January 19/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,  to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone
Titus 03/Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,  to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.  Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.  As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.  Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.  Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 18-19/18
A chilling injustice to one of Lebanon’s bravest women/Alex Rowell/Al-Jumhuriya English/January 18/18
Donald Trump aces mental aptitude test designed by an immigrant to Canada/The Canadian Press The Canadian Press/January 18/2018 
Greece's "Robin Hood" Terrorists/Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/January 18/2018
Palestinians: Abbas's Big Bluff - Again/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/January 18/2018
Persecution of Alevis in Turkey: Threats, Arbitrary Arrests/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/January 18/2018
Why Scientists Solve the Hard Problems First/Faye Flam/Bloomberg/January 18/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on January 18-19/18
Hariri Seeks Formula to Overcome Aoun-Berri Decree Feud
Military Court Orders 6-Month Jail Term for Journalist Hanin Ghaddar
Hariri Urges Calm Political Rhetoric
Aoun: Judgments of Judicial Institutions Must Be Respected
Thorny Extension of Expat Registration Referred to Electoral Panel after Futile Cabinet Debate
Report Links Hacking Campaign to Lebanon's General Security Agency
Shorter Meets Hariri, Stresses 'Importance of Disassociation Policy'
Gunshots Fired during Armed Bank Robbery in Beirut
Sheikh AlAzhar concludes Conference in support of AlQuds: US administration's decision ink on paper
Mashnouk, Othman discuss preparations for Rome 2 conference
Jumblatt tackles situation with Druze Sheikh Akl
Trump hits back after Aide says Wall idea not 'informed'
Egypt's Sisi appoints interim intelligence chief: state TV
Geagea meets Kenaan in presence of Riachi
Audi at Al-Azhar conference: Al-Quds belongs to Christians as much as it belongs to Muslims

Khalil to Hariri: Bringing Extension of Expat Voter Registration to Cabinet
Franjieh Slams FPM 'Dictatorial' Approach, Likens Bassil to Ghazi Kanaan

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 18-19/18
Donald Trump aces mental aptitude test designed by an immigrant to Canada
Pope Renews Call for Jerusalem Status Quo
Syria Threatens to 'Destroy' Turkish Warplanes
Trump Hits Back after Aide Says Wall Idea Not 'Informed'
U.S. Admits Turkey Owed Explanation over Syria Force
Turkey Faces Diplomatic Minefield over New Syria Operation
Human Rights Watch Hails Resistance to Trump-Style Populism
Family of Toronto girl who claimed her hijab was cut apologizes, reports say

Latest Lebanese Related News published on January 18-19/18
Hariri Seeks Formula to Overcome Aoun-Berri Decree Feud
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat.January 18/18/Member of the Future parliamentary bloc MP Samir al-Jisr said that Prime Minister Saad Hariri had a “strong will” to resolve the dispute between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri over the "seniority" decree, noting that the premier was discussing his initiative with the two sides. “The prime minister has delayed putting forward his initiative for a solution in order to discuss his ideas with the concerned parties,” Jisr told Asharq Al-Awsat. He also revealed that contacts away from the spotlight were paving the way for “an understanding that ends the existing dispute,” pointing out that the premier was keen on achieving a political understanding within legal and constitutional frameworks. The dispute between Aoun and Berri broke out when the president and the premier signed a decree promoting a number of Army officers without sending it to the finance minister. Berri has insisted that the decree should have also carried the minister’s signature. On why the decree has not been published in the Official Gazette, Jisr said that the decree “carries a personal character, meaning that it only concerns a few people and therefore does not need to be published in the Official Gazette. A legal source close to Aoun supported Jisr’s opinion, noting in this regard that hundreds of decrees were issued annually and were not published in the Official Gazette, especially personal decrees. The source said it believed that the crisis was “political, not legal”, pointing out that the president “has no desire to enter into disputes with any political party, neither now nor in the future.” On the other hand, sources close to Berri considered that the delay in the publication of the decree in the Official Gazette “means there is a real problem, which the concerned parties refuse to recognize.”

Military Court Orders 6-Month Jail Term for Journalist Hanin Ghaddar
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 18/18/The Military Court has handed down a six-month prison sentence to a journalist for presenting views critical of the army, a court official told the AFP news agency on Thursday. Hanin Ghaddar, also a researcher known for her criticism of Hizbullah, was sentenced in absentia on January 10 over an expose at a conference in the United States, the source said. Her sentence sparked outrage among fellow journalists and academics in Lebanon, where they said free speech and freedom of the press were once again being challenged. The court official said the ruling found Ghaddar, a U.S. resident, guilty of "defaming the Lebanese Army, harming its reputation and accusing it of distinguishing between Lebanese citizens." During a conference session in Washington in 2014, a recording of which is available online, she described the situation in Lebanon as "Sunnis being clamped down by Hizbullah and the Lebanese Army versus Hizbullah militia being the untouchables." The Military Court in Lebanon has a very broad jurisdiction over civilians and rights groups have voiced concern that could be used as a tool for intimidation against free speech and activism.

Hariri Urges Calm Political Rhetoric

Naharnet/January 18/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri chaired a Cabinet meeting on Thursday at the Grand Serail where he criticized media reports picturing “sharp differences” among political parties over contentious issues, saying that things are being exaggerated. “Anyone who sees the sharp statements circulated in media outlets gets the opinion that political parties are deeply divided among themselves,” said Hariri at the beginning of the meeting. “But the truth and reality are quite different. The Cabinet discusses many issues and takes decisions that concern the people's affairs and the country,” he said. Hariri said although political parties have different points of view and believe in addressing issues from different perspectives, but the media is “not serving the people nor the country's interest.”“I wish everyone calms political rhetoric. Solutions can be found through dialogue and quiet discussion,” he concluded.

Aoun: Judgments of Judicial Institutions Must Be Respected
Naharnet/January 18/18/President Michel Aoun stressed on Thursday that judgments made by the judicial institutions “must be respected,” the National News Agency reported. “The judgments and decisions made by the judicial institutions and the supervisory bodies must be respected because these institutions were founded to bring justice,” he told visiting delegation of the Shura Council at the Baabda Palace.The President called for distancing politics from the work of the judiciary, “the more we keep politics away from the work of the judiciary, the more we guarantee justice and equality,” he said

Thorny Extension of Expat Registration Referred to Electoral Panel after Futile Cabinet Debate
Naharnet/January 18/18/The Cabinet on Thursday referred to the electoral ministerial panel a controversial suggestion from Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to extend the deadline for the registration of Lebanese expats who wish to vote abroad in the parliamentary polls, which if approved requires changes to the vote law. The panel is expected to take a decision on Monday. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the suggestion was referred to the panel at the request of Prime Minister Saad Hariri after it was discussed during the cabinet session. “The Free Patriotic Movement had rejected the extension of parliament's term and is currently demanding the implementation of the law, so how can it be accused of seeking to delay the elections?” Bassil had told reporters prior to the session. Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos of the Marada Movement meanwhile said he endorses AMAL Movement's stance, warning that “any amendment would lead to postponing the elections.”Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh, who boycotted the session over issues related to his ministry, said Bassil's proposal is “purely for electoral gain motives.”“It is unnecessary because we're running out of time,” Hamadeh said in a radio interview. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq told reporters before joining the meeting that the government would discuss the proposal although “it is going to be difficult to implement administratively.”Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani said the idea “is a good one” but the process is time-consuming and will leave the government with limited time to process the suggestion until its publication in the Official Gazette.“Extending the registration deadline for expats is a good idea but we have to take into consideration how much time will be left for us until February 15 to open an extraordinary parliament session and a general session before publishing the amendment in the Official Gazette,” he said before the Cabinet meeting. For his part, State Minister for Parliament Affairs of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party Ali Qanso said: “There is no readiness for any amendment to the election law, knowing that we as a party have an interest in this, but it is time-consuming and only complicates differences.”Labor Minister Mohammed Kabbara of al-Mustaqbal Movement said: “Making changes to the new electoral law opens the door for more changes which could lead to postponing the elections.”
Bassil has reportedly argued that expatriates may have been discouraged to register following Hariri's now-reversed resignation. He therefore wishes to give them additional chance now that the political process is “back to normal” after the Premier's withdrawal of his resignation. Speaker Nabih Berri has reiterated that he rejects the suggestion because it entails amendments to the electoral law. Lebanon's elections are scheduled for May, while overseas ballots will be cast in April. Shall the government approve the proposal, registration for expats would be extended until February 15.

