CIWARS CCI News covers climate change, conflict, and infrastructure news focus on water, food, extreme weather, sea level rise, migrants/refugees and destabilizing conflicts. Center for Infrastructural Warfare Studies including cyber infrastructure
Microsoft Wins Landmark Case Of Overseas Email Handover
US court overturns 2014 ruling favoring Department of Justice's right to seek data stored overseas.
Microsoft has won a crucial ruling by a US federal appeals court that it cannot be forced by the government to hand over data stored on servers outside the country, reports Reuters. This decision reverses the ruling of 2014 which went against Microsoft and also annuls a contempt finding against the company.
"Congress did not intend the SCA's warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially," wrote Circuit Judge Susan Carney in her ruling. "The focus of those provisions is protection of a user's privacy interests."
The US Department of Justice had filed a domestic search warrant against the tech company seeking emails stored in a server in Dublin in a narcotics case. Microsoft challenged it, perhaps the first US company to take this step in such a scenario. This found support from many quarters fueled by concerns that the prosecutors' demand could ruin the market for US companies abroad.
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Report: Protests in Venezuela up 24 percent; most over food
CARACAS, Venezuela, July 14 (UPI) -- There has been a 24 percent increase in protests -- roughly 19 demonstrations a day -- throughout Venezuela in which six people have died in the first half of 2016 when compared to last year, according to a report by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict.
The local non-governmental organization on Wednesday reported 3,057 protests have been recorded in Venezuela within the first six months of 2016. The figure does not include 416 incidents of looting or attempted looting nationwide.
About 27 percent of protests in the first part of 2016 were related to food shortages. The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, or OVCS, said the six deaths occurred during protests over food.
"In these six months the Venezuelan streets have been the scene of many massive demonstrations to demand the human right to food," the OVCS writes in the report. "The government's response to these protests has been repression."
About 24 percent of protests were to "demand basic services in residential dwellings," the OVCS said. Water shortages, electricity blackouts, and little to no Internet or phone services have affected millions of Venezuelans.
Eighteen percent of protests were held over labor rights, while 15 percent of protests were held over crime. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world, which is estimated to be up to one killing for every 28,000 people.
About 10 percent of protests were related to politics while 6 percent were related to education rights.
In 2014, at least 43 people were killed during protests against the country's rise in crime, shortages in stores and triple-digit inflation.
Climate Change Causes Large-Scale Destruction In Asia
by Ifham Nizam
People powered solutions that protect the environment and empower communities show a pathway to change; our challenge is to scale them up, a study by Friends of Earth (FoE)Sri Lanka/International says.
Asia faces two destructive and entwined crises – growing inequality and climate change. The sustainable future of our planet depends on whether Asia can rise to these challenges and transform its economic and political systems.
With economic powerhouses like China and South Korea neighbouring some of the poorest countries in the world, the region faces extreme inequality both between and within countries. 1.75 billion Asians live in extreme poverty and lack the basic necessities of a dignified life, according to a new model by the Asian Development Bank.
Asia is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, but also home to some of the biggest polluters. With climate change already wreaking devastation on communities and ecosystems throughout the region. Expect even more hunger, drought, floods and forced migration of millions unless urgent action is taken on greenhouse gas emissions, says Hemantha Withanage, Director of Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka/CEJ – and Sam Cossar-Gilbert, Programme coordinator with Friends of the Earth International.
They added: "We can no longer afford to see environmental problems as isolated and separate from social justice. Climate change and growing inequality are symptoms of the dysfunction of the current economic system. The time has come to address them together."Transformative solutions springing up across the region show a people-powered pathway to sustainability, says a new report by Friends of the Earth (FoE) Asia Pacific. Here's three high-impact ideas for a fairer and cleaner world that can be replicated, scaled up and expanded throughout the region.
Indonesia's deforestation is chronic. 15.8 million hectares of forest were lost between 2000 and 2012. The devastation ruins local livelihoods and increases global warming. Big businesses are often responsible, implementing large-scale projects characterised by land grabs, disrespect for farmers, and a lack of understanding of traditional forest management methods.
Yet peasant unions, environmental organisations and communities are pushing back. By supporting small-scale farmers with free legal services, training in community organising and connecting them directly with local consumers. Together they are developing a community-led model to protect the country's forests based on recognising the land rights of subsistence farmers, sustainable management of non-timber forest products, and traditional knowledge.
Community Forest Management (CFM) enables communities to benefit from forests without depleting natural resources or damaging the climate. It encompasses many local and indigenous communal resource management practices, and it works. A meta-analysis of case studies covering 40 Protected Areas and 33 CFM experiences in South America, Africa and Asia found that areas under community management presented lower deforestation rates than those under absolute protection regimes.
This model is already being massively scaled up. The Indonesian government has promised 12.7 million hectares of forest area (landmass of England) for community based forestry by 2019. This will help to secure the livelihoods of millions people and protect forests from destructive industrial logging practices.
Schools as Renewable Energy Cooperatives
South Korea is predicted to double its 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, with inadequate government action on climate change.
But ordinary people are building a citizen-owned solar movement to reduce dependence on dirty energy. A renewable energy cooperative has started in Seoul and is installing solar panels on the roofs of Samgaksan high school and Hanshin University. The community raised 180 million Korean Won (180,000 USD dollars) to fund the project. The clean electricity generated is used to power these new 'Solar schools'.
