“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
What's Going On with the USPS?
#SaveTheUSPS? Budget cuts and reforms have made it difficult for the Post Office, a beloved American institution to do its job.
The United States Post Office is under attack.
Direct attacks from the president, COVID-19, government failure to provide aid, and a radical new postmaster general have all contributed to what's shaping up to be a veritable disaster for American mail—one that might have consequences for the upcoming November election.
The Postal Service's Opponents: COVID-19, Trump, DeJoy, and Money
2020 has been extremely difficult for most people and businesses, and the USPS, which reported a $3 billion loss in the last three months, is no difference. Democrats proposed giving the postal service $25 billion in aid as part of their latest coronavirus stimulus package, which stalled to a standstill in Congress due to partisan divides. Without significant aid, the USPS has suffered intensely during the COVID-19 pandemic—and so have its customers.
In addition to the fact that the postal service provides necessary services to millions across America every day–and it is now responsible for delivering vital products to Americans trying to social distance and end this pandemic–it will be responsible for perhaps the most important job ever: carrying the millions of mail-in ballots that are sure to be cast in 2020 to the appropriate destination.
More Americans than ever before are projected to vote by mail in the 2020 election, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some polls have shown that Trump's supporters are more likely to vote in person, whereas Democrats are more likely to vote by mail, while others show that there is no partisan divide between who votes by mail and who does not.
Still, many of Trump's opponents, who fear he is attempting to sabotage the election by shutting down the postal service and forcing people to choose between their health and democracy, are terrified.
The postal service has, therefore, found itself an unwitting political punching bag.
President Donald Trump has never hid his disdain for the Post Office. Recently, he's begun to argue that voting by mail—the safest way to vote during COVID-19—will lead to fraud.
Americans Fight for the Post Office & Obama Speaks Out | The Daily Social Distancing Showwww.youtube.com
This claim has been proven false, but of course Trump doesn't care. Still, it's clear that the postal service could easily manage an election if it was allowed to continue as it had been for over 200 years. "If — and that's a big IF — allowed to do its work, the US Postal Service can easily handle the surge of mail that might result from 150 million Americans choosing to vote by mail this fall rather than vote in person," writes Jesse Jackson for the Chicago Sun Times. The postal service normally handles around 500 million letters per day.
The problem is that the postal service is not being allowed to do its work. COVID-19 was incredibly difficult, but the postal service was able to keep things somewhat under control until Louis DeJoy entered the scene.
Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General
At the center of all this is Louis DeJoy, who was appointed the new postmaster general in June. Notably, DeJoy, a multimillionaire, is a top GOP donor and was the chairman of fundraising for the Republican National Convention last year.
Since he was appointed, DeJoy has made some changes. His "reforms," all imposed without any public consultation or discussion with employees, include cutting hours, reducing overtime, and removing mail processing equipment. The USPS also recently announced that it will not treat ballots as priority mail without first-class postage.
In short, DeJoy's "reforms" are slowing down the mail.
Over the past few months, the Post Office has reported delays in receiving prescription medications and other necessary goods, delays that have increased thanks to DeJoy's new policies.
The Post Office's sudden decline has also already harmed elections, with some voters in Wisconsin and Michigan never receiving the absentee ballots they requested in advance and with New York postal service employees rejecting ballots that did not have the appropriate postage.
Postal service employees themselves are extremely confused by the "reforms." "If you asked me a month ago [if] the postal service handle an influx of mail-in ballots, I would have said, 'We've been through two world wars and a depression, we've been doing this for more than 200 years,'" said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers' Union, to The Guardian. "Now, I'm not so sure."
Trump's administration has already announced that they want to privatize the Post Office, selling it off to private companies. DeJoy—who has million-dollar investments in competitors to the Post Office—has a reason to support these plans.
Democrats are attempting to take action. Nancy Pelosi recently called lawmakers back to the House to vote on legislation dedicated to protecting the postal service. They're currently voting on the Delivering America Act, which bans changes to the post office implemented after January 1st, 2020.
Democratic leaders are also calling on DeJoy to testify in court, demanding an explanation for the "sweeping and dangerous operational changes at the Postal Service that are slowing the mail and jeopardizing the integrity of the election."
