Under the Radar: March 19-25, 2018

Hi, I’m Zoe Licata, back with Newscoop’s Under the Radar for March 19-25.

The March for Our Lives protests on Saturday, March 24th, were far bigger and more energetic than the student organizers could have hoped for.  Millions marched on Washington, with more than 800 sister rallies and marches around the globe. Organized by student survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14, protesters are determined to move U.S. policymakers toward enacting sensible gun laws. The National Rifle Association tried to blame the march on violent radicals, “gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites,” but Americans aren’t buying it. 67% of Americans want to ban assault weapons, and 97% want universal background checks.

The Israeli Knesset is moving toward enacting a so-called Basic Law that will eventually become part of their constitution. The law would legalize inequality between minorities and those of Jewish heritage, and it could take away the power of the courts to protect against human rights abuses and land grabs. Deep concerns have been expressed by human rights advocates as well as many Israelis as to what the law will mean to Palestinian rights, a future Palestinian state, and the future of Israeli democracy.

The Chinese government announced this week that their recently-implemented so-called social credit system will soon be expanded, blocking those with low scores from air and train travel. Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns about the social engineering protocol that could flag someone who has committed “social misdeeds” – such as carrying a bit too much credit card debt, or smoking on a train. Seven million Chinese citizens have already been penalized. Feels more than a little dystopian.

And last, but not least, some really interesting developments emerged this week from the Mueller investigation. Lebanese-American businessman George Nader has become a cooperating witness for Mueller, drawing attention to a shocking campaign of influence that he and deputy RNC finance chairman Elliott Broidy have been conducting with the Trump administration. On March 21, the New York Times reported that Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates used Nader and Broidy to influence the Trump administration on a range of critical foreign policy issues in the Middle East – including getting rid of now-former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and on hardening U.S. policy toward Qatar and Iran. The UAE investment made Broidy very rich, and also flowed into Trump’s political efforts. Mueller has given Nader full immunity in exchange for his cooperation.

Related to this, and adding the complexity, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported on March 21 that the family real estate business of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner had tried to obtain a half billion dollar loan from the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar, but were turned down. Very soon thereafter, Donald Trump announced via twitter his 180 degree turn from long-held U.S. policy toward Qatar, which is the permanent home of the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East. Trump tweeted instead his support for the Saudi/Emirati blockade against Qatar.

Whoa. Could it really be the case that the Trump administration would risk a war in the Middle East because they were turned down on a loan?

This has been Newscoop’s Under the Radar. Tune in next week for another rundown of important stories that are getting too little attention.  



Music courtesy of bensound.com

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