Books and Documents

World Press (11 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Marshalling pressure on Myanmar: New Age Islam’s selection, 11 September 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau


September 11, 2017

Slavery in the US prison system

By David A Love

Lesson for America in the eye of the storm

By Joseph E. Stiglitz

How will the crisis with Europe end?

By Deniz Zeyrek

A failed saint

By Selina Mohsin

Israel and the battles of the screen!

By Hussein Shobokshi

Modi’s problems, opposition’s opportunity

Saudi Gazette

President Trump’s War on Science


On justice as journalists, politicians are in jail

By Murat Yetkin

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/marshalling-pressure-on-myanmar--new-age-islam’s-selection,-11-september-2017/d/112487


Marshalling pressure on Myanmar

The Daily Star

September 11, 2017

The persecution of the Rohingyas by Myanmar has only been met by sparse and feeble condemnation by the international community, and consequently we have not seen any attempt or even intention by Myanmar to put an end to what has been described as an ongoing genocide. What we are witnessing today is just the latest of a systematic ethnic cleansing that has been going on in that country for decades. That every few years the violence, arson, rape and torture flare up and a new batch of refugees risk their lives to cross over to Bangladesh points towards the failure of regional and international diplomatic efforts to pressurise the Myanmar government to ensure the fundamental human rights of the Rohingya community.

Despite hosting Rohingya refugees in the country for four decades, we have failed to engage with Myanmar about the issue seriously. These episodic efforts have faded every time the situation returned to a semblance of normalcy, and therefore, there has been no meaningful resolution to it. As experts pointed out in a roundtable conference on Saturday, Bangladesh must now launch a big diplomatic push. A major part of this would be to explain the humanitarian as well as regional security concerns that the persecution of the Rohingya entail for South Asia. Getting China and India on board is crucial in this regard.

It is also important to set right the Myanmar narrative of Rohingyas as non-Burmese or as militants. The militancy, in whatever form it exists, is a by-product of the persecution of the community and not the cause. By pushing this narrative and terming the reports of persecution as "fake news", Myanmar is trying to evade its responsibility. Diplomatic efforts must set this right. Bangladesh needs to play the host as long as necessary, as it has been doing out of humanitarian concerns. Proper documentation should be ensured here, not only for future repatriation but also for presenting the records to international courts if the matter needs to go that far. But the long process that is ahead of us for ensuring the rights of the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar, free of persecution, needs to start with a diplomatic offensive by Bangladesh and the world.



Slavery in the US prison system

By David A Love

Today marks one year since the largest prison labour strike in US history. More than

24,000 prisoners across 29 prisons in 12 states protested against inhumane conditions, timing it around the anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising, a prisoner strike now 46 years old.

That violent uprising originated from prisoners rebelling against overcrowded cells, unsanitary conditions, medical neglect and abuse. From Attica to the strike led by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee last year, these protests draw attention to an ugly truth: Prisoner abuse runs rampant and it has extended into modern-day versions of slavery. Last year's strike organisers described slavery-like conditions in prisons in the nationwide call to action.

Slavery persists by another name today. Young men and women of colour toil away in 21st-century fields, sow in hand. And Corporate America is cracking the whip.

Influenced by enormous corporate lobbying, the United States Congress enacted the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program in 1979 which permitted US companies to use prison labour. Coupled with the drastic increase in the prison population during this period, profits for participating companies and revenue for the government and its private contractors soared. The Federal Bureau of Prisons now runs a programme called Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) that pays inmates under one dollar an hour. The programme generated $500m in sales in 2016 with little of that cash being passed down to prison workers. Stateside, where much of the US addiction to mass incarceration lies, is no different. California's prison labour programme is expected to produce some $232m in sales in 2017.

These exploited labourers are disproportionately African American and Latino - a demographic status quo resulting from the draconian sentencing and other criminal justice policies ransacking minority communities across the United States. African Americans are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than that of whites. In states like Virginia and Oklahoma, one in every 14 or 15 African American men are put in prison.

We lock people of colour up at alarming rates. We put them to work. Corporations gain. This story is an age-old American tradition. Throughout history, our nation has successfully pulled back corporate greed, but private corporations have always found new ways to reap enormous wealth from cheap labour.

The historical circumstances following the abolition of slavery provide the necessary context to understand how corporations function in a de facto replacement for slavery. Although the US Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, it made an exception - a loophole for "punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted", which made prison labour possible.

Following the Civil War, the Southern economy was in shambles and the slaves were emancipated. A cheap labour source was needed, and the convict lease system was invented. States leased out their convicts to industrialists and planters to work in locations such as railroads, coal mines and plantations, and entrepreneurs bought and sold these leases.

With little capital investment required and no need to care for the health of the prisoners, the system of economic exploitation became highly profitable for businesses and states and even cheaper than slavery. For example, in 1883 convict leasing provided Alabama with 10 percent of its revenue, 73 percent in 1898. Leased convicts were treated abysmally, with death rates 10 times higher than prisoners in states that did not employ leased convict labour. Secret graveyards contained the bodies of prisoners who had been tortured and beaten to death.

The viability of the convict lease system required that black people be returned to their former status as a source of labour. Hence, the Black Codes were enacted to suppress the rights of the recently emancipated African Americans, and criminalise them for minor offences such as vagrancy. Under the vagrancy laws, any black person under the protection of a white person could be swept up by the system for simply loitering, as black people were rounded up in this manner to provide a source of nearly free labour.

Today, prison labour is a billion-dollar industry, and the corporate beneficiaries of this new slavery include some of the largest corporations and most widely known brands. For example, Walmart has purchased produce from farms, where women prisoners face bad working conditions, inadequate medical care and very low pay.

