Tag Archives: iranian

Ivanka Trump Will Become an Official Federal Employee

Mother Jones

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Amid mounting ethical concerns about Ivanka Trump’s already central role in her father’s administration, the first daughter made this announcement today: She will become an official federal government employee, specifically a “special assistant” to President Donald Trump.

The New York Times reports the the decision to take the unpaid position stems from questions over her original role as an informal adviser. Critics contended the position allowed her to bypass ethics rules typically required of federal employees.

“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement.

The announcement comes just hours after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) penned a letter asking Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub to address the issue.

“Ms. Trump’s increasing, albeit unspecified, White House role, her potential conflicts of interest, and her commitment to voluntarily comply with relevant ethics and conflicts of interest laws have resulted in substantial confusion,” the letter read.

Here’s a newly-relevant New Yorker story detailing Ivanka Trump’s role in assisting her father’s shady Iranian hotel deal.


Ivanka Trump Will Become an Official Federal Employee

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Obama Issued Nowruz Greetings Every Year. Will Trump?

Mother Jones

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Every year while in office, former President Barack Obama crafted an annual address to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and sent his greetings to the millions of people of Iranian descent celebrating in the United States and abroad. The messages gained even greater significance over the past several years, as they came amid ongoing negotiations over what would eventually become a historic nuclear deal.

But as White House press secretary Sean Spicer warned in February, “there is a new president in town,” one that has consistently pushed anti-Muslim rhetoric into the mainstream, supports banning Muslims from immigrating to the United States, and has threatened to dismantle the same nuclear agreement Obama said he hoped to achieve in his Nowruz messages.

It’s been more than 24 hours since the start of this year’s celebration, and President Donald Trump has yet to issue a message of his own. When asked Tuesday whether Trump planned to issue Nowruz greetings similar to Obama’s, White House press secretary Sean Spicer demurred, saying he would get back to reporters on the issue. The absence of such remarks would come on the heels of a bungled Black History Month and the administration’s failure to mention Jews in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.

As a recent Times op-ed explained, Nowruz is a holiday rooted in hope—something many Americans could likely use amid the current political climate. “So America, please find an Iranian and, for a moment, forget about the headlines that divide us,” writer Firoozeh Dumas said. “Ask about Nowruz.You might be surprised to find out that we have more in common than you think. That should give us all hope.”

Until Trump weighs in, here’s a look back at some of Obama’s past Nowruz remarks:

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Obama Issued Nowruz Greetings Every Year. Will Trump?

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This Is What It’s Like on the Front Lines of Trump’s Travel Ban

Mother Jones

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On a gloomy afternoon at San Francisco International Airport, a dozen or so men and women assembled by the terminal’s Starbucks, waiting for their assignments. Behind them, two people huddled over laptops, flanked by a printer, a whiteboard, and stacks of paperwork. A small cardboard sign, cut from a FedEx box, said “Lawyer” in English, Arabic, and Farsi. For weeks, this desk was the headquarters for a temporary legal office that helped travelers affected by President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive orders on immigration.

Legal clinics like the one at SFO sprang up in major airports across the country, including in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Staffed entirely by volunteers, they were an early sign of the rapid grassroots organizing taking place among lawyers, civil rights activists, and everyday people in response to the executive orders.

Federal courts have suspended the orders, which banned immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries as well as all refugees from entering the United States. Volunteer lawyers are no longer physically stationed at airports—they are on call to assist passengers who need help. But as the Trump administration continues to expand the scope of immigration enforcement, the clinics offer an intriguing snapshot of what future rapid-response aid may look like as groups move quickly to help people who may be affected.

Boots on the ground

The airport legal clinics formed hours after Trump signed his January 27 executive order. The order’s hasty implementation led to chaos, as Customs and Border Protection officers began detaining travelers who came from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen the first weekend the immigration ban was enforced. It drew harsh criticism from civil rights groups, and thousands of protesters clogged airports.

While state attorneys general and national groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union mounted legal challenges against Trump’s executive order in federal courts, the volunteer attorneys in airports focused on providing support to individual travelers. During the first days of the travel ban, large organizations such as the International Refugee Assistance Project and the ACLU organized attorneys at airports. Later, this shifted to local groups.

“They’re the command centers, while we’re the boots on the ground,” said Julia Wilson, the chief executive officer of OneJustice, one of several nonprofits that coordinated volunteers for the clinics in the Bay Area.

