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Most of us who have been following the information about where the funding for Islamic fundamentalist terrorism originates have a pretty good guess as to what is in this report. What is also interesting is the way Saudi Arabia has tried to blame Qatar for as much terrorist funding as it can, somehow trying to link Qatar and even Al Jazeera to both Iranian sponsored terrorism and ISIS, in a move designed to deflect attention, no doubt.

Of course 45, in his recent trip to Saudi, bought this line; not having a good relationship with intelligence agencies liable to give him better information, or even having an especially good relationship with intelligence per se.

But is sitting on this report the classic case of conflict of interest?

Muslim folk are a minority of under 4% in the U.K., the vast majority of whom are law-abiding and decent. These are folk who don't deserve to be targetted by xenophobes. However, it appears our government would prefer that than actually expose where the money to fund terrorism is coming from in case it disrupts income stream to our arms manufacturers, or alienates a business partner with deep pockets, lots of oil, and a fundamentalist creed and mentality.

As a nation the U.K. has, of late, really embraced the concept of conflict of interest. It is becoming as British English as queuing. This joins Brexit as another massive stupidity we can ascribe to years of educational underfunding, which is surely the greatest conflict of interest a democracy can exhibit. I mean it's not as if we don't know where the money comes from, but sitting on the report which confirms it, for diplomatic reasons, exposes ordinary Muslims to obloquy and xenophobic attack.
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Hundreds of men, captured in raids against Al Qaeda extremists, have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in South Yemen, where torture and abuse is the norm and people are subjected to horrible forms of "interrogation", AP reports:

In Yemen's secret prisons, UAE tortures and US interrogates

One of the most shocking examples is the so called "grilling", where the subject is strapped to a "spit" as if to be baked alive, and they are rotated over a ring of fire.

AP's investigation has documented at least 18 illegal prisons in South Yemen that are run by the UAE or allied Yemeni forces, created and trained by the UAE. The reporters are citing testimony of former inmates and their families, lawyers and human-rights activists, and Yemeni military personnel.

These prisons were concealed, inaccessible to the local government, which gets aid from the UAE in its civil war against the rebels. The secret prisons are located in military bases, ports and one airport, in private houses and even in a night-club. Some inmates were transferred by air to an UAE base at the other side of the Red Sea, in Eritrea, Yemeni minister of the interior Hussain Arab said.

Read more... )
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While the main question about Iraq and Syria is how to defeat the Islamic State, a miracle is being built in North Iraq, in the territories controlled by the Kurdish militia, the so called Peshmerga ("the men facing death"). The Kurds have slowly been pushing the jihadists away with arms from the US and EU, and taking control of the abandoned and ruined Suni Arab towns and villages.

The Kurds are now offering refuge to almost 2 million Syrian refugees, many of them Christians. The region of Iraqi Kurdistan has been out of effective control from Baghdad since 1991, and only the generation over 40 years of age still speak Arab.

Read more... )
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Sounds like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE are implementing "extreme vetting" for Qatari nationals. ;)

Qatar row: Economic impact threatens food, flights and football

Iran must be very happy about this. Qatar has been a major thorn in their ass, geopolitically. Really, any rifts between the Gulf states is welcome news for Iran. Especially since divide-and-rule is their fave strategy. Breaking up the anti-Iranian coalition is their number one goal, and this development is going to help greatly in that respect - just as Trump was planning to reverse things with them and put Iran under pressure again.

This will surely divert attention from Iran's military adventurism and their new level of geopolitical assertiveness, what with their involvement in Iraq and Syria. Iran has expanded their activities in Iraq through their Shia militia proxies, and they've allied with the Kurds to counter Daesh. Assad in Syria is supported by both Russia and Syria, and doesn't look likely to go away any time soon. All in all, Iran has scored a major victory, and is about to complete their coveted belt spanning the main oil pipeline routes from Central Asia to the Mediterranean.