Workers flipping burgers and frying french fries for minimum wage at McDonald's wear uniforms that were manufactured by prison labourers.

Further, UNICOR manages 83 factories and more than 12,000 prison labourers who earn as little as 23 cents an hour working at call centres, manufacturing items such as military body armour, and in past years, defective combat helmets. In 2013, federal inmates made $100m worth of military uniforms.

UNICOR has also provided prison labour in the past to produce Patriot missile parts for defence contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and parts for others such as Boeing and General Dynamics.

Corporations such as Starbucks, AT&T, Target, and Nordstrom have also profited from prison labour at some point in the past as well.

Some critics oppose the characterisation of the US prison system as a slave labour camp. For example, James Kilgore argues that prison labour is infrequently used, and identifying multinational corporations that profit from it loses sight of the key issues behind mass incarceration.

Kilgore is correct in his analysis that a lack of economic opportunity coupled with draconian laws results in a perverse private incentive to drive up mass incarceration. We should enhance employment options for former inmates to reduce recidivism and integrate returning citizens back into society. However, this does not mean that corporations do not profit from prisons and prison labour today and it is obscene that this still happens.

The Trump administration reversing the Obama-era order to phase out private prisons and enacting new law-and-order policies to increase arrests and fill these prisons will only increase opportunities for profit for Trump's corporate donors and their many investments in mass incarceration. Exploiting prison labour is consistent with this troubling trend.

Over a century and a half since the abolition of slavery, the dreaded institution still lives on in another, dressed up form. Taking advantage of a constitutional loophole, corporate profiteers continue the modern-day version of the convict lease system. In the land of the free, the dollar still takes precedence over human rights, and that which can be monetised and exploited for profit will be, regardless of ethical or moral considerations.

Once again, race, criminal justice and capitalism have joined forces to deprive captive black and brown bodies of their human rights. In the age of President Donald Trump and hardliner Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the return to "law and order" and a war on drugs signals a reversal of progress the US was making untethering itself from the expansive grip of a carceral state.

The anniversary of last year's prison strike is a chilling reminder that one need not point to authoritarian regimes in distant countries to find examples of blatant labour rights violations. If you want to find slavery in the US, look no further than its penitentiaries, jails and detention centres where the consequences of being locked-up extend much farther than doing time.

Vijay Das is a Washington-based essayist and policy advocate who writes on social, economic and criminal justice issues.

David A Love is a Philadelphia-based freelance journalist and commentator, and adjunct instructor at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information.



Lesson for America in the eye of the storm

By Joseph E. Stiglitz

11 September 2017

As Hurricane Irma pummeled the low-lying keys in the state of Florida before moving toward its mainland on Sunday, Texas is still counting the cost of Hurricane Harvey, which left in its wake upended lives and enormous property damage, estimated by some at up to $180 billion. But these storms also raise deep questions about the US economic system, and its politics.

It is ironic, of course, that an event so related to climate change as Hurricane Harvey would occur in a state that is home to so many climate-change deniers — and where the economy depends so heavily on the fossil fuels that drive global warming. Of course, no particular climate event can be directly related to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But scientists have long predicted that such increases would boost not only average temperatures, but also weather variability — and especially the occurrence of extreme events such as Harvey and Irma. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded several years ago: “There is evidence that some extremes have changed as a result of anthropogenic influences, including increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.” Astrophysicist Adam Frank succinctly explained: “Greater warmth means more moisture in the air which means stronger precipitation.”

To be sure, Houston and Texas could not have done much by themselves about the increase in greenhouse gases, though they could have taken a more active role in pushing for strong climate policies. But local and state authorities there and in Florida could have done a far better job preparing for such events, which hit the area with some frequency.

In responding to hurricanes — and in funding some of the repair — everyone turns to government, just as they did in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Again, it is ironic that this is now occurring in a part of the country where government and collective action are so frequently rebuked. It was no less ironic when the titans of US banking, having preached the neoliberal gospel of downsizing government and eliminating regulations that proscribed some of their most dangerous and anti-social activities, turned to government in their moment of need.

There is an obvious lesson to be learned from such episodes: Markets on their own are incapable of providing the protection that societies need. When markets fail, as they often do, collective action becomes imperative.

And, as with financial crises, there is a need for preventive collective action to mitigate the impact of climate change. That means ensuring that buildings and infrastructure are constructed to withstand extreme events, and are not located in areas that are most vulnerable to severe damage. It also means protecting environmental systems, particularly wetlands, which can play an important role in absorbing the impact of storms. It means eliminating the risk that a natural disaster could lead to the discharge of dangerous chemicals, as happened in Houston. And it means having in place adequate response plans, including evacuation.

Effective government investments and strong regulations are needed to ensure each of these outcomes, regardless of the prevailing political culture in Texas and elsewhere. Without adequate regulations, individuals and companies have no incentive to take adequate precautions, because they know that much of the cost of extreme events will be borne by others. Without adequate public planning and regulation, including of the environment, flooding will be worse. Without disaster planning and adequate funding, any city can be caught in the dilemma in which Houston found itself: If it does not order an evacuation, many will die; but if it does order an evacuation, people will die in the ensuing chaos, and snarled traffic will prevent people from getting out.

America and the world are paying a high price for devotion to the extreme anti-government ideology embraced by President Donald Trump and his Republican Party. The world is paying, because cumulative US greenhouse-gas emissions are greater than those from any other country; even today, the US is one of the world’s leaders in per capita greenhouse-gas emissions. But America is paying a high price as well: Other countries, even poor developing countries, such as Haiti and Ecuador, seem to have learned (often at great expense and only after some huge calamities) how to manage natural disasters better.

