It Was A Really Bad Monday
Whew! You made it! You’re one of the lucky ones. Temperatures are even warming up a bit today. We have a balmy 14 degrees here in Indianapolis and the forecast calls for continued warming through the weekend. This is not going to be a white Christmas or Hanukkah for most of the Midwest. Wet, perhaps, but no new snow covering the ground.
I wish I knew where to even begin this morning. Yes, the Electoral College did the deed and elected Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. China gave the US Navy its drone ship back, and stocks are looking a bit nervous this morning. Yesterday will be remembered, though, as a day of incredible violence, none of which was justified in any way. Of the five things you should know for today, the first three should never have happened.
Death Toll At 12 in Berlin
Berlin, Germany really gets into Christmas. Its open-air holiday markets are a tradition that spans generations. Millions of people from around the world flock to the city during the month of December to shop the artisan crafts and old-world goods that can only be found in this one place. One finds happiness in Berlin this time of year, so it’s not surprising that when a truck plowed into the holiday market there yesterday, the initial reaction was that it must have been a drowsy driver. It wasn’t.
This morning, police in Berlin are saying that the act was intentional and that they are treating the incident as a terror attack1. Twelve people are now dead as a result of the attack. One of those appears to be the original Polish driver of the truck who was found in the cab. The truck was apparently hijacked earlier by a man German media is claiming to be a Pakistani national. We’re waiting for a press conference later today to confirm that information.
Berlin markets are closed as both the investigation and mourning continues. The archbishop of Berlin held prayers for the victims at noon today.
Assassination In The Gallery
One of the most frightening things about terrorism is that it attacks us in the most unsuspecting of places. When Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was invited to speak at the opening of an exhibition of photographs from Russia’s westernmost Baltic region, I’m sure it seemed like another mindless affair of state; the sort of things ambassadors do on a regular basis. He’d read a short speech, shake a few hands, say nice things about the photographs, and be gone.
That’s not what happened. Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici was attending a photo exhibition simply because it was on his way home2. He describes the scene as quiet, the ambassador, “was speaking softly and… lovingly about his homeland.” That silence was soon shattered, though, as a police officer fired several shots killing the ambassador. He then menacingly continued yelling, in Arabic, smashing some of the photos on the wall. He would later be killed in a shootout with police.
Tensions between Russia and Turkey have been high over Russia’s support of the Assad regime in Syria, especially in regard to the humanitarian tragedy in Aleppo. Many of the Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey for safety. In a separate attack, a Turkish man is being detained after firing a shotgun outside the US embassy in Ankara3. No one was injured in that incident, but tensions still remain very high even as both Russian and Turkish officials pledge to work together in resolving their differences.
Shooting At Prayer Time
Even Switzerland, which we normally think of as being peace-loving, quiet, and accepting, was marred by violence late yesterday as a gunman opened fire in a Geneva mosque frequented by Somali Muslims4. Three men were injured, though, thankfully, none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening. A regular worshipper at the mosque said this was the first time they had any problems at the center and that normally no one bothered them.
Even in Switzerland, though, where two-third of the population identifies as Christian, relationships with the Muslim community there, many of which are immigrants from the former Yugoslavia, is tentative. Back in 2009, a constitutional referendum banned new minarets in the entire country.
The body of the gunman was found later on a street nearby, but police in Geneva are being quiet about the shooting, hoping to prevent the panic that often accompanies terroristic incidents such as this. Still, for a shooting to happen in as place like this, where there was no hint of any discord, gives the entire international Muslim community reason to be on guard, especially during this holiday season.
Bathroom Doors May Be Open
The state of North Carolina seems to have difficulty keeping itself out of the news. After passing bills last week limiting the executive powers of the incoming Governor, it appears that same state legislature may be ready to repeal the controversial HB2, dubbed the “bathroom bill,” that required transgendered persons to use the restroom facility matching the gender identity on their birth certificate5.
How this all went down is a bit complicated. The whole thing started when the city of Charlotte passed an anti-discrimination bill that guaranteed transgender people the right to use whichever restroom they wanted. That bill motived the state legislature to pass HB2 specifically to stop the Charlotte law. The law proved to be bad for the state, though, costing it several high-profile events and thousands of jobs. So, a deal was made over the weekend. If Charlotte would repeal their law, the state legislature would repeal theirs. The Charlotte City Council took the necessary action yesterday and the state legislature is being called into emergency session specifically to repeal HB2.
Is this really a victory, though? While the elimination of HB2 is a good thing, the deal leaves transgendered people without any legal protection. This sort of “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” approach isn’t likely to work for long. Without specific anti-discrimination laws in place, transgender people are still too easy a target.
And finally …
“You are free to go,” are words being said at federal prisons all across the US as President Obama set a new record yesterday for the most individual clemencies issued in one day by any president. The president pardoned 78 people and shortened the sentence of 153 others convicted of federal crimes6. And this is while the man is on vacation with his family, mind you.
Issuing pardons is a fairly common activity among lame-duck presidents during their final days in office. Every sitting president has done the same thing, but President Obama has been much more proactive about the matter. All total, he has pardoned 148 people during his presidency and has shortened the sentences of 1,176 people. He has been very vocal about the need for prison reform, even though his administration was never able to get much legislative traction on the issue.
What many people are waiting to see is whether the president takes any action regarding Leonard Peltier. Peltier is the native tribesman and leader of the American Indian Movement who was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. From the very beginning of that incident, many have believed that Peltier was a scapegoat and not the person actually responsible for the shootings. Amnesty International still lists this as an unfair trial7 and it has been the subject of intense controversy. While native tribes civil rights groups have been lobbying heavily for Peltier’s pardon, however, it seems more likely that President Obama might shorten the sentence to match the time already served. This would allow Peltier to be released but would not remove the conviction.
We are so very out of time this morning. Let’s hope that Tuesday goes much smoother than our Monday did. I have holiday treats to bake. Bundle up and stay safe. Subscribe to our freakin’ post already! Share our articles so we can grow, please. May your Tuesday not be terrible. We’ll see you tomorrow.