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Facing the 21st Century: A Brave New World of Challenge, Change and Caution



In the past six months, the “brave new world” of the 21st century has erupted  into massive and immediate political, social, economic, and environmental change, foisting challenges of biblical proportions, all of which elicit concern, caution — and jaw-dropping exhilaration. Tanya Domi explains.

Revolutions, biblical-proportion earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and tsunamis, labor union uprisings, tear-gassing of hundred of public school teachers, humanitarian interventions and the execution of a terrorist who held the world at bay and in fear, for over a decade — even before the 9/11 attacks on America. All these events have transpired in a short six months, with unprecedented speed and alacrity that is at once breathtaking, phenomenal, frightening, jaw dropping and exhilarating.

Hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, President Obama was undoubtedly forced to confront Donald Trump’s orchestrated  “birther” allegations. Trump made the rounds with the media, vociferously asserting that Obama was not a bona fide American citizen. The president released the long form of his “live birth” Hawaii State certificate – and even discussed it live from the White House press room — and of course, the debate continued. It also sickeningly elevated Trump into the same breath as the president.

But the execution of Osama Bin Laden by American Navy Seals a week ago marks the end of not only puffed up and combed over Donald Trump, but also marks the end of a decade of American adventurism that included the prosecution of an illegal war in Iraq and the establishment of a dubious prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo, a U.S. Navy base that is home to a military court, strategically calculated by Bush Administration Department of Justice officials to be situated outside the jurisdiction of American courts and beyond the reach of the world’s international legal system.


April’s spring not only unveiled the unseemly image of a puffed up and combed over Donald Trump, but it also revealed that the Republicans have perhaps blinked from pursuing that Medicare “reform” as their inane heads were handed to them in town halls filled with irate citizens during the Easter break.


Also known as “Gitmo,” an island unto its illegal self, it has been criticized by leaders and jurists from every corner of the earth, including by the conservative leaning U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.

All these events have been overwhelming and yet, in tandem, I have been enthralled by them, as major breaking news has regularly washed over my desk since the earliest days of 2011.

Interspersed among these seismic events, included a big moment at home for the LGBT community when Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Feb. 23rd that the Department  of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, asserting the Administration’s belief that the law banning gay marriages was unconstitutional. DADT repeal implementation has continued, lagging as the military gets trained on integrating openly gay and lesbian service members in the ranks. First Lady Michelle Obama announced a campaign to support military service members and their families on Feb. 28th, called “joining forces,” to the exclusion of LGB families, because DADT remains a policy.

This unforgiving, accelerated international news tempo, has also been buttressed on the home front, first by the Wisconsin labor uprising against Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to bust the Wisconsin public employee unions in February and March, fueled by the mad hatter “Tea Party caucus” in the Republican led House of Representatives, which seems hell-bent on removing whatever is left of an American safety net. The House nut jobs also seem driven to exploit the mandatory raising of the debt ceiling, come what may, even if their reckless actions give the markets not only jitters, but could drive America’s credit rating into a bigger ditch than any of us could ever imagine in our worst nightmares.

Wisconsin’s push back by labor activists and everyday citizens in February and March happened side-by-side with the Libyan uprising that has now morphed into a third American war, this time unanimously backed by the Arab League (unheard of that Arab nations would agree to declare war on a fellow Arab leader or state) and passed by the UN Security Council for humanitarian reasons to prevent a slaughter in the city of Benghazi, and called for by Libyan rebels who are giving Muammar Gaddafi his biggest leadership challenge in 41 years of unchecked power.

Read: Wisconsin Union Uprising: Why This Is The LGBT Community’s Moment

Poor Japan. Pray for Japan. My heart was in my throat as I watched the news video tape roll, capturing the god forsaken images of a 9.0 earthquake that rocked its islands on March 11, igniting a ferociously powerful tsunami that swept thousands of people out to sea and destroyed whole towns, unrecognizable, save for Google map images of before and after. But the destruction did not stop with the receding waters of the tsunami, as its Fukushima nuclear facility began a partial nuclear meltdown, considered the worst nuclear mishap since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago.  Watching these reports, for me, felt like the end of history and perhaps civilization. It was absolutely frightening.

