Dearborn mayor proudly Arab but vows to represent everyone

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Updated 04 August 2022

Dearborn mayor proudly Arab but vows to represent everyone

Dearborn mayor proudly Arab but vows to represent everyone
  • Diversity of his administration key to equitable change, says Abdullah Hammoud
  • Budget deficit, low taxes, better services are city’s challenges

CHICAGO: Dearborn’s Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said Wednesday he is proud to be the city’s first Arab and Muslim chief executive but one of his priorities is to ensure everyone, regardless of race or religion, enjoys the same level of access and service.

A former member of the Michigan State House, Hammoud, 31, was elected on Nov. 2, 2021, and declared a “new era in Dearborn,” which has a large Arab and Muslim population.

Ranked as the sixth largest city in Michigan with more than 112,000 residents, Dearborn is 89 percent White, 4 percent Black, 2 percent Asian and has a smaller Hispanic population. Arabs, Hammoud said, are lumped into the “White” category because they are excluded from the Census count.

Hammoud said that his administration is focused on “change” and “accessibility” for everyone regardless of their racial, ethnic or religious background, noting Dearborn is the “capital of immigration.”

“I never ran to be the first. I ran to be the best. And that’s what I am trying to demonstrate. Regardless of the direction in which an individual prays. What matters is the direction in which they lead. And that is really what we want to uplift and highlight. And being the first is cool. Sure. I am not going to take away from the cool factor of it. Hopefully, what it does is to demonstrate to individuals from marginalized communities, traditionally communities of color, that hey you too can do this without changing your identity or trying to wash away who you are,” Hammoud told Arab News during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show broadcast in Detroit, Washington D.C. and in Chicago.

“But what is most important is not in fact being the first. What is most important is demonstrating that you can do as good a job as every one of your predecessors so that you are not the last. So that the next time that somebody with a different sounding name, who sounds a little bit different, looks a little bit different, maybe got a longer beard than others tries to run for office; or maybe has a hijab on their head; the people don’t look and say oh they can’t do the job because no one has ever done it who looks like them. In fact they can say hey that guy Abdullah did it. Maybe this person can too.”

He said one of his first actions was to build a municipal administration that was “diverse.” Although he named an Arab American, Zaineb Hussein, as his chief of staff immediately after being sworn in as mayor in January, many of his appointments have been non-Arab.

Hammoud said his policies are driven by the Arab tradition of “wasta,” which in English is often translated into “nepotism” and “personal connection.” He explained he uses “wasta” to put every Dearborn citizen in that category “to connect” and be involved in the city’s government.

“Accessibility again is key. And regardless of one’s ethnicity, I might be Arab and Muslim, but I am also reaching out to my non-Arab counterparts. I am reaching out to my non-Arab Muslim, my non-Arab Christian counterparts,” Hammoud said.

“And that is the beauty of Dearborn where this (is a) culturally diverse, demographically diverse and ethnically diverse community, and I am hoping that everybody feels like — you know in Arabic we have this term called ‘wasta’ which means ‘to connect.’ And prior to coming in everybody said if you don’t have a ‘wasta’ you can’t get anything done in the city. What I am trying to get people to feel is that with this administration, all residents have a ‘wasta.’ You are all connected. You are all able to walk in to be treated equitably and fairly, and whatever you need to get done, as long as it is within our confines. Our motto is how can we get to ‘yes.’ We don’t want to tell people ‘no’ because that has been the standard. How can we get to ‘yes’ working with residents?”

Hammoud said one of his challenges since becoming mayor is to overcome a significant budget deficit, and ensure municipal services continue without cutbacks or having to raise taxes.

“We ran on the concepts of change. But when we came in, because I have felt that as a lifelong resident, the city has stagnated to some degree. And coming in and opening up the financial books you realize that we have really struggled much more than I had anticipated,” Hammoud said.

