August 14/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions
"You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’"Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12/13-21/:"Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, "What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?" Then he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry."But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’"

The Jews joined in a conspiracy and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul.
Acts of the Apostles 23/12-22/:"In the morning the Jews joined in a conspiracy and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who joined in this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, ‘We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the council must notify the tribune to bring him down to you, on the pretext that you want to make a more thorough examination of his case. And we are ready to do away with him before he arrives.’Now the son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush; so he went and gained entrance to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to report to him.’So he took him, brought him to the tribune, and said, ‘The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you; he has something to tell you.’The tribune took him by the hand, drew him aside privately, and asked, ‘What is it that you have to report to me?’ He answered, ‘The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more thoroughly into his case. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him. They have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they kill him. They are ready now and are waiting for your consent.’ So the tribune dismissed the young man, ordering him, ‘Tell no one that you have informed me of this.’"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 13-14/17
Bravery of the Lebanese Army in August 1989/Walid Phares/Face Book/August 13/17
Syria’s Assad has become an icon of the far right in America/Liz Sly and Rick Noack/ THe Washington Post/August 13/17
Abdul Hussein…Made Us Smile and Left/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat//August 13/17
Big Data Shows Big Promise in Medicine/Faye Flam/Bloomberg/August 13/17
Merkel Wins by Not Being There/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/August 13/17
Washington relies on Moscow to influence Tehran/Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/August 13/17
China Is Our Last Diplomatic Hope for North Korea/John R. Bolton//Gatestone Institute/August 13/17
Europe: Burkini War Continues/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 13/17
The future of refugees is turning into slavery – this cannot happen/Yara al-Wazir/Al Arabiya/August 13/17
How can Saudi Arabia prioritize and obtain its strategic interests/Faisal Al-Shammeri/Al Arabiya/August 13/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 13-14/17
Bravery of the Lebanese Army in August 1989
Khalil urges Aoun to pass wage hike
Hizbullah Leader Says Syrian Government 'Will Stay On'
Geagea: Anything besides our internationally recognized borders and 'People, State, Army' equation is of no concern to us
Saraya Ahl Sham begins to leave Lebanese territory
Hariri meets with Kuwaiti Emir
Hariri after meeting with Kuwaiti Emir: Lebanon will cooperate on Abdali cell
Jumblatt announces candidacy of Bilal Abdallah to replace Terro

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 13-14/17
Rage in Idlib after ‘White Helmets’ Slaughter
Three Syrian Women Who Got Married to ISIS Foreigners Tell their Stories
Kuwait is After 3 Fugitives from Abdali Cell, Including an Iranian
Palestinian Officials are not Interested in Peace Talks with Netanyahu amid Investigations
Iraq’s Kurds to Proceed with their Referendum despite US Request to Postpone It
Israel Grants Asylum to Iranian Journalist Facing Death Penalty
Iran lawmakers vote to boost spending on missile program
3 dead amid violent US white nationalist rally
Saudi Crown Prince Asks Iraq to Mediate between Tehran, Riyadh
Kuwait: One of the convicts in al-Abdali cell case arrested
Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr arrives in UAE on official visit
UAE minister Gargash says Qatar must end neighbors’ fear of instability

Latest Lebanese Related News published on August 13-14/17
Bravery of the Lebanese Army in August 1989
Walid Phares/Face Book/August 13/17
Remembering the bravery of the Lebanese Army in August 1989 in holding the lines at Souk el Gharb stopping the Syrian Army and its allied militias from thrusting into what was known then as the "free areas" of Lebanon. At the time, it was seen as the greatest victory by the pre Taef Lebanon in defense of its freedom. One year later, sadly, that freedom was lost

Khalil urges Aoun to pass wage hike
The Daily Star/ Aug. 13/17 /BEIRUT: Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil has called for President Michel Aoun to approve the salary scale bill, state media reported Sunday. Khalil promised to discuss any required amendments afterwards if necessary, but urged Aoun to ink the wage hike, the state-run National News Agency said. In July, Parliament passed a law granting salary increases to employees and veterans, in addition to another that introduced taxes meant to finance the salary increases. President Michel Aoun is still reviewing the salary scale and tax hike bills while under pressure from business owners and political parties opposing the tax increases. He has not yet signed the two laws, preventing them from being published in the Official Gazette. Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri have endorsed the laws. The one-month deadline for the head of state to act on the two laws is drawing near. Meanwhile, Aoun called Thursday for an economic conference to be held with politicians and economic stakeholders in the country on Monday morning at Baabda Palace. The relevant ministers, the governor of the Central Bank, representatives of the private sector, labor unions, financial bodies and school teachers will attend the meeting, in the latest attempt to resolve lingering differences over the salary scale and tax hike bills. Prime Minister Saad Hariri and more than 30 stakeholders have been invited to the conference, which will be chaired by Aoun. The tax measures, including an increase in value added tax from 10 percent to 11 percent, are designed to finance the salary hikes for civil servants, which are estimated to cost more than $800 million annually. Aoun was critical of Parliament’s endorsement of the salary scale and tax hike bills. He said that he would have preferred for the 2017 draft state budget to be ratified before the two laws were passed.

Hizbullah Leader Says Syrian Government 'Will Stay On'
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 13/17/Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday it is time for political leaders to accept the survival of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. Nasrallah, addressing a rally on Sunday, advised Lebanon's government to normalize ties with its war-torn neighbor. Lebanon's political parties are split over whether to restore relations with the Syrian leader. Hizbullah has fought alongside Assad's troops. More than a thousand of its fighters have died fighting alongside government forces in Syria. Syria occupied Lebanon from 1991-2005. "The world today has taken for granted that the administration will stay on," said Nasrallah on Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in July Washington was prepared to defer to Russia in Syria. Russia is a key backer of Assad's government.

Geagea: Anything besides our internationally recognized borders and 'People, State, Army' equation is of no concern to us
Sun 13 Aug 2017/NNA - Lebanese Forces (LF) Leader, Samir Geagea, deemed that the "Nation" for the Lebanese Forces is Lebanon, with its internationally recognized borders and its tripartite equation of the "People, State and Army," adding that anything besides the above is of no concern to his Party.
"The Nation for us is Lebanon and our borders are the ones recognized internationally," Geagea emphasized during the annual Lebanese Forces dinner banquet held in Zahle on Saturday, reiterating that LF's golden equation is the "People, State and Army." Geagea concluded by saying "democracy in Lebanon is a real and valid democracy," urging all Lebanese to benefit from it.

Saraya Ahl Sham begins to leave Lebanese territory

Sun 13 Aug 2017/NNA - Around 400 fighters from Saraya Ahl Al-Sham started to pull out from Wadi Hmeid in Lebanon’s mountainous border region. The Lebanese Security Forces began Sunday the implementation for departing 400 armed terrorists from Saraya Ahl Sham with their families, News Agency (NNA) Correspondent said on Sunday. NNA added that the fighters would leave Arsal heading for Ruhaiba in Syria with their light weapons. It is to note that, Lebanese Red Cross will also accompany Saraya Ahl-Sham to the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Hariri meets with Kuwaiti Emir
Sun 13 Aug 2017/NNA - Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, met with the Kuwaiti Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah at the Emiri Diwan in Bayan Palace. The Media Bureau of Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, issued on Sunday the following press release: "The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received today the President of the Council of Minister Saad Hariri at the Emiri Diwan in Bayan Palace.The meeting was attended by the Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the first deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah, the Head of the Accompanying Mission of Honor and Advisor at the Prime Minister's Diwan Sheikh Salem Al-Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Diwan Chief Sheikha Itimad Khaled al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and Kuwait's Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Aal Al-Kinai. Discussions focused on the latest developments in the region and the bilateral relations, especially the al-Abdali cell. Earlier, Prime Minister Hariri met with Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah in the presence of the Lebanese Charge d'affaires in Kuwait Ambassador Maher al-Khair, the Secretary General of the Higher Relief Committee Major General Mohammed Khair and Hariri's Advisor for Development Issues Fadi Fawaz. Hariri had arrived late last night to Kuwait."

Hariri after meeting with Kuwaiti Emir: Lebanon will cooperate on Abdali cell
Sun 13 Aug 2017/NNA - Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, reiterated that Lebanon is ready to cooperate for the sake of resolving the issue of Abdali cell. The media bureau of Prime Minister Saad Hariri issued on Sunday the following press release: "The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received today the President of the Council of Minister Saad Hariri at the Emiri Diwan in Bayan Palace. The meeting was attended by the Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the first deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah, the Head of the Accompanying Mission of Honor and Advisor at the Prime Minister's Diwan Sheikh Salem Al-Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Diwan Chief Sheikha Itimad Khaled al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and Kuwait's Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul-Aal Al-Kinai.
"I conveyed to his Highness the greetings of the Lebanese people and the President of the Republic. We clearly said that we condemn what happened regarding Abdali cell and that Lebanon is prepared to cooperate, with all its apparatus, to end this issue. There is a great Kuwaiti resentment towards it and they are right about it, and we in Lebanon will cooperate on this issue," Hariri said. "The Kuwaiti people, State and Emir always treated Lebanon and the Lebanese as they treat the Kuwaitis. I hope that the relations will improve. We came to tell his Highness the Emir and the Kuwaiti people that Lebanon is their country and the State and the government are against any security breach because we consider the security of Kuwait and Lebanon is one and we do not allow any breach," he added.
Question: Could this resentment translate into measures against Lebanon?
Hariri: No. Hopefully there will be no such measures. But undoubtedly there is resentment and we have to look at the issue and address things clearly and boldly because it is our duty as a state and as a government.
Question: What did Kuwait ask for and what are the steps that the government can take to limit the repercussions of this problem?
Hariri: We came here today and spoke frankly and openly with our brothers in Kuwait, particularly with his Highness the Emir. Discussions were frank and clear and hopefully things will improve.
Question: Will the Lebanese community be affected by this?
Hariri: No, hopefully not.
Question: Did they provide evidence of the accusations about Hezbollah's involvement, through confessions?
Hariri: The Kuwaiti judiciary is clear and frank and there will be cooperation between the security services and the judiciary and we will cooperate to the maximum. What concerns me, regarding the people of Kuwait and his Highness the Emir who has always been a pioneer in helping Lebanon, is to preserve this relation between the two countries by all means.
Question: How will this issue be followed up?
Hariri: I will personally follow-up this issue.
Question: Will there be contacts with Hezbollah in this regard?
Hariri: There are contacts and these issues will be resolved.
The Koweiti Prime Minister then held a lunch in the honor of Prime Minister Hariri, attended by Koweiti officials."

