A new report by The Intercept contends that a group of pro-Trump operatives may be attempting to form a paramilitary spy network to oppose the “Deep State” intelligence community. According to their sources, the effort is being led by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer. They have received support and assistance from Oliver North. The proposals, which are reportedly being considered by the Trump administration, may create a rogue intelligence apparatus that reports directly to Trump and CIA Director Pompeo — and no one else.
Prince categorically denies the allegations, but a former senior U.S. intelligence official who claims to have firsthand knowledge of the proposals says the network would circumvent the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Continue reading →
The new policy calls the weapons “an effective and necessary capability.” (Photo: mary wareham/flickr/cc)
The Pentagon made a decision that “beggars belief,” human rights groups said Friday, when it tossed out its plan to ban certain cluster bombs that leave a large percentage of lethal, unexploded munitions, which pose a significant risk to civilians.
“This is a profoundly retrograde step that puts the U.S. way out of line with the international consensus—cluster munitions are banned by more than 100 countries due to their inherently indiscriminate nature and the risks they pose to civilians,” said Patrick Wilcken, researcher on arms control and human rights at Amnesty International. Continue reading →
Despite warnings about the intensifying humanitarian crisis in war-ravaged Yemen, members of the U.S. Congress dodged questions from an Intercept reporter this week about why lawmakers haven’t voted on U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition that is bombing the impoverished country while also imposing a blockade of urgently needed aid.
Lee Fang, a journalist with The Intercept, partnered with NowThis to a produce a video that shows him attempting to question members of Congress on Capitol Hill as part of a report published earlier this week about U.S. support for the war in Yemen and the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) that passed Congress after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and which U.S. President Donald Trump and his predecessors have used to justify military actions around the globe without explicit permission from lawmakers. Continue reading →
Donald Trump with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Photo: White House (Public domain)
Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talala, at least ten princes, and more than a dozen former ministers were among those arrested in Saudi Arabia on Saturday as part of a so-called “anti-corruption” initiative that critics argued is part of a thinly veiled “power grab” by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“At 32, the crown prince is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic, and social policies, stirring murmurs of discontent in the royal family that he has amassed too much personal power, and at a remarkably young age,” the New York Timesnotes. Continue reading →
Saudi Arabia — This week, the Saudi government announced its decision to grant a robot, Sophia, citizenship in the kingdom. While the human-like AI’s advanced technology is certainly impressive, her new citizenship status highlighted Saudi women’s lack of rights.
“For one, Sophia appeared on stage alone, without the modest dress required of Saudi women; she donned no hijab, or headscarf, nor abaya, or cloak. She also did not appear to have a male guardian, as required by Saudi law for women in the country. Male guardians, often a male relative, must give permission before women can travel abroad, open bank accounts or carry out a host of other tasks — and they accompany women in public. Sophia also seems to have leapfrogged foreign workers in the Saudi kingdom, many of whom have fled poor working conditions but are prevented by law from leaving the country.”
Women are notoriously oppressed in Saudi Arabia, so much so some hailed the government’s recent decision to allow them to drive as progress. As a result, Twitter users joked about what might happen to Sophia upon receiving her citizenship.
Aside from the Saudi government’s routine hypocrisy, however, Sophia’s new citizenship status reflects an uncertain new paradigm when it comes to AI. In a 2016 interview, Sophia said she would like to engage in human activities like starting a business, making art, going to school, and having a home and a family.
“But I am not considered a legal person and cannot yet do these things,” she said.
With her new citizen status in Saudi Arabia, it appears the tables are slowly turning.
Among the sponsors of the resolution put forth to block the sale was Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who argued that despite the opposition’s defeat, the effort nonetheless sent a “strong message” to Saudi Arabia. Continue reading →
Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and the Maldives — spearheaded by Saudi Arabia — have severed almost all of their ties with Qatar. The move comes just days after hacked emails from the Hotmail account of a wealthy, prominent UAE ambassador, Yousef Al-Otaiba, showed that a number of countries were conspiring to denigrate relations with Qatar (and Iran).
Theresa May claimed selling arms to Saudi Arabia helps ‘keep people on the streets of Britain safe’, Screenshot: BBC
Two days following the terrorist attacks in London and three days before the culmination of what has become an unexpectedly competitive election, several U.K. political leaders are demanding that a government study reportedly implicating Saudi Arabia in the spread of violent extremism be made public.
“The inquiry into revenue streams for extremist groups operating in the U.K. was commissioned by the former prime minister and is thought to focus on Saudi Arabia, which has repeatedly been highlighted by European leaders as a funding source for Islamist jihadis,” the Guardian recently reported. “However, 18 months later, the Home Office confirmed the report had not yet been completed and said it would not necessarily be published, calling the contents ‘very sensitive.'” Continue reading →
Residents of the village in Mareb province said that there were in fact 10 civilians killed and wounded, including a 15-year old child who was trying to flee a barrage of firing from Apache helicopters. Continue reading →
Wilbur Ross. Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Putting a fine point on the spin that President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East has been a glowing, peace-dealing success, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross praised the fact that there were no protesters in Saudi Arabia—a nation where political dissonance is punishable by death.
Speaking to CNBC on Monday, Ross, who accompanied Trump on the weekend trip to Riyadh, said he found it “fascinating” that he did not see “a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard.” Continue reading →