• #blockchain Technology Application Summit 2018— Changing the World to Create the Future

    The Silicon Valley of China recently held its main annual technology conference and this year the focus was Blockchain.Some of the key speakers including LoveBlock CEO Raffael KrauseThe event was huge, including sponsors such as Sina — the Chinese equivalent of Twitter and the financial website Meirijinrong which is partnered with the likes of Huawei and Baidu.As a result, projects from across China and beyond flew into Chengdu for a weekend full of discussion and networking on all things blockchain.There was an immense variety of projects on display from the revolutionary forward thinkers to the downright wacky and weird.BitPig — Blockchain Project based on… Pigs?Bit猪 (zhū) or known as BitPig in English was the standout candidate for strangest Blockchain offering. Claiming to revolutionize the (...)

    #crypto #blockchain-technology #singapore #blockchain-summit

  • Workers of Germany, Unite: The New Siren Call of the Far Right - The New York Times

    BOTTROP, Germany — Guido Reil is a coal miner, like his father and grandfather before him. He joined a trade union at 18 and the center-left Social Democratic Party at 20. Fast-talking and loud, he has been an elected union representative for over a decade.

    But two years ago, after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Germany, Mr. Reil switched to the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD. Competing in state legislative elections last May, the party won 20 percent of the vote in his home district with his name on its list — and the Social Democrats slipped 16 percentage points from a previous election.

    “Those are my former comrades,” Mr. Reil said, chuckling. “They came with me.”

    How is a far-right party drawing voters from labor, a traditional bastion of the left? The question is not academic, but goes directly to the heart of the emerging threat the AfD presents to Germany’s political establishment, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    The AfD shocked Germany in the fall when it became the first far-right party to enter Parliament since World War II. But that breakthrough not only shattered a significant postwar taboo. It has also enormously complicated the task of forming a new governing coalition, leaving Germany and all of Europe in months of limbo.

    Ms. Merkel and her conservative alliance are negotiating a coalition deal with their former governing partners, the left-leaning Social Democrats. If they do, the AfD will be Germany’s primary opposition party, leaving a wide opening for it to pick up even more traditionally left-leaning voters who fear the Social Democrats have been co-opted.
    Continue reading the main story

    Many fear that the AfD, as the leading voice of the opposition, would have a perfect perch to turn the protest vote it received in national elections in September — it finished third with 13 percent of the vote — into a loyal and sustained following.

    “If we go back into government, the AfD will overtake us,” predicted Hilde Mattheis, a Social Democratic lawmaker from Baden-Wurttemberg, where that has already happened.
    Continue reading the main story
    Mr. Reil driving by the Prosper-Haniel mine in Bottrop. He has worked in six mines, five of which have closed. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times

    The 92 AfD lawmakers, who have been busy moving into their new parliamentary offices in central Berlin, have not been shy about using the spotlight.

    One, Jürgen Pohl, recently addressed Parliament and criticized the labor market changes that former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the Social Democratic Party passed from 2003 to 2005, saying they created a host of poorly regulated, precarious jobs.

    The AfD, Mr. Pohl said, “is a new people’s party that cares about the little people.”

    When some center-left lawmakers guffawed, Mr. Pohl pointed at the television cameras. “Go ahead and laugh,” he said, “your voters are watching.”

    Indeed, they are. The AfD has already overtaken the Social Democrats as the second-biggest party in state elections across much of what was formerly East Germany. In Bavaria, it is not far behind.

    But Mr. Reil believes his party has the greatest potential in places like Bottrop, in the Ruhr area, once the industrial heartland of West Germany and long a bastion of Social Democratic and union power.

    The Ruhr has produced coal since the 16th century, and it shaped modern Germany in the process. It powered the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, the postwar economic miracle and even European integration: The coal and steel community was the seedling of the European Union.

    But today, Bottrop and surrounding cities are in decline.

    Mr. Reil has worked in six mines, five of which have closed. Along with some 2,500 others, he will take early retirement, at 48, after the last mine ceases production in December.

    With the mines, most bars have closed, too, as has a whole social and cultural scene that once kept the area alive.
    Continue reading the main story
    Mr. Reil won 20 percent of votes in a district where the AfD had never fielded a candidate before. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times

    The AfD’s “pro-worker” platform (“pro-coal, pro-diesel and anti-immigration,” as Mr. Reil puts it) resonates in Bottrop as well as on the factory floors of Germany’s iconic carmakers in the former east and the wealthy south of the country.

    As elections loom nationwide for worker representatives who bargain with management on behalf of their fellow employees, lists of candidates close to the AfD are circulating at several flagship companies, including Daimler and BMW. There are plans to create a new national workers’ movement, Mr. Reil said. The working name is the Alternative Union of Germany.

    “The revolution,” he predicted, “will be in the car industry.”

    Trade union leaders, currently on strike for higher pay and a 28-hour workweek for those wanting to care for children or elderly relatives, publicly dismiss such talk as “marginal.” But privately, some worry.

    One of Mr. Reil’s allies, Oliver Hilburger, a mechanic at a Daimler plant near Stuttgart, founded an alternative union called Zentrum Automobil in 2009, four years before the AfD even existed.

    Mr. Hilburger, who has been at the company for 28 years, is not a member of the AfD but he votes for it. He thinks the party and his union are a natural fit.
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    When it emerged that he had once played for a band associated with neo-Nazis, the news media reported the fact widely. But that did not stop his colleagues from giving his union 10 percent of their votes and electing him as one of their representatives.

    This spring, Mr. Hilburger, who calls his musical past “a sin of youth,” is fielding more than 250 candidates in at least four factories. Several of them, he said, are immigrants who have lived in Germany for years and support the AfD.

    “There is a feeling among workers that the old unions collude with the bosses and the government,” Mr. Hilburger said.
    Continue reading the main story
    Mr. Reil with AfD supporters during an informal meeting at a bar in Essen. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times

    “The bosses and the media talk about skills shortages and how we need even more immigration,” he said. “We want to talk about a shortage of decent jobs for those who are already in the country. The AfD has understood that.”

    The AfD is ideologically divided, with many senior members staunchly capitalist and suspicious of labor unions.

    The strategic focus on the working class speaks to the challenge of turning protest voters into a loyal base, said Oskar Niedermayer, a professor of political science at the Free University in Berlin.

    “Breaking into the union milieu is key to that strategy,” Mr. Niedermayer said.

