Connect with us

World

UK politicians ‘don’t do God’ but religion matters in this election

Published

on

People hold up placards and Union flags as they gather for a demonstration organised by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism outside the head office of the British opposition Labour Party in central London on April 8, 2018.

TOLGA AKMEN | AFP | Getty Images

An infamous political tale tells of the occasion when former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair once wanted to discuss his faith in public but was interrupted by his top communications advisor Alistair Campbell who abruptly told him: “We don’t do God.”

The curt riposte to Blair’s desire to talk about his Christian faith reflects a general attitude in the U.K. — both among the political establishment and the general public — that politics and religion don’t mix well.

In the case of the forthcoming U.K. election on Thursday December 12, however, political parties have been unable to dodge religion with controversies over discrimination coming to the fore for both the Conservative and Labour parties.

The bigger prominence of religion in the 2019 snap election, one which will decide the direction the U.K.’s departure from the EU takes, is more to do with identity politics, experts say.

“We’re not a mainstream religious country,” Vince Cable, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, told CNBC Tuesday.

“This isn’t America, it’s not Poland, we’re a fairly secular country so it’s not the vast majority of people wanting to express a religious view. But I think it’s one manifestation of the politics of identity that is becoming increasingly common,” he said.

“Identity is sometimes about religion, sometimes about color, sometimes about nationality. And I think what is happening is that traditional left-right class alignments are becoming less and less relevant, and it’s identity, in those different forms, that becomes salient,” Cable added.

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

Religious identity has featured prominently in the run up to the election in the U.K. with both the main parties accused of failing to deal with religious discrimination and prejudice within their own ranks.

In late November, the U.K.’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attacked the Labour party for failing to tackle anti-Semitism within its ranks, adding that the party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn was “unfit for office.”

He also said in an interview with The Times newspaper that “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” ahead of polling day as they fear a potential Labour government.

Mirvis’ comments came on the same day that Labour had launched a “race and faith manifesto,” which it said aimed to tackle prejudice across all faiths. Labour has repeatedly denied accusations of anti-Semitism and has expelled party members after complaints of anti-Semitism were upheld yet it remains accused of not doing enough.

The party came under fresh pressure this weekend when it emerged there was a backlog of unresolved complaints over anti-Jewish racism within the party, some dating back years. Shadow Finance Minister John McDonnell apologized to the Jewish community “for the suffering we have inflicted on them.”

People hold banners during a protest, organized by Stand Up To Racism platform, against former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after his Islamaphobic article, which includes hate crime on women those who wear niqab or burqa, in front of the contact office of Conservative Party in London, United Kingdom on August 09, 2018.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

While Labour’s reputation has been tarnished in the Jewish community, the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson has been accused of not doing enough to tackle Islamophobia within the party. Johnson has come under fire himself for previous comments in which he likened Muslim women wearing burkas as looking “like letter boxes.”

On Sunday, Conservative Chairman James Cleverly apologized for cases of Islamophobia in his party and reiterated a promise made by Johnson that there would be an inquiry into prejudice and discrimination within the party by the end of the year. Like Labour, the Conservatives have expelled a number of party members for alleged Islamophobia.

Cable, who once led the third-largest opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, said both the mainstream parties had upset ethnic minorities in the U.K.

“The Labour party has got a very specific issue which relates to anti-Semitism … they’ve got to clean up their act and I don’t think they can do that as long as (Jeremy) Corbyn is their leader, frankly,” he said.

“The Tories are tapping into an underlying, often very racist feeling in parts of the country … there is an undercurrent of hostility to ethnic minorities and Johnson has, through his language, has played into that, and I think they (the Tories) are a bigger problem than the Labour Party.”

Ben Ryan, head of research at Christian think tank Theos, told CNBC that the main problem with modern political parties in the U.K. was a failure to engage with faith groups on all sides, and tending to regard the issue of faith in negative terms.

“There’s been nothing really positive from the parties about how they’re going to engage faith groups,” he said. “There’s been almost purely negative messaging about faith groups … and a total absence from the debates of positive things faith groups can offer society. They’re often pillars of social services in the community.”

Don’t mention God

Political parties might have trouble engaging with faith groups but they also have problems dealing with the religious identities of their own lawmakers at times. In fact, Vince Cable’s predecessor Tim Farron, resigned from the leadership of the Liberal Democrats because he said he could not reconcile his faith, and remain “faithful to Christ” with being party leader.

The difference between the U.S. and U.K. when it comes to religion and faith in politics is pronounced.

In the U.S., former President George W. Bush was seen by the Christian right as a way to push a conservative Christian agenda while in the U.K., his then-counterpart Tony Blair (incidentally, both Bush and Blair were religious converts to a certain extent; Bush was born again as an evangelical Christian in 1985 and Blair who converted to Catholicism) was discouraged from expressing views on his personal faith.

