Abortion Rights Rollback in US Could Ripple Across Globe

The right of American women to have an abortion will be severely restricted if the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 decision to legalize the procedure. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias spoke to activists on three continents and found grave concern about what impact a U.S. ruling overturning Roe v. Wade could have around the world. Videographer/Video editor: Veronica Balderas Iglesias …

Grand Jury Indicts Suspect in Buffalo Shooting

The 18-year-old suspect in the Buffalo, New York, grocery store mass shooting last weekend was formally charged with first-degree murder during a brief court appearance Thursday. Payton Gendron was escorted into the courtroom flanked by police officers, wearing an orange jumpsuit and a white face mask. He was handcuffed and shackled. He remained silent throughout the one-minute proceeding attended by some relatives of the victims. Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush presented the indictment, which was handed down on Wednesday. In New York, prosecutors can charge a defendant with first-degree murder only under special circumstances, including when multiple people are killed in a single incident, like in the Buffalo shooting. The single count against Gendron covers all 10 deaths at the supermarket. Gendron was ordered held in custody without bail for further action from a grand jury and is next expected in court on June 9. Gendron’s attorney, Brian Parker, had no comment. As he was led from the courtroom, someone in the audience shouted “Payton, you’re a coward!”  Gendron is charged with killing 10 people and wounding three others last Saturday at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Eleven of the victims who were shot were Black.  The FBI is investigating the attack as a hate crime. U.S. President Joe Biden visited the scene on Tuesday.  Investigators are studying a racist 180-page document, purportedly written by Gendron, that said the assault was intended to terrorize all non-white, non-Christian people and get them to leave the United States.   Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. …

US Spy Agencies Urged to Fix Open Secret: A Lack of Diversity

The peril National Security Agency staff wanted to discuss with their director didn’t involve terrorists or enemy nations. It was something closer to home: the racism and cultural misunderstandings inside America’s largest intelligence service. The NSA and other intelligence agencies held calls for their staff shortly after the death of George Floyd. As Gen. Paul Nakasone listened, one person described how they would try to speak up in meetings only to have the rest of the group keep talking over them. Another person, a Black man, spoke about how he had been counseled that his voice was too loud and intimidated coworkers. A third described how a coworker addressed them with a racist slur. The national reckoning over racial inequality sparked by Floyd’s murder two years ago has gone on behind closed doors inside America’s intelligence agencies. Publicly available data, published studies of its diversity programs, and interviews with retired officers indicate spy agencies have not lived up to years of commitments made by their top leaders, who often say diversity is a national security imperative. People of color remain underrepresented across the intelligence community and are less likely to be promoted. Retired officers who spoke to The Associated Press described examples of explicit and implicit bias. People who had served on promotion boards noted non-native English speakers applying for new jobs would sometimes be criticized for being hard to understand — what one person called the “accent card.” Some say they believe minorities are funneled into working on countries or regions based on their ethnicity. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the first woman to serve in her role, has appointed diversity officials who say they need to collect better data to study longstanding questions, from whether the process for obtaining a security clearance disadvantages people of color to the reasons for disparities in advancement. Agencies are also implementing reforms they say will promote diversity. “It’s going to be incremental,” said Stephanie La Rue, who was appointed this year to lead the intelligence community’s efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. “We’re not going to see immediate change overnight. It’s going to take us a while to get to where we need to go.” The NSA call following Floyd’s death was described by a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private discussion. The person credited Nakasone for listening to employees and making public and private commitments … Continue reading “US Spy Agencies Urged to Fix Open Secret: A Lack of Diversity”

