Trump’s attack on a Fair Internet Threatens Free Speech

June 24, 2017 by  
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By Corynne McSherry | Electronic Frontier Foundation | – –

Several US senators spoke out this week on the importance of net neutrality to innovation and free speech. They are right. The Internet has become our public square, our newspaper, our megaphone. The Federal Communications Commission is trying to turn it in something more akin to commercial cable TV, and we all have to work together to stop it.

What makes the Internet revolutionary is the ability of every user to create news and culture and participate in conversations with people all across the globe. Mass consumption of entertainment products may be big business and may even help drive adoption, but it’s not new and empowering like the opportunity to participate in speech on an infinite variety of topics. As the Supreme Court recently observed, Internet platforms “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanism available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.” Seven in ten American adults regularly use at least one Internet social networking service. Facebook alone has more than 1.79 billion monthly active users around the world. Twitter has over 310 million monthly active users who publish more than 500 million tweets each day. Instagram has over 600 million monthly users who upload over 95 million photos every day. Snapchat has over 100 million daily users who send and watch over 10 billion videos per day. And that’s just a small sampling of the commercial Internet platforms many of us use everyday. Millions more log into sites like Wikipedia, the Internet Archive, news outlets, government services and local libraries to access a wealth of information and culture.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is threatening to eliminate net neutrality protections altogether by dismantling the legal structure on which they depend

Most importantly, the Internet has played an increasingly vital role in political expression and organizing. Conservative activists from around the country coalesced over various social networking platforms to form the Tea Party movement. The Black Lives Matter movement used Twitter to help spark a national conversation on racial inequality. The Standing Rock Sioux used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to galvanize national support for their protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and its threat to their drinking water. Earlier this year organizers used Facebook and Twitter to share information, plan events, and motivate participation in the Women’s March.

What does this have to do with net neutrality? Simple: all of these services depend the existence of open communications protocols that let us innovate without having to ask permission from any company or government.

The Internet was built on the simple but powerful idea that while you may need to pay a service provider for Internet access, that provider doesn’t get to shape what you access – or who has access to you. Anyone who wants to offer a new Internet service can, without paying extra fees to any provider. Users, in turn, can make their own choices about which services they want to use – including the next Twitter/Facebook/Snapchat that’s being created in someone’s basement right now.

In 2014, that powerful idea motivated millions of Internet users to band together and demand that the FCC enact clear, legally sound rules to prevent broadband providers from taking advantage of their power as gatekeepers to engage in unfair practices like paid prioritization, blocking, and other forms of data discrimination. We know that such practices could transform this extraordinary engine for civic discourse into something more like cable TV, where providers and content owners bargain over what content will be available at full speed and what will be throttled.

In 2015, the FCC answered our call and adopted the Open Internet Order to protect net neutrality. In 2016, the DC Circuit Court of Appeal upheld it – in contrast to the efforts of prior FCCs that operated on shaky legal theories. But the new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to reverse course. He’s calling on the public to comment on whether we even need open Internet rules in the first place, and threatening to eliminate net neutrality protections altogether by dismantling the legal structure on which they depend, despite widespread public support for those protections and despite the fact that net neutrality has been the rule of the Internet from its inception, backed by a combination of legal requirements and cultural norms that are now in danger of being eliminated.

We can’t let that happen. We still have an open Internet that lets us make ourselves heard, so Let’s Make. Ourselves. Heard. The millions of Internet users who fought for Net Neutrality in 2014, and the millions more who have been mobilized in the intervening years, need to send a simple message to Chairman Pai and his backers in Congress and the Trump Administration: Don’t let big cable mess with our Internet.

take action

SPEAK UP FOR NET NEUTRALITY

Via EFF

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Net Neutrality II: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Green France: Macron bans Fracking and welcomes US renewables Scientists fleeing Trump

June 24, 2017 by  
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By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The French government wants to steal increasingly unemployed US green energy scientists, who are being systematically defunded by the Trump administration.

