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Is Brexit Really About Keeping Muslims Out?

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 - 11:15pm

AJ+ | (Video News Report) | – –

“The UK is about to vote on whether to stay in or leave the European Union.”

AJ+: ” Is Brexit Really About Keeping Muslims Out?”

Occupy Congress? House Democrats Stage Sit-In to Force Vote on Gun Control

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 - 11:02pm

TeleSur | – –

Democrats have been demanding changes to gun control policy in the wake of the Orlando club shooting.

U.S. House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor Wednesday to protest U.S. Republicans’ refusal to hold a vote on gun control measures, several media outlets reported.

Led by civil rights icon John Lewis and John Larson, almost 40 Democrats walked in before noon and pledged to “occupy” the House floor until the GOP leadership allowed a vote. Over the course of the hour, their number more than tripled.

Over the past week, Democrats tried numerous times to force a vote on a so-called “no fly, no buy” bill, which would prevent terror suspects on the “no-fly” list from purchasing guns. This sit-in, however, also sought to put political pressure on Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a roll call on gun control.

But by early afternoon, there were no signs that Republicans would allow for a vote.

“We have been too quiet for too long,” Lewis said during the meeting, as published in Politico. “There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.”

“How many more mothers? How many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something?” Lewis continued with greater fervor. “Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our job. We came here to work.”

The protest caught the Republicans off guard. After Lewis, as another House Democrat prepared to speak, the GOP lawmaker presiding over the chamber abruptly declared the House was in recess and shut off microphones. The cameras also followed since, technically, the House was not in session.

Democrats proceeded to sit down on the floor or stood by the front podium. They then began reading the names of those who died in the June 12 shooting at the Florida nightclub, Pulse.

“No bill, no break,” the crowd of Democrats. .

“We’ve had it. We’re not going to watch any more people in this country get slaughtered and do nothing!” Rep. Mike Doyle yelled during the protest.

Since there were no cameras, the House Democrats took to tweeting their protest, posting pictures online, and live streaming the sit-in on the Periscope app.

Sen. Chris Murphy who led a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate last week, showed up to encourage Democrats.

“I hope they stay in there for as long as it takes, through the day, through the night, until they get a vote,” Murphy said, as reported by Politico.

Some Democrats carried their protest outside, taking turns to speak as gun violence protesters stood next to them, some wore “We are Orlando” shirts and held up pictures of gun violence victims.

TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

BernieSanders2016: “House Democrats Occupy the House Protesting Lack of Gun Control Bills”

$206 Mn. to Hate Groups to Promote anti-Muslim Sentiment

Tue, 21 Jun 2016 - 11:45pm

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The UC Berkeley Center for Race and Gender and the Council on American Islamic Relations have jointly produced a new study on hatred of Muslims in the United States.

As The Guardian notes, it finds 74 organizations promoting hatred of Muslims in the US, with 33 of these institutions having been founded and having their primary purpose the spread against this religious group. Those 33 have had access to $208 million from donors in the past 8 years.

The report’s top 4 key findings:

Key Finding 1: Seventy-four (up from sixty-nine in 2013) groups are identi- fied as comprising the U.S. Islamophobia network.

Key Finding 2: The U.S.-based Islamophobia network’s inner core is cur – rently comprised of at least thirty-three groups whose primary purpose is to promote prejudice against, or hatred of, Islam and Muslims.

Key Finding 3: Between 2008 and 2013, inner-core organizations had access to at least $205,838,077 in total revenue.

Key Finding 4: An additional forty-one groups whose primary purpose does not appear to include promoting prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims, but whose work regularly demonstrates or supports Islamophobic themes, make up the network’s outer core.

As The Guardian notes, the end result of the activities of groups like Abstraction Fund, Clarion Project, David Horowitz Freedom Center, Middle East Forum, American Freedom Law Center, Center for Security Policy, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jihad Watch and Act! for America, is an increase in attacks on mosques and attacks on Muslim individuals.

Some of them, such as the Middle East Forum, are part of the Israel lobbies, and apparently they believe the best way to go on keeping Palestinians stateless and without rights is to convince Americans that all Muslims are wicked and deserving of any abuse visited on them by the Likud Party. But that Jews should be assiduously spreading hatred of a religious minority is past shameful (and also very unwise, since once you get white people hating one exotic religious minority, they may go after others; and we’ve seen some of this blowback among the Trumpists).

Another key finding (no. 7):
“In 2015, there were 78 recorded incidents in which mosques were targeted; more incidents than ever reported in a single year since we began tracking these reports in 2009. Incidents in 2015 have more than tripled compared to the past two years ”

To underline that the report focuses on hate speech, it carries a caveat:

“Caveat: Questioning Islam or Muslims is Not Islamophobia
It is not appropriate to label all, or even the majority, of those who question Islam and Muslims as Islamophobes. Equally, it is not Islamophobic to denounce crimes committed by individual Muslims or those citing Islam as a motivation for their actions.”

The report advises Muslims to get involved in high-profile philanthropic work and in politics and community service– to demonstrate that they are actively helping people in their community. (Many already do, but the high percentage of first-generation immigrants in the community, perhaps half, leads to their being shy about sticking their heads up, or to their not knowing avenues for fruitful involvement).

It also advises Americans that they need to realize that being prejudiced against Muslims is just as bad as being bigotted toward Jews or toward African-Americans.

If we had 33 influential organizations funded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars whose express purpose was to spread hatred of Jews, there’d be a big outcry. But this is no different.

There has also been a rash of anti-Muslim legislation in state legislatures, all of which is either redundant or will eventually be struck down as unconstitutional. (The cookie cutter laws forbid the use of Islamic law in the US court system, which hasn’t, like, ever happened). The legislation is just to mark millions of Muslim Americans as second class citizens.

Can we stop the Mediterranean from becoming a Refugee Graveyard?

Tue, 21 Jun 2016 - 11:24pm

By Adam Levenson | (Informed Comment) | – –

The World Addresses the Syrian Refugee Crisis

We are reminded about the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis on a regular basis because of the recurring tragic accidents in the Mediterranean Sea as refugees, not only Syrians but also from various North African and Arab nations, attempt to reach Europe.

In April, as many as 500 refugees drowned after their ship capsized en route to Italy. Speaking about a different incident in May, UNCHR spokesperson Barbara Molinario explained, “usually nobody really knows the exact number of people on a boat like that,” since smugglers tend to overcrowd vessels.

Apart from attempting to solve the conflicts in refugees’ countries of origin, regional and global actors have pledged funds to entities like the United Nations to deal with this humanitarian crisis. For example the International Relations Online blog, part of American University’s School of International Service, created a data visualization to show the amounts that various states have pledged to support two U.N. programs, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan and the Syria Response Plan. The chart explains how almost 40 nations and private donors have contributed $895 million (USD), which have reached 4.8 million refugees. However, not all pledges are fulfilled. According to Concern Worldwide , several nations have yet to donate funds promised at a February conference in London.

It is important to stress that assistance for the refugee crisis is coming from other sources as well. NGOs and charities have mobilized to support refugees by collecting donations (e.g. funds, clothes and books), while many European families open their homes to migrants.

Ultimately, these well-intentioned initiatives are only part of the answer as they address the effect, not the cause, of the problem. As long as extreme violence persists, we will continue to witness a massive exodus of people who flee their homes to find safety elsewhere.

Bio

Adam Levenson of 2U Inc collaborated with American University’s School of International Service to provide this analysis. The original version of the analysis appears on the IR Online master of international relations blog.

Brought to you by American University’s International Relations Online program.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

AFP: “Rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean”

Erdogan loses appeal against German media re: Comedian who Satirized him

Tue, 21 Jun 2016 - 11:17pm

By EurActiv.com with AFP

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lost a German court battle against a top media boss when his appeal in a bitter row over free speech was thrown out.

Erdoğan had sought a court order to stop the Axel Springer media group’s chief Mathias Doepfner from repeating support for a TV satirist who crudely insulted the Turkish leader.

After failing to get an injunction from a lower court last month, Erdoğan also lost an appeal before the higher regional court in the western German city of Cologne.

The judges said they considered Doepfner’s letter of support “a permissible expression of opinion as protected under Article 5” of Germany’s constitution, the court said in a statement.

Erdoğan could still seek recourse before Germany’s top tribunal, the Federal Constitutional Court.

The legal action came after Doepfner published in April an open letter in one of the Springer group’s newspapers, in which he backed Jan Boehmermann – the satirist who in a poem accused Erdoğan of bestiality and watching child pornography.

Boehmermann’s recital of his so-called “Defamatory Poem” on national television in late March sparked a diplomatic firestorm and a row over freedom of expression.

During the broadcast, Boehmermann gleefully admitted his poem flouted Germany’s legal limits to free speech and was intended as a provocation.

In his letter, Doepfner took the comedian’s side, declaring: “For me, your poem worked. I laughed out loud.”

In a controversial move, Chancellor Angela Merkel authorised criminal proceedings against the comedian after Turkey requested he be prosecuted for defamation.

Via EurActiv.com with AFP

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews from 2 months ago: “Germans divided amid frenzy over comedian’s satirical Erdogan poem”

Is Bombing Fallujah into Rubble from the air really a Winning Strategy?

Tue, 21 Jun 2016 - 11:14pm

By William J. Astore | (Via Tomdispatch.com ) | – –

In the era of the long war on terror, Thursday, June 2nd, 2016, was a tough day for the U.S. military. Two modern jet fighters, a Navy F-18 Hornet and an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, flown by two of America’s most capable pilots, went down, with one pilot killed. In a war that has featured total dominance of the skies by America’s intrepid aviators and robotic drones, the loss of two finely tuned fighter jets was a remarkable occurrence.

