Dina Powell, Trump’s first Arab-American appointee, draws bipartisan praise

Dina Habib Powell. (AP)
Updated 16 January 2017
0

Dina Powell, Trump’s first Arab-American appointee, draws bipartisan praise

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump has been heavily criticized this week for controversial tweets and a fiery press conference.
However, one announcement from the incoming administration is garnering positive feedback and bipartisan praise: The appointment of Dina Habib Powell as assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives.
Powell, 43, is the first Arab-American to make it into the Trump White House, five days ahead of his inauguration. She was lauded in the transition team statement as someone with “a tremendous talent” and “a stellar record of public service as well as a great career in the private sector.”

Cairo’s daughter
Powell was born in Cairo in 1973 and is fluent in Arabic, the only language she knew before her parents immigrated to the US in 1977.
In their new home in Dallas, Texas, her father Husni, a former captain in the Egyptian Army, worked as a bus driver and ran a convenience store.
Her mother, Huda Suleiman, a graduate of the American University of Cairo, raised the family.
Powell quipped once that her parents, like most Arab-American families, “wanted their daughters to reach their full potential.”
She added: “I joke that they said, ‘We left our homeland so you could pursue your dreams, as long as you’re a lawyer, doctor or engineer.’”
The good education Powell received as a graduate of the Ursuline Academy and University of Texas helped propel her political career as an intern with former Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
Her work on Capitol Hill, Texas roots and fluency in Arabic later secured her a seat in the George W. Bush administration, where she served as assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs at the age of 32.
In that capacity, the top ranking Arab-American dealt directly with outreach to the Middle East, joining Cabinet members and presidential envoys on their trips to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
After the Bush years, Powell moved to New York to work on Wall Street, where she joined Goldman Sachs in 2007 as a managing director, and later to become a partner in 2010. Her work at the finance giant involved pioneering efforts to promote women entrepreneurship, such as the “10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses” project that earned Powell wide acknowledgment in the political and business communities.

Bipartisan praise
Following the new White House appointment, Powell was dubbed by CNN as “Ivanka’s woman in the White House,” in reference to Trump’s influential daughter who reportedly enjoys a good working relation with Powell. Contacts between the two started a few months ago as part of Ivanka’s outreach on women’s issues.
Beyond the Ivanka nod, however, Powell’s recognition and praise at her appointment has been coming from both Republicans and Democrats.
Arianna Huffington, a liberal columnist and co-founder of The Huffington Post, tweeted:
Even former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who called Trump a “con man” during the campaign, applauded the appointment, tweeting:
There was also some criticism of the appointment as being the fourth from Goldman Sachs into the new administration.
Ziad Asali, former president of the American Task Force for Palestine, told Arab News that Powell could play a key role “in helping Trump and the Kushners (Ivanka and her husband Jared) navigate the Washington scene” and its many policy quarters.
Asali said he would not be surprised if Powell acquires a lead role in driving Middle East policy, improving Trump’s image in Middle Eastern countries after a campaign that saw a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. Trump called for a Muslim ban in December 2015, before walking back on those plans less than a year later.
Powell follows in the footsteps of Donna Shalala, Ray Lahood, John Sununu, and a large league of Arab-Americans who made it to the White House and served US presidents.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 16 sec ago
0

At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.