The Catholic Saint Who Was a Muslim Slayer – Saint Louis King of France

St Louis

(1243 – King Louis IX of France Ordered the Burning of 12,000 Jewish Talmuds)

Thirteenth Century Holy Warrior King Louis of France

In 1296 the deceased former head of the French state became a recognized saint of the Catholic Church. King Louis the Ninth said he was inspired in all of his actions as king by his Christian zeal.

He fought in wars against Islam, and he fought in France against blasphemy and Jewish people.  Blasphemy, doubting the teachings of the Catholic Church, was severely punished by Saint Louis government.  The punishments for those who thought differently from Saint Louis and the Church was mutilation of the tongue and lips.

Saint Louis opposed the payment of interest on money loans as something forbidden by the Bible.  He also outlawed gambling and prostitution.  He spent great sums of money for ‘relics’ of Christ and built a special church to hold them – the Sainte-Chapelle.

Saint Lois expanded the scope of the Religious Police, the Inquisition, to target Jewish people and ordered the burning of collections of Jewish books including The Talmud.

Saint Louis took up arms against Muslims to bring Christianity back to the Middle East and North Africa.  He died fighting against Islam in North Africa.

Much of what is known of Louis’s life comes from Jean de Joinville‘s famous Life of Saint Louis.  Joinville was a close friend, confidant, and counselor to the king, and also participated as a witness in the papal inquest into Louis’ life that ended with his canonization in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII.  The popes in Rome had encouraged holy wars against the Islamic empire in the Middle East and North Africa and King Louis heeded the call.

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Louis was born in 1214 to a Castilian mother and a Frankish father. Louis was 12 years old when his father died in 1226. He was crowned king within the month at Reims cathedral. Because of Louis’s youth, his mother, Blanche of Castile,  ruled France as regent during his minority.  His mother was a fanatical Christian.

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(Blanche of Castile.)

Louis’ mother had him trained him to be a ruthless leader and a intolerant Christian. She used to say:

I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should ever commit a mortal sin.

No date is known for the beginning of Louis’s personal rule. His contemporaries viewed his reign as co-rule between the king and his mother, though historians generally view the year 1234 as the year in which Louis began ruling personally, with his mother assuming a more advisory role.  She continued to have a strong influence on the king until her death in 1252.

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(Margaret of Provence)

In 1234, Louis married Margaret of Provence. The new queen’s religious zeal made her a well suited partner for the king. He enjoyed her company, and was pleased to show her the many public works he was making in Paris, both for its defense and for its health. They enjoyed riding together, reading, and listening to music. This attention raised a certain amount of jealousy in his mother, who tried to keep them apart as much as she could.  They had eleven children, five sons and six daughters. This line continued in power in France for five hundred years. In 1793, as the guillotine fell on King Louis XVI,  Abbe Edgeworth said: “Son of Saint Louis, ascend to Heaven!”

Saint Louis publicized his acts of charity.   Soldiers rounded up beggars who were fed from his table, he ate their leavings, washed their feet, ministered to the wants of the lepers, and daily fed over one hundred poor. He founded many hospitals and houses: the House of the Filles-Dieu for reformed prostitutes; the Quinze-Vingt for 300 blind men, hospitals at Pontoise, Vernon, Compiégne.[25]

St. Louis installed a group of the Trinitarian Order of Catholic clergy in his château of Fontainebleau. He chose Trinitarians as his chaplains, and was accompanied by them on his crusades. In his spiritual testament he wrote: “My dearest son, you should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.” Basically saying “Follow church rules.”  At the time the clergy were like a second government.

Saint Louis bought “the Crown of Thorns” supposedly worn by Jesus and other holy relics from the Eastern Emperor at Constantinople. He sent two Dominican friars to bring these sacred objects to France, and, attended by an impressive train, he met them at Sens on their return. To house the relics, he built on the island in the Seine named for him, the shrine of Sainte-Chapelle, one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in existence. Since the French Revolution it stands empty of its treasure.

The Sainte Chapelle, a perfect example of the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture, was erected as a shrine for the Crown of Thorns and a supposed fragment of the True Cross, phony relics of the time of Jesus.  Louis purchased these in 123941 from Emperor Baldwin II of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres (the chapel, on the other hand, cost only 60,000 livres to build). This purchase should be understood in the context of the extreme religious fervor that existed in Europe in the 13th century. The purchase contributed greatly to reinforcing the central position of the king of France in western Christendom, as well as to increasing the renown of Paris, then the largest city of western Europe. During a time when cities and rulers vied for relics, trying to increase their reputation and fame, Louis IX had succeeded in securing the most prized of all relics in his capital. The purchase was thus not only an act of devotion, but also a political gesture: the French monarchy was trying to establish the kingdom of France as the “new Jerusalem.”

Saint Louis loved sermons, heard two Masses daily, and was surrounded, even while traveling, with priests chanting the hours. He was said to be most happy in the company of priests talking about the Christian religion and God.

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His friend and biographer, the Sieur de Joinville,  who accompanied him on his first crusade to the Holy Land, relates an anecdote to illustrate how religious the king was.

“What is God?”King Louis once asked him.

Joinville replied, “Sire, it is that which is so good that there can be nothing better.”

“Well,” said the King, “now tell me, would You rather be a leper or commit a mortal sin?”

The spectacle of the wretched lepers who wandered along the highways of medieval Europe might well have prompted a sensitive conscience to ask such a question.

“I would rather commit thirty mortal sins,” answered Joinville, in all candor, “than be a leper.”

Louis expostulated with him earnestly for making such a reply.

