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33756558155 9c4eaeb7cf z Photo by GotCredit.com/Flickr

As an educator of politics and conflict resolution I've spent decades examining deals as they relate to conflict and peace. Negotiation is a key skill of statecraft because successful diplomacy can save millions of lives and avoid trillion-dollar military engagements that may cause years of suffering and still not be anywhere close to a resolution, like in Afghanistan. The study and assessments cannot make guarantees for predictions of future performance or outcomes, but there are many truths in the field.

One great frustration I've had is that Donald Trump, both as a candidate and as President, continues to get my field wrong. I have written about the damage caused by Trump blowing up deals, and what Trump has gotten wrong about the Iran Deal (among others). He does a tremendous disservice to those working for the causes of peace and justice around the world, and I would like to push back against these misconceptions and resist the normalization of his dangerous practices. They can perhaps work in his ruthless business deals but in statecraft the same game is potentially lethal to millions of human beings.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018 06:27

Human Rights Trumped

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32343915050 5f35e2d61b zThousands of protesters armed with placards filled most of Grosvenor Square outside the American Embassy in London on February 4, 2017 Alisdare Hickson/Flickr

Who cares about human rights? Not Trump, not his team. Here's some of what we see.

Discussion in the Trump administration of sensitive human-rights cases often gets relegated to the annual state department report on conditions around the world, a report required by Congress. Even here the Trump administration has downplayed human rights. When the 2016 report was prepared, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson rejected the usual practice of presenting it to the press, evidently to discount its importance. The 2017 report, which came out this April, "sugarcoated" several controversial issues, as one human rights NGO leader put it.

These deceptions include Israel's conduct in the Occupied Territories (no longer labeled as such), high civilian casualties from Saudi Arabia's indiscriminate bombing in Yemen (referred to as "disproportionate collateral damage"), and women's reproductive rights (no longer mentioned).  Little wonder that so many senior diplomats have quit over Trump's disdain for human rights, including John Feeley as US ambassador to Panama, Elizabeth Shackelford as chief political officer in the US embassy in Somalia, and Jim Melville as ambassador to Estonia. 


hotelberkHotel workers daily face the risk of sexual harassment. (Photo: Frans de Wilde)

Hospitality workers face higher levels of sexual harassment then most workers in other industries. Guests grope, proposition, verbally harass, and frequently expose themselves to housekeepers. “Hotel housekeepers work alone, cleaning rooms,” Karen Kent, president of the Chicago chapter of the hospitality union UNITE HERE, told NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition in late November. “And oftentimes, there's a power imbalance between the women who clean them, who are often women of color, immigrants, and guests who have those rooms who pay hundreds of dollars a night. If something happens with the guests, they often can't be heard or possibly can't even get away.”

UNITE HERE, a labor union representing workers in the hospitality industry, is fighting for measures that will protect workers. “Advocates hope the use of panic buttons will eliminate some of the barriers that have kept women – especially minorities and those from low-income communities — from reporting sexual harassment,” wamu.org’s Samantha Raphelson recently reported.

A Personal Aside: Other than a fire alarm going off at three in the morning, which forced everyone to evacuate the building, our stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott San Francisco Airport/Oyster Point Waterfront was uneventful. After a month in the hospital starting her recovery after a double-lung transplant, my wife and I were required to spend six weeks in close proximity to the hospital, to be there for three-times-a-week appointments, and in case any complications arose. When friends asked about being at the Residence Inn, I’d tell them that “the breakfasts were great.” The breakfasts were great because of the hardworking kitchen staff. The rooms were cleaned and restocked by reliable and thorough housekeepers. Front desk agents were hospitable and readily answered all questions. Groundskeepers kept the surroundings clean and manicured.

A sign that says "Danger, Asbestos"(Photo: Alpha / Flickr)


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Asbestos killed at least 45,221 Americans between 1999 and 2015, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found. But President Donald Trump has long expressed his support for the dangerous mineral currently banned by 65 countries.

"If we didn't remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn't work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down," he tweeted in 2012.

Now, Uralasbest, a Russian asbestos producer supported by President Vladimir Putin, is thanking Trump for his support.

In a June 25 Facebook post reported by The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Wednesday, the company displayed an image of its product in plastic wrap stamped with Trump's face.


obamacare32Trump cuts another slice out of Obamacare. (Photo: LaDawna Howard)

It is common knowledge that the GOP and Donald Trump have been trying to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through a combination of legislative and executive actions. Although Trump has -- since he first campaigned for the White House -- promised the best insurance and least expensive health insurance system, his and Congress's actions to dismantle the ACA have proven otherwise.

As Vox pointed out in a July 12 article, the GOP's and Trump's efforts in dismantling the ACA are actually increasing premium costs for health insurance by eliminating subsidies to insurance companies and increasing volatility in the marketplace:

Things aren't likely to get any better as the Trump administration keeps rolling back support for the ACA. The law has proved durable, but it has also failed to fully escape peril. Just in the last few weeks, the Trump administration froze critical payments to health insurers while the Justice Department has argued that the law’s protections for preexisting conditions should be ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

The uncertainty fostered by all this in turn drives up insurance premiums, which for 2019 will be finalized in October, shortly before voters head to the polls for the 2018 midterm elections.

