MoJo Author Feeds: Jenna McLaughlin | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en The Pentagon Is Holding an Essay Contest to Honor Saudi Arabia's Brutal King. Here's Our Entry. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Shortly after Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz, the 90-year-old king of Saudi Arabia, died <a href="" target="_blank">last Friday</a>, the Pentagon and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, <a href="" target="_blank">paid their respects</a> by inviting college students to participate in a "research and essay competition" in the late monarch's honor. No prize has been announced, but the Pentagon issued a press release about the contest listing the deceased monarch's considerable accomplishments: "the modernization of his country's military," his "lifetime" support of Saudi Arabia's alliance with the United States, his support of "scholarly research," and what Dempsey called the king's "remarkable character and courage." Although, as a woman, I wouldn't be recognized as a full human being by the king, here is my essay contest submission:</p> <p><strong>On women's rights:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Amnesty International, December 11, 2014: Saudi Arabia</a>: Two women arrested for driving.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, April 20, 2008:</a> Male guardianship laws forbid women from obtaining passports, marrying, studying, or traveling without the permission of a male guardian.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, December 2, 2014:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The informal prohibition on female driving in Saudi Arabia became official state policy in 1990. During the 1990-91 Gulf War, <a href=";src=pm" target="_blank">female American soldiers were permitted to drive on military bases in Saudi</a><u> Arabia</u>, and Saudi women organized a protest demanding the right to drive in Saudi Arabia as well. Dozens of Saudi women drove the streets of Riyadh in a convoy to protest the ban, which then was just based on custom. In response, officials arrested them, suspended them from their jobs, and the Grand Mufti, the country&rsquo;s most senior religious authority, immediately declared a fatwa, or religious edict, against women driving, stating that driving would expose women to &ldquo;temptation&rdquo; and lead to &ldquo;social chaos.&rdquo; Then-Minister of Interior Prince Nayef legally banned women&rsquo;s driving by decree on the basis of the fatwa.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On migrant worker's rights:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, December 1, 2013</a>: Hundreds of thousands of workers were arrested and deported, some reporting prison abuses during their detentions. No standard contract for domestic workers was ever drafted. Human Rights Watch interviewed migrant workers about the arrests:</p> <blockquote> <p>One of the Ethiopians, a 30-year-old supervisor at a private company, said he heard shouts and screams from the street, and left his home near Manfouha to see what was happening. When he arrived near Bank Rajahi on the road to the Yamama neighborhood, west of Manfouha, he saw a large group of Ethiopians crying and shouting around the dead bodies of three Ethiopians, one of whom he said had been shot, and two others who had been beaten to death. He said six others appeared to be badly injured.<br><br> He said he saw Saudis whom he called&nbsp;<em>shabab</em>&nbsp;(&ldquo;young men&rdquo; in Arabic), and uniformed security forces attack the Ethiopians who had gathered. The&nbsp;<em>shabab</em>&nbsp;were using swords and machetes, while some of the uniformed officers were beating the migrants with metal police truncheons, and other officers were firing bullets into the air to disperse the crowd. He said that he narrowly escaped serious injury when a Saudi man swung a sword at his head. It missed, but hit his arm, requiring stitches to close the wound.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On peaceful protest:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, December 18, 2013:</a> Authorities arrested and charged many peaceful protestors for "sowing discord" and challenging the government.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Amnesty International, December 4, 2014:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On 6 November, the authorities sentenced Mikhlif al-Shammari , a prominent human rights activist and an advocate of the rights of Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s Shi&rsquo;a Muslim community, to two years in prison and 200 lashes on charges related to his peaceful activism. In a separate case, on 17 June 2013 Mikhlif al-Shammari had already been sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) to five years in prison, followed by a 10-year travel ban, on charges related to his peaceful activism. The court also banned him from writing in the press and on social media networks, and from appearing on television or radio.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch, January 10, 2015:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>King Abdullah of <a href="">Saudi Arabia</a> should overturn the lashing and prison term for a blogger imprisoned for his views and immediately grant him a pardon. Saudi authorities lashed Raif Badawi 50 times on January 9, 2015, in front of a crowded mosque in Jeddah, part of a judicial sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for setting up a liberal website and allegedly insulting religious authorities.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>On torture:</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The Washington Post, November 19, 2004: </a></p> <blockquote> <p>A federal prosecutor in Alexandria made a comment last year suggesting that a Falls Church man held in a Saudi Arabian prison had been tortured, according to a sworn affidavit from a defense lawyer that was recently filed in federal court in Washington.</p> <p>The alleged remark by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon D. Kromberg occurred during a conversation with the lawyer, Salim Ali, in the federal courthouse in Alexandria, according to Ali's affidavit.