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S. Arabia, Qatar Engaged in War of Cartoons, Reciprocal Insults

S. Arabia, Qatar Engaged in War of Cartoons, Reciprocal Insults

Seven days after the remarks by the Qatari emir, the Saudi media are still releasing different insulting editorials and cartoons which have made the Qatari media respond by releasing cartoons of Saudi King Salman who considers himself as Khadim Al-Haramain Al-Sharifain (the Servant of Muslims’ two holy places in Saudi Arabia).
Last Thursday, an article appeared on Qatar’s state-run news agency, quoting the emir as criticizing the United States, Saudi Arabia, and its client states for their attempt to stir up tensions with “Islamic power” Iran.
A post also appeared on the agency’s Twitter page, quoting the Qatari foreign minister as saying that his country was withdrawing its ambassadors from Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE amid tensions.
The Qatari government soon said that the state agency had been hacked and that the remarks attributed to the emir and the foreign minister had never been made.
The official denial, which was offered several more times, too, nevertheless failed to stop a widening rift from emerging between the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. Saudi media viciously attacked Qatar, accusing it of having “betrayed” the other Arab countries particularly at a time when they had attempted to stage a show of “unity” against Iran in a much-publicized and extravagant series of events in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also blocked Qatari websites and broadcasters.
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani later said the country was being targeted in a “hostile media campaign, which we will confront.” He was referring to the media blackout.
The Qatari media, including Middle-East Eye, Arabi 21, al-Arab al-Jadid and al-Jazeera couldn’t bear the situation and they also took reciprocal moves by releasing a cartoon of King Salman in a meeting with US President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as they were inaugurating a center for fighting terrorism and extremism.

In this cartoon, King Salman along with Trump and Sisi have put their hands on an orb. The caption below the cartoon quotes the evil forces as saying: we have been recalled.
One of the evils says: More chaos in the Middle-East. Another says: More children will be killed; and the third says: Oh… kill more people.


The Saudi al-Eqtisadiah newspaper showed angry reactions to the cartoon, saying that the Middle-East Eye has insulted the Khadim Al-Haramain Al-Sharifain.
Two days before this cartoon, Qatar’s al-Jazeera news channel had released a cartoon which showed two people resembling King Salman and Sisi who release fake news on al-Arabiya news channel.

cartoon 2

The Saudi and other Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) members grew so furious that al-Jazeera omitted the cartoon and announced that it didn’t mean to insult the Saudi king.
The measure by the Qatari media was in reaction to a similar act by the Saudi media in the past 7 days.
Al-Riyadh newspaper released an insulting editorial against the Qatari Emir and a cartoon of a tree on which the ‘(Persian) Gulf Agreement’ is written and one of its branches is Qatar that is cutting itself off the tree with an axe.

cartoon 3

Another cartoon shows al-Jazeera news channel in the shape of a scorpion which is stinging itself.

cartoon 4


Bahrain heading for ‘total suppression’ with secular group ban

Bahraini protesters throw stones at riot police during clashes on 5 April, 2016 (AFP)

Human rights groups condemn court decision to ban Waad organisation, which the government says is ‘supporting terrorism’

