US PRESIDENT TRUMP & ADOLF HITLER’s Alternative Information Universes; Can Media Literacy Defeat Disinformation And Misdirection—Lessons From 1939’s Germany

Fighting disinformation with media literacy—in 1939. SEE from a Nazi propaganda poster below in 1936; the stylized head of an eagle with beak open emitting circles like broadcast radio waves.

ANYA SCHIFFRIN, CJR|AIWA!NO!|“THERE ARE THREE WAYS to deal with propaganda—first, to suppress it; second, to try to answer it by counterpropaganda; third, to analyze it,” the journalist turned educator Clyde R. Miller said in a public  lecture at Town Hall in New York in 1939. At that time, faced with the global rise of fascist regimes who were beaming propaganda across the world, as well as US demagogues spouting rhetoric against the government and world Jewry, the rise of Stalinism, and the beginning of the Red-baiting that foreshadowed McCarthyism, scholars and journalists were struggling to understand how people could fall for lies and overblown rhetoric.

In response to this growing problem, Miller, who had been a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealerfounded the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1937. To get the institute up and running, Miller got a $10,000 grant from the department store magnate Edward A. Filene, who had by then begun making a name for himself as a liberal philanthropist. Based at Columbia University’s Teachers College, with a staff of seven people, the IPA devoted its efforts to analyzing propaganda and misinformation in the news, publishing newsletters, and educating schoolchildren to be more tolerant of racial, religious, and ethnic differences.

The World Journalism Education Council; WJEC Paris 2019 @WJECParis
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In order to understand what kind of people, under certain circumstances would be susceptible to fascism, some sociologists studied personality traits. While it was clear that Germany’s defeat in World War I and subsequent economic conditions there, including widespread unemployment, had paved the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler, academics and journalists tried to parse just what made Nazi propaganda so effective at galvanizing public support for the regime. Theodor Adorno produced his famous “F-scale” (the “F” stands for fascist), which aimed to identify individuals more susceptible to the persuasions of authoritarianism. In recent years, the research of behavioral economist Karen Stenner has similarly examined the ways that innate personality traits coupled with changing social forces can push some segments of society toward intolerance.)

For its part, the IPA, under Miller’s leadership, maintained that education was the American way of dealing with disinformation. “Suppression of propaganda is contrary to democratic principles, specifically contrary to the provisions of the United States Constitution,” Miller said in his 1939 speech. “Counterpropaganda is legitimate but often intensifies cleavages. Analysis of propaganda, on the other hand, cannot hurt propaganda for a cause that we consider ‘good.’” In other words, analyzing propaganda for a good cause would not undermine the cause itself—but analysis of “bad” propaganda would allow audiences to dismantle its effects.

IN THE 80 YEARS since Clyde Miller first set out to tackle this problem, the dissemination of propaganda in our society has become only more sophisticated and perhaps more ubiquitous. The recent rise of Facebook and Twitter, along with the capabilities they offer to micro-target specific particular audience demographics, and the ongoing controversies of the 2016 election—among them the prospect that ideologically motivated foreign actors used social media to disseminate false information—have brought a renewed flurry of interest in the kind of propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation that pervaded the country nearly a century ago. So it’s not surprising that we again see growing interest in developing techniques for identifying and unraveling them.

Foundations including Hewlett Foundation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, have begun slow and expensive efforts to educate people to think critically, build trust in media outletsanalyze disinformation, and fight propaganda. Governments around the world, including in Germany, Malaysia and the European Union, are starting to regulate social-media platforms, as evidenced by recent efforts by European governments to require Facebook and Twitter to crack down on illegal hate speech. But social media platforms have largely taken the stance that the onus is on the audience to figure out what is fake and what is not. Meanwhile, they tweak their algorithms, mount an array of technical fixes, and employ human moderators to block inflammatory content.

In light of all this, it’s worth looking back to one of the earliest attempts to tackle this age-old problem. What, if anything, can we learn from the efforts of the IPA in the 1930s? And why are we again falling prey to the kinds of disinformation campaigns that it aimed to inoculate society against?

IN HER GROUP LEADERS GUIDE TO PROPAGANDA ANALYSIS, the IPA’s educational director, Violet Edwards, argued that industrialization and urbanization made society bigger and more complicated and so the “common man” had  become “tragically confused” by an overload of secondhand information and the need to make decisions about subjects without having firsthand information.

Instead of the town hall or the cracker barrel of yore, where citizens could meet to discuss the topics that affected them personally, Edwards wrote, they now had to rely on information from others about how society should be organized and which policies should be pursued far from home. Meanwhile, many others, including the American writer Walter Lippmann and the French philosopher Jacques Ellul, had begun arguing that journalism could become a means to sift through and distill the excessive information now available to the masses in part because of increasing newspaper circulation and radio broadcasts.

To properly understand the secondhand information on which citizens depend, Edwards wrote, readers should adopt a scientific mindset of fact-finding and logical reasoning and think critically when confronted with secondhand information. The IPA developed techniques for analyzing information that would help audiences think rationally. They brought media literacy training into US schools in an attempt to inoculate young people from the contagion of propaganda by teaching them how to thoughtfully analyze what they read and heard. (Again, something that is being tried today.)

Miller categorized propaganda into seven types. These included “glittering generalities,” “name calling,” “testimonials,” and “transfer,” a means by which “the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept.” Using another tactic, “Plain Folks,” Miller argued, propagandists “win our confidence by appearing to be people like ourselves,” while “bandwagon” was a “device to make us follow the crowd to accept the propagandists’ program en masse.”

Soon after the founding of the IPA, Miller was praised for bringing “the newspaper man’s passion for simplifying complicated subjects”: Among the IPA’s regular output, were analyses of political speeches, with little icons—the emoji of the day—printed next to each phrase to explain which of these techniques the speaker was using. One such book analyzed the anti-Semitic radio broadcasts of the infamous Father Coughlin, a Catholic priest in Detroit who was estimated to draw 30 million listeners for his attacks on the international Jewish population and President Roosevelt, among other topics.

Miller also published something he called the “ABCs of Propaganda Analysis,” which exhorted readers to first concern themselves with propaganda, then figure out the agenda of the propagandist, view the propaganda with doubt and skepticism, evaluate one’s reactions to it, and finally seek out the facts. He hoped audiences would use the ABCs to become active readers who could carefully analyze their reactions to propaganda.

Additionally, Miller published a weekly Bulletin that described an important topic in the news, analyzed the propaganda techniques used by all sides, and included a detailed list of sources he’d used and recommended further reading and discussion questions. This struck a nerve: Some 10,000 people subscribed to the Bulletin, which cost $2.00 a year (about $32.00 in today’s terms), and 18,000 people bought the bound volume of back issues that was published at the end of each year.

Here’s a sample analysis of the fake news of the day, taken from the May 26, 1941, issue of the Bulletin:

Persistently since the influx of refugees from the war areas began, a story has bobbed up in numerous American cities about the alleged heartless—and actually unreal—discharging of regular employes [sic] by stores to make places for ‘foreigners’. The story usually is anti-Semitic; the store with which it is connected has Jewish owners, and Jews are said to get the jobs.

One large store in New York City which has been a victim of the story has spent considerable sums trying to trace the source and find some way of stopping it. The efforts have been fruitless. The story keeps reappearing, and mimeographed leaflets have even been circulated picturing the Jewish manager welcoming a long line of Jewish refugees while turning away another line of fine Nordic types.

As part of the IPA’s attempts to spread its message and techniques, the organization sought to put young students on guard against propaganda and to form them into sophisticated news consumers. The institute formed a relationship with Scholastic magazine, and in 1939 and 1940 produced a series that was distributed in schools, called “What Makes You Think So?; Expert Guidance to Help You Think Clearly and Detect Propaganda in Any Form.” By the late 1930s, 1 million school children were using IPA’s methods to analyze propaganda, and the IPA corresponded with some 2,500 teachers. Anticipating contemporary critiques, such as the argument by Danah Boyd, founder of the technology-analysis organization Data & Society, that media-literacy programs can cause audiences to become dangerously mistrustful, the IPA maintained, in its teaching guides, that students needed to think critically as part of being engaged citizens:

The teacher who acts as a guide to maturity helps her pupils to think critically and to act intelligently on the everyday problems they are meeting…. [B]y its very nature [the] process will not build attitudes of cynicism and defeatism.

The IPA also helped design curriculum aimed at promoting civic engagement and racial and religious tolerance that was piloted in the Springfield, Massachusetts, school district, whose superintendent was sympathetic to the IPA’s mission. The “Springfield Plan” was influential and replicated in other districts but petered out in Springfield itself after a few years partly due to criticism by the Catholic Church and lack of local support as religious tensions rose locally after World War II. By the early ’50s, as McCarthyism was taking hold, there were murmurings that the plan contained “subversive” elements.

MILLER SPENT 10 YEARS at Columbia Teachers College as Communications Director and as an associate professor. In that time, IPA used up $1 million of Filene’s money. It was World War II that caused the end of the IPA, in part because the US began producing its own propaganda to galvanize support for the fight against Hitler. Publication of the weekly Bulletin ceased in 1942, as the US entered the war. In its farewell issue of January 9, 1942, headlined “We Say Au Revoir,” the IPA explained that its board of directors had voted to suspend operations:

The publication of its dispassionate analysis of all kinds of propaganda, ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ is easily misunderstood during a war emergency, and more important, the analyses could be misused for undesirable purposes by persons opposing the government’s efforts.

This final Bulletin expressed satisfaction with the work achieved by the IPA, warned that wartime is usually accompanied by a rise in intolerance, and expressed the hope that IPA techniques for analyzing propaganda would be used in the future, which indeed they were.

Miller’s time at Teachers College came to a sad end, as he apparently fell victim to the very intolerance he had warned against. Along with some other faculty members, he was put on leave from the college in 1944, amid a financial crisis at the institution, and he never resumed work there. In 1948 Miller was officially let go. Miller was told his dismissal was the result of departmental restructuring—but William Randolph Hearst’s animosity towards Miller may have contributed. Hearst was known for attacking “Reds” in the universities and schools and his paper, The World Telegram, had criticized some of the educational activities Miller was involved with.  Hearst had complained to Teacher’s College about Miller, saying he should “lay off.”  The House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1947 also attacked the IPA calling it a “Communist front organization.” The late 1940s were a prelude to the McCarthy years of the 1950s and HUAC had begun going after members of the American left. As far as we know, Miller was not a Communist or a “Fellow Traveler” but his involvement with IPA, the Methodist Church and the Springfield plan was enough to cause Hearst’s papers to smear him. There were a lot of gray areas during the McCarthy era blacklists. Some professors were fired by their Universities while others were let go quietly. Miller may have been one of these.

Miller lost his Columbia housing and salary and wrote repeatedly to Columbia’s president decrying the “violation of tenure and academic freedom.” He also told the New York Tribune, “I can understand that during the depression and now in this period of post-war hysteria, academic freedom is a pretty hard thing to preserve.”  For a while Miller worked at The League for Fair Play, which was based in New York and helped publicize the Springfield Plan. But then the trail goes cold. On a trip to Australia in 1999, Miller died; he’s buried there.

YET MILLER’S LEGACY LIVES ON. Although it was phased out in Springfield, the ideas of his education plan continued. According to Boston College education professor Lauri Johnson, “the Springfield Plan became the most well-publicized intercultural educational curriculum in the 1940s, talked about and emulated by school districts across the country and into Canada.”

And after the dust from WWII had settled, researchers, led by Yale’s Carl Hovland, once again took up the discussion of media effects and propaganda. Rather than focusing on specific propaganda techniques, Hovland took a broader view, attempting to understand how the media garnered credibility. Among other topics, Hovland and his group of scholars tried to understand if the source of a message affects whether people trust it, whether the content of the message matters or (as with Adorno’s F-scale) if audience characteristics are the most important. Hovland believed that highly intelligent people may be more able to absorb new information but are also more skeptical. People with low self-esteem who “manifested social inadequacy…showed the greatest opinion change.” However, despite extensive studies as to what caused media persuasion, Hovland’s findings were inconclusive. Scholars still grapple with the questions he tried to answer.

Additionally, many of the techniques the IPA pioneered are still used today in media-literacy training classes in US schools. Many take as their foundation the IPA’s pioneering ideas about how best to understand and combat propaganda, including a belief in the need for personal reflection and for understanding how personal experience shapes one’s ideas.

In fact, it’s striking how closely the IPA’s discussions about disinformation and possible remedies to it resemble the conversation we’re having on this topic today. For instance, researchers such as Claire Wardle, the executive director of First Draft, a think tank at Harvard’s Kennedy School that aims to fight disinformation, along with various others, have called out the techniques used by people spreading propaganda, and delineated taxonomies of the different kinds in use.

It would be nice to think that the IPA’s efforts worked and a generation of children became inured to propaganda and disinformation. In fact, the rise of Nazism in Germany happened in part because of the effectiveness of German propaganda and the US also went down the road of McCarthyism and anti-Communist propaganda. Moreover, it turns out that it’s devilishly hard to provethat media literacy is very effective. New research by University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson suggests that the Russian disinformation campaign on social media may have worked because it reinforced the points made by Trump in his campaign. Moreover, people who believe in fake news keep believing it even when confronted with information.

The lesson of the IPA is not just that media literacy education is hard to do well but that when societies become truly polarized, just teaching tolerance and critical thinking can be controversial.  In the 1940s Clyde Miller was attacked for his efforts. In today’s polarized world it’s not hard to imagine a similar backlash.

Author’s Note: Thanks to Chloe Oldham for her research, Andrea Gurwitt for her editing, and Professors Andie Tucher, Richard John, and Michael Schudson for their comments. Thanks to Thai Jones and the librarians working with the archives at the New York Public Library, Nicholas M. Butler Papers and the Columbia University Archives Central Files.

UK Aid Projects Have Been ‘Scaled Back’ Since The Brexit Referendum

International development programmes promoting water security and helping refugees in Uganda have been hit by the fall in the value of the pound

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has called for more private sector involvement in UK aid. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Joe Sandler Clarke, @JSandlerClarke!|AIWA! NO!|Aid projects designed to help some of the poorest people in the world and mitigate climate change have been harmed by the dramatic fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum.

Programmes aimed at alleviating poverty in the Congo Basin region and supporting refugees in Uganda have both had to be scaled back, according to UK government documents.

UK support for programmes mitigating climate change have also been hit. The World Bank’s Forest Investment Program, a fund to encourage reforestation, faced an “unrealised currency loss of $37.26million” last year due to the fluctuation of the pound.

NGOs say they have had to balance their currency losses with income from other sources.

Claire Godfrey from Bond, the network that represents UK international development NGOs, told Unearthed that the current uncertainty “hits the most vulnerable and poorest people the hardest”.

She said: “Delivering aid and development programmes needs a level of predictability and currency volatility affects predictability, long-term planning and therefore sustainability… donors and NGOs are going to have to do some contingency planning to ensure that the currency fluctuations we are seeing post-Brexit do not have such a harmful impact on programming.”

Pete Clutton-Brock, policy advisor with the environmental organisation E3G, said the uncertainty around Brexit posed a risk for UK development funding and climate finance. He urged the Department for International Development (Dfid) to “consider options for hedging against such volatility as a matter of urgency.”

The news comes as MPs on the International Development Committee today heard evidence from policy institutes, including E3G, on ways UK aid money can be used to mitigate climate change.

Dramatic fall

For years, the relative strength of the pound meant organisations working with the Department for International Development budgeted in sterling. But fears about the impact of Brexit on the British economy have seen the value of the pound fall dramatically since the June 2016 referendum, leaving some aid projects under-funded.

Annual reviews of aid projects published by Dfid show that several programmes have been affected by the fluctuation of the pound since the referendum.

I fear Dfid will lose the ability to leverage the most out of the aid budget and contribute to UK soft power

project aimed at reducing deforestation and “improving the livelihoods of forest dependent communities” in the Congo Basin region has had to “scale back on activities to align with the new value of sterling”.

The latest review of a £45m programme providing “emergency life-saving assistance to the large influxes of refugees arriving in Uganda” warned that a “weaker pound would mean fewer beneficiaries will be reached and therefore less impact”.

An effort to “improve water security and climate resilience for poor people” around the world has also been caught out by the fall in the value of sterling, with the project’s annual review stating that partners on the programme may have to “reduce operational budgets” due to currency uncertainty.

Unearthed approached several major aid organisations receiving Dfid funding to ask if their projects had been affected by the fluctuation of the pound. These included the German organisation GIZ, which works on the Water Security Programme, and Rainforest Foundation UK, which works on the Congo Basin project.

All said they had found ways of insulating themselves from such uncertainty, by diversifying their donors and getting funding in a mix of currencies. But such options aren’t open to smaller NGOs, which carry out work on the ground.

Joseph English, a communications officer with Unicef, which receives Dfid funding, told Unearthed: “Any fluctuation in currency markets can cause revaluations of funds held by Unicef country offices or funds in support of Unicef programmes, and can lead to resource shortfalls or surplus.

“Unicef works to monitor currency fluctuations and assess their possible impact on local programme costs, and broaden funding pools and consider changes to programmes to mitigate any possible disruption due to revaluations and fluctuations.”

0.7% commitment

David Hulme, executive director of the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester, told Unearthed he feared Brexit could reduce the ‘soft power’ derived from the UK’s aid programme.

“In the short term, any fall in the value of the pound will affect many aid programmes, but the longer term consequences of our declining global influence could be even more profound.

“With Brexit likely to further erode both the value of the pound and reduce the UK’s credentials for international cooperation, I fear that Dfid will lose the ability to leverage the most out of the aid budget and to contribute to UK soft power.  This could have very real consequences for millions of people still living in poverty.”

In March 2015, David Cameron’s government passed a bill to enshrine in law the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid.

At the time of publication, Dfid were yet to provide a comment.

The World Bank did not respond to a request for comment.

BRITISH Borders MP Threatens to Quit Over Proposed Brexit Deal Compromises

|Paris Gourtsoyannis, The Southern Reporter|AIWA! NO!|Borders MP David Mundell has threatened to resign over a European Union exit deal set to be signed off by the UK Government as soon as next week. The Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson have both issued a threat to quit over compromises to that Brexit deal over the Irish border ibeing proposed in a bid to get it agreed.

Ruth Davidson and David Mundell at last year's Royal Highland Show at Ingliston.
Ruth Davidson and David Mundell at last year’s Royal Highland Show at Ingliston.

UK prime minister Theresa May’s cabinet meets today, October 16, amid widespread disquiet among Conservatives and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party about plans to keep Britain in the EU customs union and boost regulatory checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland. Downing Street has sought to calm speculation that the compromises will form the basis of a breakthrough on the UK’s Brexit withdrawal aMrs Maythe Prime Minister not to do a “dodgy deal” undermining Northern Ireland’s standing in the union.

A joint letter from Ms Davidson and Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell to Mrs May warns that the issue of special status in the EU single market for Northern Ireland would be a red line for both of them, it has emerged. Under existing treaties including the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland already has separate regulatory regimes shared with the Republic of Ireland over matters including electricity and animal health.

However, the EU says that under a commitment set to agreed by Mrs May to prevent a hard border being created on the island of Ireland, the north would have to effectively remain within the single market. Checks on goods travelling between the north and Britain would need to be enhanced, affecting all livestock and agricultural products, many of which come from Scotland.

“Having fought just four years ago to keep our country together, the integrity of our United Kingdom remains the single most important issue for us in these negotiations,” the letter from Ms Davidson and Mr Mundell states.

“Any deal that delivers a differentiated settlement for Northern Ireland beyond the differences that already exist on an all-Ireland basis – for example, agriculture – or can be brought under the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, would undermine the integrity of our UK internal market and this United Kingdom. “We could not support any deal that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK beyond what currently exists.”

As many as eight cabinet ministers are said to be considering their positions over plans to keep the UK in the customs union to ensure goods continue to be traded over the Irish land border whatever the future relationship between London and Brussels without a firm date for when that arrangement would end.

Read more at: https://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/borders-mp-threatens-to-quit-over-proposed-brexit-deal-compromises-1-4815446

SYRIA – ‘Would you like to come to Canada?’ What officials are doing for Canadians held in Syria over ISIS allegations

  • The political implications of repatriating Canadian ISIS fighters. 

  • Repatriating Canadian ISIS fighters, their wives, and children could be a political minefield for the Trudeau government. 

  • Expert says Canada should bring back wives, children of ISIS fighters

|GLOBAL VOICES|AIWA! NO!|“I’m from the government of Canada. Do you want assistance from us?”

“Yes,” Jack Letts replied.

“If so, what kind?”

“Please get me out of this place.”

With that, a Canadian consular official began an hour-long online exchange with Letts, a British 22-year-old with Canadian citizenship who is imprisoned by Kurdish forces in Syria.

READ MORE: ‘I just want to go back’: Canadian ISIS fighter captured in northern Syria speaks out

A transcript of the conversation, which Global Affairs Canada sent to his parents, who then shared it with Global News along with other documents, offers a rare look at how Ottawa is handling such cases.

They show that Canadian consular officials have been trying to find out where the Canadians are being detained in order to give them consular assistance.

The officials have communicated with the Kurdish authorities over concerns about torture allegations and medical attention for the detainees, the documents show.

But they also told the parents in an email that while they would try to get Letts to a third country, likely Turkey, they could not make any promises.

Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.
Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

Hundreds of ISIS foreign fighters, as well as ISIS wives and their children, have been captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Canadian government has said little about how it is assisting at least 13 Canadian detainees, who are being held in prisons and camps in northeast Syria.

But the transcript of a January 10 conversation between Letts and Global Affairs Canada shows that while officials have reached out to some of the detainees, they have also cautioned there’s not be much they can do.

“If it would be possible, would you like to come to Canada? Back to the U.K.?” the consular official asked.

“I want to live a normal life. I want to come to Canada,” Letts replied.

A Muslim convert, Letts traveled to Syria in 2014, leading the British press to dub him Jihadi Jack. But while he was in ISIS-controlled territory, he has denied being an ISIS member and his parents said there was no evidence he ever joined the terrorist group. Because the U.K. has shown no interest in assisting him and he is Canadian through his father, Ottawa has taken on the case.

Jack Letts said he was imprisoned near Qamishli, the hub of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Jack Letts said he was imprisoned near Qamishli, the hub of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Can u help me,” Letts wrote to the consular official.

He said he was imprisoned near Qamlishi, the hub of the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria known as Rojava. He said he had been there 10 months.

“We have limited capacity to provide consular service in Syria but we will try to help you,” the official responded.

The consular official asked Letts whether he had been charged, how he spent his days, what he ate, when he last saw a doctor, whether he was taking medications and had access to the Internet.

“Are they going to kill us,” Letts wanted to know.

“As I said, we have no access in Syria at the moment, but are working on your case.”

Letts asked the official if he intended to get him to Canada.

“I promise not to blow anyone up with fertaliser [sic] or however they do it,” Letts wrote, adding “that was a joke.”

WATCH: What should Ottawa do with hundreds of captured Canadian ISIS fighters?

“We have the intention to help you,” the official wrote.

“Obviously I’m not going to blow anyone up.”

“Canada is an option,” said the official.

Parents of Jack Letts, dubbed Jihadi Jack, John Letts and Sally Lane arrive at the Old Bailey in London.
Parents of Jack Letts, dubbed Jihadi Jack, John Letts and Sally Lane arrive at the Old Bailey in London.

Letts then said he was “going insane” and had tried to hang himself. He said he was experiencing kidney problems but had not seen a doctor in seven months.

“I made a mistake coming here, I know that. If you want to put me in prison, I understand that I do not mind,” Letts told the official.

“I have made mistakes, probably prison is good for me. But just not here. The situation here is terrible.”

“Tell my mum I am sorry. Tell my dad I am sorry. Tell them if I ever get out of this place I am going to try and be a better person.”

Towards the end of the exchange, the official assured Letts the government was working on his case, but within limits.

“We don’t have people in Syria and it is a complex environment so I can’t give you definitive timelines, but we are working on your case.”

READ MORE: Exclusive: Canadian member of Islamic State caught, but RCMP struggle to lay charges against ISIS fighters

Global News revealed last week that high-profile Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali had been captured by Kurdish forces. His wife, former Vancouver resident Rida Jabbar, and their two kids were also detained, along with women from Toronto and Montreal who married ISIS foreign fighters, and their five children.

Letts and a Montreal man are also being held.

A Kurdish official told Global News there had been “dialogue” with Canada over the detainees, including a meeting in Iraq, but that “suddenly the Canadian government stopped this process and we don’t know why.”

Asked to comment on the transcript, Global Affairs Canada said it was aware that Canadians were detained in Syria but its “ability to provide consular assistance in any part of Syria is extremely limited.”

Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.
Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

In a podcast, national security law expert Craig Forcese said that because the Canadians were detained abroad, the government could not facilitate their return to Canada.

The best they could do was negotiate the conditions of their detention, he said, adding the matter was complicated because the Canadians were held by insurgents rather than a state.

But even engaging with their captors diplomatically could cause problems for Canada, he said. Turkey views the Kurdish forces as part of the PKK terrorist group. “So it’s a very difficult consular dance.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said the government’s primary focus should be public safety.

“I’m very, very reluctant to repatriate known ISIS fighters, unless they’re charged and imprisoned in conjunction with their return,” he said.

He also said he supported the revocation of citizenship for terrorism and treason.

“You know, unfortunately these people made very bad decisions and demonstrated that they were a risk to the public and that’s how they should be treated.”

WATCH: Mosul, Iraq is facing several challenges post-ISIS

READ MORE: ‘I’m going to die here’: Wives of ISIS fighters want to return home to Canada

But NDP public safety critic Matthew Dubé said that while public safety is paramount, Canada was obliged to take responsibility for its citizens.

“As much as we may loathe what these people stand for and what they’re doing in some cases, I think that putting them into prisons here and having them go through the Canadian justice system is obviously at the core of a society that’s rules-based and respects the rule of law,” he said.

“Again, it’s not to condone in any way these atrocities. Quite the contrary. I believe that if we truly believe that this is wrong then we should be making sure that they are seeing justice through the Canadian system.”

Dubé also said Ottawa should bring back Canadian wives of ISIS fighters and their children. “It doesn’t sound like that’s the case at the moment, but I would hope that they would make every effort to bring the women and children back.”

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

Andrew.Russell@globalnews.ca

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May Government Introduces Universal Credit; What Is It ?; … And Is Not …What’s The Problem?

What Universal Credit Is; And Is Not …

woman with pushchair and man walking into a job centre
GETTY IMAGES

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|Universal credit has proved controversial almost from the beginning, with reports of IT issues, massive overspends and administrative problems.

It’s being rolled out across the UK. But now concerns are being raised that 3.2 million working families will lose £48 a week – about £2,500 a year- compared with the old system.

The system has been made significantly less generous since it was announced.


What is it?

Universal credit is a benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment:

  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • housing benefit
  • child tax credit
  • working tax credit

It was designed to make claiming benefits simpler.

A single universal credit payment is paid directly into claimants’ bank accounts to cover the benefits for which they are eligible.

Claimants then have to pay costs such as rent out of their universal credit payment (though there is a provision for people who are in rent arrears or have difficulty managing their money to have their rent paid directly to their landlord)

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly – or twice a month for some people in Scotland.

Whether you can claim Universal Credit depends on where you live and your circumstances.

If you live in Northern Ireland, go to Universal Credit in Northern Ireland.

Saudi prince denies Saudi Washington Post journalist murder allegations as Turkish report claims writer sent audio recording of his final moments via an Apple Watch

saudi journo

  • Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz has condemned stories about the Saudi Arabian government regarding a missing Washington Post journalist
  • The Minister of Interior said the claims are ‘lies and baseless allegations against the government of the Kingdom’
  • Middle Eastern royal added that they are working together with their ‘brothers’ in Turkey to find out what happened to Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi 
  • Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, went missing October 2 after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey
  • Turkish government reportedly told US officials it has audio proof that he was killed and dismembered at the consulate in Istanbul 

|Mailonline|AIWA!no!AIWA!no!|Saudi Arabia is keen to find out the whole truth about what happened to Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi according to a statement from the country’s Minister of Interior.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz holds the position and spoke on behalf of his kingdom in a statement released late Friday night.

After the country had already labelled accusations the 59-year-old man was tortured, killed then dismembered October 2 for criticizing his homeland as ‘baseless’, Abdulaziz affirmed the idea through the Saudi Press Agency.

Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz denied Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 2
Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz denied Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 2
The country labeled accusations the 59-year-old man was tortured, killed then dismembered for speaking out as 'lies and baseless allegations against the government of the Kingdom'
The country labeled accusations the 59-year-old man was tortured, killed then dismembered for speaking out as ‘lies and baseless allegations against the government of the Kingdom’

The statement mentioned the ‘condemnation and denunciation of the false accusations circulated in some media on the Saudi government and people.

Abdulaziz specifically addressed claims that officials had been told to kill Khashoggi, who hasn’t been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

‘He also stressed that what has been circulating about orders to kill him are lies and baseless allegations against the government of the Kingdom, which is committed to its principles, rules and traditions and is in compliance with international laws and conventions,’ the statement went on.

The Minister of Interior also told the world that the country was keen to team up with the Turkish authorities to get to the bottom of what has happened to Khashoggi.

‘He praised the cooperation with the brothers in Turkey through the Joint Investigation Commission and other official channels, stressing the importance of the role of the media in the transfer of facts and not to affect the paths of investigation and judicial proceedings,’ the message sent out to media read. ‘He also stressed the Kingdom’s keenness on the interest of its citizens at home and abroad and its keenness in particular to clarify the whole truth about the disappearance of the citizen Jamal Khashoggi.’

Protests took place outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC but KSA mentioned the 'condemnation and denunciation of the false accusations circulated in some media'
Protests took place outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC but KSA mentioned the ‘condemnation and denunciation of the false accusations circulated in some media’
The statement about Khashoggi (pictured) said Saudi Arabia is 'committed to its principles, rules and traditions and is in compliance with international laws and conventions'
statement about Khashoggi (pictured) said Saudi Arabia is ‘committed to its principles, rules and traditions and is in compliance with international laws and conventions’
A Turkish newspaper said the authorities had obtained information from Khashoggi's watch
A Turkish newspaper said the authorities had obtained information from Khashoggi’s

The statement came as a report from a Turkish newspaper claimed investigators had obtain evidence about what happened to the journalist after he send recordings from his Apple Watch.

Pro-government publication Sabat reported that the conversation was sent to his iCloud and the phone his fiancée Hatice Cengiz was holding for him outside.

CNN said the newspaper added security guards used his fingerprint to delete some evidence but not was wiped.

However it raises questions as Apple Watch does not use fingerprint technology to unlock the device. While the Apple Watch 3 with Cellular is the only version that can be used without close connectivity with an iPhone, his mobile was with his partner outside.

She had previously said Khashoggi had another cell phone inside the building however.

BBC reported that Khashoggi had told a journalist there that he didn’t think he’d ever be able to go home after hearing stories of people being punished for speaking out.

‘When I hear of an arrest of a friend who did nothing… makes me feel I shouldn’t go,’ Khashoggi said off-air. ‘That friend of mine… maybe he was talking critically over something at a dinner party. That’s what we are becoming in Saudi Arabia, we are not used to that, we never experienced [this].’

Mr Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year.

US President Donald Trump has said he will speak to Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (pictured right) about the disappearance of the Saudi writer and US resident

Trump to ask Saudi King about missing journalist

While Donald Trump had been reluctant to risk the country not investing up to $110billion in the United States, on Friday he said the US taking the ‘terrible situation’ seriously.

The president said he will speak to Saudi Arabia‘s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud about the disappearance of Saudi writer and US resident.

The American leader spoke about the situation to reporters in Ohio ahead of his campaign rally and revealed he’ll be getting on the phone to hold a conversation with the Middle Eastern royal.

‘We’re going to find out what happened with respect to the terrible situation in Turkey having to do with Saudi Arabia and the reporter,’ he said. 

Trump, 72, said that the United States was one of many countries ‘looking very hard and fast’ to get to the bottom the story after Khashoggi vanished when he entered the building to get documents for his upcoming wedding, but his wife-to-be never saw him again.

A delegation from Saudi Arabia has now arrived in Turkey as part of an investigation into his disappearance, Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu said.

But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed he is still ‘planning’ on going to a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia despite man CEOs and journalists pulling out over concern for the Khashoggi story.

Former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia thinks it’s bad news for America’s relationship with the kingdom that the Trumps visited in May 2017.

‘I think this is the worst moment in US/Saudi relations since 9/11,’ Robert Jordan told MSNBC, reports Mediaite.

Jordan added that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 33, feels like he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.

 

Saudi Arabia´s consulate in Istanbul is under scrutiny after Turkish officials said they had audio recordings to prove what happened to Khashoggi

The Washington Post reported that a 15-man security team (not pictured) at Saudi Arabia´s consulate in Istanbul moved the body out of the building after killing the journalist
The Washington Post reported that a 15-man security team (not pictured) at Saudi Arabia´s consulate in Istanbul moved the body out of the building after killing the journalist

Theresa May tells angry Tory MPs: “I will not trap UK in permanent customs union with EU after Brexit”

Theresa May has sought to reassure worried Tory MPs by insisting that the UK will not be permanently “trapped” in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

EU and UK flags
Theresa May is fighting a major rebellion in the Tory ranks over Brexit.Credit: 
PA Image
|Kevin Schofield,PoiliticsHome|AIWA! NO!|The Prime Minister is facing the threat of Cabinet resignations over fears that a “backstop” arrangement aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border will effectively keep the UK locked into the bloc’s trading regime forever.

Senior ministers, including Dominic Raab and Michael Gove, expressed their concerns directly to Mrs May at a mini-Cabinet meeting on Thursday evening.

Tory minister warns on Brexit customs backstop end date

Theresa May: My backstop Brexit proposal is ‘unpalatable’

Theresa May facing threat of Cabinet resignations over Brexit customs plan

It is also understood that Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt and Esther McVey are considering their positions on the frontbench over the row.

In an attempt to calm tensions in the Conservative ranks, a Downing Street spokeswoman insisted any backstop deal would be “temporary”.

However, she stopped short of saying that any agreement will continue a specific date for when it will come to an end.

She said: “When we published our plans in June for a UK-wide customs backstop, we were absolutely clear that the arrangement would be temporary and only in place until our future economic relationship was ready. Our position is that this future economic relationship needs to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest.

“The Prime Minister would never agree to a deal that would trap the UK in a backstop permanently.”

HAMMOND

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has risked a fresh Cabinet row by suggestion that a backstop arrangement is inevitable, despite Downing Street insisting it remains unlikely.

Speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “We are not going to remain in anything indefinitely, we are very clear this has to be a temporary period. But it is true that there needs to be a period probably following the transition period that we’ve negotiated before we enter into our long-term partnership, just because of the time it will take to implement the systems required.

“It is very important to us that business doesn’t have to make two sets of changes. That there will effectively be continuity from the current set up through the transition period into any temporary period and then a single set of changes when we move into our long-term new economic partnership with the European Union.”

Theresa May has sought to reassure worried Tory MPs by insisting that the UK will not be permanently “trapped” in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

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