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Does Vladimir Putin own Donald Trump?

At the now infamous US-Russia summit in Helsinki, Vladimir Putin made what President Trump characterized as “an incredible offer”: In exchange for allowing Special Counsel Bob Mueller to question Russian intelligence officers indicted in the collusion probe, Putin wants to question Americans he claims were involved in ‘crimes’ against Russia.

Putin accused American-born British financier Bill Browder and his partners of conspiring with US intelligence officials to launder $400 million out of Russia and into the campaign coffers of Hillary Clinton.

Total funds raised by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election cycle amount to $563 million, so that would mean Browder and associates funded an astounding 71% of her campaign. Perhaps the sheer absurdity is what forced Putin to recant his statement.

Nevertheless, the Russians released a list of 11 Americans they want to question, including Michael McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia under President Obama and a vociferous Putin critic. The list also names at least two other diplomats, as well as members of the intelligence community.

On Wednesday, New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman prodded press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to clarify President Trump’s position. Is he really willing to hand American officials over for questioning by Putin?

“There was some conversation about it,” Sanders said, “but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the president will work with his team and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that.”

Let’s be clear: no president should have to “work with his team” on this. The immediate, obvious answer is “nyet!” What could possibly be more impolitic than subjecting American diplomats to interrogation by a hostile power without a whiff of evidence? And what could possibly make Trump look even more like a Putin stooge?

The common thread connecting the 11 Americans singled out by Putin seems their work on sanctions against Russia. This is really about Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act.

Although Putin now treats Browder as a bête noire, they were once allies. Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, when he was suddenly stripped of his visa and deported as a “national security threat.” The exact reason is unclear, but it’s worth noting Hermitage had made a habit of auditing corrupt Russian conglomerates with ties to the Kremlin.

In the wake of Browder’s expulsion, Sergei Magnitsky, Browder’s Russian accountant, alleged that police helped organized crime groups to take over three of Hermitage’s businesses and claim fraudulent tax refunds on their behalf amounting to $230 million.

Magnitsky was arrested in 2008. He was held for 11 months without trial, denied necessary medical attention, and then beaten to death seven days before the Russian government was legally required to release him.

The murder of this whistleblower triggered an international outcry. Browder reached out to his political contacts in the US, who responded by introducing the Magnitsky Act. Signed into law by President Obama in 2012, it barred Russians accused of human rights abuses from entering the US and froze their stateside assets. The Act was later expanded to include criminals from other countries as well.

Canada passed its own Magnitsky Act in 2017; the UK and the Baltic states have done likewise.

Putin has fought bitterly against this legislation. Repealing Magnitsky was apparently the big ask of Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016 after offering dirt on Hillary Clinton through intermediaries.

As fate would have it, Veselnitskaya also defended Prevezon Holdings Ltd in American court, a Russian firm accused of laundering $14 million of dirty money into the New York real estate market. About $600,000 of those funds came from the $230 million tax fraud that caused Magnitsky to be killed in the first place.

Trump’s ham-fisted overtures to Putin make less than no sense from a policy perspective.

The Russian Federation is a kleptocracy to rival Ferdinand Marcos’ Philippines or Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire. It is a pirate state, run by a cabal of crooked bureaucrats, tycoons, and gangsters who have plundered their country’s natural wealth, depriving their own people.

Despite an official salary of US $302,000, Putin lives in a $1 billion palace and owns a $500 million yacht. He may, in fact, be the richest man in the world, and he didn’t get there by saving paycheques from his days as a middling KGB officer in East Germany.

Russia has invaded Crimea, shot down a passenger jet over Ukraine, and propped up the mass-murdering Assad regime in Syria. Russian intelligence operatives have hacked into American political institutions, interfered in an American election, bought influence with right-wing groups like the NRA, and waged an information war against the concept of democracy itself. They haven’t backed off, either; if anything, they’re doubling down.

Sanctions, combined with tepid world oil prices since 2014, have crippled Putin’s economy, and his popularity is in serious decline. Given his intransigence, the sensible course is to keep up the pressure until his people finally tire of him.