What Can We Do?
With #SaveTheUSPS and #SaveThePostOffice trending on Twitter recently, the hashtag needs to become a movement.
"Citizens should be mobilizing pressure across the country, with demonstrations at Post Offices in support of the service, with calls to legislators demanding action, with pressure on state and local election officials to provide the resources needed for more drop-off boxes, more hours of early voting, more polling places," continues Jackson.
It's a great time to stage protests and call legislators, who need to know the people's opinions. While civilian contributions alone won't save the Post Office (only government stimulus packages or pocket change from Jeff Bezos could do that), concerned citizens can still do our part to show the postal service that we stand with them by buying Post Office merchandise, sending letters, and rallying to support our democracy by fighting voter suppression.
Biggest Takeaways from the Second Democratic Debate
Over the course of the evening, it became apparent the two frontrunners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, aren't old dogs with new tricks.
Last night, the second round of Democratic debates came and went. Ten out of the twenty candidates who qualified for the debates were chosen at random to participate in the second half of NBC's nationally televised event. Of course, the goal for the Democratic Party is to take the Oval Office and hopefully the Senate.
Over the course of the evening, it became apparent the two frontrunners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, are old dogs without any new tricks. Honestly, it'd be difficult to tell the difference between a clip of Senator Sanders debating in 2016 and 2019—maybe this time around, he's a little more tired. Joe Biden was alarming on the stage: He was ill-prepared, stumbled over his words, and leaned heavily on his smile. It's not that Biden had a terrible night' it's that he only had an okay night— which, for a frontrunner, is not a good sign. There were only three people anyone should be excited to hear from: Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Marianne Williamson.
Between the two debates, candidate Andrew Yang spoke the least by a two-minute margin. During the three minutes he did speak, Yang introduced his Freedom Dividend policy. The Freedom Dividend Policy is a Universal Basic Income plan. All people over the age of eighteen would be eligible to obtain a basic income of a thousand dollars a month. Yang's policy is one of the few proposed that addresses an imminent threat: technology. If corporations like Amazon were heavily taxed, that'd free a lot more money for workers who are displaced due to automated jobs accomplished by AI.
If you look into Yang, he's a contender thanks to his reasonably successful grassroots campaign. Last night, Yang turned his campaign into the trending hashtag #LetYangSpeak. According to the candidate, his mic had been turned off multiple times throughout the evening. The only evidence available is footage of Yang attempting to get a word in but to no avail.
#LetYangSpeak Here’s proof that @AndrewYang was attempting to speak, but his mic was cut off. Coincidences don’t ex… https://t.co/cRhdujENfD— AVWilhite20 (@AVWilhite20) 1561733609.0
In the video, he's speaking, loud enough for Joe Biden to hear him. Beyond that clip, there is no other evidence. If that were, in fact, true, then NBC would have a lot to answer for ah regarding their meddling in a primary debate.
Marianne Williamson, Be Still My Heart
Marianne Williamson sure made a name for herself last night. Her dramatic and chaotic delivery was a delight for many. Yet, she did not come to play games; she came to bring up points of contention and big ideas we need to tackle. According to her, "It's really nice if we've got all these plans, but if you think we're going to beat Donald Trump by just having all these plans, you've got another thing coming. He didn't win by saying he had a plan. He won by simply saying 'Make America Great Again.'" She's right, like she was right about a lot of things: Williamson thoughtfully addressed the need for reparations, slammed ageist rhetoric, and exclaimed of love over hate.
Although her delivery was off-kilter to many, Williamson should not be underestimated for her flowery language; she explained:
"I have had a career not making the political plans, but I have had a career harnessing the inspiration and the motivation and the excitement of people. Masses of people. When we know that when we say we are going to turn from a dirty economy to a clean economy, we're going to have a Green New Deal, we're going to create millions of jobs, we're going to do this within the next 12 years, because I'm not interested in just winning the next election, we are interested in our grandchildren. Then it will happen."
Many Americans never imagined Donald Trump would be our president, but here we are. Williamson's bold statements and captivating delivery about her hopes and dreams for this country have the potential to capture the American imagination. Sure, she may give off the spiritual energy of a wine mom who likes crystals, but why does that discredit her abilities? Remember, the hippies of our nation began revolutions.
