Tag Archives: Featured

How Morocco dodged the Arab Spring

Why have the young people of Morocco failed to spark a revolution?


Protesters in Rabat © Hasna Lahmini


Since the Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself and the Arab world aflame in December 2010, young men all over the Middle East have tried to imitate him. In no country have they done so more often than in Morocco, where some twenty men, with many of the same economic grievances, are reported to have self-immolated. Five succeeded in killing themselves, but none in sparking a revolution.

It is not for want of causes. Morocco’s vital statistics are worse than Tunisia’s. Its population earns half as much on average as its smaller North African counterpart. One of every two youth are unemployed, and the number is rising: failed rains have cut the country’s wheat harvest in half and have compounded a mounting budget deficit hiked by rising fuel prices and a downturn in tourism and exports to Europe, Morocco’s beleaguered main trading partner. In late May, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Casablanca to protest the government’s failure to tackle the country’s social ills.


Read more at the NYRB


After America

Will civil war hit Afghanistan when the US leaves?


Chinook CH-47 on night ops, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan © The U.S. Army


In the eleven years since the American invasion of Afghanistan, Abdul Nasir has become a modern and prosperous professional. A worldly man in his late thirties, he smokes Marlboros, drives a Toyota, and follows Spanish soccer, rooting for Barcelona. He works in Kabul as a producer for Khurshid TV, one of the many private channels that have sprung up since 2004.

He makes news and entertainment shows and sometimes recruiting commercials for the Afghan National Army, one of the country’s biggest advertisers. On weekends, he leaves the dust of the city and tends an apple orchard that he bought in his family’s village.


Read more at The New Yorker


Is Obama set to end the war on drugs?

Insiders suggest that in his second term, Obama will pivot to the drug war…


© V. H. Hammer


According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War.

Don’t expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn’t expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.


Read more at GQ


Rendered, tortured and discarded

How the United States treated one innocent man…


Bagram Valley, Afghanistan © Afghanistan Matters


In fall 2009, I found myself in a Tanzanian hotel lobby, sitting across from Suleiman Abdallah, a lanky man with a goofy smile and a broken tooth. Over the next few days, he would describe in excruciating detail how he had been captured in Mogadishu in 2003 by a Somali warlord and handed over to American officials, who had him rendered via Kenya and Djibouti to Afghanistan for five years of detention and torture.

Imprisoned in three different US facilities, Suleiman had been unceremoniously released from Bagram Air Force Base the year before, with a piece of paper confirming his detention as well as his innocence. By the time I met him, he was a free man, living with his mother and attempting to rebuild his life.


Read more at The Nation


Are young Americans losing the faith?

New poll shows 31 percent of adults under 30 doubt God exists…


© Vinoth Chandar


A recent poll showed that almost one in three young Americans doubt God exists.

The poll, conducted in April by the Pew Research Center, showed that 31 percent of respondents under the age of 30 have doubts about the existence of God, compared to 9 percent of those polled who were 65 or older.

When asked to evaluate the statement, “I never doubted the existence of god,” 18 percent of all respondents said that they mostly or completely disagreed.


Read more at The Huffington Post


Guns out of control

UN member states meet in New York to debate global Arms Trade Treaty amid calls for greater restrictions to stem abuses…


© Dvidshub


In October 2008, Congolese rebels launched a killing spree in the town of Kiwanja that left 150 people dead. The guerrillas went house-to-house grabbing young men, dragging them outside, and shooting them in the face and chest.

Helping them in the massacre were arms that the rebels had looted from a military depot in the town of Rumangabo a few days earlier. The depot was loaded with small arms imported to the Democratic Republic of Congo from China.

But it wasn’t the first time that the depot had been looted.

“I’ve taken Rumangabo two times,” guerrilla leader Laurent Nkunda told Amnesty International shortly after the 2008 attack. “We can’t even count the number of weapons we captured at Rumangabo, there were so many.


