Federal Judge Orders White House To Restore CNN’s Jim Acosta’s ‘Hard Pass’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND ABC NEWS)

 

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump White House to immediately restore the press pass of CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta as the case progresses after the network filed a lawsuit suit claiming that revoking it violated the First Amendment.

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The judge repeatedly emphasized that his decision was based on the Fifth Amendment and that Acosta was denied his right to due process.

“If at some point after restoring the hard pass the government would like to move to vacate the restraining order on the grounds that it has fulfilled its due process obligations then it may, of course, do so and I will promptly address that and then the remaining basis of the (temporary restraining order),” U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly said.

Speaking after the ruling, Ted Boutros, an attorney for CNN said the news organization is “extremely pleased with the ruling today.”

“A great day for the First Amendment and journalism,” he said. “We’re very excited to have Mr. Acosta be able to go back and get his hard pass and report the news about the White House.”

Acosta thanked journalistic colleagues for their support and the judge for his ruling.

“Let’s go back to work,” Acosta said.

PHOTO: CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta smiles as he departs after a judge temporarily restored his White House press credentials following a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, Nov. 16, 2018.Carlos Barria/Reuters
CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta smiles as he departs after a judge temporarily restored his White House press credentials following a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, Nov. 16, 2018.more +

CNN and Acosta filed suit against President Donald Trump and top aides on Tuesday for stripping Acosta, without warning, of his access to the White House, where he works daily. The indefinite revocation of Acosta’s press credentials, known as a “hard pass,” came on the heels of a heated exchange between Trump and Acosta on Nov. 7.

PHOTO: CNNs White House correspondent Jim Acosta arrives for a hearing at the U.S. District Court on Nov. 16, 2018 in Washington.Mark Wilson/Getty Images
CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta arrives for a hearing at the U.S. District Court on Nov. 16, 2018 in Washington.more +

Earlier in the week, CNN and Acosta filed an emergency motion to have Acosta’s press pass immediately reinstated as the court case continues and asked for a ruling from Kelly, a Trump-appointed U.S. district judge.

The American Civil Liberties Union in a statement applauded Friday’s ruling saying it “reaffirms that no one, not even the president, is above the law.

“The White House surely hoped that expelling a reporter would deter forceful questioning, but the court’s ruling will have the opposite effect,” Ben Wizner, the ACLU’s director of speech, privacy and technology project wrote in a statement. “The freedom of the press is a bedrock principle, and our democracy is strengthened when journalists challenge our leaders rather than defer to them.”

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Republican Politicians And Their Sham Against Democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Republicans Are Casting Doubt On Normal Election Processes For The Sake Of Winning

By characterizing basic safeguards as illegitimate, Rick Scott and President Trump are undermining democracy.
X

On Thursday night, two days after Election Day, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) stood on the steps of the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee and unleashed a nuclear bomb aimed at the very foundation of democracy. Scott suggested there was “rampant fraud” in the state. “No ragtag group of liberal activists or lawyers from D.C.” was going to steal the election from Floridians, the governor said.

When Scott made his comments, Florida hadn’t even hit the deadline to submit unofficial election results to the state. Scott asked the state’s law enforcement agency to investigate his allegations, but the agency quickly said there was nothing to investigate.

That hasn’t stopped President Donald Trump from continuing to insist that there was fraud in the state. There is no evidence of fraud to support his claim.

Scott’s election night lead over Nelson has shrunk significantly, and the margin is now so slim that the state is in the midst of a legally required recount. But election experts say there’s nothing unusual or nefarious about vote tallies changing days after an election. Instead of letting election officials count the ballots as usual, the comments from Scott and Trump amount to an effort to undermine normal election processes.

Steven Huefner, a law professor at Ohio State University, wrote that it was “beyond unseemly” and “downright destructive of public trust in our elections” for election officials to attribute changing vote totals to nefarious actions.

Florida allows voters to cast ballots by mail and accepts them until 7 p.m. on Election Day. Election officials then have to verify signatures on the ballots in addition to determining whether provisional ballots cast on Election Day can count. That process can take time, which is why Florida and other states give counties time to conduct what’s called a canvass and review the votes. In Florida, the deadline for counties to submit unofficial results to the state was Saturday and the deadline for official results is Nov. 18.

“Results on election night, it’s actually never been final on election night. Ever in the history of our country. There’s always been this continuation of calculating the results and all that,” said Amber McReynolds, the former top elections official in Denver who is now the executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute, a group that advocates for voting by mail. “This is not new. Florida’s doing exactly what other states are doing right now. California has even more to count. But in California, there’s not a Republican that might win, so it’s not getting any attention.”

Charles Stewart, the director of the MIT Election Lab, noted that, in addition to trying to deal with mailed-in ballots, counties also had to tally their early votes. Florida law doesn’t allow officials to count early votes until after the polls have closed. Different counties may also tally at different speeds because of the equipment available, the kinds of ballots they receive and staffing, experts say.

Scott has complained that Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of elections in Broward County, refused to turn over information about how many ballots still needed to be tallied. He secured a court order on Friday requiring her to hand over the information.

Ned Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University, has studied the way that vote totals change during a canvass after Election Day. Those shifts tend to benefit Democrats and are a “relatively new phenomenon,” he said, because more people are voting by mail and Congress passed a law in 2002 requiring officials to offer provisional ballots.