April’s spring not only unveiled the unseemly image of a puffed up and combed over Donald Trump, but it also revealed that the Republicans have perhaps blinked from pursuing that Medicare “reform” as their inane heads were handed to them in town halls filled with irate citizens during the Easter break.  American baby boomers actually like Medicare and are paying close attention to the nutty wonders on Capitol Hill. The Republicans are meeting with Vice President Biden, who is negotiating a budget deal for the White House and in the meantime Budget Chair Paul Ryan, a Wisconsinite, has disappeared, perhaps gagged and rolled into sack cloth, buried in a closet in the basement of Longworth.

Under the guise of excessive spending, the Republicans declared war on women and low-​income Americans and nearly shut down the government over continued funding of Planned Parenthood under Title X, which does not permit funding of abortions. Democratic women senators came out swinging, in what was the most vigorous and articulate defense of Democratic Party principles during the manufactured budget crisis.


Watch: Trump vs. Obama – Dueling Birth Certificate News Conferences

I was relieved when Bin Laden was taken out, but I did not share the enthusiasm of  American youth, who gathered  in iconic places, like New York City’s Times Square and World Trade Center, as well as Lafayette Park (across from the White House) in D.C. to cheer his death and mark the demise of Al Qaeda. Let us hope that his death and the certain roll-up of his collaborators across the globe creates enough political space for the president to lighten our military footprint in Afghanistan and accelerate troop withdrawals from there and Iraq.  The costs associated with the Iraq War alone, called “The Three Trillion Dollar War” in a book authored by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, are unsustainable and are effectively killing America’s future and its dreams. We are broke. Plagued by a soft economy and a weaker job market of more than 14 million persons and many more underemployed, who are working two or more jobs to make ends meet — if they’re lucky to find them. This is the issue that will determine the outcome of the 2012 elections, not the death of Bin Laden.

Americans want to know, and rightfully so, when are we going to build schools, invest in research and innovative technologies and build infrastructure that can support and advance America’s place in a globalized  economy. It isn’t America leading the pack these days–the world’s economy is being upended by the powerhouse go-go “BRIC” countries–Brazil, Russia, India and China–are nearly all on fire. The International Monetary Fund recently projected that China could overtake the U.S. as the number one world economy by 2016. Not a happy thought for America.

Nonetheless, the political changes we are watching transpire in the Middle East and North Africa are a once in a 100 to 150 years phenomenon. It is history in the making that will have unknown ramifications for decades to come. This situation presents great opportunity and speculative risk. Will these changes emerge as democratic (small “d”) states and societies, or will they result in the rise of more illiberal states, perhaps Muslim theocracies or Shi’ia dominated governments, which so many Western policy-makers fear?

Read: Wikileaks, Twitter, Cable News Fuel Tunisia Uprising Perfect Storm

Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, along with the Doha, Qatar based Al Jazzera Arab and English television broadcasters, have emerged as major global media players in facilitating and, some believe, fueling the revolutionary spirit ricocheting across the region. Recognition that Al Jazzera’s English service has “arrived” was acknowledged last week by the Columbia University School of Journalism (disclosure: I work for Columbia University,) who announced it was bestowing upon the once dismissed Arab news service, its highest award for “singular journalism in the public interest.”

The “let them eat cake” policy approach (subsidized food prices have been recently revoked by governments in the Middle East, as inflation and rocketing food prices have hit the world food commodity markets hard) applied by iron fisted despots, is unsustainable now, because of a revolutionary political marriage between massive poverty, rising food prices and a “youth bulge” — majorities of populations are now under the age of 30 for nearly every country in the Middle East and North Africa. No country seems untouched by these combined factors and are consequently facing popular uprisings that are shaking the foundation of Middle East governments, a hybrid of familiar kleptocracies that have maintained power for at least a half of century, if not longer.