Marianne Williamson: I Will 'Harness Love' To Defeat President Donald Trump | NBC Newswww.youtube.com
Yes, We Just Witnessed a Murder
Kamala Harris came prepared last night. Over all the ruckus, Harris reprimanded her fellow candidates with her rehearsed one-liner: "America does not want to witness a food fight; they want to know how we're going to put food on their table."
She continued to command the evening by confronting Joe Biden on his record. Harris challenged the former VP, asserting:
"I'm going to now direct this at Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe, and it's personal— and I was actually very—it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.
"And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me."
Kamala Harris Confronts Joe Biden On Race | TIMEwww.youtube.com
Biden, who was once a spirited debater, floundered in his response. He clarified that he supported busing, but on the state level. Harris clapped back, recounting how in her hometown of Berkeley, California, busing was not enforced. She utilized the anecdote to explain why The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were crucial to this country, which is why we need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
Biden was given thirty seconds to respond. He vouched for his record, reasserting that he always supported Civil Rights, before cutting himself off, saying, "— anyway, my time is up. I'm sorry." Biden caused the most damage to himself, as he failed to successfully defend himself.
Sometimes, You Just Can't Get it Done
Pete Buttigieg was another candidate with a breakout performance. The South Bend, Indiana Mayor may be young, but he's had skin in the game for seventeen years. Buttigieg is a veteran, a politician, a polyglot, and a gifted orator. He also made history last night as the first openly gay candidate to participate in a primary debate.
On the topic of immigration, he broke down the hypocrisy of the Christian-aligning Republican Party. Buttigieg did not hold back, proclaiming:
"The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion. We should call hypocrisy, and for a party that associates with Christianity to say it is okay to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages has lost all claim to ever use religion language again."
The South Bend native also candidly addressed his failure to diversify his city's police force, noting, "I couldn't get it done." He went on to explain the pain his city is experiencing due to the devastating death of a local black man, Eric Logan. Logan was shot and killed by a white police officer. The officer did not have his body camera on at the time of the incident. Buttigieg unpacked how he could not take a position on the matter until the investigation is complete.
The mayor's transparency was received favorably and for a good reason. We need a president who doesn't spread fake news.
Stop Name Dropping
Joe Biden name-dropped Obama almost as frequently as he did Trump. Biden's attempts to piggy-back off the former President's accomplishments highlighted the reason Biden why was only able to make it into the Oval Office as a running mate instead of president: He is not our future. While Biden is a respected Washington staple, his vision for our country is dated and boring. It doesn't capture the America we live in today. After Harris' takedown, it's apparent that Biden cannot justify his unfavorable past.
Maybe California Senator Eric Swalwell was right when he told Biden to finally "pass the torch" to the next generation. Biden slyly smiled and said, "Not yet." However, if last night proved anything, it's that he should've let go of it a long time ago.
Trump Refuses to Sign G20 Statement on Climate Change
Trump continues to alienate the U.S. from the global community by panning diplomacy for his own agendas.
Donald Trump singled out the United States before the entire international community at the G20 summit over the weekend. He was the only leader in attendance to refuse to sign a joint statement pledging a non-binding commitment to continue combating climate change.
After a strenuous, all-night negotiation in Buenos Aires, the world leaders issued a communiqué re-affirming that the Paris climate agreement "is irreversible" and vowing "full implementation" of its policies to "continue to tackle climate change, while promoting sustainable development and economic growth."
However, the summit was fraught with tensions over various countries' objections and demands, including Trump's refusal to budge on climate change or trade agreements. As such, world leaders struggled to pen a separate clause to account for Trump's "America First" stance. The communiqué reads: "The United States reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and affirms its strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security, utilizing all energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment."
In another compromise forced by Trump's intransigence, this year's G20 statement also shirked its usual promises to fight protectionism and uphold multilateral trading rules. The summit weakly acknowledged the "contribution" of the "multilateral trading system," despite the fact that it's "falling short" of its goals in trade growth and job creation. One European official present at the weekend's negotiations told NBC News, "There were moments when we thought all was lost."
