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The new Cultural Imperialism: Palmyra’s Roman-era Ruins to be Reconstructed in Western Capitals

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It has recently been announced that replicas of the Roman-era ruins at Palmyra, which have so far survived the ISIS assault, are to be built and displayed at London’s Trafalgar Square and New York. The replica is of a 2000 year-old arch which stood inside one of the temples that the terrorist blew-up last year, and will be reconstructed using the world’s largest 3D printer. The Independent reports:

The monument was attacked by Islamist fighters and was largely reduced to rubble. One of the 15 metre high arches, which stood at the temple’s entrance, survived.

The construction of the temple entrance has been proposed by the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), who will use the world’s largest 3D printer for the project.

“The aim of our proposed installation is to draw attention to the global crisis surrounding the looting and despoliation of cultural heritage objects and architecture and the importance of celebrating the beauty and significance of these objects to the everyday lives of modern people.” Dr Alexy Karenowska, Director of Technology at the Institute for Digital Archaeology, told The Independent.

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The temple was dedicated to the Mesoptamian god Bel in AD32 and was the centre of religious life in the area. It was converted into a Christian church during the Byzantine era and then later into a mosque.

The full-size replicas will be the centrepiece for world heritage week in April and is reportedly being built as a symbol of defiance against Isis’s attempts to erase several aspects of Middle Eastern history.

The arch in Trafalgar Square will be made of a lightweight composite and stone powder.

The printer will work from a 3D image generated from dozens of two dimensional photographs and tourist pictures taken before the temple was blown up with barrels of high-explosive. Khaled al-Asaad, 82, the archaeologist who managed the site for 40 years, was beheaded by Isis in Palmyra’s amphitheatre.

However rather than a symbolic act of defiance in the face of international terrorism, this move by Washington and its London sidekick is akin to a slap in the face of the Syrian nation that these two countries have done so much to destroy. Lest we forget, ISIS were able to drive their large convoy of black and white Toyota trucks from the Iraqi desert to the ancient city untouched by the so-called US-led 60 nation ‘anti-ISIS coalition’ that is supposedly doing its best to ‘degrade and destroy’ the Islamic State.

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Instead the Obama administration and its despotic puppets prefer to leave this monster of their own creation untouched if there’s a chance it will come into contact with the Syrian Arab Army; or ‘Assad loyalists’ as the Western media likes to call them. The truth of the matter is that the countries whom have waged war on Syria for the last five years – namely America, the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Israel – bear direct responsibility for the heartbreaking loss of the country’s cultural heritage and the beheading of Khaled al-Asaad; whom the media largely declined to remind readers was an employee of the state that they loathe so much.

Christiane Gruber – associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Michigan – explaining the meaning behind the term ‘Daesh’, says:

Over the past year, cartoonists across the Middle East have critiqued ISIS with equal amounts of ferocity and fearlessness. From Jordan to Iran, they frequently lambast ISIS—referring to it through its acronym Daesh, which is related to the pejorative Arabic term meaning “to tread under foot”—as destructive of Islam and the world’s cultural heritage, as the growling lapdog of various superpowers, as the ultimate devil and grim reaper of Iraq and as an Oscar-winning sensation obsessed with bloody forms of self-promotion.

By giving itself the authority to reconstruct Syria’s heritage in Western capitals, the American and Brits seemingly view themselves as the defenders and saviours of Middle Eastern civilisation, whose barbarians clearly need rescuing from themselves. Gruber’s description above can just as aptly describe Cameron and Obama as it does the foot-soldiers of the Islamic State.

The Syrians on the other hand, with their huge sacrifices unacknowledged, will continue the fight against the same forces who claim to be saving them.

Let’s just hope the reconstruction doesn’t convince ISIS to blow-up the remaining arch.

Replica of Syrian arch of Palmyra that survived Isis attack to be erected in Trafalgar Square and New York

Ignored and Unreported, Muslim Cartoonists and Poking Fun at ISIS

*Cartoons from Iran’s Daesh cartoon competition, entries and names of artists can be viewed here: http://resistart.ir/%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%A2%D8%AB%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%82%D9%87-%D8%A8%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%84%D9%84%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%B4-%D8%A8%D8%AE%D8%B4-%DA%86%D9%87%D8%B1%D9%87/

President Assad visits Our Lady of Damascus Church near Syria’s Front-Line

President Assad and his wife Asma visited the Our Lady of Damascus Church last night – a mile away from the rebel-held Jubar district – where they watched a choir rehearsal and took photos with the public.

