Waving Palestinian flag may be criminal offense, UK home secretary tells police

Update “Behaviors that are legitimate in some circumstances, for example the waving of a Palestinian flag, may not be legitimate such as when intended to glorify acts of terrorism,” Suella Braverman said. (X/@PSCupdates)
“Behaviors that are legitimate in some circumstances, for example the waving of a Palestinian flag, may not be legitimate such as when intended to glorify acts of terrorism,” Suella Braverman said. (X/@PSCupdates)
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Updated 11 October 2023
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Waving Palestinian flag may be criminal offense, UK home secretary tells police

Waving Palestinian flag may be criminal offense, UK home secretary tells police
  • The Community Security Trust did not provide exact numbers but said further incidents could be reported in the coming days
  • The CST says any escalation in violence in Israel and Gaza often leads to antisemitic reactions in Britain

LONDON: UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote to police chiefs on Tuesday, saying that experience showed “Islamists and other racists” would use the current conflict to stir up hatred against British Jews.

She called on police to take a tough line, not just against shows of support for Hamas — which is proscribed as a terrorist organization in Britain — but also toward some pro-Palestinian displays.

“Behaviors that are legitimate in some circumstances, for example the waving of a Palestinian flag, may not be legitimate such as when intended to glorify acts of terrorism,” she said in her letter.

“Nor is it acceptable to drive through Jewish neighborhoods, or single out Jewish members of the public, to aggressively chant or wave pro-Palestinian symbols at,” she wrote in the letter published on the government website.

Reports of antisemitic incidents in Britain since the weekend have tripled compared with the same period last year following the outbreak of new Israel-Palestinian conflict, a Jewish charity said on Tuesday.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain’s estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, did not provide exact numbers but said further incidents could be reported in the coming days.

“We don’t have firm numbers yet as we are still logging and verifying everything that has come in, which also means that the number is likely to rise further, but the current rate is roughly triple what it was for the same period last year,” a spokesperson said.

The CST says any escalation in violence in Israel and Gaza often leads to antisemitic reactions in Britain.

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered at two locations in central London to mark the attacks, with supporters of Israel gathering near the prime minister’s residence at Downing Street to hold a vigil, and pro-Palestinian protesters demanding an “Intifada revolution” near the Israeli embassy.

Police said they had made three arrests at the demonstrations.

Antisemitic incidents in Britain hit a record high in 2021, fueled by a rise in violence in Israel and Gaza, and last year the CST recorded 1,652, down 27 percent from the previous year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed his solidarity with Britain’s Jews and has said he would work to make sure they felt safe, while police have stepped up patrols to provide reassurance to Jewish communities.


Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast

Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast
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Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast

Death toll from 4 days of rains rises to 63 in Pakistan with more rain on the forecast
  • Dozens more were also injured in the northwest, where 1,370 houses were damaged
PESHAWAR: Lightning and heavy rains led to 14 deaths in Pakistan, officials said Wednesday, bringing the death toll from four days of extreme weather to at least 63.
Most of the deaths were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in Pakistan’s northwest. Collapsing buildings have killed 32 people, including 15 children and five women, said Khursheed Anwar, a spokesman for the Disaster Management Authority. Dozens more were also injured in the northwest, where 1,370 houses were damaged, Anwar said.
The eastern province of Punjab has reported 21 lighting- and collapse-related deaths, while Baluchistan, in the country’s southwest, reported 10 dead as authorities declared a state of emergency following flash floods. On Wednesday, Baluchistan was bracing for more rains amid ongoing rescue and relief operations.
Heavy rains also came down on the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Pakistan is seeing heavier rain in April due to climate change, said Zaheer Ahmed Babar, a senior official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department.
“So far there has been 256 percent above normal rainfall in Baluchistan,” Babar told The Associated Press. “Overall, there has been 61 percent above normal rainfall this month across Pakistan, and it shows climate change has already happened in our country.”
In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.
Neighboring Afghanistan also witnessed heavy rains this month. So far, 33 people have died in rain-related incidents there.

