This week's unnerving incident in which US jets intercepted two Russian bombers off the coast of Alaska leaves us wondering how to read events. Russia sent the two "nuclear-capable" bombers to within 100 miles of Kodiak Island April 17, prompting the US to scramble two F-22 stealth fighter jets from Elmendorf Air Force Base. The US and Russian craft were side-by-side for a full 12 minutes, until they crossed out of the US Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). (The Telegraph, April 18) This came as ExxonMobil was seeking a waiver from US sanctions against Russia to move ahead with its Black Sea venture with Rosneft. The decision rested with the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), while Secretary of State (and ex-Exxon CEO) Rex Tillerson is officially recusing himself from any matters involving the company for two years. Still, it is counterintuitive (at least) that OFAC turned down the waiver April 21. (NYT, April 21; Fox Business, April 19)
Physician Jumana Nagarwala was charged April 13 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on minors out of a medical office in Livonia, Mich. According to the complaint (PDF), the girls were as young as six to eight years of age and were transported from out of state by their parents or other family members secretly to the facility to perform the procedure. Federal authorities learned of Nagarwala's actions based on a tip from an unidentified source and interviews conducted of two minor victims from Minnesota who were taken by their parents to the Livonia facility.
At least 750 female detainees have joined in a hunger strike to protest harsh conditions at the 1,500-bed Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. The strike was reported to be in its fourth day on April 13, with no sign of ending despite ongoing negotiations between detainees, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the GEO Group, the prison contractor that operates the facility. Detainees are protesting the quality of food, facility hygiene, poor access to medical care, lack of recreation, and what they call exorbitant commissary prices. The detainees also seek an increase in the $1 a day they are paid for performing menial jobs at the center. The strike has been led by the group NWDC Resistance, which is composed of detainees and seeks to end all immigration-related detentions.
Most of President Barack Obama's actions to forestall climate change were wiped out March 28 as President Donald Trump revoked or revised limits on carbon emissions from power plants and opened federal lands to coal mining. Trump's executive order applies to Obama's Clean Power Plan, and an October 2015 rule entitled "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units." Even federal planning for the planet's warming climate will no longer be allowed, as Trump revoked Obama's executive order of 2013 requiring federal agencies "to integrate considerations of the challenges posed by climate change effects into their programs, policies, rules and operations to ensure they continue to be effective, even as the climate changes."
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.