Journalists and advocates for free expression and information celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay Friday. (Image: RSF)
As the international community celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay on Friday, a leading global nonprofit warned that only 9 percent of humanity lives in countries with good or satisfactory levels of press freedom.
Journalism advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières—also known as RSF, or Reporters Without Borders—highlighted the detail from its annual World Press Freedom Index, published last month. Based on the report’s findings, the journalism group produced a color-coded map that shows how each country on Earth generally regards free expression and information. Continue reading →
“Coalition forces razed Raqqa, but they cannot erase the truth,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera. The group’s behind the report called upon the Coalition forces to “end their denial about the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction caused by their offensive” in 2017. (Photo: Amnesty International)
An “unprecedented” new study released on Thursday revealed that the U.S.-led bombing campaign on Raqqa, Syria in 2017—which one military commander at the time claimed was the “most precise air campaign in history”—killed an estimated 1,600 innocent civilians while leveling the city on a scale unparalleled in recent decades.
The research collated almost two years of investigations into the assault on Raqqa, the groups said in a statement, and “gives a brutally vivid account” of the enormous number of civilian lives lost as “a direct result” of thousands of coalition air strikes and tens of thousands of US artillery strikes in Raqqa from June to October 2017. Continue reading →
Protesters attended a demonstration against the chemical company Monsanto in 2016 in France. On Thursday, a /French court found Monsanto guilty of poisoning a farmer. (Photo: Pascal.VanFlickr/cc)
Monsanto was ordered to pay restitution to a French farmer who developed a neurological disease after using its weedkiller—the latest victory for the chemical giant’s former customers who want to hold the company accountable for selling poisonous pesticides.
A court in Lyon, France, ordered Monsanto Thursday to immediately pay Paul François €50,000 ($56,000) for the legal fees he incurred as he fought the company, and said the full amount it would be required to pay him would be announced in an upcoming ruling. François is seeking €1 million ($860,000). Continue reading →
70,000 protesters ignore the rain in Brussels. Photo: Greenpeace EU/Twitter
At least 80,000 people marched in a cold rain in Brussels Sunday in another massive protest demanding that the European Union take urgent and far-reaching action to address the world’s climate crisis.
Sunday’s march was the fourth climate march in the past three weeks—each one significantly bigger than the last—as students across Belgium and other European countries have skipped their high school and college classes in order to shame those in power who refuse to move urgently. Continue reading →
“The Gilets Jaunes that you see in the streets,” said one organizer, “they’re being bled dry financially. The wealth gap is getting wider, and we’ve reached a point where there are the very rich and the very poor.”
The movement’s name comes from many supporters wearing the yellow high-visibility vests that all drivers in France are required to keep in their vehicles. Although Macron’s centrist administration announced last week that it was suspending fuel and electricity hikes for six months, outrage over growing inequality across the country has continued to produce massive protests. Continue reading →
An Iranian man reads a copy of Iranian daily newspaper Arman with a picture of US President Donald Trump on its front page with the title in Persian that reads ‘Crazy Trump and logical JCPOA’ on display in Tehran, Iran. (Photo: EPA)
“Together, Europeans and Americans have proved that a strong and united transatlantic partnership can bring about a coalition extending to Russia and China, endorsed by the international community,” the lawmakers write. “But this coalition is now at risk, as the U.S. government moves towards abandoning the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] without any evidence of Iran not fulfilling its obligations.” Continue reading →
Protesters marched in New York City to oppose military action against Syria in 2013. (Photo: The All-Nite Images/Flickr/cc)
As the 17-year-old War on Terror rages on—and with the international community still reeling from the illegal missile strikes that the U.S., U.K., and France launched on Syria over the weekend—Congress is considering a measure that critics warn will expand the executive branch’s authority to wage war.
Some lawmakers have tried for years to replace the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that has been used (pdf) by three administrations to justify military actions across the globe. Now that President Donald Trump has repeatedly ignored reminders that only Congress can approve attacks not covered by the authorization, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) plan to introduce a new AUMF that could give even more war powers to the president.
