Rogues Gallery | How Jeffrey Epstein, R. Kelly, and Others Evaded justice and Mandatory Prison sentences

Rogues Gallery | How Jeffrey Epstein, R. Kelly, and Others Evaded justice and Mandatory Prison sentences

Since the 2016 presidential election and with the advent of the #MeToo movement, more women have empowered enough to share their secrets - of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. This movement has elevated the subject of the violation of women and girls to this nation and enjoined them to other countries, and cultures which accept as a norm the abject treatment of women, girls, and boys who are regarded as little more than chattel.

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Introducing U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe | Brian A. Nichols

Introducing U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe | Brian A. Nichols

Brian A. Nichols was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the Department of State. He previously served in this bureau as a Deputy Assistant Secretary from 2010 to 2011. From 2007 to 2010, Nichols was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. From 2004 to 2007, he was Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs in the Department of State Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. 

From 2001 to 2004, he was a Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Nichols joined the Foreign Service in 1989 and his first assignment was Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. He has also served overseas in Mexico and El Salvador. He received a B.S. from Tufts University.

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Myth of Reparations | 40 Acres Minus Mule

Myth of Reparations | 40 Acres Minus Mule

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explains how reparations originally stipulated that freed slaves would receive “400,000 acres of land — a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John’s River in Florida, including Georgia’s Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast,” as Barton Myers reports — would be redistributed to the newly freed slaves.”

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Let's Make a Slave | Willie Lynch Letter

Let's Make a Slave | Willie Lynch Letter

In 2019 we should not be discussing the merits of why a presidential candidate’s “slave status” is determinative. Journalists should not need to write about Kamala Harris and how a Tweet posted and then deleted implies that she is lying about being “descended from American Black Slaves,” when they say she actually “comes from Jamaican Slave Owners.” Yet, we are talking about these things, as though these are new, but they are only new to most of us because this history is not taught in public or private schools. It is ironic that a West Indies slave owner, Willie Lynch (from whom the term lynching is derived), speaks most clearly to our current state of disgrace. But, rather than my paraphrasing, I am posting the full text of his letter for all to read. It is painfully illustrative of what is broken and its genesis.

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Are We There Yet? Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton SNL Video

Are We There Yet? Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton SNL Video

It has been a hellish and interminable 2016 presidential election cycle, best described by the immortal words of Charles Dickens from the opening salvo of his historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities.It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

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Todd Akin | Legitimate Rape

Todd Akin | Legitimate Rape

A mother or father deserves justice when their child has been raped and they should not have to fight with the courts to have the perpetrator sentenced as prescribed by the law. A single-mother should not be judged as somehow complicit in her child’s sexual abuse simply because she finds herself in the unfortunate position of having to work outside of the home to support her family.

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How an Olympic Race Became Political: Feyisa Lilesa's Homage to the Oromo Nationalist Movement

How an Olympic Race Became Political: Feyisa Lilesa's Homage to the Oromo Nationalist Movement

While many Olympic runners raise their arms as they approach the finish line, few do so as a demonstration of political protest. Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa joined this elite group of politically charged Olympic athletes such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos when he crossed his arms at the end of the Men’s Marathon during the Rio Olympics. While Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a Black Power salute during the awards ceremony, Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms at the end of the race to demonstrate his allegiance with the Oromo people as they continue a centuries long clash with the Ethiopian government. What looked like a stretch to many Olympic observers was really a powerful demonstration that resulted from many years of unrest and political strife. Photo: Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopian Olympian, Oromo Activist, Rio 2016 Olympics, Photo by Jeso Carneiro

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Failed Military Coup Against President Erdoğan Leaves Dozens Dead in Turkey

Failed Military Coup Against President Erdoğan Leaves Dozens Dead in Turkey

A military coup in Turkey was announced by Turkey’s government broadcasting agency, TRT, Turkish Radio and Television, July 15th before midnight, local time. The note read by TRT’s Tijen Karas said “Control of the government is completely seized.” The note was also published in office of commander of chief, which later was removed after the situation was taken largely under control.

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Taking Back America is About Personal Responsibility

Taking Back America is About Personal Responsibility

No one should have to pay for the crimes of others, or be condemned simply because they share skin tone, profession, or religious affiliation. America isn’t that far removed from a time when Blacks, Native Americans, Jews, Catholics, Mormons and others had no legal recourse for being discriminated against. But we as a country and society have made great strides. However, in the last few days, much to the dismay and horror of the majority of Americans, the disenfranchised have chosen to discard reason and rational discourse to engage in ex-judicial violence.

