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”.
Just when you thought Mike Pompeo s reputation couldn t sink any lower, along comes the blatantly ideological and highly politicized report of his Commission on Unalienable Rights. A secretary of state who talks about grounding American diplomacy in our founding principles while directly attacking freedom of speech at home and cavorting with the likes of Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia s repressive monarch in waiting, strains credibility beyond the breaking point. In only two short years, Mike Pompeo -- with an eye on the possibility of the presidential sweepstakes in 2024 and the base of support he presumably hopes to inherit from President Donald Trump -- has become not only the worst secretary of state in US history but also the most partisan. Pompeo, the pol It was common in the 19th century to view secretaries of state as akin to presidents in waiting (see Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren).After World War II, and particularly in recent years, with America s expanding role in the world and the changing nature of American politics, presidents seeking to fill the secretary of state role by and large looked for men and women who were disengaged from electoral politics and without strong presidential ambitions. There were exceptions, of course, such as Hillary Clinton who, despite her obvious political ambitions, was an able and experienced secretary of state. But Cabinet posts, including that of secretary of state, were not launch pads for the presidency. It s striking that, with the exception of the five early secretaries of state, only three Cabinet secretaries -- James Buchanan, William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover -- ever made it to the White House.But Mike Pompeo, a former GOP congressman from Kansas, who has barely concealed his overweening political ambitions, has clearly broken the mold. Last year, there were credible reports he was thinking of running for a Kansas Senate seat; and in response to a 2019 question of whether he had considered running for president, he actually replied, "I have." Then, last Friday, using State Department resources, Pompeo attended the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, a traditional event for putative Republican presidential candidates. Pompeo, the culture warrior Nowhere were Pompeo s political ambitions and ideological biases more on display than last year in the creation of his Commission on Unalienable Rights, the draft report of which Pompeo announced earlier this month. Seemingly untethered from Pompeo s charge of taking care of the nation s interests abroad, the commission appears to double down on his warrior status in the domestic culture wars and boost his political ambitions in the 2024 presidential sweepstakes.In a follow-up op-ed in the Washington Post, Pompeo asserted that never before have America s "founding principles been under such relentless assault." Among the offenders, he called out the Chinese Communist Party and The New York Times 1619 Project. What any of this has to do with Pompeo s mandate of carrying out US foreign policy is mystifying, especially given the administration s hypocritical and checkered record when it comes to making human rights a priority. Yes, the administration has sanctioned both Russia and China. But the President -- if John Bolton is to be believed -- gave Chinese President Xi Jinping an open invitation to build detention camps for the Uyghur Muslims and has created a safe zone for Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Trump signed a bill aimed at punishing China for the human rights violation the same day that Bolton made his allegations). As for Pompeo, the picture of him smiling with MBS in his first meeting after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks for itself. One can be forgiven for concluding that the whole commission -- greeted with shock and anger from some at the State Department -- might be a thinly veiled effort to give Pompeo a platform to bash the media and curry favor with a conservative Republican base, especially evangelical Christians, for a future presidential bid. As far as we know, no secretary of state has ever engaged in this kind of partisan warfare to feather a possible political nest. The President s (right) wingman Pompeo s most enduring legacy -- and it s nothing to be proud of -- will be the unconscionable way in which he has politicized the office of secretary of state and debased the institution he runs, all to advance his personal political agenda and to protect Donald Trump from accountability and the rule of law.In the service of these objectives, he was apparently willing to cover for the President s lies about blackmailing the President of Ukraine; throw State Department officials under a bus for their cooperation with Congress in getting to the bottom of Ukraine-gate; and hinder the Hill in exercising its legitimate oversight role of the executive branch and fulfilling its constitutional duties to bring impeachment charges against the President. He also seemingly tried to stay one step ahead of Steve A. Linick, the inspector general of the State Department who was looking into various allegations of abuse of power by Pompeo and some of his political underlings. Pompeo has denied allegations of abuse of power. Ultimately, President Trump fired the IG, Pompeo s critics say at his request. Having worked for a total of nine secretaries between us, we are stunned by just how far outside the norms and values of the office Pompeo has operated. Indeed, it s a remarkable fall for an office traditionally seen as above much of the political fray and representative abroad of American unity and national resolve. And we can only be hope that what Mr. Pompeo represents is just a passing headline and not a trend that any of his successors will follow.
A delegation of Libyan tribal chiefs paid a high-profile visit to Cairo Thursday, 16 July, where they conferred with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to discuss the present situation in Libya. Many of them took to the floor to speak about the historical bonds between the Libyan and the Egyptian people, and “mandated” Egypt to intervene in Libya to safeguard its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. They highlighted the dangers of a permanent Turkish presence in their country, and drew parallels between the present and the past when the Libyans suffered under the Ottomans. They vowed to fight the Turks. The Egyptian president reiterated that the Libyans themselves should be the masters of their own destiny without any interference from outside powers, and that the sole objective of Egypt is a united Libya and a strong national army. He left no doubt that Egypt will not tolerate the permanent presence of armed militias, nor would it accept their presence near its western borders with Libya. In such a case, he added, Cairo would not hesitate to intervene militarily. The meeting was an occasion for the Egyptian president to elaborate on his previous remarks, during a visit last month to a military base, not far from the joint borders with Libya, in which he drew a line in the sand in the Libyan desert, a “red line” from the strategic city of Sirte in the north to Al-Jafra Airbase, south of Sirte. At the time, he affirmed that an attack by the forces of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) would be deterred by Egypt. Last Thursday, he finetuned these remarks, stressing that the message has been a message of peace, essentially, and with the aim of bringing the Libyan conflict to an end. He added that the reference to a “red line” was never intended as a call to divide Libya into two parts — one to the west and the other to the east. Moreover, he explained that this line is meant to be respected by the two warring parties in Libya; namely, the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and the Tripoli forces under the command of Fayez Al-Sarraj, president of the Presidential Council. In other words, it is meant to be a ceasefire line. Thus, Cairo discourages Haftar from crossing this line to the west, if he plans, by any chance, to counter attack. Earlier, the Tripoli government was afraid that Haftar might think of launching a counterattack to recapture the towns and positions he lost earlier this year in the western part of Libya. On the other hand, President Al-Sisi said that Egypt is not an enemy to the western region of Libya — probably a reference to the GNA. These two messages should be reassuring for the Tripoli rulers. In the meantime, it aligns Egypt, to an extent, with the positions of Algeria and Tunisia regarding the Libyan conflict. This alignment is necessary as well as important if the three countries would weigh on future negotiations by the Libyans to carry out UN Security Council Resolution 2510, adopted on 12 February 2020, that supported the Berlin Process. It was obvious from the extensive remarks by the Egyptian leader that he wanted to make clear the limited objectives of Egypt in Libya, mainly the defence of our borders with Libya against infiltration by armed militias and terrorist groups in the future. It was the first time in a long while that Egypt has shown, at least publicly, such goodwill towards the Tripoli government, but it is a step in the right direction, albeit in a very indirect way and without naming it. However, the message should not be lost on the rulers in Tripoli. Some would argue, maybe, it is too little too late. But still, I find it relevant and important. I have no doubt that sane voices in Tripoli would find it both encouraging and promising. Needless to say, the present stalemate on the battlefield is fraught with dangers unless the international community, and mainly the United States and Russia, to step in and send a clear message to Turkey and the Tripoli government that time is up for resorting to military force in Libya. Lately, senior Turkish officials have insisted that recapturing Sirte and Al-Jafra is a precondition for a permanent ceasefire in Libya. And they have called on Haftar’s forces to retreat or else the order to launch an attack on the two strategic objectives will be given. The Tripoli government should think twice before jumping into the unknown by ordering its troops to advance in an attempt to control Sirte and Al-Jafra, thereby putting North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean on the brink.