How happy would Putin be with all that, is another issue. But the Qatari development is a major blow on America's and Western interests as a whole. And they've had it coming for quite a while now.
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Nice speech, Donnie. I'm sure the turban-clad towel-wearing moustached folks with the long names sitting in their gold thrones driving their Rolls Royces must have nodded a few times in agreement with you, Donnie. Now trot along, and keep feeling good about yourself.

Well, the conflicts are not going to end any time soon. Especially those involving (and/or generated by) Islam.

And who are the most frequent culprits? Or at least the ones most frequently accused for inciting the conflicts? Well, let's see. America, Russia, the Sunnis and Shia, Germany's inexplicable hospitality to migrants (actually it could be explained with their fear of being accused of Nazism again), etc.

Read more... )
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Widespread Criticism Follows Saudi Arabia Joining U.N. Women's Rights Group

So one of the most repressive regimes in the world has somehow managed to get a spot in... wait for it... the UN committee on women's rights. Just let this sink in for a few seconds. Saudi Arabia will be supervising women's rights in the world. Oh, and by the way a few years ago they also got a spot in the human rights committee.

I must admit, I would find enormous difficulties to come up with the name of another country that has a WORSE human rights and women's rights record than Saudi Arabia. There might be a couple, but Saudi Arabia is right there, in the top 5. Women don't even have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Or communicate with males who are not their immediate relatives. Or appear in public places without a male relative. They need a male guardian if they are to travel abroad, or start a job, or get educated. There have been cases where Saudi women were sentenced to lashes for checking their husband's mobile without his permission. In Saudi court, the testimony of a man weighs as much as that of two women, if not more. Recently, the Saudi authorities tried to show more openness, so they organised a conference on women's issues. Except, they forgot to invite any women.

Despite all this, after an anonymous vote, Saudi Arabia was elected one of the 45 members of the committee, with a 4 year term ending in 2022. Other members include countries with a stellar women's rights record like DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Iraq, Turkmenistan, et. The decision was made last week uring an economic and social UN summit.

Read more... )
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I'm hearing opposing accounts from Syrian expats living here. Granted, most Syrian expats, being dissident refugees from the Assad regime, tend to support the official international position that Assad is evil, he's killing his own people, and he should be removed from power by God's blessing and the strong hand of the resolute president Trump who's now acting like a true Dear Leader.

However, one Syrian analyst argued the chemical attack was a false-flag, staged by the extremist "rebels" (there are indications that Assad had given up all his WMDs years ago, and that the WMDs used in this attack had a different signature from the ones Assad used to have). The idea was to get the US involved in the war and tip the scales away from Assad, who's been winning since the Russians got involved. That makes a lot of sense, frankly. After all, Assad has no interest to antagonize the whole world by using WMDs now, when he has almost won. In the past, maybe. Things were looking rather grim for him a few years ago, and he could've had a rationale for using WMDs back then. But now?

Besides, where's the proof that he had WMDs in that particular air base? Are we again jumping into a conflict based on an insinuation, like in Iraq? The media are cumming all over president Trump now, praising him for being presidential and even describing the bombing of that air base as "beautiful" and "poetic". Are we going to play this game again now? And how many times can the same mistake be repeated?
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There comes a time, in the power game of politics, that the leader must throw his most loyal allies and advisers under a bus, and this especially applies to the rotting lump of semi-sapient vegetable matter known as The Shambling Mound. It is also opportune as such palace intrigues are occurring to engage in a foreign distraction so massive that any domestic issues are forgotten by most. In terms of pure range of the typical chaotic activities the eleventh week of shambling was actually quite narrow - but what big stories they were.

It was almost prescient of this 'blog to even be so bold with the suggest last week that Devin Nunes, hair of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was flailing about in a rather poor fashion. However, then becomes a subject of an ethics investigation himself, and finds that he has to 'temporarily' step down. Given the seriousness of the allegations it is right and proper that he step down - indeed one can be fairly certain that he will be answering some uncomfortable questions in the near future. But for pure positional politics, a running feud between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon reach an explosive point when Lord Dampnut sided with nepotism (of course), removing Bannon from the National Security Council.

