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Posts posted by visionary


    Obama plans to sign North Korea sanctions bill: White House


    President Barack Obama does plan to sign a North Korea sanctions bill, the White House said on Wednesday.


    In a press briefing with reporters, White House spokesman Josh Earnest gave no indication of when such a measure might come.


    Iraqi PM ready to resign as part of cabinet reshuffle


    Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has said he is ready to resign as part of a comprehensive reshuffle of his cabinet aimed at scrapping key governing posts based on sectarian lines.


    Abadi's announcement on Iraqi state TV on Monday comes amid a political struggle with his opponents who seek to keep the country's sectarian-quota system in place.


    "I am ready to leave my post, and I am not holding on to it, but at the same time I am not evading my responsibilities, therefore if they want change, then I am ready for it," Abadi said on Monday.


    The announcement comes a week after Abadi said he wanted to appoint technocrats and reshuffle his cabinet, which was formed in 2014 and distributed posts based loosely on political blocs' representation in parliament.


    Abadi said on Monday that a cabinet reshuffle is necessary, and warned against political opponents refusing his call to make a comprehensive change within the government - the parliament must approve ministerial changes and has blocked earlier reform efforts.


    Abadi said some political groups, which he did not name, are obstructing the work of Iraqi ministers who are not affiliated with any political or sectarian group.


    The current Iraqi political structure is a quota-based system where each ethnic and religious group - such as Shia, Sunni, Christians Arabs, Kurds and others - is assigned its own specific representation in the parliament, government, and military.


    Italian student showed signs of electrocution - Egypt forensic source


    Egypt's forensics authority handed over to the prosecutor general's office on Saturday its final autopsy report on the Italian student who was tortured and found dead in Cairo last week.


    Giulio Regeni, 28, had been researching independent trade unions in Egypt and had written articles critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government - prompting speculation that he was killed at the hands of Egypt's security forces.


    Egypt's interior and foreign ministers both dismissed the notion of security forces being behind Regeni's murder.


    The prosecutor general's office said it would not publicly disclose the contents of the report as the investigation was ongoing. Reuters was not able to obtain a copy to verify the contents.


    However, a senior source at the forensics authority told Reuters Regeni, a graduate student at Britain's Cambridge University, had seven broken ribs, signs of electrocution on his penis, traumatic injuries all over his body, and a brain haemorrhage.


    His body also bore signs of cuts from a sharp instrument suspected to be a razor, abrasions, and bruises. He was likely assaulted using a stick as well as being punched and kicked, the source added.


    A second autopsy in Italy "confronted us with something inhuman, something animal", Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told Sky News 24 television last week.


    Egypt's initial autopsy report showed Regeni had been hit on the back of the head with a sharp instrument.


    Rights groups say police often detain Egyptians on scant evidence and that they are beaten or coerced. Scores have disappeared since 2013, the groups say. Egypt denies allegations of police brutality.


    Egypt: Dead Cambridge student Giulio Regeni 'picked up by police in Cairo' before torture ordeal


    An Italian student tortured and killed in Cairo was picked up by police minutes from his home the day he vanished, witnesses have claimed, as it emerged that the chief Egyptian investigator on the case is a convicted torturer.


    A Cairo street vendor told Italian detectives leading an independent probe he saw plain-clothed officers detaining Giulio Regeni outside a metro station in the Dokki district on 25 January, Il Corriere Della Sera reported.


    The half-naked body of the University of Cambridge PhD student was found nine days later off a suburban road with cigarettes burns, stab wounds and signs of torture over his body. Italian media have been supporting the hypothesis that he had been targeted by Egyptian security forces due to his ties to independent trade union and local dissidents.


    The suspect was reinforced by the revelation that the one of leading detectives on the case, who initially dismissed Regeni's death as a road accident, had been handed a rare conviction for torturing a detainee to death more than 10 years ago.


    In 2003 Khaled Shalaby, the director of investigations in Cairo's twin city of Giza, and two other policemen, were given a one-year suspended sentence in Alexandria over the detainee's demise and for fabricating the related police report, according to an Egyptian rights group, the Nadeem Centre.


