Why is President Donald Trump helping Russia and hurting the United States? That isn t a question that most Americans probably want to ask themselves right now, but they should.With the clock ticking toward Election Day, President Trump has inserted himself squarely into the election security threat matrix, undermining his own national security team and US democracy. By tweeting out and amplifying content officially attributed to a Russian influence operation and taking active measures against key election infrastructure, like the US Postal Service, and by failing to hold certain bad actors accountable, Trump himself is the biggest threat to a free and fair 2020 vote. There are active foreign threats facing the US election. Last month, after facing pressure, primarily from Democrats, the US intelligence community (IC) made public information regarding certain foreign election security threats. The IC issued a second statement earlier this month that specific foreign actors are targeting US elections -- they cited China, Russia, and Iran. While their statements are helpful in terms of informing the public, overall, about various threat streams, they confusingly grouped threats of very different scales and scopes -- apples and oranges -- in the same basket. Active, covert Russian influence operations are seemingly a bigger threat to Americans than public criticisms of the Trump administration from the ruling Chinese Communist Party. But the IC indicated that Russia prefers Trump to win the 2020 election, while China prefers him to lose. Trump may think it s more politically and personally expedient to focus on election interference from China and to disregard Russia s attacks. Plus it s clear he has never liked acknowledging that he is Putin s preference. Shortly after the IC s statement, US National Security Adviser Robert O Brien said on CBS that China and other countries are attacking secretary of state websites -- which sounds like an allegation that China is engaged in cyberattacks against critical election infrastructure. That s the first we ve heard about this alleged Chinese operation -- the IC statements on election security threats made no mention of any Chinese cyberattacks. While the intelligence community has indicated that unnamed adversaries "seek to compromise US election infrastructure," and says it is monitoring "malicious cyber actors," we have not seen anything to corroborate O Brien s specific accusation against China.If O Brien s allegations are true, it would be a major escalation by China that should warrant some kind of response. But we haven t heard about any planned punitive measures by the administration against the individuals and entities involved in the recently disclosed election security threats. (A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that Beijing has never interfered in US elections, but government statements should be taken with more than a grain of salt.) That s a dangerous approach. With several foreign threats now public knowledge, it appears that the President is choosing to do nothing about them. Instead of taking action to counter foreign attacks on US democracy, he is playing dodgeball and failing to hold the attackers accountable. When recently asked about foreign meddling, he turned his ire on Democrats, saying it was they who were "meddling" by insisting on mail-in ballots. POTUS s failure to punish the actual attackers just empowers people like Vladimir Putin to keep attacking the US. Absent a policy response to their election interference, bad actors have no reason to stop while they re at it. But not only has Trump failed to punish certain foreign actors, he s helping them. The Intelligence Community s recent statement on election security threats said -- notably -- that Russia prefers Trump in 2020 and that Moscow is actively working to denigrate rival Joe Biden. The IC even specifically cited a player in Russia s influence operations against the United States -- Andriy Derkach. The statement said that Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker, "is spreading claims about corruption -- including through publicizing leaked phone calls -- to undermine former Vice President Biden s candidacy and the Democratic Party." Democrats have consistently raised concerns about Derkach s actions and work with certain Republican lawmakers.The US intelligence community could not have been clearer: Derkach is part of Russian attacks on US democracy. As President, Trump had to have had access to the underlying, highly classified intelligence that led the IC to their conclusions about Derkach, not to mention access to the underlying, highly classified intelligence about Russian election attacks more broadly. Trump s not known for spending a lot of time reading classified intelligence. But with the information on Derkach now public, there s zero chance that the President isn t aware of the US intelligence community s conclusions. Yet he helped Russia intelligence with the click of a button -- on Sunday he retweeted content that Derkach leaked, allegedly of a conversation between Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. (Poroshenko reportedly has said the audio is bogus.) Quite simply, Trump helped spread Russian disinformation, and the reason seems obvious -- it s all about winning a second term. When it comes down to it, Trump prioritizes his perceived personal needs over all of us -- the safety of our elections, our physical safety, and more. That s probably why Putin prefers him -- he s the antithesis of what a democratic leader looks like. In addition to giving certain attackers a free pass and apparently aiding and abetting Russian influence operations against us, Trump and his appointees also appear to be engaged in active measures targeting key election infrastructure -- the USPS. Trump s Postmaster General appointee Louis DeJoy will testify before Congress next week about allegations that his recent operational changes will hamper the Postal Service s ability to support voting by mail in November. And Trump s spreading of disinformation about mail-in voting amounts to influence operations against the USPS as he tries to denigrate the service s perceived capabilities to handle mailed ballots.Actions speak louder than words. It s obvious that the USPS is going to face an unprecedented burden this election cycle. A patriotic president would do everything possible to shore it up so that Americans can vote safely from their homes. Trump, however, is doing just the opposite. In fact, Trump said he opposes additional funding for the Postal Service because he doesn t want to see it used for mail in voting. Instead of giving the USPS the resources it needs to support a free and fair election, Trump is trying to undercut it. It goes without saying that a candidate confident of winning wouldn t try to stop Americans from voting. And a President who cares about his country s democracy wouldn t help the foreign actors attacking it. So as Americans tune in to the conventions and try to make sense of the election threats we re facing, they should be aware that President Trump himself is our primary source of election insecurity.
Nothing felt more real, more searing, on the first night of the surreal 2020 Democratic National Convention than the words of a grieving daughter, Kristin Urquiza, laying the blame for her father s death from coronavirus at the feet of President Donald Trump. "My dad was a healthy 65-year-old," she said sharply, "his only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life."What could matter more when choosing a president in the middle of a pandemic than a candidate s ability -- his determination -- to do everything in his power to keep people from dying? Listening to her tell the story of her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, made concrete the sorrow behind the Covid-19 death toll that keeps climbing, even as Trump relentlessly seeks to minimize the threat and undercut the measures that save lives. The story of this pandemic is one of the themes of the convention, as it should be. In many ways, this convention could be called the "It Didn t Have to be This Way Democratic Convention." Maybe Urquiza s words touched me because I lost my father early in my life. I understand the pain, the frustration, the anger after such a crushing tragedy; I have always felt a lingering emptiness in that spot, somewhere in the solar plexus, where a daughter s special connection to her father resides. I felt Urquiza s words emanate from that place, newly wounded, still smoldering and tender. It s not time for my story, but hers -- one that too many Americans are now experiencing, and one that could drive millions to the polls to defeat the man Urquiza rightly blames for her father s death. How many people did Urquiza touch on Monday night? At least 170,000 multiplied by children, spouses, siblings, friends and co-workers. In short, the millions of Americans who have lost loved ones. And why?As she related what occurred over images of her dad smiling before he became ill, of the family gathered, undoubtedly expecting many more years together, gradually giving way to images of him ill, we heard what happened. Her father voted for Trump, trusted him and took the President at his word. He "listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said coronavirus was under control and going to disappear; that it was OK to end social distancing rules..." When restrictions were lifted in Arizona, he went to a karaoke bar with his friends. We saw a picture of her father, beaming, microphone in hand. Before long, he fell ill. We saw the wrenching image of him, hospitalized, the end approaching. He was put on a ventilator. "After five agonizing days," Urquiza said, "he died alone, in the ICU, with a nurse holding his hand." That was it. Another tragic statistic. Urquiza was one of many everyday Americans featured prominently on the first night of the DNC. Her story, and others, sought to unite Democrats while touching a chord among Republicans. It became part of a convention that aimed to portray the party as a broad coalition, with room for people from all walks of life. Tellingly, one of the first speakers on video, a farmer, said, "First of all, I d like to offer condolences to the Trump family," for the loss of Trump s brother Robert. And the invocation at the very beginning asked God to bless all Americans, Republicans, Democrats and independents. It was an effort to show Democrats in the mold of their candidate, Joe Biden: conciliatory, healing, decent, aiming to restore the country to a sense of national unity.Speeches by Republicans and Democrats, eloquent words such as those from Michelle Obama, went a long way to make that case. But Urquiza s message was visceral. This is a convention like no other. When else have we seen an in memoriam scroll of people lost only recently to such a terrible disease? More than anything, Americans are united today in grief, in suffering, in the strangeness of daily lives that would have been inconceivable until the virus struck, and made deadlier, costlier, by the current President s twisted priorities. It didn t have to be this way. Like Urquiza s dad, millions of Americans voted for Trump, trusted him to make America great. It turned to disaster. It didn t have to be this way.
