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HeadlinesApril 09, 2019

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Secret Service Director Removed in WH “Purge” of Immigration Officials

Apr 09, 2019

The White House announced Monday Director of the Secret Service Randolph “Tex” Alles has been removed from his position, one day after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s announced departure. As head of the Secret Service, he reported directly to Nielsen. Trump reportedly ordered Alles’s firing as part of a “purge” of top officials overseeing immigration policy, and spearheaded by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller. CNN is reporting Lee Francis Cissna, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John Mitnick, general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security, could be next to leave the administration.

Reports: Trump Trying to Reinstate Family Separations at Border

Apr 09, 2019

In related news, NBC News reported Monday Trump has been pushing to revive his family separation policy at the southern U.S. border for months and that Nielsen’s resistance to the move further drove a wedge between the two. Unnamed officials who spoke to NBC said Nielsen told Trump the Department of Homeland Security could not act against federal court orders barring the policy, and that Trump would be defying his own executive order last year that put an end to it.

Kevin McAleenan, head of Customs and Border Patrol and incoming acting DHS secretary, reportedly was open to reinstating a form of family separation in which families would have to choose between being separated or being taken into long-term detention with their children.

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting Trump told border agents not to let migrants in and to tell judges “we don’t have room.” On Friday, while speaking to reporters, Trump repeated his call to “get rid of” immigration judges, after making the comment earlier in the week while at a meeting with the secretary general of NATO.

CA Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” Policy

Apr 09, 2019

In more immigration news, a federal judge in San Francisco has blocked President Trump’s so-called Remain in Mexico policy, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases make their way through U.S. courts. Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that the practice, which went into effect in January, violates existing immigration laws and does not comply with U.S. policy against returning migrants to countries where their “life or freedom would be threatened.”

In a statement, Human Rights First, which represents clients affected by Trump’s policy, said, “As President Trump rids the Department of Homeland Security of top officials in search of even more extreme immigration hard-liners, today’s ruling is a reminder that the policies already put in place to dismantle the asylum system are—in many cases—illegal, and will not hold up in court.”

Judge Seeborg’s injunction is set to go into effect Friday. As the news broke Monday, reports emerged that Customs and Border Patrol were sending back multiple immigrant families to Mexico after they appeared in U.S. courts for their hearings.

Iran Labels U.S. CENTCOM a Terror Group After IRCG Terror Designation

Apr 09, 2019

The Trump administration designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization Monday—the first time the U.S. has formally labeled an arm of another country’s military a terrorist group. The Pentagon and CIA opposed the decision, warning it could put U.S. troops at risk, but national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed for the move as the U.S. continues its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. This is Secretary Pompeo announcing the decision.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “This is the first time that the United States has designated a part of another government as an FTO. We’re doing it because the Iranian regime’s use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft makes it fundamentally different from any other government. … Businesses and banks around the world now have a clear duty to ensure that companies with which they conduct financial transactions are not connected to the IRGC in any material way.”

On Monday, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in return designated the United States Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, and all its forces as terrorists. The council also labeled the U.S. a “supporter of terrorism.” We’ll have more on this story after headlines with author and founder of the National Iranian American Council, Trita Parsi.

Israelis Head to Polls as Future of PM Netanyahu Remains Unclear

Apr 09, 2019

In Israel, voters are heading to the polls today in a hotly contested parliamentary election that many say is a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 10-year rule. Netanyahu has been embroiled in multiple corruption scandals, and his hard-line nationalist rhetoric and policies have raised concern among centrist Israelis. Meanwhile, unwavering support from the Trump administration—including recent moves to recognize the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory and to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terror group—has bolstered his popularity among conservative Israelis.

Netanyahu’s main opponent, former army chief Benny Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party, has also relied on pro-security and military rhetoric but claims he will be able to unite Israelis.

As voting got underway around the country, a judge filed a complaint after Netanyahu’s Likud party provided election observers at polling stations in Arab neighborhoods with 1,200 body cameras.


Libya: Tripoli Airport Closed as Fighting Near Capital Intensifies

Apr 09, 2019

In Libya, authorities shut down Tripoli’s only operational airport Monday after forces from the eastern Libyan National Army launched an airstrike as they continue their offensive led by renegade General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar, a dual U.S.-Libyan citizen, started to lead his forces toward Tripoli last week in an attempt to seize the capital from the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord. The United Nations has called for an immediate truce and the evacuation of civilians caught in the crossfire.


Afghanistan: 4 Americans Killed Amid Spate of Violent Attacks

Apr 09, 2019

In Afghanistan, three U.S. military members and one U.S. contractor died Monday after a roadside bomb went off near Bagram Air Base outside the capital Kabul. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. The deaths come amid ongoing peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban officials and after a rash of attacks around the country in recent days killed dozens of Afghan security forces and military members. At least 32 military personnel were killed after Taliban fighters attacked an army base in western Badghis province last week, according to Afghan officials.

U.S. Revokes Visa of ICC Prosecutor Investigating War Crimes in Afghanistan

Apr 09, 2019

U.S. authorities have revoked the visa of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, weeks after the Trump administration announced it was barring entry into the U.S. to ICC investigators who may be investigating alleged war crimes by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Bensouda asked ICC judges to authorize an investigation into possible U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan in 2017. A 2016 ICC report accused the U.S. military of torturing at least 61 prisoners in Afghanistan and accused the CIA of subjecting at least 27 prisoners to torture, including rape, at a number of CIA prison sites.

