Thursday, June 12, 2014

Syrian refugees in Canada -- note from me

On CBC's As It Happens tonight, Fasial Alazem, of the Syrian Canadian Council, stated that he does not know of even one example of a Syrian refugee being accepted into Canada even when the Harper government pledged back in July 2013 to accept 1300. Yes, as he noted, there are some Syrians who were already on Canadian soil as students or visitors, some of which were permitted to stay, but not one single instance of a refugee.  --- S N Smith

We anti-war protesters were right: the Iraq invasion has led to bloody chaos

The horrific fallout from the war was inevitable, and continues today. This calamity must never be allowed to happen again, Thursday 12 June 2014

The Iraq war protest in London, on 15 February 2003. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

I have encountered no sense of vindication, no "I told you so", among veterans of theanti-war protest of 15 February 2003 in response to the events in Iraq. Despair, yes, but above all else, bitterness – that we were unable to stop one of the greatest calamities of modern times, that warnings which were dismissed as hyperbole now look like understatements, that countless lives (literally – no one counts them) have been lost, and will continue to be so for many years to come.

In July 2002, the Guardian warned that Britain was "sleepwalking to war". Blair's commitment to invade come what may – which the Chilcot inquiry (when it is finally published) will either confirm or whitewash – is now established. By September 2002, the inevitability had sunk in. In the first demonstration, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in London on 27 September – me and my grandfather among them – full of determination and foreboding. Three weeks earlier, Amr Moussa, then-secretary general of the Arab League, warned that the Iraq war would "open the gates of hell".

I remember the premature triumphalism and hubris of the cheerleaders in the run-up. In my first year at university, one of Britain's most senior army officers came to talk to students as the guest of Lord Butler, who would later head one of the inquiries into the war. When Iraq was invaded by western forces, he told us solemnly, 99% of the Iraqi population would be on the streets, throwing flowers at advancing troops. The other 1% would still be cowering at home, too scared to celebrate, but would be quickly reassured. Men such as this helped direct the entire war effort. And then there those who were not listened to, such as former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who warned in 2002 that "since 1998 Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed"; or Robin Cook, who told a hushed House of Commons as he resigned that "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term."

The catastrophic results of the Iraq invasion are often portrayed as having been impossible to predict, and only inevitable with the benefit of hindsight. If only to prevent future calamities from happening, this is a myth that needs to be dispelled. The very fact that the demonstration on that chilly February day in 2003 was the biggest Britain had ever seen, is testament to the fact that disaster seemed inevitable to so many people.

The commentators who cheered on the conflict, far from being driven from public life are still feted: still writing columns, still dispensing advice in TV studios, still hosting thinktank breakfasts. "If nothing is eventually found, I – as a supporter of the war – will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again," declared David Aaronovitch in this newspaper.

A few months after the invasion, he wrote: "There have been very few suicide attacks." In the seven years that followed, 12,284 civilians would perish in 1,003 suicide bombings. He went on: "If Iraq becomes anything like a democratic and pluralistic state, then just about everything that the opponents of intervention predicted will have turned out to be wrong. If it descends into long-term chaos and civil war, then just about everything they said will turn out to have been right."

If Aaronovitch was to stay true to his word, he would now be expressing the greatest mea culpa of the century; instead, he has written a column in the Times today [paywall]which makes it clear he has no intention of expressing any regret.

In a way, opponents of the war were wrong. We were wrong because however disastrous we thought the consequences of the Iraq war, the reality has been worse. The US massacres in Fallujah in the immediate aftermath of the war, which helped radicalise the Sunni population, culminating in an assault on the city with white phosphorus. The beheadings, the kidnappings and hostage videos, the car bombs, the IEDs, the Sunni and Shia insurgencies, the torture declared by the UN in 2006 to be worse than that under Saddam Hussein, the bodies with their hands and feet bound and dumped in rivers, the escalating sectarian slaughter, the millions of displaced civilians, and the hundreds of thousands who died: it has been one never-ending blur of horror since 2003.

The invasion was justified as an indispensable part of the struggle against al-Qaida. Well, to be fair, large swaths of Iraq have not been handed over to al-Qaida: they are now run by Isis, a group purged from al-Qaida for being too extreme. Iraq and Syria are trapped in a bloody feedback loop: the growth of Isis in Iraq helped corrupt the Syrian rebellion, and now the Syrian insurgency has fuelled the breakdown of Iraq, too. Those who believe that the west should have armed Syria's rebels should consider the fact thatIsis reportedly raided an arms depot in Syria which was stocked with CIA help. Support from western-backed dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Qatar has fuelled the Syrian extremists now spilling over into Iraq.

Such is the brutal sectarianism of Iraq's Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, that some Mosul residents are reported to be fleeing because they fear an army counterattack; other Mosul residents are even welcoming Isis as a liberation.

What hope, then, for the future? It is difficult to see how the continuing collapse of Iraq can be avoided: the more informed the expert, the more despairing they seem to be. There will be those who champion more western intervention. But whatever happens, this calamity must never be allowed to happen again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A MUST READ: If This Isn't Enough Of A Wake-Up Call For Egypt, Then What Is?