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In related news, the results are in from my 24 hour Twitter poll:

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No comment.

British Government is a Rogue Regime Sliding into full-on Fascism

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David Cameron and Theresa May personally on the hunt for ‘illegals’, a couple of days after the election.

In the same way that Hitler used democratic means to impose a fascist dictatorship upon Germany in 1933, David Cameron has proclaimed that being voted into power by less than 25% of the voting-eligible population has given him a mandate to do the same in 2015. Shortly after the election he came out with a chilling statement:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

In addition to vowing to scrap the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’, Cameron is also “refusing to rule out” leaving the European Convention on Human Rights – a treaty created to protect the continent from tyranny following WWII. The PM has so far offered no indication of which rights enshrined in the Human Rights Acts his party wish to do-away with, merely labeling the HRA “excessive.” Yes, we Brits have “excessive” human rights. I suppose when the HRA is abolished we will no longer have human rights, just British rights. After all there is no ‘human’ in British Bill of Rights. Human rights are supposed to be universal, not things to be chipped away at again and again because of the supposed ‘threat’ of the day. The idea that we currently have too many of them is ludicrous, and why the threat to withdraw from the ECHR is so terrifying. Cameron’s statement on the matter in parliament today was revolting, insulting, and embarrassing:

 “Let me be very clear about what we want, which is British judges making decisions in British courts. And also the British parliament being accountable to the British people.

Now our plans, set out in our manifesto, don’t involve us leaving the European convention on human rights. But let’s be absolutely clear. If we can’t achieve what we need – and I’m very clear about that when we’ve got these foreign criminals committing offence after offence and we can’t send them home because of their right to a family life – that needs to change. And I rule out absolutely nothing in getting that done.”

What the Tories are demanding is a veto over rulings made by the ECHR that they don’t like, and if such a reform isn’t granted, to withdraw from the treaty altogether. The main issue of contention with regard to the ECHR seems to be article 8, which says everyone has the right to respect for his of her private and family life, home and correspondence. By leaving the treaty or holding veto power over its recommendations, the government would be able to deport all these foreign criminals we supposedly have without giving a toss for their home and family situation. The Cameron regime is once again fearmongering about a tiny number of immigrants to justify removing rights and imposing more authoritarian laws on us all, while child abuse within the upper echelons of Westminster is covered up and the evidence destroyed.

The other pertinent article is no. 3: no torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. There are numerous examples of this government being both indifferent to and complicit in torture, including its participation in the CIA’s rendition programme, and having previously granted diplomatic immunity to Bahraini Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who stands accused of torturing prisoners during the country’s uprising in 2011. Despite no longer receiving such immunity, Nasser continues to spend time in London without facing arrest. It is no secret that the UK is Bahrain’s staunchest Western ally – its monarch skipped the recent GCC summit at Camp David to attend a horse show with the Queen, and it has been announced that we are soon to operate a new naval base on the tiny Persian Gulf state – a clear indicator of the imperial mindset that still permeates our establishment. This news was met in Bahrain by protests and a law suit, which advocates that Britain clearly ignored the dreadful human rights situation in the country when accepting the offer. It can be assumed that the our presence there will effectively be to protect the Sunni minority rulers from their long-oppressed Shia majority. It has now been revealed by the last remaining UK citizen to be held at Guantanamo Bay – Saudi-born Shaker Aamer – that MI6 officers have attended interrogations in which he was tortured.

It is worth noting that the only European country that isn’t a member of the ECHR is Belarus, which is also considered Europe’s only remaining dictatorship. Giving a speech on the ECHR in 2012, Cameron said:

Over sixty years ago the Convention was drafted with very clear intentions.

It was born in a continent reeling from totalitarian rule…

…shocked by the brutality of the holocaust…

…sickened by man’s inhumanity to man.

Its purpose was clear: to spread respect for vital human rights across the continent – for life, liberty and the integrity of the person.

It has achieved some vitally important things over the decades: exposing torture; winning victories against degrading treatment in police custody; holding heavy-handed states to account.

And since the Berlin Wall fell, it has played a major role in strengthening democracy across central and Eastern Europe.

Of course, we should remember that oppression and brutality are not just facts of Europe’s past.

As we sit here today, in Belarus there are people being thrown into prison for their political beliefs.

Dissidents’ voices are being silenced and their rights are being crushed.

What is happening less than a thousand miles from here underlines the continuing importance and relevance of the Council, the Convention and the Court.

