Bin Salman ‘tried to persuade Netanyahu to go to war in Gaza’: Sources

Bin Salman ‘tried to persuade Netanyahu to go to war in Gaza’: Sources

War was among scenarios suggested by damage-limitation task force established to advise Saudi crown prince in aftermath of Khashoggi killing
MBS was advised that a war in Gaza would distract Donald Trump’s attention (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attempted to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start a conflict with Hamas in Gaza as part of a plan to divert attention from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources inside Saudi Arabia have told Middle East Eye.
A war in Gaza was among a range of measures and scenarios proposed by an emergency task force set up to counter increasingly damaging leaks about Khashoggi’s murder coming from Turkish authorities, according to sources with knowledge of the group’s activities.
The task force, which is composed of officials from the royal court, the foreign and defence ministries, and the intelligence service, briefs the the crown prince every six hours, MEE was told.
It advised bin Salman that a war in Gaza would distract Trump’s attention and refocus Washington’s attention on the role Saudi Arabia plays in bolstering Israeli strategic interests.
It also advised bin Salman to “neutralise Turkey by all means” – including attempts to bribe Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with offers to buy Turkish arms and statements by the crown prince attempting to shore up relations between Riyadh and Ankara.
In comments made at last month’s Future Investment Initiative, bin Salman claimed Khashoggi’s murder was being used to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He said that would not happen “as long as there is a king called King Salman bin Abdelaziz and a crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia”.
Khashoggi was brutally killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, in an operation which Turkish authorities believe was carried out by a hit squad whose suspected members contained several members of bin Salman’s personal bodyguards.
Saudi officials have denied that the crown prince has “any knowledge whatsoever” of Khashoggi’s killing.
Some of the task force’s other recommendations were leaked to a close confidant of bin Salman, Turki Aldakhil, the general manager of the Al Arabiya news channel. He revealed “more than 30 potential measures” that Riyadh could take if Washington imposed sanctions.
He said the kingdom was capable or doubling or tripling the price of oil, of offering Russia a military base in the north of the country, and of turning to both Russia and China as its main arms suppliers.
Aldakhil later dismissed these threats “as his ideas only”, but his original article on the Al Arabiya website sources these threats  to “ decision-making circles within the kingdom”. This, MEE can reveal, is the task force set up to advise bin Salman.

Secret ties

Saudi Arabia and Israel are considered to have increasingly close secret ties, driven by their shared hostility to Iran, and bin Salman has been a key player in efforts to sell Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan for Israel and Palestine to regional leaders.
Speaking to the BBC earlier this year, Netanyahu said that Israel and some Arab nations were going through a process of “subterraneran normalisation”.
And while Khashoggi’s killing has been widely condemned by world leaders, Netanyahu said earlier this month: “It is very important for the stability of the region and the world that Saudi Arabia remains stable.”
Two weeks after the murder, Saudis government sources also noted an abrupt change of tone in Netanyahu’s remarks about Hamas during negotiations with Qatar aimed at easing the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu told his cabinet meeting on 14 October: “We are very close to a different kind of activity, an activity that will include very powerful blows. If it has sense, Hamas will stop firing and stop these violent disturbances, now.”
Netanyahu said Saudi Arabia’s stability is ‘very important’ for the region and the world (AFP)
Similarly, Israel and Qatar had just reached a deal to allow funds into the blockaded strip and pay the salaries of Hamas government workers, when Sunday night’s botched Israel special forces raid, a raid which had political permission, took place in Khan Younis.
Hamas subsequently launched hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, and Israel launched air strikes in Gaza with at least 15 Palestinians and one Israeli killed in the most serious exchange of fire since 2014.
MEE cannot independently confirm whether Israel’s incursion into Gaza was influenced by bin Salman’s appeal to Netanyahu.
Speaking on Sunday before the raid, Netanyahu had said that he was “doing everything I can to avoid an unnecessary war” in Gaza.
“I am not afraid of war if it’s necessary, but I want to avoid it if it’s not necessary,” he said.
According to MEE’s sources, other measures recommended by the task force to show Trump that Saudi Arabia was not dependent on its alliance with Washington included inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Riyadh.
Putin is alleged to have said that he would go through with the visit regardless of the outcome of the Khashoggi affair.
Saudi Arabia has also made good on its promise to raise the price of crude oil by production cuts.
Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said after a meeting of OPEC at the weekend that the cartel believed production would need to fall by nearly one million barrels per day.
The announcement alone sent the price of international bench mark Brent Crude rising to $70.83 a barrel, having dipped below $60 a barrel at the end of last week.
The move was in direct defiance of Trump, who had tweeted on Monday: “Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!”

‘Tell your boss’

Meanwhile, pressure on bin Salman is growing as more details emerge from the investigation into Khashoggi’s killing.
The MEE can reveal that Turkey has recordings of conversations among Saudi officials which date back to 28 September, when Khashoggi first entered the consulate to arrange for a certificate which proved he had divorced his second wife. This was three days before he was killed.
These tapes reveal that the Saudi military attache in Istanbul, Ahmed Abdullah al-Muzaini, played a crucial role in the killing of Khashoggi.
After meeting Khashoggi and telling him he was taking over his file personally, Muzaini flew the next day to Riyadh where he met Major General Ahmed Asiri the deputy head of Saudi intelligence and one of the commanders of the Tiger Squad formed to assassinate dissidents at home and abroad.
Describing him as the brains behind the plot, the Turkish government-controlled newspaper Sabah said Muzaini discussed Khashoggi’s assassination with Asiri and flew back to Istanbul. He returned to Riyadh at 9pm on the day Khashoggi was murdered.
MEE can also reveal that the leader of the murder squad, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, briefed Mohammed al-Otaibi, the consul, before the killing took place. Otaibi left Turkey on 16 October, the day before his official residence was searched by Turkish investigators.
On Monday, the New York Times revealed that Mutreb instructed his superior to “tell your boss” that Khashoggi had been killed in one of four calls back to Riyadh on the day of the murder.
This is increasing the pressure on Capitol Hill for a formal response from the Trump administration.
The CIA and other intelligence officials are set to brief Congress this week and congressional leaders are due to press Gina Haspel, the CIA director, who has heard one audio recording of Khashoggi’s murder to testify to them about what she heard.
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Israel blows up Gaza ceasefire

Israel blows up Gaza ceasefire

Ali Abunimah – 13 November 2018

I was on Al Jazeera’s Newshour on Monday night to discuss Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Israeli leaders have a pattern of sabotaging ceasefire agreements, leading to horrific spasms of violence, I told the network.
I also said that Hamas’ attack on an Israeli military bus Monday, after soldiers had disembarked, showed that the armed group intended to demonstrate its capabilities, while still exercising restraint and avoiding further escalation.
Watch the video above.
Israel carried out air raids across Gaza on Monday night with Palestinian resistance factions firing some 300 rockets into Israel in retaliation for an Israeli raid Sunday that killed seven members of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
One Israeli officer was killed as Palestinian fighters battled to resist the Israeli raid.
As it habitually does, Israel targeted civilian infrastructure in Gaza, among dozens of other sites it claims are linked to the resistance.