“When a man dies,” he said, “he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise.”[1]

The Saint Burned Jewish Books

In 1243, in Paris, at the urging of Pope Gregory IX, Saint Louis ordered the burning  of some 12,000 manuscript copies of the Talmud and other Jewish books. 

In the 1230s, Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, translated the Talmud, the collection of Jewish writings on religion and the Jewish faith.

Donin then pressed 35 charges of anti-Christian hate speech in the Talmud to Pope Gregory IX by quoting a series of detailed anti-Christian passages about Jesus, Mary or Christianity.

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(Pope Gregory IX )

There is a Talmudic passage, for example, where Jesus of Nazareth is sent to Hell to be boiled in excrement for eternity. Donin also pointed out passages of the Talmud that permits Jews to kill non-Jews, because non-Jews are not fully human in God’s eyes. Gentiles were put on Earth to serve Jewish people according to several sections of the Talmud.

The Catholic Church encouraged Jewish people to convert to Christianity and rewarded intellectuals who became Christians and helped campaign against Judaism.  Donin was very ambitious and had visions of rising high in the Church. Convincing the authorities that he could prove Christianity was God’s successor to the Old Testament and ancient Jewish beliefs through the most authoritative books unique to the Jews was a sure path up the ladder to success in the Church for a Jewish convert. By winning such an argument, all the Jews would convert it was believed.  Donin hoped to use a close reading of the Talmud to show the superiority of Christ and the Church.  Jesus was the Messiah the Torah had foretold, according to Donin.

This led to the Disputation of Paris, which took place in 1240 at the court of Saint Louis, where rabbi Yechiel of Paris defended the Talmud against the accusations of the Christian convert Nicholas Donin.  Rabbeinu Yechiel made such a skillful defense that the king agreed that it was true that one could not prove Christianity through the Talmud.  The Talmud is a confusing maze of commentary by many authors with no defining thread or consistent narrative.  Nevertheless, Donin said that the Talmud was an insult to the Christianity.  Sections of the Talmud denounced Jesus Christ as a false teacher and not the Messiah his followers believed he was.

Therefore, in 1243, King Louis IX ordered the burning of 24 cartloads of priceless Hebrew manuscripts.  In the Middle Ages each book to be hand-written. The Talmud alone is, in the modern printed format, about 2,300 pages.  Scribes of that time wrote using quill pens and manufactured ink on parchment (or vellum paper that then began to be produced). The pure physical labor of sitting and writing that volume of words alone boggles the mind. The 24 cartloads amounted to some 12,000 volumes. Louis had all the copies of the Talmud he could get his hand on collected and burned them publicly

Jewish people were targeted in other ways.  When Saint Louis wanted to finance holy wars against Islam he confiscated money from anyone who loaned money with interest payments – the Jewish money lenders had their assets  seized and Jewish money lenders were then expelled from the country.  Saint Louis also ordered that all Jewish people must wear a patch of cloth on their outer clothes so that everyone in public would know they were Jewish.  Louis IX, on the other hand, was single-minded in his efforts to induce the Jews to convert.   The Jewish community in France took long to recovered after the oppression of Saint Louis. France never again became the great seat of learning or even the great seat of Jewish tradition as it was in the 11th through 13th centuries.

“Even today, the majority of Jews in France are Sephardic Jews who came from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco within the last century. It is not a scholarly or a particularly strong Jewish community. It certainly never again looked like Rashi’s community, after Saint Louis religious police burned the Talmud.”

Many European Christian countries required Jewish people to wear particular hats, or particular pieces of clothing.  The Catholic Church wanted Jewish people to be identifiable.  The rules were varied from place to place and sometimes not strictly enforced.  But Saint Louis changed that in France.  On June 19, 1269 Louis IX issued a general edict for the whole of France that Jewish people must wear a cloth circular badge on the breast above the heart.

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(Medieval Jewish Clothing)

This edict was endorsed by the Church councils of Pont-Audemer (1279), and Nîmes (1284).  Some regulations also required that a second sign should be worn on the back. At times, it was placed on the Jewish person’s hat, or at the level of the belt. The badge was yellow in color, or of two shades, white and red. Wearing it was compulsory from the age of thirteen, according to some authorities.  Saint Louis ordered that any Jew found without the badge had to give his clothes to the person who had denounced the Jewish person.  In cases of a second offense a severe fine was imposed.  Saint Louis received government funds each year as his tax collectors went to Jewish communities to sell the state issued badges every adult Jewish person had to wear.

(The Jewish Badge Required by Saint Louis IX)

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Holy Warrior Saint

In the south of France a religiously independent movement was crushed by a Crusade when Saint Louis was fifteen years old while his mother was the effective ruler of the country.

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The Albigensian Crusade taught Saint Louis that religious differences where settled by warfare.   Religious opponents of the king could be attacked and killed and their property taken.

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Saint Louis took up arms against Islam during two crusades, in his mid-30s in 1248 (Seventh Crusade), and then again in his mid-50s in 1270 (Eighth Crusade).

In 1248 Louis assembled forces for an attack on the Islamic Middle East.  For six years he was in Egypt.  After crossing the Mediterranean the Christian invaders captured the port of Damietta, Egypt in 1249.  The Islamic defenders had simply retreated with out putting up a fight for the small port on one of the many outlets of the Nile to the Mediterranean.  The French invaders did not know much about Egypt or how to deal with the hot climate and local environment.  The upper class knights and lords and barons were used to pushing around unarmed peasants and had difficulty in the rough life of a military camp in a strange land.  The religiously trained leaders had no ideas about basic sanitation or what microorganisms might be in the local water.  Soldiers began to get sick with diseases that were not common in the colder climate of Europe.

