Pro-Arab political representation not likely to grow in Michigan’s midterm elections, experts predict

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Updated 03 June 2022

Pro-Arab political representation not likely to grow in Michigan’s midterm elections, experts predict

Pro-Arab political representation not likely to grow in Michigan’s midterm elections, experts predict
  • A combination of redrawn districts and primary battles between incumbents mean that there is little prospect of an enhanced political voice for Arab issues
  • That was the conclusion of political analysts Bill Ballenger and Dennis Denno during a discussion on the latest edition of the Ray Hanania Radio Show, sponsored by Arab News

CHICAGO: Candidates in four recently redrawn Michigan congressional districts covering areas traditionally sympathetic to Palestinian interests are expected to face tough challenges in upcoming primaries, which could prevent the Arab American community from augmenting its political voice, two veteran political analysts said on Wednesday.

The candidates include Palestinian American lawyer and activist Huwaida Arraf, who is running in the 10th Congressional District; Jewish Representative Andy Levin, who currently represents the 9th District but will take on another incumbent in the 11th District; and two-term Palestinian Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is the representative for the 13th District but is standing in the redrawn 12th District. Meanwhile there is an open field in the 13th District once represented by long-time pro-Arab senior representative John Conyers Jr.

Arraf, a strong campaigner for Palestinian rights, has been targeted by a vicious campaign focusing on her Arab heritage. Analysts said that despite her best efforts, she faces an uphill battle to enter Congress for the first time.

Meanwhile Levin, the son of former Michigan Senator Carl Levin, has chosen to run against a popular incumbent, Haley Stevens, jeopardizing what might have been an easier re-election win in another district.

 

“(Arraf) has just got too many people in the Democratic primary who are more likely to be the nominee in that 10th District,” said Bill Ballenger, the founder of Inside Michigan Politics, a biweekly newsletter launched in 1987, and publisher of The Ballenger Report.

“That 10th Congressional District is the only one where the Republicans have got a chance. They have got a probable nominee, John James, who has run twice for the US Senate. They could win that; it’s about a 50-50 district. It’s a brand new district just created by an independent commission. No incumbent is running in it.”

Levin, meanwhile, faces a different challenge, according to Ballenger.

“Andy Levin represented much of (the redrawn 10th District) under the old district lines but he has chosen to move next door (to the 11th District) and run against a fellow incumbent, Haley Stevens, in the Democratic primary.

“In the 11th, 12th and 13th districts the Democrats are going to win in November. It doesn’t make any difference who the Republicans nominate, the Republicans are going to lose. The only real mystery is who is going to win, either Levin or Stevens, in (their) district.

“Is Rashida Tlaib, an incumbent (standing) in another district, the 12th, going to survive her primary? I think she will. And then the 13th district is wide open: There is no incumbent and there are half a dozen big Democrat names in that, any one of whom might be able to win.”

Despite more than $1 million in campaign funds committed against Tlaib by her political enemies and political action committees affiliated with Israel’s political pit bull lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, she is expected not only to win the Aug. 2 Democratic primary but also the election on Nov. 8 against whichever candidate is selected by the Republican party.

However, Ballenger believes that Levin might have miscalculated by choosing to run against Stevens in the redrawn 11th District rather than contesting the new 10th District, where Arraf is standing. He said Levin, a strong advocate of the two-state solution and Palestinian and Israeli rights, could lose to Stevens, who represented the old 11th District.

Nine contenders have thrown their hats into the ring in the redrawn 13th District, which includes parts of Detroit and areas formerly represented by Tlaib. They include John Conyers III, son of the former congressman of the same name.

Ballenger said that although Conyers has a highly recognizable political name, there are other challengers in the 13th District Democratic primary who might have just enough name recognition of their own to make gains given the large number of contenders.

“In and of himself, John Conyers III is no rock star,” Ballenger said. “The only reason he is a factor is … the name Conyers is a golden name in that area because John Conyers, the father, served a record number of years (52) in Congress … so everybody knows that name. But some of the other names are fairly well known, they are just not as well-known as John Conyers.”

