Democrats Protest Senate Republican Health Care Secrecy

They called for open committee hearings and more time to consider the bill before a Senate vote.

U.S. President Trump turns to Speaker Ryan as he gathers with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington
U.S. Democrats took to the Senate floor on Monday to throw a spotlight on behind-the-scenes efforts by the Republican majority to repeal former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, known as Obamacare. Continue reading  @ HUFF POST

Ebola to Piracy: Sustaining U.S.-China Work in Africa

By: Jennifer Staats

U.S. and Chinese leaders have worked with counterparts across Africa to combat a range of security threats on the continent, from Ebola to piracy to instability in Sudan and South Sudan. A recent United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning terrorist attacks and violence in the Lake Chad Basin illustrates that more joint efforts are needed to support Africa’s stability and development. Unfortunately, distrust and skepticism between the United States and China are getting in the way of further progress. But there may be a way to prevent backsliding.

US and Chines Military MIO Exercise

U.S.-China counter piracy exercise. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary M. Keen/Released
Initial trilateral efforts in Africa have revealed three key lessons for effective cooperation, according to experts in a recent discussion at USIP.  First, successful efforts must be African-led and should work through existing African institutions. Second, leadership matters, and the U.S. and Chinese ambassadors in Africa play a critical role in making collaboration possible. Third, engagement must be sustained, holistic, and long-term, rather than ad hoc.

Although both the United States and China want to see an economically prosperous and secure Africa, there are many barriers to closer cooperation. They include competition, lack of transparency, different definitions of “stability,” and bureaucratic stovepipes.

Three ambassadors and an associate director at the Carter Center in Atlanta considered ways to overcome these hurdles in a March 2017 article in Foreign Affairs.

“The goal should be to transform occasional moments of cooperation—such as the shared efforts of China, the United States, and African governments during the Ebola crisis—into what China expert Kurt Campbell has called “habits of cooperation” on those areas where all parties largely agree.”

Campbell and the four authors addressed the point at the USIP event on April 11, held to discuss progress in a three-year project between the institute and the Carter Center, called the Africa-China-U.S. Consultation for Peace. The program is being conducted in coordination with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel.

In addition to the authors’ recommendations, experts identified other opportunities for collaboration:

  • Coordinate humanitarian assistance to the Lake Chad Basin to avoid duplication and gaps.
  • Conduct joint research on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including piracy as well as illegal and unreported fishing.
  • Strengthen maritime security structures in West Africa, particularly the Interregional Coordination Center in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
  • Develop African merchant marines to facilitate trade.
  • Address threats to food security and public health.
  • Build the capacity of African peacekeepers and establish a reliable source of funding for African Union peace operations.
  • Invest in civilian security, governance, economic rehabilitation, effective community-police relations, and the judicial and security architecture in the Lake Chad Basin.
  • Align development assistance, infrastructure projects, and economic investment with conflict prevention efforts.

The need for three-way cooperation in Africa remains high.  Where direct collaboration is not possible, one alternative might be to pursue complementary policies that still would allow parties to work in parallel toward the same goals, as long as they maintain some openness and transparency.

The United States and China should commit to adding these issues to the new U.S.-China Consultative Dialogue, to ensure these opportunities get the attention they deserve. The challenges facing Africa cannot be ignored just because leaders in Washington and Beijing cannot overcome their mistrust. Instead, the three parties must find creative ways to pursue complementary efforts that will help everyone realize their shared interests.

Source : United States Institute of Peace

Cleveland Facebook Killer Steve Stephens Tortured Pets as a Teen, Neighbor Says

The self-described ‘monster’ was ‘not normal’ even as a child, according to someone who grew up around him. Across town, a family heard the shot that rang across social media.

DANIEL MCGRAW

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CLEVELAND—Soon after he shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin—who was walking down the street and picking up cans after eating Easter Sunday dinner with his family— Steve Stepehens posted video to facebook of the murder that he just committed.

Then he kept posting his personal reasoning for his deranged behavior, explanations showed that there was a deep anger within this man that suddenly snapped.

“I fucked up,” he said, with little emotion on his face. “I’m at the point where I snapped… I got a lot of built up anger and frustration.”

“All my life,” Stephens continued, “I’ve been a monster.”

That line by the man now known as the “Facebook Killer” was shocking to many who heard him say it on social media, but not so much so for Tony Henderson. He lived across the street from Stephens for decades—that line that this man was a “monster” didn’t seem that crazy. The kid always seemed somewhat “out there,” Henderson said.

