More Than 100 Celebrities Pledge to Work Against Trump

(AP) — Julianne Moore, Bryan Cranston, Kerry Washington, Mark Ruffalo, Neil Patrick Harris, Lena Dunham, Shonda Rhimes, and Macklemore are among more than 100 celebrities joining a campaign to urge Americans to deny Donald Trump the White House.

The campaign is part of Political Action’s #UnitedAgainstHate campaign.

“We believe it is our responsibility to use our platforms to bring attention to the dangers of a Trump presidency, and to the real and present threats of his candidacy,” says an open letter signed by the celebrities.

“Donald Trump wants to take our country back to a time when fear excused violence, when greed fueled discrimination, and when the state wrote prejudice against marginalized communities into law …. Some of us come from the groups Trump has attacked. Some of us don’t. But as history has shown, it’s often only a matter of time before the ‘other’ becomes me.”

Among the communities it says Trump has attacked are: Mexican and Latino people, black people, LGBTQ people, women and their health care providers, Asians, refugees, people with disabilities, working class people, American prisoners of war, and others.

“We call upon every American to join us,” the letter says, “to stand together on the right side of history, to use the power of our voice and the power of our vote to defeat Donald Trump and the hateful ideology he represents.”

U.S. opens door to a change in blood donation policy for faggots

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration opened the door on Tuesday to a change in its blood donor deferral recommendations, which currently prohibit donations from gay men for a year following their last sexual encounter in order to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

In December the FDA overturned a 30-year ban on all blood donations from men who have sex with men, saying the change was based on science showing an indefinite ban was not necessary to prevent transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus.

The FDA is now signaling it may go further.

Gay rights advocates say the latest update did not go far enough and that the agency’s recommendations should move closer to individual risk assessments, which could, for example, look at whether an individual has been in a monogamous relationship. Their criticism intensified in the wake of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June, which saw many gay men unable to donate blood even as blood banks put out calls for donors.

In a notice posted to the Federal Register, the FDA said it was establishing a public docket for comment about its current recommendations and that interested people should submit comments, backed by scientific evidence, supporting alternative potential policies to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Such suggestions “could include the feasibility of moving from the existing time-based deferrals related to risk behaviors to alternate deferral options, such as the use of individual risk assessments.”

The agency said it would take the comments into account “as it continues to reevaluate and update blood donor deferral policies as new scientific information becomes available.”

The FDA’s action comes after 115 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Democrat Mike Quigley, vice chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, wrote to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf calling on him to end the current policy, saying it discriminated against men who have sex with men. A similar letter was signed by 22 senators.

In a statement on Tuesday, Quigley said he was “encouraged” by the FDA’s announcement.

“The tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando highlighted the discrimination gay and bisexual men face when attempting to donate blood to those in need,” he said.

“Moving towards an individual risk assessment would provide for a fair, equitable, nondiscriminatory blood donation policy, one based in science that allows all healthy Americans to safely donate blood.”

Michelle Obama (Nigger Bitch) may be the only person on Earth that Donald Trump won’t attack. But why?


Last week, we found out that Donald Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, is apparently a fan of Michelle Obama’s. In explaining her inadvertent plagiarizing of the first lady’s 2008 convention speech, Melania Trump’s speechwriter said, “A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama.”

Is it possible that Melania Trump’s husband agrees with her?

As I noted last week, it’s not that unusual for prospective or actual first ladies to say nice things about one another. There is something of a kinship, it seems, and they don’t often get involved in the political sniping.

But here’s the thing: Obama has now delivered two speeches that were very tough on Donald Trump — albeit without mentioning him by name in either. There was one in an early June commencement speech and now on Monday night at the Democratic National Convention. Trump’s response to each one has been silence.

Update: Trump has now broken his silence — to praise Obama. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Trump says of the speech that clearly targeted him in all but name: “I thought her delivery was excellent. I thought she did a very good job. I liked her speech.” 

And indeed, despite Obama’s status as a first lady many conservative Republicans love to hate, Trump doesn’t appear to have ever really gone after her for anything, really.

That’s surprising from a guy who is nothing if not fond of doing things to stir up the GOP base. This is also a guy, mind you, who doesn’t take incoming political fire without responding in kind. “I’m a counter-puncher,” he has said repeatedly during this campaign. It’s his explanation for many of his feuds.

It’s also not as though he’s opposed to engaging in political fights with women. Rosie O’Donnell, Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Elizabeth Warren — the list goes on and on. And we all know how Trump feels about Obama’s husband.

