Church and State in Montenegro: between National(istic) and Imperial Policies | Political Theology Network

A crisis is brewing in the tiny ex-Yugoslav country of Montenegro. There are massive street protests, attacks on priests, and fights in the Parliament. Various domestic, regional, and international actors, interests and policies are at stake here, giving us the opportunity to learn important lessons about national (and nationalistic) ideological projects, and the role of religion and international (also imperial) aspirations in their creation. And yet, mainstream Western media has shown little interest in the matter. One can speculate why.

The Government of Montenegro proposed new legislation on religious organizations called “The Law on the Freedom of Religion,” which was approved by the Parliament on December 27, 2019.  A draft version of the document is available from the website of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, both in the local language and in English. The legislation generated significant controversy due to its treatment of religious organizations, their internal procedures, as well as their property.

Article 4 specifies that:

“Prior to the appointment, i.e. announcement of the appointment if the highest religious leaders, a religious community shall confidentially notify the Government of Montenegro (hereinafter: the Government) about that.”

Article 16, § 1 requires that the application for registration of a religious community shall contain:

“The name of the religious community, which must be different from names of other religious communities and must not contain the official name of other state and its features”

For many, the most problematic article is 52, found under the
section “Transitional and Final Provisions”:

“Religious facilities and land used by the religious communities in the territory of Montenegro and for which is found to have been built or obtained from public resources of the state or have been in state ownership until 1 December 1918, as the cultural heritage of Montenegro, shall be the property of the state. Religious facilities for which if found to have been built on the territory of Montenegro from joint investments of the citizens until 1 December 1918, shall be the property of the state.”

The law caused an outrage among the members of the Orthodox Church
in Montenegro. Let me sketch some of the background which will, hopefully,
render the current crisis more intelligible.

There are four Orthodox dioceses (belonging to the Serbian
Orthodox Church, i.e. Patriarchate of Peć) whose territory is fully or in part
located on the territory of Montenegro. The Orthodox Church (i.e. these four dioceses)
is, by far, the largest religious organization in the country.

The majority of both the clergy and laity view the new legislation as a purposeful targeting of the Church by the Government. They interpret Article 16, § 1 as specifically crafted against the Orthodox Church, as the above-mentioned dioceses in Montenegro belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, the Article 52 appears to be a much more serious threat. Many these churches and monasteries are centuries old, predating even the formation of the modern state of Montenegro. If enacted, Article 52 could lead to the confiscation of Church property and its sacral objects.

Why would the government do this? Why would it go against the Church,
in a country where a significant majority of the population considers itself
Orthodox? This is where things get complicated.

Arguably the chief political authority in Montenegro, over the
past three decades, has been Milo Đukanović. He assumed the office of prime
minister in 1991, and has been in power ever since, performing the roles of
prime minister and president interchangeably (with a couple of years of break,
2006-2008, and 2010-2012). This style of rule brings to mind rulers in other
parts of Europe who have de facto been chief figures in the political
life of their countries for long periods of time, regardless of the name of the
office they would hold in a given moment. Not all long-lasting autocrats are
the same though: There are those who “we” (in the West) do not like very much,
since they refuse to obey us (branded as “evil autocrats”), and there are “our
kind of guys,” who are submissive enough to the Western political and economic
centers (branded as “democratic rulers”). Milo Đukanović, of course, belongs to
the latter group. During his pontificate the country joined the NATO alliance (in
2017), and he has successfully resisted a stronger Russian influence in the
country.

Đukanović, once upon a time, was loyal to Serbian president
Slobodan Milošević, and his allies in Montenegro. However, he switched sides just
in time, and his chief project became an independent Montenegro (proclaimed in
2006) and close cooperation with Western governments, military, and
multinational corporations. This where problems with the Serbian Orthodox
Church in Montenegro begin, in particular with the most prominent figure of
Montenegrin religious life—Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radović). At times partners,
at other times in conflict, this turbulent relationship between the politician
and the metropolitan has ended up, as of now, in an open battle.

Đukanović’s vision of independent Montenegro and the new
Montenegrin identity also includes the vision of an autocephalous (“self-governed”)
“Montenegrin church” which would be loyal (some would suggest obedient as a much better word choice) to the State (i.e., his regime). Amfilohije and
other bishops do not seem to share the same vision. For them, there is no conflict
between an “authentic” Montenegrin identity and Serbian identity, and therefore
no problem with the Orthodox Church in Montenegro being part of the Serbian
Orthodox Church. (Nota bene, many figures and structures within the Serbian
Orthodox Church are by no means innocent in the political games that have been
played in the region, particularly when it comes to Serbian nationalism and the
policies of various autocrats from Belgrade, but that is a topic for another analysis.)

To foster a new Montenegrin identity, Đukanović’s regime started
to promote “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” as an “autocephalous” organization,
headed by the colorful figure of Miraš Dedejić. According to some sources, Dedejić
used to be an admirer of Slobodan Milošević and his policies. He had also been a
priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until he was excommunicated by Patriarch
Bartholomew. This organization is not recognized by any of the canonical
Orthodox Churches. Even Đukanović’s support has not been full or unconditional.
One is tempted to say that its purpose has primarily been to put pressure on Amfilohije
to follow the “right path.”  