In Los Angeles, clinic volunteers have assisted more than 300 passengers, while volunteers at SFO have conducted nearly 100 intake interviews since the executive order was signed, said Wilson. The San Francisco airport numbers are an undercount, she said, since the airport was flooded with protesters during the first days the immigration ban was in place, and volunteers could not track exact numbers.

Two volunteers monitoring flights at SFO Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn

At SFO’s international terminal, Renée Schomp, a petite woman with wavy brown hair, stepped forward and began handing out assignments. Arabic and Farsi speakers would serve as interpreters, standing near the arrival gates with signs offering free legal advice. Two volunteers would track important flights. Attorneys would handle intake forms.

It was 4 p.m. and only a handful of people were in the terminal. Schomp pointed to the gate at her left.

“It might seem like you’re wasting your time, or you might wonder why you decided to come here,” Schomp said. But as soon as flights landed, passengers would soon be streaming out the gates—and the volunteers must be ready.

Think of yourselves as firefighters, she said. “Firefighters aren’t fighting fires all the time. Sometimes they’re just sitting around playing cards,” she said. “But they’re ready to jump up and take action when the fire actually comes.”

The volunteers’ main goal was to gather and disseminate information, especially about how Customs and Border Protection officers were complying with court orders.

“We would ask folks, ‘Were you asked any religious questions? Were you asked about any political practices’?” says Junaid Sulahry, one of the volunteer lawyers. “We were trying to gain a sense of whether people were being pulled into secondary screening based off how they look, or if CBP officers were engaging in inappropriate questioning.”

Sulahry says he spoke to one Iranian national who had been placed in secondary screening for four hours. “We hesitated to approach her because she was in tears,” he says.

Attorneys aimed to monitor CBP officers’ actions and document anything unusual that happened to passengers. They interviewed passengers who wanted to share their own experience going through customs, as well as passengers who may have witnessed something and wanted to report it. Depending on the case, they provided legal advice or made referrals to civil rights organizations or congressional officials if an incident was particularly severe.

In the first few days of the ban, civil rights groups struggled to get information from CBP officers about who may or may not have been detained or deported.

“We had no access to our clients,” says Nicholas Espíritu, a staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “It was like a black box.”

The Department of Homeland Security and the White House have been criticized for the chaotic rollout of the executive order, as well as a lack of transparency surrounding the number of people affected. (White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, as well as Trump, initially said only 109 people were affected by the ban. CBP now says on its website that more than 1,000 people were recommended denial of boarding.)

On February 1, the DHS inspector general announced it would conduct a review of the department’s implementation of the executive order “in response to congressional request and whistleblower and hotline complaints.” The watchdog office would also review whether DHS officials complied with court orders and allegations of misconduct.

“I was so angry”

Local community groups such as the Asian Law Caucus say monitoring also helps provide resources for family members who may be targeted by the ban.

“There’s a lot of confusion, anxiety, and fear about what is happening and what will happen to family members abroad,” says Elica Vafaie, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. Without lawyers or other volunteers present, families would have little access to information or resources in case something does happen.

Schomp leading an orientation for new volunteers Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn

Many of the volunteers I met at the clinic had attended protests of the executive order at the airport or had heard of the clinic online and signed up. Negeen Etemad who is from San Diego and was volunteering as a Farsi interpreter, found out about the clinic through Facebook. For her, the work felt personal: Her uncle, a green card holder from Iran, had been detained for 13 hours after the executive order took effect.

“My family was frantic,” says Etemad, 26. “I was physically sick because I was so angry.”

Cori Van Allen, an accountant based in the Bay Area, told me she heard of the clinic through work and wanted to help in any way she could. “I’m concerned over how this ban was rolled out—it feels unconstitutional, like we’re singling out people in a way that just feeds into ISIS propaganda,” said Van Allen, 47. “I don’t feel like it makes me any safer.”

As I watched the volunteers work, I could see how organized the clinic was. Volunteers worked in four-hour shifts, staffing the airport from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. At least one attorney would remain on call overnight. Name tags were color-coded—orange meant you were an immigration attorney; green was for coordinators. A stack of clear plastic boxes tucked underneath the chairs were crammed with supplies: Post-it notes, Sharpies, Kashi bars, and intake forms. Pizza arrived around mid-afternoon, carried in by a volunteer with a white name tag.

