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Did Duke University Bow to Christian Supremacists in Canceling Muslim Call to Prayer?

Duke University Chapel (Connie Ma)

Duke University Chapel (Connie Ma)

Duke University has cancelled a planned weekly Muslim call to prayer over security concerns and after one of the nation’s most powerful Evangelical Christian leaders called on alumni and donors to withhold financial and other support.

The Washington Post reports the prestigious private university in Durham, North Carolina announced Thursday that it would no longer allow the ‘adhan,’ or call to prayer, to be broadcast from a loudspeaker atop the Duke University Chapel bell tower on Fridays.

“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” said Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

Schoenfeld said one of the reasons the university cancelled the ‘adhan’ involved a “serious and credible” security threat.

Omid Safi, director of Duke’s Islamic Studies Center, confirmed to the Post that there have been “a number of credible threats against Muslim students, faculty and staff.” Safi said the threats originated from outside Duke’s campus and that the school is “treating this as a criminal matter.”

Safi added that Muslim students are “scared and disappointed” and have been advised not to identify themselves.

Intense pressure from Christian supremacists, led by the influential Franklin Graham, was a key factor in the cancellation, WYFF reports. Graham, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham and CEO of the international Christian charity group Samaritan’s Purse, spearheaded a #boycottduke campaign in which he called on Duke alumni and donors to withhold financial support for the university if it proceeded with the ‘adhan.’

Upon learning of the planned call to prayer, Graham, who has called Islam an “evil and wicked” religion, issued a series of scathing Facebook attacks on Islam, a closely-related Abrahamic religion with its own supremacist tenets:

Duke announced today that they will have a Muslim call to prayer from their chapel bell tower every Friday. As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.

Graham also posted:

While the world’s eyes were on terrorist attacks in France, Islamic militant group Boko Haram slaughtered thousands of innocent people in Nigeria. Reports say that, tragically, there are ‘too many bodies to count.’ They even used a 10-year-old girl as a suicide bomber. Boko Haram’s stated goal is to impose strict Islamic Sharia law. Pray that global leaders will have courage to stand against this evil and that this bloody reign of Islamic terror will be ended.

Graham’s religious outrage seemed selective; he made no mention of the ethnic cleansing of Muslims perpetrated by Christian militias in the Central African Republic, a campaign the United Nations called a “crime against humanity” in which thousands have been slaughtered.

In a Thursday interview with NBC Charlotte, Graham attempted to explain his opposition to the call to prayer by falsely claiming that Christians and Muslims worship a different ‘god.’

“I have a problem taking the chapel that was built with donor money to be a place of worship, to worship the god of the Bible, and the Muslims do not worship the same god that we worship,” Graham said.

Graham’s campaign, called “Islamophobic” by critics, drew widespread and growing support among US Christian supremacists, especially Evangelical sects.

“@DukeU will never have my support or money ever again and I will cheer against them for their support of these inbred Muslims #boycottduke,” tweeted fashion photographer Brent Allen.

“Withdrawing my application because of this ordeal. I can’t trust an institution that chooses political correctness over its founding principles,” prospective student Ken Po posted on Graham’s Facebook page.

“God bless you Franklin Graham,” agreed elementary school teacher Carol Whitaker. “The only way to the Father is through the Son,” a reference to the Christian supremacist belief that only people who accept Jesus Christ as their “lord and savior” will be with ‘god’ in ‘heaven’ after they die.

Conservative media predictably howled foul over the planned prayer call, with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade telling Muslim viewers, “If you do want to pray at the right time, you can get a watch.”

But there were also many voices in favor of the Muslim call to prayer. In announcing the planned ‘adhan,’ Christy Lohr Sapp, associate dean for religious life at Duke University Chapel, wrote in a Raleigh News & Observer editorial that the call to prayer “represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission.”

“Perhaps… this small token of welcome will provide a platform for a truer voice to resonate: a voice that challenges media stereotypes of Muslims, a voice of wisdom, a voice prayer and a voice of peace,” added Lohr Sapp.

“So sad that the university backed down rather than standing tall in the face of bigotry and hatred,” Duke alumnus Charlene Reiss wrote on the school’s Facebook page. “I was so proud of my alma mater yesterday and so ashamed today,” she wrote about the university’s reversal.

