Five weapons of mass destruction according to Turkish law.

A Turkish court has ruled that swimming goggles used by protesters during this year’s mass street demonstrations in Gezi park were “weapons”.

“They had not gone to the Gezi Park to swim, since there is no swimming pool there,” newspapers quoted the court ruling as saying. Dispenser, your ultimate supplier of inside information, has the list of new weapons of mass destruction according to the Turkish law.

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Goggles, of course. Recep Erdogan has just closed down swimming pools around the country for their links with terrorist cell Breaststroke Brigade, a notable insurrectional group that wants to eliminate all the countries that are not touched by the water.

 

flip flops

Flip-flops. Other than ugly, the Turkish Government considers the infamous plastic unisex sandal as a very serious threat to national security for the intense and pungent  smell they emanate especially  during the hot season.

 

anziani che guardano i lavoriOld people by construction sites. Nothing is worse that unleashed Turkish grandpas staring and commenting around new building sites around Istanbul: according to the Turkish Government, Al Quaeda is recruiting seniors to mine the very fundament of Western buildings  rather than sending airplanes to destroy them afterwards.

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Books. The Turkish Government has raised to 4 the terrorist threat for the huge quantity of books circulating in the country. Heavy, filled with subordinate clauses, they can either be thrown at or put to flames endangering the survival of honest citizens around the country. Worst case scenario, they can be read in public squares. In that case, the Prime Minister will be immediately relocated to a secret location.

 

assgunillusionmk1Beans. This evil plant seed, if consumed in large quantities, can have a mortal effect on unaware citizens. According to Turkish history books, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the result of a bean indigestion and, if we have learned something from the past, we should ban them forever.

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Bye Bye, Silvio.

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Silvio Berlusconi dealing with State deficit. Courtesy of ansa.it

Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon that monopolized Italian politics for the last 20 years with his personal problems, is now out of the Parliament.

Not because he decided to spontaneously step down as any public figure would do if facing tax fraud convictions, sex with minors accusations, bribery and close ties with mafia charges.

The Italian Senate had to spend four months arguing whether he was eligible or not for a parliamentarian seat when the economic situation in the old country doesn’t seem to be that bright at the moment (at least Italians are not self-injecting HIV virus to get State benefits as it is happening in other parts of Europe).

Now that Berlusconi is out, and his resuscitated Forza Italia party will threaten elections every single hour of the day from here to March, what it is going to happen to the sexy Italian politics we were used to?

What will the masterminds in Rome produce in order to entertain Italians and distract them from the very problems that afflict the country? Chronic public debt, corruption, increasing taxation and linear cuts on public services among others.

Given that every Italian, tomorrow morning at the café, would swear they have never voted for Berlusconi in their lives (everything accompanied by, of course, a disgusted grim on their faces and a slow, dismissive movement of their hands) I’m pretty sure that tonight, in the secrecy of their bedrooms, Italians will recollect bits and pieces of these past 20 years: all the Berlusconi’s gaffes during international meetings, his inappropriate comments on gays and girls, his coup de theatre and his judiciary problems treated as State priorities and they will smile.

In the end, we all had fun.

Is Jazz Dead? A Dispenser’s recap.

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Technical problems? We did experience them. But nothing can stop Dispenser from going on air. This week we had to broadcast at 5:30pm because the show was so good we couldn’t wait until 6pm.

What happened today? Are you not listening to the show yet again? Man oh man, we had guests that not even the London Jazz Festival was able to book.

Since the LJF is now over, we wanted to check how jazz was doing on the British scene with a special episode on this hearth-warming music that made us fall in love, mended our wounds, accompanied us through the night and shown us how cool it was to be a musician. And we did all this with a special parterre of guests.

Steve Rubie, the owner of the historic 606 Jazz Club in London gave us an insight of how jazz clubs and the jazz audience had changed through the years.

“Jazz in the 70’s was struggling, but now it has to compete with a whole variety of music. Nevertheless, jazz is young and most certainly our audience in not old at all”.