It reminds us that now, more than ever, we need a Court that is a beacon for the cause of human rights, ruthlessly focused on defending human freedom and dignity, respected across the continent and the world.

It now seems that three years later, the Conservatives have looked to Belarus as a model for implementing their extremist agenda. A few days ago new Justice Secretary Michael Gove talked about enhancing human rights for “the majority,” yet again missing the point that human rights are universal, and play a vital role in protecting the minorities that Cameron and co. are so keen to discriminate against. During the Queen’s Speech it was revealed that Theresa May will not only revive the dreaded Snooper’s Charter that previously failed to pass during the coalition with the Lib Dems, but enhance it. The charter would require internet and mobile phone companies to keep records of customers’ browsing activity, emails, social media use, voice calls, text messages and online gaming for a year. Commenting on May’s plans, human rights watchdog Privacy International’s legal director Carly Nyst said:

“Theresa May’s comments confirm that widespread public concern about the threats posed to online privacy and expression by internet monitoring powers has been completely ignored by the new government.

Communications data legislation has been repeatedly criticised by experts and politicians from all reaches of the political spectrum, and has been beaten back by the public and civil society time and time again.

Reviving it as a policy priority is a clear sign both of an insatiable appetite for spying powers, and intentions to continue to sacrifice the civil liberties of Britons everywhere on the altar of national security.”

It seems highly likely that the Snooper’s Charter (labeled by The Daily Beast as the UK’s ‘Patriot Act on steroids’) will violate both the HRA and the ECHR. Furthermore it makes a complete mockery of Cameron’s claim that he wants the British parliament to be accountable to the British public, as Westminster will only be accountable if citizens have the ability to appeal to the ECHR! What the Tories want is full control over British courts, where the flimsiest evidence will be used to prosecute Muslims and foreigners (to begin with) of crimes such as ‘support for terrorism’, and ‘attempting to overthrow democracy’.

Cuts

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Last year it was revealed in Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement that budget cuts will become so extreme over the next few years that they will match spending levels not seen since the 1930s. This is to include over £12 million of welfare cuts, which may include cuts to disability benefits. The cruel and ineffective ‘Bedroom Tax’ will also continue.

In November, documents obtained via Freedom of Information requests, and released by the Disability News Service, revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have carried out 60 investigations into the deaths of benefits claimants since February 2012.

This information followed a series of reports published by the campaign group Black Triangle, which uncovered over 40 cases of citizens having committed suicide due to the slashing or removal of their disability benefits. Other deaths by the disabled were attributed to claimants having been deemed ‘fit to work’ at their mandatory Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

These assessments are controversial due to their inaccuracy, with claimants often being judged by assessors holding no knowledge of their particular disability, and the overall purpose of the WCA’s being to lower unemployment numbers rather than help the individual.

Repeated WCA’s can become so distressing that citizens stop claiming altogether, which is beneficial for the government as they save money and have one less statistic to count. There are examples of patients suffering from illnesses such as terminal cancer and brain damage having been found fit for work; in 2013 a woman who had undergone both a heart and lung transplant died days after being told her disability benefit would be stopped due to her having being deemed capable of returning to work.

Thankfully, the government’s chronic mistreatment of the disabled is increasingly garnering attention. Last week a judge ruled that delays in the payment of disability benefits to two claimants by the DWP were unlawful. The individuals – whose experiences have been shared by hundreds of thousands of others – were left vulnerable, depressed and without being able to afford enough food for months while their claims were being processed. However, the judge ruled that there had been no breach of the claimants’ human rights, which meant that there was no case for compensation.

More significantly, Iain Duncan Smith’s disability benefit changes are currently under investigation by the United Nations.

The UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is probing whether the DWP’s treatment of the disabled has led to “grave or systemic violations” of human rights. This announcement followed a report by the English non-profit Just Fair last year which said the UK was in danger of going from a world leader in disability rights to a “systematic violator of these same rights.”

Responding to the news of the UN’s enquiry, Tory MP Michael Ellis said:

“This politically motivated loony left decision brings the UN organisation in to disrepute At a time when there are grave international crises around the world and when in do

dozens of countries around the world there are no benefits available, this absurd decision is made to attack our country which rightly does more than almost any other to protect the rights of disadvantaged people from all walks of life.”

