themcglynn.com

07 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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For days Ammon Bundy and his band of armed militia have laid claim to the federal land by arguing they have the community’s support, but not anymore

David Ward arrives to the community meeting at the Harney County fairgrounds.

David Ward arrives to the community meeting at the Harney County fairgrounds. Photograph: Rick Bowmer/AP

The local sheriff policing the occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon said he has received numerous death threats since armed militia took over the remote government outpost over the weekend.

Harney County sheriff David Ward told local residents on Wednesday that his wife had left town for her safety after strangers followed her home one night and someone slit her car tire. He said he had received anonymous letters with numerous misspellings that included death threats.

Worst still, the sheriff said, strangers had come to town to harass his elderly parents.

“Mom and Dad, stand up,” he said at the packed meeting. He introduced his parents, saying they were both in their 70s with heart issues and pacemakers and that they were scared. “You can’t just come into our community and intimidate our elderly,” Ward said to a round of applause.

For days Ammon Bundy and his band of armed militia have laid claim to the federal land by arguing they have the support of the nearby community.

Yet that claim received a formidable rebuke on Wednesday night when, one by one, residents of Oregon’s rural Harney County stood before a microphone at the county fairgrounds to denounce the occupation on their doorstep……………..

Some guards reportedly wounded in attack on Sana’a as diplomatic crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia intensifies further

Iranian embassy in Sana'a

A Yemeni soldier stands guard in front of the Iranian embassy in Sana’a in July. Iran has accused Saudi warplanes of attacking the Iranian embassy. Photograph: Mohammed Huwais/AFP

Iran has accused Saudi planes of attacking the Iranian embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, which it said has damaged its diplomatic building and left a number of guards wounded.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, was reported by the state television on Thursday as condemning what he called “a deliberate” provocation by Saudis as tensions rise between Tehran and Riyadh amid an escalating diplomatic crisis.

“This deliberate and intentional act by the Saudi Arabian government is in violation of all internationl conventions and legal treaties regarding the protection and impunity of diplomatic compounds under all circumstances,” Jaberi Ansari was quoted as saying by the website of the state-run IRIB network.

“Iran holds the government of Saudi Arabia responsible for this act and wounding of a number of embassy staff and damages made to its building.”

The strain on already-tense relations between Tehran and Riyadh was exacerbated at the weekend when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia cleric critical of the al-Saud kingdom, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr…………………

Suspected abduction of five booksellers prompts fears of mounting self-censorship in face of mainland crackdown on ‘salacious’ publications

A bookshop at Hong Kong airport stocked with dozens of salacious tomes about China’s top leaders: one leading bookshop has now removed them from sale.

A bookshop at Hong Kong airport stocked with dozens of salacious tomes about China’s top leaders: one leading bookshop has now removed them from sale. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

One of Hong Kong’s leading international bookshop chains has removed politically sensitive books from its shelves in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of five of the city’s booksellers, stoking fears over mounting self-censorship in the former British colony.

Page One, a major Singapore chain, with outlets in both Hong Kong and mainland China, has decided to stop selling all politically sensitive books in Chinese – known locally as “jinshu”, or “forbidden books” – in its Hong Kong shops, as the mystery over the whereabouts of the five vanished men deepens.

The chain, which specialises in graphic design and visual art volumes, had been limiting the number of political books it sold ever since clinching a deal a few years ago with authorities to expand its operations in the mainland – where no Chinese-language “sensitive” political books published in Hong Kong are allowed for distribution.

However, until recently Page One’s outlet in the departure hall of Hong Kong airport had continued to cater to the strong appetite of mainland Chinese travellers for volumes on political intrigue and gossip.

That has now changed. A bookshop clerk confirmed that politically sensitive tomes, such as those produced by the missing booksellers, would no longer be stocked.

“I know the books you mention. The politics books. We have sold out on those titles and will not be receiving any new stocks,” the clerk, who declined to give his name, told the Guardian……………..

Innovation is making products affordable for communities previously shut out of the marketplace, says the head of the Global Resilience Partnership

A Malian woman waters spring onions from an irrigation canal near Bewani.

A Malian woman waters spring onions from an irrigation canal near Bewani. Water conservation is a way of building resilience for farmers in the Sahel. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

Luca Alinovi describes himself as a sceptical optimist: he believes innovation can be a gamechanger in tackling the seemingly insurmountable challenges of global warming and entrenched extreme poverty, but he says that for the full benefits to be realised all those involved must find new ways of working together.

“Innovation is becoming a source of solutions that we never thought about. Today with the 3D printer you can print whatever you need. You don’t even need the factory. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 3D printer became an incredible development opportunity for people in the field,” he says.

