15. 11. 2018
Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting this year’s Oscars ceremony

Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting this year’s Oscars ceremony

After the 2016 Oscar nominations were announced last Thursday, there was an almost immediate reaction to the perceived skew of the nominees’ races.

Indeed, it’s glaring to take a closer look at the nominees in the acting categories (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress): 20 out of 20, a full 100 per cent, are white.

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which was also in use after last year’s Oscar nominees were revealed, resurfaced again this year across social media.

WATCH: Hollywood ‘A-listers’ boycotting Oscars due to lack of diversity

Director Spike Lee (Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing), whose movies often deal with racial issues or hot-button controversial topics, announced that he will not be attending this year’s Academy Awards ceremony because of #OscarsSoWhite.

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#OscarsSoWhite… Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)

A post shared by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on Jan 18, 2016 at 5:03am PST

“How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let’s Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!!” said the director on his Instagram page.

WATCH: #OscarsSoWhite was trending after the Oscars had almost all white nominations, again.

READ MORE: 2016 Oscar nominations: Full list of 88th Academy Awards nominees

Lee posted a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. next to his online rant.

Other black celebrities are taking up the cause as well, including Jada Pinkett Smith, who posted a video to her Facebook page and three tweets to her 桑拿会所 account. Smith calmly expressed her disdain over the Oscar nominations, wondering aloud why black actors can be called upon to host and give out awards, but aren’t honoured for their achievements.

Her video is to the point. She even acknowledges Chris Rock (who’s hosting this year’s ceremony), but reiterates that she will not be attending the Oscars. Her husband, Will Smith, was not nominated for his role in Concussion.

Even people nominated for movies like Straight Outta Compton and Creed are white.

READ MORE: #OscarsSoWhite: 2016 Oscar nominees are almost all white, again

Vanity Fair reports that in its 87-year history the Academy has awarded Oscars to 12 people of colour in the major categories.

The AMPAS voting body is 92 per cent white, according to a 2012 analysis of who’s doing the Oscar voting. While that may not necessarily indicate racism, it certainly provides a specific lens with which to look through. If your perspective is a “white gaze,” then it can be assumed that will influence the outcome of votes.

WATCH: Rev. Al Sharpton calling on civil rights groups to boycott Oscars

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs claims she has since redoubled efforts to diversify its membership.

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15. 11. 2018
MP Seamus O’Regan says he’s ‘40 days alcohol-free’ and returning to work

MP Seamus O’Regan says he’s ‘40 days alcohol-free’ and returning to work

Seamus O’Regan, the Liberal MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl who entered a wellness program for an alcohol problem in December announced on social media Monday he’s been sober for 40 days and is “reporting back for duty” in Ottawa.

O’Regan said in a Facebook post he had undergone hours of counselling since entering a Toronto treatment facility on Dec. 11 after finishing his work on Parliament Hill.

“Over the last year or two, alcohol was becoming a part of my daily life. I regularly had several drinks at the end of most days. Sometimes more than several drinks,” he wrote.

“I was still working effectively and competently, but I realized, over time, that being competent was not good enough. I was far from my best self. And the simple truth is that I owe my best self to my marriage, to my family, to my friends, and to my constituents.”

He added that he was at the facility until just a few days ago.

“I have spent the last 40 days alcohol-free. I have had the benefit of many hours of counseling, meditation and acquiring the tools to remain alcohol-free,” he wrote.

READ MORE: Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan enters treatment facility

O’Regan thanked all those who called or wrote to support him over the last few weeks.

“I have dealt with my personal challenges and I shall continue to do so. But, ultimately, my personal challenges are secondary to the needs of my constituents,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed his support when O’Regan announced that he was seeking help over the holiday break.

The House of Commons will resume sitting on Jan. 25.

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15. 11. 2018
Beer drawing more men to yoga classes as new trend hits the U.S.

Beer drawing more men to yoga classes as new trend hits the U.S.

MIAMI – Call it detox and retox: Around the country, yogis are jumping up from savasana and hopping onto a barstool as yoga classes are making their way into breweries.

While the teaching is traditional, the classes tend to attract newbies, especially men, says Beth Cosi, founder of Bendy Brewski in Charleston, South Carolina and Memphis.

“We get the men in the door mostly because it’s in a brewery and they get a beer afterward. That’s the carrot. A lot of them come with girlfriends, wives, sisters,” Cosi said.

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    Her $15 classes are 45 minutes, compared to a typical 90-minute class. The room isn’t heated to near 100-degree temperature and the partnering breweries typically offer a tour of the facility after or the chance to drink a flight of several beers.

    “They both lead to relaxation. And they both have a little bit of a social aspect, you know. And it’s a very relaxing place to do yoga. So, you know, very unpretentious,” Jason Crafts, 43-year-old IT project manager, said after a recent class at Raleigh Brewing Co. in Raleigh, North Carolina.

    While traditional yoga tends to encourage a navel-gazing focus on oneself, individual breathing and controlling one’s thoughts, the yoga beer classes are all about community.

    “This gives you the opportunity to come to your mat, to connect with yourself … and then to socialize after class and get to know people,” said Mikki Trowbridge, whose free classes in the Salem, Oregon area draw between 75 and 150 people two or three times a month.

    Trowbridge’s business plan wasn’t calculated. She and her husband just liked a strong, sweaty yoga class and a nice craft beer and figured they weren’t alone.

    “(Beer) is part of our culture here. We have breweries everywhere and so breweries are where we gather for social time,” she said.

    The trend has caught on quickly with yoga-beer partnerships throughout Florida, New York and California. Cosi has been mentoring yoga teachers across the country looking to host beer yoga events. Beer maker Dogfish Head created a Namaste beer, Belgian-style white with dried organic orange flesh and fresh-cut lemongrass; and Lululemon, the athletic apparel line, partnered with Stanley Park Brewing on a limited-edition style with Chinook and Lemondrop hops.

    The classes also offer a friendlier environment than yoga studios where many run out after namaste without talking to anyone.

    “There’s a lot of (single) people that come in with the goal of talking to someone new and they already know they have beer and yoga in common,” said Melissa Klimo-Major, who started teaching yoga classes in breweries around Cleveland in 2014.

    Trowbridge and Klimt drew notable crowds after hosting two beer yoga events in New York City over the summer. The duo, who met on Instagram, is taking their business on the road with a west coast tour planned for the spring and several Midwest stops over the summer.

    Breweries say the collaborations are also offering up a bonus for them.

    “The majority of our yogis are usually girls and the majority of people in the brewery are men so it’s kind of helped crossed that chasm of getting girls into craft beer,” said Chris Gove president of the SaltWater Brewery in Delray Beach.

    Allen G. Breed contributed to this report in Raleigh, North Carolina.

15. 11. 2018
Eugenie Bouchard wins first round match at Australian Open

Eugenie Bouchard wins first round match at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia – A resurgent Eugenie Bouchard continued her injury comeback with a straight sets win in first round action at the Australian Open.

The 21 year old from Westmount, Que. dispatched Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, 6-4 in just over an hour, hitting 14 winners, along with 14 unforced errors.

The 37th-ranked Bouchard is playing in only her fourth tournament since sustaining a concussion when she fell in the dressing room at last year’s U.S. Open.

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She next will face Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in second round play. Radwanska got through the first round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Christina McHale of the United States

Earlier this month Bouchard made it to the quarterfinals at the Shenzen Open and then followed that up by reaching the final at the Hobart International.

In men’s singles action, Canadian Vasek Pospisil was eliminated at Melbourne Park, falling in four sets to France’s Gilles Simon on Monday in first-round action.

The 25-year-old from Vancouver was beaten by his 14th-ranked opponent, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 2-6, 4-6, in a match that lasted two hours, 47 minutes. Unforced errors cost Pospisil heavily – he had 55 of them compared to just 18 for Simon.

Pospisil used his powerful serve to win the first set in 45 minutes. He held an 8-0 edge in aces but committed 16 unforced errors.

Trailing 3-1 in the second set, Pospisil called a medical timeout and went through stretching exercises on his lower body with a trainer, but returned to play shortly after. Simon went on to win the set in 52 minutes as Pospisil made 17 more unforced errors compared to the Frenchman’s three.

Simon needed only 31 minutes to win the third set and 39 minutes to take the fourth, which ended when Pospisil returned a serve long on match point.

Pospisil held the edge in aces 19-2, and winners 45-12, but was undone by his own mistakes.

Meanwhile, Milos Raonic, of Thornhill, Ont., opens his tournament against France’s Lucas Pouille on Tuesday.

15. 11. 2018
Canada not immune to worsening inequality, Oxfam report suggests

Canada not immune to worsening inequality, Oxfam report suggests

The gaping chasm between the world’s richest and poorest citizens is widening more rapidly than expected, says Oxfam International, and it’s a trend being reflected here in Canada.

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A new report released by Oxfam on Monday highlights some alarming statistics. Perhaps most notably, the organization has estimated that the richest 62 people on Earth now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the global population (approximately 3.6 billion people).

Meanwhile, the have-nots are getting poorer and the resulting inequality is getting worse — fast. A mere five years ago, the number of billionaires who had accumulated the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50 per cent of the population stood at 388.

While developing nations certainly see the starkest inequality, Canada is a kind of microcosm of the broader global pattern, noted Oxfam Canada executive director Julie Delahanty.

“In Canada there continues to be this huge gap between the rich and the poor, and it’s growing,” she said. “The people who are really losing out … are the working poor in particular, who are not seeing the gains of economic growth.”

According to Oxfam Canada:

Five Canadians have the same wealth as the bottom 30 per cent of our population – more than 11 million people.The poorest 10 per cent of Canadians only make about $2.30 more per day than they did 25 years ago.The wealth of the five richest Canadians has risen by $16.9 billion since 2010, a 44 per cent increase.The poorest half of Canada’s population has received just 26 per cent of the total increase in income growth.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gets set to attend the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Delahanty said there are a few things his government could be doing to combat the patterns being highlighted by Oxfam. The first is to lead the charge internationally against tax havens. It’s estimated that $7.6 trillion of individuals’ wealth sits offshore, tax-free, and that if tax were collected on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190 billion would be available to governments each year.

READ MORE: World Economic Forum revokes invitation to North Korea to attend annual meeting

That money could then be re-invested in social programs that benefit the poorest people, Oxfam has suggested.

“Canada is one of the biggest losers when it comes to tax havens,” Delahanty explained. “But in any country, it’s a loss of revenue. So they should be working a lot harder than they have been.”

The Liberal plan to provide tax relief for the so-called middle class while increasing taxes on the richest Canadians is a good start, said Delahanty, but it ignores the people right at the bottom who are barely scraping by.

“We need more money for public services, for health and education and childcare. Things that have an overwhelming benefit for the poorest, and particularly for women,” she said, adding that this should be a no-brainer for a prime minister who has “made really strong statements around gender equality and women’s rights.”

On the legislative side, Oxfam Canada is encouraging the Canadian government to look at forcing the closure of the gender wage gap. Studies have shown that Canadian women are still making, on average, about $8,000 less a year than men for doing the same job.

“It’s also having legislation in Canada that requires companies to provide a living wage by province,” Delahanty said. “We know what a living wage is in each province and we could make so-called minimum wages actually be a living wage. That’s something that the government could put pressure on provinces to make happen.”

Canada’s Richest

1. The Thomson Family (net worth $36.76 billion): Thomson Reuters

2. Galen Weston (net worth $13.67 billion): food processing/distribution, high-end department stores

3. Garrett Camp (net worth $9.18 billion): Uber, web development

4. The Rogers Family (net worth $8.86 billion): Rogers Communications

5. The Irving Family (net worth $7.50 billion): Forestry, shipbuilding, Irving Oil

(Source: Canadian Business magazine)

15. 11. 2018
Interest rate cut may deliver ‘hammer blow’ to consumers: experts

Interest rate cut may deliver ‘hammer blow’ to consumers: experts

The Canadian dollar will spiral even lower. It will make life more difficult for seniors who rely on fixed incomes as well as for low-income households who face disproportionately bigger burdens paying for things like food and clothing.

It could seriously dent consumer confidence, yet encourage even more borrowing, adding fuel to overheated housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto.

A chorus of opinion has gotten louder in recent days saying that perhaps the last thing Canada’s ailing economy needs is another interest rate cut when the Bank of Canada makes its latest policy announcement on Wednesday.

“We remain skeptical that it should cut rates,” economists at BMO Capital Markets said.

Odds are on the country’s central bank dropping its key, trendsetting rate to a record low of 0.25 per cent (from the current 0.5 per cent) this week to help fight off the deep economic chill caused by a worsening collapse in oil prices.

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Higher prices

Still, the shot in the arm the cut may provide the economy may well be offset by the hit consumers and households take, experts say.

While the currency’s plunge toward the mid-60 cent U.S. range may be good for exporters and industries that sell products abroad, consumers are getting wacked with increased costs for everything shipped into the country.

Another rate cut could risk a much deeper slide in the loonie, triggering a wave of price increases at stores, experts suggest.

MORE: ‘The plunging loonie is juicing food costs’ 



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    Sagging confidence

    Then there’s the psychological hit from headlines blaring out the threat of a 60-cent loonie.

    “The sliding currency threatens to deliver a hammer blow to already-sagging consumer confidence,” BMO economists said.

    For their part, even exporters are suggesting they don’t need the added benefits of an even lower currency.

    “My advice right now would be to even take a look at increasing interest rates by a quarter of a point,” Jayson Myers, chief executive of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters told Bloomberg News.

    “Interest rates are low already. A little bit of dollar stability would be better.”

15. 11. 2018
Saskatoon store owner robbed for second time in four months

Saskatoon store owner robbed for second time in four months

SASKATOON – Store owner Minh Huynh was busy cleaning up the broken glass at his store, No. 1 Convenience, after it was robbed Monday morning around 6 a.m. CT. The store is in the 300-block of Avenue I North. According to Huynh, a thief smashed the front glass door and stole sheets of lottery tickets and a container of coins.

He says it was caught on surveillance camera footage, but the perpetrator had his face covered.

“He just came in quickly and grabbed whatever he could and ran out,” Huynh said.

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    This is the second time this store has been broken into in four months. Back in October 2015, Huynh says four people smashed their way into the store and stole a couple hundred dollars’ worth of cigarettes.

    Huynh is originally from Vietnam and came to Saskatoon 30 years ago. He worked as a tradesman for years before buying this convenience store with his wife a year and a half ago. They never realized they would face this kind of setback.

    READ MORE: 29th Street West store robbed for the 2nd time in less than a week

    Sadly, this kind of crime has happened in this area before. Huynh said a nearby store was robbed around the holidays.

    “I guess I’m fortunate I wasn’t robbed at gunpoint like they were,” he said.

15. 11. 2018
David Cameron says Muslim women ‘must improve English’ or face possible deportation

David Cameron says Muslim women ‘must improve English’ or face possible deportation

LONDON – Britain’s leader says Muslim women must improve their English to better integrate into British society, arguing that improved national cohesion is the best antidote to extremism.

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Prime Minster David Cameron on Monday pledged to fund English language classes for Muslim women immigrants, and warned some could be deported if they fail to reach certain standards. The 20-million-pound ($28.5 million) fund will help tens of thousands of women facing social isolation and discrimination and emphasize that Britain has expectations for those who want to live in the country, Cameron said.

“I think it’s quite right to say to people who come to our country that there are many rights that you have here – it’s a fantastic country to live in – but there are also obligations that we should put on people who come to our country, and chief amongst them should be obligations to learn English because then you can integrate, you can take advantage of the opportunities here and you can help us to build the strong country that we want,” Cameron said.

Britain already requires prospective spouses to demonstrate English language skills to roughly that of a child starting primary school. Under Cameron’s plan, spouses would have to improve that ability to a higher standard after five years -or face deportation.

But the British leader faced an immediate backlash from critics – including some within his own party – who challenged his decision to link language abilities to extremism. Sayeeda Warsi, a one-time member of Cameron’s cabinet, said that while the money was welcome, the proposal had been announced badly.

“This lazy and misguided linking, and what I saw once again as stereotyping of British Muslim communities, I felt took away from what was a positive announcement,” Warsi told the BBC. “My parents came to this country with very little English – my mum’s English still isn’t great, even though she has been to English language classes.”

She said the government should be telling women that it will give them an opportunity to learn, rather than warning they could be sent back to their native countries.

“I think to threaten women and say to them that ‘unless you are of X standard we will send you back, even if you have children in the U.K. who are British and your spouse is British’ is, for me, a very unusual way of empowering and emboldening women,” she said.

The program aimed at women is meant to end what Cameron called the “passive tolerance” of discriminatory practices and to challenge the “backward attitudes” of a minority of men. He said some 190,000 Muslim women in England speak little or no English.

Though Cameron acknowledged that problems of forced gender segregation and social isolation are not unique to Muslim communities, he did not mention other groups.

Britain is not the only European country that requires prospective spouses to demonstrate language proficiency, though programs differ. Germany adopted regulations for prospective immigrants in 2007 with tough tests that favour those who can afford classes. Austria and the Netherlands also have similar tests.

Cameron suggested the proposal reflects the challenge the country’s leaders face in trying to defuse the appeal that the Islamic State group holds for many young Britons. Some 800 British citizens have managed to enter Syria in the last four years while another 600 have been caught trying to get there.

Parents who are unable to speak English have less of a chance of preventing radicalization of their children, Cameron argued. Some of the young people who have travelled to Syria are native-born Brits whose parents were immigrants, but the ranks of jihadis also include converts and others and Muslim groups protested that they were being singled out.

“Mosques and Muslim civil society would be eager to play their part by hosting English language classes, as many mosques do,” said Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “But the Prime Minister’s aim to have English more widely spoken and for better integration falls at the first hurdle if he is to link it to security and single out Muslim women to illustrate his point.”


Associated Press Writers Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Mike Corder in Amsterdam and George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this story.

15. 11. 2018
Toronto stock index drops as oil wobbles lower, but loonie stable

Toronto stock index drops as oil wobbles lower, but loonie stable

Canada’s largest stock market continued to fall to multi-year lows as crude oil slipped below $29 a barrel on Monday.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 132 points at 11,941.54 in mid-afternoon trading. On Friday, the index dropped 262.57 or 2.13 per cent to 12,073.46 — its lowest close since June 2013.

On the commodity markets, U.S. crude prices fell to new 13-year lows, trading at $28.99 per barrel (U.S.) after slipping to as low as $28.36.

MORE: Latest coverage —; plunging oil 

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  • Oil slump enters ‘second round’ as pinch spreads far beyond oil patch

    U.S. oil prices briefly dipped below $29 a barrel U.S. on Monday as sanctions were lifted on Iran barring the country from selling its oil internationally, a move exacerbating concerns over a global glut that’s triggered a collapse in prices.

    Iran is aiming to increase its oil production by 500,000 barrels per day now that sanctions have been lifted under a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, a top official said.

    Dollar stable

    The Canadian dollar remained near the lowest levels in nearly 13 years but rose slightly to 68.85 cents US, up 0.03 from Friday’s close. Earlier Monday, it traded as low as 68.57 cents US near levels last seen in 2003.

    “The Canadian dollar is stable this morning, and likely to trade in low volume as US equity markets are closed for Martin Luther King Day,” Rahim Madhavji, currency strategist at Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange in Toronto, said.

    The TSX decline was broad-based, with grocery and food companies showing some of the biggest declines. Shares of George Weston, its subsidiary Loblaw and Metro Inc. were down more than two per cent.

    MORE: Oil slump enters ‘second round’ a pinch spreads far beyond oil patch

    Companies that sell us everything from cellphone services to groceries are feeling the strain of a market downturn that’s reflecting anxieties about the global and Canadian economies.

    Consumer discretionary companies have seen the biggest stock market declines, but the pain is spread almost across the board (see chart).