North Korea Looms as Biden Makes First Asia Trip

Although U.S. foreign policy during the first part of Joe Biden’s presidency has focused more on issues such as a rising China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden this week will be confronted by another nagging foreign policy issue, a nuclear-armed North Korea. Biden, who departs Friday for his first trip to Asia as president, may be welcomed by a major North Korean weapons test, according to U.S. and South Korean officials. U.S. intelligence reflects the “genuine possibility” that North Korea will conduct either a long-range missile launch or a nuclear test, or possibly both, in the days surrounding or during Biden’s Asia trip, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday. “We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” Sullivan said in a briefing. Much of Biden’s five-day trip is expected to focus on China, where he will work to reassure allies who have questioned long-term U.S. commitment to the region. During the trip, Biden is expected to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a long-awaited economic initiative meant to increase U.S. involvement in Asia. In Tokyo, Biden will hold a meeting of the Quad, a four-country grouping made up of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia – democracies that have a strong interest in containing China’s rise. In Seoul, Biden will meet South Korea’s newly inaugurated president, Yoon Suk Yeol, who has vowed to take a tougher stance on China and who wants to expand cooperation with Washington on other global issues. However, South Korean officials have warned for days that a major North Korean test may upend Biden’s agenda. South Korean and U.S. officials have come up with a “Plan B,” which may include altering Biden’s existing schedule in the event of a North Korean provocation, according to Kim Tae-hyo, South Korea’s first deputy national security adviser. North Korea has often conducted major launches on or around visits to the region by U.S. presidents. Some analysts say such moves may be meant to attract U.S. diplomatic attention or increase North Korean leverage in potential nuclear negotiations. North Korea has conducted a dizzying number of missile launches this year. In March, the North launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in almost five years. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service believes North Korea has also completed preparations for what would be its seventh nuclear … Continue reading “North Korea Looms as Biden Makes First Asia Trip”

US Senate to Vote on Ukraine Aid

The U.S. Senate is set to vote Thursday on a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. The measure includes money for military equipment, training and weapons for Ukraine, replenishing stocks of U.S. equipment sent to Ukraine and financing to help other countries that aid Ukraine. It also includes billions of dollars in humanitarian aid, including helping money to address global food shortages caused by the conflict. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly gave its approval to the package last week. If the Senate approves the measure, it will go to President Joe Biden for his signature.  …

US Warns North Korea Could Greet Biden With Nuclear, Missile Tests

U.S. intelligence shows there could be a North Korean nuclear test, or a long-range missile test, or both, before, during or after President Joe Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan starting this week, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday. The White House said Biden would not visit the Demilitarized Zone that divides North and South Korea during his visit to South Korea, which begins Friday, having said last week he was considering such a trip. “Our intelligence does reflect a genuine possibility that there will be either a further missile test, including long-range missile test, or a nuclear test, or frankly both, in the days leading into, on or after the president’s trip to the region,” Sullivan told a White House briefing. “We are preparing for all contingencies,” he said. Sullivan said that the United States was coordinating closely with South Korea and Japan and that he had also discussed North Korea with a senior Chinese diplomat in a phone call Wednesday. Biden’s trip, which is to run through Tuesday, will be his first to Asia as president. It will include his first summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office May 10 and has vowed to take a harder line against North Korean “provocations.” Sullivan said the United States was prepared to make both short- and longer-term adjustments to its military posture as necessary “to ensure that we are providing both defense and deterrence to our allies in the region and that we’re responding to any North Korean provocation.” Earlier, U.S. and South Korean officials said North Korea appeared to be preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile ahead of Biden’s trip to South Korea, even as it battled a big COVID-19 outbreak. South Korean deputy national security adviser Kim Tae-hyo said such a test appeared imminent and a U.S. official said it could happen as soon as Thursday or Friday. Kim Tae-hyo said a “Plan B” had been prepared in the event of a small or large North Korean “provocation,” which could involve altering the summit schedule. A weapons test could overshadow Biden’s broader trip focus on China, trade and other regional issues, and underscore the lack of progress in denuclearization talks with North Korea, despite his administration’s vow to break the stalemate with practical approaches. North Korea has conducted repeated missile tests since Biden took office last year and this … Continue reading “US Warns North Korea Could Greet Biden With Nuclear, Missile Tests”

