Iran satellite fails to reach orbit in US-criticized launch
By NASSER KARIMI and JON GAMBRELL
Tuesday, January 15
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian satellite-carrying rocket blasted off into space on Tuesday, but scientists failed to put the device into orbit in a launch previously criticized by the United States as helping the Islamic Republic further develop its ballistic missile program.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has alleged that Iran’s space program could help it develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon to the mainland U.S., criticism that comes amid the Trump administration’s maximalist approach against Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains that its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says they don’t violate a United Nations resolution that only “called upon” it not to conduct such tests.
The rocket carrying the Payam satellite failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of its launch, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.
Jahromi said the rocket had successfully passed its first and second stages before developing problems in the third. That suggests something went wrong after the rocket pushed the satellite out of the Earth’s atmosphere. He did not elaborate on what caused the failure, but promised that Iranian scientists would continue their work.
Iran had said that it plans to send two nonmilitary satellites, Payam and Doosti, into orbit. The Payam, which means “message” in Farsi, was an imagery satellite that Iranian officials said would help with farming and other activities.
It’s unclear how the failure of the Payam will affect the launch timing for the Doosti, which means “friendship.” Jahromi wrote on Twitter that “Doosti is waiting for orbit,” without elaborating.
Tuesday’s launch took place at Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran’s Semnan province, a facility under the control of the country’s Defense Ministry, Jahromi said. Satellite images published last week and first reported by CNN showed activity at the launch site. Given the facility’s launching corridor, the satellite likely fell in the Indian Ocean.
Iranian state television aired footage of its reporter narrating the launch of the Simorgh rocket, shouting over its roar that it sent “a message of the pride, self-confidence and willpower of Iranian youth to the world!”
The TV footage shows the rocket becoming just a pinpoint of light in the darkened sky and not the moment of its failure.
The Simorgh, meaning “phoenix” in Farsi, has been used in previous satellite launches. It is larger than an earlier model known as the Safir, or “ambassador,” that Iran previously used to launch satellites.
Ahmad Motamedi, the chancellor of Tehran Amirkabir University of Technology, which designed the satellite, told the semi-official Mehr news agency that Jahromi already has ordered them to design another satellite.
“Now, we have earned plenty of experience and we will be able to make a new satellite quicker,” he said.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution amid Iran facing increasing pressure from the U.S. under the administration of President Donald Trump.
Pompeo has said that Iran’s plans for sending satellites into orbit demonstrate the country’s defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. There was no immediate American reaction to the launch Tuesday.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly slammed Iran over the launch, accusing Tehran of lying and alleging that the “innocent satellite” was actually “the first stage of an intercontinental missile” Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons. A 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers limited its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
However, Trump pulled America out of the deal in May. While United Nations inspectors say Iran has honored the deal up to this point, the country has threatened to resume higher enrichment.
On Tuesday, Iranian state television aired footage of nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi apparently from a previous interview warning Tehran could raise the its enrichment of uranium “instantly.”
“In a matter of four days we (are able) to start,” he said.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Why do Muslim women wear a hijab?
January 15, 2019
Author: Caitlin Killian, Professor of Sociology, Drew University
Disclosure statement: Caitlin Killian does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Nazma Khan, who immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh at age 11, faced years of shaming over wearing a headscarf in New York.
So, in 2013, she started World Hijab Day – a day for both Muslim and non-Muslim women to experience wearing a headscarf.
Celebrated on Feb. 1, the day is an expression of solidarity and support for religious freedom.
As a scholar of Muslim immigrants, I have also long argued for women’s right to religious expression in their clothing choices. The hijab is not simply about religion – women wear it for a variety of reasons that can change, depending on the time and social context.
Is the veil an Islamic requirement?
Muslim religious writings are not entirely clear on the question of veiling.
Various passages in the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and the Hadiths, statements attributed to the Prophet Mohammad, make reference to veiling by the prophet’s wives. But scholars disagree about whether these statements apply only to the prophet’s wives or to all Muslim women.