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The History of American Aid for Jordan

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

JORDAN, Amman - The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, one of the Unite States' key ally in the troubled Middle East. It is also one of more than 200 other countries and territories across the globe that consistently receive annual U.S. aid to help face their political and economic hardships. However, despite all this financial support Jordan has received from the second half of the last century up to today, the country has incurred heavy debt of almost $24 billion or around 90 percent of its GDP.  

Based on USAID’s data, this article sheds the light on the extent to which America financed the support Jordan for over the past 16 years, in effect bolstering the reign King Abdulla who ascended the throne in 1999 and continues to rule.

Money received

Jordan has received almost $13 billion during Abdulla's reign, which accounts for 46 percent of the total amount of aid given by America since 1951. When Abdulla inherited the throne of Father King Hussain, as the new ruler he took a more aggressive approach to broadening the country's relationship with the U.S. It appears that the relationship was quid pro quo, giving the appearance that America purchased the country to strengthen its presence in the Middle East. This in effect was how Jordan became a key alley to the U.S, during its invasion of Iraq in 2003, and established the foundation of a joint venture in the war against terrorism in the Middle East.

U.S giving aid to Jordan in 1951, resulting in the cumulative amount of aid given to the country at an astounding $28 billion. The data also shows that Jordan has received approximately $700 million per annum. In 2003, the year of the U.S invasion of Iraq, Jordan received its highest amount in aid which topped out at $1.5 billion.

Another notable fact was that during the intervening years of the civil war in Syria, the U.S. has exponentially increased both its presence in the region and aid to Jordan. Between 2012-2014, the country was given around 4 billion dollars, more than one billion each year in aid or roughly 14% of the total amount of aid the U.S. has given to the country since 1951.

During those three years, Jordan has also tried to absorb more than half a million refugees from neighboring Syria, while actively participating and supporting its allies in the war against ISIS.

In general, the data shows that the amount of aid has tripled over the examined period, increasing from almost $300 million in 1999 to more than $800 million in 2015.


Aid by category

Analyzing the data based on the category of the type of aid received, both economic or military, shows that economic aids was consistetly higher than that allocated to the military.

Aid by sector

Over the past 16 years, the lion share of the aid, around $3 billion or 26%, was channeled into Security System Management and Reform. Second on the list was General Budget Support, around $2 billion (18%) of the aids.Other sectors of the government have also been allocated aid during the examined period totaling five billion dollars. Second, came the category called “Other” which totaled around $3.5 billion. Of this number, the lowest awards were earmarked for education and economic growth and totaled around $300 million each. Despite the billions of dollars in aid to ostensibly improve governance, the country has failed to date to make any significant political reform.

Though initially seen as migrating toward a democracy, the government was actually more akin to a plutocracy. Now, King Abdullah rules as an autocratic monarch, a role which was codified by recent constitutional amendments which increased his powers to appoint and dismiss senior government employees. Most recently these included the president of the judiciary council, the president and the members of the constitutional court. Taken in tandem with his power to both handpick an appoint the prime minister, the chief of the staff and the president of the intelligence department, he has become the rule of law. A king who actually controls both the judiciary and executive branches of government giving him absolute power. This is in addition to his control of the army and security forces.

Transparency International, an organization with "chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, is leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality." A database of Corruption by Countries/Region, which includes a number of data points, including a "Corruption Perception Index” which assesses the amount of corruption perceived or actual which exists in any given countries' public sector. In 2015, on a scale of 168, the Kingdom scored 45, which is counter-intuitive to the fact that so much aid has been awarded to the country with a particular emphasis on political reform. The organization had another revealing indicator which measured the “control of corruption,” which reflects how much public power is exercised for private gain. The index includes both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests. Jordan also scored quite low at 0.040 where the highest rank is 2.5 and lowest -2.5. (Source: World Bank)

Thus, the question remains, what has been gained by the magnanimous support of $38 billion given by America? Since it hasn't resulted in economic stability, as the country is poised on the precipice of insolvency, the priority is evidently focused on military efforts to maintain stability in the region. Hopefully in the future, once the eradication of the shared enemy, ISIS, has been accomplished and the war is won, additional aid will be tied to specific goals and milestones. One requirement may be to pay down the debt, as well as a shift toward more equitable and balanced governance, with a return to the separation of important branches of the government. But for now, Jordan like many other countries around the world has entered into a quid-pro-quo relationship with the U.S. It isn't all bad, nor as nefarious as some could make it, but what has been bought and paid for is a location from which to wage war against one of the most dangerous terrorist organization that threatens the West and the Middle East. It also provides direct on the ground access to the region which vastly improves intelligence gathering efforts. This is all good.