Bahrain is heading for “total suppression”, human rights groups have said, after the reported banning of a secular opposition group on Wednesday for “supporting terrorism”.
A Bahraini court ordered the dissolution of the National Democratic Action Society opposition group, known as Waad. The Arabic-language al-Wasat newspaper said that the high administrative court decided to “dissolve Waad” and “confiscate its assets for the benefit of the state treasury”.
The ruling comes following a petition filed in March by Bahrain’s justice ministry accusing Waad of supporting terrorism.
Human rights groups called the ruling, which is subject to appeal, “a de facto ban on all opposition”.
“Shutting down the last opposition party is a declaration of a de facto ban on all opposition,” said Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
“The government of Bahrain is acting with the aim of totally silencing all peaceful voices, leaving open the alternative of underground opposition and violence.
“This was allowed to happen because Bahrain feels zero geopolitical and international pressure from ‘champions of democracy’ in the West,” he added.
On 6 March, Bahrain’s justice ministry took steps to dissolve a major opposition group it accuses of supporting terrorism, state news agency BNA reported, filing a lawsuit the group said was an attempt by the government to stamp out dissent.
The justice ministry accused Waad of “serious violations targeting the principle of respecting the rule of law, supporting terrorism and sanctioning violence”.
Radhi al-Mooswai, a leader of the group, expressed shock, saying Waad was committed to peaceful political work and rejected violence.
“This is another step to undermine political work by the opposition in Bahrain,” he told Reuters.
Lynn Maalouf, the director of research at Amnesty International’s Beirut office, said the move set Bahrain on a course of “total suppression of human rights”.
“The suspension of Waad is a flagrant attack on freedom of expression and association, and further proof that the authorities have no intention of delivering on promises of human rights progress,” she said.
The Western-allied kingdom has been a political flashpoint since Arab Spring protests in 2011 led by its Shia majority were put down by the Sunni-led government with the help of Gulf Arab states.
The crackdown entered a new phase last year when authorities banned the main Shia Muslim opposition group, al-Wefaq, and revoked the citizenship of the country’s top Shia Muslim cleric.
Al-Wefaq won 18 out of 40 seats in elections in 2010 but pulled out of parliament a year later during the Arab Spring crackdown. Both it and Waad boycotted elections in November 2014 that were won overwhelmingly by pro-government and independent candidates.
Attacks on public targets have jumped this year after authorities carried out a death sentence on three men convicted of a deadly bombing of policemen in 2014. Bahrain accuses Iran of fomenting violence in the kingdom, a charge Tehran denies.
A government advisory body passed a constitutional amendment on Sunday authorising civilians suspected of attacking security forces to be tried in military courts.


Congratulations Kenya!

Trains set sail on Kenya’s new 472 km Mombasa-Nairobi rail line

Trains set sail on Kenya's new 472 km Mombasa-Nairobi rail line

By Ismail Akwei

Kenya’s new $3.8 billion China-funded Standard Gauge Railway has been launched with pomp and pageantry as new trains for both passengers and cargo make the first trip from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi.
The 4000 tonnes a trip cargo train was launched Tuesday and the 1200 passenger train -named Madaraka Express – on Wednesday by President Uhuru Kenyatta to run the 472 kilometers between the two cities.

Today is a historic day as we board . We are Nation proud of our achievement and focus on transformation. God Bless Kenya.
“Today we should be together holding hands in celebrations. This is the Kenya we seek and this is the Kenya we want our children to inherit from us and their children to inherit from them. The foundations we lay today will lead us to a new chapter of industrialization,” Kenyatta said at the launching on Tuesday.
The foundations we lay today will lead us to a new chapter of industrialization.

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The foundations we lay today will lead us to a new chapter of industrialisation.
The trains travel at a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour and will make stops at the nine newly built stations along the route during the 5-hour journey.

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Passengers boarding the train ahead of the Presidential flag off
“We know that buses take about nine to ten hours. Travelers will cover that in half the time, so this is going to be a real advantage,” Transport Minister James Macharia told local media.
The facility, funded by Chinese consortium China Communications Construction Company, will be managed by the same company for the next ten years before it is handed over to Kenya.
By December, they will offer two services including an intercity service that has one stop, Kenya Railways announced.
40 passenger coaches have been procured with a capacity of 118 travellers for the economy class, 72 for business class, and 44 for first class in the first phase of the project.
The Mombasa-Nairobi railway is the first phase of Kenya’s plan to build a 3,500 km network that will connect the country to Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
The second phase will extend the line for 120km from Nairobi to Naivasha at a cost of $1.5 billion funded by the Chinese government.
Agreements have already been signed with the China Communications Construction Company to build the other phases that end at Malaba on the Ugandan border.

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Kudos @KenyaRailways_ on the launch of the train service between Nairobi and Mombasa. Good for Tourism, Good for Kenya.