At last year's summit, Trump shocked world leaders with his first refusal to join the consensus on climate and trade issues. He continued to alienate the U.S. from the international community over the summer. In June, the president refused to sign a joint statement on global economic policies from the G7 summit, even taking to Twitter to deride Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the policies.
Newsweek - Getty Images
As a final act of belligerence, Trump stormed off the stage as the rest of the world leaders gathered for a photo to commemorate the end of a two-day effort in global solidarity. After shaking hands with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Trump left Macri visibly confused on stage as he hastily left. Trump was audibly recorded telling an aide, "Get me out of here."
Reluctantly, he returned to the stage moments later to pose for group photos.
Hilarious moment Trump caught saying "get me out of here" at G20 Summitwww.youtube.com
Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.
Ukraine Declares Martial Law After "Act of Aggression" From Russia
Russian ships fired on Ukrainian sailors and illegally detained whole crews over the weekend, escalating Russia-Ukraine tensions.
Ukraine began the week by declaring martial law after six navy sailors were injured when the Russian coast guard open fired on them. Concerningly, three Ukrainian artillery ships were also seized, with their 24 crew members forcibly detained by Russian authorities.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley urged Russia to "immediately cease its unlawful conduct" in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. "In the name of international peace and security, Russia must immediately cease its unlawful conduct and respect the navigational rights and freedoms of all states," Haley announced at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council late Monday morning.
Russian vessel rams Ukrainian shipBBC
In response to the maritime incident, Ukraine's parliament overwhelmingly voted to impose martial law in the 10 regions bordering Russia. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that martial law will last for 30 days, concluding in December, at which time he will assess the need for further action.
Poroshenko openly condemned Russia's actions, stating, "We consider it as an act of aggression against our state and a very serious threat," the president said. "Unfortunately, there are no 'red lines' for the Russian Federation." The international community has joined Ukraine in condemning Russia's actions, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledging "full support for Ukraine's territorial integrity" and stating that Russia had "no justification" for the seizure of Ukraine's ships.
Russian officials dispute the details of the altercation, as the Federal Security Service contends that the skirmish was a justified response to the Ukrainian ships illegally entering territorial waters. Russia's Border Service released a statement over the weekend, stating, "The vessels are carrying out dangerous maneuvers and are disobeying the Russian authorities' demands." Ukraine denies allegations of wrongdoing, citing a 2003 treaty dictating maritime rights and protocol over the Kerch Strait where their ships were detained.
Ultimately, both governments are interpreting the incident as a fabricated aggression in order to discredit the other. Amidst an international backlash over the conflict, an arbitration court in Paris reportedly ruled that Russia owed Ukraine $1.3 billion in damages for the property seized in the annexation of Crimea. Though Russia did not comment on the ruling, they've accused the Ukrainian president of using the situation as a "dangerous provocation" that justifies the imposition of martial law, which grants him the power to manipulate Ukraine's next presidential election, scheduled for March.
It's true that President Poroshenko is currently far behind his political rival in the polls. Oksana Syroid, a deputy speaker in Ukraine's parliament, agreed, "Martial law in Ukraine would present a wonderful chance to manipulate the presidential elections." Aside from increasing the president's power, martial law would ostensibly allow the government to strengthen air defense and prepare a partial mobilization in the event of a Russian incursion. However, it could also restrict Ukrainians' civil liberties. For instance, objectors cite parliament's ambiguous wording in its plans for "strengthening" anti-terrorism measures and "information security." Three former Ukrainian presidents have already publicly opposed martial law, penning a letter that warns that it could be a "threat to democracy" in a country that found its democratic feet less than 30 years ago.
Martial law is set to begin on Wednesday, November 28. Alleged footage of the maritime clash has been leaked across news outlets and Youtube, found below.
Russian vessels fire at and seize Ukrainian shipsyoutu.be
Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung
White House Correspondents' Association Snubs Comedians
The WHCA will not invite a comedian to speak at the 2019 dinner due to "unusual moment" in history when Trump's threats to freedom of the press aren't funny.
