Sunday, February 26, 2017

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Arabic Music - YALLA HABIBI

Syrian pavilion at International Charity Bazaar in New Delhi witnesses large turnout





The Syrian Embassy and the Syrian Community in New Delhi participated in the International Charity Bazaar which is organized by Delhi Commonwealth Women’s Association (DCWA) at Ashok Hotel in New Delhi.
The Syrian pavilion in the charity bazaar witnessed a large turnout by the visitors who were eager to taste dishes of the Syrian cuisine and buy handmade products and antiques as well as watching the paintings which reflect the Syrian civilization.
The Charity Bazaar was attended by Syria’s Ambassador in New Delhi Riyad Abbas and the staff of the Embassy.


http://sana.sy/en/?p=100971

Invasion of Yemen in Blatant Derogation of International Law: Extensive War Crimes Committed




Amir Abbas Amirshekari
One year before overthrowing Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, the Security Council of the UN anxious about the events was happening in Yemen issued a resolution according to which all belligerent sides should immediately reject violence and called on them to commit a peaceful transition of power.
On 21 February 2012, in contradiction to the resolution and the article 108 of the constitution of Yemen, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, then vice president, held a presidential election in which he was the sole candidate, and as a result of which he became president for two years. When Shia insurgency intensified against Hadi, he abdicated in January 2015 and fled to Saudi Arabia requesting help from that country.
On 26 March a coalition of some Arab countries, as well as Pakistan, under the command of Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen calling their operation “al-Hazm Storm”. The Arab countries of Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and UAE have taken part in the operation, and Somalia allowed the coalition to use its military bases to invade Yemen.
The coalition claims that the reason of its attack to Yemen was the letter which has been written by Hadi, after his abdication, requesting the UN and Saudi Arabia to intervene in Yemen by land force. On the other hand, the coalition forces, in their letter to the UN, claimed that the Houthis seek for hegemony on Yemen, using this country as a base to affect the region. Therefore, they claimed, the threat of Houthis is not only against the security, stability, and sovereignty of Yemen, but also against the peace and security of the region as well as international community. Pondering on the letter, it could be inferred that the coalition is not worried about the people of Yemen, but they are deeply scared of the impact of some other countries on Yemen. In fact, Saudi Arabia is deeply anxious about Yemen to be out of Saudi’s control, which was continuous for consecutive decades.
Invasion of Yemen entailed different reactions amongst different countries. Although the US, Canada, France, the UK, Israel, and Turkey, are amongst the supporters of the invasion, Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria were against the attack. China and the UN also declared their anxiousness about the invasion.
Prohibition of the use of force is one of the basic principles on which international law has been founded. According to Article 2(4) of the Charter of the UN, all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
According to The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States adopted by the General Assembly on 24 October 1970 (resolution 2625 (XXV)), “A war of aggression constitutes a crime against the peace, for which there is responsibility under international law.”
According to the declaration, “States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression … [and] every State has the duty to refrain from the threat or use of force to violate the existing international boundaries of another State.” Although the declaration is not legally bounding, it is an important reliable document for the interpretation of the relevant rules of the UN charter. Therefore, the use of force for furthering national policy as well as interference in internal affairs of other countries, create the infringement of basic principles of international law.
The prohibition of the use of force has some exceptions, including self-defence and collective security system, which are not enforceable on the case of Yemen. No armed attack had been occurred by Yemen against the members of the coalition. Although the security council in its resolutions number 2201 and 2216 has considered Hadi as president of Yemen and referred to his letter in which he had requested help from the Arab League, the reliability of the resolutions, because of their being against ius cogens, ought to be regarded with suspicion. Many defenceless civilian Yemeni people were killed by the recurrent air strikes of the coalition which attacked them indiscriminately.
Although it has been claimed that the invasion has taken place based on the letter of Yemeni’s president, in should be said that Hadi was not the president of Yemen at the time of the letter. He, and his cabinet, had abdicated before as a result of a popular uprising, not as a result of a coup or something like that, as in Haiti in 1991. Therefore, he was not the representative of Yemeni people to request international community to intervene in Yemen.
To sum up, considering the rules of international law, it seems that the military operation of the coalition against Yemen is in contrast to international law; because of the fact that it was not an occupation by another state, such as Kuwait in 1990, and it was not a military coup, in contrast to the claims of Hadi, in Yemen. The Yemeni people would like to overthrow Hadi; but he supressed them with ultimate cruelty; for example, in the bloody Friday of 8 March 2011, more than 50 people were killed and 240 were wounded. Instead of listening to the demands of the downtrodden people of Yemen, the government of Hadi tried to suppress them violently; and it was condemned several times by international organisations, such as amnesty international and the UN. Now the breach of the sovereignty of Yemen and its territorial integrity is against the goals and purposes of the UN Charter. Being against humanitarian international law, it not does not help to create peace and security in the region; but it helps the terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda to grow up.

