Archive | December 5th, 2019

Ambassador Sondland Testimony: Delayed Ukraine Aid Linked Directly to Trump’s Desire to Win Reelection

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 20, 2019Organization Profile:

 Public Citizen

Contact:  Phone: 202-588-1000

Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Public Citizen

WASHINGTON – Note: The U.S. ambassador to the European Union and registered Republican, Gordon Sondland, testified today that there was a quid pro quo in the Ukraine controversy.

The immensity of Ambassador Sondland’s bombshell testimony cannot be overstated. Sondland has confirmed the bribery scheme, in other words, flatly admitted a quid pro quo, and detailed how widespread the knowledge of the conditioned meeting and aid were within the Trump administration. The president’s defenses are crumbling, and the likelihood of impeachment has moved significantly forward with Sondland’s clear statements this morning.

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Billboards for World Children’s Day Call for Freedom for Detained Children in the U.S.

WASHINGTON – For World Children’s Day on November 20, Amnesty International USA is calling for the United States government to stop detaining children who seek safety in the United States, with new billboards targeting the Trump administration.

As part of the I Welcome campaign, Amnesty International USA has launched billboards in Florida targeting the detention of children seeking safety. The human rights organization chose Florida after in-depth research into the Homestead, Florida facility, which Amnesty International USA found violated children’s rights by holding them in prolonged and indefinite detention and keeping them in conditions that did not meet U.S. or international standards, violating the best interests of the child. A billboard that reads “You are now 7 miles away from where kids are locked up” was launched in Homestead, Florida, in a location where visitors driving towards Miami would see the announcement. Another billboard that reads “We don’t believe in locking up children. Do you?” was launched in Orlando, Florida, 10 miles away from Disney World, where families would be especially addressed to spread awareness of what has taken place in their own backyard.

Both billboards include the web address, TruthAboutHomestead.org, a website to take action for detained children on World Children’s Day, learn more about the campaign, or join a local banner drop. The web action enables individuals to hold the U.S. government accountable for the prolonged and indefinite detention of children based on immigration status— for weeks, months, and in some cases, years longer than is permissible by international law, and to demand that no child seeking safety should ever be held in detention. The action also demands that the U.S. government close down the Homestead facility once and for all. Though the government stopped detaining children at Homestead recently, the facility has remained open, and could detain children again at a later date.

Trucks, as well as sidewalk pavement ads, were also set up with several messages including: “We don’t believe in locking up children. Do you?”;  “Florida: Amusement parks. Beaches. Detained children.”; “Children should not be locked up for seeking safety”; “Children have the right to be with their families. Children have the right to seek asylum”; and “Children should not be locked up for seeking safety”.

“World Children’s Day is a day for children, yet children in this very country are denied their freedom. The Trump administration has detained children for the act of seeking safety,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “These kids should be with their families, their loved ones, and their communities, instead they are locked away in facilities like Homestead with no foreseeable end in sight. This World Children’s Day, we have used our resources to open people’s eyes to the truth so that they can take action for these kids’ freedom. People can no longer say that they did not know.”

Background:

Amnesty International USA has repeatedly called on the U.S. government to stop the use and establishment of facilities such as Homestead, to stop the detention of children simply because of their immigration status, and to close the Homestead facility permanently,

In October, Amnesty International USA met with Jonathan H. Hayes, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while visiting a facility that the office runs in Brownsville. During the visit, Amnesty International USA was told the Office of Refugee Resettlement does not view children held in its facilities as detained and therefore the generally accepted principle that children should be released from detention within 20 days was not applicable.

World Children’s Day commemorates the day in 1959 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantees children’s rights around the world.

For World Children’s Day last year, Amnesty International USA called for all children held at the Dilley Detention Center in Texas to be freed alongside their families, and for the U.S. to end its plan of expanding family detention centers.

This statement is available at https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/billboards-for-world-childrens-day-call-for-freedom-for-detained-children-in-the-u-s/

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2,600 benefit claimants die within weeks of being ruled fit for work

  • At least 2,600 sick and disabled people died after being declared fit to work
  • The government contractor approved them to work following assessment
  • Critics have demanded an inquiry after they died when taken off benefits

By TAMARA COHEN

THE DAILY MAIL

At least 2,600 sick and disabled people died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ by a Government contractor.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions show that around 100 people per month died shortly after being ruled well enough to take a job.

Officials from Iain Duncan Smith’s department insist the overall mortality rate for people on out-of-work benefits, and specifically sickness and disability benefits, has fallen every year over the last decade in line with the rest of the population.

