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Young Iranian Faces Execution Over ‘Anti-Islamic’ Social Media Posts

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Sina Dehghan faces execution over his posts critical of Islam that he published in public online channels at the age of 19. Image shared widely on social media.

While governments around the world deploy advanced surveillance tactics to monitor the communications of potential terrorists, the Iranian government goes after those who “terrorize” the sanctity of the Islamic regime on digital communication platforms.

Sina Dehghan, a 21-year-old former soldier, has experienced this firsthand. He was arrested in 2015 for his social media posts. He was convicted and sentenced to death, and is now awaiting his fate.

At the age of 19, Dehghan was completing his mandatory military service in the Tehran army barracks when the Revolutionary Guards, a hardline wing of Iran’s armed forces that is accountable to the office of the Supreme Leader, arrested him over a series of public messages he had posted on the messaging platform LINE. A source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran that his posts were against Islam and the Quran.

He was arrested alongside two others, Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri, who authorities said collaborated with Dehghan in the posts. All three were found guilty of participating in social media channels that insulted or criticized Islam. Eliasi's sentence was reduced to three years upon appeal and Nouri is still awaiting his sentence. Dehghan's death sentence was confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court in late January 2017.

The case against Dehghan rests on a confession that he was pressured to give under false pretenses. Upon his arrest, the Revolutionary Guards deceived Dehghan by telling him if he confessed to the charge of “insulting” the Prophet Mohammad and signed a letter of repentance, he would be set free.

The Revolutionary Guards deceived Dehghan by telling him if he confessed to the charge of “insulting” the Prophet Mohammad and signed a letter of repentance, he would be set free.

Iran's Islamic Penal Code, which criminalises dissent and criticism, states in Article 262 that insulting the Prophet is a crime punishable by death. However, Article 263 of the code says that the accused can have their sentence reduced to 74 lashings if they tell the court the insults were the result of anger or a mistake.

Neither Dehghan's forced confession nor his lawyer allowed him to take advantage of Article 263. Dehghan's family could not afford proper representation, so he received a court-appointed attorney, who the Center for Human Rights in Iran says failed to defend him properly during his trial.

To further complicate Dehghan's unjust situation, a source who requested anonymity for security reasons told supporters that security and judicial authorities promised his family that if they refrained from publicizing his case, Dehghan would have a better chance of being set free. As of late March, with little hope of the January sentence being overturned, Iranians both inside and out of the country have started calling for authorities to spare his life.

Dehghan's case is particularly tragic as both he and his family had dedicated much effort to the country's military. His grandfather was a “martyr” (or fallen soldier) of the Iran-Iraq war, while Dehghan had served two years in the Iranian military.

Sina's grandfather was a martyr of the eight-year war. Sina himself served two years. Sina has more rights to this country than most of these authorities.

Dehghan's case is a sobering reminder of the security threats Iranians face online. While keeping private communications safe from the government is often considered a person's main defence, a person's public image and words can also make them vulnerable to the ire of an unjust criminal system.

Even the strongest encryption in the world can't protect an Iranian from being penalized for exercising free speech online.



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superiphi
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Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
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The UK Is Among the World's Largest Suppliers of Weapons—and Is Making Arms Boycotts Illegal

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Despite human rights abuses, the UK continues to sell arms to Israel and crack down on dissent.

Protest against UK arms sales to Israel on November 21, 2014 in London. Source: BDS Movement Website.

The United Kingdom’s arms industry is ranked as one of the largest globally, second only to the United States. It has been implicated in atrocities and abuses in varied contexts, recently evident in the arming of cluster bombs to its primary consumer Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has taken the UK government to court over these allegations on multiple occasions:

Alongside the often-cited examples of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel, weapons made in the UK have also been sold en masse in Mexico, where murders, mass disappearances, and mass displacement of civilians in the ongoing drug war have made the country one of the most violent on earth. The UK's security and military export licenses to Turkey were valued at £466 million from 2013-2016 and have been used in Turkey's widespread, brutal repression of civil society and Kurds.

Through “open” trade conventions such as the Security & Policing (S&P) exhibition and closed events such as the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair, the UK allows local and international companies to showcase some of the world’s most lethal weapons. The UK is also home to one of the world's leading suppliers of surveillance software, Gamma Group.

The “Stop The Arms Fair!” network, a group of activists who sought to stop the upcoming DSEI fair in September 2017, recently highlighted the UK's role in routinely selling surveillance gear and weapons to governments notorious for abusing human rights including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Ethiopia, and Venezuela.

Journalist Cahal Milmo recently wrote on inews.co.uk how:

The Government has approved more than 152 licences to export non-lethal arms abroad since 2010, including some £182,000 of tear gas or irritant ammunition due to be sent to Saudi Arabia in 2015 and crowd control ammunition worth £6.1m cleared for sale to the United Arab Emirates in 2014.

As the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union, it has its sights set on expanding this arena, according to both the post-Brexit green paper and one of the ministers for Exiting the EU, Member of Parliament David Jones.

In February this year, the UK doubled down on this position when it announced plans to make it unlawful for local councils, National Health Service (NHS) Trusts, public bodies and certain university student unions to boycott, divest from or sanction an industry or state “other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government.”

The UK wants to make it illegal for public bodies with government funding to boycott, divest from or sanction an industry or state.

The boycott law builds on consistent efforts by the Department for Communities and Local Government to bar publicly funded bodies from boycotting countries, or tenders from suppliers based in other countries, on ethical grounds. This affects procurement fund policies for purchasing goods and services, as numerous public bodies have ethical procurement policies preventing them from investing in or buying specific kinds of products. It also affects how these bodies invest in pension pots, where funds are merged into “pooled funds” or “wealth funds”. Government ministers have warned that penalties for breaching this law will be “severe.”

In response to this guidance, one of the largest trade unions in the UK, UNISON, emphasized: “Investment policy should be a matter for the scheme members and their decision makers, not for a government to intervene”. Last year, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association that represents over 1,300 pension schemes also stressed that these rules could hamper the best interests of pension fund members.

‘Stop The Arms Fair’ protest against UK's arming of Israel on September 7, 2015. Source: Facebook.

Many campaigns recognize the historically crucial role of local councils in furthering human rights and in strengthening processes that impact international norms. In the 1960s and 1970s, more than 100 local authorities in the UK opted to ban South African goods, and in 1981, Strathclyde Council ceased its pension fund investments in companies with South African subsidiaries.

More recently, in 2014 Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott products from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank in an effort to protect Palestinians’ rights. In 2015, Birmingham City Council threatened not to renew its waste disposal contract with the French waste management company Veolia unless it pulled its work from the West Bank. In response to such actions, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid maintained,We will clamp down on these inappropriate and needless boycotts once and for all.” Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock added that the boycott ban “will help prevent damaging and counter-productive local foreign policies undermining our national security.”

We will clamp down on these inappropriate and needless boycotts once and for all.”

Ryvka Barnard, a Senior Campaigns Officer at the UK-based ‘War on Want‘ activist organisation, says that the UK government has explicitly targeted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement — which, among other things, calls for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land — and anti-arms trade movements as part of a general crackdown on human rights and consumer choice.

Enabling Israeli Abuses

The regulation on banning boycotts will supposedly follow the World Trade Organisation’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), focusing on international market access, to treat suppliers without fear or favour. The agreement has “opened procurement activities worth an estimated US$1.7 trillion annually to international competition (i.e. to suppliers from GPA parties offering goods, services or construction services).” While it may be inconvenient for the UK to recognize, War on Want emphasizes that the GPA “absolutely allows for boycotts/exclusions of companies based on their practices, just not based arbitrarily on their countries of origin.”

The UK regulations currently hone in on fossil fuels, tobacco products, products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and companies involved in the arms trade. Yet Andrew Smith of CAAT maintains these curbs could have serious repercussions on all campaign groups.

The main thrust of the boycott ban in the UK is to eliminate pressures from calls for a two-way arms embargo on Israel by groups such as War on Want and from councils to boycott Israeli settlement products. Hence, the anti-boycott law will force publicly funded institutions to submit to the UK’s foreign policy interests; an illuminating move in light of its arms trade, particularly when it comes to Israel.

The anti-boycott law will force publicly funded institutions to submit to the UK’s foreign policy interests.

UK arms applications for export licenses are supposedly “assessed on a case by case basis against strict criteria,” with prohibitions against arms used for external aggression, internal repression or other criminal behavior. But the terms under which a specific weapon is classified as such are murky.

In practice, it appears that minimal reviews take place. The criteria for assessment are open to broad interpretation, and very few arms export licenses have been disallowed or revoked. Barnard has emphasized that the UK does not adequately regulate arms sales: while it highlighted Israel as a country of concern through its own assessment process, in 2016 it approved over £100 million in arms exports to Israel.

The Two-Way UK-Israel Arms Trade

The UK-Israel arms trade is mutually beneficial and extremely profitable to both governments.

With its military sector composed of over 200 private and public companies and advertising that promises weapons that are “combat-proven in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, Israel has become the leading exporter of drones in the world. In 2012 it was ranked as the sixth largest arms exporter; with the value in its exports doubling from US$3.5 billion in 2004-2007 to US$7.1 billion from 2008-2011.

Israel sells arms to the UK valued at millions of pounds, and the IT security firm Elbit Systems assisted in providing the UK with US$110 million of drone technology for its use in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, the Israeli military and Israeli companies rely on specialized UK defense companies for ‘dual use’ weapons that can be used for both military and civilian deployment.

The CAAT, War on Want and Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) documented this relationship in a joint report entitledArming Apartheid: UK complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.”

This report includes details on the role of G4S, one of the largest security companies in the world, based in the UK. Accused of complicity in a range of abuses, in 2014 the company terminated some aspects of its work with Israel; however, the campaign against G4S in Israel is far from over.

Protest against G4S by ‘War on Want’ on March 10, 2016. Source: Facebook

In 2005, the Minister of Defence granted a venture contract worth almost £1 billion to the UAV Tactical Systems Ltd (U-TacS), an undertaking by Thales UK and Elbit Systems. This ensured the development of the UK’s Watchkeeper WK450 surveillance drone, which War on Want warns is based on a model that was “field tested” on occupied Palestinians during attacks on Gaza.

The UK also approves licenses for companies that sell components of weapons to Israel, including the Hermes drone. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) uses this drone to both monitor and bombard Palestinians in Gaza. This was especially evident during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 in which approximately 1,460 Palestinians were killed.

Using refined surveillance technology to identify targets and lead missile and smart bomb strikes, the Hermes drone has been described by the Israeli air force as “the backbone of (its) targeting and reconnaissance missions.”

The UK not only provides Israel with drones and drone technology, weapons components, weapons control, targeting equipment and ammunition, but also bulletproof garments, small arms ammunition and armored vehicles, many of which are used to target, kill and repress Palestinians.

It is clear that if the boycott law goes ahead as planned, it will hedge public freedoms. Making the non-violent calls for boycott and divestment a criminal offense will intimidate public bodies and refuse them the chance to disassociate from the deeply rooted and expansive arms trade between the UK and Israel. And as Amnesty International’s UK economic relations program director Peter Frankental asked:

Where’s the incentive for companies to ensure there are no human rights violations…when public bodies cannot hold them to account by refusing to award them contracts?



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superiphi
1 hour ago
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Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
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micdotcom:Sportscaster Dale Hansen defends student wrestler Mack...

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micdotcom:

Sportscaster Dale Hansen defends student wrestler Mack Beggs and takes a stand against transphobia

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superiphi
1 hour ago
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see, you can be an old white dude, uncomfortable with some things in the world, and still get it
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
satadru
9 days ago
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I get something in my eye when I read through this.
New York, NY
steingart
10 days ago
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Princeton, NJ
popular
22 days ago
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glenn
22 days ago
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Waterloo, Canada
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2 public comments
MaryEllenCG
17 days ago
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Honestly, I think more people think this way that we'd think. They just get shouted down by the loudest, most bigoted voices. (At least I hope that's the case. It may just be wishful thinking.)
Greater Bostonia
digdoug
22 days ago
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Looks like Mr. Dale Hansen is a good guy. I'm glad he's out there.
Louisville, KY
acdha
21 days ago
I'm afraid to imagine what his inbox must be like right now

Spinach leaf transforms into sheet of beating human heart cells

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Enlarge / In this sequence, a spinach leaf is stripped of its plant cells, a process called decellularization, using a detergent. The process leaves behind the leaf's vasculature. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) were able to culture beating human heart cells on such decellularized leaves. (credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

To create artificial tissue with functioning vasculature, tissue engineers looked no further than their salad bowls.

By peeling away the cells from a spinach leaf and seeding the cellulose matrix left behind with heart cells, researchers were able to create a beating sheet of human heart tissue—complete with a functional vascular system. The proof-of-concept experiment, appearing in the May issue of Biomaterials, provides an intriguing plant-based approach to generating realistic tissues for grafts and transplants.

Vasculature has been a sticking point for bioengineers. Modern methods for creating artificial tissues and organs, such as 3D printing, haven’t included a good way to recreate the vital conduits. Yet the success (and survival) of any bioengineered tissue or organ hinges on whether it’s equipped with an extensive network of blood-carrying vessels, which drop off oxygen and critical nutrients to cells while flushing away molecular garbage.

Though the vasculature of plants is fundamentally different from that of animals, the structures and cell access are similar. Plus, cellulose—the main organic polysaccharide left standing in de-celled leaves—is known to be biocompatible, that is, it’s safe in humans and already used in other tissue-engineering applications, such as wound healing. This sparked ideas in the study's authors, led by bioengineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

“When I looked at the spinach leaf, its stem reminded me of an aorta,” Joshua Gershlak, first author on the study and a researcher at WPI, said in a press release. “So I thought, let’s perfuse right through the stem. We weren’t sure it would work, but it turned out to be pretty easy and replicable. It’s working in many other plants."