“Both of those things have the effect of having ballots eligible to be counted but not available for counting on election night,” he said. “For demographic reasons, groups that tend to vote Democratic Party ― students, younger voters, more mobile voters ― you’re more likely to get caught up in the need for a provisional ballot if you’re just a more transient population.”

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Usually, shifts in vote counts after Election Day go unnoticed because they aren’t enough to overcome the initially reported margin of victory. But in Florida, the changing tally is getting scrutinized because the margin separating the candidates is so thin, Foley said. A similar process is playing out in Arizona, where election officials are still counting the ballots in close races for U.S. Senate and secretary of state.

California has even more to count. But in California, there’s not a Republican that might win, so it’s not getting any attention.Amber McReynolds, executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute

Trump tweeted Monday that Florida shouldn’t consider any of the votes tallied after election night, a move that would disenfranchise military voters whose ballots can be accepted until Nov. 16.  Scott’s campaign is also suing in state court to block officials in Broward County, a key bastion of Democratic votes, from officially counting any ballots that weren’t tallied by the state’s Saturday deadline for unofficial results.

Foley said the allegations of fraud and election stealing in Florida were particularly worrisome because there could be shifts of tens of thousands of votes during a presidential election. The allegations in Florida could serve as a prelude for a candidate to undermine the results in 2020. A key part of democracies, he said, is that the candidates accept the results of elections as legitimate.

“Every election has a winner and a loser, and the loser has to accept defeat,” he said. The loser “has to think that, even though they really wanted to win and thought they should have won ― or maybe even thought the vote-counting process was inaccurate in some respects ― that we can accept it.”

The talk of fraud got the attention of the chief state judge in Broward County, who urged lawyers for both campaigns who were in court Monday to “ramp down the rhetoric” about voter fraud.

Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in elections, wrote in Slate that that kind of questioning of election results could lay the foundation for a constitutional crisis.

“If President Trump is ahead in his re-election bid on the night of the election, only to lose that lead as more ballots in larger — mostly Democratic — counties are counted through a normal process in the days and weeks after Election Day, it seems reasonable to be concerned that he will contest such a legitimate vote,” Hasen wrote. “We don’t know if he would even vacate his office in such a scenario, triggering the possibility of a real constitutional crisis.”

Stories of Sri Lankans who are “Taking a Stand” for democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Stories of Sri Lankans who are “Taking a Stand” for democracy

Image via Groundviews

This post originally appeared on Groundviews, an award-winning citizen journalism website in Sri Lanka. An edited version is published below as part of a content-sharing agreement with Global Voices.

Sri Lanka has been embroiled in a political crisis since October 26 when president Maithripala Sirisena removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – replacing him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. This has led to a power struggle between the newly appointed PM and the recently ousted PM who both believe in the legitimacy of their position. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of the capital Colombo to question the constitutional legitimacy of the president’s decision and demand the parliament be reconvened to settle the matter. Bowing to pressure, President Sirisena has promised to reconvene the parliament on November 7.

On November 4, 2018, a group of people gathered at the Liberty roundabout in the Kollupitiya neighborhood of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

For some, it was their fifth day of standing in protest. Following news that President Maithripala Sirisena and the United People’s Freedom Alliance had stepped down from the coalition Government, a group of citizens decided to meet at the roundabout every day, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm, until Parliament was convened. On the first day, the protest coincided with a larger rally organised by Ranil Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) held nearby – but many of those who attended the rally on that day were quick to say that they were not attending to support the UNP.

On October 30, a tweet by Lisa Fuller featuring one of the posters held by a protester went viral. It read, “I’m not here for Ranil – I’m here for democracy”.

Lisa Fuller@gigipurple

“I’m not here for Ranil. I’m here for democracy and good governance” Civil society protest at liberty circle now

The poster appeared to encapsulate the sentiments of many of those gathered at the Liberty roundabout on October 30 and every day after.

Over the past few days, Groundviews documented those who attended the citizen protest. Those attending included young people who had never attended a protest before, senior citizens, activists and members of civil society. On November 4, there were participants from Jaffna, Mannar, Batticaloa and Kandy as well as from Colombo. For some, it was their first time at a protest. Others had seen corruption continue on for decades (the oldest participant was 92 years old). Members from the corporate sector stood shoulder-to-shoulder with activists from Jaffna and Batticaloa, who were flanked by those in the theatre community.

Corruption was a recurring topic, given revelations from UNP MP Ruwan Wijewardene about sums of money being offered for Parliamentarians to switch allegiances.

On October 30 and afterward, we asked those who attended one simple question – “What made you decide to participate?”

Over the past few days, Groundviews documented those who attended the citizen protest.

This is what they had to say:

Diordre Moraes. Image via Groundviews

“As a mother, as a grandmother, I want to see democracy restored. I’m not against any person or any party but as a citizen of Sri Lanka. Nothing like this has ever happened before” – Diordre Moraes

Neluni Tillekeratne. Image via Gorundviews

“I feel young people should take political issues more seriously. When youth engage with politics they only look at statements from the President or Prime Minister. We don’t look at deeper issues. I’m hoping to influence young people to come.” Neluni Tillekeratne

Nadesan Suresh. Image via Groundviews

Our Malaiyaha Tamil community, those who work in tea estates, voted for President Sirisena hoping he would reform society. However, what he did sets us back 100 years.’ Nadesan Suresh, from Badulla.