According to The White House Correspondents' Association, tensions between the press and the Trump Administration are nothing to joke about. This year's annual fundraising dinner, which traditionally invites a comedian to roast the president and the press corps, will instead feature Ron Chernow, noted biographer of Alexander Hamilton, as its speaker.
Oliver Knox, the association's president, announced Chernow's selection on Monday, stating, "As we celebrate the importance of a free and independent news media to the health of the republic, I look forward to hearing Ron place this unusual moment in the context of American history."
Town & Country Magazine
Ironically, it's Trump's expected absence from the event that worries the association. Another facet of the annual tradition is for the seated president to speak first, jest with the press corps and perhaps poke fun at himself, and then the comedian parries back in their own speech. However, Trump has declined to attend the last two years, giving no indication that he plans to appear at the April 27th event with Chernow. Knox has noted that the president's absence can skew the tone of the room into feeling antagonistic toward the current administration, rather than a good-humored acknowledgement of differences.
In fact, last year's event (sans Trump) featured Michelle Wolf, who incurred the president's wrath and general backlash for her remarks. For instance, Wolf singled out White House reporters for empowering Trump, stating, "You helped create this monster, and now you're profiting off of him." Later Trump took to Twitter to denounce Wolf as a "filthy 'comedian'."
CNN - The Blaze
This year, Chernow is clarifying that "he's never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian," but he's aware of the "unusual moment" Knox speaks of, in terms of the fraught relationship between the Trump administration and the press. High points of tension include the widely publicized legal battle between CNN and the White House after CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass was revoked and then reinstated by a judge after his network took the matter to court.
Stuck in the middle, Chernow released a statement, "The White House Correspondents' Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige. Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory."
Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung
Criminal Charges Against WikiLeaks Founder Revealed
A call for Julian Assange's arrest and extradition was found in an unrelated court filing.
U.S. Department of Justice charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have been discovered through an administrative error in an unrelated court filing late Thursday night.
The filing from prosecutors for the Eastern District of Virginia on August 22 contains language indicating the government is seeking a future warrant for Assange's arrest "in connection with the charges" in a sex-crimes case for Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, who was charged with coercing and enticing an underage person to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Unsealed last week by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at George Washington University, the file says Assange "can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition."
Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Eastern District of Virginia, referred to the mentions of Assange as an "administrative error" on Friday, and said the August case had nothing to do with WikiLeaks. He declined to comment further. However, multiple news outlets have reported that the Justice Department is preparing to prosecute Assange, citing people familiar with the matter in addition to the inadvertent court disclosure. The precise criminal charges he faces remain unclear.
U.S. authorities were allegedly prepared to seek charges against Assange in April 2017, but none were ever sought. Assange is currently located in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he's been living for years. If the charges against Assange are filed, it would require a multistep diplomatic and legal process to arrest and extradite him.
Justice Department officials have been investigating Assange since 2010, when thousands of confidential government files were posted on WikiLeaks from U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The recent disclosure comes as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III continues to investigate the website while discerning potential links between Trump Administration officials and Russia's 2016 election interference. The site published thousands of emails during the election that were stolen by Russian intelligence officers as part of a disruption campaign against presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
WikiLeaks tweeted about the filing soon after the news broke, saying "US Department of Justice 'accidentally' reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeak's publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case."
SCOOP: US Department of Justice "accidentally" reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against Wi… https://t.co/GjZMblZXAy— WikiLeaks (@WikiLeaks) 1542338074.0
While the exact details are a mystery, the potential charges against Assange for publishing information of public interest—even if it was obtained by Moscow hackers—would be a critical development in the relationship between modern governments and freedom of the press, and may set a threatening precedent.
"The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed," Barry Pollack, an attorney for Assange, told CNN. "The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take."
Joshua Smalley is a New York-based writer, editor, and playwright. Find Josh at his website and on Twitter: @smalleywrites.
In Un-American Move, White House Bans CNN Correspondent
The White House revokes CNN reporter Jim Acosta's press pass with "fraudulent accusations" of assault.
Trump's vilification of the press as "an enemy of the people" reached a crescendo on Wednesday when CNN's chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta was banned from the property "until further notice." The dismissal followed a heated exchange between him and Trump during a press conference.