Yes, Trump and the Republicans are making health care insurance less accessible, allowing for decreased coverage and creating a more expensive insurance market. 


Popcorn WikiCommons

No one should be exposed to toxic chemicals in their food, particularly children. But that's exactly what the Center for Environmental Health found in tests of microwave popcorn bags sold in discount retailers. Communities of color and millions of poor Americans frequent these stores.

In fact, every single bag that was independently tested contained toxic per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) -- chemicals linked to developmental problems, hormone disruption, organ damage and more. These findings are particularly alarming for children's health, as their bodies are still developing, making them more vulnerable to the effects of hormone disruptors.

In response to these findings, the Center released a video featuring the Oakland rapper Mystic and a local kindergarten class to educate families about dangerous toxic chemicals put in microwave popcorn bags. Filmed at Roses in Concrete Community School in East Oakland, the fun and engaging educational video also includes a supporting fact sheet that teaches families how to make their own safe, toxic-free microwave popcorn.


800px Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre 7505717124 DIAC images /WikiCommons

In the outrage over forced separation of migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border manufactured by President Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy, it is easy to lose sight of experiences that could be equally traumatic, such as detaining families together.

While President Trump signed an executive order ending family separation, he simultaneously ordered the indefinite detention of whole families. Furthermore, the government has still failed to reunite many of the 2,300 children who were separated from their parents, including infants and toddlers, and detained in facilities exclusively for children. Immigration detention has become institutionalized by governments across the globe as a  tool for controlling "illegal immigration" at any cost. Therefore, it is important for us to understand the human costs of the US immigration detention system.

An extreme example is the death of a 34-year-old asylum seeker from Eritrea whose suicide is not simply a statistic to me. I knew him personally and remain in mourning for him and his family. He was denied asylum and hanged himself on June 8 while being deported to his homeland.

Krill 0711wrpKrill. (Photo: PAL LTER / Flickr)


The five companies responsible for 85 percent of krill fishing in Antarctica announced Monday that they would put a "voluntarily permanent stop" to fishing in vulnerable areas earmarked by conservationists for the world's largest ocean sanctuary, the Guardian reported.

Krill are an important food source for iconic Antarctic marine life like whales, seals and penguins. They also help fight climate change by eating carbon-heavy food near the ocean's surface and excreting it in deeper water, according to the Guardian.

"The momentum for protection of the Antarctic's waters and wildlife is snowballing," Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace's Protect the Antarctic campaign told The Guardian. "This is a bold and progressive move from these krill fishing companies, and we hope to see the remainder of the krill industry follow suit."

Kid 0711wrp(Photo: Restless mind / Flickr)


As I listened to the news about the dramatic operations that recently rescued a young soccer team in Thailand, I was struck by the disturbing contrast in crisis management from two places on opposite sides of the world, acutely emblematic of two different countries and two completely different value systems.

On the one hand, the Thai government, their military, hundreds of volunteers and rescue experts from around the world successfully saved a soccer team of young boys who have been trapped in a flooded cave system since June 23. For the Thai people, no cost or sacrifice is too great to save the lives of these children. Elon Musk even had his engineers hastily build a mini-submarine in the event that the scuba diving escape strategy failed.

The cave rescue attempt in Thailand is indeed a celebration of the preciousness of human life. Seeing people value and protect each other's lives, especially those of children, above all other considerations, should bring to tears anyone who has a shred of empathy. 

At the same time, events on the other side of the world bring tears to one's eyes for exactly the opposite reason. We are witnessing the reeling of a nakedly cruel administration, busily -- and even gleefully -- engaged in destroying the lives of thousands of poor, innocent immigrant children, under the false pretense that they are "criminals." These are children from families who, in desperation, looked to the United States as the great moral beacon of hope to escape poverty and often death from violence in their own countries.


 EU Media Futures Forum pic 0 Sollok29/WikiCommons

Let's start with some basic questions: Is it fair to blame President Donald Trump's fiery anti-media rhetoric for the murder of five Capital Gazette journalists? When Trump attacks the press, is he also attacking democracy?

Trump's verbal abuse against the media in general, and journalists covering his campaign -- and now his presidency -- has been unrelenting. At a Trump rally days before the shooting at the Capital Gazette's newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, which killed five staff members -- editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sports writer John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant -- Trump called journalists the "enemy of the American people." 

He has consistently labeled the work of the mainstream media "fake news," and called journalists "absolute scum," "disgusting" and "very dishonest."

In the wake of the shooting, in a robotic read-from-the-script moment, Trump offered up his thoughts and prayers for the gunned-down victims and their families. Then, at an event marking six-months since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Trump said: "This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job."

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