The world is breathing a collective sigh of relief after General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy officially contacted the team of president-elect Joe Biden, marking the Trump administration's belated initiation of the transition process. However, the widespread portrayal that Trump has blinked and is accepting Biden's victory is highly questionable at best. Both Murphy's Nov. 23 letter and Trump's tweet about it state that the decision was Murphy's, taken unilaterally, and that Trump is continuing to contest the election results. Murphy was likely facing what she thought to be the inevitable—Michigan lawmakers had that same day resisted Trump pressure and certified Biden's win in the state, while Trump's legal team got laughed out of court in Pennsylvania. However, the team continues to appeal and is conceding nothing. So no, Trump may not have blinked. And if his Plan A of a judicial coup fails, he and his cabinet may now be preparing the hypothesized Plan B....
The Trump administration on Nov. 16 announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska State Office issued a call for "nominations" on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. The notice launches the beginning of a 30-day public comment period before the agency moves forward with lease sales.
Ten days after the Associated Press called the election for Biden, cracks are finally beginning to emerge in the consensus that he will be allowed to take office without a fight. Trump, refusing to concede and incessantly tweeting about how he "WON THE ELECTION," still controls the state apparatus—and, in league with the more sophisticated minds of Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is clearly preparing it to resist a transfer of power. Despite Biden's own seeming denialism about this reality, the odds that he will actually be inaugurated on Jan. 20 are diminishing each day.
The United States on Nov. 4 formally left the Paris Agreement, the nearly-universal global accord to reduce carbon emissions in an attempt to slow climate change. The US began the exit process one year ago, when it notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw from the agreement, triggering the effective date of withdrawal. The decision to withdraw was the fulfillment of remarks Donald Trump made not long after becoming president in 2017 in which he claimed the Paris Agreement was less about climate change and more about other countries taking advantage of the US financially by transferring coal-mining jobs from the United States to those countries.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced Oct. 29 that "the State Department will allow US citizens born in Jerusalem to request either 'Jerusalem' or 'Israel' as their place of birth on consular documents," including passports. The announcement is the latest in US pro-Israel policy shifts that began with President Donald Trump's December 2017 presidential proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. The proclamation reversed decades of US policy and drew criticism from the international community. In May 2018, the US Embassy in Israel was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A group of Cameroonian asylum-seekers has alleged that officers from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) tortured them into signing deportation orders. The men say they were choked, beaten, and pepper-sprayed into fingerprinting or signing removal papers in a Mississippi detention center. The migrants had refused to sign, fearing death at the hands of Cameroonian government forces, and because they had asylum hearings pending. The 60 asylum-seekers were placed on a deportation flight to Cameroon on Oct. 13.
Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections, and the horrific realities of Russia's client state in Syria, is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. Syria solidarity activists have long been aware of the flood of pro-Assad disinformation on social media. Research from the University of Washington corroborated what activists have observed—it documented four times as many disinformation tweets about the Syrian White Helmets volunteer first-responder group in 2017 compared to factual tweets. In 2016, we saw the same pro-Assad sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated "Leftbook" social media and helped depress the progressive vote. Ten million fewer Democrats voted in 2016 than 2012—a decisive factor in Trump's win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some "left" sites, while Trump's incipient fascism is downplayed.
After a trial that lasted more than five years, a court in Greece on Oct. 7 ruled that the far-right Golden Dawn political party is a criminal organization. The party, founded in the 1980s by Nikos Michaloliakos, came to prominence in 2012 when it gained 21 seats in parliamentary elections. The party's politics are openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic, using the slogan "Blood, honor, Golden Dawn!"—adapted from the Hitler Youth slogan "Blood and honor." After the election, party members broke into the homes of Egyptian immigrant fishermen in the port of Perama, brutally beating them with clubs and iron rods. A year after the election, party members murdered Pavlos Fyssas, a Greek anti-fascist musician. In 2016, the party endorsed Donald Trump for US president, hailing him as a "true patriot" who will "not accept illegal immigrants in the USA."