But critics demanded an inquiry as it emerged that, over a period of two years, 2,380 people died within 14 days of being taken off Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because they were declared ‘fit to work’ by a controversial assessment process.

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At least 2,600 sick and disabled people died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ by a government contractor
Iain Duncan Smith

At least 2,600 sick and disabled people died shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ by a government contractor, according to figures released by Iain Duncan Smith’s department

A further 270 died within six weeks of being taken off Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance – older benefits which are now being phased out – taking the total to 2,650 between December 2011 and February 2014.

Atos, the French firm which carried out the assessments for the DWP, ended its contract with the Government earlier this year, after a series of complaints that people were wrongly recommended for work.

Claimants for ESA must have this Work Capability Assessment, and are divided into a ‘work-related activity group’ who could do some work with the right help, and a ‘support group’ who are not expected to work. Around two million assessments have been carried out since 2010.

The figures from the DWP showed that 1,360 people declared fit for work had completed an appeal against the decision before they died, although it is unknown how many were upheld. Some previous figures suggested 42 per cent of appeals against the company’s decisions were upheld.

Government officials are now seeking a new firm to carry out the assessments. Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham said: ‘These are shocking figures that for the first time show the human cost of this Government’s punishing benefits regime.

‘It raises serious questions about this Government’s punitive approach to people on benefits.’

Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham said the figures were a consequence of the Government's 'punishing benefits regime'

Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham said the figures were a consequence of the Government’s ‘punishing benefits regime’Controversial benefit reforms were announced in 2015 budgetLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00PreviousPlaySkipMuteCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:55FullscreenNeed Text

David Cameron announced in June that the statistics showing how many people who have died after losing their benefits would be published.

A Freedom of Information request to release them was blocked by the DWP, after Mr Duncan Smith said his department did not collect these numbers.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office overruled this decision in April and said the figures should be published within 35 days. The DWP appealed but have now released them.

Many of those found fit for work go on to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance, which is paid at a lower rate of £73 a week – compared with up to £103 a week for those on ESA.

A DWP spokesman said: ‘The mortality rate for people who have died while claiming an out-of-work benefit has fallen over a ten-year period.

‘This is in line with the mortality rate for the general working-age population.’

  • A spokesman for the Department of Works and Pensions asks us to make clear that some of the claimants who died would have been going through the appeals process and would have still been receiving benefits. It is therefore impossible to make any link in these statistics between someone dying and their being found fit for work.

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Feltman’s paper confirms US sponsorship of the movement with its three ribs (by George Obaid)

Jeffrey Feltman’

By George Obaid

Whoever reads Jeffrey Feltman’s speech to the US Congress, has just realized the meaning behind the lines. This is a man who has lived closely with Lebanon and the Lebanese, and has made friends with a number of politicians such as Walid Jumblatt, Saad Hariri, Fares Said, Ghattas Khoury, Fouad Siniora and others. In Lebanon, not only did Syria leave the country and implemented Resolution 1559, which dipped and baptized Rafik Hariri, it was, along with Condoleezza Rice and John Bolton, intent on striking Lebanon’s stability and attracting it to the concept of creative chaos, embodied in the sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in order to strike Hezbollah. Then, no Amos strongly Israel to launch its war on Lebanon in the Fourth of July of 2006.

In form and content, Feltman’s invitation to the US Congress to testify in order to describe the situation in Lebanon and shed light on the movement of demonstrations in terms of influence and influence, is not limited to his knowledge of the Lebanese interior and his experience of the situation and details, but because the man lived the most accurate stages and radical and historical transformations In Lebanon, he had a long history of evaluating and addressing them and then gathering new elements trying to link the events of Lebanon to the events of Iraq, which exploded as the United States entered its yard in 2003.Feltman, Bolton, and Rice gathered at this point in the ideas and visions that became valid columns to build a Lebanese building that did not lead the Syrians to get rid of the earthquakes surrounding it, as evidence that it was damaged in 2006 during the war in Israel, and in 2007 Lebanon turned to direct targeting of the Takfiris The caricature of Islam and Muslims, and then the events of May of 2008 to confirm the permanence of the damage gaps also consumed by others, until the entry of the Arab world Atton fall and winter stormy in 2011 was one of its violent theaters, all with American support and encouragement.