Then, the adorable Flick Walker revealed who was the most underrated jazz musician of the twentieth century – Louis Prima

Our third segment, as you know, is dedicated to very important people. This week it was Andrew from the London Jazz Collector, one of the most popular jazz websites you’ll find on the internet. Unlike us, he has a real audience that is keen to listen to what he says on modern jazz and vinyls.

“I don’t feel the need to spread jazz, you know? It doesn’t bother me that 95 per cent of the people out there have never listened to jazz before. Jazz is listening for 40 minutes to a song, doing nothing else in the multi-tasking world.” 

Let me tell you, assembling a whole episode on jazz wasn’t that easy. Mostly because when you ask “what is jazz?” you’ll get a huge variety of answers. All correct of course, but nothing would reach a consensus.

Tune in next week for a whole new episode of Dispenser at 6pm on Smoke Radio. Topic? Working in hostile environments. Aloha!

This week’s soundtrack:

Onwards&Upwards – Andy Mastroddi;

Twilight in Arabia – the Four Season Band;

When You’re Smiling – Louis Prima;

Autumn Leaves – Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley.

Is Iranian economy ready for a lift of sanctions?

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Graffiti in Tehran. Courtesy of globalpost.com

A partial lift on sanctions is expected after the historic agreement signed last Sunday between the Islamic Republic and the West although many questions arise. Correspondents and economists are unsure on how the Iranian economy would respond to a lift of sanctions, especially after Iran has spent a decade or so in isolation with a close and almost self-sufficient economy.

ANSA chief correspondent in Iran, Rodolfo Calò, has told us a lift of sanctions could lead to a possible collapse of the Iranian economy, unable to respond to a competitive market and impotent against a deep-rooted black market.

The reduction in exports has already cost Tehran billions of dollars per month, vital to the state’s revenue. In addition, financial sanctions have also made it difficult to repatriate from the proceeds of the oil sales, cutting off a main source of Iranian income. In India, Japan and South Korea, billions of Tehran’s oil money is stuck in bank accounts, held up by the sanctions. The results have been devastating for the Iranian population, triggering a collapse of industry, skyrocketing inflation, and massive unemployment. As the rich and politically-connected prosper under sanctions, Iran’s middle class has disappeared, and even access to food and medicine has been compromised.

Last June, Iran’s Central Bank reported inflation to be at 22.2% although economists guarantee this figure is highly underestimated. In one week only, the price of chicken rose to 30% and the vegetable at around 100%.

Another problem a lift of sanction could cause is the insurrection of the Revolutionary Guard. As odd as it sounds, analysts have reported that, as the sanctions have tightened, the role of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran’s economy has actually grown. There are almost no legal means for Iranian manufacturers to import raw materials, or to export their products. They must rely on bribes and political connections to access the black market, in which the Revolutionary Guard is heavily involved.

The Outlaws – modern investigative journalists on this week’s Dispenser

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As the weekend seems now to be a blurred recollection, this week’s Dispenser brought you content you will hardly forget for the next seven days.

Today, we took a journey in the shady underbelly of investigative journalism exploring the crucial themes of freedom of expression and freedom of information with two outstanding guests.

First, we kneeled in front of a modern journalistic icon, David Leigh, former investigations executive editor at the Guardian, which handled the release of US diplomatic and military documents – aka Wikileaks – along with Julian Assange.

“The investigative journalist should be a sort of an outlaw, a bit of a gorilla, always colliding with the law and sometimes I believe we have to break the law”. 

While dealing with all these leaks, Michael Ertl dragged us to Germany, home of Bastian Brinkmann, who broke the story of Offshore leaks for the Suddeutsche Zeitung. Last spring, 46 countries worked together for the first time to find out how people around the globe could avoid paying taxes for millions of dollars through offshore banks.

“Working on Offshore leaks was very difficult, it takes a lot of time, a lot of conference calls. This might not be implemented in the average work for a journalist but, for special projects, this collaboration could represent a model”. 

