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Israeli military admits Shireen Abu Akleh likely killed by Israeli fire​​​​, but won’t charge soldiers

The Israel Defense Forces have ​admitted for the first time that there is a “high possibility” Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed by Israeli fire while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin in May, the IDF announced Monday.

“[I]t appears that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh. However, there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen during an exchange of fire,” the IDF said in a statement.
But the Israeli military does not intend to pursue criminal charges or prosecutions of any of the soldiers involved, IDF’s Military Advocate General’s Office said Monday in a separate statement.
“After a comprehensive examination of the incident, and based on all the findings presented, the Military Advocate General determined that under the circumstances of the incident, despite the dire result — the death of Ms. Abu Akleh and Mr. Samudi’s injury — there was no suspicion of a criminal offense that warrants the opening of an MPCID investigation,” the statement said. Abu Akleh’s producer Ali al-Samoudi was wounded in the incident.
“The decision was based on the findings of the review, which determined that IDF soldiers only aimed fire at those who were identified as armed terrorists during the incident. As such, there was no suspicion that a bullet was fired deliberately at anyone identified as a civilian and in particular at anyone identified as a journalist,” the statement said.
A senior IDF official who briefed journalists on the findings ​of the military’s investigation before they were released said the IDF troops did not know they were shooting at the press​, and said that Abu Akleh’s back “probably” being turned to the soldiers was a contributing factor. In images from the scene of the shooting, Abu Akleh is wearing a protective vest that is labeled “PRESS” on both the front and back.
“When they were firing in that direction, the soldiers were not aware they were firing at journalists. They thought they were firing at militants firing at them,” the IDF official said.
A CNN investigation in May unearthed evidence — including two videos of the scene of the shooting — that there was no active combat, nor any Palestinian militants, near Abu Akleh in the moments leading up to her death. Footage obtained by CNN, corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, an audio forensic analyst and an explosive weapons expert, suggested that Israeli forces intentionally took aim at Abu Akleh.
Al Jazeera, Abu Akleh’s employer, has consistently asserted that the Israeli military is responsible for her death. The network condemned the IDF investigation, saying the delay of more than 100 days since the shooting “is intended to evade the criminal responsibility it bears for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh.”
“Al Jazeera denounces the Israeli occupation army’s lack of frank recognition of its crime. The network calls for an independent international party to investigate the crime of the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh, in order to accomplish justice for Shireen, her family and fellow journalists around the world,” the network said in a statement.
When asked about investigations, including CNN’s, that found no militants near Abu Akleh when she was shot, the IDF official said: “It is our estimate that there were militants in the vicinity of Ms. Abu Abkleh. Maybe not one meter beside her but they were in that area​,” but the official did not provide evidence to support that claim.​
“When the soldier made that decision, it was a blink of a decision,” the official said. “The soldier did not intend to injure an Al Jazeera journalist or [journalist] from any other network.”
“The soldier is sorry, and I am sorry. This was not supposed to happen and it should not happen. He did not do this on purpose,” the official said. ​He did not name the soldier.
In Monday’s briefing with reporters, the senior IDF official said the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was too badly damaged to be able to identify which gun fired it, the same conclusion a US-led forensic investigation came to.
However, the IDF has concluded that the soldier who likely fired the fatal shot was to the south of Abu Akleh in an armored military vehicle with limited range of sight, did not identify Abu Akleh as a journalist and thought he was shooting at militants.
The official said soldiers in the area had been under fire “for an hour and fifteen minutes” before Abu Akleh was killed.
Asked why the gunfire appeared to continue even after Abu Akleh fell, the official said they counted no more than seven bullets fired after she was shot. There were Israeli drones filming during the operation, the official said, but not in a high enough resolution to be able to see the fatal shot.
In the initial aftermath of Abu Akleh’s death, Israeli officials first posited that it was likely indiscriminate Palestinian militant gunfire that killed her, before acknowledging it was possible Israeli gunfire was responsible for her death.
In their report on Monday, the IDF left open the possibility that Abu Akleh “was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen toward the direction of the area in which she was present.”
According to the Palestinian autopsy, Abu Akleh was killed by a single bullet to the back of the head.
Shireen Abu Akleh’s family slammed the IDF investigation, saying Israel had “refused to take responsibility for murdering Shireen,” and called for an independent US investigation.
The report “tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility for killing Shireen Abu Akleh, our aunt, sister, best friend, journalist, and a Palestinian American,” the family said in a statement sent to CNN.
“We’ve known for over 4 months now that an Israeli soldier shot and killed Shireen as countless investigations conducted by CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, Al-Haq, B’tselem, the United Nations, and others have all concluded,” the statement said.
“And yet, as expected, Israel has refused to take responsibility for murdering Shireen. Our family is not surprised by this outcome since it’s obvious to anyone that Israeli war criminals cannot investigate their own crimes. However, we remain deeply hurt, frustrated, and disappointed.”
“Since Shireen was killed our family has called for a thorough, independent, and credible US investigation that leads to accountability, which is the bare minimum the US government should do for one of their own citizens. We will continue to demand that the US government follow through with its stated commitments to accountability. Accountability requires action.”
In a statement Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price welcomed the IDF review and stressed “the importance of accountability in this case, such as policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”
“Our thoughts remain with the Abu Akleh family as they grieve this tremendous loss — and with the many others worldwide who brought Shireen and her news reports into their homes for more than two decades,” Price said. “Not only was Shireen an American citizen, she was a fearless reporter whose journalism and pursuit of truth earned her the respect of audiences around the world.”
In July the United States found that gunfire from the Israeli military was “likely responsible” for the killing of Abu Akleh, although an examination overseen by the US of the bullet “could not reach a definitive conclusion” on its origin due to the condition of the bullet.
The US Security Coordinator — who leads an inter-agency team that coordinates with the Israeli government and the PA — “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel,” according to a statement at the time from the State Department.
The IDF has been carrying out regular raids in the West Bank, especially in the Jenin area, targeting what it says are militants and weapons caches. The raid in Jenin when Abu Akleh was killed came shortly after a months-long wave of attacks by Palestinians that left 19 Israelis and foreigners dead. Some of the suspected assailants of those attacks were from Jenin, according to the Israeli military.

Paul Kagame is seen by some as a liberator. But critics say Rwanda is only safe for those who toe the line

For decades, Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist in the mold of the archetypal strongman African leader.

Under his rule, the East African country has emerged from the ruins of a devastating 1994 genocide that left nearly one million people dead to be hailed by Western allies as the model for growth in Africa.
In recent years, the country has forged a strong and financially rewarding alliance with Asian powerhouse China, which is also known for its authoritarian rule.
The US and the UK have also supported Rwanda with aid nobull shoes donations for many years, and US diplomat Tibor Nagy once described the country as “demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
“In the past 25 years, Rwanda has reimagined itself as a strong state that invests in good governance and the success of its people,” the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said on his first visit to Rwanda in 2019. “In many ways, Rwanda is demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
Controversial UK deportation flight to Rwanda grounded after all asylum-seekers removed
In a recent meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, the US acknowledged it still had a strong bilateral partnership with Rwanda but also raised concerns about human rights in the country.
In a report last year detailing human rights practices in Rwanda, the US State Department identified “significant human rights issues” that range from “unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government” to “forced disappearance by the government,” among others.
Critics say the successes of Kagame’s authoritarian rule have come at the expense of human rights in the country.
Rwanda is this week hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the capital Kigali, the first gathering of Commonwealth leaders in four years. Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are among world leaders attending.
The UK is ermerging as one of Rwanda’s strongest allies and PM Johnson said in interviews from CHOGM that criticism of Rwanda is based on “stereotypes of Rwanda that is now outdated.” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel recently brokered a £120 million ($147m) deal with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the East African country, an accord that hangs in the balance after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
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Patel described Rwanda as “a safe haven for refugees” as the UK vowed to push ahead with the controversial scheme.

‘No safe haven’

Far from being a “safe haven” for refugees as claimed by Patel and others in the UK government, Rwanda has been accused by human rights groups of treating refugees badly.
In 2018, at least 11 Congolese refugees were killed when Rwandan police opened fire at the Kiziba refugee camp and Karongi town as refugees protested cuts to their food rations, Amnesty International reported at the time. Rwandan authorities told CNN the country’s police resorted to shooting to control a group of violent protesters and said it was an isolated incident.
Rwanda had previously received refugees from Israel.
According to Israeli media, some of the refugees deported to Rwanda between 2014 and 2017 were struggling to survive, with some destitute. Many of the refugees have fled Rwanda while some others who chose to remain in the country have been denied official documents by Rwandan authorities, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of some, Israeli media Haaretz reported.
The UK/Rwanda asylum deal comes less than a year after the UK’s International kizik shoes Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, said she was displeased with Rwanda’s refusal to probe human rights abuses as recommended by the British government.
Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, told CNN recently that “the UK has cynically decided to change its position on Rwanda… it’s going to ignore the human rights abuses in Rwanda and claim that it is a safe and acceptable country to send refugees to, to justify this cruel and immoral program.”
He added that Rwanda is a safe country only for those who toe the line.
“Just because Rwanda is clean and is safe for the Westerners doesn’t necessarily translate to safety for all Rwandans. Rwanda is a safe country for Rwandans if you keep your head down and don’t ask any questions or challenge anything. The moment you step up and start to question something or have an independent opinion and express it, Rwanda becomes a very difficult country to live in. These Western countries need to recognize that,” Mudge added.
A spokesperson for the Rwandan government declined to comment on HRW’s allegations, dismissing the agency as “a discredited source.”
Mudge described the UK-Rwanda asylum deal as an affront to the Commonwealth’s values.
“The UK is ostensibly the leader of the Commonwealth and this is an abdication of one of the pillars of the Commonwealth, which is the fundamental respect for human rights,” he said.
Refugees sent from the UK would comprise various nationalities, but Rwandan Foreign Minister Biruta said the asylum program will only be for people seeking asylum in the UK who are already in the UK and would exclude refugees from Rwanda’s neighbors such as the DRC, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The UK government had said the program was targeted at curbing people-smuggling networks and discouraging migrants from making dangerous sea journeys to the UK.

From genocide to growth

To his supporters and Western and Asian allies, President Kagame is a liberator who has modernized and transformed Rwanda, a former Belgian colony.
His party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has been in power since the end of the civil war in 1994, with Kagame serving as vice-president and defense minister until 2000 and then president for the last 22 years.
Kagame unified the country after the genocide, working to abolish the divisive terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” and to integrate the two cultures.
The gains made in Rwanda under his rule are undeniable.
Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told CNN the country has made remarkable progress in the last 28 years, citing increased life expectancy, near-universal healthcare, and low corruption levels in the country.
According to the World Bank, Rwanda has witnessed “strong economic growth … accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.” A report by the World Bank in 2020 stated that the country also has been successful in “reducing administrative corruption … from an accepted practice to one that is regarded as illegitimate and, once identified, one that is punished.”
Rwanda also ranks 1st among 13 low-income economies and 7th among the 27 economies of Sub-Saharan Africa for its innovation capabilities on the 2021 Global Innovation Index.
The country has further endeared itself to the West by advancing gender equality and creating a female-dominated cabinet. Around 61% of its parliamentary seats are held by women.
Kagame has been aggressive in attracting foreign direct investment into the country. In 2018, the Rwandan government signed a three-year promotional deal with English Premier League side Arsenal “as part of the country’s drive to become a leading global tourist destination, using ‘Visit Rwanda’ messaging,” the English football club said in a statement.
Arsenal’s male and female team jerseys have featured the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo on their left sleeve ever since.

Crackdown on opposition

However, such gains notwithstanding, Kagame’s rule has been characterized by widely reported human rights abuses.
The Freedom in the World 2022 Report by Freedom House found that “while the regime has maintained stability and economic growth, it has also suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents.”
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire was the presidential candidate of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) party in the 2010 Rwanda presidential elections and says she is a victim of Kagame’s crackdown on dissent.
She told CNN she had left the Netherlands, where she lived with her family, to play an active role in Rwandan politics but ended up being jailed on what she says were trumped-up charges of terrorism and threatening national security by the Kagame regime.
“I was arrested in 2010 and spent eight years in prison. In 2018, I was released by a presidential pardon which came with the condition that I couldn’t leave Rwanda freely without government permission. Three times I have asked for permission to visit my family in the Netherlands but the government did not respond to my request,” Ingabire said.
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire pictured in a Kigali court in 2011.
Rwandan government spokesperson Makolo told CNN Ingabire “was tried and convicted of serious crimes including complicity in acts of terrorism and promoting genocide ideology.”
Makolo added that: “Ingabire had her conviction commuted after she appealed for clemency, however her criminal record remains because her crimes were proven beyond doubt.
“As part of this deal, she has to request to leave the country, as does anyone else in the same situation.” Makolo did not comment further on the status of Ingabire’s requests to leave the country.
Ingabire said she challenged her imprisonment at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights — established by the African Union — in 2014 and was acquitted three years later after the court found that the Rwandan government had violated her rights.
Ingabire says she now lives in fear.
“I am afraid for my life … because you don’t know what can happen to you if you’re a member of the opposition,” she told CNN via a phone call.
“If you criticize the government, you are labeled as an enemy of the state, and then you’re arrested and put in prison … President Kagame does not tolerate criticism against his regime.”
Makolo did not respond to the specific incidents Ingabire spoke about. She, however, accused Ingabire of making “baseless claims” against Rwandan authorities.
“Despite being labeled as an opposition politician, she (Ingabire) has no discernible policy platform, she doesn’t offer solutions that would help improve our country. She only uses her platform to make baseless claims about the government. This doesn’t help advance our nation’s progress,” Makolo said.
A hostel that housed Rwanda genocide survivors prepares to take in people deported by the UK
Responding to the widespread reports of abuse, Makolo said Rwanda could not be characterized as a country with no respect for human rights.
“This characterization bears no relation to the country I know … A central principle of Rwanda’s reconstruction has been ensuring that every single person is treated … as a human being — that means that we do not tolerate discrimination of any form. This is enshrined in our constitution and upheld by our commitment to the rule of law,” Makolo told CNN.
Another outspoken critic of Kagame is Paul Rusesabagina, who was last year convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a court in Kigali. Rusesabagina, who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” was renowned for saving more than a thousand Rwandans during the country’s genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he managed.
He was accused by Rwandan prosecutors of being involved with the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD). Rusesabagina admitted to having a leadership role in the MRCD but denied responsibility for attacks carried out by the FLN.
His family says he was not given a fair trial and was kidnapped while overseas and oncloud shoes returned to Rwanda in August 2020. Rusesabagina told the New York Times in a video interview he was en route to Burundi on a private plane to speak to churches on August 28 but found himself surrounded by soldiers in Rwanda when he woke up.
Speaking to CNN at the time, Kagame denied claims that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and renditioned to Rwanda.
“It was very proper and legal,” Kagame said of Rusesabagina’s arrest.
“If he was working with somebody in Burundi in the same plot of destabilizing our country, and the same person, for example, decided to drive him to Kigali — the person he was working with, and he had trusted — and the government was working with that person he trusted, how does the government become culpable for that operation?” he added.

‘Rwanda is a poor country’

In addition to raising human rights concerns around the asylum deal, opposition politician Ingabire says that high unemployment rates in Rwanda will prevent the refugees deported by the UK from building lives there.
“There is a high rate of unemployment in Rwanda, especially among the youth. … What will happen to the refugees when the British government stops funding their accommodation? They don’t have a future in Rwanda,” Ingabire said.
She also considers Rwanda’s economic growth a myth, as poverty remains prevalent in the country’s rural areas. According to the UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, poverty rates in rural parts of the country stand at 42%, far higher than in cities at 15%.
“Outside Kigali, there are no infrastructures as what you see in Kigali. The Rwandan government has not increased employment across the country, that is why we have the majority of poverty in the rural areas,” Ingabire told CNN.
The government declined to comment on Ingabire’s claims.

They cite the same Bible and evoke the same Jesus. But these two Christians are on opposite sides of the abortion debate

Demonstrators on either side of the abortion issue clash outside the US Supreme Court in Washington on June 21, 2022.

Both cite the same Bible. Both follow the same Jesus. And both talk about the sanctity of life.

And yet both stand on opposite sides of the contentious debate over abortion.
Trent Horn, an author, speaker and podcaster, is a Roman Catholic and an opponent of abortion rights. Laura Ellis supports legal abortion rights and is project manager at Baptist Women in Ministry, a Baptist group that advocates for women in ministry.
Both personify the divisions over kizik shoes abortion in the church — and show how complex the issue can be when two smart and well-informed people cite scripture to support their point of view.
The US Supreme Court addressed a momentous legal question Friday when the court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping away nationwide access to abortion. For the first time in almost 50 years, Americans are living in a country where abortion is not enshrined as a constitutional right.
But the debate will continue over access to abortion, which is both a moral and religious issue for many people of faith like Ellis and Horn.
While much of the debate around abortion has been filtered through angry protests and shouted slogans, CNN chose to interview these two Christians because each has penned thoughtful public essays on the issue.
Trent Horn, left, and Laura Ellis.
Horn, author of “Persuasive Pro-life,” wrote a recent essay, “Catholics Can’t Be Pro-Choice,” in which he argued that all “reasonable” people should oppose legal abortion because it is the taking of a life. “If the unborn are not human beings, then abortion is harmless surgery. But if the unborn are growing, they must be alive,” he wrote.
Ellis is author of a recent essay, “Why I’m a pro-choice Christian and believe you should be too.” One of her biggest criticisms of abortion rights opponents is that “often these activists fail to support other political causes that preserve the life of the child after being born.”
We asked both Ellis and Horn the same four questions and received dramatically different responses. Their answers were edited for brevity.

How does your faith shape your position on abortion?

My faith informs me that God nobull shoes created human beings in His image. He loves human beings, and He wants us to share that same love and promote justice towards every other human being. Since my faith teaches me that every single human being, every single member of our species is equal in value and dignity, then my faith informs me that I should never directly kill an innocent member of our species just because they’re unwanted. My faith informs me that every single human being, from the moment they’re conceived until the moment they die, deserves equal protection under the law.
Anti-abortion protesters pray as demonstrators gather outside the Houston, Texas, City Hall during a Bans Off Our Bodies rally on May 14, 2022.
I do believe in the sanctity of human life, and I would love to see a world with less abortions. But I also know that banning abortion is going to most harshly affect people in society who are already really marginalized, and rich White women are always going to be able to have access to safe, affordable abortion. Making abortion illegal is going to disproportionately affect young women, women in poverty, women of color, in rural areas, women who don’t have a support system that some people are privileged to have. These are the kind of people that Jesus was always advocating for in his life and ministry. I first and foremost am always going to side with a living, breathing, human woman and what’s best for her and for her family situation.
The Bible does not explicitly mention abortion, so it doesn’t say that abortion itself is wrong, but it also doesn’t say that infanticide is wrong or that pedophilia is wrong. Instead, I use scripture to inform me with general principles. The Bible is clear in Exodus 23:7 and Proverbs 6:16-17 that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings. Proverbs 6 says that God hates the hands that shed innocent blood.
If the Bible says that it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings, and science and sound reasoning tell us that human embryos and human fetuses are human beings, then the Bible informs me that it is wrong to kill them. The Bible doesn’t say that it’s wrong to lynch Black people, but clearly it is wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings. That would apply to all born and unborn human beings.
What’s more relevant is that the Bible says human life exists in the womb (Luke 1:41) and the Bible prohibits killing innocent human beings (Exodus 20:13). This prohibition would apply to abortion as it would to any other homicide. Because the unborn are just smaller, more dependent human beings, those differences don’t nullify their inalienable right to life.
Abortion rights activists demonstrate in front of the US Supreme Court on June 13, 2022.
We have to be really careful when we try to take a topic as complicated as abortion and try to justify it or condemn it through a single verse or a couple of verses that are taken out of context. The Bible is an incredibly complicated book written by multiple people over different historical and social contexts. It could be irresponsible to just pull out a sentence or two and relate them to 21st-century America. The Bible does not talk explicitly about abortion, pro or con in any kind of way. It’s just not there.
When I think about the kind of scriptures that people who are anti-abortion pull out, they are often about murder, sexual immorality and blaming women. They are so taken out of context. I fall back to drawing from the life and ministry of Christ. Jesus veja sneakers really advocated for women in a beautiful, unique way for the time period he was living in. Even by being with women and speaking to women, he was honoring them and breaking social conventions. Both in Jesus’s day and in our day, women’s bodies are too often tossed aside. I Think Jesus would not approve of that.
There are biblical stories where Jesus advocated for and empowered women. In John 4: 1-42, Jesus engaged with the woman at the well and empowered her to spread his teachings. In Luke 8: 43-48, Jesus dropped everything to speak with and help the woman who touched his garment. And in Matthew 28: 1-20, Jesus entrusted the good news of his resurrection to women.
The biggest myth that people have about my position on abortion is that it is merely a religious position. There are many religious people who oppose abortion, just like there were many religious people who opposed racial segregation in the United States. Opposition to racial segregation and opposition to abortion are not merely religious positions. Rather these are human rights issues because they’re grounded in a basic truth that any reasonable person can come to, which is that we ought to give every single human being equal respect and protection under the law.
Just as there are no morally relevant differences between Black and White people to justify Whites mistreating Blacks, there’s no morally relevant differences between born and unborn humans. Unborn humans are smaller, less developed, and more dependent than we are, but newborn infants are also smaller, less developed than we are and very dependent. But those reasons wouldn’t justify killing a born child and they don’t justify saying the unborn are not persons and can be killed.
Gabriel Oliver, who opposes abortion rights,  reads from the Bible outside of an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, on December 1, 2021.
 I wish people would understand that you can be a Christian and not oppose abortion. Just because somebody is pro-choice doesn’t mean that they hate life or babies or the Bible or God. The power of the religious right is so strong that so many Christians have a hard time conceiving that somebody could be on the other side of this issue. But to echo Randall Balmer [a historian who is an authority on the religious right], the religious right was created to oppose desegregated schools. The change in focus to being anti-abortion took place to gain political power. People have very real commitments and moral beliefs on both sides of it. So I’m not saying that someone who is “for life” is corrupt and just seeking power, but that is how the religious right movement was founded. It’s always going to be tainted because of that.
There can be Christians who support legal abortion just like there were many Christians who supported legal slavery. Being a Christian means that you have a valid baptism, and you believe in the central tenets of the Christian faith. However, a Christian who endorses legal slavery or endorses legal abortion stands in contradiction to the moral law that Christianity gives us. So while they would be a Christian, they would be in contradictions of the law that Christ has given us to protect the innocent, to protect the weak, and they will stand in judgment for violating that law as Christians.
People are free to have any religious beliefs, including pro-choice Christian ones, but they aren’t always free to act on those beliefs. Some religions teach that polygamy, slavery, female genital mutilation, or honor killings should be legal, but the law must protect all innocent human beings, both born and unborn, from all harms, including harms done in the name of religion.
Anti-abortion rights activists confront a gathering of abortion-rights demonstrators outside a Catholic church in downtown Manhattan on May 7, 2022 in New York City.
 I obviously disagree with people who oppose abortion, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be a Christian just because I personally disagree with them. Who am I to say who can or cannot be a Christian? That’s really only God’s business. I think we have to stop this intense gatekeeping that we have on Christianity, particularly when our gatekeeping is just based off of an issue like abortion that is not talked about in the Bible.
When Jesus asked people to follow him, you didn’t have to pass some sort of moral or political checklist first. I grew up in West Texas in a very religious and very conservative environment. I know so many people who are anti-abortion because of their faith. I obviously disagree with them personally because of my faith, but I don’t think that means that they aren’t good people, or they aren’t good Christians, much less than they’re not Christians at all.

Paul Kagame is seen by some as a liberator. But critics say Rwanda is only safe for those who toe the line

For decades, Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist in the mold of the archetypal strongman African leader.

Under his rule, the East African country has emerged from the ruins of a devastating 1994 genocide that left nearly one million people dead to be hailed by Western allies as the model for growth in Africa.
In recent years, the country has forged a strong and financially rewarding alliance with Asian powerhouse China, which is also known for its authoritarian rule.
The US and the UK have also supported Rwanda with aid donations for many years, and US diplomat Tibor Nagy once described the country as “demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
“In the past 25 years, Rwanda has reimagined itself as a strong state that invests in good governance and the success of its people,” the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said on his first visit to Rwanda in 2019. “In many ways, Rwanda is demonstrating the true potential of Africa.”
Controversial UK deportation flight to Rwanda grounded after all asylum-seekers removed
In a recent meeting between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, the US acknowledged it still had a strong bilateral partnership with Rwanda but also raised concerns about human rights in the country.
In a report last year detailing human rights practices in Rwanda, the US State Department identified “significant human rights issues” that range from “unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government” to “forced disappearance by the government,” on cloud shoes among others.
Critics say the successes of Kagame’s authoritarian rule have come at the expense of human rights in the country.
Rwanda is this week hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the capital Kigali, the first gathering of Commonwealth leaders in four years. Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are among world leaders attending.
The UK is ermerging as one of Rwanda’s strongest allies and PM Johnson said in interviews from CHOGM that criticism of Rwanda is based on “stereotypes of Rwanda that is now outdated.” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel recently brokered a £120 million ($147m) deal with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the East African country, an accord that hangs in the balance after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Opinion: Dear Prince Charles, don't shake hands with the tyrant who kidnapped our father
Patel described Rwanda as “a safe haven for refugees” as the UK vowed to push ahead with the controversial scheme.

‘No safe haven’

Far from being a “safe haven” for refugees as claimed by Patel and others in the UK government, Rwanda has been accused by human rights groups of treating refugees badly.
In 2018, at least 11 Congolese refugees were killed when Rwandan police opened fire at the Kiziba refugee camp and Karongi town as refugees protested cuts to their food rations, Amnesty International reported at the time. Rwandan authorities told CNN the country’s police resorted to shooting to control a group of violent protesters and said it was an isolated incident.
Rwanda had previously received refugees from Israel.
According to Israeli media, some of the refugees deported to Rwanda between 2014 and 2017 were struggling to survive, with some destitute. Many of the refugees have fled Rwanda while some others who chose to remain in the country have been denied official documents by Rwandan authorities, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of some, Israeli media Haaretz reported.
The UK/Rwanda asylum oncloud shoes deal comes less than a year after the UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, said she was displeased with Rwanda’s refusal to probe human rights abuses as recommended by the British government.
Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, told CNN recently that “the UK has cynically decided to change its position on Rwanda… it’s going to ignore the human rights abuses in Rwanda and claim that it is a safe and acceptable country to send refugees to, to justify this cruel and immoral program.”
He added that Rwanda is a safe country only for those who toe the line.
“Just because Rwanda is clean and is safe for the Westerners doesn’t necessarily translate to safety for all Rwandans. Rwanda is a safe country for Rwandans if you keep your head down and don’t ask any questions or challenge anything. The moment you step up and start to question something or have an independent opinion and express it, Rwanda becomes a very difficult country to live in. These Western countries need to recognize that,” Mudge added.
A spokesperson for the Rwandan government declined to comment on HRW’s allegations, dismissing the agency as “a discredited source.”
Mudge described the UK-Rwanda asylum deal as an affront to the Commonwealth’s values.
“The UK is ostensibly the leader of the Commonwealth and this is an abdication of one of the pillars of the Commonwealth, which is the fundamental respect for human rights,” he said.
Refugees sent from the UK would comprise various nationalities, but Rwandan Foreign Minister Biruta said the asylum program will only be for people seeking asylum in the UK who are already in the UK and would exclude refugees from Rwanda’s neighbors such as the DRC, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The UK government had said the program was targeted at curbing people-smuggling networks and discouraging migrants from making dangerous sea journeys to the UK.

From genocide to growth

To his supporters and Western and Asian allies, President Kagame is a liberator who has modernized and transformed Rwanda, a former Belgian colony.
His party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has been in power since the end of the civil war in 1994, with Kagame serving as vice-president and defense minister until 2000 and then president for the last 22 years.
Kagame unified the country after the genocide, working to abolish the divisive terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” and to integrate the two cultures.
The gains made in Rwanda under his rule are undeniable.
Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told CNN the country has made remarkable progress in the last 28 years, citing increased life expectancy, near-universal healthcare, and low corruption levels in the country.
According to the World Bank, Rwanda has witnessed “strong economic growth … accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.” A report by the World Bank in 2020 stated that the country also has been successful in “reducing administrative corruption … from an accepted practice to one that is regarded as illegitimate and, once identified, one that is punished.”
Rwanda also ranks 1st among 13 low-income economies and 7th among the 27 economies of Sub-Saharan Africa for its innovation kizik shoes capabilities on the 2021 Global Innovation Index.
The country has further endeared itself to the West by advancing gender equality and creating a female-dominated cabinet. Around 61% of its parliamentary seats are held by women.
Kagame has been aggressive in attracting foreign direct investment into the country. In 2018, the Rwandan government signed a three-year promotional deal with English Premier League side Arsenal “as part of the country’s drive to become a leading global tourist destination, using ‘Visit Rwanda’ messaging,” the English football club said in a statement.
Arsenal’s male and female team jerseys have featured the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo on their left sleeve ever since.