    Regeni had both his ears chopped off, numerous bones broken and two nails tore off from a finger and a toe, according to an autopsy carried out by Italian forensics. His body was also covered in stab wounds, including some to the sole, consistent with an object similar to an ice pick.


    He was killed by heavy blow to the neck or a violent twisting of the head that snapped a vertebra. The day he went missing, Egypt marked the anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution amid high security measures, a circumstance that led many to immediately suspect he had had been caught up in a police swoop on demonstrators.


    Obama Proposes Removing Human Rights Conditions on Aid to Egypt


    The budget proposal released by the Obama administration Tuesday seeks to roll back restrictions Congress has placed on foreign aid to Egypt’s military regime and the sale of crowd control weapons to “emerging democracies.”


    Under current law, 15 percent of aid to Egypt is subject to being withheld based on human rights conditions — although even that can be waived if it is deemed to be in the national security interest of the United States, as it was last year.


    Cole Bockenfeld, deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy, says the administration probably doesn’t want to go to the trouble of justifying its waiver this year. “They had to basically do an assessment. … Here’s how they’re doing on political prisoners, here’s how they’re doing on freedom of assembly, and so on,” Bockenfeld explains. Last year’s report “infuriated the Egyptians … it was a pretty honest assessment of how things had deteriorated in Egypt.”


    The assessment, for instance, took the Egyptians to task for the “impunity” their security forces operate under and restrictions on due process.


    “I think what they’re trying to do is avoid a repeat of that scenario,” concludes Bockenfeld. “Because that upset the Egyptians as much as it did, we’d rather handle those things privately.”


    A Cambridge University Student Savagely Killed in Egypt, But By Whom?


    “Don’t go to downtown Cairo on January 25,” was the warning that echoed throughout Egypt’s capital in the nervous buildup to the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution that unfurled in Tahrir Square and took the world by storm.


    Fearing unrest, the authorities arrested journalists, rights activists and Facebook administrators of pages that had called for protests to mark the day. Some 5,000 flats around the downtown square were raided by the police and 180,000 troops deployed to the streets.


    Masked men wielding rifles guarded the iconic rallying point on the day, as regime supporters danced, draped in Egyptian flags and posters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Everyone feared violent confrontations with Islamist protesters—many stayed home, others moved to quieter parts of the city.


    Across town in the middle-class district of Dokki, a young Cambridge University Ph.D student messaged one friend to say he was setting off to meet another near Bab el-Louq, just off Tahrir. They would then go on to small birthday gathering in Giza.


    Giuilo Regeni, 28, from Italy, had been in the country since September researching—and secretly reporting on—independent trade unions whose development was a victory of the 2011 Revolution, but now represented, controversially, one of the last vanguards of dissent.


    The former Arabic language undergraduate, described as fiercely intelligent and very kind by those who knew him, expressed fears to friends in Cairo about going out on the difficult day, but they thought he was “over-worrying.”


    “He sent me a text message saying he was going to this gathering and asking if I wanted to come,” his friend Amr Assad told The Daily Beast. “When I called him back around 7:50 p.m. his phone was off. The next day... I knew from the friend who was waiting for him downtown that he never arrived."


    Al-Shabab retakes key Somalia port city of Merca


    Islamist militant group al-Shabab has taken control of the port city Merca, residents say.


    Merca, some 70km (45 miles) south-west of Mogadishu, is now the biggest town under al-Shabab control.


    African Union forces who had held the port city for three-and-a-half years withdrew earlier on Friday morning.


    The loss is one of the biggest setbacks for the African Union force in its decade-long battle against al-Shabab, analysts say.


    The governor of Somalia's Lower Shabelle region Ibrahim Adam told the AFP news agency that al-Shabab secured control without fighting.


    Signs of torture on student’s body found in Cairo


    The body of a Cambridge University student has been found two weeks after he disappeared in Cairo on the anniversary of the 2011 revolution.


    Giulio Regeni, 28, a PhD student at Girton College, vanished on January 25 as the country marked five years since the uprising amid heightened security and tension. The Italian was doing research for a doctorate on the Egyptian economy and labour movements: a controversial subject in Egypt, where any anti-state sentiment is crushed


    Flint Inmates Lied To About Water Crisis, Forced To Drink Lead Water


    Back in October, the Genesee County Health Department declared a public health emergency, telling the residents of Flint, Michigan to stop drinking the city’s tap water due to dangerously high levels of lead. Two months later, the mayor of Flint declared a state of emergency, saying the city’s pipes were still leaching lead. The National Guard ramped up the distribution of bottled water to residents in January, one year after state officials received bottles.


