Sunday, July 16, 2017
American idiots: Republicans are bored with bashing the media – so now they're going after colleges and universities
By David Usborne
85 per cent of Republicans think a free press is bad for the country – and they’re now turning their attention to professors and colleges across the country because they are ‘indoctrinating’ students.
I don’t know if you’ve had reason lately to worry about the land of the free and where it might be headed. You may have. There’s that person they just elected president, the one who thinks freedom works better with walls and border bans, that free trade is better less free and so on.
It is not so much Donald Trump himself that befuddles – even now some of us struggle to put the word “President” before the name – but that “They The People” voted for him. Our assumptions about the things that bind us suddenly seem uncertain. Unless your name is Nigel Farage.
Well, how about this for concerning? Last week, the Pew Research Centre in Washington DC released a survey suggesting that a majority of Americans who vote or lean Republican now think that universities and colleges are a bad thing, to be avoided. Yes, really. A full 58 per cent of them believe that institutions of higher education have a negative impact on the country. Only 36 per cent of Republicans say colleges benefit it. Harvard? Pish. Princeton? Posh.
BY ZARA RAHMAN
Eight of Turkey’s most respected human rights defenders were arrested last week, along with two information technology trainers from Sweden and Germany. All ten of those arrested are still in police custody but have not been charged with any crime.
The group had gathered for digital security and information management workshop on one of Istanbul’s islands, Buyukada, on July 5 when police raided the workshop, detained the participants, and confiscated electronic equipment including computers and mobile phones. Among those arrested was the director of Amnesty International Turkey, Idil Eser.
Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet reported that police also raided the homes of some of the human rights defenders who was arrested, and seized books, CDs, phones and digital devices. On July 11, Hurriyet Daily News reported that “house raids on detainees’ addresses were still ongoing.”
Amnesty International announced on July 11 that all ten people will remain in detention for at least seven more days.
Amnesty International chief Salil Shetty described the arrests as a “grotesque abuse of power and highlights the precarious situation facing human rights activists in the country.”
Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, described the situation as “a repressive new low for the Turkish state,” and called for their immediate release.
When he was questioned about the detentions at a July 8 press conference at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that the meeting “would constitute almost a continuation of the 15th July events,” referencing the failed coup attempt of 2016.
Turkish authorities have provided no evidence to the media or the public of the President’s assertion. All ten of those detained demonstrate a commitment peaceful, constructive protection of the rights of all Turkish people as they are enshrined by local laws and international human rights norms.
In a tweet on behalf of their staff, Amnesty International recalled their efforts to protect Erdogan when he was arrested in 1998 during a stint as Istanbul’s mayor.
Governments and intergovernmental agencies from around the world have expressed concern about a lack of due process and abuse of power on the part of the regime. Former Prime Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, described the arrests as a “very worrying sign”:
Dutch Member of European Parliament Kati Piri joined in the calls for the release of the group:
Supporters of the human rights defenders are using Facebook to share updates and news on the group via the Free Rights Defenders – Hak Savunucularına Dokunma group. On Twitter, supporters are using the hashtags #HakSavunucularınaDokunma, #FreeRightsDefenders and #Istanbul10 to share information.
A Saudi Arabian student who was arrested five years ago as he was about to fly to Michigan to attend college, is believed to be facing imminent execution by beheading. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is asking U.S. President Donald Trump, who recently visited Saudi Arabia and concluded an arms deal with the country, to intervene.
Mujtaba Al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he was detained at King Fahd International Airport in 2012, was moved Friday from detention in Dammam to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where executions by the barbaric practice of beheading customarily take place.
Mujtaba’a was accused of attending protests that began in February 2011 and continued through 2012. United Nations observers have described these protests as peaceful.
Since his arrest Mujtaba’a was held in detention in Dammam. He was tried and subsequently sentenced to death on June 1, 2016. On May 25of this year, Saudi Arabia’s high court confirmed his death sentence. International human rights organizations believe that his execution by beheading may be imminent.Below are statements of two AFT leaders:
AFT President Randi Weingarten:
“Saudi Arabia’s threat to behead its own citizens for attending an anti-government protest is an unthinkable and despicable violation of international law and basic humanity. This group includes two youths—one of whom, Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, was at the airport coming to the United States to attend college when he was arrested—a man with disabilities, and 11 other people. People must have a right to speak and associate freely. Should these executions occur, Saudi Arabia should be considered a pariah nation by the world. We implore President Trump, as the standard-bearer for our great nation, to do everything in his power to stop the atrocities that may otherwise take place in Saudi Arabia.”AFT Michigan President David Hecker:
“At this hour, we understand that Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat was a student on his way to the United States to attend the University of Michigan when he was arrested without charges, purportedly for attending a political rally. President Trump displayed a close relationship with Saudi leaders during his recent trip to the kingdom. I urge him to use that relationship to plead with the new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to halt the executions.”
