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  • ISIS’ Grip on Libyan City Gives It a Fallback Option

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    • Libya’s Forgotten King


      The story of King Idris I, who unified Libya and became its first king in 1951 before being toppled by Gaddafi in 1969.


    • Film-maker: Ashraf Mashharawi


      The map of modern Libya was not fully drawn until the mid-20th century. The land was fought over by the Ottomans, Italians and the British.


      It had comprised three ancient provinces - Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the west and Fezzan in the south. The desert Ottoman province of Cyrenaica was where the Algerian Muhammad ibn Ali Senussi founded his Sufi Muslim religious order in the late 18thcentury. He established the Senussi movement as a response to what he saw as the decline of Islamic thought and spirituality at the time.

    • According to Idris Al-Harir, the historian and former political activist, Senussi established the order in Cyrenaica "first as a religious 'good deed' but later to make it the centre of his political power". He built 330 zawiya, religious study centres, and Jaghbub, on the border with Egypt, became the focus of this new order in eastern Libya.


      Cyrenaica was also where Senussi's grandson, Idris, would one day become the ruler of the United Libyan Kingdom.


      This two-part film tells the fascinating story of Idris, the country's first and, so far, only monarch - Libya's now forgotten king.


      King Idris ruled from 1951 until Muammar Gaddafi seized power in a coup in 1969. Given events in Libya in the past five decades, his life and reign seem now to have faded from public consciousness. The history of modern Libya is often thought of as synonymous with Gaddafi, but the man who preceded him was a nationalist and an astute politician at a time when his homeland was fought over by colonial powers.

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    • Concordia Won’t Retract Asbestos Report


      Student Union Pushes for Transparency

    • Concordia’s undergraduate student union is calling on the university to retract and publicize the findings of an internal review of a report on communications best practices for the asbestos industry.


      The report, titled “Lessons from the Quebec Asbestos Industry” claimed that facts proposed by the asbestos industry could not trump “strongly held feelings” developed from arguments made by opponents, leading to the closure of Quebec mines.


      Conflicts of interests weren’t identified, but the report’s author, John Molson School of Business lecturer John Aylen, has worked as a spokesperson for the industry in the past.

    • A motion asking Concordia University to disassociate itself from the case study and formally retract the document from the public domain passed at a Concordia Student Union council meeting on Nov. 11.


      CSU President Terry Wilkings wants the university to disclose the outcome of an internal investigation and explain the steps being taken “to ensure future reports under Concordia University eliminate gross factual errors.”


      Wilkings made a comparison with climate science, which has a fringe group of scientists disputing climate change. “I can’t imagine the university citing academic freedom to support climate-change-denying science,” Wilkings said.


      “When the academic integrity of this institution is put into question we need to address that in an open manner,” he said, referring to the investigation, whose findings were not publicly released.

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    • US urges Turkey to close off its Syrian border to ISIS - media     

    • Washington is urging Ankara to seal off a 100-kilometer stretch of borderline with Syria currently used by Islamic State for transportation of fighters and supplies into the Syrian war zone. The Turkish Army would need an estimated 30,000 personnel to do this.   

      The Obama administration is urging Turkey to ensure Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria receives no supplies through the Turkish border, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing sources in Washington. The request involves sealing off part of the frontier between the western Turkish town of Kilis and Jarabulus in eastern Syrian.

    • “The game has changed. Enough is enough! The border needs to be sealed,” the WSJ cited a senior Obama administration official as saying in a message from the US government to Turkey. “This is an international threat, and it’s all coming out of Syria and it’s coming through Turkish territory.”

      The US has called particular attention to a small part of the border between Jarabulus and Cobanbey, which is being used extensively by IS to transfer munitions and other supplies from Turkey to Syria, and foreign fighters in both directions.

      A Pentagon official told the WSJ that cordoning off a section of the border would require the deployment of approximately 10,000 additional troops, while a “broader humanitarian mission” would demand a 30,000-strong task force.

      “There’s no local, capable, motivated force that is prepared to clear this area at this time,” the WSJ cited a senior US defense official as saying. “There are two sides to every border. If Turkey is motivated to seal their border, there is nothing that’s stopping them from using their conventional forces to do so,” the official said.

      Turkish officials say some steps in this direction are already being taken, although they believe the number of troops necessary for the task is exaggerated, according to the WSJ.