Then Syria happened. For those who have been living under a rock for the past six years, this is a dirty multi-faceted civil war, where the civilian population have suffered proportionally more than any other people this century. On April 4 the town of Khan Shaykhun in the rebel-held Idlib Province was attacked with Sarin poison gas which correlated with regime airstrikes. Three days later - just after it became clear the Security Council could not agree on a resolution - U.S. ships launched a missile on the Syrian government′s Shayrat Air Base in Homs, the first US direct attack on the regime (thousands of other attacks have been carried out against mainly Daesh positions).

Whilst the Russians were informed in advance of the attack, which did modest damage, it was conducted without authorisation from the US Congress or the United Nations Security Council, making it legally dubious (at best) under U.S. or international law. Many have pointed out that Lord Dampnut's actions are extremely different to what he was claiming a few years ago. Whilst the strikes do have the support of the majority which will probably translate to an improvement in poll numbers, we cannot avoid an uncomfortable conclusion; this is the only popular decision he's made. What a thing to be remembered for.
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The bar has been lowered quite a bit, hasn't it? Since even liberal pundits like Fareed Zakaria are now saying Trump has suddenly started to "look presidential" after his resolute actions against Assad in Syria.

Here's the deal. After years of holding a stance against intervention in Syria and repeatedly criticizing Obama for making a case for getting involved into "another quagmire", Trump now suddenly watches some heart-breaking footage of dead children on FOX, and decides enough is enough, and Assad should be punished. He doesn't need much evidence that it was Assad who gassed those people (although he's the most likely culprit, granted), or that indeed it was that base where the gas attack had been launched from. He just needs his fave pundits on FOX to tell him what a terrible person Assad is, and how he should be removed.

How is any of this presidential? )
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Last time this was mentioned more than 3 years ago. And now it's becoming even more topical. I'm talking about the new gas (and possibly also oil) discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean, which could explain a lot about the ongoing geopolitical shifts in that region.

There can be no coincidence. Two important events took place just within hours apart from each other on March 17. First the Cyprus government decided to grant drilling licenses for gas and oil to several multinational energy giants: Exxon Mobil, Qatar Petroleum, Total and ENI. On that very day, Turkey announced they'd be starting a navy exercise with live rounds just a few days later in Cypriot territorial waters, just 30 nautical miles off the SW coast of the Island of Aphrodite. Turkey said their patience was running out. Much in line with a visit a month earlier by their foreign minister Cavusoglu to the Turkish part of the island, where he warned the Greek Cypriots against any unilateral actions on the oil/gas issue.

Whoever was hoping that the gas off the Cyprus shores could serve as a platform for unification and cooperation between the two communities there, was being naive. Oil and gas are much more likely to stir up conflict, and the latest events are yet another evidence of that. The tension started to escalate instantaneously after the Cypriot move on the gas. The Greek/Turkish negotiations were halted, and the leaders of the two communities started hurling accusations at each other for this failure. Turkey used the opportunity to sharpen the tone and start issuing ultimatums and threats (they've been rather active in that regard lately).

Read more... )
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Trump’s First Military Operation Kills 8-Year-Old Girl, 6 Years After Obama Killed Her Brother

It’s really sad that the crazy American war machine is immune to scientific and rational reality-testing of its perverse ideas: Targeted killings of high-value targets DOES NOT WORK! Especially not against an ideology-based hydra with enourmous recruitment potential. Against such a foe, targeted killings work as a forced evolution of the leadership group towards smarter, more creative, more radical, more ruthless and more covert people and unless the recruitment to the group is blocked as well, the capacity and viciousness of the group increases.

In fact the biggest terrorists are the US congress and the corporations they work for. he American soldiers aren't defending America because America is not being attacked, rather they're pointlessly losing their lives for agenda-driven, narcissistic wealthy elites that will do anything to have power and control and continue this worldwide unrest.