Now, Bastian Brinkmann is working on another project, Secret Wars, on the US military activities in Germany. Find out more on international.sueddeutsche.de 

Nevertheless, we never forget to suggest you a book: this week Lauren Brennan gave us a glimpse of “The Investigative Journalism Casebook” published by UNESCO and edited by Mark Lee Hunter. Twenty-two true stories written by investigative journalists and connected by the fil rouge of truth, obsession with journalism and caffeine. Plus, the book is online and free here.

Tune in next week on Smoke Radio, 6pm more or less, for a whole new episode.

This week’s soundtrack: 

Sissyneck – Beck;

Money – Barrett Strong;

Daydream – Lovin Spoonfull;

Yofo – Molotov.

Why we are not all sexists – an open letter to Laura Bates.

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Gli Italiani si voltano, Mario de Biasi, Milano 1954

Dear Laura Bates,

I’m glad you keep on fighting for equal rights and how media sometimes portray a distort role of women in society. I do have a problem, though. Not all men are brutal monsters that salivate when there’s a girl around.

I’m Italian and I know that at some point you have a misconception on how we relate with our female counterparts in the old country. But still, I do not think it is sexist.  On the other hand, it is my feeling we’ve been raised, from a very young age, to adore women: to rush and offer the palm of our hands when they are climbing the steep stairs in Piazza di Spagna in Rome; to keep the heavy doors open when they’re exiting the Uffizi in Florence; or to give up our seats on public transportation even if they’re not aged or pregnant.

And yes, we do leer. Mostly because we are humans and, second, because it is always a pleasure to see somebody not as hairy and as clumsy as we are crossing our way. We do feel ecstatic when a girl is around because we feel like little children, trying to grab a piece of her attention for the whole purpose of winning her a smile, steal a kind word from her that doesn’t make us feel so miserable  on this meaningless planet.

Honking the horn of the car, stalking and harassing a lady goes beyond my comprehension, because most of us were raised gentle. But I cannot understand why turning my head and stare at pure beauty when I’m in the middle of the street would make me a sexist. I’ll keep on paying dinner for two on my first dates, bringing flowers to my second and open the car door for her as long as we date, and you know why? Because it amazes me, each and every day, that there are human beings so perfect and charming, so infinitely kind and adorable, and I feel the urge of doing something nice to them in return for their sole existence on earth.

Ciao,

MP

All (Iranian) talks and a badge: what you’ve missed on Dispenser.

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If you missed today’s Dispenser, there is no need to cry and argue with your boss on whether you can get home earlier to listen to the show.

We, as your weekly supplier of concentrated knowledge, fully understand how busy your life can be and we do not blame you. Instead, we try to help you out coping with your Monday distress embedding on the blog the outstanding interviews we just had on the show. How great technology is!

We started with ANSA chief correspondent in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Rodolfo Calò, who gave us his opinion on the recent and productive round of talks on nuclear weapons between the West and Iran in Geneva. Then we talked about the Iranian Deputy Minister of Industry, Safdar Rahtamabad, who just got shot yesterday night in Tehran and what the positive outcome of lifted sanctions could be for Iranians.

“For Iranians, a lift in sanctions wouldn’t be so good. It sounds like a paradox, I know, but do you remember what happened in Germany in the early ‘90s? Prices of housing and basic goods increased considerably. Here we have high inflation too, so there’s the risk that a liberalization of the Iranian economy could bring bad effect on poor people”  Rodolfo Calò – min 6:50

 

Then we suggested a documentary on an American journalist, a globe-trotting foreign correspondent and perhaps a CIA agent. That is the story of “Frank Kearns: American Correspondent” a hour-long documentary  which seeks to unravel the tangled story of whether the reporter served a dual role while working for CBS News in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

As we are avid readers, we had the pleasure to sit down with former editor in chief and CEO of ITN, Stewart Purvis, who just co-authored “When Reporters Cross the Line” (Biteback), a true account of moments in recent history when the world of media, propaganda, politics, espionage and crime collide, casting journalism into controversy.