Aziz Jeff lived at a delicate stage in the history of Lebanon and the Levant as a rapporteur and collector of political forces in new regimes later called the March 14 Forces. Lebanon does not concern him in essence and privacy, Jeff completes his bad predecessors who dealt with the Lebanese issue, and used him as a tool or paper or arena for deals, and thus to secure the vital American interests as announced during his testimony before the US Congress. Calling him at this very moment is not innocent of the administration’s role in fostering the movement in its advanced stages. Feltman, as he has emerged, is a strategic theorist and a positivist reader of American interests in their roles, dimensions, and meanings. The data shows that David Schenker, who was ambassador to the United States in Turkey and who is currently in the Lebanese file, is in contact with “Aziz Jeff”, which in turn flows to Mike Dandria, the killer of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior leader in Hezbollah, and incited to demonstrate In both Iraq and Iran. This means that the deep American administration, based on these extremist symbols, and wanted to take the Lebanese-Iraqi-Iranian triangle to a real creative chaos, which Feltman in his Lebanese speech as follows:

1- Sponsoring the street protests, according to his literature, contributes to the promotion of American interests in Lebanon through the continuous, escalating and continuous pressure mechanisms to encircle the Covenant, and the price of this head of resistance personally, that is, the Secretary General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah.

2-Playing on the tension of the Lebanese economy and the exchange rate of the dollar is certain that the Lebanese will resort to the American administration for help, and then the US administration can set its clear conditions to secure it, without losing Lebanon, and thus, because of its loss, Lebanon will turn to China. Russia and Iran, especially that the Chinese origin 5g, which is the best in the world of communications will tempt the Lebanese to go towards it.

3 – Work to find a formula of separation and dissolution between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah, and has focused on this more than once. Feltman did not mention that coordination between the Lebanese army, the resistance, and the Syrian army led to the liberation of the northern Bekaa from the Takfiri forces, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, because his administration rejected such coordination, but rejected Operation Dawn of the Gruff of its origin, which he inevitably remembers. Fajr shone with such great coordination between the army and the resistance, and “Jeff Jeff” is trying to convince Congress to tickle the army, which recalled the strike of Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared camp with a clear force and forgotten the battle of Dawn of the outskirts of the fact that the Takfiri forces and their organizations, one of the cards, as the Syrian displaced Of the pressure cards they use from Lebanon to Syria.

4 – Standing against the Russian ambition in his concept to include Lebanon in their care and activities as claimed. “Lebanon is an arena for global strategic competition, and others will fill the vacuum happily if we give up the land,” Lebanon for Feltman, ie the Americans American land. “Lebanon’s three ports and offshore hydrocarbon stocks, if exploited by Russia, will increase the sense that Russia is the winner in the eastern and southern Mediterranean at our expense,” he says.

5 – to stand against the containment of Syria and Lebanon with a Russian cover. President Bashar al-Assad, known for years as a strong dictator, and always allegedly relying on Russia, Iran and Hezbollah to redeploy his control over most of Syria, will no doubt like to assert himself as a powerful regional mediator, reversing his humiliation in 2005 when he was suddenly forced After the Lebanese protests and international pressure under the leadership of George. And. Bush to end Syria’s repressive military occupation in Lebanon. Feltman or Aziz Jeff believes that Russia will be pleased with the renewed Syrian hegemony over Lebanon.

All this suggests that Feltman’s reading was too scandalous for the movement in its advanced stages. The man, although he said that his reading represents him and not his research center, shows the American interest with its partial and total addresses accumulated in the Levant range, and used for Lebanon as the content of spillage and extension. This reading conceals that the Americans are agitating the earth with this movement in kind through the three known ribs, namely the Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Amal Movement, and a number of figures who express that vision. Mobility is no longer required in its content, so that its people scattered free of horizons, visions and strategists, there are no visions without prospects and thought. In this sense, if the movement in its content is purely Lebanese, why did not one of the organizers go out to face Feltman and disown him and his goals that he showed before the US Congress? Why did not one of them rise to face David Schenker and ask him not to interfere in the content of the Lebanese movement and in Lebanese politics, because the movement is an internal matter?

And yet, this year’s Independence Day has gone through a very bleak, but not hopeless. The speech of President Michel Aoun, whose emotional dimensions and strategic content, remains an integral part of the speech he delivered at the end of the first part of his term. We will have lighting on their wonderful content. The president’s speech is the actual document against the three American hawks: Jeffrey Feltman, David Schenker, and Mike Daredo.

Whatever the case, the word mountain high shattered on the rocks empty hollows. The next independence is the sweetest, highest and most beautiful moment the corrupt and criminals leave before us and our rice shines with faces from dawn and light.

From whatsapp revolution to dabkeh and dance to the bandits and livelihoods, everything that happened during the 36 days of protests does not amount to a revolution and even mobility. The audience of the outgoing President, Saad Hariri, finally joined her in an attempt to press the street to return from the position of force.

At the same time, we must mention the real movement that has not lost the compass, which is carried out by the national left parties, although the paid media is unfair to the right of this movement, which aimed at its movements towards the real places of corruption, namely, the Bank of Lebanon and the maritime property without cutting roads and disturbing the citizens.

It is true that the direct reason to take to the street was the cursory decision of the Minister of Alwatsab and it is true that most of those who landed in the early days due to the difficult and deteriorating economic conditions, was almost an uprising against hunger and corruption, but two days later began riding the movement of the donation and bear from external and internal forces The majority of the street withdrew to keep the bandits run by well-known authorities, without forgetting some patriots, who were overwhelmed by the media in covering their sincere movement.

This is a quick overview of what happened during this difficult period, and some superficial reasons, but if we are to dive into the hidden and hidden causes what is happening in Lebanon is not separate from what is happening in Iraq, Iran, Bolivia, Venezuela and even Syria. US arrogance and the most important reason is the huge reserves of oil resources expected to be discovered in these countries.

Returning to Lebanon, the natural gas reserves expected to be discovered in Lebanon and Syria will reach 9% of global reserves. This figure explains the US ambitions in Lebanon and Syria.

The first step was the signing of the oil discovery decrees in 2013, the resignation of the government of Najib Mikati at the time was due to the apparent dispute over the extension of General Ashraf Rifi, but the deepening of what happened then and before, especially as the resignation coincided with the visit of Barack Obama to Jerusalem and the West Bank and the corresponding data, We can say that the Ministry of Energy is one of the main reasons Mikati wanted the government to overstate, but to reshape it under his presidency, and to talk about British requests and an unprecedented American interest in the promising wealth, and both, do not want what they call the government of Hezbollah and do not want Gibran Bassil To the head of this promising ministry, anyone who wants to invest in Lebanon’s onshore oil and offshore gas, wants this ministry to be very far from the March 8 team, but a minister close to President Mikati is talking about creating investment conditions for the next government, and that the country needs circumstances Helping to promote the economy ..

The second step was the commissioning of oil exploration and extraction. Here, Lebanon faced almost two years of pressure of another kind represented in the detention of the famous Saad Hariri in Saudi Arabia. What turns to another question: Was all Hariri asked for was Saudi money, and was Bin Salman unable to collect it? So why was he sent to Bin Zayed? What did the latter ask him? And what did he pledge? Since states do not function as charities, and since it is known that President Macron is the representative of the financial lobby and companies, what made Macron mediate for Hariri and what pledges did he take from him? Are they linked to the support he is now receiving? Is Macron and Bin Zayed between the distribution of US-French assignments? The answer to these questions is Lebanon’s oil

The third step is to start oil exploration, which was supposed to start on December 15… Is it coincidence also the movement synchronized and continued with this historic step, which was postponed to the beginning of the new year because of the current situation

Here we must pay tribute to the work done by the Minister of Energy Nada Al-Bustanani and her persistence and hard work to overcome attempts to obstruct the implementation began in Block No. 4 and then No. 9 on the southern border

Therefore, everything that happened from Mikati’s resignation in 2013 to the current revolution is his main objective is to obstruct the exploration and extraction of Lebanese oil, especially since the Russian company Novatek is one of the companies that required oil exploration and this is what the United States did not want. After Syria stepped on the feet of the Russian bear shores of the Mediterranean from the gate of Lebanon, and this is what Feltman said yesterday that America’s failure to support Lebanon will make China and Russia enter Lebanon from its wide gate !!

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Dangerous drivel from Pompeo confirms America is no peace broker

Pompeo and Netanyahu
Stuart Littlewood writes:

Before our American friends run away with the idea that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has authority to say that planting Israeli civilian settlements in occupied Palestine “is not, per se, inconsistent with international law”, and that the Trump Administration is only recognising the reality on the ground, they might like to hear the authoritative opinion of John McHugo, International lawyer and Balfour Project trustee:

Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 provides that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Article 49(6) was considered by the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2004. It stated, at para. 120 of the Advisory Opinion, that Article 49(6) “prohibits not only deportations or forced transfers of population…but also any measures taken by an occupying Power in order to organize or encourage transfers of parts of its own population into the occupied territory.”

All judges of the court subscribed to this with the sole exception of Judge Buergenthal, the American judge, who is a Holocaust survivor and who lost toes to frostbite as a child in Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. He took the view that the Court should have declined to exercise its jurisdiction. Yet he issued his own Separate Declaration to the Advisory Opinion in which he expressly stated at Para. 9: “I agree that [Article 49(6)] applies to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and that their existence violates Article 49, paragraph 6”. The view that Israeli civilian settlements violated Article 49(6) was thus the unanimous view of the judges.

More recently, the fact that this is the law was reiterated by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016 at operative paragraph 1: “The Security Council Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

It is not for any State, however mighty and powerful, to rewrite the rules of international law. Realities on the ground are subject to the rule of law, just as all other realities are.

For good measure Article 85(4)(a) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides that “the transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” is a grave breach of the Protocol. And under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the 1998 ICC Statute “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts. 

And, by the way, in 1992, in its final report to Congress on the conduct of the Gulf War, the US Department of Defence declared that it regarded the transfer of the Iraqi population into occupied Kuwait in violation of Article 49 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV as a war crime. So, happy with the Convention then.

As usual, the US and its allies (including the UK), will observe international law when it suits them. But not if it upsets their bosom-pals in Israel.

Pompeo’s two cents’ worth follows Trump’s presidential declaration earlier this year recognising Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, which belong to Syria. When will Washington understand that Trump’s capricious shifts in policy don’t alter international law, don’t impress other nations and endanger world peace?

As a product of Harvard Law School, Pompeo should be ashamed of his fatuous pronouncement.

McHugo points out that British government policy is to recognise Palestine as a sovereign state “when it best serves the interests of peace”. In view of Pompeo’s and Trump’s dangerous remarks that moment is now.

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India: Chronic Hunger and Collapsing Banks: India Reels under Modi-Made Disaster

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THE deepening crisis of the Indian economy and the absolute collapse of governance are now an undeniable everyday reality. Examples abound on every front, evidences mount in every sphere. Economic crisis is no longer a subject of academic debates that the government can deny with the help of statistical jugglery. From IMF to RBI, every international or Indian institution is daily pointing to India’s declining overall growth rate. But the most damning blow has been India’s continuing fall in the Global Hunger Index ranking. In 2000, at the turn of the millennium, India was ranked 83 out of 113 countries. Two decades later, GHI 2019 has put India at 102 among 117 countries. All our neighbouring countries, China (25), Sri Lanka (66), Myanmar (69), Nepal (73), Bangladesh (88) and Pakistan (94) are now way ahead of India.

What is most worrying is the alarmingly high level of wasting among children under five. At 20.8% India’s child wasting rate (low weight for height) is the highest in the Global Hunger report of 2019. India’s child stunting rate (height for age), 37.9 percent, is also very high. The report says that in India, only 9.6 percent (hardly one out of ten) of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet. It is now very clear that hunger in India is massive and well-entrenched and yet the government not only does not do anything about it, it desperately seeks to stop any public attempt to raise the problem. Activists exposing and documenting starvation deaths in Jharkhand face police repression. Journalists exposing the midday meal scam in UP – videos showing children getting just salt and roti, or rice and turmeric water, for their midday meal in schools – are booked in false cases by a wrathful government.

It must be understood that chronic hunger is not confined to just a few backward pockets in remote interiors of rural India. It is just an alarming expression of a much wider and deeper malady of declining mass consumption. The severe economic slowdown now being reported from most industries and sectors talks about dropping sales, the other side of the coin is shrinking consumption.

And when that happens in the sphere of daily necessities including food, we enter the realm of chronic hunger and near-famine conditions. And when a government refuses to address this basic problem of declining purchasing power and shrinking mass consumption and instead diverts all resources to the corporate biggies and the super rich, it actually pursues not just a failed economic strategy but inflicts a disaster on the country. It wages an economic war on the people.

The banking sector is fast emerging as another crucial theatre of this war on the people. After coming to power in 2014, one of Narendra Modi’s key talking points was Jan Dhan Yojana or the promotion of mass banking. We were told that the nationalisation of banks had failed to take banks to the people, the banks in India had remained a largely middle class preserve and the poor had hardly any access to banking. Over the next few months and years we were treated to stories of a spectacular proliferation of bank accounts in India.

This of course did not mean provision of cheap credit for India’s crisis-ridden farmers, small traders or artisans and small producers. We realised the actual meaning of this ‘banking revolution’ when Narendra Modi announced a sudden ban on big notes and forced the people to deposit all their big notes in banks. In other words, almost the entire amount of money held as cash by the people was overnight sucked into the banking network.

The banks thus overcame their liquidity crisis, but the real crisis emanating from the massive amounts of unpaid corporate loans continued to haunt the banks. And now we are experiencing the next episode of the banking crisis – so-called weak banks are being merged with apparently stronger banks even as withdrawal of money by depositors is being restricted by diverse means.