After the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the shutdown of much of New York City by Sandy in 2012, the havoc wrought in Texas by Harvey and now the imminent devastation of Irma, the US can and should do better. It has the resources and skills to analyze these complex events and their consequences, and to formulate and implement regulations and investment programs that mitigate the adverse effects on lives and property.

What America does not have is a coherent view of government by those on the right, who, working with special interests that benefit from their extreme policies, continue to speak out of both sides of their mouth. Before a crisis, they resist regulations and oppose government investment and planning; afterwards, they demand — and receive — billions of dollars to compensate them for their losses, even those that could easily have been prevented.

One can only hope that America, and other countries, will not need more natural persuasion before taking to heart the lessons of the hurricane season.

• Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute. His most recent book is The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe.



How will the crisis with Europe end?

By Deniz Zeyrek


Bilateral crises with European countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands are causing serious destruction in Turkey’s EU membership process. Turkey-EU relations are going through their worst period since the European Council meeting in Luxembourg on Dec. 12-13, 1997. EU countries are discussing suspension of the negotiations that began 13 years ago.

Some of my readers have sent me messages that I can roughly summarize as: “We have understood there is a crisis with the EU, but write about how this crisis will be resolved.” I do not have a prescription on how it will be overcome. However, I can tell how crises have been overcome in the past by reminding of the roadmap of Turkey-EU relations, which I had followed non-stop for 22 years.

Relations broken off 22 years ago

I had followed the European Council meeting in Luxembourg as the diplomacy correspondent of daily Radikal. “Starting full membership negotiations with 10 former Eastern bloc countries, the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus and Malta” was on the agenda. It was expected that Turkey would be included in the EU enlargement process but EU leaders did not give passage to that. Despite Turkey’s harsh objection, it was also decided that full membership negotiations with the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus would be launched.

Mesut Yilmaz was the prime minister and all the European journalists who were following the meeting were asking us: “Will Yilmaz come?” Yilmaz did not attend the meeting but his plane landed in Brussels while heading to the U.S. and he addressed the EU from the EU capital: “We are breaking off the political dialogue with the EU. If you start negotiations with the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus, we will launch the unification process with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

That day, the EU Council had announced it would not begin negotiations with Turkey due to “political and economic reasons.” That meant Turkey had not met the Copenhagen Criteria in the political field and also failed to meet the Maastricht Criteria in the economic field, according to the EU.

The crisis on that day was resolved two years later. In the cold of Finland, we, journalists who were following the Helsinki Summit on Dec. 10-11, 1999, returned with one good news and two bad news.

Turkey had been declared a “candidate” but full membership negotiations did not begin. Negotiations with the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus had officially been launched.

AK Parti’s reform success

The fate of relations changed during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government period, which had clinged itself to the EU agenda. During the EU summit in Helsinki in Dec. 2004, it was stated Turkey had largely completed its adaptation to the Copenhagen Criteria and it was declared that the accession negotiations with Turkey would be launched without delay. The fact the AKP fully implemented reforms after the 2001 economic crisis paved the way for the country to also reach the economic criteria.

The AKP governments passed eight harmonization packages from the parliament between 2002 and 2009 to meet the political criteria. Capital punishment was abolished during the same period. Re-trial in line with the European Court of Human Rights decisions was accepted. International conventions were regarded above the domestic law. The status of the National Security Council was changed and the right to personal application to the Constitutional Court had been brought.

The issue of knowing one’s own faults before blaming others for theirs

While all those developments were happening, the EU implemented many double-standards on Turkey. However, the AKP governments did not decelerate on their road to the EU until 2009 despite all those implementations. President Tayyip Erdogan said, “We will make those standards Ankara standards and continue our way, if required,” and continued his way. Erdogan’s stance in favor of dialogue even softened Merkel’s attitude, who had sharply objected to Turkey’s full membership.

Today the scene has changed 180 degrees. Yes, the EU countries’ attitude regarding FETÖ (Fethullahist Terror Organization) and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) terror organizations is disturbing. They deserve to be blamed for their faults. But, it should not be forgotten that the fundamental human rights issues, such as “arrested journalists,” “freedom of thought and expression” and the “right to a fair trial” that we thought had become a thing of the past due to reforms by the AKP governments from 2002 to 2009, have begun to be a problem again. If we had known our own faults and had turned the EU criteria into Ankara criteria, we would have been much stronger in telling them of their mistakes regarding FETÖ and the PKK and their lies and hypocrisy.



Russia and Turkey: Convergence of interests in Syria

By Huda al-Husseini

9 September 2017

The silence of Russia and Turkey on Hezbollah’s deal with the ISIS is quite remarkable. Is it because the deal sets Iraq as the destination for ISIS fighters? Forces funded by Iran in Iraq have accused the US of displaying double standard and of opening a way for ISIS fighters from Tal Afar to escape towards Kurdistan. A representative of Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq said on Al-Mayadeen television channel on Sunday that he had proof that the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, had issued orders for receiving them. Is there a conspiracy being hatched against the Kurds in Iraq, or against the Kurds in general? Is this why Russia and Turkey have remained silent? There is enough cause for speculation.