    But while Flint residents scrambled to get bottled water and filters, one group was kept in the dark about the risks posed by the tap water: inmates doing time in Genesee County Jail. According to an exclusive report from Democracy Now!, the facility lied to inmates about the water quality and forced them to drink and bathe in the water. Inmates, including pregnant women, also ate food cooked with the tainted water.

    While inmates consumed and touched the water, jail staff avoided it altogether.


    “Many inmates made complaints, due to the fact that the deputies would not drink from the faucets. They all carried bottled water,” Cramer said. When he alerted his mother about what was happening, she visited the facility to find answers. A deputy told her that the jail had a filtration process in place.


    White cop to sue estate of black teen he killed


    A white police officer plans to sue the estate of a black teenager he shot dead because he was traumatized by the fact that he accidentally killed the teen's neighbor in the incident, his lawyer said.


    "The damage is my client feels horrible that Bettie Jones is dead because of the actions he was forced to take," attorney Joe Brodsky told AFP.


    "It's affected him greatly. It's a burden he's going to have to carry for the rest of his life."


    The December 26 shooting came as the US city was reeling from a series of incidents in which police were accused of being too ready to pull the trigger.


    The family of Quintonio LeGrier, 19, has repeatedly said there was no reason why police should have opened fire when responding to a domestic disturbance at their home. They have sued both the city and the officer who shot him: Robert Rialmo, 27.


    A wrongful death suit filed by LeGrier's father, Antonio, argues that the teen "never had possession or control of a weapon" and was not a threat to Rialmo or anyone else at any point.


    Rialmo was standing outside when he opened fire on LeGrier, who was inside the building, the lawsuit said. Antonio LeGrier is also suing for wrongful arrest after police made him leave his dying son in order to file a statement about the incident.

    City officials have apologized for the death of Jones, a 55-year old mother of five, but have said LeGrier's shooting was justified.


    The city has released few details about the incident except to say that LeGrier was brandishing a baseball bat when he was shot after his father called for help in the early hours.


    LeGrier, an engineering student who was struggling with mental health problems, had called 911 for help several times earlier that evening but the dispatcher did not send an officer to the house until his father called.


    Brodsky said that makes the incident a "double tragedy because if my client had advance knowledge he was dealing with a mentally ill person he may have handled this in a different way.

    • Like 1


    Razan Saffour
    Did the Arab Spring actually fail?


    Failure appears to be the descriptor looming over one of the most defining moments in contemporary world history.


    So far, and by large, the Arab Spring has been examined through a material lens: the tangible achievements of each nation and the repercussions of that nation's uprisings.


    It has been a conscious attempt to pit revolutions against each other by polemically categorising the "successful" and the "failed'; and many irrelevant comparisons have been drawn to events in the region over the past 30 years.


    All attempts to contextualise the revolutions have done the exact opposite.


    To render the Arab Spring a failure is but a reductive assessment, undermining the extraordinary developments that have taken place - and are still ongoing - in the region. These developments are of a political, social and cultural nature - and at the very essence of each has been nothing short of a revolution of consciousness.


    If contextualising history meant something today, one could take the example of the Palestinian resistance movement after 1967, which, while failing to uproot the regime of colonisers settling upon its soil, remained a revolution of social structure, national liberation, and heightened consciousness.


    The Palestinians then knew well that relying on Arab and world powers would do little to strengthen their cause - and so took it upon themselves to organise; in absence of a state and bureaucratic framework, their organisation was popular and proved by the far the most democratic among all Arab states at the time.


    After 5 years, we’re still telling the wrong story about the Arab Spring


    By the time it became clear to the world that Egypt's Arab Spring had gone terribly wrong, that the seemingly Hollywood-like drama of good-guy protesters

    triumphing bad-guy dictator had turned out to be something much more disappointing, the other revolutions across the Middle East had soured as well.


