Facebook shut down 559 pages and 251 personal accounts yesterday. After catching a lot of heat for security breaches, privacy concerns and participating (whether willingly or unwillingly) in impacting election outcomes, the company said it is banning pages which are "working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing." Some of the pages that are being closed belong to legitimate journalists who are providing alternative narratives to those being presented in mainstream media. What does this portend for the future of the free exchange of ideas in the virtual public square via social media and beyond? This is virtual censorship — I say virtual since FB is taking action as a private entity, not involving the government, but with the way that FB and now Twitter have become so ingrained into our social fabric, should they be regulated as public utilities are?
A Turkish court on Friday ordered the release of the American pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, a move that will end his 24-month imprisonment and allow him to fly home and that signaled a truce of sorts in a heated diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States. Mr. Brunson was sentenced to three years, one month and 15 days in prison, but the judge lifted all judicial controls — including a ban on travel — due to his good behavior and in view of time served, leaving him free to leave the country immediately. Mr. Brunson left the courthouse by car shortly after the decision was announced, and American officials following the case said he would return home to Izmir before departing for the United States on Saturday morning.
It is alleged that US intelligence officials told The Washington Post they have been presented with video and audio recordings of the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside his own nation's consulate in Istanbul. According to anonymous intelligence officials cited by The Post, the recordings capture the moments before and during what they described as Mr. Khashoggi's violent death. The 59-year-old, a columnist for The Post, was allegedly killed at the hands of a team of Saudi security personnel flown by private jet into Turkey's capital city just hours before he was scheduled to arrive at the consulate to settle routine personal matters. So, first we have to be careful since we are dealing with anonymous sources here, but what does this say about government intelligence services? Are the US and Turkey admitting that they are spying on embassies?
The media branch of Yemen's Ansar Allah military released footage on Friday showing the moment that strategic Saudi military locations were captured in the eastern al-Doud mountains and al-Reqa'h military bases, located in Saudi Arabia's southwestern region of Jizan, approximately 900 kilometers (559 miles) south of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on the recent attacks. Yemen's army launched two ballistic missiles at a gathering of Saudi military forces, including mercenaries, just east of al-Doud. A group of Saudi-allied mercenaries south of al-Khobeh in Jizan was also targeted. Later in the day, Yemen's army struck a Saudi military base in Jizan with two ballistic missiles, killing a number of Saudi soldiers, according to two military sources in Yemen's army. Another missile reportedly struck its target in the southwestern Saudi region of Asir, according to a Yemeni military source's statement to MintPress.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the embattled archbishop of Washington, DC, and one of the church's most powerful Americans. But the pope's high praise for Wuerl in the wake of two clergy sexual abuse scandals angered some abuse survivors. Wuerl is the most prominent American Catholic to step down since the abuse scandal reignited this summer. But Francis has asked Wuerl to remain as the archdiocese's apostolic administrator — akin to an interim manager — until a successor is named. And in a letter released Friday, the pope praised Wuerl for his "nobility" in handling the criticism against him.
Elisabeth Myers — Editor-in-chief of Inside Arabia.
Caleb Maupin — Journalist and political analyst who focuses his coverage on US foreign policy and the global system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. He has appeared on Russia Today, PressTV, TeleSur, and CNN. He has reported from across the United States, as well as from Iran, the Gulf of Aden and Venezuela.
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