U.S’s Biggest Christian Charity Channeled $56.1 Million to Hate Groups.

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U.S’s Biggest Christian Charity Channeled $56.1 Million to Hate Groups.

The U.S eighth-largest nonprofit donated $56.1 million to a series of organizations identified as hate groups from 2015 to 2017, according to a report from Sludge.

National Christian Foundation, which identifies itself as the largest Christian grant maker and one of the largest donor-advised funds in the nation, has served as a vehicle for individuals trying to anonymously send money.

Donor-advised funds allow individuals sending the tax deductible contributions to remain anonymous from the IRS and instruct where they want the payments to be sent. For those donating via NCF, this meant sending money to 23 organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled hate groups. Most of the hate organizations that received money from the NCF opposed LGBT rights. The report also found that the NCF donated to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant organizations.

Organizations receiving the most funds from NCF included the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has advocated for sterilizing transgender individuals, and the Family Research Council, which has advocated conversion therapy. Members of the Family Research Council including Tony Perkins, the organization’s president, have sought to link pedophilia and homosexuality.

The NCF’s website says it has “accepted over $12 billion in contributions and made over $10 billion in giver-recommended grants to more than 55,000 charities.”

Anti-abortion advocates participate in a “die-in” demonstration on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House on January 27, 2017. Many of the organizations that received money from the National Christian Foundation (NCF) opposed issues like gay marriage and abortion. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“NCF is a national network of givers who are working to further the generosity movement in the areas they care about the most. Like other donor-advised fund sponsors, NCF helps thousands of generous people give to the charitable causes they care about, and we help them do so in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” Steve Chapman, a spokesperson for NCF told Newsweek when asked about the Sludge report. “In 2018, we sent $1.7 billion in grants to more than 26,000 charities who are bringing clean water to the thirsty, homes to the homeless, food to the hungry, healing to the hurting, and much more. We are solely focused on helping people give generously and wisely to their favorite charities.”

Aaron Scherb, the legislative director of watchdog organization Common Cause, noted that conservative religious organizations have previously donated large amounts to groups that further their political interests.

“The Religious Right and certain conservative religious groups have significant resources at their disposable. As we detailed in a 2015 report, they often flex their political muscle to further enhance their ability to spend big money in politics to drown out the voices of dissenting views,” he told Newsweek.

“It’s interesting to me that big donors have a mechanism to give money to causes that would be unpopular, like going after gay rights…. It’s not always so much about the total amount as it is about the mechanisms for funneling money into politics,” Lisa Gilbert, the vice president of legislative affairs at consumer advocacy group Public Citizen told Newsweek. “This is like a shell-game funnel of corporate money. So it might be an organization that has an innocent name, that sounds like a good, upstanding, innocent group” but is being backed by wealthy donors, she added.

She emphasized that the dollar amounts weren’t necessarily the most important topic illuminated by the Sludge story. Instead she focused on the source of money influencing public and political messaging.

“It’s not always about the aggregate amount. It’s not always about that for influence peddling.”

Source: http://bit.ly/2MN8A4y

Amazon removes books promoting autism cures and vaccine misinformation.

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Amazon is removing from its online marketplace “autism cure” books that unscientifically claim children can be cured of autism with pseudoscientific methods such as ingesting and bathing in a potentially toxic form of bleach and taking medication meant to treat arsenic and lead poisoning.

Amazon confirmed Tuesday that the books “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win” are no longer available, but declined to answer specific questions about why it had removed them or whether they were part of a larger cleanup effort, citing a policy of not commenting on individual accounts.

The move by Amazon comes on the heels of a report in Wired published Monday that criticized the retail giant for offering medically dubious books and dangerous methods for reversing autism spectrum disorder. For years, news organizations have pointed out Amazon’s practice of hosting books that promote vaccine and other health-related misinformation, but the pressure has intensified in recent weeks.

Online platforms have been reacting to increased scrutiny from lawmakers and public health advocates over the health misinformation hosted on their websites. Last week, Facebook announced it would “downrank” vaccine misinformation shared on its platform and reject advertising that spread “vaccine hoaxes.” Pinterest has opted to block all vaccine-related search results, and YouTube disabled advertising on anti-vaccination videos last month. In February, Amazon pulled anti-vaccination documentaries from its Prime Video service.

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in young children and for which there is no cure. Children with autism spectrum disorder display a broad range of characteristics, from difficulty interacting with peers or forming relationships to complete inability to function in school or work environments.

As of Monday, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” sold for $28 and had 631 customer reviews and an average rating of 3.5 stars. The book extolled the healing power of chlorine dioxide, a form of bleach that adherents call the “Miracle Mineral Solution.” The book’s author Kerri Rivera, who lives in Mexico, claims 191 children have been cured of autism with a treatment of the chemical that the Food and Drug Administration warned can cause “severe nausea, vomiting and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration.”

The other removed title, “Fight Autism and Win” advises parents on chelation — an unproven treatment for autism that involves medicating a child with an antidote for mercury poisoning. The cure springs from the debunked theory that autism is caused by mercury exposure in childhood vaccines. Chelation therapy can cause serious side effects, including potentially deadly kidney damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. At the time of its removal, “Fight Autism and Win” sold for $25 and had a 4.8 star rating and 54 customer reviews.

The books’ removal was first shared Tuesday by anti-vaccine activist Larry Cook in a newsletter to followers. Cook’s Facebook advertisements — targeting pregnant women in states with measles outbreaks — were recently banned by as part of the platform’s crackdown on misinformation.

Cook attached an image that he says was sent by Amazon, explaining why the company had removed the title from his storefront.

“During our review process, we found that the subject matter of your book is in violation of our content guidelines,” the screenshot posted by Cook stated. “As a result we cannot offer this book for sale.”

Cook also profits from his Amazon storefront from which he promotes anti-vaccination content and earns commission from books bought on his recommendation.

“This title by Kerri Rivera has been on Amazon for SIX YEARS, and TODAY Amazon pulled it,” Cook continued in his newsletter. “Friends, seriously, stock up on books and DVDs right now, while you can!”

Source: https://nbcnews.to/2F2k6Vu

Marijuana may boost, rather than dull, the elderly brain.

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Picture the stereotypical pot smoker: young, dazed and confused. Marijuana has long been known for its psychoactive effects, which can include cognitive impairment. But new research published in June in Nature Medicine suggests the drug might affect older users very differently than young ones—at least in mice. Instead of impairing learning and memory, as it does in young people, the drug appears to reverse age-related declines in the cognitive performance of elderly mice.

Researchers led by Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn in Germany gave low doses of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana’s main active ingredient, to young, mature and aged mice. As expected, young mice treated with THC performed slightly worse on behavioral tests of memory and learning. For example, after receiving THC, young mice took longer to learn where a safe platform was hidden in a water maze, and they had a harder time recognizing another mouse to which they had previously been exposed. Without the drug, mature and aged mice performed worse on the tests than young ones did. But after the elderly animals were given THC, their performances improved to the point that they resembled those of young, untreated mice. “The effects were very robust, very profound,” Zimmer says.

Other experts praised the study but cautioned against extrapolating the findings to humans. “This well-designed set of experiments shows that chronic THC pretreatment appears to restore a significant level of diminished cognitive performance in older mice, while corroborating the opposite effect among young mice,” wrote Susan Weiss, director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who was not involved in the study, in an e-mail. Nevertheless, she added, “while it would be tempting to presume the relevance of these findings [extends] to aging humans … further research will be critically needed.”

When the researchers examined the brains of the treated elderly mice for an explanation, they noticed that neurons in the hippocampus—a brain area critical for learning and memory—had sprouted more synaptic spines, the points of contact for communication between neurons. Even more striking, the gene-expression pattern in the hippocampi of THC-treated aged mice was radically different from that of untreated elderly mice. “That is something we absolutely did not expect: the old animals [that received] THC looked most similar to the young untreated control mice,” Zimmer says.

The findings raise the intriguing possibility that THC and other “cannabinoids” might act as antiaging molecules in the brain. Cannabinoids include dozens of biologically active compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. THC, the most highly studied type, is largely responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. The plant compounds mimic our brain’s own marijuanalike molecules, called endogenous cannabinoids, which activate specific receptors in the brain capable of modulating neural activity. “We know the endogenous cannabinoid system is very dynamic; it goes through changes over the life span,” says Ryan McLaughlin, a researcher who studies cannabis and stress at Washington State University and was not involved in the current work. Research has shown that the cannabinoid system develops gradually during childhood, “and then it blows up in adolescence—you see increased activity of its enzymes and receptors,” McLaughlin says. “Then as we age, it’s on a steady decline.”

That decline in the endogenous cannabinoid system with age fits with previous work by Zimmer and others showing that cannabinoid-associated molecules become more scant in the brains of aged animals. “The idea is that as animals grow old, similar to in humans, the activity of the endogenous cannabinoid system goes down—and that coincides with signs of aging in the brain,” Zimmer says. “So we thought, ‘What if we stimulate the system by supplying [externally produced] cannabinoids?’ ”

That idea does not seem so outlandish, considering the role of cannabinoids in maintaining the body’s natural balance, says Mark Ware, a clinical researcher at McGill University, who was not part of the study. “To anyone who studies the endocannabinoid system, the findings are not necessarily surprising, because the system has homeostatic properties everywhere we look,” meaning its effects may vary depending on the situation. For example, a little marijuana may alleviate anxiety, but too much can bring on paranoid delusions. Likewise, cannabis can spark an appetite in cancer patients but in other people may produce nausea. Thus, the detrimental effects seen in young brains, in which cannabinoids are already plentiful, may turn out to be beneficial in older brains that have a dearth of them.

These chemicals also work to maintain order at the cellular level, McLaughlin says. “We know the endogenous cannabinoid system’s primary function is to try to preserve homeostasis within a given brain circuit. It works like an internal regulator; when there’s too much [neuronal] activity, cannabinoids suppress activity to prevent neurotoxicity.” Restoring that protection might help safeguard the brain against cellular stress that contributes to aging. “A critical takeaway of this study is that they used low doses,” Ware says, considering that different doses could have entirely different effects. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to translate the dose they used in mice to a human equivalent, “but it’s clear we’re not talking about vast amounts. We don’t know what would happen with higher doses.”

Scientists do not know exactly how marijuana affects older adults, in part because they have been focused squarely on younger people, who are thought to be at greatest risk. “Because of the public health concern, research has had a very strong focus on marijuana’s effects in adolescence,” Ware says. But although young people make up the largest group of cannabis users, their rate of use has remained relatively stable over the past decade even as the drug has become increasingly available. Meanwhile use among seniors has skyrocketed as the drug’s stigma has faded. A March study showed that in people aged 50 to 64, marijuana use increased nearly 60 percent between 2006 and 2013. And among adults older than 65, the drug’s use jumped by 250 percent.

The researchers do not suggest seniors should rush out and start using marijuana. “I don’t want to encourage anyone to use cannabis in any form based on this study,” Zimmer says.

Older adults looking to medical cannabis to relieve chronic pain and other ailments are concerned about its side effects, Ware says: “They want to know, Does this cause damage to my brain? Will it impair my memory? If these data hold up in humans, it may suggest that [THC] isn’t likely to have a negative impact if you’re using the right dose. Now the challenge is thrown down to clinical researchers to study that in people.”

Zimmer and his colleagues plan to do just that. They have secured funding from the German government, and after clearing regulatory hurdles, they will begin testing the effects of THC in elderly adults with mild cognitive impairments.

Source: http://bit.ly/2SvBNV7

Microsoft tried a 4-day workweek, and productivity jumped by 40%

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Microsoft tried a 4-day workweek, and productivity jumped by 40%

An experiment that involved reducing the workweek by one day led to a 40% boost in productivity in a Microsoft subsidiary in Japan, the technology giant announced last week.

The trial was part of Microsoft’s “Work-Life Choice Challenge,” a summer project that examined work-life balance and aimed to help boost creativity and productivity by giving employees more flexible working hours.

Microsoft Japan closed its offices every Friday in August and found that labor productivity increased by 39.9% compared with August 2018, the company said. Full-time employees were given paid leave during the closures.

The company said it also reduced the time spent in meetings by implementing a 30-minute limit and encouraging remote communication.

Microsoft isn’t the first to highlight the productivity benefits of a four-day workweek. Andrew Barnes, the founder of a New Zealand estate-planning firm, Perpetual Garden, said he conducted a similar experiment and found that it benefited both employees and the company, according to CNBC. It has adopted the four-day workweek permanently.

It’s not just the employees who benefited from Microsoft’s four-day-workweek experiment — Microsoft found that it helped preserve electricity and office resources as well. The number of pages printed decreased by 58.7%, while electricity consumption was down by 23.1% compared with August 2018, the company said.

Source: http://bit.ly/2Mxyd9p

Male circumcision needs to be seen as barbaric and unnecessary as female genital mutilation.

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Male circumcision needs to be seen as barbaric and unnecessary as female genital mutilation.

The debate over male ritual circumcision – the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis of a baby boy for religious and cultural reasons – is becoming more prominent each year. A BBC documentary broadcast this week provides further evidence that the tide is beginning to turn on the historic carte blanche afforded to infant circumcision.

The non-therapeutic alteration of children’s genitals is typically discussed in two separate ethical discourses: one for girls, in which such alteration is referred to as “female genital mutilation” (or FGM), and one for boys, in which it is usually referred to as “male circumcision”. The former is illegal in the UK and typically regarded as barbaric; the latter, benign or even “beneficial”.

But the similarities between the two practices are glaring. Both procedures vary in severity. Both involve painful and usually permanent surgery on a non-consenting child. Both are medically unnecessary. And both are risky.

Just last week reports emerged of a one-month-old baby having to have his penis amputated in Egypt after it turned gangrenous following a circumcision. Earlier this year, two baby boys died in Italy after their genitals were cut for religious reasons. Circumcisions in the UK have also resulted in serious injury and deaths.

But even when carried out “successfully”, circumcisions involve the cutting away of erogenous tissue leading to a loss of penile sensitivity, inhibiting sexual pleasure. This alone should justify a shift in the way we think about this issue.

It can come with psychological problems, too. This year, a mother told her devastating story of how her 23-year-old son killed himself following the trauma he experienced following circumcision – a practice he felt should be known as “male genital mutilation”. Alex Hardy’s suicide prompted other men to speak out about their own experiences of circumcision.

The psychological effects are likely to be greatly under-reported. People who have experienced sexual harm are often reluctant to reveal it as societal dismissal or stigmatisation may compound the harm.

Defenders of male circumcision sometimes try to justify the practice by citing “health benefits”. Throughout history, male circumcision has been advocated as a pseudo-medical cure for a variety of ailments ranging from TB to epilepsy to warts to excessive masturbation.

But no national medical, paediatric, surgical or urological society in the world recommends routine circumcision of boys as a health intervention. In truth, circumcision is a solution in search of a problem. As the medical ethicist Brian Earp has pointed out, “A large proportion of the current medical literature purporting to show health benefits for male circumcision has been generated by doctors who were themselves circumcised at birth – often for religious reasons – and who have cultural, financial, or other interests in seeing the practice preserved.”

FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls. Non-therapeutic male circumcision is a violation of the rights of boys. The gendered double standard in the way the law deals with them needs to be addressed.

Our response to both forms of cutting should be to apply the principle of genital autonomy and bodily integrity to all children, irrespective of their sex. Circumcision before the age of consent deprives a boy of a body part that he would otherwise likely appreciate. Every child should enjoy the freedom to grow up with an intact body and to make their own choices about permanent bodily modifications. If they consent to their own non-therapeutic circumcision when they are old enough to do so, then fine. But let’s at least give them that choice.

Pro-cutting groups claim this is an issue of religious freedom. But too often, debates around religious freedom are framed solely by those who only really care about their own. Those narrowly focused on maximising their own freedoms can sometimes fail to recognise and consider how their right to manifest their beliefs tramples on the rights of others. The demand for religious freedom to be respected is often little more than a demand for the state to turn a blind eye to the violation of other’s rights and freedoms when done in the name of religion.

But as a society we have a duty to balance competing freedoms and consider the rights of the child. Why should a parent’s religious freedom trump a child’s right to religious freedom and bodily integrity?

Whilst you have the absolute right to your beliefs, you don’t necessarily have the right to impose those beliefs on others – and you certainly shouldn’t assume to have the right to impose them with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife on a non-consenting child.

Source: http://bit.ly/2QatXxs

Who Is Funding The Climate Denial Movement?

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Who Is Funding The Climate Denial Movement?

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists, international governmental bodies, relevant research institutes and scientific societies are in unison in saying that climate change is real, that it’s a problem, and that we should probably do something about it now, not later. And yet, for some reason, the idea persists in some peoples’ minds that climate change is up for debate, or that climate change is no big deal.

Actually, it’s not “for some reason” that people are confused. There’s a very obvious reason. There is a very well-funded, well-orchestrated climate change-denial movement, one funded by powerful people with very deep pockets. In a new and incredibly thorough study, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle took a deep dive into the financial structure of the climate deniers, to see who is holding the purse strings.

According to Brulle’s research, the 91 think tanks and advocacy organizations and trade associations that make up the American climate denial industry pull down just shy of a billion dollars each year, money used to lobby or sway public opinion on climate change and other issues. (The grand total also includes funds used to support initiatives unrelated to climate change denial, as explained in a quote Brulle gave to The Guardian: “Since the majority of the organizations are multiple focus organizations, not all of this income was devoted to climate change activities.”)

“The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires,” says the Guardian, “often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change.”

“This is how wealthy individuals or corporations translate their economic power into political and cultural power,” he said. “They have their profits and they hire people to write books that say climate change is not real. They hire people to go on TV and say climate change is not real. It ends up that people without economic power don’t have the same size voice as the people who have economic power, and so it ends up distorting democracy.

Last year, PBS talked to Brulle about his investigation into the climate change countermovement. The project, says Brulle, is the first part of three: in the future he’ll turn a similar eye to the climate movement and to the environmental movement. But for now, the focus is on the deniers.

Now, what you can see in the movement itself is that it has two real roots. One is in the conservative movement itself, in that you see a lot of conservative foundations that had been funding the growth of the conservative movement all along now appear as funding the climate countermovement. You also can see dedicated industry foundations that come in to start funding the climate countermovement.So it’s kind of a combination of both industry and conservative philanthropies that are funding this process, and what they did was they borrowed a great deal of the strategy and tactics that came out of the tobacco industry’s efforts to prevent action on the health impacts of smoking.

What you see is the tactics that this movement uses were developed and tested in the tobacco industry first, and now they’re being applied to the climate change movement, and in fact, some of the same people and some of the same organizations that were involved in the tobacco issue are also involved in climate change.

Here’s where the money is coming from:

Click to legibilize. Funding breakdown of a subset of the climate change countermovement players in Brulle’s analysis. Photo: Brulle

The climate denial movement is a powerful political force, says Brulle. They’ve got to be, too, to outweigh in the public’s mind the opinions of pretty much every relevant scientist. Brulle:

With delay and obfuscation as their goals, the U.S. CCCM has been quite successful in recent decades. However, the key actors in this cultural and political conflict are not just the “experts” who appear in the media spotlight. The roots of climate-change denial go deeper, because individuals’ efforts have been bankrolled and directed by organizations that receive sustained support from foundations and funders known for their overall commitments to conservative causes. Thus to fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation, we need to focus on the institutionalized efforts that have built and maintain this organized campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight. In the drama of climate change, these are often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians, such as Senator James Inhofe. However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger production. Supporting this effort are directors, script writers, and, most importantly, a series of producers, in the form of conservative foundations. Clarifying the institutional dynamics of the CCCM can aid our understanding of how anthropogenic climate change has been turned into a controversy rather than a scientific fact in the U.S.

Source: http://bit.ly/2SlvPX1

U.S economy loses billions because foreign students aren’t enrolling.

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U.S economy loses billions because foreign students aren’t enrolling.

The continued decline in international student enrollment since the fall of 2016 has cost the US economy $11.8 billion and more than 65,000 jobs, according to estimates from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, an international association of professional educators.
“There’s many variables, but largely it’s been the policies and rhetoric from the current administration that’s really driven the numbers to move in that direction,” said Rachel Banks, director of public policy at NAFSA.
There’s a perception among international students that getting a visa for the United States is more difficult, and they increasingly feel unsafe in America, NAFSA survey data show.
“It’s not only the anti-immigrant rhetoric being expressed by this administration, there’s also increasing concern with regard to gun violence in this country,” said Banks. “There’s been a number of shootings and that gets reported worldwide, and parents certainly take all of this into account when they are thinking about where they want to send their children to study.”
New international student enrollments declined by 0.9% during the 2018-2019 academic year, following a 6.6% decline in new enrollments in the year prior, according to the most recent US Department of State Open Doors report. This marks the first time the United States has seen a three-year decline.
The Trump Administration has a different explanation for the lower enrollments. International students are discouraged by the high cost of US schools, said Caroline Casagrande, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs. The Trump administration has made “more efforts than ever in outreach to international students,” and “to mitigate against the cost of education in the US,” Casagrande said in a call with reporters last week.

The cost of declining enrollment

The loss of international students is hurting many universities financially. At California State University Northridge, the decrease in international students between 2016 to 2019 has resulted in a 26% revenue loss of about $6.5 million, the university said.
For every seven international students, three US jobs are created or supported by spending in sectors including higher education, accommodations, dining, retail, and transportation, according to NAFSA.
The more than one million international students currently enrolled at US colleges and universities contributed nearly $41 billion to the US economy, and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year, a new NAFSA report finds.
International students are significant to school budgets, as many colleges and universities collect higher tuition from them. At Peninsula College in Washington State, international students are charged about $10,000 a year in tuition, while in-state students pay about $5,000.
Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington, has seen a 25% drop in international student enrollment over the last two years, and the school had to cut 13 positions and suspend programs due to a $800,000 deficit that was due mostly to shrinking enrollment.
“From our perspective, it’s a troubling trend on a lot of different levels that we would like to see turn around,” said Peninsula College President Luke Robins. “While the budget is concerning, a bigger thing for us is that we really value what international students bring to our college culture and organization.”
Robins said that several factors contributed to the decline, including the US dollar being at nearly historic highs compared to other currencies. This may have encouraged international students to choose other countries over the United States, he said, as it poses a better value proposition for them.
But the most significant factor is politics, said Jack Huls, vice president for student services at Peninsula College. In countries where the school traditionally had strong international enrollment, like China, it’s become more difficult for students to get visas.
“There’s most certainly politics involved there,” Huls said. “And that’s political issues domestically, as well as senior politics between the US and China.”
Worldwide competition for international students is also heating up, NAFSA’s Banks said. While the growth rate of students choosing to study in the United States declines, competitor countries are experiencing double-digit growth.
“Countries like Canada, Australia, and China have developed proactive recruiting strategies and are actively recruiting students, while we seemingly are not wanting to attract students,” Banks said.


Source: https://cnn.it/2Q6JYo1

India just redefined its citizenship criteria to exclude Muslims.

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India just redefined its citizenship criteria to exclude Muslims.

India is home to 200 million Muslims. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they have faced mounting threats to their status in the majority-Hindu country. And on Wednesday, they were walloped by a new worrisome development: The upper house of India’s Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).

The legislation turns religion into a means of deciding whom to treat as an illegal immigrant — and whom to fast-track for citizenship. The bill is being sent to President Ram Nath Kovind for his approval (he will almost certainly sign it), and then it will become law.

At first glance, the bill may seem like a laudable effort to protect persecuted minorities. It says Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who came to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan won’t be treated as illegal. They’ll have a clear path to citizenship.

But one major group has been left out: Muslims.

That’s no coincidence.

The CAB is closely linked with another contentious document: India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC). That citizenship list is part of the government’s effort to identify and weed out people it claims are illegal immigrants in the northeastern state of Assam. India says many Muslims whose families originally came from neighboring Bangladesh are not rightful citizens, even though they’ve lived in Assam for decades.

When the NRC was published in August, around 2 million people — many of them Muslims, some of them Hindus — found that their names were not on it. They were told they had a limited time in which to prove that they are, in fact, citizens. Otherwise, they can be rounded up into massive new detention camps and, ultimately, deported.

So far, this measure affects potentially 2 million people, not all 200 million Muslims in India. However, Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said it plans to extend the NRC process across the country.

If the Indian government proceeds with its plan, in a worst-case scenario we could be looking at the biggest refugee crisis on the planet. The United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom have all warned that this could soon turn into a humanitarian disaster of horrifying proportions.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill

The CAB is only the latest measure the Indian government has taken to marginalize its Muslim minority (more on this below). This measure is particularly blatant in its discrimination.

The CAB will grant citizenship to a host of religious minorities who fled three nearby countries where they may have faced persecution — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan — before 2015. But Muslims will get no such protection.

The BJP is positioning the CAB as a means of offering expedited citizenship to persecuted minorities. “It seeks to address their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights,” said Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for the country’s Ministry of External Affairs. “Such an initiative should be welcomed, not criticized by those who are genuinely committed to religious freedom.”

After the CAB passed on Wednesday, Modi tweeted: “A landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood! … This Bill will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years.”

In fact, this bill is likely to increase the suffering of many Muslims and is discriminatory on its face, as some of the BJP’s political opposition and several human rights advocates in India have noted.

Shashi Tharoor, whose Congress party opposes the CAB, dubbed it “fundamentally unconstitutional.”

Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and human rights advocate, said in an emailed statement that by “assuring citizenship to all undocumented persons except those of the Muslim faith, the CAB risks … destroying the secular and democratic tenets of our revered Constitution.”

India’s Constitution guarantees everyone equality under the law. Religion is not a criterion for citizenship eligibility, a decision that goes all the way back to the 1940s, when India was founded as a secular state with special protections for minorities like Muslims.

Harsh Mander, a noted rights advocate of Sikh origins, wrote that the CAB represents “the gravest threat to India’s secular democratic Constitution since India became a republic.” He said that if the bill becomes law, he’ll declare himself a Muslim out of solidarity. Meanwhile, he’s also calling for Indians to fight the CAB with a nationwide civil disobedience movement.

Already, protests are underway. In Assam’s capital, authorities have shut down the internet and implemented a curfew. The New York Times reported:

The Indian Army was deployed in the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura as protests grew bigger and more violent. The police were already battling demonstrators over the past few days with water cannons and tear gas. More than 1,000 protesters gathered in the heart of Assam’s commercial capital, Guwahati, yelling: “Go Back Modi!” In other areas, angry men stomped on effigies of Mr. Modi. Crowds set fire to tires and blocked thoroughfares with trees.

As protests against the legislation erupted in different corners of the country, the debate centered on what kind of country India should be.

“The idea of India that emerged from the independence movement,” said a letter signed by more than 1,000 Indian intellectuals, “is that of a country that aspires to treat people of all faiths equally.” But this bill, the intellectuals said, is “a radical break with this history” and will “greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country.”

Meanwhile, international human rights organizations are up in arms. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said India is taking a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,” adding that the US should weigh sanctions against India if it enshrines the bill in law.

Activists from All Assam Students Union burn effigies of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others associated with the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Activists from All Assam Students’ Union burn effigies of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others associated with the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Getty Images

However, Modi enjoys strong support from the Hindu majority, members of which seem to applaud him even more loudly when he cracks down on Muslims. And the country has swung to the right since he first came to power in 2014. It’s noteworthy that the bill passed not only in the lower house of parliament, where the BJP enjoys a majority, but also in the upper house, where it does not.

Now, the CAB will almost certainly be signed into law. The only hope for those who oppose it is that it will be struck down in court on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional.

Muslims stripped of citizenship may end up in massive detention camps

Exacerbating Muslim Indians’ anxiety about the citizenship bill is the recent rhetoric around the NRC.

Those in Assam whose names do not appear on the NRC have been told the burden of proof is on them to prove that they are citizens. But many rural residents don’t have birth certificates or other papers, and even among those who do, many can’t read them; a quarter of the population in Assam state is illiterate.

Residents do get the chance to appeal to a Foreigners’ Tribunal and, if it rejects their claims to citizenship, to the High Court of Assam or even the Supreme Court. But if all that fails, they can be sent to one of 10 mass detention camps the government plans to build, complete with boundary walls and watchtowers.

The first camp, currently under construction, is the size of seven football fields. Even nursing mothers and children will be held there. “Children lodged in detention centers are to be provided educational facilities in nearby local schools,” an Indian official said.

If the detainees in the camps end up being expelled from India — and that is the government’s plan — this could constitute a wave of forced migration even greater than that triggered by Myanmar in 2017, when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were displaced.

And it’s not clear where the newly stateless people would go. Neighboring Bangladesh has already said it won’t take them. All this has induced such intense anxiety that some Muslims are committing suicide.

By undermining the status of Muslims, India is undermining its own democracy

India is known as the largest democracy in the world. But its current government is leading it away from democratic norms.

Modi champions a hardline brand of Hindu nationalism known as Hindutva, which aims to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu history and values and which promotes an exclusionary attitude toward Muslims. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet recently expressed concerns over “increasing harassment and targeting of minorities — in particular, Muslims.”

Under Modi, vigilante Hindus have increasingly perpetrated hate crimes against Muslims, sometimes in an effort to scare their communities into moving away, other times to punish them for selling beef (cows are considered sacred in Hinduism). And this summer, Modi erased the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, which had previously enjoyed considerable autonomy over its own affairs.

Muslims comprise approximately 14 percent of the national population. and more than twice that in Assam state. In the 2019 Indian election, one of Modi’s central campaign promises was that he’d get the NRC in shape and deal with the Muslim migrants in Assam once and for all. Other BJP members have used dehumanizing language to describe the Muslims there.

“These infiltrators are eating away at our country like termites,” BJP president and home minister Amit Shah said at an April rally. “The NRC is our means of removing them.” Shah has openly said the goal is to deport those who are deemed illegal immigrants.

Last month, Shah said the government will conduct another count of citizens — this time nationwide. This could be used to clamp down on Muslims throughout India, potentially triggering a huge humanitarian disaster.

Source: http://bit.ly/2M0maBf

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi and how the world looked the other way.

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The murder of Jamal Khashoggi and how the world looked the other way.

One year ago, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and never walked out. In the months that followed, the facts of his disappearance and murder would emerge in fragments: an international high-tech spy game, a diabolical plot, a gruesome killing, and a preposterous cover-up reaching the highest levels of the Saudi government, aided by the indifference and obstinacy of the White House. Eventually those fragments came to comprise a macabre mosaic.

This June, the United Nations special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions issued a 100-page report detailing the Khashoggi affair. The report, the product of five months of independent investigation spanning six countries, added to the thrum of international indignation about Khashoggi’s murder. But so far it has largely failed to galvanize it into action.

Here is the story, as we know it, illustrated by Chris Koehler and told as a nonfiction narrative by the author Evan Ratliff. This account draws on our own reporting, the UN report, hundreds of news accounts and video interviews — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Sabah, a Turkish outlet, in particular — and public testimony.

We’re retelling it because Jamal Khashoggi’s story should be heard in full. And because even if you think you know what happened, you may not know how or why.

It was easy to forget, later, that he was a man in love.

That was the Jamal Khashoggi who arrived on a flight into Istanbul, early on the morning of October 2, 2018. He was a few days short of 60 and divorced, a voluntary exile from his native Saudi Arabia living a lonely existence in Virginia. His tall frame carried an unsubtle paunch, and his hair had thinned out to the sides. The graying of his beard was nearly complete, covering an owlish face with eyes that could simultaneously betray easy mirth and deep sadness.

An internationally acclaimed journalist writing for The Washington Post, he was considered brilliant by his peers. But he spent most of his days struggling under the burden of what he’d left behind, writing in hopes of breaking the world’s indifference to the creeping repression in his home country. He’d grown dismayed to see its architect, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — known in the West as MBS — fêted by Washington and Silicon Valley as a dynamic reformer, while his friends and colleagues back home languished in prison for speaking out. His mission, he had come to believe, was to speak for them.

But on that fall morning in Istanbul, Khashoggi stepped off the plane with an entirely different purpose. Five months earlier, at the opening of a conference on Middle Eastern politics, he’d been approached by a 35-year-old researcher named Hatice Cengiz. She knew his work and wanted to interview him for an article she was writing. At the next coffee break, he sought her out. They spoke for nearly half an hour. She asked him about the prospects for reform in Saudi Arabia; he peppered her with questions about Turkish politics. By the end, their exchange had already begun to feel like something deeper. Before his next trip to Istanbul, he emailed to ask if she’d see him again.

The rest happened quickly, at the speed of two people who already knew themselves. By September he had met her parents. Wedding plans were in motion. The pair bought an apartment in Istanbul, the eastern anchor of what would become a dual life there and in the US.

On September 28 they visited Istanbul’s civil-marriage bureau to begin the secular portion of the nuptials. Just one small problem, they were told: Because Khashoggi remained a Saudi citizen, they’d need a certificate from the Saudi government stating that he was unmarried. That would require a trip to the Saudi Consulate.

On an impulse, the couple went straight there that day. Outside the gate, Khashoggi left his two phones with Cengiz, knowing consular officials would ask for them at the door and fearing they would take the opportunity to hack them. He was wary. But once inside, the staff greeted him warmly. The document he needed couldn’t be produced instantly, but if he came back on October 2 they would have it ready for him, they said. That afternoon, he left for the airport and caught a 2:40 p.m. flight to London to attend a conference.

The night before his return, Cengiz couldn’t sleep, her head a scramble of nerves and excitement. Finally she drifted off, and was awoken by a call from her fiancé: His flight had arrived early. Khashoggi caught a cab to the as-yet-uninhabited apartment they’d purchased, in a gated community in Istanbul’s Topkapi neighborhood. A security camera in the entryway caught them lightly embracing as they walked inside, just before 5 a.m.

Khashoggi called the consulate. An official told him to arrive at 1 p.m. to collect his paperwork.

At about a quarter to one, they set out. CCTV cameras captured the couple’s unhurried stroll as they walked, hand in hand. Khashoggi wore an open-collared shirt and a blazer, Cengiz a headscarf and a long black dress.

At the security blockade typically positioned at the consulate’s south-facing side, Khashoggi once again handed her both his phones. Using a handheld metal detector, a security officer conducted a quick scan of Khashoggi’s person. Then the journalist passed between the metal barriers and walked briskly up to the main entrance. A doorman in a powder-blue blazer greeted him with a slight bow, and he was gone.

By the time Khashoggi’s flight to London reached cruising altitude that afternoon, the plot to end his life was already in motion.

For months, the Saudis had been trying to lure him back to the kingdom. They never expected him to simply walk right through the front door. But that’s what happened on September 28 when he’d shown up at the consulate, unannounced.

While the officials inside knew he was among their government’s high-value targets to bring home, there was no protocol for someone on the list simply appearing in their midst. So they’d let him go, holding on to the carrot they knew would bring him back. By the time Khashoggi’s flight to London reached cruising altitude that afternoon, the plot to end his life was already in motion.

Upon Khashoggi’s departure, the security attaché at the consulate made a pair of calls to Saudi intelligence. Turkish intelligence had audio surveillance up and running on the consulate — part of the standard spy-versus-spy games that routinely took place between the two diplomatic rivals. But the recordings weren’t monitored in real time. (Coincidentally, the Saudis had sent a screening team to sweep the building for bugs the day before Khashoggi’s first visit. Had they been more competent, the world might never have discovered what happened inside.) Portions of the tapes were later played for a UN investigator, and transcripts leaked to Turkish reporters.

On one of the calls, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a Saudi intelligence officer often seen alongside MBS during his international travels, asked if Khashoggi would be back. The attaché confirmed that he’d been told to return for his paperwork on October 2.

The gears of the intelligence apparatus churned into motion. The consulate quickly transmitted video and images of Khashoggi’s visit back to Riyadh. That evening, Turkish intelligence recorded the consul general in Istanbul, Mohammed Alotaibi, talking to another Saudi official about a call from the head of state security back home. He needed personnel to carry out “a special and top-secret mission” that would require about five days. The kingdom would supply flights and accommodation, the official said.

Through the night, Alotaibi organized logistics and emphasized to officials that the mission at hand was “very important and [developing] rapidly.” Someone from the consulate would need to return home for “an urgent training,” he told another official. “They called me from Riyadh,” he said. “They told me they asked for an official who worked on protocol. But the issue is top secret. Nobody should know at all. Even none of your friends will be informed.”

The next day, two security officials left Istanbul for Riyadh.

The pair returned via a commercial flight on October 1, the day before Khashoggi’s scheduled arrival. Accompanying them were three Saudi intelligence officers, including two who had worked in the office of the crown prince.

The morning of October 2, just an hour before Khashoggi himself passed through the airport, nine other Saudis from Riyadh with diplomatic clearance spilled out of a private plane. Among them was Mutreb, who would serve as the ground commander for the mission. Joining him were four Saudi security and intelligence officers, two of them previous members of MBS’s security team, and a brigadier general named Mustafa Mohammed al-Madani, who bore a passing resemblance to Khashoggi. The strangest figure among them was Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, a forensic doctor at the Ministry of the Interior. He was known for conducting rapid autopsies.

The team now totaled 15. They checked into a pair of hotels near the consulate — the Wyndham and the Mövenpick — and waited for the next move.

Khashoggi was likely having breakfast with Cengiz around the time that the consul general sent word to non-Saudi staff to stay home that day. Others were told to clear out by noon for a sensitive diplomatic meeting that would take place in the building that afternoon.

The 15-man team split into two groups. Five left their hotels and drove together to the consul general’s residence a few kilometers away. The other 10 walked to the nearby consulate.

Cameras caught Mutreb leaving his hotel wearing a black suit, and then passing the same police barriers that Khashoggi was to cross three hours later. Mutreb was followed shortly afterward by Tubaigy, the doctor, and al-Madani, the Khashoggi lookalike. At just past noon, a car backed out of a covered driveway abutting the side of the consulate. It was replaced with a boxy black van.

After watching her fiancé enter the consulate, Cengiz walked to a nearby supermarket and bought a newspaper to pass the time, along with some water and chocolate for him when he emerged. As the minutes dragged on, she didn’t at first see any cause for concern: On Khashoggi’s previous visit, officials had taken 45 minutes just to inform him he would need to return another day.

By 4 p.m., her annoyance began to percolate into worry. She called her sister, asking her to look up when the consulate closed (apparently forgetting she could do so on her own). Moments later, her sister texted back: The consulate had closed 40 minutes earlier.

A thick haze of fear enveloped Cengiz. She approached the front door and informed the Turkish security officer that her fiancé, a Saudi citizen, had gone inside hours before and never emerged. He said he assumed everyone had left. She called the consulate’s main number and told the same story to the official who answered. The officer hung up and walked out the door to where she waited.

The building was empty, he told her. Jamal Khashoggi was no longer inside.

Within hours, Khashoggi’s disappearance made international headlines. In its initial response, the Saudi government professed to be as baffled and concerned as the rest of the world. “Mr. Khashoggi visited the consulate to request paperwork related to his marital status and exited shortly thereafter,” the Saudis told The Associated Press. “The government of Saudi Arabia follows up diligently on any reports related to the safety of any of its citizens.”

The next night, October 3, in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, a group of journalists from Bloomberg sat across from MBS, perched on couches in an opulent room in the Royal Palace. The prompt for the interview was an offhand statement by President Donald Trump at a rally in Mississippi, before Khashoggi’s disappearance hit the news, asserting that the Saudi state wouldn’t “last two weeks” without US support.

The crown prince professed to be unruffled. “Saudi Arabia was there before the United States of America,” he observed, a gold-fringed map of the world looming above him. “You have to accept that any friend will say good things and bad things.”

The conversation moved on to the prospects for the upcoming public offering of the Saudi oil company, Aramco, and the Saudi government’s $45 billion contribution to the “Vision Fund,” a $100 billion venture-capital investment pool created by the Japanese firm SoftBank. The Vision Fund had plowed hundreds of millions of dollars of growth fuel into hot startups like Uber, Slack, WeWork, and DoorDash, spreading Saudi money around America’s tech hubs like fairy dust. Without Saudi Arabia’s largess, the crown prince pointed out, there was no Vision Fund. He gave the reporters a scoop: The Saudis planned to put another $45 billion into the fund’s upcoming next round.

About halfway through the interview, one reporter raised the mystery around Khashoggi’s whereabouts.

“We hear the rumors about what happened,” MBS replied. “He’s a Saudi citizen and we are very keen to know what happened to him.” He acknowledged that Khashoggi had entered the consulate, but suggested that he had left after some time. The Turkish government, he added, was welcome to search the consulate — sovereign Saudi territory, he emphasized. “We have nothing to hide,” MBS said.

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

As he spoke, cracks were already spidering through the official Saudi story. Turkish officials publicly stated that Khashoggi had, in fact, never left the consulate. By October 7, while the Saudi consulate stonewalled on the search that MBS had supposedly just promised, the Turks were firmly asserting that Khashoggi had been killed there — and suggesting they had evidence to prove it. By October 10, Turkish intelligence officials had released stills from CCTV cameras showing the arrival of the assassination team.

The explanation from the Saudis evolved in tandem, from dubious to farcical. They called the accusations “fake news” and “lies,” and claimed that the men had simply traveled to Turkey on a group vacation.

On October 15, Trump weighed in for the first time on Khashoggi’s disappearance. Standing under an umbrella outside the White House, he said that Saudi King Salman, MBS’s father, had personally issued him a “flat denial” of any government’s involvement.

“I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” Trump said. “Who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon.”

Where the bottom could be found depended on how deep you were willing to dive.

When did the story of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder begin? Was it the day in June 2017 when Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud summoned his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef and told him he’d be abandoning his royal claims in favor of his cousin? Was it the day that same month when Khashoggi — the bleak future for press freedom under MBS now apparent to him — fled the country in fear, leaving behind a wife who would have to divorce him and children he would rarely see?

Or perhaps it was the Saturday in November 2017 when guests at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh were asked to suddenly pack up and leave.

On that day, they were replaced by hundreds of senior princes and government officials, arrested on corruption charges at the behest of the crown prince. Inside this velvet jail, Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to MBS better known for running the Saudi government’s social-media office, helped orchestrate their interrogation and torture. Al-Qahtani bragged to a Canadian businessman that the detainees had been slapped and hung upside down. One general reportedly died, his neck twisted, but verifiable information was scarce. The Saudi government denied accusations of physical abuse. It announced only that the prisoners had agreed to hand over their allegedly ill-gotten riches.

The scene at the Ritz drew scattered international condemnation. But not from the White House, where Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, had formed a close bond with the then 31-year-old crown prince. They were said to be in regular touch through WhatsApp. “They saw a like-minded partner in Washington, Jared Kushner, and they very successfully cultivated him,” said Elizabeth Dickinson, a senior analyst for the Arabian Peninsula at the Crisis Group. “There’s just no other way to put it. They saw him as a way in, and they seized it.” MBS later reportedly told the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates that he had Kushner “in his pocket.” Kushner had visited MBS days before the shakedown.

“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” Trump tweeted during the crackdown. “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”

If there was an international-relations lesson for MBS from the Ritz, it turned out, it was that allegations of kidnapping and torture would do little to blunt his standing in the US as a budding reformer. In certain circles, the “anti-corruption” rhetoric served only to enhance that standing.

The same month of the Ritz detentions, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recounted flying into Riyadh for an epic nighttime bull session with MBS. Lauding him as a workaholic change agent, Friedman declared the crackdown a necessary corrective, tactics aside. “Only a fool,” he wrote, would not root for MBS’s supposed reform agenda. Friedman closed the column with a question for MBS, borrowed from a “Hamilton” lyric: Why was it that he worked so hard like “he’s running out of time”? “I fear that the day I die I am going to die without accomplishing what I have in my mind,” the crown prince replied.

Khashoggi took a different view of those accomplishments. He too wanted to see an end to the rampant corruption in the kingdom, he wrote in a November Washington Post column. But MBS’s cheerleaders were overlooking his broader repression. “As of now, I would say Mohammed bin Salman is acting like Putin,” he wrote.

Four months later, Khashoggi appeared on the Al Jazeera program “UpFront,” with the journalist Mehdi Hasan. On the panel alongside him was a supporter of the regime, who argued that MBS was a reformer working to modernize and liberate the kingdom, a leader who should be “judged by the context of his country’s history.”

For Khashoggi, the problem was not so much the reforms themselves — he had long supported efforts to open up freedoms for women, for example — but a fear of the intellectual repression that seemed to animate the crown prince’s efforts. “As we speak today, there are Saudi intellectuals and journalists jailed,” he said, sounding pained. “I still see him as a reformer. But he is gathering all power within his hand. It would be much better for him to allow a breathing space for critique, for Saudi writers, Saudi media, to debate the most important, needed transformation going on in the country.”

It was that possibility of open dialogue that had pulled Khashoggi into journalism. The grandson of a doctor who’d administered to King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi grew up close to the royal family. He’d flirted with radical religious politics, joining the Muslim Brotherhood in his 20s before becoming a journalist. He’d then made his name chronicling the exploits of a young Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before Al Qaeda, risen to become a columnist and newspaper editor, and even worked inside the royal court. People would recognize him in the street and stop him to thank him for his work.

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

Along the way, he’d become a dogged proponent of reform — for both the Saudi government and society. But in 2010 Khashoggi was fired from his post as editor in chief of the daily Al Watan for publishing columns challenging the country’s strict Islamic laws. It was his second firing from the same paper; after the first, he’d gone abroad to work as a spokesperson for Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom and then the US. The second time he’d lasted three years, but by 2016 his views had gotten him barred from Saudi newspapers and TV entirely. Late that year, after he wrote a column in a London newspaper criticizing the newly elected President Trump, he received a call from al-Qahtani informing him that he was “not allowed to tweet, not allowed to write, not allowed to talk.”

Less than a year later, he was gone, having fled the country and landed in Virginia. There he joined as a regular opinion writer for The Washington Post, attempting to rouse the world to the clampdown in his country — the same issue he was articulating on “UpFront” in March 2018. That night, Hasan asked Khashoggi why he had chosen self-exile. “Simply because I don’t want to be arrested,” he said.

In early April, another group of luxury-hotel patrons were abruptly informed that their reservations had been canceled. This time it was at the Four Seasons Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto, and the guests were making way for the crown prince and his dozens-strong delegation.

MBS was arriving at the end of a cross-country tour of the US, a choreographed PR effort to burnish his image and solidify connections with political and business leaders — from companies the prince had invested in and those he was courting. Swapping his traditional Saudi thobe for a suit and open-collared shirt, he met with a smiling Richard Branson at a Virgin Galactic hangar in Southern California. He tried out goofy prototype goggles from Magic Leap, the Florida-based augmented-reality company that had raised over $2 billion without releasing a product. In the Valley, he would hang with Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and its current CEO, Sundar Pichai. He shared a laugh with Tim Cook at Apple and walked the bright, curved halls of its behemoth new headquarters. He held court with blue-chip venture capitalists like Marc Andreessen, Vinod Khosla, and Peter Thiel.

MBS had made such visits before. In 2016, he stopped in at Facebook for a tour with Mark Zuckerberg. Then as now, the story that preceded him was that of a young dynamo in step with the high-tech world, determined to transform a century-old monarchy. But this time he arrived as a future king, and a confidant of the president’s son-in-law. He also brought along something even more attractive in the Valley: stacks and stacks of cash.

Under MBS, the kingdom had already been sloshing money around the tech world to diversify its economy and wean itself off its dependence on oil production — the centerpiece of “Vision 2030,” MBS’s economic modernization plan. The investments were also a vehicle to boost Saudi Arabia’s standing in the international community. “When you put money somewhere, you have influence, and it makes you more and more connected to the international financial system,” said Yasmine Farouk, an expert on Saudi Arabia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “​The system needs you.”

The linchpin of MBS’s investment efforts was a mammoth, $45 billion contribution from the government’s Public Investment Fund, or PIF, to SoftBank’s Vision Fund. When the fund launched in 2017, it was instantly the biggest player in the Valley. It became Uber’s largest shareholder and pumped over $125 million into Slack, the workplace-messaging startup. WeWork alone garnered $6.4 billion. But that was just the beginning.

Days before Khashoggi’s Al Jazeera appearance, on the eve of MBS’s trip to Silicon Valley, PIF had announced an additional $400 million direct investment in Magic Leap. It also agreed to pour another $400 million into Endeavor, the holding company for the LA talent agency WME. There was, as well, a second Vision Fund in the works, one that would focus on funding artificial-intelligence technology.

If the executives of Silicon Valley had been inclined to challenge MBS on his human-rights record —and at that point there was little evidence that they were — the bottomless funding he’d come bearing seemed to be enough to put them in a mood to skip it.

Amid all the goodwill and shared opportunity, though, there was something — someone — lurking behind the smiles and handshakes: Maher Mutreb. He was often photographed scowling in the background as the crown prince met with business and community figures around the world. A US-trained colonel in the intelligence service, Mutreb had worked for al-Qahtani, the head of the Saudi social-media office and the man who’d participated in the torture at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton. Mutreb, as it happened, knew Khashoggi from the mid-2000s when they’d both spent time in London.

Mutreb’s boss, al-Qahtani, had been reaching out to Khashoggi for months, gently suggesting it was time to return from his self-imposed exile. Al-Qahtani assured the columnist that he could do so safely, even offering him a job in the royal court if he returned. Khashoggi politely declined. The whole thing, he told friends, could be a ruse to throw him in jail.

Behind the scenes in MBS’s court, however, the discussions about Khashoggi’s fate had been decidedly less solicitous. Khashoggi, after all, wasn’t just another dissident abroad, railing against the kingdom’s leadership — he was a former insider whose criticisms were viewed as betrayals.

“We could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” the crown prince had told associates in August 2017, The Wall Street Journal would later reveal. According to intelligence intercepts obtained by The New York Times, his rhetoric had turned more chilling a month later. He complained to al-Qahtani about Khashoggi’s critical columns and his punchy Twitter presence.

Al-Qahtani warned that going after a journalist abroad risked a backlash. MBS reportedly responded that the national interest of Saudi Arabia dwarfed the risk of a little bad publicity.

If Khashoggi couldn’t be lured anywhere, MBS concluded, he would need to be brought by force. And if that didn’t work?

He would pursue Khashoggi, he reportedly said, “with a bullet.”

To the current Saudi government, Jamal Khashoggi was clearly no mere journalist living abroad and criticizing the regime.

He was a traitor to the royal family to which he’d once been close.

But to those offenses would be added a third revelation, in the summer of 2018. And it appears to have been the product of high-tech espionage employed by forces connected to Saudi intelligence, according to a Canada-based surveillance-research lab. Khashoggi was beginning to do more than criticize, that spying showed. He was helping organize forces to oppose MBS’s crackdowns.

In May 2018, less than a month after MBS’s goodwill tour in the States, a 27-year-old Saudi dissident in Canada named Omar Abdulaziz received a message from a group of Saudi officials who had been reaching out to him for months. They were coming to Montreal, where he lived, with a potentially lucrative proposal.

“Tyranny has no logic, but [MBS] loves force, oppression and needs to show them off,” he wrote to Abdulaziz. “He is like a beast ‘pac man’ the more victims he eats, the more he wants.”

That Abdulaziz was on the government’s radar didn’t come as a surprise. He’d left the country in 2009, at age 18, to study English at McGill University on a government scholarship. While still a student, he’d launched a satirical YouTube show called “Yakathah,” a kind of Saudi “Daily Show” mocking his home government. The popularity of his critiques, particularly back home, had led to more serious activism and a Twitter account that grew to over 100,000 followers.

It wasn’t long before Abdulaziz caught the attention of the Saudi government, which revoked his scholarship. In 2013, Abdulaziz was granted Canadian asylum. He kept up his activism, and a few years later, in 2017, a mutual friend suggested that Jamal Khashoggi was interested in speaking to him. Other activists were wary of Khashoggi, given his past affiliation with the royal family, but Abdulaziz agreed to talk. Despite never meeting in person, they quickly became confidants.

By 2018, they communicated almost daily. Over WhatsApp, they formulated plans to work together and lamented reports of journalists and activists being arrested back home. Khashoggi seemed agonized that even those who largely agreed with MBS could be rounded up and punished for whatever minor disagreements they had dared to voice.

“Tyranny has no logic, but [MBS] loves force, oppression and needs to show them off,” he wrote to Abdulaziz. “He is like a beast ‘pac man’ the more victims he eats, the more he wants.”

That May, when the government proposed the meeting in Montreal — possibly to dangle a reward for Abdulaziz’s own return — Khashoggi warned his friend to meet the agents only in public places, and not to be lured back to Saudi Arabia. “If you want to take their money, it’s your decision,” he told Abdulaziz. “But do not go back; do not trust them.”

On May 15, Abdulaziz sat down to await the government representatives at a café. In his jacket pocket he carried his iPhone with the recorder app running. Two men sat down across from him without explaining their precise roles vis-à-vis the Saudi government. That they represented some kind of official overture was apparent. But one of them assured Abdulaziz that their message came from MBS. “No one can better deal with this subject than the prince himself,” they told him.

The agents were at first friendly and respectful, as al-Qahtani had been with Khashoggi. They told Abdulaziz that his friend Jamal, who’d similarly been “a headache” for the government, was himself considering returning home. Perhaps it was time for Abdulaziz to do the same? He could reap significant rewards should he choose to return voluntarily. They promised him a meeting with MBS the day after he landed, at which the crown prince would grant him any wish. The alternative, they were sad to report, was to be picked up at an airport somewhere and detained. After that, he “would not be much use for the state.”

Even though Abdulaziz had no intention of taking them up on their offer, he met with them repeatedly over four days. He hoped to persuade them to wire the money first — perhaps the hundreds of thousands of dollars they owed him for his canceled scholarship, he said. No, they replied, he would have to return to collect the money. At one point, in a bid to sway him, the agents produced his brother, flown in from Saudi Arabia. Abdulaziz was rattled but held firm. Soon the agents, with his brother, disappeared from Montreal as suddenly as they’d arrived.

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

Through the summer of 2018, Abdulaziz and Khashoggi ramped up their plans to collaborate. Al-Qahtani’s social-media office had been engaged in a relentless, years-long online propaganda and trolling campaign. Fueled by bots, it had targeted activists inside the country and dissidents outside, eventually earning al-Qahtani the nickname “Lord of the Flies.” Abdulaziz and Khashoggi planned to launch an online youth movement to push back, with $5,000 in initial funding from Khashoggi. “Cyber bees,” they began calling them.

Only later would a throwaway line from the agents who approached Abdulaziz in Montreal come to seem ominous. One of them had suggested to him that even if he wasn’t coming home, he should at least drop by the Saudi Embassy and pick up a new passport.

Most journalists and activists working under repressive regimes know, at least ambiently, that their governments are trying to watch their every move.

Less widely known, perhaps, is that governments can buy software, on the commercial market, to hack phones and record everything on them. Rarer still is to catch a hack in action. But that’s exactly what a computer scientist named Bill Marczak did in the summer of 2018.

One afternoon in July, Marczak, a postdoc at the University of California at Berkeley, was sitting at home on his couch, staring at his laptop. He had acquired an unusual hobby: tracking cellphone spyware installed by repressive regimes around the world.

Marczak’s interest in government hacking and surveillance was sparked in 2012 by the events of the Arab Spring. Then a Ph.D. student in computer science, he had cofounded an organization to provide online assistance to activists in Bahrain, where he’d spent part of his youth, and to do research on repression in the region.

Soon, the Bahraini activists told him about another issue: They’d been receiving a fusillade of suspicious-looking emails.

When Marczak analyzed the messages, he discovered that they were created to plant spyware on the activists’ devices, allowing someone — possibly the government — to quietly monitor them. Working with a Canadian organization called Citizen Lab, Marczak publicized the attempted hacking.

Soon, Marczak was receiving similar requests from activists and dissidents in all corners of the world. He built a complex methodology to discover whether mobile phones had been compromised. If they were, Marczak and his team would warn the dissidents, analyze the software, and publish their findings.

The most sophisticated of all the spyware they uncovered was something called Pegasus, produced by NSO Group, a highly secretive Israeli company. Pegasus allowed its users to create and send a single link that, if clicked, would give them total visibility into a target’s phone. Calls, emails, texts — everything. The software could capture encrypted messages before they were sent, and turn on the phone’s camera and microphone to surreptitiously record anything in the vicinity.

Pegasus, in other words, was nothing less than the ultimate surveillance tool. In the hands of NSO’s clients, which Citizen Lab discovered included governments like Mexico and the UAE, it could be invaluable.

Sitting on his couch that afternoon, Marczak paged through data he had collected that indicated where Pegasus had been in operation. Whenever a dissident forwarded it a suspicious link, Citizen Lab used data from the link to scan the internet for servers controlled by the Pegasus software, and then collected all those Pegasus connection points in a database. Now, they were doing the reverse: starting with the Pegasus servers and searching for devices trying to connect to them. Marczak, in other words, was attempting to determine whether they could proactively identify compromised devices in action.

That’s when he noticed something odd. Typically, he would have expected to find phones making those connections inside Saudi Arabia, where the government would likely be monitoring its citizens. Instead, the data showed a single phone in Canada repeatedly connecting with servers that Citizen Lab had observed appeared to be under the control of an operator connected to the Saudi government.

Pegasus, he realized, had compromised someone in Montreal, seemingly on behalf of the Saudis. Everything they were saying and doing could apparently be vacuumed up by these servers with the help of NSO, in real time.

“Hey, I think I found something interesting,” Marczak messaged the director of Citizen Lab. The Montreal phone’s connections formed a pattern. By day, they were connecting to Pegasus from a residential internet service provider. By night, the connections came from a university network.

With the help of some of his old Bahraini activist friends, Marczak gathered six names of Saudi dissidents living in Canada who seemed to fit the pattern. To narrow the list, he would have to talk to people on the ground.

That August, Marczak flew to Montreal to meet with dissidents and activists who were, understandably, suspicious of his intentions. When he reached Abdulaziz, the 27-year-old Saudi insisted they meet in a public place. One afternoon at a coffee shop, Marczak sat across from him and tried to explain the pattern of connections that had led him to Abdulaziz. Sure, that could be him, Abdulaziz replied, agreeing to let Marczak look through his phone.

Marczak opened the messaging app and searched for a link from sunday-deals.com, a website commonly used by Pegasus. And there it was, in a June message purporting to be from the shipper DHL, telling Abdulaziz he could use the link to monitor a pending shipment.

Had Abdulaziz clicked it? Sure, he said. He’d ordered a batch of protein powder that morning through Amazon and assumed the message was connected.

“You mean it’s not legitimate?” Abdulaziz said.

“It’s not legitimate,” Marczak said.

Marczak switched the phone to airplane mode and connected it to the internet through his laptop. He hoped to use his own software to catch the spyware in operation. But it was too late: Whoever had installed Pegasus had already disabled and removed it, leaving no trace besides the phantom text message. Perhaps they’d done it precisely because of this meeting, Marczak wondered.

In the moment, Abdulaziz seemed surprised but not shocked that every communication on his phone for the past two months had been monitored. But if Marczak was right, it meant the Saudis had seen his exchanges with Khashoggi about MBS’s government, about their plans, and about the cyber bees.

Within weeks of Marczak’s alerting him to the hack in August, Abdulaziz’s two younger brothers back in Saudi Arabia were arrested, along with eight of his friends. Abdulaziz viewed it as the government’s attempt to extort him into coming back home and perhaps making good on the agent’s promise. If they couldn’t jail him, they’d find the next closest thing.

Abdulaziz remained defiant. “My activism will not stop,” he told a reporter. “I do not accept blackmail.”

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

When Abdulaziz informed Khashoggi of the hack shortly after he heard about it from Marczak, the journalist laughed nervously, wondering aloud if he too might be under surveillance. Then on October 1, 2018, Marczak and his colleagues at Citizen Lab released a report about the Abdulaziz hacking. There was no evidence that Khashoggi had read it when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul at 1 p.m. the following day.

Later, in portions of the audio surveillance dribbled out by Turkish intelligence to local reporters and heard by the UN investigators, the grotesque snippets from what followed would come to shock the world. While the various translations of the dialogue sometimes conflicted, there was enough overlap to piece together a coherent firsthand account of a murder and a cover-up.

As Khashoggi and Cengiz walked up to the barriers outside the consulate at 1 p.m., Mutreb and Tubaigy, the doctor, were inside, making last-minute calibrations.

“We will first tell him that we are taking him to Riyadh,” Mutreb can be heard saying on the tapes. “If he fails to comply, we will kill him here and get rid of the body … [Will it] be possible to put the trunk in a bag?”

“No. Too heavy,” Tubaigy replies. He calmly lays out the steps they will take to deal with the corpse. “I have never worked on a warm body before, but I will take care of it easily. When I cut cadavers, I usually put on my headphones and listen to music. At the same time, I drink coffee and smoke.

“It is easy to take apart joints,” he continues, “but it will take time to chop it into pieces. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. Usually, one hangs the animal on a hook after butchering them to tear them into pieces. I have never done that on the ground. When I’m done chopping up, you will wrap the pieces into plastic bags, place them in suitcases, and take them out.”

If Tubaigy had any concerns, they were not humane, but bureaucratic. “My direct manager is not aware of what I am doing,” he complains to Mutreb. “There is nobody to protect me.” But there was no point worrying about it now. It was almost time to begin.

“Has the sacrificial animal arrived?” Mutreb says.

Moments later, at 1:14 p.m., Khashoggi acknowledged a nod from the guard in the powder-blue blazer and walked in the consulate’s bronze double doors.

Inside, he was ushered up to the second-floor office of the consul general. Awaiting him was what would have surely seemed a baffling collection of people. But the mystery resolved as soon as Khashoggi learned that al-Qahtani, the man who had tried to persuade him to return — the man who had overseen the brutal operations at the Ritz — was patched into the room via Skype.

Accounts from those who heard the tapes would differ slightly, but according to Turkish reporters, Mutreb and al-Qahtani seemed to enact a muddled good-cop-bad-cop routine. Al-Qahtani insulted Khashoggi, berating him for his betrayals. Mutreb at first took a softer tack. His sins against the government would be forgiven if he came home, he told the journalist.

Khashoggi said he hoped to return, someday.

“We will have to take you back,” Mutreb responded. He told Khashoggi that there was an Interpol notice — a kind of international arrest warrant — against him.

“There isn’t a case against me,” Khashoggi said. Sensing the danger, he tried to bluff his way out. He claimed that people were waiting outside for him — a car and driver, he said, plus his fiancée. “I am not going to Riyadh.”

It didn’t matter, he was told. Let’s make this quick, an official said. They asked Khashoggi what phones he used. They would need him to send a message to his son, in Saudi Arabia, explaining that he was in Istanbul. “Do not worry if you cannot get through to me for a while,” they instructed him to write.

“What should I say, ‘See you soon’?” Khashoggi asked. “I can’t say ‘kidnapping.'”

In response, an official told him to take off his jacket.

“How can this happen in an embassy?” Khashoggi said.

“Help us so that we can help you,” Mutreb said, “because at the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia. And if you don’t help us, you know what will happen at the end. Let this issue find a good end.”

“There is a towel there. Are you going to give me drugs?” Khashoggi asked. He still sounded calm.

“We will anesthetize you,” came the response.

Then Mutreb gave the order.

Five agents converged on Khashoggi. He struggled, and amid the chaos one agent could be heard saying, “Keep pushing. Push here. Don’t remove your hand.”

“Let go of my mouth,” Khashoggi said. “I have asthma. Stop, you’re choking me.”

Turkish surveillance then captured what sounded to some like a plastic bag being placed over Khashoggi’s head. It was followed by only muffled sounds of struggle. Then nothing.

Mutreb pulled out his phone and made a call. “Tell your boss,” he said into the receiver. “The deed was done.”

The remainder of the kill team’s plan proceeded with a grotesque efficiency. One agent removed Khashoggi’s clothes and handed them to al-Madani, the lookalike. Another pulled out sheets of plastic.

Tubaigy then picked up the bone saw he’d brought from Riyadh.

Two hours later, the boxy van in the consulate’s covered driveway pulled out. It carried Mutreb, Tubaigy, and, in all likelihood, Khashoggi’s dismembered body. They drove the short distance to the consul general’s home. In the driveway, three men unloaded three trash bags and a rolling suitcase.

Back at the consulate, al-Madani left through a back door, avoiding Hatice Cengiz at the barrier out front. He was dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes, save for a pair of sneakers in place of the journalist’s black derby shoes. Accompanied by another agent wearing jeans and a hoodie and carrying a white plastic bag, he jumped into a taxi and asked to be driven to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul’s historic old center.

Somewhere inside the mosque, al-Madani changed again, back into his own clothes. The agents ditched the white bag and hopped another taxi to a Metro station. If anyone checked the CCTV footage around Istanbul later, presumably they would see that Khashoggi had left the consulate and gone sightseeing.

Just before 5 p.m., Mutreb, Tubaigy, and another agent left the consul general’s residence. There was no sign of the trash bags or suitcase they’d brought inside.

By then, a pair of private jets were en route from Riyadh. Mutreb and five others caught the first one — a Sky Prime Aviation plane, tail number HZ-SK1 — out of Istanbul at 6:30 p.m. The plane flew overnight to Cairo and then departed for Saudi Arabia the next evening. Seven others left on Sky Prime HZ-SK2 just before 10 p.m. The last two members of the kill team departed on a commercial flight direct to Riyadh at 1:30 the following morning.

It had been 12 hours since they’d assassinated Khashoggi.

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

By the evening of October 2, Turkish intelligence was already reviewing seven hours of audio surveillance it had captured from inside the consulate. Since the recordings hadn’t been monitored in real time, at first the intelligence agents had trouble discerning Khashoggi’s fate. Perhaps, they concluded, he had been drugged and transported out of the consulate in a box, still alive.

The Saudi cover-up, meanwhile, had already begun. The morning of October 3, the staff of the consulate was told to avoid the second floor, which was cleaned around 11 a.m. That evening, cameras captured a fire in a barrel outside the consul general’s home.

On October 5, a consular official drove the boxy van that had been seen pulling into and out of the consulate to a car wash. The following day, Saudi officials invited reporters from Reuters into the consulate with a camera. They wanted to show that they had nothing to hide, that they remained as baffled as anyone about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“The citizen Jamal isn’t in the consulate or in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi consul said, on camera. That much, at least, was true. The lie came next. “The consulate and the embassy are doing their best to look for him. We’re concerned about the case,” he said, his eyes darting from side to side. Yes, the consulate had security cameras installed at all its entrances, he said in response to a journalist’s question. Somehow, they just hadn’t recorded footage that day.

The Saudi ambassador to the US followed up with a statement: Any reports “that the Kingdom’s authorities have detained him or killed him are absolutely false, and baseless.”

But the plotters could already see the ruse was dissolving.

On October 10, a new team began arriving from Riyadh. It included members of the Saudi genetics-testing and criminal-evidence departments and appeared to be tasked with carrying out a more professional level of cleanup. By the following day, the team consisted of 11 members, including a chemist and a toxicology expert. For three days, they worked nearly round the clock inside the consulate.

Even as the Saudis continued to maintain that Khashoggi was merely missing, the Turkish authorities concluded from a closer examination of the surveillance that he’d been killed, his body likely transported to the consul general’s home. The Turkish press, fed evidence from the National Intelligence Organization, began publishing photos, videos, and dossiers on the 15 members of the kill team — arriving at the airport, checking into their hotels, entering and exiting the consulate.

The Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al Arabiya reported instead that the 15 Saudi suspects were merely tourists. Khashoggi hadn’t been killed, and reports to the contrary were “fake news,” they asserted.

On October 15, Turkish authorities were finally granted access to the consulate. The investigators found little of interest. The rooms had been so thoroughly cleaned, they told local reporters, that they failed to detect even the trace levels of DNA typical for an office.

At the consul’s residence, Saudi officials shadowed their every move, suddenly declaring certain areas off-limits. As at the consulate, the CCTV cameras had mysteriously failed to record anything on October 2, they said. Noticing a well on the property, the Turkish investigators asked permission to inspect it. The request was denied.

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

Agnès Callamard, a French-born human-rights expert who ran the Global Freedom of Expression Project at Columbia University, followed the Khashoggi saga from New York, increasingly concerned. She’d spent years documenting state-sponsored killings in her capacity as the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions — a kind of roving, independent investigator into unlawful death. She would know what a cover-up might look like.

On October 15, she and a colleague penned an op-ed article for The Washington Post, calling for an independent investigation sponsored by the UN Security Council. “Khashoggi’s disappearance must lead to accountability and consequences,” they wrote.

Nothing happened. “There was a mood internationally to brush it off,” Callamard told me later, “and move on with business as usual.”

By that point, the Saudi government had been maneuvering to establish another narrative. In a phone call on October 9 with Jared Kushner and John Bolton, then the US national security adviser, MBS explained that Khashoggi was a “dangerous Islamist” and a known member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Publicly, the Saudi government was still claiming that Khashoggi might be alive. Privately, the crown prince was already justifying his killing.

MBS had been investing in his relationship with the Trump administration since the moment Trump took office. After feeling shunted by an Obama administration determined to make a nuclear deal with Iran, the king and the crown prince saw common cause with an American president eager to repudiate his predecessor’s signature accomplishment. They found an easy familiarity, too, with a leader willing to keep power within his own family, as Trump had done with Ivanka and Jared. Oil, arms sales, mutual dislike of Iran, and counterterrorism had long formed the four pillars of the US-Saudi relationship. To those could be added a fifth, more personal one. Having a president’s son-in-law in his pocket, as MBS reportedly said, was about to pay its dividends.

So it appeared less than coincidental that it was Trump who first publicly floated the “rogue killers” theory — that the 15-man team had been sent to bring Khashoggi back and, against orders, ended up killing him. That became the story the Saudi government pivoted to on October 19, after the forced admission of the murder undid its first set of denials. The Saudis’ chief prosecutor appeared on state television to report that in fact the journalist had been killed. A fistfight had broken out in the consulate, he falsely claimed, and Khashoggi had, unfortunately, lost his life.

The next day, a Saudi spokesperson told Reuters that the government had detained 18 suspects in connection with the killing, including the 15 named by the Turkish authorities as part of the kill team. (Whether they’d done so while “on vacation,” as the Saudis had claimed, was left unaddressed.) Still, the Saudi government persisted in its claims that the murder had been, as one official called it, a “huge mistake.”

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

It took less than a week for the story to change: On October 25, the Saudi government admitted that the killing was premeditated but maintained it had no idea where Khashoggi’s body was. It also claimed that some members of the state’s security apparatus, including al-Qahtani, had lost their jobs. But the 18 suspects originally arrested soon dwindled to 11 who were criminally charged in connection with the murder. That included Mutreb and Tubaigy, along with nine security agents. Not among the accused was al-Qahtani — and, of course, MBS himself.

Experienced Saudi-watchers found it impossible that such an elaborate operation could take place under the crown prince’s nose, given his control over the state security apparatus. By November 16, both The Washington Post and The New York Times were reporting, via anonymous sources, that the CIA had concluded the same: MBS was not only aware of the killing — he’d ordered it. Among the other evidence leaked from a report to The Wall Street Journal was that MBS and al-Qahtani had exchanged 11 texts during the timeframe of the murder.

As public indignation around the Saudi government’s possible role in the murder grew, even the Trump administration seemed forced to at least gesture at concerns about the relationship. The Trump administration announced sanctions on 17 Saudis, including al-Qahtani, who the Treasury Department announcement said “was part of the planning and execution of the operation that led to the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.”

The Times reported that in private, even Trump rolled his eyes when aides asked whether MBS could have been ignorant of the operation. Publicly, however, he stood by his son-in-law’s pal. On November 20, the president issued a bizarre statement reaffirming his faith in the Saudi regime and MBS. “The world is a very dangerous place!” the release began. After several paragraphs trumpeting the dangers of Iran and a celebrating a vague Saudi pledge to invest $450 billion into the US, the statement turned to Khashoggi’s murder, calling it a “terrible” crime, “and one that our country does not condone.” It revived MBS’s evidence-free claim to Kushner and Bolton that the Saudis considered Khashoggi an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“It could very well be that the Crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump continued. “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”

By January, Callamard, the UN special rapporteur, realized that Trump was likely to be proved right about the unknowable facts by default. The world was not going to mobilize around an independent investigation. The Security Council hadn’t so much as proposed one.

So she decided to launch it herself. “At a gut level I thought, ‘That cannot be the end of the story,'” she said.

Most of her work had involved large-scale killings by armed groups. But Khashoggi’s death fell within her mandate “to examine situations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in all circumstances,” according to the resolution that created it. Her position by nature required no UN approval for any particular investigation. “It was a bit daunting,” she said. “I was on my own, looking at the most spoken-of killing, a major news item, a major international-relations hot potato.” She organized a team of lawyers and translators and arranged her first trip to Turkey.

After weeks of negotiation, Turkish intelligence allowed Callamard to listen to — but not copy or authenticate — portions of the surveillance tapes, together with a translator. She then crisscrossed Europe and North America, interviewing Hatice Cengiz and Khashoggi’s friends and colleagues, including Omar Abdulaziz. In December, Abdulaziz had filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, the maker of Pegasus, alleging that the information obtained in the hacking of his phone was a “crucial factor” in the decision to execute Khashoggi.

The suit remains pending. In a statement to Business Insider on Tuesday, the NSO Group declined to comment specifically on the Abdulaziz matter but said that a review of “every government NSO does business with” showed that Khashoggi himself “was not targeted by any NSO product or technology.” As for Abdulaziz, NSO Group had told The New York Times that its software was “licensed for the sole use of providing governments and law enforcement agencies the ability to lawfully fight terrorism and crime” and that its contracts were “only provided after a full vetting and licensing by the Israeli government.”

The Saudis refused to acknowledge Callamard’s investigation at all, ignoring her requests. The Washington Post reported that the government had offered Khashoggi’s children houses and monthly payments as compensation for the killing. (Khashoggi’s son denied that any settlement had been reached.) The kingdom did open its doors to several prominent Instagram influencers, to whom it offered paid tours to see the positive side of the country. “It’s not propaganda,” the prince in charge of the effort told Bloomberg. “It’s simply a human engagement exercise.”

Many of the tech executives and venture capitalists who’d fêted MBS the reformer in Silicon Valley remained publicly unwilling to engage. If a VC on Sand Hill Road was alleged to have ordered a brutal murder, one would have expected their co-investors and investees to distance themselves at the least — even wash their hands of the blood money entirely. When the accused orchestrator sat in a palace in Riyadh and held the strings to even greater billions, the strategy seemed to be utter silence.

Some, like Richard Branson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, decided to skip a late-October economic conference hosted by MBS in Riyadh nicknamed “Davos in the Desert.” Others chose to quietly remove themselves from Saudi projects, as executives at Apple and the design firm Ideo did, exiting an advisory board of Neom, a “mega-city” project in Saudi Arabia.

Otherwise, none of the budding tech moguls who’d supercharged their growth curve off the Saudis’ billions seemed willing to touch the Khashoggi matter — even after the facts were known. (Business Insider contacted a dozen tech startups that received significant investment directly or indirectly from Saudi Arabia; the few that responded wouldn’t comment on the record.) The only company to publicly repudiate the Saudi money was Endeavor, the Hollywood talent behemoth, which announced in March that it was returning the $400 million it had been granted from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

In August, SoftBank announced that it would soon begin investing its Vision Fund Two into a new batch of companies. Despite MBS’s claim in October that the Saudis were injecting another $45 billion, they were nowhere to be found among the investors. Whether this was because of a newfound resistance to Saudi money or a newfound reluctance by MBS to spend it wasn’t clear. As Uber’s valuation flattened after its initial public offering and WeWork postponed its IPO under pressure, the Vision Fund itself was starting to look like a less-than-sure bet as an investment.

In June, Callamard and her team released their harrowing 100-page report, cataloging the gruesome details of the plot and its execution. It argued that the secret trials of the 11 accused henchmen in Saudi Arabia were unlikely to produce justice. (Al-Qahtani, the lead planner of the murder, had meanwhile disappeared from public view in Saudi Arabia, leading to still unconfirmed rumors that he’d been poisoned. In September, Twitter suddenly decided to suspend his long-dormant account.)

Instead, Callamard recommended that the US open an FBI investigation into the murder and sanction MBS — “in view of the credible evidence into the responsibilities of the Crown Prince for his murder” — until the Saudis provided evidence about the plot that could establish whether he was involved.

Days after the release of the report, however, Trump said in an interview on “Meet the Press” that he’d failed to even raise the murder in a call with MBS. It had been “a great conversation,” he said. “It really didn’t come up in that discussion.”

Even as some members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — kept pushing for consequences for Khashoggi’s murder, the Trump family remained steadfast in its loyalty. Trump ignored a bipartisan congressional directive to issue a report on the crown prince’s involvement and vetoed an attempt to block US support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen. Business between the two countries had, in fact, remained brisk: Less than three weeks after Khashoggi was murdered, the administration granted authorization to two private US companies to share sensitive nuclear information with the Saudi government.

The message to MBS couldn’t have been clearer. “As long as President Trump is in power, and as long as MBS is paying money — buying arms, investing in US companies and the US economy — he would know that he has some kind of cover, some kind of protection,” Carnegie’s Farouk told me.

After two Saudi oil facilities were damaged by recent drone attacks that White House officials allege originated in Iran, Trump was asked by a reporter if he’d promised the Saudis “that the US will protect them.”

“No, I haven’t. I haven’t promised the Saudis that,” Trump replied. “But we would certainly help them,” he said. “They’ve been a great ally. They spent $400 billion in our country over the last number of years. Four hundred billion dollars.” Saudi Arabia, he said in conclusion, “pays cash.”

Almost exactly two years since MBS’s corruption crackdown, and two weeks before the anniversary of Khashoggi’s murder, Khashoggi’s adopted paper reported that Kushner was headed back to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Davos in the Desert. The forum is being held at the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh.

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Chris Koehler/Business Insider

On October 20, 2018, Hatice Cengiz awoke to the buzzing of her phone. It was a message from Khashoggi’s best friend. “God rest his soul,” he wrote. The Saudis’ chief prosecutor had just admitted on television that her fiancé was dead.

On October 2, when Khashoggi had failed to emerge from the consulate, she had spent the evening making frantic calls, seeking any answer to where he’d gone. The officials’ lies about his fate were cause for a cruel optimism that he could still be alive. Perhaps he had been kidnapped, shepherded out of the country, and taken back to Saudi Arabia. Disappeared, but still alive. It seemed beyond reason that they had just killed him.

She spent her days talking with his relatives and friends, trying to shield herself from the endless waves of curiosity and concern from all corners of the world. She gave few comments, held no press conferences. When Jamal walked back out from wherever he was, she thought, he would speak for himself.

For Cengiz, that fact of his death brought not just grief but questions. Some were straightforward, fueled by anger: Where was his body? Who was responsible? Who would seek justice for him? Others, she later said, were unanswerable, turning over and over in her head. “Was he angry with me?” she wondered. “What did he go through? What did he feel when he realized they were going to kill him?”

Left to grieve in the glare of a global spotlight, she’d had to set her studies aside as diplomats and governments concealed and spun and rationalized the death of the man she loved. She looked into TV cameras and described the agony of that day. She wrote a book in Turkish that included pages from her diary written in the days following the murder, intimate professions of the love his own country had exploited. All of it tinged with the hope of nudging the world toward an understanding of what was lost that October morning — or maybe even justice.

“These days are very precious for Jamal, I believe,” she told me through a translator when we met on September 27 in a hotel suite near Grand Central Terminal in New York. “So I have to do whatever I can for him.”

She had come to New York to deliver a speech in conjunction with the annual UN General Assembly meeting. Among the things she was pushing for were the recommendations from Callamard’s report: a full investigation by an entity like the FBI, and accountability for everyone in Saudi Arabia responsible for what she called “a political assassination.”

Ours was the last of a series of back-to-back interviews Cengiz gave that day. In some way, each exchange forced her to recount or reflect on the worst moments of her life and the grief that followed. Yet she seemed not weary, but unflinching, direct.

“Yes, I missed out on certain things career-wise, but I don’t care about it for the moment,” she said. “What matters is Jamal, and I need to defend his rights.”

The question of MBS’s accountability had reemerged that morning, when PBS released a trailer for an upcoming “Frontline” documentary about Saudi Arabia. In it, the journalist Martin Smith said that he tracked down MBS at a racing event and asked him about his role in Khashoggi’s murder. “I get all the responsibility,” Smith said the crown prince told him, “because it happened under my watch.” Asked how the killing could have taken place without his orders, he’d said, “We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees.”

A few days later, the crown prince enhanced his denial, in an interview with “60 Minutes.” Calling the killing a “heinous incident,” MBS replied “absolutely not” to a specific question about whether he’d ordered it, and then reiterated that he couldn’t have kept watch on the actions of even his closest advisers among Saudi Arabia’s millions of citizens.

In Cengiz’s view, for MBS to issue such a statement at all showed that the pressure from the media coverage of the killing was getting to him. But its phrasing, she suggested, was also intended to send a message: “That he is the one in charge of the Saudi administration and Saudi government. And by saying that, he is strengthening his place.” He was also, she believed, implicitly admitting that as the all-seeing ruler, he knew exactly what happened in the murder plot. “And now I am addressing him,” she said. “If so, now that you’ve confessed that, please share the details of this incident.”

Before we stood up to leave, I asked Cengiz how she kept herself from being overwhelmed by cynicism.

“This totally changed my life, and clearly divided my life into two,” she said. “I’m 35, and I have suddenly started the second half of my life with a new agenda. And now nothing matters to me.” She’d left her earthly concerns behind, she said. She was no longer afraid of death.

“To love and to be loved is the most important thing,” she said. “I guess we must live for the things that are really worth it.”

Source: http://bit.ly/2YQSRGv

New law would require death certificates for fertilized eggs that never implant in the uterus.

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New law would require death certificates for fertilized eggs that never implant in the uterus.

Anti-abortion lawmakers in Pennsylvania want to pass a bill that would require health providers to arrange burials or cremations for all of a person’s “fetal remains,” which under the lawmakers’ terms, includes fertilized eggs that never implanted in the uterus.

But fertilized eggs must divide to become the ball of cells that implants in the uterus for a pregnancy to occur.

The proposed bill also means health providers would have to obtain death certificates for all fertilized, but not implanted, eggs, since in order to to obtain a burial permit, you first have to obtain a death certificate, Christine Castro, a staff attorney at the Pennsylvania-based Women’s Law Project, told Vice. “The bill is written in a misleading way,” she said.

If the bill, known as the “Pennsylvania Final Disposition of Fetal Remains Act,” passes and isn’t followed, it could result in a $50 to $300 fine or up to 30 days in prison for providers.

The problem is women, and even their doctors, can’t track when or how many fertilized eggs don’t implant in the uterus because those eggs typically dissolve in utero and are shed through a woman’s menstrual lining every month, making them undetectable.

It’s common for fertilized eggs to not implant in the uterus

According to University of California San Francisco Health, only half of a woman’s fertilized eggs will naturally implant in her uterus.

The other 50% of those fertilized eggs that don’t implant dissolve in the body and are expelled through a woman’s uterine lining, which she naturally sheds during her menstrual cycle, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health. Newly fertilized eggs are about the size of a pinhead, according to the National Institutes of Health.

When the lining sheds, it results in the bleeding women experience every 28 or so days. Because of this, non-implanted fertilized eggs are neither detectable nor able to become blastocysts, then embryos, then fetuses, and eventually, babies.

The only time a fertilized egg that hasn’t implanted in the uterus is detectable is if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself outside the uterus where it can’t grow. In this case, the egg is detectable but must be surgically removed from the woman’s body immediately to prevent health complications like ruptured fallopian tubes, Insider previously reported.

The bill also ignores the science-backed definition of “pregnancy”


House Bill 1890 also ignores the
science-backed definition of pregnancy because it says that all fertilized eggs are “unborn children.”

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, non-implanted but fertilized eggs are actually single-cell zygotes, which have to divide before becoming the ball of cells called a blastocyst that eventually implant in the wall of the uterus, according to ACOG.

It’s not until a fertilized egg has been successfully implanted in the uterus that ACOG considers it a pregnancy. Once the implanted and fertilized egg reaches nine weeks in the uterus, it is referred to as a fetus, according to ACOG.

This isn’t the first time a pregnancy-related bill has been scientifically inaccurate

Anti-abortion legislators in Ohio also recently presented a scientifically unsound abortion bill.

On November 14, 20 Republican lawmakers proposed an abortion ban that would, in most cases, consider doctors who perform abortions guilty of aggravated murder and require doctors to attempt to reimplant ectopic pregnancies in the uterus, Insider previously reported.

The Ohio proposal ignores the fact that reimplanting an ectopic pregnancy is “physiologically impossible,” Dr. Chris Zahn, the vice president of practice activities at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told Insider. In fact, attempting that is extremely dangerous, and the technology needed to do it doesn’t even exist.

Source: http://bit.ly/2sno7ke

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