Israeli government bans 26 activists groups for Palestinian Rights worldwide

On Sunday, January 7, 2018, the Israeli government released a list of six US organizations and 20 organizations worldwide whose activists will be barred from entering the Israel because of their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) in favor of Palestinian rights. What can we do about it?

Join us in calling on influential Senators Chuck Schumer and Ben Cardin to denounce this outrageous ban and tell Israel to lift it immediately.

As Americans, we have the right to voice against repressive Israeli policies because Israel gets over $3 billion of our tax dollars every year.

The six banned US groups are:

  • American Friends Service Committee
  • American Muslims for Palestine
  • CODEPINK
  • Jewish Voice for Peace
  • National Students for Justice in Palestine
  • US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Stop the oppression and violations of international law against the people of Palestine. Challenge Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid.

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The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land of Israel

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‘Blue Wave’: How the Democrats swept into local and state office

Blue_Wave_Democracy

This week a  ‘Blue Wave’ swept Democrats into office at nearly every level of local and state government, including Flippable’s state legislative targets in Virginia and Washington State. Flippable broke down everything from turnout to individual candidate strategy, to margins of victory to fundraising stats. The breakdown helps paint the reality of the wins while explaining a bit of how we got here. The clearest takeaway is this: there is another way to win state-wide races and generate energy around to win local races that will have ripple effects all the way *up* the ballot. Flippable co-founder Catherine Vaughan had this to say about the results:

“[ The] massive wins were unprecedented, and they are a vital input into our plan for next year. Progressives demonstrated the power of a coordinated, down-ballot-focused movement to transform outrage into a targeted, successful electoral strategy. We’ve shown that we can rebuild democracy from the ground up, with energy for local candidates working its way up the ballot.

With a dozen seats under our belt this year, Flippable plans to scale to 100 seats in 2018, with an eye on flipping or breaking supermajorities in 15-20 chambers that we need to pass progressive policies and undo Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts.”

Virginia and Washington Recaps : The Ballot for Blue

Learn more by reading the recaps below:

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Now Digitally Available: Historic TV Coverage of Senate Watergate Hearings

Watergate historical TV coverage

The Library of Congress and Boston public broadcaster WGBH announced this month gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973. The television recordings that were donated to the Library by WETA Washington, D.C., has been digitally preserved and made available online. Produced by the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT), the hearings were taped during the day and rebroadcast every evening on public television for 51 days, from May 17 to Nov. 15.  Do you know the Watergate broadcasts became one of the most popular series in public broadcasting history?

For the first time in 44 years, these riveting moments in history will once again be available to the American public through an online presentation—“Gavel-to-Gavel: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television”—on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) website at americanarchive.org/exhibits/watergate.

AAPB is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH to preserve and make accessible significant at-risk public media.

The presentation will provide access to all the coverage, a highlights reel, episode guide and an essay putting the coverage into historical perspective.  Visitors to the online exhibit—curated by 2017 Library of Congress Junior Fellow Amanda Reichenbach—will see firsthand the memorable personalities involved in this national drama and the revelations that ultimately led to resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Each episode of the coverage begins with about five minutes of commentary by MacNeil and Lehrer, including a recap of what happened during that day’s hearing.  The hearings range from two to seven hours in length.  The anchors close out with a 10- to 20-minute wrap-up with experts and interviews conducted by correspondent Peter Kaye.  The Senate Watergate Committee conducted its investigation in three phases: Watergate (May 17 – Sept. 25), Campaign Practices or “Dirty Tricks” (Sept. 26 – Nov. 6) and Campaign Finance (Nov. 7 – Nov. 15).  Coverage by NPACT of the subsequent House impeachment hearings in May and July 1974 also has been digitized and made available online.

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3-part series ‘The Final Truth About the Trump Dossier’ Released

A Russia expert with 50 years’ experience writing for Forbes stated the “dossier” reads like it was written by “a Russian trained in the KGB tradition.” However the company Accuracy in Media’s exposes the falsehoods and absurdities of this alleged dossier.

Exposing Falsehoods of The Trump Dossier

In a special three-part series, “The Final Truth about the Trump Dossier,” Accuracy in Media’s Center for Investigative Journalism sets the record straight about the partisan and dubious sources behind the FBI’s investigation of the Trump-Russian connection. The series is being published in advance of what The Daily Caller terms “a highly anticipated Senate hearing” this week featuring FBI director James Comey.

The Wednesday hearing was held by the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and concerns oversight of the FBI. Grassley sent another letter to Comey on April 28 examining how the FBI director has failed to comply with many requests for documents and information. “Comey seems not to grasp the nature of the damage he’s inflicting on the Bureau and its reputation for efficient information-gathering and law enforcement,” the first part of the AIM series declares. “He is lost in a ‘wilderness of mirrors,’ to use intelligence jargon popularized by the CIA’s legendary anti-communist mole-hunter James Jesus Angleton.”

The series begins by noting that the “Trump Dossier” of scurrilous allegations against President Trump and his associates was designed to “prove” that Trump is a Russian agent, but it originated with a group working on behalf of Russian interests and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Cliff Kincaid, director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, is available for interviews about the “Trump Dossier” and the mounting calls for FBI director Comey to resign.

About Accuracy Media

Accuracy in Media is a non-profit citizens’ media watchdog organization whose mission is to promote fairness, balance and accuracy in news
reporting. For more information, go to AIM.org.

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Video: Israel lobby conference 03-24 | National Press Club

At today’s Israel Lobby and American Policy Conference at the | 9 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.  attendees remarked that this was the best conference thus far. They believe the conference will encourage reporters to cover both sides of Middle East affairs. To watch the program, fast forward to 20 minutes in via the Youtube video.

The speakers appear in order of the program posted on Israellobbyandamericanpolicy.org , where you also will find edited video footage and transcripts. Mondoweiss has already posted the first in-depth article on the conference. Additionally, statistically significant polling results presented by conference co-host IRmep’s Director Grant F. Smith show that Americans oppose many of AIPAC’s core programs.

Let your members of Congress know how the majority feels as they prepare to receive scores of AIPAC supporters urging funding for these unpopular programs.

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How important is the Supreme Court Confirmation Process? Too much to rush

After blocking confirmation of Justice Scalia’s replacement on the U.S. Supreme Court for a full year, the Senate Judiciary Committee is now preparing to take up the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the post on March 20, nearly seven weeks after President Trump announced his pick. But this nomination won’t go under ” business as usual,” because too much has transpired in the intervening days for the Senate to treat it as such. Moreover, recent revelations have thrown the White House and Department of Justice into turmoil and created a crisis of legitimacy for the Trump Administration that will spill over to the nation’s highest court if there is a rush to judgment on Gorsuch’s confirmation. Also, the Senate and the public lack key information about Judge Gorsuch needed to give his nomination thorough consideration.

In other news, Republicans fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act have shown their willingness to rush major legislation to short-circuit a thorough review process that would expose the dangerous holes in their proposal; they are attempting to rush the confirmation process of Neil Gorsuch to avoid public scrutiny of his extreme views and record.

Crisis of Legitimacy

Since Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch for the Supreme Court on January 31, Americans have witnessed the forced resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for lying to the Vice President about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and seen Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuse himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign after coming under fire for misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee about his previously undisclosed meetings with Kislyak. Now we find out that Flynn was paid more than $500,000 to lobby for the Turkish government even while attending classified intelligence briefings.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s current focus—and rightly so—is on getting to the bottom of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Last week’s confirmation hearing for the nomination of Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General had some members of the committee demanding that he commit to appointment of a special prosecutor as a precondition for his approval.  Some believe Senators should not take up the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch until matters so critical to our democracy and national security have been resolved, yet Republicans seem intent on rushing his nomination forward.

Lessons Learned from Recent Confirmation Hearings

The Trump Administration has pushed through a number of cabinet-level appointments in recent weeks without full and proper vetting, proper ethics paperwork, or a complete record for Senators to review. That’s bad enough for positions critical to the functioning of the federal government, but completely unacceptable for a lifetime appointment that will shape the direction of the Supreme Court for decades to come.

The fast pace of Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General—one of eight major confirmation hearings scheduled over the span of three days—allowed him to dodge numerous questions about potential conflicts of interest given his role as a close political advisor and friend to Trump during the presidential campaign and transition.

When asked if he would recuse himself from any decisions regarding potential criminal prosecutions in connection with Russia’s hacking of the election, Sessions got away with saying, “I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters.”

As a result, mere weeks later, America is left with an Attorney General who cannot ethically participate in one of the most important matters facing the nation. Sessions will be likewise hobbled on a host of other legal issues that may come before the Department of Justice, including Trump violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause prohibiting foreign gifts and bribes, conflicts of interest created by Trump’s refusal to divest his business holdings into a blind trust, and potential insider trading by Trump family members actively involved in both White House and Trump Organization decision-making.

Gorsuch Role in the Bush Era DOJ

Top among the Gorsuch matters that need more time for investigation are questions about his handling of controversial cases while serving as a Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General from 2005 to 2006, and his role, if any, in the scandal over the politically motivated firings of nine U.S. Attorneys that ultimately led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2007.

Gorsuch told the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to its questionnaire that, he played a role in “major litigation decisions” and “developing legal strategy” for the Civil Division while at the Justice Department. That division handled some highly controversial cases at the time, including defense of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, the Defense of Marriage Act, the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, and detention of prisoners at Guantanamo.

In addition, Gorsuch was responsible for helping to supervise the Civil Rights Division at a time when there were serious problems with its politicization and lax enforcement of civil rights laws.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed an expedited Freedom of Information Act request on February 16 seeking documents related to Gorsuch’s involvement with the Civil Rights Division during the U.S. Attorney firing scandal. Another group, Fix the Court, has been waiting for those records for months.

A 2008 report by the DOJ Inspector General found that the firings in 2005 and 2006 were politically motivated, “severely damaged the credibility of the Department and raised serious doubts about the integrity of Department prosecutive decisions.” The Bush Administration had pressured U.S. Attorneys to find and prosecute voter fraud, despite a lack of evidence, and retaliated against those who would not cooperate.

The scandal ultimately resulted in the resignations of AG Gonzalez and seven other prominent DOJ officials, including the former acting Assistant AG for the Civil Rights Division, Brad Schlozman. It seems highly probable that Gorsuch would have had contact with Schlozman and been aware of what was happening in the division.

“The requested records will shed light on what role, if any, Mr. Gorsuch had in the disastrous hiring and firing initiatives implemented at DOJ during his time there,” CLC wrote in its FOIA request. “How Mr. Gorsuch navigated the issue of the DOJ’s independence under an administration bent on interfering for political gain has significant bearing on how he might approach similar troubling interference as a nominee to, and as a Justice on the Supreme Court.”

The Justice Department turned over 144,000 pages of documents to the Judiciary Committee last Wednesday night, but 90,000 of those were from after Gorsuch left the department. Just days away from the confirmation hearings, it is unclear whether the Committee has all the information it asked for—let alone adequate time to review it—and CLC is still waiting for its FOIA records.

With the independence of the judiciary—as well as the integrity of our elections, a free press, and crucial civil rights—under attack from the White House, the Senate and the public must have a complete record of Judge Gorsuch’s role in or handling of past compromises to our system of impartial justice. Will a Justice Gorsuch fiercely defend the rule of law from political manipulation? Just calling such attacks “demoralizing” is not enough.

Protecting the Integrity of the Supreme Court

If Senate leadership rushes through confirmation of Gorsuch in the next few weeks, after holding the position open for more than a year, it will cast the same shadow of illegitimacy that now lies over the White House over the Supreme Court. It is time to slow things down, wait to see if the Trump Administration stabilizes, and allow adequate time to review and debate the wisdom of placing Gorsuch on the Supreme Court bench.

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Matthew Masterson named new EAC Chairman

Matthew Masterson Commissioner, US Election Assistance Commission @EACgov .

This week Commissioner Matthew Masterson was elected Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), a position he will hold for one year. Masterson will continue to serve alongside EAC Commissioner Thomas Hicks, who now moves from the role of Chairman to Vice Chair, and Commissioner Christy A. McCormick. As a former Ohio election official and having served as a member of the EAC’s Testing and Certification team, Masterson knows the EAC is a vital resource for state and local election administrators, voters, and stakeholders. There are more than 8,000 election jurisdictions in the United States, each facing mounting pressures that stem from concerns such as cybersecurity and aging voting equipment. He plans to spend the coming year as Chairman helping to make sure their needs are met and their voices are heard.

Chairman Masterson has identified three areas of concern to state and local election officials that will tell his agenda for the coming year, including:

  • Supporting and empowering state and local election officials as they deal with pressures stemming from America’s aging election system infrastructure.
  • Working to bridge the information gap between the Department of Homeland Security and state election officials who are still wondering how the department’s decision to designate election systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure will impact their day-to-day operations.
  • Ensuring improved election accessibility for voters with disabilities, Limited English Proficiency Voters, as well as military and other Americans voting overseas.

Chairman Masterson assumes this new role amid the EAC’s #GamePlan17 work to prepare for next year’s midterm elections. That effort will be largely informed by lessons learned in 2016 and the Commission’s 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), the most comprehensive set of data regarding election administration and voting across the United States. EAVS is slated for release at the end of June. His election also comes less than a week after a set of 17 core voting system functions that will guide the EAC’s next generation of Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) was adopted by the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), a step that sets the stage for the new voting system guidelines to be completed by 2018. This spring the EAC is also poised to release a new website that will feature a cutting-edge, user-friendly design. The site will also become the new permanent home for the popular tools and guidance stemming from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA).

Masterson was recommended by former Speaker of the House Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) and nominated to serve as an EAC Commissioner by President Barack H. Obama. He was confirmed by unanimous consent of the United States Senate on December 16, 2014. Before his EAC appointment, Chairman Masterson served as Interim Chief of Staff for the Ohio Secretary of State, whom he had previous served as a Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief Information Officer. In his earlier position of Deputy Director of Elections for the State of Ohio, Chairman Masterson was responsible for voting system certification efforts by the Secretary of State’s office, including being the liaison to the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners. He was also in charge of Ohio’s effort to develop an online voter registration system and online ballot delivery for military and overseas voters.

Prior to joining the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, Chairman Masterson held multiple roles at the Election Assistance Commission. Masterson joined the EAC staff in 2006 as a Special Assistant/Counsel to Chairman Paul DeGregorio. He went on to serve as Deputy Director for the EAC’s Voting System Testing and Certification Program. In this role, his primary responsibility was the creation of the next iteration of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). Chairman Masterson worked with the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the creation of the TGDC’s recommended Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. In addition to these responsibilities, he managed the day to day business of the EAC’s laboratory accreditation program, including the creation of the EAC’s Voting System Test Laboratory Program Manual.

About the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as audits the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit eac.gov.

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U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) takes important step toward new voting system guidelines

Washington, DC – A set of 17 core voting system functions that will guide the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) next generation of Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) was adopted this week by the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). The unanimous vote came during a meeting called by the EAC and chaired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It comes as the Department of Homeland Security has affirmed its intent to maintain designation of election systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

“The need to protect America’s voting systems has never been more apparent,” said EAC Commissioner Matthew Masterson, who is the designated federal officer for the committee. “We are pleased the TGDC was unanimous in its vote to approve the proposed scope for the next set of guidelines, putting us another step closer to finalizing the next generation of standards used to test voting systems. These will be the most advanced standards against which a voting system can be tested in the United States, ensuring improved security, accessibility and auditability of the next generation of voting systems. Even better, these new guidelines are designed to spur innovations that allow local election officials to give voters the best experience possible.”

What are VVSG?

VVSG are a set of specifications and requirements against which voting systems can be tested to determine if the systems meet required standards. Some factors examined under these tests include functionality, accessibility, accuracy, auditability and security capabilities. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandates that EAC develop and maintain these requirements as well as testing and certifying voting systems. On December 13, 2005, the EAC unanimously adopted the 2005 VVSG, which significantly increased security requirements for voting systems and expanded access, including opportunities for individuals with disabilities to vote privately and independently. The 2005 guidelines updated and augmented the 2002 Voting System Standards, as required by HAVA, to address advancements in election practices and computer technologies. These guidelines were again updated by the EAC’s Commissioners on March 31, 2015.