Christopher Anders, deputy director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, explained that under the proposed AUMF described in reports on Monday, Trump would essentially “get a blank check from Congress to go to war virtually anywhere on the planet.”
Outlining his concerns with various aspects of the proposal, Anders concludes it “would cause colossal harm to the Constitution’s checks and balances, would jeopardize civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, and would lead to a breathtakingly broad expansion of war without meaningful oversight.”
Sign this petition to tell Congress not to support the proposed AUMF. Our Constitution creates a system of checks and balances to avoid this exact situation. https://t.co/JaVNKqu455
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) toldNBC News that he worries “about an AUMF that is more permissive than what the president currently interprets his authority to be,” adding: “It’s gonna be hard for me to support something that has no sunset and no geographic limitation.”
Columbia Law School professor Matthew Waxman, a former national security official in the George W. Bush administration, said that an AUMF without an expiration date will bolster concerns among those who fear that greenlighting a new measure “entrenches an indefinite war.”
“The political reality, though, is that a much more restrictive AUMF won’t be possible anytime soon,” Waxman said, “and we’ll be engaged in an indefinite war either way.”
Reports about the new AUMF—which could be introduced as early as Monday—follow Kaine’s controversial comments to “CBS This Morning” earlier in the day.
While Kaine sharply criticized the attack on Syria as an “illegal military act,” the senator also said he would have “likely” supported it if Trump had asked for permission from Congress first.
Tim Kaine on the Syria strike: “This is an illegal military act. It’s one that I would likely support if he brought it to Congress. We have a president not a king and the constitution says it’s congress that gets to declare war not the president.” (CBS) pic.twitter.com/5Tk7LgWawW
Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—a long-time critic of the 2001 AUMF and the only member of Congress to vote against it—swiftly condemned Trump’s weekend attack, but many more were criticized for their apparent indifference or tempered responses to Trump’s unconstitutional act.
Every flower that sprouts in the mountains had to first break through a rock.
By. Dr. Thoreau Redcrow. Published 9-22-2017 by the Region
Rallies and celebrations take place throughout Kurdistan as the referendum vote approaches Monday’s date.. Photo: Al Arabiya/Twitter
In a few days on September 25th the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Southern Kurdistan / Bashur (i.e. northern “Iraq”) is set to hold a non-binding aspirational referendum on their region’s independence. For many of the 6+ million Kurds of Bashur it is undoubtedly a day they have dreamt of or longed for; perhaps even a chance which seemed all but a fantasy through the billowing smoke of chemical bombs in Hełebce, or Saddam’s mass graves of the 1980’s.
Moreover, although this referendum is only related to one of the four regions of Greater Kurdistan—leaving those 20+ million Kurds of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), 12 million Kurds of northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), and 2-3 million Kurds of northern Syria (Western Kurdistan) awaiting their own eventual ‘independence day’—I have still anecdotally witnessed a surge in Kurdish patriotism and excitement throughout wider Kurdistan and the diaspora at the possibility that the first of the four dominoes may finally fall. Continue reading →
Later this year, the European Union will vote on whether to renew the license that allows European farmers to use Monsanto’s popular weed-killer, Roundup. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr/cc)
Europe’s food safety agency reportedly relied on a review that lifted language from a Monsanto report when concluding that the possible cancer-causing ingredient in the company’s popular weed-killer Roundup is safe, raising concerns that the agency failed to properly analyze the pesticide’s potential dangers.
“If regulators rely on the industry’s evaluation of the science without doing their own assessment, the decision whether pesticides are deemed safe or not is effectively in the industry’s hands,” said Greenpeace’s European Union (EU) food policy director, Franziska Achterberg, who added that this discovery “calls into question the entire EU pesticide approval process. Continue reading →
On May 9, 1916, and as the WWI raged, a secret convention was made between Britain and France, with the later assent of imperial Russia and Italy, for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The essence of the agreement–expansion of European colonialism into the heart of the Middle East–never came to pass, thanks to the entry of the US into the war at the start of 1918.