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Israeli planes destroyed a residential building in City, with kindergarten and residential apartments

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🇵🇸 : The main Israeli targets in Gaza : Homes, hotel, infrastructure, TV station and official buildings .
Palestinian media published images of an Israeli missile in Khan Younis that failed to explode, indicating the massive size of the bombs it is using.

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صاروخ لم ينفجر أطلقته طائرات الاحتلال شرق ، اليوم.
On Monday, the health ministry in Gaza confirmed that six Palestinians had been killed and another 25 injured in the overnight Israeli air raids.
An Israeli man was killed after a rocket struck an apartment building in Ashkelon.
The Israeli attack on Sunday shattered ongoing efforts to achieve a lasting truce for Gaza.
Israeli media reported Tuesday that Palestinian factions had agreed to a ceasefire proposed by Egypt and that Egyptian and United Nations officials were due to visit the territory on Wednesday.
According to media reports, Palestinian factions had agreed to halt retaliatory rocket fire into Israel by Tuesday afternoon.
It remained to be seen if Israel’s security cabinet, which was due to meet Tuesday, would agree to return to the ceasefire that Israel violated.
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Journalists who shaped South Africa

Journalists who shaped South Africa

Courage shines through on almost every page, whether it comes from the often-unheralded whistleblowers or the five cases where reporters have been killed or disappeared, as well as the many instances of detention and harassment.

by Anton Harber-
( November 14, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) It was a modest, soft-spoken Catholic nun from the US, Sister Janice McLaughlin, who exposed the “protected villages” set up by the Rhodesian government in 1977. The villages were ostensibly to protect civilians from the violence of the liberation armies, but were actually concentration camps behind barbed wire.
McLaughlin, using the access the church afforded her, and writing for a London-based Catholic newsletter, gave the world detailed first-hand descriptions of the poor conditions and hardships of these camps. Ironically, she implied that the camps were helping the guerrillas from the liberation armies in their fight fighting against the Rhodesian government. Other media picked up and ran the story.
Ricardo de Mello is a largely forgotten Angolan hero of investigative reporting. When the country opened up to multiparty democracy and allowed a free press in the early 1990s, De Mello started a daily called Imparcial Fax. Only a handful of subscribers got it by fax. But he began to report the war in a way that broke through the state propaganda for the first time, and publish leaks from within the ruling elite.
He was murdered in January 1995. His death was widely believed to have been orchestrated by an Angolan minister.
Magema Magwaza Fuze travelled through Zululand in 1877 to visit King Cetshwayo. His purpose was to check out stories that the king was killing Christian converts, thus forcing missionaries and converts to flee. He found no evidence of this, and the piece he wrote in Macmillan’s Magazine in the UK in 1878 proved to be an invaluable record of life in the kingdom.
These are three of the 39 stories recorded in our recently published anthologySouthern African Muckraking: 300 years of investigative reporting that has shaped the region. The book extends the canon of investigative journalism, starting with Adam Tas in 1706 through to #GuptaLeaks in 2017. The trove of emails exposed the extent of the “capture” of the South African state by business interests allied to former President Jacob Zuma. The book uncovers a number of forgotten gems along the way.

A long tradition

Each case study is introduced by an expert in the area, outlining the context, importance and genesis of the story.
Some would argue that the book uses a very loose definition of investigative reporting. Some of the protagonists were not journalists, and some wrote for outlets other than conventional newspapers, usually stepping in when conventional journalism was blocked. We felt an expansive definition was essential, given the limitations on this kind of work in this part of the world. A more traditional Western definition would have excluded some of the most important and interesting work.
Some of the stories were carried in mainstream media, many came from “alternative” media, and at least one came from a state-owned outlet. Some were the result of extensive sleuthing, some from fortuitous leaks and some from canny editors pointing their reporters in the right direction.
What these reports have in common is exposing matters of public interest – sometimes at great risk to the journalists – and holding to account those who abuse power. The book shows how rich, varied and inspiring this history is, and how powerful an impact it has had on the region.
What is apparent in this chronological account is that some of the countries of southern Africa – like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia – have long traditions of muckraking, while there has been a surge of recent work from countries like Lesotho, Botswana.
Much of the earlier work is by individuals operating on their own. More recently the work was often done cooperatively by large groups, across borders and media types. Less is now coming from conventional newsrooms, and more from special investigative hubs supported by donors, which might free journalists from the constraints of commercial ownership, but may also leaves them dependant on the goodwill of funders. South Africa’s amaBhungane was a pioneer among these centres, but others have now popped up in Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Lesotho.
It becomes clear that the digital age offers muckrakers a great deal of scope because of the profusion of massive data leaks. But it also poses many threats because of the increased capacity for surveillance and harassment.


Courage shines through on almost every page, whether it comes from the often-unheralded whistleblowers or the five cases where reporters have been killed or disappeared, as well as the many instances of detention and harassment.
At a time when at least one major South African newspaper, the Sunday Times, has had to withdraw and apologise for investigative work that went wrong, the book is a reminder that such aberrations are vastly overshadowed by the quantity of really excellent and important work.The Conversation
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CNN sues White House to regain access for reporter Jim Acosta

CNN sues White House to regain access for reporter Jim Acosta

CNN’s Nov. 13 lawsuit is not the first time the office of the president and the media have clashed. (Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)
CNN sued the Trump administration on behalf of reporter Jim Acosta on Tuesday, asking a court to restore Acosta’s White House press pass after President Trump suspended it last week.
The unusual lawsuit, an escalation of Trump’s long-