      Turkey has a 640,000-strong military, estimated to be the eighth largest in the world, and Ankara is said to want to control things on their own terms.

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    • Putin approves economic sanctions against Turkey following downing of Russian warplane     

    • Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree imposing a package of economic sanctions against Turkey following its downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber in Syria. The measures include banning several Turkish organizations and the import of certain goods.  

      A decree on "measures providing the national security of the Russian Federation and the protection of its citizens against criminal and other unlawful acts, and on imposing special economic measures in relation to Turkish Republic" was signed on Saturday, the Kremlin press service said.

      Under the decree, the import of certain products originating from Turkey will be temporarily banned or restricted.

      A number of Turkish organizations operating in Russia will also be restricted.

    • Employers in Russia will be prohibited from hiring Turkish nationals for work starting January 1, 2016.

      The ban will touch upon only new workers, the decree said, adding that employees who already officially hired as of December 31, 2015 will not fall subject to the sanctions.

      The government has been tasked by the president with introducing a ban on charter flights between Russia and Turkey. Russian travel agencies have been ordered to stop selling tours to Turkey, the Kremlin announced.

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    • Turkish newspaper editor in court for 'espionage' after revealing weapon convoy to Syrian militants     

    • A Turkish prosecutor asked a court to imprison the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper pending trial for espionage and treason. In May, the outlet published photos of weapons it said were then transferred to Syria by Turkey’s intelligence agency.
    • Besides the editor, Can Dündar, the prosecution said it is seeking the same pre-trial restrictions for Cumhuriyet’s representative in Ankara, Erdem Gül.

      Dündar arrived at an Istanbul court on Thursday, saying that he and his colleague “came here to defend journalism.”

      “We came here to defend the right of the public to obtain the news and their right to know if their government is feeding them lies. We came here to show and to prove that governments cannot engage in illegal activity and defend this,” Dündar was cited by Today’s Zaman.

      The articles, published on Cumhuriyet's front page in May, claimed that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) is smuggling weapons in trucks into Syria and was caught doing so twice in 2014. The trucks were allegedly stopped and searched by police, with photos and videos of their contents obtained by Cumhuriyet.

      According to the paper, the trucks were carrying six steel containers, with 1,000 artillery shells, 50,000 machine gun rounds, 30,000 heavy machine gun rounds and 1,000 mortar shells. The arms were reportedly delivered to extremist groups fighting against the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, whom Ankara wants ousted from power.

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    • ‘Commercial scale’ oil smuggling into Turkey becomes priority target of anti-ISIS strikes     

    • Islamic State’s daring and impudent oil smuggling into Turkey should become a high-priority target in order to cripple the terrorist group, President Putin said, backed by French President Francois Hollande. Both agree that the source of terrorist financing must be hit first and foremost.
    • Commercial-scale oil smuggling from Islamic State controlled territory into Turkey must be stopped, Putin said after meeting Hollande in Moscow.

      “Vehicles, carrying oil, lined up in a chain going beyond the horizon,” said Putin, reminding the press that the scale of the issue was discussed at the G20 summit in Antalya earlier this month, where the Russian leader demonstrated reconnaissance footage taken by Russian pilots.

      READ MORE: Ankara defends ISIS, Turkish officials have financial interest in oil trade with group - PM Medvedev

      The views resemble a “living oil pipe” stretched from ISIS and rebel controlled areas of Syria into Turkey, the Russian President stressed. “Day and night they are going to Turkey. Trucks always go there loaded, and back from there – empty.”

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    • Putin: Turkey deliberately leading relations with Russia 'into a gridlock'     

    • Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Turkey of intentionally bringing relations with Russia into a ‘gridlock’ following the incident with the downed Russian bomber in Syria.   

      The Turkish government has made no steps towards clearing up the situation with Russia after the Tuesday incident at the Syrian-Turkish border. The country has neither offered any compensation nor expressed any apologies over the death of the Russian pilot, thus apparently deliberately dampening relations with Moscow, Putin stressed in his speech at the presentation of foreign ambassadors’ letters of credence in the Kremlin on Thursday.

    • “We have still not heard any comprehensible apologies from the Turkish political leaders or any offers to compensate for the damage caused or promises to punish the criminals for their crime,” Russian president said.

      “One gets the impression that the Turkish leaders are deliberately leading Russian-Turkish relations into a gridlock – and we are sorry to see this,” he added.

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    • Restoration of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations sparks a trademark battle Add to ... 