“So I walked in inheriting a $28 million deficit, $22 million was structural, meaning ongoing year to year. And, it was very challenging (the) first six months to put forth a budget that reflected our priorities and our values as a city, but also ensured that we uplifted not only our residents but our employees and our retirees. I think we were successful in moving something that represented our values forward. But the work is only beginning. It is easy to pass a budget. That was the work of a legislator. It’s easy to vote up or down on a budget. What is difficult is to actually execute and build out the programming in that budget so that the outcome is reflective of its intentions.”

Hammoud said he is “trying to do more with less” because the city lost so much of its operating revenues. Taxes have gone down 16 or 17 percent, he said, and he has made a commitment to balance the city budget without levying new taxes on the voters and to work within the existing tax revenue collections.

“What we are also trying to do is sustain the level of services that we offer, though. So, what we have actually been able to do is challenge the way things have always been done, and improve the service quality that we have delivered as a city at a lower cost. And that is something to be very proud of,” Hammoud said.

“And now what we are looking at is expanding programming and investing in amenities that we currently have but we have not … improved in three, four or five decades. And so, we are prepared to hopefully make some announcements in the coming months about some investments that are coming. But to your point, it has been seven months and we are trying to pace ourselves. One of the caveats to being the first is that the expectation and the bar is higher. So that means the work that we are doing is at a much quicker pace than maybe some of our predecessors were used to but hopefully (we can) deliver to the expectations of our residents.”

Helping to provide for the neediest in the city, he said, can strengthen the community.

“Any administration should be reflective of the community that it serves, and we were able to accomplish that. As it pertains to what I have been able to bring, I think, more so than being Arab American but as somebody who grew up in a working poor family, I think it is that perspective of those who grew up in a marginalized part of the city. It is one of the things that influenced for example our decision to make pools free for children 13 and under,” Hammoud said.

“Because as somebody growing up, one of five siblings, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to the pool. And so we thought waiving the fee for children means that they have access to amenities and maybe have a better experience throughout their summer in their childhood. So I think it is that perspective, it’s that ability to empathize based on my life experiences which has been pretty great.”

He said safety was a major concern but that the biggest problem was motorists who were speeding, but that oftentimes police in the past focused more on issues associated with profiling than with actual hazardous driving patterns.

“We shifted our focus to solely focus on things impacting immediate public health or what we call hazardous moving violations. So we have seen a 700 percent uptick in citations issued on speeding and reckless driving,” Hammoud explained.

“So one, we are seeing a decrease in speeding and reckless driving in the city. But the second direct and indirect outcome of this is that there was a racial disparity present in the last decade. Nearly 60 percent of all citations issued were issued to Black and African American drivers, although the region is only 22 percent Black. And under this model, not only are we improving the safety in our neighborhoods based on what residents want, but we also have seen a significant plummet in that disproportionate effect that was present based on the data and that is also something that we’re proud of.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Suspect named in ‘serial’ killings of four Albuquerque Muslims

Suspect named in ‘serial’ killings of four Albuquerque Muslims
Updated 57 min 52 sec ago

Suspect named in ‘serial’ killings of four Albuquerque Muslims

Suspect named in ‘serial’ killings of four Albuquerque Muslims
  • Muhammad Syed was arrested on Monday after a traffic stop more than 160 kilometers away from his home in Albuquerque

CHICAGO: A 51-year-old man, Mohammed Syed, was named Tuesday as the primary suspect, and has been charged, with the shooting and killing of two of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the past 10 months.

Police said they are continuing to investigate whether Syed, himself Muslim, is connected to the other two victims in the apparent serial murder case, although no motive was released.

The possible connection between the murders surfaced on Aug. 1 after the body of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was discovered. Police determined evidence in his murder was similar to the fatal shooting of two other Muslims, Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26, 2022, and Mohammad Amir Ahmadi, 62, on Nov. 7, 2021.

“All were ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed. All of the killings appeared to be of a similar nature,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said during a special press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“We tracked down the vehicle believed to be involved in a recent murder of a Muslim man in Albuquerque. The driver was detained and he is our primary suspect for the murders.”