When announcing to the nation the start of the 2003 war in Iraq, Blair was apparently dissuaded by aides from ending his message with the phrase “God bless you” — a marked contrast from then-President George W. Bush who told the world that he was spurred to intervene in Iraq because, “God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq.”

Theos’ Head of Research Ben Ryan told CNBC that politicians in the U.K. “are certainly more reserved about expressing their religious identity than in the U.S.”

“It’s easier to treat it (religious identity) as a cultural marker than an explicit expression of faith. It’s more of a muted identity in the U.K. It’s far more unusual for politicians here to put their faith out there. People who have done so have been burnt, like Tim Farron, an evangelical Christian that felt he couldn’t do both,” he said.

“It is becoming a harsher environment in terms of how religious identity can be used against you, particularly for Muslim MPs,” he said, adding “it’s not a left-right thing, it’s affecting all Muslim MPs.” Ryan claimed that the language used by political rivals against Muslim MPs was often religiously charged.

He cited the example of Zac Goldsmith using the terms “radical and divisive” to describe his political rival Sadiq Khan in the race to become mayor of London. Goldsmith was criticized for using the language of extremism to describe Khan.

Source link

World

How the Saudis hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone, and how to protect yourself

Published

on

Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud and Jeff Bezos pose for a photo during his visit in in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on November 9, 2016.

Bandar Algaloud | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Today, the U.N. called for an investigation into allegations that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia personally facilitated a hack on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ mobile phone.

The report, which is based on research Bezos commissioned, alleges that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have personally been involved in a complex hacking campaign against Bezos, which started with a friendly dinner and exchange of phone numbers between the two in 2018.

The report shows how outsiders can monitor seemingly private phone messages. However, while tools like those described in the report exist, they are costly and rarely used against normal citizens. Moreover, it’s worth keeping in mind that Bezos himself commissioned the report and there may be alternative explanations for how information about his personal life leaked.

What happened?

According to the allegations, Bezos’ phone was hacked using malicious software delivered in a WhatsApp message that came directly from Crown Prince Mohammed’s phone in November 2018. The two of them had met and exchanged phone numbers in the spring of that year.

In November of 2018, Bezos allegedly received a text from Crown Prince Mohammed’s WhatsApp number again, this time with a picture of a woman resembling Sanchez “months before the Bezos affair was known publicly,” according to the report. Bezos would later preempt a National Enquirer story on the affair in a post on Medium, which also was the first time he mentioned a possible connection between the hack and Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis apparently targeted Bezos because he owns The Washington Post, which published work from Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident. Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 at the direction of the crown prince, according to the CIA. After initial denials, the Saudis have acknowledged the murder and sentenced several people to death for it, but denied that Crown Prince Mohammed knew about it.

The report says the hack used the software of an Israeli company called NSO Group, which sells a software platform known as Pegasus. This platform allows governments to access internet-connected devices.

The company says it only sells its products to government agencies pursuing information from the devices of criminals and terrorists. Human rights activists, however, have said the software is used much more widely and to target attorneys, journalists and dissidents who oppose various governments that have contracted with NSO Group, an allegation put forth in the report today.

NSO Group has denied its software was involved.

“As we stated unequivocally in April 2019 to the same false assertion, our technology was not used in this instance. We know this because of how our software works and our technology cannot be used on U.S. phone numbers. Our products are only used to investigate terror and serious crime. Any suggestion that NSO is involved is defamatory and the company will take legal counsel to address this.”

Saudi Arabia has called the allegations “absurd” and has also characterized the killing of Khashoggi as a “rogue operation.”

Not a worry for most of us

NSO Group isn’t the only company that makes this type of software. There are numerous other companies that have used differing versions of malicious code, delivered via text or call. These programs let outsiders compromise mobile devices by sending errant information through loopholes in these communication programs.

In some cases, respondents don’t even need to answer the call or text in order for the phone to be compromised. Once the phone is compromised, the attackers can download a wide array of information from it. This seems to be what happened in the case of Bezos’ phone, as subsequent messages suggested that Crown Prince Mohammed was aware of Bezos’ affair and impending divorce, according to the U.N. report.

While real, these types of hacks are exceedingly rare. The software required to carry them out is extremely costly, and companies such as Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, and Apple are usually quick to patch the holes that these programs exploit.

These types of hacks have targeted attorneys and other professionals representing controversial figures, however. Anyone in a position connected to politically controversial figures — including bankers, accountants, political advisors, speechwriters and so on — should be concerned about having their communications monitored in this way.

If you’re in this boat, make sure you routinely update your phone and all its software, especially with all security-related updates, and consider consulting with a cybersecurity expert who can help you tailor a security plan. Share your phone number very selectively only with people who absolutely need it, and consider conducting private or sensitive business on a device that’s separate from your day-to-day phone.

But for most of us, these types of hacks are a very remote concern and easily remedied by updating messaging software on a regular schedule.

Skepticism warranted

It’s worth keeping in mind that the report may not tell the whole story.

While sophisticated tools and hacking methods like those described in the U.N.’s letter today do exist, so do programs that can spoof phone numbers and device ownership, as well as a wide range of programs that can make it appear quite convincingly that information is being sent from an individual’s device or location when it is not.

There are other possible alternative explanations for what happened. Some other entity could have spoofed Crown Prince Mohammed’s credentials, or Bezos’ information could have leaked in more ways than a single hack. For instance, The Wall Street Journal reported last March that Sanchez’s brother sent incriminating pictures from her phone to the National Enquirer.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Bezos commissioned the investigation. The report spins a very complex story of a vast technological conspiracy against him and bolsters previous claims of Saudi involvement from an investigator he hired, Gavin de Becker. An investigation independent of either Bezos or the Saudis, which the U.N. has called for, would hopefully include a completely objective view of the timeline and facts presented in today’s report.

Source link

Continue Reading

World

Italy is not in a political crisis, Gualtieri says

Published

on

DAVOS, Switzerland — Italy is not facing another political crisis, the country’s economy minister told CNBC just hours after a key government figure stepped back from his duties.

Luigi Di Maio has been leading the Five Star Movement (M5S), a party supportive of more social benefits in Italy, since late 2017. However, he said Wednesday he would be stepping down from the party’s leadership. Di Maio has also been serving as foreign affairs minister. His party entered a new coalition with the pro-European social democratic party, Partito Democratico (PD) in September and his resignation has raised concerns over the stability of this goverment.

Speaking to CNBC Wednesday, Roberto Gualtieri, the Italian minister for the economy and a member of PD, rejected such concerns.

Italian economy minister Roberto Gualtieri.

Mondadori Portfolio

“Not at all, it is not a political crisis, it is not affecting neither the government — by the way Mr Di Maio will remain foreign (affairs) minister — nor the majority, which is actually quite broad in the Parliament,” Gualtieri told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick in Davos.

The PD and M5S came together last year to avert the need for snap elections. At the time, the anti-immigration party leader, Matteo Salvini, who was co-deputy prime minister alongside Di Maio, decided to quit government — sparking further political instability.

“The commitment to the stability of the Italian government is very strong from the Five Star Movement,” Gualtieri said.

Upcoming regional elections in Italy are adding further pressure on the current government. Salvini, the face of anti-immigration politics in Italy, could be about to make some sort of comeback with an election in the northeast region of Emilia-Romagna on Sunday. The region has traditionally voted in favor of left-leaning parties, but opinion polls suggest that could change.

Speaking about the upcoming vote, Gualtieri said: “I hope and I’m confident that the progressive candidates will win.”

Nonetheless, he pointed out that it is a regional vote and he doesn’t expect it to impact the current leadership between M5S and the PD.

Source link

Continue Reading

World

Trump says GDP, Dow would be higher if it weren’t for the Fed

Published

on

President Donald Trump told CNBC on Wednesday that U.S. economic growth would have been closer to 4% if it weren’t for the lingering effect of Federal Reserve rate hikes.

“That was a big blip that should not have taken place. It should not have happened. But it’s one of those things. But we had Boeing. We had the big strike with General Motors. We had things happen that are very unusual to happen,” Trump told CNBC’s Joe Kernen in an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The president also suggested that the stock market would be even higher than its already record-setting highs if the Fed hadn’t raised rates so quickly before cutting them three times during 2019.

“Now, with all of that, had we not done the big raise on interest, I think we would have been close to 4%,” Trump said of the U.S. gross domestic product. “And I – I could see 5,000 to 10,000 points more on the Dow. But that was a killer when they raised the rate. It was just a big mistake.”

The president has repeatedly taken the Fed and its chair, Jerome Powell, to task for raising rates too quickly, in his view. Trump nominated Powell to the role in November 2017, and the Fed raised rates four times in 2018.

The president’s remarks Wednesday echoed those his top economic advisor Larry Kudlow made to CNBC on Tuesday, when he predicted 3% growth in U.S. GDP in 2020.

“This is a long cycle, and what you’ve got here in the Trump years is essentially a mini upcycle,” Kudlow said Tuesday. “You’ve gone from 1.5% to 2% growth. We had it going at almost 4%, then the Fed tightened.”

Manufacturing and trade data released this month suggested the American economy ended 2019 on a strong note. The economy is expected to grow more than 2% in the fourth quarter. That would represent a slowdown from the 2.9% increase in 2018, and 2% growth would still suggest the decade-old expansion is set to continue into this pivotal election year.

President Donald Trump speaks with CNBC at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 22nd, 2020.

Adam Galica | CNBC

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending