and Russian citizens “from criminal and other illegal activities”.

In it, Putin ordered the government to prepare a list of goods, firms and jobs that would be affected. Some of the measures announced have already been informally introduced.

The government is expected to publish the list of banned imports on Monday, Interfax news agency reported, citing a government source. The list is likely to include food and some other products, a second government source said.

Turkey mainly sells food, agricultural products and textiles to Moscow and is also one of the most popular holiday destinations for Russians. Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said he thought up to 200,000 Turkish citizens could be on Russian soil.

Putin signed the decree days before a climate change summit in Paris. Erdogan said earlier on Saturday it could be a chance to repair relations with Moscow.

“Confrontation will not bring anyone happiness. As much as Russia is important for Turkey, Turkey is important for Russia,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the western city of Baliksehir.

Peskov said Putin was aware of a Turkish request for him to meet Erdogan on the sidelines of the Paris conference but gave no indication of whether such a meeting would take place.

He called the behavior of the Turkish air force “absolute madness” and said Ankara’s subsequent handling of the crisis had reminded him of the “theater of the absurd.”

“Nobody has the right to traitorously shoot down a Russian plane from behind,” Peskov told Russia’s “News on Saturday” TV program, calling Turkish evidence purporting to show the Russian jet had violated Turkish air space “cartoons”.

Turkey’s foreign ministry advised people on Saturday to postpone all non-urgent travel to Russia.

Peskov, according to the TASS news agency, also spoke on Saturday of how Erdogan’s son had a “certain interest” in the oil industry. Putin has said oil from Syrian territory controlled by Islamic State militants is finding its way to Turkey.

Erdogan has spoken of slander and asked anyone making such accusations to back up their words with evidence.

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Putin Vows To Continue Cooperating Western Allies in ISIS Fight

PutinRussia will keep cooperating with the United States and its partners to fight Islamic State in Syria, but that cooperation will be in jeopardy if there are any repeats of Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet, Russia’s Vladimir Putin said.

Speaking after talks in the Kremlin with French President Francois Hollande, Putin voiced lingering anger at Turkey’s actions, saying he viewed the downing of the jet as an act of betrayal by a country Moscow had thought was its friend.

But he said he would order Russia’s military to intensify cooperation with the French armed forces, including exchanges of information about targets and viewed that as part of creating a broader international coalition bringing together Russia and Western states.

“We are ready to cooperate with the coalition which is led by the United States. But of course incidents like the destruction of our aircraft and the deaths of our servicemen… are absolutely unacceptable,” Putin said at a news conference, standing alongside Hollande.

“And we proceed from the position that there will be no repeat of this, otherwise we’ll have no need of cooperation with anybody, any coalition, any country.”

He said he and the French leader had “agreed how we will cooperate in the near future, on a bilateral basis and with, as a whole, the coalition led by the United States.

“We are talking about a designation of the territories against which we can conduct strikes, and where it is better to refrain from strikes, about the exchange of information on various issues, and the coordination of our actions on, so to speak, the battlefield,” Putin said.

On bilateral cooperation with France, he said the aim was to “establish constructive work by our military specialists to avoid duplication and avoid strikes on those territories and groups which are themselves ready to fight terrorism.”

“We view this as the formation of a wide anti-terrorist coalition under the aegis of the United Nations,” Putin said.

The Russian leader said, under the cooperation already established with the U.S.-led coalition, Russia’s military had passed on details of the flight plan of the jet that was shot down this week.

“Why did we pass this information to the Americans? Either they were not controlling what their allies were doing, or they are leaking this information all over the place,” Putin said.


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British Prime Minister Cameron Makes Case for UK Airstrikes Against ISIS

David CameronBritish Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain should join air strikes against the Islamic State (Isis) in Syria, arguing the UK should not outsource its security to allies.

Cameron, who lost a vote on air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in 2013, needs to persuade several lawmakers in his own Conservative Party and some in the opposition Labour Party to back his cause if he is to win parliament’s backing for military action.

“Whether or not to use military force is one of the most significant decisions that any government takes. The need to do so most often arises because of a government’s first duty: the responsibility to protect its citizens. Decisions to use force are not to be taken lightly. It is right that Parliament, on behalf of the people, asks difficult questions and holds the Government to account. For its part, it is important that the Government should listen and learn. But it is also vital that the Government can act to keep this country safe.

Throughout Britain’s history, we have been called on time and again to make the hardest of decisions in defence of our citizens and our country. Today one of the greatest threats we face to our security is the threat from ISIL. We need a comprehensive response which seeks to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to us directly, not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory that it controls. It is in Raqqa, Syria, that ISIL has its headquarters, and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated.