But Donald Trump continues to give succour to Putin, his cronies, and their corrosive conspiracy theories. That’s why the mainstream media is (finally, belatedly) asking: does Putin literally own Trump?

Trump doesn’t have the power to give Russia Bill Browder; Browder has been a citizen of the UK since 1998. He probably won’t hand over American diplomats like Ambassador McFaul either. Still, that he would even contemplate it can only be described as rock bottom, even for an administration that has hit rock bottom many times before and kept on drilling. They’re fracking for personal worsts.

If President Trump is a Russian asset, he’s certainly the most guileless in history. Yet he seems poised to get away with it by virtue of his position and his cult of personality.

Somewhere, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are clawing at the lids of their coffins.

#MyNameIsMirian describes horrors of U.S. border patrol

In a heartbreaking letter from an immigrant mother, Mirian described how her only child was taken from her at the United States border; celebrities have now taken part in reading the letter to raise awareness of the atrocities taking place.

A YouTube video has made its rounds on the internet as celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Chadwick Boseman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Emma Thompson gather together to read the letter of an immigrant mother at the border. So far, over 30 celebrities teamed up to read the letter out loud in an attempt to bring public awareness to Trump’s administration and the separation of immigrant families at the border.

The letter begins with Mirian stating officially that her accounts are true. She stated that she is a resident of Honduras and is the biological mother of her son, born in 2016. She fled Honduras on January 15, 2018, and made her way to America in the hopes of escaping government violence taking place in Mexico. She decided to flee Honduras after the government teargassed her home.

“On February 20, 2018, my son and I crossed the international bridge in Brownsville, Texas and presented ourselves to U.S. immigration officers. We told the officers we needed asylum. After I presented myself at the bridge with [her son], U.S border officers took me and [son] to be interviewed,” the letter said. “The officers took a statement from me regarding the reasons I came to the United States. The U.S immigration officers then told me they were taking my son from me.”

According to Mirian, the immigration officers only informed her that she would be going to one place and her son to another. When she asked why they were being separated, the officers provided no answer.

The officers then made her walk out with her son to a government vehicle before placing him in a car seat. “My son was crying as I put him in the seat. I did not even have a chance to try and comfort my son because the officer slammed the door shut as soon as he was in the car seat. I was crying too. I cry even now when I think about that moment when the border officers took my son away,” she wrote.

She was then moved into Port Isabel Detention Centre, where she stayed for a few days and panicked about her son. She wrote a request asking for information about her son and a detainee told her that her son was at a facility in San Antonio, Texas.

While she was detained she was able to speak with a caseworker who was in charge of her case. The worker informed Mirian that her son was crying for her and asking where she was during the first few days they were separated. She also learned that he was doing a bit better but had since developed an ear infection and a cough.

She added that since her son is only a toddler, he doesn’t speak much yet. He needs to be comforted by her presence and reassured that he is safe and healthy.

“On April 3, 2018, I received a positive, credible fear finding from a San Antonio immigration judge. I understand that I will now be able to present my asylum claim in the immigration court,” she wrote. “I will do everything that I need to do to seek protection in the United States. It would not be safe for me and my son to return to Honduras.”

As the celebrities read out Mirian’s letter, some were reduced to tears as the truth of Trump’s administration was made perfectly clear.

The hashtag “MyNameIsMirian” is currently trending on social media as news of the letter went viral.

Melania Trump’s coat under fire

First Lady, Melania Trump wore a coat that read: “I really don’t care, do u?” on her visit to New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas, a shelter housing dozens of children who were separated from their families.

Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy was under fire in recent weeks as photos of crying, confused children separated from their parents made it to mainstream media. Leaked audio footage of children crying and begging for their parents was also released to the public, which sparked further outcry from those keeping up with Trump’s cruelty.

Trump’s insensitivity and blatant disregard for the families was made abundantly clear as he let thousands of children get torn from their parents without batting an eye. Only under recent scrutiny did he sign an executive order to halt the separation of families. Even with this move, the Trump family unsurprisingly remained tone-deaf about how to approach the situation.

