News Release

* Saudi Women and Elections * Students Convicted for Protesting Israeli Ambassador in California * Banned from India Because of Kashmir Coverage? * Putin’s Russia

JAAFAR AL-SHAYEB, jafar at alshayeb.org
Available for interviews from noon to 5:00 ET today before he leaves the country, al-Shayeb is chairperson of the municipal council in Qatif, Saudi Arabia. While acknowledging that allowing women to vote in future municipal elections was a significant, if largely symbolic step, he stresses that elections wield very limited power in Saudi Arabia. He also emphasizes that while much is made of women not driving in Saudi Arabia, the deeper problems are a whole array of legal restrictions on women and a structure of male “guardianship.”

NORA BARROWS-FRIEDMAN, norabf at gmail.com
Ten University of California students were recently found guilty on charges of “conspiracy” and “disrupting” a public meeting at a February 2010 protest against Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. Barrows-Friedman has been covering the case, see her recent “Nationwide Condemnation of Irvine 11 Convictions by Student and Activist Groups” and other pieces at.

DAVID BARSAMIAN, barsamian at riseup.net
Barsamian, a radio journalist and founder of Alternative Radio, was recently deported from India. Outlook India notes he has done “several radio programs criticizing India’s position on Kashmir and has commented on the Maoist movement in central India. He is also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and is best known for his series of interviews with Noam Chomsky.” See his interview “In Free India I Was Denied Entry.

DAVID KOTZ, dmkotz at econs.umass.edu
Kotz is professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and coauthor of Russia’s Path from Gorbachev to Putin: The Demise of the Soviet System and the New Russia. He said today: “The announcement that Vladimir Putin will return to the Russian Presidency was no surprise, and it confirms the undemocratic, authoritarian character of the Russian state. Current speculation focuses on whether Putin will liberalize Russia’s economy or continue what is misleadingly called ‘state capitalism.’ So-called state capitalism is associated with state control of an economy aimed at hastening economic development and modernization. However, since Putin took office Russia has had the worst sides of both liberalization and a state-run economy. Most big businesses are privately owned, and huge fortunes have been garnered by the ‘oligarchs’ who control them. At the same time, the state acts like one more oligarch, using its control over some key sectors of the economy to enrich the circle around the top political leadership. Meanwhile, Russia’s economy remains dependent on extraction and initial processing of raw materials, leaving the majority of Russia’s people with no good economic prospects. Such a system can survive only under an undemocratic state dedicated to protecting the small number of new rich. This will not change until the Russian people are able to replace the current system of property and power by one that would enable the majority to prosper.”