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. ( - hyperlinked)

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain's PM candidate Sunak

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain's PM candidate Sunak
Updated 8 sec ago

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain's PM candidate Sunak

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain's PM candidate Sunak
  • Iran’s reaction to the attack strengthens the case for proscribing the IRGC, the former finance minister told the Sunday Telegraph

LONDON: Rishi Sunak, one of two candidates seeking to become Britain’s next prime minister, said Friday’s attack on author Salman Rushdie should serve as a wake-up call to the West over Iran, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Indian-born author Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him over his novel “The Satanic Verses,” was stabbed in the neck and torso on stage at a lecture in New York state. After hours of surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak as of Friday evening.
There has been no official government reaction in Iran to the attack on Rushdie, but several hard-line Iranian newspapers praised his assailant.
“The brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie should be a wake-up call for the West, and Iran’s reaction to the attack strengthens the case for proscribing the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps),” Sunak, the former finance minister, said, according to the paper.
The IRGC controls Iran’s elite armed and intelligence forces.
Sunak, referring to stuttering talks between Iran and the West to revive a nuclear deal, said, “We urgently need a new, strengthened deal and much tougher sanctions, and if we can’t get results then we have to start asking whether the JCPOA is at a dead end.”
The JCPOA, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the 2015 agreement under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.
“The situation in Iran is extremely serious and in standing up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin we can’t take our eye off the ball elsewhere,” Sunak said.

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
Updated 20 min 37 sec ago

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
  • It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration, says Kim

SEOUL: North Korea’s foreign ministry on Sunday criticized the United Nations Secretary-General’s recent comment on his supports for the North’s complete denuclearization, calling the remarks lack impartiality and fairness.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA released a statement from the foreign ministry after UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday said he fully supports efforts to completely denuclearise North Korea when he met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
“I cannot but express deep regret over the said remarks of the UN secretary-general that grossly lack impartiality and fairness and go against the obligations of his duty, specified in the UN Charter, as regards the issue of the Korean peninsula,” Kim Son Gyong, vice minister for international organizations of North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kim added that the UN secretary-general should not request or accept orders from the government of a specific country but refrain from doing any act that may impair his or her position as an international official who is liable only to the UN.
Kim said the North’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) was “an infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration,” said Kim, adding that Guterres should be careful when uttering “dangerous words” amid the extremely acute situation on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has test fired a record number of missiles this year, and officials in Seoul and Washington say that it appears to be preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017, amid stalled denuclearization talks.

Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor

Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor
Updated 25 min 38 sec ago

Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor

Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘preplanned’, says prosecutor
  • Suspect Matar joined a fitness boxing club for beginners on April 11 and cancelled his membership days before the attack, club manager says

MAYVILLE, New York: The man accused in the stabbing attack on Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime, as the renowned author of “The Satanic Verses” remained hospitalized with serious injuries.
An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.
A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID.
“This was a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Schmidt said.
Public defender Nathaniel Barone complained that authorities had taken too long to get Matar in front of a judge while leaving him “hooked up to a bench at the state police barracks.”
“He has that constitutional right of presumed innocence,” Barone added.
Matar, 24, is accused of attacking Rushdie on Friday as the author was being introduced at a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute, a nonprofit education and retreat center.
Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.

ALSO READ: Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US

The attack was met with shock and outrage from much of the world, along with tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for “The Satanic Verses.”
Authors, activists and government officials cited Rushdie’s courage and longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he’s shown incredible warmth.”
President Joe Biden said Saturday in a statement that he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the attack.
“Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced — stands for essential, universal ideals,” the statement read. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”
Rushdie, a native of India who has since lived in Britain and the US, is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” in which he sharply criticized India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
Khomeini died that same year, but the fatwa remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Khamenei, never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn’t focused on the writer.
Investigators were working to determine whether the assailant, born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published, acted alone.
District Attorney Schmidt alluded to the fatwa as a potential motive in arguing against bail.
“Even if this court were to set a million dollars bail, we stand a risk that bail could be met,” Schmidt said.
“His resources don’t matter to me. We understand that the agenda that was carried out yesterday is something that was adopted and it’s sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond the jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County,” the prosecutor said.
Barone, the public defender, said after the hearing that Matar has been communicating openly with him and that he would spend the coming weeks trying to learn about his client, including whether he has psychological or addiction issues.
Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. Rosaria Calabrese, manager of the State of Fitness Boxing Club, a small, tightly knit gym in nearby North Bergen, said Matar joined April 11 and participated in about 27 group sessions for beginners looking to improve their fitness before emailing her several days ago to say he wanted to cancel his membership because “he wouldn’t be coming back for a while.”
Gym owner Desmond Boyle said he saw “nothing violent” about Matar, describing him as polite and quiet, yet someone who always looked “tremendously sad.” He said Matar resisted attempts by him and others to welcome and engage him.
“He had this look every time he came in. It looked like it was the worst day of his life,” Boyle said.
Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told The Associated Press.
Flags are visible across the village of Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah and portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Khamenei, Khomeini and slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Journalists visiting Yaroun on Saturday were asked to leave. Hezbollah spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.
Iran’s theocratic government and its state-run media assigned no motive for the attack. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP praised the attack on an author they believe tarnished the Islamic faith, while others worried it would further isolate their country.
An AP reporter witnessed the attacker stab or punch Rushdie about 10 or 15 times. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”
Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.
A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But afterward some longtime visitors to the center questioned why there wasn’t tighter security given the threats against Rushdie and a bounty of more than $3 million on his head.
News about the stabbing has led to renewed interest in “The Satanic Verses,” which topped best seller lists after the fatwa was issued in 1989. As of Saturday afternoon, the novel ranked No. 13 on
The book’s publication in 1988 sparked often-violent protests around the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born to a Muslim family and has long identified as a nonbeliever, once calling himself “a hard-line atheist.”
At least 45 people were killed in riots, including 12 in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived.
The death threats and bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included an around-the-clock armed guard. After nine years of seclusion, Rushdie cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism overall.
In 2012 he published a memoir about the fatwa titled “Joseph Anton,” the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding.
He said during a New York talk that year that terrorism was really the art of fear: “The only way you can defeat it is by deciding not to be afraid.”

