Saudi death penalty for not warmongering?


This 17 November 2018 video says about itself:

Saudi cleric’s son: ‘Everyone is threatened

Soon after Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was appointed Saudi crown prince in 2017, prominent Muslim cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah was arrested, allegedly for his refusal to tweet in support of the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

In September 2018, prosecutors applied for him to be sentenced to death.

UpFront speaks with Awdah’s son, Abdullah Alaoudh, who is based in the United States and is a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University.

“The charges [against Salman al-Awdah] actually represent how the state would crack down on any different view and, on any person who disagrees“, says Alaoudh. “The same ‘rogue operation’ is going on for dissidents abroad, for those who disagree at home, for journalists, economists – public figures in general.”

Asked whether he thinks Saudi would really execute one of its top clerics, Alaoudh refers to the Khashoggi murder and says “it’s a pattern. It did not start with my father; it did not start with Jamal Khashoggi. It’s a pattern that we have seen through the past one-and-a-half years since the crown prince came to power. They did everything in their power to silence others, to crack down on dissent.”

Saudi Arabia is now seeking the death penalty for five people accused of the gruesome murder of journalist Khashoggi. “At some point I thought it’s very difficult for the state to … reach dissidents abroad”. says Alaoudh. “But now, after what happened to Jamal Khashoggi the message the state sent is that everyone is threatened, ‘we can reach everyone everywhere’.”

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Trump administration threatens Assange, world wide press freedom


This 16 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Exclusive: WikiLeaks Lawyer Warns U.S. Charges Against Assange Endanger Press Freedom Worldwide

The Justice Department has inadvertently revealed that it has prepared an indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In an unusual development, language about the charges against Assange was copied and pasted into an unrelated court filing that was recently unsealed.

In the document, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer wrote, “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

The news broke on Thursday night just hours after The Wall Street Journal reported the Justice Department was planning to prosecute Assange.

Assange has been living since 2012 in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has sought refuge and political asylum. It’s unclear what charges may be brought against Assange; the Justice Department has previously considered prosecuting him over his role in the release of hacked DNC emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as over the release of the so-called Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, shared by U.S. military whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

The Assange case has been closely followed by advocates for press freedom. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch tweeted, “Deeply troubling if the Trump administration, which has shown little regard for media freedom, would charge Assange for receiving from a government official and publishing classified information—exactly what journalists do all the time.” We speak with human rights attorney Jennifer Robinson, who has been advising Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010.

California wildfires, over 1,000 people missing


Firefighters taking on the Woolsey Fire in Southern California [photo courtesy Cal Fire]

By Evan Blake in the USA:

Death toll rises to 71, more than 1,000 missing from devastating California wildfires

17 November 2018

The ongoing wildfires in California, including the most deadly and destructive in the state’s history, are a horrific exposure of the collapse of social infrastructure and the consequences of government neglect.

The immense toll is just beginning to be comprehended. On Friday, the official death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California reached 71, while the number of missing persons skyrocketed from 631 to 1,011.

The Woolsey Fire in Southern California began on November 8 and has destroyed over 98,300 acres, roughly the size of Denver, Colorado. Over 295,000 people have been forced to evacuate the region, and there have been three confirmed deaths as of this writing. The fire is now 69 percent contained.

In Butte County, Northern California, the Camp Fire began on the same day and has caused far greater damage. The fire currently encompasses 146,000 acres, with 50 percent containment, and has forced 52,000 people to evacuate. The fire has destroyed 12,263 structures, including 9,844 single residences and 144 multiple residences.

Another 15,500 structures are still threatened by the Camp Fire, which is not expected to be fully contained until November 30 at the earliest. Statewide, roughly 9,400 firefighters have been deployed to fight the ongoing fires, of whom roughly 1,500 are prison inmates that are paid a meager $1 per hour.

The largely working-class, elderly towns of Paradise and Magalia, as well as multiple smaller census-designated places, have been essentially wiped off the map by the Camp Fire. Each day, an average of eight new bodies have been found in the rubble, as nearly 500 search-and-rescue personnel survey the area.

On Thursday, the number of missing people skyrocketed from 300 to 631, then to 1,011 on Friday evening. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea has said that officials have finally processed all the 911 calls and missing person reports made over the past week.

A map of the building damage in Paradise, CA and surrounding areas

Officials have not released the names of all 1,011 missing people, but the most recent public list showed that the vast majority are elderly, with 91 percent over the age of 50, and therefore more likely to have perished given the rapidity of the wildfire’s spread and the complete lack of a citywide warning system.