Jumblatt announces candidacy of Bilal Abdallah to replace Terro
Sat 12 Aug 2017/NNA - Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Joumblatt, announced Saturday that Dr. Bilal Abdallah will be running for the Shouf District Seat in the upcoming Parliamentary elections instead of MP Alaeddine Terro.
In a press conference at his Mukhtara Palace earlier this afternoon, Joumblatt signaled this nomination as falling within the context of the change and renewal process within the National Struggle Front. "A new step necessitated by the logic of matters, which will be accompanied by similar steps at the level of the Progressive Socialist Party and Democratic Gathering's representation in various areas where the Party has influence or presence," added Joumblatt. "The timing of the second nominations depends on the circumstances and specifications of each region. They will include 70 percent of the Party's comrades, and perhaps more or less of the Democratic Gathering deputies," he indicated. "As for alliances, they will be based on the new law," Joumblatt went on, adding, "we hope to meet with each of the Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, Future Movement, Jama'a Islamiya, Hezbollah, Amal Movement, National Bloc, Liberal Nationalists, Independent and others." "The most important thing is competing democratically to meet the social and economic challenges, and to boost the principle of partnership to stabilize national unity in the Mountain and the Iqlim," emphasized Joumblatt.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
August 13-14/17
Rage in Idlib after ‘White Helmets’ Slaughter
Asharq Al Awsat/August 13/Ankara, Beirut- Rage prevailed in Idlib on Saturday after seven volunteers with the Syrian civil defense rescue service were killed in a shooting by unidentified attackers in rebel-held Idlib province on Saturday, while Turkey continued to adopt restrictions to control the border with Syria. The attackers stole two vehicles and other equipment in the incident targeting a civil defense office in the town of Sarmin at dawn, Idlib. Activists reported to Asharq Al-Awsat that a vehicle was later found burnt in the countryside of Idlib. No party claimed responsibility for the operation but Abu Ali Abdulwahab from the Army of Islam said that ISIS and its allies are most probably behind this crime – in his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he noted that Sarmin was the capital of ISIS when the extremist group was present in Idlib. The White Helmets organization published pictures of the bodies, covered with blood, as rage prevailed among people whom some were seen crying during the funeral. The organization was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize in 2016 but didn’t win – it commenced operations in 2013 and the volunteers have been known since 2014 as the White Helmets for the sake of the helmets they put on their heads. The organization stresses its neutrality and not supporting ay political or armed group — it receives funds from UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Japan and the US.

Three Syrian Women Who Got Married to ISIS Foreigners Tell their Stories
Asharq Al Awsat/August 13/Ain Issa Camp, Raqqa- In an isolated room in Ain Issa Camp – 50 kilometers north Raqqa – three Syrian women sat while dressed in black. Beside them sat children whose ages are three years or less and none of them has an official birth certificate. They got married to foreign members from ISIS and didn’t know this is where they will end up. Souad – in her thirties – said: “I had a dream to become an English teacher: to teach kids, translate stories and international novels.” Then, she lit a cigarette and continued: “I started smoking ten years ago, and I never quit smoking even when I was living in Raqqa where ISIS members banned smoking and punished for it.” “I met my Moroccan husband as I was walking once in a street in Raqqa. He proposed and we got married in summer 2015,” Souad continued. Nour, 22, moved to live with her family in Raqqa in 2007 and that is where she met her Malaysian husband and got married. “At the beginning I refused then I accepted because he is a religious person,” she added. On the contrary, Khansae said that she had no choice. “A Tunisian ISIS member proposed and my father accepted as if he was the charming prince. My mother stood by my side but was incapable to do anything,” she narrated. These three women have poor hope, as they gaze upon their vague future and the future of their children that is even more complex than theirs.

Kuwait is After 3 Fugitives from Abdali Cell, Including an Iranian

Asharq Al Awsat/August 13/Kuwait– Kuwait Ministry of Interior announced on Saturday it had arrested 12 members of “Abdali” cell after weeks of manhunt. The members are convicted of espionage for Iran and Hezbollah. The Ministry said the 12 had been captured in different areas across Kuwait. They had been on the run since their sentencing last month, while two other convicted Kuwaitis remained at large and an Iranian, Abdulreza Haidar Dahqani, who has been sentenced to death in absentia. Of the convicts, nine had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, while three had been sentenced to five years. “The Interior Ministry announces that security services have arrested in different regions 12 people sentenced in the so-called Al-Abdali cell,” a statement from the ministry and carried by the state news agency KUNA said. The Ministry announced last month that it had implemented the judgment of the Court of Cassation issued in case No. 302/2016 on the so-called Abdali cell, calling for the arrest of the suspects. Reports mentioned that the convicts might have escaped outside the country, but authorities confirmed earlier that they remained inside of Kuwait. Their escape created a diplomatic crisis with Iran, and the Lebanese government highly condemned Hezbollah for its involvement. On June 20, Kuwaiti authorities expelled 15 Iranian diplomats and shut down the military, cultural and trade missions of the Iranian embassy over Tehran’s backing of the “terrorist cell”. Earlier, on June 18, Court of Cassation
Abdali case emerged on August 13, 2015, when Kuwait’s Interior Ministry said that it busted a terrorist cell and uncovered a large cache of arms, ammunitions and explosives hidden underground at a farm in Abdali area on border with Iraq. The authorities also discovered hand grenades, guns, RPGs and 144kg of bomb-making material. On September 1, 2015, Kuwait’s public prosecution said 26 defendants, including one Iranian, would stand trial for the possession of weapons, ammunition and explosives and espionage for Iran and Hezbollah.
On January 12, 2016, the Criminal Court sentenced a Kuwaiti man and an Iranian national to death, one defendant to life in prison and 19 others between five to 15 years in jail. The verdicts were appealed and on July 21, 2016, the Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence against the Kuwaiti national, one life sentence and one five-year sentence.

Palestinian Officials are not Interested in Peace Talks with Netanyahu amid Investigations
Asharq Al Awsat/August 13/17/Ramallah– The Palestinian Authority (PA) is not interested in real peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid corruption investigations, according to a senior Palestinian official. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the authority has no desire to begin the peace process with Netanyahu as long as he is being investigated. He added that it seems that things are out of his hands and it would be adventurous to enter into extensive negotiations with him. “We don’t want the case of Olmert to repeat itself. We were on the verge of an agreement and then he resigned,” explained the official. Few years ago, PA President Mahmoud Abbas was about to form a final agreement with former PM Ehud Olmert, but then Olmert had to resign due to corruption allegations. The deal included land swap, NATO troops deployment into the Palestinian territories and handing over the West Bank. The PA offered the same agreement to Netanyahu, but it was rejected by the government. US is pressuring both parties to return to negotiations, meanwhile Palestinian fear their efforts and the US efforts be lost. The official argued that in normal conditions, it had been difficult to achieve an agreement with Netanyahu, adding: “How is it possible to achieve a historical agreement while he is being investigated? In recent updates, Netanyahu’s former Chief of Staff Ari Harow could become a state witness in the PM’s cases of corruption and bribery. Observers believe that Harow could provide damning evidence in at least one of the three current cases under investigation: Case 1000, involving the acceptance of gifts from a very wealthy friend, which Netanyahu and his wife denied, Case 2000, involving collusion with Yediot Aharonot to get favorable coverage; and Case 3000, involving the purchase of three submarines from Germany. This comes amid reports that US President Donald Trump will be sending a top official delegation to the region to revive Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. A White House official said that Trump’s son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner will lead the delegation to the Middle East in order to promote peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and will be joined by Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt.The official added that Trump is still committed to the peace process in the Middle East and believes it is crucial to proceed with the efforts to achieve peace. Trump had previously stated that achieving a strong peace agreement between Palestine and Israel is mission impossible, but he is optimistic that peace can be attained. The official added that in order for peace to be achieved, all involved parties must work together and must give negotiators the time and place needed. Palestinians want to review and asses every agreement and set ground rules for a new agreement limited by a time table, as well as negotiations on border and ending settlements. Yet, Israel is not responding to any of those requests and that, according to observers, is making the US’s mission quite difficult.

Iraq’s Kurds to Proceed with their Referendum despite US Request to Postpone It
Asharq Al Awsat/August 13/17/Erbil– Iraq’s Kurds insist on holding the independence referendum on September 25 as planned, despite an official US request for postponing it, a high-ranking Kurdish official stated on Saturday. US and other Western nations fear that the vote could create a new conflict with Baghdad and create regional unrests. Although Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq have sizeable Kurdish populations, they are all against an independent Kurdistan. Top official at the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, Hoshyar Zebari announced that: “The date is standing, Sept. 25, no change.”US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked Barzani to postpone the referendum during a phone call on Thursday, Zebari told Reuters. According to the statement issued by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) presidency on Friday, the President stated that the people of the Kurdistan Region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future. “The US Secretary of State…also stated he would rather see the referendum in Kurdistan to be postponed, and he reiterated his support for dialogue and negotiation between the [Kurdistan] Region and Baghdad,” the statement read. Barzani told Tillerson that the kind of coexistence that the Kurdistan Region had worked for with Iraq in the past and over various stages was not implemented, and that is why Kurdistan decided to take its own path, the statement continued. According to the statement, Barzani asked US State Secretary: “What kind of guarantees and alternatives are there for the future of Kurdistan?”Tillerson “commended President Barzani and the leadership of Kurdistan for the decision to form and send Kurdistan’s high delegation to Baghdad in order to negotiate the political issues,” the statement added. Earlier in June, US State Department stated it was concerned that the referendum will distract from “more urgent priorities” such as the defeat of ISIS militants. Kurds have been seeking an independent state since the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided the Middle East, except for their territory which ended up split between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. In July, Barzani told Reuters that the Kurds would take the responsibility for the expected approval outcome of independence, and pursue its implementation through dialogue with Baghdad and regional powers to avoid conflict. Barzani’s father led struggles against Baghdad in the 1960s and 1970s. “We have to rectify the history of mistreatment of our people and those who are saying that independence is not good, our question to them is, ‘if it’s not good for us, why is it good for you?’,” he said in an interview in Erbil. Kurdish officials announced that the referendum will also take place in disputed areas to determine whether they would want to remain or not in Kurdistan, including the oil-rich Kirkuk region, north Iraq. In 2014, Kurdish Peshmerga prevented ISIS from capturing Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled in the face of the militants. Kurds are also effectively running the region, claimed by both Turkmen and Arabs. Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias threatened to expel the Kurds by force from this region and three other disputed areas: Sinjar, Makhmour and Khanaqin.