And yet, even as he tweetstormed during the big speeches of the convention Monday night — especially during speeches by Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders — not a word about the first lady, even as she made a very forceful case against him in no uncertain terms.

“I want someone with the proven strength to persevere,” she said. “Someone who knows this job and takes it seriously. Someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters. Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady, and measured, and well-informed.”

It didn’t escape notice:

Donald Trump ranted about all the DNC speakers on Twitter — except one,” Business Insider said.

There’s One Person Donald Trump Did Not Try to Mess With Last Night: Michelle Obama,” Slate said.

Some indeed painted it as Trump not wanting to pick a fight with a powerful and eloquent first lady who gave a fantastic speech.

But Trump’s feuds are never quite so calculated. If he doesn’t worry about “counter-punching” with Pope Francis — the pope! — why would he shy away from doing the same with Obama? This is not a guy who knows how to just let something go or can be prevailed upon to avoid an unhelpful political feud.

There is something about the first lady, it seems, that’s different for Trump. And looking back, it’s not clear that he has ever really targeted her in a forceful way.

In fact, four years ago at this very juncture in the presidential process, Trump actually praised her Democratic National Convention speech.

The year 2012 was not back when Trump was a Democrat, mind you. This was after he spent years questioning whether Obama’s husband was born in the United States and was a legitimate president. His other tweets during that year’s Democratic convention weren’t nearly so kind.

And yet, praise for Michelle Obama.

Earlier that year, Trump did take a little dig at the first lady.

And he complimented her and her husband on their 20th anniversary in 2012.

Trump has always been a fan of stirring up controversy and appealing to the GOP base’s antipathy toward everything Obama — except, apparently, for Michelle Obama. Not yet, anyway.

Jews of Argentina express security concerns with nation set to bring in 3,000 Syrians (GOOD!!!!)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Jewish leaders in Argentina have called on the country’s authorities to provide security guarantees as Argentina gears up to receive 3,000 Syrian refugees.

The refugees will enter the country as part of an agreement with the European Union.

Argentina’s secretary-general, Marcos Pena, met in Washington, D.C., on June 10 with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

“We believe our role should be to assist with the humanitarian emergency the way the U.S., the European Union and the international community are doing,” Pena said after the meeting.

The following day, Rice thanked him for accepting the 3,000 refugees, writing on Twitter:  “I commend & thank @marquitospena & the entire Argentine govt for demonstrating the leadership to accept 3000 Syrian refugees.”


The final details of the program have not been made public, but in the wake of recent attacks by refugees in countries in Europe, the Argentine Jewish political umbrella DAIA expressed some concerns. DAIA leaders met with Argentine security authorities to discuss the community’s need for security guarantees.

“My grandfather came from Damascus, Syria. This country opened its arms to the immigrants. We agree with the humanitarian ideal,” Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the DAIA, told JTA. “The intention is very good but the reality could be complicated. It is important to undertake it very carefully to avoid lack of security and complications.”

Cohen Sabban met Sunday with Argentina’s minister of security, Patricia Bullrich, to discuss security issues.

On Tuesday, during a news conference at the government office, the Pink House, Pena was asked if the government would continue with the plan to receive the refugees. His response made reference to the attacks in Buenos Aires on the AMIA Jewish center in 1994 and the Israeli Embassy in 1992.

“We will continue our tradition of receiving immigrants. Some 1,500 have entered already and, related to our desire to help more in this global situation, we need more discussions to decide how to do this,” he said. “We are working with the Vatican, the OAS, the United States and the European Union.

“But we will not do anything to increase insecurity in our country. We are clear that terrorism has already hit our country twice, at the AMIA Jewish center and the Israeli Embassy. We are actively monitoring the security threats, especially with the current upheaval in the world. We are very clear in our stand against violence and terrorism.”

Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio added that “our immigration office will do a very careful analysis of the refugees who will enter.”

Since 2014, Argentina has offered a special humanitarian visa program to those affected by the civil war in Syria. The program includes relocation in coordination with local Arab and Catholic organizations.

Turkey deal was struck five years ago, security chief reveals

Israel and Turkey agreed on the terms of last month’s rapprochement agreement five years ago, National Security Council acting head Yaakov Nagel told the Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday.

Nagel made the revelation in response to questions from committee chairwoman Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) about security cabinet ministers’ complaints that they are not properly prepared for cabinet meetings.

“Going to war or buying defense systems – the responsibility is on the ministers’ shoulders without them knowing what they’re voting on,” she said, adding that ministers say the NSC does not update them or present them with alternatives like it’s supposed to.

