Monday, January 16, 2017

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Merkel on Trump: The EU can take care of itself

Speaking at a press conference with the prime minister of New Zealand, the German chancellor dismissed Trump's criticism of her refugee policy. Germany's top diplomat accused Trump of contradicting his own cabinet.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed US president-elect Donald Trump's criticism of the European Union and her refugee policy on Monday. The EU, she insisted, can take care of itself.
"We Europeans have our fate in our own hands," she told reporters. In an interview with the German mass-circulation newspaper "Bild" on Sunday, Trump had called Merkel's open-door policy for Syrian refugees a "catastrophic mistake."
He added the strange caveat that he had "great respect" for the chancellor, saying he would go into his presidency with an open mind about this "fantastic leader," only to then suggest that his trust might not last long.
Merkel accused Trump of conflating accepting refugees fleeing a war zone with being soft on terrorism.
"I would clearly separate (terrorism) from the existence of refugees in relation to the Syrian civil war…the majority of Syrians left their country because of the civil war, because of the fight against [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad or the oppression by Assad."
She said however that she would approach the Trump administration with an open mind: "When he is in office, and at the moment that's not the case, we will work with the new American government and see what kind of agreements we can reach."
Steinmeier calls out Trump hypocrisy
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also reacted to Trump's interview on Monday, particularly the president-elect's statement that NATO was "obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago."
Doing a similar about-face as with his Merkel comments, Trump then added that the treaty organization was "very important to me," but that some countries were not paying their dues, and he saw this as highly problematic.
Steinmeier slammed Trump's statements, saying from the EU capital Brussels that they "have caused some surprise and consternation here, and surely not just here…his statements contradict things his designated Defense Secretary (James) Mattis just said before Congress."
Merkel mum on 'hard Brexit'
During her press conference, Merkel was also asked to comment on reports that British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to announce her plan for a "hard Brexit" on Tuesday. This could mean that the UK will likely pull out of the European single market - much to the dismay of many of May's Conservative Party colleagues.
In characteristic fashion, Merkel refused to speculate on plans that had not been officially announced, telling the press that Germany would wait for Britain to file its application to leave the European Union.
Merkel's statements came after a meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, who is in the midst of a European tour that also included Brussels and London. Despite his praise for Theresa May's handling of the Brexit preparations, made on the heels of his own free trade negotiations with Britain, Merkel and English were all smiles at the joint press conference. The chancellor said that Germany would push for a speedy EU trade deal with New Zealand.

Video - #Yemen's forgotten war

Yemen's civil war has plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis. According to UNICEF, a total of 10 million children have been affected. Of those, three million are malnourished. Several different groups are vying for power.

#Yemen death toll has reached 10,000, UN says

Kareem Shaheen

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen, according to the United Nations, which is urging both sides to come together to end nearly two years of conflict.
The UN’s humanitarian affairs office said the figure, which is a low estimate, was reached using data from health facilities that have kept track of the victims of the war, which has largely been ignored by the international community.
The figure does not include those recorded by hospitals and health centres as having died, which is likely to be most of the combatants on both sides of the conflict.
“This once more underscores the need to resolve the situation in Yemen without any further delay,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN general secretary, said in New York. “There’s been a huge humanitarian cost.”
The war has devastated Yemen, which was already the Arab world’s poorest country. UN officials estimate that nearly 19 million people – 80% of the population – are in need of humanitarian aid, and more than 3 million have been displaced.
Saudi Arabia launched the war in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis, rebels backed by Iran, took control of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, and overthrew President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in a coup. The Saudi-backed president fled to the southern city of Aden and then to Riyadh. The Saudi campaign is backed by the US and the UK.
But the Saudis have not achieved their objectives and the war has dragged on, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe. Large numbers of child soldiers have been recruited, there have been outbreaks of cholera and many attacks on schools, hospitals and civilian areas.
The Saudi-led coalition has been blamed for most of the civilian casualties. The devastation has also drawn attention to the role of western powers who have continued to provide Riyadh with weapons, logistical support and intelligence. The Houthis have also been accused of human rights violations.
Yet the destruction of Yemen has garnered little international attention compared with other regional conflicts such as that in Syria, or the battle against Isis in Iraq.
The war has dragged on despite efforts by a UN mediator to broker a peace deal. While the Saudis are apparently eager to reach a settlement that would end an expensive war that has damaged its image worldwide, Hadi and his Houthi rivals have yet to agree to a deal.
Hadi is demanding that the Houthis give up their arms and control of Sana’a, while the Houthis wish to see a national unity government formed in which they are included.

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Ban Ki-moon fails to understand THAAD’s damaging effect

By Ai Jun 

Ban Ki-moon, who has recently stepped down as UN secretary-general, is throwing his weight behind the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system on South Korean soil. Given that the peninsula is "in a quasi-state of war," the THAAD installation is "appropriate," Ban said Sunday. As for the issue of relations with neighboring countries, Ban showed his confidence as former UN chief while noting that problems can be solved "through diplomacy."

However, because of his previous role as UN secretary-general, he is expected to have more understanding over why Beijing and Moscow cannot tolerate any move to break the balance of the region. 

From the perspective of the Korean Peninsula situation itself, Ban seems to have failed to learn from the lessons of the past decades - whoever carries out provocative actions will only find countermeasures from the other side. In the end, crises have never been resolved while the two sides keep escalating their contradictions by safeguarding their own security interests and jeopardizing other's safety at the same time. The THAAD deployment is not an effective and correct answer to threats made from Pyongyang, but simply another provocative move in the name of defense.