       CAMAGUEY, CUBA — Reuters



    • When Julio Manzini decided two years ago to name his small restaurant McDonald’s after the famous fast-food chain, he had no idea it could cause any trouble. He has since been frightened into removing the name.

      “I don’t even know what McDonald’s tastes like, I just thought the name was striking, like Shakira or something,” he said at the lunch counter of what used to be “Cafeteria La McDonald’s Camagueyana” in the Cuban city of Camaguey, about 500 km east of Havana.

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      This month, Mr. Manzini stripped “McDonald’s” and the famous golden arches from his handcrafted sign as a precaution after he said his establishment was visited by a lawyer sent by the company.

    • The place is now simply called “Cafeteria La Camagueyana.”

      His counterfeit McDonald’s illustrates a potential battlefront between Cuba and the United States over trademark and intellectual property rights as Cuba’s economy opens up to more private enterprise and closer ties with the U.S.

      The two countries restored diplomatic relations this year after half a century of Cold War hostility and are now working to improve ties. Trademark and intellectual property issues will be on the negotiating table, both sides have said.

      Both have grievances. The U.S. has denied Cuban companies the same trademark protection enjoyed by brands from everywhere else, forcing marquee names such as Havana Club rum and Cohiba cigars into long, expensive court battles.

      And while Cuba protects trademarks registered with the government, it also tolerates or officially sanctions the resale of unlicensed music, software and entertainment. State television routinely pirates American movies and shows for broadcast.

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    • Nov 27 2015
    • China announces military overhaul to make PLA more combat ready
    • by   Angus Grigg and Lisa Murray 

      Chinese President Xi Jinping has moved to give himself greater control over the country's armed forces as part of sweeping reforms which will also see Beijing establish its first overseas military outpost.

      The changes announced late on Thursday aim to bolster the navy, dilute the power of individual commanders while making the armed forces more responsive in combat situations.

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    • Should Scholarly Associations Take Political Positions?

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      Richard A. Shweder, the University of Chicago anthropologist, who is speaking tonight  in Denver at the annual American Anthropological Association convention, is recommending a “no-action” option on Israel/Palestine, meaning that he considers it inappropriate for the Association, as an entity, to support either side of the dispute.


      An AAA task force has come down on the other side, unanimously voting against inaction.  Shweder says, “Many of those who agonize over the conflict are motivated by deep sympathies for one side or the other; and because of such attachments they are concerned and eager to find avenues to express their feelings of solidarity, with one side or the other.


      It does not follow however that it is appropriate, legitimate, right or good to express such feelings by mobilizing a majority vote of support from individual members of the AAA and then turning it into the unitary corporate voice of the institution.“


      UPDATE. At the business meeting of the American Anthropological Association those who showed up voted 1040 to 146 in favor of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. That vote places the boycott resolution on the Spring ballot of the association and will be sent out to all members.

      • Russia accuses Turkey of 'hypocrisy' after Erdogan admits airspace violation 'does not justify attack'

          Syria shot down a Turkish warplane in 2012, in an incident which has many echoes with Tuesday morning's 
    • Turkey has been accused of hypocrisy over the downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border, after it emerged that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself said “a short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.


      The Russian jet which came down on Tuesday morning entered a small sliver of Turkish airspace for 17 seconds, according to the Turkish military’s own data, while the Russian defence ministry says the Su-24 bomber was in Syria at all times.


      The incident has echoes of a reverse situation in 2012, when the Syrian regime shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom which, it said, entered its airspace off the country’s north-east coast.

    • Then, Turkey spoke of its “rage” at the decision to shoot down the jet, which was on a training flight testing its own country’s radar systems.


      “A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack,” Mr Erdogan said at the time, threatening in response that “every military element approaching Turkey from the Syrian border… will be assessed as a military threat and treated as a military target”.

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    • Washington Seeks Observers That it Can Influence in Venezuela’s Election

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    • In Washington it’s just seen as the way the world works.  Just as big fish eat little fish, and lions prey on antelope, so there is no moral shame in the U.S. government trying to undermine, destabilize, or get rid of democratically elected governments that it doesn’t like.
    • So it is no surprise that the multi-pronged effort to de-legitimize the elections for Venezuela’s National Assembly, scheduled for December 6, would be reported, and widely accepted here without question, as merely trying to insure “credible observation” for the election.  The “credible observers,” who are being portrayed as the sine qua non of a “credible result,” are the OAS (Organization of American States).

      To see how absurd this assumption is, we need only look back a few years, when the OAS appointed an “Expert Verification Mission” to examine the presidential election in Haiti. This Mission did something outrageous, something that has never been done – before or since -- in the history of electoral monitoring: It reversed the result of the first round of voting, without conducting a recount or even a statistical test.  Normally, when an election result is disputed, there is recount, or the result is accepted, or a new election can be held. Nowhere does an electoral monitoring team simply pick a new winner.

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    • The Case Against Woodrow Wilson at Princeton

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          We have the Woodrow Wilson/P.C. debate all backwards: Protesters are forcing a debate Princeton has whitewashed for decades


          Princeton placed Wilson on pedestal for decades. Protesters tell a fuller story. So exactly who is stifling speech?

      • I have three thoughts on the Woodrow Wilson/Princeton University controversy, which now seems, at least temporarily, to have come to a conclusion.

        First, in discussions with various people, two of the most common responses I’ve heard to the Princeton students’ demands that Wilson’s name be removed from all campus buildings are these:

        1. Woodrow Wilson may have been a racist, but he was a great president, contributing to all manner of progressive policies. Wilson’s racism was, at most, a sideline interest, a passion he pursued during his off hours, after the real business of daily governance was done. It has nothing to do with his presidency or legacy.

        2. Yes, Wilson was a racist, but so are all white people in the United States. Always have been, always will be. (Whether the people making these claims are including themselves in this characterization remains unclear.) So why single him out?

        As it happens, both claims are untrue. Wilson wasn’t simply a personal, after-hours racist. Nor he was he just a creature of his time, reflecting a popular racism that was already firmly in place. As president, Wilson actively worked to nationalize — some might even say internationalize — the Southern position on race, most notably by segregating, and implementing new modes of discrimination within, the federal bureaucracy, which in the years leading up to his administration had offered African Americans some possibility for advancement. Racism was central to his politics, and he made specific contributions to advancing its cause in America.

      • It was also a cause he had long thought about, and to which he devoted countless scholarly hours. In 1901, while he was a professor at Princeton, Wilson penned an article for “The Atlantic Monthly” titled “The Reconstruction of the Southern States.” Here’s what he said about the freed slaves after the Civil War:

        An extraordinary and very perilous state of affairs had been created in the South by the sudden and absolute emancipation of the negroes, and it was not strange that the southern legislatures should deem it necessary to take extraordinary steps to guard against the manifest and pressing dangers which it entailed. Here was a vast ‘laboring, landless, homeless class,’ once slaves, now free; unpracticed in liberty, unschooled in self-control; never sobered by the discipline of self-support, never established in any habit of prudence; excited by a freedom they did not understand, exalted by false hopes; bewildered and without leaders, and yet insolent and aggressive; sick of work, covetous of pleasure,—a host of dusky children untimely put out of school….They were a danger to themselves as well as those whom they had once served….

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      • Woodrow Wilson was extremely racist — even by the standards of his time

      • This Wednesday, a group of Princeton students stormed the offices of president Christopher Eisgruber to demand that Woodrow Wilson's name be removed from all programs and buildings at the university. That's a big ask. Princeton has an entire school — the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs — named after Wilson, who served as university president from 1902 to 1910, before his time in the White House. It also has Wilson College, a residential college for undergrads.


        So far, the university is standing firm, insisting that, in the Associated Press's words, "it is important to weigh Wilson's racism, and how bad it was, with the contributions he made to the nation." And outside of Princeton, the incident is being seized upon as yet another example of campus PC run amok:

      • Leaving aside the broader question of whether Wilson's name should be removed, let's be clear on one thing: Woodrow Wilson was, in fact, a racist pig. He was a racist by current standards, and he was a racist by the standards of the 1910s, a period widely acknowledged by historians as the "nadir" of post–Civil War race relations in the United States.


        Woodrow Wilson resegregated the federal government

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      • Jefferson Is Next Target


        At University of Missouri and William & Mary, some place notes on statues honoring the author of Declaration of Independence, calling him a rapist and a racist.

      • November 23, 2015



        In the last week, Princeton University students who object to having Woodrow Wilson's name on an academic unit and a residential college occupied the president's office and left only when promised that the university would review its use of the Wilson name. The students pointed out that Wilson was a racist who, as president of the United States, had federal government agencies segregated, reversing progress toward civil rights for black people. Many observers have wondered which historical figure honored on American campuses would next capture critical attention.


