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Kerry: Civil Discourse Under Threat    05/21 06:08

   ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State John 
Kerry on Sunday warned that "true civil discourse" is under threat around the 
world while speaking to graduates at NYU Abu Dhabi, an event that the school 
blocked journalists from filming.

   While obliquely criticizing President Donald Trump, Kerry did not mention 
the 2015 Iran nuclear deal he secured with other world powers, an accord of 
which Trump now has pulled America out.

   It likely was courtesy to his hosts in the capital of the United Arab 
Emirates, which long opposed the deal as not going far enough to limit Iran's 
power in the greater Mideast. Kerry shared the stage with Emirati Minister of 
State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, who long had led the UAE's criticism 
of the deal.

   "True civil discourse is also under threat all around the planet, eroding 
rights alongside trust," Kerry said. "Certainly in my country, our politics has 
become almost all accusatory and all bombastic."

   While never naming Trump, Kerry began his remarks by saying: "Given what's 
going on today, I'm glad to be invited anywhere folks." He quickly added that 
the U.S. "needs to build partnerships and cannot turn its back on the world."

   Andrew Hamilton, president of New York University, also made a point to 
criticize "disturbing trends of anti-intellectualism and anti-factualism" in 
the world.

   NYU Abu Dhabi invited reporters to cover Kerry's speech, then just before 
the ceremony said journalists from The Associated Press and others could not 
film his full remarks. They said the school would offer video that it would 
editorially control after the event.

   A university spokeswoman, Kate Chandler, said it was the school's decision. 
Staffers for Kerry said they had no part in the organization of the event. The 
school allowed an AP photographer and writer to attend Kerry's full speech.

   This is not the first time NYU Abu Dhabi has faced criticism when trying to 
balance the ideas of an American liberal arts education in the UAE, which has 
strict rules governing speech despite being a staunch American ally in the 

   Human rights groups have criticized the school for using migrant workers to 
build the campus who they say had been subject to a range of violations 
including being forced to pay recruitment fees to get their jobs that were 
never reimbursed, living in overcrowded conditions and being forced to work 

   Following the report, NYU commissioned an investigation, which found a 
number of workers hadn't been protected by the fair labor practices the school 
had said would be in place. The school promised reimbursement. A report 
released this month said that even though the school investigated its labor 
compliance, some workers involved in the campus' construction still were owed 
money and worked in harsh conditions.

   The journalism department at New York University in 2017 told the school it 
was cutting its ties to NYU's Abu Dhabi campus over two professors being denied 
work visas by the UAE, as well as the school's handling of the situation.


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