“I really hope that we as an academic community… can reflect on how to eliminate Islamophobia, and all types of racism, from our time at Duke and ultimately from our lives,” Duke junior Nourhan Elsayed, one of approximately 700 Muslims out of around 15,000 university students, told the Duke Chronicle.

There was a Muslim call to prayer at Duke’s chapel on Friday but it was not broadcast from the bell tower. Duke Today reports hundreds of Muslims and their supporters, including students, faculty and members of the community, attended. Participants sang “Stand By Me” before prayers, with some people holding signs expressing support for religious tolerance.

“The message is Duke is continuing to warmly embrace the campus Muslim community and expressions of different religious faith,” Rev. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel, told reporters prior to the ‘adhan.’ “We will continue to show a generous hospitality on campus.”

Some critics noted that under Islam, certain historically repressed groups, including women and gays, are not shown that same “generous hospitality.” Indeed, Islamic—as well as Jewish and Christian—holy texts and teachings chronicle or endorse the killing, subjugation and oppression of women, gays, non-believers and others, both by ‘god’ and ‘his’ earthly followers. The holy texts of all three Abrahamic religions also endorse slavery, which was a common practice in ancient times.

The Duke University of the 21st century is non-sectarian, although the school has historic and symbolic links to the United Methodist Church, as well as to the Quakers. It amended its mission statement last year to declare that the university’s purposes are “grounded” in the “Christian tradition of intellectual inquiry and service to the world.”

Washington, DC Public Library will Teach You how to Avoid NSA Surveillance

Members of the Milwaukee-based Overpass Light Brigade protest government surveillance. (Photo: OLB)

Members of the Milwaukee-based Overpass Light Brigade protest government surveillance. (Photo: OLB)

Do you want to use the Internet without fear of the National Security Agency or other government operatives snooping on your business? The public library in our nation’s capital is here to help.

In a post that ominously begins with the warning “Big Brother is watching you,” the District of Columbia Public Library announced it will present a 10-day series of events titled Orwellian America? Government Transparency and Personal Privacy in the Digital Age.

The program, which is funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Service (which is, ironically, a federal agency), aims to increase awareness and stimulate debate about government transparency and personal online privacy in a digital age of increased—and increasingly accepted—government surveillance.

The festivities begin January 21 with a live-streamed reading of famed British author George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, in which an all-seeing totalitarian government monitors its citizens’ every move.

Other scheduled events include workshops on online privacy protection. Among these:

-The Sunlight Foundation will present three seminars on government transparency and how to access government records online.

-The Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu will hold a January 22 workshop on Internet safety for teens.

-On January 24, the publishers of Tor, the free, open-source software that allows users to surf the web anonymously, will teach participants how to install and use the Tor Browser Bundle. Tips on how to stay safe from government cyber spies will also be provided.

The library will also be screening The Internet’s Own Boy, an inspiring documentary feature about the life and work of Aaron Swartz, the young activist who was instrumental in the creation of Reddit, Creative Commons, RSS and SecureDrop before killing himself after being targeted by the government for downloading files from the online academic library JSTOR.

Activists around the world recently participated in a ‘hackathon’ in memory of Swartz. The film will be shown at a special preview event on Sunday.

“Libraries have always been concerned about privacy rights. It seems like a natural place for this,” DC Public Library associate Catherine Gees told KimKomando. “I just wish we were able to bring in more voices from the other side of the conversation.”

Gee said the NSA did not reply to the library’s invitation to participate in the event.

“We realize it can be a controversial topic, but we tried to make the program as balanced as possible,” she said. “We reached out to NSA and other federal agencies, and with a lot of them, we didn’t get response.”

The topic of NSA surveillance has been almost constantly making headlines ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden, now exiled in Russia, began leaking classified agency documents in 2013 detailing sweeping global monitoring of phone and electronic communications.

Billions of phone calls and emails were involved, including those of heads of state of close allies, foreign corporations, the Pope, and even online gaming communities like World of Warcraft. Apparently no one was immune, and the monitoring of Americans’ communications raised important questions about whether the agency violated citizens’ constitutional rights.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently acknowledged that it too had secretly spied on Americans’ phone calls, placing nearly all calls between the United States and selected foreign nations under surveillance.

In 2013, Reuters discovered that federal agents were being trained to deceive the public about their role in secret surveillance programs. Internally, agents referred to this deception as “parallel construction.”

White Oklahoma ‘Gun Enthusiast’ Shoots Black Police Chief in Botched Bomb Threat Raid, Walks Free

Dallas Horton (Facebook)

Dallas Horton (Facebook)

A white Oklahoma man described as a “survivalist” walked free after shooting a black police chief four times during a raid on his home triggered by a bomb threat that authorities say they believe may have been a hoax.

Sentinel Police Chief Louis Ross was shot three times in the chest and once in the arm by a man identified as Dallas Horton, a 29-year-old “gun enthusiast” and “survivalist.” The Tulsa World reports Ross donned a bulletproof vest moments before executing the raid, which took place at a residence in the 200 block of South 4th Street at around 6:00 a.m. on Thursday.

According to NewsOK.com, authorities received a 911 call about a bomb threat targeting the Sentinel Community Action Center, home to the town’s Head Start program. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol bomb squad responded, although no bomb was found.

Chief Ross and deputies from the Washita County Sheriff’s Office reportedly traced the 911 call to the 4th Street home. But according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), the 911 call “was not made from phones in the possession of those who live inside the home nor any other phones inside the residence at 205 S. 4th in Sentinel.”

It remains unclear who placed the 9/11 call. Sentinel Mayor Sam Dlugonski told the Oklahoman that the 911 caller used Horton’s name when making the bomb threat.

It also remains unclear whether the officers announced themselves before breaking down the door of the home, but NewsOn6.com reports Horton told OSBI investigators that he did not know they were police.

Dlugonski said that after clearing one bedroom, Ross entered a second bedroom, where Horton shot him. The gunman was taken into custody and underwent interrogation, but was released due to insufficient evidence for arrest.

“We don’t have probable cause to make an arrest at this moment,” OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown told reporters. The agency did say a possible explosive device was discovered in the home.

Chief Louis Ross (Sentinel Police Dep't./Facebook)

Chief Louis Ross (Sentinel Police Dep’t./Facebook)

Chief Ross was taken to Elkview General Hospital in Hobart, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the arm and released.

In addition to noting his love for guns and survivalism, Mayor Duglonski described Horton as “on edge.” The Raw Story reports neighbors said he was unfriendly and mistrusted the government.

Horton had posted numerous racially-charged Facebook posts mocking black leaders like the controversial Rev. Al Sharpton.

One meme posted on Horton’s Facebook page showed the blood-soaked front end of a tractor trailer with a dead body lodged in the grille, with the caption, “Just drove through Ferguson, didn’t see any problems,” a reference to the sometimes violent anti-police brutality protests that followed the non-indictment of a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teen last August.

Dallas Horton

A total of seven firearms were removed from Horton’s home.

DEA Admits it Secretly Spied on Americans’ Phone Calls

Se. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says Americans have a right to know when the DEA has been spying on their phone calls. (Photo: Chuck Hagel)

Se. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says Americans have a right to know when the DEA has been spying on their phone calls. (Photo: Chuck Hagel)

The US Drug Enforcement Administration has acknowledged and halted a secret program that collected nearly all data on phone calls between the United States and selected foreign countries.

The DEA formally admitted to maintaining the secret and sweeping database for nearly 15 years, Reuters reports. According to the Department of Justice, the program, parts of which were first reported in 2013, has been halted and “all of the information has been deleted.”

The DEA revealed the program, which was run by the Special Operations Division, in a court filing in the case of a man accused of conspiring to illegally export technology to Iran, the Associated Press reports.

The program was separate from the National Security Agency’s massive bulk collection of billions of phone and electronic communications data, which was revealed by exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden starting in 2013.

A DEA official wrote in the filing that the data collection relied upon administrative subpoenas permitting agency operatives to spy on phone calls from the US to countries, including Iran, that were “determined to have a demonstrated nexus to international drug trafficking and related criminal activities.”