Ban should also be well aware that the UN can only play its function when major powers are in balance. Nevertheless, once THAAD is set up, the current strategic balance among China, the US and Russia will be wrecked and the three sides will sharply confront one another. In that case, the Korean Peninsula will only turn into a zone filled with direct clashes of interests. 

South Koreans probably think that once Seoul actually sets the system up, China will find that nothing more can be done. Such thinking is too naïve. The THAAD installation in South Korea will pose a hazardous challenge to China's security and core interests. Beijing's stance on the issue can't be bargained over.  

Is the Sino-South Korean relationship less important than the US THAAD system? Even if the Blue House's decision was made for defense, has Seoul ever pondered the consequence of turning Beijing hostile?

Soon after Ban retired from the UN, he asserted that he would give his all for his country. However, he needs to think again about how to genuinely live up to that. As he mentioned, the peninsula is "in a quasi-state of war," so the last thing he should do now is stir up more tensions in the peninsula. 

One of Ban's achievements as UN secretary-general was the Iran nuclear deal, which was reached after a 12-year standoff between Tehran and other nations. Due to the complexity on the Korean Peninsula, Ban should show even more patience and wisdom than how he dealt with Iran, instead of intensifying contradictions the minute he goes back to his country.

Starting a New Phase in Sino-US Relations

By Max Baucus
I often say this, and I mean it from the heart: serving as the United States Ambassador toChina is the best job I've ever had. It has been the greatest pleasure to work with Chinese and Americans to advance the world's most important bilateral relationship.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. The United States just had an election and, with our country's transition to a new administration, the time has come to bid you farewell as the United States Ambassador. When you say "goodbye" in Chinese it means "see you again," and that's how I like to think of this farewell - I'll be seeing you again!
Before my wife Mel and I depart from Beijing for a new chapter in our lives, I would like to share some parting thoughts with you as we start a new phase in our countries' relationship, at a time fraught with global challenges - from economic uncertainty to climate change to terrorism. Over my 35 years in the United States Senate and especially my time as the United StatesAmbassador, I've witnessed first-hand China's remarkable transformation and re-emergence on the global stage. Since Deng Xiaoping launched China's opening up and reform three decades ago, China has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, becoming the world's second-largest economy. Our economies, in turn, have grown increasingly interconnected, with more than $650 billion in annual bilateral trade.
I've seen China's rise play out in impressive ways. China joined the United States to help lead the world toward an ambitious agreement on climate change in Paris. It played a positive role in the global response to Ebola, working closely with the United States and other partners. China served as the host of the Six Party Talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and can play an equally important role in seeing those talks resumed.
These examples make clear the benefits to China and the world that come from China's engagement and responsible leadership. US policy, decades old and upheld by successive administrations from both parties, has been to welcome the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous China. We welcome China as a global leader that assumes its responsibilities within the transparent, rules-based system underpinning the peace and prosperity that theAsia-Pacific region has enjoyed for many decades. I worked hard as a U.S. Senator to get China into the World Trade Organization because Iknew it would be good for China, good for the United States, and good for the entire world. And it was! Looking ahead, we hope China will work closely with the new US administration to continue this process of opening up to the world.
We live in a time of interconnectedness, unlike any other in history. Our countries' relationship, in fact, is a testament to and a direct benefactor of these trends.
And a key part of keeping this going in the right direction will be fostering an encouraging environment for American and foreign companies to invest and do business here - just asChinese companies can expect to do in the United States. Strengthening innovation, one of China's top priorities, is another critical factor. That's why we encourage China to continue to open up, which will help enable talent - like that ofJack Ma, Tu Youyou, or Wang Jianlin - to flourish across the globe. Similarly, we hope thatChina will welcome the constructive role of non-government organizations that help societies drive innovation, contribute to social stability and bring us together to protect the environment.
Another key element will be ensuring that China's peaceful rise is bolstered by regional engagement and creative diplomacy that manages disputes in ways that benefit all, in line with President Xi and President Obama's efforts during their numerous meetings that I've had the privilege to join.
At the end of the day, I can't stress enough the importance for us all to ask honest, constructive, good-faith questions, and to really listen to each other's point of view. As my mentor and former United States Senator from Montana Mike Mansfield once said, "Remember, the other person isn't always wrong, and you're not always right." This is the path to honest dialogue. While this is a time of transition, and some question the path ahead, I think both of our countries agree on the importance of making this relationship work. That has been true since President Nixon first came to China and met with Chairman Mao in what is called "the week that changed the world." Their work was carried on by President Carter andDeng Xiaoping, who normalized relations between our two countries in 1979. Our leaders have changed, and we've had our ups and downs, but we've never given up our shared goal to create a better future for our kids and grandchildren.
I've seen this commitment first-hand, time and time again. When I first came to China, I promised President Xi that I would visit all of China's provinces - a goal I achieved lastOctober. What I learned along the way is that it doesn't matter if you're American orChinese, we all basically want the same things in life - a good job, a good education for our children, and a clean, safe environment to live in. That's a big part of the American dream. And it's part of what I've come to learn is the Chinese dream.
With patience, persistence and the positive attitude I've seen in students, everyday people, businesspeople, or government officials throughout this country - from Qufu to Kunming, from Shanghai to Urumqi - I know there is nothing we can't accomplish when we work together. And when we succeed - whether that's working on those many issues on which agree, or being frank and wisely in managing our differences - the world stands to benefit.
(The author is US ambassador in China. The Chinese edition of this article was published on the People's Daily Thursday.)