After Trump pulled out of the Paris accords, Macron addressed US professionals:

“To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland . . . I call on them: come and work here with us. To work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.”

At the same time, the Macron government has ambitious plans to make France a green energy powerhouse and major research hub, in hopes of capturing the trillions of dollars the renewables sector will generate. In short, who will invent the next inexpensive and efficient solar panel? The US, France or China? Whoever does will make a killing.

At the same time, French environment minister Nicolas Hulot (an actual environmentalist) announced that he France will ban any new fracking or exploration for oil, gas or coal on French soil. Now that’s what it is like to belong to a country not run by the CEO of Exxon Mobil.

France has a relatively low carbon footprint because 78% of its electricity is generated by some 58 nuclear power plants. Many of these plants are aging, however, and Macron will close a lot, reducing the nuclear share of electricity production to 50% only a few years from now (2025) Likewise, the French government hopes to see all coal plants in the country closed by 2022!

Macron and Hulot want to make up the shortfall with greater energy efficiency (many French buildings don’t have insulation), by encouraging 10% of work days to be telecommuting from home, and by making a massive push for wind and solar energy.

French wind power grew 7% last year, but the plan is for that pace to pick up substantially through government policy. It is now toward 5% of French electricity production.

France wants to build 2 gigawatts worth of small-scale solar installations.

France currently gets 11% of its electricity from renewables, but wants that proportion to be 23% by 2023– more than doubling in 5 years. France has applied to the EU to add 17 gigawatts of clean power over the next 7 years at a cost of $1.1 billion.

France is about to embark on the kind of “energy switch” Germany has long devoted itself to, with massive consequences for French society, science,engineering and the economy. The twentieth century was cruel to French military defenses, but this is a war where France will proudly be in the forefront, and winning, perhaps more than the fossil-fuel addicted US.

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Related video:

Construction of PV power plant in Cestas, France

Eight is Great!

June 23, 2017 by  
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Dear Eddie,

You are eight and eight is GREAT, of course.

Let me tell you all about yourself as you are right now.

You are absolutely, without a doubt, my showman. You love to have people look at and listen to you. Ever since you could toddle around, you have wanted to play with or near me (or your dad). You want to be able to give running commentary on what you are thinking. Just today, you had the entire Lego bin upstairs so you could design and build and talk. Your mind is constantly working; the wheels constantly turning. I know this, because mine is exactly the same.

In fact, Daddy and I laugh sometimes at how we can be talking about one thing, and you start talking about something totally different with no segue or introduction or anything. We often have to stop and say, “wait. What are you talking about?” We laugh because I used to do the exact same thing–all the way until I was in college. Ok I still do it to some degree.

You are such a compassionate, deep thinker. You question everything shamelessly. I admire that about you. A few weeks ago you and I were riding in the car and you said to me, “Mom. Sometimes I find it so strange that I am who I am. Like I am in this body just being a person and seeing things through my eyes. I know, that’s sort of weird and I don’t know how to explain it.” But the thing is, Eddie? I totally knew what you were talking about. When I was your age, I used to just stare out a window and think those sort of thoughts too. Shoot. I still do.

You and I have so much in common. Our brains operate much the same way. This serves us well now; we have a great relationship. We enjoy being with each other because we enjoy the same things: reading, writing, relaxing, talking. Don’t get me wrong. You like a LOT of stuff I honestly don’t care much about: Pokemon, video games, Captain Underpants, and that stupid trout song from Puss in Books on Netflix. Actually we have almost zero in common when it comes to choosing what to watch on Netflix.

But we both like to be silly. We both think a lot. We both believe in being kind. We both want to make people smile. We both believe in standing up for what is just and right.

In fact, your 2nd grade teacher this year told Daddy and me that you were a little activist. Daddy rolled his eyes and said, “I wonder where he got that?” and looked at me. I was smiling hugely, because you and I are the same.