About the new VVSG

The new VVSG are slated to be complete by 2018. These guidelines are voluntary. States may decide to adopt them entirely or in part prior to the effective date. The structure of the new VVSG reflects modifications proposed by the election community, EAC, NIST and the TGDC, which is comprised of election officials, voting system manufacturers, disability experts, cyber security experts, technology experts, and other key election stakeholders. The new guidelines are a nimble high level set of principles that will be supplemented by accompanying documents that detail specific requirements for how systems can meet the new guidelines and obtain certification. The supplemental documents will also detail  assertions for how the accredited test laboratories will validate that the system complies with those requirements. The new VVSG structure is anticipated to be:

  • Principles:    High level system design goals;
  • Guidelines:   Broad description of the functions that make up a voting system;
  • Requirements:   Technical details necessary for manufacturers to design devices that meet the principles and guidelines of a voting system;
  • Test Assertions:    Technical specifications required for laboratories to test a voting system against the requirements.

During this week’s meeting, the TGDC also had the opportunity to hear from the Department of Homeland Security about how the department’s new critical infrastructure designation may impact local election officials. The discussion marked the first time DHS and local election officials and other stakeholders had the opportunity to talk about the designation and revealed next steps in the process, including the creation of working groups that DHS plans to convene to inform its recommendations and services. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the EAC’s Testing and Certification program, which is the most successful and most implemented voting machine testing and certification program in the nation.

The Testing and Certification program was a requirement of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, legislation that created the EAC and mandated that the commission provide certification, decertification, and recertification of voting systems, as well as the accreditation of voting system testing laboratories.  This marked the first time the federal government assumed responsibility for these activities, a step that allowed states to procure new certified voting systems without the added expense of independent testing and certification. At least 47 states now use the EAC’s Testing and Certification program in some way when deciding which voting system to procure, and over the past decade, it has handled 58 certification campaigns in coordination with 15 voting system vendors. The TGDC is expected to convene again in late summer 2017.

About the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as audits the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit www.eac.gov.

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January 2017: Illegal settlement construction by the numbers

Three new rounds of illegal settlement construction were announced by Israel in January. On Jan. 22, the government announced plans for 566 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. On Jan. 24, plans for 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank were announced. On Jan. 31, approval was given for 3,000 additional housing units in the West Bank. The Trump administration declined to condemn the announcements and David Friedman, President Trump’s pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, formerly served as president of a group that raises funds for settlements.

So far 137 Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were demolished by Israeli forces in January. According to figures from the United Nations, the demolitions have displaced 237 people, including 134 children. These demolitions build upon the 1,093 Palestinian structures that Israel destroyed last year—the highest number since the U.N. began keeping records in 2009.

Two people—an Israeli Bedouin and an Israeli police officer—were killed in clashes on Jan. 18 after Israeli officials entered the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran with demolition orders. Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Ayman Odeh was injured and hospitalized after being hit by a foam-tipped bullet during the clashes. Israel regularly demolishes Bedouin villages it does not recognize to build new towns for Jewish Israelis only.

20-year-old Israeli Sgt. Elor Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by an Israeli court in early January. In March 2016, Azaria was filmed fatally shooting a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian attacker in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Azaria’s conviction was a rare moment of justice for Palestinians, as IDF soldiers rarely face severe consequences for crimes committed against Palestinians.

In six months, the amount of time Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Basel Ghattas has been suspended from the Knesset after he was caught allegedly smuggling cell phones, SIM cards and documents to prisoners convicted of terrorism. Ghattas will still be permitted to vote during his suspension.

56 percent of Americans oppose moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to a January poll conducted by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. President Donald Trump seemed poised to announce the move within his first week in office, but has since put any such announcement on hold.

31 percent of Democrats polled by the Pew Research Center in January said they sympathize more with Palestine than with Israel. 33 percent of respondents said they sympathize more with Israel. These findings mark the first time in Pew Research history that Democrats are as likely to sympathize with Palestinians as they are with Israelis. The poll found that Republican support for Israel remains strong.