This is how one can understand the recent actions, at least in one
of their complex and intertwined dimensions: Just as the Ukrainian political
leadership was advancing the (formerly) uncanonical church structures and their
autocephaly in the hope that it would strengthen Ukrainian national identity, as
well as the political elite who championed the project, Montenegrin leadership
might hope that promoting one group, which would be loyal to one political
project and obedient to the political authorities (Amfilohije has not proven
himself in that role), would lead to the recognition of autocephaly of that
group, with same or similar political results. Probably working out of these
hopes, the regime has, then, threatened the confiscation of Church property of
the “disloyal” Church, which is quietly accepted (if not blessed) by the
Western political centers. The trade seems straight-forward, based on a
widely-practiced strategy: “We” (political/economic centers in the West) will
turn a blind eye to violence, undemocratic policies, the autocratic style of
rule, breach of various rights, and so forth, and “you” (local political
elites) will ensure that the (military, economic, political) interests of those
centers are protected and advanced locally.

An obstacle in the case of Montenegro (unlike in the case of
Ukraine) is the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not seem willing to intervene
to support the formation of a new autocephalous Church, which would advance the
local national identity, being closely connected to the State. Not yet at least,
and not with Miraš’s team as a new autocephalous
church. It seems that there is awareness that right now there are no credible
candidates in Montenegro who would be willing to lead a potential autocephalous
church, neither there is popular support for such project.

For those less familiar with Orthodox ecclesiology, it is worth noting that in Orthodoxy there is no equivalent role to the one of the Roman pontiff. Orthodox ecclesiology has advanced the principle of conciliarity instead of the (universal) primacy of power of one ecclesiastical/imperial center. This does not mean, of course, that there have been no attempts of ecclesiastical seats to assume such power. Indeed, just as the seat of Rome infused the universalist aspirations to power into the emptied shell of the Western (Roman) Empire, so the bishops of “New Rome” (Constantinople) have occasionally aspired to assume both universal ecclesial, and even political authority (at times when the Empire was weakened). This universalism is reflected also in the title of the bishop/patriarch of Constantinople – “Ecumenical” – as the authority of this episcopal seat, as well as the authority of the (Roman) emperor, should ideally stretch over the entire oikoumene (inhabited world). What one can see, based on the recent actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is the (renewed) aspiration to usurp a position within the Orthodox world which would be, in some aspects at least, comparable to the position which the Roman pontiff gradually acquired in the West. This, predictably, provokes a lot of criticism.

The entire episode can thus be understood as yet another example of how the whole concept of autocephaly, the way it is generally understood and practiced in “Orthodox countries” nowadays, is highly problematic. If autocephaly is understood as something “naturally” linked to national/ethnic identities (and/or nation states), it is both theologically unacceptable and very harmful to the body of the Church in long term. Serious Orthodox ecclesiology does not operate with the concept of “national Churches,” although it has been widely (and mistakenly) used both in the public discourse and, sometimes, in academia. Local Churches (i.e. dioceses) are organized as administrative regional ecclesiastical unites, that gather the faithful of a certain territory (for the sake of serving the Liturgy) regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, race, etc. The predominant culture or customs have always been embraced in the Orthodox tradition, leaving a trace on how the service is conducted, which language is spoken, etc. However, the identity of the Church is not derived from the ethnic, national or other identities of the majority population of a certain territory, but from the Eucharist as the icon of the Kingdom of God. This is why an autocephalous Church makes sense as a self-governing administrative organization of dioceses of a certain region, having one of the local bishops as their own “head” (having the title of metropolitan, archbishop, pope or patriarch), but not as a “national” institution, or a Church of certain ethnic group (which, following Orthodox ecclesiology, amounts to nothing less than a heresy).

In practice, however, just as local ecclesiastical and political
elites are eager to exploit the (seriously flawed) understanding of autocephaly
as “national institutions,” for the sake of their own power struggles, so is
the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (Neo)imperial policies of ecclesiastical centers
(in this case of Phanar) can thus be very similar to the (neo)imperial policies
of States; both try to manipulate local nationalisms to their own advantage.
Therefore, if they serve the (neo)imperial agendas of “New Rome,” local
nationalisms and local “national” churches will be blessed. If they don’t,
local nationalisms and their cravings for autocephaly will be condemned in the
name of (neo)imperial “universalisms.”

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Maryam Sanda to Appeal Death Sentence

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•Justice was served, says co-convener of BBOG

Alex Enumah and Udora Orizu in Abuja

Mrs. Maryam Sanda, who was on Monday sentenced to death by hanging for killing her husband, will appeal the judgment, a member of his legal team has told THISDAY.
Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had given her the maximum sentence for killing her husband, Mr. Bilyaminu Bello.

However, some women and civil rights activists have condemned the death penalty, describing it as unacceptable.
But another activist and co-convener of #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) movement, Mrs. Aisha Yesufu, welcomed the death penalty, saying that it was not only an adequate punishment but also that justice had been served in the case.

The federal government had arraigned her on a two-count charge bordering on murder.
In the judgment delivered, the trial judge held that there was circumstantial evidence coupled with the defendant’s testimony and statement to the police that she “fatally” stabbed her husband to death in Abuja on November 19, 2017.
The judge while stating that the offence for which the defendant was convicted was based on Section 221 of the Penal Code imposed the maximum sentence.

“It has been said that thou shall not kill. Whoever kills in cold blood shall die in cold blood,” the judge said, adding: “Maryam Sanda should reap what she has sown. It is blood for blood.”
However, reacting to the judgment yesterday, one of the lawyers, who spoke off the record, said they would go on appeal against the judgment.

“She has a constitutional right of appeal and definitely she has to exercise it,” he said, adding: “We will definitely appeal the judgment.”
Sanda killed her husband on November 19, 2017, through multiple stabbing.
She was arraigned alongside three other persons, including her mother and brother.
However, the others were discharged because the prosecution was unable to link them to the charges.
The late Bello is a son of a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Haliru Bello.

Activists Condemn Death Penalty

Some women and civil rights activists have condemned the death penalty given to Sanda, describing it as unacceptable.
In a WhatsApp conversation with THISDAY, an activist and Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Mrs. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, condemned the court’s ruling.

Though she agreed that anyone found guilty of such conduct should be punished, she said death penalty was condemnable.
She said: “It’s a very unfortunate situation, killing of a spouse whether a man or woman is condemnable and anyone found guilty of such conduct should be punished, as deterrence.

The society should have zero tolerance to gender-based violence. “However, death penalty is condemnable. I think maximum sentence in this instance is not the option given the background of the offence. The society should shift from the culture of death penalty; it is no longer acceptable, it has not served the purpose it was meant in the society.”

Corroborating Akiyode-Afolabi’s comment, human rights lawyer and Director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Mr. Frank Tietie, said Sanda should not have been given the maximum punishment.

Tietie in a phone conversation with THISDAY hinged his claim on the possibility of defendant being mentally unstable during the time the crime was committed and the defence team not doing enough to explore all the possible defences available to the woman.
He added that Nigeria must move beyond being a retentionist country in these modern times and realise that death penalty does not solve problems.

According to him, “Mental incapacity is something that should have been brought to the court and with the use of expert witness to prove that she’s not mentally capable of organising herself in such a state of frustration.

“Firstly, for someone to want to kill her husband is an expression of abnormality; it’s not quite natural. I suspect that her mental health was something to be questioned, which should have been brought before the court. If to argue that the woman did not do it, it’s a different thing but to say that she did it, her mind set was not in control of her mental faculty as at the time she did it because of the marital trauma she must have been exposed to which was prolonged and eventually led to pent-up anger and she was also left unattended to by relatives and friends.”

He expressed optimism that Sanda has a window for appeal both at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
He said: “It’s my hope that some new pieces of evidence will be introduced.

“Even by law, death penalty is barbaric; Oscar Pistorius wasn’t given maximum sentence not to talk about this kind of culpable homicide that was done based on crime of passion. What led her to committing those crimes should have been brought to the court.”
But activist and co-convener of #BringBackOurGirls, Yesufu, believed that justice was served.

She, however, tasked the judiciary to also apply the same energy in ensuring that everyone gets justice regardless of one’s status or gender.

She said: “For me basically the case is simple. Maryam Sanda was found guilty of killing her husband and of course justice has been served. My take out from this is that if the Nigerian judiciary system can be very strict in ensuring that people get justice, a lot of things that happen in Nigeria, we wouldn’t see them happening.

“People won’t have any reason to take the laws into their hands and feel that they can do anything and get away with it. No matter who you are, you have to pay for your crimes no matter your gender, age or status. It’s all a tragic ending for the families involved but it’s what it is, justice has been served.”

The post Maryam Sanda to Appeal Death Sentence appeared first on THISDAYLIVE.

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Lawyers’ association condemns persecution of Seinye Lulu Briggs on husband’s death

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The Rivers State Chapter of the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) has condemned in its totality the persecution of Dr Mrs Seinye O. B. Lulu-Briggs, the wife of late High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs.

The organisation, through its Rivers State Secretary, Hilda Desmond Ihekaire (MCArb), while speaking on a live radio programme discussing proposed amendments to the Dehumanizing and Harmful Traditional Practices Law of Rivers State No. 2 of 2003 said, as can be seen in society, highly placed women just like other female members of society are not spared the dehumanization attributed to harmful traditional practices necessitating the need for all hands to be on deck to end the societal scourge.

According to her, the proposed amendment to the bill being sponsored by Hon. Sam Ogeh of Emohua Constituency is a welcome development and will go a long way to strengthen compliance with this law.

ALSO READ: Forced to marry as teenagers, raped in their matrimonial homes

The Rivers State House of Assembly in 2003 passed the Dehumanizing and Harmful Traditional Practices Abolition law No. 2 to proscribe harmful traditional practices against persons in Rivers State.

She said the law proscribes the maltreated of women after the death of their husbands such as causing them to cry at guided intervals, drinking water from the corpse of their husbands, shaving of their hairs, ostracizing them, being forced to abstain from personal hygiene, sitting on broken coconut, swearing before a shrine of their innocence, prevention from inheriting husbands property amongst others.

“In Africa generally, Rivers State is not an exception, once a man dies they just feel that it is the woman that has killed the man. So they make her go through all sorts of dehumanizing practices. It doesn’t even matter whether you’re a village woman or the high and mighty.

“As we can see with the death of O. B. Lulu-Briggs, they are trying to impute that his wife killed him. It is not acceptable. These mistreatments as we can see affect all women irrespective of their status in life. This is why AWLA is supporting the amendment of the bill to protect the rights of women.”

“The law was initially passed with a penalty of imprisonment or the option of a fine of N10,000 in some cases. However, that failed to stem the trend and thus she calls for the proposed amendment with stiffer penalties and without an option of fine,” she said.

AWLA further called for the inclusion of women into the cabinet of traditional rulers across Africa in order to help women have a say in making laws and taking decisions that affect them as it is with some African countries already.

According to a statement released by Cordelia Eke, the Rivers State Chapter Coordinator of AWLA, the Organisation is joining women groups and NGOs around the world to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

The organization promises to do more in addressing the issue of gender-based violence and other sundry problems bedevilling women. AWLA will use the period to garner support for women in order to give them their pride of place in the society through the instrumentality of the law.

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Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History | Art Practical

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History

The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1

Arthur Jafa

Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are  “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.

Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.

astronaut

Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.

Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?

Christine Wertheim

Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.

The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”

The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.

Greek Islands

Sun & Sea (Marina), Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.

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OPINION: Death and the legacy of Fela Kuti – Vanguard Allure

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Death, many people say, can be the biggest career move and for proof they point to Michael Jackson who was mired in debt at the time of his death but whose estate is now worth millions and millions more than he made while alive.

Death has always fascinated pop culture, especially when the dead is famous or infamous and young to boot. Think Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Jean-Michel Basquiat. These rock stars captured the popular imagination, blazed bright like a meteor then fizzled out like shooting stars.

The phenomenon of dying young has been so analysed that someone came up with the 27 Club – a constellation of famous people who died at the age of 27 from drug overdose, alcohol addiction, car or plane crashes as well as suicide or homicide.

Most of them are white (Hendrix and Basquiat no), most of them American. But has death ever boosted the career or renown of an African celebrity? The answer is yes and the most famous must be Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the iconic musician, jazz aficionado and fiery activist who was a thorn in the flesh of successive military regimes.

Fela died 22 years ago at age 59. He was nowhere near 27 and by that time had adult children – Yeni, Femi and Shola (who died young). He was world-renowned and celebrated and hounded at home. His residence was famously known as Kalakuta Republic (named after the prison cell he occupied while incarcerated at Kirikiri prisons). His cell was called Calcutta but Fela corrupted it to Kalakuta.

His residence so named was raided on February 18, 1977 by what reports say were over 1,000 soldiers. Denizens of the commune including some of his wives were beaten and raped and the building burnt down but not before his aged mother was thrown out of the window. She died from her injuries.

But the loss of his mother and his republic did not diminish Fela’s stridency. He remained militant to the very end dying from complications arising from HIV/AIDs just four months after he left prison.

He was as well known for his music as he was for his activism and today when a musician or celebrity of whatever stripe is conscious people liken him or her to Fela.

But how did death boost Fela’s career? Alive, Fela was mercurial and tempestuous. His albums were mostly one-song albums that sometimes lasted for over 20 minutes. His intros were famous for featuring call and response choruses and then long jazz pieces that seemed to go along for interminable moments. Radio stations found him a nightmare and attempts by music labels to re-master and cut short his songs for the new CD technology were rebuffed. The only close examples in contemporary western music would be ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the Queen song from the 1975 album A Night at the Opera which clocks in at 6 minutes and then Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield’s 1973 studio album which extends to 49 minutes.

Fela was, therefore, a peculiar kind of musical artist with an oeuvre that was as potent musically as it was politically. For Fela, music was a weapon and one he wielded in many ways as if it was the lasso of truth with which he whipped the military and autocrats and kleptocrats into line.

His music was critical of soldiers whom he called zombies but soldiers loved to listen to his music because it was also critical of the government and often plumbed the depths of the pervasive social malaise and political morass.

Fela’s music was a leveller and had an uncanny ability for transcending class and gender, moving fluidly between the mainland and island and breaching class strictures. Visitors to the Africa Shrine in what is now Computer Village in Ikeja, where Fela played live sets every Friday when he was not on tour would find bank CEOs and messengers dancing and smoking as they listened to Fela’s music. The shrine was a democratic locale where music was a unifying factor.

It is also important to note how Fela’s music is at home in the mouths of the rich as well as the poor with men from different sides of the track laying equal claim to the man, musician and prophet.

Fela’s death was devastating but in dying, Fela seemed to step across the threshold from legend into myth. His death many say made his children instant millionaires and then his music re-mastered and available widely on CD spawned a whole new generation of fans, many of them not yet born or mere toddlers when Fela transited from this realm.

Today, Afrobeat, the musical genre he pioneered, is played across the world from Portugal to the UK, the US to Spain. Books have been written about him, documentaries shot and a Broadway show has travelled the world presenting Fela as maverick musician, activist and prophet.

But Fela’s reputation has been cemented and augmented more by a hybrid sound, a derivative christened afrobeat and made popular by young African musical artists who have evolved a whole new sound described by the poet and music Dami Ajayi as having begun with the Kennis music group, D Remedies.

According to Dr. Ajayi – “Afrobeats is perhaps the biggest cultural export from West Africa to the rest of Africa and the world. There is little doubt that this music of both Nigerian and Ghanaian origins will continue to enjoy mainstream global prominence.

Afrobeats went mainstream in Nigeria about two decades ago when D Remedies, released their hit song, Shako Mo, under Kennis Music label. The song sampled instrumentals from MC Lyte’s Keep On Keeping On, which also, interestingly, sampled Michael Jackson’s Liberian Girl. With that connection, one can easily link Afrobeat auspiciously to the late King of Pop.