Cooperatives provide a democratic alternative to the corporate model, which often exploits people for profit, by empowering people to control their energy production. Cooperatively owned solar power is an exciting exchange between people and environmental action, financially benefiting members while at the same time fighting climate change.
Community owned renewable energy is expanding rapidly throughout the world and a vital part of gaining popular support for an energy revolution. In 2012, 34% of renewable energy in Germany was community owned, which is a driving force in the country's energy transition.
The Solar Schools plans to expand to generate 500kW by 2017 and other co-ops are popping up throughout South Korea.
Sri Lanka- Revolving Funds
Income uncertainty plagues Sri Lanka's Nilgala communities. Many are forced to borrow from moneylenders at high interest rates to meet their basic needs. Even microcredit programmes have prohibitively high interest rates.
The forests where they live and the adjoining Gal Oya National Park are protected, with medicinal plants an important source of income. Community beliefs enshrine a need to protect the forest, thus building economic resilience and conservation go hand in hand.
The Revolving Fund idea was born to address both of these issues simultaneously. Locals and environmental organisations created protection committees in 10 villages, with more than 500 beneficiary families receiving 800,000 Sri Lankan Rupees (US$5,500). The fund enables people to borrow at an interest rate of 1% and has supported community forest management planning.
Now the total fund has doubled and remains in the village under collective control. The fund helps villagers with income in hard times and reduced dependence on black market moneylenders. Conservation has also improved measurably.
Local communities, donors and NGOs working together on alternative and participatory financial models like the Revolving Funds can make people's lives better while supporting the environment.
Thousands of practical solutions for a more just and sustainable Asia are being implemented everyday across the region. These solutions put people and the planet at the centre of economic systems and expand the role of cooperation, community management, workers' control, public services and sustainable planning in all aspects of life.
To increase the impact of these solutions governments in the region should develop and adopt measures and programmes to support them, and work together with communities to scale up Asia's transformative ideas.
Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 239,923 Deaths: 2,933
Italy – IOM reports an estimated 239,923 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 13 July, arriving mostly in Italy and Greece.
So far this year an estimated 2,933 deaths have been recorded, compared with 1,838through the first six months of 2015, and 1,906 through 13 July last year.
In Greece, the Coast Guard has rescued 49 migrants from three incidents off Lesbos and Kos since July 12th. In one tragedy this week involving a boat believed to be carrying 13 migrants, four people – a man, a woman and two children – died. Another three are missing and six were rescued.
Meanwhile in Italy over 8,900 migrants have been rescued and brought ashore since 1 July. On Tuesday four corpses were found in the hull of a boat after a rescue in the Channel of Sicily. One of them was a child.
On Thursday Italian authorities announced they had concluded their operation to raise a shipwrecked trawler that sank in April 2015 off Libya. Italy said its navy had extracted 458 bodies from inside the vessel since it was brought to shore last month, in addition to the remains of 169 victims found on or around the wreck in recent months. Additionally, Italy reported 48 more bodies were recovered and brought to shore after its divers returned to the sea bed. There are 28 known survivors of the shipwreck. According to the Italian navy, there are now 675 confirmed victims of the tragedy, with the possibility that more remains may never be recovered.
Total Arrivals by Sea and Deaths in the Mediterranean 2015-2016
1 Jan – 13 July 2016
1 Jan – 30 June 2015
Country of Arrival
2,505 (Central Med route)
1,838 (all Med routes)
383 (Eastern Med route)
45 (Western Med and Western African routes)
Data on deaths of migrants compiled byIOM GMDAC. All numbers are minimum estimates. Arrival estimates based on data from respective governments and IOM field offices. *as of 31 May ** Reflects reassessment of estimates based on new data
Top U.S. Navy admiral to visit China, discuss South China Sea
BEIJING — The U.S. Navy's top admiral is making a three-day visit to China and meeting with his Chinese counterpart at a time when Beijing has rejected an international tribunal's ruling that invalidated its expansive claims in the South China Sea.
Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, will meet the commander of the People's Liberation Army Navy, Adm. Wu Shengli, during his trip to the Chinese capital of Beijing and the port city of Qingdao starting Sunday.
Richardson is scheduled to visit the Chinese navy's headquarters in Beijing and meet with other senior defense officials. He will visit the navy's submarine academy and tour the aircraft carrier, Liaoning, when he is in its home port of Qingdao.
They will discuss the South China Sea, ongoing Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, military drills, and ways to boost interactions between the two militaries.
The visit comes as China has warned other countries against threatening its security in the South China Sea after a five-member tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that China had no legal basis for its claim to most of the South China Sea. Beijing has responded to the ruling by asserting that the islands in the South China Sea are "China's inherent territory."
Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said Wednesday that Beijing could declare an air defense identification zone over the waters if it felt threatened.
China's island development in the South China Sea has inflamed regional tensions, including with nations that have competing claims to the land formations. Most fear that Beijing, which has built airfields and placed weapons systems on the man-made islands, will use the construction to extend its military reach and perhaps try to restrict navigation.
Several times in the past year, U.S. warships have deliberately sailed close to one of those islands to exercise freedom of navigation and challenge the claims. In response, China has deployed fighter jets and ships to track and warn off the American ships, and accused the U.S. of provocative action.
Pacific islands nations consider world's first treaty to ban fossil fuels
The world's first international treaty that bans or phases out fossil fuels is being considered by leaders of developing Pacific islands nations after a summit in the Solomon Islands this week.
