Trump's nominee withdraws amid flak over anti-Islam views and gender bias

ark Green, a Republican state senator of Tennessee who was forced to withdraw his nomination as Army secretary. (Twitter photo)
Updated 06 May 2017
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Trump's nominee withdraws amid flak over anti-Islam views and gender bias

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s choice for Army secretary has withdrawn his nomination in the face of growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, said in a statement Friday that “false and misleading attacks” against him had turned his nomination into a distraction.
“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Green said, expressing “deep regret” over the decision.
Green is the second Trump nominee for Army secretary to withdraw.
The move to step aside comes after a video began circulating of a remarks Green gave in September to a tea party group in Chattanooga. Green, who is opposed to gay marriage, said being transgender is a disease. He urged that a stand be taken against “the indoctrination of Islam” in public schools” and also referred to the “Muslim horde” that invaded Constantinople hundreds of years ago.
Several Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, declared they would oppose Green’s nomination over what they said were intolerant and disturbing views. Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war, said in a statement Friday that Green wasn’t fit to lead the service.
Schumer welcomed Green’s move to step aside.
“Mark Green’s decision to withdraw his name from consideration as Army secretary is good news for all Americans, especially those who were personally vilified by his disparaging comments directed toward the LGBTQ community, Muslim community, Latino community and more,” he said in a statement.
Also on Friday, a coalition of 41 organizations led by the Human Rights Campaign called on the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee to reject Green’s nomination. The letter to Senators John McCain of Arizona and Jack Reed of Rhode Island said Green’s “shameful rhetoric” is at odds with the Army’s core values and will affect recruiting.
Green’s withdrawal underscores the challenges Trump has faced in filling two of the service secretary posts. The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.
The GOP-led Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on the nomination of Heather Wilson to be Air Force secretary.
Trump’s decision to tap Green in early April represented a stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s choice of Eric Fanning for the post. Fanning, who’d been a senior Pentagon official, was the first openly gay leader of one of the military branches.
Green graduated from West Point in 1986 and served as an Army physician. Green is the CEO of Align MD, which provides leadership and staffing to emergency departments and hospitals, according to the White House. He served in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment where he made three combat tours to the Middle East.
As a Tennessee state senator, Green sponsored legislation last year that his critics have said would make it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
During his remarks before the Chattanooga tea party group, Green said the Obama administration has “bred general officers who are afraid of their shadow.” He also said that “if you poll the psychiatrists, they’re going to tell you that transgender is a disease.”
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Associated Press writer Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.


Flood rescue stepped up as more torrential rain batters Kerala

Updated 3 min 11 sec ago
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Flood rescue stepped up as more torrential rain batters Kerala

  • Thousands of people are waiting to be rescued as relentless monsoon rains cause extensive flooding
  • The central government has dispatched military units to Kerala, but state officials are pleading for additional help

KOCHI, India: Rescuers in helicopters and boats fought through renewed torrential rain Saturday to reach stranded villages in India’s Kerala state as the toll from the worst monsoon floods in a century rose above 320 dead.
Dozens of military and coast guard helicopters took troops to high risk areas seeking people trapped on the roofs of submerged buildings. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the crisis as “devastating” after visiting Kerala.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced late Friday that the monsoon death toll had dramatically risen to 324.
Media reports said at least another 14 bodies were found Saturday and state officials said they expected the number to rise as more landslides were reported and dam levels remained dangerously high. No new official toll was given however.
With power and communication lines down, thousands remained trapped in towns and villages cut off by the floods amid growing shortages of food and water.
Helicopters have been dropping emergency food and water supplies across Kerala, while special trains carrying drinking water and rice have been sent to the state.


With rain alerts hanging over much of the state, dozens of dam and reservoir gates across the state have had to be opened as the waters reached danger levels, inundating many villages downstream.
Particular fears have been raised for Chengannur, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, which has been cut off for four days.
Troops and military boats have been sent to the town and media reports said bodies had been found. The state government did not immediately give an updated toll early Saturday.
Saji Cherian, who represents Chengannur in the Kerala assembly, said he feared there were at least 50 dead in the town and broke down in tears as he pleaded for more help on Asianet TV late Friday.
“Please give us a helicopter. I am begging you. Please help me, people in my place will die. Please help us. There is no other solution, people have to be airlifted,” he said.
“We did what we can with fishing boats we procured using our political clout. But we can’t do more.”

With no end in sight to the rains, people all over the state of 33 million have made panic-stricken appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services.
Some say they are trapped inside temples and hospitals as well as submerged homes.
Authorities have warned that rains and strong winds are predicted for many parts of Kerala on Saturday and Sunday.
Prime Minister Modi arrived in Kerala on Friday night and held meetings with state leaders and went on a brief air inspection tour.
“I took stock of the situation arising in the wake of the devastating floods across the state,” Modi said in a Twitter statement.
An immediate grant of $75 million was offered by the government. Other state governments promised nearly $20 million.
Opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi demanded though that Modi declare the flood crisis a “national disaster.”
Dozens of military helicopters stepped up rescue operations across the state and in one a heavily pregnant woman Sajita Jabeel, 25, gave birth just after her rescue, an Indian Navy spokesman said.

“It was a very critical case, the lady was in labor, her water had broken,” the pilot, the pilot Commandeer Vijay Verma told News18 television.
“We took a doctor along, we winched her up, it took some time though because we had to winch down two people to help her get on to the strop.”
Another pilot, Captain P. Rajkumar, winched 26 people up from a rooftop after guiding the helicopter through trees and other houses.
A video of his Sea King pulling up the victims has been widely shared on social media. He ended up with 32 people in his Sea King helicopter.
Rajkumar was given the Shaurya Chakra medal for bravery this week after lifting a fisherman from the sea when cyclone Ockhi hit India last year.