And yet, we are not the same in some key areas. At your age I was not as socially brave as you are. I was afraid to try new things because I was afraid to fail. You are confident and willing to give anything a go. You just want to have fun whether that is in sports or school or scouts. I would not say you are serious or particularly passionate about any one thing just yet. This is apparent when anyone asks you what you want to be when you grow up.

In your mind, the whole world is open to you. You can do whatever you set your heart on. And right now, it is true. But what I want you to know is that is a privilege for you. You live a very privileged life, my son. It’s not because we are rich, because we certainly are not. It is not because you get whatever you want when you want it, because you certainly do not. But by happenstance of birth, you live a very comfortable life. You were born into a white, middle-class family who lives in a nice little subdivision in an area of very low crime. You go to a good, affluent school district. You are male.

The world is yours, so to speak.

What I hope for you is that you recognize that privilege and use it for good:

That you give more than you take.

That you listen more than you speak.

That you stand up more than you stay seated.

That you speak out more than you stay silent.

That you shine the light on those who are often in the shadows more than you hog that light for yourself.

I believe you will do these things because you are already very interested in what is right and just. And honestly, we need you–and others your age–to step up because the grown-ups right now are busy making things a mess. There is still so much racism, sexism, classism, ableism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophia…the list goes on and on. It seems that tolerance and love are buried under a lot of hate and fear.

Eddie, I know that your heart has more acceptance and love in it than anything else.

I know you will help to change the world.

I believe in you, Eddie Bear. I believe you can do what you set out to do. You will fail sometimes, yes. But I think if you are passionate and truly love, you will be successful.

I’m so glad you’re you.

And I am so honored that we are a part of each other.

I love you, my precious son.

Do great things with great love.

Happy 8th birthday.

Love,
Mom

Pick up an @Amazon #Kindle Or #Fire for you & yr gift list & then fill w/books! #SummerReading #BookRecommendations #Bookish

June 23, 2017 by  
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Everyone is a reader. Whether they like big books, small books, magazines or just perusing blogs for information. And if they say they aren’t a reader? They should be. This Summer help readers and none readers have no excuse to pick up a book by giving them the gift of reading, CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE … Continue reading Pick up an @Amazon #Kindle Or #Fire for you & yr gift list & then fill w/books! #SummerReading #BookRecommendations #Bookish

Saying ‘I Do’ May Help You Fight Disease, According To New Study

June 23, 2017 by  
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With an average of 2.4 million weddings performed in the United States every year, this time-old practice surely brings us love and compassion. But could tying the knot actually be good for our health?

A new British study suggests that getting hitched may be beneficial for your heart — literally.

BBC reports that researchers at Aston Medical School studied almost a million people in the UK with high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. They found that the patients who were married had a better chance of surviving these heart health risks than the single patients.

According to BBC, the research team looked at deaths caused by these heart risk factors. They found that the patients in their 50s, 60s, and 70s were more likely to survive these conditions if they were married. Paul Carter, who led the study, said in a statement to BBC that while they saw a correlation between marriage and health, they did not determine a specific cause.

“We need to unpick the underlying reasons a bit more, but it appears there’s something about being married that is protective, not only in patients with heart disease but also those with heart disease risk factors,” he said.

BBC points out that the study did not ask subjects whether they were happy in their marriages. Carter said in a statement that the team’s next step will test the benefits of other types of close relationships.

“We’re not saying that everyone should get married though,” he told BBC. “We need to replicate the positive effects of marriage and use friends, family and social support networks in the same way.”

A number of other studies have actually contested the notion that marriage is the key to a long, healthy life. The Guardian reports that a recently published Swiss study asked 11,000 people about their health once per year and found that the married subjects reported declining health. The Guardian also cites a 2015 British study that found that men benefit more from marriage, leaving single women almost just as healthy.