However, in these days and times when enemies form partnerships to achieve shared goals, governments need to take note of the potential price which may ultimately be exacted. Allies purchased through economic aid should be cautious and cognizant of the fate of many leaders in the Middle East and around the world who have benefited from Western largess, military arsenal, and technologies. The infusion of capital and assets often remains at the top and is purchased at the price of the ordinary citizens. People who end up suffering under the whims of dictators and authoritarian regimes supported by the U.S. for political expediency. In the Middle East alone this included Ruhollah Khomeini who governed Iran from 1979 - 1989, Hosni Mubarak who governed Egypt from 1981 - 2011, and Saddam Hussein who governed Iraq from 1979 - 2003 when he was executed. Of course there are many other oppressive regimes around the world that are supported by America, most notably in Africa, but the challenges and questions remain the same.

Does the need of the U.S. for political, military, or economic gain far outweigh the potential abuse of human rights? This is a question we all need to ask, and perhaps even pose to our government.

Contributing Journalist: @ImadSulieman
LinkedIn: Imad Alrawashdeh

America's Reluctant Racists: Are the Media & Donald Trump to Blame?

Donald Trump, Photo by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump, Photo by Gage Skidmore

UNITED STATES - In my heart I’ve always wanted to believe that racists are simply radicals who comprise a very small percentage of the population back in my native U.S.A. Sadly, that hope has been increasingly hard to hold onto over the years and it looks like 2015 might just be the year I have to admit that I've been wrong. Sure, there are radicals (and extremists and supremacists) who out-crazy even the most fanatical racists but it looks like lies and IGNORANCE are breeding a brand new army of Americans who may not even self-identify as being racist yet.

The Reluctant Racist

When I say reluctant, I really do mean it. First, because someone very special to me back home in California believes a whole lotta wrong at the moment that is turning them into a racist.

Secondly, because I still want to believe that people are fundamentally good and they just don't have enough information to know better at the moment. The right-wing media in the U.S., coupled with the insanely racist (and completely unqualified to be a politician) Donald Trump, are spouting some crazy things that some Americans are buying into because they believe the media and influencers without doing their own homework.

Instead of digging into topics that really matter and sharing facts and data with the American people, most mainstream media seems content to mislead them. In fact, it’s mostly the liberal news channels and journalists who look beyond the superficial story. The liberals also choose NOT to take rare or isolated or extreme cases and turn those into ‘the new trend’ or ‘the direction America is headed’ when reporting, which is how the media and Trump and recruiting their new racist army.

The topic is too broad to attack on all fronts so I’m going to crack into just two issues:

  1. The so-called confederate flag
  2. The negativity surrounding immigrants and the idea of abolishing the 14th amendment

The Confederate Flag

After the race-fuelled mass shooting in a South Carolina church, the U.S. finally rallied to remove the country’s #1 symbol of racism. This important person in my life believes that it is simply a symbol of the South with a rich history dating back to the 1800s.   They listened to what the news said without looking into the facts and decided that they are pro-flag. I’m sorry but the only people who should blindly be pro-confederate flag are white supremacists and current or legacy KKK members. But not the people I care about in my life, and certainly not the people in yours.

THE FACTS

  1. The flag everyone is all riled up about is NOT the Confederate Flag
  2. In the 1800s, the real Confederate Flag went through 3 designs. The first design looked too much like the real American flag and soldiers were confused at times who to shoot at so it was scrapped. The second one included the design people believe to be the confederate flag up where the stars are on the real American flag and replaced the red and white stripes with a symbolic field of pure white. The third rendition added a red band on the right side of the field of white. Again, the real Confederate Flag of the rebels is NOT the one Americans are being shown today.
  3. The perceived current confederate flag (which in the 1800s was only used by the army in Tennessee on the battlefield towards the end of the war I believe) went away for the most part and was only resurrected in the early 1940s by the race-driven Dixiecrats, the political party dedicated to maintaining segregation between whites and blacks in the South.
  4. In 1948, the University of Mississippi flew it for the 1st time when white students protested Truman’s civil rights proposals. They hated the thought of being educated alongside black students so this flag became the brand image for racism in Mississippi.
  5. In 1963, it was raised over the state Capitol of Alabama for the 1st time in history. Alabama Gov. George Wallace raised it in protest against desegregation. He wanted to keep whites and blacks apart, definitively turning it into the #1 symbol of racism in modern-day America.
  6. It remains the unofficial symbol of the Ku Klux Klan.