“I never quite understood that kid through his entire life, because on some days he would talk to you, and then on others he would be mean and staring at you and very quiet,” Henderson said. “It’s not like he was running around the street scaring old people when he was a teenager, but what he did on Easter Sunday doesn’t surprise me.”

On the Monday after the shooting that was getting worldwide attention, Henderson was cleaning up the vacant property next to his house, which is directly across the street from Stephens’s mother’s home. Police in two cars were staked out on the street to keep media and angry residents from causing trouble for the killer’s family. But for Henderson, 55, what he saw on television shows and online media reporting over the past day made more sense to him than most anyone.

“How can I put this?” he said, as he paused. “That kid was not normal as we as normal people know it from the beginning. He was in his early teens when the family moved in there, and I was in my late twenties, but I could see something wasn’t right. He was smart, but some days he seemed OK with talking to people on the street, but on other days he was staring off into space with a blank face. He was very up and down.”

Then Henderson told a somewhat disturbing story.

“He asked me to come in and see his pet bird, so I went in their house. He had a parakeet and he had that bird crawl from the cage and on to his finger. Then he slapped the bird as hard as he could with his other hand, and the bird was lying on the floor. The bird looked dead to me. I looked at him and he was smiling and laughing as he looked at me and that bird.”

“Hey, animals don’t make you weird like that,” Henderson said. “He was that way before he got that bird. Heard he used to torture other pets he had. He was like that from the time I first met him.”

An aggravated murder warrant has been issued, and police said early Monday that Stephens may have fled Ohio. Police warned residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Michigan to be on the lookout. The FBI is providing assistance to the Cleveland police and taking over the national manhunt. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his whereabouts.

Stephens has a valid concealed-carry gun permit, Cleveland police said at a news conference Monday morning. Police Chief Calvin Williams said guns were seized from a home in the city of Twinsburg, a suburb of Cleveland, that is listed in court records as the home occupied by Stephens and his girlfriend at the time, Joy Lane. Williams said he was unsure how many guns were seized and whether they were registered to Stephens.

Though Stephens also said on Facebook postings that his need to kill people came because of a breakup with Lane (who treats youths with various mental disorders for a company different from the one Stephens works for), it appears he might have been having more problems with his fiancée. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer  reported  that Stephens had been evicted from his suburban apartment this past January for failure to pay rent. Five months before that, he had been evicted from another suburban apartment complex, and the property-management company successfully sued him and began garnishing wages from his paycheck.

Stephens had also declared personal bankruptcy in January 2015, according to the report, and at that time, Stephens said he had worked for Beech Brook, a suburban-based social-services agency for six years. He declared his annual salary to be about $28,800, but his wages were also facing garnishment then as well, for unpaid credit-card debt that he had been sued over in court for.

In another Sunday Facebook posting, Stephens talked of his financial issues, blaming some of it on Cleveland’s Jack Casino, Ohio’s first casino, which opened in 2012.

“The past year’s been really [expletive] up for me,” Stephens said. “You know, being with [his ex-girlfriend] drove me crazy, started making me gamble. I lost everything. I lost everything I have. I don’t have shit. I’m out of options.”

Besides the craziness of this murder—an employed man shooting an elderly man randomly and then posting it for all to see on social media—is how this murder does not fit in with all the other murders in Cleveland in recent years. There were 136 murders in the Cleveland in 2016, the highest number in 10 years. This high number of murders, despite the fact that Cleveland lost about 10 percent of its population (about 43,000) during those 10 years, has been linked to the city’s high poverty rate. Based upon 2016 figures, Cleveland’s poverty rate of 34.7 percent is the 11th highest in the country among cities of at least 65,000 people.

Many of the murders in Cleveland are driven by gangs, which themselves are partly blamed on high inner-city unemployment. One of the most violent and powerful gangs has the ironic name “Heartless Felons.” In some of these killings, children lost their lives because they were playing in a park or on a front lawn when the killers drove by.

The street on which Godwin was killed ends at Interstate 90 about five miles east of downtown. It is an odd place to do a killing, given it’s off-the-beaten path and abutting a crowded highway. “I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for this happening,” Cleveland’s police chief said at the press conference Monday.

For those living on that street, the killing was not only horrific to see, but so bizarre that many are still shaking their heads. Thea, a 25-year-old who lives directly across the street from where Godwin died, said her family had about 20 people coming over for East Sunday dinner. The killing, which happened at about 2 p.m. Sunday, occurred about a half hour before people started to arrive.

“This is a quiet street,” said Thea, who didn’t want her last name used. “It ends at the freeway. So no one usually drives their cars down here because it is hard to turn around and get out.”