The Camp Fire will likely rank among the top five deadliest wildfires in US history, and the deadliest since the Cloquet Fire in Minnesota killed an estimated 1,000 people in 1918. The fact that such a devastating event could take place in modern America speaks to the immense social crisis of contemporary capitalism, which subordinates all aspects of social life to the pursuit of private profit.

Beyond those killed or made homeless by the Camp Fire, millions more have been impacted across the Northern California region, as toxic particulate matter has fanned out and spread hundreds of miles westward, creating hazardous air for millions of residents in the densely populated Bay Area, as well as large parts of the Central Valley.

According to the air quality-monitoring network Purple Air, Northern California currently has the most polluted air in the world, worse than notoriously smoggy cities in India and China. On Friday afternoon, the air quality reached the highest “hazardous” rating on the Air Quality Index scale in the cities of Chico and Oroville, where most Camp Fire evacuees have fled, as well as the heavily populated Sacramento region, effecting over 600,000 people. At least 25 other cities in Northern California ranked in the highly toxic “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” range.

The cumulative, long-term health impact of this air pollution may never be fully known. The toxic air can cause asthma attacks and prompt strokes and heart attacks. Due to the fact that school funding is tied to attendance, almost every major school district in the region remained open throughout the week, until conditions became so bad that they were forced to close on Friday. Ambulances were sent to schools in the region Thursday to hospitalize students having severe asthma attacks.

Air quality monitors across Northern California show hazardous conditions for millions [Courtesy wunderground.com]

US President Donald Trump—who has feuded with the state’s Democratic politicians—initially threatened to cut off federal funding to the state. He has since backpedaled slightly, and the White House announced Thursday that Trump will visit “individuals impacted by the wildfires” this Saturday.

Whatever empty platitudes Trump issues during his visit, his administration will do nothing to make survivors whole or address any of the underlying causes of the epidemic of wildfires that have ravaged California in recent years. Nor will the Democratic politicians that run the state, including Governor Jerry Brown or Governor-elect Gavin Newsom.

Both parties are responsible for this catastrophe. Funding for the state agencies that oversee fire prevention and management has been continually cut in recent decades at both the state and federal level, while the energy monopoly Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has been allowed to subordinate public safety to its private profit.

In a report published last June, Cal Fire found that PG&E equipment caused 16 wildfires last year, 11 of which involved violations of state fire prevention codes, making them potentially liable for $15 billion in damages. Southern California Edison, which provides energy for much of Southern California—including the region impacted by the Woolsey Fire—admitted in late October that its equipment helped spark the massive 2017 Thomas Fire that killed two people and burned over 280,000 acres.

However, in September Governor Brown signed into law SB 901, which limits the potential damages for which utilities are liable. The law also allows regulators to reduce assessed damages when weather exacerbates the disaster, and to take into account the company’s “financial status” to limit the costs to shareholders and allow the utilities to raise rates on the public.

PG&E shares have fallen by as much as 53 percent since the Camp Fire began, as the first ignition point for the fire is reported to have been under PG&E power lines near the Poe Dam. PG&E acknowledged Tuesday that it had submitted an “electric incident report” moments prior to the outbreak of the fire, sending its shares plummeting.

In response, late Thursday California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker held a private meeting with Wall Street investors and analysts, in which he reportedly said that he wishes to avoid a PG&E bankruptcy, and that he will allow the company to pass on wildfire-related costs to customers through a bond-purchasing program. After-hours trading caused PG&E stock to surge more than 44 percent, erasing the day’s 30 percent decline.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Picker stated, “If [PG&E] can’t borrow money, if they have liquidity problems and they can’t do vegetation management, that’s a problem. That’s not good policy, to really let them get financially unstable.”

Almost all of California’s electricity is transmitted through wooden aboveground power lines, which are known to cause wildfires due to poor maintenance. Two rational but more expensive solutions are the use of underground lines or steel aboveground lines. Instead, PG&E has since 2013 begun cutting power to entire regions that experience conditions conducive to wildfires. In the days prior to the Camp Fire, PG&E sent warnings to customers in Butte County that they would temporarily cut power, indicating that they knew conditions were ripe for a wildfire. However, no cutoff was made before the fire broke out.

Both the Democrats and Republicans preside over a capitalist system that has proven incapable of addressing climate change, which is responsible for increasingly extreme and unpredictable global weather patterns. The 2011-2017 California drought was the driest period in state history since records began in 1895. Then 2017 brought one of the wettest years in state history, while 2018 has seen a return of drought conditions. The Camp Fire itself began after 210 continuous days without rain in the region.