My German friend Rando commented, 'Would it be okay for us to fly the swastika over German town halls on special days as it is certainly part of our history, and under Mr. H pre-WW2 the country boomed economically, the VW Beetle was created etc? The confederate flag stands for slavery.'

Mainstream media doesn’t share the facts above, though. Sadly turning more intelligent and generally caring people into reluctant racists. EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE of the current ‘confederate flag’ being flown in the south has 100% direct ties to racism and oppression. It is NOT a symbol of our fallen brothers in war but that is the bullshit being told by influencers and the media. It doesn’t represent Southern heritage, well at least not one that any American should be proud of. It represents racism and hate, plain and simple. There is no other truth.

Immigration & Foreigners

I was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of a 5th generation immigrant. Our ancestors left their friends, family and possessions behind and came over from Europe in hopes of a better life in the 1860s. Some of our family hails from Ireland and in those times the Irish were despised as the worst sort of immigrants arriving to American shores.   During the famous Potato Famine years, close to one million Irish arrived by boat to America. ONE MILLION!

If they washed up in Boston, well that was probably the roughest place to be welcomed to America. English Puritans could trace their lineage back to the Mayflower some 230 years earlier and the city underwent what was described as a ‘social revolution’ because they did not want ‘those Irish people’ in their country.

The Irish didn’t look like them. They wore clothes that were night and day different to the English settlers. They sounded different. They often came over poor and would have to settle into unsanitary conditions. And heaven help them if they only spoke Gaeilge or a Celtic language! All they wanted was a chance to live a better life than was possible in Ireland.

My Mom tells me that our family came over because they ‘wanted to be American.’ To me that means they had hope and ambition and wanted to give their children a better life. They wanted to work hard and live the American Dream. Well, I’ll bet their American Dream didn’t originally include the extra gift-on-arrival of hated and discrimination by Americans who viewed them as outsiders and who wanted that nationality OUT OF AMERICA. Yet they endured, for which I'm thankful because I wouldn't be alive otherwise.

Flash Forward to 2015

Donald Trump and the media tell Americans that today’s generation of immigrants – the new ‘Irish’ if you will – are the worst kind of people. They brainwash Americans to think that ‘those people’ don’t want to be true Americans. The media reports that ‘they’ only want to live for free in America, sucking up hard working taxpayers money, without wanting to embrace the American dream. The media insists that ‘they’ retain their cultural heritage from their homeland, which bugs the hell out of Americans. In fact, the same way it did in the 1800s:

According to one report I read >> 'Wherever they settled, the Irish kept to themselves to the exclusion of everyone else, and thus were slow to assimilate. Americans were thus slow to accept the Irish as equals, preferring instead to judge them by the stereotypes published in newspapers of the day.'

The same way the English Puritans persecuted my own ancestors, today’s cry of ‘go home immigrant’ feels like a 360° loop back around to the 1800s – and again it is turning former immigrants (or the children of immigrants) into a potentially scary breed of reluctant racists. Unless someone is an American Indian, they aren’t natives of the country.   U.S. citizens have families who fled their country of origin in hopes of a better life, just like mine did, and just like everyone arriving to our shores today. Why can’t some Americans see that the rhetoric they are espousing is as cruel and unnecessary in 2015 as it was in the 1850s, back when U.S. immigration records indicate that the Irish made up 43% of the foreign-born population?

I’ve lived in Mexico, Spain, India, China and I’ve been living in Hong Kong now for about to a year. I know that the news I read as an expat is different to what Americans back home consume but it’s shocking how many people are jumping on this ‘us versus them’ bandwagon. In fact, the special person in my life who inspired this post has very strong ideas about just how ‘they’ are ruining America, for all the reasons I mentioned the English had (and strangely almost verbatim every single thing in that 'report quote' above!).

Yet the funny thing is that when I asked, the only personal experience with immigrants they've had is beautiful and not hateful or negative. They have Mexican neighbours who emigrated some years back with two sweet children. They applied for and gained their American citizenship and are trying hard to learn English, have just bought their first home, and for all intents and purposes ARE living the American dream, just like my Irish relatives who emigrated in the 1860s.

I just don’t understand why the hearts of some Americans can’t see that these real-life examples right in front of their face are the TRUTH of immigration, instead of blindly supporting the negative view that is never witnessed first-hand but believed because extreme examples are the battle cry of influencers like Donald Trump and the right-wing U.S. media.