In a statement to BBC, Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Hearth Foundation said that the study by Carter and colleagues likely proves the benefit of supportive relationships in general. So, while there is an average of 44,230 weddings in the United States every weekend, we might need more evidence before claiming marriage’s exclusive healing properties.

“The take-home message is that our social interactions, as well as medical risk factors such as high blood pressure, are important determinants of both our health and wellbeing,” he said. “Whether you are married or not, if you have any of the main risk factors for heart disease, then you can call upon loved ones to help you to manage them.”

 

The post Saying ‘I Do’ May Help You Fight Disease, According To New Study appeared first on Green and Clean Mom ™.

          
 
 

New bill in Oregon addresses housing affordability–by limiting local control

June 23, 2017 by  
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Oregon’s legislature is considering a fascinating, and controversial, bill to remove certain local controls over development in favor of new, faster development and higher density. The Atlantic’s “City Lab” reports:

H.B. 2007 would preempt residential downzoning in cities, meaning a neighborhood couldn’t seek lower density than its current status. It would also preempt cities or counties from banning accessory dwelling units or duplexes in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes.

That’s a laundry list of obstacles that developers nationwide face in building new homes in supply-strapped cities. H.B. 2007 would take the question out of the hands of local government, where lawmakers are often shackled by the wishes of NIMBY homeowners who don’t want to see more housing (and more people) in their communities. Essentially, by stripping cities of authority, the state is protecting its cities from their own neighborhoods.

I am normally an advocate for increasing local control, not decreasing it—especially in Michigan where it often seems the best interests of cities like Detroit are not exactly the driving force behind our legislature’s decision-making. But I find this approach interesting because it is a response to decreasing housing affordability, which has reached crisis levels in Portland. Poor people simply can’t afford to live there without spending a large portion of their income on housing. HB 2007 “fast-tracks” a development’s permitting process if it includes affordable housing. And by ensuring that multi-family units can’t be easily prohibited from single-family neighborhoods, the bill fosters increasing density and helps support affordability.

The Strategic Importance of Cities

The bill also acknowledges that our cities play an important strategic role in the economic development of the state and that growing major cities ability to attract and retain talent is critical to the state’s goals. Our report on how to make Michigan a high-prosperity state once again shows that ensuring our cities are places where talent wants to live and work is essential.

A lot of what Michigan needs to do to improve our cities is encourage “placemaking,” the infusion of character and activation into public spaces that is usually the result of increasing density and walkability. A risk of this bill is to historic preservation–an ethos and set of tools that are essential to providing that sense of authentic character in a city. Advocates in Portland seem split on the extent of danger HB 2007 enables, but there is reason to be cautious.

Improving Economic Integration

A serious benefit is the potential for greater economic integration, by decreasing the local power that that those in affluent neighborhoods have to curtail new affordable housing in their neighborhood. Integrating neighborhoods is one of the key levers identified in our recent report on how to improve outcomes for Michigan’s kids. And affluent NIMBY’ers fighting new housing density is a problem that exists in certain Michigan cities already (think Ann Arbor) and could start to exist in certain neighborhoods of Detroit, if not the city as whole.

I’m not sure Oregon’s approach would be the right policy solution for Michigan. But it’s an interesting experiment, and I’ll certainly be watching for the results—if it passes.

The post New bill in Oregon addresses housing affordability–by limiting local control appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

John, part 2, The Light of the Son vs. the Light of the Sun

June 23, 2017 by  
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Remember how in Ecclesiastes we found more instances of the word sun than in any other Bible book? There is not one instance of the word sun in John even though both books are linked by the Hebrew letter shin. And look at how John compares with the other three Gospel books:

There is no reason for such an absence other than to show God’s precision in His design of the Bible. Despite the absence of the sun look how the light shines in John:


The following are from the KJV:
John 1:4: In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 1:5: And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
John 1:7: The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
John 1:8: He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
John 1:9: That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
John 3:19: And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

John 3:20: For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
John 3:21: But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
John 5:35: He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
John 8:12: Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the lightof life.
John 9:5: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
John 11:9: Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
John 11:10: But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no lightin him.
John 12:35: Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
John 12:36: While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.
John 12:46: I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

We’ll take a look at the fact that Jesus is God in part 3, next week.