The leaders of 14 countries agreed to consider a proposed Pacific climate treaty, which would bind signatories to targets for renewable energy and ban new or the expansion of coalmines, at the annual leaders' summit of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF).
Mahendra Kumar, climate change advisor to PIDF, told the Guardian the treaty proposal was received very positively by the national leaders. "They seemed convinced that this is an avenue where the Pacific could again show or build on the moral and political leadership that they've shown earlier in their efforts to tackle climate change," he said.
The PIDF was formed in 2013, spearheaded by Fiji, and excludes Australia and New Zealand, which are members of the older Pacific Islands Forum. There were claims at the time that Australia and New Zealand attempted to sabotage the group's first meeting.
But the treaty being considered by the newer group embraces the aspirational 1.5C target set at Paris, setting mitigation targets that are in line with it, as well as establishing adaptation mechanisms to cope with the effects of that warming.
Written by a coalition of non-governmental organisations called the Pacific Island Climate Action Network (PICAN), the model treaty will be the subject of consultations, which will result in a report to the summit next year.
Kumar said it is unlikely to be adopted within one year, but it was possible it could be adopted the following year, in 2018.
Joeteshna Gurdayal Zenos, acting head of Pacfic Net, which is Greenpeace Australia Pacific's climate justice project, said: "Pacific island leaders are among the most proactive in the world on global warming because their countries are bearing the brunt of climate changes.
"Their willingness to consider a Pacific climate treaty shows much-needed leadership on the world's most pressing environmental challenge," she said.
In a report that presents the model treaty, PICAN said: "The rationale is that potential Parties to the Treaty already possess the political courage and commitment needed to adopt a flagship legal instrument that is sufficiently ambitious to prevent catastrophic changes in the global climate system.
"Such a treaty, when implemented in collaboration with PIDF and civil society, would send a powerful signal to markets, governments and civil society around the world that the end of fossil fuels is near, with Pacific Islanders acting not as victims of climate change but as agents of change.
"As there is currently no treaty that bans or phases out fossil fuels, the Treaty would set a pioneering example to the rest of the world."
The treaty itself would bind parties to not approve any new coal or fossil fuel mines and not provide any subsidy for fossil fuel mining or consumption.
It says parties will ensure "universal access" to clean energy by 2030, and would establish a "Pacific framework for renewable energy" to achieve that goal.
The treaty would establish a fund, which would provide compensation for communities that have suffered climate change-related losses.
The proposed treaty also has sections on climate-related migration and adaptation.
French President Francois Hollande (R) greets Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 22, 2016. (photo by REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to France and the Netherlands on June 20-24 as part of his increasingly intense engagement with Europe, which will probably continue in the year remaining of President Hassan Rouhani's current term.
Summary⎙ Print Having spent two years on negotiating the nuclear deal, it seems that Iran's foreign minister is now focusing his efforts on making sure that the JCPOA is effectively implemented.
Prior to his visits to France and the Netherlands — Zarif's third such tour of Europe since taking office in August 2013 — the Iranian foreign minister visited Italy, Poland, Finland, Sweden and Latvia. But what are the reasons for Zarif's intensified engagement with Europe?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was formally implemented on Jan. 16. As such, Iran and the six world powers it negotiated the nuclear deal with — China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States and Germany — took steps to live up to their commitments. For its part, Iran has been committed to the JCPOA, which the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified. Yet, implementation issues on the part of the six world powers have emerged. For instance, Western unilateral sanctions that target Iranian banks — causing serious problems for Iran — have been formally lifted. Hence, major banks are still hesitant to engage with Iran.
Indeed, many in Tehran now believe the United States is stalling the effective implementation of the nuclear deal due to its still contentious relationship with Iran. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said repeatedly in meetings with Zarif that he has given reassurances to top European banks that they can resume ties with Iran as long as they conduct "legitimate business" and proper due diligence. Given that this has failed to persuade Western banks to engage with Iran, Zarif appears to have decided to tackle the issue on his own — perhaps modeled on the role played by the former US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David S. Cohen.
As the Washington Post has reported, Cohen — known as the architect of the sanctions on Iran and Russia — in the past traveled frequently to the Middle East and Europe to enlist other countries in US efforts to impose economic chokeholds on adversaries.
Referring to Cohen's past endeavors, Zarif told Iranian members of parliament in a special hearing on Sept. 13 last year, "Mr. Cohen went to various countries and asked them whether they are ready to pay the price for having a relationship with Iran." He added, "Thus, [various] countries and companies became overcompliant [with sanctions enforcement]. This means that they were overly committed to the sanctions, owing to their concerns over possible [US] pressures of having a relationship with Iran."
Knowing exactly how the United States managed to effectively impose its sanctions on Iran, Zarif now appears to be following in Cohen's footsteps — in a converse effort to unwind the sanctions.
In an interview with Al-Monitor, Iran's former representative to the Vienna headquarters of the United Nations, Ali Khorram, said, "Mr. Zarif, as Iran's foreign minister, is doing his best to facilitate the nuclear deal's implementation. That is why he is traveling nonstop to revive Iran's past relationship with the Europeans."
