Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon Jr on March 24 issued a presidential permit to TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, authorizing the Canadian company to construct, operate and maintain pipeline facilities at the US-Canadian border in Phillips County, Mont., for the importation of crude oil from Canada's tar sands. The Trump administration's State Department is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who backs the pipeline. However, Tillerson recused himself from the decision after environmental groups objected that it would be a conflict of interest for him to decide the pipeline's fate.
OK, so now a Jewish youth with dual US-Israeli citizenship has been arrested by Israeli authorities in a joint operation with the FBI and charged with being behind "hundreds" of the recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the US and a other countries. The youth's lawyer is saying he suffers from a brain tumor that could affect his behavior. (Haaretz, NYT) This follows the arrest three weeks ago of an African American ex-journo of seeming left-wing sentiment who was said to have undertaken some of the threats to try to pin them on an ex who had spurned him. So, we must ask a second time: are the "false flag" theories reportedly floated by Trump (and certainly by some of his supporters) now vindicated?
Two federal judges—one in Maryland on March 16 and another in Hawaii the day before—issued temporary restraining orders (PDF, PDF) against President Donald Trump's new 90-day travel ban. Finding that the state had established a strong likelihood of success on the merits, Hawaii District Judge Derrick Watson issued an opinion permitting continued travel from six predominantly Muslim countries listed on Trump's order. Trump responded to the order, calling it "the bad, sad news," and "an unprecedented judicial overreach." The new order, which dropped Iraq from the banned countries list, would have barred entry for nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and completely banned entry of refugees for 120 days.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey declared on March 9 that Massachusetts will be joining fellow states in suing President Donald Trump to block his new travel ban executed earlier in the week. Trump's new executive order has removed Iraq from the former list of travel-restricted countries and suspended the refugee program for 120 days. Healey stated that the second ban, despite such changes, remains discriminatory and unconstitutional. Massachusetts will join Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, and New York in requesting Judge James Robart to apply his previous travel ban suspension to the revised ban. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently stated that the new ban still violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. Despite legal challenges, the revised ban is scheduled to take effect on March 16.
US President Donald Trump signed a new immigration executive order March 6, which contains several departures from the original January executive order. Notably, Iraqi citizens are no longer ineligible to receive new visas. The order also sets out classes of people eligible to apply for case-by-case waivers to the order, including those who were previously admitted to the US for "a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity," those with "significant business or professional obligations" and those seeking to visit or live with family. However, the other six Muslim-majority countries listed on the original ban will continue to be blocked from obtaining new visas. Furthermore, the refugee program will be suspended for 120 days, and will accept no more than 50,000 refugees a year, down from the 110,000 set by the Obama administration. The order will take effect on March 16.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on March 3 called for the US to adopt a consistent approach to indigenous land rights in pipeline projects. The Special Rapporteur voiced concerns about how indigenous peoples were not fully consulted on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). She said that after a fact-finding trip to the US, she was disturbed by reports "regarding the criminalization of indigenous peoples asserting their right to protest in the now-world famous struggle of several tribes" in opposition to the DAPL. While the protests "have been almost completely non-violent and peaceful, there has been a militarized, at times violent, escalation of force by local law enforcement and private security forces."
A former journalist named Juan Thompson, who was sacked by the Intercept last year for inventing sources, has been arrested after the FBI traced back to him multiple bomb threats against Jewish community centers, and one against the New York headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League. Authorities are claiming psycho-sexual motives, saying he attempted to pin the threats on an ex-girlfriend who dumped him. In true troll fashion, NBC reports that he even feigned outrage over the threats on his own Twitter account. And while some of the threats were in the name of his ex, some were in his own name in an apparent attempt to frame his ex for framing him. Plenty twisted, but none too bright. Reports in the Riverfront Times, of Thompson's hometown St. Louis, delineate his long history of improbable inventions about himself on social media, revealing an inveterate liar with a pathological antipathy to the truth rivaling that of our incumbent president. The fact that he worked for the lefty Intercept, and that he is African American, makes this a propaganda windfall for the right. So, are the "false flag" theories reportedly floated by Trump (and certainly by some of his supporters) now vindicated?
A film celebrating the White Helmets, the volunteer rescue group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria, won an Oscar for best short documentary. The eponymously titled White Helmets, a 40-minute Netflix film, provides a window into the lives of the volunteers as they scramble to pull survivors from the rubble of buildings flattened in air-strikes. (Al Jazeera) But a Syrian cinematographer who worked on the documentary was barred from entering the US to attend the Academy Awards ceremony. Despite being granted a visa, Khaled Khatib, was held up at the Istanbul airport, with US officials reportedly uncovering "derogatory information" about him. Homeland Security at the last minute blocked Khatib from traveling to Los Angeles, saying he now needed a new passport waiver (Raw Story)