Russia - Foreign Ministry: Washington initiating new arms race in Europe

Washington is practically initiating a new arms race in Europe, plans to deploy large-scale armed forces have destructive potentials, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Monday.

"Plans of large-scale deployment of armed forces in Europe implemented by the US have strongest destructive potentials for the whole architecture of European security, create a new military-political reality, introduce sizable imbalance in the balance of power on the continent and are fraught with long-term destructive consequences on the Euro-Atlantic space," a commentary said.

"Washington, in fact, is initiating a new arms race, trying to impose on us a confrontational model of relations, similar to that of the Cold War times," the commentary added.
"Over the recent time, western media and bloggers have been actively spreading the thesis that the deployment of American troops in Europe allegedly plays no special military role and comes down to redeployment of several hundred US military on a rotation basis with a small number of arms and hardware with the framework of allied solidarity," the diplomat said. "However, looking at certain planned and implemented by Americans military preparations in Europe, the figures suggest a different thing," the commentary said.
In particular, in January 2017, the US has deployed to Poland an armored brigade of about 4,000 military and 2,500 units of military hardware. A total of 300 US marines will be deployed on the Norwegian base in Vernes from January.

In February, the Pentagon plans to deploy at Norwegian arms depot outposts sizable amounts of military hardware, Zakharova noted. A US air brigade of about 1,800 military with combat and transport helicopters is to be deployed in Germany at the end of March.
The ministry spokeswoman has noted that Americans are actively investing in the development of military infrastructure and potentials of rapid deployment of major military units close to the Russian borders, including updating of the network of airfields where US large transport airplanes could land.

"An arms depot outpost of the US Army was re-commissioned in the Netherlands in December 2016, to house a brigade set of heavy armor," the commentary said.

"A similar in its size facility will be shortly created in Belgium and two more in Germany. The hardware deployed there is designed for a prompt redeployment of US military personnel from the sites of their permanent stationing ‘in case of a need," she added.
The Pentagon slyly calls all its military deployments on the territories of European states rotating, in other words non-permanent, she said. "At the same time, these so-called continuous rotations are planned so that the units on duty will not be leaving sites of temporary stationing until they are rotated," she said.

"We are talking about a long-term stationing of American military equipment and personnel in Europe that can hardly be called solely defensive," she noted.

All this comes "against the background of unilateral and unrestricted development of potentials of US missile defense systems in Europe having an increasingly destabilizing influence on European and global security, as well as upgrading of US nuclear weapons deployed on the territory of other NATO countries," she added.


Moscow Cautiously Reacts to Trump's Idea on Lifting Anti-Russian Sanctions

Moscow Cautiously Reacts to Trump's Idea on Lifting Sanctions in Exchange for Nuke Reduction

Russian officials commented on the proposal of US President-elect Donald Trump to lift sanctions against Russia in exchange for a bilateral agreement on the reduction of the nuclear arsenal, saying that Moscow is currently not considering the possibility of reducing its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a sanctions deal. In interview with newspapers Das Bild and The Times, Trump suggested that the sanctions against Russia could be lifted if both countries sign a nuclear disarmament agreement. However, the proposal caused a cautious reaction in Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the issue could be discussed only after Trump's inauguration, while representatives of the Russian Federation Council stressed that Moscow doesn't consider the withdrawal of sanctions as something it needs to make sacrifices for, especially in the field of security.

Chairman of the Council of the Federation Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev, in his turn, urged not to take Trump's idea as "an official offer." He stressed that the proposal was just a consideration made during an interview. He also suggested that the new US president should carefully examine the reasons why the negotiations on disarmament have so far been unsuccessful. "If we take away the demagogic explanations (like Russia's 'aggression' and 'revanchism'), it will become clear that one of the main obstacles is the implementation of the US global missile defense plans, as well as constant US attempts to secure unilateral superiority in other areas like the development of NATO infrastructure, conventional weapons, weapons of high precision, drones and the militarization of outer space," Kosachev said.
Members of the Moscow State Duma, in turn, urged not to link the sanctions with nuclear proliferation. Head of the Committee on Defense Yevgeny Serebrennikov said that the withdrawal of sanctions is a "reciprocal process" and cannot be a subject to a bargain.

Meanwhile, Viktor Ozerov, the head of the Russian parliamentary security committee, said that Russia is ready to consider the US proposals on joint nuclear disarmament, but other nuclear powers should also join the process. "For sure, Russia will consider this proposal. I think any offer from the US President-elect is worth studying. Russia has repeatedly stated that it was ready for a dialogue… Apart from Russia and the United States there are other countries, which have official status of a nuclear powers, so the process should also involve these countries," Ozerov told RIA Novosti. However, as member of the Russian parliament's upper house Alexei Pushkov believes, the incoming US administration should not use the issue of lifting anti-Russian sanctions as means of leverage on Moscow. Meanwhile, Senator Oleg Morozov said that nuclear arms reduction talks could be held alongside discussions of sanctions. Morozov told RIA Novosti that "it has long been made clear to everyone that sanctions cannot force Russia to comply with any conditions."