The airport followed a rhythm: quiet at one moment, then bustling with people the next. Toward evening, a woman and her daughter came by to ask for advice. The woman’s mother was an Iranian green card holder, and though the White House eventually said it would allow green card holders to enter the country, she wanted to talk to the lawyers just in case.

Another man sitting near the clinic leaned over and told the lawyers he was grateful for their work. He said he was expecting a relative to arrive and it had been an hour since the flight landed at 4:30 p.m. Should he be worried?

After 15 minutes, the Iranian woman happily returned with her mother and filled out a quick intake form. The man’s relative also emerged from the gate. They loaded up a luggage cart, waving as they passed by. The evening volunteers’ shifts had begun. One man knelt on the ground to draw a larger “lawyer” sign on a white poster, slowly tracing the letters in black ink.

For organizers and civil rights groups, the airport legal clinics have helped lay the groundwork for future rapid-response legal efforts, showing how quickly volunteers can show up and the willingness among groups to share information and resources. Now organizers are likely to shift toward helping undocumented immigrants by providing free legal services and setting up know-your-rights trainings that can be deployed quickly.

“The legal profession as a whole is standing up,” said Wilson.

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This Is What It’s Like on the Front Lines of Trump’s Travel Ban

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America Has a Lot to Learn From This Muslim Fashion Blogger

Mother Jones

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In sixth grade, Hoda Katebi decided she would start wearing the hijab.

It was a bold move. She’s American born, but her parents immigrated from Iran. Theirs was one of few minority families—let alone Iranian ones—in her small Oklahoma town. The September 11 attacks were only about five years in the rearview mirror, and her classmates were hitting the age when kids become more aware of the world—and of their parents’ political viewpoints, which in this case leaned pretty conservative.

To some of her schoolmates, Islam seemed scary, freakish. The hijab made Katebi a target for taunts, and worse. One middle-school student, after calling her “terrorist” all day at school, punched her in the face. A few years later, in high school, a peer pulled off her hijab, demanding to see her hair. Katebi never reported the assaults. She was convinced her teachers would look the other way rather than try and defend her. It was up to her to convince people around her that she was not to be feared, and that she largely shared their values.

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries (including Iran), Katebi, now 22, finds herself in the position of having to explain her culture to people all over again. Indeed, it’s part of her job. A year out of college, she heads up communications for the Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which says Trump’s immigration order targets Muslims directly—despite the administration’s claims to the contrary. CAIR is working with lawyers and other civil rights organizations to help people who have been detained in airports or stranded overseas as a result of the ban.

But Katebi was working to bridge the gap between America and the Middle East long before CAIR hired her. In her hometown, people were always looking to her to speak on behalf of all Middle Easterners—on everything from the history of Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Their questions compelled her to study up on Muslim history and culture so she could push back against her peers’ misguided views.

Continuing discrimination led her to develop a “don’t give a shit attitude” that later gave way to a healthier outlet for her frustrations. Recognizing the power of the hijab to dictate how people viewed her, Katebi became interested in the use of clothing as a political statement. So, the summer after her freshman year at the University of Chicago, she launched a fashion blog, calling it JooJoo Azad (“Free Bird” in Farsi). “Fashion is inherently and deeply political,” Katebi writes, and not many Americans understand just how complex and diverse fashion for Muslim women can be. She told me she wanted to “yell in a productive way” and tackle the nexus of clothing, Islam, and feminism—a topic she now lectures on.

From Tehran Streetstyle Hoda Katebi

For her undergraduate thesis, Katebi chose Iran’s underground fashion scene, and she traveled to Tehran during the summer of 2015 to research the topic. The Iranian designers she met were trending toward traditional motifs and designs, but also creating pieces that technically violated the country’s Islamic dress code. Iranian law requires women to cover their heads and to dress modestly, usually keeping their torsos, waist area, and a good part of their legs covered with large, loose garments. Rules on acceptable colors fluctuate depending on who is in charge, as does the zeal of the Gashte Ershad (morality police), who enforce the rules. Punishments can range from a warning or a ticket to arrest, in extreme cases.

During her trip, as many Iranian women do, Katebi tested the limits of the dress codes. She found that the Gashte Ershad rarely enforced it, and that violations are common. One officer saw her wearing a tight crop-top shirt that didn’t cover her waist area. He simply yelled that she should “cover up,” and then he drove away, she recalls.

