Putin Critic Assassinated, Knew He Was A Target…

A tragic event. On possibly orchestrated by Vladimir Putin.

A man Trump apparently admires. If one believes Trump’s prior praises of Putin.

Excerpt from The Washington Post.

In the plush, crimson-decked lobby bar of Kiev’s five-star Premier Palace Hotel, Denis Voronenkov, a Russian lawmaker who defected to Ukraine, knew he was in danger.

“For our personal safety, we can’t let them know where we are,” he said Monday evening as he sat with his wife for an interview with The Washington Post.

Less than 72 hours later, he was dead, shot twice in the head in broad daylight outside the same lobby bar. It was a particularly brazen assassination that recalled the post-Soviet gangland violence of the 1990s. His wife, dressed in black, sobbed as she stooped down to identify Voronenkov’s body, which lay beneath a black tarp in a pool of blood.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, just hours later, called the attack an “act of state terrorism by Russia.” As of Thursday evening, police had not identified the assailant, who died in police custody after being shot by Voronenkov’s bodyguard. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, called the accusation a “fabrication.”

In the weeks before his death, Voronenkov, a former member of Russia’s pliant Communist Party, had told friends he was being targeted. Hackers had been trying to pry into his Twitter account and his wife’s email. He had received threatening text messages, and the police had recently assigned him a bodyguard. There were rumors he was under surveillance.

“It’s a totally amoral system, and in its anger it may go to extreme measures,” he said as he sat next to his wife, Maria Maksakova, a fellow parliamentarian who defected with him. “There’s been a demonization of us. It’s hard to say what will happen. The system has lost its mind. They say we are traitors in Russia.”

He said he could return only “when Putin is gone.”

At a time when the question of Russian influence dominates U.S. politics, Voronenkov’s death will add further scrutiny to the extent, and potential lethality, of Russia’s reach abroad. It remained unclear who might have wanted to killed Voronenkov — theories include Russian agents, Ukrainian nationalists or business interests — but the fact remains that he is just the latest Kremlin opponent to wind up dead.



Federal Judge In Hawaii Blocks Travel Ban…

Just breaking. Another federal judge has put a temporary halt on Trump’s new travel ban. US District Court Judge Derrick Watson has determined Trump’s new  executive order still does not pass the legal test.

“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed,” Watson wrote.”
Equally flawed is the notion that the Executive Order cannot be found to have targeted Islam because it applies to all individuals in the six referenced countries,” Watson added. “It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7% to 99.8%.”
“It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam,” Watson added. “Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not.”
Several states and immigration advocates say the new order still suffers from legal flaws and asked federal judges to weigh in by issuing temporary restraining orders blocking the ban before Thursday. Federal judges in Maryland and Washington state may also issue rulings Wednesday.
The new ban was announced earlier this month and set to take effect Thursday. It would ban people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.
The White House did not immediately comment on Watson’s ruling, but the Trump administration argues the ban is necessary to protect the nation’s security.

Food For Continued Thought…

Given what we are seeing from the Trump administration the following article by Yousef Munayyer , written in 2015 and published in The New York Times seems especially pertinent today. But maybe it’s just me?

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from its consequences. The ideal of freedom of speech is one well worth defending but it can only be guaranteed in a perfect world and sadly, as we have seen throughout 2014 and in the early days of 2015, our world is far from perfect.

The heinous attacks and murders in Paris are the responsibility of the killers alone. Freedom of speech, however, is upheld by certain rules and laws in our society and governments and there is always going to be a minority who refuse to play by the rules. This reality means that merely having a public profile and expressing views on contentious issues can put one at risk.

Should writers and artists be able to express themselves in any way they choose even if it is provocative and offensive? Sure, but they should also expect that provocative expressions will provoke and what exactly it provokes is impossible to know.

Each writer, artist and publisher must decide for themselves which risks they are willing to take. Those who died in Paris knowingly took a risk and died. Did they expect that? I don’t know. Did they deserve that? Certainly not! Could they have avoided such provocations? Yes. But should they have?

My writing often focuses on Palestinian rights and you might be able to imagine the hate mail I get. Every unfamiliar letter, package or knock at the door I receive raises a troubling question in my mind; what if this is one I shouldn’t open? I live with that question as do countless people every day who write publicly on emotional issues. The hope is that the contentious convictions you espouse are ones that are truly worth taking on risks for.

For me, freedom and equality for Palestinians is worth taking on risks to espouse. Gratuitous insults at venerated religious figures and others employing sometimes racist and disparaging images is not, simply because it adds nothing of any value to the public discourse. I am well aware that the staff of Charlie Hebdo believed otherwise, and paid the ultimate price for it.

It must also be noted that there is a hypocritical tension around free expression in France, where Islamophobic speech is protected and yet Muslims cannot dress freely in certain public spaces.

I respect the right of Charlie Hebdo to express what they want while simultaneously having no respect for most of the distasteful content they produced. If only more people could see that these two views are not mutually exclusive we would be in a better place. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.