4 Nations twist Qatar’s arm, to close down Aljazeera

June 23, 2017 by  
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By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

In a bid completely to return the Middle East to the old system of strict government media censorship, four countries have demanded that Qatar close down the Aljazeera television channel.

Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates made the demands formally via Kuwait, which is attempting to mediate the dispute between the four countries and Qatar. The list also included a demand that Qatar close its diplomatic mission in Iran and largely cut that country off, as well as a demand that it cut off the Muslim Brotherhood.

Aljazeera, from the late 1990s, emerged as a fresh voice on the Arab media scene. Its philosophy was to report all sides of an issue. They routinely interviewed Israeli officials. They brought on US State Department spokesmen.

In 2011 when the youth revolts broke out in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Bahrain, the existence of an independent satellite television station that reported events relatively dispassionately was important. The Ben Ali regime in Tunisia had secret police fire on people and put them in the morgue or the hospital, and then it lied, denying that there were any casualties. Ben Ali’s son-in-law controlled much of the media that wasn’t directly in government hands.

Even Hillary Clinton, who on the whole did not approve of the youth movement, said she thought that Al Jazeera did a good job of reporting these dramatic events.

Al Jazeera has less independence now than it did in 2011, but it is still a wideranging voice that would be sorely missed if it ceased broadcast. It is accused of abetting the Muslim Brotherhood, but I don’t find that it gives the group much air time. As for Iran, you almost never see Iran news on Al Jazeera.

The revolutions of 2011-2012 in the Middle East unseated Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Moammar Gadaffi of Libya, and (for a while) Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen.

The four hawkish countries that made the demand that Aljazeera be closed are autocracies that enjoyed their previous media monopoly, and who are determined that nothing like 2011 ever happen again.

The joke used to be that Dubai-based al-Arabiya reported on everything but Saudi Arabia, and al Jazeera reported on everything but Qatar, but if you put them together, you could find out almost everything.

That joke would go onto the trash heap of history if Saudi Arabia and Egypt get their way.

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Related video:

Bloomberg, “Qatar Crisis”

Can the Sadr Movement in Iraq overcome Sectarianism with new Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish Party?

June 22, 2017 by  
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By Mustafa Habib | Baghdad | ( Niqash.org) | – –

One of Iraq’s most powerful political groupings, the Sadrist movement, is trying to form a new alliance that may unite secular, Sunni and Kurdish parties. It would be a first for Iraq. But it could also be a trap.

The Sadrist movement has had a busy few months. The Iraqi political movement, which is led by the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has defected from the larger Shiite Muslim political alliance to which it belongs, withdrawn ministers from government, joined in popular anti-corruption demonstrations calling for political reform and now, it seems, the Sadrists are trying to form a new alliance in preparation for federal elections next year. The most interesting thing about the latter is that the Sadrists appear to want to form an alliance that does not rely on sectarian affiliations – that is, whether one is a Shiite or Sunni Muslim. It may also end up not mattering whether one is religious or not, too.

For several weeks now, the Sadrists have been holding a series of talks with secular political groups. If successful, the alliance would be the first between a religious, Shiite Muslim political group and a secular, civil-minded one.

There are obvious ideological differences between the two groups but they also have some very important things in common.

“The Sadrist movement will be the first to break away from these sectarian alliances,” Ali Shawaileh, an MP for the Sadrist movement’s political party, known as the Ahrar bloc, told NIQASH; the model built on sectarian alliances and quotas for each of them in Iraqi politics has failed, he argued.

“And we have made many concessions in order to be able to do so,” Shwaileh continued. “We withdrew our ministers from the government so that the prime minister [Haider al-Abadi] was able to choose technocrats for ministers. However all the other political parties rejected this and continued to insist on the posts being filled, according to sectarian quotas.”

The meetings between the Sadrists and secular groups involve two major subjects. Firstly, their ability to form a future-proof political movement and how to compete in the next federal elections, slated to be held in 2018, with it. And secondly, how to keep up the pressure with weekly protests that take place every Friday in Baghdad and in other provinces.

There are obvious ideological differences between the two groups but they also have some very important things in common. One of the most vital is their shared enmity for Iraq’s former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Not a week goes by without some senior member of the Sadrist movement criticising al-Maliki. Muqtada al-Sadr himself said in a television interview in mid-May that he would never vote for al-Maliki again because he had sold off the country.

Al-Maliki countered that by criticizing the Sadrist movement for stepping outside the Shiite Muslim alliance and going against what he called the consensus.

The secular groups also dislike al-Maliki. The latter’s hostility towards the organisers of the Friday demonstrations is well known; he used Iraq’s military to disperse the unarmed protestors and arrested many of them.

Shiite Muslim parties have held power in Iraq since 2003, winning a majority of seats in parliamentary elections in 2005, 2009 and 2014. In the past, al-Maliki had said he wanted to lead the country because of his ability to liaise with all sectors of Iraqi politics, including Sunni Muslim parties and the Kurdish ones.

But in 2018, al-Maliki has said he wants to return to power because he is supported by the Shiite Muslim alliance. Some of the Shiite Muslim militias, who started as volunteer fighters against the extremist Islamic State group but who are now a quasi-official force, say they will support al-Maliki. In particular, the militias allied with Iran say they support the former prime minister.

However, if the Sadrist movement do not take part in the existing Shiite Muslim alliance, this would mean the loss of around 30 seats and effectively, a loss of their majority.

Since April 2017, Ahmad al-Sadr, the 31-year-old nephew of Muqtada al-Sadr, has been involved in trying to build new political alliances for the Sadrist movement. During April, the younger al-Sadr has held meetings with most of the other political blocs in Iraq, including Sunni Muslim and Kurdish parties. He did not hold a meeting with the coalition led by al-Maliki.

There is no doubt that the Sadrist movement remains powerful. Muqtada al-Sadr is the only Shiite Muslim political leader who is capable of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis within hours. Other Shiite Muslim parties, especially those with close links to Iran, are unable to do this – they may have power but it is considered to come from outside Iraq. Additionally only the Sadrist movement has leaders who remained inside the country while Shiite Muslims were being terrorized by former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim.

Today the Sadrist movement’s strength comes from three different things. Al-Sadr’s ongoing popularity with the poor Shiite Muslims of Baghdad and in the southern provinces, who are inspired by him; the armed forces the Sadrist movement can raise because of this – formerly it was the Mahdi army, now it is the Salam, or Peace, brigades; and the fact that the movement’s political wing, Ahrar, is very active at both federal and provincial level. Despite changes in the political scenery, the Sadrists have remained united.

All of these factors mean that if the Sadrist movement does manage to ally itself with civil, Sunni Muslim or Kurdish parties, it will become even more important in the next Iraqi elections – because of its new alliances and also because of its crippling withdrawal from the Shiite Muslim alliance. Any new alliance between the Sadrists and non-Shiite actors will effectively prevent al-Maliki from leading the country again. There’s only one question local analysts are still asking: Could the Sadrist movement be setting up a Trojan horse? Given more historic Sadrist ties to Iran, that possibility is also real – but only time will bring the answer.

Via Niqash.org

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

FRBI: ” Sadr: ‘We are all responsible, but Maliki occupied the apex of the pyramid’”

Was ISIL’s destruction of Mosul’s Nuri Mosque Grand Strategy?