running war of words with CNN
, seeks a judge’s intervention after Trump banished Acosta from the White House grounds for an indefinite period after a brief altercation between Acosta and a White House press aide.
After a testy exchange between the president and the reporter, the unidentified press aide went up to Acosta to take a microphone out of his hands. As a result, press secretary Sarah Sanders announced a few hours later that the White House had revoked Acosta’s “hard pass,” which enables reporters to enter and leave the grounds each day.
Sanders called Acosta’s alleged behavior “unacceptable” and cited Acosta’s encounter with the press aide as the basis for yanking his credential. She tweeted an apparently doctored video of the incident.
CNN filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. “We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process,” the network said in a statement released Tuesday morning.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the judge in the case, Timothy J. Kelly, ordered the White House and the other defendants to respond to CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order by 11 a.m. Wednesday. He set a hearing on the restraining order — which would temporarily restore Acosta’s press credential, pending the outcome of a trial — for 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Legal experts say the network’s chances of winning in court are favorable. Although a court would probably give the president and Secret Service the benefit of the doubt if they barred a reporter due to security threats, the First Amendment protects journalists against arbitrary restrictions by government officials.
“I think it’s a really strong lawsuit,” Floyd Abrams, a noted First Amendment lawyer, told CNN on Sunday. “I think [CNN] should sue, and if it’s not about Acosta, this is going to happen again . . . So whether it’s CNN suing or the next company suing, someone’s going to have to bring a lawsuit, and whoever does is going to win” unless the White House can show that Acosta is violent and disruptive.
The suit names CNN and Acosta as plaintiffs. Trump, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine, Sanders and the U.S. Secret Service are named as defendants. It alleges a violation of the First Amendment, a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process in government actions, and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. It asks for the immediate restoration of Acosta’s credential, or restoration pending a hearing before a “neutral” arbiter.
In a defiant statement, Sanders called the suit “more grandstanding from CNN” and said the White House will “vigorously” defend itself.
“CNN, who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders, and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment,” she said.
She made no mention of a physical altercation between Acosta and the press aide — the original reason the White House cited for the suspension — and instead said the suspension was because Acosta would not yield to other reporters.
“After Mr. Acosta asked the president two questions — each of which the president answered — he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions,” Sanders said. “This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters . . . The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor.”
Disputes have occasionally flared over which members of the press corps are qualified to receive a “hard pass.” But Trump’s action appears to be unprecedented; there’s no record of a president revoking such a pass from a reporter because he didn’t like the questions the reporter asked.
During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, the Secret Service denied a credential to reporter Robert Sherrill of the Nation magazine. The agency said Sherrill, who had been in a fistfight with one of Johnson’s campaign aides, was a physical threat to the president. Sherrill sued and eventually won in 1977, though he declined to apply for a pass afterward, according to journalist George Condon.
Another possible parallel: A federal judge last year struck down Trump’s blocking of critics on Twitter. She ruled that the First Amendment prevented him from denying access to presidential statements due to a would-be follower’s opinions and views.
The same principle applies in the Acosta case, said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which brought the Twitter suit last year.
“The government cannot exclude reporters from [the White House] because of their views,” said Jaffer. “Once the government created a general right of access it cannot selectively withdraw it based on viewpoint. Viewpoint is not a criterion that establishes a media organization’s right to be at a news briefing.”
CNN’s lawsuit, he added, “is critical to preserve the media’s ability to ask hard questions and hold the government accountable . . . It would be intolerable to let this kind of thing go unchallenged. Other reporters would end up hesitating before asking sharp questions, the White House would be able to use the threat of similar revocations for critical coverage, and media coverage of the White House would be distorted because of fear of official retaliation.”
Other journalists have been widely supportive of Acosta since Trump pushed him out last week. In a statement Tuesday, the White House Correspondents’ Association’s president, Olivier Knox, said the organization “strongly supports” CNN in regaining its access. He said the revocation of Acosta’s credential was a “disproportionate reaction” to the news conference incident. “The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him,” Knox said.
Others have urged even stronger action in response to Trump’s retaliation against Acosta.
Richard Tofel, the president of ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative news organization, suggested in an interview that journalists band together and walk out of the White House press room.
“If favorable coverage is the price of operating within the [White House] gates, then we can cover it from outside the gates,” said Tofel, a lawyer who was once an intern in the White House press office. “I think that, as a matter of press freedom, the press corps in the room should say, ‘If you’ve redefined the rules to hand out passes only to those whose coverage you don’t object to, we’re all leaving.’ This isn’t principally a legal question. It’s a question of editorial independence.”
Deanna Paul contributed to this report.
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Pro-Israel activists seek to ‘manipulate’ online response to Gaza violence

Pro-Israel activists seek to ‘manipulate’ online response to Gaza violence

Crowdsourcing app directed its users to like pro-Israel comments on news stories posted on Facebook by media outlets, including MEE
Areeb Ullah's picture
In a bid to influence online discussions following an escalation of violence in Gaza, a pro-Israel activist group on Tuesday urged its supporters to post and like comments in support of Israel on the Facebook feeds of major news organisations.
Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, the BBC, and other Western media outlets were among the news outlets targeted by the pro-Israel app,
Created by the Israeli American Council, a US-based non-profit group that advocates on behalf of Israeli-Americans, and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a college in Israel, has the goal of influencing “international public opinion towards the state of Israel via social media platforms”.
It also aims to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, the group says on its website.
In a message sent out to its mailing list on Tuesday morning, organisers urged users of the app to “take action against anti-Israeli comments by supporting pro-Israeli comments” and thereby ensure that these “top comments” are read by more social media users.
Facebook’s algorithms make it so that the most-liked comments will appear at the top of a post’s comment section.
The message sent out to the mailing list referred to Israelis who were wounded in the recent escalation between the Israeli army and Palestinian factions in Gaza, but made no mention of Palestinian deaths or casualties.
ACT.IL urged its users to “take back the narrative” following the recent escalation in Gaza (Screenshot: ACT.IL)
It also listed 20 news stories, with a suggestion to “like and reply” to comments that were already posted below the articles, which were shared on Facebook and related to the recent escalation of violence in Gaza. did not say whether one of its paid staff members had written the comments, but it provided a link to the comments it recommended its users like and reply to. also provided a set of talking points, including a claim that “Hamas organised” the Great March of Return, which it referred to as “riots”, or that Hamas and Palestinian protesters wanted to “burn Israeli villages” in southern Israel.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have protested every Friday since 30 March as part of the Great March of Return, calling for the right to return to their ancestral homes.
Michael Bueckert, a PhD student at Carleton University in Canada, first spotted the message sent to its mailing list.
The intent is to shape the way that the public encounters the news about Gaza online and to discredit pro-Palestinian narratives
– Michael Bueckert, PhD student at Carleton University
Using the Twitter account @AntiBDSApp, which monitors the pro-Israel app’s activities, Bueckert posted links to the mailing list message and the comments asked its users to like.
Speaking to Middle East Eye, Bueckert said targeting major news outlets’ social media posts was a common tactic activists have used whenever there is a significant event in Gaza.
“The intent is to shape the way that the public encounters the news about Gaza online and to discredit pro-Palestinian narratives before observers can even read the articles,” said Bueckert.
“You’ll notice that many of the comments promoted today are intended to dismiss that Israel broke the ceasefire and instead put full blame on Hamas.
“It’s a subtle manipulation and the intended target is the public who knows very little, if anything, about Gaza.”

Behind Israel’s Troll Army@AntiBDSApp
Israel’s propaganda app is currently targeting 20+ news stories about on Facebook, directing users to “like” pro-Israel statements and providing them with “suggested comments” 

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Earlier this year, activists attempted to rally social media support for singer Lana Del Ray, who was under pressure from BDS activists not to perform in Israel.
Haaretz also reported in January that had attempted to influence Google’s search results for the term BDS.
Launched by 170 Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, the BDS movement seeks to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, ensure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of the state, and allow the return of Palestinian refugees.
Though says it receives no funding from the Israeli government, +972 Magazine reported that the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs had spent a substantial amount of money to place “sponsored content” endorsing the app in various magazines.
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Bangladesh: Newly formed opposition political combine not a fine line

Bangladesh: Newly formed opposition political combine not a fine line

The new coalition envisages realising 7-point demand, including the resignation of the government, dissolution of parliament, formation of an election-time neutral government and the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, and meeting other 12 goals which are all derisory.

