The U.S. Census is a nonpartisan accounting of every person who lives in the country, but President Trump’s top pick for its new deputy director could politicize the Census Bureau with his views on redistricting. (Photo: PaulSh/Flickr/cc)
President Donald Trump’s top pick for deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau is the author of a book about the dangers of a competitive electoral system—leading to fears among voting rights advocates that the appointment would lead to a politicization of the agency which is heavily involved in how voting districts are drawn.
Thomas Brunelll, a political science professor at the University of Texas, is the author of the 2008 book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America, in which he argued that voting districts packed with like-minded voters are fairer than those with a mix of Democratic and Republican voters. Continue reading →
A devastating 7.3 earthquake struck the Iran/Irag region, killing over 500 and leaving 9,000 injured. Image via Facebook.
As the death toll from the “horrific” earthquake that struck the Iran-Iraq border earlier this week climbs above 500, and as President Donald Trump remains entirely silent on the matter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and four Democratic senators sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanding that the White House waive certain sanctions on Iran and allow aid to reach those desperately in need.
“After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations,” the senators wrote. “This time should be no different.”
While the 7.3 magnitude quake affected both Iran and Iraq, Iran bore the brunt of the overall destruction and casualties.
Under the current sanctions regime, Iranian-Americans living in the U.S. are prohibited from delivering funds to their friends and family members. As Al Jazeerareported on Thursday, several attempts by Iranian-Americans to set up fundraisers for Iran in the days following the earthquake have been stymied by U.S. Treasury Department rules.
“The way it is now, it is extremely difficult,” Tara Kangarlou, a New York-based Iranian-American journalist, said of the economic restrictions. “These are the moments that you realize how political tug of war are hurting ordinary Iranians.”
As for official U.S. government assistance, the Trump White House has been relatively quiet; the Treasury Department called the quake “tragic” in a statement to the Associated Press, but did not say whether the administration plans to mount any kind of response. Trump, himself, has not said a word about the quake, which Sanders and his Democratic colleagues noted was “the world’s deadliest of the year.”
In addition to killing hundreds and injuring over 9,000, a report from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations found that the tremor damaged 12,000 buildings in Iran and Iraq.
Shortly after the earthquake struck, Sanders highlighted the “growing tensions” between the U.S. and Iran—particularly following Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran deal—and argued that providing relief to the Iranian people following such a devastating event “would be an important act of friendship.”
We write today concerning the recent earthquake that struck Iran on November 12. The latest reports indicate over 500 dead and thousands wounded, making this earthquake the world’s deadliest of the year. We urge you temporarily waive any existing restrictions that would impede relief donations in order to speed the delivery of aid.
While the earthquake affected both Iran and Iraq, most of the casualties are on the Iranian side of the border. After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama both temporarily waived sanctions, and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued general licenses to simplify aid delivery.
Under the Bush administration, an OFAC license authorized U.S. persons to provide cash donations to nongovernmental organizations, U.S. and non-U.S., assisting with relief efforts in Iran. At the time, OFAC also worked with aid organizations to clarify rules on donations of food and medicine and which Iranian entities could receive aid and eased banking constraints to ensure the timely receipt of donations in Iran. While we understand that a general license issued by OFAC in 2013 allows for U.S. nongovernment organization to deliver aid to Iran, we urge you make it easier for U.S. citizens to contribute to nongovernment organizations not based in the United States that are currently providing relief aid to earthquake victims in Iran.
Despite decades of animosity and no formal diplomatic relations, the United States has routinely offered to help the Iranian people in times of need. This time should be no different. We ask that you direct the Department of State to assist in aid efforts and to coordinate such efforts with OFAC and other relevant agencies in order to ensure aid arrives quickly.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your timely response.
“Rosa Maria is finally free. We are thrilled that she can now recover, surrounded by her family’s love and support,” said the ACLU on Twitter. (Photo: The Independent/courtesty of family)
Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old undocumented immigrant with cerebral palsy who was detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents last week, was finally released from federal custody on Friday after 11 days of separation from her family.
“We’re just thrilled—it’s such a relief,” Michael Tan, a staff attorney at the ACLU, told the New York Times. “It’s actually quite overwhelming. This was the first time in her life she was separated from her family.” Continue reading →
The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”
The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.
The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.
When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.
For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.
As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.
America’s egalitarian mound-builders
The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.
But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.
Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.
But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.
The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.
These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.
They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.
The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.
But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.
Freedom of speech advocates are calling a new Department of Homeland Security rule “chilling,” as the department will begin collecting social media communications and data of all immigrants.
The rule, added last week to the Privacy Act of 1974, would allow the DHS to gather “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” of people with immigration files, as well as “publicly available information from the internet.”
Hundreds of immigration rights activists gather on June 1, 2017 in front of the White House to denounce the immigration crackdown by the Trump Administration. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc)
Dozens of people were arrested Monday morning for blocking the federal building housing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Hartford, Connecticut to denounce the deportation of a couple that’s lived in the U.S. for over twenty years.
Meriden couple Giaconda and Franklin Ramos, who came to the U.S. from Ecuador in 1993 and have no criminal record, are scheduled to board a flight back to their home country on Sept. 29.
Demonstrators sat on the ground blocking the entrances and held banners reading “Keep the Ramos family together” and “ICE stop your ethnic cleansing.” They, along with other demonstrators gathered to the side of the entrances, chanted “Not one more.” Continue reading →
“This is the time to confront white supremacy in our government and throughout our history,” the organizers of the march wrote. (Photo: Baynard Woods/Twitter)
The 118-mile March to Confront White Supremacy arrived in Washington, D.C. Wednesday after ten days of walking from Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of white supremacist violence that left one woman dead and many more injured. The march was organized to both denounce systemic racism and demand justice.
“We are marching from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate our commitment to confronting white supremacy wherever it is found. It’s clear that we can no longer wait for Donald Trump or any elected official to face reality and lead,” the organizers wrote on their website ahead of the march. “This is the time for us to stand up for justice and equality. This is the time to confront white supremacy in our government and throughout our history.” Continue reading →
Following reports that President Donald Trump would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as early as Friday, immigrant rights activists and supporters of the program reacted with immediate outrage and promises to oppose the president if he makes such a move.
The end of #DACA would rip apart families, instill fear in communities, make our nation less safe, and hurt our economy.
The O’Odham nation lives on both sides of the US-Mexican border, and for that they are persecuted.
By Ophelia Rivas and Neil Howard. Published 8-28-2017 by openDemocracy
My name is Ophelia Rivas, but my family knows me as Ilya. You know, the place where I come from is beautiful land. We’ve lived there for centuries and we have a way of life that we’ve followed for all those years. We continue parts of it right now, but the political effects that are imposed on our people because of these borders are greatly impacting our people.
After 9/11 the world discovered that there was the O’Odham nation, which is the second largest reservation in the United States after the Navajo. These reservations are considered concentration camps of the indigenous people in the United States. Our traditional lands are divided into different political boundaries. Less than one-third of our lands are now cordoned off, like a concentration camp. Continue reading →
Thousands of asylum seekers have fled the U.S. for Quebec, Canada, in recent months because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant statements and policies. (Photo: Morgan/Flickr/cc)
Canada’s military has troops assembling heated tents that will be capable of temporarily housing up to 500 asylum seekers who continue crossing into the country where it borders New York State.
“Around 250 asylum seekers are arriving each day in Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s mainly French-speaking province of Quebec,” Reutersreported on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency toldCBC-Radio Canada there are currently 700 people waiting to be processed, and although the wait time is two or three days, the asylum seekers do not have access to beds. Continue reading →