It is statements such as these which are increasingly leaving the UK looking like a rogue regime on the world stage, and lacking in credibility when it comes to preaching to others on human rights – something David Cameron and co. seem to take great pleasure in doing. Lawsuits brought against the government by the disabled and other marginalised citizens, such as that mentioned above, may also factor in to the Tories plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and possibly leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is clear that the new government view their slim majority as the go-ahead to remake British society in their image, whether they have the support of the public or not.

Speech on the European Court of Human Rights
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/speech-on-the-european-court-of-human-rights

Theresa May to revive her ‘snooper’s charter’ now Lib Dem brakes are off
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/09/theresa-may-revive-snoopers-charter-lib-dem-brakes-off-privacy-election

* Update – It has now been revealed that cuts will be made to disability claimants’ benefits. The naval base in Bahrain was also quietly opened a few weeks ago, with very little media fanfare.

British government faces legal challenge over flogging of prison services to Saudi Arabia

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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi receives his first flogging

The British government is facing another High Court challenge from human rights activists, this time regarding the Ministry of Justice’s decision to sell prison services to Saudi Arabia and Oman.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) launched their challenge today, alleging that the MoJ has no legal power to provide such profit-making services. The so-called MoJ’s commercial arm – ironically titled ‘Just Solutions International’ – was revealed earlier this year but remains shrouded in secrecy, as next to nothing is known about it other than that it has submitted a £5.9 million proposal to Saudi Arabia and a similar bid to Oman. Lawyers for GCHR assert that providing such services overseas is not a “governmental purpose”.

Notably – just as with the announcement of the Royal Navy’s new naval base in Bahrain – there has been no parliamentary debate or vote on the subject, suggesting that the government does not want to draw attention to the matter. GCHR advisory board member Melanie Gingell states that:

“It seems to us that far from improving human rights standards in the detention systems of these undemocratic states, the UK is more likely to be simply improving the efficiency of the systems within which these notorious abuses are being carried out. The British public has been horrified by the public beheadings and floggings carried out in Saudi Arabia, and now mirrored by ISIS, and they have a right to know exactly what role the UK government is playing in these systems.”
She added, “We fear that the driving motivation behind these bids is purely commercial, and the veil of secrecy that has been drawn over them simply serves to deepen our concerns that the UK is making money out of the worst aspects of these states, that it condemns in public, but is happy to give support to in private.”

GCHR have submitted several Freedom of Information requests to the MoJ regarding JSi’s schemes, but all have been rejected. A week ago the Financial Times revealed that new Justice Secretary Michael Gove is planning to clamp down on Britain’s FoI laws, in order to make the process of obtaining information from government agencies much harder for citizens. This contrasts with the “revolution in government transparency” that David Cameron promised in 2011. Writing in the Telegraph, the PM stated:

“Information is power. It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats.”

Such a reversal of policy is yet another nail in the coffin for Britain’s democracy.

GCHR is crowdfunding to cover the costs of their High Court application. To donate please visit: http://www.gofundme.com/saudiprisons

Russell Brand Summarises the Dishonesty of David Cameron’s Tunisia Response

Tunisia Minute Of Silence – Total Bullshit: Russell Brand The Trews (E350)

I don’t usually pay much attention to Russel Brand, but it is good to see someone in the public eye speaking out about power structures in society and challenging the status quo; something the British press is loathe to do.

He really nails David Cameron’s response to the Tunisia attack; asking why, if the various incidents from London 7/7 to Mumbai to Charlie Hebdo are all connected to one another, then why are our invasions and drone attacks etc not part of the picture?

According to Cameron, there is no relationship between Britain waging aggressive wars against countries that haven’t done anything to us and the animosity that is felt towards the UK. Since 9/11 Britain has taken part in three wars of choice – Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – as well as covertly waging a devastating war against Syria, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people. The government has also given its full support to Israel and Saudi Arabia to destroy Gaza and Yemen, and provided them with the weapons to do so. No one has been held accountable for any of this, and the public doesn’t seem to care.

Now, as part of the new Anti-Terrorism Act, the Home Office is legislating against the very ‘extremist’ language that the government itself is guilty of:

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In his speech following the Tunisia attack, the PM predictably declared that “they” had declared war on Britain. As Brand points out, who is this “they” Cameron refers to? How is this different to the message he says ‘Islamic extremism’ conveys? Brand notes that the ‘war on terror’ is a self-perpetuating business and until there is recognition that wars and arms deals are part of the problem not the solution then nothing will change.

What exactly is the point of the Chilcot report when Cameron’s government has continued to wage illegal wars and lie about them to the public?