The establishment creates false narratives and instills fear in societies such as America to justify what they do and continue to segregate groups in order to divide and conquer. The more you think that people in the Middle-East are the "Others" you should fear, the more power you are handing over to the figureheads of the corporatocracy that continue to act as a mouthpiece for the various corporate industrial complexes: military, financial, energy, food, pharmaceutical, prison, etc.

The more the US expands this idea of "terrorism", the more they will expand wars and armed attacks into more and more countries - for their agendas. Whoever believed the new administration was going to interrupt this vicious cycle, was an idiot.
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You see, Iceland abolished slavery as early as the 12th century. Ironically, thousands of Icelanders became part of the huge wave of Europeans who were enslaved by Muslim pirates in the centuries that followed.

The Arabs of the Middle Ages were a main force in the early use of slaves from Africa, long before the European imperialists ever thought of doing it. However, little has been written and said about white slavery, whether it was a result of the slave trade by the Golden Horde in the lands that later became Russia, or the hundreds of thousands of Europeans who were kidnapped from their homes by Arab pirates (the Maghreb used to be called the Barbary Coast back then). Only in recent times have some historians started to bring this issue into the light.

We need the full context of slavery )
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"Impressive results", that's how Maj. Gen. Naeem al Jabouri of the Iraqi military described the first day of the Battle for Mosul, the largest city under ISIL control. The first towns and villages in the outskirts of Mosul are already under government control, and 2/3 of the land-mines around town have been disabled. Speakers for the Iraqi military have reported that the first hours of the operation had seen vast territorial gains and little resistance.

The battle itself is going to be long and bloody, and the international aid organisations warn of a huge refugee crisis coming up. But the bigger problem is that noone could anticipate what ISIL's future will be. There are all sorts of predictions, none of them too good. Because a victory in Mosul doesn't mean the job would be done. In Iraq and the Middle East, and now in the West too, the threat of the ISIL followers will persist, albeit in a different form.

Read more... )
[identity profile]
Here's a handful of crackpot conspiracy theories for breakfast. Let's see if something sticks, and helps your digestion. See, for the last few weeks US secretary of state Kerry has toured nearly half the world, doing his best not to lag behind his Russian counterpart Lavrov, pushing hard for a ceasefire in Earth's current hottest spot, Syria. Several times he has said in the media he was doing this on Obama's bidding, which is natural. The former is the latter's employee, after all. Indeed, the Nobel peace prize laureate did need some tangible peace-related success at the end of his term, especially after the debacles in Beijing and Manila. He also needed a "see? we're the good cop, but Russia is blocking us cos they're sobad" sort of narrative, for propaganda purposes.

Problem is, the peace he seemed to be pushing so hard for, got instantly shot in the leg, and not by his presumed foe Putin, but by factors dwelling back home. Just two days after the much heralded ceasefire was proclaimed, the US-led coalition hit Syrian positions from the sky, killing scores of Syrian troops (Russia massacred UN aid workers shortly thereafter, which is even more deplorable - although Putin's own transgressions are a whole separate story on its own). The issue here are those positions that the US bombed. The positions were not ISIS. They were Assad. Contrary to what they'd tell you on the media, there can't have been much confusion about their identity. Assad's positions were well known, as were ISIS positions at the time. They could be clearly recognized from the sky.

Logically, the question arose, what is ISIS in relation to the US. Foe? Friend? What is it? And why would the US ultimately want to give ISIS a breath of fresh air by hitting the troops that were directly fighting them on the field? (As opposed to distantionally, from the sky, as the US usually fights). Don't the series of deadly terror attacks at both sides of the Atlantic mean anything? If they do, why would a US operation want to aid ISIS while claiming to fight ISIS? And even more importantly, who's really running the US military?

More of the same sort of rant... )
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^The patron saint of US asshole regimes adored and given money out the ass to run their little neomedieval autocratic fantasylands is now not only further involved in the forgotten war the USA is fighting in Lebanon, but employing white phosphorus. This is, to put it perfectly frankly, a war crime and yet further proof of why nobody with a brain cell to rub together in the region trusts the United States or anyone associated with it.

