Filipino President Meets Trump for the First Time

Image: Newsweek

On June 30, 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was inaugurated as the Philippines 16th President. His campaign was one that had promised to end corruption, drug abuse, and deterioration of law and order. The following day, not too long after his inauguration, four people were shot dead for being suspected drug dealers. This was when Duterte’s mass-slaughtering of suspected drug dealers and users began, and when his popularity began to rise.

Rodrigo Duterte was born on March 28, 1945, in Maasin, Southern Leyte, Philippines. His father was a local mayor and governor, and his mother was a teacher and activist. As a child, Duterte misbehaved and was expelled twice. After learning to control his behavior he attended Lyceum of the Philippines University. It was at the Philippines University that he became influenced by Communist Party of the Philippines founder José María Sison. He studied law at San Beda College where it was reported that he shot a classmate of his. In 1988, he was elected mayor of Davao City where he used a vigilante group known as the “Davao Death Squad” to crack down on crime and drug abuse. It was estimated that his team killed more than 1,000 suspected drug dealers during a 20-year span. In 2015, Duterte announced that we would be running for President of the Philippines.

Duterte was an unlikely candidate for President, he was a seven-term mayor who was tough on crime and ran a weekly television show. During his presidential campaign, he had often promised to massacre criminals and even joked about raping an Australian missionary. Because of his unpredictability, thousands of Filipino’s showed support for his campaign and embraced the change he offered.  After a year in office, it was reported that 80 percent of Filipinos have “much trust” in their President despite numerous reports of human rights abuse. His unfiltered speeches often drew comparisons to United States President Donald Trump, who didn’t seem to be bothered by the comparison. In fact, President Trump offered an open invitation to Duterte to visit the White House back in April of 2017. This surprised many voters and drew outrage from human rights groups. Duterte, however, turned down the invitation, but the two had a chance to meet at the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Summit.While in the Philippines for the ASEAN Summit President Trump had a chance to meet Duterte for the first time. While there was very little detail on the meeting, the topic of human rights was expected to be brought up. It’s still unclear if it ever was discussed. Before the meeting between the two Presidents, there was an open session for reporters. One conversation between the two leaders stood out the most to reporters. Duterte said:

We will be discussing matters that are of interest to both the Philippines and … with you around, guys, you are the spies.

To that, Trump laughed, and Duterte responded with “You are.” It’s unclear if Trump was trying to be respectful to his host who has a long history of hatred towards journalists. In 2016 after the deaths of two Filipino journalists Duterte stated:
“Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong.”
This wasn’t the end of Trumps odd night with Duterte, later that night while attending a dinner Duterte performed a famous Filipino love song “on the orders of Donald Trump”. So far no statement has been released on whether or not Trump had actually requested the song. What we do know is that it was unorthodox, strange, weird, unheard-of, and just absurd.

Suspected Military Coup in Zimbabwe

Image: Toronto Star

On Wednesday, soldiers in Zimbabwe took over the headquarters of ZBC, the nations state-run broadcaster. They then blocked access to government officers. As of today, there is no statement acknowledging it as a “coup” and the military insists that President Robert Mugabe is safe with his family. The first sign of a takeover was a fleet of tanks proceeding towards the nation’s capital, a video was posted on Twitter of the procession.

It appears that the commander Constantine Chiwenga has called for an end of the 93 year-old president’s, Robert Mugabe’s, reign of the nation.

As of today, new information has been released that President Mugabe and his wife are under house arrest but insist that they are safe. Several sources believe that the President’s latest move to fire Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had large support to take over for the ailing Mugabe, was what provoked the suspected coup.

More info will be posted as it comes in.

Have Your Dentures Been Missing for the Last Week? Did You Vote in Portland, Maine? We May Have Found Your Teeth.

Image: Fixodent

First reported seven days ago by the Portland Press Herald, a local paper, and eventually reported 4,000 miles and an ocean away in Malta, if you haven’t heard about your own teeth by now, all of us here at WTP Magazine are sure hoping this works.