by Anwar A Khan- 

( November 14, 2018, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) The country is now in full-fashioned of election mood. If the blue wave is big enough—if it is real and national! So, let’s do a vote, let’s do a vote. There is still the thinnest of threads that bind us together and the willingness, in certain situations, to listen and learn. But we are one thread away from everything being cut. And that’s why Election Day is everything. Your words have power. Find words that unite. Find words that unify because if you don’t fathom, the consequences after the voting, will be horrific. So, no vote is for anti-Bangladesh liberation forces and their mango-twigs. If they are voted to power, further colossal damage would bechance to the spirits of our glorious liberation war of 1971. And that should not be countenanced under any settings.
The direful killing squad Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) has been recognised under a veiled cover up as a member of this newly formed coalescence –Jatiya Okkaya Front (National Unity Front) under Dr. Kamal Hossain’s stewardship before the upcoming National Polls. But the obnoxious nexus of BNP and JeI are the driving-force of this movement.
Dr. Kamal’s political party, Gono Forum, has no anchor on the soil of Bangladesh. He is a solitary showcase. ASM Abdur Rob, the supreme leader of a bantam faction of a political party – JSD, one time a great revolutionary and contributed gigantically to the process of establishing Bangladesh in a bloody war in 1971 with the flagitious Pakistani military junta. He has now become a midget figure in the country’s political arena. Mahmudur Rahman Manna is a lone wolf in Bangladesh’s politics though once upon a time he was a famed student leader. Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury is a veteran Freedom Fighter, physician, owner of Gono Shashtya Hospital and a noetic of BNP politics which has been surrounded by anti-Bangladesh liberation forces since its inception in the military cantonment. He is also a loner having no footmark in the country’s politics. Kader Siddiqui was fondly called as ‘Tiger Siddiqui’ because of his majuscule and heroic role during our glorified Liberation War of 1971, has bivouacked in JeI’s accompaniment long before. He has now further cross-filed his name in the newfangled bungled coalition and he has no no-parking zone in politics in the country.
It is very sad and outrageous that some veteran Freedom Fighters tossing out their morality sodding barefacedly to bring into existence of this immoral bird-scarer. Whereas despite their limitations, these straw men could have built up an opposition political platform based on the true ideals for which Bangladesh was founded in 1971 leaving the obnoxious nexus of Jamaat-e-BNP, the rock-ribbed anti-Bangladesh liberation getup and their mango-twigs. And that should have been the right choice for them to garner greater support from so many people. While on the contrary, it is clear that they have sold out themselves to the feet of those mischief-mongers.
On the one hand, the Jatiya Oikyo Front declared publicly that they would establish a new golden Bangladesh based on the dreams of the country’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On the other hand, they have now become some crawlers at the hands of the country’s opponents. In fact, they have become oxymoron and two opposite qualities or ideas seems totally unlikely.
From another point of view, Hefazat is a religious trading house; and most of its senior and headstone leaders belong to JeI killing squad, another dreadful religious trading house. And the government has taken their blessings which do not sound, at all, in the nick of time.
The new coalition envisages realising 7-point demand, including the resignation of the government, dissolution of parliament, formation of an election-time neutral government and the release of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, and meeting other 12 goals which are all derisory.
Dr. Kamal Hossain was in abroad at the time of Bangabandhu’s brutal murder, but he was then touring abroad being Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Government’s Foreign Minister. He was then well-known throughout the world because of his outstanding educational background (his teacher Henry Kissinger also praised him aloud uttering the words “Dr. Kamal Hossain could speak better English than him” when he visited Bangladesh after we achieved independence and The Daily Ittefaq carried this news on its front page), and was also an accepted persona to the Western World leaders. He could have convened a press conference or more than that in the overseas countries to condemn the savage putting to death of the country’s Founding Father Mujib in the harshest language and marshalled immense backing of the famed world leaders. The history of Bangladesh would then have been different. But he did nothing.
Bangabandhu loved him so much because of his mettlesome educational status and intellectual calibre. He made him as the Law Minister and then the Foreign Minister at his Cabinet at such a young age of him. But where are his humanistic lineaments? I have heard that he is the legal counsel of so many multinational organisations and looks after their interests only, not for ours. He earns huge money through his legal profession. Have you ever heard that he has spent a single coin for the down-trodden people of our society? Have you ever heard that he has served his legal profession for poor people in the country at free-of-cost or at a minimal fee? What about his reciprocation for Bangabandhu and Bangladesh?
During pettifogger Gen Ershad’s regime, he was once off-loaded from the plane when he tried to go abroad, but he chose to remain unsounded against this rough-cut shenanigan character. He is a man fond of ease and comfort in life. Politics is a very large science; here there is no short-cut pathway; politics means the mythos of political orientation and bring about greater welfare of people which are not the dominant allele in the character of Dr. Kamal Hossain. Being a politician, what is the contribution of Dr. Kamal Hossain to the country? If you ask this question to him directly, we think he will immediately enshroud his face.
Dr. Kamal has now fallen into an ambuscade put up by the anti-Bangladesh liberation forces and their mango-twigs wittingly or un-wittingly. Others are toenailing his faulting line of action to furtherance the defensive structure of anti-Bangladesh liberation forces and their mango-twigs.
Dr. B. Chowdhury, President of Bikalpadhara Bangladesh, a petite political party with no fundament or cornerstone in the soil of Bangladesh. He was instrumental among others who belonged to the anti-Bangladesh liberation force and strongly backed up self-declared President Gen Zia in introducing ‘Bangladeshi Nationalism’, ‘Bangladesh Zindabad’ like inglorious ism in the light of Pakistani spirit in opposing the glorious spirits up of Bangladesh in the country and sheer betraying the supreme sacrifices of our millions of valorous and patriotic people to ground Bangladesh in 1971.
Dr. B. Chowdhury’s father late Kafiluddin Chowdhury was a very senior politician (senior to Bangabandhu Mujib), belonged to AL and a MNA of the 1970 Pakistan-based national polls. B. Chowdhury personally drove his vehicle on-board of his father, crossed over the Indian border and joined our glorious Liberation War of 1971 to establish Bangladesh. But throwing away all his morals bare-facedly, he vauntingly pigged, ravened, downed and shored at the bivouac of anti-Bangladesh liberation camp and boot-polished the self-declared president Gen. Zia and his anti-liberation compadres. Once upon a time, he was thrown out from the palace of Bangababhan by nescient Khaleda Zia and her confederates. During that time, I saw him fleeing away to salvage his life riding at the backside of a motorbike like a stooge or a laughingstock at Mohakhali Railway crossing point being chased by some gawks of Begum Zia and her brigands.
They all have now decided to participate in the upcoming National Elections in Bangladesh under the present constitutional framework and government under the Premier Sheikh Hasina . But these petite unrichly or unlagged and un-coloured shenanigans, as stated above, have started dallied (with money, muscle…from JeI louts) in the name of its alliance with the very foundation of Bangladesh which we achieved in 1971 after paying up a staggeringly heavy price.
A knife thrust is waiting for Bangladesh. But the rascality of these blackguards, especially, the JeI stumblebums and their mango-twigs must be smacked-down by the election time government machinery in a flush in public if they try to create any anarchy or lawlessness in the country before and after the National Polls.
And the title of this piece stands out on that motif. Above all, Dr. Kamal Hossain or Dr. B. Chowdhury or their buddies cannot fiddle with ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms with the country and its people which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the basic put up with for intolerance, or put at a loss for flummox. In short, the newly forged opposition political combine ahead of the national polls is not a fine line, at all. Instead, it will be a disconsolate line for Bangladesh and its people. Here sounds the most natural note in the nation.
-The End-
The writer is a senior citizen of Bangladesh and writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.
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It’s Time to Get Loud About Academic Freedom in China

It’s Time to Get Loud About Academic Freedom in China

American schools should pull out of partnerships with schools that persecute students.