For the last few years the Nobel Peace Prize winner at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been waging a long-term undeclared war in Yemen, which if anyone had bothered to consult what happened when Nasser tried that shit they would have realized like Afghanistan Yemen is a resource hog that eats armies alive and asks for more whenever the maw of death is insufficiently glutted. The same people who thronged in hundreds of thousands to protest George Bush are conspicuous in their silence here as well, because nobody gives a flying fuck in the USA's so-called antiwar movement about open-ended bloodbaths when it's not a Republican in office. Overseas, perhaps, but then overseas lives with and sees what the USA does, here we pretend it doesn't happen like we live in a vacuum.

What's more, my country is supplying these neomedieval pieces of shit with the very materials used to commit the war crimes in question. With friends like this, the USA really doesn't need to bother invading countries to make enemies, this kind of foreign policy genius is gonna take care of that even if occupation armies were entirely removed.
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Daesh finally managed to do what nobody since the FDR Administration has done: hit US troops with a WMD in time of war. Technically it was a damp fizzle, nobody was hurt and the shell was poorly maintained, but it's a case of finally goading the superpower with a direct WMD strike of any sort at all. US policy here for some decades is that use of chemical weapons against US troops is literal grounds for bringing out canned sunshine. WMDs haven't been used by US troops with the Bari exception since the 1940s in anger, except Agent Orange and other defoliants in Vietnam, and of course tear gassing US civilians in the streets.

Yes, for US readers, tear gas is a chemical weapon so US law enforcement regularly gasses civilians. Put that way US policing starts looking rather totalitarian, don't it? But this is the first external use of any kind of chemical weapon on US troops since the First World War. What, if anything, comes of this is is a fascinating question in all the worst ways. Do I expect WWIII? No, I sincerely think humanity will still tease itself with its impending apocalypse while lacking the balls to go through with it.

But this does make WWIII much less hypothetical than it used to be and is a potentially profound moment in the worst senses of the term. In the height of the Cold War contemporary terrorist movements may have had the weapons but never dared to do even failed launches at the superpowers. Now one has.

The Chinese cursed wisely. "May you live in interesting times." And while I understand the idea of rational responses, as Paris showed, Europeans will piss and moan about the evils of imperialism until their citizens are the ones being killed by would-be martyrs operating on neomedieval mindsets at which point they bring out the bombers and start reverting back to 19th Century methods with finest fashion. So what happens if this is ignored and the next use of mustard gas hits, say, Parisians?  Judging by the previous response, we certainly can't see the French being more restrained than the US?

For that matter, letting it slide and essentially giving terrorist movements open season to perfect use of gas shells on US/NATO troops is literally gambling that these people can't learn from experience or perfect the use of chemical weapons. Technology's been around since the 1880s at least, so it's not like they're *all that* sophisticated to get right. So how should the response be calibrated here?
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Whoever really believed the armistice that Lavrov and Kerry achieved for Syria a few days ago, was going to last, must have not paid any attention at all.

Not only was that cease-fire not respected by either Assad's forces or the so called "moderate rebels" (not to mention Daesh), but it was being actively violated in the very first hours after the agreement.

Syria war ceasefire: Government and rebels violate peace deal 'within hours', say activists

The accusations between Russia and the US started raining within hours, too. The biggest problem here being, there's no chance to get the much needed aid into the cities that most need it. And the situation remains disastrous.

And of course, now comes this:

Syria conflict: US air strikes 'kill dozens of government troops'

Of course, given the fact that both the US and Russia have refused to coordinate their actions in an increasingly complicated situation, resulting in close encounters and misunderstandings on the field, such incidents were bound to occur at one point - and increase in frequency. And of course, both sides are now going to use the occasions for some propaganta. Russia has alleged that this incident is proof that the US really supports terrorists. The US says "investigation is underway, no more comments". The more neutral observers are bemoaning the lack of political will between these two great powers to work more closely together. And the incompetence of the US command which, in lack of enough data, seems too trigger-happy in conducting high-risk operations, the US diplomacy then having to wipe the shit from all over the place afterwards.

