English: “I don’t believe it’s a racist policy”

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

31 January, 2017

(THE TV’s LEAKING) Yesterday prime minister Bill English finally publicly stated his disagreement against the controversial travel ban put in place by US president-elect Donald Trump on Friday but only after repeated urging from other political figures; Dame Susan Devoy, and Green party co-leader Metiria Turei. Despite his expressed concerns, it seems he will not make these known to Trump, as he believes ‘it is not our job to tell others how to run their country’. [Emphasis added].

English was interviewed on Radio NZ this morning. When asked by Guyon Espiner about his thoughts on the policy, English seemed again reserved and somewhat defensive. He once again reiterated his opposition to the ban but it was clear that he had taken no steps to find out how New Zealand citizens may be affected despite the ban already being operational for four days. The ban prevents citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from traveling to the US, as well as affecting people who have dual nationality. Since the order has been signed, chaos has erupted in the States, with travellers and refugees who were looking to make a new life in the supposed ‘land of the free’ being detained in US airports. It is tearing apart many lives and families, with the order extending to cover permanent residents, as well as those who have valid visas. People who have worked and contributed to American society for a number of years, but say, have travelled to their homeland to visit family are being prevented from returning; they are being pulled off flights and prevented from boarding, whilst being questioned about their business in America and then even deported. Yet it’s clear these people mean no harm – these people are not terrorists, they are just people who have made or plan to make America their home.

England and Canada, (other members of the Five Eyes Alliance, the secretive surveillance group) have already been granted exemptions for their citizens following governmental inquiries, with Australia seeking the same. Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop has expressed Australia’s support for Trump’s strong immigration and border policies, saying he is merely fulfilling a campaign promise. Australia’s Treasurer Scott Morrison declined to criticise Trump’s latest move, instead deciding to empathise, stating that Australia’s harsh border deterrence policies are the envy of the world and that finally ‘the rest of the world is catching up’ to them. The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull is yet to speak to address the subject of the travel ban.

 

In light of all this English’s attitude appears very relaxed. While he says New Zealand too is seeking exemptions, he has as of yet received no assurance from the US. He is asserted that New Zealand would never implement such a policy. But that is not the issue here – while it’s good to hear that a ban will never exist here, the fact is, such a ban already exists elsewhere, and is having a severe global impact.

And to cap it all off, when asked if he thought the policy was racist, English replied that no, he didn’t believe so, instead that it is a policy that discriminates among refugees, based on the country they come from. Well, as Guyon Espiner then pointed out, is that not the definition of racism? And his perspective seems a little mis-informed, as it is well known that this ban does not just apply to refugees, but to all citizens of those seven listed countries. Green card holders were initially banned too, however the Trump administration later revoked this, stating they could return to the US only after passing additional security checks. This travel ban is a bigoted and fascist policy that is not only acting as a source of widespread terror and anxiety but is actually unconstitutional. Yet English suggests that it’s up to Muslim New Zealanders to make their minds up on the policy, basically saying in not so many words that he wasn’t going to do anything to contend Trump’s executive order.

I don’t know about you, or what we come to expect in a leader nowadays, but I would expect some strong moral leadership in light of a policy that clearly violates human rights and judges people based on both race and religion. Meanwhile, those countries that export the most terrorism in the world (such as Saudi Arabia) get a free pass into Donald Trump’s America.

This article (English: “I don’t believe it’s a racist policy”) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

Trump Strikes Again

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

27 January, 2017

(THE TV’s LEAKINGSix days since the worldwide women’s march, a backlash against Trump’s inauguration, made history. Despite the 5 million people that publicly protested and voiced their anger and disagreement worldwide, three days later, Trump signed an anti-abortion executive order with far reaching effects for all women, surrounded by a room full of white men. And now he’s angering millions yet again with his latest executive orders and confusing policies.

On Tuesday, he signed executive orders that cleared the way for two major oil pipelines, Dakota Access and Keystone XL. The Dakota pipeline after significant protests, was eventually blocked by the Obama administration who called for construction on the project to halt late last year. Both pipelines are a subject of controversy, but the Dakota Access became the focus of protests by climate change activists and Native American tribes alike. The construction would take place less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe reservation and will contaminate water and threaten Native American land, not to mention the threat of oil spills. This order looks set to derail all of the victories previously won by protesters who rallied for several months to block the project. Apparently though, the impact on the climate and environment is irrelevant and climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Trump expects that by allowing these pipelines to go ahead, it would help the economy by providing more jobs. However, studies have shown that they will not, in fact, have a massive impact on employment rates; while they will provide 42,000 jobs for two years, these are only temporary, with a mere 35 jobs being permanent positions. Protests still look set to continue fighting this decision, activists claiming that “you can’t drink oil” and that all “lives matter”, with respect to the Native American lives that will be affected by the pipeline.