Ganging up against the West

Last year, relations between Russia and Turkey improved. It seems the two countries think it is necessary to cooperate in different fields as their main concern has been to focus on the war in Syria where their interests converge. Improving bilateral military and economic relations is also important. According to Turkish and Russian officials, preparations have been made for Turkey to buy Russian S-400 defense system. This worries Turkey’s allies in NATO – although some analysts believe the deal may not materialize in the end. They also doubt whether Turkey will ever receive the surface-to-air missile defense batteries. It is even contended that the motive here is not the defence acquisitions but the sending of a message to the West.

According to a British political analyst, Moscow and Ankara are playing up this cooperation to show that the West is displeased with them. Ankara in particular may be doing so as it is frustrated by Washington’s continuous military cooperation with Syrian Kurds.

Russia is helping Turkey develop a nuclear station and is participating in building a Turkish gas pipeline project which will enable Russian gas exports to reach south Europe by circumventing Ukraine. The war in Syria is thus just one of the arenas where they can cooperate. Although each one has a different point of view regarding the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow and Ankara are also cooperating to control regional aspirations of Kurds inside Syria.

Russia, Turkey wary of Iran

Russia has closely worked with Iran ever since the Syrian civil war first broke out in 2011. This cooperation distanced Turkey from Russia. However, there are increasing signs of growing disagreements between Russia and Iran over the future of Syria. The Iranian formula to support the Syrian regime does not include any concessions to the Assad family, particularly for Bashar. Meanwhile, Russia has always been willing to make concessions on the diplomatic front as long as its basic interests in Syria are guaranteed, i.e. its military bases and its political influence.

In Syria, Russian and Turkish perspectives in terms of restraining Iran’s regional ambitions also coincide. Ironically, the factor that is pushing Ankara and Moscow to cooperate is the US. Turkey is a NATO member and it is expected to be an ally of Western powers in Syria. However, Turkey has been serving its own interests, which are based on its geopolitical realities and interests in the Middle East. There is no secret that Ankara is worried of US aid to Kurds in Syria and is upset by Washington’s changing points of view regarding the future of the Assad regime. The same applies to Russia which is worried of American operations in Syria – although US President Donald Trump recently suspended military aid to the Syrian opposition and Washington and Moscow brokered a ceasefire in southwest Syria in July. Thus, Turkish-Russian rapprochement is partially pushed by the two countries’ opposition of American interests.

Apart from these problems in the Middle East, Turkey and Russia have also had difficult relations with the EU. Before Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey should not become an EU member, Ankara was strongly criticized by Brussels. Moscow has also had disagreements with Europe since the 2014 Russian intervention in Ukraine.

History of Rivalry

Still, age-old territorial disputes between Turkey and Russia continue to the day. Thanks to its geography, Turkey has the longest coast on the Black Sea. It naturally controls the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles which makes it capable of exercising its military and economic prowess over the Black Sea.

The region has historically been a battlefield between the Russian and Ottoman empires from the 18th century until the Cold War. Both countries have natural interest in expanding their influence in the Black Sea. This offers little chance for both to find a mutually acceptable solution for the long term. Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, Moscow has gained the upper hand in terms of military infrastructure and capability over all Black Sea shores.

East of the Black Sea and south of Caucasus, Turkey and Russia face their long-term historical battle over Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, Turkey has worked to reconnect South of Caucasus with its growing market for energy consumption by launching different energy and infrastructure plans from the East to the West. The Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline and the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway are some of the projects which Ankara currently supports. Although it’s highly unlikely for Turkey to militarily confront Russia in the region now, it does not mean Ankara will not consider increasing Georgia’s and Azerbaijan’s military capabilities.

There are other deep-rooted disagreements between Russia and Turkey such as the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Russia has its own interests for resolving this issue and in fact it prefers to keep the status quo for as long as possible. This is why Russia wants Turkey, Azerbaijan’s ally, to stay away from this conflict for as long as is possible. It is said that Moscow seeks to deploy its peacekeeping troops in Karabakh in lieu of having Armenia give up few areas around Karabakh. Meanwhile, east of Central Asia, Ankara is capable of seeing itself as the natural ally of all Central Asian countries as there are strong ethnic ties between Turkey and the Turkic people in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan has always been more influenced by Iranian culture.

The Syrian Theatre

Both Russia and Turkey cannot afford to remain hostile to each other now. Turkey sees in Russia a door to Syria and the cover that Ankara needs if it has to accept Assad’s stay in power instead of accepting a Kurdish autonomy. Russia and Turkey will continue to work together in Syria whether there is peace or conflict. The two countries’ present exigencies will push them to find common ground to cooperate and oppose Iranian and American interests in the Middle East. Turkey cannot bear the loss of its last influence over an Arab territory. Economic and military communications will improve between them because Russia cannot lose the Turkish market which is very important for its gas exports. Furthermore, Russian-Turkish relations will be subjected to geopolitical pressures due to geographic and security causes. The Black Sea and south Caucasus – as well as Central Asia to a lesser degree – will be the most contentious regions between Moscow and Ankara.

There are interests, ambitions, military bases and cultures between these countries that clash and coalesce with each other. The two have taken Syria as their arena to meet, cooperate and to impose their influence. Russians, Iranians, Turks, Europeans and the Americans are involved, and there are also Chechens, Uzbeks and Kyrgyzstanis who are fighting with the ISIS and whom we’ve seen as captives in videos broadcast by the Kurdish television in Iraq. Where is the Arab role in all of this? We have not seen it yet!

Huda al-Husseini is a political writer who focuses on Middle East geopolitics.



A failed saint

By Selina Mohsin

September 11, 2017

To promise peaceful reconciliation and then make it impossible makes violent extremism inevitable. These words come to mind as the Rohingyas flee from Myanmar to save their lives while Suu Kyi, state counsellor and NLD leader, first remains silent and now seems to endorse ethnic cleansing.