Crackdown on opposition

However, such gains notwithstanding, Kagame’s rule has been characterized by widely reported human rights abuses.
The Freedom in the World 2022 Report by Freedom House found that “while the regime has maintained stability and economic growth, it has also suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents.”
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire was the presidential candidate of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) party in the 2010 Rwanda presidential elections and says she is a victim of Kagame’s crackdown on dissent.
She told CNN she had left the Netherlands, where she lived with her family, to play an active role in Rwandan politics but ended up being jailed on what she says were trumped-up charges of terrorism and threatening national security by the Kagame regime.
“I was arrested in 2010 and spent eight years in prison. In 2018, I was released by a presidential pardon which came with the condition that I couldn’t leave Rwanda freely without government permission. Three times I have asked for permission to visit my family in the Netherlands but the government did not respond to my request,” Ingabire said.
Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire pictured in a Kigali court in 2011.
Rwandan government spokesperson Makolo told CNN Ingabire “was tried and convicted of serious crimes including complicity in acts of terrorism and promoting genocide ideology.”
Makolo added that: “Ingabire had her conviction commuted after she appealed for clemency, however her criminal record remains because her crimes were proven beyond doubt.
“As part of this deal, she has to request to leave the country, as does anyone else in the same situation.” Makolo did not comment further on the status of Ingabire’s requests to leave the country.
Ingabire said she challenged her imprisonment at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights — established by the African Union — in 2014 and was acquitted three years later after the court found that the Rwandan government had violated her rights.
Ingabire says she now lives in fear.
“I am afraid for my life … because you don’t know what can happen to you if you’re a member of the opposition,” she told CNN via a phone call.
“If you criticize the government, you are labeled as an enemy of the state, and then you’re arrested and put in prison … President Kagame does not tolerate criticism against his regime.”
Makolo did not respond to the specific incidents Ingabire spoke about. She, however, accused Ingabire of making “baseless claims” against Rwandan authorities.
“Despite being labeled as an opposition politician, she (Ingabire) has no discernible policy platform, she doesn’t offer solutions that would help improve our country. She only uses her platform to make baseless claims about the government. This doesn’t help advance our nation’s progress,” Makolo said.
A hostel that housed Rwanda genocide survivors prepares to take in people deported by the UK
Responding to the widespread reports of abuse, Makolo said Rwanda could not be characterized as a country with no respect for human rights.
“This characterization bears no relation to the country I know … A central principle of Rwanda’s reconstruction has been ensuring that every single person is treated … as a human being — that means that we do not tolerate discrimination of any form. This is enshrined in our constitution and upheld by our commitment to the rule of law,” Makolo told CNN.
Another outspoken critic of Kagame is Paul Rusesabagina, who was last year convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a court in Kigali. Rusesabagina, who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” was renowned for saving more than a thousand Rwandans during the country’s genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he managed.
He was accused by Rwandan prosecutors of being involved with the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD). Rusesabagina admitted to having a leadership role in the MRCD but denied responsibility for attacks carried out by the FLN.
His family says he was not given a fair trial and was kidnapped while overseas and returned to Rwanda in August 2020. Rusesabagina told the New York Times in a video interview he was en route to Burundi on a private plane to speak to churches on August 28 but found himself surrounded by soldiers in Rwanda when he woke up.
Speaking to CNN at the time, Kagame denied claims that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and renditioned to Rwanda.
“It was very proper and legal,” Kagame said of Rusesabagina’s arrest.
“If he was working with somebody in Burundi in the same plot of destabilizing our country, and the same person, for example, decided to drive him to Kigali — the person he was working with, and he had trusted — and the government was working with that person he trusted, how does the government become culpable for that operation?” he added.

‘Rwanda is a poor country’

In addition to raising human rights concerns around the asylum deal, opposition politician Ingabire says that high unemployment rates in Rwanda will prevent the refugees deported by the UK from building lives there.
“There is a high rate of unemployment in Rwanda, especially among the youth. … What will happen to the refugees when the British government stops funding their accommodation? They don’t have a future in Rwanda,” Ingabire said.
She also considers Rwanda’s economic growth a myth, as poverty remains prevalent in the country’s rural areas. According to the UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, poverty rates in rural parts of the country stand at 42%, far higher than in cities at 15%.
“Outside Kigali, there are no infrastructures as what you see in Kigali. The Rwandan government has not increased employment across the country, that is why we have the majority of poverty in the rural areas,” Ingabire told CNN.

Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but does not apologize

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi (second left) and his wife Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi (far left) look on as Belgium's King Philippe (far right) and Queen Mathilde (second right) sign a guest book on June 8.

Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but does not apologize

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi (second left) and his wife Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi (far left) look on as Belgium's King Philippe (far right) and Queen Mathilde (second right) sign a guest book on June 8.

Boris Johnson is still in charge. But behind closed doors, rivals are plotting his ouster

Boris Johnson ends the week with reason to be cheerful. On Monday, he survived the biggest challenge to his leadership since becoming Prime Minister, after his Conservative MPs backed him in a confidence vote to remain party leader by 211 to 148.

That victory does, however, come with some major caveats.
Johnson’s government is currently thought to have somewhere between 170-180 MPs on its payroll. As the vote was private, that means as a best-case scenario, Johnson was only able to secure a handful of backbench votes. In a worst-case scenario, people on the payroll voted against him the second they were given the protection of anonymity.
While Johnson and his allies have since claimed the victory was convincing and a decisive result that hands the PM a refreshed mandate, the reality is 41% of his own MPs do not want him in power. That number is worse than the result of a confidence vote in Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, in 2018 and is likely to rise in the coming months.
For now, though, Johnson’s job is safe. Conservative Party rules protect him from another confidence vote for 12 months. There is speculation that the party might try and rewrite those rules, but given the private nature of the Conservatives, it’s hard to get a real sense of how likely this is.
So, what happens next?
Johnson is announcing a flurry of policy ideas designed to cheer up his backbenchers and voters. More houses, more doctors, more police, crackdowns on illegal immigration to name a few.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the National Service of Thanksgiving held at St Paul's Cathedral as part of celebrations marking the Platinum Jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Friday, June 3, 2022.