Israel Grants Asylum to Iranian Journalist Facing Death Penalty
Israel Today/August 13/2017/Israel Interior Minister Aryeh Deri just before the weekend granted political asylum to Neda Amin, an Iranian journalist facing the death penalty for the crime of writing a column for an Israeli media website. Amin had previously been staying in Turkey while penning her views for the Times of Israel. But she was recently informed by Ankara that she'd have to return to Iran. Back in her home country, Amin was facing the death penalty for cooperating with Israel. Deri said the decision to grant her asylum was a no-brainer. "This is a journalist whose life is in real danger, only because of writing columns on an Israeli news website. In these clear humanitarian circumstances, I authorize her entry without hesitation," announced the interior minister. After landing in Israel over the weekend, Amin gushed her appreciation. "I was in danger and the State of Israel saved me. I want to stay here for now, but I will honor any decision of the authorities," she told reporters. Amin further explained that she'd been instilled with an affinity for Israel by her father. "My father didn't really believe in Islam, so he also learned about Judaism," she said. "My roots are somewhat connected to Judaism. I loved Israel since my youth; I never accepted all the regime’s anti-Israel slogans. I always dreamed that I will somehow get to Israel."

Iran lawmakers vote to boost spending on missile program
Fox News/August 13, 2017/By a huge majority, members of Iran’s parliament voted Sunday to increase spending on the nation’s ballistic missile program and finance its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. Members of Parliament chanted "Death to America" during the session, the Associated Press reported.
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The vote was viewed as a response to recently announced U.S. sanctions against the Muslim country. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that 247 lawmakers attended the vote session, with 240 approving the spending plan and one lawmaker abstaining. No specifics were available about how the new funds would be used. The bill now heads to an oversight committee called the Guardian Council, which is expected to approve it. Abbas Araghchi, a deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator on hand for the vote, said moderate President Hassan Rouhani's government would support the bill.
"The bill has very wisely tried not to violate the (nuclear deal) and also gives no chance to the other party to manipulate it," he said in comments reported by IRNA. FILE - In this Tuesday, May 9, 2017 file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a campaign rally for May 19 presidential election in Tehran, Iran. Iranians head to the polls Friday to vote in the Islamic Republic's presidential election, casting ballots in a contest largely seen as a referendum on the country's nuclear deal with world powers. Rouhani, 68, is a moderate cleric elected in 2013 on pledges of greater personal freedoms and improved relations with the West. His government negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling international sanctions. Under terms of the bill, some $800 million will be put toward several projects, including the Defense Ministry and its intelligence agencies. Among the agencies receiving money would be the Revolutionary Guards' Quds force, an expeditionary force run by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who has been in Syria and Iraq. The Guard, separate from Iran's conventional military forces, answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The bill also imposes a visa and travel ban on U.S. military and security organizations and their commanders who have provided financial, intelligence, military, logistic and training support to terrorists in the region, naming the Islamic State group and the Syrian branch of al Qaeda.
Iranian officials often accuse the U.S. of being involved with both groups. The U.S. is actively involved in a massive military campaign against the Islamic State group and has struck the al-Qaida affiliate as well. Perhaps more relevantly, the bill also includes banning visas for American officials involved with the Iranian exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. Prominent U.S. lawmakers and politicians have met with the group and spoken at its rallies. The MEK has paid one of Trump's Cabinet members and at least one adviser in the past for giving such speeches.
IRNA also referred to the money also being used to develop nuclear propellers. In December, Rouhani ordered officials to draw up plans on building nuclear-powered ships, something that appears to be allowed under the nuclear deal, over an earlier dispute on U.S. sanctions under the Obama administration.
Trump signed a sanctions bill earlier this month that included new measures imposed on Iran. That sparked new outrage in Iran, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accusing Trump of trying to "kill" the nuclear deal.
Earlier this month, Iran reiterated a previous assertion that new U.S. sanctions against it would constitute a “breach” of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and a group of Western powers. Araghchi said the country had prepared a list of 16 measures to take against the U.S. in response to the sanctions, but would not elaborate. The U.S. sanctions impose penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, enforce an arms embargo and apply terrorism sanctions to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. In remarks aimed at Trump earlier this month, Rouhani issued a warning for anyone looking to discard the 2015 deal.Those who intend to tear down the deal should know that they are tearing down their political life,” Rouhani said during a swearing-in ceremony to launch his second term. Trump has repeatedly criticized the 2015 negotiated by the Obama administration, calling it “bad” and vowing to come up with a better plan for discouraging Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
**The Associated Press contributed to this report.

3 dead amid violent US white nationalist rally

Sun 13 Aug 2017/NNA - A car rammed into a crowd of protesters and a state police helicopter crashed into the woods Saturday as tension boiled over at a white supremacist rally. The violent day left three dead, dozens injured and this usually quiet college town a bloodied symbol of the nation's roiling racial and political divisions. The chaos erupted around what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade - including neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Ku Klux Klan - who descended on the city to "take America back" by rallying against plans to remove a Confederate statue. Hundreds came to protest against the racism. There were street brawls and violent clashes; the governor declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead. Peaceful protesters were marching downtown, carrying signs that read "black lives matter" and "love." A silver Dodge Challenger suddenly came barreling through "a sea of people" and smashed into another car, said Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student. The impact hurled people into the air and blew off their shoes. A 32-year-old woman was killed as she crossed the street. "It was a wave of people flying at me," said Sam Becker, 24, sitting in the emergency room to be treated for leg and hand injuries. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety. Video caught the car reversing, hitting more people, its windshield splintered from the collision and bumper dragging on the pavement. Medics carried the injured, bloodied and crying, away as a police tank rolled down the street. The driver, James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old who recently moved to Ohio from where he grew up in Kentucky, was charged with second-degree murder and other counts. Field's mother, Samantha Bloom, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia but didn't know it was a white supremacist rally. "I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump's not a white supremacist," said Bloom, who became visibly upset as she learned of the injuries and deaths at the rally. "He had an African-American friend so ...," she said before her voice trailed off. She added that she'd be surprised if her son's views were that far right.
His arrest capped off hours of unrest. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. Some came prepared for a fight, with body armor and helmets. Videos that ricocheted around the world on social media showed people beating each other with sticks and shields. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, both Democrats, lumped the blame squarely on the rancor that has seeped into American politics and the white supremacists who came from out of town into their city, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, home to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's plantation.
"There is a very sad and regrettable coarseness in our politics that we've all seen too much of today," Signer said at a press conference. "Our opponents have become our enemies, debate has become intimidation."Some of the white nationalists at Saturday's rally cited President Donald Trump's victory after a campaign of racially-charged rhetoric as validation for their beliefs.Trump criticized the violence in a tweet Saturday, followed by a press conference and a call for "a swift restoration of law and order.""We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," he said. The "on many sides" ending of his statement drew the ire of his critics, who said he failed to specifically denounce white supremacy and equated those who came to protest racism with the white supremacists. The Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Trump for years questioned President Barack Obama's citizenship and his legitimacy as the first black president, and has fanned the flames of white resentment. "We are in a very dangerous place right now," Jackson said. McAuliffe said at Saturday's press conference that he spoke to Trump on the phone, and insisted that the president must work to combat hate. Trump said he agreed with McAuliffe "that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now."Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late Saturday that federal authorities will pursue a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.
The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice," Sessions wrote. "When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated."Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, said multiple white power groups gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinheads and KKK factions. The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said.
"We anticipated this event being the largest white supremacist gathering in over a decade," Segal said. "Unfortunately, it appears to have become the most violent as well." On the other side, anti-fascist demonstrators also gathered, but they generally aren't organized like white nationalist factions, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition to Fields, at least three more men were arrested in connection to the protests. The Virginia State Police announced late Saturday that Troy Dunigan, a 21-year-old from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was charged with disorderly conduct; Jacob L. Smith, a 21-year-old from Louisa, Virginia, was charged with assault and battery; and James M. O'Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with carrying a concealed handgun. Just as the city seemed like to be quieting down, black smoke billowed out from the tree tops just outside of town as a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed into the woods.Robby E. Noll, who lives in the county just outside Charlottesville, heard the helicopter sputtering. "I turned my head to the sky. You could tell he was struggling to try to get control of it," he said. He said pieces of the helicopter started to break off as it fell from the sky. Both troopers onboard, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M.M. Bates, one day shy of his 41st birthday, were killed. Police said the helicopter had been deployed to the violent protests in the city, which has been caught in the middle of the nation's culture wars since it decided earlier this year to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, enshrined in bronze on horseback in the city's Emancipation Park. In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally. Spencer returned for Saturday's protest, and denied all responsibility for the violence. He blamed the police. Signer said the white supremacist groups who came into his city to spread hate "are on the losing side of history." "Tomorrow will come and we will emerge," he said, "I can promise you, stronger than ever." Four-hundred miles away, the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, hinted that the white supremacists might get the opposite of what they'd hoped for. Mayor Jim Gray announced on Twitter that he would work to remove the confederate monument at his county's courthouse. "Today's events in Virginia remind us that we must bring our country together by condemning violence, white supremacists and Nazi hate groups," he wrote. "We cannot let them define our future." ---AP