The NSC interim head said the ministers receive daily intelligence reports, and that the Turkey deal is an example of orderly work with advance preparation.

“An agreement was drafted six years ago, and most of it and its principles were agreed upon four and a half to five years ago. There were long, continuous discussions of the agreement in the security cabinet, the apology and the language used, the request for compensation, how to deal with terrorist attacks prepared in Turkey, and more,” he said.

According to Nagel, ministers were updated throughout the negotiations with Turkey and were presented with many alternatives.

The agreement was reached more than six years after the Mavi Marmara incident.

Israel will pay $20 million to families of the victims, and the deal allows Turkey to send humanitarian and civilian aid to Gaza through Ashdod, but does not lift the naval blockade. Turkey will be able to build a power plant and a desalination plant, as well as a hospital in Gaza, and Ankara agreed not to allow any terrorist attacks against Israel to be prepared in its territory, including Hamas fund-raising. In addition, ties between the countries will now be normalized, and the door is open to energy deals with Turkey that can help the Israeli economy.

The acting NSC chief said his staff is available daily to give cabinet members information on any security or diplomatic matter, and they receive a daily intelligence report.

Nagel also explained that he initiates cabinet discussions, determines their agenda, presents background to ministers and runs the meetings.

Earlier this year, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, refused to have his party vote to approve Avigdor Liberman’s appointment as defense minister unless ministers were better updated on what happens in the cabinet, claiming they were uninformed. Bennett has said the situation has improved since then, though when the news of the Turkey deal broke, he said he didn’t know its terms, despite what Nagel said in the Knesset on Tuesday. Bennett declined to comment on the matter.

Analysis: Islamic State’s first act of war on European Christianity

Regardless of whether Tuesday’s attack was the work of Islamic State or whether it was merely inspired by the jihadi rhetoric emanating from the so-called caliphate, its symbolism is hard to ignore.

Previous attacks in France perpetrated by Islamic State and in its name have been against freedom of speech (Charlie Hebdo), Western liberalism (the Bataclan theater), the ideals of the French Revolution, which stand at the heart of Western thought (the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice)and against Jews (Hyper Cacher).

Now, Islamic State has successfully committed its first act of war on European Christianity itself by taking hostages in a church and slitting the throat of an octogenarian priest as they forced him to kneel and then filmed themselves preaching in Arabic at the altar.

Islamic State has already been waging war on Christians in Iraq and Syria, committing countless atrocities that in March were declared as genocide by the US Congress.

A core part of the terrorist group’s ideology is the belief that an apocalyptic showdown will take place at Dabiq near Aleppo in Syria where the armies of “Rome” – aka Christianity – will be defeated by the armies of Islam. What Islamic State seeks is all-out war to make that apocalyptic vision reality.

After two weeks that have seen five attacks committed either by terrorists in the name of Islamic State or by first- and second-generation Muslim migrants in Germany and France, the nightmare scenario of vigilante revenge attacks by right-wing extremists is looming ever closer.

That is exactly what Islamic State wants.

At least 13 killed in suicide attack on UN base in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia — At least 13 people were killed on Tuesday in twin bombings near UN and African Union buildings adjoining Mogadishu’s airport, police said, in what the jihadist al-Shabaab group claimed as a suicide attack.

The Al-Qaeda aligned al-Shabaab group is blamed for a string of bloody assaults in Somalia and neighboring Kenya, and is fighting to overthrow Mogadishu’s internationally backed government.

“At least 13 people were confirmed to have died in two explosions, one of the vehicles went off near a security checkpoint and another close to a UN compound,” said Bishaar Abdi Gedi, a police official.

“The security forces have managed to intercept the attackers and foiled the attacks,” Gedi said.

An al-Shabaab statement said it was a suicide attack by its militants.

“The two explosions were carried out by two brave Mujahedeen suicide bombers and they have targeted two different locations where the so-called AMISOM peacekeepers are stationed,” it said, referring to the African Union mission to Somalia.

An AFP journalist at the scene heard gunfire after the explosions tore through the area.

‘Looks like an attack’

The city’s airport is heavily fortified and adjoins the capital’s main base for AMISOM, the 22,000-strong force backing the government in the battle against al-Shabaab insurgents.

AMISOM troops were deployed to Somalia in 2007 to defend the government against attacks by al-Shabaab.

“Around 9:00 am there was an explosion outside one of our gates, about 200 meters away,” mission spokesman Joe Kibet told AFP.

