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Military contractor invite under fire

first_imgA talk at Oxford University featuring Graham Binns, the CEO of controversial private military company Aegis Defence Services, has been cancelled after student opposition.Aegis Defence Services is a British private military contractor similar to the US mercenary company Blackwater. Aegis, founded in 2002 and often described as Britain’s “second largest military force”, has deployed private troops to Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones.Aegis has been criticised by students who have linked the company to the alleged abuse of human rights. In 2006, an ex-Aegis employee posted clips described as “trophy videos” of private contract soldiers killing Iraqi civilians online. Oxford students cited this as a reason to protest a talk to which Binns was invited.The invitation was issued by the international affairs graduate publication St Antony’s International Review (STAIR).Puneet Dhaliwal, a Politics DPhil student and former military reform activist for the group War on Want, was among those who organised a protest against the talk. Dhaliwal told Cherwell he objected to STAIR’s lack of transparency about the event. He said, “The organisers of STAIR have not adequately responded to concerns raised about the event. They have instead disingenuously invoked notions of ‘academic freedom’ and ‘freedom of expression’, while remaining oblivious to the dearth of academic content in this event, the lack of balance provided with respect to theoretical and political perspectives on [private military security contractors], and the fact that companies like Aegis already enjoy a privileged platform in British politics.”On Thursday, STAIR organisers abruptly cancelled the eighth week talk that featured Binns and deleted the Facebook event without public explanation.Speaking to Cherwell, organisers expressed their disappointment that it had “become necessary” to cancel the event, citing a lack of “organisational or financial means to ensure the event could run as planned”.“We wish to emphasise that we believe this event would have given Oxford students a platform to engage in a critical discussion with important stakeholders in the debate on private military and security companies,” the STAIR organising committee stated.“STAIR wanted to provide an open forum for this discussion. Unfortunately, we can no longer guarantee that a free, fair and open discussion will be possible.”The invitation had been heavily criticised on the event’s Facebook group. One student called it “deplorable”.Another pointed out that only Binns and a Foreign and Commonwealth Office official would feature in a open-ended discussion examining private military contractors. They said, “This is not a topic for debate with ‘two sides’ unless we consider arguing for the collapse of democratic and humane oversight of warfare as a legitimate position.“I urge a boycott of this event and public condemnation of all those participating in it.”Another joked about getting a job with Aegis, writing on the event group, “I share your academic concern with grappling with the hard issues surrounding security in a twenty-first century geopolitical context…“As Oxford graduate students, we enjoy a privileged position to make a real difference to securing the world’s resources.”The academic billed to participate in the discussion, Dr Janina Dill, was unavailable for comment.AEGIS did not respond to Cherwell’s request for comment.last_img read more

B.B. King’s Granddaughter Shares Emotional Tribute, ‘The Legacy Goes On’

first_imgB.B. King’s granddaughter, Val B. King, has released a new song honoring her late grandfather who passed away just nine short months ago. Titled “The Legacy Goes On,” King told Rolling Stone the track was recorded “to get some of my emotions out with missing him so much.”Featuring a clip from a 1968 interview with B.B. at the beginning of the new song, King says her new song “is a way to honor my grandfather for all he did for me, his family, and the world. Watching my grandfather perform on stage literally showed me how to dream. He inspired me and many other aspiring artists.”King also mentions her grandfather’s wonderful philanthropic endeavors, “giving so much to help others, being a champion for education, giving of himself countless nights on stage, teaching us how to be humble, greeting his fans with a smile, and having sheer determination to make the world know about blues music,” she added. “He created a sound that truly made him the King of the Blues.”Listen to Val B. King’s tribute song to her grandfather, B.B. King, below:last_img read more

Lebanese citizens released by UAE back home after mediation

first_imgBEIRUT (AP) — Eight Lebanese citizens who had been detained in the United Arab Emirates have returned home after mediation efforts by a Lebanese official led to their release. Tuesday’s release is part of efforts by a top Lebanese security official who recently visited the UAE and said the UAE will release 11 Lebanese citizens. It wasn’t immediately clear why the men were held but it comes at a time of rising tension in the Middle East between Iran and the Saudi-led six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.last_img