And now, adding agony to injury, Uganda’s parliament has toyingly played with the “Kill The Gays” bill. The government seems undeterred in its pursuit of legalized brutality. The U.S. State Department has issued statements condemning the Uganda government’s actions, which have been condemned by numerous governments around the world.



Syria’s iron-fisted President Bashar al-Assad, thought to be one of the most stable (or controlling) governments in the region, during the past seven weeks has sacked his government, announced reforms, while intermittently cracking down by turning tanks on unarmed demonstrators this week. Meanwhile, the president of Yemen has announced he will depart depending on a positive negotiation process with the opposition, and the Bahrain monarchy announced it would lift martial law on June 1st.

And yet these changes have also revealed just how fragile many of these societies are, and the extent to which women are oppressed and routinely subjected to rape, sexual assault and harassment. To wit, the barbaric rape of CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan by a mob of Egyptian men, during celebrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on March 11th. She was rescued by a group of Egyptian women and members of the Egyptian military, who rushed to her aid at the insistence of her TV crew.


Logan’s terse press statement about her rape in Egypt’s Liberation Square was followed by a shocking and brazen attack — captured on video that went viral — of Libyan officials slapping and shoving Eman al-Obeidy, a Libyan woman who had sought out foreign journalists in a Tripoli hotel, when she tried to tell them she had been raped by Libyan militia members near Benghazi. When journalists attempted to protect her, they too were shoved and slapped by government press escorts, who brutally dragged her from the hotel to an unknown location. Al-Obeidy recently emerged in public for the first time, in Tunisia, where she said she had sought diplomatic protection for simply reporting a rape–a cautionary tale about the state of these societies.

But back on the home front, not to be out done by the freakish weather in Asia, Mother Nature, perhaps, fueled by hotter temperatures which have produced more moisture, assaulted the South East on April 28th, when 190 some tornadoes swept through six states, killing more than 300 people, and leveling Tuscaloosa, the home of the University of Alabama. Obama got on a plane to view the devastation and immediately declared significant parts of the south a disaster area. Now we are faced with a flooding Mississippi River — at levels not seen since 1927 — which has risen to more than 48 feet above normal levels in Cairo, Illinois, and Memphis, Tennessee, that are expected to crest in two weeks in New Orleans. Poor New Orleans.

And now, adding agony to injury, Uganda’s parliament has toyingly played with the “Kill The Gays” bill. The government seems undeterred in its pursuit of legalized brutality. The U.S. State Department has issued statements condemning the Uganda government’s actions, which have been condemned by numerous governments around the world. But perhaps in the end, will love conquer all? It seems so in Brazil, whose Supreme Court on May 5th, decisively voted by a overwhelming margin of 10-0, to extend equal legal status and  rights and benefits to gay partners in stable relationships, including inheritance and pensions. Brazil is home to the largest Roman Catholic population in the world.  So Pope Benedict XV, go eat your miter!


Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

Read Tanya Domi’s most-recent previous article at The New Civil Rights Movement, “Budget Showdown: Senate Democratic Women Preserve Party’s Principles.”



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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’



If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.

“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.

But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”

“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.

READ MORE: Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”

The allegations continue.

“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”

“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”

The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”

The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.

You can read The Beast’s full report here.



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Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report



When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.

The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.

Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”

READ MORE: George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation

It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”

“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”

CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”

Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories



House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.

Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”

The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”

READ MORE: ‘Ran a Bribery Center Blocks From the White House’: Comer Mocked for Claiming No Evidence of Trump Influence Peddling

Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.

The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.

“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.

After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.

Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.

READ MORE: Trump Spent 2020 Attacking Ballot Drop Boxes – but Now He’s Demanding They Be Deployed in Churches

“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”

“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”

“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.

National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”

Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”

Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”

READ MORE: ‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

And yet another, wholly mocking Comer, who holds far-right anti-LGBTQ beliefs, said: “Or worse, what if it has woke trans undocumented drag queen athletes?”

Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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