We must tackle ISIL in Syria, as we are doing in neighbouring Iraq, in order to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to the region and to our security here at home. We have to deny a safe haven for ISIL in Syria. The longer ISIL is allowed to grow in Syria, the greater the threat it will pose. It is wrong for the United Kingdom to sub-contract its security to other countries, and to expect the aircrews of other nations to carry the burdens and the risks of striking ISIL in Syria to stop terrorism here in Britain.

That is why I believe that we should now take the decision to extend British airstrikes against ISIL into Syria, as an integral part of our comprehensive strategy to degrade ISIL and reduce the threat it poses to us. At the same time, we must close down the ungoverned space in Syria that ISIL is exploiting, by working round the clock to bring about a political resolution to the war there. That means putting Britain’s full diplomatic weight, as a full member of an international coalition, behind the new political talks – the Vienna process.

It means working through these talks to secure a transition to an inclusive Government in Syria that responds to the needs of all the Syrian people and with which the international community could co-operate fully to help restore peace and stability to the whole country. It means continuing to support the moderate opposition in Syria, so that there is a credible alternative to ISIL and Assad.

It means using our aid budget to alleviate the immediate humanitarian suffering. It means insisting, with other countries, on the preparation of a proper stabilisation and reconstruction effort in Syria once the conflict has been brought to an end. And it means continuing, and stepping up, our effort here at home to counter radicalisation.

We must pursue all these tracks in parallel. As the threat from ISIL to our national security grows, we must take action – recognising that no course of action is without risk, but that inaction not dealing with ISIL at source, also carries grave risk. We have a comprehensive overall strategy in place to tackle the ISIL threat globally.

“If we believe that action can help protect us, then with our allies we should be part of that action not standing aside from it,” Cameron said. “And from this moral point comes a fundamental question: If we won’t action now, when our friend and ally France has been struck in this way, then our allies in the world can be forgiven for asking ‘If not now, when?’

“But Mr Speaker, we do face a fundamental threat to our security. We can’t wait for a political transition; we have to hit these terrorists in their heartlands right now. And we must not shirk our responsibility for security or hand it to others. Mr Speaker, throughout our history the United Kingdom has stood up to defend our values and our way of life. We can and we must do so again and I commend this statement to the house.”

Cameron confirmed, after a series of questions from opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, that British boots would not hit Syrian soil.

“Let me give an assurance, we are not deploying British combat forces, we are not going to deploy British combat forces,” the prime minister said. “We think actually the presence of western boots on the ground in that way would be counter-productive. That is one of the things we have all, I think collectively across the house learnt from previous conflicts and we don’t want to make that mistake again.”

Lawmakers will have a few days to mull over Cameron’s case and a vote could take place early next week.


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Cruz pulls almost even with Trump in Iowa, latest polls find

Cruz and TrumpTexas Sen. Ted Cruz has pulled almost even with Donald Trump in Iowa, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll of likely Republican caucus-goers.

The survey also finds retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson sliding dramatically as Cruz rises in the Hawkeye State.

Trump tops the poll with 25 percent support, followed closely by Cruz at 23 percent.

Behind them are Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, polling at 18 and 13 percent respectively.

Cruz’s numbers are up significantly from Quinnipiac’s Oct. 22 poll that showed Cruz at just 10 percent in Iowa. In that poll, Carson led the pack with 28 percent, followed by Trump at 20 percent.

“Last month, we said it was Dr. Ben Carson’s turn in the spotlight.  Today, the spotlight turns to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement.

Lower down the rankings, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul got 5 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got 4 percent, and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina got 3 percent.

The poll also found that Iowa likely Republican caucus participants overwhelmingly oppose allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. by 81-15 percent.

The poll of 600 likely GOP caucus-goers was taken from Nov. 16-22 and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Now, the spotlight turns to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The Iowa Republican Caucus has become a two-tiered contest: Businessman Donald Trump and neurosurgeon Ben Carson lead on the outsider track, and Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio lead among party insiders,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Brown, though, pointed out that winning in Iowa is no guarantee of winning the primary election, as Huckabee won the GOP caucus in 2008 and Santorum in 2012, but “both were quickly gone from those nomination fights as the primary calendar moved to larger states.”

Cruz’s Iowa numbers are in line with other polls released in recent days, including a New CBS  News Poll that showed he’d replaced Carson in second place, with the retired neurosurgeon slipping into third place.