Should the U.S. maintain its alliance with Saudi Arabia? Unfortunately, we’re stuck with them



Our unhappy marriage with Saudi Arabia will probably endure — because the Saudis can’t be trusted on their own.

In late January, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the minister of defense, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the King Faisal Air Academy. On the occasion, the Saudis reportedly added to their fleet of warplanes a number of brand new F-15SAs. The new planes are a variant of the Boeing-manufactured F-15 fighter jets and are part of a $29.4 billion deal signed in late 2011 that includes 84 new F-15SAs and an additional 68 of the F-15S variant that will be upgraded.
It was a big purchase, but the Saudis were not done. Since 2014, Riyadh has placed orders for another $30 billion worth of American weapons, the bulk of which were requisitioned after Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen began in March 2015. The Saudis have also spent another $22 billion on weapons from the United Kingdom and France. The numbers are staggering, making the House of Saud the second largest importer of weapons in the world after India.
Recently, Intelligence Squared US hosted a debate on the motion that the special U.S.-Saudi relationship has outlived its usefulness. At the end of the discussion, which pitted two teams of two experts against each other, 56 percent of those in attendance were convinced that Saudi Arabia should remain a strategic ally. Based on weapons sales alone, Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly a strategic partner of — and effectively a jobs program for — the American defense industry. A more appropriate question for the event might have been, “Is Saudi Arabia a competent ally?”
A few years ago, the Saudis began rewriting their defense doctrine in response to what officials in Riyadh feared was a weakening American commitment to Saudi security. The Saudis had long expressed concerns to American interlocutors that with all the talk in Washington of “engagement” with Tehran going back to the George W. Bush era, the United States would seek to replace Saudi Arabia with Iran as its primary interlocutor in the Persian Gulf. The fact that former President Barack Obama did not support President Hosni Mubarak during Egypt’s January 2011 uprising, resisted direct American involvement in the conflict in Syria and mused out loud that the real threat to Saudi security was internal reinforced the idea in Riyadh that Washington was not just unreliable but had tilted in favor of Iran.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, was, for the Saudis and their allies in the Gulf, the logical conclusion of a pro-Iranian policy that Obama harbored from the time he entered office. The Saudi leadership came to the conclusion that if the United States was not willing to contain and roll back Iranian influence in the region, the Saudis would have to do it on their own.
This was a dramatic change for the Saudi leadership. For years, the Saudis believed they could count on the commitments that the U.S. had made to ensure Saudi Arabia’s security dating back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Those guarantees were, of course, directly related to the oil upon which the Saudis sat and American interest in a well-functioning Western (after the Cold War, global) capitalist order. The Saudis also contributed to their own security but not through military might, even though they have been buyers of American weapons systems for a long time. Instead they employed a policy of riyalpolitik in which the Saudis used the proceeds from oil exports to keep adversaries at bay and thereby ensure the security and stability of their country.
It didn’t always work, which is why the relationship with the U.S. was so critical for the Saudi leadership. Perhaps the best example of this was the way in which the House of Saud helped bankroll Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s war effort against Iran in the 1980s. That policy certainly weakened the Iranians, but then, when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990 and threatened Saudi Arabia, the U.S. cavalry came to the rescue. Bulking up on weapons and rewriting doctrine was a way for the Saudis to demonstrate resolve and regional leadership and, more importantly, diminish their dependence on the United States. It started out pretty well. In the spring of 2011, the Saudis and the Emiratis deployed 1,500 troops to Bahrain both in solidarity with the country’s ruling family, which was confronting a destabilizing uprising, and as a show of force for the benefit of the Iranians, who the Saudis were convinced had a hand in the Bahraini unrest.
The Saudi foray into neighboring Bahrain was, from their perspective, a success. Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa did not fall and the country did not come under Iranian influence. It was also the last time the Saudis achieved their foreign policy goals. For years the Saudis and Iranians competed in Lebanon, though Tehran and its client, Hezbollah, were always stronger than Riyadh’s allies. Still, as the Iranians were drawn ever deeper into the Syrian conflict, the Saudis made a big push to seize the initiative in Lebanon.
