Michigan doctor believes US ready for first Muslim governor

In this Aug. 8, 2017 photo, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed high-fives supporter Sonique Watson in Detroit. The 32-year-old liberal doctor is mounting a strong bid to become the first Muslim governor in the US. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Updated 15 September 2017
0

Michigan doctor believes US ready for first Muslim governor

DETROIT, US: Perhaps no state has embraced the political outsider as much as Michigan, where a venture capitalist won the last two governor’s elections and a real estate baron carried the presidential vote. Now Abdul El-Sayed is putting that affinity for newcomers to the test.
El-Sayed, a 32-year-old liberal doctor in Detroit, is mounting a surprisingly robust bid to become the nation’s first Muslim governor.
Democratic leaders are stunned by the sudden emergence of the former Rhodes scholar, who served as Detroit public health director, in the primary field after he quickly raised $1 million.
He is one of four viable Democrats and, for now, three Republicans in a race that his party considers a must-win to re-establish itself after eight years of GOP control of state government.
Michigan has one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East, but is it ready to elect a Muslim as chief executive? El-Sayed says yes, though he insists the election will be about his qualifications and grassroots movement.
“I think folks are looking for something fresh, new, exciting, competent. And we offer that,” said the self-assured El-Sayed, who emphasizes his work rebuilding Detroit’s health department after the city’s bankruptcy.
Political insiders are not sure about the religious complexities but are impressed by his fundraising.
“No one expected El-Sayed to raise that kind of money — no one,” said pollster Ed Sarpolus.
The governor’s race in 2018 is wide open with Republican incumbent Rick Snyder, a former business executive, leaving after two terms. Before Republicans swept to power in 2010, Democrats held the governor’s office and one house of the Legislature.
The diverse Democratic field includes front-runner Gretchen Whitmer, a former legislative leader who has raised $1.5 million and has secured labor union support; Shri Thanedar, an immigrant entrepreneur from India who has given his campaign $3.3 million but remains largely unknown for now; and Bill Cobbs, an African-American former Xerox executive who has not collected much money.
The leading GOP contender is state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who joined the race this week. Other Republicans running are Dr. Jim Hines, who has given $438,000 of his own money, and conservative state Sen. Patrick Colbeck.
El-Sayed, the son of Egyptian immigrants, was born in Michigan and grew up in the affluent Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Township. His father and stepmother are mechanical engineering professors who now work as college administrators.
El-Sayed has been known for his speaking ability since his days at the University of Michigan, where he gave the senior speech to fellow graduates. The commencement speaker that day, former President Bill Clinton, said he wished “every person in the world” who is pessimistic about the nation’s religious divide could have heard El-Sayed, who talked about the many opportunities at hand to “change the world.”
Potentially the most progressive candidate in the field, El-Sayed frequently touts government’s ability to help people and cites his initiatives in Detroit to provide free glasses to schoolchildren and increase lead exposure tests.
He criticizes unauthentic “corporate, bought-out” politicians and disavows corporate PAC donations. His fundraising base is dominated by physicians, tech executives and financiers, many from out of state.
El-Sayed is hoping to benefit from an energized Democratic backlash against President Donald Trump, who narrowly carried Michigan in 2016, and from the repercussions of a lead contamination scandal in the city of Flint blamed primarily on Snyder’s administration. Trump has imposed a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and blamed “both sides” for violence between white supremacists and their opponents in Virginia.
“What better way to send Donald Trump a message than to elect a millennial Muslim guy in a state that he barely took?” said El-Sayed, a former college lacrosse player with a stocky build.
Just two Muslims serve in Congress, neither with an Arabic surname: Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana. El-Sayed and Deedra Abboud, a Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, are among the first Muslims to pursue major statewide offices.
In a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 42 percent of US adults said they would be less likely to support a Muslim presidential candidate. El-Sayed, who has faced attacks on social media because of his Islamic faith, keeps his campaign office location secret for safety reasons.
While Whitmer is considered the Democratic favorite, political analysts believe El-Sayed could appeal to anti-establishment activists and backers of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in next summer’s primary.
One voter whom El-Sayed has won over is Sonique Watson, a 26-year-old professional blogger from Detroit who said she felt “a spark” because he seems more like a public servant than a politician.
Yet there are skeptics.
Former Gov. Jim Blanchard, a Whitmer backer, said he questions nominating a candidate without “serious experience” in office.
“There’s no reason for people to fool around here and take a flyer with someone who can give a nice speech but really is not ready for the job,” he said.
Jermain Jones, a 37-year-old Detroit-area political organizer, said it is impossible to overlook the impact of El-Sayed’s religion in rural or blue-collar areas.
“Even the Democratic establishment I don’t think is ready to push an Islamic candidate in a state like Michigan,” Jones said. “Islamophobia is strong in America right now.”


North Korea’s Kim inspects new submarine, signals possible ballistic missile development

Updated 24 min 43 sec ago
0

North Korea’s Kim inspects new submarine, signals possible ballistic missile development

  • The new data and combat weapon systems of submarine was built under Kim’s “special attention”
  • Experts said the size of the new submarine suggests it would eventually carry missiles

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a large newly built submarine, state news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday, potentially signaling continued development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.
Kim inspected the operational and tactical data and combat weapon systems of the submarine that was built under “his special attention,” and will be operational in the waters off the east coast, KCNA said.
KCNA said the submarine’s operational deployment was near.
“The operational capacity of a submarine is an important component in national defense of our country bounded on its east and west by sea,” Kim said.
KCNA did not describe the submarine’s weapon systems or say where and when the inspection took place.
North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only one known experimental submarine capable of carrying a ballistic missile.
Analysts said that based on the apparent size of the new submarine it appears designed to eventually carry missiles.
“We can clearly see that it is a massive submarine — much larger than the existing one that’s been well known since 2014,” said Ankit Panda, senior fellow at the US-based Federation of American Scientists.
“What I find significant about the political messaging here is that this is the first time since a February 2018 military parade that he has inspected a military system clearly designed to carry and deliver nuclear weapons.”
“I take that as an ominous signal that we should be taking Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline for the implementation of a change in US policy with the utmost seriousness.”
A South Korean defense ministry spokesman said they were monitoring developments but could not confirm if the submarine was designed to carry missiles.
Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said Kim likely also wanted to reassure North Koreans of his commitment to national defense at a time when he is focusing more on the economy.
“Announcing his inspection of the new submarine is also to build internal solidarity, to dispel people’s concerns about national security, reassure them, and boost military morale,” he said.
Submarine development
Kim has declared a moratorium on testing ICBM’s and nuclear weapons while engaging in denuclearization talks with the United States and South Korea.
The North’s submarine report comes amid another delay in dialogue between the United States and North Korea after Kim and US President Donald Trump agreed at a meeting at the Panmunjom Korean border on June 30 to working-level nuclear talks.
Trump said such talks could come in the following two to three weeks. His national security adviser, John Bolton, arrives in South Korea on Tuesday to meet security officials.
A summit between Trump and Kim, in Vietnam in February, broke down after they failed to narrow differences between a US demand for North Korea’s denuclearization and a North Korean demand for sanctions relief.
In April, Kim said he would wait until the end of the year for the United States to be more flexible.
North Korea maintains one of the world’s largest submarine fleets, but many vessels are aging and there are doubts over how many are operational, according to the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
Most of North Korea’s fleet consists of small coastal submarines, but in recent years it has made rapid progress in the SLBM program, NTI said in a report released late last year.
In 2016, after a few years of development, North Korea successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine, while pursuing an intercontinental ballistic missile program (ICBM).
During the submarine inspection Kim was accompanied by Kim Jong Sik, an official who played a major role in North Korea’s missile program.
Another official on the tour was Jang Chang Ha, president of the Academy of the National Defense Science, which the US Treasury has said is in charge of the secretive country’s research and development of its advanced weapons systems, “including missiles and probably nuclear weapons.”
H.I. Sutton, a naval analyst who studies submarines, said judging by the initial photos the hull could be based on old Romeo Class submarines, which were originally acquired from China in the 1970s before North Korea began producing them domestically.
North Korea is believed to have about 20 Romeo submarines in its fleet, the newest of which was built in the mid 1990s, according to NTI.
Sutton told Reuters that the North Koreans appeared to have raised the deck on a Romeo-type design, possibly even modifying an existing Romeo to make a submarine larger than previous indigenous designs.
“I’d bet that this is indeed a missile submarine,” he said.
US-based monitoring group 38 North said in June 2018 that North Korea appeared to be continuing submarine construction at its Sinpo Shipyard of possibly another Sinpo-class ballistic missile submarine, based on commercial satellite imagery.
“This, to my eye, is the submarine that the US intelligence community has been calling the Sinpo-C, a successor to North Korea’s only known ballistic missile submarine,” Panda said.