Just not cricket: Indian politicians bat for power

Just not cricket: Indian politicians bat for power
Updated 1 min 4 sec ago
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Just not cricket: Indian politicians bat for power

Just not cricket: Indian politicians bat for power
  • Modi’s BJP is intricately tied to the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India 
  • Critics say Modi has sought to co-opt cricket as tool to bowl out political opponents

NEW DELHI: Cricket is more than just a game in India: critics accuse ruling-party politicians and the sport’s closely linked mega-rich board of exploiting its huge popularity for electoral advantage.

India begins voting in six-week-long general elections on Friday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) widely expected to sweep to a third term in power.

Modi’s BJP is intricately tied to the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), with commentators saying the ruling party has sought to co-opt the sport as a tool to bowl out political opponents.

Veteran cricket journalist Sharda Ugra said the sport is “used as a vehicle for a muscular nationalism.”

“Control is exercised not just through its presence of senior officials connected to the ruling party, but through the use of Indian cricket to further their political messaging,” she told AFP.

Modi’s government is far from the first to use cricket for political gain in India, but his populist BJP has tightened those links further than any before, added Ugra.

BCCI chief Jay Shah is the son of home affairs minister Amit Shah, Modi’s right-hand man and himself a former president of the Gujarat state cricket board.

Arun Dhumal, chairman of the money-spinning Indian Premier League, is the brother of sports minister Anurag Thakur, who is also an ex-BCCI head.

“The current BCCI is the first Indian cricketing administration which is under the control of a single political party, and not a general clutch of politicians,” said Ugra.

Gideon Haigh, cricket writer for The Australian newspaper, has called the BJP “shameless in its self-interest” for co-opting the sport.

“Cricket is just one of many institutions it has captured, although it is the one most meaningful to the most people,” Haigh told AFP. 

The BJP won state elections in Rajasthan in December, and last month a minister’s son took charge of the cricket board.

In New Delhi, the capital’s stadium was renamed in 2019 after a BJP stalwart, the late finance minister Arun Jaitley, whose son Rohan Jaitley heads the state cricket board.

For the previous 137 years, it had been called the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, after a 14th-century Muslim sultan.

And when India hosted the ODI World Cup last year, Modi attended the final at the world’s biggest cricket stadium — which is named after him — in Ahmedabad.

A home victory would undoubtedly have further boosted national pride ahead of the election, but India lost in the decider.

Modi went into the dressing room, accompanied by a camera crew, to embrace the Indian team. “It happens,” he told them. “Keep smiling, the country is looking up to you.”

India’s delays or denials of visas for the tournament for players and fans from arch-rival Pakistan had raised some concerns.

Other players with Pakistani heritage — including Australia’s Usman Khawaja and England’s Shoaib Bashir — have also faced visa challenges during India tours.

The BCCI did not respond to a series of questions submitted by AFP.

Cricket is a lucrative business in the world’s most populous nation, home to 1.4 billion people.

By some counts, Indian cricket on average generates more revenue than Bollywood.

The IPL is the world’s richest cricket league and has added to the BCCI’s wealth, with the board selling the 2023-27 T20 tournament’s broadcast and digital rights for $6.2 billion.

Commentators say the BCCI’s wealth and reach enables it to pull strings at cricket’s world governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC).

More than 90 percent of the sport’s billion-plus worldwide fans are in the Indian subcontinent, according to a 2018 ICC study.

In other countries, the ICC has been swift to suspend boards over political interference, including in Zimbabwe in 2019 and Sri Lanka last year.

ICC rules say cricket boards must manage their affairs “autonomously” and “ensure that there is no government (or other public or quasi-public body) interference in its governance.”

The ICC declined to comment on India’s role.

Modi opened his eponymous 132,000-seater ground in Ahmedabad in 2020 in a mega-rally for then-US president Donald Trump.

Haigh covered the 2023 India-Australia series and recalled how Modi toured the venue in a golf cart alongside his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese when it hosted the fourth Test.

BJP members, government officials and school children were bussed in for the event, cheering as Modi lapped the venue.

The stadium rapidly emptied after the leaders left, even as play began.

“That the ICC — which purports to deplore political interference in cricket — studiously looked the other way, tells you all you need to know about its capture by the BCCI,” Haigh said.


Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses

Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses
Updated 17 April 2024
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Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses

Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses
  • Taguba’s testimony was the strongest evidence yet that civilian employees of the Virginia-based military contractor CACI played a role in the abuse of Abu Ghraib inmates

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia: An Army general who investigated the abuse of prisoners 20 years ago at Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison testified Tuesday that a civilian contractor instructed prison guards to “soften up” detainees for interrogations.
The retired general, Antonio Taguba, told jurors that the contractor, Steven Stefanowicz, even tried to intimidate the general as he investigated the Abu Ghraib abuses.
“He would lean on the table staring me down. He did not answer questions directly,” Taguba said. “He was trying to intimidate me.”
Taguba’s testimony was the strongest evidence yet that civilian employees of the Virginia-based military contractor CACI played a role in the abuse of Abu Ghraib inmates.
Three former inmates at the prison are suing CACI in federal court in Alexandria, alleging that the company contributed to the tortuous treatment they suffered. The trial, delayed by more than 15 years of legal wrangling, is the first time that Abu Ghraib inmates have been able to bring a civil case in front of a US jury.
The lawsuit alleges that CACI is liable for the three plaintiffs’ mistreatment because the company provided civilian interrogators to the Army who were assigned to Abu Ghraib and conspired with the military police who were serving as prison guards to torture the inmates.
In a report Taguba completed in 2004, he recommended that Stefanowicz be fired, reprimanded and lose his security clearance for “allowing and/or instructing” military police to engage in illegal and abusive tactics.
“He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse,” Taguba’s report concluded.
In testimony Tuesday, Taguba said he personally questioned Stefanowicz for about an hour as part of his investigation.
“He was a very coy type of personality,” Taguba said of Stefanowicz, often referred to as “Big Steve” by Abu Ghraib personnel.
Taguba said his investigation was focused on military police, and his probe of civilian interrogators’ role was limited. But he felt obligated to delve into it, he said, because he received credible testimony from the military police that the civilians were playing an important role in what occurred.
The MPs told Taguba that they weren’t getting clear instructions from within their own military chain of command, and that Stefanowicz and other civilian personnel ended up filling the void. Taguba said the military chain of command was unclear, and that various commanders were not cooperating with each other, all of which contributed to a chaotic atmosphere at the prison.
Taguba said he was several weeks into his investigation before he even understood that civilians were carrying out interrogations at Abu Ghraib. He said he and his staff heard multiple references to CACI but initially misunderstood them, believing that people were saying “khaki” instead.
On cross-examination, Taguba acknowledged the limits of his investigation. A second report, completed by Maj. Gen. George Fay, looked more directly at the role of military intelligence and civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib.
Taguba also acknowledged that his report contained several errors, including misidentifying a CACI employee as an employee of another contractor, and another civilian contractor as a CACI employee.
CACI’s lawyers emphasized that Stefanowicz was never assigned to interrogate any of the three plaintiffs in the case.
As Taguba testified about Stefanowicz, a lawyer asked him if he was indeed intimidated by the CACI contractor.
“Not on your life,” Taguba responded.
The jury also heard Tuesday from one of the three plaintiffs in the case, Asa’ad Hamza Zuba’e, who testified remotely from Iraq through an Arabic interpreter. Zuba’e said he was kept naked, threatened with dogs, and forced to masturbate in front of prison guards.
CACI’s lawyers questioned his claims. Among other things, they questioned how he could have been threatened with dogs when government reports showed dogs had not yet been sent to Iraq at the time he said it happened.

 


Yellen says Iran’s actions could cause global economic spillovers as White House vows new sanctions

 US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press conference at US Ambassador’s residence in Beijing on April 8, 2024. (AFP)
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press conference at US Ambassador’s residence in Beijing on April 8, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2024
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Yellen says Iran’s actions could cause global economic spillovers as White House vows new sanctions

 US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press conference at US Ambassador’s residence in Beijing on April 8, 2024. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also said Tuesday that coming US sanctions would target Iran’s missile and drone program and entities supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s Defense Ministry

WASHINGTON: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Tuesday of potential global economic damage from rising tensions in the Middle East as the Biden administration said it was readying new sanctions in response to Iran’s malevolent activity in the region.
Yellen spoke out against Iran’s “malign and destabilizing activity” in remarks ahead of this week’s spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, saying Iran’s weekend missile and drone attack on Israel “underscores the importance of Treasury’s work to use our economic tools to counter Iran’s malign activity.”
She added: “From this weekend’s attack to the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, Iran’s actions threaten the region’s stability and could cause economic spillovers.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington. (AP file photo)

Iran’s attack on Israel early Sunday came in response to what it says was an Israeli strike on Iran’s consulate in Syria earlier this month. Israel’s military chief said Monday that his country will respond to the attack, while world leaders caution against retaliation, trying to avoid a spiral of violence.
As the IMF and its fellow lending agency, the World Bank, hold their spring meetings this week, high on the agenda are the fast-rising tensions between Iran and Israel and what escalation could spell for the global economy.
Meanwhile, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also said Tuesday that coming US sanctions would target Iran’s missile and drone program and entities supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s Defense Ministry.
“We anticipate that our allies and partners will soon be following with their own sanctions,” Sullivan said in a statement. “In addition, we continue to work through the Department of Defense and US Central Command to further strengthen and expand the successful integration of air and missile defense and early warning systems across the Middle East to further erode the effectiveness of Iran’s missile and UAV capabilities.”
Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s six-month war against Hamas militants in Gaza. The war erupted after two militant groups backed by Iran led an attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. An Israeli offensive in Gaza has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.
“We’ve targeted over 500 individuals and entities connected to terrorism and terrorist financing by the Iranian regime and its proxies since the start of the Administration,” Yellen said, citing sanctions against Iran’s drone and missile programs, militant groups Hamas, the Houthis, Hezbollah, and other Iraqi militia groups.
Yellen said she expected the additional sanctions to be announced in the coming days.
The annual gathering will take place as other ongoing conflicts, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, threaten global financial stability.
Yellen in February offered her strongest public support yet for the idea of liquidating roughly $300 billion in frozen Russian Central Bank assets and using them for Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction.
She said Tuesday that the US is “continuing to work with our international partners to unlock the economic value of immobilized Russian sovereign assets and ensure that Russia pays for the damage it has caused.” Yellen added that she will meet with Group of Seven finance leaders Wednesday to continue discussions on the topic and will look at “a series of possibilities, ranging from actually seizing the assets to using them as collateral.”
Another major issue for this year’s meetings on the US side, Yellen said, will be ongoing conversations about Chinese industrial policy that poses a threat to US jobs and the global economy. She traveled to Guangzhou and Beijing earlier this month, to hold “difficult conversations” with counterparts over what she describes as China’s overcapacity in its wave of low-priced Chinese green tech exports that could overwhelm factories in the US and make it impossible to compete.
Yellen said she plans to meet later this week with her Chinese counterparts for a fourth meeting of the US-China Economic and Financial Working Groups, “to share information, identify potential areas of cooperation, and, when we disagree, frankly communicate concerns.”
US Treasury and China’s Ministry of Finance launched the economic working groups in an effort to ease tensions and deepen ties between the nations.

 


Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown

Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown
Updated 17 April 2024
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Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown

Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown
  • The visit would be Trump’s first campaign appearance since his criminal hush money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial

NEW YORK: Donald Trump plans to visit New York’s Harlem neighborhood Tuesday after spending his second day in a lower Manhattan courtroom as a criminal defendant.
Trump was expected to stop by Sanaa Convenient Store, a tiny bodega that sells chips, sodas and other snacks. Trump aides said the former president and current Republican nominee chose the store because it has been the site of a violent attack on an employee. He will also highlight consumer inflation under President Joe Biden, aides said.
The visit would be Trump’s first campaign appearance since his criminal hush money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial.
Trump will be confined to the courtroom on most days, dramatically limiting his movements and his ability to campaign, fundraise and make calls. Aides have been planning rallies and other political events on weekends and Wednesdays, the one weekday when court is not supposed to be in session. Plans also include local appearances Trump can make after court recesses each day.
Trump’s stop in Harlem demonstrates the former president’s determination to amplify familiar campaign arguments even within the strictures of being a criminal defendant.
In July 2022, Jose Alba, a clerk at the store in Hamilton Heights, a heavily Hispanic section of Harlem, was attacked by 35-year-old Austin Simon. The resulting altercation, captured on surveillance video, ended with Alba fatally stabbing Simon. Alba was arrested and charged with murder but the Manhattan district attorney dropped the charges within weeks, saying they could not prove Alba had not acted in self-defense.
On another evening in August 2022, according to the New York Post, owner Osamah Aldhabyani was in the store when a customer entered and an altercation between the two ensued. The customer was arrested, the newspaper reported.
Before his arrival, Trump’s campaign distributed materials to journalists criticizing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his handling of the stabbing case, including the weeks Alba spent jailed at Rikers Island without bail. Bragg oversees the office now prosecuting Trump.
The former president’s local appearance also affirms his intentions to campaign in his home state, even though New York remains overwhelmingly Democratic. In 2020, Biden garnered more than 60 percent of the vote in the state and ran up even wider margins in New York City. Trump insists he can win New York in November anyway, and he has mused about holding rallies in the South Bronx and Queens, where the former president was born and grew up, and even Madison Square Garden.
“I may rent Madison Square Garden,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News. “That’s the belly of the beast, right?”
That would be a prohibitively expensive proposition, particularly as his campaign has worked to save cash as it confronts a fundraising gap with Biden.
“You know, the president is very keen on New York,” Chris LaCivita, Trump senior campaign adviser, told The Associated Press last month as he talked up the campaign’s efforts to put more states in play. Still, LaCivita laughed when asked whether he agrees. “I don’t get out in front of the boss. I do what the boss says. The boss drives,” he said.
Trump has argued that the ongoing influx of migrants to the city, where he grew his real estate empire and became a tabloid fixture, has made New Yorkers more willing to vote for him since his 2020 loss to Biden. The city has struggled to house the new arrivals, putting many up in city hotels.
“I think we have a chance. New York has changed a lot in the last two years,” he told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo. “The people of New York are angry. People that would have never voted for me because I’m a Republican — I mean they’re Democrats ... I think they’re going to vote for me. So I think we’re going to give New York a heavy shot.”
Trump cited the 2022 New York governor’s race, when Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul prevailed over Republican former Rep. Lee Zeldin — but by a much tighter margin than usual for her party’s statewide nominees.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a top Trump ally, said Monday that Trump will be campaigning all over the state while he’s forced to be on trial in New York.
“He’s going to make the best out of this,” she said, adding that “Democrats in New York and the judge and everyone, they’re really going to regret it.”
At the least, Trump, long a famous figure for New Yorkers, showed Tuesday that he can still turn heads in the city.
“Papito Trump is coming. Yeah!” said one passerby ahead of the former president’s arrival.
Lesandra Carrion, 47, who lives in the neighborhood, came out to see the former president when she heard he might be visiting.
She said she doesn’t agree with everything Trump says or does but declared that “he speaks the truth.” Carrion cited the rising migrant population and strained city resources. “I think that he will make a difference,” she said of Trump.
As for his troubles at the courthouse at the south end of Manhattan, Carrion was dismissive. “He’s going to beat that,” she said. “We all make mistakes at the end of the day. But he’s the truth and light. I feel that God is in him.”