In December 2013, the Saudis announced they were investing $3 billion to re-equip the Lebanese Armed Forces, in an obvious effort to transform Lebanon’s military into a credible counterforce to Hezbollah. It did not work out that way. In early 2016, the Saudis voided their commitment because of Lebanon’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran — a function of the fact that the influence of pro-Saudi Lebanese political figures has diminished, despite Riyadh’s best efforts.
In Syria, the Saudis were not as vocal as the Turks or as visible as the Qataris in the anti–Bashar al-Assad coalition, but they nevertheless played a critical role in trying to bring down the Syrian regime. Beginning in 2012, Prince Bandar bin Sultan — the longtime Saudi ambassador in Washington — reportedly oversaw an effort to provide money and weapons to Syrian rebels via Croatia and Jordan. It is not entirely clear when that program ended — the Jordanians were not happy with it — or who the direct beneficiaries of this largesse were, given the constantly evolving nature of the groups fighting in Syria. Despite their pretensions to lead the region against the predatory policies of the Iranians, the Saudis have been unable to shape events in their favor. At the moment, it seems likely that Assad will hang on in Syria, which will be a significant strategic victory for Tehran.
And then there’s Yemen. The Saudis intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after Houthi tribesmen ran the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi out of the capital, Sanaa. The Saudis saw the conflict next door as they see everything else in the region — through the prism of their struggle with the Iranians. Determined not to allow the “Hezbollah-ization” of Yemen, the destabilization of the Arabian Peninsula and the expansion of Iran’s influence in their backyard, the Saudi military — primarily the air force and its F-15s — got into the fight.
An estimated $200 billion later (Riyadh has been typically opaque about its expenditures), the Saudis have little to show for their efforts. Their intervention in Yemen almost certainly accelerated the developments they feared most. The Houthis have drawn ever closer to the Iranians and, as the quagmire drags on, the conflict has the potential to undermine Saudi Arabia’s security.
No one should be surprised by the Saudi performance in Yemen. They have been having their butts handed to them by the Houthis since the 1930s. Before the military operation in 2015, the Saudis threw ground forces into a fight against the Houthis in 2009. It was a brief skirmish, but the Saudis had to beat a retreat and decided instead that they would try to pay off their antagonists. Riyadh’s current partners in the Yemen effort — primarily the Emiratis — share Saudi Arabia’s concerns about the expansion of Iranian influence on the western side of the Arabian Gulf. But they are also in Yemen because they fear the Saudis might lose the fight without them.
It is important to underscore the human cost of this misadventure in Yemen. The Saudis have been pounding the poorest country in the region for almost two years. The air campaign is not supposed to be indiscriminate, but it sure looks that way, which is why, in December 2016, the Obama administration decided not to move forward with the sale of air-dropped and precision-guided munitions to the Saudis. The Obama White House had previously suspended the delivery of cluster bombs to the Saudis over concerns about mounting civilian casualties, but Congress restored the deal. The Saudis have committed $10 billion for Yemen’s reconstruction, but this is a token amount given the scale of the humanitarian disaster for which Riyadh is responsible — a situation that has been all but lost in all the media coverage of Syrians and their struggles to survive.
Saudi Arabia’s experiment with a more active and aggressive military posture in the region is a failure. The Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces are just not competent enough to conduct complex military operations. This is why the recent Saudi announcement that it is willing to deploy ground forces to Syria should be met with derision. Even if this is only a gesture and a potential opportunity to plant a flag, no good is likely to come from it. The Saudis are simply no match for the other forces operating in the area.
Nor has Saudi Arabia fared much better when it has sought to shape the political environment in the region from Beirut to Cairo to Doha, encountering resistance and frustration at every turn. Yet the people at the Intelligence Squared US debate were quite right, but for the wrong reasons. It is not that the U.S. shouldn’t walk away from Saudi Arabia because it is a major oil producer and a partner in the fight against terrorism, or because the bilateral relationship has benefited Washington. The larger issue is that if Saudi Arabia is left to its own devices, it will sow more chaos in the Middle East. That is something no one needs.

BARBARIC LAWS OF IGNORANCE : Amputations & stoning: Malaysia govt backs Islamic penal law





The Malaysian government has pledged its support for an Islamic penal code seeking to expand the jurisdiction of Shariah law by introducing harsh punishments like amputations and stoning, shocking its predominantly multi-ethnic society. Prime Minister Najib Razak's government unexpectedly submitted for parliamentary approval a controversial bill that had been proposed by the Islamist group Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), local media reported on Saturday.
The bill, also referred to as “hudud law,” seeks to amend the Malaysian constitution, thus allowing Sharia penalties in Kelantan, a predominantly Muslim northern state, where nightclubs are banned and there are separate public benches for men and women.
If passed, the bill would open the possibility to other states to enact hudud laws and promote two parallel criminal justice systems with different penalties under secular and Sharia laws, Malaysian media suggested.Whereas the secular criminal code includes no corporal punishments, under Sharia laws, the courts would be empowered to order stoning or amputations.
Arguments for and against the introduction of Sharia law have divided Malaysia for years. Most of the states already implement the Islamic legal system, but its reach is restricted by secular federal laws.
The bill’s submission to parliament provoked criticism from other political leaders, including those who represent Chinese and Indian minorities.
Earlier in the day, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a key party in the ruling government’s coalition, called the move "unconstitutional." Liow Tiong Lai, leader of the MCA, Mah Siew Keong, president of Malaysian People's Movement Party have threatened to quit their cabinet positions if the bill were to be passed and implemented, according to New Straits Times. Prime Minister Najib sought to play the situation down, saying the bill was "misunderstood."
"It's not hudud, but what we refer to as enhanced punishment," he was quoted as saying by Reuters during a news conference after meeting leaders of his ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party.
"It applies only to certain offences and this comes under the jurisdiction of the Syariah [the Malay spelling of Sharia] court and is only applicable to the Muslims. It has nothing to do with non-Muslims," he insisted.
The prime minister also added that the punishments would be limited and canings meted out under the law “would not injure or draw blood.”
Malaysia has seen sporadic political turmoil since last August, when a massive anti-government rally involving tens of thousands of people demanded that PM Najib resign.
The protesters accused Najib of corruption after documents were leaked in July showing that he had received some $700 million from entities linked to an indebted state fund. He later claimed the money was a donation from the Middle East. Najib sacked several senior government officials and the attorney general investigating the allegations against him.

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NYT Editorial - The Immigration Facts Donald Trump Doesn’t Like




Let’s be clear: The moral case against President Trump’s plan to uproot and expel millions of unauthorized immigrants is open-and-shut. But what about the economic cost? This is where deeply shameful collides with truly stupid.
The Migration Policy Institute reported in 2013 that the federal government spends more each year on immigration enforcement — through Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol — than on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. The total has risen to more than $19 billion a year, and more than $306 billion in all since 1986, measured in 2016 dollars. This exceeds the sum of all spending for the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Secret Service; the Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
ICE and the Border Patrol already refer more cases for federal prosecution than the entire Justice Department, and the number of people they detain each year (more than 400,000) is greater than the number of inmates being held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for all other federal crimes.
That is blank-check, steroidal enforcement — and Mr. Trump and the Homeland Security secretary, John Kelly, want more.
The size of the Border Patrol more than doubled in the 1990s and doubled again after 9/11. Mr. Trump ran on a pledge to expand the patrol and triple the size of ICE; Mr. Kelly has obliged. His enforcement memos last week seek to increase the force by 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.
Or maybe more, if you consider the administration’s trial balloon, recently floated, to mobilize 100,000 National Guard troops and add them to the mix. Such an effort would surely exceed, in scale and futility, President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to send the Army and that National Guard to the Southwest to fruitlessly chase Pancho Villa in 1916. How much will it all cost? Mr. Trump isn’t saying, if he has bothered to check.
