US leaving UN Human Rights Council — ‘a cesspool of political bias’

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced the United States is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday, accusing the body of bias against US ally Israel and a failure to hold human rights abusers accountable.

The move, which the Trump administration has threatened for months, came down one day after the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights slammed the separation of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border as “unconscionable.”
Speaking from the State Department, where she was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Haley defended the move to withdraw from the council, saying US calls for reform were not heeded.
“Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council,” said Haley, listing US grievances with the body. “The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape its scrutiny, and the council continues politicizing scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in its ranks.”

‘Deeply disappointed’

“For too long,” Haley said, “the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.”
Based in Geneva, the Human Rights Council is a body of 47 member states within the United Nations tasked with upholding human rights.
Membership on the council gives countries like the United States a voice in important debates over human rights atrocities, but the council’s critics, including Haley, say abusers use their membership to guarantee their own impunity.
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a statement: “Today the U.S. took a stand against some of the world’s worst human rights violators by withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. By elevating and protecting human rights violators and engaging in smear campaigns against democratic nations, the UNHRC makes a mockery of itself, its members, and the mission it was founded on. For years, the UNHRC has engaged in ever more virulent anti-American, and anti-Israel invective and the days of U.S. participation are over.”
The UN expressed disappointment. “The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said in response to the US announcement. “The UN’s Human Rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.”
The move was immediately condemned by a dozen charitable groups, who wrote to Pompeo to say they were “deeply disappointed with the Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the premier intergovernmental human rights body at the global level.”

‘A so-called Human Rights Council’

“This decision is counterproductive to American national security and foreign policy interests and will make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world,” they added.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said: “Once again President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the US claims to uphold. While the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains an important force for accountability and justice.”
US withdrawal from the council follows efforts by Haley and the US delegation to implement reforms, including more stringent membership criteria and the ability to remove members with egregious human rights records.
“When a so-called Human Rights Council cannot bring itself to address the massive abuses in Venezuela and Iran, and it welcomes the Democratic Republic of Congo as a new member, the council ceases to be worthy of its name,” said Haley. “Such a council, in fact, damages the cause of human rights.”
Haley also blasted the council for a “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel,” citing a series of resolutions highlighting alleged abuses by the Israeli government of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Haley said the United States will continue to promote human rights outside of the council and would consider rejoining it in the future if reforms are made.
“We have used America’s voice and vote to defend human rights at the UN every day,” she said, “and we will continue to do so.”

[CNN]

Trump Dodges When Confronted on Kim’s Brutality: ‘A Lot of Other People’ Have Done Bad Things Too

President Donald Trump sat down with Fox News’ Bret Baier for a one-on-one interview aboard Air Force One.

During the interview, the president praised “President for Life” Xi Jinping and pointed out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump also said he and the North Korean despot “understand each other.”

POTUS’s praise of Kim prompted Baier to ask why he would say such nice things about a “killer.”

“You were asked in the press conference a number of different times and in different ways about human rights and that you that call this relationship ‘really good’ and that he was ‘very talented person.’” Baier said.

Baier then continued on, “You call people sometimes killers. He is a killer. He’s executing people.”

Trump dodged trying to say North Korea was a “tough country” with “tough people.”

“You take it over from your father––I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have. If you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that,” Trump claimed, continuing to praise Kim. “So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.”

Baier then pressed further, adding, “He has still done some really bad things.”

“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things,” Trump said, dodging again. “I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

It is also not the first time Trump has dodged questions from Fox News about cozying up to a killer. In February 2017, Trump sat down for a pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reillywhere he was asked about how he could be so friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putindespite the fact that he, too, has blood on his hands.

Trump dodged back then too, telling O’Reilly: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

[Mediaite]

Trump embraces pro-Confederate anti-immigrant Senate nominee Corey Stewart

Trump tweeted about another GOP primary in a way that is sure to give Republicans heartburn.

While national Republicans are likely to distance themselves from Corey Stewart — the GOP nominee in Virginia’s Senate race who has embraced Confederate symbols and neo-Nazi figures — Trump congratulated Stewart on his win.

“Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!”

Trump’s praise of Stewart is far different from other Republicans, who lament the fact that Stewart won and have condemned Stewart’s embrace of Confederate symbols.