Today, Afrobeats, a fusion of Hip-Hop and African rhythms, has since eschewed overt Western influences in favour of African idioms and musical traditions. Highlife, Juju, Fuji, Apala, Makossa, Sokous and Afrobeats have become cannon fodder for this music and the benefits are multidirectional. Ultimately, one can argue that Afrobeats is making the old new.”

But what has become clear is that many of the biggest Afrobeats stars have adopted Fela Kuti as both muse and creative forge. This year again as we celebrate the life and times and legacy of Fela Kuti during the weeklong Felabration at Freedom Park and beyond, we will be reminded that his death has made him more relevant than he ever was alive and a bigger musical brand to boot.

The list is long but Uzoma Ihejirika writing in thelagosreview attempts to put it all in perspective – “Founded 21 years ago by Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti, Felabration presents an opportunity to acknowledge Fela Kuti’s contribution through Afrobeat, the genre of music he pioneered. His jazz-inspired, robust sound continues to spark a creative flame in the hearts of Nigerians—both admirers and detractors— who no matter what cannot ignore Fela, the man and the musical icon.

That creative flame continues to burn in contemporary Nigeria even amongst artistes who were not born or were mere children when Fela became an ancestor. These artistes have made the Afrobeat genre a foundation upon which to speak about their fears, their frustrations, and their joys.”

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Malema in Twitter row with ‘bloody cowards’ over Nigerian artist Burna Boy: ‘We will protect him’

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EFF leader Julius Malema has proclaimed his support for Burna Boy following major public outrage against having the Nigerian artist perform shortly after his announcement to boycott the country.

“There’s no mascot that can stop him from performing, he’s one of our own and we will protect him,” Malema tweeted on Friday.

“South Africa is a home for all Africans, kill me for defending an African brother, bloody Cowards.”

Looking forward to receiving and being entertained by my brother @burnaboy here at his home called South Africa. There’s no mascot that can stop him from performing, he’s one of our own and we will protect him. We must resolutely oppose regionalism led by political illiterates.

— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema)

I won’t be intimidated or blackmailed by bed wetting boys, welcome home @burnaboy. South Africa is a home for all Africans, kill me for defending an African brother, bloody Cowards.

— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema)

The arrival of the Nigerian singer and songwriter, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, has been met with controversy after he tweeted his refusal to enter South Africa during a period of heightened xenophobic attacks.

The artist, who previously collaborated with South African rapper AKA, in September made it known on Twitter that he will “not ever go to South Africa again” until government takes a stand against the xenophobic attacks which saw more than 300 Nigerians evacuating and at least 12 people dead in one week.

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“I have not set foot in SA since 2017. And I will NOT EVER go to South Africa again for any reason until the SOUTH AFRICAN government wakes the fuck up and really performs [a] miracle, because I don’t know how they can even possibly fix this,” he tweeted.

I have not set foot in SA since 2017. And I will NOT EVER go to South Africa again for any reason until the SOUTH AFRICAN government wakes the fuck up and really performs A miracle because I don’t know how they can even possibly fix this.

— Burna Boy (@burnaboy)

Malema came to the African Giant hitmaker’s defence, saying that he looks forward to his arrival in the country a week before the artist is set to perform on stage at the Africans Unite concert.

However, Twitter came out headstrong against Malema, having seemingly loyal EFF supporters majorly questioning whether or not to vote for the party during the next election.

I have been voting @EFFSouthAfrica ever since it was formed. Lately my thinking is parallel to their thinking, maybe I have changed or maybe they have changed or they are stagnant. What’s scary is that if there were elections tomorrow,I wouldn’t vote at all.

— African Monarch (@justeazy7)

Lol I’m EFF yes but Yhoo u can spit nonsense my leader sometimes you don’t even advise this nonsense of a boy to apologize first for ill language he used on us, you just straight away impose him to us

Khuzeka juju we love you but ay ubuye ubhede mani eish

— zwelihle (@UWelizwe)

You bashing the SpringBoks for winning us the world cup. Now you standing up for a gimmick who insulted our country. You never loved this nation, gimmick. pic.twitter.com/I97tUdUcWN

— De Black Prince ?? (@BlackPrince_L)

According to Webtickets, the event will be hosted in aid of the spate of xenophobic attacks and gender-based violence plaguing the country, in an attempt to “unify all Africans and speak out against femicide”.

The concert is set to take place on November 23 and 24 in Cape Town and Pretoria, respectively.

Burna Boy also promoted the concert on his Twitter page, calling it “the first of many!”. 

The first of many! Part of the proceeds will be donated to the victims of Xenophobic attacks by me! I really hope we can all keep contributing in our own way to make the world a better and safer place for each other. #Africansunite , it’s bigger than all of us ?? pic.twitter.com/fpBrk4O1VG

— Burna Boy (@burnaboy)

– Compiled by Lauren Klaasen

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Peters accepts National ministers didn’t leak

Peters accepts National ministers didn’t leak

Winston Peters’ has accepted in the High Court that two former National ministers he had been suing for $450,000 for breaching his privacy were not the source of the leak or responsible for it.

In his closing submission today, Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry said both Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett denied in their evidence leaking information on Peters’ seven-year overpayment of superannuation – and the lawyer for the Ministry of Social Development and public servants did not challenge those denials.