Oxford educated and an honorary fellow of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Aung San Suu Kyi and her family returned to Burma in 1988 to care for her ailing mother. Burma was tense with mass demonstrations for democracy after General Ne Win had stepped down in August. Suu Kyi addressed a gathering stating, “I could not, as my father's daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on.” While her English husband and her sons returned to Britain she formed the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Claiming to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, she held peaceful rallies for free elections. They were suppressed by the army who seized power in September 1988 and later placed Suu Kyi under house arrest. The military government offered her freedom if she left the country for good, but she bravely refused.

She remained under house arrest or in prison for 15 years, over a 21-year period. The military regime offered to let her go abroad, but it was evident she would not be allowed to return. In 1995 she met her husband in Myanmar for the last time, four years before his death from cancer.

After a bloody suppressed 'Saffron Revolution', in November 2010 Suu Kyi was released. It was apparent that the regime saw they needed rapid economic growth to escape the sanctions imposed by western governments.

In 2015 the military government of President Thein Sein held the first openly contested general election in 25 years. The NLD won two-thirds of the contested seats in parliament (a bloc of 25 was reserved for the military). As her children held foreign passports Suu Kyi could not run for president. However, as the undisputed NLD leader, she is Myanmar's de facto leader.

So what is this respected woman and active proponent of human rights and democracy really like?

Her Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Oslo on June 16, 2012 was described as the “most remarkable in the entire history of Nobel Prizes.” Her acceptance speech stated “...when the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to me, they were recognising that the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world, they were recognising the oneness of humanity... The prize we were working for was a free, secure and just society where our people might be able to realise their full potential.”

When asked after the NLD's 2015 victory what democratic model she intended to see in Myanmar, Suu Kyi replied, “We have many lessons to learn from various places.” She would not make changes too soon but would aim for reconciliation, like Nelson Mandela.

Yet now, her silence in the face of the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority has turned to open endorsement of the latest military crackdown while denying, as misinformation, its violence and carnage. She appears to accept the real misinformation—that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants.

Some Rohingya Muslims are recorded to have been in Buddhist-majority Burma since the 12th century. There are around 1.1 million Rohingyas in the coastal state of Rakhine. During the British rule (1824–1948) more entered as labourers, but since Burma was a province of India such migration was considered internal (Human Rights Watch). After independence Rohingyas who could prove residence for at least two generations were allowed to apply for a form of ID card. But the 1982 citizenship law did not recognise them as one of the country's 125 official ethnic minorities. They had long suffered discrimination, including movement restrictions, withholding of land rights and exclusion from education and public service. They essentially became stateless. By 2013 Human Rights Watch was already protesting ethnic cleansing and large numbers had fled to Bangladesh. In 2015, the 14th Dalai Lama, the most revered Buddhist leader, requested Suu Kyi to help the Rohingya, but was ignored.

To stem international condemnation, Suu Kyi in August 2016 asked for recommendations from an Advisory Commission led by Kofi Annan. Its mandate was flawed as it was limited to development, health and education in Rakhine and excluded human rights violations. She claimed to welcome its initial recommendations but made no move to implement them. The final report calling for an end to violence and a review of the basic citizenship issue has been ignored. The government claims the burning of 60 villages was the work of the Rohingya themselves and describes the newly formed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)—a virtually unarmed peasant resistance group—as “terrorists”. 

She has failed both morally—in terms of the Rohingyas' suffering—and as a national leader in the face of Buddhist nationalist intolerance. For decades Rohingya village elders have tried to restrain their young men but violent military suppression has not only now brought doomed attempts to fight back but has opened the path to Islamist extremism amongst a minority people whose tradition has been more peaceful Sufist Sunni. According to International Crisis Group, ARSA and its leader have links with Rohingya groups living in Saudi Arabia and Salafist influence is growing. The refugee influx is not only a threat to Bangladesh but also to the world.

Suu Kyi once said, “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” Now that she has seemed to abandon her own ideals, is she now corrupt? Insensitive, politically sharp and ambitious, Suu Kyi has created more problems than solutions.

Selina Mohsin is a former ambassador.



Israel and the battles of the screen!

By Hussein Shobokshi

IN open wars there are smart weapons and unconventional weapons, which are used to achieve victories of another kind. Perhaps one of the most important of these unconventional weapons is TV serials and dramas that are shown on different screens around the world.

Today, Israel seeks to exploit this effectively. Israel is aware that the Hebrew market is very limited. The speakers of this language are not more than nine million people around the world, so they translate their works into languages like English, French, Spanish, German and non-traditional languages such as Hindi, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese.

Israel is preparing to release a big film of its production in the name of “the angel.” From an Israeli point of view, it tells of the services provided by Ashraf Marwan “as a spy” to Israel during his long stint. (Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stated at the time of Ashraf Marwan’s death that he was “a national hero and played an important role”). But Israel wants to market a certain stereotype of itself to the world that it is “smarter” than its enemies and is therefore capable of penetrating them and always beating them.

Israel always tries to carry the same message in most of its dramas for the world that it is a country that seeks to live in peace and it’s neighbors are terrorists who are striving to eliminate it. One of the most important Israeli serials that promoted this idea was the series “Prisoners of War”, and the other series which was a remarkable success, was the series “Homeland”, which presented a terrible example of the Palestinians and Muslims.

Israel sees the economic returns through the promotion, export and marketing of these dramas around the world. As a matter of fact its revenues in 2016 amounted to 270 million dollars, four times what it was in 2006 and it seeks to provide a global interesting material and succeed like the success of Turkish, Brazilian, Mexican, Hindi, Korean and Japanese dramas. Israeli dramas have become quite identical having almost the same script in which the hero who comes from the Israeli intelligence saves his country from a terrorist preparing to blow himself up among innocent people.