A fourth Muslim man, Naeem Hussain, 25, was found dead hours after attending an Islamic service held for Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Aftab Hussein. Police said they are investigating if Naeem Hussain’s death is tied to the shooting of the other three.

Muhammad Syed was taken into custody on Aug. 8, 2022, in connection with the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Albuquerque Police Department via AP)

Syed, an immigrant from Afghanistan, has had several misdemeanor arrests in New Mexico, police said, although they did not provide details of those crimes. He has lived in Albuquerque at least five years, police said.

Syed is charged with the murder of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain.

“We are working with the District Attorney’s office on potential charges of murder of two other Muslim men, Naeem Hussain and Mohammad Amir Ahmadi,” Medina said, praising support that he received from the US Attorney, FBI, ATF or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and even President Joe Biden.

“We knew Albuquerque would step up and someone would find and identify that vehicle for us which is exactly what happened. It is the city of Albuquerque and its residents and in particular the members of the Muslim community who stepped forward, had faith in the department and trusted us, and gave us the information needed so that we could follow through and make the arrest that we made yesterday (Monday).”

“To the Muslim community, a big thank you,” Medina said, noting he has worked with them during the past year to create an “ambassador program” to allow the city to “hear their voice.”

Syed was arrested after police released a photo of a vehicle on Sunday, Aug. 7, which they said had been identified as being used by the then unknown suspect. Medina said tips came from “members of the Muslim community” who recognized the suspect’s car, a Volkswagen Jetta. During the search of the car and Syed’s home, police said they discovered other evidence that allegedly tied him to the two murders.

“The tip was as a result of reaching out to the community. It came directly from the Muslim community and we explored it. It pointed us in the direction of the Syed family,” Medina said.

Police caught Syed while he was driving his car in Santa Rosa in southeastern Albuquerque when he was pulled over and arrested late Monday. A firearm was found in the vehicle. Police said they believe Syed knows at least one of the victims personally.

Medina emphasized they are continuing to investigate the killings of the two other Muslim victims to determine whether the suspect was involved.

Medina said he was asked repeatedly if this was a “hate crime” or a “serial” murder. He said he resisted jumping to conclusions, explaining: “We don’t have (any) indication that either of these labels or topics are appropriate.”

Rumors have been circulating in the community that the killings may have involved a family quarrel over an engagement, although the police declined to provide any details.

“Right now, we are charging only one person,” a police official stressed, adding the door has not been closed on possible accomplices who helped Syed, who was described as “the mostly likely suspect in these cases.”


Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation

Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation
Updated 10 August 2022

Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation

Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation
  • Former US president’s testimony comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him
  • Attorney general’s office: Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony that’s not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces

WASHINGTON: Former President Donald Trump will be questioned under oath Wednesday in the New York attorney general’s long-running civil investigation into his dealings as a real estate mogul, he confirmed in a post on his Truth Social account.
Trump’s testimony comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him, taking place just days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an unrelated federal probe into whether he took classified records when he left the White House.
The New York civil investigation, led by Attorney General Letitia James, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of prized assets like golf courses and skyscrapers, misleading lenders and tax authorities.
“In New York City tonight. Seeing racist N.Y.S. Attorney General tomorrow, for a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in US history!” Trump wrote on Truth Social, invoking his oft-repeated claims about James, who is Black, and the investigation.
“My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides,” Trump added. “Banana Republic!”
Messages seeking comment were left with James’ office and with Trump’s lawyer.
Trump’s testimony is happening at a critical point in James’ investigation, midway through a pivotal week in his post-presidency.
In May, James’ office said that it was nearing the end of its probe and that investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could support legal action, such as a lawsuit, against Trump, his company or both.
The Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony that’s not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces, the attorney general’s office said.
Two of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, testified in the investigation in recent days, two people familiar with the matter said. The people were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.
The Trumps’ testimony had initially been planned for last month but was delayed after the July 14 death of the former president’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, the mother of Ivanka, Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump, who sat for a deposition in James’ investigation in 2020.
On Friday, the Trump Organization and its longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, will be in court seeking dismissal of tax fraud charges brought against them last year in the Manhattan district attorney’s parallel criminal probe.
James, a Democrat, has said in court filings that her office has uncovered “significant” evidence that Trump’s company “used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
James alleges the Trump Organization exaggerated the value of its holdings to impress lenders or misstated what land was worth to slash its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements given to banks to secure favorable loan terms and to financial magazines to justify Trump’s place among the world’s billionaires.
The company even exaggerated the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size — a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said.
Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best valuations is a common practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that her office is “doing everything within their corrupt discretion to interfere with my business relationships, and with the political process.”
“THERE IS NO CASE!” Trump said in a February statement, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’ office had “the clear right” to question Trump and other principals in his company.
While James has explored suing Trump or his company, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has long pursued a parallel criminal investigation.
That probe had appeared to be progressing toward a possible criminal indictment, but slowed after a new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, took office in January.
A grand jury that had been hearing evidence disbanded. The top prosecutor who had been handling the probe resigned after Bragg raised questions internally about the viability of the case.
Bragg has said his investigation is continuing, which means that Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and decline to answer questions from James’ investigators.
According to the subpoena issued by James’ office, Trump was to appear in person at the attorney general’s office, located in a Manhattan office tower that has doubled as the fictional conglomerate Waystar Royco’s headquarters on HBO’s “Succession.”
As vociferous as Trump has been in defending himself in written statements and on the rally stage, legal experts say the same strategy could backfire in a deposition setting because anything he says could potentially be used against him or his company in the criminal investigation. No former president has even been charged with a crime.
In fighting to block the subpoenas, lawyers for the Trumps argued New York authorities were using the civil investigation to get information for the criminal probe and that the depositions were a ploy to avoid calling them before a criminal grand jury, where state law requires they be given immunity.
Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered by James’ office, Manhattan prosecutors filed charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. Prosecutors said Weisselberg collected more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation.
Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.
Weisselberg and Eric Trump each invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when questioned by James’ lawyers during separate depositions in 2020, according to court papers.
The former president could choose to do the same, but it’s likely “he’ll claim lack of knowledge on many questions,” New York University law professor Stephen Gillers said.
That could be a successful strategy, since Trump is known as more of a “big-picture guy” Gillers said. “So he’ll answer the big-picture questions and those answers will be general enough to keep him out of trouble, or so his lawyers will hope.”
“On the other hand, his impetuosity makes him a lawyer’s nightmare and his overconfidence may lead him astray. Whoever questions him will encourage that,” the professor added.
Once her investigation wraps up, James could decide to bring a lawsuit and seek financial penalties against Trump or his company, or even a ban on them being involved in certain types of businesses.


South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages

South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages
Updated 10 August 2022

South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages

South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages
  • Two days of record-breaking rainfall unleashed flash floods, damaged thousands of buildings and roads and killed at least nine people