It may be unfashionable to say, but national party conventions are important -- even when the parties can t convene.They are among the few nights on the election calendar when a candidate and campaign have the chance to deliver an unfiltered message directly to an audience of tens of millions of Americans. Joe Biden enters his convention with an average polling lead of 9 points, the strongest position of any challenger to an incumbent president in recent history. Yet in a deeply divided country, the race is bound to tighten. A CNN poll released Sunday puts Biden s lead at a narrower four points. The convention gives him a chance to fortify his position for the fall campaign before Trump gets his turn at the Republican Convention next week. First, while he has held a steady lead, only about a third of voters backing the former Vice President say they are doing so primarily to support him. Most say they will vote for Biden out of a desire to defeat President Trump. This reflects the fact that, despite his 50 years in politics, Biden s background isn t all that well known. People remember him as Barack Obama s Vice President. Many Americans recall the tragic death of Biden s son, Beau, which the country watched him live through. But the convention is a chance to flesh out Biden s biography and accomplishments. Biden s strengths -- namely, character decency, empathy, and experience -- should all be comparative advantages in a race against a president whose personal qualities and management style have become major liabilities, especially in the crucible of the Covid-19 crisis. Look for the Democrats to draw those contrasts. The President s chaotic stewardship during the virus itself and Trump s relentlessly divisive leadership will be a persistent theme. Biden began his race as a "Battle for the soul of America," and it is a meme you can expect to hear throughout the week.Yet while Biden leads Trump on many polling measures, there is one on which the President continues to have an advantage and that should be a concern to Biden and the Democrats. Despite the precipitous drop caused by the virus and measures to cope with it, Trump still leads on the important question of who will better handle the economy. So, you can be sure that Democrats also will use the next four nights to attack Trump as a plutocrat in populist clothing, pushing policies that have benefited the wealthy like himself, while hurting working families. In service of this argument, it s a good bet Democrats will strike a contrast between Trump s privileged life and Biden s hardscrabble, working class roots and understanding of the struggles working families face. Biden, at 77, also enters the race as the oldest candidate ever to run for President. (Trump is second at 74). As such, it is imperative for the convention and his speech on Thursday to not only draw a contrast with Trump but to paint a picture of the future that Biden envisions and his prescriptions for getting there. He will have to do that and convey a sense of energy without the advantage of the roaring crowd that would normally greet the nominee at a traditional party convention. Biden s speech instead may feel more like a fireside chat -- a challenging assignment, but also more appropriate and reassuring for a country riven by crisis. While the convention will lack the vitality of crowd interaction, the virtual format the virus requires will allow the organizers to produce two made-for-TV hours of programming each night, without the awkward intervals that the traditional, anachronistic convention provides. You can expect faster-paced programming: Shorter and fewer speeches, more video and testimonials from everyday people and musical interludes. And while there will be more moving parts, as they pull in speakers from around the country, many of the presentations will have been pre-recorded, allowing the organizers greater quality control.Democrats also have the advantage of having decided earlier to adopt a virtual format, while Republicans wasted many weeks searching for venues that would accommodate Trump s vain insistence on speaking to a large crowd of supporters. We will see next week if and how well the Republicans have caught up. One other advantage of a virtual convention is that riffs between the far left and more moderate factions with the party will be on display little this week. Bound by their shared desperation to defeat Trump, and carefully negotiated platform language, they seem committed to presenting a united front behind Biden and his newly named running-mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris. We will hear from the expected "closers," Michelle and Barack Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and, of course, Harris and Biden themselves. We will hear from some of Biden s vanquished opponents, led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, from an apostate Republican, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and the young progressive icon, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There will be celebrity hosts and everyday Americans, together painting a portrait of a diverse America. Format notwithstanding, the strategic goal of these conventions will be the same as ever. Each side will tell their version of where we are, where we ought to go, and why their standard-bearer is the best positioned to take us to a better place that the other side will not. And they both may be talking a lot about the same man.For Biden, the task is to fully introduce himself to the nation and offer reassurance that he is the calm, steadying, decent leader many Americans seek. For an embattled Trump, about whom many Americans already have made up their minds, next week s convention will be a lot about tearing Biden down. The race will not be won or lost in the next two weeks. But virtual or not, they will be important signposts along the way to the election this November.
The World Trade Organization (the WTO) was not long ago the ultimate command in the international trading system. However, what it is witnessing now is the dwindling of confidence in its role and posture, as well as increased doubts about its capabilities to regulate international trade relations, which only compound fears that chaos will become the alternative. The world cannot dispense with the WTO as a regulator and supervisor of international trade relations. It is well known that the organization extracts its strength from its unique judicial system, as it has a dispute settlement mechanism unparalleled in the multilateral system, which issues valid recommendations, and member states must resort to it or commit to compensation. Furthermore, its mandate as a forum for negotiation and setting international rules and regulations has given the organisation competency and proficiency that no other international organisation can subsume. Member states were contented with and committed to the rule-based international trading system as enforced by the WTO. The failure of the organisation to perform either of its two major mandates negatively affects the other and reduces its presence on the international scene.
For all of the distraction and uncertainty around this year s veepstakes, there was a certain air of inevitability around the selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as former Vice President Joe Biden s running mate, as confirmed in Wednesday s historic introduction of the full Democratic ticket. With robust credentials and solid support from the party establishment, Harris who would be the first Black woman, the first Asian American and just the fourth woman on a major US party ticket, was the odds-on favorite nearly as soon as she suspended her own campaign. And with Biden becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee at a time of unprecedented consciousness around issues of race and gender, the practical and symbolic advantages of picking a younger, nonwhite woman as his running mate were clearly magnified.Biden held his VP announcement on the third anniversary of the march in Charlottesville, the horrific parade of torch-bearing white supremacists that Biden has cited as the primary motivation for his entry into the presidential race. "For me, it was a call to action," he said in his introduction of Harris. "At that moment I knew I couldn t standby and let Donald Trump, a man who went on to say... there were very fine people on both sides, ... continue to attack everything that makes America America." But symbolism alone won t accomplish the campaign s critical goals if it wants to achieve, to quote Harris s words from Wednesday s speech, "we need more than a victory...we need a mandate." The ticket needs to energize Black voters, who will be weighing Harris pioneering status against lingering criticisms of her record as California s "top cop." It needs to connect with young voters, who have seen the social contract of their parents and grandparents implode under the establishment politics of the decades in which they ve been alive. And it needs to bridge the jagged rift between the Democratic Party s centrists and its insurgent progressive wing, itself a fragmented mosaic of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and yes, Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard supporters, encompassing factions who prioritize class-based politics and those more focused on social equity and restorative justice.That s the challenge the newly unveiled running mates have ahead of them, one that s been amplified by the magnitude of the crises our country now faces. As Biden and Harris both underscored, this is a "life changing election for our nation" — one that will "decide the future of America for a very, very long time." Harris, Biden said, was the right person to join in addressing this challenge: Smart, tough, experienced, a "proven fighter for the backbone of this country, the middle class," and ready to do the job of VP — or POTUS, if needed — on day one. He sought to present her prosecutorial history around the theme that Harris herself has returned to again and again, as a career spent fighting "for the people," echoing the phrase that Harris said time and again as San Francisco D.A.: "Kamala Harris, for the people." He also promised that she would be the sharp sword in the campaign s scabbard against Trump and Mike Pence, leveraging her background as a router of corruption and courtroom interrogator against the leaders of an administration that has repeatedly and gleefully flouted laws, standards and ethics.Yet still, in both Biden and Harris remarks, the historical significance of the moment came back again and again: "This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and brown girls that feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, but today — today just maybe they re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way as president and vice presidents," Biden said. As Harris famously said during the debate where she confronted Biden on his record regarding school busing to promote integration, "That little girl was me." This is a moment that needs to be celebrated, among our Black and Asian communities and by all Americans, for what it is — emblematic evidence of the sea change in our nation s social fabric; a defiant rejection of the racist and misogynist themes that have been woven into America s political "conventional wisdom"; a statement of hope for more and greater inclusion in the future. We ve never been closer to having a Black woman VP than now. We ve never been closer to having an Asian VP than now. The likelihood that we ll see an Asian American president in my lifetime, something I would have found difficult to imagine just a few decades ago, is higher than it has ever been. But getting there will require connecting this moment to the movements surging around it, movements that want real change, real soon. Harris, in her acceptance speech, noted that the "civil rights struggle is nothing new to Joe ... And, today, he takes his place in the ongoing story of America s march toward equality and justice as the only who has served alongside the first Black president and has chosen the first Black woman as his running mate." The reality is that that struggle looks very different today than it did when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Today, there is a fiery hunger, as one friend on social media put it, for "transformation, not just representation." The kind of deep structural change being demanded isn t what might have sprung to mind when one imagined a Biden/Harris 2020 ticket in the earliest days of this electoral cycle. And yet, it s undoubtedly what s necessary, given the breadth and complexity of the crises this nation faces. It s encouraging that Biden, in recent weeks, has embraced rhetoric and policies that reflect the influences of the Democratic Party s progressive wing — I even joked that I was getting excited by the seeming emergence of the chimera candidate "Joelizabeth Warden." It s also promising that Harris directly referenced the passion for social change that is the legacy of her parents, immigrants from India and from Jamaica who first connected at Bay Area rallies for civil rights. Harris talked about how her parents met "as students in the streets of Oakland, shouting for this thing called justice... My parents would bring me to protests strapped tightly in my stroller. And my mother, Shyamala, raised my sister Maya and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching."The symbolism of this ticket is undeniable. Voters, especially progressive voters, will now be looking for the substance behind it — how the ticket intends to address a pandemic that, as Harris noted, is killing an American every 80 seconds; how it will reform healthcare; how it will protect women s right to choose, root out systemic racism, protect voting rights and reaffirm this nation s commitment to immigrants. As Harris acknowledged at the conclusion of her speech, "electing Joe Biden is just the start of the work ahead." We should celebrate this historic moment. And then get to work making Donald Trump history.