“What is the difference between personal view and professional judgment, I find it is a little bit of a grey area and I think to be honest there are all sorts of things going on out in that space. […] there is something called ‘Due Impartiality’ and what that means is the context. So, if you’re watching Russia Today, what do you expect? If you watch Al Jazeera, what do you expect?”  Stewart Purvis – min 6:58

 

We will be here next week, with the same degree of myopia and the constant joy of bringing you the unexpected side of reality while trying to forget the most painful day of the week – Monday.

This week’s soundtrack:

Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon;

Hotel California – Eagles;

Man with a Suitcase – Chris Joss;

It’s Good News Week – Hedgehoppers Anonymus.

Divide et Impera: are we repeating our fathers’ mistakes?

Quick update on the al-Haddad story. Westminster News Online managed to interview Haithim al-Haddad, the Muslim scholar that last Monday was invited by the Islamic society to deliver a speech within the University of Westminster campus.

During the interview, al-Haddad makes use of rhetoric against homosexuals, Jews and Catholics without exception.

“Homosexuality is a sin. A major sin, all Muslim’s believe that. You will not find any Muslim preacher that disagrees with that”.

“[…] Religions can only exist together if they take the word of God. Islam is the only religion that has followed the word of God. So to achieve a true peace we need to follow that”.

What stood up during the interview was a sentence that I personally found extremely interesting.

“There needs to be a platform for free speech. Everyone must have their beliefs and be allowed that”.

I thought I would never say that, but I agree with al-Haddad. There is the need to have a place where freedom of speech is granted and everybody should fight in order to have this liberty recognized at any time and in any place.

Freedom of speech shouldn’t be misused to disperse hatred and misrepresentation, though. Extremists from both sides shouldn’t hide behind this basic pillar of democracy when violently attacking other groups or minorities.

The whole concept of freedom of speech, an inclusive right that belongs to each and every member of the community with no distinction, is destroyed and ripped apart when used with the purpose of separating, dividing and segregating.

And I’m offended that fellow students, the bright ruling class of tomorrow, are reiterating and keeping alive the same mistake of our fathers, proved wrong numerous times: divide et impera.

5 guest speakers University of Westminster should consider inviting.

Following our news story on Islam extremist Haithim Al-Haddad, and the benefit  of having him delivering a lecture within the University of Westminster campus, we received a new statement from the university PR office.

“If someone should fail to abide by the University code of practice on tolerance of other religions  after having signed up, we would not permit them to speak at the University again in the future. If upon investigation this had been the case with Dr. Al-Haddad we would have been in contact but this is not our understanding”. 

Basically they’re dismissing the case, avoiding the questions we asked and they do not seem to care about the background of the people allowed inside an educational building.

If this is the case, here you go a list of five people we would suggest to University of Westminster as next guest speakers during Students’ group meetings.

brievik

Anders Breivik, trainer at the Hiking group. Anders is not that much of a talker, he prefers the action: his hobbies include out-door activities, field trips to small islands and military training simulations. Extremely talented in planning field exercises, Anders has a passion for graffiti and hip-hop.

 

berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi, volunteer at the Feminist Group. Silvio is an old-fashioned Italian gentleman with a natural charming attitude. Each week, Silvio organizes charity parties at his mansion to help young ladies in need to get off the street, supporting them both spiritually and financially.

 

pablo escobar

Pablo Escobar, guest speaker at the Business society. One of the wealthiest man on the planet, Pablo became a multimillionaire at a young age. Known for his “nose” for business, Pablito always fought with all his energy and strength to keep his company competitive and vibrant on the market.

 

Kim-Jong-Un2(R)Kim Jong Un, lecturer at the Amnesty International Group. Young political idealist, Kim is a keen supporter of peace in the Korean region. As an ambitious activist, he is determined in ameliorating his fellow citizens’ life condition by improving their standard of living. Great Risk player, Kim adores American basketball.

 

GeneralZodForPresident20084The three Kryptonians, guest speakers at the Graduation ceremony. Noticeable trio of distinguished charisma, they were just a step away from winning a Peace Noble prize. The leader of the group, General Zod, is an affable man with appreciable language skills and knowledge. They can fly and open aluminum cans with their heat vision.

What went wrong: female genital mutilation and terrorism supporter delivers a speech at University of Westminster.

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Haitham al-Haddad, Islamic scholar and guest speaker at University of Westminster
(photo credit: EJPress)

Islamist scholar Haitham Al-Haddad has a history of homophobia, misogyny, religious intolerance and rhetorical support for violent groups. Nevertheless, University of Westminster granted him a stage last Monday to speak to the Islamic Society student group (ISoc).

On November 3rd, ISoc organized a fundraising dinner with a guest speaker who, originally, was supposed to be Imam Wasim Kempson, a moderate scholar that would have delivered a speech on Syria and Palestine.

wasim kempson

Twenty-four hours before the event, on the ISoc Facebook page appeared a new post, highlighting that the guest speaker had change. The replacement was Dr. Al-Haddad.

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It needs a basic internet search to find out who Al-Haddad is and what his main ideas are on topics like homosexuality, “a criminal act”, the role of women in society, “a man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because this is something between them” and Jews, “descendants of apes and pigs”.

The person who oversees and approves guest speakers at University of Westminster, in particular those who deal with religious topic, is Mr. Yusuf Kaplan, the Interfaith Advisor of college. We phoned him yesterday afternoon and he said he granted authorization for Mr. Al-Haddad as guest speaker on University premises but he did not want to comment furthermore.

As we learned during the afternoon, an emergency meeting of the Students’ Union was held behind closed doors to discuss this very topic and, since we were around, we popped in the Regent street campus where we met vice president of the SU, Muaz Mahmoud.

He was having an early dinner in the cafeteria with some senior member of the Islamic society and, as we approached him, he politely told us he was “instructed not to talk” to the press. Funny, since he’s paid something around £23.000 each year by the University and he’s expected, at least, to explain this to whom signs his paycheck: his fellow students.

Then again, we turned to the ISoc member and he replied “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”.

And we are pretty sure Al-Haddad has a bunch of opinions that don’t need further clarification.

So the Students’ Union bounced us saying that this is a matter the University has to deal with but, as we were walking back to the newsroom, we received the University’s official statement:

“The Islamic Society is an organization under the administration of the Students’ Union which does not fall directly under the governance of the university and concerned students should approach the Students’ Union in the first instance. Providing a safe environment for our students is a top priority. All speakers on University premises are required to give their agreement to abide by our code of practice on tolerance of other religions and beliefs. Those speakers that do not comply with this policy would not be permitted to speak at the University.  The University will always speak to the Students’ Union if there are concerns.”

In other words, the University is denying any responsibility for the invitation of a guest that defended the anti-Semitic militant group of Hamas, proscribed as a terrorist organization in the UK.

University of Westminster doesn’t seem to be new to controversy involving radical Islamic movements. No later than last September, Muslim students at the University of Westminster have been found to be disseminating literature and propaganda on behalf of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) group that is banned from campuses by the National Union of Students.

Identified as a fascist organization, Hizb-ut-Tahrir (party of liberation) has been halted from appearing at university campuses across the United Kingdom. Westminster itself has had numerous altercations with Hizb-ut-Tahrir speakers and their sympathizers, some of which took over the student union in 2011.

Even the Telegraph decided to cover the disputed Students’ Union election at Westminster in 2011 when Tarik Mahri, 23 was elected as president of the union despite his links to the group Hizb ut-Tahrir which advocates the establishment of an Islamic state.

So if this is not the University’s responsibility nor the Students’ Union’s, who oversees the process? And on which basis guests are invited to speak on the University premises?

Even though the speaker abides by the University’s code of conduct, isn’t it reasonable to think that students being exposed to someone with such views reflects badly on the University?

 

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