(Foreign Policy illustration)

(Foreign Policy illustration)
No automatic alt text available.


 NOVEMBER 13, 2018, 3:51 PM

Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), where I am an associate professor and director of international programs, recently suspended two student exchange programs with Renmin University in Beijing over concerns about infringements on academic freedom. I helped launch these programs in 2013 with the intention of creating opportunities for our students at one of China’s top universities. Renmin is home to the School of Labor and Human Resources—a close analogue of ILR in several respects, and widely seen as the country’s premier place to study labor issues.

But after an investigation of Renmin’s treatment of students who spoke up on labor issues, we decided that this partnership was no longer sustainable. While our final decision rested on specific violations of academic freedom, it is critically important to view this event in the context of worsening political trends in China. The erosion of academic freedom on campuses is directly linked with the increasingly repressive political environment outside universities.

The strategy of quiet diplomacy, adopted by foreign universities and governments alike over the past generation, has failed to generate greater space for academic freedom or political expression

The strategy of quiet diplomacy, adopted by foreign universities and governments alike over the past generation, has failed to generate greater space for academic freedom or political expression

. I saw this quite clearly in my private exchanges with Renmin, which produced no results whatsoever in terms of loosening restrictions on students. The lesson the Communist Party has learned is that there are no “red lines”; seemingly no matter how grave the violations, foreign institutions have thus far been unwilling to pass up the real or imagined benefits of engagement.

It was student participation in a labor conflict at Jasic Technologies in Shenzhen this past summer, and Renmin’s subsequent behavior, that spurred our decision. In addition to taking steps to prevent students from traveling to Shenzhen, university officials harassed and threatened students who had spoken up on the issue, and then deployed extensive surveillance to keep watch over those deemed as troublemakers. Most disturbingly, Renmin University was complicit in the forcible detention of a student who had traveled to Shenzhen, after which school officials threatened her with a yearlong suspension unless she promised to refrain from speaking out.

After weeks of privately expressing our concern and attempting to gain further information from Renmin, it became clear that internal channels had exhausted themselves. With no other method to register our fundamental differences, and following extensive internal deliberation and consultation, ILR resorted to suspending the programs.

The erosion of academic freedom on China’s campuses is directly linked with the increasingly repressive political environment outside the universities. This dynamic is quite clear with respect to labor issues. As I argued in my 2014 book Insurgency Trap, the Chinese state’s unwillingness to allow independent unions has resulted in workplaces where employers are generally free to flout the law. The workers at Jasic Technologies initially demanded that they be allowed to form a union under the auspices of the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions, as is their legal right. They did so with the hopes of addressing common workplace problems, including underpayment of social insurance and excessive workplace fines.

This simple rights-violation conflict could have been peacefully resolved, and the workers were seemingly committed to proceeding along the legal path of unionization within the official system. But, reversing earlier indications of support, the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions deemed their unionization requests illegal in July and the company fired six workers in retaliation.

The nature of the conflict changed dramatically when leftist university students from around the country began showing up in Shenzhen to support the Jasic workers. A first police crackdown on July 27 failed to deter the student supporters, and it was not until violent arrests of more than 50 people in late August that the movement was finally crushed.

This conflict quickly became a national security issue, as the state sees alliances between intellectuals and workers as particularly threatening. This is in part due to the student-worker alliance that emerged during the 1989 democracy movement. While the Jasic workers were dealt with in the courts, a number of recent university graduates, including prominent feminist activist Yue Xin, were disappeared. Responsibility for snuffing out further activism among current students was turned over to their universities. Thus, the state’s national security response morphed into a question of academic freedom.

The shocking ferocity of this round of repression is in line with recent trends. The state’s targeting of labor activists has accelerated in the past three years, and the impact has then been felt by labor scholars. In a notable instance from 2015, Sun Yat-sen University officials shuttered a prominent center for labor research operated jointly with the University of California, Berkeley, falsely claiming that the U.S. government was somehow behind the collaboration.

I personally experienced academic research space closing in December 2015. The night before a private research meeting in Guangzhou I had organized with my mother (a former American lecturer at Sun Yat-sen) and several Chinese scholars, the police showed up at my mother’s hotel room. They detained and interrogated her for hours, revealing that they had been reading our emails, and demanding that she cancel the event.

I have heard too many stories from my China-based colleagues about rights infringements to list. Common problems include: universities and publishers demanding that research questions and conclusions are in line with the current political orthodoxy, restrictions on traveling abroad for professional conferences, and incessant invitations to “have tea” with security agents.

Political repression is shutting down many more areas of academic inquiry than just labor scholarship. As the Chinese state cracks down on an increasing array of social actors, including rights lawyers, feminists, ethnic minorities, and religious minorities—both Muslim and Christian—the related topics become off-limits to academic researchers.

By undermining the autonomy of the academy, the state is similarly debasing the hard work of faculty. Academic freedom has been enshrined as a core principle precisely because it is necessary to ensure excellence in the twin missions of the university, namely research and education. The Chinese state’s security concerns increasingly appear to conflict with its stated aim of establishing world-class universities.

How should foreign universities respond? There is little we can do to directly counter the source of the problem, growing state repression under President Xi Jinping. But academics worldwide should think carefully about reassessing our points of contact with Chinese universities.

The first step is to squarely face the reality that things on Chinese campuses have become markedly worse in the past five years. As well as the political crackdowns on domestic scholars, foreign researchers are frequently denied visas and have their research projects derailed; they are also subject to intense scrutiny and surveillance. Restrictions on academic freedom are not new, but they have intensified.

This has a direct impact on the value of academic engagement. My school’s situation was perhaps at the extreme end of things, given its labor-specific focus and how sensitive labor issues have become. But many other disciplines in the social sciences, humanities, and even natural sciences are likely to experience diminishing returns if scholars cannot freely engage in academic exchange in China.

I am not advocating across-the-board disengagement. Many partnerships between Chinese and foreign universities continue to yield important mutual benefits, including at Cornell. Particularly at a time of rising xenophobia and nationalism in China, the United States, and elsewhere, it is critically important to remain open to free flows of students, scholars, and ideas. Foreign institutions and governments must not try to mimic the Chinese state’s increasingly onerous restrictions on who can study what, and where.

Nonetheless, substantive, mutually beneficial exchanges must be built on a foundation of shared values. When those values are repeatedly and egregiously violated, as has been the case at a growing number of Chinese universities, scholars and politicians must think seriously about moving beyond the quiet diplomacy model. This is a matter not just of principle, but of ensuring academic quality and therefore the reputations of our universities.

Whether or not foreign universities will act in defense of principles they espouse is another question. Many institutions have a huge portfolio of engagements in China, including major financial interests. Faculty governance in the United States and elsewhere has been badly eroded in recent decades, and university administrators are often more concerned with appeasing wealthy donors than with upholding the principle of academic freedom. With threats to such freedoms apparent in the United States and other liberal democracies, it is more critical than ever for academics to act on principle and resist such incursions wherever they may appear.

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Achilles Heel of Pakistan

Achilles Heel of Pakistan

If there is a threat to Pakistan’s stability and progress or even to its very existence, it is not from India, its archrival since 1947. New Delhi is yet to find a deterrent to the devastating terror strikes by Pakistan-based outfits.
The threat is not from the financial crisis that the country is facing because it can recover from it with the help from time-tested friends like Saudi Arabia and China, and grudging assistance from the IMF.
The threat is clearly from the growing power of extremist Islamic groups, which, ironically, have been fostered by the State’s long-standing policy of appeasement aimed at gaining peace in the short run, and political legitimacy in the long run in an avowedly “Islamic” Pakistan.
Basically, the trouble lies not in the power of the Islamic extremists but in the weakness of Governments.
History shows that strong Pakistani Governments have been able to rein in such groups, and weak Governments have given in to them and encouraged them in the process.
It is now accepted by all Pakistani political parties that appeasing Islamic militants would ensure political survival, even if the Government had to subject itself to the humiliation of taking dictation from them.
In a sense, this approach makes political sense. According to a 2011 Pew Poll on religion in Pakistan,75% of Pakistanis believe that blasphemy laws are necessary to protect Islam. 75% believe that apostasy deserves death. And these figures are valid across educational levels.
Therefore, it is really hard for any Government to take on the extremists, at least on this issue.
But, as stated earlier, strong, self-assured Pakistani Governments have quelled Islamic extremists successfully.
In 1953, Governor General Ghulam Muhammed imposed martial law to quell anti-Ahmadiyya riots in Lahore. Ahmadiyyas are a sect considered heretical by orthodox Muslims.
When Gen. Ayub Khan was in power (1958-69), no leniency was shown to Islamic zealots, who opposed his modern family laws and the takeover of mosques, shrines and Islamic seminaries. But things began to change after Pakistan was defeated in the war against India in 1971 and East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh.
In 1974, a weak Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto felt that he had no option but to give in to Islamic agitators. But this bought him peace only for three years. In 1977 Islamists rose against him again, and he gave into them this time too.
Bhutto had played into the hands of the Islamists to such an extent that an arch Islamist army General, Zia-ul-Haq, took over with no difficulty as he had the ideological backing of the population.
Between 1977 and 1988, Gen. Zia thoroughly Islamized the country. Islamic radicalism became a basic ingredient in Pakistan’s political culture, the impact of which is felt to date.
In 2009, the Swat Valley became a focal point of Pakistan’s war against militancy and terrorism. The Government signed a peace agreement effectively ceding control of the district to the local Taliban faction, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) allowing it to enforce its interpretation of Islamic law in Swat. But in 2014, the TTP slaughtered 140 army school students in Peshawar. TTP is banned in the UK and US.
Islamic Militant Groups
Currently, the important Islamist radical group is Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), led by radical preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Founded in 2015, TLP entered politics in 2017, when it blockaded Islamabad for several weeks calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws. It wants an automatic death penalty for anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Prophet Mohammad.
The TLP contested the last National Assembly elections but won no seat. However, it polled over 2.23 million votes in the National Assembly elections and more than 2.38 million at provincial elections. Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) is headed by Hafiz Saeed, who India accuses of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai bomb attacks which killed 166 people. The UN has designated Saeed as a world terrorist with a US$10-million prize on his head.
AAT was founded after the Milli Muslim League, the political party of hard-line Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), was banned. None of AAT’s candidates won a seat but they got 435,000votes.
Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) is a Sunni group which frequently spews venom against Pakistan’s Shia minority.
“If we get power in the evening and if a single Shia is alive by the morning in Pakistan then change my name,” said the leader of ASWJ, Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi.
ASWJ is considered to be the political face of sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has been behind numerous moves on Shia Muslims.
“While votes for extremist parties did not translate into many seats in a first-past-the-post system, their sizeable vote banks will give them clout in an increasingly competitive political landscape,” an AFP report said.
Economic Adviser
The current situation is disturbing. When newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Dr.AtifMian, a leading Princeton economist, as one of his economic advisors, radical groups protested saying that he is an Ahmadiyya, a heretical sect. Imran said that he was not aware that Dr Mian was an Ahmadiyya and let him resign.
When the TLP protested violently for three days all over Pakistan over the Supreme Court verdict exonerating Christian woman Asia Bibi of the charge of blasphemy, the Government entered into an agreement with the outfit to buy peace. It agreed not to oppose a review petition that had been filed; to put Bibi on the Exit Control List, and to release all arrested agitators.
This, despite the fact that the TLP had called for an army mutiny and had threatened to kill the concerned Supreme Court Judges. The judges did not consider such remarks contempt of court.
The army ignored the call for mutiny and politely asked the TLP to go to court with a review petition.
The army is apparently worried about a repeat of the bloodshed following the military raid on the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July 2007 in which 50 madrassa students were killed.
It triggered the Third Waziristan War which resulted in 3,000 casualties.
It is not clear as to what the Supreme Court judges will do with the TLP targeting them. A former Governor of Punjab and a Minority Affairs Minister were killed for seeking a modification of the blasphemy law.
Instead of confronting the extremists head-on, the Imran Khan Government is trying to educate Pakistanis about real Islam, which is moderate, peaceful and tolerant.
A national level Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conference is to be held on November 20, inaugurated by the Prime Minister. Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conferences which will be held across Pakistan.
A two-day Khatm-i-Nabuwwat International Conference’ will be held in Islamabad to shed light on the life and philosophy of Prophet Mohammed. Among the participants will be the Imam-i-Kaaba, Vice Chancellor of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the Mufti of Syria, and religious scholars from Iraq and Tunisia. While these measures will be useful in spreading a moderate version of Islam, extremists are unlikely to be won over as they have a vested interest in keeping up militancy.
Militancy gives them power without responsibility. They cannot get votes, but have power over Governments.
Appeasing such forces does not help the rulers or the country but only fosters extremism and a culture of impunity as Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari said, recalling Britain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich before World War II.
The Munich Deal was meant to buy peace for a while, but it only increased Hitler’s appetite for dominance through aggression.
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Venezuelan migrants live in shadows on Caribbean’s sunshine islands

Venezuelan migrants live in shadows on Caribbean’s sunshine islands

Curaçao hosts 16,000 undocumented Venezuelans who live under threat of summary deportation and many more have fled crisis at home to Trinidad and Tobago
 Curaçao is now home to about 16,000 undocumented Venezuelans, about 10% of the population. Photograph: Bram Ebus

Bram Ebus in Willemstad, Curaçao-
Sunburned European holidaymakers amble around the island’s colonial capital or lie sprawled on lounge chairs. From Curaçao’s postcard-perfect beaches you can sometimes see the coast of Venezuela, but tourists enjoying the sun are unlikely to see many of the thousands of Venezuelans who live here.

Angélica Morales, 37, barely leaves her cramped apartment in the capital, Willemstad: like thousands of undocumented migrants, she lives in constant fear of the police.

“We have to be hidden. This is the life of the illegals here in Curaçao,” said Angélica, who – like other migrants on the island interviewed for this story – asked to be identified by a pseudonym.
Political repression, violent crime and economic collapse have caused at least 3 million 
Venezuelans – more than 9% of the country’s population – to flee their home since 2015, in an exodus without precedent in Latin America.

