New York University links to UAE dictatorship


This 18 September 2017 Gulf Human Rights Committee video says about itself:

Short film about human rights abuses by the government of the UAE against democracy activists, foreign businessmen, and their families.

By Josh Varlin in the USA:

New York University faculty defends academic freedom against NYU’s ties to UAE

8 December 2018

Dozens of New York University faculty gathered December 3 in a forum to voice their concerns over the NYU administration’s response to the case of Matthew Hedges, a British academic who was imprisoned for months in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on trumped-up charges. Despite an open letter —presently signed by 224 faculty, staff and PhD students—demanding NYU President Andrew Hamilton condemn Hedges’s arrest and take measures to secure academic freedom, NYU continues to cover for the UAE government.

Given NYU’s role in the UAE, where it has a degree-granting campus in Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), the silence of the administration amounts to complicity. The UAE gave $50 million to the construction of the NYUAD campus, and a high-ranking member of the UAE government sits on the NYU Board of Trustees. His fellow board members are an ignominious group of New York City multimillionaires and billionaires, including several who sit on the boards of imperialist think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

After an international outcry, including the NYU faculty letter, Hedges was hastily pardoned and allowed to the leave the UAE. He has since explained to the Telegraph that after he was sentenced, he was interrogated yet again, prompting suicidal ideation. While he was imprisoned, his captors administered both tranquilizers and stimulants to him without proper medical supervision, leaving Hedges suffering from withdrawal symptoms in the UK.

At the faculty forum, titled “NYU, UAE, & Academic Freedom”, three faculty members who had experience with NYUAD and the UAE government spoke, followed by contributions from the floor. The common theme was that academic freedom was anything but sacrosanct in both the UAE and at NYUAD, and that the NYU administration is fully aware yet continues to claim otherwise.

The first of the main speakers was Lauren Minsky, assistant professor of history, who taught at NYUAD from its opening in 2010 until this year. She was followed by Andrew Ross, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and director of American Studies, who was barred from the UAE in 2015 due to his research on labor conditions in the country. Arang Keshavarzian, associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies, was the last of the main speakers. Keshavarzian was denied a security clearance by the UAE last year and was therefore unable to teach in the country.

While the arrest of Hedges was a nodal point in the attacks on academic freedom by the UAE, it was hardly the first time academics had been harassed for their work by the federation of sheikdoms. Minsky provided a timeline of the sordid NYU-UAE “partnership”, including how NYU walked back on promises of academic freedom shortly after the campus began operations by creating a facile distinction between academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Minsky described how, after her arrival in the UAE, she noticed how the boxes containing her research materials had been opened and everything was in disarray. “They had clearly gone through everything”, she noted. Some of her husband’s English- and Hebrew-language books were confiscated. She described extensive “direct harassment of faculty teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi”, Minsky noted that she was followed for hours in her car—with her infant on board—by an unmarked vehicle that she believes was associated with the regime’s security services.

Harassment has only escalated over the past couple of years, Minsky told the meeting, with the campus suddenly declared a “public space” by the government. All public events that people unaffiliated with NYU could attend had to be approved. “From my perspective, it’s almost like the [UAE] government is taking over the institution, and I don’t say that lightly”, she explained.

Ross emphasized that genuine academic freedom extends to speech that is critical of university administrations and extends beyond the walls of the university. “One of the duties or obligations of our profession’s members is to share our knowledge and opinions with the public”, he said.

The secrecy around the Memorandum of Understanding between NYU and the UAE—which has never been made public—was the “original sin” of NYUAD he said: “The ‘original sin’ of non-transparency determined the character of these operations from there on. … That original sin has made it all the more likely that something very, very bad will happen sooner rather than later at NYU Abu Dhabi. And in my mind that’s almost a certainty.”

Ross also noted that this was hardly exclusive to NYUAD, referencing how Israeli law now prohibits entry to members of pro-Palestinian groups, including groups with an organizational presence at NYU. Thus, it isn’t legally possible for all NYU students to study at NYU Tel Aviv, something also noted by a subsequent student speaker of Palestinian origin.

Keshavarzian stressed that the UAE was an absolutist monarchy from its founding in 1971 through to NYU’s decision to construct a liberal arts college in the country, and remains so today. However, the UAE’s authoritarianism made NYUAD possible, including the brutal exploitation of labor to construct the campus. “NYU entered into this arrangement because of the UAE’s illiberal system, not despite it”, Keshavarzian explained.

Regarding the denial of his security clearance in 2017, Keshavarzian asked: “Was I denied entry because I was born in Iran and I was asked to identify myself as a Shiite Muslim, or was I denied entry because of what I teach, research or write? I do not know, and allegedly the UAE government won’t tell NYU. … If it was the former, then it is a simple case of discrimination based on my ethnicity; if it is the later, it is a simple and gross violation of academic freedom.”

The general response of the NYU administration to faculty having their academic freedom and democratic rights restricted by the UAE was to sweep it under the rug. Keshavarzian noted that most of the communication with him regarding his security clearance denial came in the form of phone calls rather than e-mails, and that Hamilton “has never once picked up the telephone to talk to me, or Mohamad [Bazzi, another professor denied a security clearance by the UAE in 2017].”

The three speakers were followed by contributions from the floor. While the faculty had invited members of the administration, including Hamilton and Provost Katherine Fleming, they did not attend.

Toward the end of the discussion, John Archer, a professor of English and one of the organizers behind the open letter to Hamilton, proposed a motion that was amended and then supported overwhelmingly in a resolution that called on the NYU administration to “uphold the principles of academic freedom at NYU’s global sites and protect anyone who has experienced explicit threats to their academic freedom and personal safety” and to make public NYU’s Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE.