Read more at al Jazeera


10,000 still missing in Libya

The Ministry of Martyrs is compiling details of those that disappeared in Libya’s civil war…


Wall in Misrata commemorating the date the Gaddafi regime fell © Ben Sutherland


Abdul Samia is searching for his brother. Abdelbaset disappeared in the final days of the Libyan civil war when he was in the town of Sirte, where Muammar Gaddafi made his final stand. The family’s last contact with the 33-year-old café owner was on 26 September, a few weeks before the city fell to rebel forces.

Since then, their only sighting of him was in a television news report, where they glimpsed him surrounded by rebel fighters.

“We’ve tried everything”, explained Abdul Samia. The family has visited all the prisons in Benghazi and Misrata. They’ve combed the lists of names of war dead and been through all of the pictures of unidentified people.


Read more at The Independent


Anonymous: The inside story

How Anonymous picks targets, launches attacks, and takes powerful organizations down…


© Grotuk


No one but Hector Xavier Monsegur can know why or when he became Sabu, joining the strange and chaotic Internet collective known as Anonymous. But we know the moment he gave Sabu up. On June 7, 2011, federal agents came to his apartment on New York’s Lower East Side and threatened the 28-year-old with an array of charges that could add up to 124 years in prison. So Hector Monsegur, who as Sabu had become a mentor and icon to fellow members of Anonymous, surrendered his online identity to a new, equally faceless and secretive master: the FBI.

For the next eight months, Sabu continued to rage across the Internet as a core member of AntiSec, a blackhat hacking group within Anonymous. He helped to deface government and corporate websites and even helped bring down the private intelligence firm Stratfor—all, apparently, with the FBI’s blessing as it quietly gathered logs on Monsegur’s fellow “anons.” Law enforcement officials later told Fox News that Monsegur was working out of the FBI offices “almost daily” in the weeks after he pleaded guilty in August and then from his own home thereafter, with an agent watching his activity 24 hours a day.


Read more at Wired


‘A tempest in my soul’

In Tennessee, a son’s secret brings a Southern Baptist minister to his knees…


© Joel K


It’s Sunday morning, and Matt Nevels is at home again.

From his front yard, he almost can see the white steeple of Red Bank Baptist Church. Less than a mile down the road, he knows, the church parking lot is clogged with members. Traffic backs up onto Dayton Boulevard. Crosses dangle from rearview mirrors. Bibles slide on dashboards.

Matt, 78 now, with wrinkled knees and sagging cheeks, was once minister of education at the red-brick church. His babies grew up there. Stephen, his middle son, sang tenor in the choir. Vicki, their only girl, played in the youth softball league. Keith, the youngest, went to backyard Bible club.

Every Sunday for nearly three decades, Matt put on a crisp shirt and tie, trained Sunday school teachers and glad-handed newcomers. But it was more than that, more than just tradition.


Read more at Times Free Press


Global terror laws: In the name of security

140 countries pass counterterror laws since 9/11. Dangerous expansion of state powers to investigate, detain, and prosecute…


9/11 ten year anniversary memorial © Dvidshub


More than 140 countries have passed counterterrorism laws since the attacks of September 11, 2001, often with little regard for due process and other basic rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 112-page report, “In the Name of Security: Counterterrorism Laws Worldwide since September 11,” says that while terrorist attacks have caused thousands of deaths and injuries, that is no justification for counterterrorism laws that violate the basic rights of suspects and that are also used for politically motivated purposes.

“Terrorist acts are a repudiation of human rights, but overbroad laws that ignore basic rights only compound the harm,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Together, the counterterror laws enacted around the globe represent a dangerous expansion of powers to detain and prosecute people, including peaceful political opponents.”

While every government has a responsibility to protect its population from attack, many have used the new measures to prosecute journalists, protesters, opposition politicians, and religious or ethnic groups under the guise of counterterrorism, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch found that 144 countries enacted or revised one or more counterterrorism laws since September 11, 2001. Human Rights Watch reviewed 130 of those laws and found that all contained one or more provisions that opened the door to abuse.