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Saint Louis IX thought that he could capture the Egyptian capital city of Cairo.  Egypt was a populous Islamic state and capturing the country for Christianity would provide an opening to taking Jerusalem and the Holy Land of Christ’s time.  The local Egyptian Muslim ruler was sick and dying and other Islamic powers were facing the Mongols coming from the east toward Baghdad.  The Egyptian ruler died and his wife became effective queen and organized effective defenses against the crusader army.  The Nile waters were rising and Louis forces simply did not know how to operate on the terrain.

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The Battle of Al Mansurah was fought from February 8 to February 11, 1250, between Crusaders led by Louis IX, King of France against the local Muslim forces of Egypt.  The Crusaders advanced into a town that had emptied and found themselves trapped inside by Egyptian fighters.  Numerous soldiers died including leading knights.  The crusaders eventually made a retreat back towards their base on the shore.

Egyptians had transported light ships overland and blocked the Crusaders from reinforcements or effective retreat.  Egyptians employed the burning chemical weapon called ‘Greek fire’ to burn Crusader ships.  The invaders supply ships were captured. The Crusaders fought their way back toward their base with heavy losses.  The besieged Crusaders soon began suffering from famine and disease. Some Crusaders surrendered to the Muslim forces and faced a life of slavery.

Despite being overwhelmed and ultimately defeated, King Louis IX tried to negotiate with the Egyptians, offering the surrender of the Egyptian port of Damietta in exchange for Jerusalem and a few towns on the Syrian coast. The Egyptians rejected the offer, and the Crusaders retreated to Damietta under cover of darkness on April 5, followed closely by the Muslim forces. At the subsequent Battle of Fariskur, the last major battle of the Seventh Crusade, the Crusader forces were annihilated and King Louis IX was captured on April 6, 1250.

 

Meanwhile, the Crusaders were circulating false information in Europe, claiming that King Louis IX defeated the Sultan of Egypt in a great battle, and Cairo had been betrayed into Louis’s hands.[23][24] Later, when the news of Louis IX’s capture and the French defeat reached France, the Shepherds’ Crusade movement occurred in France.[25]

According to medieval Muslim historians, 15,000 to 30,000 French fell on the battlefield and thousands were taken prisoners.[26] Louis IX of France was captured, chained and confined in the house of Ibrahim Ibn Lokman, the royal chancellor, and under the guard of a eunuch slave named Sobih al-Moazami.[27] The king’s brothers, Charles d’Anjou and Alphonse de Poitiers, were taken prisoner at the same time, and were carried to the same house with other French nobles.  A camp was set up outside the town to shelter the rest of the prisoners. Louis IX was ransomed for 400,000 dinars, or livres (at the time France’s annual revenue was only about 1,250,000 livres tournois) . After pledging not to return to Egypt, Louis surrendered Damietta and left for Acre with his brothers and 12,000 war prisoners whom the Egyptians agreed to release.[28]

The battle of Al Mansurah was a source of inspiration for Islamic writers and poets of that time. One of the satiric poems ended with the following verses: “If they (the Franks) decide to return to take revenge or to commit a wicked deed, tell them :The house of Ibn Lokman is intact, the chains still there as well as the eunuch Sobih“. —from stanza by Jamal ad-Din ibn Matruh. [29]

The name of Al Mansurah (Arabic: “the Victorious”) that dates from an earlier period[30] was consolidated after this battle. The city still holds the name of Al Mansurah today, as the capital of the Egyptian governorate, Daqahlia. The National Day of Daqahlia Governorate (capital Al Mansurah) on February 8, marks the anniversary of the defeat of Saint Louis IX in 1250. The house of Ibn Lokman, which is now the only museum in Al Mansurah, is open to the public and houses articles that used to belong to the French monarch, including his personal thirteenth century grooming items.

For the next four years King Louis stayed in the Crusader States around Jerusalem.  Funds from France were used to build the Crusader states.  In 1254 King Louis and what was left of his crusader army returned to France.

Saint Louis’ Last Crusade

After ruling in France burning Jewish books and making Jewish people wear badges Saint Louis wanted to take the fight for a Christian supremacy to a Muslim ruled country right across the Mediterranean  Sea from France – Tunisia.

After landing a large force outside the city of Tunis the crusaders began to suffer from dysentery.  Great numbers became sick and the decision was made to retreat back across the sea.  A treaty that was favorable to the Christian ruler of Sicily was negotiated and Islamic rule was secured in North Africa and Tunisia.

The crusade is considered a failure after Saint Louis died shortly after arriving on the shores of Tunisia, with his disease-ridden army dispersing back to Europe shortly afterwards.  In order to create holy ‘relics’ Louis body was boiled so the bones could be retrieved and sent to various churches to venerate as a physical connection to the dead king and soon to be saint.  While ghoulish by today’s standards, the transportation of the body back to Europe would not have been healthy in 1270.

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(The Death of King Louis IX during the siege of Tunis)

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Louis_IX_of_France

A portrait of St. Louis hangs in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives.

Saint Louis is also portrayed on a frieze depicting a timeline of important lawgivers throughout world history in the Courtroom at the Supreme Court of the United States.

