Bulgaria’s “case of the 13 imams” is a test of the limits of religious freedom on the eastern edge of the European Union.
Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com. John is currently traveling in Eastern Europe and observing its transformations since 1989.
The “case of the 13 imams” sounds almost mythic. But the current case the Bulgarian government is prosecuting against 13 imams from the area of Pazardzhik – west of Plovdiv on the way to Sofia – is very real. They stand accused of preaching radical Islam, with potential criminal sentences of up to five years. It has become a test case of the limits of religious freedom in this country on the eastern edge of the European Union.
The trial began against last week after several delays. Prosecutors allege that three of the accused spread religious hatred while the other 10 have worked with a Saudi charity that the Bulgarian government banned in 2003.
From Assad redefining a presidency to death-squads redefining war crimes.
Privacy: Destined for the “Dustbins of History”
Civil libertarians can protest about how the government will track us on these devices, too, but as long as the public and the political Establishment of both parties remain indifferent, the prospect of substantial change is nil. The debate would be more honest, at least, if we acknowledge our own responsibility for our “choices as a society.” Those who complain about the loss of privacy have an obligation to examine their own collaboration, whether by intent or apathy, in the decline and fall of the very concept of privacy. We can blame terrorists for many things that have happened since 9/11, but too many Americans cavalierly spilling TMI on too many porous public platforms is not one of them.
When Privacy Jumped the Shark, Frank Rich, New York Magazine
Sub-Saharan states continue to underserve their people.
A map of Tanzania in Chinese.
Following the signing of an agreement between the Tanzanian energy company TANESCO and China Power Investment corporation (CPI) to build a gas-fired power plant, Tanzania’s Minister for Energy and Minerals announced that Tanzania planned to export electricity by 2015.
The importance of increasing Tanzania’s capacity to produce electricity is difficult to overstate. The Tanzanian Private Sector Foundation, which compiles an annual report concerning barriers to investment in the country, reports that inadequate and unreliable power sources has been the most frequently cited obstacle to investment for the past four years.
Israel refuses to address its “nuclear capabilities” with Arab states at September’s IAEA conference.
International Atomic Energy flag
Double standards can only be endured, as well as enforced, for so long. Eighteen Arab member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to request that “Israeli nuclear capabilities” be included on the agenda of the 57th IAEA General Conference to be held Sept. 16-20 in Vienna. As Reuters reported
The IAEA meeting “must take appropriate measures to ensure that Israel places all its nuclear installations under agency safeguards and accedes to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” the letter, dated in June, said.
Just over a year after the implementation of a new free trade agreement with the United States, Colombia’s sugarcane cutters continue to face widespread labor rights violations.
Meeting of fired sugarcane workers.
On Wednesday, July 10, a district court in Buga, Colombia, absolved six labor leaders of “conspiracy to commit a crime.” The accused—four sugar cane cutters and two Colombian Senate staffers—were originally charged for attending a 2008 meeting where it was alleged that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) were present (WOLA was also at the meeting, and can attest that it was a meeting about labor rights violations, and no FARC members were in attendance). The labor leaders, the prosecution alleged, were conspiring to commit a violent act.
Their acquittal is little short of historic; in a country where union organizing has often been equated with terrorism and union leaders are regularly declared “military objectives,” the court’s decision that the meeting was part of a legitimate, legal struggle for labor rights is a major step.
Research into nuclear weaponization may have been carried out clandestinely by the Revolutionary Guard.
Courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Even informed Americans are loath to accept the unlikelihood of a nuclear-weapons program on the part of Iran. Why? They may just wish to maintain their credibility in the face of prevailing opinion. Also, they fear being played for fools since Iran isn’t as forthcoming as the West would like. (That what’s asked of it is beyond the parameters of its safeguards agreement with the IAEA is an issue for another day.)
Nevertheless, among them are those concerned that the United States and/or Israel will attack Iran or, in the interim, sanction it to the point of human rights abuses. (Okay, that horse has long left the barn.) Turns out, now they can have their cake and eat it, too.
Micro-blogging is increasing the pressure on the Chinese government to eradicate “Re-education Through Labor” camps.
Courtesy Wikipedia Commons
“The 2,000 something yuan state compensation will be of help to my poor family but it’s really not a lot of money. The main reason for my appeal is to prove my innocence,” Tang Hui, mother of a rape victim, told the South China Morning Post. On July 15, Hunan Provincial People’s High Court ruled for Tang Hui to receive compensation for having spent nine days of unjustified detention in a labor camp. The ruling holds important and promising implications, for both reform of the labor camp system and for the power of the Chinese public.
In October 2006, Tang Hui’s daughter was kidnapped, raped, and forced into prostitution for two months before she was rescued and returned to her home. Of the seven kidnappers tried in June 2012 at the Hunan Provincial Higher People’s Court, two [P1] were sentenced to death, while four received life sentences and the last was sentenced to serve in prison for 15 years.
But the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi provide a key platform to repeal Russian laws against gays.
Peter Gray / Wikimedia Commons
With even Pope Francis
wondering, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” it would appear that the world has reached a milestone in gay rights. However, a quick trip to Russia would quickly confirm that this progress is decidedly uneven.
President Vladimir Putin recently signed into legislation a series of anti-gay laws that ban the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples and to anyone living in a country where marriage equality exists. The new legislation will also allow police to arrest tourists and foreigners suspected of being “pro-gay.”
When James Senenbrenner, the congressman who introduced the Patriot Act, can’t stomach the NSA’s data collection programs, you know they’re in trouble.
You remember James Sensenbrenner, don’t you? A Republican from Wisconsin, he introduced the Patriot Act in the House of Representatives 42 days after 9/11. Among his other “accomplishments” was authoring the Real ID Act in 2005 and acting as a general thorn in the side to any legislation that could be interpreted in as at all humane and progressive. Turns out, even Sensenbrenner has his limits.
In a New York Times article titled Momentum Builds Against N.S.A. Surveillance Jonathan Weisman reports on the beginnings of a congressional change of heart.
The rapidly shifting politics were reflected clearly in the House on Wednesday, when a plan to defund the National Security Agency’s telephone data collection program fell just seven votes short of passage. Now, after initially signaling that they were comfortable with the scope of the N.S.A.’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet activities, but not their content, revealed last month by Edward J. Snowden, lawmakers are showing an increasing willingness to use legislation to curb those actions.
Philanthropists use microlending and financial literacy programs to conscript world’s poor into the service of free markets.
Bill Gates — spreading the wealth?
“Conscience laundering” is what Peter Buffett (son of Warren) calls “feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.” He provides perspective from inside the world of philanthropy, where, like his father, he’s a player in a startling op-ed in the New York Times on July 27 titled The Charitable-Industrial Complex. He writes:
Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.