“But it was so weird,” she continued. “My mom was outside talking to our neighbor, and they were just doing what moms do, talking about the recipes they had cooked, and then both went back in their houses. About one minute after she came in, we heard a gun pop and went outside and saw that old man lying dead on the sidewalk right across the street from our house.”

“What would have happened if they were out there one minute later?” Thea asked. “He might have just shot that man and my mom and the neighbor, too. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. How my mom might have been killed, too.”

Second suspect in custody after Facebook Live sexual assault

By John Keilman and  Heather Schroering

Chicago Tribune

A second teen has been taken into custody in connection with the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was recorded on Facebook, police said.

The suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was taken into custody “accompanied by a parent,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an emailed statement Monday afternoon.

A second teen has been taken into custody in connection with the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was recorded on Facebook, police said.

The suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was taken into custody “accompanied by a parent,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an emailed statement Monday afternoon.

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The news came a day after police announced charges against a 14-year-old boy.

The 14-year-old, who was charged April 1, was expected to face a hearing in juvenile court Monday, but Cook County Associate Judge Patricia Mendoza waived his appearance until April 28. The boy is in custody in a detention center, according to an assistant state’s attorney.

Police are also trying to identify others who took part in the assault, officials said, but the investigation has been slowed by the trauma experienced by the girl.

“She’s just having such a difficult time even communicating what occurred to her,” Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan said at a Sunday news conference at Chicago police headquarters. “We obviously have a video of the incident, so we have verifiable objective evidence of what occurred to this young lady, but she’s just having a very difficult time.

“On top of it, there’s constant social media … bullying (of the girl), making fun of what occurred. This is just a very traumatic incident.”

The girl had stayed over with family the evening of March 18 and gone to church with them the next day, then was dropped off near home before disappearing.

Deenihan said the girl was “lured” to a residence by one of the attackers, who did not allow her to leave. As many as six males took part in the assault, police have said. She was found two days later walking down the street near her home.

The 14-year-old boy was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacture of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography, all of which are felonies, police said.

One of the suspects broadcast the assault on Facebook Live, and authorities have said that as many as 40 people saw it. None called police, an abstention that enraged police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

“We’ve seen a couple acts in this city now in the last few months involving social media, and it just disgusts me that people could look at those videos and not pick up the phone and dial 911,” he said at the news conference. “It makes you wonder where are we going, what are we doing as a society?”

Reginald King, a relative of the girl, said a teen alerted him to the assault on Facebook. Chicago activist Andrew Holmes got the video to police, and the girl’s mother was shown screen shots and was able to identify her daughter.

After the girl was found, she was reunited with her mother and taken to a hospital, where she was examined for injuries, a family member later told the Tribune.

As news of the attack spread, people began ringing the family’s doorbell and coming around the house in a menacing way, the girl’s mother has told the Tribune, and police described a campaign of social media bullying against her. The taunts prompted authorities to relocate her family to another home, which police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described as “a safe place.”

The girl’s mother did not return messages seeking comment on the arrest.

Deenihan said that authorities have looked into possible charges against those who watched the video and bullied the girl, but said that making charges stick appears to be a complicated task.

Guglielmi said Facebook has told authorities it’s not possible to identify who is watching a video on the platform. And Deenihan said the bullying hasn’t risen to the level of criminal conduct.

“We’re going to vet all that out to see if there is a specific possible charge, but right now there isn’t a specific threat made to the victim or her family, nothing anybody could be charged with,” he said.

The attack was at least the fourth Chicago crime caught on Facebook Live since the end of October.

After one of the previous attacks, in which a mentally disabled man was tormented and tortured by a group of people, the company said it does not allow people “to celebrate or glorify crimes” on its network. Facebook took down the video of the girl’s assault after being notified by police.

Johnson said that although the girl was having a difficult time talking to investigators about the assault, he was impressed by her courage.

“While I know the emotional wounds caused by this savagery will take long to heal, I am hoping that her story can be an inspiration to other young women who are victimized by bullying and sexual assault,” he said.

“The young men responsible, they should be ashamed of themselves. They humiliated themselves, they’ve humiliated their families, and now they’re going to be held accountable for what they did.”

Chicago Tribune’s Kim Geiger contributed.

Source : Chicago Tribune

Secretary Kelly: Undocumented Children and Mothers May Be Separated at Border

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DHS Secretary John Kelly said Monday that his department is considering separating children from their mothers if they are caught crossing the border illegally.

Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly confirmed today that he is considering separating the children of undocumented immigrants  from their parents if they are apprehended while illegally crossing the border.

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“Yes, I am considering, in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that,” Kelly told CNN host Wolf Blitzer. “They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.”

Kelly said he thought the change might deter mothers and children from making the dangerous journey from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador  to the United States.

“You understand how that looks to the average person who is, you know…” Blitzer replied.

“It’s more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network,” Kelly said.

Currently, mothers and children who cross the border together—and it’s virtually always mothers and children, rather than fathers—stay together. In many cases, they’re put in family detention centers, though they are frequently released quickly while they await asylum hearings. Reuters reported  on March 4 that the Department of Homeland Security was considering separating mothers from their children when it apprehended them. Mothers would be put in detention centers, while their children would be in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the report.

The smuggling networks Kelly referenced move people from incredibly violent Central American countries to the United States often exploit them along the way, and women are frequently sexually assaulted on the journey. In many cases, migrants take great risks because they fear death in their home countries—as was the case forSara Beltran Hernandez , an undocumented woman from El Salvador who entered the U.S. in November of 2015 and was recently released from ICE detention to get better medical care for a brain tumor.

Kelly’s confirmation that he is considering separating children from their parents shocked children’s advocates.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney from Buffalo, N.Y. who frequently represents undocumented children.

“He’s going to be traumatizing young children even more than they are by pulling them from their mother’s arms,” he said.

“Who knows what they’re going to do with them?” he added.

Source : The Daily Beast

Mexico opens legal aid centres to fight US deportations

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Mexico has opened legal aid centres at consulates in 50 US cities, in a move designed to protect its citizens from tougher immigration enforcement.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray reaffirmed concerns about the human rights of Mexicans in the US.

But migrant defence centres would not “promote illegality,” he said.

Mexico is worried about the impact that guidelines issued last month by President Donald Trump will have on the lives of its citizens.

Mr Trump ordered federal agents to join local police and immigration officers to enforce deportation procedures.

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Millions of Mexicans who have lived in the US for many years are suddenly facing the prospect of fighting a lengthy and costly legal battle against deportation.

The new defence centres will provide free legal assistance for Mexican citizens who feel that their rights in the US are being threatened.

‘Concern and irritation’

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Bilateral relations have reached its lowest point in decades.

A week after being sworn in January, Mr Trump reaffirmed his intention to build a wall along his country’s southern border, which extends for 3,200km (2,000 miles).

He insisted that Mexico would have to bear the cost of the proposed wall.

The remarks prompted President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel a visit to Washington on 31 January and to announce extra funding to protect the rights of Mexican citizens in the US.

During a visit to Mexico by last month by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Chief John Kelly, Mr Videgaray said President Trump’s policies towards Mexico were a source of “concern and irritation”.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. Six million of them are reportedly Mexican citizens.

Source : EIN News

Generals May Launch New ISIS Raids Without Trump’s OK

The commander in chief is taking heat—and hearing cheers—for a raid in Yemen that killed a SEAL. But for the next mission, Trump may take himself out of the loop altogether.

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Kimberly Dozier

The White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations like the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen that cost the life of a Navy SEAL, multiple U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. It’s part of an effort to step up the war on the so-called Islamic State.

President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants his defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, to have a freer hand to launch time-sensitive missions quickly, ending what U.S. officials say could be a long approval process under President Barack Obama  that critics claimed stalled some missions by hours or days.

In declared war zones, U.S. commanders have the authority to make such calls, but outside such war zones, in ungoverned or unstable places like Somalia, Libya, or Yemen, it can take permissions all the way up to the Oval Office to launch a drone strike or a special-operations team.

Trump’s subsequent defense of the Yemen raid, and discussion of accelerating other counterterrorist operations, shows his White House will be less risk averse to the possibility of U.S.—or civilian—casualties, unlike the Obama White House, which military officials say was extremely cautious to the point of frustrating some military commanders and counterterrorist operators.

Yet that added authority might give Mattis and senior military officers pause, after Trump blamed military leaders Tuesday for the loss of Navy Seal Senior Chief Petty Officer William”Ryan” Owens  during the fraught Jan. 28th raid against al Qaeda in Yemen, instead of accepting responsibility for the raid’s outcome as commander in chief.

“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News interview. “They explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

Owens’s father told Miami Herald  he believes the raid was rushed and unnecessary, and refused to meet Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son was returned home.

“I can understand people saying that. I’d feel—What’s worse? There’s nothing worse,” Trump said of the father’s reaction. “This was something that they were looking at for a long time… and according to Mattis it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”

In Trump’s first address to Congress, he saluted Owens’s widow, Carryn, who was there as a guest. Tears streamed down her face as the president hailed the fallen Navy SEAL as “a warrior, and a hero.”