According to some, the veil has been used as a way of curbing male sexual desire. Yet covering the head and body predated Islam. Jewish, Christian and Hindu women have also covered their head at various times in history and in different parts of the world.
Certainly, the headscarf is tied to religion. Many women who cover talk about it as a way demonstrating their submission to God and a constant reminder to hold fast to Islamic beliefs such as being honest and generous to those in need.
However, there are other reasons for adopting the hijab.
French and British colonizers encouraged Muslim women to remove the veil and emulate European women. Consequently, in North African and Middle Eastern countries, the veil became a symbol of national identity and opposition to the West during independence and nationalist movements.
Today, some women wear the hijab to signal pride in their ethnic identity. This is more so for immigrants in Europe and the United States, where there has been an increase in Islamophobia.
In a Facebook post for World Hijab Day 2018 that went viral, Columbia College student Toqa Badran wrote,
“I wear this scarf because when I was a child I was socialized to be embarrassed, even ashamed, of my religion and my culture. I was told that to be a Muslim was to be a terrorist and that to be outwardly Muslim was to endorse violence and oppression … I understood that I would be unwelcome as long as I wore symbols of my heritage and chose to, in however modern a way, embrace my ancestors.”
Muslim African-American women in the U.S. sometimes wear a hijab to signal their religious affiliation. They also want to dispel the assumption that all African-Americans are Christians, and that only people with origins abroad can be Muslim. In fact, 13 percent of adult Muslims in the U.S are black Americans born in the country.
Different reasons for wearing a hijab
For many other women, the headscarf has become a means of resistance to standards of feminine beauty that demand more exposure. Proponents of this view argue that removing clothing for the benefit of the male gaze does not equal liberation.
According to researchers, women in hijabs note that employers must interact with them based on their qualifications rather than their appearance and that, therefore, the hijab levels the playing field. In Western countries, however, women find that wearing a head covering makes it harder to get hired.
Finally, for some women, the headscarf is a convenience. It can reduce comments from others about women being out in public and lessen incidents of harassment on the street and at work.
Despite the multiple, complicated reasons behind wearing a hijab, there are those who routinely assert that women who wear a headscarf are necessarily oppressed.
Examples of hijab-wearing women in the government, such as newly elected Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, or athletes such as Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, may help dispel these stereotypes.
China criticizes Trudeau comments on death penalty case
By YANAN WANG
Tuesday, January 15
BEIJING (AP) — China expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday over his criticism of a death sentence given to a Canadian accused of drug smuggling at a retrial that followed a chilling of relations over the arrest of a senior Chinese technology executive.
Trudeau should “respect the rule of law, respect China’s judicial sovereignty, correct mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
“We express our strong dissatisfaction with this,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.
Her comments are the latest sign of a sharp cooling of China-Canada ties since Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States.
The U.S. wants Meng extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.
The Liaoning provincial court in northeastern China announced the death sentence for 36-year-old Robert Lloyd Schellenberg on Monday.
Schellenberg was detained more than four years ago, went on trial in 2016 and was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in November. The Chinese media began republicizing Schellenberg’s case after Meng’s detention. Within weeks, an appeals court suddenly reversed the earlier decision, saying the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday’s retrial with just four days’ notice.
The court gave no indication that the death penalty could be commuted, but observers said Schellenberg’s fate is likely to be drawn into diplomatic negotiations over China’s demand for Meng’s release.
Schellenberg’s defense lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said his client plans to appeal the verdict.
“I can’t tell you the relationship between Mr. Schellenberg’s last appeal procedure and sensitive events which happened in Canada,” Zhang said, but he described the timing of Schellenberg’s appeal and retrial as “very significant.”
He declined to elaborate on the significance or to comment specifically on whether recent developments were linked to Meng.
Zhang, a Beijing-based lawyer who has taken on several high-profile cases involving foreigners arrested in China, previously represented Phan “Sandy” Phan-Gillis, an American woman convicted of espionage and deported back to the U.S. in 2017.
Questions have swirled over the court’s rapid retrial and sentencing of Schellenberg. Zhang said while the court’s actions were all lawful, they were also “abnormal.” Among the unusual features of the proceedings, according to Zhang: the public nature of Schellenberg’s December appeal, the swift scheduling of the retrial and the fact that the court announced its sentence just one hour after the trial ended Monday.
Trudeau suggested on Monday that China was using its judicial system to pressure Canada over the arrest of Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder.
“All countries around the world” should be concerned that Beijing is acting arbitrarily with its justice system, Trudeau said.
“It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty,” Trudeau said.
Canada later updated its travel advisory for China, urging Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
Hua dismissed such concerns, saying the 222 kilograms (489 pounds) of methamphetamine that Schellenberg was accused of smuggling merited the harsh penalty.
“When facing such a serious drug smuggling crime, I think any responsible government that takes resolute measures to deal with the case just reflects the responsible attitude and strong determination of the government in protecting the lives and safety of its people,” Hua said.
A Chinese man convicted of involvement in the same operation was earlier given a suspended death sentence.
Describing the case as “highly politicized,” the human rights group Amnesty International urged that Schellenberg’s sentence be revoked.
“The sudden retrial and apparent rush to judgment has highlighted the numerous flaws in China’s judicial system,” China researcher William Nee said in a statement.
Since Meng’s detention, China has arrested two Canadians in apparent retaliation. Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, were both arrested on vague national security allegations. A Canadian teacher was detained but released.
Hua on Monday denied Kovrig was eligible for diplomatic immunity as Trudeau has maintained.
A senior Canadian government official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting diplomatic immunity. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly about the case, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group think tank, was on a leave of absence from the Canadian government at the time of his arrest last month.
Ren Zhengfei, Meng’s father and Huawei’s founder, told foreign reporters on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the death sentence and arrests of the Canadians are related to Meng’s detention.
“Personally, I don’t see a connection between these cases and Meng Wanzhou,” he said.
Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor. The United States, Britain, European Union and Australia have issued statements in support. Trudeau called U.S. President Donald Trump about their case last week and the White House called the arrests “unlawful.”
Last week, Poland arrested a Huawei director and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them with spying for China. The move came amid a U.S. campaign to exert pressure on its allies not to use Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.
Huawei founder says company would not share user secrets
By JOE McDONALD
AP Business Writer
Tuesday, January 15
SHENZHEN, China (AP) — The founder of Huawei said Tuesday his company would refuse to disclose secrets about its customers and their communication networks, trying to lay to rest concerns the Chinese tech giant might spy for the Communist government.
Ren Zhengfei spoke in a rare meeting with foreign reporters as Huawei Technologies Ltd., China’s first global tech brand, tries to protect its access to global telecom carriers that are investing heavily in next-generation technology.
Ren’s comments were the 74-year-old former military engineer’s most direct public response to accusations the world’s biggest maker of telecom network gear is controlled by the ruling Communist Party or is required to facilitate Chinese spying.
The United States, Australia, Japan and some other governments have imposed curbs on use of its technology over such concerns.
“We would definitely say no to such a request,” Ren said when asked how the company would respond to a government demand for confidential information about a foreign customer.
Asked whether Huawei would challenge such an order in court, Ren chuckled and said it would be up to Chinese authorities to “file litigation.”
Ren said neither he nor the company have ever received a government request for “improper information” about anyone.
Huawei is facing heightened scrutiny as phone carriers prepare to roll out fifth-generation technology in which the company is a leading competitor. 5G is designed to support a vast expansion of networks to serve medical devices, self-driving cars and other technology. That increases the cost of potential security failures and has prompted governments increasingly to treat telecoms communications networks as strategic assets.