So you didn’t realize by breakfast time that you can’t chew? It’s fine. We all skip breakfast some days. We just want to make sure you get your dentures back safe and sound.

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Image: Portland Press Herald

The teeth were found by an election clerk at Merill Auditorium. They have been placed in a plastic bag and can be found at the City Clerk’s office in City Hall.

Reportedly, somebody had called the City Clerk’s office yesterday concerning the dentures, but the City Clerk, Katherine Jones, told The Rachel Maddow Show:

[T]he questions he asked did not match the dentures we have.

This statement obviously prompts one interesting question in particular: Did more than one person remove and misplace their dentures while voting in the same place in Portland, Maine?

We don’t know.

What we do know is that if you happen to have misplaced your teeth at Merill Auditorium while voting, then you should call the City Clerk’s office at (207) 874-8610 or (207) 874-8300.

If calling is somewhat of a problem because—well—you don’t have any teeth, emailing is also an option. You can email the City Clerk at klj@portlandmaine.com.

Whether it was something that was just so jaw-dropping on the ballot or whether the decision was just so hard that you had to pull out your teeth to think clearly, we sure hope that you find your teeth just fine.

Riding the Blue Wave: The Big Win for Democrats in the 2017 Election

Image: Ap News

Democrats all over America, on both local and state level, have a reason to celebrate for the first time since the 2016 General Election. This is because Democrats won gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as countless victories on the local level. While many Republicans are downplaying the Democrats win as “Blue winning Blue,” party leaders such as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says that he can “smell a wave coming.” That wave, of course, is referring to the 2018 Midterm Election where Democrats are projected to flip both the House and Senate. As the chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez said about the election:

We’re taking our country back from Donald Trump one election at a time. This is not just one night. It is a trend.

This recent off-year election was expected to set the tone for the midterms in 2018, and this clearly sent a message to Republicans.

Ralph Northam, the Obama-backed, Democrat in the race to be Virginia’s next governor, beat the Republican, Ed Gillespie, who was backed by President Trump. This sent a shock to many Republicans who expected to win the swing state—the only southern state Trump didn’t take in 2016. Later, Trump tweeted, “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for.” Although Gillespie used many of Trump’s campaign policies and sent out a robo-call recorded by the President, he had refused to make any public appearances with him. It seemed like Gillespie was trying to distance himself from Trump, but his efforts came to no avail; a recent poll by The Washington Post showed that about 30% of Northam supporters voted for Northam to send a message against Trump. This win wasn’t the only big win for Democrats that evening; they picked up many local offices and elected several historic candidates.

https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/928074747316928513?lang=en

In New Jersey, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Phil Murphy (D-NJ), beat Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R-NJ), this election and has successfully ended the “Chris Christie Era” and took out another trump backed candidate. Virginia elected one of the nation’s first openly transgender State Representatives Danica Roem who ousted the ultra-conservative incumbent, Del. Robert G. Marshall. Another historic victory took place in Erie, Pennsylvania where the citizens elected Tyler Titus to serve on the Erie School Board, making him Pennsylvania’s first ever openly transgender candidate to be elected to office. Democrats also picked up multiple seats in the Virginia House of Delegates and won many local elections. While there are many reasons for Democrats to celebrate, they must not lose sight of the big picture.

The Democrats won many unexpected elections in states all over America, however some races couldn’t have been closer. In Erie, Pennsylvania, the race for County Executive was decided by approximately .3% with incumbent Kathy Dahlkemper at 50.15% of the vote and Republican challenger Art Oligeri at 49.64% of the vote. This difference shows that although the Democrats won they weren’t able to sit in comfort and won’t be able to until margins like this don’t exist.

