HAVANA — Making good on his deal with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Florida), President Donald Trump announced Friday that he plans to roll back some of the steps Barack Obama took to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.
In 2015, Obama weakened restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and eliminated some of the economic prohibitions between the two countries. He removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and loosened the export of US internet hardware and telecommunications. He also set up increased cooperation in intelligence-gathering, drug interdiction, scientific research and environmental protection.
Obama made it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. Nearly everyone can now visit Cuba without applying for a specific license. US airlines can fly there directly with cheaper fares; only general licenses are required for most travel to Cuba.
In his presidential policy guidance on Cuba, Trump reinstituted some restrictions on US travel to Cuba and US business relations with the island. He did not touch Obama’s loosened limits on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba, however, because that would anger a significant voter base in Florida.
Trump also left in place the US embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington, DC, that Obama established. And Trump did not end direct flights to Cuba by US airlines.Read more
Without ever stating that President Donald Trump obstructed justice, former FBI director James Comey methodically laid out the case for charging Trump with the crime of obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.
In written and oral testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey provided an explosive account of an attempted cover-up by the president.
Obstruction of justice requires the attempt to halt an investigation with a corrupt intent. Trump corruptly tried to block the pending criminal investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The day after Flynn resigned, the president allegedly warned Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey testified, “I took it as a direction” that “this is what he wants me to do…. [I] replied only that ‘[Flynn] is a good guy.'”
According to Comey, Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and others to step out of the Oval Office before the president requested that Comey drop the “open FBI criminal investigation” of Flynn for “his statements in connection with the Russian contacts, and the contacts themselves.” Clearly, the president didn’t want anyone else to hear what he had to say to Comey. This is evidence for the case that Trump made the request to Comey for a corrupt purpose.Read more
When President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, he acted in concert with 22 Republican senators, who collectively receive $10,694,284 in contributions from the coal and oil industries.
These 22 senators wrote to Trump, asking him to pull out of the accord. The president and the senators put their own political and economic interests above the safety, security and indeed survival of the American people and the entire planet.Read more
President Donald Trump has twice tried to institute a travel ban on all refugees from six or seven Muslim-majority countries. During the presidential campaign, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” slated to last “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” His Muslim ban has been struck down by two courts of appeals and may be headed to the Supreme Court.
With his mean-spirited bans, Trump aimed to capitalize on fear of Muslims fueled by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and exacerbated since by the U.S. government and the corporate media.
Long-standing prejudice against Arabs
This anti-Muslim sentiment is a continuation of long-standing prejudice against Arabs that reached its zenith during the last third of the 20th century. In her provocative book, “The Rise of the Arab American Left: Activists, Allies, and Their Fight Against Imperialism and Racism, 1960s-1980s,” Pamela Pennock traces the trajectory of Arab American leftist activism in the United States over a series of key decades.Read more
Nearly five years ago, Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum at its London embassy. The original purpose of the asylum was to avoid extradition to the United States. Two years earlier, Swedish authorities had launched an investigation of Assange for sexual assault. Sweden has now dropped that investigation.
Assange called the Swedish decision to end the investigation an “important victory for me and for the U.N. human rights system.” But, he said, the “proper war was just commencing,” because the London Metropolitan Police warned if Assange leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy, they would arrest him on a 2012 warrant issued after he failed to appear at a magistrate’s court following his entry into the embassy.
The original reason for granting asylum to Assange remains intact. The U.S. government has been gunning for Assange since 2010, when WikiLeaks published documents leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Those documents, which included the Afghan and Iraq war logs and U.S. State Department cables, were ultimately published in the New York Times, the U.K. Guardian, and the German magazine Der Spiegel.Read more
As Donald Trump arrives in Israel, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are participating in a hunger strike to protest their mistreatment. On April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, approximately 1,500 prisoners began refusing food, ingesting only salt water. That amounts to about a quarter of all Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel.
Their demands include increased visitation rights with humane treatment of family visitors; installation of a public telephone to communicate with families; and an end to medical negligence, solitary confinement and administrative detention.
Many of the striking prisoners have been taken to the hospital after their health deteriorated, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs reported.
Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned Palestinian activist who called for the hunger strike, wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.”Read more
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has responded to the crescendo of outrage by appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” as well as any other matters within the scope of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulation on special counsel appointments.
“In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Rosenstein stated.Read more
Motivated by his deep-seated biases and those of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing a draconian agenda on voting rights, immigration, crime, policing, the drug war, federal sentencing and the privatization of prisons.
Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice, which is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, once called the act “intrusive.” In 2013, after the Supreme Court issued a decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down the section of the act that established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, Sessions called it “a good day for the South.”Read more
Just days after stealing Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat, Neil Gorsuch is channeling Antonin Scalia. On April 20, the newly minted associate justice cast his first ballot. Gorsuch provided the fifth vote that allowed Arkansas to execute a likely innocent man.
Casting the Deciding Vote for Death
For 24 years, Ledell Lee maintained his innocence, and requested a DNA test that might have proven it. But five members of the high court, including Gorsuch, denied Lee’s request because Arkansas’s supply of midazolam, required for Lee’s lethal injection, was fast approaching its expiration date.
“In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random,” Justice Stephen Breyer penned in dissent.
The New York Times editorial board wrote, “Neil Gorsuch held the power of life and death in his hands…. His choice led to Ledell Lee’s execution, and gave the nation an early, and troubling, look into the mind-set of the high court’s newest member.”Read more
With 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, each armed with over 1,000 pounds of explosives, Donald Trump went from scoundrel-in-chief to national hero, virtually overnight. The corporate media, the neoconservatives and most of Congress hailed Trump as strong and presidential for lobbing bombs into Syria, reportedly killing seven civilians and wounding nine.
“The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable,” wrote Glenn Greenwald. This sends Trump a frightening message: bombing makes you popular.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. The use of chemical weapons is illegal, immoral and intolerable. If it was an intentional attack, it constitutes a war crime. Anyone responsible for the horrific April 4 events in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed over 80 people, including at least 20 women and 30 children, should be brought to justice. But Trump’s bombing of Syria, a sovereign nation, was illegal, under both U.S. and international law.Read more