On her visit to New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas, Melania Trump wore a tasteless jacket that sported the phrase “I really don’t care, do u?” on the back in white letters. When news of the sighting first broke out, it was difficult to make out what her coat said specifically. Though, suspicions were confirmed when President Trump addressed his wife’s attire in a tweet. On June 21 he wrote: “‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

Naturally, news sites from around the world picked up the story and published pieces on her attire. Twitter users then received the news and started immediately commenting. Many Twitter users called her move deliberate and some mentioned how, even if she didn’t know what she was doing, the move was tone-deaf.

The president’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, took to Twitter to criticize the media for focussing their attention on Melania’s wardrobe rather than on more pressing issues. “Today’s visit w the children in Texas impacted @flotus greatly. If media would spend their time & energy on her actions & efforts to help kids – rather than speculate & focus on her wardrobe – we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children. #SheCares #ItsJustAJacket,” Grisham wrote on June 21.

It isn’t just Melania who missed the mark. Their daughter, Ivanka published a tweet after her father signed the executive order. On June 20 she wrote: “Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border. Congress must now act + find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values; the same values that so many come here seeking as they endeavor to create a better life for their families.”

As with Melania, Ivanka was berated on Twitter for her tweet by those on the social media platform. Users noted how Trump started the separation of families and only after extreme criticism did he do anything about it. One user asked how she feels knowing that her family’s name would be a blemish on US history. It’s a fair question.

Immigrant families remain under Trump’s heel

Yesterday, Donald Trump took the bold and decisive step of signing an executive order against himself.

Specifically, against the separation of migrant families at the southern border that was occasioned by his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.

“Thank you @POTUS,” first daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump tweeted, “for taking critical action ending family separation at our border.” Yes. Thank you, daddy, for mopping up the humanitarian crisis you yourself created for political gain. I so love when you do that.

Still, it is noteworthy, even unprecedented, that President Trump has surrendered on an issue of such vital importance to his core supporters. Nor does it seem likely that it was First Lady Melania Trump or de facto First Lady Ivanka who talked him down.

More probably, the president could smell what was on the breeze; a CNN poll published on 18 June showed 67% of Americans disapproving of family separations. Senate Republicans, in a rare display of moral courage, unanimously denounced the practice. Even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), an immigration hardliner and famously the most hated man in Washington, slithered out of his pit to register his disgust.

Viewed from any angle, this policy is a disaster. A disaster for its underage victims, chiefly, but also for the United States, its government, its ruling Republican party, and its president.

In the first place, if anyone expected a hard line stance to deter undocumented immigrants, that hope proved futile. Leaked Homeland Security documents show that the number of people caught illegally crossing the border actually rose by 5% in May — from what was already characterized as an historic high in preceding months.

Of course, family separations were never sincerely intended to hold back the tide. As President Trump himself made abundantly clear, he was using caged children as bargaining counters against Democrats (and Republicans) in the House of Representatives who have refused to fund the building of a border wall. With the November midterms looming, Trump is desperate to unite his base by making headway on this keynote campaign promise.

The president tried to play chicken with Congress with thousands of helpless migrant children in the back seat. He swerved, and in so doing, perhaps crashed into the limits of his power. If there’s one silver lining here, it’s the demonstration that even a recalcitrant, ineducable child-Tsar like Trump can be restrained by the preponderance of public opinion.

If there are two silver linings, the other is the shambolic, humiliatingly inept management of this policy by the administration. It really is a wonder these people found their way out of their mothers’ wombs.

As The Washington Post has observed, Trump and his minions offered a rainbow of contradictory explanations and excuses for their callous insistence on separating children from their parents.

The president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, and the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, both described separations as a deterrent against undocumented immigration. When asked if that was the case on Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen dismissed the very idea as offensive.

White House aide Marc Short characterized the separations as government policy; Nielsen said, before Congress, “We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents.”

Presidential advisor and surrogate Kellyanne Conway said she didn’t want anybody to “use these kids as leverage.” But when Sessions first announced the ‘zero tolerance’ prosecution of immigrants that started all this, he explained the rationale: “Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest—that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border.” Sounds like a classic hostage situation to me.

Finally, and to no one’s surprise, the president has contradicted himself over and over and over again. He said he felt illegal immigrants must be prosecuted. Then he said he was forced into doing it by the Democrats. He was against a ‘moderate’ immigration reform bill. Then he was for it. And, of course, he couldn’t end the separations by executive order until he spontaneously did so yesterday afternoon.

Make no mistake: the executive order does not end the crisis. It may, in fact, be illegal. Trump wants to keep up the prosecution of as many migrants as possible without estranging parents from children. How you ‘keep families together’ when mom and dad are in prison is another question.

Besides, there is no plan to reunite the 2,000 children who were already removed from their parents’ care. The executive order will halt future separations for the time being, and two pieces of remedying legislation are being debated. But there’s every possibility we’ll be back to square one in a month.

Perhaps some small comfort can be taken in the knowledge that the chaos of the president’s mind, his obdurate lack of strategy, is contagious. It has spread throughout the administration, hamstringing all attempts to explain what the hell this policy was — other than repugnant.

As Eugene McCarthy observed, “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.”

I fear that will be cold comfort indeed for children who will go to sleep tonight without their parents to tuck them in.

Twitter: @WoobieRoods

What does Toronto think of Trump’s war on ‘evidence’?

The United States government, under the direction of President Donald Trump, has banned the use of certain words in official documents submitted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These words, or phrases, include “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Other words banned from use include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus.”

Analysts are currently preparing reports for the 2019 budget process. According to media reports, staff were told to say the “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The CDC has made it clear that regardless of the words they are or are not permitted to use, their recommendations will always be based in science and fact.

This attack on freedom of speech is not surprising considering Trump’s determination to push scientists out of the White House. He has also said that transgender people should not be in the military and abortion should be illegal. It seems like the President of the United States has decided that since the road towards making these statements into legislation will take too long — until then, he will simply omit them from speech in Washington.

When something is evidence-based or science-based, it means there are facts to back up a statement. It is not based on “community wishes”. There analysts work with numbers, statistics, quantitative and qualitative data. To disallow someone to use these words to describe their work is ludicrous and incredibly dangerous.

Lack of data on these important topics is already an issue. Since Trump took office, a number of federal agencies have downscaled data collection, especially on topics like climate change and the LGBTQ community. Information has even been removed from government websites as if it never existed in the first place.

As a journalist, and as a citizen, this is disheartening. Access to information is pivotal to an informed citizenry. It is how people make informed decisions. To remove information you don’t personally agree with is an affront to this critical foundation of democracy. They do that in countries with dictatorships, when the government wants the people to only adhere to certain ideals. Is this the beginning of that slippery slope?

I was really hoping that 2018 would be better than 2017 — but every time I hear something like this, I know deep down it is going to be much worse.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

What you need to know about net neutrality

Net neutrality is all over the news. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the support of U.S. President Donald Trump, wants to repeal the net neutrality laws put in place to create a more equal and open Internet. People gathered in 700 different cities across the United States (mostly outside Verizon stores) to protest these changes.

But, what exactly does this mean and why are people so upset? Women’s Post has you covered with this super easy to understand (and perhaps overly simplistic) primer:

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is essentially equality on the Internet — all data must be treated the same by all providers, browsers, and platforms. It prevents these companies from slowing down service (or preventing access entirely) to website, applications, and other features from competitors. Internet providers can deny access to certain sites either because you don’t pay enough or because they have their own service they would rather customers use.

For example, in 2014, Comcast got caught slowing down streaming on Netflix, and AT&T started a program that required apps to pay more money in order to ensure they used less data. All of these things gave certain platforms and applications an advantage over others.

What happened in 2015?

In 2015, President Barack Obama encouraged the FCC to regulate broadband Internet providers as a public utility, recognizing the Internet as a service necessary for economic and social growth, as well as a tool for innovation. Internet was reclassified as a telecommunications service in order to justify the change. Telecommunication companies are exempt from any kind of price control. It also led to more government control over broadband traffic.