Ultimately, the conclusion here is that this conflict is not going to end anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Merkel is getting hammered in Germany because of her open-arms policy towards the migrants (an issue directly related to the ongling mess in Syria, but also the chaos that Gaddafi's removal has caused in Lybia). And Putin has expectedly won the Russian election by a landslide - so, expect more of the same in the years to come.
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Four or so years ago, Assad started shelling Turkish villages and Ankara wanted a major NATO intervention in the Syrian Civil War.

cut for length and links )

Does Turkey's intervention amount to anything more than oppressing a long-oppressed group denied its rights still further? Yes. At the end of the day, the USA and the EU must decide if they intend NATO and anti-terrorist rhetoric to mean anything, or if Turkey, which is clearly degenerating into the worst excesses of the region it's in, should have a free hand to engage in wholesale imperialism using anti-terrorism as a cover.

Then again too it's a bit late to decide that particular barn door should be locked after 2003 blew it wide open and carried off the whole farm with it. The real victims here will remain the long-suffering people of Syria who've seen their country halved and turned into a latter-day variant of 1930s Spain with Great Powers fighting over the twitching corpse purely to prove a point.

[identity profile]
Hey, folks! Want some geopolitical blitz-style case-in-point, eh? All right then, since you insisted, here it is:

Russia-Iran cooperation in Syria send message to US

When you don't play along with us, we'll turn to your foes and rivals in a heartbeat. That's basically the message. Russia has put bombers and fighter jets in Iran, and troops for the first time since WW2. Just to remind of the context here. Iran supports the Kurds in North Iraq, and the Shia majority of Iraq, and Assad, Russia's crony in the Levant, whom the Iranians view as their best vessel for establishing that West-East crescent spanning the entire region and connecting Iran to the strategic Mediterranean (new oil has been found near Cyprus, now being contested by several countries; plus, those pipelines have to pass from somewhere if Iran wants to bypass the tricky Gulf rivals).

Things are getting complicated down there )
[identity profile]
The Saudi question! The missing 28 pages! Who did it? It's 9-11 all over again!

That's right. The long-awaited classified files comprising of 28 pages telling us nothing new, have been declassified at long last. And, expectedly, they don't tell us, well anything new. Saudi Arabia the government "probably" wasn't involved in 9-11. But some Saudi officials might have been. That ambassador for example. He met with some of the 9-11 attackers and aided them in settling in the US just prior to the actual attack, it seems. Was he acting on his own? Was he a rogue operative? A cell in the vast network of Al Qaeda that the Saudis claim they've been actively fighting against on their soil? Predictably, these 28 pages don't tell us any of that. But quite a few eyebrows being raised from all of this, is quite natural, given the circumstances:

A newly declassified section of an investigation into the 9/11 attacks alleges connections between Saudi officials and the perpetrators.

Once more, we have to re-live the entire drama of 9-11. Why now, some might ask. I dunno, perhaps Obama is trying to make up for some missed opportunities from throughout his tenure, now that his sojourn in the White House is fast coming to a close? Make a lasting impact of some sorts? Maybe he doesn't care if the US-Saudi relations would get any much worse than they already are (and hey, aren't they icy at this point!)

Point is, these 28 pages aren't giving us anything conclusive. No lid is being removed from a huge bowl of stinking secrets. We're all left disappointed in the utter lack of surprises there.

Of course, most of us "know" in "our guts" that there must have been a Saudi involvement. It just can't be that these guys acted without any help from a relatively powerful intelligence service. But if we're expecting the truth to be presented to us on a silver plate, just like that, it ain't going to happen. Not within at least a couple more decades, I predict.

Then it wouldn't even matter that much. And that's the catch.

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Divisive Rhetoric


"Favoring multiculturalism is something Westerners give a lot of lovely lip service to until they have to actually do it."

September 2017

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