Sunday, January 31, 2016

German paper: pro-Saudi Syrian group's "main task is to disrupt the peace conference mediated by the UN"

    Sunday, January 31, 2016   No comments

An opposition group founded by Saudi Arabia last month is turning the Geneva negotiations into a farce, putting the UN under pressure and refusing to talk to the Syrian government, German newspaper Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (DWN) wrote.

According to the newspaper, the group was formed in December and consists of Islamist fighters who want to overthrow Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad.

The opposition platform is called the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and is referred to in the media as "the most important opposition alliance."


However, according to DWN, the group seems to be contributing to the destabilization of the situation, rather than to its resolution.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

UN: Saudi strikes on Yemen civilians may be crimes against humanity

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016   No comments
A Saudi-led coalition fighting in neighboring Yemen has targeted civilians with air strikes and some of the attacks could be a crimes against humanity, United Nations sanctions monitors said in an annual report to the Security Council.

The report by the U.N. panel that monitors the conflict in Yemen for the Security Council, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, sparked calls by rights groups for the United States and Britain to halt sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia that could be used in such attacks.

The panel of experts documented 119 coalition sorties "relating to violations of international humanitarian law" and said that "many attacks involved multiple air strikes on multiple civilian objects."

The U.N. experts said all parties to the conflict in Yemen were violating international humanitarian law. They said that in certain cases the violations by the coalition were conducted in a "widespread and systemic manner" and therefore could qualify as crimes against humanity.

The U.N. experts recommended the 15-member Security Council consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international law.

The Saudi U.N. mission was not immediately available for comment.

"The U.S. and UK governments should immediately halt the transfer of any arms to the Saudi-led coalition that might be used for such violations, and they should back an international investigation into abuses committed by all sides," said Philippe Bolopion of international rights group Human Rights Watch. 

Rulers of Saudi Arabia "gifted" Malaysia's PM Najib Razak to support him in his "election campaign" against the Muslim Brotherhood

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016   No comments
During an investigation of allegations of corruption charges of Malaysian PM, investigators revealed evidence of Saudi interference in internal affairs of other Muslim countries.  

It was discovered that the $681m (£479m) deposited in the bank account of Malaysian PM Najib Razak by Saudi Arabia was to help him win the 2013 elections, a Saudi source says.

Malaysia's attorney general cleared Mr Najib of allegations of corruption on Tuesday after ruling that the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family.

Mr Najib had denied that the money came from state-owned investment fund 1MDB.

The Saudi source said the donation was made amid concern in Riyadh about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the time, Malaysia's opposition alliance included the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Its founders were inspired by the Brotherhood, although there is little evidence the Brotherhood actually has much support in Malaysia.

Mr Najib's coalition went on to win the election, but with one of its poorest showings in more than 50 years in power.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Israel's defense minister: Islamic State "enjoyed Turkish money for oil"

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016   No comments

Israel's defense minister said on Tuesday that Islamic State militants had been funded with 'Turkish money', an assertion that could hinder attempts to mend fences between the two countries after years of estrangement.

"It's up to Turkey, the Turkish government, the Turkish leadership, to decide whether they want to be part of any kind of cooperation to fight terrorism. This is not the case so far," Moshe Yaalon told reporters in Athens.

"As you know, Daesh (Islamic State) enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time. I hope that it will be ended," Yaalon, a right-wing former armed forces chief, told reporters after meeting his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos. source

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Iraqi lawmakers accused the new Saudi ambassador of meddling in domestic affairs

    Sunday, January 24, 2016   No comments
Saudi Arabia is quick to accuse Iran of "blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of  Arab countries." A week after re-opening its embassy in Iraq, Saudi Arabia was accused by Iraq of interfering in the internal affairs of that country. In Sunday, Iraqi lawmakers accused the new Saudi ambassador of meddling in domestic affairs and demanded that he sent declared persona non grata.


Saudi Arabia's double standard is the reason its rulers cannot find a reliable ally to support its aggressive policies in Syria, Iraq, and
Yemen. Human rights organizations have accused the kingdom of committing war crimes in Yemen. 


Saudis Bankroll CIA Backing of Syrian Rebels

    Sunday, January 24, 2016   No comments
When President Obama secretly authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to begin arming Syria’s embattled rebels in 2013, the spy agency knew it would have a willing partner to help pay for the covert operation. It was the same partner the C.I.A. has relied on for decades for money and discretion in far-off conflicts: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Since then, the C.I.A. and its Saudi counterpart have maintained an unusual arrangement for the rebel-training mission, which the Americans have code-named Timber Sycamore. Under the deal, current and former administration officials said, the Saudis contribute both weapons and large sums of money, and the C.I.A takes the lead in training the rebels on AK-47 assault rifles and tank-destroying missiles.
source

Friday, January 22, 2016

While U.S. and Russia are pushing for Syria peace talks, some regimes, including Saudi Arabia's and Turkey's, are putting roadblocks

    Friday, January 22, 2016   No comments
The Syrian brutal civil war that is about to enter its sixth year may
continue to claim more victims, not because of Syrian actors, but, again, because of its sectarian, authoritarian neighbors. Recent events expose the dangerous role played by the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the Turkish president in prolonging the crisis and unveil their reliance on violent extremists to pursue their destructive geopolitical agenda. It is now evident which country is willing to support or tolerate which terrorist organization to preserve its relevance in regional politics. Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep T. Erdogan admitted that he prefers ISIL controlling Syria’s northern borders over Syrian Kurdish protection units. He does not distinguish between PYD, YPG, and the PKK; but he distinguishes between al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, and ISIL. Moreover, he refuses to legally identify ISIL as a terrorist entity, but eager to extend the label to PYD and YPG.
The Saudi rulers are insisting on including Jaysh al-Islam and similar Salafi armed groups in the opposition group that will talk with the Syrian government and are denying other Syrian opposition groups a place at the negotiating table.

The Syrian opposition council backed by Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it will not attend the negotiations in Geneva with the government if a third group takes part, a reference to a Russian bid to widen the opposition team. Source

In his confidential Jan. 18 briefing to the U.N. Security Council, de Mistura said Riyadh is complicating his efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict by trying to tightly control which opposition groups will be allowed to participate in the negotiations. Source

Turkey, too, will not allow Kurdish groups from northern Syria to take part in peace talks alongside other groups opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the country’s Prime Minister has warned.

Ahmet Davutoglu said the group known as People’s Defence Units or YPG, seen by the US as one of the most effective fighting forces against Isis, was too closely linked to the outlawed PKK terrorist group for it to join talks on the opposition side. It represented a “direct threat to Turkey”, he told reporters during a two-day visit to London which concluded on Tuesday. source

Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia: The game of chess is prohibited [haram]

    Friday, January 22, 2016   No comments
Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia:

"The game of chess is proscribed. It is included in the category of gambling (maysir) [then he quotes the Qur’anic verses about the prohibition of maysir]. It is a waste of time. It squanders money. It causes enmity and hatred between people. By playing it, a rich will end poor and a poor will end up rich. It causes enmity and hatred between people. And people playing it are spending time where it is not supposed to be spent"



The Mufti often issues decrees about insignificant matters and ignores cases of government abuses and human rights violations. In fact, the Mufti often issues decrees justifying the Saudi rulers’ abuses and never speaks on behalf of the victims of government's abuses and restrictions.