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Benghazi 2015 – who will rebuild Libya?

The British government continue to deny responsibility for chaos in the Middle East

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The murder of up to 30 British tourists on a Tunisian beach last week is yet another consequence of David Cameron’s disastrous ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Libya. This follows the rape and assault of several UK citizens by ‘former revolutionaries’ in Cambridgeshire last year, who were visiting the country as part of a Ministry of Defence programme to train Libyan forces. While it has not yet been verified whether or not the Tunisian shooter had spent time at a training camp in the neighbouring country, it would take a huge amount of cognitive dissonance to view the two events as unrelated. Daesh took responsibility for the attack; there would be no Daesh without the war on Libya then Syria.

Another consequence is the current refugee crisis, which has so far led to over 2000 deaths in the Mediterranean this year. In 2010 the number of refugees/migrants departing from Libya was 5000. In April Ed Miliband caused an uproar by ‘controversially’ stating that Cameron shared responsibility for the deaths at sea; typically this opinion was rubbished by the media and political establishment. The Tories have flat-out refused to take in any refugees, and are currently leading a military campaign to destroy boats used to make the journey.

David Cameron Responds to Ed Miliband’s Libyan Comments

The government and most of the British public may tell themselves that our foreign policy is not at fault for the current violence engulfing the Middle East and the north of Africa, but history will not judge us as kindly. A Guardian commenter noted on a related article that the Treaty of Versailles is largely accepted as the predominant factor that led to the rise of Nazi Germany; the connection between Western foreign policy (and their GCC cronies) and ISIS is a far simpler one to make. It is possible that the PM is increasingly coming to realise this, judging by his recent ill-conceived and irresponsible speech where he accused British Muslims of ‘quietly condoning’ Daesh, without offering any evidence to support this. These kind of statements are only likely to result in more hate crimes being committed against minorities, and further isolation of those who already feel sidelined by British society. For example, a number of Muslim graves were vandalised in a Nottingham cemetery over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the government’s answer to this latest tragedy is more of the same – more training and weapons for supposedly moderate murderers in Syria, more divisive McCarthyism-style ‘counter-extremism’ policies here.

UK Program to Train Libyan Soldiers Ends in ‘Disarray and Scandal’

The General Election and the Subversion of British Democracy

Rather than a focus on the issues that are central to the future of this country – the NHS, zero hour jobs, social security etc – the entire election campaign seems to have revolved around one theme: demonisation of Scotland and the SNP. Even before parliament was dissolved, David Cameron continuously badgered Ed Miliband on whether or not he was prepared to enter any kind of post-election deal with the SNP. Throughout the campaign cycle, Cameron and his cronies have repeated ad nauseam that a minority Labour government backed by the SNP would be ‘illegitimate’. Their reasoning for this is that the SNP are only interested in Scottish independence, and therefore it would be unfathomable to have a party that ‘is dedicated to the destruction of the country’ playing a role in governing the UK.

This, however, is a red herring; a trick the Tories are using to allow themselves to cling onto power. As was to be expected, our right-wing press and the puerile BBC have repeated this claim of illegitimacy unquestioningly. It is as if they have forgotten that Britain is a democracy…or perhaps they just no longer care. If the Scottish electorate vote for the SNP, the party is legitimate, it’s as simple as that. In fact if any party is to be considered illegitimate it should be the Tories, for they are only largely voted for in the south of England, and don’t even try to win over voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The contempt they have shown for the Scots in the last few weeks has been appalling, and shows that they merely view us as an English colony; the last remnant of the British Empire.

The reason why so many Scots are voting SNP tomorrow is largely due to disenchantment with the other three main parties, rather than a sudden desire for independence. Unlike the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems, Nicola Sturgeon has an actual vision for the future, based on equality and fairness, care for our most vulnerable, and the elimination of costly and unnecessary nuclear weapons.

Following the election results on Friday, the Murdoch owned media will swing into action, repeating the illegitimacy line and trying to fool the public about the constitutional process – Cameron and his poodle Clegg have already made a start on the latter in the last few days, by stating that the party with the largest number of seats will form the new government. This is false. The governing party will be that which can command the confidence of parliament. Labour with the backing of the SNP, and perhaps other smaller parties such as Plaid Cymru and the Greens can do this.

Come Friday, the battle will be between the Tory-supporting press and the people, as they try to spin the results into a Tory victory. It is crucial that we do not allow Cameron and his right-wing media machine to subvert the democratic process.