Beloved Yemeni activist abducted by government security

from August 18, 2017 at 12:57PM

You’ve seen and heard Hisham al-Omeisy. The friendly Yemeni observer who has told news services around the world about conditions in his war-ravaged country was abducted by three carloads of armed men in Sanaa on Monday afternoon. He is being held at the government’s National Security Bureau in the Yemeni capital. 

His family cautioned reporters, many of whom count Omeisy as a friend as well as a source, to remain silent while negotiations were conducted through back channels. The family lifted its embargo today.

Omeisy may be the most famous Yemeni in the Western world, thanks to his active Twitter account (he has nearly 24,000 followers) and his frequent appearances on TV and radio around the globe.

Independent journalist Iona Craig said that she and other reporters had remained silent about the situation all week, at the family’s request. But Craig, who lived in Sanaa and is a close friend of Omeisy, is relieved to be able to talk openly about his abduction now. “The National Security Bureau where Hisham is being held — I don’t think anybody has ever come out of there and said they’ve had a pleasant experience. And that’s the really troubling thing about thinking about him now being in prison.”

The National Security Bureau has a long history of abuses, first under the decadeslong rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, then by his successor Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and now by the Yemeni government run by the northern rebel group known as the Houthis. 

The NSB has a reputation for beating and torturing detainees. Accounts by former detainees paint a gruesome picture of treatment inside its walls. “It’s also worth remembering,” adds Craig, “that the US over the years has trained many of the officers in that intelligence agency.”

“Arbitrary detention is something that happens regularly in Houthi-controlled Yemen, to dissidents and to people who speak out against those forces,” says Sophie McNeill, Middle East correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Company. McNeill learned of Omeisy’s detention on Monday, but followed the wishes of Omeisy’s family and sat on the story. “It’s now been four days, and there’s no sign that Hisham is going to be released anytime soon.”

Social media have been full of the news of Omeisy’s detention since Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch put out press releases this morning — the first official recognition of Omeisy’s incarceration.

“Yemen more than ever needs activists like Hisham al-Omeisy to bring attention to the devastation that war, famine and disease have wrought on the country and its people,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Houthi authorities should immediately release al-Omeisy and return him safely to his family.”

Omeisy’s success as an activist is largely due to his warmth and familiarity. And his English. Omeisy’s years as a college student in Canada have given him the fluency to speak with Westerners about the crises his fellow Yemenis face every day. He comes off as a regular guy, a neighbor, a friend.

“He just seems like this normal dad,” says ABC’s McNeill who visited Omeisy and his family to film an ABC documentary, and regularly calls on him for updates on the Yemen civil war. “I think sometimes it helps for the audience to have someone who is there and talking about, you know, ‘My kids are doing this and me and my kids are in the car dancing to TLC.’ He’s just very relatable,” she says, “so it was always great to call up Hisham and check in with him and see how things were going.”

“There’s been no explanation of why he’s been taken,” McNeill adds, “so I just keep thinking of these little boys that I met in Sanaa and just feeling horrible thinking of how they’re feeling right now, and you know they just want their dad back.”

“Hisham has been a really crucial voice to Yemenis on all sides of the conflict,” says Iona Craig. “And his voice … has been absolutely vital to raising people’s awareness and understanding what is happening in Yemen. And he’s not guilty of any crime other than speaking out for Yemenis, really,” she says.

Osamah al-Rawhani, a fellow Yemeni and a close friend of Omeisy, notes that while the imprisoned activist has been effective at drawing attention to humanitarian conditions in Yemen, he has laid most of the blame not on the Houthis, but on the forces led by Saudi Arabia that are trying to unseat the rebels. The Saudi-led coalition, with US backing, been bombing Houthi targets in northern Yemen for 30 months.

“It’s true that he’s taking a stance mainly against the Saudi-led coalition,” says Rawhani. “It’s because he is there under the airstrikes … and he sees the victims every day.” So, it is with some irony that the Saudis’ greatest enemies, the Houthis, have been the ones to silence Omeisy. 

No charges have been announced by Omeisy’s captors. But then, his detention may be due to another reason.

I believe [the] Houthis did this to demonstrate their abilities on the ground,” says Rawhani. In the intricate politics of wartime Yemen, displays of raw power are commonplace. “Hisham has been taken because he’s a prominent voice. And so, for that, he should be released.”

Omeisy, 38, and the father of two young boys, has frequently contributed to PRI’s The World, the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Company. 

Read more at: Latest from The World and the GlobalPost

Maryland Removes Statue Of Judge Who Wrote Dred Scott Decision

from August 18, 2017 at 07:48AM

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A statue of the U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House early Friday.

The statue of Roger B. Taney was lifted away by a crane at about 2 a.m. It was lowered into a truck and driven away to storage.