In the case of the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank, the RBI has put a severe restriction on withdrawals – only a maximum amount of 40,000 can be withdrawn over a period of six months and only Rs 10,000 in a single withdrawal.

Founded in 1984, the PMC is among the country’s top 5 urban cooperative banks with a network of 137 branches spread over 7 states. By freezing the hard-earned money of depositors, the RBI has put them in enormous distress. The statutory rule of only 100,000 rupees of a depositor’s money being insured in the event of a bank collapse has suddenly begun to look like an ominous impending threat to all ordinary depositors.

The winter session of Parliament begins in the middle of November against this backdrop of an alarming economic crisis with the common people reeling under mounting job loss, declining income, shrinking consumption and now frozen deposits in vulnerable dubious banks. The Modi government did not at all address the burning economic agenda in the monsoon session of Parliament.

Buoyed by its return to power at the 2019 elections, it used its majority only to bulldoze Parliament with one undemocratic step after another without any debate or scrutiny. In the Haryana and Maharashtra elections the ruling party only talked about Kashmir and Pakistan and its notorious proposal to award India’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna to Savarkar who betrayed the freedom movement by pleading for mercy from the British rulers and injected the communal venom with his thesis of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism.

Now with Jharkhand and Delhi elections in the offing, the Modi-Shah government is bent upon using the winter session to rush the communal Citizenship Amendment Bill and inflict the devious NRC design on the country. The people of India must foil this ploy, reject the divisive NRC-CAB agenda and force the government to answer the pressing everyday economic worries of common Indians.

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India: Illegal Surveillance Scandal: Modi Government’s Crime Against Constitution and Citizens’ Rights

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RECENTLY, WhatsApp (a company owned by Facebook) has made an explosive revelation. It has reached out to several journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and Opposition politicians in India, to inform them that a software sold by an Israeli company to Governments has been used to spy on them. Not only have their WhatsApp messages and calls been hacked; the software has used a loophole in WhatsApp’s encryption software to turn their phones and computers into spying devices.

The list of those targeted for such a blatantly illegal breach of privacy include lawyers representing the Bhima Koregaon accused, as well as journalists and activists who have been vocal against the Modi Government. The Congress party has also said that WhatsApp informed Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi that she too had been targeted.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry of the Modi Government has reacted by claiming that WhatsApp kept them in the dark about such surveillance. WhatsApp has disproved this allegation.

But the Modi Government is trying to deflect attention from its own guilt in the matter. It is clear that the spying software – Pegasus – is sold only to governments. So in India, it was either the central government, or some state governments, and their respective agencies that could have used this software. If voices questioning BJP-ruled Governments at Centre and State have been spied on, it is easy to conclude that it was the Governments doing the spying.

Some have tried to argue that such spying is justified as long as it was “in the interests of national security.” Such an argument suggests that the Government can be allowed to commit crimes as long as it is for the sake of “national security”. This is a position that no democracy can defend. By definition, civil liberties and democratic rights of citizens need to be defended primarily from the power of the government and State machinery. Because the government and State machinery have the power to use violence and surveillance, the Constitution imposes limits on that power. A landmark 1997 Supreme Court judgement on a writ petition filed by the PUCL, made it clear that no agency can tap the phones of any person without written authorisation. If a national security emergency demands it, the agency can seek a written authorisation order from the Home Secretary of Central or State Governments, or some other senior officer of the Home Department of State or Centre. Every such emergency authorisation must be submitted for review by a Review Committee within a week. Any phone tapping that has failed to get such authorisation is a serious crime.

We may recall that Modi and Shah, as Chief Minister and Home Minister respectively of Gujarat, have a dubious record of using the police and investigative agencies to illegally spy on a young woman for personal reasons. Patriarchal arguments were put forward to defend such spying. It should surprise no one that the Modi-Shah duo again head a Government which is implicated in illegally spying on dissenting citizens.

When the Modi Government feigns outrage at the WhatsApp spying scandal and demands an answer from WhatsApp, it is behaving like the thief who tries to escape by leading the crowd away shouting “Thief!” the loudest.

It is highly likely that Pegasus spyware (perhaps in conjunction with other technologies), was used not only to illegally tap the conversations of the persons targeted, but to plant material on their phones or computers.

Which Indian Government agency bought the Pegasus spying software? Who used it? Did they have authorisation for the phone tapping? If the Modi Government or any State Government or government agency illegally invaded the privacy of rights activists, journalists and political leaders, it amounts to a serious crime against India’s Constitution.

How to identify the perpetrators of this crime? RSS man Govindacharya has approached the Supreme Court demanding an NIA enquiry: but this petition smacks of match fixing. The NIA is a Government agency and cannot investigate a potential crime by the Government! An independent investigation is needed, to identify and punish the criminals.

Politically, it is clear that this large-scale illegal spying on political opponents and human rights defenders has the fingerprints of Modi and Shah all over it. In the US, President Nixon had had to resign when the illegal snooping scandal (Watergate) was exposed. In India, too, the Modi-Shah regime must be held accountable and punished for this crime. The Israeli software Pegasus is classified by its seller as a “weapon.” Buying and using this weapon secretly and illegally against India’s citizens is an act of terrorism. Punish the Modi-Shah regime for this act of terror against India’s courageous human rights defenders, Dalit lawyers, and journalists.

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India: Symposium on Guru Nanak’s Philosophy: Historical Importance and Contemporary Relevance

THE CPIML organized a symposium on ‘Guru Nanak’s Philosophy: Historical Importance and Contemporary Relevance’ at Mansa in Punjab on 10 November 2019.

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Speaking at the symposium dedicated to the 550th Prakash Purab, thinker and psychologist Dr Shyam Sundar Deepti said that Baba Nanak was a peerless philosopher who not only spoke against illogical rituals and the Brahminical caste system and taught human values, sharing and eating together and living in harmony, but also practiced what he preached and travelled far and wide to spread his message of love and humanity.

It is unfortunate that his followers today seem to be mired in the very same rituals that Guru Nanak spoke against. Integrity of thought and action is at the root of Guru Nanak’s philosophy and it is this integrity which is the greatest necessity of our contemporary times. Jago International Editor Bhagwant Singh emphasized the need to understand the true meaning of ‘Bani’ and implement it in our daily lives. Dr Kuldeep Singh Deep said that the 550th Prakash Purab should not be reduced to a global corporate celebration but should become part of our social and political practice in life.

Former National Minorities Commission member Prof Baba Singh said that the Sikh Mat and Marxism are both revolutionary philosophies but unfortunately both have not yet succeeded in achieving their true purpose. Kisan leaders Raldu Singh and Kripal Singh Bir critiqued the Ayodhya verdict and said that judgement, not justice, has been delivered. Singer and music composer Amrit Bange presented a song.

The symposium was conducted by Sukhdarshan Singh Natt. The symposium welcomed the opening of the Kartarpur Saheb corridor and demanded that the Indian government should make arrangements for road access and visas for people across the border to visit their relatives on this side of the border.

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Present on the occasion were Rajvinder Singh Rana, Jasbir Dhand, Darshan Joga, Punjab Muslim Front leader Hans Raj Mofar, Nachhattar Singh Khova, Darshan Singh Dhillon, Sukhdev Singh Mann, Balwinder Singh Chahal, Rajinder Singh Siwian, Bhagwant Singh Samaon, Jasbir Kaur Natt and Simarjeet Kaur Simmi.

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India: Transgender Persons Bill 2019 is a Blueprint for Discrimination rather than Protection

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ON November 26, 2019, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha. The Bill had been passed by the Rajya Sabha in December 2018.

The Bill, far from protecting the rights of transgender persons, actually discriminates against them. It has been passed with total disregard for the concerns expressed by the Trans community about the impact of the Bill.

The Bill’s definition of transgender persons itself is flawed, seeing transgender persons as placed between fixed and binary identities of “male” and “female”, rather than recognising gender identity itself as fluid. It conflates intersex persons with transgender persons. By fixing definitions of transgender and intersex persons in biological terms, it denies these persons the right to self-identify their own gender.

Although the Bill nominally accepts the principle of right of all persons to self-determination of gender, it discriminates against transgender and intersex persons by requiring them to acquire certificates of their transgender identity from the District Magistrate. If they undergo a sex-change operation they are again required to get a certification of their gender identity from the DM. Why should transgender and intersex persons be required to acquire “certification” of their identity, and undergo “checks” of their gender identity which violate privacy, when other citizens do not? Why should they not be allowed to self-identify their gender and sex identities?

The Bill also imposes a narrow definition of “family” in terms of biological or adoptive family – delegitimising other living arrangements and relationships of transgender persons’ own choice. Especially in the case of transgender minors, this narrow definition can have dangerous consequences: forcing them to live with families that violently deny their identity and self-hood, and preventing them from being rescued by transgender communities.