Sri Lanka says China survey ship can dock in its port

A container ship arrives at a port in Colombo on July 16, 2022. (AFP)
A container ship arrives at a port in Colombo on July 16, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2022

Sri Lanka says China survey ship can dock in its port

A container ship arrives at a port in Colombo on July 16, 2022. (AFP)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka said on Saturday it has agreed that the Chinese survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 can dock at its southernmost port, the Chinese-run Hambantota on August 16, despite security concerns raised by neighboring India and the United States.
Foreign security analysts describe the Yuan Wang 5 as one of China’s latest generation space-tracking ships, used to monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
Both China and India have tried to expand their influence in Sri Lanka, which is facing its worst economic crisis in its post-independence history.
India has provided more help to Sri Lanka this year than any other nation. But it fears its bigger and more powerful rival China will use the Hambantota port near the main Asia-Europe shipping route as a military base.
Sri Lanka formally handed over commercial activities at the port to a Chinese company in 2017 on a 99-year lease after struggling to repay its debt.
The Pentagon says Yuan Wang ships are operated by the Strategic Support Force of the People’s Liberation Army.
On Friday, India rejected claims that it has put pressure on Sri Lanka to turn the vessel away.
“We reject categorically the ‘insinuation’ and such statement about India. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions,” Arindam Bagchi, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.



Cost of color: In Bangladesh’s ‘dyeing villages,’ a neglected problem of hazards to health

Dye mill workers in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)
Dye mill workers in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)
Updated 13 August 2022

Cost of color: In Bangladesh’s ‘dyeing villages,’ a neglected problem of hazards to health

Dye mill workers in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)
  • Village factories unrecognized by authorities, avoid industry regulators
  • Textile sector is country’s number one industry, accounting for 80% of exports

DHAKA: When he starts work at 5 a.m., Mohammed Hasan will for the next 12 to 14 hours keep his hands immersed in water mixed with different dyes — from earthy to vivid hues, depending on the season’s latest fashion trends.

Sometimes Hasan’s skin will hurt, burnt by a cocktail of chemicals used to obtain a particular color. But he is used to it, like hundreds of others in Purinda, one of the villages in Narayanganj district which have gained fame — and notoriety — as Bangladesh’s “dyeing villages.”

Threads of all shades of the rainbow are hung to dry across Purinda, just 20 kilometers from the capital, Dhaka. Behind them, Hasan and his co-workers at dyeing mills are mixing and boiling salts, acids and emulsifiers to create these colors.

“To color the thread into red, we make a mixture of three to four colors. Then we rub the thread in that mixture. Later on, we soak the bundle of thread in another mixture of colors which makes the thread red,” Hasan told Arab News.

He earns about 22,000 Bangladeshi taka ($240) per month.

“This work is painful. But I need to do this to make ends meet. I have no other options in hand. Since I learned this work, I will have to do this,” he said.

“I couldn’t shape my life properly when I was young. So, now I don’t dream of making life colorful anymore.”

Dye mill workers coloring threads in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)

Mohammed Shafikul Islam, who began to work at a dye house in Purinda when he was a teenager more than 50 years ago, also admits that he has been experiencing skin lesions as his bare hands make contact with harsh chemicals every day.

“This work is very painful,” he said. “I might have been able to do other work. But I do this work because I learned this work.”

Skin problems are not the only hazards faced by workers.

Dr. ASM Mushiur Rahman, chief government health official of Narayanganj, told Arab News that dyeing factories in villages of Araihazar subdistrict do not follow any health protocols, do not have adequate protective clothing, and use chemicals that are not only harmful to the skin, but also to the lungs.

Dye mill worker in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)

“Starting from infections with the lungs it may end up with lung cancer,” he said.

“They suffer from bronchitis, cough, etc. We noticed that the number of tuberculosis patients is also high among the people who work in these industries.”

There is little awareness among workers and factory owners about the problem.

Mohammad Shahjalal Pradhan, who owns one of the dyeing plants in Purinda, admits that the business “has some limitations.”

He said: “The chemicals we use, they create bad smells. Some of our workers get affected with allergies.”

Dye mill worker coloring threads in Purinda Village, Narayanganj District, Bangladesh on July 27, 2022. (AN photo)

The textile sector, which includes dyeing factories, is the number one industry in Bangladesh, employing more than 4 million people, contributing to over 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and accounting for 80 percent of exports.

But there is a lack of comprehensive regulation, as dye houses are not officially recognized businesses, allowing owners to evade monitoring by industry regulators, even though the sites have existed for generations.

“These workers are treated as non-institutional laborers,” Selim Mahmud, president of the workers’ rights group Garments Sromik Front in Narayanganj, said.

“They don’t have any safety at their workplaces.”

Local authorities say that they are not even aware of the situation.

Rafiqul Islam, chief administrative officer of Araihazar subdistrict, told Arab News that the administration “didn’t know of these type of business entities earlier.”

He added: “Generally, we don’t inspect these sort of factories, but if we find any complaints against any business, we inspect it. So far, nobody told us anything about this.”