Biden Invokes Defense Production Act for Infant Formula Shortage

President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to speed production of infant formula and authorized flights to import supply from overseas, as he faces mounting political pressure over a domestic shortage caused by the safety-related closure of the country’s largest formula manufacturing plant. The Defense Production Act order requires suppliers of formula manufacturers to fulfill orders from those companies before other customers, in an effort to eliminate production bottlenecks. Biden is also authorizing the Defense Department to use commercial aircraft to fly formula supplies that meet federal standards from overseas to the U.S., in what the White House is calling “Operation Fly Formula.” Supplies of baby formula across the country have been severely curtailed in recent weeks after a February recall by Abbott Nutrition exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on store shelves and increasingly anxious parents struggling to find nutrition for their children. “I know parents across the country are worried about finding enough formula to feed their babies,” Biden said in a video statement released by the White House. “As a parent and as a grandparent, I know just how stressful that is.” The announcement comes two days after the Food and Drug Administration said it was streamlining its review process to make it easier for foreign manufacturers to begin shipping more formula into the U.S. In a letter Wednesday to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, Biden directed the agencies to work with the Pentagon to identify overseas supplies of formula that meet U.S. standards over the next week, so that chartered Defense Department flights can swiftly fly it to the U.S. “Imports of baby formula will serve as a bridge to this ramped-up production,” Biden wrote. Regulators said Monday that they’d reached a deal to allow Abbott Nutrition to restart its Sturgis, Michigan, plant, the nation’s largest formula plant, which has been closed since February because of contamination issues. The company must overhaul its safety protocols and procedures before resuming production. After getting the FDA’s approval, Abbott said it will take eight to 10 weeks before new products begin arriving in stores. The company didn’t set a timeline to restart manufacturing. “I’ve directed my team to do everything possible to ensure there’s enough safe baby formula and that it is quickly reaching families that need it the most,” Biden said in the … Continue reading “Biden Invokes Defense Production Act for Infant Formula Shortage”

Americans Shed COVID Precautions Despite New Surge

The number of U.S. counties considered to be at high risk of spreading COVID has almost tripled in the last two weeks, according to the CDC. In New York City, the COVID alert level has risen to high, and the number of cases has doubled in the last month. Despite this, a new poll suggests many Americans have stopped wearing facemasks and social distancing. Aron Ranen has the story. Camera: Aron Ranen and Igor Tsikhanenka. …

New US ‘Disinformation’ Board Paused Amid Free Speech Questions

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday paused a new and controversial board’s work on disinformation and accepted the resignation of its leader, capping weeks of concerns about impinging on free speech rights and at times frenzied conspiracy theories about the board itself. What remains to be seen is whether the debate over the board will damage ongoing U.S. efforts to counter disinformation used as a weapon by Russia and other adversaries. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged the board had become a distraction to the department’s other work, which includes safeguarding U.S. elections, two officials familiar with his decision said. The Disinformation Governance Board’s director, Nina Jankowicz, wrote Wednesday that the board’s future was uncertain, according to a resignation letter obtained by The Associated Press. While the board has not formally been shuttered, it will be reviewed by members of a DHS advisory council that’s expected to make recommendations in 75 days. The Washington Post first reported the board’s pause. Federal and state agencies treat disinformation as a national security threat. In a statement announcing its launch, DHS said the new initiative would coordinate efforts around threats of Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at the U.S. and false claims that encourage migrants to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border. But the new board was hampered from the start by questions about its purpose, funding and work with an uneven rollout that further confused its mission. Mayorkas struggled to answer questions about the board’s work in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this month. Mayorkas made the decision to pause the board in response to the cumulative negative reaction and growing concerns that it was distracting from the department’s other work on disinformation, according to two department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: It was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner,” the department said in a statement. “It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted the board had never met and neither the department nor Jankowicz had any power to censor or remove content labeled as disinformation. DHS officials had tried to quell concerns about how the board would impact issues of free speech and online privacy by describing it as an internal working group intended to study definitions … Continue reading “New US ‘Disinformation’ Board Paused Amid Free Speech Questions”

US Stocks Fall Sharply on Renewed Inflation Fears

Stocks closed sharply lower Wednesday on Wall Street as dismal results from Target renewed fears that inflation is battering U.S. companies. The S&P 500, the benchmark for many index funds, fell 4%. Target lost a quarter of its value, dragging other retailers down with it, after saying its profit fell by half in the latest quarter as costs for freight and transportation spiked. That comes a day after Walmart cited inflation for its own weak results. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,164 points, or 3.6% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq pulled back 4.7%. Treasury yields fell as investors sought safer ground. “A lot of people are trying to guess the bottom,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. “Bottoms occur when there’s nobody left to sell.” Retailers were among the biggest decliners after Target plunged following a grim quarterly earnings report. The weak reports stoked concerns that persistently rising inflation is putting a tighter squeeze on a wide range of businesses and could cut deeper into their profits. Technology stocks, which led the market rally a day earlier, were the biggest drag on the S&P 500. Apple lost 5.9%. All told, more than 95% of stocks in the S&P 500 were down. Utilities also weighed down the index, though not nearly as much as the other 10 sectors, as investors shifted money to investments that are considered less risky. The disappointing report from Target comes a day after the market cheered an encouraging report from the Commerce Department that showed retail sales rose in April, driven by higher sales of cars, electronics and more spending at restaurants. Stocks have been struggling to pull out of a slump over the last six weeks as concerns pile up for investors. Trading has been choppy on a daily basis and any data on retailers and consumers is being closely monitored by investors as they try to determine the impact from inflation and whether it will prompt a slowdown in spending. A bigger-than-expected hit to spending could signal more sluggish economic growth ahead. The Federal Reserve is trying to temper the impact from the highest inflation in four decades by raising interest rates. On Tuesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell told a Wall Street Journal conference that the U.S. central bank will “have to consider moving more aggressively” if inflation fails to ease after earlier rate hikes. Investors are concerned that the central bank … Continue reading “US Stocks Fall Sharply on Renewed Inflation Fears”

Chinese Officials, American Accused in Scheme to Silence Dissent Against Beijing

A U.S. citizen and four officials from China’s State Security Ministry have been accused of conspiracy and espionage in a scheme to silence dissent against Beijing, the U.S. Justice Department announced. In an indictment unsealed in federal court Tuesday in New York, the U.S. alleged that Shujun Wang of New York, a naturalized American citizen, acted as a covert Chinese intelligence asset in his own community by “spying on and reporting sensitive information on prominent pro-democracy activists and organizations” in the United States. The indictment alleged that the 73-year-old Wang filed reports with the four Chinese State Security officials — Feng He, Jie Ji, Ming Li, and Keqing Lu — who Justice Department officials say were Wang’s handlers. Wang was arrested March 16, but the other four remain at large, the Justice Department said. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in New York said the indictment “exposes and disrupts an operation by (China) that threatens the safety and freedom of Chinese nationals residing in the United States on account of their pro-democracy beliefs and speech.” The indictment described Wang as “a well-known academic and author who helped start a pro-democracy organization” in New York that opposes the current communist regime in China. But the U.S. alleged that at least since 2011, Wang used his stature within the Chinese diaspora and dissident communities to covertly collect information about prominent activists and human rights leaders and then send it to the State Security Ministry via encrypted messaging applications or disclose it during face-to-face meetings in China.  The indictment said that U.S. law enforcement authorities found 163 “diary” entries in Wang’s residence that he had sent to his four Chinese handlers. …

US President Joe Biden Honors Victims of Saturday’s Mass Shooting in Buffalo

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Buffalo, New York, Tuesday to pay respects to the families of the 10 Black victims of a shooting rampage by a lone gunman in a supermarket on Saturday. The president blamed the media, politicians and the internet for spreading the dangerous white supremacist ideology that the gunman appeared to have followed. VOA’s Laurel Bowman has more. …

What is the Great Replacement Theory?      

In a 180-page missive posted online before the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, alleged gunman Payton Gendron wrote that he wanted “to spread awareness to my fellow whites about the real problems the West is facing.” The problems, according to the alleged shooter? Mass immigration and white people not having enough babies. “This crisis of mass immigration and sub-replacement fertility,” the 18-year-old white man wrote, “is an assault on the European people that, if not combated, will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.” Though he did not call it by its name, Gendron was referring to a far-right conspiracy theory known as the Great Replacement, which says Western elites, Jews in particular, are bringing in immigrants to replace whites. In addition to the Buffalo shooting that killed 10 Black people and wounded three others, extremism experts say the racist theory has inspired attacks on ethnic and religious minorities as far away as Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. French origins The idea that nonwhite immigrants could eventually displace native-born white Europeans has roots in 20th century French ethnic nationalism. But the term itself was coined and popularized by French white nationalist author Renaud Camus (no relation to Albert Camus). As he recently told the right-wing outlet Konflikt Magazin, he first came up with the expression in the 1990s in a small, medieval village in the south of France.   There, near “Gothic windows and Gothic fountains,” were Muslim women in veils and men in djellaba robes, he recalled. “I was, of course, accustomed like everybody else to seeing the change of people in [the predominantly Arab and Black] suburbs, but there it was especially striking.” Camus said he later gave a speech titled “The Great Replacement” in a nearby town, and in 2011, self-published a book of the same title in French. Though never translated into English, the book helped spur the launch of a trans-European far-right network with connections to extremists in the United States, according to Wendy Via, co-founder and president of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “The ideas were picked up almost immediately, and they comported with other white supremacist ideas here in the U.S. and other places,” Via said. Describing it as a “plain fact” and not a “theory,” Camus said the great replacement is simply “a change of people with a change … Continue reading “What is the Great Replacement Theory?      “

USAID Chief Discusses Efforts to Counter Actions by Russia, China  

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power highlighted to lawmakers Tuesday a number of areas of concern, including the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on those displaced by the conflict, resulting shocks to global energy and food markets, the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change. Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee about President Joe Biden’s budget request for the next fiscal year, Power said, “The world is now less free and less peaceful than at any point since the end of the Cold War,” and that the free nations of the world can work together with the private sector and multilateral institutions to “extend the reach of peace, prosperity, and human dignity to billions more people.” Power told the committee that efforts to help those impacted in Ukraine include an anti-trafficking hotline and training Ukrainian psychiatrists to help internally displaced persons deal with “the new issues that they are reporting having suffered, even as they were being displaced from their homes or as survivors of sexual violence.” “It involves a combination of expanding programming that we’re doing because of the prior conflict and because of our steady state investment in women and girls’ empowerment, and the prevention of gender-based violence,” Power said. “But then, as these large international organizations and others come in, to make sure that they have protection services as part of their mandates, so not just food, water, medicine, all of that is essential, but also to meet the needs of women and girls who’ve gone through these horrors.” Power said the United States wants to sustain its level of contribution for development, humanitarian and economic assistance for Ukraine. “The U.S. share so far, despite all the generosity and the resources that we’ve expended, is 11% of the overall international contribution to the crisis in Ukraine right now,” she said. Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, said the situation in Ukraine “has only added to the critical work USAID does around the world,” and called attention to how the conflict is affecting other nations as well. “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has also exacerbated the worsening food security situation around the world,” Meeks said. “The blocking of the port of Odesa has further restricted exports that could feed 400 million people. Staples that countries around the world rely upon for basic food needs. And already we’re seeing how the Russian invasion is … Continue reading “USAID Chief Discusses Efforts to Counter Actions by Russia, China  “

US Soccer Equalizes Pay in Milestone With Women, Men

The U.S. Soccer Federation reached milestone agreements to pay its men’s and women’s teams equally, making the American national governing body the first in the sport to promise both sexes matching money. The federation announced separate collective bargaining agreements through December 2028 with the unions for both national teams on Wednesday, ending years of often acrimonious negotiations. The men have been playing under the terms of a CBA that expired in December 2018. The women’s CBA expired at the end of March but talks continued after the federation and the players agreed to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by some of the players in 2019. The settlement was contingent on the federation reaching labor contracts that equalized pay and bonuses between the two teams. “I feel a lot of pride for the girls who are going to see this growing up, and recognize their value rather than having to fight for it. However, my dad always told me that you don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do — and paying men and women equally is what you’re supposed to do,” U.S. forward Margaret Purce said. “So I’m not giving out any gold stars, but I’m grateful for this accomplishment and for all the people who came together to make it so.” Perhaps the biggest sticking point was World Cup prize money, which is based on how far a team advances in the tournament. While the U.S. women have been successful on the international stage with back-to-back World Cup titles, differences in FIFA prize money meant they took home far less than the men’s winners. The unions agreed to pool FIFA’s payments for the men’s World Cup later this year and next year’s Women’s World Cup, as well as for the 2026 and 2027 tournaments. Each player will get matching game appearance fees in what the USSF said makes it the first federation to pool FIFA prize money in this manner. “We saw it as an opportunity, an opportunity to be leaders in this front and join in with the women’s side and U.S. Soccer. So we’re just excited that this is how we were able to get the deal done,” said Walker Zimmerman, a defender who is part of the U.S. National Team Players Association leadership group. The federation previously based bonuses on payments from FIFA, which earmarked $400 million for the 2018 men’s tournament, including … Continue reading “US Soccer Equalizes Pay in Milestone With Women, Men”

Are Americans Purposely Moving Next to People Who Share Their Politics?

Democrats and Republicans are less likely to live near each other than they were a generation ago. This political segregation is a phenomenon journalist Bill Bishop wrote about in his book “The Big Sort,” which suggested that Americans are increasingly moving to places where neighbors share their political views. But are they doing that on purpose? “It may well be that some of them are doing that, but I think from the data, that’s not entirely what they’re doing. … It looks like when people are moving, they’re mostly looking for communities that have certain features, like say, art walks or gun stores, big box stores or small indie coffee shops, that kind of thing,” says JP Prims, a visiting lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It could just be that they are finding places that have things that they like, and they tend to like things other liberals like, or they like things other conservatives like.” Prims co-authored a report on political segregation that found distinct differences that are not inherently political in the sorts of communities that appeal to liberals and conservatives. Liberals who participated in the survey identified political liberalism, ethnic diversity, public transportation and a vibrant arts scene as important characteristics of their ideal community. Meanwhile, conservatives value political conservatism, patriotism, many churches and rural areas when considering ideal places to live. “We’ve known for a while that liberals tend to prefer more urban places,” Prims says. “Conservatives want it to feel like a small town and be a bit more rural.” Political sorting myth? Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics and social sciences at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, does not buy into the concept of political self-sorting. He points to the large numbers of people from liberal states like California, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey who are moving to more conservative states like Florida and Texas. “They’re going because taxes are lower, restrictions are lower. For half-a-million dollars, instead of a one-bedroom closet like we have here in New York, you can have a sprawling house most likely with a pool, basketball court and a fire pit,” Abrams says. Significant numbers of Californians are moving to Texas at a time when the Lone Star state is making political moves that outrage liberals. “Look at the … Continue reading “Are Americans Purposely Moving Next to People Who Share Their Politics?”

Review Finds US Troops Didn’t Violate Law in Syria Airstrike

A U.S. military investigation found that American troops did not violate the law of war or deliberately cause civilian casualties in a 2019 airstrike in Syria that killed dozens of people, including women and children. It did find that the military committed procedural mistakes in the aftermath of the attack. The Pentagon said Tuesday that no one, including the ground force commander, was disciplined as a result of the strike, which was launched in support of Syrian partner forces who were under heavy fire from the Islamic State group near the town of Baghuz, in eastern Syria. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who ordered a new review of the airstrike last November, said he was “disappointed” with deficiencies in the handling of the initial review of the operation, which missed deadlines and led to delays in reporting to Congress and the public about civilian casualties. “The process contributed to a perception that the Department was not committed to transparency and was not taking the incident seriously — a perception that could have been prevented by a timely review and a clear explication of the circumstances surrounding the strike,” Austin said in a memo released Tuesday. The investigation comes amid new scrutiny on the U.S. military for strikes that cause innocent deaths. And it has all prompted Austin to order the department to create a new “Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan” to better prevent civilian deaths in military operations. He also ordered Army Gen. Michael Garrett, currently the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, to do an independent review of the Baghuz strike. Late last year, another independent review concluded that a U.S. drone strike that killed innocent Kabul civilians and children in the final days of the Afghanistan war was not caused by misconduct or negligence. It found breakdowns in communication and in the process of identifying and confirming the target of the bombing. The strike killed a longtime employee of an American humanitarian organization and nine of his family members, including seven children. The U.S. has promised to pay financial reparations to the family, and potentially get them out of Afghanistan, but none of that has happened yet. In the Tuesday memo, Austin directed department leaders to meet deadlines in reporting civilian casualties, conduct thorough reviews, and reinforce the importance of the procedures to commanders across the force. The initial investigation into the attack concluded that the strike … Continue reading “Review Finds US Troops Didn’t Violate Law in Syria Airstrike”