Sarojini Kadirgamar. Image via Groundviews

“Though I’m 92 years old, I feel I must make a stand for democracy. Over the years I’ve seen the steady deterioration of political life. Every party has used corrupt practices for short term gains.This has to change.” Sarojini Kadirgamar

Leisha Lawrence, Mihiri de Silva, Sepali de Silva and unknown. Image via Groundviews

“I’m here for democracy. If an MP choose to jump to another party they should lose their seat in Parliament. I’m not here for any party.” Leisha Lawrence (far right)

“We vote in a particular way for who we want. That doesn’t give the President the right to do what he wants, because he doesn’t get on with a particular person.” Mihiri de Silva (second from right)

“My vote is not for sale. This is not right!” Sepali de Silva (second from left)

Kalaivani. Image via Groundviews

‘We call this a democratic country but what happened suppressed democratic means. We made history as having the first female prime minister, now we have made history again for having two prime ministers!’ Kalaivani, from Batticaloa.

Adrian Roshan Fernando. Image via Groundviews

“The decisions being made now don’t include the public opinion. They are just taking their own decisions. There is a way to do things.” Adrian Roshan Fernando.

Piyathilaka Ranaweera. Image via Groundviews

“This is not good for the country. We’re doing this for the next generation, for the future of this country.” Piyathilaka Ranaweera

Irfadha Muzammil. Image via Groundviews

“People’s votes matter. We can’t let politicians corrupt that and exploit voters.” Irfadha Muzammil

Abdul Kalam Azad. Image via Groundviews

Rather than saying “I am Prime Minister” come to Parliament now and show that you have the majority. Govern the country. Don’t waste our time!” Abdul Kalam Azad.

As evening fell, the electricity at the Liberty roundabout remained switched off. Later on, Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake tweeted that this was “an act of sabotage”.

Rosy Senanayake@Rosy_Senanayake

This has been brought to my notice and it was an act of sabotage. We will ensure the lights are switched on tomorrow.

Groundviews

@groundviews

Citizens use smartphones – for light, and to inquire with the CMC why the streetlamps were turned on late – as their protest against #ConstitutionalCrisisSriLanka ends for the day. It will continue daily, 4.30pm-6.30pm at Liberty roundabout till Parliament is convened. #lka

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Undeterred, the protesters used the light of their mobile phones and continued chanting.

Image via Groundviews

Eventually, at 7 pm, the protest came to an end – to be resumed the next day, and the day after that, until Parliament reconvenes.

Image via Groundviews

You can read the full Photo essay here. You can also follow along with the protest on Twitter, and from multiple perspectives, here.

“The people’s voices” prevail: Sri Lanka’s prime ministerial crisis to be put to a parliamentary vote

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

“The people’s voices” prevail: Sri Lanka’s prime ministerial crisis to be put to a parliamentary vote

The Parliament of Sri Lanka. Image from Flickr by Kolitha de Silva. CC BY 2.0

Since October 26, when Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena ousted Ranil Wickremesinghe, the country’s prime minister, and replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the ensuing political crisis has many in the country analyzing the constitutional legitimacy of appointing a prime minister without wider consent. The president also suspended the country’s parliament for three weeks and dissolved the cabinet of ministers.

On October 30 and 31, in response to the questionable legitimacy of Wickremesinghe’s removal and the temporary suspension of Parliament, thousands took to the streets of Colombo to demand that Parliament be reconvened in order to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Azzam Ameen

@AzzamAmeen

Massive Demonstration in Colombo demanding President Sirisena to convene Parliament “The people have spoken. Summon Parliament. Restore democracy now” says @

Harsha de Silva

@HarshadeSilvaMP

Thank you! Tens of thousands of people thronged the entrance to Temple Trees. They were orderly, not drunk and didnt climb lamp posts. They came only to demand that parliament be summoned and dislodge . Huge success. @MaithripalaS don’t trample democracy. @RW_UNP

Vikalpa

@vikalpavoices

Live updates from the people’s protest at the Liberty Plaza roundabout calling for the re-convening of Parliament

In a news conference, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya urged the president to let Wickremesinghe prove his majority support on the parliament floor, and warned of a bloodbath if the impasse continues.

Nusky Mukthar@NuskyMukthar

Diplomats from UN, EU, UK, Canada & Germany met the Speaker today and urged to convene the parliament and to ensure democracy is protected

Pressure from protests to reconvene Parliament have borne fruit, as Sirisena has scheduled a parliamentary vote to decide who is the lawful prime minister on November 7.

A dysfunctional coalition

The events of the past few days have stoked fears among some Sri Lankans of a return to the period of Mahinda Rajapaska’s presidency, when sectarian violence, state-sponsored repression and censorship were rife. As a group of students has noted in a statement on the matter published by GroundViews:

The resort to violence and coercion is a chilling reminder of what dictatorship looks like. The coup is being followed by a return to the norms of self-censorship, violence, and fear that were characteristic of Rajapaksa-era politics. State media institutions were stormed in the night and security for the Prime Minister and Ministers  arbitrarily withdrawn. Moreover, many private media stations are already becoming vehicles for misinforming the public and spreading disinformation.

Sirisena told reporters that he removed Wickremesinghe after discovering that the latter was involved in an assassination plot against him. But it is believed that the current situation is, in fact, a by-product of the existing power struggle between Sirisena, Wickremesinghe, and Rajapaksa.