Saudi Crown Prince Asks Iraq to Mediate between Tehran, Riyadh
Iran Front Page/August 13/17/Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji says the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to help ease tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Speaking after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran on Sunday, al-Araji referred to his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with bin Salman, and said, “He officially asked for Iraq’s mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia to ease tensions.” “Saudi King Salman had earlier made the same request, but I told them you should show the best behavior towards Iranian pilgrims and allow them to visit Jannat al-Baqi‘ cemetery,” he noted, according to a Farsi report by ISNA. “The Saudi side has made certain promises in this regard, and the doors to the cemetery is already open to Iranian pilgrims,” al-Araji said, adding that Tehran-Riyadh friendly relations will help ensure regional security. Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, for his part, highlighted the importance of respecting and maintaining the dignity of Iranian Hajj pilgrims, saying Tehran has always sought cordial relations with Saudi Arabia. “Iran’s policy is to have effective cooperation with regional states, and Tehran has never been the first to sever its relations with others,” he added. He also expressed the hope that regional countries would join hands and seek to resolve the problems of Muslims while enjoying their people’s support and avoiding the real enemies of Islam.

Kuwait: One of the convicts in al-Abdali cell case arrested
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 13 August 2017/On Sunday morning, the Kuwaiti authorities arrested a convict in the al-Abdali cell, Mustafa Abdulnabi Khan, at his father's house in Al-Rumaithiya district, following the arrest of 12 convicts accused of belonging to the terrorist cell known as the ‘al-Abdali cell’ connected to Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. This arrests came weeks after the authorities began searching for them. The cell was seized by the Kuwaiti authorities in August 2015 after realizing that it had acquired and stored large quantities of weapons on a farm in al-Abdali district: 19 tons of ammunition, 144 kg of explosives, 68 miscellaneous weapons, 204 hand grenades, as well as electric lighters. It is noteworthy that this farm in al-Abdali district is near the Iraqi border and there are houses there owned by the accused persons.

Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr arrives in UAE on official visit
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 13 August 2017/Influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has reportedly arrived in the United Arab Emirates on an official visit. During his visit, al-Sadr is expected to meet with UAE officials to discuss regional developments as well as the latest efforts in the fight against ISIS on the ground. Al-Sadr’s visit to the UAE follows his earlier visit to Saudi Arabia, a first for the cleric after 11 years. Sadr, who enjoys a wide base support as leader of al-Sadr movement, comes from a prominent Shiite family and is the fourth son of a highly-respected Shiite cleric, the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr. His last visit to the Gulf came in 2006.

UAE minister Gargash says Qatar must end neighbors’ fear of instability

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 13 August 2017/The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the best way for Qatar to exit its current crisis is to seriously work to end its neighbors’ fears of shaking their stability as sovereign states. While talking to a group of editors at the end of his two-day visit to India, Gargash commented on demands to close Al-Jazeera television channel and said the Arabic speaking channel resembled a Brotherhood broadcasting station and therefore it represents a clear threat to peace.
According to the UAE’s news agency WAM, Gargash reassured Indian officials that current developments in the region will not affect the Indian community in Gulf countries and will not affect India’s economic interests in these countries, adding that the four states, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, do not intend to escalate tensions in the region. During his visit, Gargash also addressed the threats posed by extremism coming from Qatar and said the four anti-terror countries are well-known for their solid principles which include not bullying a small country.
“Qatar is considered a small but rich state. It uses its financial resource to support terrorism. This shows that the crisis is not about a conflict between five Arab states as some are trying to show it,” he said. Gargash said Qatar is a state that funds terrorism and noted that many of the terrorists whom Doha offers safe haven are blacklisted by the UN and the US. He added that terrorism has become a global phenomenon and one cannot say that a city, whether in India, the US or Europe, is safe from the threats of international terrorism. “We cannot be tolerant with opinions stating that a little terrorism or extremism can be accepted and lived with. Therefore, it’s important to work to end any (ambiguity) surrounding the decisive stance from terrorism and extremism,” he said. Gargash also said that the Gulf Cooperation Council proved its prominent value to everyone, adding that it’s preferable for Qatar to remain part of the Gulf system after it returns to its senses.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 13-14/17
Syria’s Assad has become an icon of the far right in America
Liz Sly and Rick Noack/ THe Washington Post/August 13/17
BEIRUT — Among the postings on what might have been the Facebook page of James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the car that killed a counterprotester at the right-wing demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, were images of far-right favorite Pepe the Frog, swastikas and a baby portrait of Adolf Hitler, according to BuzzFeed. Perhaps more surprisingly, there was also reportedly a picture of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, in full military uniform, inscribed underneath with the word “undefeated.”
Screenshots of the now-inaccessible profile were widely circulated on social media on Saturday and Sunday, although the account's authenticity could not be confirmed. But the apparent fascination with Assad would fit a more general link between the far right and the Syrian regime that has grown increasingly pronounced in recent months and played a role throughout this weekend’s white nationalist rally in Virginia. Assad’s politics — and those of his father before him — have historically been associated more with the left than the right. His late father, President Hafez al-Assad, was the closest Middle East ally of the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. The son has enjoyed the stalwart support of international leftists throughout his attempt to crush the six-year-old rebellion against his rule.
In recent months, however, Assad has become an icon also for the far right, whose leaders and spokesman have heaped praise on the ferocity with which he has prosecuted the war, his role in fighting the Islamic State and his perceived stance against Muslims and Jews.
That Assad’s harsh methods have resulted in tens of thousands of civilian casualties seems only to have enhanced his stature. In a video posted on Twitter, three men who participated in the Charlottesville protests hailed Assad’s use of barrel bombs to subdue communities that turned against him. One is wearing a T-shirt that says: “Bashar’s Barrel Delivery Co.”
Barrel bombs are crude, cheaply made explosive devices that are tipped out of aircraft without any form of targeting, and their use has killed thousands of civilians in Syria. In the streamed live video, the men defend Assad.
“Assad did nothing wrong,” said alt-right social-media activist Tim Gionet, who is also known as “Baked Alaska” on Twitter and YouTube.
“Barrel bombs, hell yeah,” he can be heard saying in the same video.
Assad’s emergence as a popular hero for the right appears to have followed a series of tweets in March by the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, in which he lavished praise on the Syrian president, describing him as an “amazing leader” — and more. Other right-wing leaders have long expressed their support for the Syrian president and clearly hoped that President Trump, who made flattering comments about Assad on the campaign trail, would strike up an alliance with him. Such hopes were also based on the backing Assad had received from some far-right politicians in Europe. France’s Marine Le Pen, for example, has said that keeping Assad in power is “the most reassuring solution.”
After Trump ordered the U.S. military to bomb a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical attack in northern Syria, numerous right-wing commentators expressed their dismay on Twitter. Shortly after the attack, right-wing protesters opposed to the military intervention, led by white nationalist Richard B. Spencer, faced off against a group of antifascist protesters outside the White House. Although Trump has continued to refuse to directly back Assad, even calling him “truly an evil person” in an April TV interview, the far right’s apparent fascination with seeing the Syrian president hold on to power has persisted.
The far right's love affair with Assad also might not be entirely unexpected. His Ba'ath Party is fiercely nationalist and ethnocentric, focused on the promotion of Arab identity. One of the few political parties permitted by his regime and one of his staunchest supporters in the war is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which drew the inspiration for its logo from the swastika.

Abdul Hussein…Made Us Smile and Left
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat//August 13/17
It’s like the Gulf haven’t had its share of bad news, that the person who long made people smile, created happiness for ages, and made unforgettable works passes away. But what can we say, it is our fate no matter how painful it may be. Comedy legend Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda passed away leaving behind a heritage in the memory of generations that watched his worls and loved him through his art. Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda, dubbed Abu Adnan, was not just a comedian. He was a unique artistic phenomenon followed by generations of millions of people. The level of art varied between good and bad, between those who give valuable art and those who are barely mentioned, and yet, the late solely continued to offer an untarnished message. His art was not smeared by ideologies or the abhorrent sectarianism. He only angered the extremists and was hated by radicals.
The majority of his audience had him in a special place crafted by his distinguished talent, rare performance, and elegant message that was never tainted since he first stepped on stage in 1961 during his first play “Falcon of Qoreish”.Some of his unforgettable works include: The Slippery Path, Fates, and his 33 plays which invovled the famous Bye Bye London, and other distinguished performances such as Sword of the Arabs, Knights of Climate and Haman, O Pharaoh.
The legend of late Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda can be easily distinguished through many of his timeless works. But I believe that the true legendary thing about him was the conviction of Gulf people that Abdul Hussein is an artist who speaks for them all and his nationality is part of theirs. They never regarded him as a Kuwaiti national. People considered his nationality to be “Gulf” just like them and this doesn’t happen to other artists. With his exclusive sense of humor and unique performance, Abdul Hussein succeeded in taking the throne of Gulf comedy for over half a century. He is part of a great Kuwaiti artistic generation which included some Khalid al-Nafisi, Ghanim al-Salih, Abdul Aziz al-Nimish, and Ali al-Mufidi may they rest in peace, and Saad al-Faraj, may God grant him a prosperous life. The distinct trait of Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda was that his talent was not limited to acting – whether on the theaters, or TV series, or radio shows. He was a true genuine artist. He also directed series and movies and composed music. He always surprised his audience with something unexpected in his series and plays, something many artists try their hardest to achieve but most fail miserably to, which prompts ridicule from the audience and critics. Because of his unique artistic traits, Abdul Hussein won the people’s hearts before entering their homes. He became a much-loved popular artist since the early stages of Gulf art. He delivered critical comedy and somewhat politically troublesome art when tackling certain issues which were considered a sort of a taboo. Abdul Hussein was able to deliver his message without getting into a lot of social or political troubles, unlike many others who want to reach fame using the shortest way possible without even having quarter of the potentials of the late artist. Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda’s best tribute remains in the loving words and great sentiments that emerged from the Gulf following the announcement of his death. No one forced people to say what they said. People’s love can’t be bought, it is earned. For everything he had done, Abu Adnan deserves such a spontaneous grand homage. Blessed be who passes away like that.