    He warned that the reflex to ostracize the AfD could backfire. Some unions are advising members to shun anyone in the AfD. Some soccer clubs are planning to outright bar them. And as Mr. Niedermayer pointed out, lawmakers from other parties have systematically blocked every AfD candidate for senior parliamentary posts.

    “It confirms them in their role as victims of the elites,” he said. “Workers who see themselves as victims of the elites will only identify with them more.”

    As the AfD appeals to Germany’s left-behinds, it is also trying to tie them to other parts of the party’s agenda, like its hard line on immigration.

    For instance, the battle cry of Frank-Christian Hansel, an AfD member of Berlin’s state Parliament, is to save the German welfare state — but for Germans.

    “If you want social justice, you need to manage who is coming into your country,” Mr. Hansel said. “Open borders and welfare state don’t go together.”
    Continue reading the main story
    An advertising board near the Prosper-Haniel mine. Mr. Reil said the AfD was “pro-coal, pro-diesel and anti-immigration.” Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times

    It is the kind of rhetoric that sets the AfD apart from the traditional left, even as it goes fishing for voters in Social Democratic waters.

    For the AfD, it is not just those at the bottom against those at the top, Mr. Niedermayer said. It is insiders against outsiders. Social justice, yes, but only for Germans.

    In Bottrop, this message plays well.

    Residents complain about some refugees being prescribed “therapeutic horseback-riding” and courses in flirtation, courtesy of taxpayers, while public schools are in decline.

    “They get the renovated social housing, while Germans wait for years,” said Linda Emde, the manager of one of the few remaining bars. “But when you speak up against migration, they call you a racist.”

    Ms. Emde had voted for the Social Democrats all her life. But in September, she and her husband switched to the AfD.

    Mr. Reil, who never managed to rise through the Social Democrats’ local party hierarchy, is now a member of the AfD’s national leadership team. At the monthly meetings, he sits at the same table as the aristocrat Beatrix von Storch and Alice Weidel, a professor.

    The two female lawmakers are perhaps best known for a recent social media rant about “barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men.” But for Mr. Reil, the point of his comment was that he had risen socially.

    “What do a miner, a princess and a professor have in common?” he jokes. “They are all in the AfD.”

    Follow Katrin Bennhold on Twitter: @kbennhold.

    Christopher Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.

    #Allemagne #extrême_droite #syndicalisme

  • Serving the Leviathan | Jacobin

    Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, died of a heart attack on January 8, 2017. Various factions immediately tried to claim this “pillar of the revolution” in the name of their competing political objectives. The wily politician would have surely recognized this technique of marshaling the spirits of the dead to score points for short-term political gain.

    Temperate “principalists” (usulgarayan), technocratic conservatives (eʿtedaliyyun), and reformists (eslahtalaban) — that is, much of the Iranian political class — saw something in the elderly statesman’s legacy worth appropriating. In this way, his death mirrors his life: during his sixty-plus years of political activity, he became many things to many people, while his ultimate objectives often remained opaque, if not virtually impossible to discern.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others often painted this postrevolutionary pragmatist as a corrupt and arrogant patrician who had cast aside revolutionary austerity in favor of decadent opulence. The accusation resonated far beyond Ahmadinejad’s supporters, aligning with popular slogans that denounced the two-time president as “Akbar Shah” (meaning King Akbar, Great Shah) and compelling ordinary citizens to scrawl dozd (thief) on many of his campaign posters during the 2005 presidential campaign. He was also known to many as “the shark” (kuseh) on account of his inability to grow a fully fledged beard, though others felt it described his political modus operandi to a tee.

    By 2009, however, he seemed to have aligned himself with the Green Movement, drawing closer to the reformists he once opposed. His intermittent criticisms of the Ahmadinejad government endeared him to many, who began to see him as one of the few establishment voices willing to openly defy the administration and by extension, his old ally, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He became inextricably linked with the trope of “moderation,” a powerful idea in a country on the precipice, especially after the UN imposed sanctions of 2006.

    Many others remained skeptical, however, unable to forget his reputation as an arch-Machiavellian. They recycled urban legends about his family’s wealth, reinforcing his image as a power-obsessed wheeler-and-dealer.
    Resisting the Shah

    Born in 1934, Akbar Hashemi Bahremani grew up on his family’s small farm in the village of Bahreman in the Nuq district of Rafsanjan, Kerman province. At the behest of his father, he studied in a traditional maktab, but was still expected to help tend to the animals and orchards in a region renowned for its prized pistachio. His paternal uncle was a cleric who often took to the village pulpit, and at the age of fourteen, he left for Qom to study at the Shiʿi seminary, the chief center of Islamic learning in Iran.

    Through the Maraʿshi brothers (Akhavan-e Maraʿshi), Kazem and Mehdi, fellow Rafsanjanis, with whom he lived for a number of years, Akbar quickly came to know Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini, then a relatively junior mojtahed and esteemed teacher of philosophy and mysticism. In Rafsanjani’s memoir, The Period of Struggle, he recalls how he was immediately captivated by the “majesty” of Khomeini’s visage and demeanor. Thus began an extremely close and fruitful relationship that would last the remainder of Khomeini’s lifetime. Indeed, Rafsanjani’s final resting place is alongside his political and spiritual patron.

    In Qom, Rafsanjani rapidly got involved in political life and activism and found himself attracted to the militant Devotees of Islam (Fadaʾiyan-e Islam), led by Seyyed Mojtaba Mirlowhi, better known as Navvab-e Safavi or “Prince of the Safavids,” whose meetings he would attend at every opportunity. The group tried to convince the Qom seminary to agitate for a strict and unforgiving nomocratic order, but with little success. Under the guidance of Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi, the overwhelming majority of the Qom seminary rejected the message of the Fadaʾiyan, at one point running them out of town.

    Rafsanjani was studying in Qom during the years of anticolonial fervor after Prime Minister Mosaddeq nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP). He encountered Mosaddeq’s one-time clerical ally, Ayatollah Seyyed Abolqasem Kashani, who became one of the Fadaʾiyan’s initial patrons. Kashani eventually turned on Mosaddeq, and, in August 1953, a joint CIA-MI6 orchestrated coup d’état ousted the prime minister.

    After the revolution, even while expressing his support for the national movement, Rafsanjani blamed Mosaddeq’s National Front and the communist Tudeh Party for their role in weakening the seminary during this period. But he still recalled with pride how the former prime minister contributed to printing and distributing his translation of The Journey of Palestine, a translation of a popular book on Palestine written in Arabic by Akram Zwayter, a Jordanian ambassador to Tehran. Published in semi-illicit form in 1961, this book marked the beginning of a long career in which he became the most prolific statesman-cum-author of the postrevolutionary era.