He added that he’d just “reconfirmed” with Mattis that the raid was “highly successful” and “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” The amount of information gathered is still a matter of debate, however, NBC News reported Monday that after a month of examining what was captured on the scene, the raid has yielded little intelligence. The White House subsequently disputed that report.

“Missions of this type provide insights into AQAP’s disposition, capability, and intentions—information we otherwise do not have access to,” said Central Command spokesman Maj. Josh T. Jacques on Wednesday.

Despite the controversy, Trump has signaled that he wants to operate more like the CEO he was in the private sector in such matters, and delegate even more power to Mattis, which may mean rewriting one of President Barack Obama’s classified Presidential Policy Directives on potentially lethal operations in countries where the U.S. is not officially involved in combat.

The National Security Council spokesman was not immediately able to comment.

Former Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast they’d already streamlined the approvals process for counterterrorism raids, following the failed 2014 mission to rescue U.S. hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller, who were being held by ISIS in Syria. The hostages were moved shortly before U.S. special operators arrived on the scene.

“Obama gave a lot of leash to commanders in the field—but not on everything,” said one former senior Obama administration official. “It’s all about controlling escalation. Do I want to give someone else the authority to get me deeper into a war?”

The official explained that in some cases, Obama deemed it necessary to push authority down to his commanders, as when he gave the Navy SEALs the green light to shoot their way out of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, though firing on Pakistani troops might have triggered armed conflict with Islamabad.

Obama used to give Mattis pre-delegation authority to act when he was head of Central Command on some issues, but not others, the official said. “Will you delegate authority if an Iranian boat gets close, I can take it out? Most presidents will think carefully about that,” he said. “There’s usually a healthy back-and-forth to come up with the right balance.” The official spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive discussions on approving raids.

Trump officials believe loosening the permissions process can help turn up the heat against ISIS—and counterterrorist-focused agencies like the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are lining up new targets in anticipation of more numerous and more rapid approvals.

One model being considered is pre-delegating authority to Mattis on extremely sensitive operations like hostage rescues; for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets, that authority could be pushed much further down the chain of command—all the way down to the three-star general who runs JSOC. If his teams spot a target that’s already on the White House approved high-value target list, the elite force will be able to move into action, informing the national-security apparatus of the operation but not having to wait for permission.

Word of discussions about loosening permissions to strike comes despite criticism that the Jan. 28 raid in central Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was approved so quickly that it was launched without proper planning, and botched when al Qaeda fighters heard the SEALs approaching, kicking off a deadly firefight.

SEAL Owens was killed and six U.S. troops were wounded during the fighting, and the “hard landing” of the would-be medical-evacuation aircraft.

Owens’s father wants the decision process investigated. There are already three Pentagon investigations underway, according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis: the pro-forma investigation into the combat death; another into the loss of an Osprey rescue helicopter that was so damaged that it had to be left behind and destroyed; and another investigation into the allegations of civilian casualties from the raid.

Yemeni officials reported several women and children were killed. That included the 8-year-old daughter of former AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, according to the girl’s grandfather in comments to the AP.(Former AOAP cleric Awlaki, a U.S citizen, helped inspire followers with his online sermons until he was killed by a U.S drone strike in 2011.)

The Yemeni government reacted to the raid with a statement, reiterating “its firm position that any counterterrorism operations carried out in Yemen should continue to be in consultation” with Yemen’s civil-war-embattled government, and include “precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties.”

Special Operations Commander Gen. Tony Thomas pushed back on the notion that the raid was poorly or hastily planned. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., recently that the raid preparation was “absolutely not” rushed or in any way disorganized.

And the SEAL raiders never lost the element of surprise, two U.S. officials said. But the raiders “didn’t expect the whole town to come out armed and fighting,” said one. Pentagon spokesman Davis said women fighters came out firing from several locations as the SEAL team hit its target, contributing to casualties on both sides.

One U.S. official told The Daily Beast that the raid garnered possibly “the most intelligence ever netted” on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including information that will help U.S. intelligence map the network of AQAP followers and how they operate. Central Command stumbled when trying to prove that, however, by releasing an al Qaeda training video captured by the SEAL task force during the raid—but didn’t realize it had been disseminated by AQAP nine years earlier.

This story was updated to add comment from Central Command.

Source : The Daily Beast

FULL SPEECH: President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.  Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice –- in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands.  And we will use it to light up the world.  I am heretonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.

Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

In 9 years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.

It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.

But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future.

For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.

We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.

We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet.  The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds -– families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake – and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life.  Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.

Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.

Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.

Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop.

And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.

Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8th, a record.  We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government.  We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials –- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.


We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security.  By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.  We want all Americans to succeed –- but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos.  We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.

For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.  Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question:  what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States.  We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.  We have seen the attacks at home -– from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.  Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.

As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS — a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs.  We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution.  I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight.  Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice.  To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law.  He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.

Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.

Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.

We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.

In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.

We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars.

And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.

Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party.  It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.

Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.  At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.

We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.

Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.

I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson.  In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.

At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business?  They said that it’s good.  I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales.  They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate.  They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent.

They weren’t even asking for change.  But I am.

I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.

The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”

Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

I am going to bring back millions of jobs.  Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration.  The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others –- have a merit-based immigration system.  It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.  Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.  According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.

Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits:  it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program –- the building of the interstate highway system.  The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling.  With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country –- twice.  And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital –- creating millions of new jobs.

This effort will be guided by two core principles:  Buy American, and Hire American.

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America.  The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits.  As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone.  Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.

One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges –- leaving many Americans with no choice at all.

Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?

We now know that all of those promises have been broken.

Obamacare is collapsing –- and we must act decisively to protect all Americans.  Action is not a choice –- it is a necessity.

So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts –- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.

Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance – and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines –- creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed.  Every problem can be solved.  And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.

Our citizens deserve this, and so much more –- so why not join forces to finally get it done?  On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.

My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley.  Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old.  She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child.  He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life.  Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame.

Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.

But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.

If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan.

In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.

But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind –- and the souls –- of every American child.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time.

I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children.  These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather.  As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third grade twice.  But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program.  Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college.  Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.

We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.

But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence.

The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.

In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone –- and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.

This is not acceptable in our society.

Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.

But to create this future, we must work with –- not against -– the men and women of law enforcement.

We must build bridges of cooperation and trust –- not drive the wedge of disunity and division.

Police and sheriffs are members of our community.  They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound.

We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.

And we must support the victims of crime.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims.  The office is called VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement.  We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.

Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison.  Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback.  But he never got the chance.  His father, who is in the audiencetonight, has become a good friend of mine.

Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis.  Their husbands –- Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis –- were slain in the line of duty in California.  They were pillars of their community.  These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.

Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna.  Jenna:  I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.

To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica:  I want you to know –- we will never stop fighting for justice.  Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.

Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and –- if they must –- to fight and to win.

I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.

Our veterans have delivered for this Nation –- and now we must deliver for them.

The challenges we face as a Nation are great.  But our people are even greater.

And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens.  Ryan died as he lived:  a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”  Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.  For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him.

To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world.  It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.

But our partners must meet their financial obligations.

And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific –- to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.

We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.

Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people –- and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path.  My job is not to represent the world.  My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past –- we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.

The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.

America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align.  We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.

We want peace, wherever peace can be found.  America is friends today with former enemies.  Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars.  This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.

Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.

On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial.  At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.

Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.

Remington unveiled the first typewriter.  An early attempt was made at electric light.

Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.

Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year.

Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.

Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.

American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.

Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.

And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans.

This is our vision. This is our mission.

But we can only get there together.

We are one people, with one destiny.

We all bleed the same blood.

We all salute the same flag.

And we are all made by the same God.

And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

The time for small thinking is over.  The time for trivial fights is behind us.

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.

And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.

From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –-

inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –-

and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit.  I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country.  And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —

Believe in yourselves.

Believe in your future.

And believe, once more, in America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless these United States.

Source : The Hill

anti-Semitism taking shape worldwide, even threatens America, warns top US Jewish leader

‘We saw anti-Semitism in Britain, we saw it in France, and now we see it’s spreading everywhere,’ says Malcolm Hoenlein, calling for global summit to combat the phenomenon. Stresses: ‘Any accusations that Trump is an anti-Semite are unfounded’

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Anti-Semitism is taking on potentially “pandemic” dimensions globally, even in the US, and if left unchecked could grow into an immensely serious threat, one of American Jewry’s most senior leaders said this week, calling on world leaders to convene a global summit to forcefully denounce the phenomenon.

Anti-Semitism is taking on potentially “pandemic” dimensions globally, even in the US, and if left unchecked could grow into an immensely serious threat, one of American Jewry’s most senior leaders said this week, calling on world leaders to convene a global summit to forcefully denounce the phenomenon.

“I think we’re seeing a pandemic in formation,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, who heads the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “I don’t think it’s here. I think America’s situation is different from Europe. But the potential is there.”

In a far-reaching interview, Hoenlein, who is currently in Israel, also spoke about widespread concerns over the Israeli government’s total alignment with US President Donald Trump, which some fear could turn Israel into a partisan issue in the United States. He called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invite to Israel the newly elected head of the Democratic party, Tom Perez, in a bid to cement bipartisan support for the Jewish state.