Report Links Hacking Campaign to Lebanon's General Security Agency
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 18/18/A major hacking operation tied to Lebanon's main intelligence agency has been exposed after careless spies left hundreds of gigabytes of intercepted data exposed to the open internet, according to a report published Thursday. Mobile security firm Lookout, Inc. and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said the haul, which includes nearly half a million intercepted text messages, had simply been left online by hackers linked to Lebanon's General Directorate of General Security. "It's almost like thieves robbed the bank and forgot to lock the door where they stashed the money," said Mike Murray, Lookout's head of intelligence. Lookout security researcher Michael Flossman said the trove ran the gamut, from Syrian battlefield photos to private phone conversations, passwords and pictures of children's birthday parties. "It was everything. Literally everything," Flossman said.Discoveries of state-sponsored cyberespionage campaigns have become commonplace as countries in the Middle East and Asia scramble to match the digital prowess of the United States, China, Russia and other major powers. But Lookout and EFF's report is unusual for the amount of data uncovered about the spying campaign's victims and its operators.
Notably, their report drew on data generated by suspected test devices — a set of similarly configured phones that appear to have been used to try out the spy software — to potentially pinpoint the hackers' exact address. The report said the suspected test devices all seemed to have connected to a WiFi network active at the intersection of Beirut's Pierre Gemayel and Damascus Streets, the location of the bulky, sandstone-colored high-rise that houses Lebanon's General Directorate of General Security. The Associated Press was able to at least partially verify that finding, sending a reporter to the area around the heavily guarded, antennae-crowned building Wednesday to confirm that the same WiFi network was still broadcasting there. Other data also points to the spy agency: the report said the internet protocol addresses of the spyware's control panels mapped to an area just south of the GDGS building. Electronic Frontier Foundation Director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin said the find was remarkable, explaining that she could think of only one other example where researchers were able to pin state-backed hackers to a specific building. "We were able to take advantage of extraordinarily poor operational security," she said.
The GDGS declined to comment ahead of the report's publication.
The 49-page document lays out how spies used a network of bogus websites and malicious smartphone apps — such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Threema and Signal — to steal passwords or pry into communications, eavesdropping on conversations and capturing at least 486,000 text messages. Some victims were tricked into visiting the websites or downloading the rogue apps by booby trapped messages sent over WhatsApp, the report said. Others may have had malicious programs installed physically when they were away from their phones. Still more may have been lured into compromising their devices by a set of apparently fake Facebook profiles set up to look like attractive young Lebanese women. EFF and Lookout said the spying stretched over 21 different countries, including the United States and several European nations, but they declined to identify any of the victims except in general terms, saying that there were thousands of them and that in many cases it wasn't always obvious who they were. Murray said relevant authorities had been notified of the spying but declined to go into further detail.
Lebanon has historically been a hub for espionage and Lebanese spies have a documented interest in surveillance software. In 2015, for example, the internet watchdog group Citizen Lab published evidence that GDGS had tapped FinFisher, a spyware merchant whose tools have been used to hack into the computers of several African and Middle Eastern dissidents. The hacking campaign exposed Thursday by EFF and Lookout — which they dub "Dark Caracal" — was discovered in the wake of an entirely different cyberespionage campaign targeting Kazakh journalists and lawyers.
An EFF report on the Kazakh campaign published in 2016 caught the attention of researchers at Lookout, who swept through the company's vast store of smartphone data to find a sample of the smartphone surveillance software mentioned in the write-up. It was while pulling on that string that investigators stumbled across the open server full of photos, conversations and intercepted text messages — as well as the link to Lebanon. Galperin and Murray both said researchers were marshalling more evidence and that more revelations were coming.
"Stay tuned," Murray said.

Shorter Meets Hariri, Stresses 'Importance of Disassociation Policy'
Naharnet/January 18/18/British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter on Thursday stressed the importance of Lebanon's so-called disassociation policy during talks with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. "It was an honor to meet Prime Minister Hariri and to discuss upcoming international conferences for Lebanon’s security and prosperity,” Shorter said after the meeting. "The UK is one of the biggest supporters of Lebanon in terms of our security partnership and aid contributions. I look forward to this continuing, in the framework of the relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions and statements of the International Support Group for Lebanon,” the ambassador added. He also said that talks tackled the latest regional developments. “I reiterated to Prime Minister Hariri the importance for the UK of Lebanon’s policy of disassociation to ensure security, stability and prosperity for Lebanon,” Shorter said.He added: "We also discussed the upcoming elections. It remains very important that these happen on 6 May as planned. I discussed with His Excellency, as leader of the Future Movement, the desirability of ensuring that enough women candidates were on the party’s lists to ensure increased representation of women in parliament.”
“This is something which I know many Lebanese are hoping for. I was pleased to hear from His Excellency his assurances that Future Movement is working towards 30% of female candidates on future’s electoral lists,” the ambassador went on to say.

Gunshots Fired during Armed Bank Robbery in Beirut
Naharnet/January 18/18/Masked armed men robbed the Lebanese Swiss Bank in Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hassan Thursday morning, firing gunshots and leaving with $17,000 in cash, media reports said. Video footage recorded by a dreaded employee inside the bank circulated on social media. The video showed the suspects firing gunshots at undisclosed objects but the recording did not show anyone get hurt. The robbers managed to flee in a yellow motorcycle prior to the arrival of law enforcement, according to reports.

Khalil to Hariri: Bringing Extension of Expat Voter Registration to Cabinet

Naharnet/January 18/18/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil warned of attempts to introduce changes to the new electoral law saying they conceal intents to postpone the parliamentary elections, as he lamented listing the controversial topic on the Cabinet's agenda, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. “The issue was discussed within the Ministerial Committee and was a subject of great controversy. The majority's opinion believed it should not be introduced. Only Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil approved this proposal and Prime Minister Saad Hariri supported him,” Khalil told the daily. He said the controversial proposal -listed on the Cabinet agenda for discussion on Thursday- to extend the deadline for voter registration of Lebanese expats “hides plans aiming to postpone the legislative elections.”Bassil had proposed the urgent draft decree to extend the deadline for Lebanese expats to register in the upcoming elections.
“What is the purpose of listing the topic on the Cabinet's agenda? Did not Hariri tell us that he would distance his government from contentious issues? This behavior will place the government at the center of conflicts,” noted Khalil. The AMAL Movement Minister stressed saying: “AMAL Ministers and in coordination with allies will stand against this project which will open the door to a wide range of amendments.” Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri insists that amendments on the new law are out of question adamantly stressing that the polls will be staged on time. The Cabinet is scheduled to discuss several items on Thursday including Bassil's request. Head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Bassil had urged politicians to support the extension in order to encourage Lebanese expats to participate in political life.Lebanon's parliamentary election are scheduled in May, while overseas ballots will be cast in April. By the law, registration deadline for expats expired on November 20, 2017.

Franjieh Slams FPM 'Dictatorial' Approach, Likens Bassil to Ghazi Kanaan
Naharnet/January 18/18/Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh lashed out Thursday at the Free Patriotic Movement and compared its leader Jebran Bassil to Ghazi Kanaan, the long-time head of Syria's security apparatus in Lebanon. “I reiterate that our project won through President Michel Aoun's election, and in the strategic issues we have triumphed with President Aoun,” Franjieh said in an interview with LBCI television. He however blasted Bassil, who is Aoun's son-in-law and his successor as FPM chief. “Bassil declared a war of elimination against us four days after President Aoun's election and we faced a coordination between the FPM and the Lebanese Forces against us,” Franjieh added. “Bassil has surpassed Ghazi Kanaan in his approach towards state institutions,” the Marada leader decried. Asked about the growing spat between Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, Franjieh accused the FPM and the president's aides of deliberately seeking a “problem” with Berri ahead of the May parliamentary elections. “They want a problem to rally Christians in the elections,” the Marada chief charged.