The crisis has created challenges for countries across South America, where opportunities for migrants are scarce, even when they are granted political asylum.

And due to their geographical proximity, the Caribbean islands have found themselves of the frontline of the emergency: Curaçao lies 40 miles off the Venezuelan coast while Trinidad is just seven miles from the mainland.

Accurate statistics are hard to come by, but more than 100,000 Venezuelans have fled to the Caribbean islands. At least 40,000 have gone to Trinidad and Tobago, some 28,500 are in the Dominican Republic and 16,000 have gone to Aruba.

The numbers are a fraction of those seen in mainland South America – Colombia has received more than a million migrants – but few of the territories in the region have the infrastructure to cope with such an influx and most have responded to the crisis by simply deporting any Venezuelans they can.

As the number of refugees increases, so does xenophobia and exploitation. In August, an angry mob destroyed a migrant camp in Brazil, and while such attacks have not been reported in the Caribbean, migrants have described a climate of hostility and official harassment. Unable to find legal employment, they are forced to work in the black economy; female migrants have been forced into sex work across the region.

Some 16,000 Venezuelans are living illegally in Curaçao – equivalent to 10% of the island’s population.

“No matter how small the flow is, we’re still talking about a significant percentage of the local population,” said Geoff Ramsey, a Venezuela expert from the Washington Office on Latin America, a DC-based thinktank.

A Venezuelan man sitting near a tourist beach on Curaçao put it another way: “The problem is not that people are eating from the trash in Venezuela, but that there’s not even enough trash for everyone.”

Venezuelans either enter as tourists and overstay their visa, or risk the dangerous sea journey in small boats; most consider themselves refugees, but Curaçao treats them as economic migrants.

“Unfortunately, in many countries [in the region] even refugees in need of protection are received as economic migrants. But the truth is that many of these people have humanitarian needs that go beyond those of more traditional economic migrants,” said Ramsey.

And according to Amnesty International, even people who would qualify for refugee status are unable to claim asylum in Curaçao: under the island’s “active removal strategy” Venezuelans with irregular migration status are deported – in breach of international law.

In 2017, 1,203 Venezuelans were thrown out, often after being forced to pay for their own flights.
Curaçao, a former Dutch colony, is one of four territories which constitute the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and although it is not part of the European Union it is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids deportations to countries where individuals face a serious risk of torture and abuse.

This week, the Dutch state secretary of kingdom affairs, Raymond Knops, said the government would not investigate Curaçao’s treatment of Venezuelan migrants.

Fear of deportation prevents people with an apparently clearcut case from even attempting to claim asylum.

Hernán Murillo, a former member of the internal affairs department of Venezuela’s military counterintelligence agency, fled home two years ago after he witnessed colleagues commit three killings and uncovered evidence implicating army officers in fraud schemes. “They threatened to kill me,” Murillo exclaims. “Instead of taking action against [the corrupt officers], they took action against me.”

After two years in Curaçao, he has still not dared apply for political asylum, because he assumes he will be arrested and deported. Instead, he finds odd jobs on building sites and in bakeries, sending a few dollars back to his family each month.

He has good reason to be fearful: migrants who are caught by the police are held in police cells or detention centres until they are deported – often in “inhumane” conditions, said Mary Anne Goiri who represents Venex, an association of Venezuelans on Curaçao.

“They are treated as criminals while not having committed a crime,” said Goiri.

By far the most popular Caribbean island destination is the twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, which lies almost within swimming distance of Venezuela’s west coast.

Journalist Carlos stocking shelves. Most undocumented Venezuelans only can find informal employment and are an easy prey for exploitation. Photograph: Bram Ebus

Carlos González was an investigative journalist in Monagas, Venezuela, until he was blacklisted and threatened after reporting on the black market in subsidized food products.

Now he works in a supermarket where he gave an interview while stocking the shelves with breakfast cereal. If detained by Trinidadian authorities, he risks being jailed, fined or sent back to Venezuela.
In April, Trinidad and Tobago deported 82 Venezuelan asylum applicants, in violation of international refugee law. “This country will not allow the United Nations or any other international body to convert it into a refugee camp,” said the prime minister, Keith Rowley. Since then the government has promised new legislation on asylum seekers, but it has yet to emerge.

“We live in a judicial limbo: we have no way to legally support ourselves here,” said González. “I feel that I came from a country where I do not have rights, but here I’m also without rights.”

Cultural differences in the former British colony can be jarring for migrants, who struggle with English, right-hand drive cars and cricket. Security is also an issue: Venezuelans leave behind a country judged to be the second most dangerous in the world, but Trinidad and Tobago is only 10 places below that, and undocumented refugees are both targets and recruits for the islands’ gangs.

“As long as the borders remain porous, more Venezuelans are going to come,” said the Roman Catholic archbishop of Port of Spain, Jason Gordon, who argues that instead of shunning migrants, Trinidad and Tobago should help them use their skills to build the economy. “This is an issue that affects every citizen of the island.”

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Crucifying Julian Assange

Crucifying Julian Assange

The Democratic Party—seeking to blame its election defeat on Russian “interference” rather than the grotesque income inequality, the betrayal of the working class, the loss of civil liberties, the deindustrialization and the corporate coup d’état that the party helped orchestrate—attacks Assange as a traitor, although he is not a U.S. citizen. Nor is he a spy.