Kenya: It’s the Hangman’s Noose for Vandalising Sgr – Uhuru

One of the trains at the Nairobi terminus on May 29, 2017, Photo: Jeff Angote/The Nation

By Joseph Muraya

Nairobi — Those convicted of a capital offence for vandalising the Standard Gauge Railway will be hanged, President Uhuru Kenyatta warned Wednesday as he launched the passenger train service in Mombasa.
He said people must understand the project does not belong to the Jubilee Government but all Kenyans, including future generations.
“I want to announce today that those who will be prosecuted for destroying Kenyans’ property; for destroying what belongs to our children, I pray for forgiveness from God, but I will sign their death sentence for them to be hanged,” he cautioned.
His declaration came after Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko also warned that those arrested for vandalism will be treated as organised criminal gangs and economic saboteurs.
“Be supportive and help with constructive criticism, so that we can improve and ultimately have what we want which is a world class working railway,” President Kenyatta said.
“There are those who don’t want anything good. They want the government or Uhuru to look bad so that it looks like we have been overwhelmed. But this railway does not belong to Uhuru, Ruto or the government. It has been constructed using money from 45 million Kenyans. It belongs to Kenyans. There is a provision of the law for those who destroy any critical infrastructure and that is economic sabotage which falls under a capital offence. If prosecuted, you go to the death row.”


Looking After the European Union

By José M. De Areilza, April 17, 2017

On October 13 1955, the Action Committee for the United States of Europe began its work in Paris, under the direction of Jean Monnet. The initiative was the former cognac vendor’s response to the failure of the European Defense Community (one more of the many Monnet Plans), vetoed by the French National Assembly in August 1954. The tiny committee had the intrepid aim of creating a political environment wherein all six members countries of the European Coal and Steel Community might work jointly to form the European Atomic Energy Community and the Single Market. In his Foch Avenue apartment that was strewn with papers, Monnet drafted these proposals and subsequent improvements. His capacity to attract the most brilliant minds to the project, those capable of aligning interests between the States, was then legendary on both sides of the Atlantic.
The drivers behind the Treaty of Rome were conscious of the fact that France would be resistant to any re-industrialization of Germany that went beyond carbon and steel. The Soviets repeatedly made clear their firm opposition to European unity. The British were against the launch of the new Communities. The government in London rejected the supra-national ideal, which could move the Continent towards an unprecedented and irreversible process of integration. An old friend of Jean Monnet and Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, openly supported the motion to expand the Community project and extolled the president to take up the issue with the British leaders Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan, so that Britain might abandon its boycott.
The utopia envisioned by Monnet’s generation, from which there is so much to learn, has been more fully realized than Monnet ever could have hoped. The Communities rescued the nation states from their impending obsolescence, with the caveat that they left their nationalist ideologies behind them. Today just as then, these nationalist urges are the EUs most dangerous enemy, bolstered by recent populist movements. They are the same agitators that foster fear and mistrust before the numerous uncertainties created by a new and ongoing industrial revolution, found in the form of digital disruption, a phenomenon that will leave no area of society untouched.
Yet the European Union of the present, paralyzed by different fears, has not yet found the springs of renewal from which to reinvent itself. We must start by protecting the unity we’ve already achieved, because we are not yet free from the grasps of our divided past. Following the end of the Cold War, we assumed the inevitability of coming prosperity, that each year would better than the last. Now, things in Europe are not well, and could go decidedly wrong . Since Charles de Gaulle’s veto of British entry, European unity has not faced such an outright rejection as the British exit, which has occurred 60 years later. Neither has it ever lost the support and sympathy of an American president.
The effects of both the economic and refugee crises, the rise of populism, the threat of terrorism, and the devastating news of Brexit all form a part of what is to be the most challenging chapter in the history of the European Union. Even so, since 2010, there has been true leadership to redesign the common currency. We can count on a clear vision to complete the economic governance of the Eurozone, and no part of the Five Presidents Report can be dismissed as merely a rhetorical exercise.
Our Union must continue to prove itself by serving its member states, and provide them a true sense of prosperity and stability. With the winds of protectionism blowing in from the White House and Trump’s continued faltering placing the future of American diplomacy in question, Europe will have to play a greater role on the world stage­ – to promote free trade and multilateralism, to protect human rights, to fight climate change, and to fulfill its responsibilities in terms of security and defense.
But so much power has been transferred to the European level that it’s necessary to examine the two sources of legitimacy found in any political system. In one sense, legitimacy must be derived from the political process itself, which would lead us to put in place a democratic European government. In another sense, legitimacy also comes from the concept of a shared identity: we can’t hide behind technocratic language the richness of common European values inherited from our long history and from the lessons learned.
At the same time, the European market we celebrate today represents the careful balance of integration, that takes into account national identities and does not perceive national democracy as an obstacle to overcome, but instead as a necessary condition to its legitimacy. Hence, the preamble of the Rome Treaty proposes “an even closer union among the peoples of Europe” and thus simultaneously emphasizes both the unlimited duration of the project and the diversity of its constituents. The European Union of today is both a legal federation and a political confederation, a successful third way found between a what-would-be insufficient international organization and a similarly counterproductive, imaginary federal state.
Experience shows that the idea of a Europe a various speeds, a proposal again in vogue, allows the Union to take new steps with increased flexibility. Conversely, the proposal is also used at times in an attempt to dismantle what we’ve built together. Joseph Weiler, a leading thinker on integration, has advised that we only conserve our society´s achievements if we accept that we can’t decide not to be Europeans, which is to say, that we should accept the Union as our part of our common fate and existential identity.  While we reform Europe for the future, and assume the mantle of continuing this project together, this Europe of reconciliation that levels barriers and opens borders has turned 60 years old without growing older. More than two and a half centuries ago, Montesquieu, in his “Thoughts,” suggested a way to include Europe in our affections and loyalties: “If I knew something useful to me and harmful to my family, I should put it out of my mind. If I knew something useful to my family and not to my country, I should try to forget it. If I knew something useful to my country and harmful to Europe, or useful to Europe and harmful to the human race, I should consider it a crime.”


