Political Roundup

[CW: This article makes mention of sexual assault and murder.]

In this week’s headlines…

The office of current Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has launched an inquiry into the Democratic Party of Georgia, stating, “[It was] a failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system.” No details were released except that the inquiry had been opened after receiving information about failed efforts to breach the online voter registration and My Voter Page and that investigators have requested the assistance of the FBI. Democratic leaders have since denounced the inquiry as an abuse of power in the days leading up to the midterm elections, in which Kemp is running as the Republican gubernatorial candidate. His Democratic opponent, former Georgia State Legislator Stacey Abrams, labeled the move “desperate,” fueling criticisms against Kemp as a master of voter suppression after he refused to recuse himself from his office’s investigation, purged over two million names from rolls and suppressed over 50,000 mostly Black voters (The New York Times, “Brian Kemp’s Office, Without Citing Evidence, Investigates Georgia Democrats Over Alleged ‘Hack,’” 11.04.2018).

Following the addition of a quarter of a million jobs to the economy and a 48-year low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, experts expect the “blue wave” to sweep the nation on Election Day. The economy now joins the many other factors informing voters’ decisions at the polls. Many Republican candidates hope to focus on the positive aspects of the economy, but it has fallen into a category of lower rhetorical importance as President Trump focuses on attacking the contemporary immigration system. He recently tweeted, “If you want your Stocks to go down, I strongly suggest voting Democrat… They like the Venezuela financial model, High Taxes & Open Borders!” (Twitter, [at]realDonaldTrump, 10.30.2018). According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 55 percent of respondents found immigration to be a very important topic, but it still lagged behind gun policy at 60 percent and the economy at 64 percent; the latter point is why GOP leaders at the state and federal levels hope to redirect the conversation with which Trump leads at rallies (The Hill, “Robust economy drowned out by Trump’s midterm message,” 11.04.2018).

The Senate Judiciary Committee released a 414-page report stating that it found no evidence to support allegations of sexual misconduct made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings. Likewise, it found no corroborating evidence in the supplemental FBI investigation. This includes the statements made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were in high school and by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were undergraduates at Yale. The Committee could not locate evidence pertaining to several anonymous accusations. Kavanaugh, whom the Senate confirmed on Oct. 6, adamantly denied all allegations (The Hill, “Senate Judiciary panel says no evidence found to support accusations against Kavanaugh,” 11.04.2018).

Around the world…

Tensions surrounding the involvement of the Saudi Arabian government in the premeditated murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi continue to run high. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul after residing in the United States for a year in self-imposed exile to file papers that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. He never emerged, and Saudi Arabia recently confirmed that he had been murdered after weeks of denials by the Saudis that he was not missing. Turkish media, supported by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reported that Khashoggi’s body was put into five suitcases and removed from the premises after a 15-man hit squad strangled him. This made it easier for the hitmen to dispose of the body, which remains missing. In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Erdogan stated that, in regards to high-ranking members of this group close to Saudi Crown Prince and de facto leader Mohammed Bin Salman, “We must reveal the identities of the puppet masters behind Khashoggi’s killing.” The Saudi government has launched an investigation into the matter with the purpose of punishing those who are responsible (Al Jazeera, “Khashoggi’s body parts transported in suitcases,” 11.04.2018).

In Egypt, thousands are mourning the death of seven Coptic Christians in the Minya province after the latest attack by Islamic State extremists at the same site of the deaths of 28 Christians in May 2017. The Interior Ministry stated that the 19 perpetrators of the attack were killed in gunfire in a desert outside Minya, posting images of the bodies and their tent. Coptic Christians are among the most persecuted minorities in Egypt (BBC, “Coptic Christian Attack: Egypt police ‘kill 19 attackers,’” 11.04.18).

In Pakistan, lawmakers are now taking a more critical eye to blasphemy policies passed under the regime of former dictator Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, whose punishments ranged from life in prison to the death sentence. The catalyst for this is the acquittal for a Punjabi Christian woman, Asia Bibi, after she spent eight years on death row for the criticism of the Prophet Muhammad and won an appeal against the conviction. The Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party led violent protests throughout the last week that prompted Bibi’s lawyer Saif ul-Malook to flee the country, citing fear for his life. The TLP has added Bibi to a list preventing her from leaving the country in a move her husband stated was a signature on her death warrant (CNN, “Asia Bibi’s lawyer flees Pakistan in fear for his life, associate says,” 11.04.2018).

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