“We saw anti-Semitism in Britain, we saw it in France, and now we see it’s spreading everywhere,” Hoenlein told The Times of Israel in its Jerusalem office on Sunday. “Look at the numbers of incidents in Germany, Scandinavia and other parts of the world. And now we see in America swastikas being painted, other expressions [such as phoned-in] threats or aggression against kids on campuses. So it spreads. It’s not isolated to one geographic locale. It’s like a virus that spreads. And you have to declare it for what it is.”

The interview with Hoenlein was conducted mere hours before news emerged of an apparently anti-Semitic act of vandalism that took place in his hometown of Philadelphia. Several tombstones in the city’s Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetary had been toppled  in what the Israeli government called a “shocking” and worrying act.

“I don’t think now it’s a direct threat to Jewish existence or Jewish survival,” Hoenlein said about general trend of anti-Semitic acts committed recently in the US, including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries or bomb threats made to Jewish community centers. “I do think that this cancer, left unchecked, spreads and becomes more and more of a threat.”

Damaged headstone at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia on February 26, 2017. (screen capture: 6ABC)

The best example of such a process can be identified in France, where anti-Jewish sentiment “metastasized over a period of time,” he said. “It didn’t just happen,” he added, citing recent reports of attacks on Jews, and information from his own relatives who live in France telling him life has become “intolerable” there.

European governments have denounced such incidents and increased measures to protect Jews, Hoenlein said. “But we can’t deny the fact that anti-Semitism today is no longer something that has to be done under the cloak of darkness, with the fear of repercussions. Those restrictions are gone. And I think we have to reimpose it and there have to be standards set. That’s why I want government officials saying this is not acceptable, just like racism and bigotry in any other form is not acceptable.”

‘It’s everybody’s problem when there’s hatred against Jews. We’re the victims, we’re not the cause of it’

To effectively fight anti-Semitism, Hoenlein called for a “global summit” similar to the one convened on behalf of Soviet Jewry in the last century. He urged leaders from the US, Germany, Britain, India, East European and South American countries to attend and unequivocally declare that “hatred of Jews has taken too heavy a toll and that we gotta draw the line now.”

Combating anti-Semitism starts with the Jewish community, “but it doesn’t end with it,” posited Hoenlein. “This is not our problem. It’s society’s problem. It’s Christianity’s problem. It’s everybody’s problem, when there’s hatred against Jews. We’re the victims, we’re not the cause of it. It’s not because we did something wrong. It’s because of who we are and our values.”

Surveys and the high rate of intermarriage indicate that the American public generally accepts and appreciates Jews, Hoenlein said. “At the same time we are seeing an increase in anti-Semitism. We are seeing increased hostility in campuses in particular. We are seeing threats against institutions.”

It does not take much to pick up the phone and threaten a Jewish community center, he said. But, “it does have an impact,” he added. “People are not sending their kids to programs; they won’t attend if they feel if they feel they’re in danger. And a phone call does that — it disrupts the pace of Jewish communal life. I don’t dismiss those things.”

However, he is more troubled by “what happens on campuses and the greater acceptance of charges against Israel.” Many Americans accept the claim that Israel is an apartheid regime. For the last decade or two, it was okay for Americans to say that they are anti-Israel. “Today it is accepted to say I am anti-Jewish,” Hoenlein said. This, he suggested, is partly to due to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which, he said, provided a “cover for anti-Semitism.”

An image from the documentary 'Crossing the Line 2,' which depicts rising anti-Semitic activity on North American campuses. (Courtesy)

Hoenlein, who has been heading the Conference of President since 1986, credited Trump for speaking out against anti-Semitism and hatred, but acknowledged his organization wished he had done so earlier.

After long weeks in which the president remained mum on a series of evidently anti-Semitic events, last Tuesday he denounced them as “horrible,” “painful” and a “sad reminder” of evil.

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. AFP/ SAUL LOEB)

“Certainly any accusations that Trump is an anti-Semite are unfounded,” Hoenlein declared. “We have to be very careful — and it’s a warning you cannot exaggerate — about using the label anti-Semite. It’s a very powerful accusation. If you demean it, if you make it commonplace, you remove the strength of the accusation. It has to be used carefully and only when you can substantiate it. And it should be reserved for occasions when it is really necessary.”

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While some in the Jewish community had misgivings over the White House’s refusal to mention Jews  in its International Holocaust Memorial Day statement, the administration should be judged by its deeds, Hoenlein argued, citing Trump’s appointing many Jews and voicing strong support for Israel.

Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Jared Kushner, husband of his daughter Ivanka, during a campaign stop at Concord High School, January 18, 2016, in Concord, NH (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

While careful not to appear criticizing the prime minister, Hoenlein noted “concern” in the American-Jewish community over Netanyanhu’s defense of the President  from charges that he stoked anti-Semitic and xenophobic sentiment.

“The post-election divisions are still very deep. It’s a very sensitive time still,” Hoenlein said. “The one thing we have to protect is that Israel is a bipartisan issue. We cannot allow it become associated with one party or one ideology. It’s not a conservative issue; it’s not a liberal issue.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg (center) and Executive Vice Chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein at the opening of the organization’s 42nd Leadership Mission, February 14, 2016. (Avi Hayoun)

Netanyahu’s tweet in support of Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico “did create some negative reaction with some of of our Hispanic friends and supporters,” the veteran Jewish leader said. “It is always better for Israel and others to stay out [of domestic US politics]. Sometimes it’s required. We don’t hesitate to speak out on anti-Semitism in European countries, which is really a domestic affairs of theirs.”

It is appropriate for an Israeli leader to seek to close ties with a new US president, but one needs to “be sensitive of how it’s interpreted,” Hoenlein went on. “There has been concern expressed that if the prime minister is seen as too close to one party or another, you the risk alienating others. At the same time, being close to the president of the United States is an asset.”

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, winning candidate to chair the Democratic National Committee, speaks during the general session of the DNC winter meeting in Atlanta, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

Netanyahu did well in meeting with leaders from both sides of the aisle during his recent trip to Washington, DC, Hoenlein said. In that spirit, the prime minister should immediately move to establish good ties with Tom Perez, who on Saturday was elected as the Democratic National Committee’s new chairman. His chief rival, Keith Ellison, was controversial among American Jews due to his past record of associations with known anti-Semitic figures and critical stances on Israel. Perez named Ellison his deputy.

“I think it’s positive that Mr. Perez was chosen,” Hoenlein said. “We look forward to working with him and hope the government of Israel will reach out to him and invite him to visit.”

Source : The Times of Israel

U.S. Court To Hear Arguments Tuesday On Trump’s Travel Ban

A U.S. district judge in Seattle on Friday suspended Trump’s order.

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By Dan Levine and Timothy Gardner

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department will face off with opponents in a federal appeals court on Tuesday over the fate of President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, his most controversial act since taking office last month.

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge James Robart suspended Trump’s ban, opening a window for people from the seven affected countries to enter the country.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will hear arguments over whether to restore the ban from Justice Department lawyers and opposing attorneys for the states of Minnesota and Washington at 3 p.m. PST (6.00 p.m. ET).

In a tweet on Monday night, Trump said: “The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle-East. Courts must act fast!”

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Trump has said the travel measures are designed to protect the country against the threat of terrorism. He has derided Robart, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, as a “so-called judge.”

In a brief filed on Monday, the Justice Department said the suspension of Trump’s order was too broad and “at most” should be limited to people who were already granted entry to the country and were temporarily abroad, or to those who want to leave and return to the United States.

Opponents say the 90-day ban barring entry for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and imposing a 120-day halt to all refugees, is illegal. The state of Washington argues it has suffered harm, saying some students and faculty at state universities had been stranded overseas because of the ban.

The Republican president’s Jan. 27 executive order sparked protests and chaos at U.S. and overseas airports in the weekend that followed.

All the people who had carried out fatal attacks inspired by Islamist militancy in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had been U.S. citizens or legal residents, the New America think tank said. None came to the United States or were from a family that emigrated from one of the countries listed in the travel ban, it said. (http://bit.ly/2keSmUO)

UPHILL FIGHT?

Trump faces an uphill battle in the liberal-leaning San Francisco court. Two members of three-judge panel that will hear the arguments were appointed by former Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, and one was appointed by Bush.

Appeals courts are generally leery of upending the status quo, which in this case is the lowercourt’s suspension of the ban.

Opponents of the ban received far more filings in support of their position than the Department of Justice. Washington state’s challenge was backed by about a dozen friends-of-the- court briefs submitted by at least 17 state attorneys general, more than 100 companies, and about a dozen labor and civil rights groups. About a dozen conservative groups supported the government in three such briefs.

The appeals court was focusing on the narrow question of whether the district court had grounds to put the order on hold. The bigger legal fight over whether Trump had authority to issue the order will be addressed later in the litigation.

(Additional reporting by Peter Henderson in San Francisco)

 Source : Reuters