In January 2015, then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa called for a presidential election in a bid to consolidate his power and to seek a third term in office. Sirisena, a former minister in Rajapaksa’s government, defected from Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and was nominated as a candidate by the Wickremesinghe-led United National Party (UNP) to contest the presidency against the incumbent. Sirisena emerged the surprising winner—securing 51.28% votes against Rajapaksa’s 47.28%—and took over as the new president of Sri Lanka.

After the election, Rajapaksa handed over leadership of the SLFP party to Sirisena in accordance with the party’s constitution, which states that any member who is President is automatically leader of the party. During the parliamentary elections in August 2015, Siresena’s and Rajapaksa’s factions joined forces to contest the election under the banner of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Wickremesinghe’s UNP-led coalition, however, won 106 seats out of 225, with the UFPA winning 95—55 by the pro-Rajapaksa faction, and 40 by the pro-Sirisena faction.

After the parliamentary elections, Sirisena appointed Wickremesinghe prime minister and created a National Government after signing a memorandum of understanding in order to address issues which were not resolved after the end of the 30-year ethnic conflict. Since then, the Rajapaksa-led SLFP faction has been the de-facto opposition party.

Over the past two years, however, Rajapaksa has been gaining significant ground, and his party swept the local elections in February 2018. In April 2018, Wickremesinghe survived a no-confidence motion in Parliament brought by supporters of Rajapaksa, a move clearly meant to weaken the already unstable ruling coalition.

The growing popularity of Rajapaksa’s SLFP party and existing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe over the latter’s leaning towards India as a geopolitical partner instead of China, may be one of the many reasons that Sirisena has chosen to appoint Rajapaksa as prime minister.

“The people’s voices have been heard. . . ” Wickremesinghe stated optimistically on Twitter on November 1, after it was learnt that parliament would be reconvened next week. “Democracy will prevail.”

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(BY JAMAL KHASHOGGI)

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

In April Jamal Khashoggi gave this speech, saying the dangerous idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world.

By Jamal Khashoggi

Mr. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist.

Image
A Saudi flag at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, was the keynote speaker at a conference in April organized by the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington. Excerpts from his speech, edited for clarity and length, are below.

I am from Saudi Arabia, where the issues of democracy and Islam are very much relevant. When a Saudi official wanted to brush away the question of democracy, in the past, he would always raise the question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam.

The debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy conclusively ended with the coming of the Arab Spring, when the people of the Arab world, — especially the youth, and even the Islamist, including some Salafis, who were always critical of democracy — supported the protests for democratic and political change. Other Salafis remained very critical of democracy, viewing it as “kufr,” or un-Islamic, based on the belief that democracy represents a rejection of religious values.

The long voting lines during the 2012 elections in Tunisia and Egypt clearly demonstrated that the people of the Arab world were ready for change. They enthusiastically participated in democratic elections, including Islamist parties that had often been the focus of the debate on Islam’s compatibility with democracy.

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Those images from Egypt and Tunisia of men, women, young, and old going to the polls should be contrasted with the sham elections we see today in Egypt and in other parts of the Arab world. This is an argument we can use against anyone who might claim that “Arabs are not ready for democracy.”

Today, Saudi Arabia is struggling with different aspects of modernity — with cinemas, art, entertainment, mixing of the sexes, opening up to the world, rejecting radicalism. The tight grip that the religious establishment has had on social life is gradually loosening.

But while we’re pursuing all these forms of modernity, the Saudi leaders are still not interested in democracy, They aren’t advancing the old, lame excuse that democracy is not compatible with Islam, however. Instead, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic they’re saying that absolute monarchy is our preferred form of government.

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Indeed, we are living in the age of authoritarianism. Some people believe that it is a better form of political rule. They argue that societies need a great leader and that democracy will undermine the ability of the great leader to guide his people to a better future.

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Today around a dinner table in Riyadh, Cairo or Amman, you are likely to hear intellectuals who were once considered liberals, who once supported liberty, political change and democracy, say, “Arabs are not ready for democracy.” If you push back against this argument, you would be told: “Even if Arabs are ready for democracy, they don’t know how to take advantage of it. They always make the wrong choice.”

A related argument is, “The Islamist and the Muslim Brotherhood have kidnapped the Arab Spring.” In my country, a variant of this argument is: “The Saudis don’t know how to choose. If we have democracy, they will not vote out of their conscience, they will vote based on their tribal loyalties.”

A popular argument in the Arab world is that we need a strong leader. You can hear it in Egypt from an Egyptian businessman who supports the ruling regime. You can hear it from a doubtful Jordanian, maybe even a doubtful Tunisian who seeks a return to the old order.

A Saudi friend of mine who was raised abroad openly defends the term “benevolent autocracy.” He is prepared to write about the value of benevolent autocracy in an American newspaper and thinks it is the best choice for Saudi Arabia.

It is the old notion of the “mustabidu al-adl,” or the just dictator, that died with the rise of Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a late-19th-century Arab-Muslim reformist of Syrian origin. The Arab and Muslim intellectuals who followed Kawakibi supported democracy or at least some variant of it.

Regrettably, though, the idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world. A chorus of anti-democratic Arab and non-Arab voices are using the media and the lobbyists to oppose democracy. I’m told that at the Riyadh International Book Fair in March, which I was not able to attend, one of the books on display was called “Against the Arab Spring.”

Democracy in the Arab world is also under attack from radical Islamists who are making a comeback as the so-called Islamic State or as the Salafis fighting in Libya alongside Khalifa Hifter (who was a general in Muammar Gaddafi’s army and is now backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt). They preach against democracy in the mosques — and through acts of violence.