“I am extremely disappointed that a candidate like Corey Stewart could win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate,” Bill Bolling, a Republican and former lieutenant governor of Virginia, tweetedTuesday night. “This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight.”

[Mic]

Trump: North Koreans love Kim

President Trump on Tuesday said the people of North Korea “love” the country’s leader Kim Jong Un despite previously condemning the regime’s human rights abuses.

“His country does love him,” Trump said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos following the historic summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore.

Trump said “you see the fervor” the North Koreans have for their leader.

“They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people  — that they’re so hard working, so industrious,” Trump said.

Stephanopoulos, however, pressed Trump’s reversal from his previous criticism over the oppressive regime that’s been accused of multiple human rights abuses.

“You say his people love him,” Stephanopoulos retorted. “Just a few months ago you accused him of starving his people.”

Trump said in January during the State of the Union address that North Korea has “more brutally oppressed its people than any regime on Earth.”

Stephanopoulos pressed the issue, saying Kim is a brutal dictator who runs a police state with labor camps and forced starvation.

“He’s assassinated members of his own family,” Stephanopoulos added. “How do you trust a killer like that?”

Trump said he can only judge Kim based on his interactions with him.

“I mean, this is what we have, and this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I met him, I’ve spoken with him, and I’ve met him,” Trump said.

Trump also noted that things can change in the relationship, saying, “Will I come back to you in a year and you’ll be interviewing me and I’ll say, ‘Gee, I made a mistake?’ That’s always possible.”

Trump said Kim “wants to do the right thing” and that begins with denuclearization.

“I mean, this is what we have, and this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I met him, I’ve spoken with him, and I’ve met him,” Trump said.

Trump also noted that things can change in the relationship, saying, “Will I come back to you in a year and you’ll be interviewing me and I’ll say, ‘Gee, I made a mistake?’ That’s always possible.”

Trump said Kim “wants to do the right thing” and that begins with denuclearization.

“Now, with all of that being said, I can’t talk about — it doesn’t matter,” Trump added.

Trump said at a press conference following the summit that human rights abuses happen “in a lot of places” when he was asked if he would reverse his previous criticism of Kim’s regime.

“I believe it’s a rough situation over there,” Trump told reporters. “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there.”

Trump disrupts G-7 gender equality meeting by arriving late

President Donald Trump arrived late for a gender equality meeting at an international summit, prompting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to kick it off without waiting for “stragglers” to arrive.

Trump created a distraction when he walked in late for Saturday’s breakfast meeting during the Group of Seven summit of leading industrialized nations being held in Quebec.

He missed Trudeau’s introductory statement and entered the room while Gender Equality Advisory Council co-chair Isabelle Hudon was speaking.

Security personnel had to open a path for Trump through a throng of journalists and cameramen. The camera clicks for Trump almost drowned out Hudon.

French President Emmanuel Macron stared at Trump after he sat down.

Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland later tweeted photos of the women’s empowerment meeting, showing Trump’s empty chair.

Trudeau had made the issue of gender equality a priority for the gathering. He said gender equality must “cut through” everything the G-7 does.

[PBS]

Trump’s White House Iftar Is Missing Major American Muslim Groups

America’s largest Muslim organizations will not be attending President Donald Trump’s first iftar dinner on Wednesday night ― an absence that highlights the tumultuous relationship the president has had with American Muslim communities.

Since the Clinton administration, the White House has hosted holiday iftar dinners for foreign diplomats, Cabinet officials and Muslims from civil society organizations in honor of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The Trump White House declined to host an iftar dinner last year, but surprised many Muslim advocates by announcing that it was planning one for Wednesday.

The official guest list for the event has not been released, but press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said about 30-40 people were expected to attend, The Associated Press reports.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Huffington Post]

Trump tweets that ‘disrespectful’ Eagles were disinvited because not enough would attend

President Donald Trump spoke out about the whirlwind he caused, by uninviting the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House ceremony.

In a tweet President Trump said: “The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”

CNN’s Don Lemon remind viewers on Monday night that not one Eagles player kneeled during the season and called President Trumps’s actions a political stunt.