In presidential politics, it s hard to measure greatness. There is a general sense of the size of a president measured alongside his accomplishments and set in the context of his challenges. We have a general sense that Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were great, not only in temperament and tone but in rising to the considerable circumstances in which they governed.It is much, much easier to measure weakness, smallness and failure. And in the case of President Donald Trump, we can tragically measure his failure in American lives lost during this pandemic. The cost of Trump s pathological insecurity, his overweening ego and his rank incompetence is a failure to provide the national leadership that could have prevented at least some of the roughly 140,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US. That s because it took that many people — and months of talk — for the President to finally, publicly and unequivocally promote the lifesaving practice of wearing a mask in public places. Monday night he tweeted — as if he d just heard about the idea over golf — and seemingly without any irony: "We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!" The black-and-white photo accompanying the tweet showed Trump wearing a face mask with the presidential seal in the corner.Setting aside the myriad polls that show he certainly is not our favorite President — not by a long shot — this is a bandwagon we all wish he d hopped on much, much sooner. Instead, we watched him constantly and petulantly resist doctors orders — even his own — to wear a mask in public, refusing while touring businesses big and small, while holding press conferences, while meeting veterans, while speaking to hundreds of people at his rallies. He spent months feigning a kind of macho ambivalence toward masks, saying at one time, "this is voluntary — I don t think I m going to be doing it." He bizarrely insisted he was refusing to wear one in public simply to stick it to the media: "I wore one in this back area but I didn t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," he said after touring a Ford plant in Michigan. Risking your life to "own" the press is a weird flex. He even went so far as to discourage mask-wearing, calling them "double-edged swords" and mocking former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing one, because real men get their friends, family and co-workers sick, I suppose.Now, suddenly, Trump is suggesting that wearing a mask means caring about the country — something Biden, Democrats and most congressional Republicans have known for months. Of course, Trump could still walk it back. He wore a mask for the first time in public when he visited ailing service members at the Walter Reed hospital earlier this month, but rejected the idea of a national mandate for masks in an interview with Fox News Chris Wallace that aired Sunday. "I don t agree with the statement that if everybody wore a mask, everything disappears," Trump said. Still, as lame and late as Trump s attempt at lifting his standing in the polls is, Monday s tweet and the gesture are much more than just empty symbolism. What Trump says, his most loyal supporters will do, no matter how impolitic, deleterious or deranged, as he himself noted in his famed "Fifth Avenue" shooting hypothetical.If he s now behind wearing a mask and that encourages voters to wear them in states like Texas, Florida and Georgia, where the virus is spiking, this is very, very good news for the rest of us. Because he was ultimately responsible for turning mask-wearing into a culture war, and one of the dumbest, counterproductive, downright embarrassing ones of our lifetimes, he s ultimately the only one who can break that fever and knock some sense back into the mask-refusers. I, for one hope, he tweets it every hour of every day. I hope he pimps that mask, with its gaudy presidential seal, all over the airwaves. I hope he sells branded masks at every rally and at the GOP convention. Because, finally, though it took far too long, he can do something to help save lives.
Psychologist Mary L. Trump says her elderly uncle Donald is a "psychologically damaged man" who "without question is going to get worse." In another circumstance, someone might intervene to aid the old fellow and protect everyone else (think of family members who lovingly take the keys from a dangerous senior driver). But in this case, Uncle Donald happens to be President of the United States, and the people around him are "enablers," per his niece, eager to allow him to act out his worst impulses. No one here is going to hide the keys. "There are too many enablers who are -- for whatever reason -- continuing to enable him," says Mary Trump. "Bill Barr has gutted the Justice Department. Mike Pompeo has gutted the State Department. We are in serious danger here." The danger was on display last week when video footage surfaced of officers in military gear swooping in to capture a Portland protester on a city sidewalk. They hustled the individual into an unmarked van and drove away. This incident, called "political theater" by Oregon s governor, represented a new phase in the Trump administration s heavy-handed response to demonstrations sparked by police killings of Black citizens, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and others. The President and his administration began setting conditions for a political theater road show many weeks ago. On June 1, federal officers commanded by Attorney General William Barr used tear gas, horses, and batons to clear Lafayette Square, a park across from the White House where protestors had gathered. Barr justified this display of federal force, including officers from the department of Homeland Security, by saying the officers had been deployed to protect federal property. (After Trump signed an executive order late last month to protect federal property, the same justification for an aggressive federal response to protests has been used in other parts of the country like Portland, as recently as last week.) The acting secretary of DHS, Chad Wolf, touched on themes that would likely please the President in his remarks, as he said, "DHS and its partners will not allow anarchists, disrupters and opportunists to exploit the ongoing civil unrest to loot and destroy our communities," As federal forces were deployed in Buffalo, San Diego and Las Vegas, Barr and Wolf helped create images that matched Trump s obvious desire to be perceived as, "Your President of law and order." Anyone who didn t notice that the President seemed bent on recreating the 1960s culture war over civil unrest missed Trump s use of the phrase, "When the looting starts the shooting starts." This threat was first used by Miami s police chief in response to violence in the city in 1967, and was later echoed by Alabama s racist Governor George Wallace on the campaign trail. Today s protests, which involve diverse groups of people rallying behind the Black Lives Matter banner, have been relatively peaceful compared to the sixties, when major cities suffered large scale rioting. However, the facts on the ground haven t prevented Barr and Wolf from doing what they can to support the President s fantasy. Why do they do it? They may be acting to please the boss who controls whatever power they wield and can yank it away on a whim. They may actually share Trump s dystopian views of the country they are supposed to serve. Or they are, indeed, the enablers Mary Trump fears? As used by Mary Trump s profession, enablers amplify the dysfunction of a troubled person out of fear or perhaps because they think there s something to be gained by going along. In Donald Trump s case, his niece has written, family members and others "consistently normalized" his "aberrant behavior." In his business he was surrounded by people "who propped him up and lied for him." President Donald Trump has fired or driven away many members of his administration who were known for expressing their honest opinions. Long gone are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff John Kelly, economic advisor Gary Cohn, Secretary of State James Mattis, National Security Advisor John Bolton and many others who had the courage and character to speak truth to power. Their replacements have been notably more compliant. Many remain acting officials who don t enjoy the respect that comes with Senate confirmation. The President seems to see value in keeping members of his team insecure. "I like acting," he once said, "because I can move so quickly. It gives me more flexibility." One top official who enjoys permanent status, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, happens to be among the more obsequious officials in the administration. Once a stern Trump critic who believed Russia attacked the 2016 election, he has become a staunch defender of the President who downplayed Russia s election meddling. As Secretary of State, he has served the President s cause with his conservative Evangelical base by neglecting the cause of equal rights for the LGBTQ community -- a recent report he released spoke of same sex marriage rights as "divisive social and political controversies." Pompeo downgraded LGBTQ rights presumably because a good enabler knows what to do without being told. Count economic advisor Peter Navarro in this category too. When he penned an article in USA Today attacking the President s top pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci, Navarro likely thought it would win him points with Trump. When Navarro s attack failed, Trump disavowed it, but in meek terms that did no real damage. Navarro is safe on the Trump team, thanks to his enabling of the President in his outbursts against China, even suggesting that a Chinese lab created the coronavirus now raging across the country. The pandemic, of course, is a leading cause for the President s struggle in polls, which show his bid for reelection to be in trouble. Faced with the prospect of defeat, Trump has suggested the upcoming election could be rigged and recently refused to say he would accept the outcome. Expect to see this position, which casts doubt on the validity of the American system for transferring power, to be echoed by his enablers. And when the president says or does the next outrageous thing, they ll support that too. To do otherwise would require courage and character they just don t seem to have.