The experience of the Camp Fire has affected millions of people and will deepen the ongoing radicalization of the working class. As Robert Starling, a restaurant dishwasher who fled the Camp Fire in Magalia, told the World Socialist Web Site, “This country has failed. We need to have an overhaul. I don’t know how it’s going to be done, if it’s going to take another revolution. […] Things like this will make people mad and instill enough drive to do it.”

In a socialist society, the major corporations, including PG&E and Edison International, would be nationalized. Billions would be reallocated from the military and the bank accounts of the super-rich toward the rational planning of cities, including the universal use of underground or metal aboveground electrical infrastructure. Emergency response technology would provide instant notification of any wildfires or other extreme weather events, and fire departments would be fully funded to prevent any future outbreaks. Programs to halt and reverse human-induced climate change would create a stable climate and lay the basis for sustaining future generations of mankind.

British suffragettes photo exhibition


Selling ‘The Woman’s Dreadnought’ newspaper. Melvina Walker (centre) and Nellie Cressall (on her right). Nora Smyth c.1914 Image with kind permission of Paul Isolani Smyth from the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

This photo depicts selling of ‘The Woman’s Dreadnought’ newspaper, by Melvina Walker (centre) and Nellie Cressall (on her right). Photo by Nora Smyth c.1914. Image with kind permission of Paul Isolani Smyth from the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 17 November 2018 East End Suffragettes – revealed for first time in 100 years

East End Suffragettes: the photographs of Norah Smyth
2 November-9 February 2019
Tues-Sat: 11.00-18.00 daily
Admission free

EAST End Suffragette photos from 100 years ago, are revealed, for the first time in Britain. The venue is the Four Corners Studio, 121 Roman Road, close to Bethnal Green tube station, East London. Exhibition opening is Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 6pm, until February 9. Pioneering campaign photos of the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS) from 1914 to 1916, are being shown. They have been loaned by the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.

The photos are the work of Norah Smyth, used to illustrate workers’ conditions in the East End of London and the activities of the ELFS in its weekly paper.

Norah was originally inspired by the suffrage campaign of The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) led by Emmeline Pankhurst and daughter Chrystabel Pankhurst in 1911.

She soon met the other Pankhurst sister, Sylvia, and in 1912 they joined supporters and formed a branch of the WSPU in East London. They were moved by the terrible poverty of the working class in that area, and inspired by the history of trade union struggles such as the match girls’ strike in 1888 and the socialist ideas of the Independent Labour Party. They opened a shop in Bow Road, with a head board ‘Votes for Women’. Norah came from a wealthy family and used her inheritance to support the struggle.

During 1913, Sylvia was arrested and started hunger and thirst strikes until she was released to get better, ten times, under the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’. The branch was very active and supported strikes at local factories. Their orientation towards working class struggle was too much for the leaders of the WSPU, who focused on getting the vote for property owning middle class women.

By January 1914, Chrystabel demanded that the ELFS separate from the WSPU. This it did, becoming more socialist, adding the colour red to the traditional suffragette colours of white, green and purple.

The ELFS organised Women’s May Day parades from the East India Dock Gates to Victoria Park, six mile marches to Holloway prison to show solidarity with suffragette prisoners, and held open air meetings all over the East End from Canning Town to Hackney and Stepney. Every week they had a stall in Roman Road market.

Many men took part in the events and the police regularly used force against them.

For a short time in 1913 the ELFS set up a ‘Peoples Army’ modelled on James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army and began drilling, to defend workers’ demonstrations and form protection for Sylvia against re-arrest. In March 1914, they set up a weekly paper called ‘The Woman’s Dreadnought’ as the ‘only suffrage paper in the country which makes a distinct appeal to working people’.

Articles covered workers housing and work conditions and struggles and their own campaigns. Here Norah Smyth’s photographs played a key role. In May, the ELFS opened their own HQ in 400 Old Ford Rd, which included two large halls, where meetings and clubs were held.

When World War 1 broke out in August 1914, Emmeline and Chrystabel Pankhurst immediately capitulated to the patriotic propaganda and dropped the suffrage campaign, whereas the ELFS became more resolute. They became pacifists and redoubled their support for working class families through welfare schemes in which local woman participated.

Unemployment rose as factories closed. Then conscription of the men left the women trying to care for the children on belated payments. Woman ended up working in munitions and clothing factories on sweated labour conditions. When the ELFS opened some food distribution centres (milk, eggs and barley) for starving woman and children, and communal canteens, hundreds turned up. They organised free nurseries and set up a shoe and toy factory to employ women.

The Dreadnought called for equal pay and working conditions, and rights for soldiers’ and sailors’ wives and ‘Down with sweating’. By 1915, when compulsory conscription was brought in, they campaigned against compulsion. State repression against these rallies increased.