In short: companies were not allowed to block or slow down the content of their rivals.

What is happening now?

Trump was elected and wants to overturn everything Obama has done. This includes net neutrality. What are the arguments for net neutrality? Republicans believe the government oversight associated with Open Internet was slowing investment in the technology.

Without net neutrality, it would also allow carriers like Verizon and AT&T to offer tiered pricing for Internet access — the more a person pays, the faster they get their Internet. Those who agree with the appeal say this will create a more stable marketplace and remove barriers for investment.

However, without net neutrality it becomes difficult for emerging technology companies or startups to get the same amount of speed as other sites. There will be no guarantee your site wouldn’t be blocked or that it won’t lag when potential customers come to use your product. There is also a socio-economic concern — if you have to pay more for Internet access that works; what will this mean for those who can’t afford it?

The new rules are scheduled to be voted on next Thursday, December 14.

What do you think? Should the U.S. repeal net neutrality? Let us know in the comments below!

Time Magazine names ‘Silence Breakers’ as people of the year

In what is a serious slap in the face for U.S. President Donald Trump, Time Magazine named the women who started the #MeToo movement as Person (or People) of the Year for 2017.

These “silence breakers”, as they have been called, have influenced a global movement that has inspired women to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Men in prominent positions within the entertainment industry have lost contracts and are being investigated by police. Women are finally being heard. They are recounting their stories without fear or repercussion or consequence. Tens of thousands of people have used the #MeToo hashtag since American actress Alyssa Milano put a call out to her followers to show how widespread sexual harassment really is.

One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, and of every 100 assaults, only six are reported to the police. These statistics are even more grave when you consider that most people don’t share their #MeToo stories.

That’s why Time Magazine’s decision to showcase the silence breakers — “the voices that launched a movement — is so revolutionary.

The women being honoured include Ashley Judd, who went on the record with the New York Times detailing an incident with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Isabel Pascual (pseudonym), a strawberry picker from Mexico, Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, and Adama Iwu, a corporate lobbyist, among many others like Alyssa Milano, Tarana Burke, Selma Blair. Juana Melara, and Taylor Swift.

Time Magazine editor in chief, Edward Felsenthal, told NBC’s Today show that “this is the fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades. It began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women – and some men, too – who came forward to tell their own stories”.

The feature mixes the stories of those in the entertainment industry — the stories that are so prominently displayed in the news and on social media throughout 2017 — with the every day experiences of “regular” people, who may not get the spotlight as often. Housekeepers, fruit pickers, hospitality workers, journalists, and activists all told their stories.

It was rumoured that U.S. President Donald Trump would be named Person of the Year for 2017, just like last year, but that Time Magazine required a confirmed exclusive interview first. He tweeted that he would not promise an interview for an honour that was not guaranteed.

In the feature, Time Magazine does mention the United States President, but alludes instead to his Access Hollywood tape that shows Trump bragging about how he could just walk up to women and kiss them and “grab em by the pussy.”

Thousands of women took the streets during a Women’s March, held after Trump’s inauguration.

“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover—Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Taylor Swift and Isabel Pascual—along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.,” Felsenthal said in a statement about the choice. “We are in the middle of the beginning of this upheaval. There is so much that we still don’t know about its ultimate impact. How far-reaching will it be? How deep into the country? How far down the organizational chart? Will there be a backlash?”

Things are shaking up — finally, the voices of women are being heard. No longer is it simply assumed the woman “deserved it” or was “asking for it”. The global conversation, and the attention of the press is ensuring this movement stays alive. #MeToo will continue until women are no longer afraid to go to work or walk down a street alone.

It is a future many of us can only dream about.

What do you think of this year’s Person of the Year? Let us know in the comments below!

Time Magazine cover for Person of the Year 2017

The nasty reality of gun control and mass shootings in the US

During 11 a.m. Sunday morning worship, gunshots rang out in the air at the small First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The alleged shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, tried to make his escape, but once cornered, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  This event marked the 307th mass shooting in the United States for 2017.

This is a small number in comparison to 2016, which proved to be even higher at 477 incidents.  A mass shooting, in its simplest definition,  is the killing of four or more people at the same time. So far, 26 people have died, with the number expected to rise  due to severe injuries. As Americans and the world anxiously awaited a response from US President Donald Trump, who is on a five-country Asian tour, more details emerged about the alleged shooter, painting him as volatile, with a history of violence and disgruntled after bing dismissed from the US Air Force.

President Trump’s response to the shooting at a news conference in Japan was direct and once again avoided the broader issue of gun violence by narrowing it down to the events of the tragic shooting.

“This isn’t a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event. A very, very sad event, but that’s the way I view it,” Trump told the room of reporters in Japan.

Trump also made the comment that mass shootings can happen anywhere, while ironically standing in a country with no record of mass shootings and very strict control of gun laws.

This dangerous response may, unfortunately, be similar to what a lot of other Americans are thinking. However, there are some people that are wondering how many mass shootings it will take before the gun control laws in the United States are revisited? A similar response came from the president just last month during the deadly mass shooting in Vegas which killed close to 60 people.

Sadly, hearing about mass shootings in America has become common place. If the situation is not blamed on mental health, it is blamed on terrorism. The bigger issue, which seems to be obvious to everyone else in the world, is the accessibility to guns. The fact that you can buy guns at the same time you do your grocery shopping at Walmart is appalling. Walmart in the United States sells firearms for the aim of ‘hunting or sporting’, but just like animals, guess what— humans can be hunted too.

The debate on gun control in the United States continues as almost half of gun users feel that owning a gun is part of their American identity. However, can we stop narrowing down these tragic events and fight to fix the bigger issue?  Because without access to these deadly tools, 26 more lives could have been saved.

While President Trump blames this incident on mental health, in February 2017 he signed a bill undoing the work of former President Barack Obama to prevent those who were mentally ill from purchasing weapons. The bill stated that for those mentally unfit be added to a background check database. In doing this, President Trump had now made it easier for persons with mental illness to purchase weapons. So, is this really a mental illness problem? When will America admit the problem isn’t the people — it’s that all of these people have guns?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

President Trump bans transgender people from serving in US military

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has announced that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the US military.

It was a series of early morning tweets that set of a firestorm of replies and backlash. More alarming than what was said was the mode of communication used to get the message across — a series of tweets 140 characters at a time, in typical Trump fashion.

President Trump tweeted that after a consultation with military experts, the United States government will not allow or accept transgender people to serve in the military at any capacity. Trump further said the military should be focused on “decisive and overwhelming victory.”

Trump then indicated that transgender individuals would burden the military with medical costs. President Trump has seemingly gone against his promise to be inclusive of all Americans.

Many twitter users were left in disbelief by the President’s announcement, many of them wondering if his tweets were a sort of newsworthy distraction from the investigation being carried out on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his alleged involvement in the US-Russia relations.

It was only last year that former President Barack Obama‘s administration announced that transgender individuals could serve in the military. President Trump’s decision to reverse this law seems to be another step in undoing everything his predecessor has achieved.

Since the ban on transgender individuals was lifted in 2016, the Pentagon was actively trying to determine how to accept new transgender individuals wishing to serve the military.

During President Trump’s election campaign, he actively had support from a popular transgender celebrity, Caitlyn Jenner. In the past few months Jenner expressed her disapproval of President Trump’s actions, with this one being the last break. Jenner tweeted “ There are 15,000 patriotic transgender Americans in the US military fighting for all of us. What happened to your promise to fight for them?” Jenner then reposted a tweet from President Trump is 2016 before the elections where Trump thanked the LGBT community and promised to fight for them while claiming Hillary Clinton would “threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

It seems that one year later, President Trump himself is threatening the freedoms of the transgender community.