We must reassure people in the Arab world who either have lost hope in democracy because of its perceived failures or because they fell victim to the concentrated propaganda about democracy coming from television networks run by states and the intellectuals aligned with them.

When I use the term “democracy” I mean it in the broader sense of the term that overlaps with values such as liberty, checks and balances, accountability and transparency. We were aiming for these goals in the form of good governance, equality, and justice in the Arab world. There is another reason we need democracy now in the Arab world: to stop mass violence.

Today, there are two kinds of Arab countries. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, need democracy for good governance and the checks and balances it brings.

But for war-torn countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen, democracy would lead to some form of power sharing. It can be along the lines of the Afghanistan arrangement, where you bring all of the factions in one huge room and force them into an agreement on how to share power. The chief reason the wars in these countries are continuing is the lack of a mechanism for power sharing.

The immediate need for Libya, Syria and Yemen is not good governance, but a mechanism to stop the killing. Inevitably, the question of good governance will emerge. There is great hope for democracy in other countries that have not been mired in civil or internal conflict, such as Tunisia, which is struggling toward a lasting democratic system.

Many of my Tunisian friends, despite the progress they have made, are also worried about democracy. They do not want to appear to be preaching to the rest of the Arab world. They simply want to be left alone. Yet I still think that Tunisians have an important responsibility.

News channels that are supportive of freedom and political change in the Middle East should spend a considerable amount of time covering even municipal elections in Tunisia. Every Saudi, every Egyptian and every Syrian should see what the Tunisians are enjoying. I hope it will inspire the rest of the Arab world to work for a similar form of government for themselves.

We need to defend the rights of the Arab people to have democracy in our own countries, in our own localities, but at the same time we must speak to foreign leaders, foreign powers and foreign parliamentarians. They have a role to play and many of them have begun to lose hope in the prospects of Arab democracy.

Some of them are now repeating the old racist statement, “Arabs are not ready for democracy [because they are Arabs].” The Trump administration has zero interest in supporting democracy in the Arab world. Even the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has suggested that there will be little political change in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia.

People are losing hope in democracy because of the failure of the Arab Spring revolts. They’re afraid of ending up like Syria. Many Arab regimes, their television networks, their writers, their commentators, are trying to scare people off democracy by actively promoting this idea.

Both Arab citizens and foreign leaders are affected by the limited reforms that Arab leaders are pursuing. In Saudi Arabia there are serious reforms that Prince Mohammed is leading. Many of my Saudi colleagues are saying I should support them. I do support them.

My position is that we should take what we have and build on it.

When Mr. Macron stood next to Prince Mohammed, he made this point and he was correct to do so. We need to support the crown prince in his effort to reform Saudi Arabia because if we let him down, he will come under pressure from radical elements who are not willing to reform.

These limited reforms and the general political condition of the Arab world today are adding strength to the argument of the anti-democracy forces. This unfortunate reality puts more responsibility on our shoulders to resume our work and to redouble our efforts to push for democracy in the Arab world as a realistic choice for people and a solution to the failure of many Arab states.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

Beijing Says That Taiwan Politicians Are Undermining ‘Status Quo’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI SHINE NEWSPAPER)

(THERE IS ONLY ONE CHINA AND THAT IS TAIWAN, IT IS THE ILLEGAL COMMUNIST PARTY ON THE MAINLAND THAT IS UPSETTING THE STATUS QUO IN THAT THEY HAVE NO LEGAL RIGHTS TO EVEN EXIST!)

Taiwan political force in power undermining cross-Strait ‘status quo’: Chinese FM

Xinhua

It is the Taiwan political force which has not given up the proposition of “Taiwan independence” that is “undermining the status quo of cross-Strait relations,” said visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday.

Wang made the remarks during a joint press conference with Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas when he commented on questions from reporters.

One put forward that recently some countries and some public opinion claimed that the establishment of diplomatic relations between countries like Dominican Republic and China is “unilaterally changing the status quo across the Taiwan Strait” and is not conducive to the stability and development of the region.

Wang said there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, which is both a basic fact and an important consensus of the international community.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and countries like the Dominican Republic has followed both historical and international trend, and standing together with most countries in the world is undoubtedly a correct choice and also in full compliance with the fundamental and long-term interests of the country and people of the Dominican Republic, said Wang.

As for the so-called “changing the status quo across the Taiwan Strait,” Wang said, what he wants to make clear is that the administration now in Taiwan is a political force that has not given up the proposition of “Taiwan independence.”

It is precisely what the Democratic Progressive Party administration has been doing that is undermining the “status quo” that both sides of the strait belong to the same country and cross-Strait relations are not country-to-country relations, he said.

What they have been doing not only hinders the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, but also erodes regional peace and stability, Wang added.

The Dominican Republic cut ties with the Taiwan authorities and drew a clear line with them, which is maintaining the international consensus of one-China principle and plays a positive role in the peace across Taiwan Strait, said Wang.

Wang said that sovereign independent countries such as the Dominican Republic, can completely decide their own foreign policy, which, according to the United Nations Charter, other countries have no right to and should not interfere with.

The Dominican Republic’s establishment of diplomatic relations with China does not target any third-party, does not affect respective foreign policy, and will not harm the traditional influence and legitimate rights of other countries in the region.

Wang is on his first stop during his official visits to the Dominican Republic, Guyana and Suriname from Thursday to Sunday.