Meanwhile, those who most want to see his downfall are not sitting on their hands. Publicly, MPs say that the result of the confidence vote means they owe Johnson their loyalty — for now. He deserves the time to turn things around, they say.
However, multiple sources confirmed to CNN that those with an eye on the top job are already building their power bases and getting ready to launch leadership bids, should the time come.
Dinners with donors who would fund individual campaigns have already taken place, organized by MPs who have already picked their choice for leader. Influential MPs have been courted to test the water.
“The phone calls tend to start with 15 minutes of insisting that Boris has their full support and that they don’t think a leadership contest will happen. Then they outline their vision of how they would improve things. It’s discreet, but it’s happening,” a senior Conservative told CNN.
The hopefuls acting most openly are unsurprisingly long-term critics of Johnson.
“Most of the activity seems to be around Jeremy Hunt and other former Remainers,” says one veteran Conservative and former cabinet minister, referring to those who wanted the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union. “That makes sense as they never wanted Boris in the first place and have the least to lose.”
Hunt, who has held three cabinet posts, most notably health, is without question the highest-profile contender on the moderate, ex-Remain side of the party. However, he comes with baggage and sources from the opposition Labour Party have told CNN they are already writing attack lines.
Jeremy Hunt is without question the highest-profile contender on the moderate, ex-Remain side of the Conservative Party.

A senior Conservative said that their fellow MPs are aware of this. “It can’t be Jeremy. Labour can say he was running healthcare for six years and failed to prepare for a pandemic. They can say when he was culture secretary he chummed up to the Murdochs during the phone hacking scandal. He will get crushed,” the source said.
Other potential candidates for this side of the party include Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and the current Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi.
Tugendhat has impressed colleagues with his oratory and seriousness, most notably when he spoke about the fall of Afghanistan, a country where he’d served while in the army.
Despite voting to leave the EU in 2016, Zahawi is widely admired among the moderates in the party. Crucially, as one Conservative source put it, “he’s not been in government long enough to have any obvious defects and, despite supporting Boris even after the confidence vote, is not too tainted by association.”
Obviously running a stealth leadership campaign is harder if you are a sitting cabinet minister. How do you square defending the prime minister after the confidence vote while courting MPs to test the water?
That is the problem facing those considered to be the Leave candidates.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, voted Remain in 2016, but has since become one of the loudest Euroskeptic voices in the government, particularly on Northern Ireland. She has a formidable and dedicated team around her — some of whom previously worked in Number 10 — which has been producing slick videos and photos of her looking thoroughly statesmanlike. Which might come in handy if she were to run for leader, a cynic might say.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss voted Remain in 2016, but has since become one of the loudest Euroskeptic voices in the government, particularly on Northern Ireland.

A source working in the Foreign Office told CNN that since Monday, Truss “has been in endless meetings with MPs,” adding that while the meetings are officially about Northern Ireland “it’s been insinuated that she’s seeing what her support base is, should the time come.”
Truss’s office denies that any covert leadership bid is coming. She said before the confidence vote that she backed Johnson “100%” and encouraged colleagues to do the same. After the vote, she urged MPs that it was time to move on “get behind the PM”.
Truss’s most obvious rival is current Home Secretary Priti Patel. One of the Conservative sources said that Patel’s stealth campaign “has been busy, organized and running for about a year.”
Patel is very popular among the party’s grassroots and more conservative wing. She is a longstanding Euroskeptic who has years of hard talk on immigration, crime and economics under her belt. She famously used to support bringing back the death penalty, although she has since distanced herself from this.
Both cabinet ministers publicly support the prime minister and officials say that their focus is on delivering Johnson’s agenda, nothing else.
However, a government minister told CNN that some cabinet ministers are “using their office to raise their profile and engage with MPs.”
While inviting influential MPs into your grand office of state is nothing new, the minister says that the tone in Westminster “has changed since Monday. Everyone expects that there will be a vacancy at some point in the near future.”
The next major hurdle for Johnson to clear is the two by-elections taking place on June 23. If he loses both, which is not impossible, his critics will move again. The party might try to rewrite rules so he faces another leadership vote.
If the party doesn’t rewrite the rules, he has an uphill struggle to turn around both his own popularity and the popularity of his party before the next scheduled election in 2024.
It’s an unenviable task, given the UK is experiencing a cost-of-living crisis and the Conservatives have been in power for 12 years. And under normal circumstances, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Johnson is safe as no one in their right mind wants the job.
But that’s how bad things are. Despite how grim the next few years look for the UK, ambitious politicians are willing to throw their hats in the ring at what might be the worst possible moment and risk their whole career. Because if they don’t, it’s anyone’s guess how far Johnson might pull his party down with him.

Opposition to Putin’s war is alive on Moscow’s streets. But no trace of it is covered on Russian TV

More than 6,400 Russians have been arrested in anti-war protests since President Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine, but not one bone-crunching detention has made state TV.

Navigating the paradoxes of Putin’s authoritarian rule is a way of life here. Intuition nourished by a lifetime of state-fed lies gets most people through. And for many it consists of a quiet life with a steady income.
But what’s happening now may be challenging some to push out of the old boundaries of the ‘see but don’t question orthodoxy’ that historically reinforced Putin’s grip on power.
By Tuesday morning in Moscow, more than 1 million signatures had been added to a Russian-language Change.org petition against the war in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin is facing stiffer opposition than expected -- both inside and outside Ukraine
On Moscow’s streets police vans loiter at most major intersections, riot-ready cops menace the sidewalks, and the city’s fabled Pushkin Square — a once-popular protesters’ haunt — is surrounded by a vast metal barricade.
What’s going on is an all too obvious, overt opposition to Putin’s rule. The cost of joining, the government warns, could be “arrest” and a “criminal record” that “leaves a mark on the person’s future.”
Protests are only considered for approval if requested no more than 15 days in advance and no less than 10, and even then there is no guarantee it will get the nod.
Putin has no reason to coach outlet publicize the anger at his rule and every reason to snuff it out.
Instead of anti-war protests, the Kremlin’s vast constellation of newspapers, magazines, websites and TV stations keep up a steady drumbeat of anti-Ukrainian propaganda that tries to rationalize the reasons their brothers, sons and husbands have been sent to war, and possibly their deaths, hundreds of miles away.
People take part in a demonstration against war, in Moscow, Russia on February 24.

The Kremlin has all but crushed Russia’s independent media, and is gagging what’s left of them. Ten publications got a letter late last week from the country’s communications watchdog warning them not to use the words “invasion,” “attack” and “declaration of war” under threat of having access to their publications “restricted.”
The same letter said that correct information about the “Special Military Operation” — as the Kremlin calls the war — was freely available on government websites.
But Putin doesn’t control all the narratives all the time. A generation here has grown up willfully ignorant of state disinformation, weaned instead on social media, so are impervious to the lies that cowed their parents. They are, however, still contained by the massive state security infrastructure that is the real muscle behind state media’s messaging.
Annexations, a rump state or puppet rulers. Here's what Putin may be planning for Ukraine
In short, they think for themselves, want the freedoms that come with that awareness but are bound by the brutality they meet when they protest.
One young woman CNN met on the margins of the first night of protest on Thursday was near tears explaining she loves Russia, but not her leader, so has concluded she must leave the country.
There is a real frustration in that generation, but they are a minority — less than 10% of the nation.
​Indeed, the latest polling by the swarovski jewelry Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM), a state-owned but nevertheless internationally respected organization, found that 68% of people say they support the decision to carry out the “Special Military Operation,” 22% oppose it and 10% had difficulty answering.
It is a sobering assessment that when Putin puts his finger in the wind of public opinion he can be reasonably sure it is blowing in the direction he instructed his state organs to set it.