On Wednesday, Trump began fulfilling some of his most controversial campaign policies. In order to reshape immigration enforcement he has ordered for an “impassable physical barrier” to be constructed at the border between the United States and Mexico. Not only is this wall estimated to cost billions of US taxpayer money – as signing away these executive orders does not actually cover the cost of the wall, strangely enough – Trump is confident that Mexico will reimburse the U.S. 100% for the construction costs. That’s interestingly considerate of Mexico, paying for a wall that they never commissioned, and that restricts their entry into the U.S.

And now he’s expected to issue an order that will temporarily ban people from seven different nations in the Middle East and North Africa from entering the US. In fact you can read the draft here. The order looks set to ban people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen from entering the country, including blocking all refugees from war-torn Syria indefinitely. This is reflecting the increasing “anti-refugee” attitude that is evident across the globe, and undermining the Obama administration’s plan to increase refugee admissions into the country by 30% in 2017.

One of Trump’s campaign promises was to ban all Muslims from the US. While this isn’t outrightly stated in the executive order, it is evident the focus is still Islamic based. Despite blocking all Syrian refugees, the order states that it will give priority to refugees of a minor religion that are facing religious persecution. Thus, Christians in most Middle East countries will be favoured over Muslims, despite the fact that Shi’a Muslims are persecuted in several Middle Eastern nations by the Sunni Muslims who consider them ‘apostates’. Thus it seems that Muslims are under fire, simply for the fact that they are Muslim.

There is no way that this can be construed as a mere country ban, when religions are being separated and prioritised over each other within the same country. It also doesn’t seem likely that this immigration ban is going to make the U.S. any safer from terrorism. And if this was Trump’s aim it seems he has picked the wrong countries – as none of the ones on the list have been responsible for any terrorist attacks on the U.S. in the last 15 years – in fact most of the terrorists have been American-born Middle Easterns, suggesting that the biggest threat to the US is themselves. The only commonality between the countries is that they are the countries that the US is actively bombing.

Trump’s chaotic lurching from policy to policy is confusing and frankly terrifying. It seems to me like a game: how many things can he ruin in one go?

Well, I can scarcely wait to see.

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The End of the World as We Know It

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

26 January, 2017

(THE TV’s LEAKING) 2016 was frequently bemoaned as an all round terrible year, kick starting with the loss of a number of great and beloved stars. David Bowie and Alan Rickman were lost within the first few weeks of 2016, seeking to provide a sense of foreboding that promised only more and more devastating things. We lost Prince, Mohammed Ali, Carrier Fisher, 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando in a hate crime attack, Harambe the gorilla from a Cincinnati zoo and Britain from the European Union. So understandably, people turned to 2017 to be their saviour; the year of redemption, to make up for all the horrors that we longed to leave behind in the murky depths of 2016.

 

So far, the prospects of that aren’t looking too great and in fact, in my opinion, 2017 is shaping up to be on par with 2016, as highlighted by the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump on the 20th of this month. This is something that still terrifies me – the fact that this arrogant, misogynistic, racist and I-could-keep-going-ist billionaire is running one of the world’s superpowers. I still find it a little bit bewildering that there are people out there saying that because he’s the president now we should give him the benefit of the doubt. This is still the same man that campaigned in the US election, the same man that plans to make America great again by building a wall along the US-Mexico border and to ban Muslims from entering the United States until we figure out ‘what is happening’.

 

The day after he was sworn in, his press secretary’s briefing accused the media of deliberate false reporting, insisting that photos of the inauguration were framed in a way to purposely minimise the size of the crowd that had turned out to support the new president. Apparently this also applied to any attempt to try and count the amount that attended the historic women’s march on Washington, reported as being three times the size of Trump’s crowd.

 

He has been in office a mere 3 days and he is already being sued for violating the constitution. On his second day in office he signed an anti-abortion executive order whilst surrounded by a room full of white men. The order is also known as the ‘global gag rule’, that has not been in place since Reagan’s government in 1984. Not only did he sign an order that will have far-reaching global consequences for women, he did it without a woman in sight. Interesting, to say the least, as you’d think that signing a policy which prohibits US funding to any international non-governmental organisations responsible for giving sexual health advice and family planning would require some input from women, as they are usually the ones who are pregnant.