Israeli’s Are Destroying Israeli Democracy Themselves From The Inside

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

OP-EDWE’RE BEING BATTERED… FROM WITHIN

Israeli democracy isn’t broken, but it is under assault

Minorities are worried, their supporters are besmirched, key hierarchies are undermined, and our most hostile critics are empowered

David Horovitz
A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A man walks past a poster criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his residence in Jerusalem, as police investigators arrive to question him on corruption allegations, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There’s a purportedly reasonable explanation for everything.

The detention and questioning of Peter Beinart, when he flew into Israel earlier this week to attend his niece’s bat mitzva, was a mistake — a case of overzealous Shin Bet officers getting carried away. Just like the recent questioning at airports and border crossings of several other Israel-critics, whose challenges to government policy fall well within the parameters of legitimate free speech.

The predawn arrival of cops at the Haifa home of Conservative Rabbi Dov Haiyun, to take him to the police station for questioning one day last month, was another regrettable but atypical incident — in which police foolishly heeded instructions from some jumped-up nobody in the local rabbinate who had issues with Haiyun’s officiating at weddings.

The controversy over the candidacy of Yair Golan as the next chief of staff, who faces opposition because he has had the temerity to warn of dangerous trends in Israeli society and to assert that soldiers should be prepared to take risks in order to protect Palestinian civilians, is a minor fracas that is unlikely to affect the appointments process. He probably wasn’t going to get the job anyway.

The battle over who will helm Israel’s police is nothing to be too concerned about. Even though Roni Alsheich had made it known he wanted to stay on, and even though it doesn’t look terribly good for Benjamin Netanyahu to be replacing the law enforcement chief whose officers are investigating him in a welter of corruption allegations, the prime minister has every right and plenty of precedent not to extend Alsheich’s term for a fourth year.

The abrupt abrogation last year of the solemnly negotiated Israel-Diaspora agreement on pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall was an unfortunate consequence of Israeli realpolitik. The prime minister genuinely wanted to implement the deal, but believed he would no longer be prime minister if he did so, since his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners would bring him down.

The same goes for attempts to loosen the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate’s iron grip on life-cycle events — its monopoly on the formalities of how one gets born, converted to Judaism, married, divorced and dead in this country. And for efforts to resist ultra-Orthodox pressure for more stringent implementation of laws on Sabbath observance. And for the endlessly thwarted bid to conscript or enforce national service for young ultra-Orthodox Israelis: Unfortunately, all resistance is stymied by the coalition leverage of ultra-Orthodox MKs, an entirely legitimate function of our political system.

As for the prime minister’s zigzag on extending surrogacy rights to single-sex couples, here, too, he simply didn’t have the votes he needed.

The arithmetic was different for the nation-state law. If a phrase noting Israel’s commitment to full equality for all its citizens had not been excised from the text, support in the Knesset for the legislation, with its overdue definition of Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” would have been overwhelming. But the argument was made that provisions for equality are already enshrined in existing legislation, albeit without the actual word “equality,” and notwithstanding the fact that this is the law that defines the very nature of Israel.

The justice minister warned of an “earthquake” were the Supreme Court to dare to intervene and strike down the nation-state law. Plainly, such talk was out of line, but the justices, formidable and independent, are unlikely to be deterred — even though the composition of the Supreme Court is gradually changing as the self-same justice minister seeks appointees she thinks are not unsympathetic to her worldview.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Taken one at a time, ostensibly acceptable rationalizations can be found for all the crises and controversies I’ve listed. Taken together, the picture is bleak.

As those crises and controversies accumulate, the explanations stretch and strain but cannot cover the concern that what we’re witnessing is our democracy under assault from within.

There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics

Israeli democracy isn’t broken. The attorney general will investigate the rash of border detentions. Haifa police likely won’t go round collaring too many non-Orthodox rabbis in the near future.

Crowds of Israelis will continue to demonstrate against the nation-state law, against alleged corruption in high places, against economic inequality, against the failure to legislate surrogacy rights for single-sex parent families, against religious coercion. Their concerns may even be heeded; they are guaranteed the opportunity to change their leadership if not.

But Israeli democracy is being battered. There are attempts to intimidate the judiciary. The media is both demonized and compromised. Financial corruption goes untreated and seeps into politics.

As a result of the abiding ultra-Orthodox monopoly, of the scrapping of the Western Wall deal, and of the government’s evident indifference or worse to the concerns of non-Orthodox religious Jews, millions at home and abroad feel alienated from the “national home of the Jewish people” that the government went to such lengths to declare.

As a result of that nation-state law, Israeli minorities worry about their status and their rights, and they and their supporters are besmirched for saying so. Backers of Israel overseas, who play an important role in defending the country against its legions of haters worldwide, find themselves baffled, defensive, even alienated; it gets harder to argue against allegations of discrimination when the Druze community, Israel’s own most loyal minority, is leveling the charge.

The prime minister’s rapid about-face on an agreement that he had rightly said represented the “best possible” resolution of the fate of tens of thousands of African migrants, because of mild pressure from a part of his voter base that would not tolerate providing residential status for fewer than 20,000 refuge-seekers, further undermines support and empowers detractors.

Key hierarchies are being undermined and corroded, as exemplified by Netanyahu’s allegations of police bias against him. People in positions of power are exercising it without due heed for essential rights and freedoms. Internalizing what is now expected, some, in organizations such as the Shin Bet and police force, are trending to the overzealousness epitomized by the detention of the visiting journalist and the summons of the non-Orthodox rabbi.