Big Data Shows Big Promise in Medicine
Faye Flam/Bloomberg/August 13/17
In handling some kinds of life-or-death medical judgments, computers have already have surpassed the abilities of doctors. We’re looking at something like promise of self-driving cars, according to Zak Kohane, a doctor and researcher at Harvard Medical School. On the roads, replacing drivers with computers could save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to human error. In medicine, replacing intuition with machine intelligence might save patients from deadly drug side effects or otherwise incurable cancers. Consider precision medicine, which involves tailoring drugs to individual patients. And to understand its promise, look to Shirley Pepke, a physicist by training who migrated into computational biology. When she developed a deadly cancer, she responded like a scientist and fought it using big data. And she is winning. She shared her story at a recent conference organized by Kohane.
In 2013, Pepke was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. She was 46, and her kids were 9 and 3. It was just two months after her annual gynecological exam. She had symptoms, which the doctors brushed off, until her bloating got so bad she insisted on an ultrasound. She was carrying six liters of fluid caused by the cancer, which had metastasized. Her doctor, she remembers, said, “I guess you weren’t making this up.”
She did what most people do in her position. She agreed to a course of chemotherapy that doctors thought would extend her life and offered a very slim chance of curing her. It was a harsh mixture pumped directly into her abdomen. She also did something most people wouldn’t know how to do — she started looking for useful data. After all, tumors are full of data. They carry DNA with various abnormalities, some of which make them malignant or resistant to certain drugs. Armed with that information, doctors design more effective, individualized treatments. Already, breast cancers are treated differently depending on whether they have a mutation in a gene called HER2. So far, scientists have found no such genetic divisions for ovarian cancers. But there was some data. Years earlier, scientists had started a data bank called the Cancer Genome Atlas. There were genetic sequences on about 400 ovarian tumors. To help her extract useful information from the data, she turned to Greg ver Steeg, a professor at the University of Southern California, who was working on an automated pattern-recognition technique called correlation explanation, or CorEx. It had not been used to evaluate cancer, but she and ver Steeg thought it might work. She also got genetic sequencing done on her tumor.
In the meantime, she found out she was not one of the lucky patients cured by chemotherapy. The cancer came back after a short remission. A doctor told her that she would only feel worse every day for the short remainder of her life. But CorEx had turned up a clue. Her tumor had something on common with those of the luckier women who responded to the chemotherapy — an off-the-charts signal for an immune system product called cytokines. She reasoned that in those luckier patients, the immune system was helping kill the cancer, but in her case, there was something blocking it.
Eventually she concluded that her one shot at survival would be to take a drug called a checkpoint inhibitor, which is geared to break down cancer cells’ defenses against the immune system. At the time, checkpoint inhibitors were only approved for melanoma. Doctors could still prescribe such drugs for other uses, though insurance companies wouldn’t necessarily cover them. She ended up paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. At the same time, she went in for another round of chemotherapy. The checkpoint inhibitor destroyed her thyroid gland, she said, and the chemotherapy was damaging her kidneys. She stopped, not knowing whether her cancer was still there or not. To the surprise of her doctors, she started to get better. Her cancer became undetectable. Still healthy today, she works on ways to allow other cancer patients to benefit from big data the way she did.
Kohane, the Harvard Medical School researcher, said similar data-driven efforts might help find side effects of approved drugs. Clinical trials are often not big enough or long-running enough to pick up even deadly side effects that show up when a drug is released to millions of people. Thousands died from heart attacks associated with the painkiller Vioxx before it was taken off the market. Last month, an analysis by another health site suggested a connection between the rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra and heart attack deaths, though the drug had been sold to doctors and their patients without warning of any added risk of death. Kohane suspects there could be many other unnecessary deaths from drugs whose side effects didn’t show up in testing.
So what’s holding this technology back? Others are putting big money into big data with the aim of selling us things and influencing our votes. Why not use it to save lives?

Merkel Wins by Not Being There
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/August 13/17
Germany’s September election is like no other the Western world has seen in the last two years. As the leading candidate, Chancellor Angela Merkel, relaxed on a three-week vacation, her top challenger, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, worked the campaign trail furiously — but that only got him into deeper trouble. His party has now lost its majority in yet another German state, just as it was revealed that the state’s Social Democrat first minister had allowed Volkswagen to edit his speech about the company’s emissions scandal. Whether or not it’s an election year, Merkel unfailingly goes on a three-week vacation in late July. Like many Germans she returns to the same spot every year; in her case, hiking in the South Tyrol, Italy’s German-speaking province. The pictures are similar every year, down to the cap Merkel likes to wear on her hikes. Meanwhile, her rival, the indefatigable former European Parliament speaker, has crisscrossed the country, holding rallies and party events. Since his party has spent the last four years as the junior coalition partner of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Schulz is working to stress their differences. He talks about social justice, tenants’ rights, mandatory infrastructure investment, an end to Germany’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization commitment to spend 2 percent of economic output on defense. He takes a harder line on German carmakers in the wake of their scandals.
It doesn’t seem to be helping. The CDU’s formidable poll advantage has held. And, as the chancellor’s Tyrol idyll drew to a close, Schulz found himself picking up the pieces from a political crash in Lower Saxony, an important state with about 10 percent of Germany’s population.
In the 2013 state election there, Merkel’s CDU fell just short of being able to form a coalition; instead, the SPD joined up with the Greens, which gave them a one-seat majority. Stephan Weil, the state SPD leader, became first minister — and took a seat on the supervisory board of Volkswagen, which is headquartered in Lower Saxony and has the state as its second-largest shareholder.
On Friday, all hell broke loose. A 20-year veteran of the Green Party, Elke Twesten, who had long had conservative leanings, announced she was leaving the party for the CDU. The CDU apparently started working on her just after she lost a primary vote in June; but she considered the initial approaches “immoral.” By the time she was ripe for the switch, the general election was less than two months away. Outrage among Green and SPD politicians and supporters ensued: The CDU was accused of “buying” Twesten. But the legislator had taken the plunge and the ruling coalition no longer had a majority. Rather than hang on with a minority government until January 2018, Weil decided to call an early election. It may take place on Sept. 24, simultaneously with the national one, and Weil will have trouble improving on his party’s 2013 performance.
He is embroiled in a fresh scandal of his own after the tabloid Bild reported that Weil had allowed Volkswagen to censor an October 2015 speech about its diesel emissions scandal. The first minister argued that he’d only done that for fact-checking purposes and that all the harsh criticism he had intended to level at VW remained in the text. But now that Weil’s office has released the speech, tracked changes and all, it’s clear that wasn’t quite the case. Weil refused to soften a sentence accusing VW of manipulating emissions data for many years (the carmaker suggested adding “during tests”) — but he did soften a harsher sentence that originally said, “Volkswagen thus broke the law and abused trust.” The edited version read, “Thus, the law was broken and trust abused.”
The closeness between the CDU and the car industry was supposed to be a handicap for Merkel’s party; but now the tables have suddenly been turned and voters — in Lower Saxony and elsewhere in Germany — were deftly reminded that the scandal in Volkswagen-land took place on the SPD’s watch. Lower Saxony also is the home state of many prominent SPD politicians, including Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel — the party’s top official in the ruling coalition. The CDU seized the initiative from a seemingly resurgent SPD this year by winning three state elections in a row. Lower Saxony’s looks set to be a fourth. Merkel seems to have played her hand flawlessly. As Jacques Schuster wrote in Die Welt, “through silence and absence, she has made sure all of her competitor’s blows land on cotton wool.”As Merkel returns from vacation for the final stretch of a campaign in which she’s played a masterful defensive game, her biggest challenge is to figure out the shape of the future ruling coalition. Continuing on with the SPD is not her preferred option, although she could probably make peace with Schulz. The Greens are not a reliable partner: Too few of its members are like Twesten. And the leader of the liberal Free Democrats, a traditional CDU coalition partner, Christian Lindner, appears to be excessively hungry for the limelight — and besides, polls show the CDU and the FDP may not have a majority together in September. By German standards, though, there’s still plenty of time to work out an alliance. Merkel will concentrate on equaling or beating her 2013 result, when her party won 41.5 percent of the vote. She is certainly on track to do so.

