JIBRIL ALI

ANTIFAS IN NEW JERSEY LABELED DOMESTIC TERROR ORGANIZATIONS BY STATE HOMELAND SECURITY

Inauguration of President Donald Trump

Inauguration of President Donald Trump

New Jersey’s Homeland Security has listed the broader anti-fascist (antifa) movement as a domestic terror group.

This decision follows a series of demonstrations and protests undertaken by a multitude of locally coordinated antifa groups within the country. In New Jersey’s case, there were three chapters in the state (North Jersey Antifa, South Jersey Antifa, and HubCity Antifa) cited as the primary targets of the decision. The official website of NJHS then goes on to list a doxxing campaign carried out by Antifa Action-Nebraska against a figure head of the American Vanguard, a white-nationalist group. This is followed by a few incidents where Trump supporters or white supremacists were caught in a melee with antifa demonstrators/black-bloc protesters.

The reasoning behind NJHS’s decision has left many activists in New Jersey concerned. The department cites the numerous attempts by antifa demonstrators engaging white supremacist groups with violence--not just in New Jersey, but in other states as well--since last year’s election. One would have assumed the NJHS would have cited destruction of property before the attacks on white supremacist groups as a justification for their decision. For some activists, this is indicative of the lengths NJHS will go to misdirect the impact of local antifa chapters.                                                                                           

What does this mean at the federal level? Nothing immediately. The decision made by NJHS currently reflects only the Governorship and what some describe as their hostility towards the “far left”. Taking this move into account, it wouldn’t be surprising to find more and more states enacting this policy as they become increasingly threatened by the existence of demonstrators willing to engage hate groups with violence. If history is an indicator, the state using the label “domestic terrorist” will green light political arrest and sanction the bodily harm of demonstrators and activists defending themselves.

Looking back to previous state action against demonstrators, the beginning of this year saw several legislators attempt to introduce bills to crack down on the increasing number of protests in the country. The suggested legislation ranged anywhere from utilizing anti-racketeering laws, to criminalizing anyone wearing a mask, and even removing the penalties towards motorists that strike protesters.

While all of these attempts have been met with differing levels of success and failure (with some being completely voted down) it demonstrates the willingness of local authorities to not only dissuade the increasingly justified violence (i.e. rioting and physically confronting hate groups), but to confine protest within boundaries deemed beneficial by the state.

Despite the differing rationale, both conservative and liberal political establishments oppose the form of demonstration most often used by antifa groups. With this common ground comes two separate possible outcomes for the protesters; one is harsh and disproportionate punishment in the event of an arrest, and the other suggests setting certain parameters for protestors in an effort to, as mentioned before, confine and control the demonstrations.

UNDERSTANDING BETSY DEVOS: AMERICA'S MOST INEXPERIENCED SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

BY JIBRIL ALI

It’s no surprise that Trump’s administration is lined with some of the wealthiest and most contentious figures from the political far-right domain. Corporate executives, GOP financiers, and runner-ups with minimal history (or in some cases, no history at all) in the department they have been chosen to lead is the general makeup of this administration’s cabinet picks.

Betsy DeVos, is not only considered the most inexperienced among the cabinet nominees, but also the most inexperienced Secretary of Education in American history.

DeVos is widely known as a vanguard for Christian supremacy, and has passionately lobbied for harmful legislation affecting the LGBTQ community. With a familial net-worth of 5 billion dollars, DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, the mercenary group contracted by the U.S. military that carried out the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. A notorious killing of 17 non-combatant Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 20 more, by the hired soldiers--a fact which has been almost ignored by the media. 

DeVos' notoriety primarily lies, however, in her aspirations to redirect taxpayer dollars from public to private schools and deregulating educational institutions in favour of abolishing accountability measures. Additionally, her recent reluctance to confirm her support for upholding several federal laws has, understandably, elicited confusion and fear. 

As the most inexperienced secretary of education in American history, here is what you can expect from Betsy DeVos. 

Appropriating funds away from public schools.

The fight for redirecting taxpayer dollars from public to private schools is a DeVos hallmark. DeVos has been a staunch proponent of school choice, which stipulates using a publicly funded voucher system for parents to use at the private institution of their choice. These vouchers, which only partially subsidize tuition costs for private schools, would mean parents have to cover the remainder of the cost on their own. This program is likely incompatible with majority of the low income households it claims to persuade.

In addition to financial complication, there are social barriers to consider. 76% of private schools have a religious affiliation dependent on mandatory religious study. To avoid conflicts of interest, would these religiously affiliated private institutions be willing to change or remove their religious curriculum once they receive these federally funded vouchers? Would private institutions be held to the same accountability standards in the case they receive public funds? DeVos has not hinted at any specific proposal during, or since, her confirmation hearing. As of yet, there is no telling what the outcome of her confirmation will be for public schools. 

Impact on College Students

The Obama administration shifted the federal student loan program from private banks to direct loans from the federal government. This switch slightly improved the burden of debt that students must confront once graduating. Many have criticized the former system for greatly benefitting the banks at the cost of taxpayers and students. In contrast, many on the right have considered the switch as inferior, and based on her past political affiliation, DeVos is likely to share and promote this opinion.

On the issue of campus sexual assault, DeVos has brushed off opponents when concerns surrounding the subject have been brought into discussion. Under the Obama administration, Title IX (a federal law that bars sex discrimination), was interpreted to mean schools receiving any form of federal assistance or funding must play a role in preventing sexual assault. DeVos’ noncommital remarks on the subject have added to a growing list of fears and concerns the Trump administration has introduced.

“If confirmed, I look forward to understanding the past actions and current situation better, and to ensuring that the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both the victim ... as well as those who are accused.”
-- DeVos answering Senator Bob Casey’s question about campus sexual assault during her confirmation hearing.

The previous administration took on a number of for-profit colleges on the basis of fraud and predatory lending, laying the groundwork for legislation that would introduce regulatory oversight. ITT Tech being one of the first to shut down. When questioned by Senator Elizabeth Warren, DeVos responded meagrely by stating she would review the current regulation that requires schools to provide evidence they are preparing students for the job market, rather than uphold it as Sec. of Education. The inability to furtively say “yes” when questioned about upholding federal law is, again, troubling, and increases the already-present uncertainty surrounding her role. 

Protecting the most vulnerable in our education system, disabled students.

 

Perhaps DeVos’ most concerning response from the confirmation hearings was during her interaction with Senator Tim Kaine, and later, Senator Maggie Hassan. When asked about upholding the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), she parroted that she believed it would be a matter “better left to the states.” In a follow-up letter she released attempting to clarify her position on IDEA, she states, “I am eager to bring a sense of urgency around all of these issues: implementation and enforcement of IDEA at federal, state and local levels; improving the quality of IEPs; and expanding the conversation about school choice opportunities for parents of students with disabilities.”

In her attempt to elucidate her stance, she claims to be enthusiastic about upholding the federal law, while subsequently plugging the school choice voucher program that comprises her platform--a sentiment that works against the best interests of disabled students. It is widely known that the current state of private schools and their role in serving students with disabilities is less than adequate, and a federally introduced voucher program would only further complicate the matter for disabled students and parents.

Whether it is her inability to commit to supporting pre-existing federal laws which protect disabled students, her political drive to funnel money from the federal government into private schools, DeVos' involvement in lobbying for conservative, religiously motivated Republicans, and or her lack of history and experience within the field she now leads, DeVos' confirmation alludes to a murky, and unstable future for vulnerable students across the nation.  

For further inquiry regarding this article, tweet Jibril Ali @jirilalpha

SIX OFFICIALS CHARGED IN FLINT WATER CRISIS

WRITTEN BY JIBRIL ALI

Drinking water supplied to residents in Flint, Michigan first became contaminated in 2014. Since then up to 12 000 children have been exposed to the dangerous levels of lead. Ten Flint residents have been killed by Legionnaires disease purportedly tied to the drinking water, and another 77 residents have been diagnosed with the condition. 

As of July 29th, 2016, three Department of Environmental Quality employees and three Department of Health and Human Services employees have been charged by Attorney General Bill Schuette. The charges include; conspiracy, willful neglect, and misconduct in office.

Those who were charged are listed below:

• Liane Shekter-Smith, former chief of drinking water and municipal assistance, of Marshall, MI

Shekter-Smith is the only state employee to be fired for her role in the crisis. Last month, she asserted her 5th amendment right against self incrimination during her court hearing right after Shuette’s team issued an investigative subpoena against her. 

• One count of misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanour

• Adam Rosenthal, DEQ water quality analyst, of East Lansing, MI

Rosenthal was in charge of monitoring Flint’s water testing reports between April 2014 and October 2015 when the city used corrosive Flint River water. Despite knowing the water posed a severe risk to Flint residents, defendant Rosenthal disregarded his public duties and took no affirmative action to protect the public health. 

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• One count tampering with evidence, a four-year felony

• One count of conspiracy/tampering with evidence, a four-year felony

• Patrick Cook, DEQ specialist for community water drinking unit, of DeWitt, MI

Cook, a water treatment engineer, was in charge of interpreting lead levels and misled the Environmental Protection Agency about how the water was being treated. The evidence further shows that defendant Cook mislead the EPA by sending a knowingly false interpretation of the Flint Water Treatment’s compliance with Safe Water Drinking Act standards.

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• Nancy Peeler, director, program for maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting, of Midland, MI

Scott and Peeler worked together to bury the epidemiologist report by Cristin Larder, showing higher lead levels in the drinking water that would have warranted a further investigation into the crisis. 

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• Robert Scott, data manager for the healthy homes and lead prevention program, of Haslett, MI

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

• Corinne Miller, former director of the bureau of epidemiology and state epidemiologist, of DeWitt, MI

Miller, the state’s top epidemiologist, allegedly ordered a DHHS employee to “take no action and disregard Larder’s findings.”

• One count misconduct in office, a five-year felony

• One count of conspiracy, a five-year felony

• One count of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor

For the past two years impacted residents have relied on bottled water for their cooking, cleaning and consuming needs. Donations during the crisis peaked in the summer of 2015 and have since plummeted, leaving many without a consistent source of water. In 2016, as the investigation into the crisis brings its first round of charges against city and state officials, Flint still remains without a plan to ensure safe drinking water for its residents. 

For those who want to assist either online or in person, official resources for donations and volunteering are provided below.

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