It s Kamala Harris, thankfully. After months of speculation and a seemingly endless cast of candidates through the revolving door, we now know what should have long ago been settled.The former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, has announced that his running mate will be the US senator from California. This is very good news on multiple levels. For starters -- Electability: If you want Biden elected -- and especially if you want President Donald Trump defeated at all costs -- Harris is the only viable running mate to help take Biden across the finish line. Nearly every other candidate had major baggage or alienating qualities. For example, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite punching bag of Trump and his supporters, is deeply distrusted by the right, and her national approval was underwater as of May. Former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice has problems with both the far-right and the far-left for her controversial foreign policy record. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has little national name recognition and doesn t add racial diversity to Biden s ticket. Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia state representative who ran unsuccessfully for governor, is seen by some as too green. Others, too, had issues. Harris, who ran for president herself, has already been vetted. She survived the primary relatively unscathed and emerged the top candidate to hop on Biden s ticket. In June, a panel of Democratic primary voters were asked to name their preferred choice for a female running mate for Biden -- a plurality picked Harris.Though some progressives take issue with her criminal justice record, she worked hard to answer them during the primary. Her platform aligns fairly closely with Biden s, and there does not appear to be any major gaps she ll have to explain or contort to defend. Ability: Harris wants to be president. Occasionally the ambitions of a vice president can get in the way of a seamless working partnership. But in this case, her positioning of herself would be a good thing, because she very well might be president someday. Biden will turn 78 on Nov. 20, and, if he wins, it s reasonable to consider he could be succeeded at some point by his vice president. It s important to have someone who s not only ready for that role, but who has envisioned how she would do it. With Biden at the helm, he ll set the pace, but his administration -- and the nation -- can rest easy that Harris isn t just a plus-one. She s ready to go. Authenticity: With Harris, Biden has put his money where his mouth is. It s one thing to say you care about ending racism, it s another to put a woman on the ticket who will make it her priority. If he truly empowers her to do just that, to have a voice on those issues that even overpowers and outshines his own, it could go a long way toward reassuring many Americans on the left and the right, young and old, White and Black, that an older White guy is truly interested in helping to usher in a new era of racial justice.Finally, it s Harris s potential ability to get moderates, independents and even some in the center-right, to cross over and vote for Biden. On some important issues to moderates, she s resisted the urge to move to the far left. While she initially stumbled toward the right answer, she eventually got there on abolishing private health insurance, saying her health plan wouldn t go that far. She s also said she wants to reorder Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but not abolish it entirely, another issue that matters to some moderates. She s stopped short of saying we should defund the police, instead saying we should reimagine the way we allocate our funds to communities. On guns, another polarizing issue, Harris would ban imports of so-called assault weapons, but has not said the ban would extend to existing ones. Harris came out aggressively against Trump s tariffs and trade war with China, policies that a wide swath of voters, including independents, disapprove of. To be sure, there s plenty in Harris s record for staunch conservatives to be squeamish about -- she voted against a bill that would limit abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, to name just one thing. But if you re in the middle, or even center-right, and believe that Trump has to go, Harris isn t likely a bridge too far.Biden had to do the veep dance, meeting with candidates, floating some to the public, weighing the pros and cons of each. Every presidential candidate does. But in this case, it should always have been Harris. In fact, I d wager no one is as good a complement to the top of the ticket as she is -- at least since Biden was to Barack Obama. And we all know how that turned out.
I was meeting my friends at a sidewalk café in the Hamra district for a coffee when the earth shook under our feet. Someone yelled, "Earthquake!" But my friend, who d lived through the 15-year Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990, screamed, "It s an explosion!" Before I could even reply or acknowledge what had happened, there was a second explosion, even bigger than the first. As buildings crumbled and glass rained down upon us, I was paralyzed by fear.When the dust began to settle, all I could see was devastation -- bloodied people, a café turned to ash, rubble where an entire street once stood. The sirens that followed were deafening. Lebanon has been plagued by political corruption and crony capitalism for decades. And the pandemic and economic collapse only added to the already dire state of Lebanon. With growing poverty rates, inadequate basic medical care and broken infrastructure, we thought that we had already hit rock bottom and that nothing worse was possible anymore. But then the explosion happened on Aug. 4, and we descended further into hell -- a hell that only our anger may save us from. Though I was fortunate to escape the explosions without many cuts or bruises, one of my friends at the café was not so lucky. Broken glass fell on her, opening a wound in her leg that was bleeding heavily and required urgent stitching. When we realized what had happened, we ran to several nearby hospitals, hoping the doctors at one them could treat her wounds. But when we arrived at each one, we were told they were either at capacity or had been too badly damaged to take in new patients. We stopped the first taxi we could find, asking the driver to take us across the city -- hoping that we might find a hospital that could treat our friend further away from the explosion. But as we drove around in the taxi, it became clear the explosion had not damaged our neighborhood only -- it had rocked much of the city, leaving few hospitals able to help.With the traffic growing worse by the minute, we could not reach a hospital and ended up going to a relative of my injured friend who lived closer by and was a medical doctor. By the time we arrived, his home had already been converted into a field hospital. Injured neighbors were streaming in, covered in blood, and begging for help. They, too, could not get hospital care and needed urgent help. Without anesthesia and with few medical supplies available at home, he was forced to stitch wounds from his living room couch. While the investigation into the cause of the explosions is still ongoing, one thing is clear: Our government and the whole ruling political class in Lebanon are directly responsible. By allowing 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate to be stored in the Beirut port for six years, it committed its biggest and most unforgivable crime to date. Now, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced the resignation of his government, less than a week after the explosion. It wasn t the first transgression of the Lebanese ruling class against its people. Since October 2019, the financial crisis started to deepen with the banks imposing an illegal and unofficial capital control on most depositors while the oligarchs had been smuggling money -- our money -- abroad. The economic collapse was coupled with a deterioration of the already weak infrastructure in the country: power blackouts, garbage piling up in the streets, water shortages, and fear of fuel and wheat shortages. Almost half of the Lebanese population fell under the poverty line and unemployment rates increased exponentially. In addition, the state had used unjustifiable violence against protesters and cracked down on journalists and activists critical of the authorities.But we were not entirely without recourse against the government. Though months of protests initially failed to yield significant political reform, we had a far more powerful weapon -- our anger. On Saturday, after four days of managing our losses collectively and supporting each other in the total absence of the state, a day of rage was announced in Beirut. Prompted by anger, thousands of protesters returned to the devastated Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut. Unlike the hopeful protests of October 2019, this time protesters were looking for revenge. Violence quickly escalated with teargas and rubber bullets being fired at protesters who were trying to reach the heavily protected house of parliament. The square transformed into a war zone with ambulances rushing in to carry out the tens of injured. Two of my friends got injured by rubber bullets: one in the shoulder, and another in the eye. As with previous crackdowns, rubber bullets targeting protesters eyes seem to be a carefully crafted tactic. Today, the political class has lost its credibility, even amongst many of its supporters. The anger needs to be channeled beyond its expression in protests and street mobilizations. And now with the resignation of the government, there is a political opportunity to be grasped. The opposition needs to rise to this moment politically and lead the transition that will not only topple the rulers, but that will also prosecute them. Without a leadership that can translate the anger in the streets into a political process, this will be, yet again, another lost opportunity. The international community also has a role to play in our recovery, and it can start by no longer recognizing corrupt and heartless leaders. It can isolate them by refusing to meet with them and refusing to channel any aid to Lebanon through them. Until there is a new, trustworthy government in place, this is imperative. Every penny that goes through the Lebanese system will help entrench them and will make our struggle against them more difficult.The international community also needs to immediately freeze all the accounts (and properties) of the Lebanese oligarchs -- politicians and bankers -- abroad. This is the wealth of the Lebanese people, and investigations are needed to return the stolen money. Lebanese politicians and their parties should be prosecuted and banned from participating in political life. Only when our leaders have been removed from office and held responsible for their years of malfeasance can we begin to restore justice and rebuild our democracy and the many institutions that are required to ensure its survival. A so-called "national unity" government that would bring them back to power with international support will be another blow to the Lebanese people and their right for a decent life. While the future remains uncertain, a catastrophe of the magnitude of the Beirut explosion should not pass without a major political transformation in the country. This is not only for the people of Lebanon, but for the belief that the word "justice" can still have a meaning on our planet.
Niedergebrannte Kirchen in Europa und Amerika, wie auch gestohlene Kirchen in der Türkei sind nur Teile eines globalen Plans, durch welchen fieberhaft versucht wird, die Welt zu islamisieren. Die Führer dieses Plans sehen sich in einem Krieg, und dieser Krieg hat keinen anderen Gegner als Jesus und Sein Volk, wo immer es ist. Jede Anstrengung die Politik zu islamisieren, strebt schlussendlich danach, die Welt zu islamisieren. Das 20. Jahrhundert brachte grundlegende ökonomische Veränderungen für manche islamische Länder mit sich. Die grossenErdölvorkommen in vielen islamischen Ländern und derzunehmende Bedarf grosser Industrieländer an dieser Art von Energie wurden begleitet von Ansätzen seitens der europäischen Länder und der USA, die Gunst der islamischen Ölländer zu gewinnen, um den Öl-Zufluss sicherzustellen. Zu Beginn des Aufkommens von Öl war die Aufgabe relativ einfach. Alles, was die Ölländer zu tun hatten, bestand darin, das Öl zu verkaufen, währenddessen die Hauptspieler in den USA und Europa die eigentliche Kontrolle über die Öl-Industrie fest in ihren Händen behielten. Diese klare Rollenverteilung hatte die Verhandlungen erleichtert. Die zunehmenden Vorkommnisse von Öl und der Wettbewerb um die Förderung von Öl führten jedoch zu einerFragmentierung der Kontrolle durch die amerikanischen Öl-Unternehmen und zur Schwächung von deren Hegemonie über das Golf-Öl. Auf der anderen Seite ermöglichte die Anhäufung von Reichtum in den Golfstaaten es den islamischen Ländern, das Öl auf unterschiedliche Weise als wirksame politische Waffe einzusetzen. Dabei ging es um die islamische Ideologie, die dieseweltweit, aber vor allem im Westen fördern und verbreiten wollten. Die Frage stellte sich, wie sie diese «heilige» Aufgabe wahrnehmen wollten.