Contributing Journalist: @angelacarson
LinkedIn: Angela Carson

Two Months Past the Elections, Turkey Still Does Not Have a New Government

Anti-Government Protest, Ankara, Turkey: Photo by Kerem

Anti-Government Protest, Ankara, Turkey: Photo by Kerem

ANKARA, Turkey - On June 7, 2015 Turkey went through general elections for a new government. The ruling party, Justice and Development Party (AKP), main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) passed the10 percent electoral threshold, and got into the parliament, The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM).

Despite receiving the highest percentage of vote, unlike the previous elections, AKP was not able to reach the number of parliament members to form a government alone and forced to form a coalition with one of the opposing parties.

“‘No parties can form a government alone’ means political parties will come together and form a coalition. If no parties were authorized [by the people] to form a government alone, there is nothing more proper than having negotiations with other parties,” said Ahmet Davutoglu, chairman of AKP at the press conference following his final meeting with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of CHP on August 13, 2015.

Following the elections, prime minister and chairman of AKP, Ahmet Davutoglu was appointed to form the coalition on July 9, 2015 by the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ahmet Davutoglu and his government would also continue to hold a temporary government until a new coalition is formed. Having 40 business days to form a government, Davutoglu and his team met leaders of all three parties at TBMM to start negotiations for a coalition government. Initially turned down by both MHP and HDP, AKP focused on negotiations with CHP. Both parties formed commissions to discuss main expectations from a new government that could be formed by both parties.

After the commissions met several times, a total hours of almost 35, to come to an agreement, the leaders of both parties Ahmet Davutoglu and Kemal Kilicdaroglu met on August 10, 2015 to finalize the negotiations. Not having come to terms, the two leaders scheduled to meet again on August 13, 2015.

The two leaders met in the afternoon of August 13, at Ankara Palas, a historical building used as an official state guest house in the capital to finalize the negotiations. Following long, tedious and cautiously crafted negotiations, most people were expecting an agreement and the announcement of the new government with the coalition of AKP and CHP, two distinct voices in the parliament.

Contrary to expectations, the final meeting did not end with an agreement. Both leaders expressed in separate press conferences that the parties were not able to some to terms to set a coalition government.

Mr. Davutoglu said despite both parties had very hopeful approach to form the government, and everyone did what they were supposed to do, each party’s expectations for the country’s future did not come to a consensus to work together.

“In my speech at AKP headquarters’ balcony on June 7th night, I had expressed that we will not let this country not have a government, we will not give a chance to those who want create a chaos or crisis, and we will take any necessary measures as a party that has the strength to govern the country any time. I am sure anyone who voted for us or not can see that we have been doing whatever is necessary for the responsibility we have taken on this issue for the past two months,” Mr. Davutoglu said.

“Within the frame of this work, I met the leaders of all the parties in the parliamentary. As a result of those meetings, in the initial phase, we decided to continue negotiations with CHP while MHP only expressed their willingness for latter meetings. I was very happy to find out we had more terms that we agreed than we had discuss. However, we also had great divergence on some issues especially foreign policy and education,” he continued. “We came to a conclusion that we should continue our dialogs within a mutual understanding, but we did not have the basis to form a coalition.”

Following Mr. Davutoglu, Mr. Kilictaroglu said CHP has prepared its basic principles to form a coalition with 14 items on June 15, 2015 and shared them with public following the elections. He said, he expressed Mr. Davutoglu that CHP thinks a well grounded and powerful coalition formed for a long term would be best for country’s need. On the contrary, Davutoglu offered a short term government or asked for support for a minority government as a second option.

“We have not received a suggestion for a coalition so far,” he said. “We were offered to form a government for a new election within three months. This did not match our central executive board’s decision of long term government. Personally, when we talk about national will, we need to understand what our people expected us.”

“If the national will has divided the votes among the political parties, and did not allow one party form a government alone, it is the leaders’ responsibility to form a coalition government as a response to national will of the country. If you say, I cannot form a coalition; I will go for a re-election, how can you talk about respecting the national will? We should have given a chance to this. I think, Turkey has missed a historical opportunity.”

Both leaders expressed there was no option for pessimism for Turkey. Davutoglu said there were still options such as forming a coalition with MHP, although an early election was prominently standing out. Kilicdaroglu said Turkey has the capacity to get over its problems.

Over two months after the elections, a government not being formed, Turkey’s people are again at the edge of making a choice of who should govern the country.

Contributing Journalist: @ElvanKatmer
LinkedIn: Elvan Katmer