In his endeavor to convince major banks to re-engage with Iran, it appears that Zarif is counting chiefly on the role of France. The diplomatic relationship between Tehran and Paris has been greatly stepped up since the conclusion of the JCPOA on July 14, 2015. Indeed, in an indication of the latter, while welcoming Zarif in late June, Gerard Larcher, the president of the French Senate, said, "Lately, we get to see you every three months." Moreover, in a meeting with members of the French Senate's Foreign Relations Committee during his recent visit, Zarif said, "In the 1990s, France played an important role in not allowing the US transboundary sanctions against Iran to succeed." He added, "I think the French and European banks should break the negative atmosphere that has remained from the sanctions period. This is for the benefit of all. In some cases the banking problems are solvable, but some other cases need a joint effort. We believe Iran-France relationships can be a model for the nuclear deal implementation."
Separately, in a joint press conference with Zarif June 22, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, "We try to get sanctions against Iran removed, so that trust can be established between our countries. We continue our direct and clear talks with Americans [concerning the sanctions issue]. Mr. Zarif will also continue his cooperation with Europe."
Further explaining Zarif's plans, Khorram told Al-Monitor, "Iran's relationship with the European Union is different to the nature of Tehran's ties with Washington. We have close relations with the Europeans, and especially France. Paris has an independent position toward different issues — including Iran — unlike the United Kingdom that is counted as a strategic partner of the United States."
Despite his engagement with particularly France, Zarif is not limiting his efforts to just one major European country. In his recent trip to the Netherlands — which is now holding the rotating presidency of the European Union — he met with several senior Dutch officials, including his counterpart as well as the economy minister.
Of note, on May 21, the deputy Iranian oil minister for international affairs, Amir Hossein Zamaninia, stated that a representative of the Dutch government recently traveled to Iran to facilitate "banking relations."
After meeting with Zarif, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said, "We will keep on playing a constructive role in facilitating the banking relationships between Europe and Iran." He added, "We discussed with Foreign Minister Zarif the possibility of conducting major transactions between Europe and Iran through a Dutch bank."
Thus, apart from his diplomatic duties, it appears that Zarif is now also pursuing efforts to help revive the Iranian economy by making sure that obstacles in the way of the implementation of the nuclear deal — which he reached after two years of intensive negotiations — will finally be removed. Only time will tell whether the Iranian foreign minister's efforts will succeed.
Rouhani's staff reshuffle fails to satisfy critics
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a government economic staff meeting in Tehran, July 10, 2016. (photo by Mehr News Agency/Asghar Khamseh)
Two important political figures who have been supportive of President Hassan Rouhani's domestic and foreign policies have begun to sound the alarm on the country's economy and lingering issues with the comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. In an interview on Iranian television July 14, parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said, "At the moment, the economic downturn in the country is very serious." The day before, Expediency Council head Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has been an advocate of improved relations with the United States, said the American side has broken promises in the removal of sanctions.
Summary⎙ Print Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has made changes to two vice presidential positions, but the move did little to reassure those watching the economy continue to decline.
The statements by the two Rouhani allies made headlines in conservative media outlets, which have been hammering the president for his inability to deliver on his economic promises. In his latest address, Rouhani defended the nuclear deal, arguing that the alternative would have been more sanctions and possibly even war. Had there been no deal, "today the sale of oil would be at zero," Rouhani said at the one-year anniversary of the agreement's signing.
With one year left in his current term, Rouhani recently made two changes at the vice presidential level. Spokesman and deputy Interior Minister Hossein Ali Amiri was appointed vice president for parliamentary affairs. He replaced Majid Ansari, who was appointed vice president for legal affairs. The previous vice president for legal affairs, Elham Aminzadeh, was made a special adviser to the president.
Reformist Shargh Daily reported, "There still has been no special or clear reason stated by the administration for the changes." Vakil-e Melat reported that in his final year in office, Rouhani finds himself caught between conservative critics who are using the country's economic situation to attack him and Reformists who want changes within the Cabinet. Ansari, a Reformist political figure, had recently criticized the president's media team. Vakil-e Melat reported that pressure within the administration to close ranks was responsible for Ansari's demotion, and that more changes are coming.
Two possible post changes circulating in the media are that of Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Teyebnia and Rouhani's brother, Hossein Fereydoun. In May, Reformist media outlets reported that Fereydoun, a special adviser to the president, had been absent from Cabinet meetings and important functions for two months. Fereydoun surfaced shortly after the article was published, but he has continued to be the subject of various controversies. According to Shargh Daily, conservative parliamentarian Javad Karimi-Ghodousi most recently accused Fereydoun of impersonating the president over the phone and ordering the importation of illegal goods. Karimi-Ghodousi also accused Fereydoun of using his government access to purchase land on Kish island at a discounted price and sell it at a high profit in the private market. Others have tried to link Fereydoun to the exorbitant salaries of the heads of banks and government institutions, the subject of a recent scandal in Iran.
Nasser Seraj, the head of the General Inspection Organization of Iran, which operates under the direction of the judiciary, spoke on Iranian television about the salaries issue. Seraj said that after the removal of nine directors and managers of banks and insurance institutions over the scandal, Teyebnia is "under pressure." Seraj's comment made a headline in the Javan newspaper, which is linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. While Teyebnia has apologized, even Reformist newspaper Arman Daily called on Teyebnia to resign, holding that this is "not a simple issue to forget about with an apology or the removal" of the heads of banks.
If he intends to run successfully for a second term, Rouhani has little time to turn the economic situation around with the presidential elections just 10 months away.