A story after the terrorist events around the world has gained an international acceptance. Israel now seeks to develop drama production to include stories far from the Arab-Israeli conflict to show its success as a state focusing on the strength of its economy and the success of its symbols through dramatic dramas in order to establish a deep mental image in the minds of the West that Israel is a successful state among failed states in the region.

The Arab-Israeli war films and series witnessed a stirring movement in the eighties. Films such as “Rise to the Abyss”, “Well of Treason”, “Dead Execution”, “The Road to Eilat” and “Tears in the Eyes of a Slut” provided the Arab memory with positive morale in the confrontation with Israel.

Israel has an “expansionist” plan to occupy new spaces in the young mentality around the world based on digital entertainment and away from traditional television and cinema. It plans to collaborate with digital giants such as Netflix and HBO to ensure access to the widest possible audience.

Israel proactively occupies vast areas of global mentality in the virtual entertainment field to devote its mental image to it. It has a firm belief that this is an arena that is no less important than United Nations lounges and battlefields. Israel has managed to control the production in a very economical way until it is known as the cheapest around the world and thus ensures the lucrative returns on its dramatic action economically and it benefited from the culture of savings established by the military structure of the state.

The message that will focus on the Israeli drama in his message, according to Israeli art critic Einav Chif, “is that the world has become insecure.” A person does not need much intelligence to know where the finger is pointing with such a proposition!



Modi’s problems, opposition’s opportunity

Saudi Gazette

IT is three years since Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi came to power in India, promising “good days” which, among other things, meant better governance, faster development and an end to corruption.

There was the excitement that comes from the injection of a leader who, though new to the national scene, had served as three-time chief minister of an important state and an entirely new ideology. Part of the reason for his government’s popularity was the discredited one it replaced. Any country usually awards some sort of honeymoon to a new president or prime minister. In Modi’s case, it has lasted longer than he could have hoped for. Media too was indulgent.

But latest reports indicate that all this is not enough to mask his many vulnerabilities. News from the economic front is particularly bad. Indian economy has been slowing for each quarter for the last five ones. This means it has remained stagnant for the last 15 months. Government data shows the economy has been growing at only 5.7 percent. After three years, the country is back to where it was in the last days of the Congress-led Manmohan Singh government. From January to March of this year, Indian growth sank to six percent, down from seven percent in the previous quarter. They also brought growth over the last twelve months down to its lowest point for three years.

Worse still, there is no sign of the 10 million jobs Modi promised. If the economy has been slowing for five straight quarters, it means only one thing: There is something fundamentally wrong with the way this government manages the economy.

Government’s own admission on the less than satisfactory results of demonetization shows what they are.

It was on Nov. 8, 2016, that Modi announced, to a shocked nation, that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender. Of course, there would be some temporary inconvenience for the common man but the prime minister dangled, in front of them, the prospect of corrupt officials, businessmen and criminals — who are believed to hoard large amounts of illicit cash — being stuck with “worthless pieces of paper.”

However, the Reserve Bank of India’s annual report on Wednesday suggested that most holders of the old currency had managed to dispose of it, estimating that banned notes worth 15.28 trillion ($239 billion) were returned to the bank. This amounts to 99 percent of the 15.44 trillion of the high-value notes that were in circulation. Naturally, people are asking whether demonetization was a clever ploy designed to help corrupt officials, big businessmen and criminals to convert black money into white.

Another supposed benefit of demonetization — curbing terrorism which in India usually means violence in Kashmir — too failed to materialize. Depriving terrorists, real or perceived, of the sources of their funds, demonetization would help combat violence. Facts, however, tell a different story. Last year, there were 267 violence-related deaths in the Himalayan state. There have been 239 deaths in the first eight months of 2017.

Even those who agreed that demonetization would have long-term benefits had warned that its short-term economic cost would outweigh them. What has really happened is that the economy has been dented severely with no prospect of recovery in the near future.

Adding to Modi’s woes are the dismal performance of BJP chief ministers in states. In UP, dozens of infants died in two hospitals due to a delay in providing them with oxygen and medicines. In Haryana, there was complete breakdown of law and order after a court verdict against a man many consider holy.

Modi is still the most popular politician in India. But there are enough signs to show his aura of invincibility is fading. The real question is whether India’s opposition parties can unite on a common platform to mount a credible challenge to him in the 2019 elections.



President Trump’s War on Science


SEPT. 9, 2017

The news was hard to digest until one realized it was part of a much larger and increasingly disturbing pattern in the Trump administration. On Aug. 18, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine received an order from the Interior Department that it stop work on what seemed a useful and overdue study of the health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining.

The $1 million study had been requested by two West Virginia health agencies following multiple studies suggesting increased rates of birth defects, cancer and other health problems among people living near big surface coal-mining operations in Appalachia. The order to shut it down came just hours before the scientists were scheduled to meet with affected residents of Kentucky.

The Interior Department said the project was put on hold as a result of an agencywide budgetary review of grants and projects costing more than $100,000.

This was not persuasive to anyone who had been paying attention. From Day 1, the White House and its lackeys in certain federal agencies have been waging what amounts to a war on science, appointing people with few scientific credentials to key positions, defunding programs that could lead to a cleaner and safer environment and a healthier population, and, most ominously, censoring scientific inquiry that could inform the public and government policy.

