Friday, September 15, 2017

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'States With Abysmal Human Rights Records' Indicative Guests at UK Weapons Fair

As one of the world's biggest weapons trade exhibitions enters its second day in London, a spokesperson for Campaign Against The Arms Trade has told Sputnik the "immoral" fair serves to promote weapons of war to the world's most brutal governments. The UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox mounted an impassioned defense of the country's arms industry on the opening day of Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world's biggest weapons trade exhibitions.
Fox hailed the UK arms export sector for its contribution to the UK economy. He noted Britain was a global leader in defense, and this should not only be celebrated, but government and industry "must work to defend and promote" the sector.
Fox also stressed that nations have an inalienable right to look after their own defense.
"Those who trade from advanced economies must remember if we did not provide countries with the means of defending themselves, then we would see the proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales free from oversight or inhibition. To allow such a situation to develop would be vastly irresponsible," he said.
He however made no mention of the UK's huge sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a savage and sustained bombing campaign in Yemen since 2015.
Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), told Sputnik that economic arguments for the arms trade weak.
"UK defense sector is tiny in terms of the overall economy, accounting for 0.2 percent of jobs in the country. Yet, it attracts top talent and huge amounts of state support — we want to see this talent, and these funds, used for a positive purpose."
Commenting on the minister's statement, Mr. Smith also said:
"Fox spoke of self-defense, but really we have no idea how these weapons will be used once they've been purchased. Moreover, it's clear these weapons are not used for self-defense. In Yemen, British-made weapons are killing Yemeni civilians, for instance."
DSEI features 1,500 international exhibitors, marketing arms ranging from sniper rifles to tanks and warships — they are joined by trade visitors and military delegations from the world over. The controversial event has been dogged in its buildup by persistent protests, with thousands attempting to blockade weapons companies from accessing the ExCel center in London's Docklands area, and setting up stands.

DSEI features 1,500 international exhibitors, marketing arms ranging from sniper rifles to tanks and warships — they are joined by trade visitors and military delegations from the world over. The controversial event has been dogged in its buildup by persistent protests, with thousands attempting to blockade weapons companies from accessing the ExCel center in London's Docklands area, and setting up stands. 
Rising Exports
The trade exhibition follows mere days after it was revealed that in the 22 months since the Conservative party won the 2015 election, UK arms manufacturers exported almost US$6.6 billion (£5 billion) worth of weapons to countries judged to be repressive.
The vast receipts are largely attributable to a rise in orders from Saudi Arabia — but many other countries, which the UK government itself has subjected to embargoes and sanctions (including Azerbaijan, Venezuela and China) have also been major buyers.
CAAT found that of the 49 countries classed as "not free" by Freedom House, 36 have bought UK-made weapons since 2015.
Over this period, Saudi Arabia has agreed orders for more than US$5 billion (£3.75 billion) worth of British defense equipment mainly bombs and fighter aircraft — up from US$212 million (£160 million) in the 22 months prior to the election. Even when Riyadh's orders are excluded from the figures, arms exports to repressive governments have almost doubled over the 22-month period.
"You can either promote human rights and democracy or you can promote arms sales. You can't do both," Mr. Smith told Sputnik.

The Malign Hand of British Foreign Policy in Yemen

John Wight 

Britain's slavish support for the Saudi kleptocracy has long been a badge of shame, given Riyadh's contempt for anything approximating to human rights and democracy, and given the British establishment's assertion that the UK represents a redoubtable pillar of both. It is a relationship involving glaring hypocrisy of a kind perfected by those who wear the mantle of moral rectitude while engaging in the most immoral of acts. Its most damning evidence where London is concerned is the extent to which UK arms companies, with the connivance and support of Downing Street, are continuing to sell weapons to the Saudis that are being used to slaughter and maim civilians in Yemen.
Recently, the UN Human Rights Council — which by the way no one should forget is a body upon which Saudi Arabia sat as recently as 2016 at a time when its war against Yemen had been raging for over a year — verified that more 5000 civilians have been killed over the course of the conflict, which began in 2015, though most analysts consider the number to be significantly more. Even more egregious than the number of civilians killed, is the epidemic of cholera that has ensued, with 540,000 people thought to be suffering with the disease. This is further exacerbated by the alarming revelation that up to 7 million Yemeni civilians, out of a country with a population of 20 million, are currently under threat of famine.
Yet despite this dire catalogue of human suffering, the British government evinces no evidence — indeed not even a scintilla of evidence — of limiting, much less ending, its lucrative and deadly trade with the Saudis.
As these words are being written, the largest arms fair in the world is underway in London. Between 12-15 September at the city's Excel Arena, 1,600 ‘exhibitors' from 54 countries have been displaying their wares, comprising some of the most technologically advanced and lethal weaponry in the world today, to 36,000 visitors and delegates.
The organizers of the event in London, Defence and Security Equipment International(DSEI), claims on its website that it "brings together the global defense and security sector to innovate and share knowledge." It is of course highly unlikely that among the attractions on offer over the course of the event will be a film of the carnage and human suffering in Yemen courtesy of some of the weaponry on display.
Among those visiting this year's event was Britain Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, who found himself being accosted by a news reporter from the UK's ITV News channel. Appearing most uncomfortable at the news reporter's intrusion as he was walking through the event surrounded by a coterie of minders and flunkies, Mr Fox point blank refused to comment on the legality and morality of Britain's complicity in the abject suffering of Yemeni civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, in Yemen the Saudi Arabia-led coalition… supported by the United States and United Kingdom…has unlawfully attacked homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques." Yet in July of this year we learnedthat after a Saudi airstrike on a wedding in Yemen, in which scores of people were killed, including women and children, the British government approved a further £283 million in arms sales to its ally in Riyadh. Though Saudi Arabia is the UK arms industry's biggest customer, the US remains the largest supplier of arms to the Wahhabi theocracy. It is eminently significant that 16 years on from the terrorist atrocity of 9/11, Saudi Arabia remains Washington's closest Middle East ally outwith the State of Israel.
Though no evidence has emerged since 9/11 that directly implicates the Saudi government, there remain serious questions and suspicions. Indeed those suspicions and questions have prompted the families of 850 people killed in the 9/11 atrocity to file a lawsuit against the Saudis, alleging that they were actively involved in the terrorist attack.
By this point it is impossible for London and Washington to escape the stench of mendacity and hypocrisy over their relationship with Riyadh. The extreme and rigid interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism, which underpins the country and its state institutions, is well nigh indistinguishable from that which fuels Daesh and other extremist Salafi-jihadi terror groups in the region. It takes us into the murky world of realpolitik in which the rapacious drive for profits on the part of UK and US arms companies, supported and provided with diplomatic protection by their respective governments, has only undermined the security of their citizens as the regularity with which terrorist attacks have occurred on the streets of British and American cities in recent years has increased.
When Nelson Mandela, a man who throughout this life knew what injustice looked and felt like, opined that "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others," he described the precise opposite of British foreign policy. In this regard, the people of Yemen are only the latest in a long of people around the world to experience its malignant hand.

Hospital group comes out against new ObamaCare repeal effort

America’s Essential Hospitals announced its opposition to a new ObamaCare repeal and replace bill, warning of cuts and coverage losses.
The group, which represents hospitals that treat a high share of low-income people, said it is opposed to a last-ditch bill to repeal ObamaCare from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
Dr. Bruce Siegel, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement the bill “would shift costs to states, patients, providers, and taxpayers.” “Further, by taking an approach so close to that of the earlier House and Senate plans, it’s reasonable to conclude it would have a similar result: millions of Americans losing coverage,” he added.
America’s Essential Hospitals is one of the first major health groups to come out in opposition to the bill. Most have not yet weighed in on the measure, which was only introduced on Wednesday.
Many are also skeptical of the bill’s chances, but it appears to be gaining at least some momentum. Cassidy told reporters Friday that he thought the bill had the support of 48-49 senators, just shy of the needed 50. Still, the effort faces long odds and a fast-approaching procedural deadline of Sept. 30.
America’s Essential Hospitals was one of the most outspoken opponents of the earlier repeal bills, along with other hospital groups. Many doctors groups were also opposed and many insurers eventually weighed in against provisions to change ObamaCare pre-existing condition rules.