Dennis Denno, the president of Denno Research, which for 30 years has provided political consulting and polling services for candidates and elected officials, said Tlaib leads the field in her district despite strong challenges from fellow Democrats Shanelle Jackson and Janice Winfrey, a multi-term Detroit City Clerk.

Despite Winfrey’s long record of public service in Detroit, she “doesn’t have a strong enough base” to overcome Tlaib’s popularity, even if the latter is targeted by the AIPAC, said Denno.

 

“The problem for Janice Winfrey (is that) she has two other opponents besides Rashida Tlaib: She has Shanelle Jackson and (Kelly Garrett) the mayor of Lathrop Village, a small town in Oakland County. So, if you are anti-Rashida Tlaib you are going to split that vote three ways,” he explained.

“And ... a million dollars in a metro-Detroit media market doesn't go very far. ... Rashida Tlaib, whatever you think of her, is very tenacious. She can raise $1.5 million easily and I think that is going to be hard for someone like Janice to overcome.”

Tlaib introduced the first-ever resolution in the US House of Representatives seeking formal recognition of the 1948 Palestinian Nakba. So farm, however, it has the support of fewer than a dozen progressives within the 435-member body.

Denno and Ballenger agreed that there will also be a big focus is on the race for governor in Michigan, a position currently held by first-term incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. They predict she will hold on to her seat because of divisions within the state’s Republican opposition “who are tearing away at each other, making a spectacle of themselves and damaging the Republican brand,” Ballenger said.

Although an endorsement from former US President Donald Trump might help to focus Republicans, it will not be enough to change the state leadership, Denno and Ballenger agreed.

“It’s a pretty competitive state and I would be surprised if Gov. Whitmer wins by more than 4 points,” said Denno. “There are so many unknowns out there: inflation, the Trump factor — who knows what is going to happen in the next five months.”

 

Ballenger added: “If Trump came in on behalf of one candidate, particularly if there are only five (candidates) on the ballot — or particularly, I guess more so, if there are 10 on the ballot, we don’t know at this point — it will help a Republican, whoever (Trump) endorses, in a primary.

“But the real question is if he comes in in a big way between the primary and the general election on behalf of the Republican nominee against Whitmer, I think that probably is going to hurt the Republicans.”

Midterm elections generally push voters away from the party in control of the White House, which could give the Republicans a nationwide edge in their battle to take control of the House, Senate and several gubernatorial seats.

But Michigan is split fairly evenly between Democrats, Republicans and independents, Denno and Ballenger said, which will make it difficult for any one party to guarantee an election sweep in the state.

Denno and Ballenger were appearing on June 1, 2022, on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, which is broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News. It airs live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700. It is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here. (www.arabnews.com/RayRadioShow - hyperlinked)


Ex-Philippine leader and democracy defender Fidel Ramos is buried

Ex-Philippine leader and democracy defender Fidel Ramos is buried
Updated 8 sec ago