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https://outline.com/rSrY3U

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Links

https://www.jewishhistory.org/the-burning-of-the-talmud/

http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/louis.htm

The French Monarchy and the Jews
From Philip Augustus to the Last Capetians

William Chester Jordan – http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/13748.html

http://crusades.wikia.com/wiki/Louis_IX_of_France

http://crusades.wikia.com/wiki/Louis_IX_of_France

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1455330?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Radical Liberal ‘ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser Calls For Confronting Republicans ‘Where They Sleep’ – 30 Sept 2018

ThinkProgress is a radical liberal pro-Democrat organization.  The ‘justice editor’ Ian Millhiser of Florida has called for ‘confronting’ Republicans who don’t vote with Democrats ‘where they sleep.’  This invitation to protest at Republican’s homes was published on Twitter.  Ian 00Ian 01Ian 02Ian 03Ian 04Ian 05Ian 06Ian 07Ian 08Ian 09

https://thinkprogress.org/

The Social and Political Costs of the Financial Crisis, 10 Years Later – by Gautam Mukunda – 25 Sept 2018

Wall Street Uber Alles

It is hard to overstate the sheer economic cost of the 2008 financial crisis. The combination of increased expenditures and decreased revenues resulting from the crisis from 2008 to 2010 is likely to cost the United States government well over $2 trillion, more than twice the cost of the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan. Broader measures are even more damning. Measured by decrease in per capita United States GDP compared to the pre-crisis trend, by 2016 the crisis had cost the country 15% of GDP, or $4.6 trillion. Such numbers are too vast to be understood in any meaningful way, but one on a smaller scale may be even more powerful. A 2018 study by the Federal Reserve Board found that the crisis cost every single American approximately $70,000. Just in dollar terms, the crisis was arguably the most significant event of the 21st century so far, and the largest single economic downturn since the Great Depression. If the only effects of the financial crisis were economic, it would still be worth revisiting 10 years later.

But the most important effects of the financial crisis may be political and social, not economic. The years after the crisis saw sharp increases in political polarization and the rise of populist movements on both the left and right in Europe and the U.S., culminating in Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump here — by some measures the country’s most polarizing president ever. Such increases in political divides are a predictable response to financial crises across eras and countries. Even the economic recovery experienced by the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, Britain, is not enough to neutralize the long-term political and social effects of the collapse.

The severity of the crisis was such that probably no government response could have eliminated these political and social consequences; when the economy collapses, people will suffer, and they will blame the people in charge. In my opinion, the way that the Bush and Obama administrations chose to respond to the crisis greatly exacerbated the change in American political culture produced by the crisis.

Fundamentally, the American (and world) economy was crippled by the actions of the leaders of the American financial sector, and the U.S. government chose to “punish” those leaders by giving them enormous sums of money through bailouts. This may have been the right decision. It may have been necessary to prevent a second Great Depression. It might even have been economically optimal, in the sense that it prevented an even worse outcome at the lowest possible cost (I do not believe this, but let’s assume it is true for the sake of argument). It nonetheless strikes most Americans as fundamentally unjust.

Justice is generally conceived of in one of two ways. The first, and more common, one is that justice is fairness. In a fair world, good behavior is rewarded and bad acts (usually meaning acts that contravene generally accepted norms) are punished. Economists and people with significant training in economics, however, often conceive of justice as efficiency — that is, the just outcome is the one that maximizes welfare. Although this is how economists often see it, most people have a very different perspective. Psychology experiments show that most people — and even monkeys! — believe that justice is fairness, and believe it so strongly that they will pay significant costs to protest unfair outcomes. People given the chance to punish someone who has betrayed them in a game, for example, will generally take it even if doing so leaves them worse off. They explicitly choose fairness over efficiency.

The arguments in favor of the government’s response to the financial crisis — ranging from TARP, to the nationalization of AIG, to allowing bailed-out banks to continue to pay bonuses to their employees — all hinged on the logic of justice as the rescue of the American economy at the lowest possible financial cost. These arguments, however, entirely ignore the powerful and far more common belief that justice is fairness. Efficiency may have required rewarding people who had acted badly and punishing the blameless — but that did not make it fair.

One way to highlight the scale of this unfairness is to look at the contrast between how bailed-out banks and automotive companies were handled. When the government rescued major American banks, it did not fire even one of their CEOs. The bailouts did not prevent the banks from generously paying their executives, and paying dividends to shareholders, rather than retaining capital to increase stability. When the government bailed out AIG, it did not impose a single penny of loss on any of AIG’s creditors. If you were a player in the American financial system, the government did everything possible to make sure that you did not suffer consequences from the crash your industry had caused.

When GM and Chrysler were bailed out, on the other hand, their CEOs were fired and their unionized workforces were forced to accept substantial pay cuts, even though they had nothing to do with the causes of the crisis. Each individual decision may, in some sense, have been the right one when measured purely in terms of economic efficiency. In aggregate, however, they gave the appearance of a government willing to spare no expense to shelter Wall Street from the consequences of its own mistakes, while largely unwilling to make similar efforts for others.

Perhaps even worse was the extent to which the government focused its efforts on stabilizing the financial sector instead of directly aiding most Americans. This was best symbolized by former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s approach to the response to the financial crisis. He explained, for example, why the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which was meant to help Americans who were facing eviction because they were unable to pay their mortgages, had done little, because its real purpose was to “foam the runway” for banks that had made the loans — that is, he saw it as a program meant to help banks, not the customers to whom they had made loans, often under predatory terms.

Even if we accept the argument that focusing almost entirely on the health of the financial sector was the best way to handle the crisis, this approach creates a series of problems. It largely removes any pressure on the sector to permanently change the behaviors that led to the crisis. Even worse, though, it corroded the bonds of trust required for the functioning of democracy.

It’s entirely reasonable that many voters would lose trust in the governing elite. And when that trust is broken, democratic populations will turn to politicians who promise to overturn that elite, whether it’s Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson, or Nigel Farage. Populist movements often turn to outsiders to lead them. The problem with voting for complete outsiders, however, is that they don’t have a track record. You don’t know what they really believe. And they don’t always know how to pull the levers of power. Once in office, they can turn on you and pursue policies very different from the ones they promised, they can be manipulated by insiders, or they can simply be ineffective in trying to enact their agenda. The result is either more of the same or a government that is so discombobulated that it cannot function.