    Today, Egypt is under a new military dictatorship; Libya, Yemen, and Syria have all collapsed into civil wars.


    In the years since everything went so wrong, it has become fashionable to blame the naiveté of the revolutionaries or the petty incompetence of transitional leaders. We are still trying to make this a story about the personal accomplishments or failures of individual heroes or villains, but that narrative is just as silly as it was when we first tried to apply in 2011.


    The truth is that this was never a story primarily about individual heroes or villains. Rather, it was about something much bigger and more abstract: the catastrophic failure of institutions. It's not a story that is particularly dramatic, and it's not easy to profile for a magazine cover. But when you look at what has happened from the Arab Spring, from its 2011 beginning through today, you see institutional failure everywhere.


    That story isn't as emotionally compelling as the one we told ourselves in 2011. But it's a crucially important one, if we want to understand how this went so wrong and the lessons for the world.


    The truth is that while the revolutionaries were in fact very brave and the dictators were in fact very bad, the real story of the Arab Spring wasn’t one about individual people being heroic or wicked. Rather, it was a less cinematic — but far more important — story about the dangers of brittle dictatorships and weak state institutions.


    Democratic transition, it turns out, isn’t about whom you can overthrow or whom you replace them with. It's about whether or how you can change the vast network of institutions underneath that person.


    If you don't make those institutions work — and often, by the dictator's deliberate design, you simply can't — then your revolution is doomed. No matter how many times you topple the dictator, no matter how pure and good your protesters are, it won't be enough. That's the real lesson of the Arab Spring — and it's important precisely because it's not as exciting or emotionally satisfying as the good-versus-evil story we prefer to tell.


    State repression in Egypt worst in decades, says activist


    The scale of state repression in Egypt is greater today than it has been for generations, one of the country’s most prominent journalists and human rights advocates has told the Guardian.


    Hossam Bahgat, an investigative reporter who was recently detained by Egypt’s military intelligence agency, spoke out ahead of the fifth anniversary of the start of Egypt’s revolution on Monday – the run-up to which has seen an unprecedented crackdown by security forces against opposition and dissent.


    “This is without doubt the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Bahgat, citing restrictions on media outlets, a spike in the number of political prisoners, forced disappearances, and alleged extrajudicial killings of Islamists by the state.


    “The level of repression now is significantly higher than it was under the Mubarak regime, and people from older generations say it is worse than even the worst periods of the 1950s and 1960s [under the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser].”


    In an effort to ward off any protests half a decade on from the uprising that toppled the former president Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian authorities have raided thousands of homes in Cairo and installed new surveillance infrastructure around Tahrir Square.


    Preachers have reportedly been instructed by the state to give sermons declaring it a sin to demonstrate against the government, while cafes, cultural institutions and book publishers have all been investigated by security agencies.


    Under the country’s protest law, implemented by executive decree soon after the military overthrow of the former Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013, participation in any unsanctioned marches or rallies is unlawful.


    writers look back at the Arab spring five years on


    In January 2011, days after the first uprising in Tunisia and the protests in Tahrir Square, the Guardian invited leading writers from across the Arab world to reflect on the revolutionary fervour sweeping the region. Then, they expressed great optimism for the future. Here, they revisit their responses and ask, is there still room for hope?


    France pledges 1 bln euros to support Tunisia


    France pledged to provide 1 billion euros (2.2 billion dinar) over the next 5 years, asserted, on Friday in Paris, Prime Minister Habib Essid.


    Essid who is on one-day official visit in France, specified that the support plan funded by the French Development Agency (French:AFD) aims “in one of its axes to help the disadvantaged regions and youths by putting stress on employment.”


    He added that the agreement providing for a debt conversion in development projects of 60 million euros (i.e 133.7 millions dinars) was also signed.


    These development projects will be achieved in the regions including notably the building of a regional hospital in Gafsa.



    Essebsi has been consolidating power of late and pissing off a lot of former political allies along with people across Tunisia upset at corruption and nepotism.