The bronze statue was erected in 1872, just outside the original front door of the State House.

Three of the four voting members of the State House Trust voted by email Wednesday to move the statue. House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat who was one of the three who voted to remove it, wrote this week that the statue “doesn’t belong” on the grounds.

His comments came after the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, with clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters. A woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people who were there to condemn the white nationalists, who had rallied against Charlottesville officials’ decision to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said this week that removing the statue of Taney in Annapolis was “the right thing to do.” Republican Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford voted on behalf of the administration to remove the statue.

One member of the trust, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, criticized holding the vote without a public meeting.

“This was certainly a matter of such consequence that the transparency of a public meeting and public conversation should have occurred,” Miller, a Democrat, wrote in a letter Thursday to Hogan.

While the statue’s removal was not publicized, a couple dozen onlookers watched as workers started the removal process shortly after midnight Thursday. Some witnesses cheered as the statue was lifted from its pedestal.

The statue was removed two days after Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of four monuments from her city under the cover of night, including another statue of Taney.

Taney was born in Maryland and practiced law in Frederick before becoming the nation’s fifth chief justice. Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, were slaves who sued for their freedom after they were taken from the slave state of Missouri into territory where slavery had been prohibited by the Missouri Compromise.

This year marked the 160th anniversary of the 1857 decision. In March, a family member of Taney’s apologized to the Scott family in front of the statue that was removed Friday. Charles Taney IV of Greenwich, Connecticut, apologized to the Scotts and all African Americans for the “terrible injustice of the Dred Scott decision.” Lynne Jackson, a great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott, accepted the apology for her family and “all African Americans who have the love of God in their heart, so that healing can begin.”

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FBI Offering $30K Reward For Info On Minnesota Mosque Bombing

from August 16, 2017 at 10:44AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The FBI is offering a $30,000 reward for information in the bombing of a Minnesota mosque earlier this month.

The FBI’s Minneapolis Division announced the reward in a tweet Wednesday. The FBI says finding whoever was responsible for the Aug. 5 explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington remains its “top priority.”

The explosion happened early on a Saturday just before morning prayers and caused extensive damage to the imam’s office. No one was injured.

Muslim advocacy groups and Twin Cities’ mosques are separately offering a combined $24,000 reward.

The Dar Al-Farooq mosque primarily serves Somalis in the Minneapolis area. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community outside of east Africa, with an estimated 57,000 people, according to the most recent census estimates.

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PHOTOS: Baltimore Operation Removed Confederate Monuments Overnight

from August 16, 2017 at 06:36AM

BALTIMORE (AP) — Confederate monuments in Baltimore were quietly removed and hauled away on trucks in darkness early Wednesday, days after a violent white nationalist rally in Virginia that was sparked by plans to take down a similar statue there.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told The Baltimore Sun that crews began removing the city’s four Confederate monuments late Tuesday and finished around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Workers remove a monument dedicated to the Confederate Women of Maryland near the intersection of Charles St. and University Parkway early Wednesday morning. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)
Workers remove a monument dedicated to the Confederate Women of Maryland early Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, after it was taken down in Baltimore. Local news outlets reported that workers hauled several monuments away, days after a white nationalist rally in Virginia turned deadly. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

“It’s done,” Pugh told the newspaper. “They needed to come down. My concern is for the safety and security of our people. We moved as quickly as we could.”

Video taken by WBAL-TV shows workers using a crane to lift the towering monument to Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson onto a flatbed truck in the dark.

Pugh said Monday that she had contacted two contractors about removing the monuments, but declined to say when they would come down, saying she wanted to prevent the kind of violence seen in Charlottesville, Virginia. Pugh said at the time that she wants the statues to be placed in Confederate cemeteries elsewhere in Maryland.

A commission appointed by the previous mayor recommended removing a monument to Marylander Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision denying citizenship to African-Americans, as well as a statue of two Virginians — the Confederate generals Lee and Jackson.

The empty pedestal of the  former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney is seen before dawn in Mount Vernon after workers took four Confederate monuments overnight in the city. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)
The empty pedestal of the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney sits before dawn Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, after workers took several Confederate monuments down overnight in the city. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Instead, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake put up signs calling them propaganda designed to falsify history and support racial intimidation.

Baltimore’s swift removal of the monuments comes days after what is believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade — including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members. They descended on Charlottesville for a rally prompted by the city’s decision to remove a monument to Lee.

A bystander takes a picture of the monument dedicated to the Confederate Women of Maryland after it was taken down early Wednesday morning. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)
A bystander takes a picture of the monument dedicated to the Confederate Women of Maryland after it was taken down early Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Baltimore. Local news outlets reported that workers hauled several monuments away, days after a white nationalist rally in Virginia turned deadly. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Violent clashes broke out between white nationalists and counterprotesters and a woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people who were there to condemn the white nationalists.