We can see different versions of this unfolding now in both the U.S. and UK. In the UK, within days of winning the vote to leave the EU, leading Brexiters started walking back key campaign promises to redirect EU funding toward Britain’s national health services, cut immigration, and harden Britain’s borders. Now, two years after the vote, the government has been unable to cobble together a deal to actually leave the EU. The result has been a government frozen in inaction, constant threats to PM Teresa May’s authority, the resignation of key officials, and continued confusion about what to do next.

In the U.S., Donald Trump has been either unable or unwilling to aggressively pursue the populist policies he promised during the campaign, with the exception of cutting back on refugee admissions and, to some extent, imposing tariffs on foreign trade. During his campaign, Trump promised to raise taxes on the rich and repeatedly attacked Goldman Sachs (and attacked his opponent for giving paid speeches to them). Once in office, he has cut taxes on the wealthy, filled his administration with Goldman alums, and sought to limit the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — in essence, rewarding the financial elites whose failure helped lead to his election.

The task facing May’s and Trump’s successors is simple. He or she, Democrat or Republican, Labour or Tory, must break this cycle. He or she will have to have both the will and the skill to address major concerns about the economy, ranging from stagnating median income to increasing inequality to the fundamental economic insecurity of most people. Beyond that, however, the two successors must govern in a way that is seen to be just. That means, for example, demonstrating that those who break the law will be punished, even if they are wealthy and powerful. A leader seeking to assuage these sorts of concerns, for example, might seek to emphasize white-collar crime, which is still too often ignored by prosecutors, and for which the overall number of prosecutions in the U.S. is at a 20-year low. Whatever their approach, future leaders should be guided by the idea that has always underpinned democratic societies — justice is about much more than economic efficiency. It fundamentally also requires fairness.


Gautam Mukunda is a Research Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. Previously, he was on the faculty of Harvard Business School, and he received his PhD from MIT in Political Science. He is the author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter.

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Egypt Sends Actress to Jail for Spreading ‘Fake News’ Over Sexual Harassment – By Jared Malsin – 29 Sept 2018

Amal Fathy 01

CAIRO—A woman has been sentenced in Egypt to two years in prison for allegedly spreading fake news after she posted a video on Facebook decrying her experience of sexual harassment in the country.

People walk by a poster of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the upcoming presidential election, in Cairo

The sentencing of actress Amal Fathy comes as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has given free rein to the country’s police and judiciary to clamp down on women who complain of sexual assault and harassment and women’s activist groups. The crackdown on women and feminist organizations is part of a broader government assault on civil society, dissidents, and anyone perceived as tarnishing the country’s image.

Ms. Fathy was arrested in a raid on her home in May after she published a video on her personal Facebook page where she talked about her experience of sexual harassment in a Cairo bank.

Cairo’s Maadi Misdemeanor Court sentenced Ms. Fathy to a year in prison on a charge of publishing what it called “fake news” with the intent of toppling the Egyptian regime, and to a second year in prison for possession of “indecent material,” a reference to the video itself. She was also fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $560).

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“To me, this is a clearance toward harassers that they can freely harass women,” said Mohamed Lotfy, Ms. Fathy’s husband.

“The message to women or victims of harassment is, ‘Shut up your mouth or we will jail you,” said Mr. Lotfy, who works as a human rights defender, speaking outside the courthouse.

Ms. Fathy is expected to appeal her sentence.

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A second woman, a Lebanese tourist named Mona Mazbouh, was arrested in June after complaining of about sexual harassment during a visit to Egypt. She was initially sentenced in July to eight years in prison on charges of spreading rumors that could “undermine society” and defaming religion. She was freed after that sentence was overturned earlier in September.

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The arrests contributed to what Egyptian women have described as a chilling effect on public complaints of sexual harassment.

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Women’s rights advocates and specialists working with survivors of sexual trauma say they have faced detention and questioning by security forces over their work.

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President Sisi vowed to end sexual assault after a woman was attacked by a crowd of men celebrating his inauguration in 2014. A widely spread video shows a woman wearing only a black shirt, surrounded by a group of men who appear to be ripping off her clothes and beating her. She has enormous bruises on the lower half of her body, which is completely naked. At the end of the two-minute video she is carried, bloody and bruised, to apparent safety in a vehicle. The video went viral on Facebook and Twitter, prompting anguished debate on the sites of activists against sexual harassment and violence in Egypt.

(Vice Video about Sexual harassment in Egypt – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD70uTQDJ1g )

egypt assault

(Egyptian Dictator Sisi brings flowers to woman beaten and raped in the street by Sisi supporters)

Sisi sworn in as Egypt's new president

State institutions have denounced sexual harassment but many Egyptian women say they don’t feel comfortable reporting cases of assault to police, who are mostly Muslim men.

 

Wall Street Journal

Policebook’s New Propaganda Partners – US Government Approved – CIA Certified – 28 Sept 2018

Media giant Facebook recently announced (Reuters, 9/19/18) it would combat “fake news” by partnering with two propaganda organizations founded and funded by the US government: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). The social media platform was already working closely with the NATO-sponsored Atlantic Council think tank (FAIR.org, 5/21/18).

In a previous FAIR article (8/22/18), I noted that the “fake news” issue was being used as a pretext to attack the left and progressive news sites. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm have reduced traffic significantly for progressive outlets like Common Dreams (5/3/18), while the pages of Venezuelan government–backed TeleSur English and the independent Venezuelanalysis were shut down without warning, and only reinstated after a public outcry.

