Posted on July 02, 2013 in Countdown

Countdown to Coup?

One need only watch the news for five minutes to come to the conclusion that Egyptians are deeply divided politically, and regardless of what you think about protests to oust Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, it’s clear that he’s in trouble. Polling and ongoing protests both reflect an anti-Morsi sentiment that may have profound implications for the president himself and for the office going forward. As things stand, Morsi faces 70+% of the population who say that since he took office their economic and security situations have worsened. However, among his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, 98% say their lives have improved since he took office. That’s how deep the divisions are. Yesterday, to presumably end the stalemate, the Egyptian military announced a 48-hour ultimatum for the country’s “political forces” to resolve their differences, calling “for the people's demands to be met.” If demands aren’t met, the military says it will provide its own roadmap for the way forward in Egypt. Now, despite the fact that the military has said the roadmap will include all parties, we’re still not exactly sure whose “demands” they’re referring to, but what is clear from this situation is that if the military’s ultimatum does come to pass, Morsi will no longer effectively be making the country’s decisions. Yikes! Whether that is good or bad for the country, we’ll let you decide, but consider this: heading into this fray, 94% of the country had confidence in the Army, 60% of all opposition supporters agree with temporary military take-over, while 98% of MB supporters disagree. No matter what the outcome is after the mass mobilization of Egyptians, what we do know is that when the dust settles Egypt will still be divided, will still be facing enormous economic challenges, and will still be in need of a national dialogue that can chart a new course for the country.

Arab Americans Can Make a Big Difference in 2013

We’re counting down to November 5th. In exactly 126 days, Arab Americans have the opportunity to get out to the polls and vote for real change in their communities. Particularly in places like Virginia, Michigan, New York and Washington, D.C., Arab Americans have the chance to get out and make their voices heard. The reduced size and tendency for smaller turnout in local races means that by mobilizing and getting out to the polls, every vote we cast will make that much more of an impact. As always, AAI is  keeping track of Arab American candidates on the ballot for 2013. This year is particularly exciting for Arab American candidates. There are record numbers of Arab Americans running in Michigan for Dearborn City Council and three candidates for Mayor. In New York City, Zead Ramadan has a very strong chance to win his race for City Council, which would be a first for the community. If you know of any Arab Americans running in state, local, or federal elections, let us know. You can also visit our state-specific pages, with information about voter registration deadlines, polling locations, candidate information and more. Now is the time to engage and Yalla Vote!

“Real Progress” A Bit Hard to Believe

You could have easily missed press reports of Secretary Kerry’s visit to the Middle East last week to help facilitate direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. But in a press conference last Sunday in Tel Aviv, Kerry said that he, the Israelis, and Palestinians made “real progress” during the trip and that “with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach.” Just what that progress is, Kerry won’t say, but he wants us to take his word that “as I have talked the last few days intensively with leaders in Jordan, in the West Bank, in Palestine, as well as in Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas particularly, I’ve really been impressed with their serious commitment to this task.” Really? Well, we’re not keen on cynicism, but since Kerry has declined to say whether or not a time frame for negotiations has been set or whether the details of a package deal between Israeli’s and Palestinians has been hashed out, we’re raising our eyebrows a bit. Why? Not because we don’t believe John Kerry, but because everything the Israeli government has been doing and saying since 2009 directly conflicts with Kerry’s statements that this current government is committed to peace. Think we’re being one-sided? The night before Kerry’s visit, the Israeli Government approved 69 new housing units in East Jerusalem. Oh yea, and remember Israeli cabinet minister Danny Danon who recently told an Israeli newspaper “…there is no majority for a two-state solution” in the Prime minister’s own Party, Likud, which rules the country? As long Israel continues to build on land which Secretary Kerry is supposedly “making real progress” toward negotiating on, we’re going to have to question “commitment” to solving this problem. That being said, we genuinely do hope Kerry has some tricks up his sleeves.

How to Waste 1 Billion Dollars of Taxpayer Money: SPOT

We’ve told you about the SPOT program, the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques program adopted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). At the behest of Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General (DHS IG) issued a report essentially admitting that SPOT is a waste of money: "TSA cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion." After the report was leaked to The New York Times, the Times’ Editorial Board wrote a short piece about SPOT, essentially regurgitating what the IG report had found. That didn’t sit well with TSA Administrator John S. Pistole who wasted no time at all to fire back at The New York Times saying in a letter to the editor, “we object to your characterization of the program. Rather than being an ‘extra hurdle’ for travelers, it’s a proven and unobtrusive way for officers to look out for possible threats and illegal activity.” Counter to Pistole’s argument, which actually takes issue with the DHS IG report more than it does with The New York Times, SPOT is hardly proven to be anything but a waste of resources and a platform to enable profiling. After reading the DHS IG report, AAI sent a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano demanding the termination of the SPOT program. That letter led to a meeting with AAI and Mr. Pistole at his request. AAI welcomed the opportunity for a frank discussion with him, and though we don’t agree about the program’s efficacy, the meeting was important. Sadly, as of today, what we’re left with is a wasteful program that continues to get more funding, gives rise to profiling, and which can’t justify its own existence. More to come.

Immigration Passes the Senate

Last Thursday the Senate overwhelmingly voted (68-32) in favor of a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Just shy of the 70 votes supporters of the bill hoped to receive, the vote nonetheless sends a strong and clear message to House Republicans about the urgency surrounding this issue. The bill, S.744, includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants who currently live and work in the U.S. and provides an expedited path for DREAMers. It will also allow spouses and children to join STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and other professional visa-holders. However, a number of provisions added during the amendment process are testing the support of many immigration reform advocates.  The bill includes extensive and unprecedented border protection and enforcement measures, at a cost of $46 billion to taxpayers. The bill also reinforces Border Control’s ability to act without a warrant to stop and request papers from individuals within 100 miles of the southern border. At the northern border, it remains at 25 miles and is prohibited everywhere else in the country, perhaps because it puts the 4th Amendment in jeopardy? Just a wild guess. The bill unfortunately also has the problematic Graham language that we’ve written about in the past – calling for additional security screening on applicants for legal residency if they were or are citizens of certain regions or countries posing national security concerns. Despite its strong-armed stance on border protection, and the support the bill receives from a wide swath of advocacy groups, Speaker John Boehner has already indicated that he has no plans in bringing the Senate bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.

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