Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

Former Kuwaiti Lawmaker Sentenced to 42 Years in Jail for Tweets, ‘Insulting Saudi Arabia’

A former Kuwaiti lawmaker is facing at least 42 years and six months in prison on various convictions that include posting on Twitter comments deemed by the authorities insulting to the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

On 22 December, a court of appeal convicted Abdulhameed Dashti in absentia of insulting Saudi Arabia and sentenced him to ten years in prison, bringing his total jail term to 42.5 years. Dashti, who is currently in the UK for medical reasons, was stripped of his parliament seat to allow Kuwaiti authorities to prosecute him. Dashti also was convicted of prior charges of insulting religion, Kuwait’s Emir (the country’s ruler), and the judiciary.

Palestinian Parliament to Hold First Session Since 2006

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) will hold its first session since 2006 after a quarter of lawmakers demanded to convene an emergency session without delay, according to media reports.

According to Palestinian legislation, the PLC is to hold a session if one-fourth of its members demands it. Khuraishah said that this time at least 16 members of the Fatah movement and all Hamas lawmakers requested to hold an emergency session.

Conn Hallinan’s 2016 ‘Are You Serious?’ Awards

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This year’s lowlights from world politics, the culture wars, and the military-industrial complex.

Each year Conn Hallinan gives awards to individuals, companies, and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2016.

The Golden Lemon Award had a number of strong contenders in 2016, including:

General Atomics for its MQ-9 Reaper armed drone, which has a faulty starter-generator that routinely shorts out the aircraft. So far, no one can figure out why. Some 20 were either destroyed or sustained major damage last year. The Reapers costs $64 million apiece.
Panavia Aircraft Company’s $25 billion Tornado fighter-bomber that can’t fly at night because the cockpit lights blind the pilot. A runner up here is the German arms company Heckler & Koch, whose G-36 assault rifle can’t shoot straight when the weather is hot.
The British company BAE’s $1.26 billion Type 45 destroyer that breaks down “whenever we try to do too much with them,” a Royal Navy officer told the Financial Times. Engaging in combat, he said, would be “catastrophic.”

Africa’s agricultural production systems need a radical change – ECA’s Karingi

“Regardless of the approach or transformative pathway chosen to change food systems and trade regimes, African countries need to undertake radical change in agricultural production systems, adopt agribusiness and promote regional agricultural value chains as a vein for regional integration.” The statement was made by Stephen Karingi, Director of the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division this week in Cote d’Ivoire, at the opening of a symposium themed: Implementing Agro-Industrialization and Regional Value Chains for Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.

“Despite a handful of landmark political commitments, Africa is the only region in the world that has witnessed an increase in the number of food insecure people and has a mushrooming agricultural and food trade deficit,” said Karingi.

Egyptian Police Bust ‘Faked Syria Propaganda’ Ring

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior (MOI) posted on Facebook that they’ve arrested four men and one woman for allegedly making videos to be distributed as “footage from Aleppo, Syria.”

The suspects were arrested in the city of Port Said, allegedly mid photo shoot with a 12 year old girl. The girl was “wearing a white dress coloured in red, in a way that resembles blood” and holding a teddy bear (both covered in fake blood) in an area that “looked like Aleppo” but was actually just ruins in Port Said.

Georgia: Mass Marijuana-Planting Party Planned for New Year’s

A Georgian political party plans to ring in the New Year by planting weed as an act of civil disobedience against the Caucasus country’s stringent anti-drug policies.

Members of the party, which, incidentally, has the botanical name of Pine Cone (Girchi/გირჩი), are inviting likeminded individuals to join them in a pot-planting fest a minute before midnight on December 31. Anyone of age is welcome to come along, Pine Cone said in a press release.

The procedure, staged at the party’s main Tbilisi office, will be broadcast live in a bid to push the Georgian government toward the full decriminalization of marijuana use. The name of the broadcaster was not given.

Political eruption in Guatemala

Innovation cannot be understood without its context. Recent developments in Guatemala help to explain emerging innovative proposals.

Like many other Latin American countries, Guatemala has a very repressive political history. After years of dictatorship and intense armed conflict that caused the disappearance and death of 190.000 people, “clandestine security squads” are still using violent practices that violate human rights – often with the participation of public agents.

During the 90s, a peace deal was signed. However, violent practices remained common and the historical trauma remained vividly present in the Guatemalan imaginary. In 2007, an International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICG) was created to support the State Prosecution in its fight to break up violent illegal groups. In recent years, the Commission also began investigating corruption in the country. In 2015, it ended up charging the Vice-President (and later the President) for corruption.

Explaining the Crisis in Abkhazia

A political crisis in the separatist entity of Abkhazia, which included coup rumors and Russia’s temporary detention of an opposition leader, has eased for now. But the sources of instability have not been fully addressed.

After large protests and counter-protests on December 15 in the capital, Sukhumi, the de facto president, Raul Khajimba, offered concessions to the opposition. But while this appears to have dampened tensions for now, Abkhazia seems likely to be gripped by uncertainty for months ahead.