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said President Trump “is the most disrespectful person on earth,” during an interview with Lemon.

[Raw Story]

Trump cancels Philadelphia Eagles visit to the White House

The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ White House visit has been canceled due to the controversy over standing for the National Anthem at NFL games, President Donald Trump announced Monday.

“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” Trump said in a statement. “They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”

It’s an unprecedented move by Trump. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors declined an invitation from the President to visit the White House after winning the 2017 championship, but presidents typically honor their invitations to championship teams. Players also have refused those invitations in the past — Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas declined to visit the White House in 2012 over disagreements with President Barack Obama’s policies.

The President typically invites the champions of major professional and college sports to the White House for a visit as a part of their victory celebrations.

Last month, the NFL announced it would require athletes to stand during the National Anthem in response to players who took a knee as protest to what some players see as the systemic oppression of people of color, including by police.

The movement was initially started by Colin Kaepernick, who was formerly with the San Francisco 49ers. He drew national attention for refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to kickoff.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016.

Trump has repeatedly criticized players for not standing for the anthem and has gone as far as to say team owners should fire players for doing so.

The new NFL policy gives players the option of remaining in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they do not wish to comply.

Players on the Eagles are some of the most outspoken social justice activists in the NFL, and multiple players took part in the protests during the anthem over the last two seasons. Many players from the team were not planning on attending the ceremony as a protest of Trump, his policies and his outspoken criticism of players who chose to kneel during the anthem.

The Eagles were originally invited to the White House after their win in February’s Super Bowl over the New England Patriots. It was the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

In response to Trump’s announcement, former Eagles receiver Torrey Smith, who was a member of the championship team and was traded during the off-season, called the move “a cowardly act.”

“So many lies smh Here are some facts 1. Not many people were going to go 2. No one refused to go simply because Trump ‘insists’ folks stand for the anthem 3. The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti military,” he said in one tweet.

Smith continued: “There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views. The men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go. It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish.”

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said he’s skipping the White House event, and instead invited the team to take a tour of the US Capitol.

“I’m proud of what the @Eagles accomplished this year. I’m skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress. @Eagles How about a tour of the Capitol?” Casey wrote on Twitter.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement, where he said Trump’s decision “proves that our President is not a true patriot.”

“The Eagles call the birthplace of our democracy home, so it’s no surprise that this team embodies everything that makes our country and our city great. Their athletic accomplishments on the field led to an historic victory this year,” Kenney said.

“Disinviting them from the White House only proves that our President is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend,” he later said in the statement.

“City Hall is always open for a celebration,” he added.

Trump said in Monday’s statement that the fans are still welcome to come and partake in a “different kind of ceremony.”

“One that will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem,” he said.

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told CNN’s Erin Burnett he was unsure who canceled on whom.

“It’s unfortunate when politics gets in the middle of this,” Short said.
Trump said he will be at the ceremony alongside the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus at 3 p.m. Tuesday to “celebrate America.”

[CNN]

The feds lost — yes, lost — 1,475 migrant children

The Trump administration recently announced a new, get-tough policy that will separate parents from their children if the family is caught crossing the border illegally.

It was a big news story. So big it overshadowed the fact that the federal government has lost — yes, lost — 1,475 migrant children in its custody.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress that within 48 hours of being taken into custody the children are transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, which finds places for them to stay.

“They will be separated from their parent,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

“Just like we do in the United States every day,” Nielsen replied.

Except that the states, unlike the federal government, have systems in place to better screen the people who become guardians of the children and much better ways to keep track of those children.

And not lose them.

That is what happened to 1,475 minors swept up at the border and taken into custody by the federal government.

Gone.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said, “It’s just a system that has so many gaps, so many opportunities for these children to fall between the cracks, that we just don’t know what’s going on — how much trafficking or abuse or simply immigration law violations are occurring.”

A documentary from the PBS program Frontline said that the federal government has actually released some of the minors to human traffickers.

Imagine that.

And now we want to dramatically ramp up the number of children who are removed from their parents?

When pressed about safety concerns Secretary Nielsen said, “I just want to say, I couldn’t agree with your concerns more, period. We owe more to these children to protect them. So I’m saying I agree, we’ve taken steps and we will continue to strengthen what our partners do to protect these children.”