Uniquely in the Middle East, we in Israel have enjoyed free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, equality before the law, an independent judiciary and more.

But in this Israeli summer of 2018, there’s a chill in the air. There’s a danger — and it’s not only from Damascus and Tehran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Israelis from the Druze community participate in a rally against Israel’s Jewish nation-state law, in Tel Aviv, August 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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Corporate concentration threatens American democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE WORLD POST’)

 

Corporate concentration threatens American democracy

By Nathan Gardels, WorldPost editor in chief

Corporate concentration in the United States is not only increasing inequality but also undermining competition and consumers’ standard of living. Politically, the commensurate lobbying influence of big tech, big finance and other large conglomerates has created what political scientist Francis Fukuyama calls a “vetocracy” — where vested concerns have amassed the clout to choke off legislative reforms that would diminish their spoils.

Why the opposite is happening in the European Union is an unfamiliar tale of how governance one step removed from electoral democracy has been able to resist the lobbying of organized special interests to make policy that benefits the average person.

Active antitrust policies in the second half of the 20th century fairly leveled the playing field of American commerce. “But starting around 2000, U.S. markets began to lose their competitive edge,” Germán Gutiérrez and Thomas Philippon write, based on a new study of theirs.

“Now, Internet access and monthly cellphone plans are much cheaper in Europe than in America, as are flights. Even in Mexico, mobile data plans are better priced than in the United States. … Meanwhile in the United States, deregulation and antitrust efforts have nearly ground to a halt. The United States has not completed a major reform to the goods and services market since 1996, and as a result, its industries have grown increasingly concentrated.”

What explains this stunning shift is deliberate policy choices. As the authors relate: “European countries created the single market, which took effect in 1993, and deregulated their domestic markets. Today, most European Union countries score better than the United States in enacting policies that make industries more competitive. Not surprisingly, antitrust enforcement remains active in Europe, with two recent cases against Google resulting in over $7.7 billion in fines. European markets are also less concentrated than U.S. markets.”

Gutiérrez and Philippon argue that “free markets are supposed to discipline private companies, but today, many private companies have grown so dominant that they can get away with bad service, high prices and deficient privacy safeguards. … If America wants to lead once more in this realm, it must remember its own history and relearn the lessons it successfully taught the rest of the world.”

Mario Monti — who was Italian prime minister from 2011 to 2013 as well as the E.U. competition commissioner from 1999 to 2004 and is famous for “shooting down mergers in flames” — agrees with Gutiérrez and Philippon. But he adds an important dimension they don’t discuss: how the much-maligned “technocratic” European Commission has been more able than American antitrust authorities to resist undue corporate influence over policy decisions.

While antitrust efforts in the United States are highly sensitive to election cycles and outcomes, Monti points out, the European Commission (which is indirectly elected by the European Parliament) operates at arm’s length from politics and can make decisions that are independent from lobbyist pressures on parliaments at both the national and European level. As he put it in a recent interview, “the more far away you are, the less you feel under pressure.”

The result is policy decisions that are more disinterested because the process is less politicized. This same technocratic distance in Brussels that has enabled a vigorous competition policy also applies to Europe’s landmark privacy regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), passed earlier this year.

Yet as Giovanni Buttarelli, the E.U.’s data protection supervisor charged with implementing the GDPR, laments, passing a law is only the beginning of reining in big tech abuses. “First came the scaremongering. Then came the strong-arming. After being contested in arguably the biggest lobbying exercise in the history of the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation became fully applicable at the end of May,” he writes from Brussels. “Since its passage, there have been great efforts at compliance, which regulators recognize. At the same time, unfortunately, consumers have felt nudged or bullied by companies into agreeing to business as usual. This would appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the new law.”

The challenge of implementing the law now, says Buttarelli, is continually challenging big tech. As he puts it, “The E.U. is seeking to prevent people from being cajoled into ‘consenting’ to unfair contracts and accepting surveillance in exchange for a service.”

Buttarelli is looking ahead to the next phase of reform. Under that reform, “Devices and programming would be geared by default to safeguard people’s privacy and freedom. Today’s overcentralized Internet would be de-concentrated, as advocated by Tim Berners-Lee, who first invented the Internet, with a fairer allocation of the digital dividend and with the control of information handed back to individuals from big tech and the state.”

While big tech lobbyists have so far frustrated privacy legislation at the national level in the United States, California has been able to pass curbs on abuses of personal data. Ironically, this was due not to technocratic insulation from politics but its opposite: the citizens’ ballot initiative. A San Francisco real estate magnate funded the gathering of qualifying signatures for a proposition that would impose the same kind of limits on use of personal data in California as contained in the GDPR, forcing big tech to come — reluctantly — to the table.

State legislators then negotiated and passed a measure this summer along GDPR lines that would be open to amendment as technology evolves. With legislation secured, the initiative was withdrawn from the public ballot. (If law is made by the citizens’ ballot initiative, it can only be amended by another vote of the public.) As state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D), who crafted the compromise between privacy advocates and the tech companies, notes, the law in effect makes California’s attorney general the nation’s “chief privacy officer,” since most of the big tech companies affected are located in Silicon Valley.

Making a market that works for the average citizen requires government that acts in the public interest, not at the behest of the largest players in the economy who underwrite the electoral and legislative process. To the extent that elected legislatures are captured by organized special interests, the “vetocracy” can be circumvented either by indirectly elected technocratic authorities or by direct democracy through the citizens’ ballot initiative.