Alongside her thesis work, Katebi collected material for her 2016 book, Tehran Streetstyle. The designers wanted Katebi to expose their art to the rest of the world, and her Western blog audience was clamoring for a window into Iranian fashion. The result was a collection of images of a sort Americans seldom see—Iranian women clad in vibrant colors, with creative designs and trendy accessories. While Katebi and most of the designers she spoke with dislike the dress codes, their feelings are complicated. “There’s a level of resisting the hijab law, but also wanting to resist Western cultural hegemony that exists globally,” Katebi explains.

From Tehran Streetstyle. Hoda Katebi

At a time when the US government is projecting a sinister view of Islam to the public, Katebi’s work pushes in the opposite direction, helping open-minded Americans appreciate the nuances and diversity in Muslim culture. It’s been a constant tug of war, and the fact that few Americans even bother to learn the basics of Islam before forming an opinion has not made her job easier.

In fact, the rhetoric of the 2016 campaign and beyond, combined with the recent attacks in Europe and the United States, have contributed to a notable resurgence of Islamophobia here. Hate crimes against Muslims spiked 67 percent in 2015, according to FBI data, and there have been many troubling incidents since the election. In late January, as the White House issued its immigration ban, a mosque in Texas was burned down and a gunman attacked the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center in Canada, leaving six people dead and five hospitalized. President Trump, Katebi says, continues to use the same divisive rhetoric against Muslims in the name of national security that leaders employed after 9/11. “Muslims are just recovering,” she says, “from the effects of what happened in 2002.”

At least 18 people were detained at O’Hare International Airport thanks to Trump’s executive order. Protesters—including Katebi and others from CAIR—flooded the airport with signs and chants demanding that detainees be allowed access to lawyers and that they be admitted into the country. A judge issued a stay to Trump’s order, but that injunction is temporary. Organizers are still scrambling to protect people left in limbo, including a friend of Katebi’s, a Stanford doctoral student who had to cancel his flight to the United States and now can’t get back to school. For Katebi, the past week has been a nonstop work frenzy. As she put it, she’s been running on “water and Starbursts.”

While she’s encouraged by the crowds showing up at the airport to protest Trump’s immigration move, Katebi has taken to her blog to challenge misconceptions even among Americans who support Muslim immigration. Consider the viral image of the woman clad in a stars-and-stripes hijab. The artwork was intended as a show of solidarity, but Katebi pointed out that it was the work of a white (non-Muslim) man—Shepard Fairey, the same artist who did the Barack Obama “Hope” poster—and noted that the woman who modeled for the poster does not normally wear the hijab.

She also made the point that, given the fraught history of American military actions in the Middle East, the image sends a decidedly mixed message. “I understand the good intentions,” Katebi wrote, “but my liberation will not come from framing my body with a flag that has flown every time my people have fallen. And I hope yours will not either.”

As the Trump regime ramps up, Katebi is dreading the prospect of having to play teacher all over again. “Educating people on the very basics, like ‘Islam is a religion of peace; this is what I believe,’ it’s incredibly emotionally taxing!” she says. “Having to deal with all of that and be able to respond in a very polite, educational manner is harder than people think.”


America Has a Lot to Learn From This Muslim Fashion Blogger

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Crowd Packs San Francisco’s Airport: “Let the Laywers In!”

Mother Jones

Update January 29, 2:20 p.m. ET: After staying past midnight Saturday evening, protesters say they’re planning on returning to SFO again on Sunday. At least one Iranian woman who was temporarily held at the airport was released, according to NBC. SFO released a statement on Sunday saying that it shared the concerns of protesters and had requested a “full briefing” from Customs and Border Protection.

Hundreds of people rallied at San Francisco International Airport Saturday, temporarily occupying the arrivals level in protest of President Trump’s “Muslim ban.” The crowd moved into the terminal after reports circulated that six immigrants were not being allowed to leave the airport as a result of the executive order.

The crowd chanted, “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all,” and “let the lawyers in.”

Anoop Prasad, an attorney with the Bay Area-based Asian Law Caucus, told Mother Jones that he was aware of at least two US green card holders from the targeted countries who were en route to San Francisco and worried they would be detained. He said the organization had received dozens of phone calls from concerned community members about whether immigrants with legal permanent resident status would be allowed to enter the country. Prasad said he and other Asian Law Caucus members had been trying to get in touch with Customs and Border Protection officers so lawyers could talk to the families and be present for any interviews. As of Saturday night, they had yet to receive a response.