</p> <p>The document was filed Oct. 12 in connection with a petition by the parents of the detained man, Ahmed Abu Ali, who are seeking his release from Saudi custody.The lawyer stated in the affidavit that he asked Kromberg about bringing Abu Ali back to the United States to face charges so as "to avoid the torture that goes on in Saudi Arabia."</p> <p>Kromberg "smirked and stated that 'He's no good for us here, he has no fingernails left,' " Salim Ali wrote in his affidavit, adding: "I did not know how to respond [to] the appalling statement he made, and we subsequently ceased our discussion about Ahmed Abu Ali."</p> </blockquote> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">In conclusion, from Human Rights Watch:</a></strong></p> <blockquote> <p>For [Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz's half-brother and successor, <a href="">Salman bin Abdulaziz]</a> to improve on Abdullah&rsquo;s legacy, he needs to reverse course and permit Saudi citizens to peacefully express themselves, reform the justice system, and speed up reforms on women&rsquo;s rights and treatment of migrant workers.</p> </blockquote></body></html> MoJo Foreign Policy Human Rights International Top Stories Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:29:45 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268811 at Most US Airstrikes in Syria Target a City That's Not a "Strategic Objective" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>During his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Barack Obama announced that the US military is "stopping ISIL's advance." But a close look at the details of the American air offensive reveals a less triumphant narrative: Although the strikes may have slowed ISIS's advance in the area around the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani, the overall strategic gains have been minimal. Kobani "became a symbol of the ability to contain ISIS regardless of its strategic importance," says Anthony Cordesman, military and national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former national security advisor to Sen. John McCain. Instead of a concrete strategy, the concentration on Kobani is a "practical problem," says Cordesman. In <a href="" target="_blank">October</a>, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech that Kobani was not a "strategic objective" for the US.</p> <p>So why all those bombs? Since September 23, when air strikes in Syria began, US and coalition forces have pummeled both Syria and Iraq with nearly 2,000 air strikes. As of early this week, 870 of those strikes were in Syria; almost 70 percent of these Syrian strikes have focused on Kobani and its surroundings. The total area, about the same size as Rhode Island, covers less than two percent of Syria and the majority of the population are ethnic Kurds.</p> <p>There's a reason that Kobani became so symbolically important: Stories of the brave Kurdish fighters defending the small border city against ISIS swept international headlines last September, and the public demanded that the US step in to prevent a humanitarian disaster. The Kurds, unable to defeat ISIS on their own, turned the tide once they had coalition air support. "Seventy-five percent of all US strikes in Syria were on Kobani," Thomas Pierret, a Syria specialist at the University of Edinburgh told <em>Ekurd Daily</em>, a Kurdish news site <a href="" target="_blank">last week</a>. "You give any force on the ground that kind of aerial support and they will get the upper hand." It has cost taxpayers $8.2 million a day, on average, to conduct the entire airstrike campaign. ISIS now occupies one-third of Syria, or twice what it did when the campaign began, and <a href="" target="_blank">around</a> 400,000 people have fled Kobani alone. US military officials have conceded that Kobani isn't strategically important.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Syriacard2IG-01.png"></div> <p>After the initial battles, ISIS continued to cling to the border city&mdash;forcing the US and the coalition to "devote major air assets to a minor objective," Cordesman explained in an e-mail. The strategy was partly successful. As of recent weeks, air strikes near Kobani killed as many as 1,000 ISIS fighters and destroyed stockpiles of weapons and supplies, according to a defense official. The strikes distracted ISIS in something of a "sideshow," Cordesman says. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Kurds currently hold around 80% of Kobani, and <a href="" target="_blank">continue to push ISIS back. </a></p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Syriacard1final.png"></div> <p>But although the campaign in Kobani has been partly successful, it has been long-fought, and ISIS forces continue to pose a significant threat to the city despite the assault. And, even if the battle in Kobani is decisively won, large swathes of territory in the rest of Syria remains in ISIS control. The ISIS leadership and command positions have dispersed and its fighters are mixing in with civilians to use them as human shields. Cordesman notes that ISIS has adapted to a world with air strikes and learned to operate around them.</p> <p>ISIS was never in control of more than <a href="" target="_blank">25 percent of </a><a href="" target="_blank">Koban</a>i, but ISIS dominates Raqqah in northern Syria, one of Syria's largest cities, which is around 70 miles from Kobani. Some US-led airstrikes hit areas near Raqqah, but there were many days, at least 20, where Kobani was the sole target. Many strikes only damaged, or "struck," targets in and around Kobani, including "fighting positions" and "tactical positions," according to Pentagon press releases, which a coalition official tells me are exactly the same thing. He did not clarify how large these areas were, nor if they included buildings or infrastructure. One target could be as small as a motorcycle (US airstrikes have hit two) or as big as a large building.