UK Conference Slams Anti-Radicalization Policy as ‘Orwellian’ and ‘Structurally Racist’

The British government’s domestic counter terrorism strategies continue to come under attack by civil and human rights campaigners. Human rights organisations including Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Cage and the Islamic Human Rights Commission, have labelled the British government’s anti-terror laws as anti-democratic, Orwellian, counterproductive and even structurally racist. Since the fast-track passage of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 universities, colleges, schools, hospitals and prisons must all prove that they are having “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.  This has become known as the PREVENT duty.

A conference organized by campaigning group Students Not Suspects last Wednesday evening at University College London condemned the PREVENT duty and called for it to be scrapped. Quite significantly, one of the speakers at the event was Diane Abbot, the Shadow Home Secretary. Signs of radicalization that the PREVENT duty directs individuals to look out for and report include “opposition to government policies”, “conspiratorial thinking”, and association with “known radicals” or “extremist positions”.  Thousands of men, women and children, most of them Muslims, have been referred to a secretive government ‘de-radicalization’ program as a result of their exhibiting some or all of the ‘signs of radicalization’. French human rights advocate Yasser Louati, who also spoke at the conference, explained to Real News researcher Mohamed Elmaazi the purpose behind the event:

“The effort has been launched several years ago by the collective called Students Not Suspects, they are doing great work by connecting throughout the UK and are being an international platform to attack repressive laws both in the UK and outside of it […] Last night was about connecting the dots between structural racism, state sponsored racism and repressive laws being implemented by demonizing minorities, and by minorities understand Muslims”

Trump Names James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Secretary of Defense

President-elect Donald Trump has named retired general James Mattis as his choice for Secretary of Defense. Mattis was in charge of a Marine division during the war on Iraq in 2003. From 2010 to 2013 he served as the commander of the US Central Command, which covers the Middle East and Southwest Asia. He has been a strong critic of President Obama’s strategy against ISIS and policies towards Iran. In order to be appointed, Mattis will need a special waiver from a law that requires a military officer to have been retired for at least seven years before heading up the Defense Department.

Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted yesterday, “While I respect Gen Mattis’s service, I’ll oppose a waiver – civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy.”

Ironically, General Mattis himself has recently advocated for the separation of civilian and military power. In a book released earlier this year, Mattis wrote that political leaders have a “responsibility to win political arguments instead of depending on the military to do so.”

U.S. Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.6%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the US unemployment rate dropped from 4.9 to 4.6 percent in November. The agency attributed the changes to gains in employment, which rose slightly above the three-month average of 176,000 added jobs. However, the labor participation rate, which measures the percentage of people who can work and are going into the overall job market, is currently at one of its lowest levels in 20 years. Most of the decline is due to people who stop looking for work. The tightening labor market also saw average hourly wages drop by 0.1 percent compared to the previous month. Analysts say that many of the problems in the labor market are traceable to a growing divide between workers with steady full-time employment and those facing insecure employment without benefits.

UN Secretary General Apologizes for UN role in Haiti Cholera Epidemic

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a formal apology yesterday for the United Nation’s role in Haiti’s cholera outbreak following the 2010 earthquake. Ban Ki-Moon called on donors to fund a 400 million dollar aid program for the victims of the disease. The disease spread throughout nation’s drinking water after the UN failed to screen Nepalese peacekeepers for illnesses before deploying them to the country. Over 9,300 people died and nearly a million were infected by the epidemic. Damage wrought by Hurricane Mathew, along with the shortage of toilets and clean drinking water facilities in Haiti, have made the country more vulnerable to the disease, which spreads through contaminated drinking water.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Judicial Democracy in Haiti spoke to the Real News in April about the UN’s responsibility in the cholera break.

The official acknowledgement by the UN, however, does not obligate it to compensate victims for the epidemic.

US Senate Votes to Renew Iran Sanctions for 10 Years

The US Senate unanimously voted on Thursday to extend the president’s authority to impose sanctions on Iran for another ten years. Senators say that the vote will keep pressure on Iran should it violate the nuclear energy agreement reached earlier this year with the US, EU, China, and Russia. President Obama lifted the sanctions as part of the agreement, but they now can be re-imposed without congressional approval. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, explained why the Senate voted to renew sanctions authority.

The government of Iran condemned the vote and said it violates the nuclear deal. Obama is expected to sign the bill. Donald Trump and his vice-president Mike Pence both have said they would re-negotiate or nullify the agreement when they come into office. Other governments are likely to oppose the move. This could lead to unilateral US sanctions against Iran that are less effective compared to what was in place before the deal went into effect.

Egypt Banning Lawyers, Activists and Journalists From Leaving Country

Egyptian human rights organizations are condemning the travel bans imposed on many journalists, lawyers, and activists throughout the nation. The Cairo Institute for Human  Rights  Studies and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression say that over 200 people were banned from travel between June 2014 and September 2016. A report by the organizations showed that more than half those bans applied to government critics, including human rights lawyers as well as a cofounder of a rehabilitation center for torture victims. UN special rapporteur Michael Forst rebuked the Egyptian state in a statement that said, “Restrictions imposed on freedom of movement have regrettably become routine in what is seen as a broader crackdown against Egyptian civil society that has continued unabated since 2011.”  The current president Fattah Al-Sisi came into power in 2013 a western-backed coup that ousted the first and only democratically-elected President of the country, Mohamed Morsi. Donald Trump recently praised Al-Sisi as a “fantastic guy.” Earlier this year professor Noha Radwan told the Real News that political freedoms in Egypt have deteriorated dramatically since the coup.

Tesla and SolarCity Merger Approved by Shareholders

In news that slipped past most radars, Tesla shareholders approved the $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity in mid-November. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the acquisition of the country’s largest producer of solar devices will increase his company’s revenues by a billion dollars per year. The merger will create one of the largest corporations in the field of clean energy in the world. Tesla’s eventual control over this production chain reflects a trend of increasing concentration of ownership of clean and renewable energy production. The deal comes a year after global investments in clean and renewable energy reached historic highs. The sector saw investments totaling 286 billion dollars in 2015, up from 47 billion in 2004.