Ex-Philippine leader and democracy defender Fidel Ramos is buried

Ex-Philippine leader and democracy defender Fidel Ramos is buried
  • Former president died July 31 at age 94 from COVID-19 complications
  • His six-year term was marked by major reforms and attempts to monopolies
MANILA: Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos was laid to rest in a state funeral Tuesday, hailed as an ex-general, who backed then helped oust a dictatorship and became a defender of democracy and can-do reformist in his poverty-wracked Asian country.
Ramos died July 31 at age 94 from COVID-19 complications at the Makati Medical Center in the capital region, his family said. He also suffered from a heart condition and dementia and had been in and out of hospital in recent years, former aides said.
An urn containing the ashes of the US-trained general, who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, was placed in a flag-draped coffin, which was carried by six pallbearers amid somber music.
His cremated remains were placed in his grave after a funeral procession led by honor guards and his family, which was showered with flower petals from two helicopters. The ceremony, which was broadcast live nationwide by state-run and major TV networks, was attended by newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and was capped by a 21-gun salute.
Marcos Jr. visited Ramos’ wake Thursday and condoled with the family of Ramos, who, he said, “was a symbol of stability after all the tumultuous events of 1986.”
Marcos Jr. is the namesake son of the former Philippine dictator, whose 1986 ouster came after Ramos — then a top official of the Philippine Constabulary — and defense chief Juan Ponce Enrile withdrew their support in defections that sparked massive army-backed protests.
Ramos was the late dictator’s second cousin and had helped the elder Marcos enforce martial law starting in 1972 in an era when thousands of people were incarcerated, tortured and became victims of extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
Ramos was laid to rest near the grave of the dictator, who was buried at the Heroes Cemetery with military honors in 2016 in a secrecy-shrouded ceremony after then-President Rodrigo Duterte gave his approval and the Supreme Court dismissed objections from human rights activists.
The Department of National Defense, which was once led by Ramos, said he was a decorated soldier who spearheaded the modernization of the military, one of Asia’s most underfunded. He organized the elite special forces of the army and the national police.
The cigar-chomping Ramos, known for his “we can do this” rallying call to Filipinos, thumbs-up sign, attention to detail and firm handshakes, served as president from 1992 to 1998, succeeding democracy icon Corazon Aquino.
She was swept into the presidency in 1986 after the largely peaceful “People Power” revolt that toppled the dictator and became a harbinger of change in authoritarian regimes worldwide.
Marcos, his family and cronies were driven into US exile, where he died in 1989.
After Aquino rose to the presidency, Ramos became the military chief of staff and later defense secretary, successfully defending her from several violent coup attempts. In 1992, Ramos won the presidential elections and became the largely Roman Catholic nation’s first Protestant president.
His six-year term was marked by major reforms and attempts to dismantle telecommunications and other business monopolies that triggered a rare economic boom, bolstered the image of the impoverished Southeast Asian country and drew praise from business leaders and the international community.
In his last State of the Nation address before a joint session of Congress in 1997, Ramos said only sustained development, a modernized agriculture, industrialization and adequate infrastructure would allow the country to wipe out poverty. But he stressed it was crucial for Filipinos to safeguard democracy.
“We cannot allow our democracy to wither — because Philippine democracy is our unique comparative advantage in the new global order,” Ramos said then. “Without freedom, economic growth is meaningless. And so, freedom, markets, and progress go together.”
One of his legacies was the 1996 signing of a peace pact between his government and the Moro National Liberation Front, the largest Muslim separatist group at the time in the volatile southern Philippines, homeland of minority Muslims.
Ramos’ calm bearing in times of crises, including the 1997 Asian financial crisis, earned him the moniker “Steady Eddie.”
A son of a longtime legislator and foreign secretary, Ramos graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1950. He was a part of the Philippine combat contingent that fought in the Korean War and was also involved in the Vietnam War as a non-combat civil military engineer.

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion
Updated 16 min 1 sec ago

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion
  • Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China
  • Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly with the firing of target flares and artillery