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Syriacard4final.png"></div> <p>With US eyes on Kobani, ISIS is careful not to go out into the open and expose itself to further strikes. "ISIS still has problems in moving, exposing combat vehicles, and deploying the kind of weapons US assets can target," says Cordesman. "That is why so many other air strikes targeted exposed ISIS forces near the Mosul Dam," or other offensive areas in Iraq.</p> <p>A defense official tells <em>Mother Jones</em> that ISIS is the one focusing on Kobani, and not the other way around: "You would need to ask ISIL why the emphasis on Kobani," she says. "ISIL continues to provide targets and we continue to conduct air strikes." Although ISIS has gained more territory in Syria in recent months, she explained, snatching up land from ISIS was never on the US's agenda. The airstrikes were more about setting up the Iraqi government and security forces for success&mdash;to make sure "ISIL cannot move freely between Iraq and Syria," she says. Therefore, America's strategic goals in Syria appear to have always have been tangential: to improve the situation in Iraq, rather than begin to reclaim ISIS lands in Syria for its people, who are already wearied from a war with their own leader, President Bashar al-Assad.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Syriacard3IG.png"></div> <p>That may soon change. Last week, the Pentagon announced that it would be sending up to 1,000 soldiers to Syria to help train a force of moderate rebels. According to the defense official, the US and its allies don't have the same kind of partners in Syria as we do with the Iraqi forces right now. These moderate rebels would ideally fill that hole, though recruitment hasn't started yet, and moderate rebels in Syria are notoriously <a href="" target="_blank">hard to find</a>. In the meantime, the airstrikes in Kobani will continue. "It is safe to say that we will continue to conduct airstrikes as targets present themselves in Syria," the official says.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Syriacard5IG-01.png"></div> </div> </div> </div></body></html> Politics Foreign Policy International Iraq Military Top Stories Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:30:06 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268616 at This Map Shows the West's Spreading Anti-Terror Crackdown <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On the heels of the Paris attacks, a wave of anti-terror raids, arrests, and new security policies have swept the Western world in at least seven countries. Around two dozen suspects in four countries were apprehended on Thursday and Friday of last week. On Tuesday, counter-terrorism operations continued in France, Germany, and Greece. The map below plots the efforts thus far from <a href="" target="_blank">Canada</a>,<a href="" target="_blank"> the US</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Germany</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Ireland</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">France</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Greece</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Belgium</a>. Click on each city for further details.</p> <p><iframe height="480" src="" width="640"></iframe></p></body></html> Politics Maps Foreign Policy Immigration International Top Stories Tue, 20 Jan 2015 22:32:28 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268461 at Obama Wants Companies to Stop Stealing Your Data. Good Luck. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Barack Obama's sixth State of the Union address, which he will deliver on Tuesday, will focus on&nbsp;cybersecurity, according to a speech he gave last Monday at the Federal Trade Commission. Protecting our government and corporations from foreign threats will not be Obama's only focus&mdash;he's also pushing for a bill that would protect internet consumers. But online privacy advocates are far from optimistic. They say Obama's new consumer privacy bill will need to be very strong and specific to fill all the existing holes in consumer privacy law. Even then, they warn, the bill is likely doomed, because tech-industry lobbyists will spend millions to block it.</p> <p>Right now, there are now very few <a href="">restrictions</a> on what data companies are allowed to scoop up from our digital apps and how they are allowed to use it. Companies routinely gather information and use it in ways consumers' didn't know about, much less sanction. <a href="">Last year</a>, Facebook manipulated what its users viewed on their news feeds to see how it would affect their moods and behaviors. One could be enrolled in a biometric database or plugged into a marketing research database without ever giving consent. Stalking is illegal, but invisible and undetectable location apps technically aren't, so geo-location services can make it much easier for stalkers to follow their prey everywhere. (According to a <a href=";did=755543">survey</a> conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, almost three-fourths of domestic-violence services aided victims who were tracked by these stalking apps or GPS devices.) According to <a href="">Evidon</a>, an online marketing analytics service, an app called My Pregnancy Today shared data with 19 different third parties, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, BabyCenter, AdMob, Dynamic Logic, and various other obscurely named companies. An app that tracks when women menstruate did the same. Weight Watchers International sends your diet plans directly to Kraft Foods.</p> <p>Obama wants to change all that. "We believe that there ought to be some basic protections," he said Monday, describing new legislation he hopes will become law. The proposed bill, which has not yet been introduced in Congress, will build upon the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a measure Obama first introduced three years ago. According to the president, the bill will give Americans "the right to decide what personal data companies collect from them and how they use that data." The mass of information about shopping habits, Facebook likes, health information, location, and other information plugged into smartphone apps would be safe, and misuse and misdirection of private data by companies would be strictly policed. That's the hope, at least.