by Chris Hedges-
( November 13, 2018, Boston, Sri Lanka Guardian)  Julian Assange’s sanctuary in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London has been transformed into a little shop of horrors. He has been largely cut off from communicating with the outside world for the last seven months. His Ecuadorian citizenship, granted to him as an asylum seeker, is in the process of being revoked. His health is failing. He is being denied medical care. His efforts for legal redress have been crippled by the gag rules, including Ecuadorian orders that he cannot make public his conditions inside the embassy in fighting revocation of his Ecuadorian citizenship.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to intercede on behalf of Assange, an Australian citizen, even though the new government in Ecuador, led by Lenín Moreno—who calls Assange an “inherited problem” and an impediment to better relations with Washington—is making the WikiLeaks founder’s life in the embassy unbearable. Almost daily, the embassy is imposing harsher conditions for Assange, including making him pay his medical bills, imposing arcane rules about how he must care for his cat and demanding that he perform a variety of demeaning housekeeping chores.
The Ecuadorians, reluctant to expel Assange after granting him political asylum and granting him citizenship, intend to make his existence so unpleasant he will agree to leave the embassy to be arrested by the British and extradited to the United States. The former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, whose government granted the publisher political asylum, describes Assange’s current living conditions as “torture.”
His mother, Christine Assange, said in a recent video appeal, “Despite Julian being a multi-award-winning journalist, much loved and respected for courageously exposing serious, high-level crimes and corruption in the public interest, he is right now alone, sick, in pain—silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact and being tortured in the heart of London. The modern-day cage of political prisoners is no longer the Tower of London. It’s the Ecuadorian Embassy.”
“Here are the facts,” she went on. “Julian has been detained nearly eight years without charge. That’s right. Without charge. For the past six years, the U.K. government has refused his request for access to basic health needs, fresh air, exercise, sunshine for vitamin D and access to proper dental and medical care. As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. His examining doctors warned his detention conditions are life-threatening. A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes in the embassy in London.”
“In 2016, after an in-depth investigation, the United Nations ruled that Julian’s legal and human rights have been violated on multiple occasions,” she said. “He’d been illegally detained since 2010. And they ordered his immediate release, safe passage and compensation. The U.K. government refused to abide by the U.N.’s decision. The U.S. government has made Julian’s arrest a priority. They want to get around a U.S. journalist’s protection under the First Amendment by charging him with espionage. They will stop at nothing to do it.”
“As a result of the U.S. bearing down on Ecuador, his asylum is now under immediate threat,” she said. “The U.S. pressure on Ecuador’s new president resulted in Julian being placed in a strict and severe solitary confinement for the last seven months, deprived of any contact with his family and friends. Only his lawyers could see him. Two weeks ago, things became substantially worse. The former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who rightfully gave Julian political asylum from U.S. threats against his life and liberty, publicly warned when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He stated that because of the political costs of expelling Julian from their embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally. A new, impossible, inhumane protocol was implemented at the embassy to torture him to such a point that he would break and be forced to leave.”
Assange was once feted and courted by some of the largest media organizations in the world, including The New York Times and The Guardian, for the information he possessed. But once his trove of material documenting U.S. war crimes, much of it provided by Chelsea Manning, was published by these media outlets he was pushed aside and demonized. A leaked Pentagon document prepared by the Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch dated March 8, 2008, exposed a black propaganda campaign to discredit WikiLeaks and Assange. The document said the smear campaign should seek to destroy the “feeling of trust” that is WikiLeaks’ “center of gravity” and blacken Assange’s reputation. It largely has worked. Assange is especially vilified for publishing 70,000 hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and senior Democratic officials. The Democrats and former FBI Director James Comey say the emails were copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, by Russian government hackers. Comey has said the messages were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary. Assange has said the emails were not provided by “state actors.”
The Democratic Party—seeking to blame its election defeat on Russian “interference” rather than the grotesque income inequality, the betrayal of the working class, the loss of civil liberties, the deindustrialization and the corporate coup d’état that the party helped orchestrate—attacks Assange as a traitor, although he is not a U.S. citizen. Nor is he a spy. He is not bound by any law I am aware of to keep U.S. government secrets. He has not committed a crime. Now, stories in newspapers that once published material from WikiLeaks focus on his allegedly slovenly behavior—not evident during my visits with him—and how he is, in the words of The Guardian, “an unwelcome guest” in the embassy. The vital issue of the rights of a publisher and a free press is ignored in favor of snarky character assassination.
Assange was granted asylum in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sexual offense charges that were eventually dropped. Assange feared that once he was in Swedish custody he would be extradited to the United States. The British government has said that, although he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden, Assange will be arrested and jailed for breaching his bail conditions if he leaves the embassy.
WikiLeaks and Assange have done more to expose the dark machinations and crimes of the American Empire than any other news organization. Assange, in addition to exposing atrocities and crimes committed by the United States military in our endless wars and revealing the inner workings of the Clinton campaign, made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency, their surveillance programs and their interference in foreign elections, including in the French elections. He disclosed the conspiracy against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by Labour members of Parliament. And WikiLeaks worked swiftly to save Edward Snowden, who exposed the wholesale surveillance of the American public by the government, from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow. The Snowden leaks also revealed, ominously, that Assange was on a U.S. “manhunt target list.”
What is happening to Assange should terrify the press. And yet his plight is met with indifference and sneering contempt. Once he is pushed out of the embassy, he will be put on trial in the United States for what he published. This will set a new and dangerous legal precedent that the Trump administration and future administrations will employ against other publishers, including those who are part of the mob trying to lynch Assange. The silence about the treatment of Assange is not only a betrayal of him but a betrayal of the freedom of the press itself. We will pay dearly for this complicity.
Even if the Russians provided the Podesta emails to Assange, he should have published them. I would have. They exposed practices of the Clinton political machine that she and the Democratic leadership sought to hide. In the two decades I worked overseas as a foreign correspondent I was routinely leaked stolen documents by organizations and governments. My only concern was whether the documents were forged or genuine. If they were genuine, I published them. Those who leaked material to me included the rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN); the Salvadoran army, which once gave me blood-smeared FMLN documents found after an ambush; the Sandinista government of Nicaragua; the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel group; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); the French intelligence service, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, or DGSE; and the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosovic, who was later tried as a war criminal.
We learned from the emails published by WikiLeaks that the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton paid her donors back by approving $80 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, enabling the kingdom to carry out a devastating war in Yemen that has triggered a humanitarian crisis, including widespread food shortages and a cholera epidemic, and left close to 60,000 dead. We learned Clinton was paid $675,000 for speaking at Goldman Sachs, a sum so massive it can only be described as a bribe. We learned Clinton told the financial elites in her lucrative talks that she wanted “open trade and open borders” and believed Wall Street executives were best-positioned to manage the economy, a statement that directly contradicted her campaign promises. We learned the Clinton campaign worked to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee. We learned Clinton obtained advance information on primary-debate questions. We learned, because 1,700 of the 33,000 emails came from Hillary Clinton, she was the primary architect of the war in Libya. We learned she believed that the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate. The war she sought has left Libya in chaos, seen the rise to power of radical jihadists in what is now a failed state, triggered a massive exodus of migrants to Europe, seen Libyan weapon stockpiles seized by rogue militias and Islamic radicals throughout the region, and resulted in 40,000 dead. Should this information have remained hidden from the American public? You can argue yes, but you can’t then call yourself a journalist.
“They are setting my son up to give them an excuse to hand him over to the U.S., where he would face a show trial,” Christine Assange warned. “Over the past eight years, he has had no proper legal process. It has been unfair at every single turn with much perversion of justice. There is no reason to consider that this would change in the future. The U.S. WikiLeaks grand jury, producing the extradition warrant, was held in secret by four prosecutors but no defense and no judge. The U.K.-U.S. extradition treaty allows for the U.K. to extradite Julian to the U.S. without a proper basic case. Once in the U.S., the National Defense Authorization Act allows for indefinite detention without trial. Julian could very well be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum-security prison, or face the death penalty. My son is in critical danger because of a brutal, political persecution by the bullies in power whose crimes and corruption he had courageously exposed when he was editor in chief of WikiLeaks.”
Assange is on his own. Each day is more difficult for him. This is by design. It is up to us to protest. We are his last hope, and the last hope, I fear, for a free press.
“We need to make our protest against this brutality deafening,” his mother said. “I call on all you journalists to stand up now because he’s your colleague and you are next. I call on all you politicians who say you entered politics to serve the people to stand up now. I call on all you activists who support human rights, refugees, the environment, and are against war, to stand up now because WikiLeaks has served the causes that you spoke for and Julian is now suffering for it alongside of you. I call on all citizens who value freedom, democracy and a fair legal process to put aside your political differences and unite, stand up now. Most of us don’t have the courage of our whistleblowers or journalists like Julian Assange who publish them, so that we may be informed and warned about the abuses of power.”
Chris Hedges, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
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