As it happened, though, those planes weren’t lost in combat.  Enemy ground fire or missiles never touched them nor were they taken out in a dogfight with enemy planes (of which, of course, the Islamic State, the Taliban, and similar U.S. enemies have none).  Each was part of an elite aerial demonstration team, the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, respectively. Both were lost to the cause of morale-boosting air shows.

Each briefly grabbed the headlines, only to be quickly forgotten.  Americans moved on, content in the knowledge that accidents happen in risky pursuits.

But here’s a question: What does it say about our overseas air wars when the greatest danger American pilots face involves performing aerial hijinks over the friendly skies of “the homeland”?  In fact, it tells us that U.S. pilots currently have not just air superiority or air supremacy, but total mastery of the fabled “high ground” of war.  And yet in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Greater Middle East, while the U.S. rules the skies in an uncontested way, America’s conflicts rage on with no endgame in sight.

In other words, for all its promise of devastating power delivered against enemies with remarkable precision and quick victories at low cost (at least to Americans), air power has failed to deliver, not just in the ongoing war on terror but for decades before it.  If anything, by providing an illusion of results, it has helped keep the United States in unwinnable wars, while inflicting a heavy toll on innocent victims on our distant battlefields.  At the same time, the cult-like infatuation of American leaders, from the president on down, with the supposed ability of the U.S. military to deliver such results remains remarkably unchallenged in Washington.

America’s Experience with Air Power

Since World War II, even when the U.S. military has enjoyed total mastery of the skies, the end result has repeatedly been stalemate or defeat.  Despite this, U.S. leaders continue to send in the warplanes.  To understand why, a little look at the history of air power is in order.

In the aftermath of World War I, with its grim trench warfare and horrific killing fields, early aviators like Giulio Douhet of Italy, Hugh Trenchard of Britain, and Billy Mitchell of the United States imagined air power as the missing instrument of decision.  It was, they believed, the way that endless ground war and the meat grinder of the trenches that went with it could be avoided in the future.  Unfortunately for those they inspired, in World War II the skies simply joined the land and the seas as yet another realm of grim attrition, death, and destruction.

Here’s a quick primer on the American experience with air power:

* In World War II, the U.S. Army Air Forces joined Britain’s Royal Air Force in a “combined bomber offensive” against Nazi Germany.  A bitter battle of attrition with Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe, ensued.  Allied aircrews suffered crippling losses until air superiority was finally achieved early in 1944 during what would be dubbed the “Big Week.”  A year later, the Allies had achieved air supremacy and were laying waste to Germany’s cities (as they would to Japan’s), although even then they faced formidable systems of ground fire as well as elite Luftwaffe pilots in the world’s first jet fighters.  At war’s end, Allied losses in aircrews had been staggering, but few doubted that those crews had contributed immeasurably to the defeat of the Nazis (as well as the Japanese).

* Thanks to air power’s successes in World War II (though they were sometimes exaggerated), in 1947 the Air Force gained its independence from the Army and became a service in its own right.  By then, the enemy was communism, and air power advocates like General Curtis LeMay were calling for the creation of a strategic air command (SAC) made up of long-range bombers armed with city-busting thermonuclear weapons.  The strategy of that moment, nuclear “deterrence” via the threat of “massive retaliation,” later morphed into “mutually assured destruction,” better known by its telling acronym, MAD.  SAC never dropped a nuclear bomb in anger, though its planes did drop a few by accident.  (Fortunately for humanity, none exploded.)  Naturally, when the U.S. “won” the Cold War, the Air Force took much of the credit for having contained the Soviet bear behind a thermonuclear-charged fence.

* Frustration first arrived full-blown in the Korean War (1950-1953).  Primitive, rugged terrain and an enemy that went deep underground blunted the effectiveness of bombing.  Flak and fighters (Soviet MiGs) inflicted significant losses on Allied aircrews, while U.S. air power devastated North Korea, dropping 635,000 tons of bombs, the equivalent in explosive yield of 40 Hiroshima bombs, as well as 32,557 tons of napalm, leveling its cities and hitting its dams.  Yet widespread bombing and near total air superiority did nothing to resolve the stalemate on the ground that led to an unsatisfying truce and a Korea that remains bitterly divided to this day.

* The next round of frustration came in the country’s major conflicts in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and early 1970s.  American air power bombed, strafed, and sprayed with defoliants virtually everything that moved (and much that didn’t) in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.  A staggering seven million tons of bombs, the equivalent in explosive yield to more than 450 Hiroshimas, were dropped in the name of defeating communism.  An area equivalent in size to Massachusetts was poisoned with defoliants meant to strip cover from the dense vegetation and jungle of South Vietnam, poison that to this day brings death and disfigurement to Vietnamese.  The North Vietnamese, with modest ground-fire defenses, limited surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and a few fighter jets, were hopelessly outclassed in the air.  Nonetheless, just as in Korea, widespread American bombing and air superiority, while generating plenty of death and destruction, didn’t translate into victory.

* Fast-forward 20 years to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991, and then to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  In both cases, U.S. and coalition air forces had not just air superiority but air supremacy as each time the Iraqi air force fled or was otherwise almost instantly neutralized, along with the bulk of that country’s air defenses.  Yet for all the hype that followed about “precision bombing” and “shock and awe,” no matter how air power was applied, events on the ground proved stubbornly resistant to American designs.  Saddam Hussein survived Desert Storm to bedevil U.S. leaders for another dozen years.  After the 2003 invasion with its infamous “mission accomplished” moment, Iraq degenerated into insurgency and civil war, aggravated by the loss of critical infrastructure like electrical generating plants, which U.S. air power had destroyed in the opening stages of the invasion.  Air supremacy over Iraq led not to long-lasting victory but to an ignominious U.S. withdrawal in 2011.

* Now, consider the “war on terror,” preemptively announced by George W. Bush in 2001 and still going strong 15 years later. Whether the target’s been al-Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabbab, al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, or more recently the Islamic State, from the beginning U.S. air power enjoyed almost historically unprecedented mastery of the skies.  Yet despite this “asymmetric” advantage, despite all the bombing, missile strikes, and drone strikes, “progress” proved both “fragile” and endlessly “reversible” (to use words General David Petraeus applied to his “surges” in Iraq and Afghanistan).  In fact, 12,000 or so strikes after Washington’s air war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq began in August 2014, we now know that intelligence estimates of its success had to be deliberately exaggerated by the military to support a conclusion that bombing and missile strikes were effective ways to do in the Islamic State.

So here we are, in 2016, 25 years after Desert Storm and nearly a decade after the Petraeus “surge” in Iraq that purportedly produced that missing mission accomplished moment for Washington — and U.S. air assets are again in action in Iraqi and now Syrian skies.  They are, for instance, flying ground support missions for Iraqi forces as they attempt to retake Falluja, a city in al-Anbar Province that had already been “liberated” in 2004 at a high cost to U.S. ground troops and an even higher one to Iraqi civilians.  Thoroughly devastated back then, Falluja has again found itself on the receiving end of American air power.

If and when Iraqi forces do retake the city, they may inherit little more than bodies and rubble, as they did in taking the city of Ramadi last December.  About Ramadi, Patrick Cockburn noted last month that “more than 70% of its buildings are in ruins and the great majority of its 400,000 people are still displaced” (another way of saying, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”).  American drones, meanwhile, continue to soar over foreign skies, assassinating various terrorist “kingpins” to little permanent effect.

Tell Me How This Ends

Here’s the “hot wash”: something’s gone terribly wrong with Washington’s soaring dreams of air power and what it can accomplish.  And yet the urge to loose the planes only grows stronger among America’s political class.

Given the frustratingly indecisive results of U.S. air campaigns in these years, one might wonder why a self-professed smart guy like Ted Cruz, when still a presidential candidate, would have called for “carpet” bombing our way to victory over ISIS, and yet in these years he has been more the norm than the exception in his infatuation with air power.  Everyone from Donald Trump to Barack Obama has looked to the air for the master key to victory.  In 2014, even Petraeus, home from the wars, declared himself “all in” on more bombing as critical to victory (whatever that word might now mean) in Iraq.  Only recently he also called for the loosing of American air power (yet again) in Afghanistan — not long after which President Obama did just that.

Even as air power keeps the U.S. military in the game, even as it shows results (terror leaders killed, weapons destroyed, oil shipments interdicted, and so on), even as it thrills politicians in Washington, that magical victory over the latest terror outfits remains elusive.  That is, in part, because air power by definition never occupies ground.  It can’t dig in.  It can’t swim like Mao Zedong’s proverbial fish in the sea of “the people.”  It can’t sustain persuasive force.  Its force is always staccato and episodic. 

Its suasion, such as it is, comes from killing at a distance.  But its bombs and missiles, no matter how “smart,” often miss their intended targets.  Intelligence and technology regularly prove themselves imperfect or worse, which means that the deaths of innocents are inevitable.  This ensures new recruits for the very organizations the planes are intent on defeating and new cycles of revenge and violence amid the increasing vistas of rubble below.  Even when the bombs are on target, as happens often enough, and a terrorist leader or “lieutenant” is eliminated, what then?  You kill a dozen more?  As Petraeus said in a different context: tell me how this ends.   

Recalling the Warbirds 

From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, dropping bombs and firing missiles has been the presidentially favored way of “doing something” against an enemy.  Air power is, in a sense, the easiest thing for a president to resort to and, in our world, has the added allure of the high-tech.  It looks good back home.  Not only does the president not risk the lives of American troops, he rarely risks retaliation of any kind.