the aspen institute

Remembering Israel’s deadly assault on the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla

Image of the humanitarian aid boat, the MV Mavi Marmara, before it left Turkey in 2010 [Farhat Jah/Flickr]

Image of the humanitarian aid boat, the MV Mavi Marmara, before it left Turkey in 2010 [Farhat Jah/Flickr]

By Nasim Ahmed

Seven years ago, Israeli commandos attacked a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid and activists to Gaza. The assault took place in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Nine civilians were killed by the Israeli soldiers.
What: Sea and airborne assault on the Freedom Flotilla
When: 31 May 2010
Where: In international waters in the Mediterranean Sea

What happened?

A flotilla of ships — the Freedom Flotilla — set sail from Istanbul carrying six hundred NGO officials and aid workers from 50 countries, along with 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid valued at $20 million intended for the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip. Elite Israeli commandos intercepted the flotilla in international waters and stormed the flagship, the MV Mavi Marmara.
The attack took place at 4.30am. Despite being unarmed, some of the passengers resisted the Israeli attempt to hijack their ship and divert it to a port in Israel. During the firefight that ensued, radio communications were blocked and all contact with the outside world was cut as the Israeli authorities sought to conceal the assault from the international media following the progress of the flotilla from afar.
Nine of the activists on board, eight of them Turkish citizens, were shot dead by the Israeli soldiers. Eyewitnesses said that some were shot multiple times in the head at close range, despite a white flag being raised. Almost 50 other civilians were shot and wounded during the assault. It is said that the Israeli commandos shot one person every minute for the duration of hostilities.

What happened next?

The flotilla was taken under armed escort into an Israeli port. The passengers were held in detention facilities and their personal possessions, including electronic equipment and cameras, were taken from them. Most were deported from Israel; those who were Israeli citizens faced additional legal processes. The aid meant for the Palestinians in Gaza was, it is claimed, delivered by the Israelis.
The attack was condemned universally and a number of investigations were launched. An independent fact-finding mission by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that the violence used against the passengers on board was “disproportionate” and charged Israeli commandos of “summarily executing” six of the passengers.
Relations between Israel and Turkey, which had been one of Tel Aviv’s long-term allies, sunk to an all-time low. Turkey stipulated a number of conditions before it would return diplomatic relations with Israel to their previous norm, including an official Israeli apology for the deaths of the Turkish nationals and compensation for their families. The prosecutor’s office in Ankara opened a criminal investigation with possible charges against senior Israeli politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu, who stood accused of attacking Turkish citizens and piracy on the high seas.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was asked to investigate the assault on the Freedom Flotilla. The chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declined, saying that although there was a “reasonable basis” to believe war crimes had been committed the ICC had to prioritise larger-scale incidents. This setback has not stopped families and activists from searching for ways to hold Israel to account for its murderous hijacking of the flotilla, the attack on the Mavi Marmara in particular.