“That left the MSD in the position that they now cannot avoid a finding that the breach was on MSD,” Henry said. “The plaintiff was expecting a challenge from MSD to the ministers, but the MSD has not challenged the evidence that they [the ministers] did not leak.

“That dual denial removed two of the options that the plaintiff, when it opened its case, was expecting to have examined in the court.”

That means Peters is no longer suing the National pair for damages.

Tolley, who as Minister of Social Development in 2017, was briefed by the ministry’s then-chief executive Brendan Boyle on the Peters overpayment and repayment of his pension – and Bennett, briefed as Minister of State Services a day later by the State Services Commissioner, have denied since the proceeding began two years ago that they were involved in the leak.

Peters made his overpayment public during the general election campaign after learning the information had been provided to journalists. Newshub and Newsroom both received anonymous calls with details about the overpayment, which had come to light when Peters’ longstanding partner Jan Trotman applied for her own superannuation.

The two ministers were briefed on the matter by the top public servants under the ‘no surprises’ policy by which departments inform ministers of matters which might become controversial or be subject of public debate. The officials had sought advice from the Solicitor-General before acting and had waited until a decision had been reached independently on Peters’ fate by an MSD regional official.

As well as around 40 ministry officials who had some awareness – 11 of whom knew the level of detail passed to the media – several officials in Tolley’s ministerial office and also then-Prime Minister Bill English and finance minister Steven Joyce ended up being told directly or indirectly some information by the two ministers.

With Henry now saying the two National MPs can be ruled out because of the court hearing, he told Justice Geoffrey Venning: “The only inference on the balance of probabilities is that the MSD was responsible.”

Henry said Peters’ case was that under the tort of privacy he had a reasonable expectation that his private information would not be made public and what was disclosed had been highly offensive.

“In this case, the MSD exclusively held the plaintiff’s private information. Unless they can rebut the evidence there arises an evidential presumption.

“The larger the group [who had become aware in the ministry] the greater the foreseeability the matter would be leaked. 

“The perpetrator will never front. Someone in MSD in full knowledge breached the plaintiff’s privacy and set off a chain of communications causing damage to his reputation.”

Henry said: “This is not likely to be a mistake.” He noted someone with knowledge could have covered digital tracks to avoid internal inquiries afterwards. “It is accepted that the breach may not have been with the intent that the private information reached the media. But it still must be a deliberate breach of obligations owed by MSD.

“The only inference is the perpetrator of the breach was aware that communicating that information outside the MSD, they were committing a serious breach of the plaintiff’s personal information.”

Henry said Peters had been guided in the level of damages sought from the defendants by the upper limit set in a recent defamation case, but the quantum was an assessment for the judge.

As well as damages, Peters wants a declaration from the court that his privacy was breached. 

The NZ First leader says it is necessary to have the tort of privacy recognise such a breach because in the digital world “the dissemination of [private] information is now in the hands of irresponsible persons… and politicians are not extremely vulnerable”.

At the end of his submissions, Henry clarified for the judge that Peters was now seeking the $450,000 in damages under his first course of action from all defendants together rather than seeking that sum from each.

Questioned further by Justice Venning, he said the fact Bennett and Tolley could no longer be accepted as the source of the leaks meant that they could not continue to be included in the course of action seeking that money. So the damages are sought, together, from Boyle, Hughes and MSD.

In three further courses of action, Peters is seeking declarations from the judge that his privacy was breached by the public servants in briefing their ministers and by the two ministers in accepting those briefings.

Henry disputed a claim by Bruce Gray QC, for the ministers, that there had been no social media reports of Peters’ overpayment presented to the court that had occurred before Peters issued his press release announcing that news.

He pointed to a Kiwiblog posting about the risks for Peters if the overpayment news was correct. However he gave the court the date August 28 for the Kiwiblog comment, and that was actually the day after Peters issued his press release.

The only social media content appearing before Peters went public had been three tweets from the writer of this article about a possible major political story, and the tweets did not mention him, his party, gender, age or superannuation.

The writer had to provide a sworn statement in the earliest part of the proceedings and pointed out that intense speculation on Twitter had followed those tweets but that not one that was connected to his tweets had referred to or even hinted at Peters being involved.

Earlier, Victoria Casey QC for Hughes, Boyle and the ministry, said Peters’ pleading alleging bad faith by her clients would, if found to be so, be “catastrophic” for the officials. “If established, it would be the end of any career for them in the public service.

“It’s important that Mr Peters is held to his pleadings,” she said.

The bad faith accusation was raised by Peters in his fourth ‘statement in reply’ before the hearing began. “Mr Peters is not entitled to pursue new allegations of bad faith.”

(Henry later told the court he was saying officials had not acted in good faith rather than they had acted in bad faith. That was so those defendants had to disprove his claim rather than Peters having to prove ‘bad faith’.)

Justice Venning has reserved his decision, which he said was unlikely before the end of the year.

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Apple Card faces probe over discrimination complaint | ABS-CBN News

cell phone person

Something curious happened when a husband and wife recently compared their Apple Card spending limits.

David Heinemeier Hansson vented on Twitter that even though his spouse, Jamie Hansson, had a better credit score and other factors in her favor, her application for a credit line increase had been denied.

The prominent software developer wondered how his credit line could be 20 times higher, referring to Apple Card as a “sexist program” (with an expletive added for emphasis).