One million working class soldiers were conscripted but many had no vote. The new Franchise Bill excluded poorer men, conscientious objectors, women under 30, and poor and widowed women from the vote. In March 1916, the ELFS changed its name to ‘Workers Suffrage Federation’ (WSF) and demanded universal suffrage for everyone over the age of 21 years. This was not achieved until 10 years later.

The two revolutions in Russia in 1917 inspired the WSL tremendously and they became revolutionary socialists. The new workers’ soviets in Russia seemed to them to parallel their community organisations. The Woman’s Dreadnoaught changed its name to ‘Workers’ Dreadnought’ and stood for ‘household soviets and international socialism’. In summer 1917, it campaigned for ‘a paralysis of military force’.

The WSF set up peace pickets outside parliament with slogans ‘War is murder’, ‘Soldiers in the trenches long for peace’, and ‘Bring back our Brothers’, and ‘Stop this Capitalists’ War’. In 1918, the organisation became the ‘Workers’ Socialist Federation’ and affiliated to the Communist International. Norah and Sylvia attended conferences in Russia and Amsterdam and Sylvia attended the second congress of the Third International in 1920, where the setting up of a British communist Party was debated. There were differences with Lenin.

They supported the ‘Hands off Russia’ campaign, and lobbied the east end dockers not to load munitions for the imperialist armies being used against the Bolsheviks.

The WSF fought to build a communist-type organisation until 1924, when the Dreadnought was ended. The 100 photographs in this exhibition reveal a huge empathy and respect for working woman and their families in the East End of London and a determination to fight for the vote and socialism in conflict with the capitalist state. It is not to be missed. N.B. Most of the information in this article came from the exhibition notices and an accompanying booklet.

‘Saudi crown prince had Khashoggi murdered, says CIA’


This video from the USA says about itself:

As Campaign to End US-Saudi War on Yemen Grows, Republicans Derail it with Bizarre Wolves Bill

16 November 2018

A House bill that would end the catastrophic US-Saudi war on Yemen is gaining support, but Republicans bizarrely blocked a vote using unrelated legislation on gray wolves and the endangered species list.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘CIA: Crown Prince Mohammad ordered murder of Khashoggi

The American secret service CIA thinks that the Saudi crown prince Mohammad personally ordered the murder of the critical journalist Khashoggi. The crown prince is said to have used his brother to lure Khashoggi to the consulate. That reports The Washington Post, the American newspaper that Khashoggi wrote for, based on sources.

According to the newspaper, the CIA bases this, among other things, on an intercepted telephone conversation that the crown prince’s brother had with Khashoggi. The brother, Khalid bin Salman, is said to have told him that he had to go to the consulate in Istanbul to collect documents for his marriage and that this would be safe.

Later it turned out that a Saudi death squad waited for Khashoggi there, strangled him and cut him to pieces. The public prosecutor demanded the death penalty on Thursday for five suspects who had committed the murder. The body has still not been found.

It is not clear whether Khalid bin Salman knew what would happen to Khashoggi, but according to American intelligence services he made the call on behalf of the crown prince.

Suspicion

After the murder of the Saudi journalist, the accusations soon pointed to the Saudi royal family, which was dealt with considerably in Khashoggi’s columns.

After studying images, among the suspects there turned out to be associates of the crown prince, including a security guard who often accompanied him abroad. In addition, Mohammad has tight control of the reins in Saudi Arabia and he even interferes with the smallest matters.

The Saudi public prosecutor insisted on Thursday that Mohammad did not know about the murder plans.

Religious homophobia in Dutch Zeeland


This 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Televangelist Pat Robertson made homophobic remarks regarding same-sex couples, saying gay couples make him want to vomit. Watch a clip in the video.

Televangelist Pat Robertson responded to a viewer question on his Christian Broadcasting Network show “The 700 Club”, saying there should be a vomit button so that he could press it every time he sees a photo of a same-sex couple kissing on Facebook.

Unfortunately, in Dutch Zeeland province there are not only beautiful birds, but there is also ugly religious homophobia.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

22 of the 33 churches in Tholen

former island in Zeeland; in the Dutch ‘Bible belt’.

strongly protest against the hoisting of the rainbow flag and the Sunday opening of a number of tourist shops. In a full-page advertisement in the local Eendrachtbode paper they write that the “Christian norms and values on Tholen are pushed aside”.

The municipal council of Tholen last month agreed with the hoisting of the rainbow flag on Coming Out Day, the day that LGBTQ people can come out for their orientation. …

According to the church councils, of [fundamentalist Calvinist] congregations, there can be no other relationship than that between a man and a woman. The hoisting of the rainbow flag on Coming Out Day goes “against the Biblical creation order.”