The phone records collected were primarily used in support of domestic criminal cases, not national security investigations, the agency said. The DEA also admitted it shared information gleaned from the surveillance with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, IRS, Department of Homeland Security and other intelligence services.

DEA assistant special agent in charge Robert Patterson said the database could be accessed to investigate a specific phone number if law enforcement “had a reasonable articulable suspicion that the telephone number was related to an ongoing federal criminal investigation.”

Liberal lawmakers expressed serious concerns and reservations about the defunct program.

“The American people deserve to know that the DEA engaged in the bulk collection of their international phone records in routine criminal investigations without judicial review,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who had previously called upon the DEA to end the program. “We must continue to make progress in restoring the privacy rights of all Americans while keeping our country safe.”

In 2013, Reuters reported that federal agents were trained to deceive the public about the involvement and tactics of the Special Operations Division in the program. This deception is known within the agency as “parallel construction.”

DEA documents also revealed that agents were trained to cover their tracks to conceal that information used in investigations was obtained by collecting phone records. Some experts say this practice violated defendants’ constitutional right to a fair trial.

Sprint Backs Net Neutrality in Surprise FCC Letter

(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

Net neutrality advocates cheered a surprise move by telecommunications giant Sprint, which broke with the rest of the wireless industry on Friday by telling federal regulators that it would support strict net neutrality rules.

Gigaom reports Sprint stated in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission that it would back reclassification of Internet service providers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a more strict regimen under which the ISPs would be treated more like public utilities.

President Barack Obama supports Title II reclassification as “a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.”

“Sprint does not believe that a light-touch application of Title II … would harm the continued investment in, and deployment of, mobile broadband services,” Sprint’s letter said. “So long as the FCC continues to allow wireless carriers to manage our networks and differentiate our products, Sprint will continue to invest in data networks regardless of whether they are regulated by Title II, Section 706, or some other light touch regulatory regime.”

Sprint’s filing places it at odds with other ISPs including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, which all staunchly oppose reclassification, as they claim it will destroy their ability to invest in network upgrades.

Some observers have taken a cynical view of Sprint’s announcement, noting that the company is much smaller than its main competitors.

“It’s just a guess, but perhaps they are in the same position we are: they’re in a distant third place, and do not have enough customers to really monetize ‘captive eyeballs,’ but extorting content sources,” Dane Jasper, CEO of the smaller California ISP Sonic.net, told Wired. “By assuring that neither AT&T nor Verizon do either, they can help maintain a level playing field.”

The Sprint letter precedes an important February 26 FCC meeting at which the agency will vote on new Internet regulations.

Congressional Republicans have vowed to fight the new rules, arguing that net neutrality will kill jobs and stifle innovation.

“An open, vibrant ‪#‎Internet‬ is essential to a growing economy, and ‪#‎netneutrality‬ is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship,” House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) wrote in a Facebook post last November. “Federal bureaucrats should NOT be in the business of regulating the Internet. Not now. Not ever.”

But President Obama has become an increasingly vocal defender of net neutrality.

“Ever since the Internet was created, it’s been organized around basic principles of openness, fairness and freedom,” Obama said. “There are no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access. There are no ‘toll roads’ on the information superhighway.”

“This set of principles — the idea of net neutrality — has unleashed the power of the Internet and given innovators the chance to thrive,” the president continued. “Abandoning these principles would threaten to end the Internet as we know it.”

“We cannot allow ISPs to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas,” Obama added.

The president proposed a four-point plan to protect net neutrality. It would prevent ISPs from blocking user access to legal content, ban them from “throttling,” or intentionally speeding up or slowing down service, prohibit paid prioritization, or “Internet fast lanes,” and increase transparency.

Dalai Lama: “I am a Marxist”

Karl Marx monument; Chemnitz, Germany. (Holger Wirth)

Karl Marx monument; Chemnitz, Germany. (Holger Wirth)

The Dalai Lama identified himself as a Marxist as he lamented growing economic inequality at a peace conference in India on Tuesday.

In a speech at Presidency University in Kolkata, the 14th Dalai Lama told his audience that the world needs a more “human approach” to combat inequality.