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‘We’ll supply bricks,’ Russia tells Lithuania on plans to build ‘anti-aggressor’ fence at border

Russia says it’s ready to supply Lithuania with bricks after Vilnius announced the construction of a fence on its Russian border. Lithuanian officials say the barrier will protect the Baltic nation and the EU from the ‘Russian threat’. News about the proposed fence on the border with Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave located between Poland and Lithuania, emerged in Lithuanian media on Saturday.
“The fence is like a sign that [Lithuania] views the neighboring country as a potential aggressor,” Interior Minister Eimutis Misiunas said, as cited by Lietuvos zinios newspaper.

According to the minister, the fence will cost some €3.6 million and will be equipped with “a surveillance system.” It won’t be a ‘Chinese Wall’, but only a fence which will protect Lithuania from illegal smugglers, Misiunas said. The barrier will be some 135km from Vistytis neighborhoods, on the intersection of three countries – Poland, Lithuania and Russia – to the Nemunas River.
“Lithuania needs to strengthen border security, since it is an EU state. Lithuanian state border security is important not only for our country, but for the whole of the EU,” National Security and Defense Committee (NSGK) member Arvydas Anusauskas said.
Another NSGK member, Rasa Juknevičienė, said the fence is designed to counter the Russian “threat.”
“This fence will not stop tanks or other military equipment, but it will show that we are hoping for better relations with Russia, a realistic assessment of the situation. We do our best to reduce a potential threat posed by Russia,” she said.
Russian officials, however, have quite an ironic attitude to the wall project. The interim Governor of Kaliningrad Region, Anton Alikhanov, told Rossiya 24 TV channel that Kaliningrad is ready to buy all necessary construction materials for the fence.
He reminded that Russia has a “wonderful plant” for production of bricks on the border with Lithuania.
“If our Lithuanian colleagues want to erect a fence to stop illegal smugglers, then we are ready to provide them with construction material,” he said.
At present the Russia-Lithuania border is only marked with special signs and a 13-meter-long warning line. Lithuania has a 100-meter-long fence on the 600-meter border with Belarus.
The news about the fence on the border with Russia comes amid the arrival of US tanks and military equipment in Eastern Europe for NATO military drills dubbed Operation Atlantic Resolve. NATO says the buildup along Russia’s borders is a defensive measure due to Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
Russia has repeatedly called the bloc’s moves aggressive, while stressing that they are undermining security in Europe. In response, Moscow has been conducting large-scale military drills on its home soil and stationed its most modern weaponry and armaments on its western borders, including the exclave region of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania.

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Op-Ed - President Obama, the millennial whisperer

By Morley Winograd and Michael Hais

President Obama will be seen by historians as the first president to bring millennial values to the challenges of the Oval Office. He isn’t a millennial (in fact he has two millennial children), but his leadership style and beliefs reflect America’s largest and most diverse cohort. And while much of the rest of America is divided on how well he has performed as the nation’s 44th president, Obama has won overwhelming approval from the millennial generation, born 1982-2003.
More than three-fourths of millennials (77%) approved of Obama’s job performance in a mid-December Pew Center survey, surpassing even the previous high mark the group gave him — 73% — just after his first inauguration in 2009. For much of his administration, millennials were only marginally more positive about the president than the rest of the population, but once his departure from office drew closer and the contrast between him and either of his potential successors — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — became clearer, millennial approval of the president’s job performance shot up by about 15 percentage points, accounting for just about all of the increase he has enjoyed in his final year in office.
Some of the enthusiasm stems from millennials’ perception that Obama tackled the issues they care about most. Almost half of millennials (46%) credit the president with making significant progress “toward solving the major problems facing the country,” a far greater percentage than for any other generation. Only 10% of millennials, compared with 30% of older generations, think he made things worse.
Millennials will represent more than one out of three Americans by the end of this decade.
Millions of millennials have health insurance because Obamacare allowed them to remain on their parents’ plan. Theirs is the only generation in which a majority tell pollsters they support the Affordable Care Act. Millennials in particular have also benefited from Obama’s initiatives to reduce the interest rates on student loans and allow millions to convert loan repayments to a percentage of income rather than a more onerous flat amount. In addition, the president’s improved job-performance marks, especially their latest rise, reflect improvements in the economy that millennials now see in their incomes.
But more than any specific benefit, millennials appreciate the way Obama has championed their causes and created a more tolerant America. One in five millennials has an immigrant parent, and most in the generation credit the president with trying to find a comprehensive solution to the immigration issue, especially for the youngest “Dreamers” who found new hope under the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order. By carefully building a foundation of support of gay rights, Obama’s leadership also helped enshrine same-sex marriage among our constitutional protections. According to Pew surveys, close to three-quarters of millennials view immigrants and immigration positively (76%) and support gay marriage (73%); less than a majority of older age groups agree.
Finally, Obama’s daily demonstration, as our nation’s first African American president, that race should not be a barrier to achievement has reinforced millennials’ desire to include everyone in the group and to celebrate their own diversity. In fact, some of the president’s finest millennial “whisperer” moments happened when he addressed the question of race in America, including his eloquent speech on the topic as candidate Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary. In an interview with NPR, he couched his answer to a question about political correctness with a defense of tolerance that fits millennial attitudes: “Don't go around just looking for insults," he said, quoting advice he has given his daughters. "You're tough. If somebody says something you don't agree with, just engage them on their ideas.”
It’s not surprising that the same set of Americans that overwhelmingly approve of Obama would disapprove of the man who will replace him as president on Jan. 20. Already 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds disapprove of Trump’s performance as president-elect, the highest disapproval rating of any age group in Pew’s January survey.
Millennials will represent more than one out of three Americans by the end of this decade. Despite Trump’s electoral college win in November, it seems likely that millennial attitudes will dominate American political discourse and policy decisions in the coming years. It’s not clear now how much this generation’s demographic and political importance shaped Obama’s presidency and how much the cause and effect ran in the other direction. But it is clear that the optimism the president expressed in his farewell address is based in large part in his faith in his children’s peers:
“This generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.” And with that the country’s first millennial president left the stage.
Morley Winograd and Michael Hais are co-authors of “Millennial Makeover, Millennial Momentum and Millennial Majority.” They wrote this essay in association with Community Advocates, Inc. in Los Angeles.