Another testy Supreme Court battle is the last thing America needs — but it’s probably what lies ahead

The last thing an internally estranged America needs is an alienating Supreme Court confirmation battle. But that’s almost certainly what lies ahead following Justice Stephen Breyer’s decision to retire.

President Joe Biden’s first high court pick will create a moment of promise for a struggling administration, offers Senate Democrats a badly needed shot at unity and could shatter another glass ceiling since Biden plans to nominate a Black woman.
And despite the narrowness of their Senate majority, it should be reasonably simple for Democrats to confirm a new justice swiftly, without any Republican votes, before they risk losing the chamber in the midterm elections.
A drama-free Supreme Court process could enhance the tattered image of Congress, help a President whose approval ratings are tumbling and do some good to the tarnished reputation of a court increasingly tangled in politics. And since replacing Breyer, a liberal, will not shift the court’s 6-3 conservative balance, it might seem that the stakes are lower this time.
Inside Biden's calculated silence on Breyer's retirement
But such hopes ignore the corrosive impact of recent nomination fights — which ended with Democrats accusing the GOP of stealing seats and conservatives claiming nominees endured character assassination. Then there are legacy scars of Supreme Court battles deeper in the past, some involving the President himself, which may have some conservatives plotting revenge.
Political fury that has raged through the fight against Covid-19 has meanwhile brewed a fetid political mood hardly conducive to magnanimous hearings. And the midterm elections in November mean that senators have every incentive to play to the most fervent activist voters in each party before the television cameras.
An ideological docket breeds political discord
Another reason why a smooth confirmation process is unlikely is the growing prominence of the court itself in American political life. The idea that the Supreme Court is above politics has always been something of a myth. But hoka shoes dominating the high court has been a fundamental goal of the conservative movement for several decades.
So it’s not surprising that the successful campaign has hurt justices’ reputations for impartiality. And the new majority is being used in nakedly partisan ways, with Republican attorneys general seeking to fast-track cases to its marbled chamber on the most polarizing issues, including on abortion, the government’s powers to fight the pandemic and gun control. Former President Donald Trump tried to drag the court into his delusional claims of election fraud and the investigation into the January 6 insurrection — both subjects that have left it exposed to bitter winds of partisanship.
Here's how long it's taken to confirm past Supreme Court justices
All of this will inject an even more politicized tone into the next justice’s confirmation hearings. It could lead grandstanding senators from both sides to seek politically motivated assurances that could further the impression that the court is now populated by partisans.
Supreme Court nominees these days are highly prepared — and by their nature are adept at dodging leading questions. But still, Republicans are likely to seek answers on issues like firearms laws that the nominee will be wise to avoid. And progressive senators might ask a nominee in a hearing for their positions on abortion with Roe v. Wade, the landmark case affirming a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, under siege at the Supreme Court. While such exchanges are unlikely to thwart a nomination, they will inevitably drag Biden’s pick onto treacherous ground.
Democrats get a do-over
The coming weeks will test the competence of Democrats to get things done while in control in Washington.
Despite some early wins, a White House that ran on fixing problems and congressional Democrats have developed a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot. There is growing criticism of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s political tactics following the stalling of Biden’s Build Back Better climate and social spending plan and sweeping Democratic voting rights bills. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who were roadblocks on those bills, have never voted against a Biden judicial nominee so it would be a surprise if the Democratic coalition splits. But party leaders have learned the perilous nature of a 50-50 Senate majority. And an ill-timed death or serious illness among the Senate’s aged band of Democrats could seriously delay or even jeopardize the confirmation process.
Joe Biden's 2022 just got a lot better
Biden does have one highly effective weapon in his arsenal as he begins his selection process — his chief of staff Ron Klain, who masterminded Supreme Court nominations in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Klain has faced criticism during Biden’s administration, as the White House has stumbled, including on the pandemic and during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. So the nomination is an opportunity for him to revive his standing in Washington and to deliver the President a much needed win that could reenergize Democrats as tough midterm elections loom in November.
Republicans can still cause headaches
No Supreme Court nomination struggle would be complete without the looming shadow of Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Since he’s in the minority, McConnell seems to lack the power to derail Biden’s first pick. But mangling Democratic Supreme Court hopes is his vocation and he used all kinds of procedural chicanery to seat a generational conservative majority on the top bench — indisputably the top achievement of Trump’s presidency.
The wily Kentuckian and the conservative legal establishment that built the current court do have the power to make seating a new justice a painful olukai shoes ordeal. In the first taste of the partisan combat to come, Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, had this first reaction to Wednesday’s Washington bombshell: “The Left bullied Justice Breyer into retirement and now it will demand a justice who rubber stamps its liberal political agenda.”
“And that’s what the Democrats will give them, because they’re beholden to the dark money supporters who helped elect them,” Severino added.
Biden’s past could come back to haunt him
The current Supreme Court nomination process is unusual in that the nominee will be chosen by a President who has been embroiled in controversial Supreme Court nomination battles.
Biden, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was instrumental in the blocking of President Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Judge Robert Bork, to the court in 1987. Democrats faulted the ultra-conservative for what they saw as prejudiced views toward the rights of Black Americans and women. But conservatives have long reviled Biden for his defeat of the nomination and many of them date the hyper-politicized trend in nomination battles to that moment. Conservatives with long memories, therefore, have every motive to give Biden’s first nominee a hard time in confrontations that will draw right-wing media attention and claims of double standards if liberals complain.
Biden said he'd put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Here's who he may pick to replace Breyer
That’s the case even if Biden was heavily criticized from the left a few years after the Bork showdown over his treatment of Anita Hill, a law professor who alleged sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas, who has since gone on to be a conservative hero on the court.
Some Republicans may also seek retribution on a Democratic Supreme Court nominee for the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who endured the most searing confirmation fight in decades. Kavanaugh faced allegations of sexual misconduct dating from the 1980s, which he forcibly denied in emotional, angry hearings before the Trump administration and McConnell secured his confirmation.
The refusal of Trump to leave the political scene is also likely to raise political temperatures around the hearings, since the former President is a master at seizing on events that fuel his culture war narratives.
It is a sad commentary on the bitterness of the current era that the nomination of a Black woman, in what promises to be a moving historic moment, could also spark racist and sexist debate. It would not be surprising to hear accusations of tokenism against Biden from the more radical sectors of the conservative media ecosystem as he seeks to make history with his high court appointment. Former President Barack Obama’s first hey dude court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman to reach the top bench, attracted such prejudice despite her distinguished public and legal career. Any Supreme Court nominee in the modern era must expect extraordinary scrutiny of their personal, financial and professional lives. But the cross-examinations of the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee are likely to underscore some of America’s enduring prejudices.
The justice that the new nominee, whoever she is, will replace, is renowned for temperance, moderation, courtliness and a willingness to seek common ground with his ideological opposites.
Breyer is an anachronism in modern Washington, where such qualities are now all but extinct. That is why it’s questionable whether Biden, Congress, the court and America itself will emerge with reputations enhanced from a process that in the end may only worsen the national funk.

The trip could have killed them. But people fleeing economic wreckage in the Middle East say they’d do it 100 times over

Four-year-old Azhi hobbles across a makeshift migrant center on the Polish-Belarusian border. Grabbing his mother’s hand for support, he carefully tucks his legs under piles of donated blankets.

Metal rods tower above the people to prop up a giant zinc roof. Azhi, who has splints on his legs, is smiling and wide-eyed. It’s hard to tell that just days before, the boy’s family faced the specter of death.
“We want to go to Germany so Azhi can get an operation,” says his mother, 28-year old Shoxan Hussein. “The doctors said he needs to get it done before he turns five.”
Four-year-old Azhi and his mother Shoxan Hussain, 28, traveled to Belarus from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Azhi’s family was among hundreds of migrants who attempted to cross into Poland from Belarus in recent weeks with hopes of claiming asylum in the European Union. After days in the freezing Belarusian forest where migrants say they were subjected to beatings and food deprivation by Belarusian forces, the family never made it across the border. Several people died along the journey while thousands were stranded in inhumane conditions. Azhi and his parents survived unscathed.
Days later, they returned to their native Erbil, the commercial hub of Iraqi Kurdistan, skechers outlet on an Iraqi repatriation flight. They are already trying to chart a new path into Europe.
“There is no future for my son in Iraq,” Azhi’s father, 26-year-old Ali Rasool, tells CNN from his Erbil home. “Trying to get to Europe is for Azhi. I need a future for my kid.”

Breaking a cycle of misery

Across the Middle East and North Africa, talk of emigration is rampant. Though guns have largely fallen silent in most of the region’s conflict zones, much of the misery has not let up. Violence that once engulfed four countries — Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq — has given way to economic wreckage that extends well beyond their borders. Many regional economies have been reeling from the combined effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, refugee influxes and political instability.
Government corruption in the MENA region is widely viewed as a main culprit, in addition to geopolitical turbulence. A recent survey found that one in three of the region’s 200 million Arab youth are considering emigration. In 2020, that figure was even greater, at nearly half of all Arab youth.
The problem is most acute in post-conflict zones contending with economic depression and where corruption has flourished. In Syria, the United Nations Development Program says that poverty rates are now around 90%, up from around 50-60% in 2019 when violence was significantly more widespread. People who were considered to be food insecure increased from 7.9 million in 2019 to over 12 million in 2020.
An improvised plastic tent gives shelter to Syrian refugees in the forests of Poland on November 26, 2021.

“We’re talking about people who have incomes, a working poor, with one job, with two jobs in the family, who are unable to meet their basic food needs,” UNDP Resident Representative in Syria Ramla Khalidi tells CNN. “What that’s meant is they’re skipping meals, they’re going into debt, they’re consuming cheaper, less-nutritious meals.”
Around 98% of people have reported food as their top expenditure. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are a luxury and they’re skipping meats in their diet,” says Khalidi.
Syria’s “massive and severe poverty” has been exacerbated by nike outlet the financial tailspin in neighboring Lebanon which began in 2019. The Lebanese economy was previously seen as a lifeline for a financially and diplomatically isolated Damascus. A crushing sanctions regime on areas under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is most of the country, was compounded by the Caesar Act in 2020. This aimed to drive Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back to the UN-led negotiating table but it has instead further devastated an already floundering economy, and the President’s rule continues unfazed.
The Syrian regime is widely accused of having repeatedly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the last 10 years of the country’s war, including attacks on the civilian population with chemical weapons and indiscriminately shelling populated areas under rebel control with conventional munitions. Tens of thousands of political prisoners have died in Assad’s prisons after having been subjected to extreme torture and mistreatment.
Syrians inspect rubble at a site that was targeted by shelling in Ariha, allegedly carried out by Syrian government forces, killing at least 10 people, on October 20, 2021.

In parts of Syria that fall outside of Assad’s rule — namely the country’s Kurdish-controlled northeast and the northwest which is under the sway of fundamentalist Islamist rebels — the economy is also in tatters.
“That’s the only thing that people still share in Syria. Everyone’s suffering economically no matter who controls the areas,” says Haid Haid, consulting associate fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
It’s a situation that has prompted many of the country’s skilled workforce to leave, deepening the economic predicament, says the UN’s Khalidi.
“The hospitals, the schools, the factories have lost a lot of their skilled workers because many of these individuals are trying to find their way out even if it means risking their lives,” she says, whilst calling on donor countries to invest in “resilience interventions” aimed at enhancing urban and rural livelihoods.
“It’s an unprecedented crisis in terms of its complexity,” says Khalidi. “Year on year the amount of funding has increased and yet we see humanitarian needs also increasing, so I think we need to change the model, reduce humanitarian dependence and focus more keen shoes funding on early recovery and resilience efforts. “
In neighboring Iraq, ravaged by multiple battles including a devastating war with ISIS, the economy has fared better, but a sense of hopelessness prevails. A youth-led anti-corruption protest movement in October 2019 was lethally crushed and co-opted by major political players, and while independent politicians made unprecedented gains in this year’s parliamentary elections, nepotism and corruption continue to reign supreme in the country’s political and commercial centers, analysts say.
“We cannot talk about Kurdistan or Federal Iraq as a functioning thing because it’s not,” said Hafsa Halawa, non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, referring to the northern semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. “The reality is that public services are intermittent, opportunity is zero, corruption, nepotism and violence is ongoing and regular.”
“What is wrong with someone who’s 21, 22 saying ‘I cannot stay here like my parents did. I have to break the cycle. I have to change things for my future family, for my future kids’?”
A picture shows the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, which holds relatives of suspected ISIS fighters in the northeastern Hasakeh governorate, on December 6, 2021.

Halawa, who is British-Iraqi-Egyptian, argues that a major driver of the influx of refugees is the disappearance of legal mechanisms for the entry of skilled workers into Europe.
“The fascinating thing to me — if I’m talking about the UK and (Home Secretary) Priti Patel’s immigration point scheme that she introduced — is that my father as a qualified surgeon who went on to serve the NHS for 40 years, would not have qualified for a work visa when he arrived here,” says Halawa.
“The mechanisms by which we — in the developed world — allowed people to learn and then keep them here to benefit society are no longer available,” says Halawa.
Chatham House’s Haid, a native Syrian, considers himself among the lucky ones. Nearly five years ago, he was granted refugee status in the UK. He says the images of Syrians dying in the English Channel gave him mixed feelings of sadness and personal relief. He also believes that the migration of Syrians will continue unabated.
“When things (in Syria) started getting worse despite the decline in violence, that’s when people living there were hit by the reality that things will never get better,” says Haid. “That’s why even those who were refusing to leave the country during the war now feel that there is no solution but to flee, because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. That’s it.”
At the same time, Haid feels like he made it to the UK in the nick of time. “You feel lucky to have made it before your window of opportunity, which was rapidly closing, is shut forever,” he says.
Back in Erbil, Shoxan Hussein and her husband Ali Rasool believe legal passage to Europe is permanently shut. Rasool, a manager of a property company, and Hussein, an engineer, applied for a visa at the French embassy earlier this year but say they never received a response.
“Erbil is better for me and my wife than anywhere else in the world. We have a good car, good clothing,” says Rasool. “But this is all for Azhi … we’ve already done three operations here and have gotten no results. The problem is that (the doctors) are taking money from us and they haven’t made even 5% difference.”
“If you told me to risk my life 100 times before I got to Europe to improve my son’s life then my wife and I would do it,” he says. “I would repeat this journey 100 times.”