"Soon after Sunday's attack, several of my female Egyptian friends shared an event on Facebook called Walk Like An Egyptian Woman. It's a planned protest -- now illegal without prior consent from the government -- set for Saturday in solidarity with the women who were violently attacked in Tahrir, and women everywhere in Egypt who face violence every day. So far, more than 13,000 people have said they will attend. We'll see if the government breaks it up and arrests people, or if women will be assaulted during the protest, an ironic twist that Egypt knows too well."


See also:

Hudak’s million jobs sham will raise unemployment, hurt Ontario

June 11, 2014

The centrepiece is a pledge to cut big business corporate tax from 11.5 percent to 8 percent, and simultaneously eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs.

Hudak’s corporate tax cut would cost the Ontario government $20 billion in tax revenues over eight years. It would also create few if any jobs. The biggest beneficiaries would be the banking, finance and insurance industry, and about half the benefits would flow directly to the top one percent of Ontarians—those making over $250,000 annually. CUPE economist Toby Sanger’s recent commentary in the Toronto Star (Tim Hudak’s Millionaires’ Jobs Plan) argues that if over $7 billion in annual tax cuts from McGuinty, Harper and Martin governments didn’t create any jobs or boost wages, why should we expect anything different from Hudak?

In fact, Hudak’s million jobs scam will destroy thousands of jobs and increase unemployment. Hudak multiplied each job he was told his measures would create by eight, something that was first publicly exposed by Unifor economist Jim Stanford. But even using the numbers they commissioned, it turns out Hudak’s plan would actually increase Ontario’s unemployment rate to 9 per cent or higher once labour force growth is factored in, as this analysis of his plan by CUPE’s economist and the Ontario Federation of Labour shows.

This report by CUPE demonstrates how many public and private sector jobs could be destroyed by Hudak’s plan, and how it would increase unemployment for over 40 communities across the province.

Hudak is directly targeting public services and public sector workers, including the 250,000 CUPE members across Ontario, with his plans to eliminate 10 percent of Ontario’s public sector workforce. His plan would devastate families, shred public services, and sharply increase unemployment, particularly in smaller cities and communities.

Check out CUPE Ontario’s election site, which includes an interactive map showing how these cuts could affect different communities.

And on June 12, vote.

Courage – the organisation running Snowden’s defence fund – launches in Berlin this Wednesday, 11th June

Posted on June 9, 2014


* Speakers include: Wolfgang Kaleck, Edward Snowden’s German lawyer; Sarah Harrison, Acting Director of Courage; WikiLeaks Publisher Julian Assange
* Edward Snowden – Courage’s first beneficiary – will send a message to the event
* a new campaign to show the breadth of international support for Edward Snowden will be announced on the night

Courage, a new international organisation dedicated to providing support to truthtellers, holds its official launch event in Berlin on the evening of Wednesday, 11th June. Courage runs Edward Snowden’s official defence fund. Courage also advocates for the protection of journalists’ sources and the public’s right to receive their information as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Wednesday’s event will also mark the beginning of a new campaign for Edward Snowden as his temporary asylum in Russia approaches its end. Edward Snowden’s German lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck will explain his client’s current legal situation. Sarah Harrison, Acting Director of Courage, who facilitated Edward Snowden’s exit from Hong Kong and spent four months in Russia, including 40 days in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport securing Snowden’s freedom in exile, will underline the importance of ongoing public pressure.

Courage launches with an advisory board that includes former intelligence whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Thomas Drake (NSA), Ray McGovern (CIA) and Annie Machon (MI5), along with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow and professor of law and legal history at Columbia University Eben Moglen. For further details on Courage advisory board members, see

Gavin MacFadyen, a Courage Trustee and Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, says:

The Trustees started Courage because it is imperative for free speech and an open independent press to support whistleblowers, particularly those who risk their lives and freedom to bring critical information to the public. At the time Courage started there were no international organisations providing the support Edward Snowden needed to remain free and none organising support for whistleblowers to come. Knowing the central role whistleblowers have played in the major ground-breaking disclosures of our time, it is clear that without freedom and protection for truthtellers, there is no freedom or protection for journalists. And none for the public. Courage has never been more needed and essential to a free press.

The other two Trustees of Courage are Julian Assange, Publisher of WikiLeaks and Barbora Bukovská, Senior Director for Law and Policy at Article 19.

The organisation’s launch comes a year after Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of NSA revelations on mass surveillance and takes place in one of the countries where the reaction has been most significant. In the past week, the German federal prosecutor has announced the re-opening of a formal investigation into allegations that the German Chancellor’s mobile phone was monitored and a parliamentary inquiry into mass surveillance is ongoing.

Sarah Harrison says:

Snowden performed a heroic act and should be supported. Courage will show the world that the public stands with Snowden and they want their governments to help protect him. For the last year people associated with Courage have worked to assist and defend Snowden against injustice. We found him safety and asylum in Russia and we raised funds to pay for his lawyers in the US, Iceland and more widely. But we are just starting – Courage is not here just for Snowden but for future Snowdens.

Additional special guests will be announced on the night. Their comments, as well as those of the others speaking, will be made available on Courage’s website and Twitter feed.