Whether our presidents know it or not, however, air power always comes with hidden costs, starting with the increasingly commonplace blowback of retaliatory terrorist strikes on “soft” targets (meaning people) in cities like Paris or Madrid or London.  Strikes that target senior members of enemy armies or terrorist organizations often miss, simply stoking yet more of the sorts of violent behavior we are trying to eradicate with our own version of violence.  When they don’t miss and the leadership of terror groups is hit, as Andrew Cockburn has shown, the result is often the emergence of even more radical and brutal leaders and the further spread of such movements.  In addition, U.S. air power, especially the White House-run drone assassination program, is leading the way globally when it comes to degrading the sovereignty of national borders. (Witness the latest drone strike against the head of the Taliban in violation of Pakistani airspace.)  Right now, Washington couldn’t care less about this, but it is pioneering a future that, once taken up by other powers, may look far less palatable to American politicians.

Despite the sorry results delivered by air power over the last 65 years, the U.S. military continues to invest heavily in it — not only in drones but also in ultra-expensive fighters and bombers like the disappointing F-35 (projected total cost: $1.4 trillion) and the Air Force’s latest, already redundant long-range strike bomber (initial acquisition cost: $80 billion and rising).  Dismissing the frustratingly mixed and often destabilizing results that come from air strikes, disregarding the jaw-dropping prices of the latest fighters and bombers, America’s leaders continue to clamor for yet more warplanes and yet more bombing.

And isn’t there a paradox, if not a problem, in the very idea of winning a war on terror through what is in essence terror bombing?  Though it’s not something that, for obvious reasons, is much discussed in this country, given the historical record it’s hard to deny that bombing is terror.  After all, that’s why early aviators like Douhet and Mitchell embraced it.  They believed it would be so terrifyingly effective that future wars would be radically shortened to the advantage of those willing and able to bomb. 

As it turned out, what air power provided was not victory, but carnage, terror, rubble — and resistance.

Americans should have a visceral understanding of why populations under our bombs and missiles resist.  They should know what it means to be attacked from the air, how it pisses you off, how it generates solidarity, how it leads to new resolve and vows of vengeance.  Forget Pearl Harbor, where my uncle, then in the Army, dodged Japanese bombs on December 7, 1941.  Think about 9/11.  On that awful day in 2001, Homeland USA was “bombed” by hijacked jet liners transformed into guided missiles.  Our skies became deadly.  A technology indelibly associated with American inventiveness and prowess was turned against us.  Colossally shocked, America vowed vengeance.

Are our enemies any less resolutely human than we are?  Like us, they’re not permanently swayed by bombing. They vow vengeance when friends, family members, associates of every sort are targeted.  When American “smart” bombs obliterate wedding parties and other gatherings overseas, do we think the friends and loved ones of the dead shrug and say, “That’s war”?  Here’s a hint: we didn’t.

Having largely overcome the trauma of 9/11, Americans today look to the sky with hope.  We watch the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds with a sense of awe, wonder, and pride.  Warplanes soar over our sports stadiums.  The sky is our high ground.  We see evidence of America’s power and ingenuity there.  Yet people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere often pray for clouds and bad weather; for them, clear skies are associated with American-made death from above.

It’s time we allow other peoples to look skyward with that same sense of safety and hope as we normally do.  It’s time to recall the warbirds.  They haven’t provided solutions.  Indeed, the terror, destruction, and resentments they continue to spread are part of the problem.

A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor, William Astore is a TomDispatch regular.  His personal blog is Bracing Views.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 William J. Astore

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Telegraph: “Fallujah reduced to rubble after Iraqi special forces retake city”

Livni Slams Netanyahu, Calls for Israeli Referendum on Two-state Solution

Mon, 20 Jun 2016 - 11:27pm

By IMEMC | – –

Zionist Union member of the Israeli parliament of the Knesset, Tzipi Livni, called for a referendum, Saturday afternoon, over what she reduced to a “problem” with Palestinians.

Speaking at an event in the Israeli city of Rishon LeZion, south of Tel Aviv, Livni censured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to take what she described as an “opportunity” for the US-backed two-state solution.

“There is a regional window of opportunity,” Livni said, according to Press TV/Al Ray. “But the glass ceiling is rising, and Netanyahu is unable to rise up and seize the opportunity,” she stated.” We need to know in which direction we’re going.”

Settlers at helm in Israel

Livni, a former candidate for the prime minister, said the regime’s policies were driven by those supporting settlement of Israelis beyond borders recognized by the international community.

She specifically pointed at the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization dealing with the regime’s illegal settlements.

“They know from their time in office that the Israeli government carries out the desires of a minority, the Yesha Council, which dictates the agenda,” she said.

Over half a million Israelis live in more than 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, including East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

“They must be stopped… The minority has taken control with the help of collaborators in government.”

Israel stuck in daydream

The former Israeli foreign minister also boasted about “democracy” in Israel, saying it was being endangered with Bibi and his allies at helm.

Livni said the regime is ”disintegrating with the loss of its democratic values,” referring to other Israeli officials who have recently attacked Bibi, namely former minister of Military affairs Moshe Ya’alon and former premier Ehud Barak.

“There is a strong cry here from people who see what is happening,” she said. “You can’t address democracy in Israel while tip-toeing around the main issue.”

She concluded that a referendum should be held in Israel “now,” noting, “Israel is stuck in a daydream, moving aimlessly.”

Livni’s remarks came as severe crackdown of Palestinians continued unabated in the occupied lands, with Muslim youth placed behind bars, and Zionist expansive policies raging on.

Via IMEMC

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Press TV: “EU’s Mogherini: Two-state solution unlikely to work”

After Trump bashed Brown Immigrants all Year, it’s the British White Guy who tries to Kill Him

Mon, 20 Jun 2016 - 11:23pm

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Donald Trump’s blatantly racist attacks on immigrants have all along had as their subtext the implication that there is something wrong with those brown-skinned people and maybe it is unwise to let them in.

Trump even said “‘it’s time’ for the UK to depart the European Union because of ‘the craziness that’s going on with migration’ and reaffirmed he thought that some parts of London had become ‘radicalised’. He said he thought that British voters would vote to leave because of “unrest” over ‘people pouring in all over the place.’ He also said that ‘thousands and thousands’ of people (i.e. white people) in Britain supported his call for a ban on Muslim immigration.

So, the message is that white people are good and the big bad EU is making a white country accept all those radical brown people.

So the first known assassination plot against Trump (if you don’t count far-right loonies and White Guys Brad Thor and Glenn Beck), it turns out, comes from the British white guy. He tried to grab the gun of a policeman at a Trump rally. Even after he was arrested, he said he’d like to give it another try.

Another irony. In Britain, most police don’t carry guns as a routine matter, and so there the firearm wouldn’t even have been available to be grabbed.

It is not known whether he self-radicalized on the internet or to what pack of lone wolves he belongs.

His defense lawyer says he appears to be competent.

But what with being white and all, and given the terroristic implications of gunning for a presidential candidate, he is almost certainly mentally ill.

(Though note that most mentally ill people are just struggling with a problem and aren’t violent).

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Related video:

Wochit News: “UK Man Denied Bail in Attempt to Kill Donald Trump”

After Orlando: Twitter Recoils from Islamophobia, Takes Aim at Gun Laws

Mon, 20 Jun 2016 - 11:21pm

By Saif Shahin | ( Foreign Policy in Focus/ Lobelog) | – –

An analysis of the Twitter conversation over 12 hours on the day of the shooting reveals deep animosity against politicians for not legislating tougher gun controls.

Twitter users responded to the shooting in Orlando, Florida, with an abundance of love and prayers for the victims, their families, and the gay community in America, fury against political leaders for failing to institute stricter gun controls – and very little by way of Islamophobia despite the shooter’s Muslim identity and apparent allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS or IS).

Forty-nine people were killed and nearly an equal number injured when Omar Mateen, a U.S.-born national of Afghan origin, opened fire at a gay nightclub in the wee hours of Sunday. The body count made it one of the worst incidents of mass shooting on American soil.

The response to the tragedy on Twitter was immediate and massive. I mined all tweets with the hashtag #Orlando beginning just before noon Eastern Time on Sunday – soon after the shooter’s identity was publicly revealed. Over the next 12 hours, I collected a total of 50,000 tweets divided into five batches of 10,000 each. Every batch spans roughly two-and-a-half hours of Twitter activity. I then analyzed these tweets to understand how the Twitter conversation evolved over the course of the day using a computerized technique called Topic Modeling, which breaks down large textual datasets into groups of keywords representing different “topics” of conversation.

Five broad “topics” regarding the Orlando shooting emerged from the analysis.

Guns N’ Roses

The first topic, which dominated Twitter all through the day, includes the keywords “orlando,” “victims,” “shooting,” “people,” “prayers,” “loveislove,” “love,” “thoughts,” “hate,” “families,” “lgbt,” “gun,” “gay,” “america,” and “obama.” I label this topic Guns N’ Roses (see Figure 1). These keywords indicate that this topic focuses on the act of the shooting itself along with messages of love and prayers for its victims, their families, and the gay community. For example, one tweet read: “Our hearts break for the victims and families of this horrific act of violence. We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community #Orlando #LoveIsLove.”

The presence of the keyword “gun” in this topic suggests that Twitter users saw the tragedy as yet another instance of unrestrained gun violence in America. One such tweet read: “Not sure what to think about #Orlando except in 2016 we still not safe. LGBT legislation doesn’t keep us safe, gun laws don’t keep us safe.” The keywords also suggest that President Obama’s speech after the shooting was frequently commented upon. Although users were mostly supportive of the president’s pro-gun control message, many pointed out that he has delivered the same message after every tragedy but has failed to act on his own words.

Although Guns N’ Roses dominated the Twitter conversation all through the day, it proportionally declined in use from above 70 percent between noon and 4:40 pm to about 50 percent after 9.30 pm (see Figure 1).

The IS (Dis)Connect

The second biggest topic of conversation varied in almost each of the five batches of tweets collected (see Figure 2). Between noon and 2:20 pm, the second biggest topic (28 percent of Twitter conversation) included the keywords “ISIS,” “Pakistan,” “kamalfaridi,” and “violence.” This was soon after the media revealed the shooter’s name, and his Muslim identity featured prominently in tweets.

A casual look at the topic may suggest an upsurge of Islamophobia in this period, and indeed there were several tweets that linked Mateen’s action to Islam and to blaming Muslims as a community. But a large number of tweets also pointed out the folly of such an attitude. One tweet, for instance, read: “Whether this was ISIS or not, to respond with hate and prejudice is exactly what they want. To alienate Muslims around the world. #Orlando.” Therefore, I label this topic The IS (Dis)Connect.

Several Twitter users retweeted a post by the user @KamalFaridi that read “Our heart goes out to the victims and families in #Orlando. Love and peace can never be extinguished. #Pakistan #Muslims.” Others questioned how, despite Mateen’s known IS sympathies, he could be allowed to purchase guns—thus putting the blame once again on U.S. gun laws rather than IS or Muslims per se. A commonly retweeted post, by journalist Piers Morgan, read: “FBI interviewed this guy TWICE about ISIS sympathies but he could still legally buy his guns 2 weeks ago???? Unbelievable.”

Art Versus Politics

In the next two-and-a-half-hours or so, that is until 4:40 pm, the second most prominent topic of Twitter conversation (22 percent) included keywords such as “tonyawards,” “politicians,” “fifa,” “gaysbreaktheinternet,” “action,” “egnjyd,” “endgunviolence,” “everytown,” “prayfortheworld,” and “ecuvhai.” Much of this conversation hailed the art world’s response to Orlando. The Tony Awards for theatrical performances, held on Sunday, came in for special praise in tweets such as “’Hamilton’ cast won’t use musket props in #TonyAwards performance after #Orlando shootings” and “Silver ribbons at @TheTonyAwards in observance of #orlando.”

Many users retweeted Lady Gaga calling on followers to donate to the Pulse Victims Fund (“egnjyd” was part of the link to the fund’s website). The minute of silence observed during Sunday’s soccer match between Ecuador and Haiti (“ECUvHAI”) was also frequently tweeted about.

Many tweets contrasted the response of the art and sports world with that of politicians. This common refrain was reflected in retweets of user @Everytown’s post: “We need more than thoughts & prayers from our politicians to #EndGunViolence. America needs action. #Orlando.” Another user posted, “Hard to take seriously these #Orlando ‘solidarity’ tweets from politicians + religious leaders who’ve fought the LBGTQ community for years.”

The Vigil

This topic became the second most dominant in the next two batches of tweets— from 4:40 pm to 7 pm (21 percent) and from 7 pm to 9:30 pm (38 percent). It included keywords such as “victims,” “vigil,” “love,” “center,” “lit,” “trade,” “colors,” “rainbow,” “prayfororlando,” “tonight,” “trump,” “listen,” “cut,” “world,” and “watch.”

As these keywords suggest, the Twitter conversation over these five hours prominently featured vigils being organized around the world to pray for the victims. A user from Toronto, for instance, tweeted: “Heading to the vigil for #Orlando. I need to be with other folks who have felt afraid they might get killed just for being who they are.” Several users also posted about 1 World Trade Center being lit with the colors of the pride flag to honor victims.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s announcement that he had been warning the nation against the dangers of “Islamic terrorism” was another prominent trope within The Vigil. It was both praised and panned. Although supporters insisted that Trump was the only leader who could keep terrorists at bay, detractors such as @thelittleidiot posted, “Shame on you @realDonaldTrump trying to use the heartbreak and tragedy in #orlando for your political gain.”

Luis Vielma

Author J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, tweeted that one of the Orlando victims had been a member of the film crew. She posted: “Luis Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal. He was 22 years old. I can’t stop crying. #Orlando.” Twitter users retweeted her extensively and Vielma’s death became the second most dominant topic of conversation (42 percent) from 9:30 pm until midnight, including the keywords “orlando,” “worked,” “universal,” “luis,” “harry,” “potter,” “years,” “jk,” “crying,” “rowling,” “vielma,” “ride,” and “stop.” It closely trailed Guns N’ Roses, which was still the most dominant topic at 50 percent.

To the extent that the Twitter conversation represents the public mood in the wake of the shooting, the trends identified here have three important implications. First, the prevalence of Guns N’ Roses as the dominant topic all through the day indicates that Americans keenly desire more gun control. Public opinion polls have indicated that a majority of Americans are tired of the influence the pro-gun lobby wields over lawmaking: the Twitter reaction to Orlando reinforces this finding.

Second, despite Mateen’s Muslim identity, Americans are largely unwilling to give in to Islamophobia in the wake of this tragedy. Mateen’s Muslim faith and IS allegiance was discussed briefly and in a fairly balanced manner on Twitter, and then the conversation moved on to other topics. This absence of anti-Muslim animosity is especially notable as it follows months of efforts to ramp up the fear of and hatred for Muslims during this election cycle.

Third, if Twitter users displayed any animosity, it was toward their political leaders who do not reform gun laws despite repeated tragedies. This sentiment came up again and again in various topics of conversation over the course of the day. Even users who noted Mateen’s IS link remarked that, his motivation aside, it was eventually their leaders’ failure to tighten gun control that allowed him to purchase assault rifles.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus/ Lobelog)

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Channel 4 News from last week: “Orlando shooting: terrorism and gun control debate in USA”

The Palmer Raids: When Trump’s Grandfather and Wives could have been Profiled

Mon, 20 Jun 2016 - 12:15am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Marx said that every great event in history happens twice, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. In this regard, the Red Scare of the late teens and early 20s of the last century, promoted by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, was the tragedy. Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant hatred today is the farce, albeit a dangerous farce. What is ironic is that the Trumps could have been Palmer’s victims, themselves.

Donald Trump is pushing for racial profiling again now that, as the GOP standard bearer, he has free access to the Sunday morning news shows.

It won’t matter to Trump or his acolytes, of course, but the practice is unconstitutional. It violates the 4th amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure, as affirmed by the California 9th District Court of Appeals (it found that it is not allowed to take Latino origin into account in stops in Southern California.)

Moreover, the 14th Amendment was passed specifically in an attempt to outlaw treating some Americans differently than others under the law (then it was African-Americans). The amendment wasn’t actually enforced by federal or local authorities very often, which is what allowed for Jim Crow. But there is a sense that the Civil Rights Movement was about translating the ideal law of the 14th amendment into positive law, actual practice. It has also been argued that the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery, is antithetical to racial profiling of African-Americans.

Trumpism is about repealing the 14th Amendment; maybe it is about repealing the Constitution in favor of whatever Trump thinks the law should be on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

We have seen Trumps before in our history. Palmer in the “Palmer Raids” had thousands of first-generation Americans arrested with no due process or warrant, and had them jailed for months without charge. He had hundreds of people summarily deported with no hearings or any shred of legality. He also put 200,000 first-generation or “hyphenated” Americans (as he sneeringly called them), under surveillance. Fully a third of FBI agents of the time were just following around Hyphenated Americans.

Many of Palmer’s targets were Germans, the working-class counterparts of Friedrich Trumpf (that’s how Ellis Island recorded his name), the Donald’s grandfather, who died in 1918 when Palmer was active. Trumpf changed his first name to Frederick, and he probably dropped the ‘f’ at the end of his name sometime during World War I because of strong anti-German and anti-immigrant feeling at that time. He had to keep a low profile during the war, which prevented him from buying some land.

Let me just repeat this: Donald Trump’s name is spelled like it is because his immigrant family suffered from anti-immigrant prejudice! And, the family’s interest in real estate would have been seen as dangerous on the part of The Hun in the teens of the last century.

Trump’s mother, Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Anne Trump née Macleod, was a first-generation immigrant from Scotland, a Hyphenated American.

Scots were also targeted by Palmer during his raids, according to a Congressional inquiry:

“Fellow Worker McDonald was arrested in Spokane, Wash., in May, 1918 and was shipped to Ellis Island in February on the ” red special.” A short time ago he was ordered released on a writ of habeas corpus by Judge A N. Hand of the New York Federal court, the judge deciding that the evidence upon which he was held was insufficient, but he was rearrested by the immigration authorities without being permitted to leave Ellis Island.

When asked what he thought of this action, he said: “This is the third time that the immigration authorities have framed up on me to prevent my release; so in view of two previous frame ups. I expected this one.”

“The Roy sisters,” he continued, “held on Ellis Island for deportation to Scotland for being members of the I. W. W., had their baggage taken away from them and shipped to Liverpool, England, about a week ago, and are now almost without any other clothes except those which they are wearing. That is a fair example of the things which have been done to deportees by the immigration authorities.”

When asked about conditions on the island, he stated that the food was bad; sleeping quarters full of bedbugs, and not enough fresh air, but added that they were generally better than when he arrived.

During the anti-immigrant hysteria, in 1917 a Czech-American community sent off some of their sons to fight in the US army in WW I, and had a celebration wearing their traditional clothing. A mob of American nativists attacked them! (If you don’t know what nativism is, just listen to one of Trump’s speeches).

Ivana Trump, the Donald’s first wife, is from Czechia (then Czechoslovakia).

His current wife, Melania, is from Slovenia, which used to be part of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavs in Detroit were accused of being Communists in the early 20th century.

You will say that Palmer bothered leftists and anarchists, whereas the Trumps and their immigree wives have been business people and grifters in equal parts.

But that’s the point. When you profile people based on ethnicity, it doesn’t matter what they really think. They’ve been convicted by how they look or how they talk, or when they arrived. Palmer didn’t need warrants or charges to arrest and hold people, or even to physically deport them. He just needed his bigotry. Any of the Trumps or the Trump wives, had they been around then, could have fallen victim to his dragnets.

——

Related video:

Wochit News: “Trump Makes Remarks In Support Of Racial Profiling ”

Israel approves $18.6 mn in new funding for Squatter settlements in Palestinian West Bank

Sun, 19 Jun 2016 - 11:25pm

Ma’an News Agency | – –

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli government approved on Sunday the allocation of an additional 72 million shekels (about $18.6 million) to settlements in the occupied West Bank due to the “worsening security situation” in the territory, according to Israeli media.

The funds to illegal settlement communities will reportedly include 15 million shekels from the Interior Ministry, 10 million shekels from the Agriculture Ministry, 12 million shekels from the Health Ministry, and 6 million shekels from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. The remainder of the sum will be provided by various other ministries.

According to the resolution, the 12 million shekels from the Health Ministry will be spent on creating “psychological support centers” for residents in the settlements, which have been deemed illegal under international law.

The approved funds are in addition to the 340 million shekels ($87.9 million) already allotted to settlements.

“Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria face a unique security situation on a daily basis because of their geographic location and the fabric of life in the area,” the cabinet resolution statement said, using the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank. “From the beginning of October 2015, there was an escalation in the security situation in Judea and Samaria as a result of the wave of terror.”

According to the explanation in the resolution, the worsening security situation has had a negative influence on life in the settlements in a number of areas, particularly the psychological well being of the residents and economic damage to business, which the additional funds are set to deal with.

In response to resolution, head of the Knesset’s Joint List Ayman Odeh said in a statement “this is the face of the extremist far right government of Netanyahu.” Odeh slammed the resolution, saying the millions of shekels only serve to “deepen the occupation and settlements at the expense of the rest of the state’s citizens.”

Claims of increasing insecurity for illegal Israeli settlers comes amidst a wave of unrest that began last fall, during which at least 200 Palestinians and just under 30 Israelis have been killed, with increased violent attacks by settlers on Palestinian civilians and agricultural lands.

American and Israeli officials have criticized Palestinian leadership for failing to condemn a number of attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals — the majority of which have been carried out on military targets — while critics say Israel has practiced a policy of extra-judicial executions of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, UN figures released in April showed a four-fold increase from last year in the rate of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures, that have left a record-high of at least 808 Palestinians displaced since the start of 2016, while Israel has also stepped up land confiscation in the occupied West Bank for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and outposts.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now warned in March that Israel has not confiscated such large swathes of land for the purpose of settlement expansion since the pre-Oslo period in the 1980s.

All settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land is considered illegal under international law, as the international community has agreed that any peace negotiations would necessitate that the Israeli government freeze new settlement construction.

Both the Israeli prime minister and defense minister declared their support for the internationally-supported two-state solution in a joint statement earlier this month. Shortly after the release of the statement, it was revealed that the Israeli government approved new settlement housing in East Jerusalem.

In response to the approval of the new housing, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said at the time: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sending a clear message to the international community that the Israeli government is interested only in expansionism, control, and pandering to the extremist and racist settler population.”

Ashrawi called upon the international community to “put an end to Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian land and its destruction of the two-state solution.”

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

PressTV: “UN: Some Israeli ministers ‘killing hope’ for peace”

Why don’t Technocrats think the cure for Iraqi Corruption more Democracy? It is Everywhere Else!

Sun, 19 Jun 2016 - 11:24pm

Usman W. Chohan | (The Conversation) | – –

The tragedy of modern Iraq is often studied with a humanitarian, moral, religious, political or military lens, but fiscal perspectives are much harder to come by.

In strong democracies, it is almost considered a given that a legislature helps oversee the budget, and its oversight supports greater fiscal accountability. An effective parliament is therefore seen as one of the core aspects of a participatory and open budget process.

But my recent research found that the reconstruction of the budget process in Iraq post-invasion has been mired by ineptitude, corruption, disinterest and distrust.

Many countries, including those in a post-conflict context, are trying to enhance the level of democratic engagement in the national budget, and in general the global trend is that budget openness is getting better. There is also a trend towards installing institutions such as Parliamentary Budget Offices to make parliaments more effective in their oversight role.

So why haven’t our fiscal “experts” based in Baghdad been able to implement such budget reforms?

Unaccountable budgeting

There are many examples of ineptitude in the budget process in Iraq, but two are particularly worth mentioning.

First, there was the case of the missing US$8.8 billion dollars that went unaccounted for under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). This authority comprised Westerners and Western-trained Iraqis and was created to manage the immediate trauma of transition. This included some very important fiscal tasks such as the promulgation of new budgeting laws and the disbursement of reconstruction funds. But the CPA was accountable to no one, and gross mismanagement discredited much of its work. Subsequent audits by the Inspector General found enormous sums had vanished.

Second, when the Iraqi parliamentarians requested international assistance in building parliamentary capacity for budgeting, a US$42 million contract was awarded to the American company AECOM to build a parliamentary institute. A subsequent audit by the Inspector General found that the project was riddled with failures that went unaccounted for, while in the end the institute was not actually built.

These are just some of the practical shortcomings which cannot be ascribed to the Iraqi people, and although auditing rituals have found these glaring gaps in Western commitment to be worrying, nothing has been done beyond merely highlighting the problems.

Our economic czars

Taking a step back from the practical failures in post-war Iraq, it is worth looking at the principles that underpinned Western budget “reform” efforts.

The West’s approach to Iraq’s budgeting has been quite different from the approach it applies in its own context. Instead of “promoting” our version of democracy, and building Iraqi institutions in our image, we’ve wanted something very different for Iraq.

In the case of the US, it was clear that leaders, including those in the Bush era, did not envisage a democratic budget process at all but rather wanted to appoint an “economic czar”.

Despite the economic stance of the Bush era, with its claim to sound fiscal management, there was no mention of a strong role for an Iraqi legislature to oversee the budget process, as is the case the United States.

Put another way: why is it that we want strong democracies for ourselves, but “economic czars” for others? Australia (PBO), Canada (PBO), UK (OBR) and especially the United States (CBO) have budget offices to help their legislatures oversee national fiscal processes, but in countries where they have orchestrated regime change, they haven’t put in the same sort of institutions.

The biggest fiscal lesson from the tragedy of Iraq is that we cannot bring about meaningful reforms in foreign countries without wanting for them what we want for ourselves.

It is important to build the same sorts of systems in other countries that we would build in our own context: democratic, vibrant, accountable institutions that act as a voice for the people. As we do not appoint economic czars in our own country, we should not plan to do so in other territories either.

A new path

There is still a chance for Iraq to change course, however. My research has pointed to the growth of robust institutions in post-conflict areas in fairly short periods of time. Iraq needn’t be different.

It isn’t too late for Iraq to establish (1) a parliamentary strengthening institute and (2) a parliamentary budget office. In fact, although so far only minimal attention has been paid to the idea, there is at least a discussion taking place on creating these institutions, led by the major development agencies such as the United Nations Development Program.

What precisely these institutions will do and how they will go about doing it is still an open question, and one that both academics and practitioners need to get to work on.

Usman W. Chohan, Doctoral Candidate, Policy Reform and Economics, UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

—-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV from last Month: “Iraq lifts curfew after protesters leave Green Zone”

Other Acts of Terror get Media Anniversaries, but not White Terrorists like Dylann Roof

Sun, 19 Jun 2016 - 11:15pm

By Bryan van Hulst Miranda | ( TeleSur) | – –

A year after Roof was charged over the mass-killing of nine Black people in an African Methodist church, it is worth remembering him for what he was.

The domestic act of terror at a historic African-American Church in South Carolina on June 17, 2015, was quickly branded a “hate crime” by U.S. officials, and the white man who perpetrated it a “troubled” person who was otherwise “sweet and quiet.”

It was a predictable media narrative to many for whom the racist and white supremacist motives behind the killing were immediately transparent.

Hate crimes are defined and categorized by U.S. state institutions as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

Following this definition, the killings were not explicitly recognized as being racially-motivated, which allowed some media outlets like Fox News to turn it into a religious dispute.

“There does seem to be a rising hostility against Christians across this country because of our biblical views ,” said Bishop E.W. Jackson on Fox News.

If a “hate crime” can be so openly interpreted it becomes easier to deviate from the more obvious reasons behind the killing of Black people by a white man parading flags of apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

If it is at all understood as a race-related hate crime, its very categorization by U.S officials as such can also make the terrorist act appear as an isolated event that has nothing to do with the very racist foundations of the United States. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose director James Comey recently confessed that law enforcers are racist, claims to work with the state to combat hate crimes since the emergence of the Skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan. In other words, the racial hatred that needs to be fought is displaced onto some radical far-right extremists.

Race-related hate crimes are thereby disassociated from the very culture and institutions that have continued to dehumanize, kill, and dispossess Black and brown people in the U.S. for centuries.

If the shootings are an isolated case and a deviation from the norm, the shootings demand meticulous inquiry. Why would a white man kill these people? Who is this white man?

“I don’t know what was going through his head,” a woman who knew the killer told CNN. “He was a really sweet kid. He was quiet. He only had a few friends.”

Stories detailing the killer’s personal characteristics abound, which paradoxically function to empathize not with the victims of racial violence, but with the perpetrator.

It didn’t take long either before the killer was pathologized and mental illness seen as the cause of the terrorist act. For instance, an MSNBC anchor said on Thursday morning, “we don’t know his mental condition.”

As people on social media have been quick to point out, this not only erases racism and white supremacy as the instigating motives behind the crime, but it also contributes to the vilification and stigmatization of people who in fact have mental illness.

In this light, the brutal killing of nine people at a historic African-American church by a white man is removed from the historical legacy of the enslavement of Black people, the ethnic cleansing of Indigenous populations and the ongoing destruction of Black and brown lives in the U.S.

In a culture that divides people as “good guys vs bad guys”—with white people often represented as embodying the former and people of color the latter—it simply cannot be fathomed that white people in this story might possibly be “villains.”

It is this delusion of white people’s exceptional greatness that instigates in-depth investigations to understand how “one (of) our own kin” could commit this “random act of violence.” It is easier to say the killer is “troubled” than to look in the mirror and acknowledge that white supremacy runs in the DNA of White America.

In this rehearsed story of “good” white people and “evil” Black and brown folks, there is no similar questioning or investigation when acts of violence are committed against white people by people of color.

However, in violent cases where the perpetrator is Muslim, it is automatically assumed the person is some backward terrorist without any political motive but the blood-thirst drive to kill innocent white Americans and attack their exceptional “freedoms.” The attack translates into “Muslim terrorism” that the 1.57 billion Muslims around the world must condemn and apologize for.

Of course , no such thing is ever demanded from white people , the mainstream media or society .

As long as white people continue to run away from the reality of racial violence, to invent new myths and lies so as to cover up their past and present crimes and displace collective accountability, Black and brown lives remain in peril.

Via TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Fusion: “Orlando Shooter Omar Mateen Is A Terrorist But Dylann Roof Isn’t?”

Pyrrhic Victory? As Iraq rolls back Daesh, can it stay together as a Country?

Sun, 19 Jun 2016 - 1:12am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

From all accounts, most people in Fallujah are very happy about being out from under the murderous and puritanical rule of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). But Daesh took the city in January of 2014 for a reason. Locals did not put up much of a fight to keep them out. The Sunni Dulaym tribe predominates in Fallujah, and they have not since 2003 felt that the Iraqi government truly represents them. They think it is a cat’s paw of Shiite Iran.

The social consequences of the conquest of Fallujah are considerable, with hundreds of thousands of fleeing the city in recent months and 20,000 streaming out of it just on Saturday. Fears of outbreaks of cholera in refugee camps with no running water are heightening.

But an increasing number of Sunni Arab Iraqis are putting out calls for the partition of Iraq. These include the tribes of northern Ninewah Province, where the large city of Mosul is situated.

A high Kurdish official in Iraqi Kurdistan has also called for partition once the Daesh insurgency is quelled.

Ominously, the Badr Corps has ruled out so much a partition. Badr was originally trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and is a Shiite fighting force, one of the more effective.

This configuration is dangerous. You have nationalist Kurds, hopeless Sunni Arabs and militantly nationalist Shiites. The Shiites, at 60% of the country, probably have the social and economic weight to keep at least the Arab areas together. But it could be a sullen, cold-shoulder unity.

—–

Related video:

CBS News: ” Turmoil in Iraq leaves economy devastated”

FBI Director Schools Trump On American Muslims

Sat, 18 Jun 2016 - 11:28pm

Ana Kasparian, Brett Erlich, Kenny Hamilton, & Meredith Planko | (Young Turks Video) | – –

“FBI director, James Comey, says that Donald Trump has it wrong about Muslims. The Republican presidential candidate blames the religion of Islam for the attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and Comey says it is much more complicated than that. Ana Kasparian, Brett Erlich, Kenny Hamilton, and Meredith Planko, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down….

“Republican Donald Trump on Monday placed responsibility for a mass shooting in Florida squarely at the feet of radical Muslims, who he said were entering the country amidst a flood of refugees and “trying to take over our children.”

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee drew on the country’s deadliest mass shooting to sharpen his vow to ban Muslim immigrants, proposing that the United States suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is “a proven history of terrorism.”

In his national security speech, Trump said it was time to “tell the truth about radical Islam,” the day after 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando by a gunman, likely self-radicalized, who had sworn allegiance to the rebel group Islamic State.

His comments contrasted sharply to those of Hillary Clinton, the wealthy businessman’s likely Democratic rival in the Nov. 8 election, who urged increased intelligence gathering and more airstrikes on Islamic State territory, and cautioned against “demonizing” American Muslims.”

The Young Turks: “FBI Director Schools Trump On Muslims”

How ISIL is losing al-Anbar Province: Corruption, Reckless Driving, Carelessness w/ Secrets

Sat, 18 Jun 2016 - 11:14pm

Niqash.org | Baghdad | – –

“Newsletters sent to Islamic State fighters in Anbar indicate the group’s problems with bad drivers and corruption. It also shows a decentralized command structure that ensures the group’s ongoing survival.”

A cache of internal correspondence and newsletters, sent by senior members of the extremist group known as the Islamic State to fighters in the Anbar province, in central Iraq, have been sighted by NIQASH. The papers were found by one of the pro-Iraqi government fighting units in Anbar, after the Islamic State group was driven out of the area.

It is well known that extremist group tries to behave like a state and some of the documents deal with more mundane organisational matters. But there are also some interesting pieces of information about lesser-known aspects of the Islamic State’s work in the letters.

For example, not many outsiders are aware that reckless driving appears to have been a problem for the extremists. One of the letters contained a directive telling the group’s “brothers” that they should drive more carefully when in charge of vehicles belonging to the group, and that they should treat those vehicles as though they were their own private property.

Those members who did not do this and who caused road accidents would be punished, the letter said.

Another directive in another newsletter instructed members not to write on the outsides of envelopes that were used to take messages from different areas under the Islamic State, or IS, group’s control. This information is supposed to be private, and in some cases, kept secret and the directive indicated that the leaks of some information had caused problems.

When mentioning individuals by name, the letters only use nicknames, never the real names of the individual, showing, once again, a high degree of forethought. Additionally members were told to conceal the addresses on the envelopes. This too had caused problems as it meant that anyone who saw the envelope knew where the IS group had bases.

The IS group appears to have developed a complex administrative system – and the letters indicate that not everything was going right with that system. Despite IS fighters’ professions of religious purity, there was administrative and financial corruption, as the directives in some of the other letters indicate.

“We will not forgive those who do not deal with us honestly, not on earth and not in heaven,” one of the letters says, referring to the movement of money between the different areas under the IS group’s control and its central treasury. “This is a betrayal of the state. It is cheating the state.”

The letter did not mention any specific currency which some readers have taken to mean indicates that this was a general order and that there is financial corruption throughout the group.

The IS group relies on a complex system of rules which are very decentralized, explains Hisham al-Hashimi, a local researcher into armed militias in Iraq who also advises the Iraqi government.

“This group of letters indicates that there is a standard chain of command that each key institution within the IS group uses,” al-Hashimi suggests. “Newsletters like this should be considered to have been issued and distributed locally. Each offshoot of the IS group has a lot of autonomy. The different centres of command have a lot of autonomy, even in military matters. This is one reason why the extremist group is still present in so many areas.”

To see six of the letters sighted by NIQASH, please click here (in Arabic).

Via Niqash.org

=====

Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV News: ” Iraqi forces retake central Fallujah from militants”

The rise and fall of Turkey’s progressive opposition

Sat, 18 Jun 2016 - 11:09pm

By Nick Ashdown | ( OpenDemocracy) | – –

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party, the HDP roared into parliament on the back of a rainbow coalition of alienated progressives and minorities. Now, armed conflict is pulling it back into the messy tangle of Kurdish politics.

“It started like a forest fire,” said HDP deputy and honorary president Ertuğrul Kürkçü, who was present at the time.

What’s the future for Turkey’s opposition? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The esteemed members of parliament threw punches and water bottles, and some even leapt onto a table, Batman-like, before diving fist-first into a throng of combatants, some of whom ended up in hospital. Justice and Development Party MP Ali Aydınlıoğlu threatened to shoot or kill (the Turkish verb vurmak can mean either) opposition MP Ayşe Acar Başaran.

The opposition’s Mithat Sancar was heard saying his party “would not be part of this theatre,” and his delegation stormed out of the commission. Some members, as they marched through parliament, chanted in Kurmanji (a Kurdish dialect) “Biji serok Apo” – “Long live Apo.”

They were referring to Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a devastating war with the Turkish state since 1984.

The incident was emblematic of what some see as the HDP slipping away, or perhaps being dragged away, from the political process.

The incident was emblematic of what some see as the opposition HDP— slipping away, or perhaps being dragged away — from the political process.

The commission had been discussing a constitutional change proposed by the AKP, and later passed, to strip 138 parliamentarians of legal immunity. This has widely been understood as targeting the HDP, since almost all HDP MPs have criminal cases against them, on charges such as “openly instigating people to hatred and hostility” and “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.”

“They will have to arrest us, take us by force,” HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş said to reporters outside Parliament following the decision to lift immunities.

The rise of the Peoples’ Democratic Party

The HDP emerged in 2012 with roots in the Kurdish movement but ran as a leftist, pro-minorities, national party. It astonished Turkish politics last year by smashing through the 10% threshold required to enter Parliament. It was Turkey’s first ‘Kurdish’ party to ever do so.

The HDP, distancing itself from the PKK and creating a rainbow coalition of alienated progressives and ethnic and religious minorities across Turkey, became a massive success story and darling of the Western press.

Its colourful campaigning focused on rights for ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, as well as women, the environment and workers. They even have a gender quota system whereby all positions, such as mayors and party leaders, are held by one woman and one man.

Many activists still wistfully comment on how the HDP was the only party to really understand and learn from the demonstrators at the massive Gezi protests in 2013, during which HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder famously stood between the protestors and police.

“HDP was from the start designed and built as a coalition of various opposition [groups], particularly the Kurds, Alevis, women, laborers [and] the poor,” HDP deputy Kürkçü said. 

But it was Selahattin Demirtaş, the saz-playing, former human rights lawyer and HDP’s co-chair who charmed the Turkish political scene like no Kurdish politician had ever done before.

“[Demirtaş] tried to take the party into the political mainstream, and to a large extent, by June last year he’d succeeded,” Gareth Jenkins, a senior fellow at the Silk Road Studies Program, said. “They picked up votes from the west of the country largely as a result of the change in the political landscape brought about by the Gezi Park protests.”

And the fall…

But the return to armed conflict between the state and the PKK, which began last July after a two-year ceasefire, has devastated the mostly Kurdish southeast and has had a profound impact on the party.

The HDP and its supporters have been targeted with violence on many occasions. This includes three devastating suicide bombings by ISIS-linked individuals; the attacking of 200 HDP offices by ultranationalists; and state security forces clashing with HDP politicians.

“They ran as a national party yet conflict forced them to again become a Kurdish party,” says Howard Eissenstat.

“They ran as a national party, yet conflict forced them to again become a Kurdish party,” says Howard Eissenstat, a history professor and Turkey specialist at St. Lawrence University in New York.

“I think they were forced into that, in part by other actors,” namely the AKP and PKK, Eissenstat says.

The HDP has been a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ever since Demirtaş used “We will not make you president,” as one of his campaign slogans. Demirtaş was referring to Erdoğan’s plan to write a new constitution that would transform Turkey into an ‘executive presidential system’ with himself at the top, which would be much easier without the HDP in Parliament.

The HDP’s platform of progressive social policies and the decentralisation of administrative power came into direct confrontation with the AKP’s platform of conservative social policies and Erdoğan’s continuing centralisation of his own power.

The HDP denied the AKP– Erdoğan’s former party of which he still supports– from gaining a majority in last June’s general election, stealing many Kurdish votes from them. A study from the research agency KONDA found that 53% of the HDP’s voter increase between 2011 and 2015 came from former AKP voters.

After the PKK ended the ceasefire by killing two police officers last July, Erdoğan accused the HDP of being terrorists and launched a massive military campaign against the PKK. His opponents accused him of trying to win back nationalist votes which the AKP had lost in the June election, which he did, thus winning a majority in the following November election (political parties failed to form a coalition after the June election).

The HDP also stole a lot of thunder from the PKK.

“The PKK took Erdoğan’s war as an opportune moment to consolidate its monopoly over Kurdish politics, which was unprecedentedly challenged by Selahattin Demirtas’s election campaign,” Mustafa Gürbüz, an expert on the Kurds at George Mason University, said via email.

“That very election night [in June], when the HDP were celebrating their 13% victory, HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder declared an awareness of a broad consensus that made HDP [more than just] a Kurdish party. Nevertheless, the next day a guerrilla commander publicly criticised the HDP leadership.”

The ‘re-Kurdification’ of the HDP

Jenkins says there’s a strong feeling of detachment in the southeast, where many cities, full of tanks and helicopter gunships, have been virtually destroyed by fighting between state forces and the PKK.

“I think that made the HDP more Kurdish,” Jenkins says, because the party is responding to their core group of supporters in the southeast.

“If the HDP leaders start to say, ‘We’re doing this for all of Turkey,’ [constituents in the southeast] are going to say, ‘Screw Turkey. Where were they when our houses were being bombed by the Turkish military?'”

Kürkçü insists the party is still a national party, though he admits that the Kurds “are playing a leading role in the popular struggle at a grassroots level.” He says the HDP’s primary focus is on the southeast because the conflict is currently Turkey’s most pressing issue.

“It’s like a body. When your heart aches, you don’t deal with your fingernails. Therefore a huge bloody war in the southeast will of course lead the HDP to focus its efforts on ending the conflict.”

A large chasm has been torn open between the HDP’s Kurdish supporters in the southeast and their left-leaning Turkish supporters in the west.

Jenkins says a large chasm has been torn open between the HDP’s Kurdish supporters in the southeast and their left-leaning Turkish supporters in the west, with the former feeling abandoned by the latter.

“[The Kurdish supporters] feel that a lot of those leftists in the west of the country are just closet Turkish nationalists who don’t regard the lives of Kurds as being equal to the lives of Turks.”

The violence has further radicalised young people in the southeast. At least 267 civilians and 567 security forces have been killed since last summer, according to Crisis Group.

“The bottom line is that much of [the HDP’s] constituency support an armed insurrection against the state. A state that they represent and that they’ve sworn to protect,” Eissenstat says. “That’s a real challenge.”

Professor Ödül Celep at Işık University in Istanbul says the HDP will always focus on its core voter base, no matter how radicalised it becomes.

“If HDP has to make a choice between its Kurdish voters and new urban Turkish voters, it has to stick to the former,” Ödül said in a written statement to openDemocracy.

Jenkins says throwing HDP politicians into jail could further marginalise the Kurdish youth and push even more of them towards violence.

“If you start putting these people in prison, then the message you’re going to be sending to those young kids that violence is the only option.”

On 22 December last year, Demirtaş appeared at a meeting of the Democratic Society Congress, an umbrella organisation for Kurdish groups, and made statements in support of regional self-governance, which the HDP stresses is different from independence and has always been one of their key demands.

“Kurds will, from now on, be the political will in their own region,” he said.

“During times like this, our people must decide whether [to live in] dictatorship or freedom, and whether to live under the tyranny of one man, or in an autonomous society.”

The “one man” he’s referring to is President Erdoğan, Turkey’s most powerful politician for generations.

Erdoğan has denounced the HDP many times since their falling out. On 16 March he said, “I do not regard members of a party that operates as a terrorist organiasation as legitimate anymore.”

Professor Celep says these tactics work well in Turkey, and that the HDP doesn’t have complete independence from the PKK. However it’s not fair to equate the HDP with the PKK.

The easiest labels for the HDP include ‘terrorist’ and ‘separatist,’ and unfortunately these labels sell in politics. 

“The easiest labels for the HDP include ‘terrorist’ and ‘separatist,’ and unfortunately these labels sell in politics,” he says.

“There is no direct organic link between the two, [and] the HDP is not a party wing of PKK, although we all know that both are embraced and supported by the same sociology and demography.”

Many experts say the HDP has little influence over the PKK, but that the militant group does exert a certain amount of control over the HDP.

“I think that regarding major critical decisions, no major section that can resist the PKK,” says Talha Köse, a political science and international relations professor at Istanbul Şehir University and researcher at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA).

Demirtaş and other leading HDP politicians regularly criticise the PKK’s use of violence, but they also call it a “national liberation movement” and refuse to label it the terrorist group, which Turkey, the United States and NATO consider it to be.

Following Demirtaş’s remarks in December, a probe was launched into him for “terrorism propaganda,” “encouraging sedition” and “disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state.”

On 3 March, Demirtaş made comments which seemed to reflect a profound loss of faith in the political system, saying that if the HDP’s lawmakers are stripped of their immunity, they’ll refuse to appear in court, and could form their own parliament.

“We won’t allow you to try us in these courts which are tied to you,” Demirtaş said. “If the people wish, they can establish more than one parliament.”

Recently, in tandem with rising violence and state authoritarianism, the HDP’s rhetoric has become increasingly radicalised. Their members refer to the AKP as “fascists” with “an organic relationship with ISIS” who are committing war crimes in the southeast and describe Erdoğan’s growing power as a “palace junta”.

They describe the detentions, arrests and dismissals of dozens of local politicians from the HDP and its fraternal Democratic Regions Party (DBP) as “political genocide.”

Last summer, several mayors in the southeast from the HDP’s former fraternal Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)  were suspended with charges relating to autonomy,in response to military operations, with the HDP’s support.

According to a poll in April by the Gezici Research Company, the HDP has just 7.3% of support left. The party has not only lost support from Turkish progressives, but also in its heartland: the southeast.

“[The HDP’s] standing and prestige have been really negatively affected by the events of the past few months, because they’re not able to do anything,” Jenkins says.

“They can’t protect the people when the PKK kids start throwing rocks and the security forces start shooting. They haven’t gotten any concessions from the government. So it’s quite common in the east to hear people saying ‘What’s the point of the HDP?’”

This article is published in association with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which is seeking to contribute to public knowledge about effective democracy-strengthening by leading a discussion on openDemocracy about what approaches work best. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFD. WFD’s programmes bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.

Via OpenDemocracy

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

PressTV: ” Turkey’s law to lift MPs immunity sparks controversy”

The end of the Beginning: The Fall of ISIL in Fallujah

Sat, 18 Jun 2016 - 12:03am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

After Montgomery and his troops defeated the Germans and Italians at El Alamain in northern Egypt in 1942, Winston Churchill was relieved finally to have some good news after a string of defeats. He said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi announced on Friday that Iraqi troops had captured the governmental complex in the center of Fallujah. The Lebanese newspaper al-Nahar (The Day) reports that the Iraqi army also took the eastern and southern districts of the city.

Only some residential neighborhoods in northern Fallujah remain in the hands of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). There, however, sources told al-Nahar that Daesh still rules with an iron fist, in the districts of Jolan, al-Muhandis, al-Wahda, al-Jumhuria and al-Andalus in the north. A source inside the city said Friday that it was nevertheless possible that the neighborhoods would fall to the Iraqi government within hours.

The image of invincibility and the projection of power that Daesh has striven for during the past two years has been shattered, the Iraqi source in Fallujah said, at the hands of the various Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi war information bureau said that a counter-terrorism unit liberated the district of Nizal entirely after imposing severe losses on the Daesh fighters. Meanwhile, the 17th Infantry Division, a Baghdad formation, continued to advance and it succeeded in liberating al-Ursan district entirely, and in securing the left bank of the Euphrates.

It also announced that units of the national gendarmes liberated the governor’s mansion for the county of Fallujah in the center of the city and raised the Iraqi flag over it. Dozens of Daesh guerrillas were killed in the confrontations. The government forces advanced to Baghdad Street, expelling the enemy. Battles continue as the army seeks to fulfill all its objectives. Fighting continues as the counter-terrorism division seeks to take Fallujah Hospital.

Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam [The World] reported on al-Abadi’s television address, in which he announced that Fallujah had returned to the bosom of the nation, and that shortly Daesh would be completely expelled from the city. He said, “Our forces fulfilled their pledge, and liberated Fallujah, and next we will head to Mosul.”

He called on all the institutions of the state to exert every effort to take care of the civilians and to deliver humanitarian aid, as well as to be careful of people’s property and homes. He said, “today is a day of forgiveness.” (He meant that although many Fallujans may have collaborated with Daesh because they saw it as savior of Sunnis, they should not now be punished, in the interests of bringing all Iraqis together under the banner of the central government.

He said that Daesh had “no place in Iraq.”

Having taken Tikrit, Ramadi, Hit and Fallujah, the Iraqi government has over the past 2 years decisively rolled bak Daesh. It is now virtually besieged in Mosul, which is landlocked and increasingly surrounded.

As a governmental entity, I wouldn’t give Daesh more than a year. As a terrorist organization, it can be both long-lived and deadly.

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Related video:

CBS This Morning: “Iraq troops push into center of ISIS-held Fallujah”

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Kochs’ Victory: House of Reps. Votes to Protect Anonymous ‘Dark Money’ Donors

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 - 11:15pm

TeleSur | – –

The House of Representatives approved a bill that campaign finance refomers say will open the door to illegal influence on political campaigns.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to protect the identities of wealthy individuals and others who make anonymous, or “dark money,” donations to politically active nonprofit groups.

The measure, which drew lobbying support from billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, was approved in a 240-180 vote along party lines. It would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from collecting the names and addresses of donors who contribute US$5,000 or more to 501(c) organizations, a name that refers to the tax code section that covers them. The action sends the bill along to the Senate.

Although the measure would apply to all 501(c) tax-exempt groups, such as universities, hospitals and charities, politically active nonprofits are the intended beneficiaries.

Political spending by nonprofit groups including the Koch- aligned Americans for Prosperity has grown dramatically since 2010, when the Supreme Court opened the way to unlimited spending on political campaigns by individuals, corporations, unions and other groups in its landmark Citizens United ruling.

The White House on Monday said it opposed the bill, the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, claiming it would constrain the IRS from enforcing tax laws and reduce transparency among private foundations.

Democrats argued that the legislation could make it easier for foreign entities to finance political campaigns inside the United States.

Charity regulators have also warned that the loss of donor information would make it harder to protect the public against charity fraud. The change would reduce available information on a range of organizations, IRS data shows.

Fred Wertheimer, president of the watchdog group Democracy 21, told USA Today that the measure benefits groups and wealthy individuals who want to spend unlimited amounts in elections and conceal their giving.

Nonprofit groups could spend more than US$500 million on this year’s presidential and congressional elections, up from US$10 million in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Via TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Secular Talk: “Republicans Protect ‘Dark Money’ Political Donors”

Who Was the mystic Jalaluddin Rumi, and Whose Rumi Is He?

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 - 11:14pm

By Bismellah Alizada | (GlobalVoices.org) | – –

As all the countries that call the work of Jalaluddin Rumi their own rise up against the idea of Leonardo Di Caprio playing the poet and scholar in a Hollywood epic, social media users in Afghanistan are pushing back against Iran and Turkey's reported joint claim to the poet's 800-year-old masterpiece Mathnawi Ma’nawi .

On May 31, Iran’s Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) released a report quoting the country’s chair of National Documents Organization on Iran and Turkey’s agreement to jointly register Rumi’s Mathnawi Ma’nawi collection of verses as joint cultural heritage with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The report proved a viral controversy on Afghan social media and prompted a frenzy of diplomatic back-and-forth.

On June 9 Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially complained to Patricia McPhillips, UNESCO's representative to Afghanistan who subsequently promised to report the issue to UNESCO’s central office.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani asked the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu “for details” of the news on the same day.

Çavuşoğlu in turn expressed his “unawareness of the issue” and promised “Afghanistan’s considerations and recommendations as the birthplace of Maulana Jalaladdin Muhammad Balkhi” would be considered in the submission, a reaction that failed to quell online protest.

Then, on June 12, a journalist for Afghan media outlet Ariana News posted an interview with Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan who said Iran “has no claim to own Maulana; Iran has no intention to register Mathnawi or Maulana. Iran only attempts to register some old versions of the Mathnawi.”

‘I come from Balkh’

Mathnawi Ma’nawi (literally: The Spiritual Couplets) is one of three known works written by Rumi, consisting of six chapters and some 26,000 couplets in total.

Mathnawi Ma’nawi is revered across the Persian-speaking world, including in Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan, as a book of exceptional wisdom.

For many Persian language-speakers it is even heralded as a “second Quran” or “the Persian Quran” — the ultimate tribute to its mystical and spiritually rich content.

Mathnawi also helped Rumi become America’s best-selling poet in 2014, which explains Hollywood's interest in his extraordinary life.

On June 9, a group of civil society activists gathered in Kabul to protest Iran and Turkey's UNESCO submission, insisting Rumi was a “cosmopolitan poet who is a precious asset of all people of culture.”

They argued: “Everyone knows that he was born in [Afghanistan's] Balkh and then moved to Konya.”

Suhrab Sirat, a renowned Afghan poet, wrote a long post, quoting a couplet from Mathnawi:

I come from Balkh, I come from Balkh, I come from Balkh/ A world rejoices my bitterness. . .

Many other Facebook users also cited the same couplet of Mathnawi as proof he belongs to Balkh, Afghanistan.

But in several of his ghazals, Rumi is more nebulous about his origins:

“Not Christian, nor Jew nor Muslim, not Hindu/ Buddhist, Sufi . . . Not any religion/ or cultural system. I am not from the East/ or the West, not out of the ocean or above,” he writes in one.

Mohammad Husain Mohammadi, a modern-day poet, novelist and storywriter, who owns Taak Publications, wrote:

Maulana’s homeland is the realm of Jaan (“spirit”)

As the debate raged a Facebook page called Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi (Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad of Balkh) became home to a concerted campaign to recognise Rumi's Afghanistan connection.

The page put forward a petition against the Ankara-Teheran UNESCO submission that has since been signed by over 5,000 people, close to its 7,500 target.

Rumi's story – ‘Made in Konya'?

Rumi most likely was born in Balkh — either the Afghan city or the broader region that also ventures into modern-day Tajikistan — on September 30, 1207.

But in the wake of the Mongol invasion of Central Asia from 1215 to 1220, Bahauddin Walad, Rumi's Father, set out westwards together with his family.

Rumi’s family proceeded to Baghdad, performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, then to Damascus, then to Karaman where they settled for seven years before leaving for Konya, Anatolia in 1228.

At the time the city was under the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm, which provides the basis for Maulana's last name.

A student of theology, Arabic literature and religious studies, Maulana became a teacher at 25, and later a renowned jurist, who gave sermons in Konya's mosques.

He also attracted thousands of students, for which he was widely envied.

Rumi's poetic turn came after meeting and subsequently losing in mysterious circumstances his closest friend and mentor, Shams-e Tabrizi.

Rocked by the loss, Maulauna burst into verse.

Among the tens of thousands of verses attributed to Rumi, some 44,000 verses are collected in two epic books named Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi (his ghazals, love and mystic poems) written in honour of his friend, and some 25,000 are collected in Mathnawi Ma’nawi (lines of wisdom).

He died in Konya in 1273.

Heading West

With the news of the joint UNESCO submission still fresh, on June 6, David Franzoni, an Oscar winner screenwriter, told the Guardian newspaper that he had “agreed to work on a biopic about the 13th-century poet Jalaluddin Rumi.”

He also said that he wants Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio to play the role of Rumi, sparking excitement among some Afghans and revulsion among others.

Within hours the twitter hashtag #RumiWasntWhite was trending.

Racists get so mad when a FICTIONAL character eg hermione is made black but they're fine whitewashing REAL PEOPLE??? Ok #RumiWasntWhite

— Chlo Dameron (@Marmite___) June 7, 2016

I hope the #Rumi film will be an authentic representation of customs of the region unlike the traumatic ‘Rock The Kasbah’. #RumiWasntWhite

— Shuja Rabbani (@ShujaRabbani) June 7, 2016

So they want a white man to play Rumi, a SUFI PERSIAN poet, but when they need a terrorist they find Muslim actors so easily #RumiWasntWhite

— Aayesha (@AayeshaJ) June 7, 2016

Only time will tell whether Rumi's legend will be honoured or mistreated by the silver screen, but many Afghans admit — whether freely or reluctantly — that it was created thousands of miles west of the land of his birth.

Yet the theologian of broad learning still has much to teach Afghanistan, where extremist interpretations of religion continue cast a shadow over the joy of spirit that suffused his life's work.

Rumi's true admirers will hope the noise surrounding his origins does not drown out the power and wisdom of his words, at a time when the world is most in need of them.

Via GlobalVoices.org)

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Rumi; Mewlana Jalal ad-Din Muḥammad Balkhi, A Documentary in English