Acosta first shared on Twitter that he'd been barred from the White House grounds.
I’ve just been denied entrance to the WH. Secret Service just informed me I cannot enter the WH grounds for my 8pm hit— Jim Acosta (@Jim Acosta) 1541637988.0
During a press conference earlier that day, Acosta questioned Trump's description of the migrant caravan approaching the US border from Central America as an "invasion." He then baldly asked about Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election, to which the president opted to lob insults at Acosta and CNN, including calling Acosta a "rude, terrible person."
Trump prevented the reporter from asking follow up questions, declaring, "That's enough" and, "Put down the mic!" A female aide approached and attempted to physically wrestle the microphone away from Acosta. This was the contentious point that Press Secretary Sarah Huckerbee Sanders referred to on Twitter after confirming that Acosta's press access had been revoked. Sanders claimed the decision was the result of him putting "his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern."
President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We… https://t.co/XxV2eSklwK— Sarah Sanders (@Sarah Sanders) 1541638103.0
Shamefully, Sanders followed up by posting a clip of doctored footage from the incident. Paul Joseph Watson, editor of the infamously fallacious Infowars website, edited and shared the video on Twitter before Sanders posted it, stating, "We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video."
Acosta simply posted his response to the accusation as "a lie," as accurate footage of the press conference clearly shows his lack of aggression towards the intern. CNN has responded on Twitter by condemning Trump's "disturbingly un-American" attacks on the press and asserting that they "stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere." They've also posted undoctored footage of the exchange "for the world to see."
Here is a video of the interaction for the world to see: https://t.co/us8u5TWzDz— CNN Communications (@CNN Communications) 1541642564.0
In addition, CNN denounced the White House's decision and Sanders' "fraudulent accusations." In a statement, they asserted that Acosta's ban "was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today's press conference. In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better."
While Fox News reporter Chris Wallace agreed that Acosta's actions were "shameful," the White House Correspondents' Association finds Acosta's ban "unacceptable." In a statement, they urge the White House to "immediately reverse this weak and misguided action."
Trump and his administration have an infamous history of combating the press. In October, the writers organization and free speech advocacy group PEN America filed to sue President Trump in federal court "to stop President Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes."
Neither Sarah Sanders nor the White House has made further comment on Acosta's press credentials since Wednesday.
Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.
Nikki Haley Resigns from Role as US Ambassador to the UN
Trump says he will announce her replacement in two to three weeks' time.
President Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, announced this morning that she will be resigning at the end of the year.
Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, was appointed as ambassador in 2016 shortly after Trump's election. She was an outspoken critic of Trump prior to his election, so when he named her the envoy to the world body the appointment was seen as a peacekeeping move.
However, it appears any previously existing tension between them has been resolved, as the two continually emphasized their admiration for each other in an oval office press conference this morning. Trump said he believes Haley has helped make the position of UN ambassador "more glamorous" and "more important," and said that "many people" want the job. He went on to say that, "She's done a fantastic job, and we've done a fantastic job together," adding that Haley has been, "very special to me." Trump says he will announce the name of the new ambassador in two to three weeks.
Trump claimed that Haley informed him of her plan to resign several months ago, but The Hill reports that Haley's staff and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, were supposedly "blindsided" by the news. President Trump said regarding Pompeo, "I can speak for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He thinks the world of Nikki." Pompeo has yet to comment on Haley's resignation.
Despite the abrupt nature of her departure, Haley was considered by many to have been a stabilizing force within the Trump administration. The New York Times describes her as, "someone whom foreign diplomats looked to for guidance from an administration known for haphazard and inconsistent policy positions."
Peter Yeo, a U.N. Foundation official, told the Washington Post that Haley, "was critical in ushering in U.N. reforms in partnership with the secretary general, and she took a thoughtful approach to peacekeeping and national security issues." He went on to say, "There certainly were great areas of contention between the United States and the U.N. But she played a very important and constructive role."
Haley was the first cabinet United Nations ambassador for a Republican administration since the end of the Cold War. There has been some past speculation that Haley saw the position as a way to climb to a higher political post, which Trump may have resented. But Haley put any rumors of a 2020 presidential run to rest this morning, saying, "For all of you that are going to ask about 2020, no, I'm not running for 2020," Haley said. "I can promise you what I'll be doing is campaigning for this one. So I look forward to supporting the president in the next election."