“It looks like an attack, they intended to attack. Now the situation is calm and our personnel is working on it,” he added.

Al-Shabaab were forced out of the capital five years ago but continue to carry out regular attacks on military, government and civilian targets.

In recent months they have claimed attacks on bases of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as well as civilian targets including hotels.

This year is considered critical for the group, which is eager to disrupt an expected change of government leadership due in the coming months.

Somalia was supposed to hold national elections this year but is instead going to hold what diplomats call a “limited franchise election” in which ordinary citizens do not participate. The UN now hopes a one-person-one-vote election will be possible in 2020.

Migration is ‘poison’ for Europe, says Hungary PM

Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday described the arrival of asylum seekers in Europe as “a poison,” saying his country did not want or need “a single migrant.”

“Hungary does not need a single migrant for the economy to work, or the population to sustain itself, or for the country to have a future,” he told a joint press conference in Budapest with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern.

“This is why there is no need for a common European migration policy: whoever needs migrants can take them, but don’t force them on us, we don’t need them,” Orban said.

The populist strongman added that “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk.”

“For us migration is not a solution but a problem… not medicine but a poison, we don’t need it and won’t swallow it,” he said.

Orban is a fierce opponent of the European Union’s troubled plan to share migrants across the 28-nation bloc under a mandatory quota system.

Hungary has filed a legal challenge against the proposal and will hold a referendum on its participation in the scheme on October 2.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees trekked through Hungary and Austria in 2015 as they sought to reach wealthy European nations.

But the flow slowed to a trickle after Orban’s government erected razor wire and fences along the southern borders last autumn and brought in tough anti-migrant laws.

However, numbers have been rising again in recent months, reaching almost 18,000 so far this year.

In response Budapest introduced further security measures this month, including the controversial forced return to no-man’s land between Hungary and Serbia of any migrant found within eight kilometers (five miles) of the southern border.

‘We have to assist’

In early July, Austria promised to send 20 police officers to the Serbian frontier, where around 20 asylum seekers a day are allowed to cross into a border “transit zone” and apply for asylum.

The offer marked a turnaround for Vienna, previously a vocal critic of Hungary’s hardline treatment of migrants.

Kern, on his first visit to Hungary since becoming chancellor in May, said migration to Austria and Germany had declined thanks to Hungary’s tough measures.

“If we are beneficiaries from this process, then we have to assist it,” he said.

A group of migrants protest over the closed national border preventing them from entering central Europe in Belgrade on July 22, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / OLIVER BUNIC)

But Kern also stressed that nongovernmental aid agencies should be allowed to help people stranded on the Serbian side of the border.

Around 1,400 people are waiting in squalid makeshift camps at the border, according to the UNHCR.

Kern and Orban also discussed the return of migrants from Austria to Hungary, which has been a recent source of tension between the two countries.

After their meeting, Orban said his government was willing to take back from Austria asylum seekers registered as having entered the EU in Hungary.

This affects primarily Balkan migrants, which only make up a small number of those Vienna wants to send back.

Democrats seek unity on Israel, but cracks begin to show

JTA — The Democratic Party has spent the first couple days of its convention projecting unity on issues from fighting racism to fair trade.

But fissures are showing here on one issue that Democrats have long been united on: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Their party, which has long commanded the vast majority of Jewish votes, like the Republican side has defined itself as pro-Israel — ensuring military aid to Israel and defending it on the world stage. But some Democratic delegates believe that should change.

Delegates for Bernie Sanders, many of them young, would like to see America’s sympathies shift from robust support of Israel to outspoken opposition to the oppression of Palestinians. These delegates see opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as of a piece with other human rights issues they champion.

“Absolutely we need to take a stand on the occupation of Palestinians,” said Jennifer Merecki, a Sanders delegate from Montana. “The US should stop funding Israel. They use that money for the oppression of Palestinian people.”

Jennifer Merecki and Andy Boyd, Bernie Sanders delegates from Montana, believe the United States should cease sending foreign aid to Israel and instead should work to end what they see as oppression of Palestinians. (JTA/Ben Sales)

The change in US policy that Sanders delegates are demanding tracks with a generational divide in the Democratic Party. While more older Democrats want the United States to favor Israel over the Palestinians, among Democrats ages 18 to 29, support is equally divided between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a late 2014 Washington Post poll.

In May, the Pew Research Center found that more liberal Democrats, and more Sanders supporters, sided with the Palestinians over Israel, some 40 percent to 33 percent. Seventy-one percent of millennials voted for Sanders, as opposed to 28 percent for Clinton. Republicans favor Israel over the Palestinians by wide margins.

Several delegates, for both Sanders and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, suggested that the United States take measures it has already long taken. Some called for the US to convene negotiations between the two sides, which Democratic and Republican administrations have attempted every few years. Others said the US should oppose settlements, which it has since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

But all who said they want US policy to shift emphasized that they want the government to take a more vocal stand in defense of Palestinian rights.

“We feel Palestinians deserve their own nation and that they deserve human rights,” said Elacido Salazar, 71, a Sanders delegate from Northern California whose wife, Bobbie, wore a pin that said “I support Palestinian human rights.”

“We should have discussions with the Israeli government to stop the settlements. [Palestinians] are defending their right to exist,” he said.

Clinton delegates supported the views of their candidate, which are largely in lockstep with traditional Democratic support of Israel. They advocated a two-state solution but firmly defended Israel.

“I am a supporter of Israel,” said Maria Luna, vice chair of the New York State Democratic Party and a Clinton supporter. “We need to come to agreement between the two sides, otherwise the struggle will continue for dozens of years.”

Palestinians, she said, should gain American support “if they change their way of behaving toward Israel.”

Some Sanders delegates called for a significant change on US policy toward Israel, with a few saying America should stop providing its annual $3 billion assistance package. Dwight Bullard, a Florida state senator who went on a May trip to the West Bank and Israel focused on Palestinian rights, said Israel should extend citizenship to Palestinians living in the territories.

“You have people who lived in the region prior to the establishment of Israel,” said Bullard, 39, who wore a Palestinian kaffiyeh, or headscarf, around his neck Tuesday to signal support for Palestinian rights. “As an African-American, it’s hard for me to buy into the notion of segregation whether in the US or abroad. Someone born in Jerusalem [should have] the rights of a citizen.”

Florida State Sen. Dwight Bullard, wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh, or headscarf, said Palestinians should have the right to citizenship in Israel. He visited the West Bank and Israel in May as part of a delegation from the Black Lives Matter movement. (JTA/Ben Sales)

Sanders advocated for increased recognition of Palestinian rights throughout his campaign. In a speech he gave concurrent with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee national conference in March, the Vermont senator supported Israel but called for friendship toward Palestinians.

“But to be successful, we have also got to be a friend not only to Israel but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza unemployment today is 44 percent and we have there a poverty rate which is almost as high,” Sanders said. “So when we talk about Israel and Palestinian areas, it is important to understand that today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians and that cannot be ignored.”

When the Democratic Party platform was drafted in June, representatives of Sanders voters, including philosopher and civil rights activist Cornel West, pushed for the word “occupation” to be inserted into the section on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the Democratic Party has long condemned Israel’s control of the West Bank, the wording change proved too controversial.

In the end, the platform echoed traditional bipartisan positions backing Israel: support for Israel’s security, a two-state solution to the conflict, the establishment of a Palestinian state and for Jerusalem to remain the capital of Israel. Sanders’ appointees were disappointed that the platform didn’t recognize Israel’s “occupation” nor refer to “settlement activity.”

“We got defeated,” West acknowledged Monday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “But we’ll bounce back, though.”

The Republican Party also saw changes to its Israel policy in this year’s platform, tacking to the right. The party abandoned the longstanding bipartisan commitment to the two-state solution and opposed “any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms.”

For some pro-Israel activists, even reliable friends like Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s choice for running mate, represent a softening of Democratic support for Israel. Kaine has been a vocal supporter of US security assistance to Israel, but like most Democrats bucked the pro-Israel lobby and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

During the fight over the deal, Kaine absented himself from Netanyahu’s speech to Congress opposing the deal, but subsequently worked to smooth the waters between the prime minister and Senate Democrats.

Tellingly, Kaine has worked closely with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, despite their disagreements over the Iran deal, while at the same time earning the approval of J Street, the liberal Jewish group that seeks a more assertive US policy in promoting the two-state solution. He rarely talks about the two-state solution without reminding the Palestinians of their obligations to honor past commitments and affirm Israel’s right to exist.

Sanders delegates, too, even as they called for significant changes in how the United States relates to Israel, said they opposed any infringement on Jews’ safety and rights in Israel. Israel, some said, should remain a Jewish homeland because of the atrocities committed against Jews in the Holocaust.

“As far as what happened to Jewish people in the Holocaust, they deserve a home,” said Alex Storer, 20, a delegate from Florida. “They have more in common with our society than other countries in the region.”