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)
US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly officially issued two memoranda Feb. 20 directing the department's workforce to implement two executive orders on the enforcement of immigration laws. The first memorandum (PDF) implements President Donald Trump's "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies" executive order. Kelly directed US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents. This memo orders the immediate identification and allocation of sources of available funding for the construction of a wall along the Mexican border. A standardized method will also be developed for public reporting of data regarding aliens apprehended near the border for violations of immigration law.
Politicians wielding a dehumanizing rhetoric are creating a more divided and dangerous world, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. The report, "The State of the World's Human Rights" (PDF), warns that the consequences of "us vs them" rhetoric setting the agenda in Europe, the United States and elsewhere is fuelling a global pushback against human rights and leaving the global response to mass atrocities perilously weak. "President Trump's policies have brought the US to a level of human rights crisis that we haven't seen in years," said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "As the world braces itself for a new executive order, thousands of people inside and outside of US borders have had their lives thrown into chaos as a result of the president's travel ban. This administration, like other governments across the world, is playing politics with people's lives. President Trump and leaders across the globe should be reaffirming and upholding international human rights protections, not exploiting fear and prejudice for their own agendas."
Veteran journalist Jim Lobe this week called out Trump's "deputy assistant" Sebastian Gorka—who just refused to admit it may have been poor judgment not to mention the Jews in the White House statement on Holocaust Day—for appearing in multiple photographs wearing the medal of the Hungarian Order of Heroes, listed by the State Department as having collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Breitbart now runs a video in which Gorka unapologetically says he wears the medal in honor of his father, who was awarded the decoration in 1979 for his resistance activities under the communists. He says his father escaped imprisonment in Hungary with the 1956 uprising and fled to the West, so he was presumably awarded the medal in exile, although it isn't clear where the Order was based at that time. Gorka hails his father's "pro-democratic, anti-communist" agitation, but the Order appears far more anti-communist than pro-democratic.
There are still questions about the resignation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn following revelations in the Washington Post that he had mislead other members of the administration (and, by extension, the public) about the content of his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador back in December. It is still unclear whether Flynn stepped down of his own volition or was basically fired. (The latter version now seems to be favored by the administration.) But, predictably, Trump is expressing greater outrage over the leaks that resulted in Flynn's fall than the misbehavior they revealed, tweeting: “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Flynn himself echoed that point. Asked by Fox News whether the leaks were "targeted, coordinated and possibly a violation of the law," Flynn responded: "Yes, yes and yes.”