</p> <p>The obstacles are myriad.</p> <p>GOP lawmakers' reaction to Obama's plan has been muted. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, <a href="">claimed</a> in a press release that he was ready to work with Obama, complaining that the president's actions on cybersecurity were overdue. But Thune was focused not on consumer protection but rather on Obama's proposals to bring the United States into compliance with an international standard under which companies would have to report data breaches within 30 days.</p> <p>Libertarians want the government to "get its own privacy house in order," says Jim Harper, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. "The president should order the National Security Agency to cease spying on innocent Americans and undercutting internet security technologies. Until he does so, he lacks the moral authority to counsel the private sector about privacy and security."</p> <p>Industry groups oppose the legislation too. "We all agree that it's essential to protect consumer data privacy," says Mark McCarthy, an executive at the Software and Information Industry Association. "But new federal regulations won't make consumers any safer." Industry groups have spent millions to block former legislation on consumer privacy in years past.</p> <p>They have been effective. "Not a single commercial privacy law has made it out of committee during the last Congress, during the last two years," says Alvaro Bedoya, the director of Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology. "A bill that would pass this Congress will not fill the holes [in current policy]."</p></body></html> Politics Media Obama Tech Top Stories Tue, 20 Jan 2015 11:25:04 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268251 at What We Know About the Anti-Terror Raids Across Europe <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Following the Paris attacks that left 17 dead and amidst warnings that there may be as many as 20 jihadist sleeper cells throughout the European Union, at least four European nations have launched anti-terror operations. From Belgium, where suspected Islamic radicals skirmished with police, to Ireland, where an alleged radical was arrested as he tried to enter the country, some 24 suspects have been arrested across Europe. Here's what we know about the raids and arrests that have played out over the past couple days.</p> <p><strong>Belgium:</strong> Early Thursday evening, Belgian police shot and killed two men, and arrested a third, during an intense ten-minute gun battle in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers. Belgian police and prosecutors claim that these men, Belgian citizens, had recently returned from Syria, were heavily armed, and had imminent plans to attack police officers and police stations in Belgium. Their identities have not been released, but witnesses claim they were dressed all in black and were carrying black bags. Officers seized police uniforms, heaps of money, explosives, guns, and munitions from the suspects. No police officers were wounded in the shoot-out. "The operation was meant to dismantle a terrorist cell...but also the logistics network behind it," Eric Van Der Seypt, a Belgian prosecutor, <a href="" target="_blank">told reporters</a>.</p> <p>Following the stand-off, police in Belgium arrested 13 additional suspects <a href="" target="_blank">throughout the country</a>. According to Van Der Sypt, the investigation that led to the arrests was initiated before the Paris massacre occurred. The Belgian authorities are investigating any ties the Belgian suspects might have had with the Paris attackers&mdash;especially to Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who killed four hostages before he was gunned down by police at a kosher market north of Paris. Police are investigating whether Coulibaly may have purchased weapons from a Belgian arms dealer, after confirming that he sold the dealer a car belonging to his partner Hayat Boumeddienne, who remains at large. Right now, there are no direct connections.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Automatic gunfire and explosions echoed thru <a href="">#Verviers</a> <a href="">#Belgium</a> for 5 minutes as police raided terror cell. More <a href="">@GMB</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Richard Gaisford (@richardgaisford) <a href="">January 16, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Police cars blocking street in <a href="">#Verviers</a> Belgium after operation against suspected terrorists <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; roeland roovers (@r0eland) <a href="">January 15, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p><strong>France:</strong> In neighboring France, police reportedly <a href="" target="_blank">arrested</a> around 12 additional suspects in Paris in connection to the Charlie Hebdo shootings. These suspects allegedly have ties to the Kouachi brothers, who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices, held up a gas station, and holed up at a print shop before police killed them. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports that the suspects were members of the Paris attackers' "entourage" and may have helped plan or finance the attacks.</p> <p><strong>Germany:</strong> In Germany, where <a href="" target="_blank">tensions </a>over massive anti-Islam, anti-immigration protests have grown over the past week, Berlin police reportedly <a href="" target="_blank">arrested</a> two men suspected of having ties to the Islamic State, or ISIS. The two men are believed to have been recruiting, raising money, and obtaining supplies for ISIS. Around 250 police officers stormed Berlin streets, searching 11 homes, in what police described as part of a months-long investigation into a small terrorist cell in Germany. However, police claimed they did not have reason to believe the group posed an imminent threat.</p> <p><strong>Ireland: </strong>The terrorism crackdown <a href="" target="_blank">extended</a> as far as Ireland, where a French-Algerian national, a suspected jihadist, attempted to enter Dublin at the airport. He is currently being held by the police and questioned about fake documentation, after the police were tipped off by international agencies monitoring the man.