FENGGANG TOWNSHIP, Taiwan: Taiwan held an artillery drill Tuesday simulating a defense against an attack as its top diplomat accused Beijing of preparing to invade the island after days of massive Chinese war games.
China launched its largest-ever air and sea exercises around Taiwan last week in a furious response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-ruled island in decades.
Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views its neighbor as part of Chinese territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.
“China has used the drills and its military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan,” Joseph Wu told a press conference in Taipei on Tuesday, accusing Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military action.
“China’s real intention is to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and entire region,” he said.
Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly with the firing of target flares and artillery, ending just under an hour later, said Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps.
Soldiers fired from howitzers tucked into the coast, hidden from view of the road that leads to popular beach destination Kenting.
The drills, which will also take place Thursday, included the deployment of hundreds of troops and about 40 howitzers, the army said.
On Monday, Lou said the drills had been scheduled previously and were not in response to China’s exercises.
The island routinely stages military drills simulating defense against a Chinese invasion, and last month practiced repelling attacks from the sea in a “joint interception operation” as part of its largest annual exercises.
The anti-landing exercises come after China extended its own joint sea and air drills around Taiwan on Monday, but Washington said it did not expect an escalation from Beijing.
“I’m not worried, but I’m concerned they’re moving as much as they are. But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are,” Biden told reporters at Dover Air Force Base.
China has not confirmed if its drills in the Taiwan Strait will continue Tuesday.
But Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu condemned Beijing for extending its military exercises around the island, accusing them of trying to control the Taiwan Strait and waters in the wider Asia-Pacific region.
“It is conducting large-scale military exercises and missile launches, as well as cyber-attacks, a disinformation campaign and economic coercion in order to weaken public morale in Taiwan,” he said.
Wu went on to thank Western allies, including the US after Pelosi’s visit, for standing up to China.
“It also sends a clear message to the world that democracy will not bow to the intimidation of authoritarianism,” he said.
Taiwan has insisted that no Chinese warplanes or ships entered its territorial waters — within 12 nautical miles of land — during Beijing’s drills.
The Chinese military, however, released a video last week of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit, showing how close it had come to Taiwan’s shores.
Its ships and planes have also regularly crossed the median line — an unofficial demarcation between China and Taiwan that the former does not recognize — since drills began last week.
Ballistic missiles were fired over Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, during the exercises last week, according to Chinese state media.
On Tuesday, the Chinese military released more details about the anti-submarine drills it had conducted a day earlier around the island.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater command said the exercises were aimed at enhancing the ability of air and sea units to work together while hunting submarines.
It said maritime patrol aircraft, fighter jets, helicopters and a destroyer practiced locating and attacking targets in the waters off Taiwan.
The scale and intensity of China’s drills — as well as its withdrawal from key talks on climate and defense — have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.
The drills have also shown how an increasingly emboldened Chinese military could carry out a gruelling blockade of the island, experts say.
But Beijing on Monday defended its behavior as “firm, forceful and appropriate” to American provocation.
“(We) are only issuing a warning to the perpetrators,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing, promising China would “firmly smash the Taiwan authorities’ illusion of gaining independence through the US.”
“We urge the US to do some earnest reflection, and immediately correct its mistakes.”


Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque

Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque
Updated 16 min 54 sec ago

Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque

Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque
  • Killings have sent ripples of fear through Islamic communities in New Mexico and beyond and fueled a race to find who was responsible

First was the killing of a Muslim man from Afghanistan late last year. Then came two more slayings in the last two weeks — men from Pakistan who attended the same mosque in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Those deaths were followed Friday by the city’s fourth homicide of a Muslim man in nine months. Together the killings have sent ripples of fear through Islamic communities in New Mexico and beyond and fueled a race to find who was responsible.
Authorities on Monday identified the latest victim as they sought help searching for a vehicle believed to be connected to the slayings. The common elements were the victims’ race and religion, officials said.
Naeem Hussain was killed Friday night, and the three other men died in ambush shootings. Police in New Mexico’s largest city are trying to determine if the deaths are linked.
“The fact the suspect remains at large is terrifying,” Debbie Almontaser, a Muslim community leader in New York, wrote on Twitter. “Who is next?!”
In a phone interview, Almontaser said that a female friend who lives in Michigan and wears the hijab head covering shared with her over the weekend just how rattled she was. “She’s like, ‘This is so terrifying. I’m so scared. I travel alone,’” Almontaser said.
Hussain, 25, was from Pakistan. His death came just days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.
The earliest case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.
Aneela Abad, general secretary at the Islamic Center of New Mexico, described a community reeling from the killings, its grief compounded by confusion and fear of what may follow.
“We are just completely shocked and still trying to comprehend and understand what happened, how and why,” she said.
Some people have avoided going out unless “absolutely necessary,” and some Muslim university students have been wondering whether it is safe for them to stay in the city, she said. The center has also beefed up its security.
Police said the same vehicle is suspected of being used in all four homicides — a dark gray or silver four-door Volkswagen that appears to be a Jetta or Passat with dark tinted windows. Authorities released photos hoping people could help identify the car and offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Investigators did not say where the images were taken or what led them to suspect the car was involved in the slayings. Police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said in an email Monday that the agency has received tips regarding the car but did not elaborate.
“We have a very, very strong link,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Sunday. “We have a vehicle of interest … We have got to find this vehicle.”
Gallegos said he could not comment on what kind of gun was used in the shootings, or whether police know how many suspects were involved in the violence.
President Joe Biden said he was “angered and saddened” by the killings and that his administration “stands strongly with the Muslim community.”
“These hateful attacks have no place in America,” Biden said Sunday in a tweet.
The conversation about safety has also dominated WhatsApp and email groups that Almontaser is on.
“What we’ve seen happen in New Mexico is very chilling for us as a Muslim minority community in the United States that has endured so much backlash and discrimination” since the 9/11 attacks, she said. “It’s frightening.”
Few anti-Muslim hate crimes have been recorded in Albuquerque over the last five years, according to FBI data cited by Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a professor of criminal justice at California State University at San Bernardino.
From 2017 through 2020, there was one anti-Muslim hate crime a year. The highest recent number was in 2016, when Albuquerque police recorded six out of a total of 25 hate crimes.
That largely tracks with national trends, which hit the lowest numbers in a decade in 2020, only to increase by 45 percent in 2021 in a dozen cities and states, Levin said.
Albuquerque authorities say they cannot determine if the slayings were hate crimes until they have identified a suspect and a motive.
Louis Schlesinger, a forensic psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said bias killings are often perpetrated by a small group of people, typically young white men. A lone perpetrator is rare.
“These are basically total losers by every dimension, whether it’s social, economic, psychological, what have you,” he said. “They’re filled with hatred for one reason or another and target a particular group that they see, in their mind, to blame for all their problems in life.”
It was not clear whether the victims knew their attacker or attackers.
The most recent victim was found dead after police received a call of a shooting. Authorities declined to say whether the killing was carried out in a way similar to the other deaths.


Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon

Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon
Updated 09 August 2022

Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon

Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon
  • Kahl admitted that the Ukraine side also had significant losses of manpower on the battlefield, but gave no figures

WASHINGTON: A senior Pentagon official estimated Monday that as many as 80,000 Russians have been killed or wounded in Ukraine since the war began in late February
“The Russians have probably taken 70 or 80,000 casualties in less than six months,” Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl said.
Kahl also said Russian forces have also lost “three or four thousand” armored vehicles, and could be running low on available precision-guided missiles, including air and sea-launched cruise missiles, after firing a large number on Ukraine targets since launching the invasion on February 24.
Those losses are “pretty remarkable considering the Russians have achieved none of Vladimir Putin’s objectives at the beginning of the war,” he told reporters, referring to the Russian president.
He said the slowdown in Russian forces’ use of longer range and precision guided missiles was an indicator that their supplies had fallen close to what Moscow needed to hold in reserve for “other contingencies.”
Kahl admitted that the Ukraine side also had significant losses of manpower on the battlefield, but gave no figures.
“Both sides are taking casualties. The war is the most intense conventional conflict in Europe since the Second World War,” he said.
“But the Ukrainians have a lot of advantages, not the least of which is their will to fight.”

 


Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
Updated 09 August 2022

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
  • Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery

WASHINGTON: A Georgia man and his father convicted of federal hate crimes for the murder of a Black man who was shot dead while jogging were sentenced to life in prison on Monday.
Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced both men to life in prison on separate hate crimes charges and denied their requests that they be allowed to serve out their sentences in a federal prison instead of a state facility.
The McMichaels, who are white, chased Arbery in a pickup truck on February 23, 2020 as he jogged through their neighborhood near the town of Brunswick, Georgia.
Travis McMichael confronted the 25-year-old Arbery as he passed by their truck and shot and killed him.
The racially-charged case added fuel to nationwide protests over police killings of African Americans sparked initially by the murder in May 2020 of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A third man who was involved in the chase, William Bryan, who had a less direct role in the murder and cooperated with investigators, was given life with the possibility of parole on the state charges.
He received a sentence of 35 years in prison on the federal charges.
During the federal hate crimes trial, prosecutors recounted the three men’s alleged use of vulgar racial slurs and history of racism.
“The Justice Department’s prosecution of this case and the court’s sentences today make clear that hate crimes have no place in our country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“Protecting civil rights and combatting white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department, and one that we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”
FBI director Christopher Wray said that hate crimes strike “at the very heart of our society.”
“This is why combatting hate crimes and protecting civil rights are top priorities for the FBI,” he said in the statement.