US Opinion and Commentary

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Targeting Hospitals in Syria

Posted April 29th, 2016 at 2:30 pm (UTC-5)
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To the amazement of many, Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” generally held for two months. To the surprise of none, it crumbled this week with devastating consequences. More than 200 people have been killed this week in Aleppo between rebel attacks on government-controlled neighborhoods and government air-strikes on rebel-held territory. Most alarming was Wednesday night’s air raid on Aleppo’s Quds hospital, killing more than 20 people, including six staff members. Targeting hospitals wreaks havoc beyond the rubble. There are now two fewer doctors, two fewer nurses to care for Aleppo’s traumatized survivors. The message is clear: no place is safe. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack and blamed the Syrian government for it. With several dozen more American troops deployed to Syria in the battle against Islamic State, can Kerry and other diplomats who brokered the last cessation of hostilities duplicate their magic?

Trump’s Foreign View

Posted April 28th, 2016 at 5:03 pm (UTC-5)
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Foreign policy is one of few places where a U.S. president has wide latitude to make a strong imprint. It is the responsibility of the president to develop, and with the help of the secretary of state, execute the strategies to project and safeguard national interests. Hillary Clinton’s ideas and perspectives have been on display during the four years she served as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. Wednesday we got our first glimpse of how Donald Trump would shape foreign policy if elected president. He’s dropped clues throughout the campaign, such as being tougher China regarding trade, making Mexico pay for a border wall, calling NATO “obsolete” and “bomb the (expletive)” out of Islamic State. His speech to the Center for the National Interest knitted many of these themes together into a more cohesive form. Supporters say Trump has changed his tone, laying out a vision for America that challenges the status quo. Critics say he’s re-packaged his ideas and question where he’s getting his foreign policy advice.

The Knives Are Out

Posted April 27th, 2016 at 11:48 am (UTC-5)
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In the hours after his five-state primary sweep, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump declared the race to the party nomination was “over,” called himself “the presumptive nominee,” and baited Democrat Hillary Clinton for using “the woman card.” Clinton returned the favor, saying if playing that card meant fighting for equal pay, paid family leave and access to healthcare then “deal me in!” And with that, it seemed the tone of the upcoming presidential election was set.

Campaign ‘Cuisine’ Isn’t Always Presidential

Posted April 26th, 2016 at 2:31 pm (UTC-5)
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Political pundits have already decided the outcome of today’s five-state presidential primary contests. It goes something like this: Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton will widen their leads, leaving their competitors (Bernie Sanders, John Kasich and Ted Cruz) that much further from securing their party’s nomination. Election season in America is a taxing months-long, 24/7 exercise, requiring a lot of stamina, and fuel to keep on keeping on. Sampling corn dogs, milkshakes, burgers, five-alarm chili and apple pie in state after state is a campaign must for every candidate. Why? Because breaking bread with the locals, whether in a small Idaho town or the big city of New York, is a sure way to connect with the voters. Today, we offer you a glimpse of American campaign “cuisine.” We check in on the latest thinking about the candidates, and Trump’s alleged pivot away from his raw and rowdy campaign style.

In Merkel, Obama Finds Like-minded Ally

Posted April 25th, 2016 at 12:09 pm (UTC-5)
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They are both calm, cool and collected. Neither are prone to melodrama; rather, they look for practical solutions. And they have both demonstrated maturity by getting past a nasty spat prompted by revelations that the U.S. government was listening in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations for several years. Shortly after arriving in Germany on Sunday for his final visit, Obama praised Merkel for sticking to a welcoming policy towards migrants even as Europe capitals have been shaken by deadly terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS: “What’s happening with respect to her position on refugees here, in Europe. She is on the right side of history on this,” he said. In return, officials say Obama hopes to get more support to fight ISIS militants, and for a trade deal with the European Union. As the president winds down his two-terms in office, he seems driven to secure America’s best friends and raise the public discourse during a particularly pugilistic American election season that will determine his successor.

Why Freddie Gray Is Still a Thing One Year On

Posted April 22nd, 2016 at 1:16 pm (UTC-5)
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The outrage that erupted and spilled into the streets of Baltimore in the days after 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray died in police custody harkened back to another painful and ugly moment in American history. Heavily armed police on the streets, clouds of tea gas, protesters being dragged away against their will: it could have been Baltimore 48 years ago—1968—after the assassination of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But it was April 2015. The city burned with anger, outrage and grief for days. Several months later, six Maryland police officers—not all were white—were charged in connection with Gray’s death. The state prosecutor cited the cops for improperly arresting and shackling Freddie Gray in violation of police rules by loading him into a van without the required safety restraints, and also ignoring his pleas for help.