Sheikh AlAzhar concludes Conference in support of AlQuds: US administration's decision ink on paper
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - Sheikh Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyib, delivered a final statement upon the end of the two-day Al-Azhar conference in support of Al-Quds. Sheikh al-Tayyib voiced "unequivocal rejection of the recent US administration decisions which, in the eyes of the Arab, the Muslim world and the free world, are nothing but ink on paper." Al-Azhar International conference in support of Al-Quds was held at Al Azhar Conference Centre in Cairo, organized by the Al-Azhar Al-Sharif in cooperation with the Council of Muslim Elders, under the patronage of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al- Sisi, and in the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Conference was attended by scores of intellectual, religious, political dignitaries and peace lovers from And peace lovers of eighty six countries from different continents of the world, to discuss new mechanisms and methods to preserve the Arab and spiritual identity of Al-Quds, protect the dignity of the Palestinians and their land, and counter the Zionist arrogance that defies international resolutions. Al-Azhar final statement said that the recent US administration decisions affirm the US administration’s prejudice towards the entity of the Zionist occupation. In its final statement, Al-Azhar Conference reiterated affirmation of the "Al-Azhar Al-Sharif document on Al-Quds" issued on November 20, 2011, which stressed the Arab identity of Al-Quds and being an Islamic and Christian holy sanctuary throughout history. The Conference also emphasized that Al-Quds is the eternal capital of the independent state of Palestine, stressing the need for serious work in pursuit of its official declaration, international recognition and its membership in all international organizations and bodies. The Supreme Imam indicated that "Al-Quds is not just an occupied land, a national Palestinian cause, or an Arab national cause... It is even greater than all that... It is an Islamic- Christian holy place." The final statement also voiced rejection of any encroachment on the Arabism identity of Al-Quds, saying the Arabism of Al-Quds is a matter that cannot be violated, infringed or altered. Such a fact is historically stable for thousands of years, the statement asserted. "World Zionist attempts will not succeed in falsifying this fact or erasing it from history," statement corroborated.

Mashnouk, Othman discuss preparations for Rome 2 conference
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Nuhad al-Mashnouk, received Director-General of the Internal Security Forces, Major General Imad Othman, with talks touching on the preparations underway for the Rome Conference 2, which will feature the approval of new aid to the Internal Security Forces.

Jumblatt tackles situation with Druze Sheikh Akl
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - President of the "Democratic Gathering", MP Walid Jumblatt, received at his residence in Clemenceau, the Druze community's Sheikh Akl, Naim Hassan, and tackled with him the current situation.

Trump hits back after Aide says Wall idea not 'informed'
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - US President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that his plan for a wall along the Mexican border has "never changed or evolved," in tweets posted after his chief of staff said he was not "fully informed" when he pledged to build it last year. Retired General John Kelly's remarks, made to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and reported by the New York Times Wednesday, were a rare departure from the president on one of the core issues that defined his upstart run for office. He told the lawmakers he had persuaded Trump the wall was not necessary and that the president's opinion on the barrier had "evolved." But Trump hit back on Twitter, writing: "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it." Meanwhile, Trump also clarified the wall would not be built in areas of natural protection. Kelly was brought in as chief of staff six months ago in a bid to put order to the command center of Trump's chaotic presidency. The Times said that in publicly differing with Trump, Kelly appears to be saying he thinks "that it is his job to tutor a sometimes ill-informed president who has never served in public office before".--AFP

Egypt's Sisi appoints interim intelligence chief: state TV
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi appointed Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel Thursday as interim chief of the country's General Intelligence Service, state television reported. The move comes ahead of a March presidential election where Sisi is expected to run for a second term in office. He has yet to announce his candidacy, however.--Reuters

Geagea meets Kenaan in presence of Riachi
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is currently meeting in Meerab with "Change and Reform" bloc MP Ibrahim Kenaan, in the presence of Information Minister Melhem Riachi.
EU and Middle East and North Africa Join Forces in Beirut to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism.
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - A regional workshop on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, jointly organised by the Lebanese National PVE Coordinator and the European Union was held in Beirut on January 17 and 18. EU Ambassador Christina Lassen opened the workshop on Wednesday, in the presence of MP Bahia Hariri, representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, National PVE Coordinator Mrs. Rubina Abu Zeinab, and the EU's Counter Terrorism Coordinator Mr. Gilles de Kerchove. Ambassador Lassen reiterated the EU's commitment to "approaches that go beyond law enforcement, military or security measures to address development, good governance, human rights and humanitarian concerns." The workshop tackled the topics of radicalisation in prison and online radicalisation. In his speech, Mr. de Kerchove conveyed the difficulty of identifying radicalised inmates at an early stage, a practice that used to be simpler years ago. He also stressed on the importance of rehabilitating prisoners and reintegrating them in society. In this context, the EU Delegation to Lebanon just launched a three-year program targeting violent extremists in Lebanese prisons, with a special focus on the rehabilitation of young adult prisoners. This initiative is based on the belief that an effective criminal justice system that fully respects human rights can significantly deter and prevent terrorist acts. The workshop also addressed the considerable reach and impact terrorist groups have online. Benefiting from a high internet penetration and social media usage across the Middle East and North Africa, and using sophisticated means of communication, terrorist groups were able to create a momentum that will last longer than their military presence. However, a joint effort by the international community, tech companies, local governments and civil society could counter this narrative by providing a peaceful and credible alternative to this violent discourse. The two-day workshop brought together government representatives, experts and civil society groups from the EU and the Middle East and North Africa.

Audi at Al-Azhar conference: Al-Quds belongs to Christians as much as it belongs to Muslims
Thu 18 Jan 2018/NNA - The Beirut Metropolis, Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Elias Audi delivered a speech at the second session of the Al-Azhar International Conference in support of Al-Quds held in Cairo, whereby he said "What Israel is trying to do, supported by the recent US resolution, is to highlight a picture of Jerusalem that conflicts with its history, in addition to what it has done during the past decades of urban, demographic and political change to the city's features."
"Al-Quds has always been and will always remain in our Christian consciousness, the City of Peace. (...) We are not only looking at Al-Quds as a place, but as a reference that carries a spiritual meaning that transcends the vicissitudes of history and politics and its enmities and wars" Audi said.
"Al-Quds is, just like Lebanon, a place for brothers, Christians and Muslims, to meet. It is a place for coexistence between ideas, cultures and religions. Al-Quds belongs to Christians as much as it belongs to Muslims, and concern for it ought to be common," he said.
"Let us together declare that Al-Quds is not a political game. Let us all not allow the desire of those who wish to take Jerusalem away from us be stronger than our serious will to restore the city," Audi concluded.

chilling injustice to one of Lebanon’s bravest women
ظلم قضائي فاضح يطاول الصحافية اللبنانية حنين غدّار