When A President Emboldens Haters…

It happened last week in St Louis and Saturday it happened again in New York. Are the incidents of anti-Semitism that have occurred with increasing regularity since Trump hit the political streets just coincidental. Or is it possible that his divisive rhetoric has actually giving impetus and cover for what we’ve seen happening since his announcement that he was running for president?

To think Trump’s rhetoric does not represent his true beliefs and feelings is naïve. To believe the millions who support and voted for Trump for the presidency don’t approve of his bigoted rhetoric is, to say the least, naïve as well.  When the leader of a nation speaks, his words have consequences. The consequence of Trump’s many bigoted, racist, and xenophobic words? To embolden and give rise to the bigotry and hatred we say in St Louis and New York just this past week.

Stacy Silver prayed as she drove with her husband to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia’s Wissinoming section Sunday: Please don’t let my mother and great-grandmother be among the victims.

When Silver, 50, of Cherry Hill, N.J., heard about the vandalism at the Jewish cemetery that occurred overnight Saturday, she rushed to her loved ones’ graves.

What she saw when she arrived was worse than she imagined — tombstone after tombstone, story after story, was toppled to the ground — including those belonging to her mother and great-grandmother.

“Your stomach just drops,” Silver said. “I mean it’s just horrible.”

Detectives canvassing the cemetery Sunday afternoon estimated that  75 to 100 headstones had been knocked over.

“It’s criminal. This is beyond vandalism,” said Northeast Detectives Capt. Shawn Thrush, as he walked the cemetery grounds. “It’s beyond belief.”

The vandalism, coming a week after a similar incident in St. Louis, prompted the Anne Frank Center to call for President Trump to make a forceful denunciation of anti-Semitic hate crimes.

“Mr. President, it’s time for you to deliver a prime-time nationally televised speech, live from the Oval Office, on how you intend to combat not only #Antisemitism but also Islamophobia and other rising forms of hate,” the organization posted Sunday on Twitter. “Whether or not your intention, your Presidency has given the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,372 bias incidents between Trump’s inauguration and Feb. 7, the watchdog group reported. Among those, the group highlighted 57 incidents in 24 states of anonymous bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers. The organization has also recorded that the number of hate groups in the U.S. grew in 2016 for the second straight year, with a threefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups.

The incident at Mount Carmel prompted support from the national Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.

“We are deeply troubled by these rising and ongoing attacks on our Jewish sisters and brothers and members from our Philadelphia chapter are in route to assist in clean up,” said Nasim Rehmatullah, the organization’s national vice president. (emphasis mine)

Indeed Mr. Trump. Your words have had an impact. A very dark and sinister one. You can not change or take back your stream of bigoted words and xenophobic utterances. Just as a leopard is incapable of changing its spots your words have defined who and what you are. Simply put Trump, you have zero credibility and anything you say is therefore meaningless. Try as you might to cover your rancid character it will not work in the end.

Find complete article BELOW THE FOLD.




Jewish Community Centers Being Terrorized By Phone…

With Donald J. Trump’s campaign and rise to power  threats made to Jewish Community Centers have increased as well. 48 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province received upwards of 60 bomb threats during January. The majority of the threats were made during three days: January 9, 18 and 31. Several JCCs, including Orlando’s, received multiple threats.

Is this simply coincidental? Or did the tone of the Trump campaign and inauguration, with its obvious appeal to xenophobia and America First nationalism, encourage overt anti-Semitism and anti Muslim  activity? It certainly is plausible that the increase is at least partially the result of the tone set by Trump.

(CNN) Samantha Taylor was at Orlando’s Jewish Community Center for a morning meeting when she heard reports of a bomb threat crackle from the director’s walkie-talkie.

Her daughter attends preschool there; she ran to the classroom and evacuated with the students and teachers.
While police and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the building for several hours, the teachers kept the children calm and happy at a safe spot down the street, Taylor said. No explosives were found.
On the same day, January 4, an Orlando Chabad center also received a threatening call, marking the first trickle in what would soon swell to waves of calls menacing Jewish institutions across the country.
In a statement, the FBI said the bureau and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are “investigating possible civil rights violations in connections with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country.”
The JTA, a Jewish news agency, says it has obtained a recording of one of the calls. On it, the caller says a C-4 bomb has been placed in the JCC and that “a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered.”
Several JCC sources said the FBI has told them it is investigating the calls as hate crimes. Online, another term has circulated: “telephone terrorism.”
“I’ve been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented,” said Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, which advises Jewish organizations on security. “It’s more methodical than meets the eye.”
No bombs have been found, but Jewish leaders hesitate to label the calls “hoaxes.” The chaos and terror the calls have caused are real, as are more tangible consequences.
JCCs across the country are bolstering security and holding town halls to calm frightened parents. Still, several centers have seen students withdraw from their early childhood education programs, typically reliable sources of revenue. As a result, some are slashing budgets, cutting staff and holding emergency fundraisers.
Making America Great Again does not, and should not, include this kind of rising hatred towards certain religious, ethnic, or cultural groups that differs from our own. Our fellow Americans, indeed fellow human beings do not deserve this.
Trump should be speaking out against hate, not turning a blind eye to it or inadvertently and indirectly encouraging it through words and action.