Meanwhile, Carson received the top favorability rating, at 79-15 percent, followed by 73-15 percent for Cruz, 70-18 percent for Rubio, and 59-34 percent for Trump.

Jeb Bush’s numbers, though, continued to prove disappointing. He had a negative 39-53 percent ranking, and 26 percent of the caucus-goers said they “would definitely not support him,” with another 23 percent saying they would not support Trump.

Meanwhile, just five percent said they would not support Cruz, who got the best numbers in that category:Trump, 23 percent;

  • Cruz, 5 percent;
  • Carson, 9 percent;
  • Rubio, 7 percent;
  • Paul, 12 percent;
  • Bush, 26 percent;
  • Fiorina, 10 percent;
  • Christie, 14 percent;
  • Huckabee, 10 percent;
  • Santorum, 9 percent;
  • John Kasich, 19 percent;
  • Gilmore, 11 percent;
  • Graham, 15 percent;
  • Pataki, 14 percent

The poll showed 24 percent of voters said the economy and jobs are the most important issues determining who will get their vote, followed by 15 percent who said terrorism and foreign policy, 11 percent on the federal deficit, and 10 percent for immigration.

On the economy, 49 percent of the voters said Trump is best, followed by 11 percent for Cruz. Carson, Rubio, and Fiorina were picked by six percent each.


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Osborne in Climb-down over NHS Funding to Avert Crisis

Osborne N HS

Health experts have warned against cuts to public health funding and social care as George Osborne announced a £3.8 billion cash injection for the NHS.

The funding boost above inflation for frontline NHS services in England has been warmly welcomed but experts said the cash must not be clawed back from other areas.

The Treasury has agreed the new settlement as part of a manifesto promise to give the NHS an extra £8bn a year by 2020.

It will bring spending to £106.5bn in 2016-17, which is the equivalent of a 3.7% or £3.8bn rise.

By 2020-21, the total budget will be £119.6bn – a rise of £8.4bn once inflation is taken into account.

But some critics have suggested that public health budgets still face cuts. These are held by councils for services including sexual health, stop smoking clinics and student nurse bursaries.

Doubts also remain over social care, which has a knock-on effect on the NHS. There has been a rise in the number of medically fit people having to stay in hospital because social care services are not available in the community for them to be discharged.

The numbers receiving social care is also falling, which critics argue increases the pressure on the health service.

Rob Webster, chief executive of NHS Confederation, welcomed the extra cash for the NHS but said “w e are clear that significant risks remain”.

He added: “In particular, the NHS will fail to deliver good care without adequate social care provision and improvements in the public’s health.

“Local government budgets have been cut dramatically over the last five years and there is no doubting the knock-on impact this has on the NHS.

“If the funding gap in social care is not adequately addressed, costs will be shifted to health and if we don’t use resources to keep people healthier for longer, we store up trouble for the future.”

Anita Charlesworth, chief economist at the Health Foundation, said: “Make no mistake, the NHS is in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis.

“Key targets for waiting times targets are being missed. There is deep concern about the quality of mental health services. Three-quarters of trusts are in deficit. NHS providers are expected to end the year £2.2bn in the red.

“To stop this decline the health service needs the pledged budget increases to arrive sooner rather than later and the Government’s confirmation of front-loaded funding is therefore welcome.

“However, any move to redefine and shrink the definition of the NHS would be particularly worrying.

“If some of this new money comes from other parts of the health service – such as public health or training – it would be a false economy and likely to have a negative impact on service and efficiency.

“Even with additional funding this will be the most austere decade for the NHS since its inception. Public funding for the NHS will fall as a share of GDP from the current 7.4%.

“The UK already devotes a lower share of its economic wealth to health than most other European countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands.”

Mr Osborne – who is due to unveil full details of his Comprehensive Spending Review alongside his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, said the extra money, which includes cash already given to the service, would mean world-class treatment for patients.

He said: “We promised the British people that their priority was our priority, and we would fund our National Health Service.

“We will deliver £6 billion a year extra investment straight away, as those in charge of the NHS have requested.

“This means I am providing the health department with a half a trillion pound settlement, the biggest ever commitment to the NHS since its creation.

“This will mean world-class treatment for millions more patients, deliver a truly seven-day health service and allow the NHS to implement its five-year plan to transform the services patients receive.”

The Government has pledged that by 2020 everyone in England will be able to access GP services in the evenings and at weekends.

By the same time, all key hospital services are due to operate seven days a week.


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