Egypt's Brotherhood, Sisi both put out feelers for reconciliation
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi hold pictures of him as they react after the Egyptian army's statement was read out on state TV, at the Rabia al-Adawiya square in Cairo, July 3, 2013. Morsi was overthrown that day. (photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
The word "reconciliation" has been dominating the Egyptian political scene for almost two weeks. Talk has revolved around the future of the relationship between the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is facing the worst crackdown since its establishment.
Summary⎙ Print While recent statements from Egyptian officials and Brotherhood members hint that a reconciliation could be in the works, some think both sides are merely testing their bases' reaction to the idea.
Political discussions in Egypt are not what brought about this prevalent idea; rather, it emerged due to a number of coalesced factors, notably the statement of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Magdy al-Agaty, who said in an interview, "We can reconcile with a member of the Brotherhood as long as his hands are not stained with blood. [Brotherhood members] are Egyptians in the first place. Why don't we make peace with them and integrate them into the fabric of the Egyptian people if they did not commit any crime?"
However, it was not long before this controversial issue came to the surface again when Mohamed Fayek, head of the National Council for Human Rights, said July 3, "There will be a presidential pardon soon for all the detained young people who were not involved in armed activities."
Such statements cannot be made by people close to the regime without prior communication and coordination with the head of the regime. While some officials criticized Agaty's statement, the criticism came from politicians who were neither as influential as Agaty nor in a ceremonial post like Fayek.
However, a source in the Egyptian parliament told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, "It is too early to talk about an explicit reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, especially while the Egyptian regime is in a strong position and does not need to make any reconciliations." The source, who is close to some influential quarters, added, "Agaty's statement fell only within the context of putting the transitional justice law into effect," indicating that his "communications affirm that there will be no reconciliation in that sense during this period."
As for the Brotherhood, there were some indicatives that the reconciliation scenario is probable even if it did not take the previously stated form. The split, which the Brotherhood has been undergoing for almost a year, cast a shadow over its relationship with the current regime. The group, led by Brotherhood's Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein and acting Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, who has been in hiding since before the dispersal of the Rabia al-Adawiya sit-in, issued an 11-page report — which Al-Monitor obtained a copy of — that served as a "situation assessment" and tackled three scenarios of the reconciliation, accusing the other (Brotherhood) camp of adopting violence.
The report, which was issued to senior Brotherhood leaders, outraged a number of the movement's young cadres after some parts of it were leaked. According to Ezz Eldeen Dwedar, a young Brotherhood member living abroad who opposes the idea of reconciliation, the young cadres considered this report "an introduction to a [coming] reconciliation over the bloodshed."
In an attempt to explain his position, Dwedar said, "In light of the current balance of power, the proposed reconciliation projects are certainly disguised surrender. These projects are an attempt to save the two groups seeking to conclude the reconciliation: the leaders of the internally divided Brotherhood on one hand and [President Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi on the other. The first group has embroiled the Brotherhood in conflicts to the extent that it [the Brotherhood] can't justify its attitude, afford the consequences of its own actions or have a vision to make the revolution successful. On the other hand, Sisi is suffering from a steep fall in popularity as well as internal conflicts among various quarters in his regime, not to mention his inability to handle or stop the threat of bankruptcy. Therefore, any reconciliation project will be a rebirth for Sisi and a safe exit for Brotherhood leaders." Based on this, Dwedar stressed that he refused the idea of negotiations.
"Rather, we should revive the revolution, rearrange [our] strengths, review the enemy's weaknesses, reshape the international and domestic map of alliances, and work on weakening Sisi in order to get him and his group out of the scene and defeated as soon as possible," Dwedar said.
However, Talaat Fahmy, a Brotherhood spokesman affiliated with the Hussein and Ezzat front, told Al-Monitor in reference to Agaty's statement, "Any institution considers [different] scenarios for the future. Constructing scenarios does not mean that you prefer or adopt a certain one."
He said, "The coup [leaders] are marketing the reconciliation as if it was going to be made with the Egyptian people. However, we don't have any problem with the Egyptian people. The real problem is between the Egyptian people and the coup [government]. Agaty's statement is being proposed as if the reconciliation is between the Egyptian people and the Brotherhood, which is untrue."
Yasser Fathy, a young Brotherhood member who calls for change, explained the points of disagreement inside the group to Al-Monitor. "There is no doubt that there are disagreements as to the vision and how to deal with the current regime. There are those who tend to be more vigilant and agree to live with this repressive regime. … The disagreement is between those who agree to live with a state of weakness and helplessness on one hand and a large segment of the Brotherhood and the Egyptian society that seek not to focus only on slogans but to work on restructuring the political discourse. This segment wants to look deeply into the society's problems, the essence and goals of the January 25 Revolution, and the relationship with the outer world on the regional and international levels."
However, what about politicians who are close to the Brotherhood? Veteran Egyptian politician and former presidential candidate Ayman Nour told Al-Monitor that he rules out the possibility of making any reconciliations while Sisi is in power. "Egypt needs a genuine project to overcome authoritarianism," he said.
Nour pointed out that the statements issued by parties associated with the regime are "trial balloons and not a potential vision or a distinctive initiative."
"Reconciliation and transitional justice are both mentioned in the July 3 statement and the constitution of 2014. However, the regime wants to act as if it was the winner, despite the fact that the crisis is more complex. The crisis is not only between the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. Rather, it is between all the components of the society including the Brotherhood, which is also divided internally," Nour said.