The Democrats’ big win garnered some great publicity for the party and showed the Republicans that the Democrats are healing and ready to win, however, they shouldn’t stop working hard or take this for granted. With many close results in blue territories, Democrats need to revisit their strategy and focus more on grassroots campaigning. If all goes well, a much bigger “Blue Wave” could flood the midterms with a sea of blue and might just flip both the House and Senate.

 

Terror in Barcelona

Image: Gone Fishing

Fifteen people have been killed in a terror attack on Las Ramblas avenue in Barcelona on the 17th of August. Over 80 others were injured. An attacker drove a large white van down Las Ramblas Avenue, a pedestrian street packed with tourists and Barcelonians, plowing through crowds of people, killing and injuring many while causing mass chaos and a mini stampede. The attack happened before 5 pm Central European Time (11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time), and the Police acted quickly, evacuating the area and closing nearby Metro and train stations while getting aid to the victims.

The attackers reportedly had fled on foot. Four men were arrested for their alleged involvement in the attack. Also, police found another van they believe was going to be used as a getaway vehicle and found Moroccan passports. Driss Oukabir, one of the arrested suspects, claims his documents were stolen to rent the vans. Adding to the confusion, a hostage situation was reported by the media, but it is unclear whether it actually happened. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but this does not mean that the attackers have any direct ties with ISIS. Furthermore, an explosion the day before that killed one person and injured 6 has been linked to the attack. Our hearts are with Barcelona, the victims of this callous and unwarranted attack, and the law enforcement and medical staff dealing with its fallout.

Many politicians and famous people tweeted their support. President Macron of France, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and many other world leaders also issued statements or tweets expressing their solidarity with Barcelona, including our own President, Trump. Trump originally told Barcelona to “be tough & strong, we love you” in a kind, heartfelt tweet of solidarity, but then proceeded to tweet a bizarre statement mentioning a claim he made on the campaign trail about an American General in the Philippines during the early 1900’s dipping bullets in Pig’s blood before shooting 49 captured terrorists and sending the 50th back to report what had happened. Trump said it stopped terrorism for 35 years in his tweet. First of all, this piece of made up “history” has been debunked, and second of all, let me recount a bit of history to explain how truly atrocious and dehumanizing this urban legend is. When America invaded the Philippines, there were protests against it in America with supporters saying the invasion was cruel and unfair and supporters saying that we had to bring order and civilization to a “barbaric race,” in the words of a United States Senator at the time. The Muslims we were fighting against were the native Filipinos who were trying to protect their country. We were the terrorists. We put people into “reconcentration camps” and killed somewhere between 200,000 and a million civilians in a war that only killed 16000 Filipino soldiers. It is possible Trump’s story is true, except we weren’t killing terrorists, we were committing an atrocity against a country and race based on racist stereotypes. The answer to Islamic extremism is not to make the West seem barbaric or aggressive towards Islamism or people in general. Trump has been inadvertently helping ISIS recruit with his aggression and insulting speeches towards all Islam (and humanity) instead of violent Islam, even having been featured in ISIS recruitment video.

Refocusing on the attack, this is the ninth vehicle attack in Europe. Seven previous vehicle attacks were committed by ISIS affiliated attackers and one was committed by an extremist who drove into a group of people outside of mosque saying “I want to kill all Muslims.” There was also a vehicle attack on the home front in Charlottesville just this Saturday. White Supremacists had gathered for a rally protesting the taking down of a Robert E. Lee statue, their chants and messages couldn’t possibly be misconstrued as not hateful, with chants like “Jews will not replace us” as they held Hitler signs. Counter-protesters formed a line in front of them, refusing to let them pass. The protesters violently charged through them, and the two groups broke out into fighting. Luckily, police were there to disperse the two groups. While the governor of Charlottesville called it a state of emergency. Nobody had yet gotten killed or seriously injured and both groups were leaving. Then, a white nationalist drove a car into a group of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring nineteen. When the attack happened, the groups of protesters and counter-protesters had already split up, there was no violence or skirmishes going on between those groups at the time of the attack. In a statement after the attacks, our President refused to condemn the White Supremacists, even when asked direct questions about his view of them, instead, he blamed violence on “many sides.” Two days later, Trump claimed that he didn’t support the KKK or White Supremacist groups in a scripted speach, however, on Tuesday, he had undone the comments that he had made on Monday by going as far as defending the white supremacists. By any account, his statement of condemnation came too late and was too ambiguous. White Supremacists took his failure to condemn them as support, and it seemed a lot like support to everyone else as well.

