Posted on September 02, 2015 in Countdown

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No End to the Horror

ISIL and the Assad regime alike continue to carry out daily atrocities inside Syria. The lack of substantive action and progress on the Syrian conflict has led millions of Syrians to desperately find a way out. Though for Syrians that take the costly and too often harrowing  step of leaving their embattled homeland, the horrors continue. Syrians have been held up as they attempt to cross into Europe and reach the few nations that have opened up to receive significant numbers of refugees and migrants. In what will be remembered as one of the most appalling episodes of the extended crisis in Syria, Austrian authorities came across an abandoned box truck on a highway containing the decaying corpses of 71 Syrians. This incident is not isolated. There is some hope though, with Europeans organizing rallies in support of the women, children, and men that have left situations of almost certain injury or death for a new life. While policymakers remain in holding pattern on what can be done diplomatically and militarily, there must be greater protection against the senseless and grotesque ordeals facing these civilian victims of war. These deaths are a black mark on the world for its inefficacy in addressing this sustained humanitarian catastrophe.

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Journalism is Not a Crime

It's been a tough week for the press. On August 29 an Egyptian court sentenced Al Jazeera journalists Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, and Australian Peter Greste to three years in jail. The crime? "Aiding" a terrorist organization, in this case the Egyptian court is referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in 2013. Al Jazeera was there in Tahrir Square as throngs of protestors called for the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The revolution was broadcast live to the world as were the often brutal shakeups that followed in the aftermath of Mubarak's fall. The revolution was about a reversal of the old order. This jail sentence reveals the painful truth that little has changed. Investigations of bias or concerns over a particular tilt may be warranted, but jail time is an extreme measure and should be condemned in strongest terms. No government should have the authority to silence the press through threats of imprisonment.

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Trumped No More

The Democrats have finally found a way to wrestle some headlines away from the Republicans, but it isn’t the press they were hoping for. Drama was the defining headline of last week’s Democratic National Committee (DNC) summer meeting in Minneapolis. Not only was there quite a squabble over a resolution in support of the Democratic President’s Iran deal, but the previous whispers of rebellion in the ranks exploded front and center at the conference. Surging candidate Bernie Sanders received a warm welcome, but it was former Governor of Maryland that really went for the jugular of the DNC’s leadership team. Starting the hashtag #WeNeedDebate, O’Malley ruthlessly stressed how very undemocratic the Democratic party has become this election cycle by only hosting a measly 4 debates ahead of early primary dates in key states. O’Malley’s speech was a finger directly in the eye of the DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Congresswoman and DNC leader has been badgered with criticism by O’Malley, Sanders, and others about her questionable leadership generally, and the “rigged” debate schedule more specifically. Take that Trump.

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Where is the Grand Old Party?

A large portion of the American public has spent the bulk of this past summer wondering how reality television star Donald Trump has managed to become the top GOP candidate for next year’s Presidential election. If one reads a recent survey released by Public Policy Polling, it's clear that the source of the Donald’s popularity is a bit worrisome. According to the survey, this is an electorate where 44% of respondents do not believe that President Obama was born in the U.S., 54% believe that the President is a Muslim, and 51% believe that the constitution should be changed "to bar citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants." With these figures in mind, it is not entirely surprising that Trump and other GOP presidential candidates have consistently made bigoted remarks on a variety of issues. During the first Republican debate, Gov. Bobby Jindal called immigration without assimilation "an invasion" and Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would monitor mosques if he had to. What happened to the Reagan-era Republican party?

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DOJ Guidance in Action

Last week Maryland became the first state to adopt the US Department of Justice’s Profiling Guidelines. The much-anticipated revisions to the original 2003 guidelines were intended to end discriminatory profiling by law enforcement by expanding the protected categories from race and ethnicity to also include national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and religion. Unfortuantely, glaring loopholes remained. So in the space between implementing flawed guidelines and demanding new revisions, Maryland stepped up. The ACLU of Maryland and the Maryland State Conference NAACP both welcomed the adoption as a step in the right direction. We hope so.