Basically, the researchers first pumped a detergent solution through the leaves’ veins, which stripped away the plant cells over several days. Then, the researchers pumped in cells that blanket human blood vessels so they could re-line the leaves' pipes. Lastly, the researchers seeded the outside of the leaves with human heart cells, which took to their plant-based skeleton.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Over the course of a 21-day experiment, the heart cells started spontaneously beating, like normal heart tissue. The researchers also found that mock-blood could flow through the system. The researchers did similar experiments with parts of parsley and peanut plants.

This study is simply a first step. The whole process needs optimization and further development to create viable, resilient tissue for transplants. And it’s currently unclear how leaf-shaped tissue sheets could work as graft tissue or combine to create an artificial organ. Still, the researchers are optimistic and are forging ahead with the idea.

“Although further investigation is needed to understand future applications of this new technology, we believe it has the potential to develop into a “green” solution pertinent to a myriad of regenerative medicine applications,” they conclude.

Spinach leaves can carry blood to grow human tissues.

Biomaterials, 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2017.02.011  (About DOIs).

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superiphi
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Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
acdha
19 hours ago
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Washington, DC
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What many pine for – a mythical past – cannot return, Brexit or not

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Since June 23rd of last year, people have gone to town arguing for their version of why people who voted Leave did so. Some are sure it was all about immigration; at the other end of the spectrum, it was just a chance to give Cameron and Osborne a kicking. Of course, reality is more complicated than any of these explanations, but one thing that pops up again and again in all theories is that there was a desire to return to some sort of past version of England (and I do mean England here) and that leaving the European Union would summon this forth.

I could spend time examining whether or not there really was a time when everyone in England knew who their neighbour was, and there was a real sense of community and all that malarkey, but I won’t bother. Because whether such a period like that existed or not makes no material difference to the really important fact: such a world is no longer available. And the reason this is so has nothing to do with immigration.

At an event I spoke at recently, there was a young man from Dorset who said he had voted Leave because he felt that English culture was deteriorating – he cited pubs closing alongside working men’s clubs shutting as examples of this. I asked him how many immigrants lived in his village – he had to admit that it was none. Yet he still felt that somehow, someway, immigration and just the idea of being in the EU had watered down Englishness and hollowed out the cultural life of where he lives.

I didn’t get into it with him, but had I the time to spend on a longer conversation on his point I would have said that pubs are closing and people no longer go to working men’s clubs because they would rather do something else, not because immigrants have conspired to close them down. Or to put it another way, the Xbox and the iPhone  are about 1,000 times more culpable for people not socialising in a way they once did than all of the immigrants in the country lumped together.

This phenomenon points to one of the main problems Brexit will bring that no one is talking about: for a very long time now, everyone has blamed the EU for a lot of stuff that it had little or nothing to do with. The deterioration of certain aspects of English culture, for instance – who will people blame once we’ve left the EU? Will we have to have a real conversation about how the country has changed, and it isn’t the immigrants that changed the place but rather the English who changed England by changing themselves? That could be a painful process.

Life goes on and people evolve. There can sometimes be a tendency to think of England in sepia tones, as if this isle is frozen forever in aspic on VE Day, or when Bobby Moore held aloft Jules Rimet in ’66. But this isn’t the way reality works. England is different in 2017 than it was in 1987, or 1967, or 1947, because English people changed over those periods of time – no other reason.

The post What many pine for – a mythical past – cannot return, Brexit or not appeared first on nicktyrone.com.

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superiphi
2 hours ago
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the xbox and iphone have done a lot less damage to "community" than better roads and faster cars. You don't know your neighbours and your local community, not because you stay home with the iphone, but because all of you work in different directions, have kids in schools all over the place etc.
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
expatpaul
3 days ago
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"Or to put it another way, the Xbox and the iPhone  are about 1,000 times more culpable for people not socialising in a way they once did than all of the immigrants in the country lumped together."
Belgium
superiphi
2 hours ago
the xbox and iphone have done a lot less damage to "community" than better roads and faster cars. You don't know your neighbours and your local community, not because you stay home with the iphone, but because all of you work in different directions, have kids in schools all over the place etc.
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Ex-military and security firms oppose Home Sec in WhatsApp crypto row

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'We are in real trouble if we apply blunt weapons to this'

UK government ministers calling for increased surveillance abilities in the wake of last Wednesday's terrorist attack have encountered opposition from a somewhat unexpected quarter.…

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expatpaul
1 day ago
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"It would be naïve of us to think that by removing the public methods of encryption which we use to protect our identity, our freedom of speech and to keep us safe from persecution, that those terrorist organisations will not develop alternative methods to encrypt their communications"
Belgium
superiphi
2 hours ago
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Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
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