Mr. Trump also talks about a 2,000-mile, double-thick, very high wall along the border from San Diego to Brownsville, Tex. There are already 700 miles of fencing on the border, plus watchtowers, sensors, floodlights and razor wire, and boots and all-terrain vehicles on the ground and drones in the air. In 2009 the Government Accountability Office estimated the cost of the existing fence at $2.8 million to $3.9 million per mile, but that was for the relatively easy stretches.
Estimates of the full price of Mr. Trump’s great wall vary. He said it would cost $8 billion, then changed that to $10 billion to $12 billion. “Fat chance,” the MIT Technology Review said last October, finding Mr. Trump guilty of “bad math” and placing the real figure at $27 billion to $40 billion for 1,000 miles.
But wait — didn’t Mr. Trump also say the cost to America would actually be zero, since he would force Mexico to pay for the wall, even though Mexico says it won’t? He did. But then he said Mexico would reimburse us for the wall, which is to say … who knows? Mr. Kelly’s memos include a plan to catalog United States aid to Mexico, suggesting that he is looking for money to raid for a Trump wall fund, and that this so-called wall remains firmly in the realm of delusion.
Which won’t stop the flow of money out of Washington. One example: The Homeland Security inspector general reported in 2014 that the Border Patrol had spent $360 million over eight years on drones but found “little or no evidence” that the drones made the border more secure.
Although facts are of little interest to this White House, all this budget-busting border mania is essentially for nothing. Illegal immigration from Mexico has trailed off in the last decade. And according to the Pew Hispanic Center, the net flow across the border is now less than zero. Wait, there’s more. All the people Mr. Kelly rounds up will have to be detained and deported at taxpayer expense. Congress requires the Homeland Security Department to maintain about 34,000 immigration detention beds, at an estimated annual cost of $2 billion, or $5.5 million a day. Adding thousands more cells and beds will surely send that bill — like the profits of the private-prison contractors who have been cashing in on all this misery — through the roof.
Now let’s examine the cost to the economy.
If you do back-of-the-envelope calculations, you’re gonna need a big envelope. The American Action Forum last year estimated that expelling all unauthorized immigrants, and keeping them out, would cost $400 billion to $600 billion, and reduce the gross domestic product by $1 trillion.
Mr. Trump describes immigrants as rapist-murderer-terrorists, but what they really are is a pillar of the American economy, producing a net benefit of about $50 billion since 1990. Farms and restaurants, hotels, manufacturers, retail businesses — all sectors of the economy benefit directly or indirectly from immigrant labor.
As for taxes, unauthorized immigrants pay them, and if they work off the books, they pay into the system without taking out. They don’t collect Social Security and don’t qualify for food stamps or other benefit programs. They pay sales and property taxes, and since they are generally younger and healthier than the native-born population, they strengthen the safety net. The Social Security Administration estimates that unauthorized immigrations pay about $13 billion a year into Social Security and get only about $1 billion back.
It’s ridiculous to have to explain this to the president, but: If you take a population of 11 million people out of the country, or force them deeper underground, the economy will not be healthier. If you have to find foster parents for millions of abandoned American children of deported immigrants, society will not be stronger. Shrink our immigrant-rich economic sectors, send all that entrepreneurial energy to Canada and Mexico — America will not be better off.
Pull immigrants and refugees out of the declining Rust and Bible Belt cities and towns that they have been repopulating and revitalizing. Bleed the immigrant populations of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Who benefits? Not America.
While we wait for Mr. Kelly to achieve his boss’s bleak vision, we will have created a population of increasingly vulnerable, exploited noncitizens and Dreamer youths whose educations hit a dead end after high school. All that intellectual and economic potential, the prospect of rising incomes and tax payments, will have been squandered.
But squandering is the whole point. The “deportation force” may or may not hit its 11 million target, the wall may or may not stretch from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, but terror and intimidation have already spread through immigrant communities. And this is what the nativists who have been schooling the president want.
The larger costs to the economy, and the dire human toll, do not concern them.

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Hillary Clinton to Make St. Patrick's Day Speech




Hillary Clinton has been selected to speak at a St. Patrick's Day event in Scranton.
The Times-Tribune of Scranton reports the former Democratic presidential candidate was announced Wednesday as the keynote speaker for the Society of Irish Women's annual St. Patrick's Day dinner.
Clinton's late father grew up in Scranton and she spent summers at the family's summer cottage on nearby Lake Winola.
Her last appearance in Scranton was Aug. 15, during her campaign against Donald Trump.
The speech is one of several Clinton is scheduled to deliver in the coming months, including a commencement address May 26 at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

The president said nothing - ''A Deafening Silence''













By 





Two Indian nationals were shot by a man yelling racial epithets. The president said nothing. That’s all we need to know about who matters in Trump’s America.
On Wednesday night at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, 51-year-old Adam Purinton pulled out a gun and opened fire on two local engineers from India as well as two patrons who tried to intervene in the situation. One of the Indian men, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, died of his wounds while at a hospital. The other, Alok Madasani, also 32, was injured. One of the bystanders, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who is white, was seriously wounded. According to witnesses, Purinton had been kicked out of the bar after causing a disruption. He later re-entered carrying a weapon. Hurling racial slurs at the two engineers, he began firing. “Get out of my country,” he reportedly said.
If accurate, witnesses and victims have described a hate crime: an attack meant to intimidate an entire community, as much as to harm a particular individual. Given the larger atmosphere of fear and hostility toward immigrants and people perceived as “foreigners,” this shooting has received wide attention from national outlets. But there’s one prominent observer who hasn’t weighed in on the incident: the president of the United States. Donald Trump is quick to comment on everything from leaks in his administration to cable news—and he’s never refrained from condemning terrorist attacks.
Earlier this month, for example, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, a young man attacked a group of soldiers: Wielding a machete, he ran at them shouting in Arabic, “Allahu akbar.” Police shot and subdued the suspect, who was taken into custody with serious injuries. The attempted attack placed terrorism back in the headlines of French politics, renewing fears and concerns around security and immigration. Here in the United States, President Donald Trump used the incident to justify his exclusionary policies toward Muslim immigrants and refugees. “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down,” said Trump on Twitter. “France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.” This was of a piece with statements Trump made in the wake of incidents in Nice, France, Berlin, and other attacks overseas claimed by militant Islamist groups.
There was no such statement about the two men in Kansas. No condemnation of the racial violence that grievously wounded an American and claimed the life of a law-abiding legal resident. But then, Trump is rarely interested in those incidents. Just two days after the attempted attack in France, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City. Described by activists as a “white nationalist,” Bissonnette was known locally as a right-wing, anti-immigrant troll inspired by extreme right-wing figures like Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen. Where Trump was vocal in the face of the incident in Paris, he was silent following the murders in Quebec. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the attack “a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” which reads as a defense of the administration’s travel ban. This was an odd choice of words, as Bissonnette was a native-born white Canadian, not a refugee or Muslim immigrant. It’s tempting to read the president’s silence on either Quebec City or Kansas as simple insensitivity. But that judgment is challenged by our ability to imagine the scenarios under which Trump would make a statement. If the situation in Kansas were reversed, if two Indian immigrants attacked a group of white patrons to intimidate the larger community, there’s little question that Trump would respond with anger and condemnation. Had a young Muslim man killed worshippers at a Catholic church, it’s a near-certainty that the president would have called for even harsher measures toward refugees. We know this because of Trump’s own actions; in the campaign, his call for an anti-Muslim crackdown came in the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting despite the fact that the assailant was a native-born American.
Trump’s selective outrage is more than just a double standard. Like his early blitz of executive orders, it’s an important symbolic gesture. Proclaiming new draconian measures to protect police officers is explicitly siding with “Blue Lives Matter” against protesters and reformers. Likewise, elevating one kind of attack as worthy of condemnation and ignoring another is to implicitly say that one kind of assailant is more dangerous than another—and for that matter, the life of one kind of victim is more valuable than another. For Trump, “radical Islamic terrorism”—which in practice just means Islam—is the principal threat to the United States. And so any attack on a Western target (Trump is also seemingly indifferent to terrorist violence against Muslim targets) from anyone who fits that description, or who can be linked to refugees or immigration, becomes a cause for focus and attention from the White House.
The opposite is true for anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant hate crimes, or acts of terror planned or committed by white supremacists. Despite the real toll they take on communities, those attacks are of little interest to the administration. Indeed, in another largely symbolic move announced at the beginning of this month, Trump said he would revamp and rename a program designed to counter all violent extremism so that it focused on “radical Islamic extremism.” It will no longer target white supremacist groups and other racist extremists. Again, it’s a symbol and a signal: Islam is the threat, not racism or weaponized hate toward nonwhites and immigrants.
Donald Trump has not done much as president, but he has done this: He’s sent a clear signal to the country about who is worthy of empathy and concern—and protection—and who is not; about who deserves your outrage and indignation, and who doesn’t. Trump’s double standard is just another of the many ways he has told the American public that the lives and safety of immigrants and Muslims just don’t matter all that much.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/02/trump_s_silence_about_two_indians_shot_in_kansas_speaks_volumes.html

Thanks Republicans - Mission accomplished - The Kansas killing has apparently brought out two different faces of America

The Kansas shooting incident killing one Telugu engineer and injuring another, both from Hyderabad, has sent ripples across the Indian community in the United States. While racist hate attacks are not new in that country, some from the Indian diaspora believe that accession of Donald Trump to the presidency has boosted the confidence of racist elements in society which might cause occurrence of such incidents.
It is well known that David Duke, former head of Ku Klux Klan and French far right Presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen are some of President Trump’s admirers, many of them point out. Priya V, a Minnesota state resident says, “Donald Trump’s hasty comments and decisions are definitely provoking Americans to turn against immigrants. I am now living in Minneapolis. The city’s downtown has a lot of night clubs including gay clubs. I fear that these clubs might become a target anytime just like it happened in Orlando. I am avoiding such crowded places these days.”
She further said, “While such attacks have occurred earlier also, the present political atmosphere in the country is one which fortifies the confidence of people whose views are anti-immigrant.” Unlike the Milpitas homicide incident in which an Indian student from Telangana was killed, the racial hate attack of Kansas, killing a Hyderabadi engineer and injuring another, garnered lot of buzz on social media.
Social media messages were directed at United States President Donald Trump for spreading xenophobia. Tweet by one Naveen from the US on the Kansas incident went, “Absolutely despicable! This is what happens when you normalize racism and hatred by calling it *political incorrectness*.” Social media users also attacked Indians, NRIs and Hindu nationalist groups in India and the US who supported Donald Trump’s presidency.
http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2017/feb/25/the-kansas-killing-has-apparently-brought-out-two-different-faces-of-america-1574446.html

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'Not Even Dogs Live Like This' -- Afghan Refugees Return Home To Find Squalid Conditions


By Frud Bezhan 


Standing in a battered tent flanked by mud and human waste, Sahibuddin Khan and his family of five are among the thousands of returning Afghan refugees seeking food and shelter in crowded, ramshackle camps that have sprung up on the outskirts of Kabul.
An unprecedented number of Afghans are flooding back into their war-torn homeland, many of them forcibly evicted from neighboring Pakistan and Iran but also from Europe. The new wave of returnees joins the more than 1 million people already displaced by war inside the country, exacerbating an already urgent humanitarian crisis.
The returnees are coming back to a country where extreme poverty is rife, security is shaky, and where the Taliban has gained more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The Afghan government, which had already been struggling to maintain basic living standards for its people, is failing to cope with the massive influx.
"We are in our own country, but not even dogs live like this," says Khan, who recently returned with his family from Pakistan. They live in a camp teeming with more than 450 returnee families, many of them left to fend for themselves, fighting against the elements and on a constant quest for food. The camp has no running water, no electricity, and disease is rampant.
For Khan, the dire conditions took their toll last month when two of his six children, ages 2 and 4, succumbed to illness and died. "When there was heavy snow recently, I lost my own children," says Khan, who has lived in the camp, located on the eastern outskirts of Kabul, for the past two months. "We live in a tent and there's no firewood or food."
An Afghan refugee family stands by trucks loaded with their belongings as they wait to go back to Afghanistan with others, at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, in February 2015.
An Afghan refugee family stands by trucks loaded with their belongings as they wait to go back to Afghanistan with others, at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, in February 2015.
Last year, Khan and his family were living in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, close to the Afghan border, a place he had called home for nearly two decades.
Khan, who ran his own grocery shop in Quetta, says his family lived in relative security and comfort. But he says their lives were upended after Pakistani authorities – as part of an anti-Afghan backlash -- shut down his shop and raided their home, located in a predominately Afghan neighborhood of the city. After months of threats and police abuse, the Khan family finally packed up their household possessions and returned to their homeland.
Now the Khans find themselves destitute in their own country.
Hounded Out Of Pakistan
Many Afghans returning to their homeland cannot go back to their former homes due to insecurity or land-grabbing, leaving them reliant on the government for housing or land.
"We never thought it would be like this," Khan says. "We expected help to restart our lives."
For years, Islamabad had urged Afghan refugees to return home, with little political will behind the request. But that was before the massacre of more than 150 people, the vast majority of them students, at a Peshawar school in December 2014. Many returning refugees said they were made scapegoats for the attack, which was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
Last year, the Pakistani government ordered all Afghan migrants and refugees to leave the country. Authorities began raiding their homes and shops. Returnees like Khan claim they were routinely harassed by police, arbitrarily arrested, or had their leases canceled.
Afghan refugee women sit with their children after returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan, at the UNHCR camp on the outskirts of Kabul in September 2016.
Afghan refugee women sit with their children after returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan, at the UNHCR camp on the outskirts of Kabul in September 2016.
In the second half of 2016, Pakistan evicted nearly 365,000 of the country's 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees, as well as just over 200,000 of the estimated 1 million undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan, according to the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW). At its peak in the 1980s, Pakistan sheltered an estimated 5 million Afghan refugees as Afghan guerrilla fighters battled invading Soviet troops.
"Any forced return of a registered refugee, whether it is directly done or indirectly done, is a breach of international law," says Gerry Simpson, a senior researcher and advocate in HRW's Refugee Rights Program. "It's clear that Pakistan breached international law in forcing back those registered refugees against their will."
In a strongly worded report released on February 13, HRW called the eviction of Afghan refugees from Pakistan the "world's largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent times."
Islamabad claims that the refugees who have left have done so voluntarily, and it has extended its deadline for all refugees to return to the end of 2017. Human rights groups say the deadline should be extended to 2019, at least.
Kabul's 'Reckless' Promises
Throughout the squalid Kabul camp where the Khans live, there is mounting anger and frustration over the lack of official help.
The Afghan government, heavily reliant on foreign aid, has promised refugees their own parcels of land but is struggling to deliver on that pledge. HRW's Simpson says not one refugee who returned to Afghanistan in 2016 has so far received any land.
"The process of distributing land to people has started in some provinces, but it takes time because it has to go through a legal process," says Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations. He acknowledges the massive refugee crisis but says the government in Kabul is doing the best it can with the meager resources at its disposal.
HRW's Simpson says the Afghan government's "false promises" are "absolutely reckless," noting that Kabul's overly generous pledges of compensation helped to convince some refugees to return, only to find themselves homeless and displaced. "This is in line with a long-term challenge and failure to provide land to displaced Afghans," he says. "The reasons are corruption, inefficiency, and lack of funds."
An Internally displaced Afghan child looks out from within his temporary home at a refugee camp in Kabul in December.
An Internally displaced Afghan child looks out from within his temporary home at a refugee camp in Kabul in December.
The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says it gives out $400 in cash to registered returnees, while the International Organization for Migration says it targets its aid -- about $300 in cash per family, plus food or essential items, as needed -- to undocumented refugees, depending on their levels of vulnerability. In truth, however, many returnees fall through the cracks and receive little help.
One of them is 14-year-old Sameh, who left Pakistan with his family of seven almost three months ago and now lives in the same camp as the Khans.
"We have so many problems," he says. "We have no firewood or food. There's so much mud everywhere, and I have no shoes or clothes."

In Face Of Threats And Attacks, Pakistani Media Establish 'Safety Hubs'


Frud Bezhan 
In Pakistan, a country where journalists are often the targets of threats and deadly attacks and have little protection from authorities, many reporters are left to fend for themselves.
Now, Pakistani journalists are banding together and establishing so-called "safety hubs" where reporters can formally document cases of intimidation and physical abuse. The hubs, located in press clubs in all four provincial capitals, will then take up the cases with authorities.
The initiative is part of an effort to highlight attacks on the media in a bid to spur authorities to protect Pakistan's estimated 18,000 journalists, many of whom face threats and violence from militant groups, criminal gangs, and even the country's own military and intelligence agencies.
Gohar Ali, the head of the safety hub project in the volatile northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining lawless tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, says they have reported more than a dozen cases of threats since the project was rolled out in January.
'Fear More Trouble'
A large banner is plastered on the Peshawar Press Club, a two-story brick building opposite the railway station in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The sign urges journalists facing threats and violence to come forward.
But Ali says many journalists are still afraid to report threats and violence, fearing a backlash from militants, criminals, and intelligence agents in the region.
"The major problem is that many journalists do not mention the threat because they fear more trouble," Ali said. "This is especially the case with journalists from the tribal areas who are facing many threats."
Ali says there have been many cases where journalists have shared their concerns, but have refrained from formally documenting their complaints.
Dilawar Wazir, a BBC reporter in Peshawar, moved with his family from the Waziristan region in the tribal areas due to persistent threats.
A Pakistani journalist holds a poster with a photo of a news cameraman killed in a suicide bombing in August 2016.
A Pakistani journalist holds a poster with a photo of a news cameraman killed in a suicide bombing in August 2016.
The region, many parts of which are off-limits to reporters, is a hotbed for militant groups and the scene of sporadic military operations.
"The majority of journalists have moved with their families from Waziristan because of threats and fear," says Wazir. "The homes of many journalists have been attacked in the past. They were physically attacked or their family members were threatened."
Apart from recording cases, the safety hubs also offer legal advice for journalists facing prosecution for their reporting and even provide financial assistance to the families of reporters who have been killed in the line of duty.
The project is managed by International Media Support, a development organization that works with local media in conflict areas.
The project comes a year after journalists formed a group called Editors For Safety, vowing to report on and highlight attacks on the press in an attempt to spur the authorities and their own employers into action.
Culture Of Impunity
Pakistan has long been among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with 102 reporters and media workers having lost their lives since 2005, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The organization adds that, since 2010, 73 journalists and media workers in Pakistan have been killed: almost one journalist killed every month.
Most of those killed were local journalists reporting on war, politics, corruption, and human rights.
In a 2016 report on Pakistan, which ranks 147th out of 179 countries on Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index, the IFJ said that an "atmosphere of lawlessness" in the country, aided by "widespread impunity," has "not only contributed to more attacks on journalists but also forced the journalists to self-censor."
"In many of the cases, there were reports suspecting Pakistan's intelligence services' involvement but the government has failed to investigate these cases and punish the murderers. With only three verdicts and one case in the court in more than 100 killings since 2005, impunity in Pakistan is at its worst."
In August, DawnNews cameraman Mahmood Khan and Aaj TV cameraman Shehzad Ahmed died at Quetta Civil Hospital when a bomb killed at least 70 people -- many of them lawyers -- among a crowd that was grieving the assassination of the head of Balochistan's Bar Association.
There have been dozens of high-profile cases of journalists targeted in Pakistan in the past decade, including U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, who was slain after his abduction in the port city of Karachi in 2002; Salem Shahzad, who was found dead in the capital Islamabad in 2011 after reporting on the infiltration of militant groups in the army; and Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan's most prominent reporters, who survived an attack on his life in Karachi in 2014.