In New York, a federal judge in New York this afternoon granted an emergency stay of the order for that will allow anyone with a valid visa who was en route or in an airport when the ruling was filed to enter the US. Cheers erupted inside the San Francisco terminal when the news was announced.

Prasad said his group, too, might “seek legal options” if immigrants were not admitted. Lawyers from advocacy groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations were also the airport on standby.

“I’m happy about what happened in New York, but I wish the California governor would do something,” said Khaledh Tahan, 32, who attended the rally with her half-sister and her Syrian mother. “When I see all the different colors of people here, we feel united, powerful, like we can overcome this.”

“I hope this protest really does something,” said Rowa Alshalian, 40, who came to the US from Syria 20 years ago and joined in chants of “we are people, we are not illegal.”

Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, also joined the demonstration.

Near the airport’s Starbucks, a group of lawyers were gathered to offer legal advice. Junaid Sulahry, an immigration lawyer in San Francisco, stayed at the airport for five hours. “We’re here, our phones are ringing off the hooks, and the idea is to come where the action is. People want to send a very strong message that this country was founded on people escaping religious persecution.”

Angelo Alcid, an intellectual property lawyer, said he just couldn’t bear sitting at home.

As the evening wore on, a group of people began weaving through the crowd to hand out apples, pizza, cheeseburgers, and granola bars. The protesters were appreciative.

Protesters vowed not to leave until all those being held were released.

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Crowd Packs San Francisco’s Airport: “Let the Laywers In!”

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"No Flag to March Behind": The Amazing Story of Rio’s All-Refugee Olympic Team

Mother Jones

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Six nights a week, Popole Misenga travels by bus from a favela in the northern reaches of Rio de Janeiro to a private college on the city’s west side. The trip takes roughly two hours, and once he arrives—often beat from a day’s work loading trucks—he makes his way past the classrooms to the school’s small outdoor gym, where he slips on a heavy white judo robe, steps barefoot onto blue vinyl mats, and grapples with his workout partners until exhaustion sets in.

These days, Misenga is an Olympic-caliber athlete without a country. But before he was that, he was a member of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national team, which came to Brazil back in August 2013 to compete in the judo world championships. Misenga had survived the DRC’s devastating civil war only to suffer under its abusive coaches, who he says would punish him and his teammates for losing practice matches by denying them food for days and even locking them in a closet. (The secretary-general of the DRC’s judo federation claims this never happened.)

When the team arrived in Rio that year, things took on a new level of crazy. The head coach promptly disappeared, Misenga says, taking with him the athletes’ passports, food vouchers, and uniforms. Misenga had to borrow a competitor’s robe for his first match, which he lost in three minutes. When the coach finally returned after a three-day bender, Misenga decided he was done with his country: He would stay in Brazil as a refugee. Wandering around Rio, he began stopping every dark-skinned passerby to ask, in French, “Do you know where the Africans live?”

Misenga’s decision kicked off a chain of events that would lead the 24-year-old judoka to the cusp of competing in this summer’s Olympics as part of an inaugural all-refugee team consisting of athletes from around the world. Last October, with the Syrian migrant crisis sweeping Europe, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach announced that, for the first time, refugee athletes “having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played,” could compete in Rio 2016. The Olympic flag would be their banner.

Video by Fabio Erdos

All told, there are 43 athletes out of an estimated 20 million refugees worldwide who have been selected as potential members of Team Refugee Olympic Athletes. The IOC will announce the full team this week at its executive-board meeting; besides Misenga, the committee has publicly identified just two other contenders: taekwondo master Raheleh Asemani, an Iranian living in Belgium, and Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who lives in Germany and whose backstory is the stuff of one of those Bob Costas-narrated profiles. Last August, Mardini and her sister left Turkey on a packed boat with 18 other Syrian refugees. After the engine failed, the sisters jumped into the water and helped kick the craft three-plus hours to the Greek island of Lesbos. (Yolande Mabika, another Congolese judoka who stayed in Brazil, also hopes to make the refugee team.)

Misenga grew up during a particularly bloody time in the eastern DRC, the site of a conflict that’s been described as Africa’s world war. A rebel attack forced him to flee his home on foot as a young child, leaving his family behind. (He hasn’t seen them since.) He ended up in the capital, Kinshasa, sleeping on the street with other children before finding an orphanage. It was there, at age nine, that he was introduced to judo. The sport instantly drew him in. “People who like judo are calm,” he told me, “with respect for other people.”