In light of the above, it is evident that all sides deny attempts at "reconciliation," arguing that what is happening is merely a consideration of the matter, i.e., a test to see how it will be received by the other. The regime, in the eyes of its opponents, is going through a major economic crisis that requires internal coherence and efforts to improve its image abroad in order to show that the crisis is on its way to being resolved. However, many observers believe that the regime is in a position of strength and merely seeks to subdue the Brotherhood and aggravate its split, not to make peace with it.
Also, a Turkey-based Brotherhood source — who is close to the decision-making circles — told Al-Monitor, "The old conservative camp [in the Brotherhood] is willing to come to an undisclosed agreement with the regime in the hope all detainees will be released and the movement will gradually return to the public sphere." The source, who preferred anonymity, said, "What prevents this agreement from being concluded is the presence of Sisi in the heart of the [political] scene as well as a segment inside the Brotherhood and among Egyptians that opposes this idea, as this reconciliation might lead to the abandonment of certain political demands, the political legitimacy of Morsi and other issues that have been the key driver of the discourse of the Brotherhood's leaders since the coup."
The source added, "If there will be a reconciliation, it is not going to be classical."
This point of view is supported by the stance of many detained Brotherhood members. For instance, Israa, a detainee's wife who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition that only her first name be used, said, "The issue is not the reconciliation with the regime; rather, it is about taking a step back and reviewing all the occurrences that took place in the past three years — what we have gained and what we have lost — to see if we have achieved anything in return for all the martyrs, detainees and energy exerted. … We must step back and rearrange the lines and correct the mistakes after admitting them first."
"The idea of releasing the detainees is dominant among a large segment of the Brotherhood. This segment supports reconciliation," Israa said, indicating that "there is another current that does not accept the deaths or prison sentences, yet it accepts any political concession in return for achieving a solution to the human rights crisis."
However, what hinders the solution? And what do the detainees think?
Israa answered, saying, "The Brotherhood is internally divided between the young people and the senior leaders who are the decision-makers. The senior leaders are no longer able to control the young people because social media enabled the latter to create an independent front opposed to the idea of making reconciliation."
"My husband and many other detainees believe that any sign of concession will aggravate the crackdown on the Brotherhood. Therefore, the detainees are divided between whether to continue the struggle against the regime or make concessions, even undisclosed," she added.
Fahmy, commenting on these ideas, said, "The coup regime wants to force the detainees to change their convictions and haggle over their freedom, which is unacceptable. As for concessions, we have nothing but our principles. Do they want us to give up on our principles?"
"We welcome any solution that comes within a national framework where the Egyptian people have the authority," Fahmy concluded.
One year later, Rouhani still selling nuclear deal to Iranians
Iran's then-President-elect Hassan Rouhani speaks with the media during a news conference in Tehran, June 17, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Fars News/Majid Hagdost)
One year after agreement on the comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers and six months after its implementation, many Iranians are still not feeling the economic benefits of the lifting of sanctions. With presidential elections less than a year away, officials from the administration of President Hassan Rouhani are in the uncomfortable position of having to continue to sell the benefits of the deal to an Iranian public that is increasingly distrustful of US intentions to hold up its end of the agreement.
Summary⎙ Print Iranian officials are urging patience in seeing the full results of the comprehensive nuclear deal.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi, a top nuclear negotiator who now heads the staff overseeing implementation of the nuclear deal, sat down with Iranian television July 11 to update the public on the status of the deal.
Ongoing US sanctions on Iran that prohibit international investors from using the dollar for transactions with it are one of the main obstacles keeping Iran from taking advantage of the nuclear deal and international sanctions relief. These banking sanctions have created reservations among many foreign companies eager to do business with Iran. Aragchi explained that they are primary sanctions — that is, ones unrelated to the nuclear deal.
Aragchi said that although the central bank of Iran had told Iranian nuclear negotiators that this was an important issue that needed to be addressed, the Americans did not agree to lift the banking sanctions. Aragchi also remarked that if Iran were to negotiate on these sanctions, it would have to offer additional concessions. Citing US court rulings confiscating billions of dollars belonging to Iran, Aragchi said Iran would prefer to remain outside the US dollar system.
Aragchi also explained that Iran's oil exports have increased dramatically as the result of the nuclear deal, but he urged patience in seeing other benefits. "The economy will not return to its original place overnight," he said. "No one expects our oil sales to go from 1 million [barrels of oil] to 2.5 million overnight. Our customers have left and have found other people."
According to Aragchi, Iran is currently selling 2 million barrels of oil a day, 500,000 barrels below previous levels. "This will take time," he cautioned, comparing it to reconstruction after the Iran-Iraq War, which required months and years.
Not everyone was satisfied with Aragchi's explanations. The conservative Raja News website referred to the interview as "Aragchi's 75-minute tiring and repetitive justifications." Conservative analyst Foad Izadi criticized the fact that the nuclear negotiators responsible for signing the deal are also the people responsible for overseeing its implementation, claiming that it is natural that they would try to justify any shortcomings.
Fars News contrasted Aragchi's statement that the deal never envisioned that all the sanctions would be removed to comments made by Rouhani that all sanctions would be lifted. A number of websites also translated an article by Reuters describing attempts by American lawmakers to continue to attempt to derail the nuclear deal by passing legislation against Iran.
