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A Tweeting Fest, or Losing a Grip on Reality?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]o far, the longest time President Trump has been able to stay away from Twitting has been four days, eight hours and five minutes. It began two days before his big speech to Congress on Feb. 28 (when he told us that “the time for trivial fights is behind us”), and ended two days later on March 2 when he sent a couple of accusations against Democrats: as having “lost their grip on reality,” and for engaging in “a total witch hunt.”

The next day he tweeted a picture of Vladimir Putin and Sen. Chuck Schumer having coffee and donuts with a mock demand for “an immediate investigation into Sen. Schumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!”

A few hours later a picture of Rep. Nancy Pelosi is sent, at a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ambassador Kislyak in 2010 with this caption: “I hereby demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it.” He misspelled hereby two times: first he spelled it “here by” and then he spelled it “hearby” before finally getting it right. This despite the fact that, as he himself has repeatedly claimed, he has a “very good brain” and has gone to some of the best schools in the country.

Then came a tweeting bombshell: on Saturday March 4, from his week-end getaway Mar-a-Lago Trump tweets this: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

A few minutes later this bombshell was forwarded: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” (Here again two misspelling: “Tapp” and “Hearby,” despite the fact that the president still has the same “very good brain”).

Then this gem: “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Only an hour later he sent out an insult to Arnold Schwarzenegger having nothing to do with the two previous gems: “Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show.”

What are we to make of this new false charge against president Obama? So far no evidence has been presented by the White House. It appears that Trump got his motivating information from a Breitbart article long on insinuations and short on facts. That seems to be his preferred reading. He relies on “alternate convenient facts” and calls what is inconvenient “fake news.” That, it can logically be argued, is the real scandal.

The midweek meltdown may have occurred because on March 1 he was served with new revelations about the mysterious links between the Kremlin and his Administration; revelations rivaling those of Watergate. The first one to come out with those revelations was The New York Times.

All of this was followed by an article in the Washington Post revealing that Jeff Sessions had spoken twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the US, something he had not disclosed during his confirmation hearings for the post of Attorney General for Trump’s Justice Department. Then the Wall Street Journal reported that Donald Trump Jr. had been paid $ 50,000 for an appearance before a French think tank whose founder is an ally of the Russian government as an attempt to end the war in Syria.

J.D. Gordon, Trump’s national security advisor during the campaign, admitted that, contrary to his earlier denials, he had directly intervened at Trump’s instigation to remove the language in the 2016 Republican platform which had called on the United States to arm Ukraine against Russian aggression. Campaign advisor Carter Page admitted that, contrary to his earlier denials, he had met with the Russian ambassador at the Republican National Convention. It is hard to imagine why so many people would lie if they didn’t have something pretty significant to cover up. Out of all of these revelations it was the news about Sessions — which may open him to perjury charges — that was the most alarming to the Trump entourage. Sessions was compelled to recuse himself from the Kremlin-gate inquiry.

Trump was upset that he had not been consulted about that decision. With Sessions out of the picture, a special counsel could now be appointed by whomever might replace him. Independent counsels are appointed by, and answerable to a three-judge panel and they have the power to indict those who perjure themselves. This could not possibly be allowed to stand.

A distraction had to be found. What better than a concocted plot by his predecessor? After all, this was the same guy who fooled the American people by hiding the fact that he was not born in the US. So the subject was changed by sending out another distracting rabbit ( being pursued by the press as we speak): the previous president had tapped the phone of the president-elect. No evidence for the charge has surfaced, as of now. Kellyanne, one of those advisors who does damage control and pooper scooping, now goes around saying that Obama did the spying by microwave oven. More and more people meanwhile are asking themselves the real relevant question what does Trump have to hide vis a vis the Kremlin? Stay tuned. The best is still to come.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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