    In 1955, Navvab was executed by firing squad, but vestiges of the Fadaʾiyan persisted, creating a vital network of clerical and lay activists in the country’s mosques and bazaars. Rafsanjani became an important organizer inside the country, following Khomeni’s exile in 1964. In January 1965, he was arrested by the Shah’s infamous secret police, SAVAK, for his role in the assassination of the pro-American premier, Hassan ʿAli Mansur. Later recollections by members of the Islamic Coalition Society have since admitted it was Rafsanjani who supplied the weapon. From 1958 until the revolution he was arrested on several occasions. He persisted in his activism despite the abuse and torture he suffered at the hands of the SAVAK, publishing illegal periodicals and distributing Khomeini’s communiqués from Najaf. It was also in 1958 that he married ʿEffat Maraʿshi, the daughter of a fellow cleric from Rafsanjan. His companion of almost sixty years, she would come to exude a formidable matriarchal presence on the Iranian political scene throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

    Rafsanjani also managed to travel to the United States and Japan during these years. Many regard the latter as especially formative for his worldview and proclivity toward the seemingly indigenous, albeit technologically advanced, version of modernization he would seek to exact during his own time in power. He also penned a volume on the nationalist icon Amir Kabir (who died in 1852), who tried to streamline the Qajar court’s expenditures, consolidating the weak Iranian state in Tehran while importing technical and military know-how. That Rafsanjani died on the anniversary of Amir Kabir’s murder has only fueled the flood of hagiographies.
    Internal Divisions

    On February 5, 1979, Rafsanjani made his first public appearance facing the world’s media with Khomeini during Mehdi Bazargan’s introduction as prime minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. He began his government apprenticeship as deputy interior minister, and soon found common ground with another junior minister, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who held the same role in defense. More importantly, Rafsanjani also served on the revolutionary council, a secretive body dominated by clerics loyal to Khomeini that was created in lieu of a legislative branch of state.

    Rafsanjani and Khamenei were on a pilgrimage to Mecca when they learned that radical students, who called themselves the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, had overrun the United States embassy on November 4, 1979. They had by this time become leading officials of the Islamic Republic Party (IRP), and Bazargan’s resignation thrust both men into the limelight. Rafsanjani took over the interior ministry and organized the first presidential elections of 1980. In the spring of that year, he was elected to the Majlis (parliament) and became speaker, a post he turned into a personal stronghold for most of the following decade.

    Rafsanjani remained steadfastly loyal to Khomeini and led the clerical front that ultimately marginalized competing revolutionary organizations in the early 1980s. But their relationship was not always easy. Together with Khamenei, Rafsanjani lobbied Khomeini to allow clerical candidates into the first presidential election; his mentor’s refusal paved the way for the victory of layman Abolhasan Bani-Sadr. Only after much of the IRP leadership was killed in the Hafte Tir bombing did Khomeini relent and allow Khamenei to run for president in the summer of 1980.

    They also seem to have disagreed about the war with Iraq. According to various sources, including Khomeini’s son Ahmad, the Grand Ayatollah wanted to bring the conflict to an end after taking back the southwestern city of Khorramshahr in April 1982, but Rafsanjani, among others, prevailed on him to prepare an offensive into Iraqi territory.

    As the 1980s progressed, Rafsanjani’s role within the state system far surpassed his formal title of parliamentary speaker. In international settings, he was treated like the state’s foremost figure. The West — including the Reagan administration — relied on him to end kidnappings in Lebanon, and he became known as the real power behind the scenes.

    By 1985, the fervent anti-Americanism he had previously displayed gave way to the realization that a tactical accommodation with the “Great Satan” was necessary. In a risky and ultimately unsuccessful move, he agreed to hold talks with a delegation led by national security adviser Robert McFarlane, which surreptitiously visited Tehran in October 1986 with much-needed weapons for the war effort. The Iran-Contra revelations severely embarrassed both Reagan and Rafsanjani, and the whole affair had major repercussions for the domestic scene. Nevertheless, two decades later, the Rafsanjani clan published a book including the delegation’s fake passports and the inscribed Bible Reagan gave to Rafsanjani to underscore the cooperation between these erstwhile adversaries.

    Rafsanjani was at the heart of several crucial developments during the last years of Khomeini’s life. Many believe he took part in the efforts lead by Ahmad Khomeini and minister of intelligence, Mohammad Reyshahri, to persuade the revolutionary leader to withdraw his support for his designated successor, Hossein ʿAli Montazeri. He certainly had motivation: Montazeri’s relative and close associate, Seyyed Mehdi Hashemi, and his people were responsible for leaking the details of McFarlane’s visit. In early 1988, Rafsanjani had to navigate a major internal crisis when Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi resigned and noted — in a secret letter to Khamenei — that other figures, including Rafsanjani, had gravely eroded his authority.

    That same year, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing almost three hundred civilians. Rafsanjani gloomily indicated during a Friday prayer speech that the tragedy was not an accident and warned that the United States would now intensify its involvement in the Iran-Iraq conflict. This likely contributed to Khomeini’s acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 598, which initiated the ceasefire between the two countries and which he famously compared to drinking a “poisoned chalice.”

    Following the Iran-Iraq War and the death of the revolutionary patriarch in June 1989, many wondered if the revolutionary state and its institutions could survive without the uniquely charismatic Ayatollah Khomeini. Even before his death, the ruling establishment proved vulnerable as militant groups such as the People’s Mojahedin Organization and the Forqan, which opposed the political clerisy’s ascent, had assassinated several senior figures in the regime. Khamenei and Rafsanjani both survived attempts on their lives in this period, ensuring that these two friends would decisively shape the post-Khomeini political order.

    Rafsanjani played a key role in elevating Khamenei as Khomeini’s successor, but the more intimate details of his lobbying have yet to be fully revealed. It occurred as the Iranian elite was reeling, both politically and emotionally. Khomeini’s death came after a period of incapacitation, but it nevertheless caught senior state figures unprepared. As a result, the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body in charge of selecting and supervising the guardian jurist (vali-ye faqih), had to decide how best to handle the succession. Rafsanjani took to the podium and declared that Khomeini had stated his preference for Khamenei, despite his lack of clerical rank and authority. The latter was not an Ayatollah, let alone a marjaʿ al-taqlid (source of emulation or Grand Ayatollah).

