Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia

Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia
Students occupy the Collegium Broscianum area of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, during a pro-Palestine protest on May 24, 2024. (Akademia dla Palestyny)
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Updated 25 May 2024
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Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia

Polish students occupy top universities to cut ties with Israeli academia
  • Students set up encampments at the University of Warsaw and Jagiellonian University
  • ‘We consider opposing genocide as our highest obligation,’ students say

WARSAW: Polish students have joined the global movement to end partnerships with Israeli institutions and were occupying the country’s top campuses on Saturday because of Israel’s war on Gaza.
Students and alumni of 12 universities in Poland have been calling on their management to publicly disclose which Israeli academia, research centers, organizations and companies they have been cooperating with and in what scope.
In open letters to rectors, they demanded that the universities “boycott Israeli institutions at the national and international level until the occupation of Palestine ends, recognize the right of Palestinians to equality and self-determination, and recognize the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”
As no action followed from university authorities, on Friday evening they set up encampments at the campuses of the University of Warsaw — the country’s largest academic institution — and of the Jagiellonian University — the oldest and most prestigious.
In a joint manifesto, the protesters said: “We will occupy the university space with our own bodies to demand action ... we consider opposing genocide as our highest obligation.”
Israeli airstrikes and ground offensives in Gaza have since October killed 36,000 Palestinians with more than 80,000 wounded, the vast majority children and women. Many have lost their lives as most of the hospitals have been flattened by bombardment and no medical assistance could reach them.
Protesting students say that failing to oppose the onslaught would mean tacit consent — and complicity.
The University of Warsaw is linked through a research project to the Ben-Gurion University, whose Homeland Security Institute partners with the biggest Israeli arms manufacturers such as Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Israeli Ministry of Defense. It is also linked to the University of Haifa, which runs special programs for Israeli forces and intelligence.
“As a student, I feel I should have a say in what our university is investing and what its partners are. We know that the university is tied to the Israeli army, forces and apartheid system,” Agnieszka, a sociology student and one of the coordinators of the strike at the University of Warsaw, told Arab News.
“That’s why I’m here ... I hope it will change something.”
Agnieszka was speaking from behind the university gate, which has been locked since Friday evening as campus authorities sealed all entry points, preventing anyone from leaving or getting inside.
People were coming to the gate and the campus fence to bring the students water, food and power banks, and to show support.
While no one could join their encampment anymore, the dozens of students gathered inside believed they could bring change.
“We’ve been protesting since October against the genocide that is occurring in Gaza, and now we’re sort of bringing it closer,” said Nena, who studies at the Faculty of Philosophy.
“We have more direct impact on the institutions we are part of.”
At the same time, 300 km away, students of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow were also locked up at their campus, posing the same demands as those in Warsaw, and vowing that they “will not be indifferent, will not be silent, will not be passive,” as they called for others to join.
“It’s important for me to be here,” Gabriela, an international relations student told Arab News from the Krakow protest site. “It’s important to show solidarity with other encampments around the world, so that authorities can’t ignore our demands any longer.”
The University of Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University have not engaged in any discussions with the protesters. Neither university commented on whether it would agree to the students’ demands. The spokesperson of the Jagiellonian University said that to “ensure the safety of the strike participants,” there was a person “appointed to monitor the situation.”


Microsoft faces heat from US Congress over cybersecurity

Microsoft faces heat from US Congress over cybersecurity
Updated 4 sec ago
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Microsoft faces heat from US Congress over cybersecurity

Microsoft faces heat from US Congress over cybersecurity
  • A report criticized a Microsoft corporate culture that was “at odds with... the level of trust customers place in the company.”