Washington relies on Moscow to influence Tehran
Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/August 13/17
Kurdish national ambitions are hitting Iranian, Turkish and Arab roadblocks — all for different reasons. Tensions and radical differences are growing more intense between conflicting projects, amid a clamor regarding partition and influence-sharing in Iraq and Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started building a wall along the border with Iran to prevent the infiltration of Kurdish activists; he has promised to build a similar wall on the border with Iraq, and is already building a wall on the Syrian border.
Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, has made it clear it would be “impossible” to backtrack from a referendum on Kurdish independence in Iraq, and has pledged that he will not allow the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), known as Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi in Arabic, to enter Kurdistan. Barzani spoke about the Iranian project, saying: “The Iranian officials have explicitly declared they successfully achieved their program to open a route from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.” He refused to accept Kurdish responsibility for partitioning Iraq, saying sectarian war is already raging, while the divided Iraqi state “had no sovereignty.”
Regardless of whether the partition of Iraq is coming officially with the referendum on Kurdish independence, partition had already come through George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, then at the hands of former pro-Iranian Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and the PMF, the Iraqi version of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Interestingly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently pulled the defense portfolio from IRGC commanders for the first time in a quarter of a century, appointing instead an officer from the regular army. However, this step remains more symbolic than effective, as long as the regime in Iran does not make a decision to withdraw its militias and proxies from Arab territories, bearing in mind that all these forces are commanded by the IRGC and its extremist expansionist project.
The former US diplomat Henry Kissinger recently warned that a radical Iranian empire could emerge if Tehran manages to take hold of the areas liberated from Daesh, with a “territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire.” The administration of US President Donald Trump is not clear about whether it wants to accept this as a fact on the ground, or whether it intends to combat Iran’s plan. So far, it appears that the US has outsourced the fate of Iran and its militias in Syria to the Russians. In this context, there have been a growing number of Russian leaks to writers and think-tanks in Russia, all suggesting that Moscow — as it “peacefully seeks” a political solution in Syria — is being hindered by Iran, which “wants to prolong the war” there. What is not clear, however, is whether this is a genuine reproach, a distribution of roles, a sign of serious differences in priorities, or the result of serious US pressures over conditions related to a deal between Moscow and Washington.
Kiril Siminof, an expert on Islamic and international affairs, recently wrote an article titled “Iran Obstructing Russia’s Solution in Syria.” On the same topic, Anton Maradasov, head of the Middle East Conflict Studies at the Institute of Innovative Development, wrote an article titled “Tehran in Favor of Continuing the War, but Moscow Wants a Political Solution.”
Generally speaking, Russian viewpoints either reflect Russian policy, or a Russian desire to send a message for strategic and political purposes. Siminof argued that Iran was proceeding to build a “Shiite corridor” from Iran to the Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and to “take the conflict in Syria to a new level.” He wrote: “Moscow, which has committed itself to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict, does not want Syria to become an Iranian colony gradually Shiite-ized by Iranian ayatollahs, bearing in mind that the sectarian-ethnic conflict is one of the factors fueling the propaganda of radical Islamists.”
He continued: “In public circles, there are clear signs of contradictions between Russia and Iran.” He said there were meetings in Amman and Cairo that Tehran was not invited to, “but the Iranians can foil such separate agreements on Syria, as they had done in March with the cease-fire, with the blame falling on Russia for not having influenced their allies.” He also wrote that Tehran wants the fighting to continue.
For the Trump administration, the top priority is to crush Daesh and similar groups in partnership with whoever is willing, after which other matters can be dealt with.
What was especially interesting is what the Russian expert called for in Idlib. He wrote: “Russia and Turkey must expedite an agreement on backing moderate rebels against extremists in Idlib, before Tehran and Damascus launch an assault on Idlib under the pretext of the growing strength of extremists there.” He concluded: “Iran believes resolving the conflict requires defeating rebels and wants Russia’s support for this bid. But Moscow is seeking a political and peaceful settlement.”
For his part, Maradasov wrote: “Tehran is seeking to drag Moscow to a new round of civil war.” He said that despite the convergence of Russian and Iranian goals in Syria at the start of Russia’s military intervention, “the gap between the two countries expanded gradually as Russia sought to negotiate with the rebels in order to establish a stable cease-fire.”
Maradasov elaborated further on Russian-Iranian rivalry in east Aleppo, where Moscow is seeking to “impose security and stability,” while “Tehran has sought to shore up its influence in east Aleppo and expand its loyalist militias” and “establish Iranian religious centers that stoke the conflict” on sectarian and ethnic bases.
Such messages may be addressed to Washington, to elaborate the difficulties Russia faces in containing Iranian ambitions and make the Trump administration realize that the price for Russia cutting off its alliance with Iran would be very high.
This price could be paid in Crimea, where Moscow insists on Washington acknowledging that Crimea is Russian. Moscow also diverges from Tehran over their respective ambitions in Syria. However, Moscow is not yet ready to relinquish its strategic relationship with Tehran.
Washington is relying on Russia to rein in Iranian influence in Syria. The Americans either believe Russia is capable of doing so if it wants, or they see the problem as being Russia’s rather than their own. For the Trump administration, the top priority is to crush Daesh and similar groups in partnership with whoever is willing, after which other matters can be dealt with.
Indeed, when Syrian regime forces captured Deir Ezzor and handed control of the border with Iraq to the IRGC, there was no strong American objection, and the impression is that Washington turned a blind eye to this. But Deir Ezzor is a strategic corridor in the route between Tehran and the Mediterranean. So far, Washington did not take any real measure to block the establishment of that component of the Persian crescent project, which both the US and Israel claim to oppose.
Confidence in the US is shrinking among all those who collaborate with Washington. They are all preparing today for the possibility that the US will discard them once its goals are fulfilled, pursuant to the reputation Washington has cultivated over the past years. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are fully aware that the US needs them temporarily, and that US support will not be permanent and will not be guaranteed after the battle for Raqqa is finished. For this reason, the Kurdish-dominated SDF believe its interest lies in keeping hold of Kurdish territories through accords with the regimes in Damascus and Moscow. In other words, a deal with Bashar Assad is more reassuring than US promises, which could change depending on the relationship with Turkey.
Furthermore, the SDF is considering a deal whereby they hand over Raqqa to regime forces in return for an autonomous Kurdish administration of Kurdish territories in Syria. The Kurds doubt US pledges and doubt that the US priority favors them in the balance of long-term US strategic relations with NATO-member Turkey, which the Americans may need at a later time to counter-balance Iranian expansion in the Middle East as well as to determine the fate of Idlib.
Russia is afraid that Tehran and Damascus could take advantage of the situation in Idlib to launch an offensive that could create new alliances between moderate and extremist rebel groups. The Russian idea is based on getting the moderate groups to eliminate the extremist groups, and wants to head off any Iranian-regime gambits in Idlib.
Turkey possesses many tools in Idlib. But it has been accused of sponsoring the idea of giving safe haven to extremists there, and Ankara is considered key to the fate of Idlib and the groups there. Russia has attempted to coordinate moves with Turkey, giving the impression that it is at odds with Iran, but these partnerships remain provisional in Syria.
So far, despite Russia’s peddling of the notion of differences with Iranian projects in Syria, there is no proof of any qualitative shift in the alliance between the two sides. As long as Washington continues to accept any and all alliances and partnerships in Syria in the name of fighting terror — a slogan adopted by the regime first and foremost — Russia will continue to manage developments there and will be the one to decide whether its interest lies in convergence with Turkey and divergence with Iran in Syria. And it is Russia that is deciding the fate of the entire Syrian opposition. This is the reason the Kurds and the US-backed SDF are seeking closer ties with the Russians.
Ultimately, the Iranian knot in Syria’s fate is no secondary issue. Its transnational projects require a foothold in Syria’s geography, and nothing will stop it except a joint Russian-American-Israeli pushback, which has not yet been established.
• Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is the founder and executive chairman of the Beirut Institute. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association. She has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum. She can be reached on Twitter @RaghidaDergham.