Courage originally began in August 2013 as The Journalistic Source Protection Defence Fund and has run Edward Snowden’s defence fund since that time. Courage’s official Edward Snowden support site, previously located at will move to to coincide with the launch. The related Twitter account will also move to @CourageSnowden from @free_snowden.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Broadbent Institute: We've got them talking about income splitting

June 10, 2014

If Stephen Harper’s intent was to design a tax policy that makes inequality worse, then he can pat himself on the back for a job well done -- because that is exactly what the Conservatives’ family income splitting tax scheme will do.

Our study kicked off Question Period today, and you can read news coverage explaining just how unequal it would be.

The new study shows that the majority of families the tax scheme was designed to help -- those with children under 18 -- stand to get nothing. Two-thirds would get less than $500 while less than 4% -- some of the wealthiest families in Canada -- would receive a benefit of more than $5,000.

Meanwhile, nine out of 10 Canadian households would receive no benefit at all from the proposed tax policy, and fewer than 1% of all households would be eligible for benefits in excess of $5,000.

The federal price for this scheme? $3 billion.

Think of what we could build by investing this money in priorities for lower-income families: improved parental benefits under Employment Insurance. Increased child tax credits. Enhanced access to quality child-care services.

Canadians are speaking out against income splitting like never before. Help us spread the word -- and share our new findings with your friends:

Rest assured we'll continue to press for these priorities.

Rick Smith
Executive Director
Broadbent Institute

In the news media, are Muslims the only ‘terrorists’?

BY PAUL FARHI June 10, 2014

What do you call a couple who espouse an extremist, anti-government ideology and kill two policemen and a bystander while draping one of their victims in a flag associated with a political movement?

After Sunday’s shooting spree perpetrated by just such a couple in Las Vegas, many in the media declined to use one potential label: terrorists.

Jerad and Amanda Miller, the young Nevada couple who fatally shot three people before killing themselves, were enamored of a right-wing, conspiratorial view of federal authority, according to law enforcement officials. They killed two police officers, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, as the two men quietly ate lunch, and covered one of the bodies with a Nazi swastika and the Revolutionary War-era “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, a symbol of the Tea Party movement. The pair shouted about “revolution” as they moved to a nearby Wal-Mart, where Amanda Miller shot a customer, Joseph Wilcox, who tried to stop them.

That shorthand description would seem to qualify the Millers as terrorists. Although the term’s strict definition has been a subject of debate within national security circles for years, there has been some consensus around Georgetown professor Bruce R. Hoffman’s five-part test: an act of violence that was politically motivated, perpetrated to influence a broader audience, involved an organized group, targeted civilians and was carried out by a person outside the government.

Yet few media accounts have described the Millers as terrorists or their actions as terrorism.

The Washington Post avoided both terms in a news story on Monday. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the couple died “shouting messages of antigovernment revolution” but made no mention of terrorism. The Associated Press, the most widely distributed news service in the world, hadn’t used either term in multiple stories through Tuesday afternoon.

And that has prompted suggestions of a double standard.

“Without a doubt, if these individuals had been Muslim, it not only would be called ‘terrorism’ but it would have made national and international headlines for weeks,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based group. “It was an act of terror, but when it’s not associated with Muslims it’s just a day story that comes and goes.”

Hooper cited a litany of news stories about domestic acts of violence that never gained prominence as acts of terrorism because, he said, Muslims weren’t involved: the attempted storming of an Atlanta-area courthouse by a heavily armed man last week, the arrest of two men accused of setting off pipe bombs in movie theaters in the D.C. area and an Alaska couple associated with an anti-government group who plotted to kill federal judges.

“There’s absolutely a double standard, and it needs to be called out,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, a senior editor of the Islamic Monthly. “Whenever a white person engages in violence they’re considered crazy lunatics, but when a brown Muslim does it, it’s an act of terrorism. Since 9/11, the media is quick to jump on anything an Arab or Muslim does, but it takes a much more deliberative approach when it’s a white person.”

News organizations, including The Post, say they are reluctant to call anyone a terrorist unless officials do so first.

“In general, we shy away from independently labeling people as terrorists and would factually note if someone has been listed or labeled as such by someone else, such as the FBI or another government entity,” said AP spokesman Paul Colford in an e-mail.

He said, however, that there are some “clear” cases in which the words apply: the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; bombings in Bali, London and Madrid; and the assault on a Nairobi shopping mall last year by the militant group al-Shabab. But in incidents such as the shootings in Las Vegas, the news service relies on the FBI or other agencies for such terminology.

The Reuters news service has a similar policy. Its stylebook advises reporters to use the terms “terrorism” and “terrorist” only when attributing them to a specific source. “Aim for a dispassionate use of language so that individuals, organisations and governments can make their own judgment on the basis of facts,” it says. “Seek to use more specific terms like ‘bomber’ or ‘bombing’ . . . ‘gunman’ or ‘gunmen,’ etc.”

Such labels matter as both a cultural matter and as a matter for law enforcement, said Daniel L. Byman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution. Suspected terrorists or terrorist groups get the attention of federal agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and are prosecuted under national security laws, he pointed out, whereas ordinary criminal suspects are investigated by state and local authorities and tried under local statutes.

“If it’s an al-Qaeda attack, you can bet it will affect the resources and how we respond to it,” Byman said. But “many of the objectives [of right-wing extremist groups] are close enough to legitimate political movements. It would be hard to take them on as a whole without causing a lot of discomfort” among people who don’t have violent aims.