Video - Remembering the life and sacrifice of Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK’s Daughter On Why Her Father’s Legacy Is Important Now More Than Ever

By Lilly Workneh 

The Rev. Bernice King spoke to HuffPost about the lessons from her father all Americans should seek to uphold.

The Rev. Bernice King believes that if her father, the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were to reflect on the state of race in America today, he wouldn’t express shock or surprise.
“He would be disappointed that America as a whole did not take heed to some of the things that he encouraged us to do as a nation, which was to wipe out the last vestiges of racism,” King told The Huffington Post in an interview ahead of MLK Day.
Her father’s wish may have been a tall order, but it was one he believed was possible to achieve, in large part, through unconditional acts of love and kindness. As we commemorate MLK Day on Monday and as we enter a political era that has welcomed racism, King says now is a time, more than ever, for all Americans to reflect on and uphold these lessons in achieving equality that her father proudly preached.
“Daddy taught us through his philosophy of nonviolence, which placed love at the centerpiece, that through that love we can turn enemies into friends,” she said. “Through that love, we can create more dignified atmospheres.”
The elder King rose to prominence in the civil rights era of the 1960s, during which he expressed an unwavering faith in achieving equality and fought relentlessly to dismantle injustice. In doing so, he expressed great courage as he spoke about love and unity in the face of racial hate. His preaching was not always well-received and, at a time when black people were frequently subjected to violence from white people on account of race alone, King and other civil rights heroes put their livelihoods in great jeopardy to promote intolerance of such acts of evil.
Ultimately, it was hate that fueled the actions that led to Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968 ― but the younger King, who was only 5 years old at the time, says it was her father’s uplifting message around love that allowed his legacy to live on forever.
Bernice King, who is an Atlanta-based minister and King’s youngest daughter, says that while MLK Day is a great time to reflect on her father’s iconic legacy, it should not be the only one. America is being forced to reckon with a breed of racism that has been emboldened by Donald Trump and his presidency, and she encouraged all Americans to always pursue the same dream of equality that her father envisioned and to do what’s necessary to achieve it.
[We must] recognize that we are not seeking to defeat and destroy people but we are really seeking to defeat injustice that’s trying to keep us all separated and realize our commonality,” she said. “That’s what [MLK Day] means to me, that’s what it has always meant to me ― it’s not just a day for me, it’s a lifetime. It’s a lifestyle.”
MLK preached unity and love at a time when hate and division were dominant. He encouraged healing through helping others and wanted to establish a global community where people were understanding of and kind to each other.  
“The greatest thing he taught us outside of the unconditional love and the organizing is that we are part of a global world and that we have to find a way to coexist and live like brothers and sisters. And that takes a lot of humility, it takes a lot of courage, a lot of understanding, and obviously a lot of love and forgiveness,” she said. “These are the things I try to keep close to my heart on a daily basis and because this is the way I was raised. All of us have to be committed to a life beyond our own aspirations.”
These are important lessons to remember, perhaps now more than ever. America is still very heavily divided along racial lines, inequalities exist across almost every facet of life, and it is likely that the incoming commander in chief will make little, if any, substantial improvements in these areas. For many, especially communities of color, it’s easy to feel defeated by the divisive and hateful rhetoric that has consumed our political landscape. But, instead of expressing worry of what lies ahead, King encourages Americans to stay vigilant and to not feel fearful. After all, she reminds us, America has seen much worse.
“It’s hard to for me to be fearful, because of my faith,” she said. “People don’t realize … we have seen worse as humans. You have to realize, when Daddy and them came along they didn’t have the right to vote, when they came along all black people were subject to being lynched. All.”
It’s a sobering reminder of the progress that has been made, but there’s certainly much more work to be done. In acknowledging the positive changes that have occurred, King credits movements like Black Lives Matter for reinvigorating the discussion around racial issues in America and organizing ways to help dismantle them.
“Thank God for the efforts of Black Lives Matter ― we’ve seen an awakening in this era in a way we didn’t see in Daddy’s era in terms of people coming to grips with white privilege,” she said. “[White privilege] has never been uncovered, revealed and discussed by those in the white community in history.”
Be wise in the resistance in the next four years. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be [any], I’m Dr. King’s daughter.”Bernice King
The road to racial equality is one that requires active participation from both white and black Americans, but stubborn attitudes among some white people often makes the journey a difficult one. However, it is irresponsible to leave people in their ignorance and in their hate, King says, which is why she charges white people who have been awakened to the reality of race in America “to take the responsibility now not to just be aware of it yourselves but to begin to create opportunity to awaken your white brothers and sisters.”
In looking ahead, King, a longtime activist herself, also has pointed words of advice for black activists in the fight moving forward.
“Be comprehensive and holistic. Be wise in the resistance in the next four years. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be [any], I’m Dr. King’s daughter,” she said bluntly. “But be comprehensive, be wise and think about the bigger picture … We have to be shrewd in knowing what to resist, how to resist and when to resist.”