A memorial service for 32-year-old Heather Heyer is scheduled Wednesday morning at a downtown Charlottesville theater.

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North Carolina Guv Calls For Removal Of Confederate Statues From State Land

from August 16, 2017 at 06:06AM

Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor of North Carolina, on Tuesday called for the state to initiate the removal of Confederate statues from state property, citing the recent attack in Charlottesville allegedly carried out by a self-proclaimed white supremacist.

“Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights. But history is not on their side. We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down,” Cooper wrote in a Medium post. “Our Civil War history is important, but it belongs in textbooks and museums — not a place of allegiance on our Capitol grounds.”

His post came after protesters in Durham, North Carolina, pulled down a Confederate monument outside the old Durham County Courthouse on Monday. Cooper wrote that he would prefer to remove the monuments through a more formal process, citing public safety concerns.

“The likelihood of protesters being injured or worse as they may try to topple any one of the hundreds of monuments in our state concerns me. And the potential for those same white supremacist elements we saw in Charlottesville to swarm the site, weapons in hand, in retaliation is a threat to public safety,” Cooper wrote.

Cooper called for the state legislature to repeal a 2015 law that requires state lawmaker approval for the removal of Confederate monuments. The governor will likely face an uphill battle in repealing the law and removing the statues given that Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the state legislature.

The governor also said he has asked the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to review and determine the cost of removing Confederate monuments in the state.

The attack in Charlottesville has prompted several state and local officials across the country to push for monuments recalling slavery to be removed. Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday called for the removal of a statue of former Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the Dred Scott decision, to be removed from the state house lawn, a reversal from his previous stance.

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White Supremacists Praise Trump’s Return To Rhetoric Blaming ‘Both Sides’

from August 15, 2017 at 03:59PM

White supremacists on Tuesday praised President Donald Trump for his return to equivocal rhetoric blaming “both sides” for violence that erupted over the weekend at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

White supremacist leader Richard Spencer praised Trump’s statement, made during an off-the-rails press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan, as “fair and down to earth.”

After Trump read a curt statement Monday denouncing white supremacists and hate groups by name, Spencer insisted he wasn’t being “serious,” and celebrated his reversal on Tuesday.

“Trump cares about the truth,” he tweeted.

Bradley Dean Griffin, a white nationalist who blogs under the pen name “Hunter Wallace” at Occidental Dissent, said Trump’s amended rhetoric was “better.”

“The facts about must be filtering out now,” he tweeted. “He is all over the place but this is much better.”

Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer was not available on Tuesday after it was booted off several web hosting services and moved to the so-called Dark Web, part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines.

According to the Chicago Tribune, it nevertheless weighed in with an article titled, “Trump Defends Charlottesville Nazis Against Jew Media Lies, Condemns Antifa Terrorists.”

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Daily Caller On Reel Of Cars Plowing Into Protesters: ‘Study The Technique’

from August 15, 2017 at 01:26PM

A video compilation of vehicles driving through crowds of “liberal protesters” published by the Daily Caller and Fox News resurfaced Tuesday, after a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one person and injuring dozens more.

The Daily Caller in January published a video compilation of vehicles driving through crowds of “liberal protesters” with the advice, “Study the technique.”

Fox News also republished the compilation in January with the same caption, though it omitted the Daily Caller’s kicker: “None of these clips are new, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still fresh.”

The video clip made the rounds Tuesday after Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old protester, died Saturday when a driver rammed his car into counter-protesters at the white supremacist rally. It was published under the byline of Mike Raust, who is listed as the Daily Caller’s video editor, though his last article on the site was published in June.

The Daily Caller did not immediately respond to TPM’s questions about whether the site still employs Raust or whether it stands by the article in light of the violence in Charlottesville, but the page returned an error Tuesday evening and it appeared the article was no longer on the site.

Noah Kotch, editor-in-chief of Fox News Digital, said in a statement to TPM, “The item was inappropriate and we’ve taken it down. We regret posting it in January.”

“If you are easily triggered, stop watching now. Too late,” a screen at the beginning of the video proclaims. “Mute your sound; the music we selected makes frequent use of profanities. Always remember to look both ways before blocking the street.”

That warning is followed by a series of clips of vehicles driving through crowds of protesters, some at considerable speed, accompanied by an acoustic cover of the song “Move Bitch,” originally by rapper Ludacris.

“Here’s a compilation of liberal protesters getting pushed out of the way by cars and trucks,” Raust wrote. “Study the technique; it may prove useful in the next four years.”

This post has been updated.

