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Trump’s new ‘anti-Muslim’ appointee worries civil rights groups

Washington, DC – American civil rights groups have condemned the appointment of a new deputy national security advisor who served on the board of an anti-Muslim group for nearly a decade. US President Donald Trump appointed Charles M Kupperman last week to assist National Security Advisor John Bolton, saying in a press release that Kupperman…

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Trump’s new ‘anti-Muslim’ appointee worries civil rights groups

Washington, DC – American civil rights groups have condemned the appointment of a new deputy national security advisor who served on the board of an anti-Muslim group for nearly a decade.

US President Donald Trump appointed Charles M Kupperman last week to assist National Security Advisor John Bolton, saying in a press release that Kupperman “brings to the role more than four decades of national security policy and programme experience”.

Kupperman served on the board of directors for the Center for Security Policy (CSP) between 2001 and 2010, according to tax records. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based hate monitor, designates the CSP as an anti-Muslim hate group, pointing to the group’s promotion of conspiracy theories claiming that Muslims have infiltrated the US government and seek to establish Islamic law in the country.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called on the Trump administration to revoke Kupperman’s appointment. 

“Once again this is an example of Trump elevating foxes into the hen house, where Islamophobes are well placed to direct our nation’s national security priorities,” Robert McCaw, director of CAIR’s government affairs department, told Al Jazeera.

McCaw argued that Kupperman’s appointment “should absolutely be rescinded” and that he “has no place in the US government”.

In the White House press release, John Bolton was quoted as saying that Kupperman “has been an advisor to me for more than 30 years, including during my tenure as National Security Advisor to President Trump”.

“Charlie’s extensive expertise in defence, arms control and aerospace will help further President Trump’s national security agenda.”

Kupperman has held senior positions in defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and served in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump called for a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the US.

Since coming to office in January 2017, he has issued a slew of executive orders, some of which have been challenged in courts, seeking to bar entry for travellers from several Muslim-majority countries.

In October, during the midterm elections, the Muslim Advocates group released a report documenting 80 instances of political candidates using “clear anti-Muslim” rhetoric in 2017 and 2018. 

‘Not an accident’ 

At the time of publication, the White House had not replied to Al Jazeera’s request for a comment. 

Established in 1988, the Washington, DC-based Center for Security Policy is headed by Frank Gaffney Jr, and has promoted the false claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government and American society at large.

Gaffney, who also served in the Reagan administration, has falsely claimed that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, said former President Barack Obama was a covert Muslim, and claimed Hillary Clinton advisor Huma Abedin was a Muslim Brotherhood operative.

Frank Gaffney has built deep ties in the Republican Party [File: Larry Downing/Reuters] 

In 2011, Gaffney called on Congress to create an updated version of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was established in 1938 to seek out Americans with communist ties or sympathies. In his version, however, the committee would root out Muslims supposedly seeking to undermine US institutions.

According to the SPLC, Kupperman is one of several people with ties to the CSP to join the Trump administration.

Others include Kellyanne Conway, whose firm produced a dubious poll for the CSP. It claimed that more than half of American Muslims advocate replacing US law with Islamic law. 

Bolton, who appointed Kupperman, also appeared on Gaffney’s radio programme often, as did US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the SPLC noted. 

Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry, said that it is not “an accident that people with clear connections to anti-Muslim hate groups are being elevated in the Trump world”.

“In fact, with John Bolton at the helm of National Security, such an eventuality would be absolutely expected,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Kupperman’s associations with Frank Gaffney are enough to disqualify him from any government post, let alone one in which he is advising a man who is arguably in the president’s ear on a daily basis regarding matters of national security.”

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German far-right holds congress with COVID ‘hotspot potential’

About 600 members of AfD due to meet Saturday at an unused nuclear plant in Kalkar city defying pandemic warnings.Hundreds of AfD delegates will gather Saturday for a congress that authorities have warned could become a coronavirus hotspot, as the German far-right party increasingly aligns itself with activists protesting coronavirus restrictions. Six hundred members of…

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German far-right holds congress with COVID ‘hotspot potential’

About 600 members of AfD due to meet Saturday at an unused nuclear plant in Kalkar city defying pandemic warnings.Hundreds of AfD delegates will gather Saturday for a congress that authorities have warned could become a coronavirus hotspot, as the German far-right party increasingly aligns itself with activists protesting coronavirus restrictions.
Six hundred members of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant party are due to meet at an unused nuclear plant in western Germany’s Kalkar city to draw up their first concept on pensions.
To win approval for the huge gathering at a time when Germans are asked to limit their contacts to just two households at a time, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) had signed up to stringent rules including compulsory mask-wearing and distancing in the huge hall.
The party’s own security officers are due to ensure that the rules are met, alongside officials from Kalkar city.
Hundreds of police officers will also be deployed to ward off any unruly scenes, as anti-AfD protesters have also announced plans to demonstrate outside.

The event can “become a hotspot,” warned Kalkar’s mayor Britta Schulz, adding that, while it was “irresponsible” to hold such a big event, the political gathering could not be prohibited.
Because new appointments are also due to be made to the AfD’s board during the meeting, the congress is exempted from rules banning large gatherings in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
More than 15,000 COVID deaths
In contrast, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party has twice postponed its congress to elect a new leader because of the risks of coronavirus contagion. The Greens held their meeting online last weekend.
Shrugging off possible risks, the AfD’s health policy spokesman Detlev Spangenberg claimed, “The coronavirus is comparable to the influenza in terms of the course taken by the illness as well as in terms of its lethality. So the serious measures [taken to fight it] are not proportionate.”
Germany has recorded more than a million coronavirus infections. A total of 15,586 people have died from the illness, according to official data.
‘War propaganda’
The AfD has been the focus of repeated controversies since it began life as a eurosceptic outfit seven years ago.

In 2015, as public opinion soured against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to keep Germany’s borders open to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war in Iraq and Syria, the AfD morphed into an anti-immigration party.
It was rewarded for its Islamophobic positioning at elections in 2017, when voters sent it into the Bundestag for the first time to become the biggest opposition group in parliament.
A year before national elections, the party is once again positioning itself at the side of groups railing against the government – this time over curbs imposed to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Party co-chief Alexander Gauland recently accused the government of using “war propaganda” to champion its “corona-dictatorship”.
Anti-coronavirus curbs
AfD politicians are now also regularly marching side by side demonstrators against coronavirus curbs.
During the latest round of protests in central Berlin, when violence reached a level that the capital’s police chief said had been unseen in decades, an AfD politician was charged for using a forged medical certificate to claim he could not wear the required nose and mouth covering.
In a separate incident recently, Gauland was forced to apologise after two of the party’s legislators invited to parliament two far-right YouTubers who went on to harass politicians in the building.
Nevertheless, the AfD’s ratings have held at about 10 percent, compared with highs of 15-16 percent at the height of the refugee crisis.
In 2017, German voters sent AfD into the Bundestag for the first time to become the biggest opposition group in parliament [File: Fabian Bimmer/Reuters]Toxic infighting between ultra-conservatives and others in the party has weakened the AfD. Some voters are also turned off by association with neo-Nazi skinheads, as the AfD’s most radical faction “Fluegel” is now the object of official surveillance by Germany’s intelligence agency.
Instead, approval ratings for Merkel – who is due to retire from politics next year – have soared to new heights, as the vast majority of the population voiced satisfaction at her handling of the pandemic.

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah. One of the facility’s tanks…

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah.
One of the facility’s tanks was hit by a missile in early on Monday.
The attack knocked out 10 percent of all fuel that was stored at the plant, a Saudi Aramco official said on Tuesday, adding that the tank – one of 13 at the facility – is currently out of action.
The official described the site as a “critical facility” that distributes more than 120,000 barrels of products per day.
A fire caused by the attack was extinguished in about 40 minutes with no casualties, he said.
The attack was confirmed by a Saudi official who told the Saudi state news agency (SPA) it was a “terrorist attack with a projectile”.
The oil company’s production and export facilities are mostly in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province, more than 1,000km (621 miles) away from Jeddah, across the country.
Announcing the attack, a military spokesman for the Houthis warned that “operations will continue”.
Yahya Sarea said the attack was carried out with a Quds-2 type winged missile. He also posted a satellite image with the label: “North Jeddah bulk plant-Saudi Aramco”.
“The strike was very accurate, and ambulances and fire engines rushed to the target,” Sarea said.
That facility is just southeast of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, an important site that handles incoming Muslim pilgrims en route to nearby Mecca.
Renewed violence
Yemen has been mired in conflict since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 to restore the Yemeni government, which had been removed from power in the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces in late 2014.
Cross-border attacks by Houthi forces have escalated since late May when a truce prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic expired. The Saudi-led coalition has responded with air raids on Houthi-held territory.
The Houthis control most of north Yemen and most large urban areas. They say they are fighting a corrupt system.
Sarea said the attack was carried out in response to the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen.
The claimed attack came just after a visit by outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom also just hosted the annual G20 summit, which concluded on Sunday.

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations. James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a…

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations.
James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a US Senate voice vote.
The South Carolina native takes the job that he will carry out from the capital of neighbouring Colombia as Venezuela endures an historic economic and political crisis.
The US and Venezuela have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations first started to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.
The two nations totally broke diplomatic ties last year, each withdrawing its diplomats shortly after Washington backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader.
Story, 50, will likely play a key role in helping guide US policy on Venezuela during the transition of President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden’s win has sparked debate among those who back President Donald Trump’s hardline approach of isolating his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro and others who say it is time for a new course.
The critics say heavy sanctions have failed to remove Maduro from power, opening Venezuela to US competitors such as China, Russia and Iran, while making life harder on millions of residents of the South American nation.
The US leads a coalition of dozens of nations that rejected Maduro following his election in 2018 to a second term in a vote Washington called fraudulent.
The US has since heavily sanctioned Maduro, his inner circle and the state-run oil firm, attempting to isolate them.
The Trump administration offered a $15m reward for Maduro’s arrest after a US court indicted him on drug charges.

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