We chatted in the university’s courtyard, steps away from where he trains under the guidance of 73-year-old Geraldo Bernardes, who’s been to four Olympics as coach of Brazil’s national team. The day I visited, Misenga was late to practice, and his worried coach made some calls to make sure he showed up. By the time Misenga arrived, at dusk, the training session was all but over. Bernardes lectured Misenga about not wasting his opportunity before quickly switching gears to discuss his Olympic weight class. (They decided on 198 pounds; Misenga’s stocky frame was most of the way there.)

Bernardes met Misenga through a nonprofit he’d started with Olympic medalist Flávio Canto to provide an outlet for inner-city kids. He’d seen the young judoka through a difficult transition: Early on, Misenga fought like his life depended on it, sometimes yanking his partners onto the concrete slab surrounding the mat. No wonder, Bernardes added, given the “subhuman” conditions Misenga faced back home.

While he has adapted to his training in Brazil, Misenga still struggles away from the mats—especially when it comes to money. Instituto Reação, Bernardes’ nonprofit, helps Misenga with some basics. He’s occasionally found work loading boxes onto trucks for about $11 a day, but Misenga and his Brazilian wife have four mouths to feed—a one-year-old son, plus her three kids from a previous relationship. It embarrasses him that she’s the breadwinner: “A big guy like me should be able to pay for the house.”

It doesn’t help that his friends in Brás de Pina—a favela home to Angolans, Moroccans, and some Congolese—say things like, “Do you really think they’ll let you compete? Give up this dream and get a real job.” But Misenga is holding out hope. Maybe the games will lead to a sponsorship, or at least income steady enough to pay for some new sneakers—he’s been running in a pair scavenged from the trash.

After an hour of talking, it was getting late, and Misenga’s broad shoulders were starting to slump. We walked out through the university’s gate and said our goodbyes at a nearby intersection. Misenga crossed the street and headed up a hill, off to find the first of his two buses home. He still had a long way to go.

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"No Flag to March Behind": The Amazing Story of Rio’s All-Refugee Olympic Team

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Investigation Into Sailors Captured By Iran Appears to Be Winding Down

Mother Jones

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Hey, remember those ten sailors who were briefly held by Iran a few months ago when they drifted into Iranian waters? Of course you do. Donald Trump and Fox News will never let you forget. Well, it looks like maybe the investigation is finally starting to wrap up:

The head of a riverine squadron at the center of an international incident in January was fired Thursday….Cmdr. Eric Rasch, who at the time of the Jan. 12 incident was the executive officer of the Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, was removed from his job … for what a Navy Expeditionary Combat Command release said was “a loss of confidence” in his ability to remain in command.

Cmdr. Gregory Meyer, who was commanding officer at the time of the incident, is currently with Coastal Riverine Group 1, and has been put on “administrative hold,” meaning the Navy will not transfer him out of the unit, while a high-level review of the Navy’s investigation into the incident continues, said two officials familiar with internal deliberations.

Four months seems like a long time for an investigation like this, but I suppose you can’t be too careful. In any case, if people are being fired, I assume that means the Navy is finally convinced that it has a pretty good idea of what happened.

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Investigation Into Sailors Captured By Iran Appears to Be Winding Down

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Republicans Find New $1.7 Billion Iran Chew Toy

Mother Jones

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Here’s the latest appeasement of Iran from the capitulator-in-chief:

A deal that sent $1.7 billion in U.S. funds to Iran, announced alongside the freeing of five Americans from Iranian jails, has emerged as a new flashpoint amid a claim in Tehran that the transaction amounted to a ransom payment.

The U.S. Treasury Department wired the money to Iran around the same time its theocratic government allowed three American prisoners to fly out of Tehran on Sunday aboard a Dassault Falcon jet owned by the Swiss air force.

….Republican lawmakers are calling for an inquiry….“There’s no way the recent events occurred randomly,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R. Kan.), who wrote Secretary of State John Kerry this week to ask about the payment. “We will do our best to find out if this was in our interest.”

You know, I could almost believe that this was just a coincidence. If it were really a direct payoff, both sides would have taken more care to conceal it. At least, that’s how these things usually go.

But I suppose it probably was a payoff. We would have been forced to pay out the money eventually anyway, but I guess the Iranians wanted to feel like they got the better of the Great Satan or something. And now the Republicans have something new to hold an endless series of hearings about. Everybody wins!