China Is Our Last Diplomatic Hope for North Korea
John R. Bolton//Gatestone Institute/August 13/17
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice acknowledged last week that America's policies regarding North Korea's nuclear-weapons program over the last three administrations had failed. She said, rightly, "You can call it a failure. I accept that characterization of the efforts of the United States over the last two decades."
Former Vice President Al Gore said much the same. They should know. They served under President Bill Clinton, who started things rolling downhill with the Agreed Framework of 1994. This misbegotten deal provided Pyongyang 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil annually and two light-water nuclear reactors in exchange for the North's promise to abandon its nuclear-weapons efforts.
Pyongyang violated its promise before the ink was dry. In 1999, former Secretary of State James Baker denounced Clinton's approach as "a policy of appeasement." Baker's characterization also applies to much of the subsequent U.S. diplomacy. North Korea has always been willing to promise to abandon its nuclear ambitions to get tangible economic benefits. It just never gets around to honoring its commitments.
After 25 years of failure, we need not tarry long (or at all) on more diplomacy with Pyongyang. Fred Ikle once characterized the North as capable of "boundless mendacity." He was being charitable. Talking to North Korea is worse than a mere waste of time. Negotiations legitimize the dictatorship, affording it more time to enhance its nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities.
Today, only one diplomatic option remains, and it does not involve talking to Pyongyang. Instead, President Trump should urge President Xi Jinping that reunifying the Korean Peninsula is in China's national interest. This is a hard argument to make, requiring reversal of decades of Chinese policy. It should have been broached years ago, but it is still doable. There is now growing awareness in China that maintaining the two Koreas, especially given the current nuclear crisis, does not benefit China long-term.
Historically, the Korean Peninsula's 1945 partition was always intended to be temporary. Kim Il-Sung's 1950 invasion of South Korea and three years of ultimately inconclusive war resulted in hardening the bifurcation into its current manifestation. Beijing has backed the status quo, believing that North Korea provided a buffer between Chinese territory and U.S. military forces.
Maintaining its satellite, however, has been expensive and risky. China has long supplied more than 90 percent of the North's energy needs, and vast quantities of food and other assistance to sustain Pyongyang's gulag. China has also expended enormous political and diplomatic energy, costing it precious international credibility, to protect the North's erratic regime.
Initially, China saw the North's nuclear and ballistic-missile programs as a problem for America, Japan and South Korea rather than itself. That notion has disappeared, however, under the harsh prospect that today's nuclear crisis will be merely the first of many with North Korea. Moreover, Japan is now increasingly likely to seek its own nuclear capability, a nightmare for China in some respects more troubling than America.
Confronted by this new, deeply threatening reality, Beijing's views on Korean reunification are ripe for change. China has never applied its uniquely strong economic leverage on Pyongyang because it feared so doing could cause catastrophic collapse of the North's regime. That would in turn produce two unacceptable consequences: massive Korean refugee flows across the border into China, and American and South Korean troops crossing the DMZ and quickly reaching the Yalu and Tumen Rivers.
An inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea, in Jilin. (Image source: Prince Roy/Wikimedia Commons)
The answer to China's fear of uncontrolled collapse is a jointly managed effort to dismantle North Korea's government, effectively allowing the swift takeover of the North by the South. China can start by quietly bribing the Kim regime's top military and civilian officials, offering political asylum and a safe exile for them and their families in China, while simultaneously cutting off energy and other supplies to the North. Seoul can also offer inducements to key North Korean leaders, reminding them what life could be like in a post-Kim world.
Simultaneously, massive information efforts should be launched throughout the North to spread word quickly on what is happening. The population may lack cell phones and the Internet, but they are far more aware of the outside world than conventional stereotypes. The end of North Korea, and hence the end of its nuclear threat, would be inevitable. The process will undoubtedly be dangerous and somewhat chaotic, but far less so than a completely uncontrolled collapse. And whatever the risks, they pale before the risks of nuclear conflict emanating from the erratic Kim regime.
Washington can offer Beijing two assurances to assuage its concerns. First, we would work closely with China to prevent massive refugee flows either into China or South Korea. Our common interests here are clear. Second, as the North begins to collapse, allied forces would necessarily cross the DMZ to locate and secure Pyongyang's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and to maintain civil order.
These forces would ultimately reach China's border, but we can commit to Beijing that Washington will not station troops there for a sustained period. Instead, we would pledge to base virtually all U.S. military assets near Pusan at the Peninsula's southern tip, to be available for rapid deployment around Asia. They would not constitute a watch on the Yalu.
The alternative to this last available diplomatic play is military force. The imperative of protecting innocent American civilians from the long-term threat of North Korea's nuclear capability dictates that we should be willing to strike those capabilities pre-emptively. But before that, who will argue against this one last realistic diplomatic effort?
**John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad".
**This article first appeared in The Hill and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Europe: Burkini War Continues
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 13/17
Those in favor of the burkini argue that women should be allowed to wear whatever they choose. Critics of the garment say it is an Islamic religious and political symbol which impedes integration and is incompatible with the liberal principles of secularism and gender equality. In recent months, the debate has added another dimension: public health and hygiene.
"Secularism and religion are irrelevant here. The burkini is not a Koranic prescription, but another manifestation of political Islam, militant, destructive, seeking to question our way of life, our culture, our civilization." — French commentator Yves Thréard in Le Figaro.
Europe's burkini debate has now spread to the Middle East. In Algeria, thousands of women have joined a "bikini revolt" to reclaim the public space from Islamists who oppose the bikini as a symbol of Western values.
A woman who wore a burkini to swim in a pool in southern France has been charged €490 ($580) to pay for cleaning costs at the facility. The incident, which sparked accusations of Islamophobia, is the latest salvo in an ongoing debate over Islamic dress codes in France and other secular European states.
Those in favor of the burkini argue that women should be allowed to wear whatever they choose. Critics of the garment say it is a religious and political symbol which impedes integration and is incompatible with the liberal principles of secularism and gender equality. In recent months, the debate has added another dimension: public health and hygiene.
The woman was vacationing with her family at a bed and breakfast near Marseille when the owner spotted her in the swimming pool wearing a full-body swimsuit, according to the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF). He subsequently had the pool emptied and cleaned and charged the family for the costs and compensation for the days the pool was out of service. When they refused to pay, the owner allegedly charged them anyway.
The woman reported the incident to the CCIF, which said the burkini could not have caused a hygiene issue as the swimsuits are specifically adapted for swimming. "I was disappointed, shocked, wounded by the fact that someone could be so hypocritical and wicked because of a burkini," the woman said.
Elsewhere in France, the mayor of Lorette, Gerard Tardy, banned burkinis and other Muslim clothing at a new outdoor swim park, also for reasons of public health:
"Monokinis, burkinis, partial veils or veils which totally conceal the face, or a combination thereof, are prohibited on the beach. Any breach of this provision will lead to the immediate expulsion (which may cover the entire swimming season) of the offenders by security or, if necessary, by the police."
Aldo Oumouden, spokesman of a mosque in Saint Étienne, responded:
"France is multicultural and banning the veil at this facility is an attack on the individual freedom of Muslims and does not even distinguish between burkini and headscarf. How is it that the veil is aggressive or dangerous for the population? It does not represent any health problem, and there is no interference with the freedom of others. Does Mayor Tardy not realize that this decision will further stigmatize Muslims? It is not only unnecessary but also devastating for community harmony."
In July, an appeals court in Marseille validated the ban on burkinis in Sisco, a town in Corsica, in the interests of maintaining public order. Mayor Ange-Pierre Vivoni argued the ban was necessary to avoid a repeat of fighting between local youths and Muslims in August 2016, when five people were hurt. Muslims went on a rampage after a tourist took a photograph of several burkini-clad women swimming in a creek. More than 400 people eventually joined the brawl, in which local Corsicans clashed with migrants from North Africa. The following day, more than 500 Corsicans marched through the town shouting "To arms! This is our home!"
In May, a dozen Muslim women were arrested for holding a pro-burkini protest during the Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes. The women were wearing red, white and blue burkinis along the town's famous promenade. Police said the women did not have a permit to protest.
In March, the frontrunners in the French presidential election clashed over the burkini in a television debate. Marine Le Pen accused Emmanuel Macron of "defending the burkini." Macron accused Le Pen of "dividing society." According to Le Pen, the burkini is a "fundamentalist uniform."
This year's controversies harken back to the summer of 2016, when more than 30 cities and towns on the French Riviera banned burkinis from local beaches. In August 2016, the Council of State, France's highest administrative court, ruled that the bans — which were issued after the July 2016 jihadist attack in Nice — were a "serious and manifestly illegal attack on fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of movement and the freedom of conscience." The judges ruled that local authorities could only restrict individual liberties if there was a "demonstrated risk" to public order. There was, they said, no evidence of such a risk.
Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for the Human Rights League (LDH), said that in the absence of a demonstrated threat to public order, the high court "has ruled and has shown that mayors do not have the right to set limits on wearing religious signs in public spaces. It is contrary to the freedom of religion, which is a fundamental freedom."
Writing for Le Figaro, French commentator Yves Thréard argued that burkinis are political, not religious, garments:
"Secularism and religion are irrelevant here. The burkini is not a Koranic prescription, but another manifestation of political Islam, militant, destructive, seeking to question our way of life, our culture, our civilization. Veils in schools, street prayers, halal school menus, sexual apartheid in swimming pools, hospitals, driving schools, niqab, burqa... for thirty years this infiltration has been undermining our society, seeking to destabilize. It's time to slam the door in its face."
Opinion polls show broad public support for bans on burkinis. According to an Ifop poll published by Le Figaro in August 2016, 64% of people in France are opposed to the burkini on beaches; only 6% support it. Ifop director Jérôme Fourquet said:
"The results are similar to those we measured in April about the veil and headscarf on public streets (63% opposed). Beaches are equated with streets, where the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols are also rejected by two-thirds of the French."
The debate over burkinis is not limited to France. In Portugal, two British tourists said they were "humiliated" after being told to leave a communal swimming pool in Albufeira, a popular holiday destination, because they were wearing burkinis. A member of the hotel staff reportedly told the women to abide by Portuguese norms or leave.
In Italy, a Moroccan family caused a stir at a public swimming pool in Montegrotto. Not only were the women wearing burkinis, but the men jumped into the pool wearing street clothes. Photos of the incident went viral after being posted on social media. At a public pool in Pontedera, a Muslim woman was observed swimming, not in a burkini but in a burka. The pool mangers said: "All people of every religion, culture and school of thought are welcome in this facility provided that they observe hygienic and sanitary norms." Elsewhere, a Muslim woman caused a polemic by wearing a burkini at a municipal pool in Ferrara.
In Austria, the Neuwaldegger Bad, a private outdoor swimming pool in Vienna, announced a burkini ban: "Only swimwear which is customary for us, bathing suits and bikinis, are permitted." The burkini has also been banned at the Wachaubad in Melk, Lower Austria. A water park in rural Kirchberg requires patrons to wear "local bathing clothing." Mayor Anton Gonaus said this rule has been in place for 25 years and that there have been no problems because up to now there have been no burkini wearers. "This puts Muslim women in a corner and tells them that they do not belong," complained Carla Amina Baghajati, the women's commissioner of the Islamic Community in Austria (IGGiÖ).
In July, a Muslim journalist named Menerva Hammad went to a public swimming pool in Vienna in a burkini to gauge reactions. She was confronted by an Austrian woman who said: "This is unhygienic. This is not Turkey." The pool manager sided with Hammad and asked the Austrian woman to leave the premises. Hammad says she has received hate mail from across Austria by people accusing her of setting off a burkini trend at pools across the country.
Europe's burkini debate has now spread to the Middle East. In Algeria, thousands of women have joined a "bikini revolt" to reclaim the public space from Islamists who oppose the bikini as a symbol of Western values.
In Morocco, where burkinis are banned at many tourism hotspots, the government in January outlawed the sale and production of burkas, evidently in a bid to crack down on Islamic extremism.
In Lebanon, a woman wearing a burkini was escorted off the beach at a luxury resort in Tripoli; the action was apparently taken to discourage the trend from spreading and harming tourism.
In Egypt, the Ministry of Tourism issued an order requiring hotels and resorts to welcome women wearing the burkini. The government backtracked after hoteliers complained about the potential impact on tourism; hotels and resorts may now decide for themselves whether or not to allow women to wear burkinis.
In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced plans for a Red Sea beach resort where the law will be changed to allow women to wear bikinis. The project is part of a plan to transform part of the Saudi coastline into a beach resort for the international market. Some observers say the plan is unlikely to succeed.
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute

The future of refugees is turning into slavery – this cannot happen

Yara al-Wazir/Al Arabiya/August 13/17
Since the beginning of 2017, 100,000 refugees have made their way to European mainland by crossing on boats, in search of a new, safe life. This is in addition to the 1 million that have reached Europe since 2015. Throughout the process, thousands have lost their lives at sea. Recent research by Verisk Maplecroft has highlighted that refugees are now becoming at a significant risk of modern slavery, as the risk of modern slavery has risen in nearly three quarters of the 28 member states of the European Union over the last year alone. The report has highlighted that there is a great risk of migrants being turned into slaves for various industries, including agriculture and construction.The countries that are posing the highest risk are Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria, all key entry points for refugees.
The entities to hold accountable for the illegal slavery phenomenon are two – firstly, the smugglers who are operating a business risking peoples lives and dreams by promising refugees a better life across the sea for obscene amounts of money. The second are the local governments for failing to provide provisions for people once they reach the land, and for failing to identify and prosecute the smugglers who bring the refugees to mainland Europe in the first place. Before migrants and refugees are turned into slaves, they are smuggled into Europe. This has created an entire industry of people smugglers, an industry that is reportedly worth $5 billion due to the price that each person pays to be smuggled across the sea. This industry is certainly not financed by those who are incredible wealthy and are able to afford to get across the sea.
The people being smuggled are vulnerable to exploitation on both sides of the sea: prior to reaching Europe, they are exploited in order to pay for their ‘ticket’ across the sea. Once they are in Europe, there is a clear threat for them to fall into the trap of modern slavery. Are aid agencies complicit in this false promise of a future?
Due to the high-risk environment of poorly built and fundamentally unsafe boats, there are numerous large ships and rescue vessels operated by independent NGOs that also roam the seas, particularly the stretch between Italy and North-West Africa. The people being smuggled are vulnerable to exploitation on both sides of the sea: prior to reaching Europe, they are exploited in order to pay for their ‘ticket’ across the sea. Once they are in Europe, there is a clear threat for them to fall into the trap of modern slavery.
The question that raises itself: would people have the confidence to cross the seas on dingy boats, unless they knew there was a large vessel half-way through the ocean that would save them when their boat starts to fail? To an extent, although aid agencies have the best intentions, their constant presence in the seas and their quick-response has created a false sense of relief and support for people who dare to cross the sea, which is inadvertently aiding the whole smuggling industry. The presence of boats funded by aid-agencies is dealing with the back-end of the issue at hand: people dying on dingy boats whilst being smuggled. Instead, the focus must be on stopping the people from getting on these boats in the first place, and instead offering support, help, and dignity in aiding the true refugees in crossing the sea borders between Africa and Europe.
A Band-Aid will not end the core problem: smugglers are turning refugees into slaves . Even before refugees reach mainland Europe, there are numerous reports that they are subject to various forms of exploitation that is borderline sexual slavery, including the sexual slavery of children from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. Every day, Europe is waking up to what is arguably the biggest human crisis in the region: refugees escaping warzones only to find themselves in a state of further despair, death, or even worse: exploitation.
Europe, and the governments of what is former colonial Europe need to wake up and recognize the crisis that countries in North-west Africa and the Middle East have been left with devastation. Ignoring the post-colonial devastation is selfish.
The individuals that are profiteering from this crisis must be stopped. Just as millions of dollars and large amounts of effort are put into fighting the drug smugglers, similar efforts must be put into fighting human smugglers. Action must be taken at the front-end of the crisis: the smuggling enterprises, including the false-façade of ‘legal’ businesses that they operate behind. Frontex policies that include building higher fences and more patrols that return migrants to their port of last departure cannot feature in solving the crisis. Instead, policy-makers must recognize and accept that the policies of exclusion can no longer work. Until significant efforts are made, there will continue to be a risk of refugees turning into slaves.

How can Saudi Arabia prioritize and obtain its strategic interests?
Faisal Al-Shammeri/Al Arabiya/August 13/17
It has been said that “Great Powers do not have friends, they have interests.” As valid as this statement is, it is applicable up and down the ladder in multiple aspects in life. People have interests, businesses as well, along with charities, and many different multitudes of interests are purveyed and relevant throughout the human experience. Interests are to be protected and pursued to a point where results are available for all concerned parties can see the tangible results. Obviously, within the context mentioned in the opening statement, Nation-States have theirs as well. The challenge is how are they not only identified but obtained. A famous German Philosopher, Goethe, once said “That theories are grey but real life is green.”So how do we in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia identify, prioritize and obtain what our strategic interests? And in what set of circumstances are most favorable for this to occur? We are a rising power, one in which the annals of History say will be fought with many challenges, and at times great difficulties incurred, but during this rise to regional hegemony we will be adhering to the maxim of seeking the optimum conditions for achieving our interests. And, generally speaking, what are interests of paramount importance for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? The following list is not all to be sure but a good place to start would be among the following items.
A stable Yemen, non-aligned to individuals and states hostile to the peace and well being of our people or Yemeni’s themselves. A stable Egypt, able to move further away from the chaos and disorder of the post-Mubarak era, and capable of being the regional partner to a multiple of interests both inside and outside the region. A Syria without Bashar al-Assad, non-aligned to individuals and states hostile to the peace and well being of the region as a whole. A stable Iraq, able like Egypt to move along a path further removed from the chaos and violence that has engulfed it. Like Yemen and Syria, it is in our interest to see that Iraq is not used to serve the aims and ambitions of individuals and states hostile to the peace and well being of the region as a whole. As important as the previously mentioned subjects are, of paramount importance is a region where Nation-States do not export radical and violent revolutionary movements, or serve as the launching pads for nefarious individuals whose aims are a permanent trend of instability throughout the Middle East. In conjunction with this we must assert our interests that offensive nuclear weapons do not proliferate throughout the region. So how do we assert our interests and under what conditions are optimum for us to achieve these interests?
Not only should our interests be shared with our partners, but in conjunction with this we should not have to abandon our core principles during the process.
Being objective to the tide of history and the benefits of hindsight it is important to align ourselves with partners who will help us achieve our interests. No great power, rising power, newly created or old Nation-State has ever achieved their strategic interests alone. the United States did not defeat Great Britain on its own during its Revolutionary War, it was aligned with partners who shared the same interest of seeing that North America was not under complete British subjugation and hegemony. Tsarist Russia did not defeat Napoleonic France on its own, it was aligned with three other powers who shared the common interest of not having Napoleon master of The European Continent. Great Britain did not defeat Imperial Germany on its own in World War I, it needed to be aligned with The Western Powers and Tsarist Russia to achieve its interests here. Bolshevik Russia did not defeat National Socialist Germany on its own in World War II, it was aligned with partners who shared the same interests of not seeing Europe dominated by Adolph Hitler. the United States fought in two World Wars and a Cold War to prevent a single entity from having hegemonic domination of The European Continent and mastery of Eurasia. In World War I & II it was involved to prevent Germany from having unlimited access to the raw materials of Russia and Eurasia, and merging it with German manufacturing capacity and technological expertise. the Cold War was the opposite, to prevent Russian and Eurasian abundance of its raw materials having direct access to the manufacturing capacity and technological expertise of Germany. To this day the United States is working on this same aim to protect its interests in that a hostile Eurasia is the only power on Earth at the moment that could potentially defeat militarily the United States in a conventional conflict.
Even the United States in the Cold War, and today in the challenges of Eurasia, has strategic partners to assert its interests. So what conditions are paramount for us achieving our interests?
Pursuing and achieving
What we seek in not only pursuing our interests, but achieving them, are partners who see the importance of our aims. Simply put it cannot be more important to us, than it is to them. In all circumstances whenever one finds themselves in a situation where it is more important to them, than it is for the others who are considering potential involvement it never evolves into tangible results. Our interests, must be jointly shared with all involved. It is in out interests that we have relationships that are mutually acceptable, mutually beneficial, and predictable. Goethe’s comment “That theories are grey and real life is green,” was mentioned earlier within this context.
Not only should our interests be shared with our partners, but in conjunction with this we should not have to abandon our core principles during the process. So regarding the topics outlined earlier: A stable Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, removal of the Butcher of Damascus, the removal of radical, violent, revolutionary ideologies throughout the Middle East and those who support the nefarious entities who carry out these movements, along with a region free of nuclear weapons for offensive capabilities, who else shares these interests? Who else finds these interests as important to them as it is to us? Who else would stand to gain in the benefits obtained by these topics being resolved in a manner providing beneficial results for all? Who else can look at these topics, and wish to work along the lines of being mutually acceptable, mutually beneficial, and predictable with us? The satisfactory outcomes that we desire would benefit not only The Middle East but globally as well. There is more than common cause and overlapping interests here. Also as an undercurrent here is the moral and humanitarian principle that we cannot casually abandon either.
When one is confronted with evil, and chooses to not take a strong stand against it, then this indifference actually enables that evil to flourish. We here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia find these topics not only of our absolute core interests but we cannot abandon them, under no circumstances can we compromise on them as well. This is a time of challenge, but the rise of a Nation-State into a regional power, and beyond, will be fraught with periods of challenge from time-to-time. But behind times of challenge is tremendous opportunity, and the potential to emerge from that period with a greater standing than previously known. To reference some of the earlier examples of Nation-States fraught with challenge let us look at what was the conclusion of these struggles. the United States emerged from its Revolutionary War as an independent nation, and now finds itself as the oldest Constitutional Republic in The Western World with principles born out of that period that to this very day provides it with one of its pillars for its source of power. Tsarist Russia’s faced at the time the greatest invasion force the world had ever seen, against a man who had more power in Europe since The Caesar’s of Rome, of pure military genius, but won, and not only won became a recognized power by The European Powers. At the conclusion of World War I with he defeat of Imperial Germany, Great Britain saw its Empire grow further still to the pinnacle of the Pax Britannica. Bolshevik Russia lost 30,000,000 people in World War II in its fight against National Socialist Germany, but emerged as a one of two Superpowers. And the United States after World War I, II & the Cold War transformed from a rising power, albeit one not sure about where it belonged in the world, to the richest and most prosperous country ever known to mankind. Challenges present opportunity. We are on the doorstep of tremendous opportunity. For our partners if they share our common interests, and these interests are as important to them as it is to us, they too stand to share in the tremendous opportunities that beckon.