French President Emmanuel Macron met with the leaders of the Lebanese political forces last week in the wake of the massive explosion that hit the port of Beirut. According to many sources, he told them that without reform, they would not get any further money. France is clearly frustrated by the lack of progress in Lebanon. Well before the sad day of the Beirut explosion, the crisis was deep and worsening, and total collapse seemed imminent. The Lebanese political class was unable to stop the bickering and to confront the challenges. One scholar, Maha Yahya, had showed that the power-sharing system in Lebanon was no longer working. Four of the five pillars of Lebanese society had collapsed: the financial and banking system; the tourism industry; the middle classes and the liberal atmosphere. Regarding the recent catastrophic explosion, it has emerged that many actors in Lebanon were aware of the danger, and yet they did not do anything about it apart from writing memos. The disaster, as one expert put it, was “completely avoidable”. Now everybody is trying to deflect the blame, and the political elite is looking for scapegoats. The conventional wisdom combines two elements. The first is that within the framework of the Lebanese political system, institutional arrangements and current internal balance of power it is very difficult to act and almost impossible to hold anybody accountable. The second is that this plight has been worsened by the current nature of the key players, who are old, incompetent and have no commitment to the national interest. Macron, who has taken the lead on the Lebanese issue, seems to believe that the combination of popular wrath and international pressure can force progress on reform. He claims that the explosion is a turning point in Lebanese history and that there was a “before 4 August” and that there will be an “after 4 August.” He may be right: however, it is difficult to see how to proceed. Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab is going to call for early elections. It is clear that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is trying to capitalise on the current unpopularity of President Michel Aoun s party and that Bahaa Al-Hariri, the brother of former prime minister Saad Al-Hariri, wants Diab s job. It is difficult to believe that these rivalries are tantamount to “reform”. The teams differ, but their ways of doing things are probably the same. Macron is right when he says that the current state of the Lebanese political system is the main explanation of the disaster. He is wrong when he says it will be easy to reform and supposes that it has neither roots nor clients willing to defend it and themselves. Another idea that has been floated is “empowering civil society and NGOs” by directly sending money to them. I am no expert on Lebanese NGOs, but I tend to believe my Lebanese friends assessment. The NGOS are the dominant power on social networks and they control the narrative. They help the international media and vice versa. But do they have “boots on the ground” and a relevant presence in the streets? Do they control instruments of power? We have the right to be skeptical about this solution. Lebanon badly needs efficient institutions, and in this country as in most others this means transparent ones. The commentators say this will mean new political foundations. I doubt that this will be possible, and in any case it will take time. Due to the present critical situation, that time is not available. The current reasoning for most policy-makers more or less looks like this: the Lebanese people want radical change. For their leaders, serious change means self-destruction. So, they will try to placate the international donors and the population with cosmetic ones. However, this will not do. There are two ways of achieving the necessary change: sweeping results in the upcoming elections and international help. Of course, nobody will send in troops to Lebanon. The US is not really interested, French and Turkish forces are already overextended, previous experience in Lebanon and elsewhere does not recommend it, and the Hizbullah militia is a formidable force and something like a real army. As a result, many experts say the only way, or at least the best option, is a mixture of incentives and calibrated “sanctions” targeting “bad” leaders. Macron has made threats of this sort. But I am still sceptical. Can you dismantle the clientelist networks in Lebanon without risking the collapse of the whole social fabric? Can you build a transparent system without dismantling these networks? Is there the time to ponder and implement appropriate policies? I may be overstating my case, but my feeling is that the Lebanese system may be impossible to reform. In any case, I do not see how reform can proceed as long as Hizbullah is not “on board”. This Shiite power-broker has no interest in weakening its allies, and it does not have an interest in building a strong political order in Lebanon unless it has a say in it. But this might be unacceptable for many donors, especially in the Gulf. It remains to be seen whether the Hizbullah mantra of “forget the West, go East,” meaning that Lebanon does not need the US and France, but that it needs China, is tactical or strategic. However, I do not think many players will be willing to handle this hot potato or to invest in a country that has such great needs and so many handicaps. The Lebanese are a great people, their middle classes are impressive, and they now have a window of opportunity for reform. But they face formidable obstacles.
On Wednesday, the Trump campaign sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking for an earlier match-up to be added to the fall schedule. Trump and his team seem confident that the debates will help the President, who has been flailing in the polls. They justified the request by arguing that the debates would be rendered useless if millions of Americans have the ability to vote by mail before the first face-off takes place in late September. "Move the First Debate up. A debate, to me, is a Public Service. Joe Biden and I owe it to the American People!" Trump tweeted on Thursday. How ironic that the President is suddenly concerned about public service after his numerous attacks on mail-in voting. The commission rejected the Trump campaign s argument on Thursday, saying voters could very well wait to watch one or more debates before sending in their ballots. While the commission said, "the three 90-minute debates work well to fulfill the voter education purposes," it would consider granting the request if both candidates agreed to it. To be sure, there is good reason for Biden -- and all Americans -- to be leery of the debates. As former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart wrote, "It s a fool s errand to enter the ring with someone who can t follow the rules or the truth." Given Trump s track record with presidential debates, each encounter will likely turn into some mashup of professional wrestling, reality television and presidential politics. Biden will likely conduct himself in the way that candidates have since John F. Kennedy met Richard Nixon in 1960 -- and attempt to outline key policy positions while embodying the gravitas of a president. But his efforts will inevitably be overshadowed by the chaos standing 6 feet or more away from him. That doesn t mean the debates are not important. Americans still need the opportunity to see the presidential candidates in the intense, live setting that a debate provides. They deserve to see how the two men face challenging questions -- and how they handle the pressure of being attacked by their opponent. Being able to respond quickly with a well-delivered zinger is, for better or worse, a relevant part of being a president these days. While the debates are unlikely to provide the kind of substantive policy discussions some Americans yearn for, they remain our best opportunity to see the contrast between Trump and Biden. Even though the debates will include countless well-rehearsed one-liners, the performances provide useful insight into each leader. When candidate Trump lurked behind Hillary Clinton in 2016 or insulted his fellow Republicans during the primary debates, he revealed his true colors. That s not to say the debates can t be improved -- and the pandemic might provide an opportunity to do so. If infection rates continue to increase, it s unlikely there will be a live audience. Candidates won t be able to feed off the cheers or jeers that often make the debates feel like live sporting events. One way the commission can make sure the debates are fair and substantive is to carefully choose the moderators. It s telling that Trump s campaign has released a list of suggested moderators that includes right-wing pundits and Fox News personalities who would likely go easy on him. The commission should thoroughly vet reporters who are prepared to ask tough questions, follow up when a candidate fails to answer, and set the facts straight in the face of misleading responses. The moderators must also do their part to choose topics that cover a broad range of issues voters care about, so the American people can get a clear sense of how each candidate would handle the biggest crises facing the nation. The debates will be more important than ever this year, since the two candidates will have fewer opportunities to interact with voters on the campaign trail as a result of the pandemic. But Trump should ultimately be careful of what he wishes for. As anyone who has seen his interviews with Fox News Chris Wallace or Jonathan Swan of Axios knows, it s clear why the President prefers his campaign rallies over one-on-one Q&As -- he does not fare well when challenged. A debate would provide Biden, who has largely remained out of the spotlight, an opportunity to take Trump to task for myriad issues the President may have trouble defending. Of course, Biden is not always the smoothest on camera. He had many rough moments during the primary debates, often fumbling his words or appearing uneasy with the fast pace of the conversation. But the truth is, he doesn t have to say that much. This is a scenario where Biden can be brief and on point, and then let Trump be Trump. If the polls are any indication, Trump s interviews and coronavirus news briefings have done little to help his chance at reelection. If the nation faces a second wave of Covid-19 cases this fall, Trump s televised antics will only remind the country of his failure to adequately contain the virus, which has placed an unprecedented strain on millions of Americans. So, despite Trump s plea, the odds are that even if Biden slips up and makes a gaffe or two, another 90-minute debate won t help the President, whose track record includes four years of chaos and incompetence.
This month marksthe 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when humanity learned of the devastationa single nuclear bomb can unleash. The lingering suffering caused to the survivors, the hibakusha, should give us daily motivation to eliminate all nuclear arms.They have shared their stories so the horror experienced by Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be forgotten. Yet the nuclear threat is growing once more. A web of agreements and instruments has been constructed to prevent the use of these uniquely destructive weapons and ultimately to eliminate them. But that framework has idled for decades and is starting to erode. The potential that nuclear weapons will be used – intentionally, accidentally or as a result of miscalculation – is dangerously high. Fuelled by mounting international tensions and the dissolution of trust, relations between countries that possess nuclear weapons are devolving into dangerous and destabilizing confrontations. As governments lean heavily on nuclear weapons for security, politicians are trading heated rhetoric about their possible use and devotingvast sumsof money to improving their lethality, money that would be much better spent on peaceful, sustainable development. For decades, nuclear testing led to horrific human and environmental consequences. Thisrelic of a former age should be confined there forever. Only a legally-binding, verifiable prohibition on all nuclear testing can achieve this.The ComprehensiveNuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has proven its worth, yet some States have stillto sign or ratify the treaty,preventing it from fulfilling its full potential as an essential element in the framework to eliminate nuclear weapons. Along with climate change,nuclear weapons represent an existential threat to our societies. Most of the roughly 13,000 nuclear armscurrently in global arsenals are vastly more destructive than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Any use would precipitate a humanitarian disaster of unimaginable proportions. It is time to return to the shared understanding that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought, to the collective agreement that we should work towards a world free of nuclear weapons, and to the spirit of cooperation that enabled historic progress towards their elimination. The United States and the Russian Federation, as the possessors of some 90 per cent of nuclear weapons,are expected to lead the way. The “New START” treaty retains verifiable caps. Its extension for five yearswould buy time to negotiate new agreements, including by potentially bringing in other countries possessing nuclear weapons. Next year, the United Nations will host the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), one of the most successful international security agreements.Itcontains the only treaty-based commitments undertaken by the five largest nuclear-armed countries to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons andimposes verifiable obligations not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons. Its near universal membership means the vast majority of the international community is bound by these commitments. The NPT Review Conferenceis an opportunity to stem the erosion of the international nuclear order. Fortunately, most United NationsMember States remain committed to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. This is reflected in the 122 countries that supported the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They understand that the consequences of any use of nuclear arms would be catastrophic.We cannot risk another Hiroshima or Nagasaki or worse. As we reflect on the suffering of the hibakusha, let us view this tragedy as a rallying cry for humanity and recommit to a world free of nuclear weapons.