“Technology is a problem-solver, and the acceleration it provides is giving us the chance to make the difference.”

Alinovi is the newly appointed executive director of the Global Resilience Partnership, a public-private initiative involving the Rockefeller Foundation, USAid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. He says close cooperation – itself something of an innovation for parts of development – is critical.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his new job, Alinovi is upbeat about the private sector’s role in helping poor people earn more money – the only sure-fire way to cope better with shocks, including climate-related disasters, he says.

The former head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in Somalia stresses that this also makes good business sense.

“In the last couple of years, it has become possible for the social objective of a company to be its business objective. It’s an incredible gamechanger because if you can make money helping people who have been been excluded from the economic environment become part of that environment, it’s the best way possible to make money,” he says.

Alinovi sees a sweet spot where innovation and private-sector engagement intersect……………..

US politics

Local TV stations see windfall as 2016 election and Super Bowl converge

Hillary Clinton backs Barack Obama on gun control – video

Trump attacks Obama over gun control – video

O’Malley and Sanders give Clinton run for her money at Nevada caucus dinner

Opinion

Yes, the constitution protects the right to bear arms. It also protects the right of free speech, free assembly and of religion. Where are the lobbyists for that?

obama crying

We should all weep at the loss of life because of our unwillingness to tackle substantive gun control. Photograph: Patsy Lynch/REX/Shutterstock

President Barack Obama cried during his announcement of new executive actions designed to curb gun violence in the United States, by restricting the access to firearms of those who present a clear danger to themselves or others and improving access to mental health services for those in need. Recounting the children shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary school, he brushed at the tears rolling down his cheeks, and said, “First graders. Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”

While the president’s tears are not surprising, given his grief and frustration over gun violence in America, he moved to dry them quickly. There is no time for tears – not in America, where gun violence is rampant, mass shootings occur with regularity and those opposing him are gearing up for a fight.

Since taking office, the president has given 13 speeches on gun violence after mass shooting incidents over the course of his two terms. And yet, almost before the president had finished speaking this time, House speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement which read, “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the second amendment”.

Speaker Ryan, the National Rifle Association and other politicians and gun-rights advocates continue to promote the falsehood that Americans’ second amendment rights – “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” – is being taken away.

Meanwhile, as the president astutely noted in his speech, the political worship of gun ownership has eroded the first amendment rights – the freedom of (and from) religion, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to free speech – of all citizens.

The President juxtaposed the acknowledged, constitutional right to bear arms with rights of freedom of speech, assembly and worship by invoking the Christians shot in Charleston in 2015, the Sikhs killed in Oak Creek in 2012, the Jews killed in Kansas City in 2014 and the Muslims killed in Chapel Hill in 2015. They, too, had constitutional rights, he said – as well at the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Our founding documents didn’t just protect the right to bear arms: they were designed to protect all the principles upon which America was founded – and the first among those were freedom of worship, peaceful assembly and the right to free speech.

The president’s comments reflect one of the fundamental theses of Firmin DeBrabander recent book Do Guns Make Us Free?: Democracy and the Armed Society. DeBrabander went further than the president, though, stating “the armed society to which the gun rights movement hastens us – a society where gun-free zones are increasingly rare, and civility is enforced by the gun – is no longer recognizably free.”

Gun rights advocates – many whom also believe that the US constitution is divinely inspired and that the rights it enumerates are God-given – face a conundrum. Their very insistence that the government not restrict guns in public spaces or limit their sales in any way also obviously inhibit other Americans’ rights as covered by the US constitution.

People in the state of Texas are now grappling with this very issue. As of 1 January 2016, concealed gun license owners in the state of Texas can now carry their guns openly in public places. The new law presents an issue for business owners, who now have to mount prominent signs if they wish to restrict open and concealed carry weapons in their businesses, and who stand to lose customers whether they allow or prohibit open carry. Students on the campus of University of Texas will have to deal with this as well come August 2016, when those with concealed carry permits will be able to bring their guns on campus.

The public presence of loaded weapons in Ferguson, Missouri – carried by Oath Keepers with unknown motives after a state of emergency was declared – did not feel safe to people exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Muslims who feel intimidated in the practice of their faith by the presence of angry, armed protestors outside of their mosques have little recourse to the infringement on their freedom to worship in peace. People stay quiet because someone packing heat may take exception to their rights to freedom of speech tacitly accept the loss of freedom in order to dodge potential bullets. They don’t have vociferous lobbyists like the NRA’s at their beck and call, nor do the protections offered them by the constitution inspire the kind of political activism that changes policy.

Tuesday marked a new moment in the quest for reasonable gun control in America. President Obama’s grief has turned into action, but until sensible gun laws are enacted, guns – not people – have the most freedom in America……………….

 

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