SEOUL: Cleanup and recovery efforts gained pace in South Korea’s greater capital region Wednesday as skies cleared after two days of record-breaking rainfall that unleashed flash floods, damaged thousands of buildings and roads and killed at least nine people.
While lifting heavy rain warnings for Seoul and the neighboring metropolitan areas, South Korea’s weather agency forecasted 10 to 30 centimeters (4 to 12 inches) of rain in the country’s southern regions through Thursday.
Seven people remain missing in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province following the heavy rains that swamped the region Monday and Tuesday, turning streets into car-clogged rivers, sending floods cascading into subway stations, triggering landslides that crashed into roads and buildings, and displacing more than 1,800 people from their homes. The nine people who died included four who drowned in their homes in Seoul.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a disaster response meeting Wednesday apologized on behalf of the government over the deaths and disruption caused by the heavy rains. He urged the central government to provide more financial help and personnel assistance to cities and regional governments to speed up recovery efforts.
He also called for significant improvements to the country’s flood management systems, including building more rain tanks and tunnels and improving flood-prediction technologies, citing the growing challenges posed by extreme weather events.
“It’s certainly true that (the rainfall) was abnormal weather, but we have come to a point where we can no longer call abnormal weather abnormal,” Yoon said. “We could see new record levels (of rain) at any time. We need to build our response so that we are ready for a situation that’s worse than we had imagined.”
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety said workers through Wednesday afternoon had finished restoring more than 90 percent of some 2,800 buildings, homes, roads and other facilities in the capital area that had been prioritized in emergency recovery plans.
Nearly 3,000 government workers, including police and fire department personnel, and dozens of excavators and dump trucks have been deployed in the recovery efforts. The military has separately deployed around 1,300 troops, some of whom were seen cleaning debris and salvaging furniture at flooded neighborhoods in southern Seoul.
There were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties in regions south of the capital area, where the weather agency issued heavy rain warnings. Landslide warnings were issued in more than 30 cities and towns across the country,
More than 52 centimeters (20 inches) of rain was measured in Seoul’s hardest-hit Dongjak district from Monday to Wednesday at noon. Precipitation in the area exceeded 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) per hour at one point Monday night — the highest hourly downpour measured in Seoul since 1942.


Several civilians killed after Russian shelling in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region

Several civilians killed after Russian shelling in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region
Updated 2 min 50 sec ago

Several civilians killed after Russian shelling in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region

Several civilians killed after Russian shelling in Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk region

KYIV: Thirteen civilians were killed by Russian strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region in central Ukraine, the local governor said on Wednesday.
“It was a terrible night. 11 people were killed,” Valentin Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.
He added in a later post that two more people had died of their injuries overnight.
Twelve of the victims were killed in strikes on the village of Marganets, on the other side of the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, said Mykola Lukashuk, the regional council head.
“Administrative buildings were damaged: high-rise buildings, a school, a cultural palace, a city council building,” he said.
“In the town, the power line has been cut. Several thousand people are without electricity.”
Reznichenko urged residents to heed air raid sirens and find shelter.
“I am asking and begging you... Don’t let the Russians kill you,” he said.
The Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s biggest, is occupied by Russian troops and has been at the center of renewed fighting.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling near the plant, with Kyiv saying that Moscow is using it as a base for troops and ammunition to shield from Ukrainian forces.


Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor

Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor
Updated 10 August 2022

Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor

Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor
  • Government team shake-up comes earlier than analysts had expected
  • Some ministers with links to the Unification Church removed

TOKYO: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, removing some ministers with links to the Unification Church in a bid to stem plunging support amid growing public outrage over the ruling party’s ties to the controversial group.
Kishida, in office since last October, announced his new government team in a shake-up that came earlier than analysts had expected.
While key personnel like foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and finance chief Shunichi Suzuki held on to their posts, some high-profile ministers were removed, including Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of slain former premier Shinzo Abe, replaced as defense minister by Yasukazu Hamada.
In the month since Abe was gunned down, a spotlight has been turned on the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) long-standing ties to the Unification Church, with polls showing plunging approval ratings for Kishida with respondents citing a need to know just how close those ties might be.
Abe’s suspected killer has said his mother was a Unification Church member bankrupted by donating to it, and blamed Abe for promoting it.
In the latest survey, his support had fallen to 46 percent from 59 percent just three weeks ago, public broadcaster NHK said on Monday, the lowest rating for Kishida since he became prime minister.
“He’s basically doing damage control,” said political commentator Atsuo Ito. “What people are really watching is the Unification Church.”
The religious group itself is set to hold a rare news conference with foreign media late on Wednesday.
In other changes, Koichi Hagiuda, the trade minister, became head of the LDP’s policy research council, a heavyweight job in the party. That appointment is seen as an attempt to appease members of the Abe faction, the party’s biggest, though Hagiuda has publicly acknowledged attending an event held by a Unification Church-related group.