So what set off this crisis? On November 30, the opposition party Amtsakhara announced that if Khajimba did not resign by December 15, it would convene a people’s assembly. The implicit threat was that this people’s assembly might seek Khajimba’s ouster. The government took the threat seriously, organizing a counter-protest, as well as a range of statements by political and civil society actors (including even former South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity) that uniformly appealed for unity. In addition, the State Security Service presented recordings it claimed featured certain opposition members discussing plans to forcefully overthrow Khajimba.

Time for Action Is Not Now: UN Vote on Israeli Settlements Postponed

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The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to vote the evening of December 20 on a resolution demanding Israel halt its settlement expansion policies in all Palestinian territories it occupies. However, according to a UN diplomatic source the vote has been postponed and the new date “is yet unkown.”

The resolution, drafted by Egypt, demands “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement expansion activities in occupied Palestinian territory, including al-Quds.”

It states such activity is “dangerously imperilling” a two-state solution, and calls for the UN to take “affirmative steps” to reverse this conduct “on the ground.”

Christmas in the People’s Daily

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CHINA is by some estimates on track to surpass the United States and become the world’s largest Protestant Christian nation by 2021. Even if that doesn’t happen, the celebration of Christmas will remain one of the most important cultural and religious dates on the calendar for tens of millions of Chinese Christians. Beyond its spiritual significance in the country, the holiday has growing commercial appeal.

But regardless of whether we’re talking religion or consumerism, Christmas remains a prickly issue for the Chinese Communist Party. As Gary Sigley, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Western Australia, wrote in 2007, Christmas is problematic for the CCP “because its sheer visibility in the urban landscape simply reinforces the fact that the monopoly the party-state once had over public space has long since eroded.”

As traditional Chinese culture increasingly becomes central to the Party’s reshaping of ideology and legitimacy, Christmas also gets caught up in the intensifying politics of cultural hegemony.

Saudi Arabia Admits to Using UK-Supplied Cluster Bombs in Yemen

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One of the West’s key allies in the Middle East has admitted to what it calls “limited use” of UK-manufactured cluster bombs in Yemen. These types of munitions are banned under international law.

When a cluster bomb explodes, it releases several smaller projectiles which allows the damage to spread to a larger area– potentially putting civilian lives at risk. These sub-munitions can also essentially become landmines. Cluster bombs were banned under international law in 2010– a treaty Britain signed upon its creation in 2008. However, Saudi Arabia and most of their coalition partners– including the United States– have not signed this same treaty.

Denmark Imprisons Danish Woman for Fighting Daesh with Kurds

A 23-year-old Danish woman who attracted international attention for joining the Kurds in battling Daesh has been imprisoned, stripped of her visa, and banned from international travel for 12 months by the Danish government.

Joanna Palani seemed a natural to attract international attention. The daughter of Iranian Kurds, Palani was born in a UN Iraqi refugee camp in 1993. In 2014, she dropped out of college, returning to her motherland to “fight for human rights for all people,” in her own words. Her father and grandfather were soldiers as well, and she has been operating firearms since the age of nine.

57 Journalists Killed Worldwide in 2016: Rights Group

At least 57 journalists have been killed around the world in 2016 while doing their job, Reporters Without Borders said on Monday.

The press freedom group said 19 were killed in Syria alone, followed by 10 in Afghanistan, nine in Mexico and five in Iraq.

Almost all of those killed were locally-based journalists.

Although it was fewer than the 67 killed in 2015, the group put the decrease down to “the fact that many journalists have fled countries that became too dangerous, especially Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Burundi”.

Central African Republic: Mayhem by New Group

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Murders, Rapes by 3R Armed Group in Northwest.

A recently formed armed group called “Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation,” or 3R, has killed civilians, raped, and caused largescale displacement over the past year in northwest Central African Republic. United Nations peacekeepers in the area have been unable to fully protect civilians.

“The Central African Republic is on the international agenda, but its neglected northwest territory now presents an emerging crisis,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The 3R armed group, which originally portrayed itself as a protector of the Peuhl, has used it increased strength to expand abusive attacks.”

AMISOM launches Operation Antelope in Hirshabelle State

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)’s Burundi contingent has embarked on an operation code named ‘Antelope’ to open up key supply routes in the HirShabelle state.

The objective of the operation is to open the roads to facilitate humanitarian access, support the local population to move their crops from farms to markets and assist the military to get access to Forward Operating Bases (FOB) in the sector.

The Sector 5 Commander, Brigadier-General Venuste Nduwayo, said the operation which is already underway will see more than 150 kilometres of roads rehabilitated in the agricultural rich HirShabelle region. These include the Jowhar Airfield to Jowhar Town, Biyo-Adde to Jowhar Town, Mahadaay to Elbaraf, Biyo-Adde to Raga-elle and Raga-elle to Mogadishu among others.