“We must have a human approach,” the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said. “As far as socioeconomic theory, I am Marxist.”

“In capitalist countries, there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. In Marxism, there is emphasis on equal distribution,” he added.

Newsweek reports this isn’t the first time the Dalai Lama has self-identified as a Marxist. At a 2011 conference in Minnesota, he said, “I consider myself a Marxist… but not a Leninist.”

The Dalai Lama said he believes discrimination against women and lower castes persists in India largely because of economic and social inequality. He called on the world’s youth to lead a transition from a century of violence to a “century of peace.”

“I will not see this in my lifetime but we must start working on it,” he said. “Those below 30 are the generation of the 21st century. You have to stop violence with your will, vision and wisdom.”

He added that nuclear war is the greatest threat facing humanity.

“I would like to appeal to all the leaders of the nuclear powers, who literally hold the future of the world in their hands… to exercise their sanity and begin to work at dismantling and destroying all nuclear weapons,” he said.

Marxism, which forms the foundation of communism, is a system of economic, social and political philosophy developed by Karl Marx (1818-1883) which posits that economic class struggle leads to workers’ revolution to overthrow capitalism and establish a classless society.

While the brutal excesses of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and other communist dictators led to a dramatic decrease in Marxism’s popularity in the 20th century, last decade’s economic crisis and growing inequality have boosted its appeal in recent years.

CIA Clears Itself of Spying on Senate

Cia-lobby-seal

A Central Intelligence Agency “accountability board” has cleared five agency employees of any wrongdoing when they spied on Senate Intelligence Committee computers during the panel’s investigation of CIA torture.

The board concluded that the five workers—two attorneys and three IT personnel—”acted reasonably under the complex and unprecedented circumstances” and did not deserve to be punished for their actions.

Its report stated that “while [the spying] was clearly inappropriate, it was a mistake that did not reflect malfeasance, bad faith, or the intention to gain improper access to [Intelligence Committee] confidential, deliberative material.”

A CIA Inspector General’s report, which was completed in July but only released on Wednesday, concluded that the five employees had acted wrongfully. The “accountability board” determined that it was the IG, in fact, which had acted improperly.

The IG’s report also revealed that the White House was aware that agency operatives were accessing Senate computers during the Intelligence Committee’s torture probe. It stated that CIA Director John Brennan consulted the White House prior to directing agents to infiltrate a secure computer drive containing classified files related to the Senate investigation. Brennan ordered operatives to use “any means necessary” to determine how sensitive internal documents found their way into Senate investigators’ hands.

Former Sen. Even Bayh (D-IN), who led the review, claimed CIA personnel did not tamper with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s work and were instead “investigating a potential security breach in the highly classified shared computer network.”

Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who in July 2014 received an apology from Brennan for his agency’s improper snooping, said she was “disappointed that no one from the CIA will be held accountable.”

“The decision was made to search committee computers, and someone should be found responsible for those actions,” Feinstein said in a statement which noted Brennan’s July apology.

“I continue to believe CIA’s actions constituted a violation of the constitutional separation of powers and unfortunately led to the CIA’s referral of unsubstantiated criminal charges to the Justice Department against committee staff,” added Feinstein.

A summary of the 6,000-page Senate report on CIA torture, previously classified, was released last month over objections from Republicans and the Obama administration. It states that dozens of innocent individuals were wrongfully detained due to mistaken identity and faulty intelligence, that these and other detainees were subjected to horrific and even deadly torture and abuse, and that the brutality and scope of the program were hidden from the Justice Department and even high-ranking members of the Bush administration, including the president himself.

CIA officials and leading Bush administration figures, including former vice president Dick Cheney, refuted the Senate report’s findings, calling the investigation biased and politically motivated. Cheney said the report was “full of crap.”

Video: Rapper 2Chainz and Nancy Grace Debate Marijuana Legalization

In a protracted back-and-forth gone viral, HLN host Nancy Grace and Grammy-nominated rapper 2Chainz debated the pros and cons of marijuana legalization on Tuesday.

Appearing on HLN’s Nancy Grace, 2Chainz, born Tauheed Epps, sparred with Grace over the wisdom of legalizing a plant used for medicinal and recreational purposes for at least 5,000 years.

Grace channeled Reefer Madness,the 1930s anti-pot propaganda film, when she cited a handful of cases highlighting what she called the “dangers” of marijuana, including that of a 3-year-old Colorado girl who recently died in a mobile home fire while her parents sat outside drinking alcohol and smoking pot.

How, Grace inquired, could the rapper endorse marijuana legalization when presented with such stories?

“From the story I just heard you talk about, they had alcohol included, which we all know causes you to black out, forget things and have memory loss,” 2Chainz said. “They also dealt with irresponsible people. I don’t think you could put an umbrella on the whole community off these few incidents that you just named.”

“What community is that, potheads?” asked Grace.

“The stoners community,” the rapper retorted. “I just feel like you can’t use these particular stories to define everybody that has recreational use.”

Grace asked 2Chainz if he has any children.

“I have two beautiful little girls, and I’m a great father,” he replied. “I feel like everybody should take care of their own. You have kids, too, right? So it’s about governing your own household. It’s about taking care of your own property. It’s about having some kind of structure, in anything.”

“What I’m trying to say to you is, if this is legalized, then everybody is gonna have unlimited access to pot,” Grace pressed. “And unlike other people that are responsible, irresponsible child abusers are going to have free access.”

“I’m not sure if you know, but everybody has the ability to get their hands on pot right now, whether it’s legal or not,” 2Chainz shot back. “I just feel like if you legalize this particular drug you could cut out certain things in the criminal justice system as far as the overcrowding of prisons, as far as putting it on our criminal record to prevent us from getting loans, to prevent us from getting homes. Just the whole thing around recreational weed isn’t making any sense to me.”

The rapper silenced Grace by recounting how his tour bus was once stopped by police, who believed they detected the distinct odor of marijuana emanating from within. Traces of pot residue were discovered, resulting in charges against 2Chainz’s security crew. Those charges were later dropped. The rapper called the entire affair “a waste of taxpayers’ time and money.”

After the interview aired, 2Chainz continued the conversation on Twitter, where he thanked Grace for the “great debate.” He said he looked forward to debating another famous marijuana opponent, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly:

2Chainz tweet

(Twitter)

 

Boko Haram Accused of ‘Crime Against Humanity’ in Nigeria as Satellite Images Reveal ‘Catastrophic’ Scope of Massacre

Before and after satellite images released by Amnesty International show the staggering scope of destruction  caused by Boko Haram's massacre in Baga, Nigeria.

Before and after satellite images released by Amnesty International show the staggering scope of destruction caused by Boko Haram’s massacre in Baga, Nigeria. (DigitalGlobe)

US Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram of “crimes against humanity” on Thursday after the human rights group Amnesty International released satellite images showing widespread devasation caused by massacres in two northeastern Nigerian towns.

“What they have done… is a crime against humanity, nothing less,” said Kerry in Bulgaria. He called Boko Haram an “evil” group which poses a serious threat “not just in Nigeria and the region but to all of our values.” Kerry, who sat down with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Sofia, raised the possibility of “a special initiative with respect to Nigeria and with respect to Boko Haram.”

“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.

“Of all Boko Haram assaults analysed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet. It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.”

Hundreds, and perhaps as many as 2,000, residents of Baga and Doron Baga, two towns on the shores of Lake Chad in Borno state, were killed by Boko Haram fighters last week. Witnesses described the horrific brutality of the attackers, who murdered “indiscriminately,” including small children and a woman in labor.

“They killed so many people,” a man in his 50s told Amnesty. “I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing.”

The number of victims has yet to be precisely determined. International media reports have placed the number of dead at as high as 2,000. But the Nigerian government, which has often been accused of underreporting casualties caused by Boko Haram attacks, claims only 150 died.

Before and after satellite images of the two towns reveal more than 3,700 damaged or destroyed buildings. In densely-populated Baga, some 620 structures were damaged or destroyed by fire. In neighboring Doron Baga, more than 3,100 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Boko Haram often targets towns and villages it believes are cooperating with the Nigerian government and security forces. According to Amnesty:

Towns that formed state-sponsored militia groups known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) have suffered particularly brutal attacks. Civilian JTF groups were active in Baga and a senior military official confirmed to Amnesty International confidentially that at times the military took these members on operations to attack Boko Haram positions. A witness told Amnesty International that during the attack on Baga that he heard Boko Haram fighters saying they were searching for Civilian JTF members, as they went house to house shooting men of fighting age.