Freddie Gray, the riots and the sudden shattering of business as usual in Baltimore morphed into a symbol of all the other recent violence between police and the black community, some recorded on smart phones and uploaded to social media websites. A year later, things are quiet, at least on the surface. But much remains unresolved, prime to erupt again as law enforcement grapples with a crisis that until recently had been swept under the carpet.

Obama’s ‘Complicated’ Saudi Trip

Posted April 21st, 2016 at 12:04 pm (UTC-5)
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“It’s complicated.” That’s the way President Barack Obama is said to have recently described the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. And it appears Saudi Arabia feels the same way. Hanging over this week’s visit by Obama to Riyadh and his attendance at the Gulf Cooperation Summit were comments the president made in a recent Atlantic cover story, describing the Saudis and other Gulf nations “free riders” on U.S. military action in the region, and saying the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with Iran. In a post-summit news conference Thursday, the president described any strain about his comments as “overblown” and he pointed to U.S. “cooperation in interdicting Iranian efforts to arm the Houthi militias inside Yemen” as creating some confidence. In his statement at the end of the summit, Obama said he reaffirmed the policy of the United States to use all elements of our power to secure our core interests in the Gulf region and to deter and confront external aggression against our allies and partners.” Can statements like that from a president who is in office for just another nine months do much to warm what is by all indications a frosty relationship?

Trump & Hillary Solidify Frontrunner Status

Posted April 19th, 2016 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
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As predicted, New York voters granted Trump, its “native son,” and Hillary, the state’s adoptee, electoral victories by wide margin. The takeaway? Trump confirmed that he is indeed a “winner.” And Hillary, who has the loyalty of New York Democrats, sent a strong message to her iconoclastic contender, Senator Bernie Sanders. The presidential ticket seems set for both parties, even if Trump is likely to arrive at the GOP convention without the necessary majority of delegates. The #StopTrump movement isn’t going away, but “The Donald’s” renewed momentum may mean establishment Republicans will not be able to #StopTrump no matter what.

Nation Built on Immigrants Reconsiders Immigration

Posted April 18th, 2016 at 11:25 am (UTC-5)
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Few issues are as emotional—and call upon America’s collective morality—as immigration.

“It makes us special, it makes us strong, it’s makes us Americans.”

The words of a visibly frustrated President Barack Obama in 2014, during his announcement that he had used his executive authority to shield illegal immigrants from deportation after failing to pass a reform bill in Congress. Two years later, the United States Supreme Court takes up the battle again in The United States versus Texas, which challenges the president’s decision (via executive action) to make four million illegal immigrants legal. For border states like Texas, the reality of undocumented Mexican children showing up alone with no resources is felt daily. So it is no coincidence that Texas led the charge all the way to the Supreme Court against Obama’s solution to the country’s growing and ever more complex immigration situation.

And with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump threatening to send immigrants back home and “build a wall” around U.S. borders, the inevitable tensions around illegal immigration have been stoked to feverish levels.

All eyes are on the court.

Jackie Robinson Day

Posted April 15th, 2016 at 12:23 pm (UTC-5)
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Wearing number 42 emblazoned in blue on a white uniform, the first black man took the field in a major league baseball game 69 years ago today. Jackie Robinson did not get a hit, but he scored one run and his Brooklyn Dodgers won that game against the Boston Braves on April 15, 1947. And a tectonic shift took place in American society. That first year was the hardest of Robinson’s 10 years playing baseball. He endured racial slurs, physical confrontations and death threats while showing America that a black man can compete with a white man. While it was a baseball field where Jackie Robinson competed, his courage and determination translated to all fields and aspects of American life. Filmmaker Ken Burns, who has produced a new documentary on Robinson’s life, calls him “the most important person in the history of baseball.” Because of baseball’s status as the American pastime, he was one of the most important people in America. Baseball honors Robinson by retiring his uniform number. No player wears his number in any game, except today, the anniversary of his first game, when every player wears Robinson’s number, 42, on their back, to honor the impact of his life.