The elements that raise grave human rights concerns include overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism—such as “disrupting the public order”—as well as sweeping powers for warrantless search and arrest, the use of secret evidence, and immunity for police who abuse the laws, Human Rights Watch said.

For example:

  • In Turkey, two students were convicted of membership in an armed group and sentenced in 2012 to eight years and five months in prison for acts that included unfurling a banner that read, “We want free education, we will get it.” Turkish courts have convicted hundreds of non-violent protesters under the country’s broad counterterrorism laws.
  • A court in Bahrain in 2011 convicted 21 opposition leaders—seven in absentia—for crimes including “terrorism” for activities such as criticizing the monarchy’s human rights record and participating in pro-democracy protests.  The court sentenced eight defendants to life in prison and the rest to terms of up to 15 years.
  • Eleven journalists in Ethiopia were convicted on charges such as providing “moral support” for terrorism in late 2011 and 2012, based on evidence such as writing articles criticizing the government. Two Swedish journalists received 11-year sentences for “rendering support to terrorism” because they illegally entered Ethiopia to report on abuses in the embattled Ogaden region.

Many new counterterrorism laws authorize prolonged detention without charge, Human Rights Watch said. In the United States, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 codifies indefinite detention without charge of the 169 detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay as well as of future terrorism suspects. Such detention has not been part of the US legal code since the McCarthy era anti-communist sweeps in the 1950s.

Many of the measures were passed as a result of United Nations Security Council resolutions that ordered states to pass counterterrorism laws after September 11, with little regard to rights protection.

Some countries, such as Norway, have resisted efforts to enact counterterrorism laws that would violate basic rights. Others, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, have amended recent counterterrorism laws to mitigate – if not eliminate – the most problematic provisions.

Human Rights Watch called on governments to revise abusive laws, re-try or release people arbitrarily detained or convicted of terrorism offenses in unfair trials, and provide redress to those whose rights they have violated. The United Nations should help lead the way in reversing abusive laws and practices, Human Rights Watch said.

“The UN has increasingly recognized that counterterrorism laws that trample free speech and peaceful protest are counter-productive,” Tayler said. “Human rights violations don’t uproot terrorism—they help it grow.”



The cost of a Prince…£2.2m

Extra 11% on Prince of Wales’ funding from taxpayer attributed to longer flights and last year’s royal wedding…


© Victoria Johnson


Public funding to support Prince Charles rose by 11% during the past financial year, taking the contribution from the taxpayer to almost £2.2m, it was disclosed on Friday.

The accounts, an annual glimpse into the finances of the royal household, also showed that the Prince of Wales’ spending rose by 3.6% to over £20.2m. They cover the period in which the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton took place, the cost of which royal aides have said was shared between the families of the bride and groom.

The accounts also showed an increase of 3% in the income that the Prince of Wales receives from the Duchy of Cornwall, the estate given to the heir to the throne to provide him with a living, to £18.3m.


Read more at The Guardian 


Somalia’s prisons and the War on Terror

The U.S. wants out of the international jailing business. So what happens when it catches a terrorist abroad? In Somalia, they end up in a living hell…


© R Jones


So now it’s official: United States soldiers have been hunting down al Qaeda affiliates in Somalia. When the White House confirmed earlier this month what has long been an open secret, most of the ensuing chatter focused on the need for greater transparency about the expanding war on terror.

Less discussed was what happens to all those alleged terrorists when they’re captured alive.

One answer can be found here in the dusty Somali port city of Bosaso, where corrugated-metal shacks look as if they might be blown away in the next storm, and summer temperatures easily top 110 degrees. Overcrowded, underfunded, and reeking of urine, the Bosaso Central Prison could make even the most dedicated insurgent regret ever getting into the terrorism business.


Read more at The Daily Beast