Existing laws for sexual violence are gender-specific, excluding transgender and intersex persons. The Bill fixes far lower punishments for “sexual abuse” of transgender persons than those prevailing in the women-specific laws. It also fails to offer a satisfactory definition of various kinds of sexual violence. This provision denies transgender persons the right to equality.

The Bill’s list of prohibited discriminatory practices includes only generic sexist discrimination, and fails to recognise the specific kinds of discrimination and abuse aimed at transgender and intersex persons. These include forms of verbal abuse, bullying, harassment by police officials including extortion and demands for sex, as well as prevention from access to washrooms and other gender-specific facilities.

The Bill fails to offer reservations for transgender persons in education and employment. It also fails to mandate inclusive practices in workplaces – including gender-neutral bathrooms, and gender-neutral language in official communications.

CPIML demands that the President of India deny approval for the Bill, and instead send it back for amendments which address all the concerns expressed by the transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons.

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India: Rape And Murder Of A Veterinarian Doctor In Hyderabad

THE rape and murder of a veterinarian doctor in Hyderabad, and a spate of other rapes and murders of women and girls all over India have once again sparked protests all over India.

AIPWA issued a call for a countrywide protest on 3 December, and organised protests in Patna, Kolkata, Varanasi, Lucknow, Udaipur, Jaipur and many other places. In Delhi and Patna, AIPWA joined other women’s groups in organising the protests.

Protestors condemned the response of a Telangana Minister who blamed the victim asking why she chose to call her sister for help instead of the police. They also pointed out that the Hyderabad police had issued an inventory of Dos and Don’ts for women to prevent rape. They said this was unacceptable – “Don’t teach women how not to get raped, teach men not to rape” was the sentiment expressed by protesting women all over India.

AIPWA also expressed its condemnation of attempts to communalise the Hyderabad rape murder by singling out one Muslim name among the suspects and spreading hatred against the whole community.

AIPWA also condemned the statement by Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan asking for rape-accused persons to be lynched in public.

AIPWA activists pointed out that demands for the death penalty and lynching were irresponsible and served only patriarchal machismo, not women’s rights. These cries for summary execution and lynching serve only to divert attention away from the government’s and system’s failure to ensure that survivors are supported, policing and judicial systems remain gender sensitive, and public spaces are made friendly to women. Further, the current government’s shameless defence of rapists associated with the ruling party also sends a message of impunity to perpetrators.

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Countrywide Protests

The gang rape and burning of veterinary doctor Priyanka Reddy in Hyderabad on 28 November 2019 is a grim reminder of the 2012 Delhi gang rape. Recently another incident had taken place in Ranchi in the VIP area where the police lines as well as residences of VIPs like Chief Justice, DGP and CM are located. An adivasi woman student studying law at a prestigious University was kidnapped at gun point and gang raped by 12 people. The victim, half-conscious, somehow reached the police station the next morning and filed a case.

The BJP government hypocritically claims the slogan ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (save and Educate Daughters) but organizes rallies in defence of rapists, and has failed the women of India. The result is that there have been 24,212 incidents of rape and sexual violence in the last 6 months and 132 incidents per day, and these are government statistics obviously on the lower side. Women who protest against this abysmal situation are repressed, as was have seen in the case of Anu Dubey who sat alone on a dharna in front of Parliament House and was detained and beaten up badly by the police, as if women themselves are to blame for these incidents.

aipwa protest

The Dr Priyanka Reddy gang rape and murder case is also being communalized by saffron forces for political gains. Of the 4 accused persons taken into custody, one is a Muslim and 3 are Hindus, but the Sanghi trolls are targeting only Muslim name Mohammad on social media.

Protests for justice for Priyanka and the Ranchi adivasi victim were organized on 2-3 December in Bihar and other states. CPIML has asked the governments to 1. Take proper measures to end sexual violence against women; 2. End communal definition of rape and sexual violence; 3. Implement Justice Verma Committee recommendations; 4. Stop diverting issues and guarantee women’s safety; 5. Sangh, BJP, stop using rape incidents to incite communal passions; and 6. Speedy trial and punishment for the guilty.

Marches for justice for Priyanka Reddy and the Bangra Thana rape and murder victim were organized by CPIML, AISA, RYA and JASAM in many towns. Candle marches were held at Samastipur and Tajpur. The protesters called on all political and social organizations, intellectuals, students, youth and justice-loving people to unite and fight for justice for Dr Priyanka, the Ranchi adivasi victim, the victim of rape and murder at Bangra Thana, and all other victims of sexual violence, rape and murder.

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