As many advocacy groups and celebrities continue to speak out against Trump’s decision, a spokeswoman for the Minister of National Defence in Canada reminded everyone that transgender people have been allowed to serve openly in the Canadian Armed Forces since 1992 and their position remains unchanged.

President Trump’s tweets have left many people confused and looking to the White House to answer some questions — something Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, seemed unwilling (or unable) to do on the day of the announcement.

What’s next? Will women be banned from the U.S. military? How about immigrants? With President Trump, who knows where the line will be drawn — if it’s drawn at all.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks Trump! You just created a new age of activism.

The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has sparked anger, resentment, and hate — and people aren’t standing for it. In fact, they are doing even more. They are marching.

While 2017 is proving to be even worse than 2016, at least one good thing has sprung from it all. The continuous bigotry fuelled by American politics is bringing about a new age of activism.

As a millennial, I’ve never truly experienced the power of global activism. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve witnessed some powerful demonstrations over the last two decades. There was the Arab Spring, the lesser but effective Maple Spring and, of course, the Occupy movement. But, I’ve never seen so many people, from all walks of life — ethnicities, religious affiliations, and economic statuses — come together to condemn such a wide array of issues on a global scale.

On Feb. 4, over 5,000 people gathered in front of the United States Consulate in Toronto to protest the American immigration ban and Islamophobia. At the same time, thousands of people got together across Canada and overseas, all marching and chanting in unison: “No Muslim ban on stolen land.”

 

There were families with their children, students and seniors standing hand in hand, sharing samosas and taking photos of each other’s carefully crafted signs. When organizers asked the crowd to part so that the Muslim participants could be closer to the stage for a prayer, everyone did it. People smiled and opened their arms, leading their allies and fellow Canadians (or Canadian hopefuls) to the front, remaining silent while they prayed for those fallen in the Quebec mosque shootings a few weeks ago.

Above everything else, people were polite, inclusive, and tolerant — but also strong, powerful, and loud. It was truly something to witness.

Photo by Katherine DeClerq
Photo by Katherine DeClerq

In January, more than 60,000 people marched in Toronto  — along with millions in the United States and throughout Europe — for women’s rights and to protest the inauguration of Trump, a man who has repeatedly used sexist remarks in speeches and disregarded the rights of women on the political stage. The march may have been the biggest demonstration in U.S. history.

I know what you are thinking. These are people who are just marching because “it’s cool”, right? They won’t actually work to enact change.

Photo courtesy of Madeleine Laforest

But this new age of activism is not limited to marching. Within hours of an executive order signed by President Trump, there are over a dozen Facebook events created for smaller, more pointed demonstrations indicating their displeasure over his political actions. American citizens are calling their representatives at every level of government, telling them what they think of the cabinet confirmations or a political document that was released. When the telephone voice mailboxes are full, people start using the fax machines to reach their political offices. A few people even tried to send their representatives pizzas with notes attached to them.

For example, so many people called their Senators regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the candidate for Secretary of Education, that she almost wasn’t confirmed. Two Republications changed their votes and the Vice President had to be the tiebreaker, a first in American history.

People are fired up. Normal citizens who never would have considered becoming politically active are making signs and marching to Capitol Hill. They are listening and they are informed. For the first time in my lifetime, people actually care. And not just specific groups of people — all people.

The west has forgotten the true meaning and functionality of democracy. Politicians are supposed to fight for their constituents, not for their own self-interest. If their constituents say they want them to vote against their party, technically, they should do it. That is how representative democracy works. A politician must represent the views of their constituents.

This concept has been lost, fuelled by the complacency and ignorance of a population willing to let other people run their country. But, with the rise of this new age of activism, that can change.

The Republicans (under the leadership of Trump) are forcing citizens to reconsider their own beliefs and be more aware of what they want of their country. Without meaning too, they are inspiring real democracy, a system in which the people decide what they want their politicians to do.

All I can say is this: stay strong my fellow democratic participants! Change will not happen over night. It will be a long process, and it will take a lot of screaming, chanting, marching, and phone calls to make our politicians remember that we, the people they serve, have a voice too.

But trust me, the end game will be worth it.