Travel Ban -1.0


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Travel Ban Lite?: President Trump signed a revised version of his highly controversial travel ban that was originally implemented in January, but suspended just days later in federal court. Rather than launch further challenges to the ruling, a new version of the executive order was revealed on Monday. Key changes included the removal of a religious test that was seen as giving preferential treatment to Christians. Iraq, the country with the closest ties to the United States among the seven nations originally affected by the ban, was dropped off the list of nations at therequest of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Syrian refugees are no longer indefinitely banned and will fall under the 120-day suspension of the general refugee program.The new order maintains the 50,000 annual cap on refugees seeking asylum, less than half of Obama’s pledge to resettle 110,000 refugees in 2017. Green card holders and those who have already obtained visas are exempt from the ban. Instead of taking immediate effect, US officials will implement the ban starting on March 16.   

The rollout saw a marked shift in tactics by the new administration. Trump signed the order in private in the Oval Office with no reporters present, and the Secretary of State, Head of Homeland Security, and the Attorney General all participated in a scheduled press conference to defend and explain what the order would do. However, Trump did not admit to any mistakes in the execution of his first order, and it seems doubtful that the revised order will experience a smooth sail as Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union have already stated their plans to oppose it.


Europe’s “Formidable Four” Meet at Versailles: The leaders of the four largest remaining nations in the European Union (Germany, France, Italy, and Spain) met in Versailles, France on Monday to discuss the future of European integration. Following Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and rising Euroskeptic populism on the continent, the meeting comes at a time in which the integrity of the EU is being called into question. During the talk, leaders of the four countries endorsed a “multi-speed” solution to the crisis facing the European project.

A “multi-speed Europe” means that EU member nations will proceed with integration at different levels and at their chosen pace, likely meaning that the stronger and larger nations in the bloc will move more quickly ahead with integration. The talks received a chilly response from Eastern European governments, who have for years complained that the EU does not take them seriously. These countries fear that the “formidable four” could surge ahead with other strong European economies such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (the ‘Benelux’ nations), leaving smaller and weaker nations to fend for themselves.

State Department Releases Human Rights Report Without Fanfare: On Friday, the US State Department released its 41st annual report on the state of human rights around the world without the usual press conference to accompany it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chose not to hold a press conference to announce the report, a tradition that has been upheld for decades by both Republican and Democratic administrations. Instead, a senior US official spoke with reporters by phone on the condition of anonymity.

Secretary Tillerson did write a brief preface to the report in which he stated “standing up for human rights and democracy is not just a moral imperative but is in the best interests of the United States in making the world more stable and secure.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) posted on his Facebook page that he was “disappointed that the secretary of state did not personally present the latest report. American leadership in defense of basic human rights, on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced, is needed now more than ever.”


Iraqi Forces Capture Government Complex in Mosul: In a surprise overnight attack, Iraqi forces captured the main government offices in Mosul, the last major city stronghold in Iraq for ISIS militants. Iraqi forces also captured the main museum, the central bank’s main branch, and a nearby courthouse that was used by ISIS to deliver harsh sentences.The battle for Mosul now enters a more complicated phase in the densely-populated Western part of the city where several thousand ISIS militants are believed to be hiding amongst the remaining civilian population.

Bahraini Government Silences Opposition: The government of Bahrain, known for its authoritative stance on opposition politics and protest, has moved to ban the main opposition party, the secular National Democratic Action Society, and plans to try civilians in military tribunals.

Bahrain has for years received harsh criticism for its treatment of political opponents and its record on human rights, but the Gulf state, which considers the US, the UK and other Western countries as allies, seems unfazed. Many external observers expect crackdowns to continue under the country’s current leader, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. The United States has a large military presence in the country as part of its Middle East defense strategy and has thus far not taken considerable actionagainst the nation’s crackdown on human rights.


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