Alex Rowell/Al-Jumhuriya English/January 18/18
The shocking jail sentence issued by Lebanon’s military court against journalist Hanin Ghaddar has been called “one of the worst free speech violations in years.”
BEIRUT, Lebanon – With no fewer than three movies banned, on pretexts including the possibility of “plant[ing] some ideas in some people,” 2018 was already off to a less than fully auspicious start on the cultural freedom front in Lebanon. The news that emerged last night, however, was of an altogether graver and more alarming nature.
Lebanon’s military court, it transpires, has issued a six month jail sentence in absentia to the Lebanese journalist and political analyst Hanin Ghaddar for remarks made about the national armed forces at a conference in Washington in 2014. (A proud disclosure: it was Hanin who, as managing editor of the Now Lebanon publication, gave me my first job in journalism, and with whom I had the privilege of working for more than four years until her departure to Washington in mid-2016.) You read that correctly: Lebanon, described by its Culture Minister three days ago as “the Switzerland of the East”—in the course of his official condemnation of a work of cinema—sentenced a citizen to jail for the utterance of words. The extraordinarily severe sentence has been called “one of the worst free speech violations in Lebanon in years” by Ayman Mhanna, director of Beirut’s SKEyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
Indeed, there is so much that is outrageous about it it’s difficult to know where to begin. First, perhaps, the facts of the ‘case.’ Speaking alongside the then-chief of staff of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Monzer Akbik, on a panel four years ago addressing topics from Syria’s war to the refugee crisis to Iran’s foreign policy, Hanin chanced to opine at a certain point that there was closer cooperation between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah than was healthy; that the latter sometimes acted “through” the former, in her phrasing; and that this was fueling a sense of “injustice” within Lebanon’s Sunni community that was “not going to end well.” For this, the judiciary would have her tossed behind bars, to cohabit a space with killers and other violent convicts, a formal criminal record attached to her name for the rest of her life.
Except it’s not, of course, the ‘judiciary’ at all, which brings us to the second point of absurdity. A military court, generally speaking, handles offenses committed by military personnel only. Lebanon’s own military court indeed falls under the remit not of the Justice Ministry but the Defense Ministry. Its judges, noted Human Rights Watch in an excellent report last year, are not even “required to have a law degree or legal training.” The extent of due process may be surmised by Hanin’s revelation that she was not allowed a lawyer present at the hearing, and she has no right of appeal. Her trial under such circumstances would have been a scandal even had she been fully acquitted.
Then there is the obvious matter of proportionality, a cornerstone of functioning justice systems. To reiterate: jail time, for speech? Monetary fines are, sadly, a common punishment meted out to journalists convicted of libel or defamation in Lebanon. Jail is uncommon even for the most vicious of criminals. Consider that the former cabinet minister, Michel Samaha, was initially sentenced to just four and a half years’ imprisonment for conspiring with the Syrian regime to assassinate senior politicians and religious officials—civilian bystanders be damned—in a series of bombings across the country (the sentence was later upped to thirteen years, but only after furious public uproar). As for the individuals wanted in The Hague for assassinating former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, or those who subsequently murdered over a dozen other politicians, journalists, and activists opposed to Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah.. well, I’d better not finish that sentence. I might risk jail if I did.
Jail, though, may not be quite the right term for Hanin’s case, for in its most immediate effect it’s less a jail sentence than a ban on entering the country; a ban on entering her country. Thus the woman who, on turning 40, had Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry tattooed on her arm is now denied her own right of return—and this not by the Israelis who once occupied her south Lebanese hometown, but by her fellow compatriots.
It’s been a year and a half since I last saw my former editor (the word ‘boss’ would feel wholly unnatural for one so instinctively democratic in spirit, and so bored and unimpressed by authority in all forms; political, religious, societal). If I were to guess how she received the news, it would be: first, with a string of expertly-selected Arabic swear words; second, with two consecutive cigarettes (her signature in times of crisis); and, with that done, a return to total unflappability. A person who’s lived in Hezbollah’s crosshairs for years—a subject of much deranged frothing on Al-Manar, Al-Akhbar, etc.—is not one easy to intimidate. I can testify, not as any kind of flattery, but as a plain statement of fact, that in more than four years of working with her I never saw Hanin afraid to publish her weekly column against the Party of God, or Iran, or Assad, or whoever had done most to infuriate her on the day. To fear someone is, in part, to respect them, whereas it was only ever in sustained and cold contempt that she held such creatures.
And yet, to say she’s brave enough to handle them—or that she now lives in a country with a First Amendment, where she can breathe the fresh air of Freedom, etc.—is not quite the point. There is, for example, the matter of her young son, who may now find it harder to see the rest of his family, and who must be wondering what possible future there could be for him in a country that would lock his mother up for voicing an opinion. (Good luck, by the way, persuading all those émigrés of Lebanese origin in the West to pack their bags and return to the motherland.)
On a final note, it’s worth asking why this has actually happened, almost four years after the ostensible offense took place. It goes without saying Hanin has long embodied Hezbollah’s walking, waking nightmare: an unveiled, secular, freethinking, and self-reliant woman from the heart of the Shiite South. But this can only be a general, underlying factor. My guess as to the proximate trigger would be anxiety in Beirut about precisely the allegation of Lebanese army collusion with Hezbollah, which has been the subject of much-heightened scrutiny in Washington ever since the Republicans retook the White House. Earlier this month, the State Department abruptly suspended $900m in security aid to Pakistan, citing insufficient action taken against jihadists. With a president as volatile as Trump, can anyone say with certainty that Lebanon couldn’t be next? If this is indeed the rationale behind Hanin’s sentence, one can only suggest politely to the authorities here that jailing journalists is rarely a surefire way of ingratiating oneself with democratic governments, and hope that someone in power finds the sense, for Hanin’s sake as well as their own, to undo this most nonsensical injustice.
**Alex Rowell is managing editor of Al-Jumhuriya English. He tweets @alexjrowell.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 18-19/18
Donald Trump aces mental aptitude test designed by an immigrant to Canada
طبيب الأعصاب اللبناني-الكندي زياد ناصر الدين هو صاحب التقييم النفسي الذي استعمله أمس طبيب البيت الأبيض لتقييم الحالة الصحية للرئيس ترامب

The Canadian Press The Canadian Press
Donald Trump aces mental aptitude test designed by an immigrant to Canada
WASHINGTON — When the White House released the results of a test on Donald Trump's mental aptitude Tuesday, showing he aced it without signs of cognitive decline, there was one person out there brimming with pride despite not knowing the president.
That person was Ziad Nasreddine — who designed the test.
The Lebanese-Canadian neurologist learned from a reporter Tuesday afternoon that the White House had selected the Montreal Cognitive Assessment to test the president's faculties after days of speculation about his state.
This was the test Nasreddine developed as a young researcher two decades ago, in an effort to quickly assess, within 10 or 12 minutes, whether someone has suffered light cognitive impairment or the onset of Alzheimer's disease, by asking them to perform tasks such as drawing a clock, identifying animals and remembering words. He says it has now been used in 200 countries, in 60 languages, and has been deployed in one developing country to demonstrate its leader was no longer fit to govern. On Tuesday, the White House announced Trump's score: 30 for 30.
''It's really an honour for me,'' said Nasreddine, now affiliated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities in Quebec. ''I'm really thrilled, and happy they decided to use it over other tests.''The White House doctor announced during a briefing with reporters that he selected the Montreal cognitive test among several available. Dr. Ronny Jackson — who also worked with the previous administration, and was praised in social media by former Barack Obama staff — said he never doubted this president's cognitive ability. He said he talks to Trump daily, and didn't feel he even needed the test.
''The president asked me to do it,'' Jackson said.
Washington had been abuzz in recent days with details from a tell-all-style book suggesting everyone in Trump's entourage questions his mental stability. Trump had responded by referring to himself as a "stable genius,'' and requested the cognitive exam.
Nasreddine cautioned that his exam doesn't test for everything. It's designed to identify early cognitive decline — not other psychological issues, or personality attributes, such as judgment. He also points out that it can be tricked by someone with a very high level of education.
''The test is a screening measure. It has limitations,'' he said. ''It's a test mostly for executive functions, and memory. Meaning organization, planning, abstract thinking... (Still), if it's 30 on 30 it's really reassuring — in terms of the ability of the person to have minimum cognitive function to be able to do important things, in terms of language, memory, executive function. It does not absolutely assess personality issues.''
He's proud of one other thing about this news.
Nasreddine came to Canada as a teenager with his Druze family during the civil war in his homeland, Lebanon. He was 15. He, his widowed mother, and his sisters came to visit an uncle for the summer of 1983 — and, with their country ravaged by sectarian strife, they stayed.
They applied for permanent residency; he went to school, eventually attended the University of California at Los Angeles, and moved back to Canada in the 1990s when he designed the cognitive test. He recognizes the irony of his test having helped a president who kept out war refugees, promoted a Muslim travel ban, is working to end chain migration where relatives help other relatives immigrate and reportedly used crude terms during Oval Office meetings to describe poor countries immigrants come from.
He says he hopes the president draws some lessons from his story.
''I'm an immigrant,'' said Nasreddine.  ''It's an honour for me to be able to contribute, to assessing the president of the United States. No matter who the person is, for me it's an honour. ... I think immigrants can be proud that they are contributing. And this is a good example, I think, that will be helpful to change views about immigration. And maybe for Mr. Trump himself to consider immigrants as contributors to advancing science, advancing our societies.''
**Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Pope Renews Call for Jerusalem Status Quo
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 18/18/Pope Francis has again stressed the importance of preserving the status quo in Jerusalem and urged fresh talks between Israel and Palestinians on a two-state solution, the Vatican said Thursday. The Argentine pontiff strongly opposed United States President Donald Trump's bitterly-contested move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plans to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. Referring to "the unique nature of Jerusalem" in a letter to Egypt's top Muslim cleric Ahmed al-Tayeb, Francis said that "only a special status, guaranteed by the international community, can preserve its identity, (and) unique vocation as a place of peace." Only in that way "would allow a future of reconciliation and hope for the entire region," he said. "The Holy See will not cease from urgently calling for dialogue to resume between Israelis and Palestinians for a negotiated solution aimed at the peaceful coexistence of two states," the letter continued. Jerusalem, which contains sites considered sacred by Christians, Jews and Muslims, is of huge importance to both Israel and the Palestinians and Francis had already urged in December for the "status quo" to be respected. There were protests in the Middle East and elsewhere over Trump's declaration, a move that drew global condemnation and sparked days of unrest in the Palestinian territories.

