Thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in protest after the kingdom stripped the most prominent Shia Cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim of his citizenship. The Bahrain News Agency announced on Monday that the Interior Ministry had stripped Qassim of his citzenship.
Qassim is the spiritual leader of the main Shia opposition party Al-Wefaq which was suspended last week. Demonstrators were at Qassim's home in Duraz. Photos show many activists in white shawls that signify a willingness to shed their blood for Qassim.
The Bahrain Interior Ministry claimed Qassim had been using his position to "serve foreign interests and promote... sectarianism and violence". The foreign interests no doubt refer to Iran. Bahrain accuses Iran of fomenting rebellion in the state. The majority in Bahrain are Shia but the country is ruled by the Khalifa monarchy who are Sunni.
The Shia claim they are marginalized by the monarchy and their rights not recognized. The Ministry also claimed that Qassim had been in continuous contact with "organisations and parties that are enemies of the kingdom". Many anti-government and pro-democracy activists have been stripped of their citizenship ever since demonstrations began against the monarchy back in 2011.
The U.S. expressed alarm at the move. John Kirby, spokesperson for the State Department said: "We remain deeply troubled by the Government of Bahrain’s practice of withdrawing the nationality of its citizens arbitrarily, the overall precedent that this case could establish, and the risk that individuals may be rendered stateless. Our concern is further magnified by reports that Sheikh Qassim was unable to respond to the accusations against him before this decision was taken, or challenge the decision through a transparent legal process."
The statement urged restraint on all sides in responding to the action. The statement said that the US was worried that the action would divert Bahrainis further from the "path of reform and reconciliation" which remains the best path for enhancing the security of Bahrain and meeting the hopes of all its citizens.
There was a strong negative reaction from Iran. Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Suleimana said that Bahrain had crossed a red line by putting pressure on Qassim. He predicted that the move would provoke armed resistance. This may be what the monarchy wants because then any further repression can be claimed simply as fighting terrorism.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), an opposition group in exile, warned that the move against Qassim would create even more unrest. Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy for the group, said: “We are deeply concerned that these actions will escalate tensions on the streets and may even lead to violence, as targeting the country’s leading Shia cleric is considered ... a red line for many Bahrainis.”
Bahrain crushed an uprising in 2011.
Ever since 2012, protests in the capital Bahrain have been banned.
Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and also a new British naval base.
George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto, Ontario, Canada is a public, fully accredited college of applied arts and technology with 3 different campuses in downtown Toronto.
There are currently over 25,000 full-time students, including over 3,500 international students.
There are also 3,279 part-time students and 62,840 continuing education students. As well, it has 15,000 distance education students studying in 35 different countries.
Unfortunately, the College wrongfully promised three prestigious industry designations on taking a course in the business management program between September 2007 and April 2009. Students paid roughly $11,000 in tuition fees.
The more than 100 international students were told they would receive the opportunity to complete three industry designations/certifications in addition to the George Brown College Graduate Certificate. However upon enrolling the students found that the college had no agreement for them to be awarded the further designations. This would require more fees and exams. The College did try to have fees for the students lowered.
The international students fought over eight years for compensation and finally a settlement was reached for $2.73 million in compensation. Ontario Supreme Court Justice Edward Belobaba settled the class action suit with 108 students sharing in the payout. About two-thirds of the students were international coming form countries such as China, India, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, and even Syria. The lawsuit was filed in 2008 and was certified in 2012, then upheld later. Belobaba said that the course description "could plausibly be interpreted as meaning exactly what it said". He ruled that the College should be held accountable for its misrepresentation.
He said:"Having paid a substantial tuition fee and related travel and living expenses, they could not afford the additional time or money needed to pursue the three accreditations on their own." He said the description amounted to "negligent misrepresentation" but said that the "careless mistake" should not retract from the college's otherwise sterling reputation. Under the settlement international students can receive a maximum award of $22, 484, while domestic students receive up $16,427.
President of George Brown College, Anne Sado, confirmed the agreement was finalized and said: "There was, of course, never any intention to mislead and our commitment to our students has never been in question. But a situation like this provides a valuable opportunity to reflect on what we're doing and look for ways we can continue to improve." The first improvement could be to make sure their course descriptions cannot be easily misunderstood.
More than 50 U.S. State Department diplomats signed an internal memo that is critical of the Obama administration policy in Syria.
In the memo, the diplomats urge Obama to carry out military strikes against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad to stop what the diplomats claim are persistent violations of the cease-fire in the civil war that has lasted five years already.
A draft of the memo was obtained by the New York Times from a State Department official.
The draft claims that U.S. policy has been "overwhelmed" by unrelenting violence in Syria and calls for "a more judicious use of stand-off and air weapons which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process."
Such a move would no doubt result in an increased confrontation with Russia and would represent a radical shift in U.S. policy which is at present emphasizing the battle against the Islamic State rather than the overthrow of the Assad regime. However, diplomatic attempts to end the conflict led by Secretary of State, John Kerry are on the verge of collapse.