The Washington, DC–based NDI and IRI are staffed with senior Democratic and Republican politicians; the NDI is chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, while the late Sen. John McCain was the longtime IRI chair. Both groups were created in 1983 as arms of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a Cold War enterprise backed by then–CIA director William Casey (Jacobin, 3/7/18). That these two US government creations, along with a NATO offshoot like the Atlantic Council, are used by Facebook to distinguish real from fake news is effectively state censorship.

Facebook’s collaboration with the NED organizations is particularly troubling, as both have aggressively pursued regime change against leftist governments overseas. The NDI undermined the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, and continues to do so to this day, while the IRI claimed a key role in the 2002 coup against leftist President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, announcing that it had

served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future…. We stand ready to continue our partnership with the courageous Venezuelan people.

The Reuters report (9/19/18) mentioned that Facebook was anxious to better curate what Brazilians saw on their feeds in the run-up to their presidential elections, which pits far-right Jair Bolsonaro against leftist Fernando Haddad. The US government has a long history of undermining democracy in Brazil, from supporting a coup in 1964 against the progressive Goulart administration to continually spying on leftist President Dilma Rousseff (BBC, 7/4/15) in the run-up to the parliamentary coup against her in 2016 (CounterSpin, 6/2/17).

Facebook: Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments

Soon after it partnered with the Atlantic Council, Facebook moved to delete accounts and pages connected with Iranian broadcasting channels (CNBC, 8/23/18), while The Intercept (12/30/17) reported that in 2017 the social media platform met with Israeli government officials to discuss which Palestinian voices it should censor. Ninety-five percent of Israeli government requests for deletion were granted. Thus the US government and its allies are effectively using the platform to silence dissenting opinion, both at home and on the world stage, controlling what Facebook‘s 2 billion users see and do not see.

Progressives should be deeply skeptical that these moves have anything to do with their stated objective of promoting democracy. Bloomberg Businessweek (9/29/17) reported that the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party went to Facebook headquarters for discussions with US companies about how it could use the platform for recruitment and micro-targeting in the 2017 elections. AfD tripled its previous vote share, becoming the third-largest party in Germany, the far right’s best showing since World War II.

Public trust in government is at 18 percent—an all-time low (Pew, 12/14/17). There is similar mistrust of Facebook, with only 20 percent of Americans agreeing social media sites do a good job separating fact from fiction. And yet, worldwide, Facebook is a crucial news source. Fifty-two percent of Brazilians, 61 percent of Mexicans, and 51 percent of Italians and Turks use the platform for news; 39 percent of the US gets their news from the site.

This means that, despite the fact that even its own public mistrusts it, the US government has effectively become the arbiter of what the world sees and hears, with the ability to marginalize or simply delete news from organizations or countries that do not share its opinions. This power could be used at sensitive times, like elections. This is not an idle threat. The US created an entire fake social network for Cubans that aimed to stir unrest and overthrow the Cuban government, according to the Guardian (4/3/14).

That a single corporation has such a monopoly over the flow of worldwide news is already problematic, but the increasing meshing of corporate and US government control over the means of communication is particularly worrying. All those who believe in free and open exchange of information should oppose Facebook becoming a tool of US foreign policy.

https://fair.org/home/facebooks-new-propaganda-partners/

UK: Peterloo Massacre Movie Director Says Incident Should Be Taught in Schools – by Helen Pidd – 15 Aug 2018

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All schoolchildren in the UK should be taught about the Peterloo massacre, according to Mike Leigh, who has directed a film about the little-known Manchester atrocity sometimes referred to as Britain’s Tiananmen Square.

Leigh grew up in Salford, a short walk from St Peter’s Field, where on 16 August 1819 government forces charged into a peaceful rally by more than 60,000 people who were demanding political reform and protesting against poverty.

Cavalry troops slashed at the crowd with sabres, and an estimated 18 protesters were killed and more than 650 injured, making it the bloodiest political clash in British history.

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The incident led to an acceleration in the progress of suffrage in Britain and, two years later, to the formation of the Manchester Guardian, now the Guardian. At the time of the massacre just 2% of the population had the vote.

Leigh, whose new film, Peterloo, tells the story of the slaughter, said he did not learn about it in school, and nor did most other people. “When we were making the film, a lot of us, in quite wide-ranging ages – I’m in my mid-70s and others were in their 20s – were all from the north-west, all saying: ‘I’d never heard of it.’”

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He added: “From where I grew up in Great Cheetham Street you could walk to where it happened in less than half an hour. No one took us out from school and marched us about to say ‘this happened here’, which is remarkable.”

He said children should be taught about Peterloo. “They will know about 1066 and Magna Carta and Henry VIII and his six wives and they may be told about the French revolution and the battle of Waterloo … [The massacre] was a major, major event which resonated down the 19th century into the 20th century in the context of democracy and suffrage.”

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Manchester Histories, a charity, is leading the campaign for Peterloo to be taught in all schools. It has applied for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help schools teach about the attack, and it is developing a dedicated website and walking app on the subject and training a cohort of volunteers to become “Peterloo ninjas”.

There is no explicit mention of Peterloo on the national curriculum, though the Department for Education said teachers were free to teach it if they wanted.

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(George IV, prince regent)

Leigh said he saw parallels between England then and the country of today. “In the end, why is the film still relevant? Many reasons. One of them being the difference between those who have and those who don’t have. Those who have power and those who don’t. Those who have wealth and those who are on the breadline.”

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At the time of the massacre, the London-based government was ignorant of life outside the capital, said Leigh. The then home secretary, Henry Addington, who oversaw the ruthless crackdown on dissent that reached its bloody nadir at Peterloo, had never been to the north, Leigh discovered during his four years of research.

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“The government, which of course was elected by only 2% of the population, had no idea what the living and working conditions were like for workers in the north. They couldn’t. So all [Addington] knew is that it was a hotbed of sedition.”

The government saw those agitating in the north as “terrorists who had to be put down”, said Leigh. “But we know that these were people with a legitimate cause. Some of them were moderate and some of them more extreme.”

The biggest problem Leigh had when shooting the £14m film was that Manchester had changed so much in the two centuries since Peterloo.

(Peterloo Massacre in August 1819, Richard Carlile)

“When we embarked on it, I said obviously we are going to shoot it in Manchester. Well, not a single frame of it is filmed in Manchester,” said Leigh, who shot the massacre scenes in Tilbury, Essex.

The site of the battle is now unrecognisable, occupied by tooting trams, Manchester’s central library and the Midland hotel.

Though Peterloo was filmed outside of the city, Manchester is to host a special presentation of the film, after the BFI London film festival decided to show a premiere film outside of the capital for the first time in its 62-year history.

Peterloo screens on 17 October at Manchester’s Home, followed by a Q&A with the director and cast that will be simulcast to cinemas around the UK. It goes on general release on 2 November.

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Peterloo – The Movie – A Review (BBC)

Mike Leigh’s Peterloo builds toward a vibrantly realised moment based on British history. In 1819, when Manchester, England had no representative in parliament and the local economy was in shambles, 60,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Field for a peaceful demonstration, waving colourful banners and waiting to hear speakers for their cause. Before it had even started, the army was planning to shut the protest down.

On screen, soldiers on horseback wielding sabers tear through the crowd, slashing at anyone in their path: men, women and children. Leigh immerses viewers in the scene, lucidly carrying us into the crowd and its terrifying chaos. He tracks specific characters we have come to know as they cower from the riders or search for family members who have vanished from sight. In reality, 15 people were killed and hundreds injured. Some of the film’s fictional characters share their fate. Journalists of the day called the event the Peterloo Massacre, an allusion to Waterloo’s wartime carnage.

Peterloo is purest Mike Leigh in the best sense: class-conscious, beautifully acted and filmed and a call for social change. It is also, despite that kinetic battle scene, a film of ideas and political conversation, not action.

The historical problems Leigh’s characters confront are presented in exquisite detail, down to the sympathetic working class’s rotting teeth and the smug ruling class’s lace and finery. But the ideas are also designed to resonate today: an economy that short-changes workers, callous politicians without conscience or empathy, even an assault on truth and a defence of the journalism that might pierce the government’s lies.

As he has done when tackling other issues – abortion in Vera Drake, or race in Secrets and Lies – Leigh personalises those issues through his characters. The film begins at the Battle of Waterloo itself, explosions sounding while a young soldier named Joseph stands on the battlefield. In an extreme close-up, the film captures his blood-spattered face, his eyes bulging and staring in a disconcerting way. He makes his way home to Manchester, suffering from what would now be recognised as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

His poor, labouring family members are among the film’s central, fictionalised characters. They include his politically active father, grown siblings and their children, and his mother, Nellie. Maxine Peake (among only a handful of familiar actors) stands out as Nellie, who sells pies to earn a trifle of money and sees the need for reform, but is sceptical about the demonstration. Peake brings all that worry to the character’s face, but even with her, Leigh is not concerned about developing full characters. Joseph and Nellie are effectively used emblems.

Symbolic gestures

Other characters are even less distinct, including journalists who arrive in Manchester to report on the protest. Some characters are in a single scene, including a servant who appears in court and is sentenced to hang for taking one of his master’s coats. That the master had two coats and the servant was cold is not considered an adequate defence by the judge.

The local magistrates and government representatives arrayed on the other side are even less defined, except by their shared condescension. Dismissing the lower class  as “honest, gullible folk”, is the kindest word anyone in the ruling class has to say. They  fear insurrection and decide they must keep the lower classes under their feet, bluntly stating that squelching the protest with violence will teach the upstarts a lesson.

In a brief but gleefully mischievous scene, the London ministers report on this trouble to the Prince Regent himself, played by Tim McInnerny as a bloated, vain, cartoonish narcissist with rouged cheeks. It’s hard not to see this bewigged caricature as Leigh’s nod to Donald Trump.

The ministers regularly distort the truth on the Prince’s behalf. When a potato is thrown at his closed royal carriage, the act is labelled a violent assault and used as another excuse to repress all protests. As the film moves between workers’ meetings in Manchester and the government’s preemptive plan to end the protest, Leigh creates a nightmare version of Downton Abbey’s upstairs/downstairs divide.

Straddling the two is Henry Hunt, a historical figure played by Rory Kinnear. A famous orator, he arrives in Manchester to speak out for workers’ rights. But he is also vain and snobbish, proof that political allies are not always the heroes you want them to be. Hunt’s presence and flawed character is the best evidence that the film won’t descend to simplistic versions of good and bad factions.

All of this is exquisitely shot by cinematographer Dick Pope. Along with Mr Turner and the delightful Topsy-Turvy, Peterloo is among Leigh’s most visually ravishing films. In chiaroscuro he depicts the dark browns inside the workers’ cottages, the light on their faces reminiscent of Rembrandt. Outside, there are wide shots of vast green fields in clear bright vistas, as a local militia prepares for battle. During the massacre, the red uniforms of the soldiers on horseback tower above the dull colours of the masses.

For all its strengths, there’s no denying that the film is talky. Joseph’s family debates whether the protest will be safe. In Manchester, some demonstrators want to carry arms, while others believe that will only provoke violence. The camera is fluid and active, so the scenes are never static. But all that dialogue may make some viewers restless during the 154-minute running time. The deliberate pacing is a risk Leigh is willing to take, as he holds back on the action and allows the conflict to simmer.