</p></body></html> Politics Foreign Policy International Religion Top Stories Fri, 16 Jan 2015 21:47:15 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268361 at The Group That Kidnapped 200 Nigerian Girls Started Out Peaceful. Here's What Changed. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week, the radical Islamist militant group Boko Haram massacred as many as 2,000 people in the towns of Baga and Doron Baga&nbsp;in northeast Nigeria&mdash;the latest bloody event in their terror spree that began in the region around 2009. Responsible for around 600 attacks and more than 3,000 dead since 2011, according to the Department of Justice (other groups have made higher estimates),&nbsp;the group has made international headlines for <a href="" target="_blank">kidnapping</a> hundreds of school girls in 2014 and <a href="" target="_blank">bombing </a>the United Nations' headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja in 2011. But Boko Haram has not always been known for its ruthless brutality.&nbsp;</p> <p>Around 13&nbsp;years ago, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the United States Institute of&nbsp;Peace</a>, the sect that became known as Boko Haram was a small, isolated, peaceful community dedicated to practicing strict Islamic Shariah law. In 2002, a group of extremist Muslim youths who worshipped at the Alhaji Muhammadu Ndimi Mosque in Maiduguri, or&nbsp;the<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;capital of&nbsp;</span>Borno<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;state in northeast Nigeria,</span>&nbsp;decided to depart from Nigerian society and the corruption they saw there and embark on a religious pilgrimage modeled after the Prophet Muhammad's journey from Mecca to Medina. They traveled to Kanama, near&nbsp;the border with Niger, to create their separatist commune. Mohammed Ali was their leader, and he called upon the group to follow "true" Islamic law.</p> <p>Even after&nbsp;Nigerian security forces in 2003 killed the majority of Boko Haram's&nbsp;members over fishing rights in a local pond, the group didn't follow up with any violent reprisals. Police killed most of its 70 members&mdash;including Mohammed Ali&mdash;in the 2003 episode, but the group managed to reconstruct itself.</p> <p>The few survivors returned to Maiduguri.&nbsp;They were led by a young cleric named Mohammed Yusuf, who established a mosque for the group. The community offered shelter to refugees from neighboring wars in Chad, opportunities for young jobless Nigerians, and food and resources for anyone who wanted to live there. Authorities left them alone and the group operated its own governing cabinet, large farm, and police force, which upheld the community's strict religious law.</p> <p>"Although from the outset, the sect's mission was to impose the Shari'a on Nigeria, the leadership went about its preaching peacefully," Simeon H.O. Aloziuwa <a href=";ejemplar=24&amp;entrada=128" target="_blank">wrote</a> in the Costa Rica-based University for Peace's <em>Peace and Conflict Review</em> in 2012. A report produced by the European Parliament also <a href="" target="_blank">described</a> Boko Haram as "originally a peaceful Islamist movement."</p> <p>Peaceful Democracy Ambassadors, a Nigerian group committed to human rights and peace, <a href="">describe</a> Mohammed Yusuf as "a charismatic young cleric" who founded Boko Haram "as part of his push for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria." Though it's not certain where the group received its money during its first few years, some experts believe that Yusuf received donations from Salafist contacts in Saudi Arabia or wealthy northern Nigerians. One Boko Haram donor who <a href="" target="_blank">spoke </a>with the United States Institute of Peace claimed it was part of his responsibility as a good Muslim to give money to charity&mdash;in this case, Boko Haram.</p> <p>There is some disagreement about when exactly&nbsp;the group's turn toward&nbsp;violence began. Many experts believe that in 2007, Mohammed Yusuf may have ordered the death of a prominent cleric who had criticized the group.</p> <p>When the group again made headlines in 2009, it was for clashes with the police after an argument about traffic regulations. Then Boko Haram threats escalated; Yusuf released viral videos speaking out against the police, which attracted a large audience in Nigeria. The government and police both tried to crack down even more aggressively on the group, arresting hundreds. Boko Haram attacked multiple police stations. When the authorities regained control of Maiduguri, they reportedly began executing hundreds of Boko Haram members.</p> <p>A local journalist told a researcher at the United States Institute of Peace that police likely "disappeared" and executed over a hundred local imams and rulers, or suspected sympathizers with Boko Haram. Yusuf, the Boko Haram leader, was allegedly arrested by the army on the street and handed over to police&mdash;where he was executed within hours, according the United States Institute of Peace. The police <a href="" target="_blank">claim</a> he was killed&nbsp;while trying to run away after being interrogated. Regardless, Yusuf's death marked another transition. The remaining members of Boko Haram fled, their locations potentially including radical camps from Algeria to Mali, only to return in 2010 more violent than ever before.</p> <p>Shehu Sani, the president of the Civil Rights Congress in Nigeria, <a href="" target="_blank">spoke</a> with PBS's<em> Frontline</em> about his assessment of Boko Haram's turning point, which differs slightly from other research:</p> <blockquote> <p>The [2009] killing of Mohammed Yusuf was a result of a security traffic incident. And as a result, the subsequent killing of hundreds of members of the group [after] a simple traffic conflict between the group and the police became the ignition that spiraled into the violence and bloodshed that we have been suffering the last three to four years. So we had a movement that was peaceful and that was crushed by the Nigerian army, Nigerian police, and later they went underground and became more monstrous.