New York State of Mind

Posted April 14th, 2016 at 1:36 pm (UTC-5)
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It’s been more than a month since Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held a debate. Tonight’s faceoff in Brooklyn pits the New Yorker by birth versus the New Yorker by choice in what might be their final battle. The debate will be a chance for the candidates to respond to some recent incendiary rhetoric, most of which came from Sanders: calling Clinton “unqualified” to be president; questioning her taking money from Verizon for a speech as both candidates appeared at union picket lines to support striking Verizon workers; and the comment “corporate Democratic whores” by a speaker at a Sanders event to describe those who, like Clinton, support incremental progress in health care reform. After the debate, it’s all about numbers. Sanders may have won seven of the last eight Democratic contests, but he still trails Clinton by 251 pledged delegates — four more than the number at stake in Tuesday’s New York primary. The Democrats have no “winner-take-all” contests. Delegates are allocated proportionally to the popular vote. So, in order for Sanders to catch Clinton, he needs to win about 60% of the vote in New York and the 19 other remaining contests. It’s a high mountain to climb.

Containing the Chaos of Migration

Posted April 13th, 2016 at 12:16 pm (UTC-5)
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It takes a lot to uproot oneself (and family), arrange travel via a trafficker, step onto a boat with a few possessions and no guarantees.They are called migrants or refugees—or both. Whichever term comes to mind, they are all people, many looking to improve their lot in life. But most, experts say, are running from instability and violence. According to the United Nations, the recent wave of migrants represents the largest dislocation of people since the Second World War. The estimated number of migrants in Europe runs in the hundreds of thousands, up to over a million registered asylum seekers. Thus, the term “migrant crisis,” which is useful shorthand, but doesn’t allow for the scale and scope of human suffering involved. As Europe struggles to cope with the influx (via the sea from Turkey or Libya into Greece or Italy, for the most part), America is bracing for the expected spillover.

Equal Pay Day

Posted April 12th, 2016 at 3:04 pm (UTC-5)
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Equal pay for equal work. Sounds like a no-brainer policy. But Congress’ Joint Economic Committee estimates women earn 79-cents for every dollar a man makes. While that’s an improvement from the 59-cents to the dollar women made when the Equal Pay Act was passed 53 years ago, the committee’s estimates it will be another 43 years before women’s pay catch up to men’s. April 12 is deemed Equal Pay Day because it’s when women’s 2015 pay catches up to men’s 2015 pay. Earlier this month, several members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team filed a wage-discrimination suit, claiming they were paid a quarter of what the men were paid despite generating $20-million more than the men — and enjoying more success on the pitch. President Obama marked Equal Pay Day by declaring a new national monument – the Sewall-Belmont House – which has been the headquarters for the National Women’s Party since 1929. #EqualPayDay has been the most trending topic on Twitter. While the numbers are what they are, interpreting the numbers is subject to political parsing.

The #NeverTrump Movement

Posted April 11th, 2016 at 12:14 pm (UTC-5)
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After Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump lost the Wisconsin primary to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, it seemed as though some of the air had come out of Trump’s balloon.

Sure, there have been weeks and weeks of criticism from mainstream GOP players, innumerable editorials calling for conservatives to do something, ANYTHING, to end Trump’s bid for the Republican presidential ticket. Journalists have been shamed for not taking his rise seriously— and for creating him by being his echo chamber. Calls have grown for reporters to conduct deeper truth-squadding.

But there appeared to be a new urgency in the form of Twitter feeds (#StopTrump, #NeverTrump) and, on Sunday, a faked cover by The Boston Globe, which imagined the world with Trump as president. Experts are furiously doing math, counting delegates and calculating the various possibilities the final 16 primaries may offer. And campaign operatives are going back to states where caucuses and primaries have already been held, trying to find delegates to sway or steal.

Next week’s New York primary — with 95 delegates at stake — will give us a clearer picture. In the meantime, the knives are out.

New York, New York!

Posted April 8th, 2016 at 1:16 pm (UTC-5)
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After the Wisconsin primary upset of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, there is a feeling that real race has finally begun. And what better place to hold the next nominating contest than in New York, where the delegate count is high, the voters diverse and the political landscape notoriously tough? Trump, a New York native, and his Republican rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are vying for 95 delegates. 291 Democratic delegates are up for grabs for Brooklyn native Bernie Sanders and Clinton (who made the state her home and became its senator after serving two-terms as First Lady). For both parties, winning or losing the April 19 primary could make or break a candidacy, either mathematically or invincibility. And political experts agree: New York is not a slam-dunk for any of them.