The company’s image suffered a new blow last week when Polish authorities announced one of its Chinese employees was arrested on spying charges. Huawei announced it fired the employee and said the allegations had nothing to do with the company.
Ren is the father of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 in Canada on U.S. charges related to possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran.
Ren said he couldn’t discuss Meng’s case while it still was before a court. But he said Huawei obeys the law, including export restrictions, in every country where it operates.
“After all the evidence is made public, we will rely on the justice system,” he said. “We are sure there will be a just conclusion to this matter.”
Two Canadians were arrested by Chinese authorities on national security charges, prompting suggestions abroad they might be hostages to secure Meng’s release. On Monday, a Chinese court sentenced a Canadian to death in a drug case after he was ordered retried.
Asked how he felt about suggestions Beijing took hostages in a case linked to Huawei, Ren said he saw no connection between the Canadians and Meng.
Ren, one of the oldest Chinese executives still working, was jovial and animated during the two hour and 20 minute meeting. Dressed in a blue sport coat and an open-necked light blue shirt, he was accompanied by two Huawei board members, Chen Lifang and William Xu, and other company managers.
Ren said he became a Communist Party member in the early 1980s after the state press published reports about his development of a measuring tool for an engineering project. Before then, he could not join because his father was deemed a “capitalist roader,” but the party was trying to promote young, technologically capable people following the end of the violent, ultra-radical Cultural Revolution in 1976.
Ren founded Huawei in 1987 to sell imported telecom switching gear to Chinese phone companies after the People’s Liberation Army disbanded his engineering unit, according to the company.
Ren said that despite his party membership, Huawei makes decisions based on its customers’ needs.
“I don’t see a close connection between my personal political beliefs and our commercial decisions,” he said.
Huawei’s U.S. market evaporated in 2012 after a congressional panel said the company and its smaller Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., were security risks and urged phone companies to avoid them.
Despite that, Huawei says it expects last year’s revenue to exceed $100 billion. Ren said this year’s target is $125 billion.
Huawei says it is employee-owned. Ren said no government entity or any other investor who isn’t a current or former employee owns “once cent of Huawei shares.”
Ren said Huawei has no research cooperation with the ruling party’s military wing, the PLA. He said the company has no dedicated unit for military sales and he knew of no purchases of civilian technology by the PLA.
Ren cited comments by Chinese government spokespeople who rejected suggestions, including by a vice president of the European Union, that Huawei and other vendors might be required to install secret “backdoors” to facilitate eavesdropping under a law enacted last year that requires them to cooperate with intelligence agencies.
Huawei has plenty of opportunities even if it faces higher barriers in some markets, Ren said. He said the company has signed 5G contracts with 30 carriers and has shipped 25,000 base stations.
Ren also warned against allowing security concerns to divide the globe into isolated markets with incompatible technology standards — a scenario some people have suggested might result from U.S.-Chinese tensions.
“Arbitrarily dividing the world into two technology camps can only harm the interests of all society,” he said.
Asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion he might intervene in Meng’s case if that facilitated a resolution of Washington’s tariff battle with Beijing, Ren said he would wait to see whether Trump takes action.
“As for President Trump as president, I still believe he is a great president,” Ren said. He said Trump was elected to cut taxes, which he believed was beneficial for American industry.
However, he said, “If companies are getting frightened by the detention of certain individuals, then investors might be scared away, and that is not in the interests of the United States.”
Ren said he didn’t believe Huawei would face U.S. penalties similar to those that nearly drove ZTE Corp. out of business. Washington barred ZTE from buying American technology over its exports to Iran and North Korea but restored access after the company paid a $1 billion fine, replaced its executive team and installed U.S.-selected compliance monitors.
“If it did happen to Huawei, I don’t believe the impact would be very significant,” he said. “I believe telecom operators would continue to trust Huawei.”
Ren said Huawei doesn’t want Beijing to retaliate for foreign restrictions by hampering market access for Apple Inc. and other rivals.
“In spite of setbacks in some countries, we are still supportive of China becoming a more open country,” he said.
Brexit: parliament ties Theresa May in knots ahead of vote
January 9, 2019
Author: Chris Stafford, Doctoral Researcher, University of Nottingham
Disclosure statement: Chris Stafford does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Nottingham provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
Having been controversially postponed in December, the parliamentary vote on the UK’s draft withdrawal agreement from the EU has been rescheduled for Tuesday January 15.
The prime minister seems confident that she can get her deal through but, then, the same was true back in December before she hastily cancelled the scheduled vote precisely because she came to accept that the opposite was true.
The deal is still the exact same one that MPs were sure to reject back in December. After months of telling people that it was the only deal on the table, the prime minister went to Brussels after the vote in parliament was put on hold to try and gain some concessions, only to be told that she had been right all along – it was indeed the only deal on the table.
Having failed in their attempt to oust May in a no-confidence vote in December, hard Brexit plotters Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and company have had to readjust their plans. But they continue to heckle from the sidelines and are still unlikely to support May’s proposal. Johnson is championing a no-deal scenario, which makes sense given that is where his current manoeuvrings are likely to lead. Of course, there are others in the Conservative Party who have their eyes on the premiership and many key government figures are positioning themselves for the leadership now that they know that May will be standing down before the next election. Numerous government ministers have spoken out against a no-deal scenario such as Amber Rudd, Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid to name but a few. This may be a sign that May’s deal, or some version of it, could make it through parliament eventually.
The opposition benches
Someone else looking to claim the title of prime minister is of course Jeremy Corbyn, who reportedly plans to call a vote of no confidence in the government immediately if May loses the vote. Although he has been regularly criticised for not having a clear stance on Brexit, the reality is that the Labour leader perhaps doesn’t need one, not just yet anyway. There will come a time when he will have to take a stance, but his current “wait and see” approach keeps his options open and allows the Conservative Party to keep tearing itself apart. The longer that continues the greater his chance of ousting them at the next election. If he instructs his MPs to vote down the deal, the consequences for Labour might not be too detrimental given that the public (in no small part thanks to the efforts of people like Johnson and Rees-Mogg) don’t like the deal anyway. The real issue may come after the vote and whether or not to support a second referendum.
Rise of the resistance
However, right now it is Labour’s Yvette Cooper, not Corbyn, who appears to be putting up a more effective opposition to the prime minister. Leading a cross-party group of MPs she successfully tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which will make it much more difficult to levy taxes in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The defeat won’t stop the Brexit process and the government can always find other ways to raise funds, but it highlights the struggles faced by the prime minister given her lack of a working majority in parliament. It also sends a clear signal that parliament is willing, and perhaps able, to take back control of the Brexit process. That message was driven home once again when the group successfully tabled and amendment that means the prime minister will have to return to the house with a plan within three days if she loses the vote on January 15.
It also suggests that a no-deal scenario is unpopular not just with key government figures but also with the majority of MPs in parliament and that the hardline Brexiteers are losing their influence on the discourse. This might be something the prime minister could use to help push through her deal, as given that the EU is unwilling to amend the deal itself, it really does appear to be her deal or no deal.
If the prime minister can get some strong assurances on the more contentious issues, something which the Irish Taoiseach has suggested is possible, then the deal could make it through parliament, perhaps after a few attempts. If not, there will be Labour’s potentially more successful vote of no confidence to deal with.
Failing that and in light of the EU’s insistence that negotiations will not be re-opened, perhaps the only other option is the highly divisive prospect of a second referendum.
Andrew McDowell: Tabling an amendment whose entire purpose is to make one option less attractive suggests to me that Parliament is not acting as a means for finding the best answer to the question at hand. I would have hoped that Parliament was a relatively good example of collective decision making, as Members are professionals selected for this particular job. Are there rules for debate or for collective decision making which would make Parliament more efficient in the job of selecting a collective decision? Are the somewhere proofs that there is no possible advance over the current situation?