The dissent was filed in the State Department "dissent channel". The channel was set up during the Vietnam War so that employees could register disagreements with policies without any fear of reprisal. Filings are relatively common but this dissent has an unusually high number of signatures. The signatures on the filing are almost all of mid-level working officials. There are no well-known higher officials on the list but it is known that many share the concerns expressed in the dissent.
Kerry himself has suggested there be a stronger U.S. response in Syria to force Assad into a diplomatic solution. Obama has resisted such pressure and been backed up by military commanders who fear the result should Assad lose power. John Kirby, the State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the memo, but said Kerry respected the process.
Robert Ford former US ambassador to Syria said: “Many people working on Syria for the State Department have long urged a tougher policy with the Assad government as a means of facilitating arrival at a negotiated political deal to set up a new Syrian government.” Ford resigned from the Foreign Service over the administration's policy on the conflict. The officials who signed the memo denied that they were advocating a "slippery slope that would end in a military confrontation with Russia". They insist there must be credible threat of military action to keep Assad in line. The threat should be followed by negotiation.
Obama's policy in Syria has been designed to avoid further military entanglement in the civil war. It has been described as risk-averse.
However, the U.S. is aiding Kurdish-led forces against the Islamic State. Attempts to aid moderate rebels previously have not been successful.
The U.S. administration shows no sign it was willing to consider military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces as the memo suggests.
Kremlin warns Washington against striking Assad's forces
Hugh Heffner, 90, the owner of the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills California in the Los Angeles area has sold it for a contract that is worth more than $100 million. The buyer is the 32-year old son of a billionaire who already owns the property next door. Daren Metropoulos is principal at the investment firm Metropolous and Co. and co-owner of Hostess Brands that produces the famous Twinkies. Daren is the son of equity investor Dean Metropoulos 70 who bought the next door property in 2009 for $18 million as his personal residence. He hopes to eventually join the two properties. The Playboy Mansion was listed earlier in the year for $200 million.
Daren said that he was pleased to have Mr. Hefner continue as his neighbor and felt it was a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as a steward for the historic property. As part of the deal, Heffner will be allowed to stay at the mansion as long as he lives. The Metropoulos family has owned and sold brands such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bumble Bee, Chef Boyardee canned goods, and Duncan Hines Baking Mixes.
The mansion is roughly 20,000 square feet. Heffner bought it in 1971 for $1.05 million. It includes a 29 room mansion with a catering kitchen, wine cellar, home theater, gym, tennis court, and a swimming pool with a cave-like grotto. It also has a zoo licence.
Heffner is famous for his Playboy magazine as well as the parties he held at the mansion. The first issue of Playboy which was undated was published in December 1953 and featured Marilyn Munroe nude from her 1949 calendar. Heffner never met Monroe but bought the crypt next to hers at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. Heffner has married three times as well as having a number of affairs. He had a son and a daughter from the first marriage. In 1959 Heffner had a minor stroke which caused him to alter his lifestyle. The following year he married Kimberley Conrad a former year's playmate. They had two sons. For a time the mansion was a family friendly place. Finally at the ripe age of 86 he married Crystal Harris 26.
Details about the mansion can be found here. The mansion is actually owned by Playboy Enterprises which leases back parts of it for Heffner's own use.
A meeting of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) was scheduled to take place today, the 13th of June. The two Deputy HoR presidents, Emhamed Shouaib and Ehmeed Homa have warned the president and speaker of the HoR, Ageela Salah, that they would hold him responsible if members are not allowed to freely vote and held him responsible for previous failures.
There have been several meetings with no quorum and two that were disrupted with no vote being taken. Ageela Salah is already sanctioned by the EU for impeding the process of implementing the terms of the Libya Political Agreement (LPA)
The HoR needs to endorse the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and also to amend the constitutional declaration to include the GNA. Salah urged the HoR members to attend the meeting today. Salah is reported to have said: “All members who fail to attend the meeting will bear the national and moral responsibility of their actions because all must prioritize Libya’s interests to every other thing in the world.”
The meeting was not held because there was not a quorum. As a recent tweet describes the situation: "No HoR session today due to the lack of quorum. Around 70 members & Agilah Saleh were present. Saleh's two deputies were not there. " Those two deputies who blame Saleh for the lack of a vote, fail to show up along with others making a vote impossible. Yet it is Saleh who was there plus 70 others.
The Libya Observer also reported on the failure reported by HoR member Saleh Fahima. Fahima said that HoR speaker Ageela Salah came to the meeting but when he saw that there were only 70 members who had showed up, he saw that there was no quorum and left.
Even if there is a vote, those in favor of the GNA want a section of the agreement deleted that gives the role of commander in chief of the GNA army to the Presidential Council. They want Haftar to remain as commander in chief of the army.
The agreement must be voted on as is and cannot be amended. The Special Representative of the Secretary General(SRSG), Martin Kobler wants the vote so the GNA will have a legislature.
The HoR is the legislature of the GNA. It is not clear what Kobler can do now there has again been no vote.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.