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CBO: Trump Threat To Cut Obamacare Subsidies Would Raise Premiums 25%

from August 15, 2017 at 11:47AM

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a report on Tuesday evaluating the potential impact of the Trump administration making good on a repeated threat to cut off Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers.

The CBO found that the move would cause premiums for people whose care is supported by the payments to climb 20 percent higher by 2018 and 25 percent higher by 2020. They also estimate that the move would increase the federal deficit by $194 billion dollars by 2026, and it would lead to 5 percent of the U.S. population having no access to a non-group insurer.

The deficit would increase, the CBO explained, because insurers would compensate for the lost subsidies by raising premiums across the board, forcing more people to depend on government tax credits.

Read the full report below:


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Neo-Nazis Called on Trump to Pardon Joe Arpaio—Now He’s ‘Seriously Considering’ Doing It

from August 15, 2017 at 10:54AM

Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran /

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, after neo-Nazi and other fringe media that have supported Trump called for him to do so.

Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court on July 31 after “defying a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.” As The New York Times noted, the order originated from a lawsuit “charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally, and turning them over to the immigration authorities.” Arpaio, like Trump, was one of the biggest propagators of the false claim that former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fake. According to The Arizona Republic, Arpaio “says he would welcome a presidential pardon” from Trump, although he told the paper that he was “not going to ask.”

When news of Arpaio’s conviction was revealed, fringe media outlets decried the trial and verdict and urged Trump to pardon the former sheriff. Jerome Corsi of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars wrote that Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “must help Sheriff Arpaio,” calling the trial a “travesty of justice” and asking whether Trump and Sessions would “continue to stand by watching.” Additionally, Infowars host David Knight, in a video titled “Pres. Trump, Pardon Sheriff Joe: ‘Guilty’ Of Defying Sanctuary Judge,” said that Arpaio “needs to be pardoned by the Trump administration or the Trump administration will be exposed to massive hypocrisy for allowing someone to go to jail for implementing the very policies that they’re talking about now.” Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer called Arpaio’s conviction “a blatant crucifixion of a man who stood up to the Obama agenda of ‘America for everyone from anywhere as long as they are not white’” and wrote that “Trump should pardon him.” Another neo-Nazi blog, Infostormer, claimed Arpaio had “been convicted of a crime simply because he was enforcing immigration laws,” adding “regardless of what happens, Donald Trump should pardon him.”

Some fake news purveyors joined the call for a pardon. TruthFeed called Arpaio’s conviction “absolutely ridiculous” and added, “We think Trump needs to pardon Arpaio.” After Arpaio said he was open to a pardon, TruthFeed wrote, “Hopefully, President Trump will soon have time to help his long-time supporter.” Patriots On The Right, calling Arpaio’s conviction “stupid,” urged people to “SHARE this story if you support the idea, Joe Arpaio, to be pardoned (sic).” World Politicus wrote that Arpaio being open to a pardon “could be good” because Arpaio had been a victim of a “witch hunt against” him and because “the judge had liberal ties.”

Following the outcry from neo-Nazi, fringe, and pro-Trump media as well as fake news purveyors, Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett reported on August 14 that Trump told Fox News that he was “seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio” because he “has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him.” Jarrett added that the pardon “could happen in the next few days, should [Trump] decide to do so.”


Alex Kaplan is a Research Coordinator at Media Matters. 

Read more at: Alternet

Company Protests Government Demand For Anti-Trump Website’s Visitor Logs

from August 15, 2017 at 09:40AM

A web hosting provider has objected to the federal government’s request that it hand over what it characterized as detailed records on the more than 1 million visitors to a anti-Trump website that promoted protests of President Trump’s inauguration.

In a blog post on Monday, DreamHost detailed its objections to the government’s request.

“The request from the [Department of Justice] demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website,” the company wrote. “That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”

The government asserts that a website hosted by DreamHost,, “was used in the development, planning, advertisement, and organization of a violent riot that occurred in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2017.” A search warrant details the request for “fruits, evidence and instrumentalities of violations” of a Washington, D.C. law against the incitement of riots.

Among other objections, DreamHost responded in a filing on Friday that the government’s demand of “all files” related to the website “would allow the government to identify the specific computers used to visit the website, and what specifically was viewed on the website.” That, DreamHost said, violated website visitors’ First and Fourth Amendment rights, and other legal protections.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia provided TPM with recent case filings, but declined to comment further. On Friday, both parties will attend a hearing before Judge Lynn Leibovitz in Washington, D.C. on the government’s motion to compel DreamHost’s cooperation. 

The presidential inauguration was marked by disruption and unrest, particularly from so-called “black bloc” and anti-fascist protesters who destroyed property and created a headache for District police. However, the law enforcement reaction to protesters was extreme: Hundreds have been indicted on felony rioting charges, including multiple journalists observing the protests.

H/t BuzzFeed.

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