In October 2014, three lawyers, Dr Abdulrahman al-Subaihi, Bander al-Nogaithan and Abdulrahman al-Rumaih , were sentenced to up to eight years in prison for using Twitter to criticize the Ministry of Justice.
In March 2015, Yemen’s Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was forced into exile after a Shia-led insurgency. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition has responded with air strikes in order to reinstate Mr Hadi. It has since been accused of committing war crimes in the country.
Women who supported the Women2Drive campaign, launched in 2011 to challenge the ban on women driving vehicles, faced harassment and intimidation by the authorities. The government warned that women drivers would face arrest.
Members of the Kingdom’s Shia minority, most of whom live in the oil-rich Eastern Province, continue to face discrimination that limits their access to government services and employment. Activists have received death sentences or long prison terms for their alleged participation in protests in 2011 and 2012.
All public gatherings are prohibited under an order issued by the Interior Ministry in 2011. Those defy the ban face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment on charges such as “inciting people against the authorities”.
In March 2014, the Interior Ministry stated that authorities had deported over 370,000 foreign migrants and that 18,000 others were in detention. Thousands of workers were returned to Somalia and other states where they were at risk of human rights abuses, with large numbers also returned to Yemen, in order to open more jobs to Saudi Arabians. Many migrants reported that prior to their deportation they had been packed into overcrowded makeshift detention facilities where they received little food and water and were abused by guards.
The Saudi Arabian authorities continue to deny access to independent human rights organisations like Amnesty International, and they have been known to take punitive action, including through the courts, against activists and family members of victims who contact Amnesty.
Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison for using his liberal blog to criticise Saudi Arabia’s clerics. He has already received 50 lashes, which have reportedly left him in poor health.
Dawood al-Marhoon was arrested aged 17 for participating in an anti-government protest. After refusing to spy on his fellow protestors, he was tortured and forced to sign a blank document that would later contain his ‘confession’. At Dawood’s trial, the prosecution requested death by crucifixion while refusing him a lawyer.
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 aged either 16 or 17 for participating in protests during the Arab spring. His sentence includes beheading and crucifixion. The international community has spoken out against the punishment and has called on Saudi Arabia to stop. He is the nephew of a prominent government dissident.


ISIL and other terrorist organizations around the world follow the same religious sect, Wahhabism, which is the official religious authority in the kingdom. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Indirectly confirming Turkey's implicit support for ISIL, U.S. official calls on Turkey to "do more" in anti-ISIL fight

    Thursday, January 21, 2016   No comments
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said Turkey "can do more" in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, particularly by tightening its border to stop the flow of resources and foreign fighters.

"Turkey occupies a key position in the coalition -- it is hosting aircraft and making other contributions," Carter told reporters in Paris, where he has been meeting defence ministers from several countries involved in the anti-ISIL coalition.   

"I do believe that Turkey can do more, and therefore the kind of campaign plan I was discussing with other ministers... would very, very much benefit from a stronger effort by Turkey," he added.


He said the priority for Turkey, a NATO member, was gaining greater control over its "long and difficult border" with Iraq and Syria.   

"The Turkish border is a place where ISIL fighters have gone back and forth, logistics and supplies for ISIL have been furnished," said Carter.

"Just as I am asking everybody else in the coalition to step up and do more... just as the US military is doing more, so we would like to see Turkey to do more also."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Showing the growing strategic difference with the US and converging interests with Saudi Arabia: Israeli DM declares that he prefers ISIS to Iran

    Wednesday, January 20, 2016   No comments
Evidence is mounting that the Middle East is entering a new era. Days after the Iran Deal, which mainly ended the US-Iran nuclear dispute, Israeli leaders are now taking public steps to align themselves with Saudi Arabia and the groups that country supports and distancing itself from the U.S. 
Speaking today at a security conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared that he “prefers ISIS” over Iran, and does not consider ISIS to pose a serious threat to the Israeli state, saying Iran will always remain “the main enemy.”

Ya’alon insisted that he believes ISIS will be defeated at any rate, what with the US launching strikes on their oil supplies, but that he’d much rather see ISIS rule all of Syria, and consequently be directly on Israel’s border, than have the pro-Iran government remain in power.


Ya’alon’s declaration was a lot more public than most, but not really outside of long-standing Israeli policy, and the defense minister laid out a similar argument around the notion of an apocalyptic “clash of civilizations” between Israel and the Shi’ite world, believing that the Sunnis, like ISIS, are practically on their side.

Not that ISIS sees it that way. While they’ve been more focused on attacking Shi’ites than attacking Israel so far, they’ve made multiple statements about their plans to expand into Palestine and fight against Israeli forces. Israel’s military chief warned only yesterday that ISIS may soon turn its focus to attacking Israel and Jordan.

source: www.ynetnews.com

Monday, January 18, 2016

Why Al Jazeera America Was Destined to Fail

    Monday, January 18, 2016   No comments
Al Jazeera America never had a chance. Having struggled in vain to attract an audience since it launched in 2013, the cable news channel announced Wednesday that it would shut down come April. “The decision is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in an increasingly digital world, and because of the current global financial challenges,” CEO Al Anstey said in a staff memo, thereby glossing over all of the operation's actual failures.