The year was 1991.I remember the day we returned to Amman from the Gulf with many other Jordanian families, all of us sensing the coming war after Saddam Hussein s occupation of Kuwait. The conversation on everyone s lips was about the horror and threat of the imminent battle ahead, the mobilization of global armies in the region, and the weapons, planes and warships accompanying them. Implications of this revolved around America s powerful ascent to the top and its domination of the international decision-making process. At that time, America was the ultimate role model for us teenagers. Back then, I looked up to Bruce Lee. But soon, that shifted and Rambo became my idol. To me, he represented resilience and strength. My generation sought to be like Rambo, to get the latest brand of “jeans” from his country and to wear Nike “kicks” like those sported by Michael Jordan. However getting those things was difficult, as they were not sold in Jordan. Back then, our only means of acquiring those little luxuries was when expatriates would bring them over as gifts, or sometimes sell them at twice their original price. America s presence in the region at the time was not just militaristic, it was cultural. The American way of life began to gradually invade the marketplace, restaurants, and the arts (music and film). The first day a McDonald s branch opened in Amman thousands of Jordanians swarmed it, hoping to try an authentic American burger and with it get a taste of the American dream. The lines were so long that many were turned away and returned the next day to savor that famous meal. As the world entered the third millennium, America solidified its role as the undisputed superpower; a model for life, work and success, and an aspirational oasis that occupied the imagination and minds of youth at the time. Then, in 2005, fate took me to the “promised land” where I was able to experience the American “miracle” first-hand. But something changed. My exaggerated admiration for America decreased and the rose-colored glasses through which I had seen the states was replaced by an objective lens, through which I tried to understand the sources of America s dominance and its powerful position globally. In 2008, I met Mr. John Sununu. We discussed American policy in the Middle East. I ll admit my naivete about international politics and world powers back then as I had judged American policy and its projects in the Middle East as failures. However, Mr. Sununu s words woke me up to the truth of the matter. He told me: “If you have any doubt that the United States now has the upper hand in the Middle East and the world, you should read the international politics and its events and tools again.” I will never forget these words nor their impact. My eyes were finally open. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s represented the greatest turning point in international relations. It ended the “bipolar” balance of power, and with it the Cold War era, making America the unipolar power globally, without any potential competition. The collapse of the USSR not only helped propel America s hegemonic superiority and leadership on the international stage, but it also resulted in European and Asian countries accepting America s new hegemony; they indicated their willingness to follow America s lead as a competitor to leftist Communist ideology. In just a few years, the US –along with its European allies– became gatekeepers ensuring the world s security and stability. However, the vanity inherent in the belief that the triumph of western hegemony had achieved eternal victory has led the US to lose sight of its competitors returning to the international power paradigm. Now, China and Russia appear ready and able to regain the power of influence in global politics. Russia and China no longer hide their coordination with the United Nations and its Security Council against American political and military interventions, specifically in projects related to Iran, Syria and Libya; all places where Russia and China have a vested interest. Today, in light of major global political and economic changes and challenges, only further exasperated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, America is threatened with losing its leadership role in the world unless the current administration renews its commitment to strengthening the international liberal order. However, this won t be achieved using traditional methods. America s military superiority cannot be used as a crutch in the era of coronavirus, because military options are narrow and ineffective against this contagion. Now, Washington is called upon to renew its commitment to its global role. America must turn away from its inward-facing, America First policy and shift its focus towards strengthening US sovereignty, securing its leadership position in the world order, and managing the conflict over influence with forces opposing the Western democratic system. If this change does not occur, America will not be able to successfully face and overcome the Russian-Chinese challenge for global dominance and power. Finally, I can say that in spite of American s weakened hegemony, its alliances in the region are still deep and effective. Dealing with the United States is still the preferred option for most political and economic actors. The ball is in Washington DC s court and in the hands of the upcoming administration. Whether it be a second term for President Trump or a first-term for Joe Biden, America along with the support of its European allies, must renew its political role in the Middle East and reactivate democratic values, especially in the context of human rights and the economy. The Middle East is experiencing serious conflicts and unrest that will not remain confined to its borders or the broader region And the Middle East will remain the center of conflicts the world over. After all, it is the birthplace of civilization and the divine Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Last month, like many Black executives, I wrestled with the emotional and psychological toll of leading an organization during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. My emotions ranged from despair to anger. During that period, I wrote a public post on LinkedIn that used a medical metaphor to examine how systemic racism in this country has failed us. Black people have long said to doctors -- metaphorically the American people and American leadership -- that we are in pain. Far too often we have been misdiagnosed and dismissed as if our pain wasn t real. Expanding on this metaphor, the killing of George Floyd has been like a heart attack, and the urgent response has shown that not only was our pain real, but this was a moment when we could no longer be silent about it. Paradoxically, this, in fact, is a moment for some leaders to be silent and do the work of processing some of the pain of the past. Pressure is mounting on leaders to say something, but too many allies are doing so without really understanding what they are speaking up for. Many people and organizations seem only to be taking a stand to relieve the uncomfortable tension they re feeling from realizing they ve turned a blind eye on racism for years. Moreover, some of these same organizations are being called out by their own workforce for saying Black Lives Matter publicly, but not caring about, promoting, or hiring Black employees. It s a moment of awakening that s unnerving for many. Their first thoughts may be, "How can I solve this quickly?" It s a well-meaning reaction -- but misplaced. t s also a moment when Black people across the country are once again bearing the burden. By being asked to serve on newly founded diversity committee or doing outreach to diversify their company s network, they are being asked to give hundreds of hours of unpaid labor in the name of inclusion. It s a moment of endless questions on how to be a better ally or anti-racist -- well-meaning yet overwhelming. Last week, three other black executives and I launched Texts to Table, where we brought our private text conversations to life on YouTube. We shared our experiences and different walks of life as we have processed and responded to the events of Black Lives Matter. We also discussed what it means to be a Black person and CEO in 2020. My co-host Shawn Boynes, Executive Director, American Association of Anatomy, made this point: Allies, instead of asking your Black colleagues, "How can I do better?" reframe it and declare, "I will do better." Here is how that might look. Doing better means internalizing and acknowledging that systemic racism is real. You don t need to hear another story of another Black person s trauma to get this. As I processed the response to Georgie Floyd s death, I realized that part of the anger I was feeling came from knowing systemic racism was real -- from personal experience -- but seeing it brushed aside in the workplace. I had actually begun to doubt myself, wondering if certain experiences were, in fact, real. I had made excuses for microaggressions or unintentional offenses. The simple act of acknowledging systemic racism will go a long way with your Black friends and colleagues. Doing better means reckoning with how your own network of Black friends and colleagues, if you have one, may have perceived you or your past actions, big or small. Here s the thing that many people don t understand in their rush to be anti-racists: It doesn t matter how many Black Lives Matter posters you have in your yard if even one Black person has experienced any form of racism from you -- intentional or not. Doing better means recognizing you ve likely done a racist action even if you didn t mean to. Doing better means cleaning up your own house. Racism is both systemic and personal. For organizations, it means talking to your Black employees first, before that Black Lives Matter press release goes public. You can t combat the system if you haven t addressed matters within your own network. Most of the outrage right now is within organizations that had diversity and inclusion statements and practices. However, while they proudly proclaimed Black Lives Matter publicly, their employees reminded them that they didn t practice what they preached. We must move beyond blanket statements. And, just so you know, we always notice when we re the only Black person in the room Doing better means recognizing white fragility. Resist the urge to solve this problem right away to ease your guilt. Ask yourself, why do you care now? Can you see yourself still supporting Black Lives Matter in five years? Why were you silent before? This is a moment to be sure you know your authentic attitude toward racism. Listen to your own voice. If you re faking it, people will know. If you still don t believe any of the above, you re better off just staying silent. In fact, doing better might mean that you need to step back -- a lot. This is a moment to lift other voices, particularly Black voices. It s a moment when we must not center whiteness. Rather than making this moment about your feelings and reactions to the Black Lives Moment, listen to and believe the experiences of Black people in America -- without judgment. This might not be a problem you re equipped to solve in the short term. The best thing you can do is find and support someone who is. Most importantly, this is not a game you can win. Doing better means actively enjoying the process of learning how to be better. There s no finish line. You must fall in love with the process of becoming anti-racist. It s a journey, not a race.