The Washington Post reports Baga and Doron Baga were likely attacked because they were among the last places in Borno state still under government control.

Amnesty is calling the killings the “largest and most destructive” massacre committed by Boko Haram since it launched its bid to establish an independent Islamic caliphate in 2009. Some 13,000 people are believed to have been killed by the group. The latest massacre occurred ahead of next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections and is believed to have been a bid to undermine the vote.

As French Parliament Votes 488-1 for More War, Jean-Pierre Gorges Casts Lone Dissenting Vote

(Chartres.com)

Jean-Pierre Gorges says escalating the war against IS will only stoke further extremist violence. (Chartres.com)

I know little to nothing about Jean-Pierre Gorges, other than that he is a member of the French National Assembly and that he alone, out of 502 lawmakers, voted against expanding France’s participation in the US-led war against Islamic State militants.

On Tuesday, the French parliament voted 488-1, with 13 abstentions, to increase airstrikes targeting IS fighters in Syria and Iraq in the wake of last week’s Islamist terrorist attacks that left 17 people, including 10 staff members of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, dead in Paris.

The closest thing to a unified antiwar front, the Gauche démocrate et républicaine (Democratic and Republican Left), a coalition of Communists, Greens and other leftists, could only manage to muster enough courage to cast 12 abstaining votes, with 9 members not voting at all.

That left Gorges, a member of the center-right UMP party and deputy mayor of Chartres, as the sole antiwar vote in the entire French parliament, a scenario reminiscent of how California Democrat Barbara Lee cast the lone dissenting vote (518-1) against the punitive US war in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC.

Those horrific attacks were the work of al-Qaeda, the global terrorist network the United States and its Western allies helped create in the 1980s. Al-Qaeda has also claimed responsibility for last week’s Paris attack.

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State don’t particularly care for each other. The former has even rejected the latter as being “too extreme.” As far as anyone knows, IS had nothing to do with last week’s attacks. But just as the United States lashed out at Iraq and its longtime dictator (and erstwhile US ally) Saddam Hussein, France is now escalating a war that will surely do little but stoke further attacks like last week’s.

Jean-Pierre Gorges understands this all too well. He wisely explained that he voted against authorizing more killing, maiming and destruction because such action would only stoke more extremist violence.

Gorges also asserted that “emotion should not dictate [French] foreign policy” and that France could not be the “world’s little policeman.”

“While it lacks the means to ensure safety in France, the army is sent into a conflict beyond our borders,” he lamented.

He added: “In a country in protracted crisis, common sense dictates that we devote our energy to our own problems before going to bomb the others.”

As is always the case in the United States, Gorges’ antiwar voice was drowned out by hawks in government and the media. Indeed, the French corporate mainstream media have all but ignored Gorges’ wise and principled rejection of further violence and instead have gone into full war fever mode, dedicating the overwhelming majority of air time to voices advocating more bombs, more bullets, more bodies.

As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a Socialist, proclaims that “France is not at war with Islam and Muslims,” bombs soon to be dropped and missiles soon to be fired by French warplanes will undoubtedly claim innocent Muslim lives. Spurred on by extremist Muslim leaders and the sight of their loved ones blasted to bits, some victims will seek revenge.

And so the brutal cycle will continue, benefiting no one but radical militants, scheming politicians and the corporations that make the bombs and bullets used by both sides of the unending conflict.

For casting the lone dissenting vote against this madness, Jean-Pierre Gorges deserves the highest praise. But there isn’t a single mainstream media article in France, or anywhere, about his heroic act of pacifism. As the French say, quelle domage.

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  • Republican Florida Court Official Calls for Lynching of Black Anti-Death Penalty State Attorney Aramis Ayala
  • South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard Signs Anti-LGBTQ Adoption, Foster Care Bill Into Law
  • Mississippi Republican Andy Gipson Kills Domestic Violence Divorce Bill
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