The introduction of the Wilson Doctrine, which was intended to create the Mandate System under the supervision of the League of Nations, prevented the outright colonization of that region by the European Colonial empires, which would have enhanced their power vis à vis the United States. The agreement took its name from its negotiators, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and François Georges-Picot of France. The relevant portions of the accord are provided at top right side of the full map attached at the end of the article.
Map provided by Dr. Izady and Columbia University
Divisions of Sykes-Picot
It is unclear, however, where exactly the map purported to depict the divisions comes from (see one example below, dating to 1918, London, and marked “secret”, which apparently was later colorized). And yet, by referring to various divisions such as, “Area A” or “Area B”, “Red Zone”, “Blue Zone” etc., the text of the agreement predicates the existence of at least one appended map. What became of that map?
Be that as it may, excepting the area now comprising the Republic of Turkey (taken back by force of the combined Turkish-Kurdish arms by 1923), many of the borders found in the provisions of the Sykes-Picot Agreement are generally, and sometimes precisely, the ultimate lines followed by current international borders. By turning communist in 1917, Russia received none of the anticipated awards. France, on the other hand, obtained the League of Nations Mandate over Syria (which she later split into Lebanon and Syria); Britain over Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. Ahsa and Qatif were ultimately relinquished to rising house of Saudi in Nejd.
Although many of the borders anticipated by the Sykes-Picot were arbitrary, they were in fact more sympathetic to the religious and cultural facts on the ground than what the League of Nations later created. Under Sykes-Picot, the Shias were to be united into a super-state, although directly ruled over by Britain. The Agreement meticulously included the Shias of Mesopotamia and Ahsa-Qatif (coastal regions of modern Saudi Arabia on the Gulf). The Christians in the Levant and south-central Anatolia also saw the combination of their multitude into a single French-administered Mediterranean state in which they were to form the predominant force, if not an absolute majority. Had the Armenians not been exterminated from their Cilician exclave, the entire French colony (the Blue Area) would have had a Christian majority. The Sunni Muslims (Arabs, Kurds, Turks) and their interests, meanwhile, were overlooked by Sykes-Picot. It is no surprise then that the Turks and Kurds joined force to immediately challenge the divisions of their native land that were to be implemented in the aftermath of WWI
The Bolshevik revolutionaries of Russia made the provisions of this secret agreement public on November 23, 1917 following their takeover of that country. These are listed to the upper right hand side of this map. A rather detailed map is reconstructed here by taking into consideration the toponyms and directions noted in the Agreement per se, but missing from all subsequent maps. The Russian share, missing from the first draft of Sykes-Picot, is reconstructed from the details found in a letter by Sir Edward Grey to Count Alexander von Benckenkdorff of Russia, dated May of 1916.
In conclusion, many of the current international boundaries match the anticipated lines by Sykes-Picot, and in fact exactly. But this is more due to natural features of the land–river courses, crests of the mountains, bottoms of the valleys and wadis–than any political expedience on the part of the League of Nations that awarded the mandates to the French and British colonial empires. The United States encouraged to take over formerly designated Russian sector to be labeled as the “Mandate of Armenia” ultimately declined the offer. The US Senate objected to the deal on many grounds to include the rationale and cost of stationing of an estimated 100 thousand American soldiers to guard a distant land largely emptied out of the Armenian Christians by the genocide that had visited on them some years earlier.
About the Author: Dr. Michael Merhdad R.S.C. Izady is a professor at Columbia University, and one of the world’s leading Middle East cartographers and Kurdish historians.has written numerous books on the Kurdish people, including “The Kurds: A Concise Handbook” which is widely accepted to be the best historical account of the Kurds. In 1996, Dr. Izady wrote and published the Kurdish Manifesto, which was later used as the foundation for the Constitution of the KRG’s Kurdistan Regional Constitution. Dr. Izady also designed the Flag of Kurdistan, which was adopted by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Today, Dr. Izady is a professor at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.