“Do we want to be successful or do we just want to make noise just to make it? Or just to put to put something on the record?” she added. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m tired of putting stuff on the record, I’m ready to see some real transformation and change.”

Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day 2017: The civil rights leader's best quotes

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - a celebration of the Atlanta-born civil rights leader's life. King was gunned down at 39-years-old in Memphis while planning a campaign, and his death was met with outrage and riots across the country.

King believed in fighting hatred with peaceful resistance. His legacy continues to influence American culture, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal after his death.
Here are some of his best quotes:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
The time is always right to do what is right.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Video - Martin Luther King | "I Have A Dream" Speech

Music Video - Afshan Zebi - Lokan Do Do Yaar Banaye

Pakistan - Why do oaths in our educational institutes exclude non-Muslims?

Nadia Anwar
The oath gives off a sense of bias against those who are outside the ecclesiastic boundaries of a privileged religion.
A few months ago I attended an oath taking ceremony at a local government run educational institute. Around fifty well groomed, disciplined and bright girls took an oath to remain faithful to the principles and rules set for proctors by institutional think tanks. By all means it was an impressive ceremony and I have no doubt that even if not for long, the act of raising the right hand, repeating the select few words after the oath taker and cowering before the authority of God Almighty, is going to linger as a corrective stick for some time and help these girls perform their duties with honesty and commitment.
While still feeling the euphoric vibes created by the collective performance of all who attended the event, I find myself a little troubled and confused about the words and statements used in the oath itself. This confusion is further ignited by the fact that there is so much talk in the country today about religious tolerance, the rights of minorities, and provision of equal opportunities for all irrespective of religious, cultural and ethnic affiliation. To top it all the government is bent on taking special measures by sending directives to around twenty HEC recognized universities to adopt and devise activities to promote religious tolerance in the classrooms and universities in general.
The oath that I had the honour to hear consisted of two parts. The second part, a well worded declaration conveyed the essence of what is expected of a good proctor, that is, to pledge to perform truthfully and faithfully during one year tenure as a proctor. It clearly charts out the major responsibilities that the undertakers are required to fulfill during their one year stint in the verisimilitude of power. In the first section, however, lies the real problem – an oath in which the undertakers reiterate the fact that they are Muslims and they believe in the Holy Prophet (PBUH) being the Last Prophet and Messenger of Allah. Now, the question is: are we taking an oath of allegiance from a representative group of girls or bringing the non-Muslims proctors into the folds of Islam?
The oath targets Muslims and clearly and categorically excludes non-Muslims. It implies that, first, all the oath takers were presumed to be Muslims. Second, even if they were not, they were forced to repeat an oath to which they would have no emotional or moral attachment. Third, the oath gives off a sense of bias against those who are outside the ecclesiastic boundaries of a privileged religion.
This to me is a very important and sensitive issue, that is, of forcing an oath from students who have no moral obligation to it. Imagine a Christian girl taking an oath to show allegiance to Islam and its basic tenets. She would either prefer to remain silent when the ritual is taking place or instead of repeating after the oath taker may create her own version of the oath. In the latter case she is justified since she is left with no choice than to manipulate the statement. Although we all know how much these words affect the moral sensibilities of oath takers, did the girl/s who is/are a part of the ceremony actually take an oath then? The point leads us to another important issue – placing someone in a context that clashes with his/her moral obligations, religious principles and emotional affiliations and then expecting a certain commitment and loyalty towards a set of rules devised for all. Using Althusser’s terminology this ideological state apparatus can actually create social division and unrest and by all means misplaced in an institute of around five thousand girls which have a good number of girls from religions other than Islam, especially Christianity. Perhaps it is time to revise our notions of religious tolerance and create an equitable space with fair chances for all to preserve their identity.