CAIR to Counter D.C. Anti-Islam Bus Ads with Inclusive Message

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, June 11, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, will hold a news conference at its Capitol Hill headquarters in Washington, D.C., to announce the launch of a campaign with an inclusive message to counter anti-Islam ads placed on area buses by a hate group led by Pamela Geller.

Christian and Jewish interfaith leaders will participate in the news conference.

[NOTE: Photos and video of the CAIR ad will be available at the news conference.]

WHAT: CAIR Launches Campaign to Counter Anti-Islam Ads on D.C. Buses

WHEN: Wednesday, June 11, 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: CAIR's Capitol Hill Headquarters, 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,

Geller's ad falsely claims that the Quran encourages Muslims to hate Jews.

"This advertising campaign is an opportunity for people to learn about Islam's commitment to freedom of religion, diversity and peaceful coexistence encouraged by the teachings of the Quran," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Awad said Geller's organization, Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC also named Geller as a member of the "anti-Muslim inner circle."

Her hate ads have been repudiated by interfaith leaders.

SEE: An Antidote for Islamophobia

In 2012, a broad-based coalition of 127 organizations sent a letter to the Washington Area Metro Transit Authority (WMATA) expressing concern about Geller's previous anti-Muslim advertisements.

A CAIR ad placed to counter Geller's 2012 campaign featured a verse from the Quran stating: "Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant." (The Holy Quran, 7:199)

Video: D.C. Metro Riders React Positively to CAIR Quran Ad Text (Fox)

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,; CAIR Maryland Outreach Office Chair Zainab Chaudry, 410-971-6062,; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171,

SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations

Ottawa area candidates pledge support for proportional representation

Fair Vote Canada --- June 10, 2014

The National Capital Region Chapter of Fair Vote Canada today announced the names of local candidates who have signed Fair Vote Canada’s Politicians’ Pledge. The pledge affirms the candidate’s support for proportional representation (PR) and commits the candidate to work toward electoral reform if elected. All registered candidates for the June 12 Ontario provincial election from the Ottawa area’s seven ridings were invited to sign the pledge.

The candidates who have signed the pledge are:

Bob Bell, Green Party

Dave Bagler, Green Party
Hervé Ngambé, New Democratic Party

Kevin O'Donnell, Green Party
Larry Wasslen, Communist Party

Bronwyn Funiciello, New Democratic Party
Espoir Manirambona, Communist Party
Matt Lakatos-Hayward, Green Party

Ottawa West-Nepean
Alex Cullen, New Democratic Party
Alex Hill, Green Party

Gordon Kubanek, Green Party
Ric Dagenais, New Democratic Party

“We are pleased by the number of New Democratic Party and Green Party candidates who responded positively to our request to sign the pledge at this busy time,” said Julien Lamarche, President of the local chapter of Fair Vote Canada. “These candidates were well informed about the potential benefits of proportional representation for Ontarians, and were aware of their parties’ support for proportional representation.”

“However, we are disappointed that no candidates from the Ontario Liberal or Progressive Conservative parties chose to sign the pledge, although some do support proportional representation,” Mr. Lamarche continued. “Electoral reform should not be seen as a partisan issue. Fair Vote Canada’s National Advisory Board includes prominent members of all the major political parties. These are thoughtful people who recognize that a more proportional electoral system can help make Canadian politics less partisan, more representative, and more effective.”

“We noted that some Liberal candidates are saying that proportional representation is not an issue in Ontario because it was decided in the 2007 referendum,” said Réal Lavergne, member of Fair Vote Canada’s National Council and action coordinator for the Ontario election in the Ottawa region. “It is ironic that these candidates can consider the ‘Yes’ vote of 36.9% as a conclusive defeat for proportional representation, when their Liberal Party ‘won’ the 2011 provincial election, just one seat short of a majority, with only 37.7% of the vote.”

The Ontario referendum was seriously flawed in many ways. In particular, far too little time and effort were invested in public education. By the time of the vote, almost half of Ontarians polled knew nothing at all about the referendum, which had a significant impact on the result.

“Many people in Ontario prefer to think of the referendum as a first step toward adopting proportional representation, not the last word on the subject,” said Mr. Lavergne. “We should take the lessons learned and move forward to design a fair electoral system for Ontarians—one that makes every vote count.”

A Forum Research poll (October 2012) and an Environics survey (March 2013) both showed that 70% of Canadians are in favour of a more proportional electoral system. Fair Vote Canada is a multi-partisan citizens’ campaign for voting system reform.

More Information:
FVC Politicians Pledge:

“Why Ontarians said no to MMP” (Fred Cutler and Patrick Fournier in the Globe and Mail)

Media Contact:
Julien Lamarche

Fair Vote Canada / Représentation équitable au Canada
283 Danforth Avenue #408
Toronto, ON M4K 1N2

A year in Kuwaiti jail for a tweet? Draft law threatens free speech

Kuwait is tightening control of online critics of the royal family with a new telecommunications law.

Mona Kareem -- June 10, 2014

Kuwait has moved to regulate the use of social media as part of a continued crackdown against critics of the regime. In April, Minister of State Affairs Mohammed Mubarak al-Sabah announced plans to issue a special law concerning social media. Shortly before his announcement, parliament approved a draft of a new telecommunications law that puts a special committee in charge of “regulating the sectors of telecommunications and information technology to grant the best standards of quality and rates for consumers.”