PBS NewsHour - Hillary Clinton looks back at “What Happened” in the 2016 election.

Music Video - INNA - Ruleta (feat. Erik)

Theresa May rebukes Donald Trump over tube bombing tweets

By Martin Pengelly and Rowena Mason
PM says US president’s speculation that Parsons Green attack perpetrators were known to Metropolitan police is unhelpful.
Theresa May has rebuked Donald Trump for suggesting the people responsible for an explosion on a London tube train were known to the Metropolitan police.
The prime minister expressed her frustration as she spoke for the first time about the “cowardly attack” at Parsons Green underground station in west London, which injured 29 people.
Trump claimed on Twitter that the terrorist attack involved “sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard”, despite no such information having been released publicly by police. He also blamed it on “loser terrorists”, promoted his travel ban and advocated a “proactive and nasty” policy against Islamic State.
Asked about Trump’s potential breach of convention on intelligence sharing, May was unusually critical of the US president, saying: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”
When the president tweeted, no suspect had been identified and no group or individual had claimed responsibility for the blast.
The Met police said the president’s comments regarding Friday morning’s incident were unhelpful and “pure speculation”.
There was no immediate response from the White House to questions about the basis of Trump’s assertion.
Speaking outside the White House on Friday, Trump made no reference to her rebuke. “It’s a terrible thing,” he said. “It just keeps going and going, and we have to be very smart, we have to be very, very tough. Perhaps we are not nearly tough enough.
“It’s just an absolutely terrible thing. In fact, I’m going to call the prime minister right now. We have to be tougher and we have to be smarter.”
Downing Street said Trump offered May his condolences over the attack during a telephone call later on Friday.
In a summary of the call, a White House statement said: “President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Theresa May to convey his sympathies and prayers for those injured in the terrorist attack today in London. The President pledged to continue close collaboration with the United Kingdom to stop attacks worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism.”
In the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing in May, British police temporarily suspended intelligence sharing with the US, after a series of leaks to US media.
The broadcaster CBS disclosed the name of the bomber, Salman Abedi, citing US sources, at a time when British authorities were asking the media to withhold the information to protect the investigation. The New York Times then published detailed photographs of the bomb scene that had been taken by British investigators. Nick Timothy, a newspaper columnist who was formerly May’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter of Trump’s remarks: “True or not – and I’m sure he doesn’t know – this is so unhelpful from the leader of our ally and intelligence partner.”
Eighteen people were taken to hospital after the explosion, which was being treated as an isolated incident, and four people made their own way to hospital. London ambulance service said: “None are thought to be in a serious or life-threatening condition.”

Trump’s intervention had echoes of his tweets after the London Bridge attack in June, when he criticised Sadiq Khan’s call for calm.
In a statement, the London mayor confirmed that the Parsons Green explosion was being treated as terrorism and said: “I urge all Londoners to be calm and vigilant.”
At a morning press briefing, the Met assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said: “We now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device. As you will have seen, there are reports of 18 injuries. I understand most of those to be flash burns.”
Rowley said the investigation was being led by the Met counter-terrorism command, supported by MI5. Police officers would be deployed across the capital’s transport network, he added.
At around the time Rowley spoke, Trump sent consecutive tweets:

He then sent a third: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific – but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” Trump’s travel ban against refugees and others from six majority-Muslim countries is in force but not in full effect, as court challenges on constitutional grounds continue. A first version, against seven countries, was withdrawn after similar challenges.
“We have made more progress in the last nine months against Isis than the Obama Administration has made in 8 years,” he said. “Must be proactive & nasty!”
The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, will be able to ask Trump to be more cautious with his comments in future when he sees him on Monday at a special UN general assembly session on reforming the organisation. May and Johnson have repeatedly urged politicians and the media not to speculate about the identity of a terrorist, or whether any suspects were under surveillance by UK security services. Overall, the Foreign Office has become more relaxed about Trump’s plain speaking, but the security services that work under its political direction will be infuriated by any sign that the US president has leaked intelligence information.
Trust and confidentiality between UK and US intelligence is the bedrock of the relationship between the two services. May is is due to make prevention of extremism on the internet one of her three key themes at the UN next week. Although May does not support Trump’s talk of cutting off the internet, she agrees with him that technology giants have not done enough to tackle online extremism.