In Pakistan, Justice for the Killers Among Us

Mohammed Hanif

The army chief of Pakistan recently confirmed the death sentence of Saad Aziz, a business-school graduate and restaurant manager who was convicted of killing my friend Sabeen Mahmud. Sabeen, who was 40 then, ran The Second Floor in Karachi, a cafe where many writers and artists, including me, got their first break. It was also a hub for activists advocating controversial, often lost, causes. She was shot dead on April 24, 2015, minutes after a talk she had organized about the disappearance of Baloch activists, allegedly at the hand of Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies.
Chances are that after the requisite technical appeals to higher courts and a plea for mercy to the president of Pakistan, Aziz will hang. There are even stronger chances that we’ll never know for sure why he killed Sabeen.
Aziz was sentenced to death by a military court last May. The media weren’t allowed to cover the trial. There is no detailed judgment. We’ll never get to hear what Aziz may have said in his defense or about his motives.
Was he a lone killer, or acting on someone’s behalf? Was Sabeen killed for taking a stand against the Pakistani Taliban and their supporters in the mainstream? For defying the powerful military establishment? Because she insisted on drawing red hearts on walls around the city to mark Valentine’s Day?
In a detailed interview with a journalist before his trial, held while he was in police custody, Aziz confessed to killing Sabeen. “There wasn’t one particular reason for targeting her: She was generally promoting liberal, secular values,” he said. In the same interview, Aziz also said he had taken part in a May 2015 attack on a bus that killed more than 40 Shia Muslims.
According to the Pakistani army, those crimes made Aziz a “jet black terrorist.” So why give him the dignity of a proper trial?
Military courts were given jurisdiction over civilians in some terrorism cases more than two years ago, not long after gunmen barged into a school in Peshawar in December 2014 and killed more than 140 people, including children as young as 11. (The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.) Pakistan’s political parties and military leadership came together then to lift a moratorium on the death penalty that had been in place since 2008 and to allow military courts to hold in camera summary trials for jet-black terrorists.
Since then, military courts have convicted at least 274 people and sentenced 161 of them to death. (Twelve have been executed.) Sometimes the defendants’ families found out about the convictions through tweets by the army’s public relations division. The rest of us never found out much at all about these people on death row.
The military courts’ special jurisdiction expired on Jan. 7, and the government is holding consultations with opposition parties about reviving it. Some parties are wary, but no one really wants to be seen challenging the army.
Pakistan’s insistence on trying and convicting its terrorists in secret is baffling. The war against the Taliban and other religious extremists is supposedly a war of ideas. But how are we to fight an idea when we don’t know what it is?
Should I just be relieved that my friend’s killer will be hanged? Or should I also be asking: How should we kill our killers? I don’t have the stomach for the death penalty, but if Aziz is to be executed, I’d like to make sure he actually did murder Sabeen and I want to know why.
These trials provide not justice so much as revenge, and they uncover very little information. The Taliban were fond of killing our soldiers and making videos while doing it. We let our army take away suspected terrorists to try them and hang them, but we want to be spared the gory details.
And yet the gory details are what we need to know if we want to know our enemy. The reasons Aziz gave in his interview for killing Sabeen — she spoke out against the Taliban, she promoted secular values — echo views and values common among corporate workers, lawyers, journalists and other armchair jihadists. That’s why holding court hearings in the open matters: Because then they might reveal how a theological argument can lead to a massacre, how prejudice can lead to sectarian violence.
Our killers went to the same schools we did. They and their supporters read the same newspapers we do. We all attend the same wedding banquets. But many of us pretend they live in caves and are funded by our enemies. Well, maybe they are funded by our enemies, but some of them also have business degrees and run restaurants in Karachi.
Before these terrorism trials, the Pakistani army already had its own system of justice: It would abduct people it believed were a threat to national security. Only last week there were protests across the country after four activists went missing. They were all critical of the army and their families believe intelligence agencies abducted them. The army has been accused by local and international human rights organizations of killing and dumping the bodies of Baloch nationalists. Some of the people convicted of terrorism by the military courts had been declared missing and were already in the army’s custody.
This kind of military justice confirms the notion that we are at war. But it doesn’t tell us who we are at war with. Do we have a shape-shifting enemy, or are we fighting a war of convenience? The Pakistani army has twisted its narrative about the war too many times.
For a long while we were told that the Taliban in Afghanistan were our assets and the Pakistani Taliban were our misguided brothers. Today we are told that everyone who attacks us is bankrolled by India.
But all these stories are just a way of refusing to admit that for many years now, we have been fighting an enemy who lives among us and who believes in many of the things we believe in.