Syria Threatens to 'Destroy' Turkish Warplanes

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 18/18/Deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad warned on Thursday that Syria's air force could destroy any Turkish warplanes used in a threatened assault on the war-torn country. "We warn that the Syrian Air Force is ready to destroy Turkish air targets in the skies of Syria," Mekdad told reporters, according to Syria's official SANA news agency. "We warn the Turkish leaders that if they start fighting in the region of Afrin, it will be seen as an aggression by the Turkish army against the sovereignty of Syria," he added. Afrin is among the areas Turkey has said it will attack in northern Syria to target the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. Ankara accuses the YPG of being a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said at the weekend it was working to create a 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria. Ankara immediately objected, fearing the new force would be comprised of the YPG. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week that Turkey had to "nip this terror army in the bud."The United States later insisted it does not intend to create an army or conventional border guards. Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey would soon begin an operation against towns in Syria controlled by Kurdish militia, calling the areas "nests" of terror. "Tomorrow, (or) the day after, (or) within a short period, we will get rid of terror nests one-by-one in Syria starting with Afrin and Manbij" in northern Syria, he said in a televised speech.

Trump Hits Back after Aide Says Wall Idea Not 'Informed'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 18/18/US President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that his plan for a wall along the Mexican border has "never changed or evolved," in tweets posted after his chief of staff said he was not "fully informed" when he pledged to build it last year. Retired General John Kelly's remarks, made to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and reported by the New York Times Wednesday, were a rare departure from the president on one of the core issues that defined his upstart run for office. He told the lawmakers he had persuaded Trump the wall was not necessary and that the president's opinion on the barrier had "evolved." But Trump hit back on Twitter, writing: "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."The president added that some of the wall will be "see through" -- a protection, he said last July, against people throwing "large sacks of drugs" over -- and repeated that it will be paid for "directly or indirectly" by Mexico. "The $20 billion dollar Wall is "peanuts" compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!" he said, reasserting his position on the trade pact which is currently being renegotiated.
Meanwhile, Trump also clarified the wall would not be built in areas of natural protection. Kelly was brought in as chief of staff six months ago in a bid to put order to the command center of Trump's chaotic presidency. The Times said that in publicly differing with Trump, Kelly appears to be saying he thinks "that it is his job to tutor a sometimes ill-informed president who has never served in public office before".

U.S. Admits Turkey Owed Explanation over Syria Force
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 18/18/U.S. officials mis-spoke about a plan to set up a 30,000-strong militia in eastern Syria and owe angry ally Turkey an explanation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson admits. On Sunday, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria announced that it was training local fighters, including Kurdish militia, as a "border security force."Turkey, which regards the U.S.-backed YPG militia as a faction of the outlawed Kurdish separatist PKK and thus a terrorist group, reacted with fury and vowed to destroy the new unit. Pentagon officials have since backtracked on how they describe the force, insisting it will operate within Syria to protect areas liberated from the Islamic State group. But Turkey has not been reassured and Tillerson, who met his Turkish counterpart Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday in Vancouver, admits the issue was badly handled. "It's unfortunate that entire situation has been mis-portrayed, mis-described. Some people mis-spoke," he told reporters on his plane late Wednesday. "We are not creating a border security force at all," he said, adding that he had spoken to US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to confirm this. "We have shared with the Turks what we are doing is we are trying to ensure that local elements are providing security to liberated areas," he explained.In Ankara, even after talking to Tillerson, Cavusoglu said Turkey continues to reject the idea of the force. "Did this satisfy us in full? No, it did not," he told CNN-Turk television. "The establishment of a so-called terror army would cause irreversible damage in our relations ... it is a very serious situation," he warned. Tillerson explained that the Islamic State group, while diminished, is still capable of carrying out attacks in parts of northwest Syria and in the Euphrates valley. The new U.S.-backed force "is just more training and trying to block ISIS from their escape routes" he said, not a means to protect Kurdish areas on the Turkish border. "I think it's unfortunate that comments were made by some that left that impression. That is not what we're doing," he said. "We owe them an explanation. It was not properly described, and it's unfortunate. We understand why they reacted the way they did."

Turkey Faces Diplomatic Minefield over New Syria Operation
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/January 18/18/Turkey has ramped up its rhetoric to threaten an imminent cross-border incursion against Kurdish militia in Syria but the attitude of Russia and to a lesser extent the United States will determine the nature of the operation, analysts say. The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia controls key northern Syrian towns including Manbij and Afrin, and is an ally of the U.S. but Ankara accuses the group of being a terror organization. Tensions have risen to a new peak in the last days after the United States announced plans for a new 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria that would be composed partly of YPG fighters. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to destroy the force, describing it as an "army of terror". "The preparations have been completed, the operation could start at any moment," Erdogan said this week, as the Turkish army sent dozens of military vehicles and hundreds of additional personnel to the border area.
'Needs Russian green light'
Yet executing the operation on the ground -- especially against a well-populated urban center such as Afrin -- could prove much harder than making threats in fiery language. Crucial will be the attitude of Russia, which has worked increasingly closely with Turkey on Syria in the last year but has a military presence in the area where it cooperates with the YPG. "Can Ankara dare to attack Afrin without getting a green light from Russia? It's a sure 'no' for me," said Metin Gurcan, security analyst at Istanbul Policy Center and Al Monitor columnist. He said that despite the increasingly inflammatory language from Erdogan, a full operation would require that Russia open Afrin's air space to Turkey and withdraw its soldiers from the area. Tensions between Moscow and Ankara have grown in the last days as Russia seeks wide attendance at a peace conference on Syria at the end of the month. But Turkey insists it will not attend if the YPG is there. In a potentially decisive meeting, Turkey's army chief General Hulusi Akar and spy supremo Hakan Fidan held talks in Moscow on Thursday with Russian counterparts on Syria.
'Hard to back down'
"The only external power that can stop an invasion at this point is Russia," said Aaron Stein, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center. He said Erdogan had threatened incursions inside Syria "once a week, every week" for the past year since the Euphrates Shield incursion Turkey launched in August 2016, which ended the following spring. "What makes this different is that the rhetoric is far more specific, pointed and hostile towards the U.S. I assume that he will carry out his threat, but the scale of the operation is still an unanswered question," he said. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted Thursday that Russia would not oppose an Afrin operation, saying that Ankara needed to coordinate with Moscow to ensure its military observers on the ground were not harmed. Aaron Lund, a fellow with The Century Foundation, said that "it would be hard for Erdogan to back down at this point" following such "loud and persistent" threats. He said if the operation turned into full-out combat, much of the actual fighting would be done by Turkey-backed Syrian rebel forces like in the Euphrates Shield operation. But he added that Afrin has tough terrain and was well fortified while the "YPG is a disciplined and effective force."
'Not a U.S. problem'
Moreover, any Turkish intervention may not find the warmest of receptions in Washington, which has closely cooperated with the YPG as its main ally on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group. Yet Afrin -- which lies to the west of the main Kurdish zone of influence in Syria -- may not be a prime concern of Washington which is more interested in the Kurdish-controlled areas stretching east to the Iraqi border. "As far as I can tell, the Americans do not view Afrin as being their problem," said Lund, saying the American military was in Syria on a "fairly narrow counter-terrorism mandate.""That said, they must be worried that this could create trouble for them" especially if Turkey fired on YPG-controlled areas to the east with a U.S. presence, he said. Stein said there was a "recognition in Washington that this is a Turkish show" and "little to be done to dissuade Erdogan" if he chooses to go ahead with the incursion.