The card, a partnership between Apple and Goldman Sachs, made its debut in the United States in August.

“My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time,” he wrote Thursday on Twitter. “Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does.”

Hansson’s tweets caught the attention of more than just his 350,000 followers.

They struck a nerve with New York state regulators, who announced Saturday that they would investigate the algorithm used by Apple Card to determine the creditworthiness of applicants.

Algorithms are codes or a set of instructions used by computers, search engines and smartphone applications to perform tasks, from ordering food delivery to hailing a ride — and yes, applying for credit.

The criteria used by the Apple Card are now being scrutinized by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

“Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law,” an agency spokeswoman said in a statement Saturday night.

“DFS is troubled to learn of potential discriminatory treatment in regards to credit limit decisions reportedly made by an algorithm of Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs, and the Department will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex,” the statement said.

An Apple spokeswoman directed questions to a Goldman Sachs spokesman, Andrew Williams, who said that the company could not comment publicly on individual customers.

“Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law,” Williams said.

David Hansson did not respond to an interview request Saturday night.

His wife’s experience with the Apple Card, the first credit card offering by Goldman Sachs, does not appear to be an isolated case, however.

Steve Wozniak, who invented the Apple-1 computer with Steve Jobs and was a founder of the tech giant, responded to Hansson’s tweet with a similar account.

“The same thing happened to us,” Wozniak wrote. “I got 10x the credit limit. We have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets. Hard to get to a human for a correction though. It’s big tech in 2019.”

In addition to Goldman Sachs, Apple partnered with Mastercard on the Apple Card, which the companies hailed as a revolutionary “digital first” credit card that had no numbers and could be added to the Wallet app on the iPhone and used with Apple Pay.

A spokesman for Mastercard, which provides support for Apple Card’s global payments network, did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.

David Hansson, a Danish entrepreneur and California resident, is known for creating Ruby on Rails, a popular computer coding language used to create database-backed web applications. He is an author and decorated race car driver on the Le Mans circuit, according to a biography on his website.

In a subsequent tweet, he said that the Apple Card’s customer service representatives told his wife that they were not authorized to discuss the credit assessment process.

He said that customer service employees were unable to explain why the algorithm had designated her to be less creditworthy but had assured his wife that the bank was not discriminating against women.

An applicant’s credit score and income level are used by Goldman Sachs to determine creditworthiness, according to a support page for the Apple Card. Past due accounts, a checking account closed by a bank for overdrafts, liens and medical debts can negatively affect applications, the page stated.

On Friday, a day after David Hansson started railing on the Apple Card’s treatment of female credit applicants, he said his wife got a “VIP bump” to match his credit limit. He said that didn’t make up for the flawed algorithm used by Apple Card.

He said many women had shared similar experiences with him on Twitter and urged regulators to contact them.

“My thread is full of accounts from women who’ve been declared to be worse credit risks than their husbands, despite higher credit scores or incomes,” he said.

2019 The New York Times Company

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Real Housewives of Soccer Go to War Over Instagram Mole Hunt

It was a lengthy investigation, one that was carefully planned and meticulously executed over the course of several months.

And when the big reveal came, it was delivered in stunning style, with a sensational and dramatic denouement.

The key players in this tale of skulduggery and social-media espionage are the wives of former England soccer captain and MLS star Wayne Rooney, who now plays for D.C. United, and Jamie Vardy, a striker, who used to play alongside Rooney in the English national soccer team.

Coleen Rooney explained in a lengthy social-media post that she had set out to uncover the mole in her closed Instagram group who was leaking personal stories to the newspapers. By a process of eliminationshe eventually blocked all but one of her followers from seeing her Insta storiesshe planted fake stories and waited to see if they would appear in the British tabloid newspaper The Sun.

The latest of these concerned the basement of her house being flooded; The Sun hastily removed the story from its website today. Another claimed the Rooneys were planning to jet to Mexico for gender-selection treatment.

The only account left to read these totally false stories belonged to one Rebekah Vardy.

Coleens next move was to take to Twitter and Instagram to blow the whistle on her fellow WAGBritish tabloid slang for the wives and girlfriends of soccer stars.

Social-media users and British journalistsoutside of The Sun newspaperhooted with delight at the detective work of the D.C. United stars partner who was soon dubbed WAGatha Christie.

Rebekah Vardy was quick to launch a speedy counterattack of the kind that made her husband famous on the sports field. She said Coleen was wrong to accuse her of leaking the stories and should have called her first. She suggested that her own Instagram account must have been hacked and accessed by a third party, who was then feeding the private stories to The Sun.

The meme-loving referees of social media seem to have come down almost unanimously on Rooneys side.

There have been persistent rumors that, off the field, they and especially their wives, didnt get along, despite the women being pictured sitting together in the bleachers cheering on their spouses during Englands unsuccessful Euro 2016 campaign. Those rumors exploded into the public on Wednesday.

The bad blood is believed to go back to the ill-fated 2016 tournament. At the time, former England boss Roy Hodgson, asked about the alleged rift, said: I havent got a clue what you are referring to. There are absolutely no problems in football terms between Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy. In fact quite the reverse, they are very close friends, both on the field and off the field.

That supposed friendship now looks about as likely as the U.S. winning the 2022 Mens World Cup.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com

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A year later, what Khashoggi’s murder says about Trump’s close ally

(CNN)A year ago, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi writer, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiance, who was waiting for him outside the building. He was never seen again.