Pakistan - Disappearance of debate

Anyone who is deemed a dissident is blacklisted and forced to disappear, tortured even killed... What’s unfortunate, those who carry out the deeds remain above the law.
Nasrullah Baloch feels a sense of defeat now that their comrade in arms, Salman Haider, has allegedly been picked up. “When a non-Baloch lends his voice to ours, it gives impetus to our struggle,” says the chairperson of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP).
News anchor, Hamid Mir, tweeted: “He always raised voice for missing persons now he himself is missing from Islamabad #RecoverSalmanHaider”
There is suspicion that state agencies are involved in the disappearance of left-wing dissenter and editor of online Tanqeed, Salman Haider early this month. Around the same time, three other social media activists — Ahmad Raza Yasir, Waqass Goraya and Asim Saeed — were picked up. And now there is news that a fifth person, Samar Abbas, has also gone missing. They all openly aired anti-military views.
A week on, the government terming it a “priority” is still seen “investigating” these cases.
In 2012, before he became the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, while visiting a camp put up by the families of the missing had said, “People cannot go missing like this in civilised societies”, and had promised that his party would move a resolution in the parliament for amending laws and ensure recovery of all ‘missing’ persons.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar who was then the leader of the opposition had said: “If parliamentarians cannot raise voice for the missing persons, they don’t have the right to sit in the Parliament House.”
In the past, “it was rare to find educated men from upper and middle class being held in illegal detention, or tortured. Even custodial deaths of such people was unheard of,” observes I.A. Rehman, human rights activist.
While nationalists and those suspected of holding separatist views belonging to the far-flung areas of Balochistan and Fata were forced to disappear, of late, under the guise of national security, anyone who is deemed a dissident is abducted, tortured even killed (Sabeen Mahmud, Rashid Rehman and Khurram Zaki). What’s unfortunate, those who carry out the deeds remain above the law.
“The civilian government on its part has abdicated the responsibility to safeguard fundamental rights of the citizenry, particularly the Baloch citizens, in an exchange for its own lease of life,” says Taqi.
Take the case of Zeenat Shehzadi, a young journalist who was pursuing the case of Indian citizen Hamid Ansari since 2013. She had kept the case alive and her persistence eventually led the authorities to acknowledge, in 2015, that he was in the custody of the military authorities. Soon after she was kidnapped and has not been found since.
In fact, there are laws that the state has been using to grant impunity to perpetrators of this crime. Take, for example, the Fata regulations (or Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation 2011) that allow for indefinite detention without charge in internment centres and that too without adequate judicial safeguards. This is why, explains Reema Omer, a legal advisor for the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), they are considered to facilitate disappearances by human rights groups as well as the UN Working Group on Disappearances.
Even the military courts (constituted under the 21st Amendment and corresponding amendments to the Army Act) have a connection with disappearances as many people convicted by these courts were at some point disappeared, kept in internment centres, and later tried in secret military proceedings, she adds.
Read also: Five missing people
Some of these cases were pending as missing persons complaints before various courts and the Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances.
Omer further adds, “Along with other glaring human rights concerns that emerge in their operation, the insidious use of military courts to ‘legitimize’ certain past cases of enforced disappearances makes the move to reinstate the 21st Amendment all the more deplorable and unacceptable.”
According to columnist Dr Mohmmad Taqi, enforced disappearances are a political issue. He points out that the army had wrested away the power to prosecute citizens from the state. “The army has anointed itself the arbiter of patriotism and national interest and then went on to forcibly disappear those it deems doesn’t fit that bill. Army acts as a state within the state and has crippled successive civilian governments through a series of manufactured crises.”
He further adds: “The civilian government on its part has abdicated the responsibility to safeguard fundamental rights of the citizenry, particularly the Baloch citizens, in an exchange for its own lease of life. The army has made Balochistan, Karachi and foreign policy a no-go area for the civilian government through undeclared threat to topple it.”
“Those who survive and are set free are warned against opening their mouth and they dare not disobey. So great was the fear of security forces that Haider’s family had initially requested rights groups not to protest against his disappearance,” says Rehman.
Baloch endorses this. “Over the years I have met several who have returned home. They have been completely broken down, physically, mentally and emotionally.”
He further adds, “Most are reluctant to talk about their ordeal for fear of repercussions, but there are others who have told us of the kinds of torture meted to them. Apart from being severely beaten up, torture techniques included food and sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, using psychological tools and threats to harm other family members,” to obtain the “truth” or “false confessions” any way one wants to look at it, from the detainees.
Meanwhile, the continuous cases heard by the government-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances and the addition of online activists signifies that the disturbingly regular feature continues, and has in fact widened its ambit.
In 2016, 728 people were reported to have gone missing, the highest in at least six years, according to the Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances.
But rights’ activists say few have confidence in this government-led commission or its statistics. “Not everyone reports to them,” says Zohra Yusuf, Chairperson HRCP.
Ammar Rashid, who teaches at the Quaid-e-Azam University, though currently on a sabbatical, knows Haider well as both worked with the Awami Workers Party (AWP). He says activists and critical dissenters like Haider were symbols of Pakistan’s “painstakingly achieved democratic progress”, “revival of indigenous traditions of debate, criticism and socio-political engagement” that, for decades, had been suppressed.
He sees this new crackdown an attempt to “gain control over the new space” in the digital world that political activists had made for themselves to hold “critical discussion” on certain subjects, including Islam and the military, that were otherwise mired in heavy censorship.
The anonymity offered by alternative social media, explains Rashid, had led to dissipation of some fear that remains in the mainstream Pakistani media and opened up previously “inviolable topics to critical public scrutiny and participatory debate”.
Based on the “successes” they have made in Balochistan, says Malik Siraj Akbar, a Baloch journalist based in the US, the security establishment thinks enforced disappearances are a “successful” and “effective tool” in spreading fear. “They are now expanding these practices to writers, intellectuals and anyone who questions the deep state.”
For years the superior courts have been requesting security agencies that if they want to question an accused or a suspect, the process should be transparent and legal but to not avail.
But, points out Akbar, arbitrary detentions were carried out by units of the government — either the intelligence agencies or paramilitary forces like the Frontier Corps — who believe in the use of torture, among others, as a method to extract confessions. “They do not trust the abilities and the commitment of the police force to conduct such investigations. They also feel judicial intervention might disrupt their investigations. So, they choose an illegal path to handle these issues,” he explains.
And yet, this modus operandi has failed to act as a deterrent to terrorism or stemmed dissent.
“Haider’s disappearance is alarming but makes no difference to what I and others need to do,” says Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist and activist, who has received threats that were of “pretty serious” nature.
Sadly, the issue is still not a priority in the parliament (although the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians had submitted a calling attention notice in the National Assembly Secretariat seeking response from the government on the disappearances). There is a “pattern” to these disappearances and suggests that it was a “planned and coordinated action under taken to silence voice which are critical of prevalent socio-political issue in Pakistan” states the PPP notice.
It is not even seen as a national humanitarian crisis by the media. The mainstream broadcast media, specially, has been unnaturally quiet, only resorting to covering the protests organised by civil society groups.
The reasons can be various, according to Munazza Siddiqui, executive producer with Geo News (International) and range from “certain lobbies driving what can be given prominence and what must not; to the definite fear factor of reprisals even crackdown and self censorship although there are no direct instructions coming like in the past”. She finds a definite narrowing of space in the electronic media for liberal thought.
“The state cannot be allowed to get away with this. Islamabad is not Turbat or Khuzdar, and we’ll keep reminding them,” says Hoodbhoy, who had just returned from a protest meeting at the Islamabad Press Club.
But then, even the people in general, have not agitated against this cruelty.
“There is a widespread acceptance of this behaviour,” conceded Akbar and added: “This is mostly because of the culture of fear that exists in Pakistan where people know there can be dire consequences for speaking up against intelligence agencies.”