Do you think the United States should do business with a country that sentences minors to be executed for peaceful protesting? What is our obligation in terms of intervention? Should we not be sanctioning the Saudis for such human rights abuses? Does anyone think Trump really cares? I thought I heard Trump comment on the barbarism of ISIS beheadings? is this any different or is Trump’s disdain discriminatory?
Mujtaba Al-Sweikat was sentenced to death for participating in pro-democracy rallies, officials say.
Mujtaba Al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he was detained at King Fahd International Airport in 2012, was moved Friday from detention in Dammam to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where executions by beheading customarily take place.
Earlier that year, Al-Sweikat allegedly attended a pro-democracy rally, which led to his arrest.
Al-Sweikat intended to visit Western Michigan University, where he had applied as a student, according to Reprieve, an international human rights group that has offices in New York and London and operates with partners around the world. He was later accepted by the university as a student. The Free Press has seen a copy of the acceptance letter from Western. Western Michigan confirmed Al-Sweikat had been accepted to the university in 2013, but never attended. "We were stunned to learn, for the first time today, of this situation," Western Michigan spokeswoman Cheryl Roland said in a statement to the Free Press. "It is not unusual for an admitted student to opt out of enrolling at the last minute, so we had no idea there was such a troubling reason behind this student's failure to come to campus." Human rights groups said the execution is troubling.
"The increasingly brutal Saudi Arabian regime has ramped up executions for protest-related offences in recent days, and this latest move is extremely worrying," said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve. "Mujtaba was a promising 17-year-old boy on his way to study in Michigan when he was arrested, beaten, and later sentenced to death on the basis of a 'confession' extracted through torture. He now faces the imminent threat of beheading along with 14 others, including at least one other juvenile and a young disabled man.
Foa said the executions would constitute an appalling breach of international law. Foa urged President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to "use their close ties to Saudi Arabia to make clear that these egregious abuses must stop — and the imminent executions be immediately stayed."
The American Federation of Teachers also urged Trump to get involved.
“Saudi Arabia’s threat to behead its own citizens for attending an anti-government protest is an unthinkable and despicable violation of international law and basic humanity," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. "This group includes two youths — one of whom, Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, was at the airport coming to the United States to attend college when he was arrested — a man with disabilities, and 11 other people. People must have a right to speak and associate freely. Should these executions occur, Saudi Arabia should be considered a pariah nation by the world.
"We implore President Trump, as the standard-bearer for our great nation, to do everything in his power to stop the atrocities that may otherwise take place in Saudi Arabia.”
Western Michigan joined the call for Trump to get involved. "The AFT information makes it clear that the critical national political figures with influence in such a situation are informed," Roland said. "We join the AFT in urging them to use that influence to ask the Saudi government to exhibit compassion."
Al-Sweikat was not allowed access to a lawyer at any point before or during the interrogations, according to Reprieve. He was forced to sign a “confession” document in relation to several alleged offenses, including attendance at protests. If he refused to admit to any allegations, he was again beaten, tortured and subjected to verbal abuse.
Initial reports were that Mujtaba was on his way to attend the University of Michigan. U-M officials spent 18 hours searching records going back several years at all of its campuses and were unable to locate him as a student — either one who enrolled or had been accepted, a spokeswoman told the Free Press.
Mujtaba is part of a group facing execution by beheading for offenses related to attending protests, Reprieve said. Reprieve obtained information about Mujtaba and the others from his friends.
They were convicted and sentenced to death by Saudi Arabia’s controversial Specialised Criminal Court, which, although established to hear terrorism cases, has been used by authorities to silent dissent through the use of the death penalty, Reprieve said.
All 14 men and boys were transferred recently to Riyadh from Dammam Mabahith prison in preparation for their execution. However, the current execution practice is so shrouded in secrecy that not even their families know when they will be executed; only the King, who issues a decree ordering their execution, knows, Reprieve said in a briefing shared with the Free Press.
Stop selling arms to help Saudi Arabia wage war and reveal its links to extremists, British public urges May
Britain must end arms sales to Saudi Arabia while the country is accused of the large-scale slaughter of civilians in Yemen’s civil war, Theresa May is urged today.