Haley described her job as US ambassador to the United Nations as the "honor of a lifetime."Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson
Key Republicans on Senate Judiciary Committee Condemn Trump's Remarks as Investigation Closes
"To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right," said Arizona senator Jeff Flake.
Lisa Murkowski (AK), called the president's remarks "wholly inappropriate, and, in my view, unacceptable."
The three Senate Republicans holding key swing votes on Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination
spoke out on Wednesday against comments the president made at a political rally in Mississippi the night before. "The president's comments are just plain wrong," said Susan Collins (ME).
"To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right,"
said Jeff Flake (AZ).
At the rally, Trump questioned the credibility of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified in front of the Committee last week that Kavanaugh forced himself on her, groped her, and attempted to silence her cries for help when they were teenagers. Mockingly reenacting the questioning, he said, "How did you get home? 'I don't remember.' How did you get there? 'I don't remember.' Where was the place? 'I don't remember.'"
The president's comments are a far cry from the days immediately after Ford's testimony, during which he called her "a very credible witness," and her testimony "very compelling." When asked by the Committee how sure she was that her assailant was Kavanaugh, Ford answered, "100%." Kavanaugh has denied all allegations.
The president then turned his attention to Kavanaugh, echoing the judge's own testimony that the accusations have "destroyed [his] family and good name," claiming, "A man's life is in tatters" and calling the Democratic party's attempts to investigate Ford's claims a smear campaign. President Trump has been vocal about the need for due process, lamenting that the criminal justice system has become one in which someone is "guilty until proven innocent." Rally attendees were enthusiastic about the president's remarks, despite having repeated their 2016 campaign battle cry, "Lock her up," hours earlier.
Ford isn't the only woman who's accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Julie Swetnick alleged that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, who Ford claims to have been present during her assault, were among a group of friends who would target and drug girls at parties and take turns having sex with them. While Swetnick does not accuse Kavanaugh of participating in her own gang rape, she claims that he was at the party where it happened. Deborah Ramirez, in an interview with The New Yorker, said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they both attended Yale.
In her opening statement, Ford noted that she was " terrified" to testify before the committee, despite having passed a polygraph test administered by the FBI. Still, both the president, Judge Kavanaugh, and many members of the GOP have dismissed Ford's accusations as false, despite the fact that false rape allegations are very rare.
Collins, Murkowski, and Flake have remained publicly undecided on whether they will vote to confirm Kavanaugh, though Flake called for an expanded background investigation of the nominee and the allegations against him. Controlled closely by the White House, the investigation was closed on Wednesday evening. A single copy of the investigation report was made available to Senate Judiciary Committee members on Thursday morning, and Collins and Flake have said that they were satisfied with the result. However, the FBI never contacted a number of potential sources and character witnesses who may have been able to corroborate such claims. While the agency did speak with Ramirez, they did not follow up with the roughly 20 people whom she said could provide more information. Over 40 people have contacted the agency to offer testimony, including Swetnick and Kerry Bercham, a former roommate of Ramirez's, but federal investigators never responded.
After the investigation was closed, majority leader Mitch McConnell filed a motion to cloture Kavanaugh's nomination, restricting the amount of time to debate before a floor vote to 30 hours and ensuring that a vote will take place this week.
Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.
What Water Holds – on memory, perseverance and action
A mother's reflection in the wake of yet another school shooting.
Several months ago, I heard an interview on NPR with a woman who said that water carries memory. When the water freezes, the memories it carries are held in place, and when the ice melts, those memories are released. I don't remember which NPR show this was, nor do I remember the woman's name or what she was being interviewed about, except that she was in the arts, perhaps theater, or music, and she was talking about her most recent project. But, I remembered this one thing she said; that water carries memories, which are held and released, and held and released with the cycling of seasons.
I took a walk this morning. The biting chill in the air was giving way to a cooling thaw, and it felt as if spring might be coming early this year. At Bear Mountain park, near where I live, a grayish white vapor rose off of the frozen surface of the man-made lake, hovering, stretching out like an altostratus cloud. It was early, and I was the only person on the trail. It was so peaceful – the sounds of the breeze through the still bare trees, their fallen branches reaching out from the underneath the veil of ice like giant hands and the smell of the wet earth, ready to release new life.