    Click here to view data »

    ‘Busy week’

    A major event hanging over the dollar this week is the Bank of Canada rate policy decision scheduled for Wednesday.

    Analysts are split on whether the central bank will cut again, but odds have grown that it will as crude prices have continued to fall amid more signs that the country’s economy is weakening. “The Canadian dollar will be in for a busy week,” Madhavji said.

15. 11. 2018
Syrian public growing disillusioned as Islamic State resembles dictatorship, not utopia

Syrian public growing disillusioned as Islamic State resembles dictatorship, not utopia

GAZIANTEP, Turkey (AP) —; Mohammed Saad, a Syrian activist, was imprisoned by the Islamic State group, hung by his arms and beaten regularly. Then one day, his jailors quickly pulled him and other prisoners down and hid them in a bathroom.

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    The reason? A senior Muslim cleric was visiting to inspect the facility. The cleric had told the fighters running the prison that they shouldn’t torture prisoners and that anyone held without charge must be released within 30 days, Saad told The Associated Press. Once the coast was clear, the prisoners were returned to their torment.

    “It’s a criminal gang pretending to be a state,” Saad said, speaking in Turkey, where he fled in October.

    “All this talk about applying Shariah and Islamic values is just propaganda, Daesh is about torture and killing,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

    Syrians who have recently escaped the Islamic State group’s rule say public disillusionment is growing as IS has failed to live up to its promises to install a utopian “Islamic” rule of justice, equality and good governance.

    Instead, the group has come to resemble the dictatorial rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad that many Syrians had sought to shed, with a reliance on informers who have silenced a fearful populace. Rather than equality, society has seen the rise of a new elite class – the jihadi fighters – who enjoy special perks and favor in the courts, looking down on “the commoners” and even ignoring the rulings of their own clerics.

    WATCH: The so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility for deadly Paris-style terror attacks Thursday morning in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta. Seth Doane reports.

    Despite the atrocities that made it notorious, the Islamic State group had raised hopes among some fellow Sunnis when it overran their territories across parts of Syria and Iraq and declared a “caliphate” in the summer of 2014. It presented itself as a contrast to Assad’s rule, bringing justice through its extreme interpretation of Shariah and providing services to residents, including loans to farmers, water and electricity, and alms to the poor. Its propaganda machine promoting the dream of an Islamic caliphate helped attract jihadis from around the world.

    In Istanbul and several Turkish cities near the Syrian border, the AP spoke to more than a dozen Syrians who fled IS-controlled territory in recent months. Most spoke on condition they be identified only by their first names or by the nicknames they use in their political activism for fear of IS reprisals against themselves or family.

    “Daesh justice has been erratic,” said Nayef, who hails from IS-held eastern Syrian town of al-Shadadi and escaped to Turkey in November with his family, largely because of Russian airstrikes. “They started off good and then, gradually, things got worse.” He insisted that his last name not be printed, fearing for his safety.

    In this June 18, 2014, file photo, a man wears a headband showing the Islamic State group’s symbol during a protest calling for the closure of a local prostitution complex in Surabaya, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, File)

    The group has recruited informers in the towns and cities it controls to watch out for any sign of opposition.

    “Like under the (Assad) regime, we were also afraid to talk against Daesh to anyone we don’t fully trust,” said Fatimah, a 33-year-old whose hometown of Palmyra was taken over by IS early last year. She fled to Turkey in November with her husband and five children to escape Russian and Syrian airstrikes.

    READ MORE: US-led coalition says the Islamic State has lost 30% of its territory  

    IS has also become less able to provide public services, in large part because military reversals appear to have put strains on its finances. U.S. and Russian airstrikes have heavily hit its oil infrastructure – a major source of funds. Over the past year, the group has lost 30 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, according to the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition. Many of those interviewed by the AP said there are lengthier cutoffs of water and electricity in their towns and cities and prices for oil and gas have risen.

    Abu Salem, an activist from the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, said public acceptance of IS rule is eroding. “It has made an enemy of almost everyone,” he told the AP in the Turkish city of Reyhanli on the Syrian border.



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    One sign of the distance between the claims and realities is a 12-page manifesto by IS detailing its judicial system. The document, a copy of which was obtained by the AP, heavily emphasizes justice and tolerance. For example, it sets out the duties of the Hisba, the “religious police” who ensure people adhere to the group’s dress codes, strict separation of genders and other rules.

    A Hisba member “must be gentle and pleasant toward those he orders or reprimands,” it says. “He must be flexible and good mannered so that his influence is greater and the response (he gets) is stronger.”

    Yet, the escaped Syrians all complained of the brutal extremes that the Hisba resorts to. One woman who lived in Raqqa said that if a woman is considered to have violated the dress codes, the militants flog her husband, since he is seen as responsible for her. When her neighbor put out the garbage without being properly covered, she said, the woman’s husband was whipped.

    Abu Manaf, a 44-year-old from Deir el-Zour, said some clerics challenged the group’s enforcers over their wanton use of strict Shariah punishments like beheadings, stoning to death, flogging and cutting off limbs. More moderate clerics in IS argued that such punishments can only be implemented under specific conditions. They also complained about the jihadis’ custom of displaying bodies of the beheaded in public as an example to others, violating Islamic tenets requiring the swift burial of the dead.

    “Many of those moderate clerics disappear, are killed or jailed for crimes they did not commit,” said Abu Manaf, who left Deir el-Zour in November, then stayed in the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, for three weeks before he reached Turkey.

    An Islamic State group militant publicly executed his own mother Thursday in the Syrian city of Raqqa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Militant Website, File

    Saad’s account of his imprisonment in his home city of Deir el-Zour reflected the tensions between the fighters and some clerics.

    He was arrested because of his media activism, reporting on the anti-Assad opposition. IS suspected him of belonging to the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is fighting the extremists. The day the cleric came to inspect the prison – set up in a former police station – he heard the cleric asking the guards if the prisoners were getting enough food and water, and whether they were being beaten, Saad said.

    On another occasion, a cleric and a judge visited and spoke to the prisoners in their cells. Saad said they told him to write on a piece of paper his name, why he’d been jailed and whether he had been tortured or made to confess under duress. He wrote that he had not been beaten, because he knew the guards would punish him if he said he had been, Saad said.

    After five months in custody, Saad said he secured his release by agreeing to do media work for IS. For three months, he helped put together videos and other propaganda before escaping to Turkey.

    The Syrians interviewed in Turkey said that in IS courts the judges often show a bias toward IS operatives in any legal dispute with the general public. Judges justify the bias by pointing to Quranic verses or sayings of the prophet Muhammad, including “God prefers those who fight in jihad over those who sit.” Often, IS members refer to the general population by the dismissive term “al-awam,” Arabic for “the commoners.”

    Hossam, who owned a women’s clothes shop in Raqqa, said IS members receive perks that sharply set them apart from everyone else. In many cases, young men join the group to escape poverty or protect themselves from IS excesses, he and others said. He insisted that his last name not be printed, fearing for his safety.

    “Those who join Daesh receive a step up in the social ladder,” he told the AP in Istanbul.

    “Daesh men drive luxury cars and eat at the best restaurants and whoever has a friend or a relative with Daesh has a better life.”

    One perk that IS members avail themselves of is the chance to marry local women. Several of the Syrians interviewed by the AP said families with daughters often came under pressure to marry them off to fighters, which has led many to smuggle daughters to Turkey.

    Khatar, a 26-year-old who spoke in Lesbos, Greece, making her way to Western Europe, said she has two younger sisters back in Raqqa, and jihadis “have been knocking on our doors at least once a month to ask for their hands in marriage.” Her father lies to them and tells them he doesn’t have unmarried daughters, “but they keep coming back.”

    But some take the opportunity to marry an IS member because the benefits lift the whole family out of the “al-awam” class.

    Khatar said a 17-year-old daughter of one of her neighbors married a Saudi jihadi. When Khatar went to congratulate her, she found her loaded with expensive clothes and jewelry as a dowry. “She seemed very happy with her new, elevated social status,” Khatar said.