3 FDNY Sept. 11 Rescue Workers Die as 9/11 Fund At Risk of Expiring

Apr 09, 2019

Three former New York City firefighters involved in the 9/11 rescue effort died last week. They all suffered from illnesses related to their exposure to lethal toxins at the wreckage site of the Twin Towers. Two of the men died of cancer. Funeral services for Timothy O’Neill, Kevin Lennon and Michael Andreachi will be held this week.

A fund set up to cover healthcare costs for 9/11 first responders and survivors is set to expire in 2020. Earlier this year, lawmakers including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a bill to permanently fund the federal program.

Defendants in College Admissions Scandal Plead Guilty to Fraud

Apr 09, 2019

In Boston, 13 parents, including Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman, and one coach, agreed to plead guilty to fraud as part of the elite college admissions scandal known as “Operation Varsity Blues.” Huffman admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone cheat on the SATs for her daughter. The money was funneled through a charity set up by the scheme’s mastermind, Rick Singer.

Stanford University announced this week they expelled a student who they say was connected to a $500,000 “donation” to Singer’s charity and who provided false information in their college application.

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reported last week that Harvard is investigating the sale of a home belonging to the school’s fencing coach, to the father of a student who was soon after admitted into university—and onto the fencing team. The case is not believed to be related to Operation Varsity Blues.


Democratic Reps Eric Swalwell and Tim Ryan Join 2020 Race

Apr 09, 2019

Two congressmembers have joined the crowded Democratic field for the 2020 presidential nomination. Tim Ryan of Ohio kicked off his campaign Saturday at a rally in Youngstown, where he touted his appeal to working-class voters from purple states.

Rep. Tim Ryan: “The flyover states are my states. The flyover states are your states. And the flyover states are going to start governing in the United States of America again.”

Ryan has backed key progressive issues, including Medicare for all and renewable energy initiatives. He previously worked against reproductive rights but in 2015 reversed his position on abortions, saying the choice should be up to women, not politicians. He also disavowed his prior relationship with the NRA, who for years gave him “A” ratings. After the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, he pledged to donate contributions from the group to gun control efforts.

On Monday, Eric Swalwell of California announced his candidacy on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell: “I talk to teachers and truckers and, you know, nurses. And they feel like they’re just running in place and it’s not adding up to anything. I talk to people who are just like me, who are the first in their family to go to college, who’ve got a lot of student debt, can’t buy a home, can’t start a business. I talk to kids who sit in their classroom afraid that they’ll be the next victim of gun violence.”

Swalwell sits on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. He has been vocal on gun control, supports Medicare for all and the Green New Deal. His messaging has focused on issues affecting young people, such as student debt. 18 Democrats have now entered the 2020 presidential race.

Louisiana: Authorities Investigate Arsons at 3 Black Churches

Apr 09, 2019

In Louisiana, authorities are investigating fires at three black churches over a period of 10 days, which they say are likely related, though no motive or suspect has been found thus far. No deaths or injuries were reported in the blazes. The first fire occurred at the end of last month, and the two others last week—all in the same community, about 30 minutes north of Lafayette. A fourth fire that occurred last Sunday at a predominantly white church in another part of Louisiana is also being investigated but is not believed to be connected.

Reports: Trump Defunds Obama-Era Conservation Program

Apr 09, 2019

In his latest attack on the environment, President Trump has reportedly slashed funding for an Obama-era conservation program that tackles issues such as climate change, flooding and species extinction. Scientists who work for the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, or LCCs, told The Guardian that over half of the 22 groups that form the conservation collective have been dissolved or put on indefinite hiatus—this despite Congress approving renewed funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. One source told The Guardian, “I’d say there could be five to six years [of work] down the drain.”

New U.S. Lawsuit Alleges Boeing Ignored Software Flaws in 737 MAX

Apr 09, 2019

Another lawsuit against Boeing has been filed in the U.S. over last month’s fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash, which killed all 157 people on board. The family of 29-year-old Mucaad Hussein Abdalla from Minnesota says Boeing neglected known safety issues in the design of its flight control system on the 737 MAX 8 aircraft and that it did not properly train pilots on the software. Last week, the family of 24-year-old Samya Stumo sued Boeing and filed a claim against the Federal Aviation Administration. Boeing’s CEO admitted wrongdoing and apologized for the crash for the first time last week.

Blase Bonpane, Noted Human Rights Defender & Office of the Americas Dir., Dies

Apr 09, 2019

And human rights activist Blase Bonpane has died. For more than half a century, the former Maryknoll priest and longtime director of the Office of the Americas worked to promote human rights in Latin America. He was a Catholic priest in Guatemala during the 1960s where he was expelled for his efforts on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. For 50 years, he hosted the show “World Focus” on Pacifica Radio’s KPFK in Los Angeles. He also authored many books, including “Civilization Is Possible” and his autobiography “Imagine No Religion.” Noam Chomsky wrote of the book, “I am often asked by young people, deeply disturbed by the state of the world, ‘What can I do to make this sad world a better place?’ An eloquent answer now is, 'Read Blase Bonpane's autobiography. If you can aspire to a fraction of what he has achieved, you will look back on a life well lived.’” This is Bonpane speaking in 1991 about U.S. militarism.

Blase Bonpane: “I think we have to deal with the ideology of militarism, because the militarism has become the very fabric of our culture. Militarism has no relationship to democracy. If it’s militarist, it is anti-democratic. And if we base our thinking on might makes right, we really don’t care about who has a claim to anything, and we don’t care about law. We become lawless. Our policy has been lawless in Central America, in South America, in Africa, in the Middle East. It has been lawless. It has been an argument and a policy of power and militarism.”

Click here to see our interviews with Blase Bonpane, including our trip with Blase to Peru to visit Lori Berenson in prison. Blase Bonpane was 89 years old.

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