Some Leigh films are easy to like and others, such as Naked, with David Thewlis as a homeless brute, are more demanding. Peterloo requires viewers to accept the slow boil that leads to its explosive and sad end, but it is also the uncompromising work of a master.

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180906-film-review-peterloo-is-a-massacre-that-speaks-to-today

Trump to UN: Obey the US or Be Punished – by Finian Cunningham – 27 Sept 2018

US way or no way: Trump treated rest of world as America’s footstool at UNSC

Foundation and Press TV.
US way or no way: Trump treated rest of world as America’s footstool at UNSC

 

Donald Trump chaired the UN Security Council this week to deliver a thuggish ultimatum to the world to obey American orders on Iran or face retribution for not kowtowing to Washington’s diktat.

The world’s highest forum for maintaining global security and peace was thus turned into a platform for brazen, criminal American rhetoric.

The 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York this week was a head-spinning spectacle of American bullying and arrogance – to the point where delegates couldn’t contain their laughter at one stage over Trump’s ridiculously self-righteous speech.

In his address to the assembly, Trump repeated the hackneyed accusations against Iran as being “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.” Nothing new in that, but what this US president is doing is putting Iran on notice that it either capitulates or faces violent aggression.

Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, in a separate speech in New York, warned Iran “there would be hell to pay” over Washington’s baseless accusations.

Washington reinforced its threats to impose a total embargo on Iran’s vital oil trade and cut Tehran off from the US-dominated international banking system. One could consider this to be an act of economic warfare pushing Iran towards further confrontation.

What’s more, when Trump chaired the Security Council meeting he provocatively warned other nations they face “severe consequences” if they continue to trade with Iran in defiance of US sanctions.

The day before, all the other signatories to the international nuclear accord with Iran held a meeting to reiterate their support for the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The European Union, in conjunction with Russia and China, is trying to set up a new payment mechanism which would circumvent US sanctions and banking restrictions.

Yet, here was Trump telling them, “Don’t even try it!” The president is saying that it’s the US way, or no way.

This unilateral imposition of Washington’s interests over all other nations, including its supposed allies, is the conduct of a tyrant which inevitably is inciting tensions leading to confrontation.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif correctly said the US was “abusing” the Security Council. Trump was using it as a forum to assert Washington’s dictatorial policy. The irony is that the forum is supposed to be one for maintaining global order and peace, but under American “leadership” it is used as a sounding board for US aggression.

The Security Council agenda this week was nominally about non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Trump opened the two-hour session with a rambling recap of his address to the General Assembly the previous day in which he used the Security Council to again demonize Iran as a terrorist regime “proliferating [ballistic] missiles all across the Middle East.”

Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord earlier this year, in May, constitutes a violation of international law, given that the JCPOA was ratified by the Security Council under Resolution 2231.

Yet, Trump tried to make a virtue of this American trashing of an international treaty by justifying it with baseless accusations against Iran. The “rogue state” epithet that Trump levels against Iran is actually more fitting for the US.

The president’s chairing of the Security Council meeting had, on a lighter note, the appearance of comic theater. At times it looked like Trump was holding a re-run of his reality TV show, The Apprentice, boasting about his imagined greatness.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador, set the gavel in front of Trump like it was a toy for the president to bang in order to get attention from the rest. Then at some later point during the session, probably due to boredom, the president walked out with his security guards, leaving Haley to fill his seat.

All the other permanent members of the UN Security Council – France, Britain, Russia and China – one after another rejected the US position that the Iran nuclear accord was “horrible”. Each one of them said it was a viable, working agreement making the world safer from non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reminded delegates that numerous inspections had shown Iran to be in complete compliance with the JCPOA, which meant that Trump’s withdrawal from the deal was unjustified and wrong and is increasing tensions and insecurity in the Middle East.

“The unilateral withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA is a serious threat to the international non-proliferation regime,” said Lavrov.

So, how’s that for paradox. Trump presides over the world’s top security committee with an agenda of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. But international consensus views the US as recklessly jeopardizing security.

It is hard to disagree with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, when he said of this week’s proceedings, that the US is the one being isolated on the world stage, not Iran.

The disturbing thing is this though. Trump and his hawkish administration officials do not give a fig what the rest of the world thinks. Everyone is wrong, the US is right, is their view.

That much was made clear in the way Trump had the unabashed conceit to chair the Security Council as an opportunity to exalt American self-righteousness despite its transparent transgression of international law concerning Iran.

American rhetoric at the UN is always a feast of hubris and self-serving falsehoods. But this year, Trump presented a veritable cornucopia of absurd contradictions.

He exhorted the Security Council on how “we can replace the horrors of war … with the beautiful promise of peace.” Just minutes before that mawkish flourish, Trump was putting the world on notice that it must follow US orders to strangulate Iran or be prepared for American punishment.

In this General Assembly speech, Trump swooned about the “sovereignty” of nations as a guiding principle in his vision for the world. Evidently however, in the real world, this US president, like his predecessors, has nothing but contempt for other nations’ sovereignty, if those nations dare to dissent from Washington’s diktat.

Another glaring contradiction is that Trump lambasts “global bureaucracy”, asserting that the US will never be held to account by international rules above its own laws. This “America First” doctrine is an embrace of lawlessness. That has always been the American way. Trump is merely making the doctrine explicit.

But while Trump wants US sovereignty to be an unbridled supreme power, he also has no hesitation in using the “global bureaucracy” of the UN and multilateralism to enforce Washington’s diktat over others. That’s wanting cake and eating it too.

America used to flatter its imperialism by claiming to be the “world’s policeman”. Under Trump, US power is apparently that of the “world’s thug”.

The contradictions in American rhetoric and reality are becoming so absurd, even polite diplomats can no longer keep a straight face.

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Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture