Archive | February 22, 2014

Ukraine’s New Deal, will it Hold!?*

Fast and Furious Ukraine*

By Maria Danilova and Yuras Karmanau

In a fast-moving day that could significantly shift Ukraine’s political destiny, opposition leaders signed a deal Friday with the country’s beleaguered president that calls for an early election, a new constitution and a new unity government.

Euromaidan protesters fill central Kyiv on Dec. 1, 2013. Photo by Alexandra Gnatoush.

Ukraine’s newly empowered parliament also fired the country’s despised interior minister and voted to free Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who has spent more than two years in jail for what supporters say are politically tainted charges.

It was not clear, however, how well the deal would go down with all the sides involved in Ukraine’s protracted political crisis. A senior Russian lawmaker immediately criticized it as being crafted for the West, and Ukrainian protesters angry over police violence showed no signs of abandoning their sprawling encampment in central Kiev.

Still, if it holds, the ambitious agreement could be a major breakthrough in a months-long crisis over Ukraine’s future, a standoff that worsened sharply this week and left scores dead and hundreds wounded in the worst violence the country has seen since it became independent in 1991.

Within hours of the signing, Ukraine’s parliament voted to restore the 2004 constitution that limits presidential authority, clawing back some of the powers that President Viktor Yanukovych had pushed through for himself after being elected in 2010.

Although Yanukovych retains an apparent majority in parliament, he loses the power to nominate the prime minister and to fire the Cabinet. Lawmakers also approved an amnesty for protesters involved in violence.

The Verhovna Rada parliament then voted to fire the interior minister, Vitali Zakharchenko, who is widely despised and blamed for ordering police violence, including the snipers who killed scores of protesters Thursday in central Kiev.

The next order of business was Tymoshenko. Legislators voted 310-54 to decriminalize the count under which she was imprisoned, meaning that she is no longer guilty of a criminal offense.

“Free Yulia! Free Yulia!” legislators chanted after the vote.

It’s not immediately clear when she might be released from the jail in the eastern city of Kharkiv.

Three European foreign ministers spent two days and all night trying to negotiate an end to the standoff, which began when Yanukovych decided not to sign a pact with the European Union in November in favor of having closer ties with Russia.

The U.S., Russia and the 28-nation EU are deeply concerned about the future of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. The country’s western regions want very much to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych’s authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine favors closer ties with Russia.

The agreement signed Friday says presidential elections will be held no later than December, instead of March 2015 as scheduled. Many protesters say December is too late – they want Yanukovych out immediately. It was not clear Friday how soon he will leave office.

Ukrainian authorities also will now name a new unity government that includes top opposition figures within 10 days.

But neither side won all the points it sought, and some vague conditions could ignite strong disputes down the road.

The deal says the government will not impose a state of emergency and both sides will refrain from violence. It says opposition protesters should hand over any weapons and withdraw from buildings they have occupied and protest camps around the country.

It is far from clear that the thousands of protesters camped out in Kiev on Friday will pack up and go home. One by one, protesters took to a stage on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, to say they’re not happy.

“Resign! Resign! Resign!” they chanted.

“The Maidan will stand up until Yanukovych leaves,” said protester Anataly Shevchuk, 29. “That’s the main demand, both for those who were killed, and for those who are still standing on the Maidan.”

“I hope that the direction of the country changes, but so far the goals of the Maidan have not been achieved,” said Kira Rushnitskaya, a 45-year-old protester. “Yanukovych agreed to give up powers to stay in power overall.”

No deadline for leaving the camp in central Kiev has been set and many protesters are likely to move out slowly, both because of the emotional closeness the camp fostered and because of distrust that the deal will actually be implemented.

The capital remained tense Friday. Shots were heard in the morning, a day after the deadliest violence in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history. It is unclear who was targeted and whether anyone was hurt or injured.

The leader of a radical group that has been a driver of violent clashes with police, Pravy Sektor, declared Friday “the national revolution will continue,” according to the Interfax news agency.

The deal has other detractors too.

Leonid Slutsky, a Russian lawmaker who chairs the committee in charge of relations with other ex-Soviet nations, told reporters Friday that the agreement serves the interests of the West.

“We realize where and by whom this agreement has been written. It’s entirely in the interests of the United States and other powers, who want to split Ukraine from Russia,” he said.

At the same time, Slutsky shrugged off claims that Russia could send its troops to Ukraine, saying Moscow will communicate with any government Ukraine has.

“No matter how bad and hard to deal with the new government is for us, we will deal with it,” he said. “We must learn from mistakes we have made.”

Protesters across the country are upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights and the country’s ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with the first disbursement of a $15 billion bailout promised by Russia.