WASHINGTON: Members of US Congress on Thursday pressed Microsoft to explain a “cascade of avoidable errors” that allowed a Chinese hacking group to breach emails of senior US officials.
Microsoft President Brad Smith spent more than three hours answering questions from members of the House Committee on Homeland Security in Washington, assuring them cybersecurity is being woven more deeply into the technology company’s culture.
“Microsoft accepts responsibility for each and every one of the issues cited” in a scathing US government report about the breach “without equivocation or hesitation,” Smith told the committee.
The Cyber Safety Review Board (CSRB), led by the US Department of Homeland Security, conducted a seven-month investigation into the incident last year that involved the China-affiliated cyberespionage actor Storm-0558.
“Microsoft has an enormous footprint in both government and critical infrastructure networks,” US congressman and committee member Bennie Thompson said to Smith as the hearing opened.
“It is our shared interest that the security issues raised by the (report) be addressed quickly.”
The operation, which was first discovered by the US State Department in June 2023, included hacks on the official and personal mailboxes of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns.
Microsoft’s core business is to provide cloud computing services, such as Azure or Office360, that host sensitive data and power business and government operations across major sectors of the economy.
The report criticized a Microsoft corporate culture that was “at odds with... the level of trust customers place in the company.”
The review identified a series of operational and strategic decisions by Microsoft that opened the door to the breach, including the failure to identify a new employee’s compromised laptop following a corporate acquisition in 2021.
It also found that Microsoft fell short of safety standards seen at competing cloud companies, including Google, Amazon and Oracle.
“The Board finds that this intrusion was preventable and should never have occurred,” the review said, pinpointing “the cascade of Microsoft’s avoidable errors that allowed this intrusion to succeed.”
The report also recommended that Microsoft develop and publicly release a plan with timelines to enact wide-ranging security reforms across its products and practices.
“The real challenge is how you achieve effective lasting cultural change,” Smith said, noting Microsoft has nearly 226,000 employees.
Smith said Microsoft has the equivalent of 34,000 engineers working full time on answering the security shortcomings in “the largest engineering project focused on cybersecurity in the history of digital technology.”
Microsoft’s board on Wednesday approved a change that will tie cybersecurity accomplishments with annual bonuses for senior executives and make it part of every employee’s annual review, according to Smith.
Microsoft detects some 300 million cyberattacks on its customers daily, with most of those coming from China, Iran, Korea, Russia, or ransomware operations, Smith told the committee.
“We’re dealing with four formidable foes in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, and they are getting better,” Smith said.
“We should expect them to work together; they’re waging attacks at an extraordinary rate.”
While it is inevitable that adversaries will use artificial intelligence for increasingly sophisticated attacks, the technology is already being used to strengthen cyber defenses, Smith added.


DR Congo weighs legal move against Apple in mining dispute

DR Congo weighs legal move against Apple in mining dispute
Updated 16 min 6 sec ago
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DR Congo weighs legal move against Apple in mining dispute

DR Congo weighs legal move against Apple in mining dispute
  • Congo’s Paris-based lawyers said Apple had purchased key minerals smuggled from the DRC into neighboring Rwanda
  • The central African country is rich in tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold — known as 3T or 3TG — that are used in producing smartphones and other electronic devices

KINSHASA: The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is studying legal action against Apple in France and the United States, after accusing the US tech giant of using “illegally exploited” minerals, its lawyers said Thursday.

In April, the DRC’s Paris-based lawyers said Apple had purchased key minerals smuggled from the DRC into neighboring Rwanda, where they were laundered and “integrated into the global supply chain.”
On Thursday, lawyer William Bourdon said that after receiving a formal notice, Apple had given only a “terse” response that could be considered “a form of contempt, cynicism and arrogance.”
The government’s lawyers were meeting in Kinshasa to discuss strategic options for the case, and held talks with President Felix Tshisekedi.
“The legal options are on the table” for both France and the United States, Bourdon said, adding that other challenges could be lodged in countries “on all the continents.”
The DRC is rich in tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold — known as 3T or 3TG — that are used in producing smartphones and other electronic devices.
The country’s mineral-rich Great Lakes region has been wracked by violence since regional wars in the 1990s.
Tensions resurged in late 2021 when rebels from the March 23 Movement (M23) began recapturing swathes of territory.
The DRC, the United Nations and Western countries accuse Rwanda of supporting rebel groups including M23 in a bid to control the region’s vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.
Apple said in April: “Based on our due diligence efforts... we found no reasonable basis for concluding that any of the smelters or refiners of 3TG determined to be in our supply chain as of December 31, 2023, directly or indirectly financed or benefited armed groups in the DRC or an adjoining country.”
 


Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti
Updated 47 min 22 sec ago
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Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti
  • Protesters barricaded the multistory Student Services Building with university President Berenecea Johnson Eanes and others inside
  • Images from the scene showed graffiti on the building, furniture blocking doorways and overturned golf carts, picnic tables and umbrellas barricading the plaza out front

LOS ANGELES: Demonstrators protesting Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza occupied and trashed a building at California State University, Los Angeles, while the campus president was inside, but the takeover ended early Thursday without arrests, a spokesperson said.

Protesters barricaded the multistory Student Services Building at 4 p.m. Wednesday with university President Berenecea Johnson Eanes and dozens of other employees inside, said spokesperson Erik Frost Hollins.
Most of the 58 employees got out by 6 p.m. except for a group of administrators who remained until after midnight to manage the situation. The group included Eanes, but Frost Hollins would not say whether the president interacted with the protesters.
“That falls under tactics that we are not discussing at this point,” the spokesperson said.
Most of the protesters left the building around 1:15 a.m. Thursday and returned to an encampment on the campus. A few remaining protesters left when university police ordered them out, Frost Hollins said.
In a statement Thursday afternoon to the school community, Eanes said she has engaged with protesters who have occupied the campus encampment for some 40 days.
“So long as the encampment remained non-violent, I was committed that the university would continue to talk,” the president wrote. But in the wake of destruction and theft that occurred Wednesday, a line was crossed and “those in the encampment must leave.”
“I am saddened, and I am angry,” Eanes said. “Campus community: Know that we will recover from this, but also know that I am committed to doing everything we can to ensure this will never be allowed to repeat. I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night’s illegal activities from being held accountable.”
There were no arrests and no injuries were reported, but “assaults” were reported by three employees and one student, according to Eanes. Officials said those were a law enforcement matter.
The university, meanwhile, announced that all main campus classes and operations would be remote until further notice.
Images from the scene showed graffiti on the building, furniture blocking doorways and overturned golf carts, picnic tables and umbrellas barricading the plaza out front.
“We don’t have an exact appraisal on it but there was damage to the exterior, the interior, equipment, materials, structure — it was significant damage,” Frost Hollins said.
The CSULA Gaza Solidarity Encampment, a group that has camped near the campus gym for about 40 days, sent an email indicating that members were staging a sit-in in the building, Hollins said.


Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot

Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot
Updated 14 June 2024
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Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot

Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot
  • Despite pending federal charges against him, Trump arrived emboldened as the party’s presumptive nominee
  • He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled campaign
  • Even Trump's most prominent Republican critic, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, shook hands, and fist-bumped with him

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump made a triumphant return to Capitol Hill on Thursday, his first with lawmakers since the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks, embraced by energized House and Senate Republicans who find themselves reinvigorated by his bid to retake the White House.

Despite pending federal charges against Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, and his recent guilty verdict in an unrelated hush money trial, the Republican former president arrived emboldened as the party’s presumptive nominee. He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled campaign.
A packed room of House Republicans sang “Happy Birthday” to Trump in a private breakfast meeting at GOP campaign headquarters across the street from the Capitol. The lawmakers gave him a baseball and bat from the annual congressional game, and senators later presented an American flag cake with “45” candles — and then “47” — referring to the next presidency. Trump bragged that even his telephone rallies for lawmakers could draw bigger crowds than mega-popstar Taylor Swift, who has yet to make any endorsement.
In one remarkable moment, Trump and his most prominent Republican critic, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, shook hands, and fist-bumped.

 

“There’s tremendous unity in the Republican Party,” Trump said in brief remarks at Senate GOP headquarters.

Trump spent about an hour each with House and Senate Republicans delivering free-wheeling remarks, fielding questions and discussing issues — including Russia and immigration, tax cuts and other priorities for a potential second term.
During the morning session, Trump said House Speaker Mike Johnson is doing a “terrific job,” according to a Republican in the private meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it. Trump asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the speaker’s chief Republican critic, if she was being “nice” to Johnson, another Republican said.
“President Trump brought an extraordinary amount of energy, excitement and enthusiasm this morning,” Johnson said afterward, noting high fund-raising tallies since the guilty verdict. “We’re feeling good.”
The Republican speaker had demurred earlier over whether he’s asked Trump to respect the peaceful transfer of presidential power and commit to not doing another Jan. 6. “Of course he respects that, we all do, and we’ve all talked about it, ad nauseum.”
Many potential priorities for a new White House administration are being formulated by a constellation of outside groups, including Project 2025, laying the groundwork for executive and legislative actions, though Trump has made clear he has his own agenda.
“Anybody who thought that this president was going to be down after the sham trial. it’s only giving him even more energy,” said Rep. Tom Emmer, the GOP whip. “Donald Trump is crushing this election.”