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Republicans Find New $1.7 Billion Iran Chew Toy

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When I Was a Prisoner in Iran, I Came to Fear the Sound of Hillary Clinton’s Voice

Mother Jones

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I rarely think about being a prisoner in Iran anymore. I’ve been free for more than four years. It’s been a long time since the sounds of hard soles on a cement floor would remind me of my interrogator or I would suddenly need to bolt from a restaurant because I couldn’t take the throngs of people after so much time in a prison cell.

Kidnapped by Iran: Read Shane Bauer’s account of how he was captured and held by Iran for more than two years.

Last Saturday, I was dripping coffee on myself during an early morning drive when I heard that four Americans were being released from Iran as part of a prisoner swap. Suddenly, my eyes welled up. I could feel the knot of excitement and confusion that had turned in my gut when my plane from Tehran hit the tarmac in Muscat, Oman, in September 2011. I pictured the way my and my friend Josh’s families looked small in the distance, their little hands waving, as we taxied toward them. I remembered the force that pulled me—running!—down the stairs of the airplane and how, at the bottom, I laughed and cried at the same time. Everyone else did too.

I was elated for these men and their families.

Later, the joy was tempered by an old, familiar frustration. While scouring the internet for updates on the four Americans, I read that shortly after their release, Hillary Clinton called for new sanctions on Iran for testing two ballistic missiles last year. I was shocked. The prisoners had not yet been let out of the country. Why would she provoke Iran when their freedom was still on the line?

I remembered sitting in my cell in 2009—I think I was trying to memorize a family tree from Greek mythology or something equally random—when I heard then-Secretary of State Clinton’s voice from a television in a neighboring cell. I ran to the door and pressed my ear into its little window. She was commanding Iran to release us immediately. My heart sank. I imagined my interrogator bringing me into his padded room, blindfolded, and ranting about how Iran would not be bossed around by America, “The Great Satan.” I came to fear the sound of Clinton’s voice. Whenever I heard her publicly slam Iran about something, I would mentally prepare for at least another couple of months in prison.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Many of our family members grew frustrated with their meetings with her and White House officials. My wife, Sarah, who was released a year before Josh and I were, shared this frustration. Once, during a meeting with us in the prison, Swiss Ambassador Livia Leu, who represented American interests in Iran, broke from her usual reassuring demeanor and said, “They will never respond to your government demanding they release you. They need to talk to the Iranians.”

Then there was Salem Al Ismaily. He was the envoy from Oman, the country most responsible for our eventual release. “No one wanted dialogue to happen,” he said to me recently. “Not Iranians. Not the US.” Our freedom was part of a larger calculus for Oman. Sitting at the mouth of the Persian Gulf just a couple hundred miles from Iran, Oman’s government believed that if tensions between Iran and the United States escalated to the point of military conflict, it would damage its economy—or worse. Salem believed that if he could get the two countries to negotiate over our case, it would provide an opening for talks on Iran’s nuclear program. To call what ended up happening in our case “negotiation” would be a stretch: It mostly took the form of Salem flying between Washington, DC, and Tehran to convince each side to do something, or sending messages to the White House through Sarah after her release.

Shane Bauer, left, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd after meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in October 2011 AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

This was not gratifying work. On one occasion, Sarah passed on a message from the Iranian government to Special Assistant to the President Dennis Ross, saying that if President Barack Obama would write a letter to then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad describing a general wish to improve relations between the two countries—without naming specific measures—then Iran would release us. Ross called it a “non-starter.” The two sides didn’t speak directly to each other, but it was through this channel that the groundwork for nuclear talks were ultimately laid.

During Salem’s efforts to free us, he was repeatedly frustrated by Clinton. “Why can’t your Hillary just keep quiet?” he blurted to me once, in a break of his characteristic poise, on a visit to Evin Prison. It was a paternalistic sounding outburst, but the stakes were high. He believed he was going to be bringing us home with him on that occasion. He said he was so close to convincing the Iranians, but they backed out at the last minute after another blustery statement by Clinton.

So far as we know, the extent of Clinton’s role in our ordeal was limited to making public demands and speaking to our families. In fact, there isn’t evidence of much action from the US government on our case. Two years ago, I filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the State Department, CIA, and FBI for records on our case. I received some records only after suing. The lawsuit is ongoing, but the records I have received over the last year indicate State Department officials did little beyond meeting with our families and receiving news reports from staffers.