There are 1,475 reasons not to be reassured by the secretary’s promise.

If anything, it would have been better to have a policy in place, with protections, and safe places to stay, and safe people to stay with, and personnel on the government payroll to check-up on them before the administration’s new policy was implemented.

Secretary Nielsen said, “My decision has been that anyone who breaks the law will be prosecuted. If you are parent, or you’re a single person or if you happen to have a family, if you cross between the ports of entry we will refer you for prosecution. You have broken U.S. law.”

We all get that. And we all want a secure border. But we don’t want to trade in our humanity in the process.

As Sen. Portman told Frontline, “We’ve got these kids. They’re here. They’re living on our soil. And for us to just, you know, assume someone else is going to take care of them and throw them to the wolves, which is what HHS was doing, is flat-out wrong. I don’t care what you think about immigration policy, it’s wrong.”

He’s right.

[USA Today]

Trump on Abused Immigrant Children: “They’re Not Innocent”

In April of 2017, when Donald Trump ordered his first missile strike in Syria, the president said that he was moved by the images of children killed in suspected chemical attacks. It was a rare moment of Trump being moved by compassion, and it hasn’t been replicated.

Now the Trump administration, and John Kelly in particular, have been criticized for its decision to break up families crossing the border illegally, and for their careless planning about what to do with those children one they’re shoved into detention centers on military bases. But Trump is doubling down, claiming that those children are nothing more than criminals in the future. Per the Washington Post:

Immigrant advocates have long said that the children, primarily from Central America, are fleeing violence in their home countries and seeking safe harbor in the United States. But the Trump administration has used their plight to justify cracking down on policies that allow these migrants to be released and obtain hearings before immigration judges, rather than being deported immediately.

“We have the worst immigration laws of any country, anywhere in the world,” Trump said at the roundtable held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. “They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.”

Trump added:

“They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

Trump’s not alone in thinking that. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claimed that the gang activity that happened during his tenure U.S. attorney for Maryland was fueled by undocumented children. According to Rosenstein, those children roam the streets like Oliver Twist until they’re absorbed into criminal organizations. “We’re letting people in who are creating problems. We’re letting people in who are gang members. We’re also letting people in who are vulnerable.”

First and foremost, this is Minority Report nonsense. The argument that we have to treat as criminals anyone who might be a criminal is the logic of a full-on police state. It’s also maddening that Rosenstein would claim that it’s immigrants who are creating problems when, broadly speaking, they’re fleeing violence, economic instability, and political corruption that the U.S. exported in the first place. But what’s most infuriating is that he would use the vulnerability of children and families as a cudgel against them, essentially arguing that they need help too badly to be allowed in the country.

On the same day that Trump and Rosenstein explained why children have to be treated as a national security threat, the ACLU released a report detailing a long history of child abuse at detention centers for immigrants. According to 30,000 pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU alleges that Customs and Border Patrolofficials are responsible for sexual abuse, physical assault, and denial of medical care, clean water and food. A small sample of the abuses committed by officials includes:

Denied detained children permission to stand or move freely for days and threatened children who stood up with transfer to solitary confinement in a small, freezing room

Denied a pregnant minor medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth

Subjected a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed”

Left a 4-pound premature baby and her minor mother in an overcrowded and dirty cell full of sick people, against medical advice

Threw out a child’s birth certificate and threatened him with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.

Officials have denied the allegations, calling them “unfounded and baseless.” All of these reports pre-dated the Trump administration, and there’s no reason to assume that CBP has become more transparent or accountable since then. Besides, this fits nicely into Trump and Kelly’s entire reasoning for the need to imprison children in the first place: subject them to so much cruelty that others won’t try to come to the US at all.

[GQ]

Reality

First, “pre-crime” is something you would find in a sci-fi dystopian nightmare society, such as in Phillip K. Dick’s “Minority Report.”

Finally, Trump regularly falsely conflates “immigrant” with “criminal”, which primes his already xenophobic base to be more suspicious of non-Americans. The reality is immigrants contribute to our society, even illegal ones, and commit crimes at lower rates than native populations.

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