Human Rights Watch Hails Resistance to Trump-Style Populism

The policies of U.S. President Donald Trump and his embrace of populist strongmen have dealt a blow to rights campaigns around the world but resistance is building, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. In its annual report, the group denounced rights abuses in unstable states like Syria and Myanmar as well as authoritarian trends in powers like Turkey and China -- while also weighing in on the first year of Trump's term. Under Trump, the United States cosied up to leaders like the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte and encouraged Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's bloody intervention in Yemen, HRW said. But in an interview with AFP, the group's executive director Kenneth Roth hailed the growing civic and political resistance to populists.
Unlikely champions
"The big theme this year is really how much the world has changed," Roth said. "Because a year ago, just as Donald Trump was entering the White House, it was a moment of despair. "What has been encouraging over the last year is how much resistance we've seen in many countries to this rise of populism." He cited signs that Duterte was now encountering domestic resistance to his brutal anti-drugs crackdown and that Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro has had to contend with sustained street protests. He also praised the role of Western nations in pressing nations to end rights abuses, such as Iceland's efforts at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which led Duterte to rein in his "murderous police." And when Russia vetoed bids to hold Syria to account, "it was the superpower of Lichtenstein that led an effort at the U.N. General Assembly to appoint a special prosecutor," Roth said drily.
French 'turning point'
Roth also noted efforts by U.S. judges and activists to fight back -- not always successfully -- against measures such as Trump's moves to curb immigration from Muslim-majority nations. He also hailed Emmanuel Macron's victory over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election. "The reason we chose Paris to issue this report is really because of Macron's electoral campaign," Roth said at a press conference Thursday. "We saw it as a real turning point in the reaction to the rise of populism," he said, referring to Macron's criticism of the rights records of Russia and Turkey during meetings with those countries' leaders.
But Roth noted that Macron had not pressed China's leaders on human rights during his visit there this month and also expressed concern over France's tough new anti-terror laws. "We are worried that the greater ease with which the police can conduct searches, restrain some people's movements, close off certain facilities, is going to lend itself to discriminatory abuse, particularly against the Muslim population," he said.
Saudi prince: reformer or warmonger?
Myanmar saw its cautious year-old transition towards elected civilian rule morph into a "massive human rights and humanitarian crisis" for its Muslim minority, the HRW report said. According to the group 650,000 members of the Rohingya minority fled "mass killings, sexual violence, arson and other abuses amounting to crimes against humanity by the security forces."Most criticism -- and some new U.S. sanctions -- has been aimed at Myanmar's generals, sparing the country's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. "Nobody believes that she led the ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, but she has in essence defended it. She's refused to publicly criticize it," Roth told AFP. In the Middle East, HRW said weapons supplied by the U.S. and Britain had killed civilians in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of regional allies battling Shiite Huthi rebels backed by Iran. "The war is also exacerbating the world's largest humanitarian catastrophe. Both sides are unlawfully impeding the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid," the report said. Although the crown prince is seen as pushing a modernizing drive such as allowing women to drive and arresting princes suspected of corruption, he has also pursued the blockade of Yemeni ports.," he said.

Family of Toronto girl who claimed her hijab was cut apologizes, reports say
The Canadian Press The Canadian Press/January 18/18/TORONTO — The family of an 11-year-old Toronto girl has reportedly apologized for the "pain and anger" they caused, after the girl's claim that a man cut her hijab turned out not to be true."This has been a very painful experience for our family," said the statement, first reported by the Toronto Star. "We want to thank everyone who has shown us support at this difficult time. Again, we are deeply sorry for this and want to express our sincere apologies to every Canadian."Toronto police began investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime last Friday, after the girl said she was attacked twice on the way to school by a man who cut her hijab with scissors.The alleged incident made international headlines and drew swift public condemnation from the prime minister, Ontario's premier and Toronto's mayor. On Monday, police announced that their investigation was complete and the alleged incident did not happen. They said no charges would be laid. Spokesman Mark Pugash said in an interview that police weren't prepared to discuss how the situation escalated. He stressed that it's "very unusual" for someone to make such false allegations, and he hopes it will not discourage others from coming forward. Canadian Muslim organizations expressed similar concerns, saying they feared others who experience hate crimes may be reluctant to report them out of worry that they will not be believed. In their statement Wednesday, the girl's family said when they heard her story, they "assumed it to be true, just like everyone else."They added, "We only went public because we were horrified that there was such a perpetrator who may try to harm someone else."The Canadian Press/Note to readers: This is a corrected story to clarify a comment attributed to police spokesman Mark Pugash

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 18-19/18
Greece's "Robin Hood" Terrorists
Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/January 18/2018
It is extremely difficult for angry, misinformed citizens to distinguish between lies and the truth, particularly when there is much more than a grain of truth to the terrorists' claims that the Greek legal system is corrupt.
The judiciary has played, and still plays, an active role in the economic and political deprivation of the Greek populace. It is the Greek people's sense of injustice that is being exploited by far-Left activists, whose real goal is to spread a radical anti-Western ideology, including open hostility to Israel and the United States.
The radical leftist Greek organization, the Group of People's Fighters (OLA), which claimed responsibility for the December 22 bombing of the Athens Court of Appeal, has been committing terrorist attacks on governmental targets since 2013, when the country entered its serious debt crisis. According to the Greek authorities the OLA has ties with the terrorist organization "Revolutionary Struggle" (EA), and attacked at the past the offices of New Democracy political party, a Bank, the Greek Industrialists Association and the German Ambassador's home in Athens.
Police examine the scene of a car bomb explosion in Athens, Greece on April 10, 2014. The bomb exploded outside a Bank of Greece building. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
The OLA boasted of this and other attacks on the "bourgeois, imperialist and capitalist" government institutions, the media and businesses in a 4,500-word manifesto published on the anarchist website Indymedia. Among the declarations in its lengthy rant is a message of
"solidarity to the Palestinian people who accept the raging attack of American imperialism and Zionism, after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In this context, it is our imperative international duty to sabotage by any means the reactionary axis of Greece-Cyprus-Israel-Egypt, as well as all kinds of Greece's cooperation with reactionary regimes such as that of Saudi Arabia. The weapons of the Palestinian Resistance organizations, the stones, the knives and the Molotov cocktails of Intifada will win!"
On Christmas, three days after the Court of Appeal bombing, members of Rouvikonas, an anarchist group, sprayed the entrance to the Israeli Embassy in Athens with paint. In an online video claiming responsibility for the vandalism, the group also expressed solidarity with the Palestinians, to whom it referred as "the people who for decades has been the victim of oppression... [and] ethnic cleansing at a low intensity level."
Rouvikonas is the group that attacked the Saudi Embassy in Athens earlier in December, smashed its windows with rocks, staged a protest near the El Al Airlines counter at the Athens International Airport in 2016, and shouting slogans against Israel and the Mossad.
Both the OLA and Rouvikonas use the propaganda tactics of more veteran Greek terrorist organizations, such as the now-defunct 17 November, to achieve their geopolitical goals. They present themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods, "robbing from the rich" capitalists and metaphorically "giving to the poor" -- or, as the OLA manifesto says, "protecting the public interest" [from] the "robbers of usury."
In the 1980s and 1990s, although Greece's political-institutions system of governance enjoyed social legitimacy, there were many Greeks who viewed left-wing terrorism as a fight for social justice against the state's control over politics and the economy. Today, when all the institutions of Greek democracy have failed, and the country is hostage to creditors and European austerity policies, a much larger portion of the public is prepared to embrace the anti-government, anti-Western positions of the terrorists.
It is extremely difficult for angry, misinformed citizens to distinguish between lies and the truth, particularly when there is much more than a grain of truth to the terrorists' claims that the Greek legal system is corrupt. The judiciary has played, and still plays, an active role in the economic and political deprivation of the Greek populace. It is the Greek people's sense of injustice that is being exploited by far-Left activists, whose real goal is to spread a radical anti-Western ideology, including open hostility to Israel and the United States.
Ironically, a recent poll showed that a majority of Greeks favor the enhancement of ties with the Trump administration. This could be the result of a growing fear of global jihad, the Islamic world's influence on the Greek political echelon, and weariness over decades of anti-Semitism cultivated by both the radical Left and Right. This is causing the radical groups in Greece's "deep state" to increase their violence and vandalism, an end to which we are not likely to see any time soon.
*Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a post-graduate degree in "Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East" from the University of Athens.
© 2018 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.