The resolution proposed a monitoring committee of faculty, staff and students. independent of the NYU administration, to oversee these demands and to create a secure whistleblowing website that would air “concerns about threats to or violations of academic freedom, violations of policies regarding labor, and the like” by the UAE government.

A representative of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality addressed the meeting at the end and stressed how the UAE is cracking down on academic freedom during its bloody intervention in Yemen and how attacks on democratic rights are taking place internationally—including the repression of the French “yellow vest” protests and the attacks on immigrants at the US-Mexico border. If democratic rights are to be defended at NYU and elsewhere, it must be based on an international strategy oriented to the working class, he stressed.

The IYSSE at NYU will discuss these issues at its next meeting, “NYU Administration Backs the UAE: The Way Forward to Defend Academic Freedom”, which will be on Tuesday, December 11 , at 6:30 p.m. in room 910 of the Kimmel Center at NYU. Faculty, students, staff and others seeking a socialist strategy to defend democratic rights are invited to attend.

Rare mandarin duck in New York City


This 1 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

A Mysterious Mandarin Duck In Central Park Fascinates And Delights | NBC Nightly News

Enthusiastic crowds are flocking to New York’s Central Park to catch a rare glimpse of a Mandarin duck, a bird usually found in Asia. The big mystery? How the duck ended up in Manhattan.

Anti-Semitic vandalism in New York City


This 2 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Broad City’s Ilana Glazer: Why I Canceled My Event at a NY Synagogue After Anti-Semitic Vandalism

A political event hosted by Ilana Glazer of Comedy Central’s “Broad City” at the Union Temple Synagogue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, was canceled Thursday night after anti-Semitic and racist messages were found scrawled on walls throughout the building. Among the messages were “Jew Better Be Ready” “Insert Oven Here” “End is now”. “Hitler”, “Free Smoke for [N-word] Jews” … The graffiti comes amid a surge in anti-Semitic hate crimes nationwide, including Saturday’s massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Amy Goodman was scheduled to speak at the event about coverage of the midterm elections. We speak with Ilana Glazer in New York City. She is the co-creator and star of the hit Comedy Central show “Broad City.”

This 2 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Extended web-only conversation with comedian and actress Ilana Glazer of Comedy Central’s “Broad City.” On Thursday she had to cancel a political event at the Union Temple Synagogue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, after anti-Semitic and racist messages were found scrawled on walls throughout the building. She talks about what happened, white supremacy, the #MeToo movement and more.

New York Catholic child abuse scandal


This video from New York City in the USA says about itself:

18 September 2018

The Brooklyn Diocese has agreed to pay a $27.5 million sex abuse settlement to four victims allegedly raped by a former church employee.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Four men who were repeatedly abused by a religious teacher when they were children have reached a settlement with the diocese of Brooklyn. The victims together will receive 27.5 million dollars, almost 7 million per person. It is one of the largest settlements that the Roman Catholic Church in the US has had to pay to individual victims.

The abuse took place between 2003 and 2009, the victims were then between 8 and 12 years old. The perpetrator is a 67-year-old volunteer who gave, eg, catechism lessons.

He was arrested in 2009 after one of the victims told his mother about the abuse. The teacher pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Hundreds of settling cases

The victims started a case against the diocese 5 years ago. The diocese claimed it was not responsible because the perpetrator was a volunteer and not a paid church employee. Also, the abuse, they said, did not happen on church grounds.

This report says the abuse happened in the church, in the teacher of religion’s place behind the church and at the child care facility.

Lawyers of the victims argued that the abuser did receive money from the church and that he had his office in a diocese building.

The Brooklyn diocese has hundreds of other settlement cases. In most cases, the crimes are barred and the victims can no longer go to court.

Angelo Serrano

This photo shows Angelo Serrano, the perpetrator. Though on the photo his clothes suggest he is a priest, he apparently isn’t. His official title was director of religion at St. Lucy’s-St. Patrick’s Church. This report says other church people saw signs that Serrano abused children, but did not report him.

US Murdoch muppet Hannity’s stupid attack on Ocasio-Cortez


This 28 June 2018 video from the USA is called Clueless [Rupert Murdoch Fox News mouthpiece Sean] Hannity Attacks [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez [who just won a New York City primary election by beating a Clintonite corporate Democrat politician] By Citing Her Awesome Policies.

DROP-OFF VOTERS DIDN’T DROP OFF Data on the New York Democratic congressional primary win for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggests she was propelled to victory by the district’s gentrifying neighborhoods. [The Intercept]

LEFT SHOCKER IN BOSTON Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley beat 10-term incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) to win the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District. Building on progressive momentum sparked by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York this summer, Pressley is likely to become her state’s first black congresswoman. [HuffPost] [Tweet | Share on Facebook]

HANNITY: BLAME DEMS Sean Hannity, the Fox TV entertainer and White House glove puppet, suggested that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was somehow responsible for a shooting at the Capital Gazette earlier in the day. Online, members of the far-right, who bathe daily in the anti-media froth peddled by propagandists such as Hannity, celebrated the deaths of the five journalists gunned down in Annapolis. [HuffPost]

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has canceled events in Alabama and Texas scheduled for this weekend due to a “very serious death threats”.

‘I COULDN’T GIVE A…’ A Capital Gazette reporter responded to Trump’s tweet offering thoughts and prayers for the victims, telling CNN live on air: “I couldn’t give a f**k” about your prayers. Here are details of the five victims who lost their lives. [HuffPost]

TRUMP REFUSES FLAG REQUEST Trump has declined a request from the mayor of Annapolis that he order U.S. flags be flown at half-staff to honor the five newspaper employees shot dead in Maryland last week. [HuffPost]