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Politics Foreign Policy Human Rights International Religion Top Stories Fri, 16 Jan 2015 18:17:37 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268271 at Germany's Anti-Islam Protests Play Into Extremists' Hands <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For two Mondays in a row, Dresden was the scene of massive protests against the growing number of Muslims living in Germany. The first, attracting about 18,000 supporters, happened two days before the attack in Paris on <em>Charlie Hebdo, </em>and the second was this week. The anti-immigration protesters, who call themselves PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), were claiming they had gathered to promote nationalism and call for the protection of German culture.</p> <p>But waving German flags and brandishing posters that demanded "Homeland Protection Not Islamization," the demonstrators in Dresden slammed asylum-seekers from Muslim regions for abusing Germany's welcoming policies toward refugees and for tainting the culture of Germany. Dresden is home to a small percentage of foreigners, but after France, Germany <a href="">hosts</a> the largest population of Muslims in Western Europe&mdash;as many as <a href="">4.3 million</a>, according to a 2009 estimate published in Germany's Federal Republic.</p> <p>Thousands of counterprotesters have appeared at the demonstrations staged by PEGIDA across Germany in recent months and have advocated tolerance and support for Muslim immigrants. But, prior to this week, PEGIDA supporters have easily outnumbered them; since its founding in October 2014 by Lutz Bachmann, a former petty criminal who now runs a public relations firm, the group has quickly grown in force and number. These anti-immigrant rallies have caused much debate and concern in Germany, but PEGIDA supporters may not realize that their protests have unintended consequences: Radical Islamist groups see their case against the West bolstered and legitimized by PEGIDA and other anti-Muslim protesters. PEGIDA's actions allow radical Islamists to claim the West is hostile to Muslims&mdash;the argument used by radical groups such as ISIS to recruit disenfranchised, angry youths in search of a cause.</p> <p>National security and terrorism experts point out that even though PEGIDA's anti-Muslim events may not directly boost the recruitment efforts of ISIS and other jihadist groups, it has fueled a dynamic that undermines the fight against terrorism. "This is truly a vicious cycle," explains Brian Forst, a professor of justice, law, and criminology at American University. "Anti-immigration sentiments aimed primarily against Muslims in the West breed alienation among Muslims, and alienation breeds extremism and acts of terror, which only aggravate anti-Muslim sentiments and behaviors&hellip;Terrorism succeeds when the victim reacts badly."</p> <p>National security experts note that PEGIDA's public demonstrations add to a climate that can be exploited by jihadists seeking recruits. "These protests create a further sense of disenfranchisement on the part of Muslim youth," says Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland psychologist and terrorism expert. "So the result is further polarization of European societies and further rift&hellip;a clash of civilizations."</p> <p>In a report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Marc Pierini, an expert on the Middle East and Europe, described the recruitment of Europeans by ISIS: "Of the Islamic State's European followers, many are born Muslims, while some are converts&hellip;Problems of social exclusion, religious tensions, and political frustrations provide fertile ground for recruiting of young people." Protests like PEGIDA's only serve to deepen the&nbsp; social divide, providing ISIS and other radical groups vivid images to support their causes.</p> <p>A 2005 Congressional Research Service <a href="">report</a> focusing on England, France, Germany, and Spain noted that "social deprivation, discrimination, and a sense of cultural alienation may make some European Muslims&mdash;especially those of the second or third generation&mdash;more vulnerable to extremist ideologies."</p> <p>A spokesman from Germany's embassy in Washington dismisses these concerns, however, and says PEGIDA is merely a "local phenomenon" and incapable of affecting recruitment efforts for ISIS. "Whoever is ready to join ISIS will join ISIS without a PEGIDA," he says.</p> <p>A local gang of protesters can nonetheless have international impact, observes Michael O'Hanlon, a national security expert at the Brookings Institution. "Anger and a sense of rejection can contribute [to joining ISIS]," he says. "Heaven knows there have already been lots of European jihadists who have gone to Syria, tragically."</p> <p>Following the massacre of 17 people around Paris last week, PEGIDA <a href="" target="_blank">predicted </a>record numbers would show up Monday night to support its cause. <span id="articleText">"The Islamists, against whom PEGIDA has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed in France today that they are not capable of (practicing) democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution," PEGIDA declared on its Facebook page.</span> Analysts <a href="" target="_blank">agreed</a> with these predictions, suggesting that the numbers of anti-Islam protesters would swell by the thousands.</p> <p>The attacks do appear to have bolstered the already strong opposition to PEGIDA, as Germans <a href="" target="_blank">refuse</a> to let PEGIDA take advantage of the Paris tragedy to point to radicalism in all Muslim communities. According to spectators in Germany on Twitter on Saturday, including journalists and bystanders, more than 30,000 people took to the streets across Germany, from Dresden to Liepzig, to protest PEGIDA. Here are a few tweets from people who say they witnessed the actions.