Even the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, who is responsible for the technical aspects of implementing the nuclear deal and was chief technical negotiator, has been publicly critical of the banking issue and has traded gibes with the president, much to the delight of conservative media.
Despite the slow progress and constant criticism by conservative media, Reformist media have been upbeat about the one-year anniversary. An article in the Etemaad Newspaper compared domestic critics of the deal to "warmongers in America and Israel." It stated that a "realistic assessment of the nuclear deal" would help in having a more accurate understanding of it. It further said that no one had claimed that Iran's enemies would retreat on every front, and indeed, some of the countries party to the nuclear deal are enemies of Iran, so sabotage is to be expected. It also noted, however, that no one can deny that Iran's right to enrich uranium was recognized and that sanctions were removed as a result of the deal.
Neighbours warned to speak up against Robert Mugabe
Cape Town – Southern Africa's continued silence about Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe 36-year-rule and the growing unrest resulting from disillusionment with his government will result in spillover effects for neighbouring nations. This, a caution from one of the representatives of the #Tajamuka youth pressure group, who were protesting in Cape Town on Thursday.
"A problem in Southern Africa is a problem for all Southern African countries," said the representative Isheunesu Chibi, speaking outside of the Zimbabwean consulate in Zonnebloem.
"If our neighbour South Africa is keeping quiet with everything that is happening in Zimbabwe, it means they are fine with everything that is happening there."
Chibi said Southern African nations have failed to learn from the 2010 Arab Spring in North Africa, something he predicts will happen if the dire situation in Zimbabwe worsens.
"If there is going to be a war in Zimbabwe, it is going to be a South African war as well. It is going to be a Mozambican war, it is going to be a Zambian war," said Chibi.
"This is a very fragile issue. It needs attention, as soon as possible."
Chibi, a 32-year-old who is working in the hospitality industry in Cape Town, was forced to leave his home in Harare, Zimbabwe 13 years ago due to the dire economic situation. With eight high school distinctions, Chibi had to give up his dreams of pursuing a tertiary education, instead heading straight to work in South Africa.
"I lost all my time here, not willingly however," said Chibi.
"But the situation has pushed me out of Zimbabwe, as it has pushed a lot of people out of the country."
Chibi, along with fellow #Tajamuka members and other Zimbabwean immigrants, were joining protesters around the world who were calling for 92-year-old Mugabe and his administration to step down.
It also follows the arrest, court appearance, and subsequent release of Pastor Evan Mawarire, a leading figure in the #ThisFlag campaign behind last week's stayaway.
"We want to go back to a peaceful Zimbabwe, a free Zimbabwe. And this is why we are coming to this consulate to give our message," said Chibi.
After more than three decades of Mugabe's rule, Chibi explained why Zimbabweans were, in 2016, standing up to the regime.
"Zimbabweans are peaceful people, we are not fighting people by nature," he said.
But, said Chibi, silence could only do so much.
"They have tried to keep quiet, to solve everything peacefully," he said, "But you know, people they get tired."
Chibi said that was why Zimbabweans were no longer scared of the government, of police, and of being arrested. He said they could no longer tolerate allegedly rigged elections, abductions, and political intolerance.
"Everyone is ready for a war in their hearts," he said.
Pokémon Go makers call for calm as servers crash across Europe and US
Pokémon Go servers crashed across Europe and the US on Saturday, as global demand for the hit mobile app soared in its first weekend since being launched in the UK.
Players in 26 countries took advantage of mostly good weather to venture outdoors to hunt and capture their first Pokémon creatures, with millions having downloaded the game in its first days since release.
The app, developed by Niantic and part-owned by Nintendo, calls on users to move around the real world, overlaying their normal landscape with an augmented reality that projects digital creatures on to the streets around them.
Confirming users' difficulty accessing the game, Niantic said on its website: "Due to the incredible number of Pokémon GO downloads, some Trainers are experiencing server connectivity issues. Don't worry, our team is on it!"
Meanwhile, a hacking group called PoodleCorp claimed responsibility for the servers being down, according to Reddit.
The problems in Europe follow the US launch of the game on 6 July, which caused servers to crash due to overwhelming demand. The game launched in the UK on Thursday.
In illustration of the continuing mania over the game, the appearance of a super-rare Vaporeon in New York City caused players to swarm to Central Park. The crazed scene was captured on video and posted to Twitter on Friday, causing one appalled used to write: "I honestly am wondering if we're on the verge of a global breakdown."
Users posted on social media to complain that the augmented-reality game was regularly freezing.
The server meltdown follows a series of robberies related to Pokémon Go. Three students in Manchester have been robbed at knifepoint of their mobile phones while playing the game.
Pokémon Go had recovered from its 6 July US launch after many users were unable to sign in or populate their maps. But 10 days later, the phenomenon has been a victim of its own success, as gamers hooked on the addictive game have gone into withdrawal.
Players were reporting late on Saturday night that the game was operating normally again.
In the UK, the players were targeted in Hulme, Manchester, on Friday night just hours after Greater Manchester Police (GMP) warned of the dangers of using the phone app.
The force had said it was concerned that the app could provide another online avenue for criminals to exploit. Its advice to users included paying attention to their surroundings, especially in built-up areas.
GMP City Centre tweeted: "GMP warning on Pokemon Go risks soon confirmed as 3 students robbed of phones in Hulme last night chasing Pokemon." The robberies took place in Hulme Park at about 8pm, added police.