The experiences with antitrust and privacy regulation examined in The WorldPost this week suggest that a mixed system that combines disinterested technocrats, elected representatives and direct democracy — each as a check and balance on the other — would be the most intelligent form of governance.

ABOUT US: The WorldPost is an award-winning global media platform that aims to be a place where the world meets. We seek to make sense of an interdependent yet fragmenting world by commissioning voices that cross cultural and political boundaries. Publishing op-eds and features from around the globe, we work from a worldwide perspective looking around rather than a national perspective looking out.

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STAFF: Nathan Gardels, Editor in Chief; Kathleen Miles, Executive Editor; Dawn Nakagawa, Vice President of Operations; Rebecca Chao, Senior Editor; Peter Mellgard, Features Editor; Alex Gardels, Video Editor; Clarissa Pharr, Associate Editor; Rosa O’Hara, Social Editor

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Kathleen Miles, Jackson Diehl, Juan Luis Cebrian, Walter Isaacson, Yoichi Funabashi, Arianna Huffington, John Elkann, Pierre Omidyar, Eric Schmidt, Wadah Khanfar

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim, Nayan Chanda, Katherine Keating, Sergio Munoz Bata, Parag Khanna, Seung-yoon Lee, Jared Cohen, Bruce Mau, Patrick Soon-Shiong

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Zheng Bijian, Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland, Guy Verhofstadt, James Cameron

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BRAZIL: JUDICIAL PERSECUTIONS Of Former Presidents “BETRAYAL OF DEMOCRACY AND SOCIETY”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 247 NEWS AGENCY)

 

Ireland votes resoundingly to repeal abortion ban

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Ireland votes resoundingly to repeal abortion ban

Dublin, Ireland (CNN)Ireland has voted an emphatic “Yes” to amend the country’s constitution to enable legislation that would allow women to have an abortion in a historic and emotionally charged referendum.

With a high turnout of 64.13%, 1,429,98, or 66.4%, voted for the amendment Friday and 723,632, or 33.6%, against, according to the country’s Referendum Commission. The results that were announced Saturday defied earlier projections that it would be a tight race.
Only one county voted no — the rural and religiously conservative Donegal in northwest Ireland.
The vote signifies a resounding victory for the government of Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister, or Taoiseach as the office is called in Ireland.
“Today is a historic day for Ireland,” Varadkar said at a press conference. “A quiet revolution has taken place, and today is a great act of democracy.”
“A hundred years since women gained the right to vote, today we as a people have spoken,” he said. “And we say that we trust women and respect women to make their own decisions and their own choices.”
He noted that people in “almost every county, almost every constituency, men and women, all social classes and almost all age groups” voted to repeal the amendment. “We are not a divided country,” he said.
Chants of “Yes we did” rose from the crowd as the Referendum Commission’s Returning Officer Barry Ryan announced the final results.

"Yes" supporters wait for the final results Saturday at Dublin Castle.

It was a scene of jubilation as some supporters burst into tears. Others began laughing as they hugged one another and asked each other, “Can you believe we did this?”
Emma Gallagher, 22, began crying as she heard the final results.
“I feel safe now, I feel comfortable,” she told CNN. “It felt for a long time women didn’t matter. … Now we know that we matter.”
Rene Wogan, 66, held Gallagher’s hand and told her, “It was all for justice. You’re forwarding the flag on for women.”
Thousands of people packed the square in front of Dublin Castle as abortion rights politicians, including Varadkar, also joined the celebration.
He told Sky TV he expected legislation to be voted through by the end of the year.
“I feel enormous relief and great pride in the people of Ireland who didn’t maybe know what they thought until they were finally asked the questions,” Ailbhe Smyth, a longtime women’s rights activist, told CNN.
“It has been a long and very hard road, but we never lost sight of this because it’s so central to the existence, and the selfhood and personhood of women to have that control of our own bodies.”

A woman from the "Yes" campaign reacts after final results were announced Saturday at Dublin Castle.

The Eighth Amendment, which was added to the constitution following a referendum in 1983, banned abortion in Ireland unless there was a “real and substantial risk” to the mother’s life.
Repeal of the amendment has completed a circle of sweeping social reforms in the European Union nation that fly in the face of the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, from contraception to divorce, and most recently same-sex marriage.
Roscommon, in the rural interior, the only county to say no to same-sex marriage, also voted yes in the abortion referendum.
Thousands of Irish working abroad returned to Ireland to cast their vote.
Those opposed to abortion vowed Saturday to take their fight now to the Irish Parliament, where lawmakers will have to bring about legislation allowing for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — and later in cases where there is a risk to the mother’s life or the fetus is not expected to survive.
Dr. Ruth Cullen, spokeswoman for the anti-abortion LoveBoth campaign, conceded defeat Saturday before the count had finished.
“We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach’s promises in this regard,” Cullen said at a press conference Saturday.
The death of an Indian dentist ignited the abortion rights campaign in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar, 31, died in 2012 because of complications from a natural miscarriage after abortion was denied to her.

Repeal supporters leave notes at a mural of Savita Halappanavar, whose death sparked the campaign.

Voters over 65 were the only age group overall not supporting the repeal of the amendment.
Ireland’s vote will likely put pressure on Northern Ireland to change its abortion laws, too. Despite Northern Ireland being part of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act legalizing abortions never applied there, and even victims of rape and incest are forced to travel to mainland Britain if they want a termination.
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