Palestinians: Abbas's Big Bluff - Again
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/January 18/2018
In his desperation, Abbas hurls abuse and in all directions. He has resorted to his old-new strategy of warning us that if his demands are not met, World War III will break out. Abbas would like us to believe that the Palestinian issue should remain at the center of the world's attention -- otherwise, there will be bloodshed and violence on the streets of most countries.
Should anyone take Abbas's threats seriously? The answer is simple: No.
The war to destroy Israel is still in full force. The Palestinians have not brought up a new generation that recognizes Israel's right to exist; on the contrary, they have brought up a generation that believes in jihad and death, one that denies any Biblical Jewish history or links to the Holy Land.
PLO leaders who met in Ramallah on January 15 recommended that the Palestinians revoke their recognition of Israel.
The recommendation came in response to US President Donald Trump's announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The PLO leaders also advised their leadership to suspend security coordination with Israel. They also called for revising all agreements signed with Israel, including the Oslo Accords.
The meeting of the PLO Central Council was chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas, who in the past few weeks has chosen to embark on an open collision course with the US administration, possibly in the hope that US Department of State will back down as it always previously has.
Abbas has been in a belligerent mode since Trump's December 6 announcement on Jerusalem. In a speech before the PLO Central Council session, Abbas mocked Trump and hurled abuses at him. Abbas said he hoped God would "destroy" Trump's house. The Arabic Yakhrab baytu means "May his house be destroyed". According to The Guardian, Abbas "did not literally mean the White House or Trump Tower. But its wider sense is unmissable."
Abbas's speech also contained anti-Semitic remarks in which he claimed that Israel was a colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism.
Abbas also directed his hate against the Arab countries and those Palestinians who oppose his policies and autocratic leadership.
His hateful remarks against the US administration and Israel reflect the growing state of isolation in which the Palestinian leader recently finds himself.
Although Abbas did not mention the Arab countries by name, it was obvious that he was referring to Saudi Arabia and Egypt when he demanded that the Arab world stop meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. This was a speech by a leader who feels that he is becoming more irrelevant with every day that passes.Abbas's anger at the Arab countries stems from his belief that he is being shortchanged by them in his confrontation with the Trump administration and Israel. Abbas, like many Palestinians, feels that the Arab countries have once again turned their backs on their Palestinian brothers and are fed up with the Palestinian leadership's whining and lack of credibility.
Abbas and the Palestinians miss the days of the Obama administration, which they felt was hostile to Israel and constantly sided with them. Abbas must have gotten quite used to sympathetic comments directed toward the Palestinians from the Obama administration. For Abbas and the Palestinians, each time the Obama administration condemned Israel over "settlement construction," those were the good old days – which now seem to have vanished with the arrival of a new president at the White House.
Abbas, in his desperation, hurls abuse -- and in all directions. He has resorted -- again -- to his old strategy of warning us that if his demands are not met, World War III will break out. Abbas would like us to believe that the Palestinian issue should remain at the center of the world's attention – otherwise, there will be bloodshed and violence on the streets of most countries.
Should anyone take Abbas's threats seriously? The answer is simple: No.
Abbas's threat to revoke the PLO's recognition of Israel is meaningless. True, the PLO in 1993 recognized the right of Israel "to exist in peace and security," but this recognition was essentially revoked, as it was never given any teeth in the first place
Since 1993, the Palestinian leadership has been preaching precisely the opposite to its people. It has done everything but persuade Palestinians to recognize Israel's right to exist.
In fact, the Palestinian propaganda machine in the past two decades, since the signing of the Oslo Accords, has been working hard to delegitimize Israel and demonize Jews. The thrust of the Palestinian narrative has been: Israel has no right to exist in the Middle East. Period. The Jews were supposedly dumped there after World War II in compensation for the Holocaust; this is not their land – and this, despite Jews having lived on that land continuously for more than 3,000 years.
In a speech earlier this week, Abbas repeated that message when he denied any Jewish attachment to Israel. He then further reinforced this message by asserting that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
As if that were not clear enough, many of Abbas's officials have been even more honest and emphatic on the issue of refusing to recognize Israel. Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesman for Abbas's Fatah faction, was quoted several weeks ago stating that, contrary to claims, Fatah had never recognized Israel's right to exist. The whole issue of recognizing Israel's right to exist might sound like a joke when one hears and watches the statements of Palestinian leaders and spokesmen over the past two decades; these are statements that indicate anything but recognizing Israel and a desire to live with it in peace and security.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during at the UN General Assembly in New York, September 20, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
Israel has reaped no benefit whatsoever from the PLO's purported recognition in 1993 of Israel's right to exist.
The war to destroy Israel is still in its full force. The Palestinians have not brought up a new generation that recognizes Israel's right to exist; on the contrary, they have brought up a generation that believes in jihad and death, one that denies any Biblical Jewish history or links to the Holy Land.
So when Palestinian leaders threaten to withdraw their recognition of Israel, they are simply lying to themselves and the rest of the world.
They are also lying when they talk about halting or suspending security coordination with Israel.
We have become used to hearing this tall tale. Abbas and his officials make this threat whenever they feel that the world is not surrendering to their demands. A few months ago, Abbas pulled the same trick when he announced that he was halting security coordination with Israel. In the end, it turned out he was bluffing once again. Abbas knows that the day he stops working with Israel is the day Hamas will "eat him for breakfast" and take over the West Bank. Abbas is well aware that he is in power in the West Bank thanks to the presence of the Israel Defense Forces.
Abbas is banking on the world having a short memory. The statement issued by the PLO Central Council is almost 100% percent identical to a similar communiqué issued by the same body in 2015. Then, the PLO Central Council also recommended revoking recognition of Israel and suspending security coordination. That communiqué remained just ink on paper; it was meant for the purpose of extorting more money from the international community.
More than two years later, Abbas is up to his old antics. The difference is that now he is approaching the 13th year of his four-year term in office. When will he learn? Better yet: When will we learn?
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2018 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.

Persecution of Alevis in Turkey: Threats, Arbitrary Arrests
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/January 18/2018
Just like the Christian, Jewish, and Yazidi communities in Turkey, Alevis have also been victims of Islamic supremacism for centuries -- both in the Ottoman Empire and in the Republic of Turkey.
In Istanbul, the door of an Alevi family was vandalized with a red symbol. "Get out, heathen" and "Islam" were written on the door.
Turkey's membership in the NATO since 1952, its negotiations for full membership to the EU since 2005, and its countless military, economic, and diplomatic agreements with the West, have done nothing to reduce the persecution against religious minorities in the country.
Pressures against the Alevi community in Turkey are becoming alarmingly commonplace.
Just like the Christian, Jewish, and Yazidi communities in Turkey, Alevis have also been victims of Islamic supremacism for centuries -- both in the Ottoman Empire and in the Republic of Turkey.
Alevis are a religious minority Turkey with a distinct faith, philosophy, and culture that largely upholds secularism and humanism. Turkey's Alevi community is estimated in the tens of millions -- up to 25% of the population, making up the country's largest minority. But the number is only an approximation, because legally, Alevis in Turkey are "non-existent". The Turkish government does not officially recognize them, so it does not include them in a census and counts them as "Muslims."
Recently, officials at the Istanbul airport seized the passport of Fatma Tunç, the wife of a dissident author, Aziz Tunç. Mrs. Tunç was preparing to board a plane to Germany when she was told by officials that her passport has been cancelled because "there are dangerous people in her family" and that for her to travel outside of Turkey, her husband and son would have to return. Aziz Tunç's passport has also been cancelled due to his being prosecuted at a political trial in Turkey.
Mr. Tunç, a columnist and the author of two books about the 1978 Alevi massacre in the city of Maraş in southeastern Turkey, and his son, have been living in exile in Germany for the past two years, as a result of government persecution. "This is downright hostage-taking," he said.
"It is illegal, immoral, and inhumane. This has not only been done to me. This has been done to many people in Turkey... As can be seen, there is... unrestrained tyranny [in Turkey]. And we are forced to live in exile because we express these things. And we are punished like this."
Pressures against the Alevi community in Turkey take several forms -- such as mass murders, the lack of official recognition of their places of worship, and arbitrary arrests. Particularly since the failed coup d'état against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, many Alevis have been arrested for allegedly having ties with something the Turkish government calls the "Fethullah Terrorist Organization" (FETO), naming it after Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has for years been living in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The Turkish government after accuses Gülen of organizing the attempted coup.
Other examples of the persecution of Alevis include:
Erkan Topçu, a high school teacher and the head of the Mürteza Alevi Bektashi Education and Culture Association in the city of Isparta, for example, was arrested within the investigation of the coup for "being a member of FETO" in October 2016.
Also in October, 2016, Hasan Ateş, an Alevi dede (faith leader) in the city of Izmir, was also arrested for being a member of FETO and for "using Bylock", an encrypted messaging app, which has been linked to FETO by the government.
Unfortunately, the government's crackdown on Alevis has been escalating; now, Alevi journalists are also targeted. TV10, the television channel known as "the voice of Alevis", was closed down in September 2016 after the failed coup, allegedly "for threatening national security and belonging to a terror organization."
Two officials of the Alevi-run TV10, Veli Büyükşahin and Veli Haydar Güleç were arrested on January 10. Recently, Kemal Demir, an employee of TV10, was also arrested.
"These detentions and the government's intentional harassment of the Alevi media have no meaning other than attempting to shape the Alevi media," said Şükrü Yıldız, former chairman of TV10, and called the arrests "an attack against the Alevi faith and resistance."
Alevi citizens are also threatened inside their homes: red crosses and threatening graffiti are drawn on their doors and walls.
Last November, unknown perpetrators painted red crosses on the front doors of 13 Alevi homes.
A week later, in Bahçelievler district of Istanbul, the door of another Alevi family was marked with a similar red symbol. "Get out, heathen" and "Islam" were also written on the door.
The vandalism of Alevi homes concern the Alevi community, to say the least; they have been exposed to many massacres and pogroms in Turkey. These include but are not limited to the 1921 Kocgiri Massacre, 1937-1938 Dersim (Tunceli) Massacres, 1938 Erzincan Zini Gedigi Massacre, 1978 Malatya Massacre, 1978 Sivas Massacre, 1978 Maras Massacre, 1980 Corum Massacre, 1993 Sivas Massacre and 1995 Istanbul, Gazi Quarter Massacre.
The faces of many of the victims who were murdered in the 1993 Sivas massacre are featured on this poster, used in a 2012 commemoration in Germany. (Image source: Bernd Schwabe, Wikimedia Commons)
Alevis were victims of other physical attacks in Ortaca, Mugla in 1966, in Elbistan, Maras in 1967, in Hekimhan, Malatya in 1968, and in Kirikhan, Hatay in 1971, among others. During these massacres or pogroms, many Alevi residents were murdered or had to flee their cities.
"If you go to the Kizilay city center in Ankara today and ask people if they are Alevis, the majority will deny it," said Kemal Bulbul, an Alevi author and rights activist, explaining that Alevis hide their identity due to the systematic persecution and discrimination Alevis they have suffered.
"For what has been experienced cannot be erased from memories. Alevis were not only massacred in Yozgat, Tokat, Amasya, but also in Thrace and the Mediterranean. The Alevi dargahs (shrines built over the graves of revered religious figures) have been raided, plundered, burnt down, and destroyed."
Alevism: A faith outside Islam
The founding government of the Republic of Turkey, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, banned Alevism and its places of worship in 1925, while institutionalizing Sunni Islam through the establishment of Diyanet (Directorate of Religious Affairs) in 1924. The Diyanet was, and still is, a major violation of secularism. Since that ban, Alevism has not been officially recognized; Alevis have been deprived of religious liberty and freedom of expression regarding their faith.
Alevism is a distinct religion, philosophy and culture, the existence of which predates Islam. Alevism upholds secularism and humanism. A common misconception about Alevism is that it is a sect or an interpretation of Islam.
A group of Alevi dedes and pirs (faith leaders) carried out a workshop on Alevism in the city of Dersim (Tunceli) in 2015; there, they agreed that Alevism is a faith outside Islam.
Mustafa Genç, an Alevi dede (faith leader), one of the Alevi representatives who attended the workshop, said that Alevism and Sunni Islam "are never on the same line":
"In Sunnism, they pray five times a day and fast for a month. These things do not exist in the Alevi faith. According to our faith, God is in the human and not in the sky. In the Alevi faith, women are sacred and to divorce a woman is the most difficult thing. This is not the case in Sunnism. Sunni Muslims think a man can marry four women."
The prominent Alevi scholar Mehmet Bayrak also emphasizes that Alevism is a distinct religion, separate from Islam.
"As our people [in Turkey] only think of divine religions when religion is discussed, they cannot comprehend that Alevism is a distinct religion. They immediately ask 'Who is the Allah and prophet of Alevism?'. However, there is a category called natural religions and they still exist. And Alevism is one of them."
Bayrak explains that Alevism took certain things from other religions and gave certain things to them and is much closer to Christianity than to Islam.
"For example, one cannot see one tenth of the similarity between Alevism and Christianity in the similarity between Alevism and Islam.... Islam has a history of at least 1400-1500 years and they [Alevis and Muslims] have lived side by side or with one another in this area. So, Alevism took some motifs from Islam and melted them within itself. For example, there is a massive difference between the culture of Ali in Alevism and the Ali in Islam. Alevism created a new, distinctive cult of Ali."
Bayrak lists some of the differences between Alevism and Islam:
"Islam has five pillars. Alevism do not practice any of them. For example, Alevis fast but it is completely different from the fasting in Islam. Alevis do not do pilgrimage [to Mecca], they do not say shahada [the Islamic declaration of faith]. And Alevis do not do salah [five daily prayers] ... For someone to be a Muslim, they should also accept the requirements of faith (iman). Muslims say, 'I believe in the God of Islam and its prophet; I believe in the book of Islam; I believe in the afterlife; I believe benevolence and evil come from Allah.' Alevis do not believe any of these things. They carry out neither the pillars nor the requirements of faith of Islam. So, Alevism is a distinct faith. And it is completely wrong to see Alevism as an entity, version, denomination or sect of Islam."
According to Bayrak, one of the reasons why some Alevis say they are Muslim is their misconceptions about their own religion. "Due to the centuries-long propaganda they have been exposed to, some of them think that they are true Muslims," says Bayrak, and adds that a more alarming reason for their denial is fear of persecution. "As Alevis are still under political, social, and cultural pressures, they are still scared of saying that Alevism is outside of Islam. It is impossible for them to express themselves freely."
Turkey's membership in the NATO since 1952, its negotiations for full membership to the EU since 2005, and its countless military, economic, and diplomatic agreements with the West, have done nothing to reduce the persecution against religious minorities in the country.
*Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist born and raised in Turkey. She is presently based in Washington D.C.
© 2018 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.

Why Scientists Solve the Hard Problems First
Faye Flam/Bloomberg/January 18/18
It’s a paradox of science: How is it that researchers keep achieving the impossible while leaving seemingly simple tasks incomplete? As astronomer Martin Rees put it in a recent essay in The Atlantic, scientists can detect two black holes colliding a billion light years away, and yet they’ve learned very little about how to treat the common cold. Rees offers that it’s partly a matter of scale: Phenomena on the astronomical scale of stars and the tiny scale of atoms unfold in predictable ways, while the complexity of the world in between keeps us guessing as to what will happen next. This has historically been the case. Long before people understood that germs existed, they could predict the motions of the stars and planets and use them for navigation. But that’s just part of the story. Common misunderstandings can also distort our ability to differentiate the easy tasks from difficult or impossible ones. In many cases, people underestimate the difficulty of controlling our environment. Scientists observed the black hole collision through ripples in space that followed. They didn’t control the event. And while the common cold is a mundane phenomenon, and the cold viruses are well studied, controlling them is far from trivial.
It’s hard to control much of anything in this world. While archaeologists argue over how many hundreds of thousands of years ago our ancestors “tamed” or “controlled” fire, we read that wildfires are “out of control” in California. Sometimes fire still shows us who is boss.
I posed the colds-versus-black-hole puzzle to Edward Tenner, a historian at Princeton University, whose upcoming book is titled “The Efficiency Paradox: What Big Data Can’t Do.” He pointed out that people often underestimate the brilliance of nature -- and wrongly assume that common natural phenomena can be easily duplicated with technology. In artificial intelligence research, for example, it’s been possible to create computers with superhuman abilities in chess and other games, such as Go, but very hard to reproduce something little children do naturally -- deal with the ambiguity of language.
While computers are getting smarter all the time, he said one way he thinks we could still distinguish them from humans is to ask them to interpret aphorisms. Take “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” As a child, he said, he wondered whether moss was good, maybe a metaphor for money. Or was moss bad -- an encumbrance that made it better to keep rolling along? That kind of ambiguity makes it possible for little kids to appreciate humor and poetry. Robots might be able to produce something like poetry through trial and error, but they may never come to appreciate it the way we do.
This tendency to underestimate the creativity and power of the natural world may help explain why people think colds should be easy to wipe out. If something as mindless as the immune system can kill colds, how could it be out of reach of technology? But that line of thinking doesn’t give proper credit to the intricacy of the immune system. There’s another factor in the black-hole-versus-common-cold comparison, as I learned from Joshua Plotkin, who studies viruses as a professor of computational biology at the University of Pennsylvania. For him, the difference is that the black hole detection was a project with a well-defined path, while there’s no obvious way to approach curing the common cold. People knew that colliding black holes and certain other energy-producing phenomena would release a specific kind of wave they could pick up, if they could build a sensitive enough detector. And physicists could measure their progress over the years as their detectors got more and more sensitive. As Plotkin puts it, the black holes presented as a rational problem.
In contrast, some of the greatest advances in biomedical research happened through tinkering and serendipity. That’s how we got antibiotics. Or to give a more recent example, the powerful technology known as CRISPR, or gene editing, started with people studying how yogurt-making bacteria protect themselves from bacteria-invading viruses. What does this mean for the future? Rational projects with clear paths forward often succeed in achieving the loftiest of goals, whether it’s reading all 3 billion chemical code letters in a human genome, detecting the Higgs Boson, or getting close-up pictures of Pluto. But part of value and the fun of science is in the unpredictable part. Not every open-ended, exploratory project will turn up antibiotics, or gene editing, but having lots of such projects going guarantees that 2018 will bring at least a few surprises.