    Khamenei’s accession unfolded in tandem with major constitutional amendments and changes in the revolutionary state’s institutional structure. The position of vali-ye faqih (often referred to nowadays as the “supreme leader”) was radically revised. No longer was his capacity to act as a source of emulation for the faithful, namely the criterion of marjaʿiyyat a prerequisite for the office. Instead, Khamenei had an “absolute mandate” to rule. At the same time, the office of prime minister was abolished, leaving a directly elected president, which Rafsanjani promptly assumed. These moves quickly consolidated power between the longstanding allies.

    At this moment, Rafsanjani was at the peak of his powers. Many have speculated that he placed his ally in this role because he was counting on Khamenei’s lack of religious credentials and limited influence among the clergy, to keep him relatively weak. Arguably, it was a calculation that would come back to haunt him in the last decade of his life.

    His two presidential terms have become associated with the period of the nation’s reconstruction. In the first few years, his partnership with Khamenei proved most efficacious. First in the 1990 Assembly of Experts’ elections — but most decisively in the 1992 Majles elections — they used the guardian council’s arrogation of the prerogative to supervise elections and thereby disqualify candidates to rapidly marginalize the so-called Islamic left, which included groups like the Association of Combatant Clerics, the so-called Imam’s Line, and the Mojahedin Organization of the Islamic Revolution. All of whose members had been Ayatollah Khomeini’s stalwart supporters and advocated for anti-imperialism and a radical foreign policy, state control of the economy, and the egalitarian redistribution of wealth.

    In response to the country’s very real internal and external economic and political challenges, Rafsanjani and Khamenei conspired to cast aside the Left. Thus, in 1992, they either saw disqualified or campaigned against a raft of sitting MPs and left-leaning regime loyalists, including Behzad Nabavi, Asadollah Bayat, Hadi Ghaffari, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, and the infamous Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali. In fact, only 20 percent of incumbents earned reelection that year.

    Consequently, the traditional right dominated the Fourth Majles, adding to the duo’s firm grip on the intelligence and security apparatuses, the state institutions regulating the Shiʿi clergy, the levers of economic power and patronage — including the ministry of petroleum — and a vast network of religious endowments. Despite starting from a position of weakness, Khamenei began to strengthen his hold on economic and military power. In Rafsanjani’s second term, a mild rivalry started to color their relationship.

    With the Left on the sidelines, Rafsanjani pursued what amounted to a neoliberal agenda of privatization and structural adjustment. He also created a regional détente with the Gulf states, above all Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which had bankrolled Saddam Hussein’s war effort with US support. Journalist Mohammad Quchani approvingly called Rafsanjani’s tenure the era of “depoliticization,” where “expertise” firmly supplanted “commitment.” Technocratic competency and state-directed economic liberalization without corresponding political reforms became the order of the day. Saʿid Hajjarian — a former intelligence officer who became a preeminent reformist strategist — recalled a meeting with Rafsanjani in which the president disdainfully shrugged off the very notion of political development, a euphemism for “democratization.”

    But after ejecting much of the Islamic left from the ranks of government, Rafsanjani was himself forced to cede primacy over the cultural and intellectual spheres to the traditional right. His brother Mohammad had to give up his long-standing control of state radio and television, while the future president Mohammed Khatami publicly resigned from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, replaced by arch-conservative Ali Larijani (who has since joined the ranks of centrist principalists).

    The traditional right’s own predominantly mercantilist interests often conflicted with Rafsanjani’s efforts at economic liberalization. As a result, he had to pursue a more modest reform program. Resistance from below also appeared. In 1992, a tentative subsidy reform on foodstuffs and energy — which would only be implemented, ironically, under the Ahmadinejad government — coincided with inflation hovering around 50 percent, leading to tumultuous provincial bread riots.

    Moreover, the privatizations that did take place were far from straightforward. Selling shares to para-statal and quasi-statal organizations sparked allegations of crony capitalism and corruption that the Fourth Majles eventually had to redress through legislation, even if the issue was never satisfactorily resolved. Moreover, one of Rafsanjani’s key allies, Gholam Hossein Karbaschi — mayor of Tehran from 1989 to 1998 — played a crucial role in the capital city’s “urban renewal.” He sold off state-owned land below market value to the connected and well-heeled and exempted large developers from zoning laws, creating a speculative real-estate boom in which certain segments of the political and economic elite were seen to massively profit.

    Rafsanjani also helped create the Islamic Free University, which provided higher education to hundreds of thousands of students unable to enter the state system because of the competitive national examinations. Nevertheless, the university has been criticized for introducing market logic into education and thus exacerbating existing class divisions.

    As Kaveh Ehsani writes, the Rafsanjani administration had decided that “the Islamic Republic needed to first create its own loyal, Islamic (but neoliberal) middle class.” Rafsanjani, however, ultimately failed to develop an entrepreneurial class that could fully implement his neoliberal agenda. Attempts to do so — particularly through his half-hearted wooing of expatriate businessmen who had fled on the eve of the Islamic Republic — were largely met with scorn. The Executives of Reconstruction Party, heavily populated by the president’s kin, including his outspoken daughter Faʾezeh, would belatedly attempt to consolidate this new technocratic order in 1996.

    Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was invited by the government as a quid pro quo for its services during the war, to help reconstruct the country’s severely depleted infrastructure. Khamenei shrewdly capitalized on this development to augment his institutional power.

    This period also saw a slew of intellectuals, writers, and activists assassinated, arrested, and/or tortured. The long list even extends into the Khatami era and includes ʿAli Akbar Saʿidi Sirjani, Faraj Sarkuhi, Shapur Bakhtiar — the Shah’s last prime minister, who had tried to oust the Islamic Republic with Saddam Hussein’s support — and Sadeq Sharafkandi, secretary-general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran. These killings have been strongly linked to the Iranian security apparatus, but the extent of Rafsanjani’s involvement remains unclear. Regardless, his objective of consolidating the regime he had been instrumental in building extended — with or without his direct participation — into neutralizing, by any means, dissenting and subversive voices.
    Between the Establishment and Reform

    When Mohammad Khatami became president in the June 1997 elections, many observers — including Rafsanjani — were surprised. In fact, the departing president would eventually admit that he had voted for Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, the establishment candidate. Nor was he temperamentally disposed to the ethos of the emerging “reformist” camp, which rallied around Khatami. Their emphasis on political, rather than economic, change and openness in the media and intellectual spheres starkly contrasted with the ambitions and priorities of his own administration.

    In fact, between 1997 and 2001, the former president tilted more toward the conservatives, when the right wing became concerned the reformist coalition was taking control of the chief reins of government. In 2000, Rafsanjani ran for parliament in Tehran and sparked a major political crisis. He initially did not rank among the first thirty seats, but was reinstated after a known dissident was disqualified. The media waged a campaign against what they regarded as brazen interference, and Rafsanjani relinquished his seat at a high cost to the Khatami front.

    Entrenched as leader of the expediency council — a body whose influence grew in periods of mediation between parliament and the guardian council — Rafsanjani effectively helped stymie the reformist-dominated Sixth Majles, repeatedly kicking key reforms into the long grass. As a result, the public grew disenchanted with the reformers, seeing them as incapable of implementing their program.

    In 2005, Rafsanjani once again ran for president, arguing that only he could fix a deadlocked political system. His quixotic campaign used roller-skating young women to hand out posters to bemused drivers in Tehran. But Ahmadinejad’s insurgent candidacy derailed his plans and forced an unprecedented run-off. Rafsanjani scrambled and succeeded in winning the support of many moderates, dissidents, and artists, including the late ʿAbbas Kiarostami, who warned of a Chirac-Le Pen scenario.

    When the veteran candidate appeared at Tehran University to this end, he responded to students chanting the name of Akbar Ganji — an imprisoned journalist and public intellectual, who had famously characterized Rafsanjani as Iran’s very own Cardinal Richelieu — by saying conditions in prisons today were far better than under the Shah’s regime. In his final televised campaign interview, he unpersuasively apologized for not holding events outside Tehran in what appeared to be a last-ditch pledge to improve the plight of the neglected provinces.

    His defeat — which he half-heartedly attributed to security forces’ interference — effectively aligned him with the reformist camp he had previously been at odds with. By 2006, he recognized that Ahmadinejad threatened both the Iranian state and the fragile détente with the West that he and Khatami had laboriously engineered. For the last decade of his life, he would repeatedly call for moderation, speaking out against excesses and cautiously supporting Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 elections.

    Despite warning Khamenei about possible tampering on the eve of the vote and using his Friday prayer address to call for the release of scores of reformists in July 2009, Rafsanjani managed to keep his place within the state apparatus. Rather than directly challenge Khamenei — as Mousavi and Karroubi would — he retained his position as head of the expediency council.

    During the second Ahmadinejad administration, Rafsanajani stayed in the media spotlight, published his much-anticipated annual volumes of political diaries, and continued to lobby at the regime’s highest levels. Despite having few obvious cards to play, Rafsanjani drew on his myriad relationships across ministries, economic institutions, political factions, the bazaar, the clergy, and even the IRGC. He also compelled his son, Mehdi, to return home and face a jail sentence so that opponents couldn’t use the charge that his child was abroad and in the pay of foreigners against him politically.
    Transformation or Rebranding?

    In 2013, after remaining on the fence until the last hours of the registration window, Rafsanjani announced his bid for president without securing the customary approval from Khamenei, who rebuffed his attempts to discuss the matter. The guardian council rejected him on health grounds, paving the way for his protégé Hassan Rouhani, whom Rafsanjani had persuaded not to drop out, to carry the centrist ticket and win in the first round.

    Even in his final years, after he had lost many of the institutional levers he had once wielded so dexterously, Rafsanjani managed to interject himself at crucial political moments and tilt the balance of forces in one direction or another. These interventions were not without significance or merit. His continued support for Rouhani and the nuclear accord with the P5+1 helped alleviate the atmosphere of securitization, economic distress, and growing militarization that had characterized the Ahmadinejad years. When he decried the Western sanctions that “had broken the back” of the nation, he belittled the conservative attempts to portray the accord as a sellout.

    In recent years, prominent intellectuals like Akbar Ganji and Sadeq Zibakalam have debated whether Rafsanjani’s apparent “conversion” to reform represented a truly genuine transformation or another example of his essential Machiavellianism. But a more pertinent question would be what opportunities for contestation and increasing democratic accountability and pluralism were engendered as a result of his interventions and the unforeseen repercussions of elite competition and cleavage.

    On the one hand, his role as mediator between the ruling establishment and the reformists in these final years played an important part in assuaging the contradictions between popular expectations and the reality of regime governance. Since the late 1990s elite competition has taken place on the terrain of electoral and constitutional politics, and Iran’s sizeable urban population and middle classes were periodically summoned to provide momentum to their own mediated demands. A process that also harbored the potential for sparking deeper political transformation, and a renegotiation of the social contract defining the relationship of government and the governed.

    In the short term, reforms included resolving the nuclear impasse; returning to competent, technocratic economic management; lowering inflation and youth unemployment; releasing Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard; and loosening political and cultural restrictions.

    But in the long term, the reformist horizon strove for something like a new constitutional settlement that would place the supreme leader under close supervision — if not call for his direct election — hold the security apparatuses accountable, and reverse the guardian council’s powers over elections. Reformist activists, as well as political currents with negligible official representation, saw Rafsanjani’s funeral procession as one more opportunity to articulate these manifold demands, proving even his posthumous relevance to the political balance of power.

    Rafsanjani initiated a deeply personal form of statecraft, one that could not bring about a structured perestroika, but did enable the Islamic Republic to survive crises and challenges. Rafsanjani and Khamenei’s chief objective had always preserving the regime they helped build. The question of how to achieve this — and their material and institutional stake in it — rankled their relationship in later life and still divides the country.


    #Iran #politique #islam

  • Lebanon feels aftershocks of Saudi-Iran crisis - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

    The first possibility is that this Sunni-Shiite conflict — outside Lebanon’s borders between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and in the Lebanese arena between Hariri and Hezbollah — will lead to the rapprochement between the Christian forces. This would result in the main Christian parties (Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement) agreeing on a single candidate for the presidency.

    This would significantly tip the balance of power of the presidential elections. It should be noted that such a hypothesis has been circulated within the political and media circles in Beirut in the first 10 days of 2016. Talks have been spreading about progress in negotiations between the leaders of the two largest Christian parliamentary blocs — Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea — to reach a bilateral agreement approving Aoun’s candidacy for presidency.

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/iran-saudi-arabia-repercussions-lebanon-hariri-hezbollah.html#ixzz3xDci1

  • Women of Timbuktu find their voice again after nightmare of jihadi rule | World news | The Guardian


    t was, says Khaira Arby with some pride, her music that swung the election in favour of Timbuktu’s first female MP. Arby had been asked by the only female candidate, Aziza Mint Mohamed, to perform at a rally on the last day of campaigning in Mali’s national assembly elections of 2013. She had travelled the 560 miles from Bamako to Timbuktu especially, setting up her band in the sandy acres of open ground between the 14th-century adobe-walled Sankoré mosque and the city’s single paved road.

    When she reached the city, Arby, a desert blues legend and cousin of the late Ali Farka Touré, discovered Mint Mohamed’s main rival was holding a simultaneous rally a few hundred metres away in the Grand Marché. When “the nightingale of the north” started to sing, however, the unfortunate contender’s audience began to move northwards towards the soulful notes that were drifting out of the Place Sankoré. Mint Mohamed went on to win the election.

    #mali #droits_humain #droit_des_femmes #jihadistes

  • Ahead of official results, #Essebsi claims victory in Tunisian presidential elections

    A Tunisian woman wearing the national flag casts her vote on December 21, 2014 at a polling station Ariana near Tunis. AFP / Fethi Belaid

    Anti-Islamist candidate #Beji_Caid_Essebsi has claimed victory in #Tunisia's first free presidential election, but bitter rival and incumbent Mohammed Moncef #Marzouki dismissed the declaration as unfounded and refused to concede defeat. read more


    • Reflections on Reading Tarakhel

      Tarakhel v Switzerland is the latest Grand Chamber ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Dublin returns. Its contribution to human rights protection is to reassert well-established principles, quite minimal ones the authors would suggest, which prevent states from returning asylum-seekers where there are substantial grounds to believe there is a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. The contribution of the case is to reject erroneous approaches which developed under both ECHR and EU law, in particular in the wake of the NS/ME3 judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as to the significance of the reference to ‘systemic deficiencies’, and what sorts of evidence was required to rebut the presumption of safety accorded to Dublin states. The Tarakhel judgment of the ECtHR has put an end to that uncertainty. The ECtHR holds that there is no additional requirement of ‘systemic deficiencies’. Instead, we find reasserted the duty to do ‘thorough and individualised’ assessment, and suspend removal if there are substantial grounds to believe there is a real risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. In addition, we argue for a fundamental rethink of the Dublin Regulation. Moving away from coercion in the allocation of responsibility for refugee claims is imperative.


  • Turkish secular opposition back little-known presidential candidate

    Turkey’s Presidential candidate #Ekmeleddin_Ihsanoglu, left, speaks with Turkish women at the Haci Bayram mosque after the Friday prayer in Ankara on June 27, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Adem Altan)

    #turkey's two main secular opposition parties on Sunday formally backed a little-known presidential candidate to challenge an expected bid by the country’s prime minister #Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan, who heads an Islamic-rooted party. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) submitted a joint application to parliament to nominate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, an academic and career diplomat, as their candidate in August presidential elections. read (...)

  • #Henri_Helou, a “serious” candidate

    Presidential candidate, MP Henri Helou. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi) Presidential candidate, MP Henri Helou. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

    In the Lebanese parliament, greedy vicious beasts prevail, but there are also a few rather gentle creatures who reached the chamber by mere chance. MP Henri Helou is one of them. A decent man indeed, so decent you would think he belongs to one of those groups that gives free hugs. But after just one hour with him, you cease to ridicule his candidacy for presidency and actually start to sympathize with the man.

    Ghassan Saoud

    read (...)

    #Opinion #Amchit #Articles #Fadi_al-Awar #Lebanese_presidential_elections #Lebanon #Michel_Chiha #Michel_Suleiman #Okab_Sakr #Pierre_Helou #Tammam_Salam #Walid_Jumblatt

  • Border Control Intervention in West Africa: Thinking Beyond the Global North

    Guest post by Philippe M. Frowd, a doctoral candidate in international relations at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, whose research examines border security measures in West Africa as a form of state building. In his dissertation, Philippe focuses on Spain’s role in preventing irregular migration from the region, the EU’s assistance to reinforce border infrastructures, and the growing use of biometric registration practices in national ID, passports, and visas.


    #Afrique_de_l'Ouest #migration #frontière #contrôle_frontalier #externalisation_des_frontières

  • #Egypt police raids office of leftist NGO

    Egyptian police raided the offices of an NGO affiliated with a leftist former presidential candidate, arresting three employees and confiscating computers, the group’s director said Thursday. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, founded by former candidate Khaled Ali, has supported striking factory workers and defended activists at trials. Authorities have renewed scrutiny of some NGOs since the military toppled Islamist president Mohammed Mursi in July following several days of mass protests. read more


  • Mapping border deaths in Australia and Europe

    PhD Candidate #Brandy_Cochrane (http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/thebordercrossingobservatory/brandy-cochrane) recently presented a research mapping exercise of those who have died whilst crossing borders to Australia and in Europe at the 2013 Australia and New Zealand Society of Criminology Conference in Brisbane. In developing her map, Brandy used BOb’s Australian Border Deaths Database and an EU equivalent from United Against Racism, to look at areas of origin and deaths at the borders of those attempting to make the perilous migration journey. She presents her findings and a discussion of the development of her map below arguing that those from certain areas are more likely to die in the borderlands than others, attributing such tragedies to border hardening tactics applied by states against these areas.


    Le prezi de la présentation de Brandy:

    Australian Border Deaths Database

    The Australian Border Deaths Database maintains a record of all known deaths associated with Australia’s borders since 1 January 2000.

    The database was begun by Professor Sharon Pickering and Dr Leanne Weber as part of BOb’s Deaths at the Global Frontier project, culminating in the publication of the book Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier in 2011.

    The Border Crossing Observatory continues to periodically update The Australian Border Deaths Database in line with the methodology detailed in Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier.

    The most recent version (see below) records deaths at the Australian frontier for the period 1 January 2000 – October 2013, with a recorded 1,484+ border deaths.

    Download a Microsoft Excel version of the table with a history of amendments here.

    If you would like to report a border death to us please email bcrossingobservatory@gmail.com

    Deaths at the Global Frontier

    Controlling border crossing has become a prime concern under conditions of late modernity, leading western governments to introduce increasingly coercive control measures, ranging from visa regimes to military fortification.

    Far from eradicating spontaneous border crossing, this ‘defensive geography’ has fuelled illicit people smuggling markets, and forced asylum seekers and illegalized travellers into increasingly hazardous journeys.

    This project seeks to account for, rather than merely count, border-related deaths. It intends to shift the debate about contemporary border controls towards the acceptance of a more mobility-tolerant future.


    #carte #cartographie #visualisation #mourir_en_mer #décès #Australie #migration #Europe #United_against_racism #base_de_données #frontière #frontières_meurtrières #Nouvelle_Zélande

  • Candidate Obama debates President Obama on Government Surveillance - YouTube

    Compilation des dires du candidat Obama versus le président Obama,

    “This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not.”

    “My assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

    “This [Bush] administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.”

    “You can’t have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices.”

    Via Gary Younge http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/21/obama-worse-than-bush

  • The Week Of Confusion (Or How All The Stances Suddenly Changed) | Moulahazat | A Lebanese Political Blog

    The Irony

    Walid Jumblatt, who always called on holding elections on time, now wants an extension of the parliament’s mandate. Michel Aoun, who once said that he will not run with his party in the elections should they be under the 1960 law, is now officially a candidate. That can only explained by the fact that the political maneuvering Michel Aoun has done with the Orthodox Gathering Law for the past few months clearly made him more popular among Christians than the Christian M14 parties three weeks before elections (Link). If 2000 to 3000 votes change side in each Christian district, the FPM will have the ability to win several more districts than 2009 like Batroun, Ashrafieh and Koura. 10 extra MPs on M8′s side mean that the majority changes side in the parliament. And that makes one understand why the Future Movement are currently Ok. with an extension of the Mandate. Hezbollah doesn’t have time for elections with what is happening at Qussair, and an extension to the Mandate also means that Berri gets to stay speaker for 6 extra months and even 2 extra years (Who knows). And why the big No from Jumblatt to elections? 68 MPs on the side of M8 without the Jumblatt votes make Lebanon’s kingmaker as powerful as the Kataeb. The man who was responsible of the last two governmental changes in 2011 and 2013, will not stay as influential as he is now if the Status Quo changes and an alliance gets able to hold more than 64 MPs without him.


  • India’s Web growth a ticking #spam bomb | ZDNet

    India has yet again been called out as the world’s top contributor of spam, with state-owned telecom BSNL identified as the biggest individual culprit.

    According to his dissertation “Internet bad neighbourhoods” published earlier in March, University of Twente PhD candidate Giovane César Moreira Moura argued that, similar to crime in the real world, a high percentage of illegal Internet attacks in the country were perpetrated from a concentrated area.

    #Inde #cdp

  • South Korean “progressives” line-up behind the Democrats

    South Korean “progressives” line-up behind the Democrats
    By Ben McGrath
    15 December 2012

    In the campaign for the December 19 South Korean presidential election, self-proclaimed progressives and “left” organisations have fallen in behind the main bourgeois opposition candidate—Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party (DUP). They are portraying him as the “lesser evil” compared to Park Geun-hye, the candidate from the right-wing Saenuri Party of outgoing President Lee Myung-bak.

    The political line-up was on full display during the first presidential debate between Moon, Park and United Progressive Party (UPP) candidate Lee Jung-hee. Lee made it clear that her purpose in the campaign was to see Moon elected president.

  • Gary Bauer Insists GOP Can Win If More Antigay
    BY Lucas Grindley
    November 12 2012 3:56 PM ET
    Gary Bauer

    As Republicans argue about the future of their party, Gary Bauer claims the way to lure minority voters into the fold is by amplifying their antigay policy positions. Recent data, though, seems contradictory to his advice.

    Bauer led a PAC called the “Campaign for Working Families” that bought ads during the election for the likes of Missouri’s failed Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin — the “legitimate rape” candidate who as congressman tried to ban same-sex weddings on military bases. Bauer said during a discussion on CNN’s State of the Union that social issues supposedly unite minority voters.

    “There’s been research done on Hispanic voters on what motivates them,” he said excitedly, offering a list of issues before making his claim that Republicans should go even more anti-abortion and antigay. “The research also shows that Hispanics are overwhelmingly pro-life and pro-family. You’re suggesting that we drop issues that we might have the best chance to appeal to those voters about.”

    But on marriage equality, Bauer’s contention doesn’t match with exit polling or with major polls of Latino voters conducted since President Obama offered his support for letting gays and lesbians marry.

    ABC News reported on Election Night that preliminary exit polls showed Latino voters are actually more likely than other voters to back same-sex marriage, with 59% siding with equality.

    That finding matched almost exactly with a poll from NBC Latino/IBOPE Zogby in October that found 60% support marriage equality.

    Bauer had appeared Thursday on The Janet Mefferd Show and insisted that the reason Romney lost was his failure to talk more about social issues. It’s a theme others like the National Organization for Marriage’s president, Brian Brown, have also struck.

    “Romney was pro-life and pro-family but I don’t think we really engaged in the ad war on those issues, and I think if we would’ve engaged instead of being forced to be on the defensive, I still think we would’ve gotten many, many more of what used to be the Reagan Democrats,” he told Mefferd.

    On CNN, he clarified, that “I’m not saying the campaign should have been run on them, the economy was obviously the major issue, but you can’t take a crouching position.”

    Former Utah governor and Obama administration ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, was also on the CNN panel and insisted “people don’t want to be moralized to, they don’t want to be lectured to” and above all they “want to be left alone.”

    “The Republican Party needs to decide whether it wants to win or lose going forward,” said Huntsman, who lost the Republican primary race for president.

    “It’s about how we talk about those values and principles,” he explained. “As a father of seven, married for 30 years, people can see the way I live my life, I don’t need to sit there and rub it in people’s faces.”

  • Openly gay candidate Mark Pocan wins Tammy Baldwin’s US House seat | Gay Star News

    Openly gay candidate Mark Pocan wins Tammy Baldwin’s US House seat
    First time in history gay member of congress is succeeded by another gay member
    07 November 2012 | By Greg Hernandez

    Wisconsin State Assemblyman Mark Pocan has won a seat in the US House of Representatives and made a little bit of history along the way.

    Pocan, who is openly gay, succeeds Tammy Baldwin in the US lower house just as he had in the State Assembly. This marks the first time that one gay legislature follows another for the same seat. Baldwin on Tuesday (6 November) became the first openly gay member of the US Senate.

    Pocan, 48, defeated Republican challenger Chad Lee in an electoral district that has been reliably Democratic in the past.

    The winner has been an advocate for LGBT equality and served as co-chairman of the Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee.