Donald Trump reacts as he is applauded by Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington, DC, on June 13, 2024. (REUTERS)

But Trump’s private meetings with House and Senate Republicans so close to the Capitol were infused with the symbolism of his return as the US president who threatened the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of power.
“It’s frustrating,” said former US Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who made his own unsuccessful run for Congress as a Maryland Democrat in the aftermath of Jan. 6, the day when police engaged in hand-to-hand fighting to stop Trump supporters who stormed the building in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.
Dunn spoke of the “irony” of Trump returning to the area and lawmakers now embracing him. “It just shows the lack of backbone they have when they’re truly putting party and person over country,” he said. “And it’s sad.”
Biden was overseas Thursday attending a summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, but the president’s campaign unveiled a new ad blaming Trump for lighting the “fire” of Jan. 6 and threatening democracy.
Many of those who once stood up to Trump are long gone from office and the Republicans who remain seem increasingly enthusiastic about the possibility of him retaking the White House, and the down-ballot windfall that could mean for their own GOP majorities in Congress.
Thursday afternoon offered the first encounter in years between Trump and McConnell, who once blamed Trump for the “disgraceful” attack that he called an “insurrection” but now endorses the party’s presumptive nominee.
Trump addressed the situation directly, saying he intends to work with everyone and that McConnell had “done his best” as leader, said Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, an ally of the former president.

According to Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, who organized the conference meeting, after Trump addressed the group McConnell gave a thumbs up and the two approached each other and exchanged the fist-bump.
“We had a really positive meeting,” McConnell said. “He and I got a chance to talk a little bit, shook hands a few times.”
As democracies around the world come under threat from a far-rightward shift, some analysts warn that the US system, once seemingly immune from authoritarian impulses, is at risk of populist and extremist forces like those that Trump inspired to sack the Capitol.
“This is just another example of House Republicans bending the knee to Donald Trump,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus.

In this photo taken during on January 6, 2021, rioting pro-Trump supporters occupy parts of the attack on the US Capitol building to protest Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election. Returning to the Capitol for the first time since the riot, Trump described as "patriots" those rioters. some of whom had been charged or sentenced to prison for insurrection. (Shutterstock)

Making Jan. 6 a cornerstone of his reelection campaign, Trump celebrates those who stormed the Capitol as “warriors” and “patriots,” and he has vowed to pardon any number of the more than 1,200 people charged with crimes for the assault on the seat of US democracy.
Moreover, Trump has vowed to seek retribution by ousting officials at the US Justice Department, which is prosecuting him in a four-count indictment to overturn the election ahead of the Jan. 6 attack and another case over storing classified documents at his Mar-A-Largo home.
Republicans, particularly in the House but increasingly in the Senate, are vigorously following his lead, complaining of an unfair justice system. It’s having noticeable results: the House and Senate GOP campaign arms scored some of their highest fundraising periods yet after a jury found him guilty in the New York hush money case.
When former GOP Speaker Paul Ryan on Fox News reiterated this week that he wouldn’t be voting for Trump and wished Republicans had another choice for president, he was immediately ostracized by Trump allies.
“Paul Ryan, you’re a piece of garbage,” said Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas. “We should kick you out of the party.”
Of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6 and convict him on the charge of inciting the insurrection, only a few remain in office.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, had not been expected to attend Thursday’s closed-door session with Trump. But Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joined as did Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana
Cassidy said he’s attending the Trump meeting expecting “he’s going to be the next president, so you have to work” together.
Asked if he was concerned about the direction of the Trump Republican Party, Cassidy said: “Let the day’s own troubles be sufficient for the day. You can fill yourself up with anxiety about tomorrow, but will it change a thing? No.”


Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison

Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison
Updated 14 June 2024
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Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison

Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison

MINNEAPOLIS: A Minnesota man who once fought for the Daesh group in Syria after becoming radicalized expressed remorse and wept in open court Thursday as he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

Abelhamid Al-Madioum, 27, cooperated with federal authorities ahead of Thursday’s hearing, which prosecutors factored into their recommendation for a lower sentence than the statutory maximum of 20 years.

US District Judge Ann Montgomery said among the cases she has presided over in her 40 years on the bench, Al-Madioum’s was “extraordinary.” She cited his confounding path from a loving Minnesota home to one of the world’s most notorious terror organizations and his subsequent collaboration with the government he betrayed.

When Al-Madioum rose to speak before being sentenced, he thanked the US government for giving him another chance. He then turned to address his parents and two young sons, who were rescued from a Syrian orphanage and brought to America with the help of federal authorities.

“I know I put you through so much, and I did with the belief that it was my religious duty,” Al-Madioum said while fighting back tears. “That’s no excuse. My first duty should have been to you.”

Al-Madioum, a naturalized US citizen, was among several Minnesotans suspected of leaving the US to join the Daesh group, along with thousands of fighters from other countries worldwide. Roughly three dozen people are known to have left Minnesota to join militant groups in Somalia or Syria. In 2016, nine Minnesota men were sentenced on federal charges of conspiring to join Daesh.

But Al-Madioum is one of the relatively few Americans who have been brought back to the US who actually fought for the group. According to a defense sentencing memo, he’s one of 11 adults as of 2023 to be formally repatriated to the US from the conflict in Syria and Iraq to face charges for terrorist-related crimes and alleged affiliations with IS. Others received sentences ranging from four years to life plus 70 years.

Prosecutors had asked for a 12-year sentence, arguing that Al-Madioum’s suffering did not make his crimes any less serious. Assistant US Attorney Andrew Winter said Al-Madioum self-radicalized online and helped daesh, also known as Daesh, carry out its goals.

“Young men just like him all over the world ... allowed Daesh to flourish,” Winter said.

Manvir Atwal, Al-Madioum’s attorney requested a seven-year sentence. She said Al-Madioum was taken in as an impressionable teenager by a well-oiled propaganda machine. He rejected extremist ideology years ago and had helped the government in other terrorism cases, which prosecutors confirmed.

Montgomery opted for a 10-year sentence, weighing sentencing guidelines with Al-Madioum’s cooperation and letters on his behalf, including one from an unnamed former US ambassador. He has already served over five years and might get credit for that time, Atwal said.

Al-Madioum grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park in a loving and nonreligious family, the defense memo said. He joined Daesh because he wanted to help Muslims he believed were being slaughtered by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in that country’s civil war. IS recruiters persuaded him “to test his faith and become a real Muslim.”

Al-Madioum was 18 in 2014 when IS recruited him. The college student slipped away from his family on a visit to their native Morocco in 2015. Making his way to Syria, he became a soldier for Daesh until he was maimed in an explosion in Iraq. His leg was shattered and his arm had to be amputated. Unable to fight, he used his computer skills to serve the group.

While still a member of Daesh, he married and had children with two women.

He had thought his second wife and their daughter had died. But in court Thursday, Al-Madioum said he had heard there is a chance she and their daughter might still be alive. That possibility remains under investigation, Atwal said.

Al-Madioum’s first wife died in his arms after she was shot in front of him by either rebel forces or an Daesh fighter in 2019, the defense said. Al-Madioum said in court that he dug a trench and buried her.

The day after that shooting, he walked with his sons and surrendered to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which held him under conditions the defense described as “heinous” for 18 months until the FBI returned him to the US

He pleaded guilty in 2021 to providing material support to a designated terrorist organization. His sons were eventually found in a Syrian orphanage, the culmination of what he and Montgomery described as a unique effort from US diplomats and other officials.

Al-Madioum’s parents were awarded custody of his sons after they arrived in America. Sitting in the court’s gallery Thursday, his sons, ages 7 and 9, sat on their grandparents’ laps and smiled at their father as he turned to face them.