Friday’s agreement does not address the grievance that set off the protests in the first place – Yanukovych’s shelving of an agreement to deepen ties with the European Union and his turn toward Russia for financial assistance.

The avid desire of many Ukrainians to step out of Russia’s long shadow and become more integrated with the West remains a serious, unresolved issue for Ukraine.

The avid desire of many Ukrainians to step out of Russia’s long shadow and become more integrated with the West remains a serious, unresolved issue for Ukraine.

Adding to Ukraine’s dire economic troubles worse. Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Ukraine’s debt rating Friday, saying the country could default without significant political improvements.

Source*

Related Topics:

Declared Independence of Ukraine Region Sends Dollar Bonds to Record Low*

From Tahrir – Ukraine’s Orchestrated Unrest*

The Intelligence of Occupy Bangkok over Occupy Wall St.*

Occupy World: Tunisia’s Arab Spring Bears a Progressive Constitutional Fruit 3 Years Later*

Malcolm X: The Truth Seeker*

Malcolm X: The Truth Seeker*

By Aseel Machi

The revolutionary leader strived to live up to Islamic ideals. But it was his humility that made him a hero to us

When Malcolm X split with the Nation of Islam, he traveled on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, where he was exposed to mainstream Islam – the Islam that the majority of the Muslim world practices. Historically, of course, Mecca is where Prophet Abraham established a sacred site for the worship of one God. It was there that Malcolm X first witnessed unity among different people, irrespective of their race. He wrote of his trip:

But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white … But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts …

This was typical Malcolm X: to discard false understandings in light of reality, to remain dedicated to the truth.

Today, many will remember the assassination of the revolutionary civil rights activist and reformer. Many will also undoubtedly lay claim to his legacy: his unswerving dedication to equality, unity and the truth.

For many Muslims, this is what made Malcolm X’s life both inspirational and exemplary. We saw him as one of our own. We still do. He died, 49 years ago today, in a manner that we would consider to be martyrdom, because he died on the path to God.

Malcom X’s life is also one that echoes the history of Islam itself. A little over 1300 years ago, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, Hussain Ibn Ali, refused to pledge his allegiance to an unjust ruler. The ruler therefore ordered the beheading of Hussain, without so much as considering the stature or honour of the man he was about to kill. Afterward, the tyrant trapped a small band of Hussain’s family and friends in the desert, denied them water for three days, and then challenged them to battle against an army of tens of thousands. Needless to say, the small army of Hussain was crushed and quickly subdued. With the exception of his very fragile son, all of Hussain’s men were killed and women captured, ready to be chained and paraded in foreign lands.

But to this day, millions of people commemorate the event. In fact, the world’s largest peaceful gathering occurs on the same day every single year in Karbala, Iraq, where an estimated 25 million people come together to mourn and remember Hussain Ibn Ali and his sacrifice.

Like Hussain Ibn Ali, Malcolm X’s life exemplifies a dedication to truth and justice, as well as a commitment to faith. These are prime tenets to which all Muslims adhere, regardless of where they come from or what school of Islam they follow. I’d also like to think they’re principles that all people – irrespective of creed or religion – can share.

Many Muslims revere Malcolm X not only for what he shares with other revolutionary figures, but also for his own special legacy. Like others, Malcolm dedicated himself to the pursuit of justice. He was always on a path of self-enrichment and he did his best to live up to Islamic ideals. But he made mistakes too, and his many imperfections have made him all the more relatable to Muslims everywhere, especially the younger generation. Malcolm’s humility – his willingness to admit to his shortcomings if it led him to the truth – is arguably one of the most important lessons we, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, can draw from his life.

Source*

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Hajj Changed My Life!

Malcolm X’s Grandson Baited and Killed

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Egypt Widens Crackdown and Meaning of ‘Islamist’*

‘Fitna’ Movie Producer Converted to Islam and Performs Hajj*

Reclaiming Identity through Islam

Court Gives Green Light on Surveillance of Muslims*

Court Gives Green Light on Surveillance of Muslims*

  • Federal Trial Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging NYPD’s Spying on Muslim Americans

 

  • Ruling is a modern day version of the discredited Korematsu which allowed internment of Japanese Americans

 On February 20, 2014 a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the New York City Police Department’s broad surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. In a summary 10-page opinion, and without oral argument, the case was dismissed for lack of standing and because the court considered plaintiffs’ claims of discrimination from NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program not “plausible.”

Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) case, Hassan v. City of New York, was brought on behalf of a broad group of American Muslims from a variety of backgrounds – including a decorated Iraq war veteran and the former principal of a grade school for Muslim girls – who have been subjected to invasive NYPD spying. The City had argued that the events of 9/11 justified broad surveillance of any and all New Jersey Muslims, without any indication of wrongdoing. Hassan is the first direct legal challenge to the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey.

“In addition to willfully ignoring the harm that our innocent clients suffered from the NYPD’s illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD’s blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court’s decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. “The ruling is a modern day version of the discredited Korematsu decision allowing the wholesale internment of Japanese Americans based solely on their ancestry. It is a troubling and dangerous decision.”

Since 2002, the NYPD has spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey. This monitoring has included video surveillance, photographing, community mapping, and infiltration. Moreover, internal documents, including a list of 28 “ancestries of interest,” reveal that the NYPD used racial and ethnic backgrounds as proxies to identify and target adherents to the Muslim faith. After more than a decade in operation, the surveillance program has produced not a single lead on terrorist activity.

“The fight is not over by any means. The surveillance program violates the Constitution, and we are confident that this decision will not hold up to review upon appeal,” said Glenn Katon, legal director of Muslim Advocates. “The NYPD’s blatantly discriminatory program has hurt the lives of many innocent Americans—moms who fear sending their children to school, students who simply want to pray, and Muslim-owned businesses that have lost customers.”

Hassan was initially filed by Muslim Advocates. The Center for Constitutional Rights joined as co-counsel in December, 2012. Ravinder S. Bhalla of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, LLC serves as local counsel.

The court’s ruling is here.

Source*

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How to Handle a Police Encounter*

Deleting Religious Thinking: A Governmental Agenda*

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Hope for Womanhood as Non-Muslims Sympathize with Attacked Pregnant Muslimah

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The Christian-Muslim Ghost Town of Maaloula*

The Redemption “Songs” of Muslim Youth

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Mobilization Against Racism and Islamophobia

Reflection on Islamic Work Ethics V

Gender Equity in Islam

Reflection on Islam, Liberty and Development IV

Denmark Bans Denmark bans Kosher and Halal Meat*

Chinese Finance Ministry Bans GM Oil for Staff to Safeguard Health*

Chinese Finance Ministry Bans GM Oil for Staff to Safeguard Health*

China’s Ministry of Finance has caused waves in the country’s agricultural circles after announcing on Thursday that it will make sure no genetically modified (GM) oil is used in the canteens of Ministry workers. This comes after an order from the Ex Chinese Minister of Finance, Xie Xuren, in 2013 to safeguard the health of the Ministry’s staff.

The new announcement relating health safety to GM oil is seen by experts as another sign of a new approach in the country towards GM crops caused by mounting public pressure on the issue.

This is not the first Ministry in China to warn its staff over GMOs, with the Ministry of Education having already put up a notice within their HQ stating “Our Canteen Does Not Use Food Containing GM”.

“The issue of whether GM food is harmful to human health is currently without consensus within academia. GM food has only appeared [in China] for a short period making it very difficult at present to appropriately assess its impact on long-term safety. Further research and longer time is required for verification. To eliminate the concerns of diners, and to assure the safety and health of our staff members, our Ministry of Education Office Canteen temporarily will not use food oil containing GM ingredients and GM food materials. Please enjoy your food without any such concern,” the notice continues.

The Ministry of Finance announcement is however unique, as it is presented as an official position of the Ministry, whereas the Ministry of Education notice was not.

The Full Chinese Finance Ministry announcement can be found here in Chinese

China has been at the heart of a worldwide GMO trade controversy involving Syngenta’s GMO corn trait over the last few months and the new Ministry of Finance announcement has put many biotech companies on red alert.

Just this week two of the World’s largest exporters of GM crops, Cargill and Bunge, announced that they would no longer accept GM maize that contained Syngenta’s AG GM corn trait over Chinese trade difficulties, which have led to over 600,000 metric tons of US corn being rejected at Chinese ports.

Many biotech companies fear that this new strong arm approach to GM crops by Chinese authorities will spread beyond Syngenta. Monsanto even sent CEO Hugh Grant to China, for high level meetings on this issue with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Science and Technology, and Ministry of Commerce in the week before Christmas.

Despite this seemingly new approach China is already the world’s biggest buyer of GM soybeans and also the largest grower of GM cotton, so GMO Free activists in the country still have much work to do.

Source*

Related Topics:

China Destroys 3 US Shipments of GM Corn*

Fifth US Corn Cargo Rejected by China*

China Bans American Shellfish over High Levels of Arsenic*

Chilean Women Farmers to Teach the Region Agro-ecology*

Occupy World: Chilean Farmer Wins Case against Monsanto*

As Expected EU to Approve GM Corn

Sudan Seizes “Anonymous ” GM Soybean Shipment*

GM Pollen in Honey Labelled as Natural by the EU*

Organic Food and Meat Shortages Hit a Morally Unstable Drought-Ridden America*

Legislators from 7 Countries Demand Release of Secret Trade Deal TPP*

Consumer Activism Bringing down Monsanto and the Likes*