  • Arkansas Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard calls slavery ‘blessing in disguise’; GOP Republican State House candidate Charlie Fuqua advocates deporting all Muslims - masteradrian’s posterous

    Arkansas Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard calls slavery ‘blessing in disguise’; GOP Republican State House candidate Charlie Fuqua advocates deporting all Muslims
    Arkansas GOP calls both comments ‘highly offensive’ as it attempts to distance itself from controversial statements in two new books.
    By The Associated Press / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
    Sunday, October 7, 2012, 12:10 PM

    Arkansas Republicans are speaking out against “offensive” statements by GOP state representative Charlie Fuqua (l.) who is running for re-election and Rep. Jon Hubbard (r.) of Jonesboro, a former GOP legislator running for a state House seat.
    Arkansas Secretary of State/AP

    Arkansas Republicans are speaking out against “offensive” statements by GOP state representative Charlie Fuqua (l.) who is running for re-election and Rep. Jon Hubbard (R.) of Jonesboro, a former GOP legislator running for a state House seat.

    Arkansas Republicans tried to distance themselves Saturday from a Republican state representative’s assertion that slavery was a “blessing in disguise” and a Republican state House candidate who advocates deporting all Muslims.

    The claims were made in books written, respectively, by Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro and House candidate Charlie Fuqua of Batesville. Those books received attention on Internet news sites Friday.

    On Saturday, state GOP Chairman Doyle Webb called the books “highly offensive.” And U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Republican who represents northeast Arkansas, called the writings “divisive and racially inflammatory.”

    Hubbard wrote in his 2009 self-published book, “Letters To The Editor: Confessions Of A Frustrated Conservative,” that “the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise.” He also wrote that African-Americans were better off than they would have been had they not been captured and shipped to the United States.

    Fuqua, who served in the Arkansas House from 1996 to 1998, wrote there is “no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States,” in his 2012 book, titled “God’s Law.”

    Fuqua said Saturday that he hadn’t realized he’d become a target within his own party, which he said surprised him.

    “I think my views are fairly well-accepted by most people,” Fuqua said before hanging up, saying he was busy knocking on voters’ doors. The attorney is running against incumbent Democratic Rep. James McLean in House District 63.

    Hubbard, a marketing representative, didn’t return voicemail messages seeking comment Saturday. He is running against Democrat Harold Copenhaver in House District 58.

    The November elections could be a crucial turning point in Arkansas politics. Democrats hold narrow majorities in both chambers, but the GOP has been working hard to swing the Legislature its way for the first time since the end of the Civil War, buoyed by picking up three congressional seats in 2010. Their efforts have also been backed by an influx of money from national conservative groups.

    Rep. Crawford said Saturday he was “disappointed and disturbed.”

    “The statements that have been reported portray attitudes and beliefs that would return our state and country to a harmful and regrettable past,” Crawford said.

    U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., kicked off the GOP’s response Saturday by issuing a release, saying the “statements of Hubbard and Fuqua are ridiculous, outrageous and have no place in the civil discourse of either party.”

    “Had I known of these statements, I would not have contributed to their campaigns. I am requesting that they give my contributions to charity,” said Griffin, who donated $100 to each candidate.

    The Arkansas Republican House Caucus followed, saying the views of Hubbard and Fuqua “are in no way reflective of, or endorsed by, the Republican caucus. The constituencies they are seeking to represent will ultimately judge these statements at the ballot box.”

    Then Webb, who has spearheaded the party’s attempt to control the Legislature, said the writings “were highly offensive to many Americans and do not reflect the viewpoints of the Republican Party of Arkansas. While we respect their right to freedom of expression and thought, we strongly disagree with those ideas.”

    Webb, though, accused state Democrats of using the issue as a distraction.

    Democrats themselves have been largely silent, aside from the state party’s tweet and Facebook post calling attention to the writings. A Democratic Party spokesman didn’t immediately return a call for comment Saturday.

    The two candidates share other political and religious views on their campaign websites.

    Hubbard, who sponsored a failed bill in 2011 that would have severely restricted immigration, wrote on his website that the issue is still among his priorities, as is doing “whatever I can to defend, protect and preserve our Christian heritage.”

    Fuqua blogs on his website. One post is titled, “Christianity in Retreat,” and says “there is a strange alliance between the liberal left and the Muslim religion.”

    “Both are antichrist in that they both deny that Jesus is God in the flesh of man, and the savior of mankind. They both also hold that their cause should take over the entire world through violent, bloody, revolution,” the post says.

    In a separate passage, Fuqua wrote “we now have a president that has a well documented history with both the Muslim religion and Communism.”

  • Todd Akin, GOP Senate candidate: ‘Legitimate rape’ rarely causes pregnancy

    Rep. Todd Akin, the newly-christened GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, said in an interview airing Sunday that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.

    “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

    #viol #ivg

  • The Egyptian election

    26 June 2012

    The announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi won Egypt’s presidential election has been widely hailed as a turning point in the country’s history. The international media has described Morsi as, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, Egypt’s “first freely elected president.”

    Egypt’s own press was even more euphoric, with the daily Al-Shorouk carrying the banner headline, “Morsi president on orders from the people: The revolution reaches the presidential palace.”

    These claims turn reality on its head. Egypt’s workers, students and oppressed masses cannot afford to lend the slightest credence to such fabrications.

  • «Egyptian junta installs Islamist Mursi as figurehead president»


    By Barry Grey 25 June 2012

    Egypt’s Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission on Sunday declared Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate, the winner of the presidential election runoff held the week before in the midst of a political coup carried out by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

    The announcement followed a three-day delay during which tens of thousands of people, mostly MB supporters, thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square to denounce the military’s assumption of dictatorial powers and the threat that the SCAF would falsify the election results and hand the presidency to its favored candidate, former Air Force chief Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak.

  • Anti-fascist fury in Athens after far-right MP hit rival - Europe - World - The Independent

    Greeks gathered for anti-fascist rallies across the country last night to protest against the actions of a far-right politician who punched a female opponent on a television show and then went on the run.

    Ilias Kasidiaris, the Golden Dawn spokesman, attacked a left-wing candidate, Liana Kanelli, and threw a glass of water at another opponent in the heated debate on Thursday morning. He continued to evade police last night, with his arrest warrant due to expire today. A police spokesman, Athanassios Kokkalakis, told state TV: “We’ve been checking all the usual spots were this particular man could be.”

    As protesters massed for the evening rallies, Greeks took to the internet to express outrage at the actions of Mr Kasidiaris. Writing on the popular Protagon website, Dimitris, a photographer and computer science student, said that Mr Kasidiaris revealed the true nature of Golden Dawn. “They’re dangerous neo-Nazis, so what happened was expected although absolutely unacceptable.”