Det Supt Joanne Rawlinson said: "We know that criminals move quickly to exploit the latest developments to target victims and Pokemon Go will already be in their sights.
"There have already been incidents in America where young people are thought to have been targeted through the app. I would urge parents to speak to their children about the app and the best ways to make sure they stay safe. Talking to your child is one of the best ways to keep them safe."
On Saturday night, reports emerged from Connecticut, in the United States, of two young men hunting Pokemon who stumbled across a naked woman engaged in vandalism.
The game had led the men to the prayer garden of St Luke's Church, a Roman Catholic church in Westport, on Wednesday, but instead of a Squirtle, they found a nude woman who was vandalising the property. Police said the woman had pulled lights from the ground, overturned a statue and benches, and was throwing rubbish from her car into a baptismal pond.
The men called the police and the woman, a 40-year-old Bridgeport resident, was taken to a local hospital for observation. She was not arrested. Church officials say the damage to the garden can be repaired.
This time the uprising in Zimbabwe is different – but will it bring regime change?
Zimbabwe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has failed to develop sustainable institutions that could drive a more democratic vision of sovereignty and liberation. It has also been found lacking in creating a more consensual, hegemonic and much less coercive form of rule.
BY BRIAN RAFTOPOULOS
This failure has been central to the demands of dissenting voices and political organisations in the southern African state. It has also brought about a different type of protest against the Zimbabwean government.
Since the 2013 elections, convulsions within the ruling party have intensified to unprecedented levels. The recent protests in the public and informal sectors have exposed both the limits of ZANU-PF's politics and the failure of its economic policies. The delays in payment of civil servants in June led to a widespread strike of teachers, health workers and other civil servants. The ruling party has managed for the time being to maintain payment to its security sector.
Who will the next president be?
Analytical commentary on Zimbabwe's struggles has focused on the nature and causes of the contestations and centred mainly on the question of presidential succession. There are no clear answers to who will succeed an intransigent President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1987.
Common to all the analyses is the challenge of stabilising and democratising the state by dealing both with the legacies of the colonial period and their new iterations in the post-colonial era.
This problem is not unique to Zimbabwe. It continues to haunt the state in post-colonial Africa, as it is forced to contend with the legacies of both structural inequalities and despotic forms of rule.
In Zimbabwe this problem has manifested itself in a centralised, authoritarian ruling party that has conflated its operations with those of the state.
Despite ongoing discussions with international financial institutions for new loans and budgetary support, this is unlikely to bring any respite in the near future. The funders are demanding certain conditions for any future loans. These include a credible repayment plan on past debt, security of property rights and certain reforms in governance. At present these demands are unlikely to be met.
Moreover, given the well-known effects of such conditions around debt repayment on developing countries, they would most likely exacerbate the crisis if they were implemented in the current context. Any substantive strategy on the way forward in Zimbabwe would require not only wide-ranging political reforms but also a new discussion on debt relief.
The challenges in the public sector have been compounded by a recent policy that has outraged the reportedly 94% of Zimbabweans who now make their living in the informal sector.
Anger from the informal sector
In June, the government promulgated Statutory Instrument 64, which banned the importing of a number of products that are traded in the informal sector. These include: coffee creamers, camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, body creams, baked beans, potato crisps, bottled water, mayonnaise, salad cream, peanut butter, canned fruit, cheese and many other items.
Most of these are products are sold by vendors in the now critically important informal sector. The sudden policy change, which was not subject to public discussion with those most affected by it, immediately incited considerable anger from the informal sector.
In the words of the chair of the National Vendor's Union of Zimbabwe, Stern Zvorwadza: "The government is responsible for the poverty and pushing people into being vendors and cross-border traders, yet the same government is coming up with policies to stop people from earning an honest living at a time when they have killed the economy and failed to create jobs."
The sheer lack of planning and callousness on the part of the state was clear to the Zimbabwean citizenry. In response to this policy and the abuse of numerous police road blocks to extort money from taxi drivers, the country experienced a mass stay-away in the first week of July.
At this stage it appears that the protest was organised through a number of new organisations, not tied to any political party, that use social media campaigns. These include Occupy Africa Unity Square, #ThisFlag and Tajamuka/Sesjikile.
Different type of activism
This movement is different to earlier forms of civic activism in a number of ways. First, it does not appear to be driven by any particular political party.
Second, since the demise of the structures of the labour movement in the first decade of the 2000s, the forms of organisation in the informal sector have become much more fluid. The result is that this form of activism is more difficult for the state to track, but it also makes such interventions more fragile and more difficult to sustain.
Third, the mode of protest appears to have drawn from forms used in South African protest movements. These include the burning of buildings, such as the torching of the Zimbabwe Revenue Service building at the Beit Bridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and the burning of tyres in the streets.
This is not surprising given migration trends since 2000. Moreover there is much greater scepticism about the "rule of law" postulated by the state. This is viewed as an imposition by an authoritarian state which treats the populace as targets to be controlled, largely through the use of force.
Zimbabwe may be witnessing a change in the idea of citizenship. In the coming period it will be important to track not only the future of such activism but, just as importantly, the responses of the state beyond the current brutality of the police interventions.
• Brian Raftopoulos is a professor at the University of the Western Cape and the director of research and advocacy for Solidarity Peace Trust, an NGO working on Human Rights issues in Zimbabwe
• This article was originally published on The Conversation