 

The effects that this order will have is massive on women all over the world. It won’t stop abortion happening, but it will make it less safe. Thousands more women will die, and it will prevent those international organisations from promoting or even discussing abortion as a family planning option. Because if they do, they’ll lose the large amount of US funding they receive for all of their other health care services.

 

Not to mention his bipolar disorder approach to his policies. One minute he is planning to shake up the American intelligence agency, with a major reform in store. The next he’s visiting them, telling them he supports them 1000%, reportedly saying he loves them. Then there’s the rising tensions with China, over the ‘One-China policy’ and Taiwan, and the accusations over Twitter that China is not doing enough to contain its ally, North Korea, over their threat of an extremely powerful nuclear ballistic capabilities. Then there was the continuation of the suspected drone strike programme that killed three alleged Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, a program that doesn’t seem to be coming to an end with the entry of the new president, despite

the controversies and the fact that it could lead to war crime investigations.

 

I could go on. The truth is, if you think think that not being an American means that this will not affect you, you are seriously misguided. On his second day in power Trump signed a single executive that has the power to affect women on all 7 continents. As Meryl Streep said in her Golden Globes speech, “when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Who only knows what else he can do.

 

This article (The End of the World as We Know It) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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I’m Done With Online Hate Speech

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

(THE TV’s LEAKINGIn one of those idle moments I took to perusing Instagram, scrolling through endless photos in my home feed. I took a pause at the latest image posted by Jamie Oliver – a rest in peace post for one of his icons, Carrie Fisher. Eyes quickly fell to the comments to see evidence of a disjointed argument interspersed between similar comments of respect and sadness at Fisher’s passing. Being an idle moment as it were, I made the decision to load the rest of the comments and immediately wished I hadn’t.

One commenter had taken the trouble to attack Oliver over a spelling mistake in the photo’s caption. Oliver, known to have severe dyslexia, had used ‘too’ incorrectly (writing ‘to’ instead). This mistake was something I had noticed when I read the caption, but barely thought it worth paying attention to. The commenter claimed that someone as rich as Oliver should hire a ‘personal spelling advisor’ so as to avoid future incidents such as this, before they went on to further insult Oliver and other commenters who jumped to the celebrity chef’s defence.

Doesn’t this just border on the edge of incredulity? I could scarce believe what I was reading; that this is something capable of triggering an online argument, hateful words and insults. In a world where electronic devices and autocorrect mean typos are a highly frequent occurrence – well speaking for myself in particular – at this rate we’d all be needing personal spelling advisors. Pity that most of us, unlike Oliver, do not have the cash to fork out for this much needed assistance.

On another scale, how is it that this – a missing ‘o’ from a word that did not detract from the meaning of the caption – was actually worth starting a feud over? How can it be, especially with the state of everything else that is going on the world at the moment that someone actually took the time to type out a complaint over a spelling error? Compared to other things that I would believe worth taking a stand over, this pales into teeny tiny insignificance – a minor issue that truly warrants no attention whatsoever.

The truth of it is, this era of electronic devices that we are now in lends a sort of bizarre courage to people, allowing them to say all sorts of things they never would say in reality, all because of the safety and anonymity that comes from sitting behind a screen. The thing is – what is gained by all of this hate? I’m all for free speech and being allowed to speak your mind but what use is it to personally attack and insult people, even people you do not know? It is not tolerated in real life, so why should it be so online? Why should we have to suffer through this war of hate as people feel they have the right to rip others to shreds to mock, and berate, to taunt, to threaten? A number one rule that we learn as children is that if we have nothing nice to say that we should say nothing at all. Telling people that they are f****** stupid, that they should kill themselves, leaving cryptic and hurtful comments, purely because you disagree with their point of view, simply makes no sense and all of this leaves emotional wounds that cut deep. We all seem to forget that the people out there in the spotlight are humans too, just like us and we all know words are powerful weapons that can prove detrimental or even fatal.

The strangest thing seems to be how people take particular delight in tearing down people who are trying to help others, and even themselves. Maybe they’ve made mistakes before but now they are trying to improve themselves and raise awareness, assist others – so why pull them down? Is this some form  of the Tall Poppy syndrome?

Whatever it is needs to end. If you have something to say why not try say something constructive. There is and never will be a need for hate as it does not achieve anything. Remember, if you don’t have anything nice – or at the very least useful to say – don’t say anything at all.

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