The proposed law has already come under fire from political groups and activists who criticize it as intentionally ambiguous, granting authorities the power to block websites, monitor phone calls and terminate phone lines for "security reasons." In a public talk organized by the Kuwaiti Progressive Front, lawyer Hussain al-Abdullah said the law allows the telecommunications committee to make decisions to monitor and block without legal permission. He added that security reasons are used as a broad excuse to bypass constitutional restrictions protecting individual rights to free speech and privacy.

Similarly, lawyer al-Hmaidi al-Subaiye said the new law potentially punishes Twitter users with a year in jail for a tweet, and with three years for retweeting. He also claimed that the law gives power to the committee to issue warrants for house searches without a prior legal order. The Umbrella for Kuwait Action (UKA) was the first of local nongovernmental organizations to issue a statement criticizing the proposed law, calling it “part of a general policy to control and silence voices” marking a “worrying retreat in freedoms.”

This outcry comes following the suspension of two local newspapers for two weeks in violation of an order from the public prosecutor to stop publishing any information surrounding the "video tape" controversy. The vaguely named incident refers to a tape submitted by ruling family member and former Minister Sheikh Ahmed al-Fahad, who claims it is evidence to acoup plot planned by former Prime Minister Nasser al-Mohammed and former parliament head Jassim al-Khrafi.

The undersecretary of the Ministry of Communications, Hamid al-Qattan, however, denied all these accusations. In a press conference, he said that he was one of those who drafted the law, and that they do not intend to make any blocking or monitoring decisions without the necessary legal procedures. Qattan explained, “We are only a regulating body. Our job does not target any freedoms.” Yet he did not express any will to amend the controversial parts of the law, nor did he promise to address the concerns raised regarding the ambiguous phrasing of the problematic articles.

Shortly after, liberal member of parliament Rakan al-Nusf submitted a number of amendments for parliament to include before approving the law. Important additions suggested by Nusf included clear statements prohibiting censorship and violations of privacy rights. The additions are pending approval by a parliamentary committee before being added to the finalized version of the law.

Subaiye commented to Al-Monitor, “The undersecretary is not telling the truth. There are members of parliament who have also admitted the faults in this proposed law. We promise to take the case to the constitutional court if the necessary changes are not made before the final approval.”

For over five years, cases of political persecution have been increasing in Kuwait for "threatening national security," "organizing illegal protests" and "insulting the emir." The last crime was the basis for many cases against Twitter users, activists and politicians. Earlier this year, Mohammed Eid al-Ajmi was sentenced to five years in jail for tweets critical of Emir Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Another Twitter user, Saqer al-Hashah, was arrested for the same reason but released in February. Only a few weeks ago, journalist Ayyad al-Harbi was sentenced to two years in jail on the same charges. Meanwhile, stateless activist Abdullah Atallah has been in jail since February as his trial continues to be postponed. Atallah is accused ofinsulting the emir in a speech during a demonstration organized by the stateless community marking the fourth anniversary of protests over their treatment.

In 2012, following mass protests against the amendment of the electoral law, the emir issued a decree to punish those who threaten national unity with up to seven years in jail and a fine of 10,000 dinars ($35,000). In December 2013, Kuwait’s constitutional court ruled against activists and lawyers who had made the case to omit Article 25, which criminalizes criticism of the emir.

The new telecommunications law gives another reason for the opposition to criticize the current parliament for its passive attitude toward authorities and lack of transparency. Last April, five members of parliament resigned following the blocking of their request to grill Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah over issues of corruption and housing. Later this month,Kuwait will hold by-elections to fill the places of the resigned parliamentarians.

The upcoming elections are to be boycotted by the opposition in protest of the 2012 decree amending the electoral law. The amended electoral law sought to limit the power of political groups following the opposition’s victory in the February 2012 elections. This change has made it possible for marginal and new names to secure seats in parliament in the past two elections.

The growing local activism, performing more consistently than the opposition itself, has become a source of anxiety for the state. In 2009, former Prime Minister Mohammed was the most targeted official for the opposition for his acts of corruption. Yet, since Mohammed’s resignation, the emir took a more active political role. The demands for structural changes to grant more power to parliament over the cabinet are seen as a threat to an existing monopoly. By limiting parliament and legislating restrictive laws such as the new telecommunication law, the regime is showing its unwillingness to offer any compromise.

Study shows that US War on Terror has been largely a charade used to justify a myriad of abuses

By Danielle Sanzone, Troy/The Record -- June 10, 2014

Albany: A panel discussed a 175-page report that states the majority of arrests in the War on Terror involved the unjust prosecution of targeted Muslim Americans.

The report, titled “Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution,” discusses 399 individuals in cases from the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001 to 2010, and there are a total of 890 terrorism defendents in the study’s database. Of those, six are from this region, said officials at a press conference Monday in Albany.

The study — sponsored by Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims) and the National Coalition to Protect Civic Freedoms — states that the vast majority of terrorism arrests have consisted of the FBI foiling its own entrapment plots; the government arresting people on material support for terrorism charges that criminalize innocent conduct like charitable giving and free speech; and the inflation of minor or technical incidents into terrorism events, such as immigration application inaccuracies or old weapons charges.