        The answer appears to be Thomas Jefferson. At both the University of Missouri at Columbia and the College of William & Mary, critics have been placing yellow sticky notes on Jefferson statues, labeling him -- among other things -- "rapist" and "racist."


        Once again, students are raising the question of whether men seen as heroes in American history were decidedly unheroic when it came to issues of race -- and black students are demanding that colleges consider the impact of various honors for people whom they do not consider heroes. While Princeton has said it is considering the issue of the Wilson name, which could well remain, the student protest movement has led to widespread discussion of Wilson's record on race, which even fans of his idealistic internationalist vision admit was horrible. Publications such as Vox and Salon are running articles detailing just how bad Wilson was with regard to issues of race -- and giving prominence to a part of the historical record many have never considered.


        How will colleges respond to questions about the prominent place some institutions give Jefferson?

      • At William & Mary, Jefferson's alma mater, the notes on the statue just appeared, without an individual or group claiming responsibility or formally asking for the statue to be removed. Officials have noted that the protest has not actually damaged the statue, so they are not treating the incident like vandalism.


        "A university setting is the very place where civil conversations about difficult and important issues should occur. Nondestructive sticky notes are a form of expression compatible with our tradition of free expression," said a spokesperson via email.


        Students have been debating the issues raised by the notes on social media and in columns in the student paper.


        At Missouri, the Jefferson statue became an issue last month as tensions were rising over a range of issues raised by black students, who cited incidents of racial harassment as well as campus culture issues, such as the prominence given to a Jefferson statue.


        A petition is circulating calling for the statue to be removed. The petition notes the history of Jefferson's involvement with slavery. "Thomas Jefferson’s statue sends a clear nonverbal message that his values and beliefs are supported by the University of Missouri. Jefferson's statue perpetuates a sexist-racist atmosphere that continues to reside on campus," the petition says.

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      • Big Night for Boycott Movement


        Anthropology professors vote overwhelmingly to back boycott of Israeli universities. Issue now goes to their association membership.

      • November 23, 2015



        DENVER -- Members of the American Anthropological Association voted in favor of a resolution calling on the group to boycott Israeli academic institutions by a 1,040 to 136 margin at the association’s annual business meeting on Friday evening.


        The resolution will be put to a vote by the full AAA membership in the spring. A simple majority vote in favor of the resolution would make the academic boycott association policy. Unlike the Modern Language Association, the AAA does not require a minimum percentage of members to vote on a resolution for it to take effect.

      • Proponents of the academic boycott see it as a way of protesting Israel’s continued hold on some territories occupied in the Six Day War in 1967, and of standing up for the rights of Palestinians. A motion calling on the AAA to divest from corporations that "profit from the violation of Palestinian human rights and the illegal occupation" also passed on Friday. But because that divestment motion was introduced on the floor (as opposed to the boycott resolution, which was submitted in advance), it will go to the association’s executive board for its consideration and will not automatically be placed on the spring ballot.


        The American Association of University Professors opposes academic boycotts as contradictory to fundamental principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. But over the past two years, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel has gained momentum in academe, with a handful of U.S.-based scholarly associations -- most notably the American Studies Association -- backing the boycott call. If the more than 10,000-member AAA ultimately follows suit, it would be the largest association to endorse the academic boycott to date.

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      • U.S. DRONE OPERATORS are inflicting heavy civilian casualties and have developed an institutional culture callous to the death of children and other innocents, four former operators said at a press briefing today in New York.


        The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the veterans added. Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired.

      • In addition to Haas, the operators are former Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Bryant along with former senior airmen Cian Westmoreland and Stephen Lewis. The men have conducted kill missions in many of the major theaters of the post-9/11 war on terror, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


        “We have seen the abuse firsthand,” said Bryant, “and we are horrified.”


        An Air Force spokesperson did not address the specific allegations but wrote in an email that “the demands placed on the [drone] force are tremendous. A great deal of effort is being taken to bring about relief, stabilize the force, and sustain a vital warfighter capability. … Airmen are expected to adhere to established standards of behavior. Behavior found to be inconsistent with Air Force core values is appropriately looked into and if warranted, disciplinary action is taken.”


        Beyond the press conference, the group also denounced the program yesterday in an interview with The Guardian and in an open letter addressed to President Obama.

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