    Tunisia's President Essebsi went on TV Friday night, not to reassure the people, but to decree a nationwide curfew
    10:09 PM


    Tunisia PM Essid in France to discuss security downplayed widespread riots & protests and said "the situation is now under control” (TAP)
    10:19 PM


    Tunisia's Mufti issued a statement Friday urging demonstrators to resist the urge to demonstrate.. He was appointed this month by Essebsi..
    10:24 PM


    Five Years Later, Tunisians Take to the Streets Again


    This month Tunisians observed the five-year anniversary of the popular uprisings that brought down Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the country’s long-time dictator. But the citizens of this young democracy don’t seem to be in a celebratory mood. Instead, the nation is on edge after an eruption of protest against unemployment, poverty, and government indifference in several long-marginalized regions of the country.


    The unrest began after a young man in the impoverished town of Kasserine climbed a telephone pole and electrocuted himself in despair. He had discovered that his name had been left off a list of potential Ministry of Education employees published by the local government.


    If this story sounds familiar, there’s a good reason why.If this story sounds familiar, there’s a good reason why. In December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a young street vendor, set himself ablaze after local officials harassed him for selling fruit from a cart. The incident catalyzed the public’s outrage at the social injustices and lack of opportunities in his impoverished hometown of Sidi Bouzid. The protests that began there were the spark that lit the fires of revolution.


    The young man who killed himself this week, Ridha Yahaoui, had also long been incensed by the lack of opportunities in his own hometown. “He was in a sit-in in 2014 with a group of other unemployed young men,” his heartbroken father told a local radio station. “Every time someone from the government visited Kasserine, he’d show up and demand employment opportunities. We heard so many promises. We expected solutions. But nothing.”


    “When I got to the hospital to see him, he was in a bad shape,” said Yahaoui’s father, whose name was not given. “He died a few minutes later. Today, I demand the rights of my son and everyone else in Kasserine,” he said, choking on his tears. His call has been heard. The citizens of the town soon took to the streets in support of his son and others like him, accusing the local deputy governor of manipulating the employment list and playing favors. These demands for social justice recall similar moments in December 2010 and January 2011, when tens of thousands of Tunisians demanded the right to employment, dignity and freedom.

  16. Big victory for Hezbollah in Lebanon


    Geagea reshapes Lebanese politics, backs rival Aoun


    Lebanese Christian politician Samir Geagea backed his rival Michel Aoun for the presidency on Monday, reshaping Lebanese politics in an apparent break with his Saudi-backed allies that aligns him with a civil war era enemy supported by Hezbollah.


    The surprise announcement edges 80-year-old Aoun closer to the presidency, vacant for 20 months, and marks a rare show of unity in a Christian community riven by divisions for decades.


    But he must still secure wider backing to secure the position reserved for a Maronite Christian in Lebanon's sectarian political system.


    Geagea and Aoun, who fought each other in the 1975-90 civil war, have been on opposite sides of Lebanon's political divide since Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2005.


    Aoun is part of the March 8 alliance dominated by the Iranian-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah. Geagea is part of the March 14 alliance led by Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri, who is in turn backed by Saudi Arabia.


    Sitting with Aoun at a news conference, Geagea said the move was intended to rescue Lebanon from political crisis. The government barely functions, paralyzed by rivalries exacerbated by regional conflict.


    Geagea said the step "carried hope of getting out of the situation we are in, to a situation that is more secure, more stable - a normal life". Lebanon was on the verge of the abyss, requiring "an unusual rescue operation, regardless of the price", said Geagea, who himself covets the presidency.


    The rapprochement may kill off a proposal by Hariri that nominated another Maronite, Suleiman Franjieh, for the presidency in a power-sharing proposal that would have made him prime minister. Both Geagea and Aoun opposed that initiative which was backed by both Iran and Saudi Arabia.


    Geagea had been the official presidential candidate of the March 14 alliance until Hariri tabled Franjieh - part of March 8 - as an alternative. Though Franjieh has close ties to Hezbollah, the group has stuck by Aoun.


    Geagea called on his March 14 allies to back Aoun after reading a joint declaration that called for a new parliamentary election law and an "independent foreign policy" while declaring Israel an enemy - an important consideration for Hezbollah.


    Aoun said the "black page" of the past was over and "must be burnt". "We must leave the past in order to build a future," he said in the conference at Geagea's home in Maarab in mountains overlooking the Christian town of Jounieh.