Posted on June 02, 2017 in Countdown

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The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting for This

Folks, we’ve reached a pivotal moment in the Russia scandal rocking the Trump administration for months: Fired FBI director James Comey plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his interactions with the man who fired him and subsequently called him a “nut job.” Comey’s notes about his meetings with President Trump Strongly suggest the president pressured him to end his investigation into now-also-fired (firings everywhere) National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia. Some even described Comey’s interactions with Trump, prior to the firing, as “tense confrontations”. So what will Comey say when he testifies about these interactions? Whatever it may be, Trump probably won’t like it. And when President Trump doesn’t like what people say about him, well… just grab some popcorn and log onto Twitter.


If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

If civilians are recklessly bombed and no one is there to see it, did it still happen? President Trump, who made incendiary comments during the campaign about killing the families of terrorists, has ordered “significant changes” in the military campaign against ISIS in order to “annihilate” them. But these changes seem to have brought about a significant rise in civilian deaths as a result of US-led coalition strikes, which has led the UN to call on the US to review its approach in fighting ISIS. It now appears the US is moving to reduce transparency on who precisely is responsible when civilians are killed in this fight. We get that there are difficult decisions to make when trying to eliminate a ruthless group like ISIS, but in a democratic society, transparency can’t be on the chopping board. We think these are tough strategic and moral issues we have to tackle together as an informed citizenry.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

When Arab American social justice activist Linda Sarsour was invited to give the commencement speech at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health, some went into a frenzy. Traditional proprietors of hate, from Pamela Geller to Milo Yiannopoulos, were joined by the likes of New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind to demand her invitation be cancelled. As a former member of the Jewish Defense League, Hikind is pretty comfy with hate too. When these outrageous protests didn’t work, people turned to slander. For tweeting  out a picture of a Palestinian child confronting Israel’s occupation army with a stone, Linda was accused of “supporting terrorism”. For supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to pressure Israel to comply with international law, she was accused of anti-Semitism. The assault continued, culminating with death threats against Linda. It goes without saying but we will say it anyway: None of these deplorable tactics will ever work on Linda. We were pleased to see that they didn’t work on CUNY either. Last night, Linda delivered a powerful social justice-focused speech.  Now, that this manufactured controversy is over, maybe we can all spend some time paying attention to the message of that speech and leave the hate behind.


Every Last Detail

It’s  official: The Trump Administration has approved new vetting rules for those applying for visas to come to the US and they did so by requesting emergency approval, thereby short-circuiting the full notice and comment period process of the Federal Registry posting. What sort of information may people be asked to give, you ask? “All prior passport numbers, five years' worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history.” When President Trump first introduced “extreme vetting” back in January, he said the aim was to only admit into the US those who “love deeply our people.” Problem is, even if the new visa application includes a drawing space where applicants can illustrate how deeply they love us, it is not likely we will have enough staff to review these great drawings given the current backlog, even before the addition of these new arduous requirements. Among the many problems,  there are concerns that students and scientists and scholars will be discouraged from coming to the US because of this vetting, but who cares about people who can help us become a better country. All we need is love.

A Moment of Satisfaction

From  the slanderously misnamed “Ground Zero mosque” to the hysteria in Murfreesboro, the efforts of anti-Muslim hate mongers to make life unpleasant for American Muslims have seen a mix of success and failure. Well, we’ve got one for you to celebrate: Life came hard and fast at the Bernards Township, NJ, which has reached a settlement to pay $3.25 million in compensation for a religious discrimination lawsuit, after years of obstructing the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge’s attempts to build a mosque. These efforts included changing the minimum acreage for houses of worship, to requiring more parking spaces than mandated for other religious centers, but they ultimately learned there was a price to pay. In the anti-Muslim political climate we’re witnessing, we just wanted to end on a good note, and remind everyone that America is still a place where all can fight for their basic constitutional rights.