The parameters of Egyptian involvement in the Libyan crisis have been clear since President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi s address to the armed forces in the Western Military Zone on 20 June. Underlining that these parameters are informed by the need to defend Egypt s national security, he identified a “red line” from Sirte to Al-Jafra as the boundaries of Egypt s vital sphere. He instructed Egypt s troops to be prepared for “military action abroad” in the event of a hostile action intended to breach that sphere. In keeping with this outlook, the Jarbub Airbase was inaugurated in the Western Zone, qualitative military drills were held to focus on potential threats emanating from the West and, just last week, the Hasm (Resolve) 2020 land and maritime manoeuvres were carried out near the Libyan border to demonstrate Egypt s readiness to take on a potential advance of the Turkish-backed terrorist and mercenary militias in Libya into Egypt s vital sphere. Egypt s concept of “calibrated involvement” in Libya reflects its awareness of the magnitude of the threat in Libya and the intricate dynamics of that crisis which has been exacerbated by attempts on the part of regional powers such as Turkey to exploit it. Turkey s tactical aim in Libya is to engineer a shift in the balances of power on the ground and to restructure Libyan political/military dynamics in a manner overtly hostile to Egypt. If Turkey instructs its mercenaries and militias to breach the red line, Egypt will be forced to act and its actions will unquestionably fall within the exercise of its right to self-defence which is a primary tenet of Egypt s defence creed and strategy. Despite the multiple lines of engagement in the Libyan conflict, Egypt has remained determined from the outset to propel the stakeholders towards a political process leading to a transitional phase that would enable the restoration of stability to our neighbour. This is why Egypt sponsored the “Cairo Declaration”, an initiative to promote a return to the negotiating table, welcomed by a majority of the international community as an important contribution to the Berlin Process. Unfortunately, certain regional powers are working to sabotage the prospects of negotiations. Turkey, in particular, is bent on reproducing the current Government of National Accord (GNA) entity, which is a mutation from the consensual transitional body intended by the Skhirat Agreement, into an Ankara puppet. Not only is Cairo disinclined to offensive strategies and military options, it continues to work to strike a balance between the need to take necessary precautions against precipitous belligerent powers working to complicate the Libyan situation and the need to focus on advancing the agreed upon political process despite all counterproductive parties. Egypt s military preparations still remain within its own borders, even if it has had to address certain targets abroad in the framework of a limited strike that did not constitute a military offensive in the proper sense and that clearly fell under the heading of self-defence. Egypt will not intervene militarily in Libya outside this framework, as President Al-Sisi stressed when discussing Egyptian military creed in his speech in the Western Zone. Egypt s army is a “sensible” army, Al-Sisi said. Ankara s behaviour, on the other hand, remains inexplicably contradictory. On the one hand, it calls for an end to mercenaries in Libya and commits to this principle in Berlin. On the other, it trains mercenaries from Syria and sends them into Libya by the plane load. The number of mercenaries in Libya on the Turkish payroll now exceed 15,000 and they together with GNA militias have been transformed into the Libyan equivalent of the Turkish-backed “Free Syrian Army” (now Ankara s proxy “Syrian National Army”) which is advancing Turkey s territorial and political aims in Syria. Turkey, itself, now operates out of three military bases in western Libya (Watiya, Matiga and Misrata) and it has set its sights on occupying Ghardabiya and Al-Jafra bases and the petroleum facilities in Sirte. Contrary to its pledge in Berlin, Turkey continues its flagrant violation of the UN arms embargo to Libya and its justification could not rest on a flimsier pretext. It claims to be supporting the internationally recognised GNA whereas the House of Representatives is the only popularly elected governing body and the only body authorised to ratify agreements with foreign powers. But Ankara has an agenda and, in Libya, it is to secure control over Libyan oil behind a GNA facade in order to revive the Turkish economy and to fund the Libyan militias in order to advance Ankara s hegemonic aims abroad. Unlike Turkey, Egypt will not embark on an offensive war that would further aggravate the situation in Libya. This is consistent with its long-held policy of avoiding involvement in similar regional conflicts that have caused the collapse of states and killed and displaced millions. Therefore, Egypt will continue to work with other peace-seeking nations towards the realisation of political solutions. At the same time, it reserves its right to intervene in Libya in the defence of Egypt s national security. Egypt s national security is non-negotiable and Egypt will never compromise it in backroom deals or sacrifice it to material and megalomaniac ambitions, unlike certain other parties.
Since 1984, scientist and physician Anthony Fauci has led America s response to infectious disease, saving countless lives and gaining the world s gratitude as he advised five prior presidents. Now, as America s coronavirus pandemic death toll passes 135,000, a sixth president needs Dr. Fauci and his expertise. Instead, aides to President Donald Trump are trashing Fauci, apparently setting him up for bureaucratic assassination. In another time, press reports on the plot against Fauci would spark incredulity. Who would order officials to talk smack about America s top germ-fighter when we need him most? On this day, as the Washington Post reports that its count of Trump s false and misleading statement passed the 20,000 mark, the logical answer is: The President, of course. As anyone who watched Trump closely understands, he has a habit of attacking those who have tried to serve ethically in tough federal jobs or setting them up to be blamed at an opportune moment. He has done it to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Chief of Staff John Kelly and others. In every case the Trump s goal seems to be to avoid responsibility and explain away a failure. The campaign against Fauci is following the Sessions model. Sessions, you will recall, tried to deal with the investigation of Russia s attack on the 2016 election, which benefited Trump, in a straightforward way by recusing himself from the inquiry. This caused the President to criticize him openly, and repeatedly, until eventually firing him. Like Sessions, Fauci has tried to do his job as a scientist, elevating his discipline above his self-interest. The trouble here is that when science has contradicted the President, Fauci has kept faith with science. Whether it s testing, over-hyped treatments, or the country s response to the pandemic to date, he hasn t been afraid to speak truth to power. Having chosen a life-saving mission over the President s happy talk, Fauci has found himself marginalized. No longer a regular presence when the administration briefs the press, he said he hasn t briefed the president in two months. Last Friday, Trump seemed to signal a campaign to discredit Fauci when he told Fox News talk host Sean Hannity, "Dr. Fauci s a nice man but he s made a lot of mistakes." After Trump s dig, his aides went to the media with a list of statements that the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease had made and later revised. For example, in March, when the US had recorded few cases, Fauci said the virus was "not a major threat" and that "people should not be walking around with masks." The catalogue of "sins" circulated to journalists was offered anonymously, and resembled the kind of opposition research used to frame political attacks (The White House insisted on Monday that it was not trying to discredit Fauci, while Trump stated that the two had a very good relationship). Missing from the whisper campaign is the fact that Fauci s statements were made long before much was known about the virus. He would soon change his position, warning that coronavirus was a major threat to public health and urging Americans to adopt a series of practices, like mask-wearing and social isolation, to slow the spread of the virus. In the meantime, the President who had refused to be seen wearing a mask until recently, spoke of the virus magically disappearing and advocated for unproven treatments and gathered thousands at a campaign rally in defiance of public health advice. Note the difference between Fauci and Trump: One man, a dedicated public servant, offered his best analysis and, when new data emerged, corrected himself without hesitation so that lives might be saved. The other dug in to a don t-worry-about it position and has refused to budge as the passing months have led the US to become the leading global hotspot. Just as the pandemic has revealed Trump s tragic limitations, his abuse of Fauci confirms the President s deep character flaws. Fauci s lifelong devotion to science has been guided by a commitment to facts and a focus on helping others. Trump s lifelong devotion, on the other hand, has been to himself. This has led him to consistently deny facts that conflict with his ends, while he seeks credit for all that is good and blames others for everything that goes wrong. Along the way he keeps a mental scoresheet, noting who places Trump above all else, and who might value, say, human life more. On the day when Trump spoke to Fox News host Sean Hannity about Fauci s "mistakes" the President used his constitutional power to commute the prison sentence of his longtime buddy Roger Stone. Convicted of felonies then committed to protect Trump, Stone s crimes included obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and lying to protect his friend. That Stone was protected by the President while Fauci is being undermined says all you need to know about Trump s priorities, values, and character. PAID CONTENT
A satellite channel conducted a funny, yet bitter experiment. A young man dressed himself up in loose women s clothing and a wig, and then took to Cairo s streets during broad daylight. The camera captured every moment he was verbally and sexually harassed, which did not change even after he covered his hair with a scarf to become a “veiled girl”. Back at the studio, the man shed off his costume and discussed his experiences while in the “body of a woman.” He said: Oh, I had no idea about the suffering women face just walking down the street! As a man, I ve never thought that walking through a street could bring these problems. But once I dressed as a woman, I discovered that even a small walk is a journey of real annoyance. Note, dears, how this young man described “the practical suffering” women recount while commuting from one place to another in a society that does not respect women. But it would be impossible for him to describe the “psychological torment” that only a woman herself could experience. A bitter mixture of feeling insulted, cheap, fearful, humiliated, the desire to slap the harasser and the horror of his reaction, and the fear of complaining to your family or the police. Because the inevitable answers will be: “Ok, stay at home, and never go out again. Didn t we say not to go out?! No more going out. Women have to stay at home. It s your mistake, why did you go out by yourself?! No more outings afterwards unless you have your brother with you.” It is rare for a woman to ever expect words of support from her family such as: “Walk proudly and confidently like a princess, let the dogs bark!” She is condemned by her family and her community, just as she is condemned by those who harassed her and by those so-called religious preachers who fill the minds of young people with cheap crap. This nonsense, like: “the girl provoked my masculinity with her clothes!” Then how do the Niqab-veiled women and children provoke your masculinity, those instincts that can t be restrained except through castration, mental hospitals and jail?! When will you learn to be a “gentleman”, not a “male” so easily provoked?! How can you claim “stewardship” over women, when you can t even restrain yourself?! Football player Amr al-Sulaya, posted a photo of him with his daughter, Laila, three-years-old. Frenzied comments poured over the body of this little girl, still in the early days of her life. Curses and obscenities undermined the honor of the man and the little girl, all because her skinny shoulder was visible from her top! And some comments lusted over her body, not even mature! Her father vowed to legally pursuit these harassers. I do not know how the little girl received that weird scene, and how it will affect her awareness to know what a sick world she lives in after she grows up and looks back at this incident. This dangerous phenomenon in our society is not just caused by the absence of values or a confusion of morality in the minds of those harassers, but we also accuse those “delusional Sheikhs” who lead the youth astray and teach them that the woman “wants to seduce the man”, that she is a “moving seduction center”, and that “the poor man is helpless in front of a woman s playful temptation”?! There are many other harmful things these false Imams teach to young men, with heads empty of any science or religion, causing them to out in public to chase girls and lower their societies. Sexual harassment is an issue of “national security.” The forces of civil society as a whole must join together to confront it decisively. Education, media, cinema, television, the family, the judiciary, the police, and the Egyptian streets, which we dream of returning to its former clean, pleasant, and safe era, must join together to return society as it was before the poison of the Wahhabi invasion, which reduced religion to “women s clothing” and created a hypocritical culture that ignores the “essence” of hygiene, piety, urbanization and the behavioral and verbal politeness all religions encourage. Our book, the Quran tells us: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty,” (Surah An-Nur 30). The Bible affirms that a person s fall begins and ends from his eyes, and not from the others: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” (Matthew 5:29). Virtue is found in “the virtuous”, not in “women s clothing”, and high morals inhabit those who have “morals”, not dependent on what women wear. We should feel shame when remembering our forefathers who knew virtue and respected women, whatever they wore. In that better time, my mother used to go outside with high heels, elegant European clothes and fur around her shoulders, without hungry eyes lusting over her body, without obscene tongues lashing at her with indecent words, without fear of harassment, rape or indecent words. At that time spirits were unsullied, gazes were not disgusting, ears were not repelled with bad words and women did not fear, because society was clean in soul, mind, and body. Religion is for God, and the homeland is for those who respect the nation.
Egypt has always been known for its diverse soft power resources. Throughout history, Egyptian civilization, culture, heritage, values, media and foreign policy have been the most effective resources and tools of Egypt s soft power. Indeed, Egypt has been called “the Hollywood of the Arab World” due to its pioneering role in the field of creating and producing media content. This can also be regarded as the main reason for the prevalence of the Egyptian dialect across the Arab World. In fact, no one can deny the historical role played by Egyptian radio, specifically the Voice of the Arabs radio station, in promoting the concepts of “Arab Nationalism” and “Arab Unity,” and in supporting other Arab countries in their bids for independence from various occupying powers. In Africa, the Egyptian Directed Transnational Radio Network played a significant role in supporting African nations struggles against colonialism, which resulted in Egypt being portrayed as an African effective leader. Over the past few years, Egypt, under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has courageously confronted terrorism, made considerable economic reforms, improved its educational and health care systems, and developed its infrastructure by implementing a tremendous number of mega-projects. However, the country is still facing internal and external challenges, such as the continued fight to eliminate terrorism at its roots, working to achieve sustainable development goals based on its Egypt Vision 2030 program, enhancing its leading role regionally, continentally and globally, preserving its historical rights over the waters of the Nile, and protecting its national security from all threats coming from its western borders. In fact, Egypt s story, with all its achievements and challenges, should be told to the whole world. It is Egypt s right to show the world how great the Egyptian nation is, how firm Egyptian leadership is when defending national interests, and how honorable the Egyptian state is, even when dealing with its enemies. Egypt s voice will not be well-heard, however, except through its own international broadcasting system. It will not make an impact when broadcasted by any other regional platforms. At the moment, Egypt s international broadcasting system comprises the Directed Transnational Radio Network and Nile TV International channel. While the Directed Transnational Radio Network contains 35 radio stations providing their services in 23 languages to different parts of the world, Nile TV only offers its services in English & French, to foreigners living inside and outside Egypt. Egypt s international broadcasting system is currently suffering from many financial and technical problems, which have negatively affected its performance and thus, its impact. The two services, however, need to be seen by the Egyptian government as one of the most effective tools of Egypt s soft power, tools that can make Egypt more visible and powerful by carrying its messages to the whole world. The world s superpowers pay special attention to their soft power capabilities, as well as their hard power ones, and seek to combine both hard and soft power resources into effective strategies to finally become smart powers. Egypt should therefore remain as smart as it always has been and invest in these capabilities now and for the future.
The murder of George Floyd, an African American, has polarised the upcoming US presidential elections. It appears that Democrats and Republicans are going to battle over the past, rather than the present and future. On Independence Day, presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden said: “We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.” Biden did not overtly declare support for the protests that have destroyed confederate statues and monuments, which demonstrators view as shameful and must be torn down. By not condemning these acts, however, Biden is implicitly endorsing them in the hope that black voters will choose him in the race to the White House. US President Donald Trump responded to Biden by pandering to white Americans who are indirectly targeted by Trump’s opponents. These white citizens differentiate between their pride in their heritage and country, and their position on the issue of racism today. They believe the current anti-racism campaign by Democrats intrinsically includes indirect incitement against them, to shame them of their race and not just the history of their ancestors. Trump tweeted about his decision to protect all statues and monuments on 26 June: “I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials and Statues — and combating recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!” In his 4 July address, Trump said some on the political left hope to “defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children”, adding that Americans should speak proudly of their heritage and shouldn’t have to apologise for America’s history. The ongoing battle over history and the past will serve neither Trump nor Biden. The US public need a president who can solve the dire economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump is counting on the economy recovering, especially since last month’s employment figures show a noticeable increase in jobs. Also, concerns that the pandemic will continue until autumn give credence to Trump’s logic of opening up the country while taking personal safety measures. Scientific and medical institutions in the US admit they are unable to conclude with any certainty that shutting down the economy had any tangible impact on curbing the pandemic. Meaning that social distancing in public may have lessened the spread of infection, but these measures do not necessarily require people not to go to work or entertainment venues as long as they take safety measures. While Trump is generating ideas to relieve the economic crisis, his rival Biden is avoiding any open confrontation with Trump on the issue. Democrats do not have a viable plan to address economic conditions if Biden wins, especially if the pandemic continues at its current rate. A return to welfare state policies, which Democrats revere, is impossible due to the economic crisis and the strain it puts on the budget, federal debt and possible inflation (the nemesis of a robust economy). The Democrats slogan,“People’s lives are more important than the health of the economy” is absurd, since those who lose their jobs due to the economic shutdown will suffer psychologically, socially and economically. Those who buy into the Democrats’ slogans will end up like the man who in 2011 heckled an economist who bragged that the US economy is doing well judging by the sale of iPads. “I can’t eat an iPad!” the man shouted. Put otherwise, the slogan of Democrats may be very humane, but in the future the public might retort, “we stayed alive but we are dying of hunger and depression due to your ideas and slogans.” At the same time, Democrats are not even remotely considering the possibility that scientists will find a vaccine before autumn, which would boost Trump’s chances at the polls even if only a few weeks before the elections, since it would mean steady improvement in the economy. By then, Democrats’ focus on anti-racism will not have the same impact as it does today, so soon after Floyd’s murder, since voters are likely to focus on recovering their losses during the pandemic and not waste their energy on anti-racist protests, which Democrats and their radical left and anarchist allies would like. Democrats are mistaken to make promises via Biden that they will uproot racism in the US if they win the elections. Racism will not be eradicated by issuing laws and purging US heritage. Racism has a long history and different manifestations in different eras; it is part of human culture and society that could be regulated or mitigated by issuing laws and legislation but impossible to uproot completely from any society no matter how it progresses. Democrats should remember what Robert Bork wrote in his 2003 book Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, warning about the end of American liberalism because it is moving towards radical left ideology which will try to destroy American values under false humanitarian and ethical pretexts. And in the end, they will certainly become a threat to the very existence of the American nation. By adopting an anarchist agenda today that promotes the removal of historic American symbols, Democrats are implementing what Bork warned against 14 years ago. But there is hope, as Bork mentioned, that the transformation of liberalism into anarchism, which is already an integral part of its nature, can be slowed due to current events amid Covid-19. Catastrophic events in the West, including two world wars and the Great Depression in the late 1920s, slowed down the transformation of liberalism into anarchism at the time. Today’s calamity could revive conservative ideology among the public around the world, and in the US especially. The power of these ideas could halt the deterioration of American liberalism and force Democrats to move away from an alliance with those calling for anarchy, as we see today, especially if they lose the race to the White House.
After nine years of Ethiopian intransigence and evasiveness Egypt was forced to turn to the UN Security Council (UNSC) in an attempt to check Addis Ababa’s bid to begin filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir unilaterally, without a prior agreement with Sudan and Egypt. Ethiopia, which recently thumbed its nose at a US-World Bank brokered draft agreement based on the input of the three principles, rushed to the arms of Pretoria, in its capacity as chair of the African Union, crying that African problems require African solutions. Evidently, Africa was born yesterday: clearly Ethiopia did not think it existed last year when Egypt chaired the AU, or during the eight years of negotiations before that. Ethiopia believes that by confining the management of this dispute to AU headquarters in Addis Ababa it can keep its behaviour hidden from the world as it continues to procrastinate and evade accountability. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that Ethiopia, which now touts its African affiliation and wants to keep the negotiations African, is the same Ethiopia that contracted an Italian firm to build the dam, a Chinese firm to build its electricity grid and zero African firms for any construction or engineering works related to the dam. To Ethiopia, Africa is only good as a negotiating shield, which is why Egypt was right to give the AU talks two weeks and to ensure that the UNSC was abreast of this process, especially since it is still the UNSC’s role to resolve disputes that threaten international peace and security. While the Egyptian president’s statements following the meeting of the AU Bureau attended by the heads of state of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were balanced and consistent with Egypt’s diplomatic heritage, those of the Ethiopian prime minister were tendentious and intransigent. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed clung tenaciously to his African solutions only routine, despite how dependant his country is on the World Food Programme, World Bank assistance and loans, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation’s food security and irrigation development programme, and other UN organisations. As for the Ethiopian water resources minister, his tack was to unleash a vicious attack on Egypt based entirely on falsehoods and misinformation. Describing the 1959 Nile Waters agreement as a “colonialist” document despite the fact that both Egypt and Sudan were fully independent sovereign states at the time, the minister claimed that Egypt obtained 87 per cent of Nile water, Sudan only 13 per cent and Ethiopia, the source of 85 per cent of Nile water, “zero per cent”. If he is going to try to drive a wedge between Sudan and Egypt, which appears to be one aim here, he should be less fanciful with the facts. The truth is that Ethiopia obtains the largest share of Nile water, mostly from Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. The 55 billion m3 of water from this it uses to generate electricity at the Chara Dam. Around the lake it has constructed numerous freshwater stations, factories and farms, including fish farms which yield more than 100,000 tons of fish a year. In addition, Ethiopia has nine billion m3 from the Takezi Reservoir which it uses to generate electricity and produce drinking water. Ethiopia thus has 64 billion m3 from Lake Tana and the Takezi Reservoir, while Egypt and Sudan obtain 60 billion m3 from the Blue Nile and Atbara. This, alone, betrays the fiction being marketed by the Water Tower of Africa, as Ethiopia has been dubbed. It claims that it does not get a drop of water from the Nile whereas, in fact, it gets the lion’s share. By contrast, the countries at the headwaters of the White Nile — the other tributary to the River Nile — have no problem with acknowledging that they receive most of the waters of this branch of the Nile, whether from Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, or Lakes Kayoga, George, Edward and Albert, through which the Nile proceeds to South Sudan. Similarly, South Sudan acknowledges that it sits atop some 40 billion m3 of water in the Sudd, the largest freshwater marsh in the world. Ethiopia wants to throw dust in everyone’s eyes with its fiction about the Blue Nile and by ignoring the nine other river basins it possesses. Ethiopia has 10 river systems, complete with lakes and tributaries, all fed by abundant rainfall. Egypt has only a single river, the Nile, that cleaves its way through the desert which covers 93 per cent of the country. Ethiopia receives 937 billion m3 of rainfall. Egypt receives about 18 billion m3. Compared to Ethiopia’s 1650 m3 of water per capita, Egyptians obtain only 500 m3 of water per person per year, which is below international water scarcity levels. The Ethiopian minister deliberately overlooks such facts and continues to weave his fictions. He claims that GERD will help Sudan access more than seven billion m3 of the Blue Nile which goes to Egypt but is actually a part of Sudan’s quota. He does not bother to explain how this will work. He also overlooked the fact that the Roseires, Sennar and Khashm Al-Girba dams ensure that Sudan does receive its full quota of Blue Nile waters. In fact, the latter dam was constructed after the 1959 Nile Water agreement precisely for this purpose. Sudan also has the Jebal Aulia dam on the White Nile and the Merowe Dam north of the confluence of the White and Blue Nile. Nor does the Ethiopian minister mention the fact his government will deduct 15 billion m3 from Sudan and Egypt’s quotas during the seven years it will take for the first filling of the GERD reservoir or that it intends to deduct 17 billion m3 more on a permanent basis. If GERD is supposed to be for electricity production, as Ethiopia claims, why does it need to retain such a large amount of water. And by what mathematic feat will Sudan’s quota increase? The Ethiopian water minister is unconcerned by such inconsistencies as he proceeds to toss in red herrings. Ethiopia does not recognise Egypt’s “historic rights” to the Nile. If anything, we should be talking about “accepted rights”, a principle recognised under international law and that refers to the amount of water that Egypt received from the Nile as the result of its natural flow for thousands of years. But even this is beside the point, because Egypt did not bring up the 1959 Nile Water agreement in the negotiations. That agreement grants Egypt a quota of 55.5 billion m3 of the waters of the entire Nile system to which the Blue Nile contributes only 49 billion. There is no connection between Egypt’s quota and negotiations over the dam. The Ethiopian minister has indulged in familiar appeals to pity. The majority of Ethiopians have to carry wood on their backs for fuel and lighting because they have no electricity, whereas all Egyptians have electricity, he said. What about the Sudanese? Moreover, what about the Nile River Basin Initiative (NRBI) report last year that found that 100 per cent of Ethiopia’s urban inhabitants and 60 per cent of rural inhabitants have electricity. Apart from this, is it fair to equate the right to electricity with the right to life, which is at stake for the Egyptian people. It is hard to make up for lost lives, whereas electricity can be produced from a number of alternative sources which Ethiopia also possesses in abundance: wind on the Ethiopian plateau and sunshine. Meanwhile, while millions of Ethiopians are carrying wood on their backs, according to their minister’s narrative, their government is selling the power generated from the three dams on the Omo River to Kenya and Djibouti. They will probably have to go on carrying wood on their backs in order to sustain their ministers’ ad misericordiam appeals for future dams. Turning back to Egypt, the minister argues that Egypt loses 10 billion m3 of water due to evaporation from Lake Nasser. Before the High Dam, Egypt lost 22 billion m3 of water to the Mediterranean which means that dam has made at least 12 billion m3 available to the people if we factor in that 10 billion m3 ostensibly lost through evaporation. Evidently, he would rather Egyptians not have that extra water at all, because he makes no mention of the 45 billion m3 lost through evaporation and transpiration in the Sudanese marshlands in the Sudd and Sobat. He also overlooks the approximately five billion m3 that will be lost to evaporation from the GERD reservoir, not to mention the equal quantity of water lost due seepage. On its official webpage, Addis Ababa claims that Egypt exports water in the form of $5 billion worth of agricultural products, yet claims water poverty. Ethiopia exports five times that amount, but it felt no need to add this on its website, or the fact that Egypt imports 65 per cent of its basic foodstuffs at a cost of $15 billion a year, precisely because of its water scarcity. Instead, the Ethiopian misinformation campaign bills GERD as a “Sudanese dam” because it will enable Sudan to cultivate the area around Roseires and other areas three times a year instead of twice. It does not mention that GERD will withhold the fertile silt from the water that reaches the Roseires and Sannar dams, which may never refill after Ethiopia completes its dam from which Addis Ababa will dispense judicious amounts like a parent giving his children a daily allowance for a school lunch. If, indeed, Sudan plans to keep that land under cultivation after Ethiopia closes the taps to a trickle it will have to construct an enormous irrigation network to the tune of billions of dollars. It will also have to use tons of chemical fertilisers to compensate for the loss of Nile silt, and incalculable quantities of insecticides and other products to fight the insects and diseases that will infest Sudanese soil as it succumbs to salinisation due to the lack of annual replenishment from Nile floods. Is Ethiopia going to fork out some money to help the Sudanese make the necessary readjustments to their agricultural economy? Not very likely. More in keeping with the current Ethiopian government’s thinking is the conclusion, drawn by the German Strategic Studies Institute, that Addis Ababa plans to aggravate Egypt’s water poverty in order to force Egypt to purchase water from Ethiopia. Such realities should help the international community to appreciate the true nature of Ethiopia’s intentions.
On May 25, a video went viral of a White woman calling the police on a Black man in Central Park after he asked her to follow the rules and leash her dog. On her call to 911, she allegedly lied, claiming he was threatening her, and specifically emphasized his race as part of her report. In the days and weeks that followed, the name Amy Cooper became synonymous with the kind of racist, false 911 call often made by White women that can have catastrophic consequences for the Black person on the other end. Within 24 hours, Cooper faced swift retribution online and lost her job. (Amy Cooper later apologized for her action and the birder, Christian Cooper, told CNN "if it s genuine and if she plans on keeping her dog on a leash in the Ramble going forward, then we have no issues with each other.") But until Monday, when Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that Amy Cooper was being charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, the one repercussion she avoided was criminal prosecution. It s been more than six weeks since Amy Cooper cried wolf. Why is she only now being charged for what appeared to be a very public crime? Making a false report to 911 is a crime in New York and most states. It s also against New York s civil rights law and comes with penalties. Over the past few years, we have become increasingly familiar with this specific kind of false reporting. Whether it s a Black person birding in Central Park, enjoying a barbecue, getting coffee at a Starbucks, working as a home inspector, shopping at Nordstrom Rack, or sleeping in the common room of their own dorm. The list is endless. What we see is a disturbing trend, and not one that typically ends with the caller facing criminal prosecution for putting a Black person in harm s way. Writing as a Black man, it is obvious that these calls are racially motivated. And writing as a White woman, it must be said that it is our responsibility to stop using the state as our personal security force. But where is the incentive for that when there s seldom any consequence? The White woman who accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of whistling at her in 1955 -- resulting in a famously brutal lynching -- recanted her testimony two years ago and no one was ever brought to justice. It s not just White women, though. In Georgia, two White men (who happened to be connected with law enforcement) called 911 and then hunted down Ahmaud Arbery. Authorities say they shot and killed a man in broad daylight for essentially jogging while Black, yet it took prosecutors 74 days and immense public pressure to finally charge them. If we truly want to stop White people from calling the police on Black people for just going about their lives, district attorneys need to start by actually prosecuting this kind of crime when it occurs, not six weeks later. The existing penal code is already clear, but New York and California lawmakers have also introduced legislation that would allow prosecutors to classify race-based, false reporting calls as a hate crime. As a former prosecutor and a practicing defense attorney, we both understand the likely reality of justice delayed in Amy Cooper s case. Our justice system has a long history of ignoring or downplaying the crimes of White people, from bailing out the heads of the financial industry who brought about the 2008 housing crash to the so-called "Karens" who police public space. At the same time, as we have both seen firsthand, our system often aggressively punishes and trumps up charges against Black and brown people. While we need sweeping changes to address these inequalities, district attorneys -- because of their power and prosecutorial discretion -- have the power, right now, to start leveling the scales. At its core, the job of district attorneys is to prosecute cases on behalf of their county. They decide which charges to bring and what evidence to provide in those cases. This means the DAs have incredible power to shape what reform looks like. We need progressive district attorneys across the country who are willing to institute policies to protect Black and brown people from mass incarceration. District attorneys who will decline to prosecute low-level offenses against people of color and end cash bail that poorer people cannot pay; who will replace laws and practices rooted in racism with effective reforms that can reverse some of the most damaging effects of the past few decades of tough-on-crime policies. But at the same time, it is the job of those same district attorneys to take seriously the crimes that stem directly from the racism in our system. Crimes that may seem minor, like calling the police on a man in the park, can have disastrous consequences. As we well know, calling 911 can result in the loss of innocent Black lives like Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and could have ended Central Park birder Christian Cooper s, too. It s time to stop giving the Karens of the world a pass.
Breathe easy, America. President Donald Trump s got this. A deadly pandemic is tearing through the country, but the statues are going to be all right. Trump swooped into the heartland on Friday and delivered this news, along with a message of rage at the foot of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Ignoring the fact that nearly 130,000 Americans have already died from Covid-19, with new cases topping 50,000 a day, he stoked fears of an "angry mob" engaged in "a merciless campaign to wipe out our history." In an address that could be called "American Carnage II" for following the emotional blueprint he laid out in his inaugural address, Trump declared that federal officers would be dispatched to protect monuments and statues wherever they were threatened. Yes. You read that correctly. The President is moving quickly and decisively "to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters, and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law." As a matter of fact, he said with pride, "yesterday federal agents arrested the suspected ringleader of the attack on the statue of the great Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C." Last week, protesters tried in vain to topple the bronze statue of Jackson in Lafayette Park, which faces the White House. (Four men were charged with destruction of federal property. Only one of the four has been apprehended so far, according to the Justice Department, and it s unclear whether he led the effort to topple the statue). The statue was just one of many that have been targeted in recent weeks as the country reconsiders the value in memorializing important historical figures who supported slavery or white supremacy. The renewed fervor around this debate is part of a nationwide reckoning with racism after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks sparked mass protests calling for reform under the slogan "Black Lives Matter." While substantial change in the justice system will take time, the removal of monuments honoring Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and others who are readily identified with racism provides the country with a sense of symbolic progress. In South Dakota, Trump tried to cast the anti-racist protest movement as a terrifying enemy. "Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children," he said. "They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive, but no, the American people are strong and proud and they will not allow our country and all of its values, history and culture to be taken from them." Trump s 40-minute speech was a master class in rhetorical deception. He lumped together the racists of the Confederacy with the figures on Mt. Rushmore, insisting they are all being reconsidered in the same way. Several elected officials have ordered the removal of Confederate monuments in an effort to recognize the painful legacy of slavery, while the debate over monuments of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt is more nuanced, given their positive contributions to the nation. No sweeping effort is being made to remove all of these monuments and to suggest one exists amounts to sounding a false alarm. In his speech, Trump appeared to want to associate himself with the more admired figures of the past; as he spoke of Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and others, Trump sounded like a fifth-grader reading random pages of a history book. There was Washington crossing the Delaware, Jefferson dispatching Lewis and Clark and Roosevelt overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal. In the simpleton s view of history offered by Trump, there is no room for the slaves owned by Washington and Jefferson or for Roosevelt s white supremacy. According to this perspective, sins and flaws must be denied; otherwise the greats of history cannot be honored. This is, of course, what a child might think upon learning that his or her parents are not quite perfect. But with maturity, children, like citizens, can both revere their heroes for their strengths and criticize them for their failings -- and judge who, in the end, deserves to be on a pedestal. While Native Americans have long sought the removal of Mt. Rushmore, arguing that it is carved on sacred land, this is an old conflict unlikely to be resolved. By suggesting there s a new national drive to destroy this well-known monument, and that some inflated enemy threatens all that is holy, Trump was playing a political cartoonist on Friday, exaggerating grotesquely for effect in an attempt to energize his reelection campaign. He summoned his followers to fight yet another culture war by dividing the nation he supposedly leads into patriots and traitors. "Here tonight," he said, "before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did 244 years ago, that we will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen." This declaration, like so many of the disjointed passages in Trump s speech, would make a perfect soundbite for a campaign ad. Always eager to be seen as a fighter and a champion, Trump left out the real battle he is losing -- to the coronavirus-- and invented another so that he could pose as a valiant defender of this country. To satisfy Trump s selfish vanity, he had brought together more than 7,000 people, packed in tight to hear the speech. The gathering flouted the federal government s public health guidance on social distancing and very few in attendance wore the face masks recommended to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. As the band played at Mt. Rushmore, news broke that Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump campaign official and Donald Trump Jr. s girlfriend, tested positive for the virus. The absurdity of Donald Trump s night in South Dakota might be merely laughable if the country weren t staring in the face of death and suffering. In days, or perhaps weeks, we ll likely learn whether the gathering facilitated the spread of the coronavirus. By then, pollsters may also be able to tell us whether Trump s political pathogens -- anger, distortion, misinformation -- are spreading as widely or rapidly.
The Copts were very happy upon receiving news that the Holy Virgin had appeared in luminous form above the spire of her church in the Minya town of Deir Mawas located 320 km south of Cairo. Hundreds of people headed to the location to witness and be blessed by the exceptional event. Media reported the event and Bishop Aghabious of Dir Mawas appeared on television to explain the news.. Egypt has a long history with