As a nation, and as a world we are left with these facts; vehicles are easy to get and large groups of innocent people are easy to find. Having one group of crazy extremists inspired by ISIS to attack people was scary enough, but now because of the amount of xenophobia, fear and hate that has been caused by ISIS and how our countries have handled ISIS, anti-Muslim extremists and white supremacists are also attacking innocent people in their twisted war on people who are different.

There is no sign this is going to get any better. The leader of the KKK said of the attack in Charlottesville “we’re going to see more stuff like this happening at white-nationalist events.” He could absolutely be right. As more terrorist attacks happen, charged by different groups all of whom are growing and possibly becoming more violent, we need a leader who’s going to condemn all people who kill innocent civilians or attempt to whether they are White Supremacists, Muslim extremists or anti-Muslim extremists, without insulting any groups who did not kill innocent civilians. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has demonstrated how he is completely incapable of confronting many of his base supporters.

Illegal Immigration- 11.1 Million Lives in Limbo

Image: The New Yorker

There were 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the United States in 2014 according to the Pew Research Center. They made up 3.5% of the U.S. population and one-fourth of the US immigrant population. Since 2009, the population of undocumented immigrants has stabilized, meaning that the percentage of the US population that are undocumented immigrants has stayed the same (or very close to it). Therefore, the most important question in immigration policy today is what should the United States do with the undocumented immigrants already here.

Undocumented immigrants are problematic for various reasons. They often have to commit crimes like using a counterfeit driver’s license because they have no social security number. They also haven’t gone through the screenings that legal immigrants in our country have. Another problem is that employers could potentially take advantage of their vulnerability—they may be put in unsafe conditions and paid less than minimum wage, but they can’t report their employer to the authorities because they risk deportation. This is obviously a problem for the immigrants, but it also means documented immigrants and American citizens can’t compete for these jobs. Undocumented immigrants live in fear they will be deported which means they are less likely to work with the police and other authorities.

There are two solutions to this issue: deport all of these undocumented immigrants or give them a path to citizenship. Recently, the Trump administration has endorsed the idea of mass deportation. Marielena Hincapie, an immigration advocate, told NPR:

In my many years of practicing immigration law, I have not seen a mass deportation blueprint like this one. Trump is saying that everyone is now a priority. He is governing by fear, not by what’s best for the American people or for aspiring Americans.

As she points out, Trump’s new plan targets basically all undocumented immigrants, not just criminals. He has already looked at adding 15,000 officers to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) and blocking federal funding from sanctuary cities.

Sixty percent of undocumented immigrants have been in the US for more than ten years, which gives reason to assume that they have become integrated into their community. In fact, one-third of illegal immigrants over age 15 live with a child who is a US citizen. CNN reported the story of Garcia de Rayos, an illegal immigrant with two American children, who was deported February 8, 2017. Her deportation sparked protests as her children spoke against it. She was checking in with ICE when she got deported. A few years before, she had been caught using a fake Social Security number and lost her case. Since she was not a priority to be deported, instead of deporting her, ICE just did check-ins. She went to seven meetings with ICE and followed all the instructions they gave her. There did not seem to be any reason to deport her but, as the lawyer of another woman in the same situation stated, “When you have a blanket deportation policy you don’t need to have specific reasons, you just say no.” Garcia De Rayos’s situation is a common one, and now that Trump is in charge, all of these people who weren’t in danger of being deported because they were not a priority are now in danger of being deported. Critics say this policy does more to rip families apart than to keep America safe. The government is supposed to work to make American’s lives better, but deporting parents of US citizens is working against that goal. These children, who are US citizens, may be put in the care of an older sibling, sent to an unsafe or impoverished country, or landed in foster care.

Some children were not born in the United States, but were brought here at a young age as undocumented immigrants by their parents. Obviously, they had not been the ones to decide that their family would move to the US, but they have grown up knowing the United States as their only home. DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is an executive order signed by President Obama to grant undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children (dubbed “dreamers”) amnesty and work permits. Roughly 750,000 undocumented immigrants are protected under the program. These are people who were taken to the US before they turned 16. Some don’t even remember their native country. Even Trump has sympathy for their case; he has promised to keep DACA in place and says “it’s a very, very tough subject” because “you have some absolutely, incredible kids.” However, his word can’t be trusted. While he may be hesitant to undo the order due to fear of political backlash, he could just stop issuing work permits or deport people based on misdemeanors or find another way around the order. Kamal Essaheb from the National Immigration Law Center told CNN:

We cannot at this time offer a confident assessment of whether anyone—including those with DACA—are protected from enforcement.

Sadly, Trump definitely holds the power to deport the “dreamers” if he really desired to do so. This just seems cruel, especially since DACA only applies to law-abiding undocumented immigrants brought to America as children.

Logistically, a mass deportation just doesn’t make sense. The American Action Forum found removing all the undocumented immigrants in America would cost between $100 billion and $300 billion dollars, take 20 years, and shrink the GDP by $1.6 trillion. According to National Farm Workers Ministry, six out of ten farm workers are undocumented immigrants. If all those workers are deported, food prices in America might skyrocket as employers struggle to fill those positions and have to pay workers more. A shrinking GDP and higher food prices create difficulties for all Americans, and, remember, this is all to deport people who aren’t dangerous or causing problems.

Deportation is not as easy [or cheap] as it may sound. Some people are hard to deport. Only about half of the undocumented immigrants in America are from Mexico. 268,000 are from China, one of the twenty-three countries that do not cooperate with deportations, which means there is literally nowhere to deport these people. Deporting people from other countries like India, Korea or even El Salvador can be costly because they would have to be flown back to their countries of origin.

Now let’s consider the other solution, giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. This plan would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship and would probably include temporary amnesty as they go through the process. It would mean safety for the families currently in danger of being ripped apart and the “dreamers” and every other undocumented immigrant who now has their life here and hasn’t broken any major laws. A change in administration would no longer decide whether parents can stay with their children or whether someone is shipped off to a country they haven’t seen since they were five, and if there are fewer people too afraid of deportation to report their bosses, employers in America would have to comply with American safety and minimum wage laws. Money would still have to be spent on border control and removing dangerous criminals, but less would be spent on deporting people. Some people claim giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship would encourage more people to come to America illegally. There is no data to back up this claim and logically the possibility, after living in America illegally for years, that you might get amnesty and begin the process to become a citizen is a weak pull factor when compared to the other push and pull factors involved with illegal immigration. These people are leaving their countries to escape extreme poverty, violence and in some cases oppressive governments. They come to America to get a steady income to support their families and a safe place to live. Simply giving these people a path to citizenship seems to be the best option regarding most of the undocumented immigrant population in America. For now 11.1 million people’s lives hang in the balance while the Trump administration tries to decide what to do with them.

Who Shot Rep. Scalise?

Image: ABC 13

Just a few days ago, a gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman was soon identified by the FBI as James T. Hodgkinson, a sixty-six year-old from Illinois.

James T. Hodgkinson was a resident of Belleville, Illinois, and a very staunch Democrat. His Facebook page contained several critical posts of President Donald J. Trump. In one, Donald Trump was described as a “traitor” who “has destroyed our democracy.” The Facebook account’s banner had an image of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a notable candidate in the Democratic primaries of the 2016 presidential election. His profile picture had the American flag and said, “Democratic Socialism explained in 3 words: We the People.”

Michael Hodgkinson, the shooter’s brother, said in a phone interview to the New York Times, “I know he wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff.”

A man by the name of Charles Orear told The Washington Post that he met Hodgkinson when they worked together in Iowa on Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. He had described Hodgkinson as “very mellow, very reserved” and a “quiet guy.”

He was this union tradesman, pretty stocky, and we stayed up talking politics.

Former Mayor of Alexandria Bill Euille told the Washington Post he spoke to Hodgkinson almost every morning at the local YMCA which is so close to the baseball field where the shooting occurred that one of the bullets landed in the indoor pool.

He was a very nice person. [H]e sat in the Y’s lobby for hours and hours. Outside of myself, I don’t think he knew anyone else in town.

Hodgkinson owned a home inspection business in Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Hodgkinson was a licensed home inspector from 1994 to 1997, and also held a liscense from 2003 to 2016, but it was never renewed.

According to The Belleville News-Democrat:

Hodgkinson has a varied arrest record in St. Clair County, for offenses such as failing to obtain electrical permits, damaging a motor vehicle, resisting a peace officer, eluding police, criminal damage to property, driving under the influence and assorted traffic offenses.

According to The Daily Beast:

In 2006, he was arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm after he punched a man’s girlfriend “in the face with a closed fist,” according to a police report reviewed by The Daily Beast. When the man walked outside of the residence, Hodgkinson aimed a shotgun at him and later fired one round.

Hodgkinson was also “observed throwing” an unidentified minor “around the bedroom,” the police report said. Police identified the girl as his daughter. After the girl broke free, Hodgkinson followed and “started hitting her arms, pulling her hair, and started grabbing her off the bed.”

When Hodgkinson’s girlfriend tried to leave in a vehicle, he reached inside and “turned off the ignition,” the report said. “James then pulled out a possible pocket knife and cut [her] seatbelt.”

The charges were dismissed, according to court records.

James T. Hodgkinson was a prolific writer who often submitted letters to his local newspaper for more than a decade.

After learning that Hodgkinson had volunteered on the Sanders campaign, Sen. Bernie Sanders publicly detested his actions and any acts of violance.

Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.

Why Call it the Shoah?

Image: World Atlas

The event that resulted in the death of six-million Jews and mentally handicapped, physically disabled, Romani, homosexuals, prisoners of war, and countless other groups of people simply because of the color of their skin, the way they prayed, or their sexual orientation is commonly referred to, in the English language, as “The Holocaust,” but many Jews, including myself, prefer the term “The Shoah.”

The word “holocaust” is the Anglicization of a Greek word, ολοκαύτωμα, meaning ‘complete combustion.’ That same word, “holocaust,” is used in translation of the Hebrew word עלה, meaning ‘offering that will be completely burnt’ and can even be found in many Catholic Bibles such as the Douay-Rheims Catholic Translation. This word had been used to describe the offering to God in Genesis 22:7.

Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son? Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust?

In the same verse published by the Jewish Publication Society, they replaced the word ‘holocaust’ with ‘burnt-offering.’

Isaac then said to Abraham his father, “Father!” He answered: “Here I am, my son.” And Isaac said, “Here is the firestone and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt-offering?”

The word, “holocaust,” was adopted by English writers to mean “complete destruction by fire.” It was first used in modern times in reference to the treatment of the Jews in a British newspaper, the News Chronicle of December 5, 1942. The usage spread, and has finally become the most commonly used name of the tragic event that happened in the early 1940s.

What’s the big deal? Why can’t I just call it the Holocaust?

“Holocaust” was first used in the English language as a term for a sacrifice, specifically for the sacrifices asked of the Jews by God. That still is a primary meaning of the word for those who have used the Douay-Rheims Bible. This definition implies that the murder of the Jews was a sacrifice for God, and therefore God accepted the sacrifice of the Jews.

I always try my hardest to use the word, “Shoah,” unless I am speaking with someone who is likely to not know the word. Even though “Holocaust” is generally in use as a term for the Nazi “Final Solution,” it still has the power to suggest that there was something acceptable to God in those events, even though most people who use the word do not mean it this way.

Now, I would never judge anyone for calling it “The Holocaust” because I know that they would probably not be implying that the murder of the Jews is acceptable to God, but I feel that educating people on the meaning of the word (most timely on Yom HaShoah) can help people know what they are really saying and possibly think about it in the future.

Topic inspired by Coffee Shop Rabbi

Another Atrocity In Syria

 

Image: VOA News via AP Images

On the fourth of April, the Assad regime attacked civilian targets in Syria. A doctor in a hospital near the attack told CNNToday around 7:30 a.m., about 125 … arrived to our hospital. Twenty-five of them were already dead, 70% to 80% of the wounded people were kids and women.” He went on to describe symptoms indicative of a sarin gas attack. More than eighty-six people died in the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a small town in Syria. The main hospital in Khan Sheikhoun was bombed as well. Neither of the attacks seemed to have any counter-terrorism purpose. In response, Trump fired fifty-nine missiles at the air base responsible for much of Assad’s bombing in Syria.

In 2013, a similar attack by Assad happened with very different results. Over a thousand people were killed in a sarin attack by the Assad regime in 2013.  The attack was investigated by the United Nations and was a human rights scandal even though Assad had attacked his citizens with chemical agents before in much smaller attacks. In Syria’s six-year civil war, Assad’s regime has been accused of torture, sieging cities and starving innocent citizens, chemical warfare and other war crimes. Assad’s government is in a fight against rebel groups that include ISIS but is also an oppressive regime that has repeatedly targeted civilians instead of rebel groups and terrorists. Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, even conceded that Assad’s regime used chemical warfare. America’s previous policy did include removing Assad from office, but Trump’s air strike was the first American attack on the Assad regime.

Because it is backed by Russia and stands between ISIS and complete control of Syria, attacking the Assad regime could lead to a disastrous international fallout. This is why Assad has been able to use chemical warfare on civilians without fear of being attacked by a superpower. By attacking Assad, Trump attacked an ally in the fight against ISIS. America has supported rebel troops trying to overthrow Assad while Russia has supported Assad claiming that ISIS will take over Syria without his leadership. Opponents of Russia’s viewpoint claim ISIS has taken over much of Syria because the Assad regime was not stable enough to fight back well.  If America continues to attack and possibly overthrow Assad, it would be up to the rest of the world to create a stable government fast enough to stop ISIS from taking over. It is also worth noting that citizens may be less likely to join ISIS or Al-Qaeda if they feel the West is doing something to stop the bombing and terror that comes with daily life in Syria.

Russia has already responded to the attack on its ally in a joint statement with Iran that says, “What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.” This means if America attacks the Assad Regime again it might start a war with Russia and Iran. Once again the world may be teetering on the edge of a world war. But at the same time, how can America and the rest of the free world continue to allow a brutal and repressive government to abuse its people?

Trump added more frightening dimensions to the story by not getting congress’s approval before issuing the air strikes. This could be illegal and shows he is willing to attack countries without going through the necessary diplomatic steps. When Obama considered bombing Assad in 2013, he got congress’s approval, yet Trump neglected to go through the fundamental procedure. Trump has been criticized for his flippant statement on nuclear weapons while on the campaign trail; he even asked why we were making nukes if we weren’t going to use them, demonstrated minimal to no knowledge of the nuclear triad, and refused to promise not to nuke Europe. He also said we had to be unpredictable with nuclear power and said he was okay with countries such as South Korea and Saudi Arabia getting nuclear power.  In some cases, he even encouraged it. He has also been criticized for suggesting that America should torture the families of terrorists and commit other war crimes. Because of these statements, it is especially worrying to see him bomb Assad without going through congress, in a move that can be seen as having little foresight. Next time, he may decide to drop a bomb on a city instead of an air base. Also, the decision has been criticized because it makes little sense strategically in that it did little more than anger Assad. Planes started taking off from the airbase America bombed less than 24 hours after it was bombed. Comedian John Oliver had made a joke, saying, “Delta passengers experience more significant delays on a daily basis.”
Thomas Friedman had said, speaking of the Syrian crisis, “If there were a good, easy solution it would have been found already.” The decision to fight Assad or let him do as he pleases without fear of retaliation is foreign policy at its most treacherous. Both choices have a very real human cost and a million repercussions, but to some extent, they also come down to how much Americans care about Syrians being slaughtered and living in terror. Enough to risk the lives of Americans? Enough to let them into our country? Enough to send money and aid? 

As for the air strikes, many human rights advocates are just thankful a foreign power is finally standing up for the civilians of Syria. These people are being attacked by ISIS, other rebel groups and their own government in a brutal civil war. They face a perilous and often deadly journey to a refugee camp if they decide to leave. Whether you agree with Trump’s retaliation or not, keep the people of battle torn Syria in your thoughts.

 

Oklahoma Legislator Defends Pregnancy from Incest or Rape as “beauty from ashes”

Image: Inquisitr

On the 21st of March, defending his proposed anti-abortion bill, Oklahoma state Representative, George Faught (R-Muskogee), said that even in pregnancies that result from rape or incest, “God can bring beauty from ashes.”

Faught’s bill, which would outlaw abortions sought by women based solely on a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other genetic abnormalities, passed by a wide margin on Tuesday. Oklahoma State Representative, Cory Williams (D-Stillwater), heavily criticized the Republican from Muskogee for not including an exception for pregnancies that resulted from rape and incest. The debate over the bill lasted more than two hours, and in a heated exchange between the two representatives during that time, Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) asked Faught whether rape or incest is the “will of God.” Rep. George Faught’s response said that rape and incest had nothing to do with this legislation.

Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there’s actually a couple of circumstances where that happened. And the Lord uses all circumstances.

Williams said that, because Faught is “proffering divine intervention” as the reason he will not include exceptions for rape and incest, fellow lawmakers deserve to know whether he believes that such acts, rape and incest, are God’s will.

Obviously if it happens in someone’s life, it may not be the best thing that ever happened, but, you know, so you’re saying that God is not sovereign with every activity that happens in someone’s life and can’t use anything and everything in someone’s life, and I disagree with that.

Rep. George Faught’s statement has drawn harsh criticism on Twitter and Facebook.

The bill that would create the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2017, H.B. 1549, would penalize doctors for performing abortions sought because of Down syndrome or other physical abnormalities. Punishments for doctors who perform the illegal abortions include their medical licenses being suspended or revoked and facing incredible fines: $10,000 for the first violation, $50,000 for the second, and $100,000 for the third and succeeding violations. Women who sought abortions for these reasons would not be punished.

Faught during the heated argument with Rep. Cory Williams on Tuesday said he introduced the legislation because of his belief about “protecting life.”

For me, the pressure doesn’t come from the party—it comes from my heart, and what I believe about God, and what I believe about life.

Williams tried to make his point clear in his closing argument, adding that Oklahoma’s lawmakers have repeatedly failed to address other issues, such as services for people with disabilities.

Please start doing something that is more than a bumper sticker. Do something that makes an impact. Truly I tell you, how you treat the least among us is how you’ve treated the God that you profess to worship.

Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) argued that challenges such as unemployment, discrimination, and lack of services that children with Down syndrome face after they are born were far more pressing and deserving of government action than H.B. 1549, but Faught said the private sector, including community groups and ministries, are already providing services to children with Down syndrome.

Read H.B. 1549 here.