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Some days ago 18k anti-Islam protesters marched in Dresden. <a href="">#Pegida</a>. Now 35k people march against them <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Birgit Schmeitzner (@BSchmeitzner) <a href="">January 10, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Dresden now showing up against Pegida...And it's happenning after Paris attacks. Wahnsinn... via <a href="">@schlittrische</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Alper &Uuml;&ccedil;ok (@AlperUcok) <a href="">January 10, 2015</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en">&nbsp;</blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Nonetheless, Monday's PEGIDA rallies <a href="" target="_blank">drew</a> a record number of about 25,000 anti-Islam protesters, who took to the streets in defiance of German politicians asking them to stay home in light of the Paris massacre.</p></body></html> Politics Foreign Policy Human Rights Immigration International Iraq Race and Ethnicity Religion Top Stories Tue, 13 Jan 2015 11:00:09 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 267946 at 4 Big Unanswered Questions About the Charlie Hebdo Attacks in Paris <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, information has slowly emerged about the attackers, their alleged affiliations with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State, and their path to radicalization. But many unanswered questions remain. Here are some key unknowns:</p> <p><strong>Is a "third suspect" in the <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> shootings still at large?</strong><br> Following the massacre at the Paris offices of <em>Charlie Hebdo</em>, police were initially searching for three suspects. Two of them were Cherif and Said Kouachi, who were ultimately killed in a dramatic shootout with French police. The third suspect was Cherif Kouachi's brother-in-law, 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, initially identified as the getaway driver who spirited the brothers away after the attack. It turned out, however, that Hamyd was never there. He turned himself into the authorities after seeing his name plastered all over the news and was eventually released from police custody last Friday, two days after the <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> shootings took place. Hamyd says he still has no idea why police targeted him, though some media outlets have reported that the cops got his name from an ID card discovered in the attackers' abandoned getaway car. Left unresolved is the question of whether there was in fact a third suspect who drove the getaway vehicle, as some eyewitnesses to the attack reported. (Eyewitness reports can often be unreliable.) Currently, French authorities are pursuing at least <a href="" target="_blank">six</a> possible accomplices to the attacks, including Hayat Boumeddiene; she is the common-law wife of Amidy Coulibaly, who killed a French policewoman and massacred four people in a kosher grocery story before he was gunned down by police.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2015/01/unanswered-questions-paris-attacks-charlie-hebdo"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Crime and Justice Foreign Policy International Top Stories Mon, 12 Jan 2015 23:41:59 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 268071 at ISIS Supporters Take Over CENTCOM Twitter Account <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This morning, President Obama <a href="" target="_blank">tweeted this</a> in advance of some expected&nbsp;announcements about cybersecurity in next Tuesday's State of the Union address:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>"If we're going to be connected, then we need to be protected." &mdash;President Obama <a href="">#Cybersecurity</a></p> &mdash; Barack Obama (@BarackObama) <a href="">January 12, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>About an hour later, someone claiming to be a supporter of ISIS took over the United States Central Command's Twitter feed and YouTube channel. Over the course of about a half hour, several messages were posted to CENTCOM's Twitter account:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/centcom_1.png"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another message posted what was purported to be the personal information of US generals (we blurred out some of the details):</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/centcom_gen_infoblurred2.png"></div> <p>They also tweeted a link to this message, which warned, "American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pastebin_message630.png"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were also several screenshots purporting to show war scenarios for various areas around the world:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nk_centcom_630.png"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's unclear whether whoever did this had access to Pentagon computer systems or whether <a href="" target="_blank">they just took publicly-available material</a> and posted it after gaining control of CENTCOM's Twitter account. CENTCOM confirmed that its Twitter and YouTube accounts were "compromised" in a statement Monday, adding: "We are taking appropriate measures to address the matter. Our initial assessment is that no classified information was posted." A Twitter spokesperson told <em>Mother Jones </em>that the "Pentagon has requested our assistance with an account security issue, and we're working with them to resolve it."</p> <p>This social-media hack could be of the low-level (<a href="" target="_blank">and domestic</a>) variety, but it's worth noting that the US government has <a href="" target="_blank">used Twitter to troll ISIS for a while now</a>.