In the Bible, water is mentioned over 700 times. It symbolizes cleansing, but also creation and God's awesome power. In Genesis, before there is light, sun, earth, plants, leaving creatures, there was water—it existed before existence itself. In Chinese Taoist philosophy, water is home to our essence. It represents wisdom, and great force, as well as perseverance.
Everywhere I looked this morning, ice was melting, becoming liquid. Bubbles formed underneath the surface of the frozen water on the rocks, sliding and turning over and around the bumps and crevices like tad pols in a stream. The sound of the melting release was everywhere. The applause of the filling streams running down off of the mountain, the rain storm of the current under my feet. In the distance, there was the crack-crack sound of something breaking --- a giant tree falling, or perhaps the roll of a machine, clearing a path Today, however, it reminded me of gun fire.
I often work from home on Thursdays and Fridays, partly to give myself a break from a grueling two-hour commute to work, but mainly to be home to drop off and pick my daughter up from school and to be present. My child is the most important thing in the world to me. Her infectious laughter, the feel of her cheek against mine when I kiss her goodnight, the furrow in her brow when she's worried, how proud I am of all she has achieved and my hopes for all that is yet to come --- this, and everything else about her is part of me, like the heart in my chest or the soul that lives someplace even deeper.
Six years ago, when she was in second grade, I watched images of grieving, broken parents of Newtown, Connecticut on CNN. I lived in a small town very much like Newtown, and I had a daughter who was exactly the same age as those children who were murdered with an assault rifle. Not a day has gone by since when I don't, at some point, worry that I might drop my child off at school in the morning, and not see her alive in the afternoon. After February 14, 2018, I watched CNN again, and, again, the same images of broken and grieving parents as they endure what no parent should ever have to; the senseless murder of a child.
It is said that everything is cyclical. There are some cycles that ground us; nature, aging, good times and bad. Some that challenge us; sickness and health, success and failure. These can't always be controlled – we just have to go with it. And then there are the cycles of another sort; violence, insanity, corruption, dishonesty, dereliction of duty. These are the kind of cycles that, if not controlled, if not broken, will break us. These are the cycles that Lori Alhadeff, the mother of 14-year-old victim Alyssa Alhadeff inveighed against when she pleaded into the camera, "President Trump, we need action. Now!" It's the cycle that sophomore Isabella Gomez took on when, in response to President Trump's declaration that We are here for you. We are here to ease your pain, that "He really needs to take into consideration gun control."
Memories are our foundation. This is one of the things that is so cruel about Alzheimer's --- it robs a person of their past, and with it, their identity. After Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and the rest of the now over 150 mass shootings*, as a country, it is tempting to say that these horrors keep happening because we are suffering from collective Alzheimer's. But that's not it. We do remember. Who could forget? But what does that matter? Is that the point? We'll never forget you? I am reminded of Susan Sontag's brilliant post-9/11 piece in the New Yorker; "Our country is strong, we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all American has to be." Who doubts that we will remember mass shootings? If our thoughts and prayers are really with the victims in Parkland, Florida, we need to offer them a lot more than a place in our memories.
Water, like life itself, is full of contradiction. We develop and thieve in a watery womb, yet once we are born that same water will drown us. Rivers and oceans are sources of peace and tranquility, but also of flood and devastation. Of the many qualities water has, perhaps the one that most comes to mind after this latest mass shooting is reflection. In the words of 17-year-old survivor David Hogg, "This is a time for our country to take a look in the mirror and realize there is a serious issue here."
Note: *This is an approximate number, at best. As pointed out in a recent piece in The Atlantic, "The lack of reliable information on school shootings and other gun-related mass violence isn't just a matter of inconsistency in definitions; political factors have also played a role in limiting access to information. Under pressure from the National Rifle Association, Congress in 1996 prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding public-health research on issues related to firearms. These prohibitions have largely persisted, and there is still no comprehensive federal database on gun deaths, let alone on school shootings."