June 22, 2017 by  
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By Benjamin Isakhan and Jose Antonio Gonzalez Zarandona | (The Conversation) | – –

On June 29 2014 – nearly three years ago to the day – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took the pulpit at the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul in northern Iraq. He announced the creation of a new Islamic State that stretched across the borders of Iraq and Syria. Declaring himself Caliph Ibrahim, the leader of all Muslims, he implored the faithful from across the world to make the pilgrimage to come and serve.

File 20170623 21202 1fjic2d

The Great Mosque’s famous leaning minaret in 2013.
Faisal Jeber/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

Yesterday, in the midst of what are likely to be the final stages in the Battle for Mosul, the Islamic State appears to have destroyed the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri and its iconic leaning minaret.

As the Iraqi poet Ahmed Zaidan has said, the Great Mosque was not only a significant cultural heritage site for Muslims in general, but it was also regarded as an essential part of the Mosul skyline – a symbol of the city’s long past and diverse communities. The building itself was erected in 1172 by the great Nur Al-Din ibn Zengi (1118-1174), widely regarded as the man who launched the first successful holy war against Western crusaders.

Although there are conflicting reports about who destroyed the mosque – the IS blames American airstrikes – the available footage online suggests the site was bombed with explosives from the inside. Such destruction certainly fits with their pattern of the Islamic State’s aggressive destruction of religious imagery, as we have described recently.

It would be cynical and unwise to dismiss the destruction of the Great Mosque as a last desperate effort by the IS, a fit of rage in the face of imminent defeat. From their inception, the IS have been engaged as much in a symbolic war as they have a military one. And as their capacity to hold and defend territory shrinks, this war becomes key to expressing their power and ideology and imploring their adherents to continue the fight.

An attack on heritage, an attack on Mosul

The IS has been involved in the deliberate destruction of sites that are held most dear by local populations. A key reason for this is to discourage the millions of refugees and displaced from returning and re-building their fragile and cosmopolitan communities.

As our ongoing research, which includes interviews with displaced Iraqis from Mosul, is starting to reveal, many Yezidi and Christians have claimed that they will not go back to their traditional homelands. This is in no small part because their sacred sites – their spiritual connection to the place and their heritage – have been so systematically ruptured by the IS’s destruction.

The Great Mosque of Mosul is no different. The people of Mosul – and more broadly of Iraq – were extremely proud of the mosque and its leaning minaret, which appears on the 10,000 Iraqi dinar banknote. They will lament the destruction of the mosque in much the same way that they continue to mourn the countless archaeological sites and churches that the IS has destroyed.

The Great Mosque on Iraq’s 10,000 dinar note.

Another key reason to destroy the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri is that it has already yielded them news attention from across the world. By destroying the mosque, the IS are drawing attention to the fact that many in the West might care more about the destruction of a mosque than the horrific human tragedies unfolding every day in Iraq. Such an attack is therefore also an attack on the “Western” ideology that values the preservation of heritage such as the mosque.

Finally, when Mosul is eventually re-taken from the IS it will be the product of a long and complex battle by a combination of Shia, Kurds and what the IS sees as crusaders (Westerners). It would be a disastrous symbol of defeat for the IS if such forces were to take the pulpit in the Grand Mosque and declare victory over the Caliphate. To destroy the mosque is to deprive their enemies of this opportunity.

The destruction of heritage is always deplorable, and forces us to ask how we value the past and what we can learn from it. However, heritage is also about the future – it is a fundamental part of the recovery of societies which have been affected by war and conflict; it is the glue that holds together such fragile and diverse communities.

The ConversationThe destruction of the Great Mosque is not only an attack on the social fabric of Mosul, it is also a deeper attack on the Iraqi people; a symbol of the many challenges that lie ahead as they try to re-build a peaceful and positive future after the horrors of the Islamic State.

Benjamin Isakhan, Associate Professor of Politics and Policy, Deakin University and Jose Antonio Gonzalez Zarandona, Associate Research Fellow, Heritage Destruction Specialist, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

VICE News: “The Fight Against ISIS in Mosul Reaches Final Stage (HBO)”

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