“The study shows that the War on Terror has been largely a charade designed to make the American public believe that a terrorist army is loose in the U.S., when the truth is that most of the people convicted of terrorism-related crimes posed no danger to the U.S. and were entrapped by a preventative strategy known as preemptive prosecution,” according to the summary of the report, which was published in May.

Officials said secret evidence in the cases was also an issue.

Kathy Manley, a criminal defense attorney and co-founder of Project SALAM, said the number of people affected may not be huge but noted that the threat of Muslim terrorism is used to justify a myriad of abuses, as with McCarthyism and anti-communism sentiments in the 1950s.

Steve Downs, former executive director of NCPCF, said the report gives multiple recommendations to the FBI and federal government, including the strengthening of the entrapment defense, limiting secret evidence since a defense attorney is unable to counter unknown evidence, recording all interviews after a person is arrested, abolishing terrorism enhancement in sentencing since it usually quadruples a sentence, notifying the defense if the majoritiy of evidence was collected using surveillance and eliminating solitary confinement. Downs said that, in some cases, alleged terrorists who had not yet stood trial would be put in solitary confinement for time periods that would constitute torture.

“The government should not be in the business of manufacturing crime,” said Downs of entrapment issues.

In a local case with Albany resident Yassin Aref, Downs said the defense never received notification that evidence was obtained using surveillance. Aref was arrested by federal authorities in August 2004 as part of a counter-terrorism sting operation and he was convicted in October 2006 of conspiring to aid a terrorist group and provide support for a weapon of mass destruction. The appellate court has upheld the convictions and he’s currently serving his sentence in federal prison until 2018.

Mohammed Mosharref Hossain of Albany was also convicted from the counter-terrorism sting and is serving until 2020 in Alabama.

Lynne Jackson, president of Project SALAM, said these cases have negative effects on families because sometimes the person serves a jail sentence in another state, away from his or her family.

“The grief and sadness of families is immeasurable,” Jackson said.

The report is coming out at a time when the conflict in Afghanistan is winding down and when just last week a terrorism trial was reported by United Kingdom media as being conducted entirely in secret.

A statement from Albany FBI spokesman Paul Holstein read: “Today, the FBI in Albany received a copy of Project SALAM’s ‘Inventing Terrorists.’ We will ensure that it is reviewed by appropriate personnel.”

The database and other information is available at

Danielle Sanzone may be reached at 270-1292.

United Nation’s International Labour Organization report: A world blighted by poverty and inequality

10 June 2014 -- Jerry White

“[W]hen society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death… when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life… forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence… its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual…” Frederick Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)

A large majority of the world’s population lacks essential social protections, leading to the preventable deaths of 18,000 children under five each day. This is among the findings of the World Social Protection Report 2014-15 released by the United Nation’s International Labour Organization last week.

The ILO surveyed 200 countries for the availability of basic health care coverage, including maternity care, and income security for children, working-age adults and older persons. It found that in these countries only 27 percent of the working-age population and their families had access to such protections in 2012. The other three quarters—some 5.2 billion people—lacked such necessities.

“While the need for social protection is widely recognized, the fundamental right to social security remains unfulfilled for the large majority of the world’s population,” the ILO concluded. “Many of those not sufficiently protected live in poverty, which is the case for half the population of middle- and low-income countries. Many of them, about 800 million people, are working poor, and many work in the informal economy.”

The corporate-controlled media has buried this report, which paints a devastating picture of the state of world capitalism.

Most damning are the figures on children. On average, governments allocate only 0.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to child and family benefits, ranging from 2.2 percent in Western Europe to 0.2 percent in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The United States spends just 0.699 percent of its GDP on such benefits—just below Latin America. By contrast, the US spends 4.2 percent of economic output on the military.

The human and social impact of such neglect is incalculable. Scientific studies have long shown that food deprivation and the lack of health care, sanitation, clean water and other basic necessities lead to poor brain development and vulnerability to disease and early death.

The ILO report notes that only one quarter of employed women around the world are covered by paid maternity leave, with the figure falling to 10 percent in Africa and South Asia. Austerity measures have reduced maternal benefits in Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Czech Republic and other countries.

The United States is only one of three countries in the world—the others being Oman and Papua New Guinea—where there is no government- or employer-paid leave for new mothers.

Of the nearly 202 million workers unemployed around the world, only 12 percent are receiving jobless benefits. Overall, the report notes, “unemployment rose by more than 45 percent, with more than 44 million unemployed in OECD HICs (High Income Countries) in 2013 compared to 2008, while expenditure on unemployment benefits and tax-funded social assistance was initially increased but later reduced, with around half of those unemployed not receiving unemployment benefits.”

Ninety percent of the population living in low-income countries remains without any health care coverage. Globally, about 39 percent of the population is lacking such coverage. As a result, about 40 percent of global health expenditure is shouldered directly by the sick. Government health outlays have been slashed in Greece, Spain and Portugal, leading to a rise in morbidity and mortality rates.

Nearly half (48 percent) of all people over pensionable age do not receive a pension. For many who do, pension levels are woefully inadequate. “As a result,” the report states, “the majority of the world’s older men and women have no income security, have no right to retire, and have to continue working as long as they can—often badly paid and in precarious conditions.”