Even allowing for justifiable budgetary reasons, in nearly every case the principal motive seemed the same: to serve commercial interests whose profitability could be affected by health and safety rules.

The coal mining industry is a conspicuous example. The practice of blowing the tops off mountains to get at underlying coal seams has been attacked for years by public health and environmental interests and by many of the families whose livelihoods depend on coal. But Mr. Trump and his department heads have made a very big deal of saving jobs in a declining industry that is already under severe pressure from market forces, including competition from cheaper natural gas. An unfavorable health study would inject unwelcome reality into Mr. Trump’s rosy promises of a job boom fueled by “clean, beautiful coal.”

This is a president who has never shown much fidelity to facts, unless they are his own alternative ones. Yet if there is any unifying theme beyond that to the administration’s war on science, apart from its devotion to big industry and its reflexively antiregulatory mind-set, it is horror of the words “climate change.”

This starts with Mr. Trump, who has called global warming a hoax and pulled the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. Among his first presidential acts, he instructed Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, to deep-six President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to roll back Obama-era rules reducing the venting from natural gas wells of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas.

Mr. Trump has been properly sympathetic to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but the fact that there is almost certainly a connection between a warming earth and increasingly destructive natural events seems not to have occurred to him or his fellow deniers. Mr. Pruitt and his colleagues have enthusiastically jumped to the task of rescinding regulations that might address the problem, meanwhile presiding over a no less ominous development: a governmentwide purge of people, particularly scientists, whose research and conclusions about the human contribution to climate change do not support the administration’s agenda.

Mr. Pruitt, for instance, is replacing dozens of members on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards; in March, he dismissed at least five scientists from the agency’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, to be replaced, according to a spokesman, with advisers “who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.” Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dissolved its 15-member climate science advisory committee, a panel set up to help translate the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete guidance for businesses, governments and the public.

In June, Mr. Pruitt told a coal industry lobbying group that he was preparing to convene a “red team” of researchers to challenge the notion, broadly accepted among climate scientists, that carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels are the primary drivers of climate change.

Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, called the red team plan a “dumb idea” that’s like “a red team-blue team exercise about whether gravity exists.” Rick Perry, the energy secretary, former Texas governor and climate skeptic, endorsed the idea as — get this — a way to “get the politicians out of the room.” Given his and Mr. Pruitt’s ideological and historical financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, it is hard to think of a more cynical use of public money.

Even the official vocabulary of global warming has changed, as if the problem can be made to evaporate by describing it in more benign terms. At the Department of Agriculture, staff members are encouraged to use words like “weather extremes” in lieu of “climate change,” and “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency” instead of “reduce greenhouse gases.” The Department of Energy has scrubbed the words “clean energy” and “new energy” from its websites, and has cut links to clean or renewable energy initiatives and programs, according to the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which monitors federal websites.

At the E.P.A., a former Trump campaign assistant named John Konkus aims to eliminate the “double C-word,” meaning “climate change,” from the agency’s research grant solicitations, and he views every application for research money through a similar lens. The E.P.A. is even considering editing out climate change-related exhibits in a museum depicting the agency’s history.

The bias against science finds reinforcement in Mr. Trump’s budget and the people he has chosen for important scientific jobs. Mr. Trump’s 2018 federal budget proposal would cut nondefense research and development money across the government.

The president has proposed cutting nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s single largest funder of biomedical research. The National Science Foundation, a government agency that funds a variety of scientific and engineering research projects, would be trimmed by about 11 percent. Plant and animal-related science at the Agriculture Department, data analysis at the Census Bureau and earth science at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would all suffer.

It is amazing but true, given the present circumstances, that the Trump budget would eliminate $250 million for NOAA’s coastal research programs that prepare communities for rising seas and worsening storms. The E.P.A.’s Global Change program would be likewise eliminated. This makes the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, delirious with joy. He complains of “crazy things” the Obama administration did to study climate, and boasts: “Do a lot of the E.P.A. reductions aim at reducing the focus on climate science? Yes.”

As to key appointments, denial and mediocrity abound. Last week, Mr. Trump nominated David Zatezalo, a former coal company chief executive who has repeatedly clashed with federal mine safety regulators, as assistant secretary of labor for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. He nominated Jim Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma with no science or space background, as NASA administrator. Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump’s nomination to be the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist, is not a scientist: He’s a former talk-radio host and incendiary blogger who has labeled climate research “junk science.”

From the beginning, Mr. Trump, Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Zinke and Mr. Perry — to name the Big Four on environmental and energy issues — have been promising a new day to just about anyone discomfited by a half-century of bipartisan environmental law, whether it be the developers and farmers who feel threatened by efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act, oil and gas drillers seeking leases they do not need on federal land, chemical companies seeking relaxation from rules governing dangerous pesticides, automakers asked to improve fuel efficiency or utilities required to make further investments in technology to reduce ground-level pollutants.

“The future ain’t what it used to be at the E.P.A.,” Mr. Pruitt is fond of saying of his agency. These words could also apply to just about every other cabinet department and regulatory body in this administration. What his words really mean is that the future isn’t going to be nearly as promising for ordinary Americans as it should be.



On justice as journalists, politicians are in jail

By Murat Yetkin


I received a letter two days ago, seemingly sent to many other colleagues by Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who has been in jail in the western province of Edirne for more than 10 months without having appeared before a judge.

It is not clear when he is going to appear in court, since two separate courts so far refused to try him regarding the indictment prepared by prosecutors accusing him of helping making propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) through his speeches in and outside of the Turkish parliament.