342 members of the House of Representatives—233 Republicans and 109 Democrats—voted in favor of a resolution objecting to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns Israel’s ongoing settlement enterprise. President Barack Obama refused to veto the resolution in December, thereby allowing the resolution to pass and leading to criticism from pro-Israel groups in the U.S.

41 men remain at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, after former President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison. Obama transferred 18 men from the facility in January—10 to Oman, 5 to Saudi Arabia and 3 to the UAE. During his eight years in office he transferred 197 detainees from the facility.

26,172 bombs were dropped in seven countries by the United States in 2016, according to an estimate conducted by Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. The vast majority of bombs were dropped in Syria (12,192) and Iraq (12,095). The remainder was dropped in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. “This estimate is undoubtedly low,” Zenko points out, “considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, and a single ‘strike,’ according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions.”

Three U.S. drone strikes were carried out in Yemen in January, reportedly killing between 6 and 13 militants, according to data complied by New America. Two of the strikes were authorized by President Donald Trump. According to the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. conducted 526 counter-terror strikes (most of them drone strikes) during President Obama’s tenure in office. The U.S. government estimates 64 to 117 civilians were killed in the strikes, though independent estimates put this number much higher. This official data does not include strikes in areas of “active hostilities,” including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where it is believed U.S. drone strikes have been particularly devastating to civilians.

30 Yemenis, most of them civilians, were killed on Jan. 29 when U.S. commandos carried out a raid targeting al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen. Among those killed in the first military raid authorized by President Trump was 8-year-old American citizen Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was extrajudicially killed by a drone strike in October 2011 and whose 16-year-old son Abdulrahman was killed in a drone strike two weeks later. An American service member was also killed in the January raid, which the president described as “successful.”

1,000 Yemeni children die every week from preventable diseases, according to UNICEF. An estimated 2.2 million children in the poor, war-torn nation suffer from malnutrition, according to the agency.

Seven years after being jailed for leaking American military and diplomatic documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Chelsea Manning had her sentence commuted by President Obama on Jan. 17. Manning’s leaks led to a greater public critique of U.S. military action in the Middle East. Manning is set to be released on May 17, after originally being scheduled for release in 2045.

1,363 civilians were killed in violence in Iraq in January, according to Iraq Body Count.

64 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran, according to a poll conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation in late December.

82-year-old Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Jan. 8 in Tajrish, Iran. The two-time president and former chairman of the Assembly of Experts was one of the most influential politicians in Iran. A leader of the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani was a mentor to current President Hassan Rouhani and used his power to give greater legitimacy to more “moderate” forces within Iran.


 

About the Washington Report

The Washington Report is published by the American Educational Trust, a non-profit foundation incorporated in Washington, DC to provide the American public with balanced and accurate information on U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states. Material from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs may be printed without charge with attribution to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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Humanist Group to educate congress about the Johnson Amendment

American_Humanist_Association

 

Tomorrow January 31, 2017, the American Humanist Association will host briefings in both the US House and Senate to educate legislators and their staff about the importance of protecting the Johnson Amendment, a piece of legislation that prevents religious organizations from violating the separation of church and state by endorsing political candidates. The US House briefing will be held at 11:30am, and the US Senate briefing will be held at1:30pm.

WHERE: The US House briefing will be held at Cannon 340, and the US Senate briefing will be held at Russell 485, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

The briefing will feature experts on the topics of religious freedom and campaign finance, including: Policy Counsel Jennifer Ahearn of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Executive Director Amanda Tyler of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Political Action Committee Coordinator Ron Millar of the Freethought Equality Fund. American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt and American Humanist Association Development and Communications Director Maggie Ardiente will also be in attendance.

A repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which was passed in 1954 to protect the separation of church and state by prohibiting religious and other non-profit organizations from engaging in political activity, including endorsing and funding political candidates would be devastating. Already, a bill has been introduced in this session of Congress, HR 172, which would overturn the Johnson Amendment. The American Humanist Association, as well as other church-state separation groups and organizations for campaign finance reform, are concerned that without the Johnson Amendment, churches and other religious organizations could funnel anonymous, tax-deductible donations to candidates who promise to carry out their religious practices into policy.

About the American Humanist Association

Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

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