An overwhelming majority of the public believes it is wrong for Britain to supply billions of pounds of weapons to the kingdom, an exclusive poll for The Independent has found.
Most people also want the Government to release a suppressed report into Saudi Arabia’s funding of Islamist extremism in Britain, even if it damages relations with the key ally.
The results lay bare the public’s deep unease about Britain’s close relationship with an autocracy embroiled in a devastating war in neighbouring Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition has been accused by the UN and other observers of bombing hospitals, schools and wedding parties, as it seeks to defeat Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
The United Nations has declared the country a “humanitarian catastrophe”, with sanitation systems destroyed and at least 300,000 people infected with cholera. The opposition to arms sales appears to extend into the Government, with key Tories thought to be arguing privately for weapons sales to be curbed.
Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.3bn worth of arms, including £1.1bn worth of ML4 licences, which relate to bombs, missiles, and other explosives.
Now the poll, by BMG Research, has found only 18 per cent of people support those sales “while the Middle Eastern state is engaged in Yemen’s civil war” – with 58 per cent against. Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat frontbench MP, said: “This just shows how fast the Conservatives are moving away from public opinion. “Instead of giving the Saudis a stern talking to, ministers are flogging them arms.
“They are desperate for shady Middle Eastern trade deals because they are hell-bent on taking us out of the world’s most lucrative single market, in Europe, with nations who share our values.”
Last week, the High Court ruled the Government is not breaking the law by continuing to sign off the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. However, the ruling appeared to be based on a narrow legal point about whether ministers had followed proper procedures and acted rationally in assessing the risks The judges concluded that there was “a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the [Saudi-led] coalition committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”. Activists from Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) had brought a legal challenge against the department in charge of arms control and will now appeal.
A day later the Home Secretary announced the Government will not release its report into Saudi Arabian and other foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain.
Amber Rudd said the report, commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron, must be held back on “national security” grounds. But The Independent poll finds that 64 per cent of the public wants the report to be made “publicly available in full”, with only 11 per cent backing its suppression. Mr Brake added: “Liberal Democrats forced the Conservatives to commission a report into Saudi funding of extremism, so where is the full report?
“It is totally hypocritical of ministers to condemn terrorism if they won’t also tackle the causes of terrorism. The public sees that, but scandalously the Conservatives don’t want to offend the world’s largest funder of Islamic fundamentalism.”
Saudi Arabia has been fighting a long and brutal war in Yemen against Houthirebels, who ousted the Saudi-backed central government in 2014. More than 10,000 civilians have died in the conflict, and over 3 million have been displaced. Millions face starvation. The Saudis have been accused of violating the rules of war and taking insufficient steps to protect civilians, who have been killed in mosques and at funerals and on the streets. Now, thanks to the destruction of local water and sewage infrastructure, the world’s largest cholera epidemic has infected 300,000 people and is continuing to spread at a rate of 5,000 new cases a day.
Despite all this, the Trump administration has promised that the U.S. will provide Saudi Arabia with $110 billion in weapons, leading human rights groups and others to call the U.S. morally complicit — and possibly legally complicit — in the loss of civilian life.
In response to the backlash from human rights organizations around the world and to help make the arms deal more politically palatable, the Saudis have put forward two face-saving measures in recent weeks: The country’s crown prince promised to provide $67 million to the United Nations for cholera treatment. And the Saudis have agreed to engage in a $750-million multiyear program to train its air force on how to avoid civilian casualties. Both steps are better than nothing, but much more will be necessary.
In the long run, the conflict in Yemen requires a negotiated political solution, not a continuation of the failed Saudi military strategy which has not achieved its objectives. In the shorter run, there are steps that could help reduce the violence and alleviate the suffering.
For starters, both the Saudis and the Houthis need to stop treating food aid and medical assistance like bargaining chips, and must open ports and airports so that they can pass safely into the neediest and most conflict-ridden areas. The UN cannot deliver cholera vaccines without these access points, no matter how much money the Saudis throw at the problem. If the Saudis refuse to allow aid in, then Congress, which has grown increasingly impatient that country’s flagrant disregard for human rights, must consider what steps it can take to punish the House of Saud for such a heartless stance.
On Friday morning, the House of Representatives passed several amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act that call for greater congressional oversight on how U.S. weapons are being used in Yemen. One amendment, introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), requires the departments of State and Defense to report to Congress every six months on whether the Saudis are indeed bombing fewer civilians, as they have committed to This is an important step toward ensuring that our partner in the Middle East understands exactly where we stand: $110 billion in weapons is not a blank check.