In his letter, Demirtas said his arrest (on Nov. 4, 2016) and captivity was against the 83rd article of the Turkish constitution, which suggests that members of parliament cannot be held responsible for what they say in parliament and the repetition of the same speech elsewhere. He was arrested due to an amendment on May 20, 2016, which lifted the immunities of MPs, who have had indictments against them sent to the Justice Ministry on activities up until then but did not cover events after that.

“It was a grave mistake,” Demirtas said. “Parliamentary immunities are lifted retrospectively, not for future activity. It is a weird situation where I have legal immunity and don’t have it at the same time,” he added. He said it was the reason why no court can try him and nine other MPs of the HDP. “We have been arrested upon the orders of politicians, not courts,” he claimed.

The constitutional amendment in May 2016, encouraged by President Tayyip Erdogan and submitted by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), was supported not only by Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) but also Kemal Kiliçdaroglu’s social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Ironically, the first MP who was sentenced and put in jail, on June 14, from the CHP was Enis Berberoglu, with a sentence of 25 years in prison.

Berberoglu was accused on espionage and “helping terrorism” charges because of providing - already published but later on restricted by a court - material to the prominent center-left newspaper Cumhuriyet. It was the jailing of Berberoglu which triggered the 450-kilometer “justice march” by Kiliçdaroglu from June 15 to July 9 from Ankara to Istanbul and later a “justice congress” between Aug. 26 and 29 where he claimed the lack of justice was the biggest problem in Turkey.

Following that, Erdogan started to accuse Kiliçdaroglu and the CHP of acting “in line with terrorists” and of “not being native and national.” The reference “terrorists” in Erdogan’s speech was including both the PKK and the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is indicted of masterminding the July 15, 2016, military coup attempt in Turkey.

On Sept. 8, Erdogan particularly picked on one CHP deputy chairman, Sezgin Tanrikulu, who claimed that an armed drone used effectively in the fight against the PKK might have hit civilians in an operation in the southeastern province of Hakkari, bordering both Iraq and Iran. Erdogan said instead of being proud of natively-designed and produced - by an aerospace company owned by Erdogan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar - Kiliçdaroglu was letting his deputy slander anti-terrorism efforts. Right after Erdogan’s remarks, an Ankara prosecutor filed a lawsuit against Tanrikulu on accusations he was helping terrorists. As Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said one of the wounded people in the drone attack admitted that he had met with a PKK terrorist, Tanrikulu said prosecuting him was a violation of article 83 of the constitution about parliamentary immunities.

The HDP, being the third biggest group in the Turkish parliament, is already suffering court cases under accusations of helping terrorists. The CHP is not only the main opposition but the founding party of the Turkish Republic, with a staunch 25 percent voter support, and labeling the CHP terrorist might seem beneficial for the AK Parti in the short- run before elections in 2019 (first locals, then general, to be held with the presidential vote), but may trigger new fault lines in politics.

And it is not only the court cases against politicians which are prompting strong criticisms against Erdogan from outside Turkey under the state of emergency, launched after the thwarted coup attempt.

The situation of jailed journalists and media employees is another painful problem especially when considered in relations with the European Union. Erdogan is under attack because of the current situation of the independence of courts as well as media freedom and freedom of expression.

Today on Sept. 11, four Cumhuriyet journalists are going to appear in an Istanbul criminal court. Kadri Gürsel, also the head of the Turkish chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI), Murat Sabuncu and Akin Atalay have been under arrest for 316 days. Ahmet Sik has been imprisoned for 254 days, being sought life imprisonment for helping two different terrorist organizations - the Gülenist network and the PKK - at the same time.

Senior columnists Sahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç, from the newspapers Zaman, Bugün and Taraf, known for adhering to Gülen and now shut for that reason, have already finished 410 days behind bars, along with Nazli Ilicak. Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Murat Aksoy have completed one year already. They were also writing for papers like Zaman, Bugün and Taraf. Journalists of different nationalities like Deniz Yücel, a German citizen, have further strained diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany. According to the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), there are 160 journalists in prisons currently, this being the highest number in the world, yet the government says they are not imprisoned because of journalism but over terrorism and espionage.

Amid these developments in Turkey, a U.S. court has indicted and issued an arrest warrant against a former Turkish economy minister, Zafer Çaglayan, in relation with the Iran-origin Turkish citizen Reza Zarrab, who is currently in prison in the U.S. accused of breaking sanctions on Iran. Same applies to Süleyman Aslan, the former head of the Turkish state bank Halkbank. Çaglayan was accused of receiving bribes from Zarrab, and Aslan was announced as being arrested by the police with $4.5 million in cash hidden in shoeboxes in his bedroom during the Dec. 17-25, 2013, graft probes. The accusations against them in Turkey were dropped, and prosecutors and judges involved in those probes are either now on the run or imprisoned for receiving instructions from the illegal Gülenist network.

Erdogan, who has been criticizing the U.S. administration for harboring Gülen and his followers in the country who have been indicted for trying to overthrow the Turkish government through a military coup, slammed the latest ruling as an action taken against Turkey on Sept. 8.

Later on Sept. 9, Erdogan had a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump and the matter is expected to be discussed during a meeting between the two at the United Nations General Assembly later in September. Another issue within that framework is an arrest warrant issued against Erdogan’s bodyguards for attacking protesters during a visit by Erdogan in Washington D.C. in May.

“You may be a strong country, a big country” Erdogan told U.S. authorities regarding the Çaglayan case on Sept. 8, “But it is important to be a state of justice.” A sentence with which I can fully agree.



URL: http://newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/marshalling-pressure-on-myanmar--new-age-islam’s-selection,-11-september-2017/d/112487


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