Video Report - #londonexplosion - Parsons Green explained: Terror attack on London Tube

Video Report - UK terrorism level at 'critical': London tube explosion injures 29, further attacks possible

Video Report - No oil, no money, no Caliphate? Syrian Army takes control over strategic oil area near Deir ez-Zor

Pakistan 139 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index

The Pakistani media are regarded as among the freest in Asia but are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organizations, and the feared intelligence agencies, all of which are on RSF’s list of Predators of Press Freedom. There are fatal attacks on journalists every year, though the number has dropped for the past four years. 

The various warring groups are always ready to denounce acts of “sacrilege” by the media. Government officials, political parties, and party activists are also quick to harass, threaten, or physically attack journalists regarded as unsympathetic to their views. 

Inevitably, self-censorship is on the rise within news organizations. Adoption in 2016 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, under which criticism of the military, the judicial system, and Islam can lead to imprisonment, was condemned by the media.

Pakistan - Reining the Press

One of features closely associated with fascist regimes is the existence of a controlled mass media. States that are repressive and indifferent to public liberties either control the media directly or via indirect means through different sets of rules and promulgations. It is disturbing to note that every government – be it civil or military – that has come to power in Pakistan has tried its best to infringe upon the freedom of the press. Pakistan has a vibrant culture of press and journalism serving as the watchdog of the society, but over time countless attempts have been made to muzzle the media.
The current Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government was planing to rein in the “out of control” media - as the draft of the “Pakistan Print Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance” reveals. The proposed piece of legislation regards the press and the public’s right to information as threats to the state; making it mandatory for newspapers to seek annual renewal of their licences and sought to give authorities power to raid media houses at will.
However, the good news is that because of immense pressure from civil society and media, the government abandoned the idea of promulgating the ordinance. Not only have they abandoned it, the higher authorities have disowned the draft. Instead, two information service officers were immediately made officers on special duty (OSD) to investigate the person responsible for publishing the draft, and one has been suspended. The ruling party is lucky as it always seems to find people to take the fall for the blunders it makes.
Regardless of who is responsible, it is shocking to note that a democratic government was trying to put restrictions on freedom of the press. It automatically leads to denying the public its fundamental right of seeking information. The government should not have thought of introducing the law in the first place. It should have realized that any such move was a blatant attempt at censorship and curtailment of free speech.
The 2017 report of World Press Freedom Index is an eye opener in this regard. Pakistan was ranked 139 out of 180 in the report despite the fact that nearly a decade ago the transition to democracy had begun. In times when Pakistani public needs to be more questioning about mistakes committed in the past, the media needs more vigilant to question the performance of the government and its institutions,. The ruling party was aiming to bring such activities to a halt. The government needs to be aware of the fact that the first step in moving society to accept fascism is putting unnecessary restrictions on media.

Pakistan could face mass droughts by 2025 as water level nears 'absolute scarcity'

By Rachel Roberts

    'What we see is political bickering over the issue. The authorities need to act now'.