The worsening of conditions is largely due to the transfer of vast social resources to the financial aristocracy. As the ILO report makes clear, the austerity measures imposed in the aftermath of the 2008 crash were chiefly aimed at offsetting “rising debts and deficits that resulted from bank bailouts to rescue the financial sectors from bankruptcy, stimulus packages, and lower government revenues due to the slowdown in economic activity.”

These conditions are an indictment of capitalism. They make clear that the ruling classes around the world—and the political parties that defend them—are responsible for inflicting suffering and death on a mass scale, no less than the British bourgeoisie, condemned by Marx’s co-thinker Frederick Engels 170 years ago.

Deprivation for the majority takes place under conditions of the accumulation of stratospheric levels of wealth by the richest one percent and one-tenth of one percent of society. Eighty-five billionaires have a collective fortune of $1.68 trillion, equal to the wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population—3.5 billion people!

Global stock markets, corporate profits and executive pay continue to set new records, while governments around the world, obeying the dictates of the major banks, impose austerity measures on the masses in order to channel even more wealth to the super-rich.

The ILO notes that governments quickly abandoned their stimulus plans and by 2010 had “embarked on fiscal consolidation and premature contraction of expenditure, despite an urgent need of public support among vulnerable populations.” Public expenditure cuts will “intensify significantly” in 2014, it reports, with the International Monetary Fund projecting that 122 countries will reduce expenditures as a percentage of GDP and one-fifth of the countries surveyed will slash spending below pre-crisis levels.

While austerity measures are generally associated with Europe, in the so-called “developing” countries, the ILO reports, governments are eliminating or reducing food and fuel subsidies, cutting or capping public-sector wages, imposing regressive taxes, and “reforming” pension and health care systems.

As for the US, the ILO notes the government has imposed a “freeze of non-security discretionary funding for three years by cutting/reducing 120 programs deemed ineffective, public sector pay freeze, reduction in duration of unemployment insurance, restrictions to food assistance system, and the introduction of a national health insurance program” that will shift costs onto individuals.

The fact that these measures are being carried out on a global scale—implemented by governments of every political stripe—demonstrates that the immiseration of the working class is inherent in the system itself and not attributable simply to this or that political leader or party.

The requirements of civilized life are incompatible with capitalism, an outmoded and failed economic system, which is based on private ownership of the means of production, production for profit, and the irrational division of the world into rival nation-states. Far from lifting up the masses in the “developing” countries, a leveling of conditions is occurring, with living standards for the majority in the older industrialized countries sinking toward those in the former colonial countries.

Mankind is more productive than at any time in human history and entirely capable of eradicating poverty and want. But this is possible only if the productive forces are freed from the grip of the corporate and financial oligarchs and organized in a democratic and scientific fashion by the international working class.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Death Penalty News

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Daily updated news about the death penalty worldwide. Striving for a world without capital punishment.

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George Will: Being a College Rape Victim is a 'Coveted Status that Confers Privileges'

June 9, 2014 | By Katie McDonough

Washington Post columnist George Will doesn’t believe the statistic that one in five women  is sexually assaulted while in college. Instead he believes that liberals, feminists and other nefarious forces have conspired to turn being a rape survivor into a “coveted status that confers privileges .” As a result of this plot, “victims proliferate,” Will wrote in a weekend editorial that ran in the Washington Post and New York Post.

Further compounding the crisis of people coming forward about sexual assault to stay de rigueur is the fact that “capacious” definitions of sexual assault include forcible sexual penetration and nonconsensual sexual touching. Which is really very outrageous, according to Will. It is really very hard to understand why having your breasts or other parts of your body touched against your will should be frowned upon.

It’s not very surprising that George Will does not think that sexual assault on campus is a big deal. It’s also not very surprising that he thinks that definitions of sexual violence are somehow overly broad because they factor in forms of sexual contact other than penetration. But what is puzzling — about this editorial and the army of nearly identical pieces of rape apologia that find a way into national newspapers with some regularity — is how much one has to ignore in order to argue these points.

There is an abundance of anecdotal and statistical evidence to show that most people never come forward about their experiences of assault, including most college students. According to national data, 60 percent [4] of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. So how does one go from that to a culture in which “victims proliferate”? Current data holds that only 12 percent[2] of assaults on college campuses are reported. It seems like Will believes that hearing from any victims is hearing from too many victims.
And what exactly are the “privileges” associated with being a survivor of sexual assault? A casual look at both our criminal justice system, military justice system and the academic disciplinary system under scrutiny right now reveals that each tend to punish survivors, not reward them.

When a young midshipman came forward about her alleged assault at the hands of a former Naval Academy football player, she was questioned for 20 hours by 12 attorneys [5] and forced to answer questions about how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex and whether or not she considered herself a “ho” after the alleged assault occurred. When the woman requested a day off after five days of questioning, one attorney said [6], “We don’t concede there’s been any stress involved.” Another survivor at Columbia University was put on academic probation after she came forward about her assault because the school considered her a “mental health liability [7].”

And the tone of the Onion headline “College Rape Victim Pretty Thrilled She Gets to Recount Assault to Faculty Committee [8]” might not be to everyone’s taste, but it pretty much sums up the experience of coming forward about sexual assault in the current university climate. This line from the satirical piece nails it, too:
“I get to go into a room filled with a committee of middle-aged men whose primary concern is upholding the college’s reputation and recount in explicit detail the circumstances of my rape at the hands of another student—I can’t wait,” said the pleased 19-year-old, who noted that she’s particularly looking forward to describing her choice of clothing the night of the assault, explaining the nature of her relationship with her rapist, and entertaining a variety of questions aimed at determining whether she herself invited the attack with her words and actions, all while offering a step-by-step account of the most horrific night of her life.
As far as I can tell, the only “privilege” associated with being a sexual assault survivor in the public eye is that you are maybe slightly more likely — very, very slightly more likely if you look at the actual conviction rate — to see your case given serious consideration rather than being ignored entirely by school administrators or law enforcement, which is actually something that happens quite a lot.

You’ll also notice that none of these pieces of rape apologia ever address consent in a meaningful way. Will designates a single, condescending line to “the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults,” but doesn’t have a thing to say about any of it. If men like Will really do believe that most sexual assaults are a byproduct of the “ambiguities of hookup culture,” why aren’t they writing smug editorials about affirmative consent? If the actual crisis is that young men are being falsely accused of rape at an alarming rate (they are not), then wouldn’t some legitimate action be required?

But instead we just get Will’s ridiculous column. It seems that even Will doesn’t take his own ideas that seriously. His editorial is basically, “I Am Mad That We Are Now Talking About Sexual Assault and Sexual Entitlement. These Conversations Make Me Uncomfortable and Threaten Me. Please Make Them Stop.”

Conversation with Prof Mimi Thi Nguyen

This Nia King podcast with Mimi Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, is worth listening to. She deliciously undermines many of the values of the university education corporate culture. Under New Episode!:

Transcript here 

Canadian Bar Association letter to CIC Minister Alexander

Original url here:

June 5, 2014 

Via email: 

The Honourable Chris Alexander, P.C., M.P. 
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration 
365 Laurier Avenue West 
Ottawa, ON K1A 1L1 

Dear Minister Alexander: 

Re: Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act 

I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Bar Association to express concern about your remarks on our Immigration Law Section’s submission on Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. 

The CBA is a national association of over 37,500 lawyers, notaries, students and law teachers. Part of  our mandate is to promote improvements in the law and the administration of justice. The CBA Immigration Law Section comprises approximately 1000 lawyers whose practices embrace all  aspects of citizenship, immigration and refugee law. 

Our submission on Bill C-24 was written in the spirit of CBA’s mandate, following comprehensive analysis by leading citizenship lawyers, with a view to informing Parliament’s and the Canadian public’s assessment of the Bill’s strengths (such as conferring retroactive citizenship on more “lost Canadians”, and protecting the public from unscrupulous or incompetent advisors and representatives) and its weaknesses (such as creating tiers of citizenship in its revocation provisions, and requiring that citizenship applicants declare their intent to reside in Canada, both of which may be unconstitutional). 

Members of the CBA Section have commented in person and in writing on numerous citizenship and immigration initiatives for over thirty years. Through a legal and policy lens, our submissions commend, criticize and offer constructive suggestions for change. While we may not always agree with each other, a productive, respectful relationship is critical, working together for the betterment of the rule of law and Canada’s justice system. 

For that reason, we were surprised by your recent comments reported in the media about the CBA Section’s submissions on Bill C-24. We are concerned about what those comments suggest about the relationship between government and important stakeholders with experience and knowledge which contribute to public debate. Many stakeholders, like the CBA, have front-line experience with how changes affect people day-to-day and have a deep understanding of the law and the institutions that apply it in practice. CBA submissions like the one on Bill C-24 are developed by volunteers who give their time and expertise to try to improve our justice system. 

Calling the contributions of the CBA Section “shameful” and saying that CBA Section lawyers “never miss an opportunity to criticize” is unwarranted and inaccurate. (One recent example of CBA supporting the government was my appearance before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on May 7, 2014, to support part of the budget implementation bill.) It undermines an important role lawyers play in our democratic society. 

Government is entitled to disagree, even forcefully, to criticism. However, we should all engage in public debate in a respectful manner with a view to providing Canadians with the best legal system we can. Attacking stakeholders simply because they bring dissenting perspectives and adverse evidence on government initiatives is corrosive of Canada’s democracy. Contrary ideas are the lifeblood of democratic societies. It is through dialogue that concepts are tested in the “marketplace of ideas,” common understandings or assumptions are challenged, and governments and citizens are encouraged to think differently. Governments should welcome the exchange of ideas and perspectives, not seek to undermine it, even if its contents are not always embraced. Your recent comments could have the effect of undermining that exchange and the integrity of stakeholders. They move beyond the substance of the CBA Section submission and seek to undermine the credibility of individuals who put their ideas forward in a good faith effort to improve the Bill. That devalues the process and erroneously implies nefarious motives to the CBA’s submissions. 

Bill C-24 was introduced without a robust consultation of key stakeholders, including the CBA Section. We would welcome more opportunities to provide early feedback on your government’s initiatives before they are published, to ensure they contribute to the continuous improvement to Canada’s system of citizenship and immigration. Early and meaningful consultation would have the added benefit of potentially averting costly and unnecessary legal challenges. 

We respectfully request an apology for your comments. It is our sincere hope that we can work together constructively in the future. 

Yours truly, 

 Fred Headon