Posted on April 09, 2013 in Countdown
It’s that time of year again; the Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards Gala is upon us. The Gibran Gala honors organizations, institutions, corporations, and individuals whose work, commitment, and support make a difference in promoting coexistence and inclusion in all walks of life. This year’s gala, which takes place next Tuesday April 16th, features incredible awardees from diverse professional and ethnic backgrounds including acclaimed Journalist Christiane Amanpour with the first-ever Anthony Shadid Award for Excellence in Journalism, named for the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anthony Shadid who tragically passed away last year; the Children's Defense Fund & Marian Wright Edelman who will receive the Award for Institutional Excellence for their tireless work to improve policies and programs for children, bringing about better access to health care, education, and proper nutrition; broadcast and entertainment legend Casey Kasem who will be recognized with the Individual Achievement Award for his passionate advocacy for peace, environmental protection, and civil rights, while tirelessly promoting the culture and contributions of the Arab American community; and Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, who will receive the Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service for his decades of advocacy and leadership to promote the public interest. Because we know you’ll be at Gibran, we will bring you Countdown late next week. Too much excitement isn’t good for heart.
When accused of wrongdoing or ensnared in national controversy, it’s rare for anyone to admit fault, even when there is overwhelming evidence of guilt. But in the case of New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, what he admits or doesn’t admit doesn’t even seem to matter. In fact, if you’re Raymond Kelly, you can concede responsibility for one of the most inherently discriminatory practices in law enforcement and get away with it. Take a look at what he’s said about the controversial NYPD stop-and-frisk program, and how he’s managed thus far to stave off investigation by the Department of Justice on the NYPD spying program targeting Arab Americans and American Muslims. In 2010, according to New York State Sen. Eric Adams, Kelly admitted “that he targeted or focused on that group [minorities] because he wanted to instill fear in them that any time they leave their homes they could be targeted by police.” Instill fear, huh? Sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel, but in New York it’s common practice. So how does one get away with this? 1, Disseminate false information about the efficacy of these programs. 2, Go on the political offensive against critics. And 3, perpetuate a culture of fear by saying things like, “We see ourselves as the number one target and we have this stream of young men who want to come here and kill us” and the CIA and Department of Defense “are sort of now downplaying the threat of terrorism.” Really? We’re still wondering, what does Raymond Kelly know that the CIA and DoD don’t? Regardless, it’s clear that Kelly is playing on a different field, and yes, he’s making his own rules too.
On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry began a new round of shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian government officials as part of President Obama’s promise to jump-start the stalled peace talks. But Countdown’s investigative team did a little digging (okay, we just read this AP article) and found out that Kerry is expected to use the Arab Peace Initiative (API) as a framework for the talks. The API is the 2002 Arab League proposal in which Arab states would recognize Israel and ensure the security of its borders in exchange for its withdrawal from all territories seized in the 1967 war. The initiative was re-endorsed in 2007, and endorsed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The offer is effectively on the table for the Israelis to accept, but considering Prime Minister Netanyahu’s refusal to consider to return of East Jerusalem, and his clear unwillingness (read: inability) to stop settlement construction, things aren’t looking particularly sunny. Still, the Arab Peace Initiative framework is as good of a place to start as anything we can hope for (and we did say so last year), so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
If you think Washington’s hyper-partisanship was bad, take a look at the excessive abuses of the filibuster taking place in Congress. Yesterday, at least 14 Republican Senators made clear their intentions to block the vote on the proposed Senate gun control bill which is supposed to be brought to the floor later this week. The move vexed Republican colleagues John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). On CBS’s “Face the Nation” this past Sunday, McCain said “I don’t understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.” McCain is right, and the move is likely to have a negative effect for the 14 Senators involved, especially with the ongoing conversation about the need for filibuster reform and widespread disappointment with Washington’s inability to function. The filibuster will surely make the Senators look out of touch with an American public which is decidedly in favor of many gun control measures. Did we also forget to mention that several parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary are here in Washington to make the case for gun control? In discussing filibuster reform, though, it has to be mentioned that there are times when a filibuster raises awareness for an important issue in order to extract an answer from the administration as to whether or not it’s ok to kill American citizens enjoying a hot cup of Joe in a cafe. Yes, we’re talking about Rand Paul’s filibuster. Too bad he got it wrong this time around.
On Thursday, the Gang of Eight is expected to release its comprehensive immigration reform plan, but the bi-partisan group of Senators are already hedging their bets. Members have supposedly come close to an agreement on how to handle visas for immigrant agricultural workers, though if a final compromise isn’t ironed out soon the bill may be pushed to next week. Meanwhile, a self-styled “Gang of Seven,” Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Al Franken (D-MN) have urged a prioritization of family reunification in any future immigration bill: “family-based immigration should not be considered less important than employment-based immigration. Both are vital to our country’s future.” No word yet whether or not the Gang of Eight will heed their advice, but rumor has it that John McCain (R-AZ) just found out his son is an undocumented immigrant, so he might be changing his tune soon. Congress better lock it up, though, because public sentiment is totally on the side of immigration reform and tomorrow a massive rally is planned to converge on Washington to make their voices heard.