Maybe you liked Al Jazeera America's news coverage. More likely, you never watched it. After spending $500 million to buy Al Gore's Current TV and put itself in about 40 million homes, the channel reached a piddly 28,000 prime-time viewers in 2015. CNN, by comparison, reaches around 700,000. That is not the sort of gap you can simply ascribe to a secular decline in cable audiences as people spend more time online. Some of the trouble undoubtedly boiled down to its name. Many Americans were never going to watch a channel created by Al Jazeera, the media network owned by the Qatari government with a reputation (fair or not) for being a smidgen hostile to the U.S.


But if Al Jazeera America's brand was a handicap, its philosophy was a death sentence. The channel was founded on the utterly ill-conceived idea that Americans were starving for sober, “unbiased” hard news coverage. In other words, it made the mistake of offering viewers the programming they claimed to want, instead of the programming that all available evidence suggests they actually enjoy. Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2013, the channel's first CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, said market research suggested that there were 40 million or 50 million Americans yearning for deep, old-school reportage.  “If we do the kind of reporting that is considered ‘back to the future’—the hard-core journalistic reporting, not biased, not for entertainment, but fact-based—do we have a place? All the research indicates yes,” Al Shihabi later told the Nation. source

Academics, jurists and students support colleagues targeted by Turkish government

    Monday, January 18, 2016   No comments
The discussion over a petition signed by 1,128 academics that calls for the restoration of peace in the conflict-torn Southeast has heated up with additional declarations from more academics, student groups, jurists and intellectuals.

In another declaration opened for signature on Sunday, hundreds of academics, politicians, members of civil society groups, jurists and representatives from labor unions declared their support for the 1,128 academics, some of whom have undergone investigation for their call demanding a stop to the military campaign and a return to the negotiating table to seek a peaceful solution to the country's Kurdish problem.

"Turkey has been turned into a country where academics are faced with explicit threats [from politicians], where provinces are kept under long-term curfews and where bombs are detonated in [public] squares. We declare our solidarity with those academics who have faced pressure and undergone investigations [for pointing out the chaotic environment]," the declaration called "Academics cannot be silenced" read.


The petition includes among its signatories academics Aziz Konukman, Feti Açıkel, Galip Yalman, Gamze Yücesan Özdemir, Hayri Kozanoğlu, Korkut Boratav, Raşit Kaya, Taner Timur, Tülin Öngen, along with many others.

One of the signatories, Professor Boratav, said at a press conference in Ankara on Sunday that the current operations of the [government] are no different from the military coup and mindset of Kenan Evren [in 1980].”

In addition, 137 student groups from various universities across the country launched a campaign called "Universities want peace" in order to show their support for the academics who have been subjected to investigations and detentions as well as criticism by the pro-government media, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) politicians and pro-government academics.

The number of signatures for the campaign launched on website change.org has reached over 35,000.

source

Richest 1% will own more than all the rest of humanity by 2016

    Monday, January 18, 2016   No comments
The combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked, Oxfam warned today ahead of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

The international agency, whose executive director Winnie Byanyima will co-chair the Davos event, warned that the explosion in inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when 1 in 9 people do not have enough to eat and more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25-a-day.

Byanyima will use her position at Davos to call for urgent action to stem this rising tide of inequality, starting with a crackdown on tax dodging by corporations, and to push for progress towards a global deal on climate change.


Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.

Of the remaining 52 percent of global wealth, almost all (46 percent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population. The other 80 percent share just 5.5 percent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult – that’s 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1 percent.
Staggering inequality

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.

“In the past 12 months we have seen world leaders from President Obama to Christine Lagarde talk more about tackling extreme inequality but we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk. It is time our leaders took on the powerful vested interests that stand in the way of a fairer and more prosperous world. 

“Business as usual for the elite isn’t a cost free option – failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades. The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality – they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”
Business must act

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who is speaking at a joint Oxfam-University of Oxford event on inequality today, called on business leaders meeting in Davos to play their part in tackling extreme inequality.

She said: “Oxfam’s report is just the latest evidence that inequality has reached shocking extremes, and continues to grow. It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable. 

“Extreme inequality isn't just a moral wrong. It undermines economic growth and it threatens the private sector's bottom line.  All those gathering at Davos who want a stable and prosperous world should make tackling inequality a top priority."

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.5 billion people). That figure is now 80 – a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010. The wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009-14.
The international agency is calling on government to adopt a seven point plan to tackle inequality:


  •     Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
  •     Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
  •     Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards    capital and wealth
  •     Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
  •     Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
  •     Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
  •     Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

Today’s research paper, which follows the October launch of Oxfam’s global Even It Up campaign, shines a light on the way extreme wealth is passed down the generations and how elite groups mobilise their vast resources to ensure global rules are favourable towards their interests. More than a third of the 1645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches.

Twenty percent of billionaires have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11 percent in the 12 months to March 2014. These sectors spent $550 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571 million in campaign contributions.

Billionaires listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw their collective net worth increase by 47 percent. During 2013, they spent more than $500 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels.

Oxfam is concerned that the lobbying power of these sectors is a major barrier in the way of reforming the global tax system and of ensuring intellectual property rules do not lead to the world’s poorest being denied life saving medicines.

There is increasing evidence from the International Monetary Fund, among others, that extreme inequality is not just bad news for those at the bottom but also damages economic growth.

Oxfam will today hold a joint symposium Rising Inequality in the Global South with Oxford University. Speakers include Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank and Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

U.S. and Iran release Iranian and American prisoners, Obama pardons Iranians charged with sanctions violations

    Sunday, January 17, 2016   No comments
An Iranian analyst said the US was mainly seeking to free Jason Rezaian through its Saturday prisoners swap deal with Iran that also included freedom of three other US citizens in Iran and 7 Iranian inmates in the United States.

Mehdi Mohammadi wrote on his Instagram page on Sunday that 4 US inmates were freed yesterday in exchange for a package of concessions by the American side.

According to him, Jason Rezaian was the main person who was freed on Saturday and the US agreed to make the concessions for his sake and not the three other inmates.

Mohammadi said the day when Rezaian was detained, many in the West complained that he was a simple journalist and shouldn’t have been arrested, "but the US non-stop efforts to free Rezaian showed that he wasn’t just a journalist".

He appreciated the Iranian security forces for their timely reaction to threats, and said the prompt action of the Iranian intelligence forces provided Iran with a major chance "to force the enemy to make concessions".

4 Iranian-American nationals who were held for various charges in Iran were freed under a prisoners swap deal on Saturday. A fifth inmate was also released separately.

"Based on an approval of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the overall interests of the Islamic Republic, four Iranian prisoners with dual-nationality were freed today within the framework of a prisoner swap deal," the office of Tehran prosecutor said.

The four Iranian-Americans, Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmat, Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosrawi Roudsari who were jailed in Iran on various charges in recent years, have all been released.

Some English and Persian websites have wrongly named Siamak Namazi as the fourth inmate freed under the deal today. Namazi remains in jail for his charges are financial, and not political. The freed prisoners are due to fly to Switzerland from Iran on a Swiss flight.

Meantime, a US official said a fifth dual nationality prisoner would also be released by Iran separate from the swap deal. Later reports named this fifth prisoner as Mathew Trevithick.

According to the swap deal, the US has also freed 7 Iranian-Americans who were held for sanctions-related charges and demanded the Interpol to stop prosecution of 14 other Iranian nationals.

The 7 Iranian inmates freed by the US have been named as Nader Modanlou, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afqahi, Arash Ghahreman, Touraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Sabounchi.

The 14 Iranians who were accused in the United States of sanctions violations and had charges dropped on Saturday under the prisoner deal include Saeed Jamili, Jalal Salami, Matin Sadeqi, Alireza Moazzemi Goudarzi, Mohammad Abbas Mohammadi, Kourosh Taherkhani, Sajjad Farhadi, Seyed Ahmad Abtahi, Gholamreza Mahmoudi, Hamid Arabnejad, Ali Moattar, Mohammad Ali She'rbaf, Amin Ravan and Behrouz Dolatzadeh.

A senior Iranian legislator citing an IRGC report on Rezaian's case said in October that he had been imprisoned for his attempts to help the US Senate to advance its regime change plots in Iran.

In late July 2014, Iran confirmed that four journalists, including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, had been arrested and were being held for questioning.

Rezaian's wife Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the United Arab Emirates-based newspaper, the National, was also arrested at that time, but she and two others were released later.

According to the Constitution, the Judiciary is independent from the government in Iran.

Some reports earlier this year had spoken of a potential prisoner swap between Iran and US following the Vienna nuclear deal in July. source

...

Obama pardons Iranians charged with sanctions violations

President Barack Obama pardoned three Iranians charged with sanctions violations as U.S. authorities moved to drop charges or commute prison sentences on Saturday for five other men, part of a stunning and secretly negotiated deal that saw four Americans freed by Iran.

The deal removed a major source of acrimony standing in the way of further rapprochement between the long-time foes, but opened the Obama administration to immediate criticism that it had agreed to a bad deal that would set a dangerous precedent.

It also represented a reversal of the past five years of U.S. policy, during which U.S. law enforcement prosecuted illicit trade with Iran, even in common consumer items, as a threat to national security.

The prisoner deal with Iran came the same day major powers began to lift economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for steps to curb its nuclear program, implementing an international nuclear agreement. 
source

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wheaton College seeks to fire Christian professor for saying that "Muslims and Christians worship the same God"

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016   No comments
Larycia Hawkins, a tenured political science professor who in December demonstrated solidarity with her Muslim neighbors by wearing a hijab, said at the end of last year that the college appeared ready to force her out after she had rejected recommendations to resign. This week she received word from Provost Stanton Jones that the termination process had begun.

“The Notice is not a termination; rather, it begins Wheaton College’s established process for employment actions pertaining to tenured faculty members,” the private evangelical college said in a statement confirming the latest development.


Hawkins, 43, announced last month that she would don the hijab as part of her Advent devotion to show support for Muslims who have been under scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Though the college did not take a position on her wearing the headscarf, some evangelical Christians said her statement should have spelled out what makes Christianity distinct from Islam. Not doing so put her in conflict with the statement of faith that all Wheaton faculty members must sign and live out, they said.
...


Hawkins has been asked to affirm the college's statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton nearly nine years ago. She was first admonished for writing an academic paper about what Christians could learn from black liberation theology, which relates the Bible with the often-troubled history of race relations in America. Jones said Hawkins’ article seemed to endorse a kind of Marxism. source

UNICEF: Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen impacting nearly 10 million children

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016   No comments
War on Yemen
“With no end in sight to the deadly conflict in Yemen, nearly 10 million children inside the country are now facing a new year of pain and suffering.

“Continuous bombardment and street fighting are exposing children and their families to a deadly combination of violence, disease and deprivation.

“The direct impact of the conflict on children is hard to measure. The statistics confirmed by the UN (747 children killed and another 1,108 injured since March last year; 724 children pressed into some form of military activity) tell only part of the story. But they are shocking enough in themselves.


“The broader effects of the violence on innocent civilians extend much further. Children make up at least half of the 2.3 million people estimated to have been displaced from their homes, and of the more than 19 million people struggling to get water on a daily basis; 1.3 million children under five face the risk of acute malnutrition and acute respiratory tract infections. And at least 2 million children cannot go to school.

“Public services like health, water and sanitation have been decimated and cannot meet the ever-increasing needs of a desperate population. Few of the 7.4 million children requiring protection (including psycho-social support to help deal with the effects of their exposure to violence) will actually receive it.      

“The longer-term consequences of all this for Yemen – which was already the Middle East’s poorest nation even before the conflict -- can only be guessed at.

“Agencies like UNICEF are doing the best they can, in an extremely hazardous working environment. As a result, in 2015, more than 4 million children under 5 were vaccinated against measles and polio, and 166,000 children were admitted for treatment against malnutrition.  Over 3.5 million affected people were provided with access to water and 63,520 people belonging to extremely poor communities were assisted with humanitarian cash transfers in the cities of Sanaa and Taiz.

“But so much more is needed. The children of Yemen need urgent help and they need it now.

“That can happen if all parties involved in the conflict – as is their duty under International Humanitarian Law -- were to allow unhindered access to areas affected by the fighting, where civilians are dying because hospitals are not functioning, medicines are in short supply and children are at risk of dying from preventable diseases. Aid agencies would then be able to scale up their work accordingly.

“But what is really needed -- above all else -- is an end to the conflict. Only in that way can the children of Yemen look forward to 2016 with hope rather than despair.”

Istanbul suicide bomber identified as Saudi, not Syrian, as previously speculated

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016   No comments
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) suicide bomber who killed 10 tourists by blowing himself up in Istanbul’s touristic Sultanahmet Square has been identified as a Saudi national who recently appealed to a district directorate of migration management to seek asylum in Turkey.

The bomber, identified as 28-year-old Nabil Fadli, applied for asylum to the Zeytinburnu Migration Management Directorate in the Istanbul district on Jan. 5, security sources said.


According to reports, the man arrived at the center alongside four other men and remained in his declared address for a few days.

Fadli’s identity was uncovered as crime scene investigators found one of the militant’s finger tips at the site of the explosion.

Police are continuing an extensive investigation to apprehend Fadli’s accomplices, as well as the men who accompanied him on Jan. 5.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Emails expose close ties between Hillary Clinton and accused war criminal Henry Kissinger

    Tuesday, January 12, 2016   No comments
The late journalist Christopher Hitchens devoted an entire book to detailing the war crimes overseen by Kissinger, who infamously declared “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”


In “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” Hitchens argues the former secretary of state should be tried “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap and torture.”

Hitchens described Kissinger as a master of “depraved realpolitik” with “a callous indifference to human life and human rights,” who was behind U.S.-backed atrocities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, East Timor, Chile, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Kurdish Iraq, Iran, South Africa, Angola and more.

Despite the alleged crimes he oversaw, Kissinger was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, leading critics like dissident scholar Michael Parenti to condemn what he said should be more accurately referred to as the “Nobel Peace Prize for War.”

“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,” quipped musician, satirist and mathematician Tom Lehrer.

Yet Kissinger’s intimate handwritten note is just one sign of the close ties between the accused war criminal and Clinton, who is herself notorious for advocating a similarly aggressive, hawkish foreign policy.

In her glowing review of Kissinger’s new book “World Order” in The Washington Post in September 2014, Clinton returned the favor, expressing admiration for Kissinger. She proclaimed that Kissinger’s foreign policy analysis and approach “largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort.” Adopting Kissingerian language, the bellicose secretary of state said she yearns for “sustaining America’s leadership in the world.”

“Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state,” Clinton revealed in the review. “He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.”

Several emails provide more insight into the cozy relationship between Clinton and Kissinger.

In a June 2013 email titled “Startegy memo,” Clinton mentions an upcoming dinner she will be having with Kissinger — along with Cold War-era statesman and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who pushed for the U.S. to arm Islamic extremist mujahideen militants in Afghanistan in order to fight the Soviet Union, giving rise to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Erdoğan to 1,128 academics: You are not enlightened persons, you are dark

    Tuesday, January 12, 2016   No comments
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has strongly reacted to a petition signed by more than 1,000 local and international academics calling on the Turkish government to end the security operations being committed in southeastern Anatolia and to return to table for talks to resolve the Kurdish issue, describing the signatories as “ignorant.” After an urgent meeting on Jan. 12, the Supreme Education Board (YÖK) announced that legal action would be taken over local academics who have signed the petition. 

Some 1,128 academics from 89 different universities - including foreign scholars like Noam Chomsky, David Harway and Immanuel Wallerstein - signed the petition titled “We won’t be a part of this crime,” which called on Ankara to end the “massacre and slaughter.”

Erdoğan, in an address to Turkish ambassadors gathered for an annual conference, lashed out at the signatories and said human rights violations in the southeast were being committed by terrorists, not by the state.

“Despite all of these facts, this crowd, which calls itself academics, accuses the state through a statement. Not only this, they also invite foreigners to monitor developments. This is the mentality of colonialism,” he said. Likening today’s situation with the Turkish War of Independence, Erdoğan said the country was again facing “treason” from “so-called intellectuals.”

“Hey, you so-called intellectuals! You are not enlightened persons, you are dark. You are nothing like intellectuals. You are ignorant and dark, not even knowing about the east or the southeast. We know these places just like we know our home addresses,” he said, reiterating his position that Turkey’s problem is “not a Kurdish one, but one of terror.” 

  
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