As Joe Biden approaches his selection of a Democratic running mate, insiders have been telling reporters that his team is asking three questions of the remaining female candidates: Will this nominee be good at the job? Will she get along well with Biden? Will she be an asset or a liability in the campaign? These are all important questions that have been asked in past campaigns. For Biden especially, it is important that his running mate do no harm to the ticket. He has the momentum now and wants to maintain it into the fall. Additionally, as Elaine Kamarck points out in her new book, "How Picking the Vice President has Changed -- and Why It Matters," vice presidents have also become increasingly important as working partners for presidents, so getting along with Biden is important, too. But the Biden campaign should be paying the most attention to this question: If history calls, will his vice president have the capacity and talent to become a first-class president? The whole reason why the framers created the vice presidency was to have a person of high-quality waiting in the wings. In our first federal elections, the candidate who received the most electoral votes would become the president, while the person awarded the second most assumed the vice presidency. Thus, the electors chose John Adams as an understudy to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as vice president to Adams. Notably, Washington, Adams and Jefferson were all men of stature who had the chops to be fine presidents. Since closing days of World War II, we have had 15 vice presidents. No less than five of them have risen to the top after serving as vice presidents -- Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. So, if history is any indication, there is a one-in-three chance that if Biden wins in November, his vice president could one day be president. What is more, Biden would be the oldest person to be elected president if he wins in November. For the sake of the country, aren t these compelling reasons why he should now select the best possible successor? Among the five who rose from the vice presidency to the Oval Office, their strength, effectiveness and moral leadership -- or lack thereof -- played a critical role in their contributions to the country in the years that followed. Consider each of the five: Harry Truman: Despite widespread doubts when Franklin Roosevelt selected him as his running mate in 1944, Truman turned out to be an inspired choice, one of the best presidents of the 20th century. Surrounding himself with "wise men," he brought World War II to a successful conclusion, won congressional approval of the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after the war, and worked to create NATO and other international institutions. Truman was self-educated, plain spoken and had midwestern values. He is a classic example of why the selection of a strong running mate is one of a president s single most important decisions. Lyndon B. Johnson: John F. Kennedy s choice of Johnson as his vice president was controversial within the party ,and Johnson s mistakes over Vietnam continue to fester. But he is finally getting the praise he deserves for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, two of the most important advances toward racial equity in the history of the country. While many conservatives opposed them, his Great Society programs are now widely seen as helping to alleviate poverty, mitigating systemic inequities and protecting the environment. Richard Nixon: Nixon s selection as vice president in 1952 was the exception that proved the rule: better to go for a running mate who has a record of acting with honor and dignity -- not the individual who has mastered the low arts of politics. When Nixon was seeking the brass ring on his own in 1960, a reporter asked Dwight Eisenhower what contributions Nixon had made in eight years as vice president. Eisenhower replied, "If you give me a week, I might think of one." When Nixon eventually reached the Oval Office years later, his presidency was marked by the Watergate scandal and loss of trust among the American people. Gerald Ford: When Nixon s own vice president -- Spiro Agnew -- resigned in disgrace after the Justice Department unveiled evidence of his corruption, Nixon was persuaded by Democratic leaders to name Ford as his replacement. Among all the GOP possibilities, the Democrats trusted Ford the most, having worked with him for over two decades in Congress. The Democrats judged well: Ford s character and integrity began the process of healing a torn country. As Ford said in his inaugural address, "our long national nightmare is over ... Our Constitution works." George H.W. Bush: After a bruising campaign, Ronald Reagan asked his opponent, Bush, to join his ticket in 1980. While Reagan was more conservative, they formed close working bonds. When Bush finally reached the Oval Office eight years later, he was one of the best prepared presidential candidates in recent times. From his dealings with the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to his work on the reintegration of Germany, Bush proved his diplomatic aptitude time and again. This time it was Reagan who chose well. The record is thus clear: Yes, it s good for a presidential candidate to choose a running mate who will do no harm. Given the increasing demands and crises of our time, it s important to have a working partner in the Oval Office. And it s helpful, too, to have a vice president with lots of friends on Capitol Hill. But the most important question remains this: if history calls, who would make the best president for our poisonous, polarized times? Post-World War II history suggests that if a presidential contender looks for a potential president -- a person with the character, experience and moral purpose needed in the Oval Office -- the contender himself will not only be a better leader but he may one day leave the country a better legacy.
With the election less than three months away, Donald Trump has sought to turn his campaign around by presenting himself as the law and order candidate. He has made this clear in his public statements, his campaign commercials and, in case anybody has not gotten the message, by occasionally simply tweeting the phrase "Law and Order."Trump is hardly the first Republican to use this appeal to win the support from white suburban voters and other key constituencies concerned about crime or civil unrest. For over half a century, conservative candidates in the US, such as Rudy Giuliani when he ran for mayor of New York City and numerous other Republicans, have made calls for law and order a centerpiece of their campaigns. Ideologically simpatico leaders internationally from Hungary s Viktor Orban to Brazil s Jair Bolsonaro have made similar appeals. One of the earliest major American politicians to run a successful law and order campaign was Ronald Reagan in his first campaign for governor of California. In that 1966 race, referring to unrest on the University of California s Berkeley campus, Reagan spoke of the need to "teach self-respect, self-discipline, and respect for law and order," in order to prevent "a great university to be brought to its knees by a noisy dissident minority." Two years later, another California Republican, Richard Nixon used the same theme in his successful campaign for the White House. But there is one hugely important difference between Reagan and Nixon s campaigns and where Trump finds himself today. Nixon and Reagan were challengers running against Democratic incumbents -- Nixon against sitting Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Reagan against Jimmy Carter.For Republicans, law and order has been a potent campaign pitch when made against Democratic incumbents in times of civil unrest or by Republican incumbents who have managed to maintain order on American streets. Trump is neither. Rather, he is a President who is making the somewhat surreal argument of pointing to chaos in the streets, as he sees it, in his own America and trying to scare people into thinking that is what Biden s America would look like. Trump s law and order campaign boils down to urging voters to believe first that there is chaos, disorder and crime all around them, and second to believe that only he, the one who has presided over these developments, can stop them. The illogic of that argument is hard to miss. The temporary deployment of federal troops from the Department of Homeland Security to Portland over the last few weeks further underscores the paradox of Trump s law and order campaign as well as illustrating why governing is much more difficult than campaigning. Threatening to send troops to restore law and order in parts of a city riven by demonstrations and chaos might sound good in a campaign and can demonstrate strength in the face of unrest. However, actually doing it as President or even governor is very different because federal troops, like those in Portland, rarely restore order.Instead, the Portland case shows they complicate the situation and can even contribute to greater disruption and more violence. Overall, the presence of federal troops in Portland strengthens the perception of chaos and violence in that city. A similar dynamic will occur elsewhere if Trump expands his Portland policy to other Democrat-run cities, as he has begun to do. Trump has sought to blame Democrats for the disorder in those cities, but overplayed his hand as many Americans seem to be dismissing this tactic as another act of partisanship at a time of extremely heightened political divisions. Several polls in June and July showed Biden consistently ahead of Trump on the law and order issue, with a Washington Post/ABC News poll finding that those surveyed said they trusted Biden more than Trump by a margin of 50% to 41% on the issue of "crime and safety." There is no question that the nationwide demonstrations around, but not limited to, the issue of police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement, include participants who are not committed to the idea of peaceful protest, but it is equally apparent that sending in troops, grandstanding about law and order and promising to "dominate" the protestors can lead to even larger protests and clashes between troops and protestors that suggest civil unrest and a President who has lost control of the country. This helps explain why Trump s inability to deliver on his law and order mantra is not helping him catch up with Joe Biden in the polls The Trump campaign appears to be hoping that a strong law and order message can bring White voters, particularly in the suburbs, back to the President in November. Trump himself has made explicit appeals to the suburbs, including to "suburban housewives," in recent days.That approach worked for Reagan and Nixon more than half a century ago and countless Republicans challengers since. Unfortunately for Trump, the more apt parallel may be to 1992, when another incumbent Republican president, George H.W. Bush, faced with major demonstrations against police violence in numerous cities, made a similar plea for law and order. It was not enough to save him from losing to Bill Clinton that November. During the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Richard J. Daley, the mayor of that city at the time, uttered the famous malapropism "the policeman isn t here to create disorder. The policeman is there to preserve disorder." Today it s Trump whose efforts to maintain law and order are preserving disorder.
Cigarette smoking has been banned in various states and countless municipalities across the nation for the simple reason that smokers have no right to kill me or my family with their second-hand smoke. The same philosophy must also apply to wearing a mask to protect others from Covid-19: No one has the right to kill anyone else with their "second hand" germs.Mask wearing, as Trump administration s infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeated numerous times, is to "protect others." This has been echoed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has dubbed wearing a face covering an urgent priority since asymptomatic people can transmit Covid-19. This is pretty simple stuff: By wearing a mask you literally could save the life of someone s mother, father, sister, brother or grandparent. Think about that for a moment: How many times in your life can you do something that actually could save a life? Well here s one of those rare instances. Yet there are still some Americans who in a display of utter selfishness refuse to wear a mask despite knowing the health risks that poses. One glaring example comes courtesy of Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, who in the past publicly declared his refusal to wear a face covering. Well, on Wednesday, the anti-mask crusading Gohmert tested positive for Covid-19. The day before his test, an unmasked Gohmert was in close proximity to Attorney General Bill Barr, among others. And after news of Ghomert s test broke, Politico reported that staff members for various Republican members of Congress revealed had been "ridiculed in the past for wearing masks in the Capitol.Fears from this GOP culture of selfishness were aggravated on Saturday when Arizona Democrat Rep. Raúl Grijalva -- who attended a hearing with Gohmert earlier this week -- announced he had tested positive for Covid-19. While Grijalva noted in a statement he could not "blame anyone directly" for contracting the virus, he took aim at the GOP members of Congress for exposing people to the Covid-19 risk, stating, "Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families." The refusal of some in the GOP to wear a mask and ridicule those who did comes right from the leader of the GOP: President Donald Trump. From the outset of this virus, Trump refused to wear a mask and worse, at a May 26 press conference, he despicably mocked a reporter for wearing a mask claiming the journalist was only doing so "to be politically correct."He also failed to encourage supporters at his controversial Tulsa rally to cover their faces. One of those maskless supporters, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, contracted the virus less than two weeks after the rally. It s not known exactly where he got infected, but his death was announced last Thursday. Trump only changed his tune and seemingly embraced wearing face coverings in a July 20 tweet and at a July 21 press conference -- after more than 140,000 Americans had died from the virus and having been publicly called out for weeks by the likes of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who told Trump to "Put a mask on it."It comes as no surprise that others -- some self-avowed Trump supporters -- continued to refuse to wear a mask. Just last week Trump supporter David J. Harris Jr, wearing a "Keep America Great" hat, held up an American Airlines flight because he refused to cover his face. Harris, who live-streamed the episode on Instagram, claimed his refusal to wear a mask was due to a medical condition, which he refused to share with the flight crew. In June, another proud Trump supporter was reportedly ejected from an American Airlines flight for refusing to wear a mask. And on Saturday, we learned that a July 23 Delta flight had to return to the gate when two passengers refused to wear a mask. It doesn t end there. While about 50% of Americans surveyed say they now wear masks when they leave home we re also seeing anti-mask protests like the one in Wisconsin on Saturday, where protesters slammed Democratic Gov. Tony Evers recent mandate that people wear masks while in public spaces as "stepping" on their "constitutional rights." (One of the protest organizers also didn t believe the virus was a health "emergency.")Last week, in Indiana marked the second week of anti-mask protests by people claiming that Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb s recent order requiring people older than eight to wear a mask in public indoor spaces and in public outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible was "unconstitutional." Sorry, you don t have a constitutional right to infect and potentially kill other Americans. The selfishness of those who don t wear masks, from Republican members of Congress to others, is appalling. To them I say: Stop whining, put on a mask and save a life. Period.
I’ve been engaged in Democratic Party platform debates for over three decades and am amazed at how the party consistently gets the section on Israel/Palestine wrong. Wrong because the positions expressed are out of touch with political realities on the ground. And wrong because the language they adopt has been out of sync with the opinions of Democratic voters. Unfortunately, the same is true this year. Despite some marginal progress in the 2020 platform language, it’s still 20 years behind the times and out of touch with the views of Democratic voters. Before I critique this year’s proposed platform plank on Israel/Palestine, let’s review a bit of history. Back in 1988, representing Jesse Jackson, I introduced an amendment to the platform calling for “mutual recognition, territorial compromise, and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians.” The platform drafters not only rejected this mild formula, they also accused us of trying to destroy the Democratic Party. They were wrong. At that time, Palestinians were in the midst of the first intifada and US opinion was shifting in response to the disproportionate force being used by the Israelis to crush the revolt. A poll conducted by the Atlanta Constitution showed that 70% of Democrats supported our position. But the party leadership was adamantly opposed to any changes. Since the platform did call for implementation of the Camp David Accords, we offered compromise language simply spelling out the terms of Camp David. We suggested adding phrases like “land for peace” and “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” I was told that if the “‘P’ word” were even mentioned in the platform “all hell would break loose.” Because they wouldn’t give, I proceeded to introduce our plank from the convention podium and “all hell did break loose,” not because we raised it, but because they so disrespectfully tried to shut it down. In 1996 in the early years of the Oslo Process, the party platform draft included a plank calling for “an undivided Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital. I found this troubling since at that very moment the Clinton Administration was cautioning both Israelis and Palestinians against taking “unilateral actions that might predetermine final status issues” (and Jerusalem was one of these). I called Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, and expressed my concern that this would undercut the Administration’s position. He agreed and while he couldn’t intervene in the platform process, he dispatched the State Department spokesperson to read a statement to the platform committee clearly distancing the White House from the party’s position. It was an avoidable embarrassment. In 2012, the party’s platform did not initially mention this language regarding Jerusalem and we were pleased. But on the day after the platform had already been approved by the convention, the Chairman of the Platform Committee came to the podium to announce a last-minute amendment declaring “a united Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel.” Three times, he called for a voice vote to approve the change. And all three times the “No” votes clearly won. Clearly unsettled, the Chair decided to announce that the “Yes” votes had won in response, the convention erupted with booing. That day and the next, I was interviewed by countless media outlets about how Democrats had, in fact, rejected the plank, despite the heavy-handedness of Chair. The party had committed another unforced error. In 2016, I was involved in the platform drafting effort and found, once again, the party leadership to be out of touch with reality. When I asked to include opposition to settlements in the platform, I was told that the party didn’t want to decide final status issues. When I countered with then we shouldn’t mention Jerusalem, my objection was met with embarrassed silence.It was against this background that I approached the 2020 platform. It’s a mixed bag. There is language that for the first time creates some degree of recognition for Palestinian rights and attempts to reflect a balanced concern for both Palestinians and Israelis. And the document (for the first time!) recognizes the Palestinians right to a state and promises to undo the damage done by the Trump Administration. It calls for restoring US assistance programs sorely needed by Palestinians, reopening the US Consulate in East Jerusalem that long served Palestinians in the occupied lands, and working to reopen the Palestinian Mission in Washington, DC. But calling for a state two decades too late or promising to return to the status quo antejust isn’t good enough. There is one area where significant progress was made relating to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. While this year’s platform keeps problematic language from 2016 stating opposition to “any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the UN or through the BDS movement,” it also notably adds a commitment to “protect the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech.” Pro-Israel groups are trying to spin this as a victory, but it’s akin to a GOP platform reading “we are opposed to abortion, but we support the right of citizens to make their own choice on this matter.” Even with this advance, there are still significant areas where the platform falls far short of where it should be. I am baffled why the platform committee once again drew a red line on including any mention of the word “occupation” in the document even though every Democratic leader (including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden) has spoken about the need to end Israel’s military occupation over Palestinians. And while it opposes “settlement expansion” (another belated first in our party’s platform), it fails to acknowledge that while successive Democratic Administrations have opposed such expansion, the settler population has continued to grow. By refusing to accept our amendment to place conditions on US aid to Israel should Israel continue to build settlements or annex Palestinian lands, the platform only serves to foster Israel’s sense of impunity. For decades prior to Trump, successive US administrations have called for an end to occupation and expressed opposition to settlements – but have taken little or no action to back up their words. Now, the overwhelming majority of Democratic members of Congress say they oppose annexation. But precisely because these same lawmakers have been reticent to say that there will be consequences if Israel annexes or continues to expand settlements, Israel has continued to ignore what the US says. When there are no consequences to bad behavior, bad behavior continues. There are, however, reasons to be hopeful about where this debate is headed. It’s reflected in the courage demonstrated by Bernie Sanders and newer members of Congress, like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who are speaking out for Palestinian rights, and in polls showing that a majority of Democrats support conditioning aid to Israel based on its human rights performance. And so this fight isn’t over. Not by a long shot. We will continue to push Democrats to recognize reality and oppose Israel’s occupation. Instead of just expressions of opposition “settlement expansion” we will continue to press for conditioning US aid to Israel – making it absolutely clear that there will be consequences if Israel does annex Palestinian land or continues its settlement enterprise. Polls show that these positions have the support of most Democrats and they reflect political imperatives on the ground. It’s high time for our party’s platform to catch up with reality.
President Donald Trump just removed any question that might have remained about his foreign policy prowess, while also reviving serious concerns about his attitude toward Moscow. In an interview with Axios, released on Wednesday, in which he uttered what sounded like a combination of a child s analysis of history and uncle-in-the-attic rantings, Trump confirmed that there is practically nothing that can move him to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.And, as if to underscore the point, the world also learned Wednesday that the Trump administration is moving forward with plans to move 12,000 troops out of Germany, a decision strongly opposed not only by America s NATO allies, but also by Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The move would "damage US national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment," Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee wrote to Trump last month. The troops are there to defend European allies from Russia. But what about defending American soldiers, who have been getting killed in Afghanistan? Trump admitted during the Axios interview without equivocation that he has "never" spoken to Putin about reports from US intelligence agencies that Russia has been paying bounties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, to encourage them to kill Americans. Trump didn t bring it up the last time he talked to Putin, last week, and he didn t bring it up in at least eight phone calls since Trump was reportedly informed of the bounties in his written intelligence briefing in February. Why not? "Many people said it was fake news," he told Axios reporter Jonathan Swan. "You don t believe the intelligence?," Swan asked. Trump responded, "Nobody ever brings up China; they always bring Russia, Russia, Russia." When asked if he reads his written intelligence briefing--the President s Daily Brief -- Trump, who has been boasting of passing a cognitive screening test for early dementia, declared, "I read a lot. I comprehend extraordinarily well, probably better than anyone you ve interviewed in a long time," and added that he goes to a lot of meetings, "talking about India, talking about [the] problems with China... talking about so many elements of the world. The world is a very angry place if you look all over the world. We call up, I get, I see 22 soldiers were killed in India with China fighting over the border; it s been raging for many, many decades and they ve been fighting back and forth, I have so many briefings..."."Swan, to his credit (take note, White House press corps), stuck with the topic. He pointed out that Russia has been supplying weapons to the Taliban. Even if Trump doesn t believe the bounties, the weapons are killing Americans.. Perhaps that was reason enough to bring it up with Putin? But Trump immediately jumped to Russia s defense. He drew a false equivalency with the Cold War days, when the two systems were confronting each other across the world. "We supplied weapons when they were fighting Russia too," the Commander-in-Chief said, as if to excuse Moscow arming the people killing Americans. It was reminiscent of Trump s repeated defense of Putin against claims that he was having his critics assassinated. Trump flippantly dismissed it in 2017, with a dig at his own country. "There are a lot of killers. Your think our country s so innocent?"Now, more than three years into the presidency, he provided an eye-poppingly childish (and inaccurate) history lesson. "Russia," he explained, "used to be a thing called the Soviet Union. Because of Afghanistan they went bankrupt. They became Russia, just so you do understand." From that, he concluded, "the last thing that Russia wants is to get too much involved with Afghanistan." That may be what Putin taught him, neglecting to explain that Russia would be thrilled to see the US leave Afghanistan, humiliated, with a power vacuum filled by local powers backed by and indebted to Moscow. By the way, why is Trump talking to Putin so often? Former President Barack Obama spoke to Putin nine times in his last 24 months in office. Trump has spoken to him about as many times in five months. His talks with world leaders, especially those with Putin, have raised the alarm of people inside the administration. A CNN investigation that covered months and included interviews more than a dozen administration officials who listened in on the calls, found that Trump was "consistently unprepared," and "often outplayed," particularly by strongmen like Putin, or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Trump believed he was brilliant, according to sources, who said he often pursued goals suitable more to his personal benefit than the country s. Sources said the calls led top officials, including former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former Chief of Staff John Kelly, to conclude Trump was often, "delusional."The mystery of why Trump, normally the bully, turns into a pussycat on all things Putin, will likely be unraveled only after he leaves office. His claims that he has imposed harsh sentences on Russia, incidentally, ignores that Trump did it angrily and reluctantly, when he had no choice. What is more disturbing, one may wonder after Trump s bonkers statements: a President who speaks -- and perhaps reasons -- in such utterly incoherent terms; one who has such a shallow, inaccurate grasp of world affairs; or one who behaves as if he is beholden to the leader of an adversarial country? Don t bother choosing. This new interview confirms that Trump is all of the above.
Come November, half of America will be delighted by the election results, and half will be dismayed. But unless the Electoral College ends in a tie, no one should be surprised by the outcome. That s because this election is likely to be close, and it s fully plausible either candidate could win.Pollsters are consistently telling us Democratic nominee Joe Biden is far ahead. I m not looking to pick a fight, as their sample sizes are much larger than mine. That said, as a focus group moderator, I m hearing strong support for President Donald Trump from a critical sliver of the electorate. For reference, focus groups are early-detection systems of shifting public opinion. Before something important appears in polling, it often bubbles up first in focus group conversations. And, each month for the past 17 months, I ve had a unique window into the Americans largely responsible for giving the president his slim Electoral College victory: so-called "Obama-Trump" swing voters across the upper Midwest. Our Swing Voter Project has uncovered that many of these people, who live in places such as Canton, Ohio; Davenport, Iowa; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Macomb County, Michigan, prefer Trump over Biden. In fact, 22 of 33 respondents in these four most recent locations feel this way. And over the first year of the project, from March 2019 through February 2020, more than two-thirds of the "Obama-Trump" voters said they would take Trump over Obama in a hypothetical match-up. While most are still in Trump s camp, they cannot be counted on to support the incumbent. After all, they made a big leap between 2012 and 2016, and could do so again in 2020. Additionally, many of these voters have yet to hear Biden make his case, and some may still be impacted by the economic and health consequences of the pandemic.Beyond the numbers, though, it s critical to understand why so many of them continue to support Trump. They think a businessman is best suited to turn the country around economically. They feel Covid-19 was not Trump s fault, and he s doing the best he can to contain it. They conflate the Black Lives Matter protesters with the rioters attacking federal buildings and retail shops. They don t want historic monuments torn down. And they dismiss defunding the police as ridiculous. These voters tell me they want America finally to be put first; they oppose immigration and trade policies they say give benefits to foreigners at their expense. And they want a non-politician who relentlessly fights back, after witnessing too many office holders fold in the face of special interests. These voters may sound like typical Fox News watchers, but, significantly, the overwhelming majority are not. Many are, instead, people who get their news disproportionately from local television, regional websites and Facebook. Compared to the kinds of people who seek out news from national cable channels, many swing voters reside in a national politics desert. In short, while America s political media generate a pipeline s worth of information daily, these swing voters consume merely a trickle.Consider this: Over the past several months, most of my "Obama-Trump" voters couldn t name a single thing Biden had said or done regarding the pandemic. In bellwether Macomb County, on July 21, none of the nine voters I interviewed could name a single thing Biden had achieved in nearly 50 years in national politics. Worse for the former vice president, several told me Biden would be a "puppet" of others if he were elected. That s because many are convinced he has "dementia," and they mocked him after seeing videos of his misstatements online. That said, these voters are under no illusions about Trump s shortcomings. They hate the tweeting, but some tolerate it as the price for hiring the relentless fighter they want. As one woman in Edina, Minnesota, told me, Trump makes her feel "confident, but sometimes a little cringe-worthy." In January 2016, I made a bet with a client that Trump would be the GOP nominee, when no one had yet voted. My client thought I was crazy, and even remarked, "Just to be clear, you get Trump, and I get the 16 other candidates?" After Trump won the nomination, my client thought I was a genius. I m far from it, but I m a pretty good listener. What I heard was a certain candidate for president sounding exactly like the center-right focus group respondents I d been interviewing for nearly 15 years. They and Trump shared the same grievances about America s decline and expressed them in a similarly simple and straight forward way. No other politician came close in terms of expressing what these people truly felt. This year, Trump will not be able to vilify Biden. These swing voters do not dislike Biden the way they still dislike Hillary Clinton. And, so, Trump is taking a different approach, casting doubt on Biden by focusing on questions of his mental acuity and verbal mistakes. And he will likely get far by alleging Biden s lifetime in politics has not having yielded a single, career-defining achievement.Knowing this, how might Biden respond? For one, he shouldn t expect former President Barack Obama to be much help with these "Obama-Trump" voters. It says a lot about a voter if he or she migrated from Obama to Trump; many were eager to part ways with a president of whom they grew tired. Biden s challenge, then, is to win over people whose lives don t revolve around breaking political news. Come Election Day, these swing voters decisions will hinge on whether they re better off than they were four years ago. For now, most have told me they are, even while acknowledging the country is worse off. Yet, if they see their personal circumstances darken and feel the weight of the economic downfall, the president s election chances may grow slimmer, too. For those of us who follow politics closely, my admonition is: Pay a lot of attention to those voters who don t pay much attention at all. They may be telling us something very important.
I m sitting on my flight home to Minnesota, like I do every week after the Senate adjourns. I ve been a US senator for two and half years, all under the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. On these flights, I often reflect on the past week. Rarely can I say we ve voted on meaningful legislation to help the American people. More often I d say we voted on a bunch of President Donald Trump s judges (the Senate confirmed his 200th judge last month) and other nominees). I ll be honest, it s frustrating.But last week, I departed Washington, DC, one especially angry senator, and here s why. In a few days, tens of millions of Americans are poised to lose their expanded unemployment insurance. It s the only lifeline that s kept lots of people afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic. In many states, limits on foreclosures and evictions, which have kept people from losing their homes, are expiring. While Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, says these protections will be expanded, there s no clarity on what comes next. Local school districts have minimal guidance from the CDC or any idea of what help they can expect as they contemplate how to reopen schools safely. Small businesses are left struggling to make payroll. And the United States just passed 4 million Covid-19 cases -- one quarter of which came just in the last 15 days -- and registered more than 144,000 deaths. Did we do anything to meaningfully solve these problems in the US Senate? No. The only thing we learned, hours after the Senate adjourned, is that McConnell will introduce a bill, crafted behind closed doors by Senate Republicans and the White House, without any input from Democrats, for what they think we should do next. Still, he has since said a final deal is likely "a few weeks" away. Maybe Texas Sen. Ted Cruz put it best: "What in the hell are we doing?" He reportedly said this to White House negotiators and Senate Republicans at a meeting last week. It tidily sums up the chaos we re witnessing. While Cruz and I certainly have different perspectives on what we need to do in this moment, his question is a good one.Trump surely must be held accountable for this government s disastrous response to the pandemic. He s called the coronavirus a hoax, repeatedly undermined public health experts, disputed proven strategies to manage the disease, promoted ineffective ones, and consistently misled Americans. He has failed at containing the pandemic, and the American public knows it. But McConnell needs to be held accountable, too. Part of the Senate majority leader s job is to set the Senate calendar. The House passed its latest Covid-19 relief bill a full 10 weeks ago. The Senate has been in Washington for seven weeks since then, in addition to three weeks that McConnell mystifyingly sent us home. In that time, we took 28 votes on Trump judges and nominees, and voted on 19 various bills -- a few important, many not, and virtually none of them related to the pandemic. So, what has Mitch McConnell been doing? As Senate majority leader, did he think these 10 weeks could be used to develop a plan among members of his own party, not to mention us Democrats, who stand ready to work? Did he ever think maybe there was more pressing business than confirming positions like the CEO of the US Agency for Global Media, which oversees news organizations like Voice of America? We can t get those 10 weeks back. But there are a few things McConnell can do now to get the Senate back to working the way it should. First, he needs to remember that nothing can pass the Senate without Democratic support. In fact, we saw this movie before when we passed the $2 trillion stimulus package a few months ago. McConnell spent far too long crafting a partisan bill without Democrats input; it didn t pass because Senate rules require bipartisan support for passage of most legislation. Only then did he bring Democrats to the table. We helped improve the bill, adding provisions like enhanced unemployment insurance and a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. That passed with broad bipartisan support.Crafting the current bill without Democrats is a waste of time. Instead of trying to placate the far fringes of his party or our erratic President, Sen. McConnell should bring Democrats to the table now and avoid prolonging th Second, McConnell needs to understand that the path to safely reopening and economic recovery is doing what it takes to suppress the spread of the virus: enforce social distancing, require people to wear masks (which, after months of delay, the President finally endorsed last week), and follow CDC guidelines. And we need to act with urgency. McConnell s slow walk in the Senate, and the President s strident messages about reopening without consideration of the consequences, is costing us more than time. We ve seen the results. Florida, with a population of 21 million, had more cases of Covid-19 in a single day than South Korea, with a population of 51 million, has had during the entirety of the pandemic. And in Texas, health authorities in a rural county have said they will need to start rationing care because their ICU beds are full.McConnell needs to be a forceful voice of reason: the only way we can avoid finding ourselves looking at another trillion-dollar piece of legislation in a few months is by getting a handle on the virus. Americans are gripped by uncertainty and worry. The US Senate should be helping, putting our heads down and working together to get the job done. I hope McConnell is ready to start. The American people need certainty and relief. I don t want to fly home next Thursday unable to tell Minnesotans that we ve been working to get them the help they need.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made his priorities clear during the last several months of the Covid-19 crisis: Rush to confirm conservative judges, but take his sweet time when it comes to helping the millions of unemployed Americans about to lose federal unemployment benefits. And given how closely President Donald Trump and McConnell work together, this appears to be Trump s agenda as well.The federal government s $600 weekly unemployment payment --- a lifeline for more than 20 million Americans that was created as part of the massive aid package passed in March -- is slated to end July 31. In response to these benefits ending, McConnell calmly stated on Friday, "Hopefully in the next two to three weeks we ll be able to come together and pass something that we can send over to the House and down to the President for signature." "Hopefully," McConnell and his GOP colleagues who control the Senate can come up with something in a few weeks?! When you re a multi-millionaire like McConnell—in fact he s one of the wealthiest members of the US Senate -- waiting a few weeks with little to no income is no big deal. But back in the real world, a 2019 study by the Federal Reserve found that 40% of American adults couldn t cover a $400 emergency with cash or savings. That s hardly likely to have improved in a time of pandemic and mass unemployment. Of course, when it came to confirming federal judges, McConnell had no problem rushing them through in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, between February through late June, McConnell ushered through the confirmation of 13 judges to the federal bench, bringing the total to 200 judges confirmed during the Trump presidency. But when it comes to helping Americans, McConnell "hopes" a bill can be cobbled together in the next few weeks!In contrast, the House Democrats in mid-May -- while McConnell was laser focused on confirming judges -- drafted and approved a new relief bill to help Americans in need called the HEROES ACT. This measure calls for extending the $600 weekly unemployment benefits through January as well providing additional direct cash payments to Americans, funding for Covid-19 testing and much more. (McConnell slammed the bill as the Democrats unrealistic wish list.) Our nation is in pain -- and despite Trump s numerous predictions, the Covid-19 crisis will not be "disappearing" any time soon. In fact, in the past week we saw an uptick in deaths from the virus with a loss of one thousand Americans per day for four straight days. Alarmingly, new models published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that by August 15, the US could reach 175,000 deaths from the virus, up from the current death toll of 146,460. Common sense tells us that the worse the health crisis, the worse the economic crisis, with businesses having to re-close in an effort to contain the virus. That helps explains why on Thursday more than 1.4 million workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits -- the first time since March that the weekly claims have gone up. Worse, a new Census Bureau survey found that four million fewer people were employed last week than the prior week--the fourth straight weekly decline in Americans having jobs, which experts suggests means all the job gains since mid-May have been erased.The lack of Senate action will likely mean the end of the weekly $600 federal unemployment benefits on July 31. In fact, CNN reported Sunday that top Trump administration officials stated that the GOP Senators would unveil a new relief bill on Monday that would provide another $1200 check to "many" Americans -- but would not extend the weekly $600 federal unemployment benefits. There s still a chance that they may offer a lesser amount, but the uncertainty alone is the very definition of heartless -- especially during a recession with so many out of work. The $600 a week benefit might have allowed many workers to make more from unemployment than their regular paychecks, but food banks across the nation nonetheless were seeing 50% more people being served than last July and more than 26% of Americans recently reported being unable to pay rent last month or having no confidence they can pay rent next month. Take away this $600 weekly assistance and the number of families going hungry and at risk of losing their homes whenever any extension of the eviction moratorium inevitably ends will skyrocket. While many of those receiving this federal unemployment will likely be eligible for state unemployment benefits, the average amount of these payments are $378 a week. States like Florida, which is hard hit by the virus, pay a maximum per week of $275 per week. It s hard to see how anyone can afford to pay for rent, car payment, food, medical care and other expenses on that amount of money. Get our free weekly newsletter Sign up for CNN Opinion s new newsletter. Join us on Twitter and Facebook Yet McConnell is in no rush. And apparently neither is Trump, who played spent time on Saturday playing golf with former NFL star Brett Favre Saturday at Trump s country club in New Jersey. Usually when Trump wants something to be addressed quickly, we all know it. Maybe if McConnell just pretended the Americans who needed help were right-wingers nominated to be federal judges, he would move quicker. At this point, McConnell should take up the HEROES Act passed by the House in May and use that as the road map to craft legislation that will aid the millions of Americans desperate for help. The time for multi-millionaires in the Senate to play political games is over. Too many Americans back in the real world desperately need help, and they need it now.
“We will render war not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman declared at the end of World War II. The plan was to establish economic cooperation among European countries that would lead to the cohesion and interdependence of their economic interests, and make warfare a highly unlikely option; the result of such was the Treaty of Paris (formally the treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community) on April 18, 1951, with the following objectives: • Remove obstacles and open borders for coal and steel trade between the signatory countries. • Apply a consolidated policy towards countries that remained outside the group. • Provide freedom of workforce rotation among signatory countries. The group evolved to a common market with a unified currency established in 1965 and later into the European Union, which included giving up some powers of the national state to the union s institution as one of its most important principles. The union has continued to develop at all levels up to now. With this, the Europeans succeeded in establishing a political economic project through which they managed to overcome their centuries-old differences. When interests converge ties deepen, relations get stronger, and narrow ambitions therefore fade away. Indeed, with true will, the impossible becomes possible. Now a question comes to mind: Why did the Europeans succeed while we failed? Although the idea of joint Arab action, represented by establishing the Arab League as a confederation entity in 1945, had preceded the European Union, it failed to meet the aspirations of our peoples. We were able to develop a confederal institutional entity, yet it did not lead to achieving deep and effective cooperation and partnership among Arab countries. Consequently, disputes and conflicts continue to tear apart our region, pushing it towards a tunnel with no light at the end so far. Rather than discussing all the experiences of joint action that we have done and failed, I will discuss in depth the political and cultural views that have resulted in shaping our collective mind and thus made us “prisoners” to a system of values belonging to a realm of chaos and fragmentation, thus leading to the disintegration of most of our unitary endeavors. It makes us wonder: Do the peoples of our region suffer from a “masochism” that makes them cling to the roles of the oppressed and repressed victim? The law of conflict and us Although conflict as a concept involves a contradiction of interests or values between two or more parties, indicating that it is a “curse, not a blessing,” the world has managed to make it a creative product. Conflict by the interaction of an idea and its opposite is the law of the universe, the controversy that leads to the emergence of a new idea and carries development forward, just as Hegel said: “The course of history and ideas runs by the existence of the thesis, then the antithesis, then the synthesis between them”. Remaining prisoners of history has led to our continued absence from the scene of influential political action, both in our region and the world. This made us lose the ability to manage our conflicts in a practical way thereby contributing to political or even historical settlements, as others have done. Centuries ago, the Europeans succeeded in carrying out a historic reconciliation that put an end to the religious wars that lasted for around three decades: I refer here to the “Treaty of Westphalia” in 1648. They succeeded in stopping the wheel of violence and absurd wars which brought nothing but ruin and destruction, while we still wallow in the mud of our futile wars! In my opinion, managing integration or effective coordination on the model of the EU or other experiences requires us to dismantle the values that have settled in our political mind s structure, which have led to deepening the Arab world s divide and fragmentation , so that we can overcome the obstacles in operating our political thought. Then we can agree on a set of creative political values which will lead us to fruitful cooperation for the benefit of our peoples, fulfilling Darwin s saying: “Survival is not for the strongest, nor the most intelligent, but rather for the most adaptable to change”. Since its inception, the Arab League was subject to violent and harsh attacks by partisan currents and ideologies, as is the way of our region s societies which views every new idea as a conspiracy targeting identity, history and religion. Therefore, we are not surprised when any project, even if unfulfilled, fails due to this mindset of continuous rejection and doubting everything for no reason at all! A spirit that fears the slightest change or anything new undermines the possibilities of advancement with our own hands, just as the verse in the Holy Quran says: “They destroy their homes with their own hands”. It seems to me that we enjoy torturing ourselves, and therefore we ignite wars based on extremely miserable political values such as the “zero-sum conflict” theory which most nations have already overcome after having gone through its costs and tragedies. Yet we do not study history, therefore it repeats itself in our region in tragic and ironic ways! Many visions and ideas have been proposed about the ways for the success of establishing unity or a union among Arab countries. However, all of them – in my view- have not, and will not, succeed, because our history shows that we are still clinging to conquests of the past when tribes used to operate. Therefore, I urge modesty by making practical proposals as a first step on the road that may move us from idealistic dreams into reality. For all of that, I previously proposed the necessity of establishing an ambitious project (an Arab Marshall Plan) based on the economy as one of the pillars of comprehensive development in our region. So that we can overlook political differences based on outdated narcissism, and think in a pragmatic, practical way that prioritizes general interest over narrow selfishness. This way, through the economy, we can crown our efforts by building institutions that contribute to the development of our region just as Europe has done, and save ourselves from the clutches of the monster of political misery, so that we rise from a passive mind to an active one. It is time for us to negotiate common interests, and there is nothing wrong with giving up some of the national state s power for the sake of integrated development. This is achievable if we succeed in managing our differences, and give up the illusions of individual success, because our era is the age of blocs and alliances. On the other hand, ignoring the higher interests of our region will keep us in this circle of unproductive political inaction placing us on the sidelines of history. However, there is still hope in establishing an entity or a project that will benefit from the Arab League s institutions to overcome difficulties and obstacles, given its long experience in dealing with various Arab issues. Therefore, success can be ours, especially in light of the current difficult circumstances that call for the region s wise to adopt constructive dialogue to get it out of its impasse, and to succeed in changing our current practice s slogan of “The way of everyone against everyone” to “Everyone needs everyone”.
Mina M. Azer
ASHRAE announced the winners of the 2020 Student Design Competition and Applied Engineering Challenge. First place in the HVAC Design Calculations category was awarded to team of Faculty of Engineering of Cairo University: Eslam Mohamed Ali, Ahmed Mohamed Soltan, Amr Gamal Fawzy, Moustafa Ahmed El-Saeid and Mark Magdy Fouad of Cairo University, Giza, Egypt. Faculty advisors are Dr. Mahmoud Fouad and Dr. Moustafa El-S