    Pakistan could face drought in the near future according to experts in the country, who have warned the country will approach the “absolute scarcity” level of water by 2025.
    The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) made the grim forecast in a new report which claimed the country touched the “water stress line” in 1990 before crossing the “water scarcity line” in 2005.
    An unnamed government official in the south Asian country told Pakistani media that urgent research is needed to find a solution – but warned of a lack of available government funds.
    Pakistan has the world’s fourth highest rate of water use but is dependent on water from a single source – the Indus River basin in India – and rainfall has been steadily declining, with some experts claiming this is down to climate change.
    An estimated million people live in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi – but very few have running water after the land has gradually dried up, forcing many residents to queue for hours for supplies to be given to them.
    Shamsul Mulk, former chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority in the country, said water policy is simply non-existent in Pakistan. Policymakers act like “absentee landlords” over water, he added.
    “Because of this absentee landlordism, water has become the property of the landlords and the poor are deprived of their share."
    Experts say that population growth and urbanisation are the main reasons behind the crisis. Some say the issue has been exacerbated by climate change and poor water management.
    Energy sector expert Irfan Choudhry said the authorities appear to lack the political will to tackle the problem.
    “There are no proper water storage facilities in the country. Pakistan hasn't built new dams since the 1960s. What we see is political bickering over the issue. The authorities need to act now. We can store water for only 30 days, and it is worrisome,” Mr Choudhry told local media.
    Some politicians have warned of “massive corruption” in the water sector with some seeking to profiteer from the scarcity of a vital resource. 
    Others blame India for the Pakistani water crisis and claim that New Delhi is failing to uphold the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty brokered by the World Bank in 1960 which regulates control of the rivers between the two nations.

    Drone Strike Kills 3 Militants in NW Pakistan, Say Officials


    Two Pakistani officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike has targeted a compound in a northwestern tribal region along the Afghan border, killing three suspected militants.

    A suspected U.S. drone strike struck a compound in a northwestern tribal region along the Afghan border on Friday, killing three suspected militants and wounding two others, an army officer and two security officials said.
    The strike took place on a border village in the Kurram tribal region, which has served as a hideout for local and foreign militants over the past several years. Pakistan has carried out several operations against militants in Kurram, but violence has persisted.
    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief media.
    No government spokesman was available for comment.
    If confirmed, it would be the first U.S. drone strike on Pakistan since President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan last month. The Trump administration in August infuriated Pakistan when it accused Islamabad of providing extremists safe haven and threatened to withhold military aid. Pakistan and the country's military have repeatedly said they have acted against the Afghan insurgent Haqqani network and other militants without any discrimination.
    The officials said apparently three local Afghan Taliban commanders, including Mullah Asmat and his nephew, were targeted but it was unclear whether they were present at the time. The officials said supporters of the Haqqani network also operate from the border village.
    Asmat is a believed to be a relative of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who served as ambassador to Pakistan during the Taliban's rule.
    According to the officials, shortly after the strike residents saw suspected militants transporting slain and wounded persons to an undisclosed location.
    Pakistan considers the drone strike a violation of sovereignty, while the U.S. accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens for militants.
    In a statement, Zeke Johnson, a senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA, expressed his concern over the strike in Pakistan, saying "the last thing the U.S. should be doing right now is expanding a global, secret killing program. By its own admission, the U.S. government's use of drones has meant the deaths of civilians and there has been insufficient accountability."
    He said the "U.S. must comply with international law when it comes to the use of lethal force and any potentially unlawful strikes should be independently investigated."

    World leaders accuse Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism at UNHRC conference

    Israeli Minister of Science Technology and Space, Yakoov Peri and Fulvio Martuschiello, Member of European Parliament, have accused Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism at the 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
    Yakoov Peri expressed strong opinion on Pakistan supporting and sponsoring terror groups, at the conference on application of state-sponsored terrorism in South Asia, which was organised by the South Asian Democratic Forum on Thursday.
    Peri emphasised that the Pakistan army and the government have been supporting terror groups such as the Al-Qaeda and its chief Osama Bin Laden was found in Pakistan. They also funded and supported the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
    Another world leader, Martuschiello underlined that the European Union has given a lot of aid to Pakistan over the past few years for development and betterment, but it has been using the aid in wrong sense.
    Martuschiello also mentioned that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorist groups and their leaders, like the Haqqani network.
    Pakistan has been getting a lot of flak over its stance on terrorism for the past few days, after the United States President Donald Trump termed the country as a 'safe haven' for the terrorists, while rolling out the new strategy for the South Asian countries, especially Afghanistan.
    Also, in what appeared to be a reference to Pakistan, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in their joint statement after the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit 2017 in China, called upon all countries to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists.