Syrian troops reach border crossing with Jordan
By BASSEM MROUE
Friday, July 6
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces on Friday reached a vital border crossing with Jordan and raised the national flag for the first time in years, state media reported, reinstating sovereignty over a key region that potentially reopens the way for Syrian exports to Arab countries.
State news agency SANA said the capture of the Naseeb border crossing happened Friday afternoon after a deal was reached between rebels and Russian mediators to end the violence in southern Syria.
The capture of the Naseeb border crossing is another victory for President Bashar Assad’s forces, who have regained control of most of the country’s key cities from insurgents in recent years with the help of powerful allies Russia and Iran. It came after a crushing government offensive that began June 19 to retake southern Daraa province and the nearby Quneitra region that borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The assault has forced more than 330,000 residents to flee toward the sealed Jordanian border and the frontier with Israel in one of the largest displacements in the seven-year Syrian conflict. Dozens have been killed.
Rebels seized control of the crossing in 2015, cutting a major lifeline for Syrian exports and disrupting a major trade route between Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and oil-rich gulf countries.
There was no immediate comment from Jordan on the Syrian forces’ recapture of Naseeb crossing. On Twitter, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Amman was holding talks with all parties to the Syrian crisis focused on ensuring the return of the displaced.
“The solution is political and the protection of civilians, preventing their displacement and saving the (Syrian) brothers more suffering is everyone’s responsibility,” he wrote.
Earlier on Friday, rebels said they reached an agreement with Russian mediators to end the violence in Daraa and surrender the Naseeb crossing point.
Ibrahim Jabawi, spokesman for the rebels’ joint operations room, said under the agreement, insurgents will begin to hand over some of their heavy weapons in return for a government pullout from several villages.
Jabawi added that Russian military police would deploy along the border with Jordan, including the Naseeb crossing, and that rebels opposed to the deal will be evacuated to rebel-held regions in northern Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 159 civilians have been killed since the offensive began two weeks ago, including 33 children.
Friday’s agreement came after the bombardment of rebel-held areas intensified earlier this week after rebels rejected a deal with the Russians. The crushing new wave of attacks appears to have compelled the rebels to accept the deal.
A Syrian man on the Syrian side of the border said he and his family have been camped out near the Jordanian border for 10 days after fleeing the bombardment and airstrikes. The 70-year-old, identifying himself only as Abu Mohammed, said Syrian troops were now heading for the border.
“We are stuck here and God only knows what the regime will be doing now,” he said over the phone, with sounds of children around him.
He said he was angry at Jordan for keeping its border closed “and watching us dying.” Bitterly, he added the Syrian army will now take over the crossing points with Jordan “so your (Jordan’s) economic interest will resume at our expense.”
An Associated Press journalist on the Jordanian side of the border could see the Syrian side of the crossing known as Jaber, along with the former free zone, and some blue tents housing displaced people.
Nabaa Media, an opposition activist collective, said the latest government assault on the area killed several people in the past 24 hours including a woman and her four children in a rebel-held village in Daraa. The agency posted a video showing what it said were the women and her children lying dead in a pickup truck.
The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said in a statement Friday it received “horrific reports” of an entire family including four children being killed. It said the latest deaths bring to 65 the number of children reported killed in less than three weeks in southern Syria alone.
“In the largest wave of displacement to hit southern Syria since the start of the seven-year-long war, an estimated 180,000 children have been forced to flee their homes with little resource for protection, shelter or assistance,” UNICEF said.
Earlier on Friday, the government-controlled Central Military Media said government forces now control most of the towns and villages on the eastern side of southern Daraa province.
Associated Press writers Omar Akour in Jaber, Jordan and Fares Akram in Amman, Jordan contributed reporting.
DeWine announces agenda
COLUMBUS – Ohio Attorney General and candidate for Governor Mike DeWine today (June 28) announced a comprehensive agenda focused on improving and investing in early childhood development programs to give opportunities to every kid in Ohio.
“There are a lot of great things happening in Ohio right now. But, despite our economic success, we still have too many Ohio families and children left behind,” said Mike DeWine. “We have too many kids growing up who, because of no fault of their own, simply don’t have the chances for success that they deserve. As Governor, I am going to do everything in my power to change that.”
The plan, “Opportunity for Every Ohio Kid,” includes a comprehensive approach to transform Ohio’s economy by giving parents, educators and child advocates the tools they need to prepare the next generation to fulfill their lives and their careers.
The agenda for Ohio’s children is driven by six action items that will be made during the first-term of the DeWine-Husted Administration:
- The DeWine-Husted administration will increase access to quality early childhood educational services for more than 20,000 children. The administration will also set the goal of moving all children participating in the program into high quality early childhood programs. In addition to helping children, this will encourage more parental participation in the workforce.
- As Governor, Mike DeWine will increase home visiting services for at-risk, first-time mothers to give them the tools they need to promote child development and school readiness. The DeWine-Husted administration will make state investments to triple the number of families served through home-visiting programs, which are proven to reduce infant mortality and improve school readiness.
- As Governor, Mike DeWine will ensure every public school student in Ohio has access to a mental health professional.
- The DeWine-Husted administration will increase the state’s investment in the foster care system and to create a minimum standard for care for our state’s most vulnerable children. The administration will also initiate a top-down review of the system to identify other methods for improvement, and name an independent ombudsman with the authority to investigate and publish findings on complaints by foster caregivers, foster children and kin.
- The DeWine-Husted administration will work with the State School Board to implement age-appropriate drug prevention education for children kindergarten through 12th grade.
- As Governor, Mike DeWine will create a Director of Children’s Initiatives who will report to the Governor and coordinate children’s programs across all state agencies.
“Kids have one chance to grow up,” added DeWine. “We are holding their future in our hands, so we have to get this right. My administration will put a stake in the ground much earlier in the lives of these kids than ever before, and our efforts will bear fruit for decades to come.”
The announcement was made at a high-quality early learning center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Mike DeWine in his natural habitat at Fourth of July parades
Cleveland.com | By Seth Richardson
July 4, 2018
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Fourth of July is important to Mike DeWine.
Not only for patriotic reasons. No, the Fourth of July provides the Republican attorney general, who hopes to succeed Gov. John Kasich, with his true love on the campaign trail.
DeWine’s brand of local politicking is well known. It’s an old-school tactic from his time running for local offices. He’s walked in parades in every race he’s run, since putting his name on the ballot for Green County prosecutor in 1976.
He loves it. Even on the Fourth of July when the temperature reached 80 degrees by 9 a.m. in Northeast Ohio, DeWine was giddy when he started the day in the Kamm’s Corners neighborhood of Cleveland.
About two dozen staffers and volunteers accompanied him, toting boxes of his wife Fran’s legendary cookbook.
“It’s a lot of fun,” DeWine said.
To DeWine, parades, fairs, festivals are a respite from the day-to-day political discourse.
There’s no eagle mascot following him around asking about the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow – the now-shuddered private online charter school that bilked the state out of millions. No protesters demanding he answer if he’d keep the Medicaid expansion. No activists wanting to know if he’d sign a right-to-work bill into law.
It’s just people enjoying the holiday and a chance for him to get his name on their mind. The rest can come later.
“They’re all kind of the same in the sense that people are there, they’re more likely to talk with you, to approach you,” DeWine said. “It’s just a much more casual environment than you see in other settings.”
DeWine’s love for parades is something of a meme within his campaign, especially the younger ones who recognize it both as a throwback to a different political atmosphere and one of his more endearing traits.
“Mike DeWine loves parades,” they say, always emphasizing the word “loves.”
Arguably the lynchpin of DeWine’s small-town parade tactics is the famous campaign cookbooks. Fran DeWine has been crafting them for years with recipes from her own kitchen. This year, a new cookbook features recipes from running mate Jon Husted’s wife, Tina, as well.
Fran DeWine came up with the cookbook idea to hand out something that had his name on it that might not end up in the trash as quickly as the typical campaign literature.
“I wanted to give something people can keep and at least they’ll smile when I give it to them,” Fran DeWine said.
Parade goers in Kamm’s Corners and Parma were definitely fans of the tactic.
“I need a cookbook!” one woman shouted as she made her way from the sidewalk.
The campaign said they planned to hand out 15,000 cookbooks, each of them emblazoned with the DeWine name.
DeWine today planned on marching in three Northeast Ohio parades, plus one in Beavercreek outside Dayton.
Keeping up with him is no easy task. While he missed the Lakewood parade after a snafu with his driver, the 71-year-old still managed to log 8,795 steps on his FitBit, serpentining through the streets, even marching up to porches to shake a hand and give out a cookbook.
Other politicians also hit the Independence Day parade circuit. Dewine’s Democratic opponent in November, former federal consumer watchdog Richard Cordray marched in a parade in Cincinnati while Cordray’s running mate, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, attended the Lakewood parade DeWine missed.
Not everyone was a fan along Dewine’s route. One man in Kamm’s Corners said he needed to oppose Republican President Donald Trump’s every move. Another in Parma followed DeWine and criticized the candidate for imposing his religion – DeWine is ardently anti-abortion – on women.
But the parades were the perfect place for DeWine’s campaign style. Generally, people weren’t looking for an argument, and if they were, he moved along to the next voter.
Mike DeWine: Not On Our Side
Point: Social Media Not the Sole Cause of Polarization, but It Is a Contributor
November 27, 2017 by Kay S. Hymowitz
Most readers are probably aware that the normal, habitual acrimony between America’s political parties has been strengthening into something resembling Montagues and the Capulets or the Crips and Bloods. We either believe global warming is a theory cooked up by communists or we are convinced downtown Manhattan will be uninhabitable within the next decade.
Some of us might disinherit our children if they married one of “them.” We don’t just vote for different people, we think the other guy belongs in the lower reaches of Hell. Even those who define themselves as independents hate each other.
Like many people, I blame social media — at least in part.
A close look at recent American habits suggests we were already well on the road to extreme Red-Blue polarization before Facebook and Twitter came into our lives. In fact, researchers have been watching America grow more divided since the late 1980s.
Gerrymandering has concentrated red and blue into separate districts, but the re-districting shenanigans of state politicians are far from the whole story. The decline of manufacturing in the Rust Belt and parts of the South, along with the rise of tech and service-based economy on the coasts, has created starkly different experiences and attitudes among Americans in different parts of the country — and a red-tinged worldview largely unrecognized by existing media and politics.
That changed in the late 1980s when the radio show of the choleric Rush Limbaugh was syndicated; Fox News added another microphone for red grievance in the mid-’90s. Sensing a market opening, other cable networks, most notably MSNBC, jumped in to fill the void for Blue voters, now seething from what they viewed as Fox’s fake news.
During this period, Americans were “sorting themselves into like-minded communities,” the Brookings Institution’s Elaine Karmack has written. “Red states have gotten redder, blue states bluer and the same hold for counties.”
The Cook Report Partisan Voter Index found only 72 districts where politicians for both parties were competitive, “a 20 percent decline from just four years ago, when there were 90 swing seats.”
Meanwhile, as the Pew Research Center has found, partisan gaps on just about every issue have been widening. In 1987 red and blue voters had a lot of common ground when it came to attitudes toward the environment, the social safety net, and the size and effectiveness of government. That is less and less the case today.
If cable news and talk radio amplified already existing red and blue divisions in class, culture and geography, social media turned those divisions into a tribal Cold War. Social media de-humanizes personal interactions, taking them out of the dining room, the neighborhood store and workplace and into a nowhere we call cyberspace.
In real life, even in the politically segregated country that we’ve become, you’re bound to run across some flesh and blood “others.” You may hate the contents of the political sign on Mr. Jones’ lawn, but you know he runs a pretty good hardware store and he sweeps his sidewalk every Sunday. Likewise, you may give a thumbs-up to the bumper sticker on Ms. Smith’s car, but you know she’s a careless driver who barely managed a “Sorry!” when she almost ran into you.
Mr. Jones and Ms. Smith, in other words, are embodied human beings who arouse a complex set of reactions. But in cyberspace where we lack the body language, facial expressions, voice inflections and other cues that we use to get a read on someone, it’s easy to reduce people to caricature. Politics becomes a way to attach a social identity to the disembodied creature of cyberspace. Mr. Trump Supporter or Ms. Progressive: that’s all we know and all we need to know.
The relative anonymity of social media also nourishes the anger arising out of our divisions. Making a nasty comment in cyberspace is very different from doing the same to someone you might have to see at the supermarket. Anonymous apps like Whisper and Sarahah allow people to send messages without identifying themselves at all. Some people might benefit from the advantage of speaking up anonymously, but others, as in the case of the now defunct Yik Yak, use it to threaten violence or to make racist and homophobic slurs. No wonder 64 percent of social media users say their online encounters with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum leave them feeling as if they have even less in common than they thought.
No, social media is not the perpetrator of America’s tribal Cold War, but it is a dangerous accomplice.
About the Author
Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. She is the author of the book “The New Brooklyn.”
Counterpoint: Blame Our Voting Rules, Not Social Media
November 27, 2017 by Rob Richie
In the wake of a toxic presidential election and bitter partisan divides in Congress on every major issue, Americans are rightly wondering what has happened to our ability to rise above politics and do what’s right for the nation. Social media is a convenient scapegoat, with its echo chamber that can make all news seem “fake” if differing from what our friends think
But blaming social media is a classic case of shooting the messenger. It wrongly assumes partisan polarization didn’t exist before Facebook and that mechanisms to communicate don’t always offer both promise and peril for seeking truth and solving problems. It also redirects our energy from what’s really broken: winner-take-all voting, vote-for-only-one rules with simplistic binary choices that don’t work in modern America.
Let’s break this down. First, our history with polarization dates back to the clash between, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Slavery acted as an increasing wedge such that when Abraham Lincoln was elected, he won a majority of more than 50 percent of the popular vote in 15 states, but no votes in eight Southern states. The Civil War unsurprisingly started soon after.
In the late 1800s, partisan-driven voting records in Congress were very similar to what we see today. Those divisions lessened over the 20th century, particularly from the New Deal through the 1970s, but that era of more bipartisanship and overlapping ideologies across the parties created a false impression that this has been our norm.
Wedge politics grounded in use of race, gender and culture increased division once again. By 1994, when Republicans ended a 40-year unbroken chain of control of Congress by Democrats, nearly all voters began putting partisan labels over individual character in deciding how to vote.
In 1997, more than 90 percent of congressional districts leaning to one party were held by that majority party. With fewer general elections in play, the power of primary voters grew — creating a vicious cycle that makes each party scarier to the other’s backers.
This, of course, wasn’t due to social media. Some people likely were wringing their hands at the impact of the printing press and Martin Luther’s Bible or pamphlets like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” that built support for the American Revolution. The newspaper industry in the 19th century often found readers by entering the partisan fray, and cable news programs for years have created 24-7 opportunities to feed at the partisan trough.
But fundamentally, means to communicate are just that: ways for people to share information. Whisper campaigns likely plagued our cave-dwelling ancestors, but that doesn’t means language was wrong. Books and pamphlets can divide us, but also have had massively positive effect on human understanding. The same goes for television, cable networks and radio.
With social media, it’s easy to spread lies, draw followers with inflammatory tweets, and hear only one side of a story. But the reverse is also true: it’s easier to expose lies, share thoughtful comments, and look for alternative views. It’s easier to come together and organize, whether in Cairo or Chicago.
What’s really dividing us is winner-take-all, binary politics. It’s easy to believe America’s voting rules have to be that way. But they don’t. More Americans are breaking out of vote-for-one limitations with ranked choice voting, as used in cities with more than 2 million Americans and likely in for most of Maine’s biggest elections next year.
You’re no longer limited to supporting one candidate with ranked choice voting. You can indicate backup second and third choices. If there’s a majority winner, that candidate wins. If not, the last-place candidate is out, their ballots are added to voters’ next choices, and the tally continues until one candidate wins more than half the votes. That means we can have more choices without dysfunctional outcomes and reward candidates who reach out to more voters.
As proposed in the Fair Representation Act, we can also change winner-take-all. Without changing the Constitution or size of Congress, the Fair Representation Act would create bigger districts electing more than one person and establish ranked choice voting to enable as many people as possible to help elect someone, including those in the minority. One-party domination would end literally everywhere.
Having November elections always matter and electing more Manhattan Republicans and Oklahoma Democrats would create new opportunities to work across the aisle.
Social media has its downsides, but let’s support those seeking to make it work. And to really heal our broken politics, let’s get to the core problem: our broken voting rules.
About the Author
Rob Richie is executive director of FairVote.org, a nonpartisan organization in Maryland.