A contributor to the Washington Post, Khashoggi, aged 59, was a critic of the Saudi regime and was living in self-imposed exile in the United States. He was murdered inside the Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018, by a team that was dispatched from Saudi Arabia, among them associates of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman — known as MBS — the then-32-year-old de facto ruler of the country.
The Saudis (and MBS himself) have consistently denied that bin Salman had any direct role in Khashoggi’s murder and instead have ascribed it to a rogue operation by overzealous subordinates. They charged 11 of them, five of whom face a possible death penalty, although given the opaque nature of the Saudi legal system little is clear about the yet unresolved case.
    In November 2018, the CIA concluded — with “high confidence” according to the Washington Post — that bin Salman had ordered the murder of Khashoggi.
    Khashoggi’s murder brought into sharp focus concerns about the judgment of the young prince that had percolated for years. MBS had variously entered an ongoing war in Yemen that, according to the UN, had precipitated the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet; he had blockaded the gas-rich state of Qatar, a close American ally and the site of the most important US military base in the Middle East. Domestically, MBS had also imprisoned a host of clerics, dissidents and businessmen.

      Trump: ‘I’m extremely angry’ about Khashoggi killing

    At first it looked like Trump might distance himself from MBS. Less than two weeks after Khashoggi’s murder on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Donald Trump promised “severe punishment” for the Saudis if it was proven that they had murdered Khashoggi. Khashoggi, after all, was both a legal resident of the United States and a journalist who was contributing regularly to a major American media institution.
    A month later, Trump backpedaled, citing putative massive American arms sales to the Saudis. Trump told reporters, “…it’s ‘America First’ for me. It’s all about ‘America First.’ We’re not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders, and let Russia, China, and everybody else have them … military equipment and other things from Russia and China. … I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.”
    Until Khashoggi’s murder, it was possible to emphasize the positive case for bin Salman, to argue that he was genuinely reforming Saudi Arabia’s society and economy. He had clipped the wings of the feared religious police in the kingdom and had given women greater freedoms, such as the right to drive and a larger role in the workplace.
    Bin Salman encouraged concerts and movie theaters in a society that had long banned both and he also started to end the rigid gender separation in the kingdom by, for instance, allowing women to attend sports events.
    He also promised a magical moment in the Middle East when the Arab states could deliver a peace deal with the Palestinians, while he was liberating his people from the stultifying yoke of Sunni Wahhabism that had nurtured so many of the 9/11 plotters. For many years, Washington had puzzled over whether Saudi Arabia was more of an arsonist or a firefighter when it came to the propagation of militant Islam. Bin Salman appeared to be a firefighter.

      Wolf Blitzer presses senator over meeting with world leader

    MBS also has a somewhat plausible plan for diversifying the heavily oil-dependent Saudi economy known as Vision 2030, to be financed in part by the sale of parts of the oil giant Aramco, which may be the world’s most valuable corporation with a market value that the Saudis hope is two trillion dollars.
    In March 2018, MBS even visited Hollywood and Silicon Valley, where he ditched his Arab robes in favor of a suit and where he was feted as a reformer by film stars and tech industry heavyweights.
    But after Khashoggi’s murder, the positive case for Mohammed bin Salman was largely submerged in the West, where he was increasingly viewed as an impetuous autocrat. In 2015, he had authorized the disastrous and ongoing war in neighboring Yemen, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. He had also effectively kidnapped the Lebanese Prime Minister, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, when he was on a trip to Saudi Arabia. And MBS led the blockade of his country’s neighbor, gas-rich Qatar, which continues to this day.
    In addition to his arrests of prominent clerics and dissidents, Bin Salman, in a palace coup, supplanted his cousin Mohamed bin Nayef as crown prince in 2017. Famously, MBS also imprisoned 200 rich Saudis at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and had relieved them of more than $100 billion because of their purported corruption.
    Now Bin Salman faces what may be his most difficult foreign policy challenge yet: What to do about the drone and missile attacks earlier this month against the crown jewel of Saudi Arabia’s economy, the Aramco Abqaiq oil facility, an attack the crown prince and the Trump administration have plausibly blamed Iran for. The Iranians have denied involvement in the attacks
    This attack is particularly problematic for MBS, as he is also Saudi minister of defense and he has presided over a massive arms buildup, yet was not able to defend the kingdom against the missile and drone barrage that took down half of Saudi’s oil capacity, at least temporarily.

      Post-Khashoggi murder, why should U.S. believe anything Saudi Arabia has to say?

    The Iranian attack also poses a quandary for President Trump, who doesn’t want the United States to get embroiled in another war in the Middle East, even though he has embraced MBS as a close ally.
    On Sunday, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired an interview with bin Salman in which he said that he hoped that Saudi Arabia could reach a “political and peaceful solution” with Iran.
      One can only hope that MBS and Trump don’t launch a war against Iran, which has a large army, significant proxy forces around the Middle East and sophisticated ballistic missile systems. However, it’s hard to imagine them not responding at all since the Iranians have shown they can now attack with impunity a key node of the world’s energy markets.
      Mohammed bin Salman may be able to preside over the murder of a dissident journalist in Turkey with relative ease, but there is little in his conduct of foreign policy hitherto to suggest that he will skillfully deal with the Iranians.

      Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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