Thankfully, the United States’ relationship with Iran has improved since then. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly speaks regularly with his Iranian counterpart. A monumental agreement over the nuclear issue is in place and the international sanctions on Iran’s oil and finances have been lifted. The tension is easing, and the release of these four Americans is further proof of that.

For years, Iran has operated a revolving door of American captives; one gets released and then another is picked up. Amir Hekmati was arrested just days before Josh and I were released. The charges against these captives are inevitably bogus and the reasons for their detention are always political. My interrogator was frank about that: After two months of blindfolded interrogations, he told me he knew I was innocent, but that our release was dependent on political negotiations. The correct term for people in that situation is “hostages.”

It’s too soon to say whether the era of Iranian hostage taking is over. The unjust imprisonment of innocent people will always be Iran’s responsibility, and it’s up to its government to end it. But we don’t need to make things worse. Right after these four Americans flew out of Iran, the Obama administration announced it would be applying new sanctions on Iran—the same sanctions Clinton had called for. It had been planning to do this, it turns out, for some time, something the former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic nominee was likely aware of. To be sure, these sanctions, which target just a few individuals and small companies that send crucial technologies to Iran, are nothing like the ones that were just lifted. The old ones cost Iran $30 million a day, draining its economy and weighing on the lives of regular Iranians, many of whom oppose their government. But these sanctions send the wrong signal. There may have been a time when they would have made sense as a way of putting pressure on Tehran. But if our goal is to move forward with Iran, the day after such a breakthrough is the wrong time.

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When I Was a Prisoner in Iran, I Came to Fear the Sound of Hillary Clinton’s Voice

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Donald and Sarah Barnstorm Iowa

Mother Jones

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Oh God. I know I shouldn’t do this. I know I shouldn’t post snippets from Sarah Palin’s endorsement speech for Donald Trump just because they amuse me. But I’m weak. So, so weak. Can you find it in your hearts to forgive me? Please please please? Thanks. Here goes:

On national security: I’m in it, because just last week, we’re watching our sailors suffer and be humiliated on a world stage at the hands of Iranian captors in violation of international law, because a weak-kneed, capitulator-in-chief has decided America will lead from behind. And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, “No, America would apologize as part of the deal,” as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, “Thank you, enemy.”

Ed note: Actually, our sailors violated Iranian waters and were released after 16 hours. Nobody in the Obama administration apologized for anything.

On Islam: Are you ready for a commander-in-chief, you ready for a commander-in-chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS ass?….And you quit footin’ the bill for these nations who are oil-rich, we’re paying for some of their squirmishes that have been going on for centuries. Where they’re fightin’ each other and yellin’ “Allah Akbar” calling Jihad on each other’s heads for ever and ever. Like I’ve said before, let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out.

Ed note: Um, which is it? Is Trump going to kick ISIS ass or is he going to withdraw and let Allah sort it out?

On Donald Trump’s family values: Oh, I just hope you guys get to know him more and more as a person, and a family man. What he’s been able to accomplish, with his um, it’s kind of this quiet generosity. Yeah, maybe his largess kind of, I don’t know, some would say gets in the way of that quiet generosity, and, uh, his compassion, but if you know him as a person and you’ll get to know him more and more, you’ll have even more respect.

Ed note: Actually, Trump married a model; started an affair with a younger actress; dumped the model; married the actress; started an affair with an even younger model; dumped the actress; and then married model #2. There’s no telling how long this one will last.

On Trump’s fiscal rectitude: He, being an optimist, passionate about equal-opportunity to work. The self-made success of his, you know that he doesn’t get his power, his high, off of OPM, other people’s money, like a lot of dopes in Washington do. They’re addicted to OPM, where they take other people’s money, and then their high is getting to redistribute it, right?

Ed note: Actually, Donald Trump loves other people’s money. That’s why he’s been involved in no less than four bankruptcies: because he borrowed lots of other people’s money and then squandered it.

On her future career as a hip hop artist:

No, we’re not going to chill. In fact it’s time to drill, baby, drill down.
Cops and cooks, you rockin’ rollers and holy rollers!
Right wingin’, bitter clingin’, proud clingers of our guns, our god, and our religion….Tell us that we’re not red enough?
Yes the status quo has got to go….Their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged. It must be savaged.
The main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing….He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge.

Ed note: Not bad! Let Dre produce and she might have something here.

OK, that should hold me for another year or so.

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Donald and Sarah Barnstorm Iowa

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