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE: </strong>CENTCOM issued a more complete statement later Monday: "Earlier today, U.S. Central Command's Twitter and YouTube sites were compromised for approximately 30 minutes. These sites reside on commercial, non-Defense Department servers and both sites have been temporarily taken offline while we look into the incident further. Centcom's operational military networks were not compromised and there was no operational impact to Centcom. Centcom will restore service to its Twitter and YouTube accounts as quickly as possible. We are viewing this purely as a case of cybervandalism. In the meantime, our initial assessment is that no classified information was posted and that none of the information posted came from Centcom's server or social media sites. Additionally, we are notifying appropriate DoD and law enforcement authorities about the potential release of personally identifiable information and will take appropriate steps to ensure any individuals potentially affected are notified as quickly as possible."</p></body></html> Politics Foreign Policy Military Top Stories Mon, 12 Jan 2015 20:31:32 +0000 AJ Vicens and Jenna McLaughlin 268081 at When "Top Chef" Star Tom Colicchio Went to Washington <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On a fall day in a congressional office bedecked with University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) paraphernalia, Tom Colicchio and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) were getting on like old college buddies.</p> <p>Up on Alaska's Mohawk River, the congressman insisted, you can still spear salmon with a pitchfork. "I was in Juneau half an hour and caught 30 fish," countered Colicchio, the smooth-domed celebrity chef, who'd chosen a navy blazer for the occasion. "I said, 'Nah, this isn't fun anymore, this is boring.'" But Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo's <em>Top Chef</em> and founder of the New York City restaurants Gramercy Tavern, Craft, and Colicchio &amp; Sons (his boys are 3, 5, and 21)&mdash;wasn't here simply for the pleasantries.</p> <p>More than 700 chefs had already signed a petition supporting a DeFazio-sponsored <a href="" target="_blank">bill</a>, currently stalled in the House with 67 cosponsors, that would require food manufacturers to disclose their GMO ingredients. A subset of the signatories were on the Hill to lobby legislators and staffers. "As chefs, we know that choosing the right ingredients is an absolutely critical part of cooking," the petition reads. "But when it comes to whether our ingredients contain genetically modified organisms, we're completely in the dark." The chefs were joined by reps from activist groups&mdash;including Food Policy Action, the Center for Food Safety, a national campaign called Just Label It, and the Environmental Working Group&mdash;to address the issues of transparency, food safety, and the massive amounts of money ($36 million in the last election) the food industry has spent fighting GMO-labeling initiatives.</p> <p>Invited to observe the meeting with DeFazio, I took advantage of the chance to give Colicchio a light grilling. Here are a few tidbits Colicchio gave me on some of his favorite topics:</p> <p><strong>On states rights:</strong> "We typically label things <em>not</em> because they're dangerous. If they're dangerous, we take them out of the food supply. But we believe everything in our processed foods should be labeled.&acirc;&#128;&uml; Like some labels say "modified food starch." Why modified? It's been altered. I'm not asking for a skull and crossbones&mdash;simply a line in the ingredient list that says 'GMO corn.' That's it!</p> <p>"We're not debating the science of GMOs, but I would say there's an ever-increasing environmental issue because of the overuse of herbicides. If you look at the health of the soil, if you care about the environment, how much carbon is in the ground, you wanna know what's in your food.&acirc;&#128;&uml; This is a recent development, where people in the food industry are starting to care about the policies behind these issues. Typically consumers who care about food, they're not thinking about policy. Like when they go to a farmers market, they're probably paying more&mdash;there are policies that are keeping those foods more expensive than processed ones. I don't quite understand how people who care about states' rights all of the sudden don't believe states have a right to label. Those same people will say the states have a right to raise animals a certain way. Where did all the states' rights people go? I want them! They're somewhere in this building!"</p> <p><strong>On customer confusion:</strong> "I always use this example: It's summer, and you go into the supermarket and see all the beautiful strawberries. One is labeled local. One is labeled organic and 'made in Chile'&mdash;it's GMO free, but people don't know that. People will go, 'Oh, <em>that</em> one's local, so I'll buy that.' That lack of transparency puts the organic farmer at a competitive disadvantage."</p> <p><strong>On getting his kids thinking about (and actually eating) good food:</strong> "I find that the trick to get them to eat is to bring them shopping. I started gardening this year, and they are so interested in watching stuff grow. And I want to teach them patience, because they're so focused on immediate response of hitting a button and something happens. My older son really loves food and really cares about it. He isn't into policy yet, but we had a food policy booth set up at Lollapalooza, and he manned it this year because I couldn't get there. I had to entice him with lots of free music."</p> <p><strong>On his own childhood dinners: </strong>"We had a family that had to be at the table at a certain time every single night. I don't think I was a picky eater. I don't remember. The only thing I do remember is my older brother would constantly steal the food off my plate."</p> <p><strong>On his earliest cooking mishap:&acirc;&#128;&uml;</strong> "I would bake a lot with my grandmother. I grew up in a four-family home in New Jersey. There were two homes on the plot and my grandparents lived in the other building. So I made this blueberry pie and I had to walk it a couple hundred yards to the side house. We&rsquo;re on the second floor, and my grandmother insisted that I put it in a brown paper bag and hold it straight. I kept saying, "Oh, it'll be okay." I run home, upstairs. I take it out, big moment, and the blueberries all flew out of the pie!"</p></body></html> Politics Interview Congress Food and Ag Health Media Science Top Stories Mon, 12 Jan 2015 11:45:05 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 267931 at