Daily Archives: April 14, 2017

America’s first female Muslim Judge found dead in Hudson River!

America’s first female Muslim Judge found dead in Hudson River!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff

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A groundbreaking black jurist Sheila Abdus-Salaam who became the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge was found dead in New York’s Hudson River on April 12, according to a New York Post report.  Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York’s highest court, was found floating off Manhattan’s west side at about 1:45 p.m. EDT (1545 GMT), a police spokesman said.

Police pulled Abdus-Salaam’s fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Her family identified her and an autopsy would determine the cause of death. Her husband reportedly identified her body. Citing unnamed police sources, the Post’s said Abdus-Salaam’s body showed no signs of foul play injuries or trauma.

Although local police found no trauma or signs of injury on Abdus-Salaam’s body, it’s not clear how the judge died or ended up off the shore of the river. According to BBC News, police first learned the judge was missing after her husband made a call Wednesday.

Abdus-Salaam, who was 65 years old, was pronounced dead at around 2 PM, shortly after law enforcement found her. Witnesses called 911 when they found 65-year-old Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s fully-clothed body in the river near 132nd Street and Hudson Parkway, police said. Citing unidentified sources, the New York Post reported that Abdus-Salaam had been reported missing from her New York home earlier on Wednesday. Attempts to reach her family were unsuccessful.

 

The 65-year-old judge, who lived in nearby Harlem, had spent the weekend in New Jersey with her husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, and spoke with her assistant on Tuesday morning, Boyce said. Abdus-Salaam was discovered on Wednesday afternoon in the water near West 132nd Street. She had a MetroCard in her pocket and there were no obvious signs of trauma on her clothed body. “We don’t believe she was in the water for a long time,” Boyce said. The New York City Medical Examiner said it too was “unable to confirm the cause and manner of death at this time,” a spokesperson told NBC News.

 

Courage

A courageous and outspoken Abdus-Salaam, a native of Washington, D.C., became the first African-American woman appointed to the Court of Appeals when Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo named her to the state’s high court in 2013. “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History said Abdus-Salaam was the first female Muslim to serve as an American judge. A graduate of Barnard College and Columbia Law School, Abdus-Salaam started her law career with East Brooklyn Legal Services and served as a New York state assistant attorney general, according to the Court of Appeals website. She held a series of judicial posts after being elected to a New York City judgeship in 1991.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement via the Post, Abdus-Salaam was a “pioneer” and “a force for good.” Cuomo said of Abdus-Salaam, who was also the state’s first female African-American judge to be appointed to New York’s Court of Appeals, he “was proud to appoint her” and is “deeply saddened by her passing.”

 

 

Life

 

 

One of six children raised by working class parents, Abdus-Salaam attended public schools and first became interested in the law by watching the TV show “Perry Mason.” But she found her calling when Frankie Muse Freeman, a civil rights attorney and the first woman to be appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, visited her high school. “She was riveting,” Abdus-Salaam recalled in the profile. “She was doing what I wanted to do: using the law to help people.”

The judge also gave her mother credit for pushing her to succeed. “If my mother wasn’t such a smart and resourceful woman, I might have ended up in foster care or worse,” Abdus-Salaam recalled in 2015 at a Black History Month celebration. “Although she dropped out of school, my mother realized that a good education would help us escape the poverty that we were trapped in.”

Abdus-Salaam earned her bachelor’s degree at Barnard College in 1974 and graduated three years later from Columbia Law School where she was classmates with future U.S. Attorney Eric Holder, who remembered as serious but fun-loving. “Sheila could boogie, but there was a seriousness about her, a strong sense of purpose at a relatively young age,” he said. “She never forgot where she came from.”

Her first job out of college was as a public defender in Brooklyn where she often represented poor defendants and immigrants in landlord versus tenant disputes. “The job was not just legal, but also part social work, and some part education,” she said in the profile.

Later, she was an assistant attorney general in the New York State Department of Law’s civil rights where she won an anti-discrimination suit on behalf of 30 female city bus drivers who had been wrongly passed over for promotions. In 1994, Abdus-Salaam started serving on the New York Supreme Court. Then in 2009, Gov. David Paterson appointed her associate justice to the New York Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

In 2013, Cuomo nominated Abdus-Salaam to fill a vacancy on the New York Court of Appeals and praised her “deep understanding of the everyday issues facing New Yorkers.” And after the state Senate confirmed her nomination, Abdus-Salaam received a standing ovation. She quickly distinguished herself as a champion of the poor and downtrodden and as a hedge against the powerful and politically-connected corporations. She also wrote a landmark decision that gave the non-biological parent in a same sex couple visitation rights after a breakup.

Illustrious career

Born Sheila Turner in Washington on March 14, 1952, Abdus-Salaam was the great-granddaughter of a slave. She took her first husband’s last name and continued to use it professionally after that marriage ended, according to the Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History.

The prolific New York judge was 65 years old. Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals, was found dead on Wednesday in the Hudson River, the New York Times reports. She was the first African-American woman to sit on New York State’s highest court. She was also widely hailed as the nation’s first female Muslim judge — or at least one of the first judges with a Muslim surname. And now the New York Police Department is trying to determine whether Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whose body was found floating off Manhattan in the Hudson River, took her own life.

 

Before her death, Abdus-Salaam had an illustrious career as the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge. After becoming a public defender in Brooklyn, Abdus-Salaam went on to serve as an assistant attorney general in the New York state attorney’s Civil Rights Bureau. From there she served as a lawyer in the city’s Law Department, an associate justice on the First Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, and a State Supreme Court justice in New York City, according to the Times.

In 2013, New York governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Abdus-Salaam to the State Court of Appeals, making her the first black woman to serve on New York’s highest court. There, she was known to champion immigrants and the poor over wealthy, corporate interests. One of her most important rulings—which was decided last year—gave non-biological parents in same-sex relationships the right to seek custody of their children. Cuomo lauded Abdus-Salaam after learning of her death Wednesday, calling her “a force for good.”  “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all,” the governor said in a statement. “I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing.”

 

Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam looks on as members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee vote unanimously to advance her nomination to fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals at the Capitol in Albany on April 30, 2013. “It’s too early to tell right now,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Thursday. “We’ve spoken to many people in her family about her history. We don’t believe she was on any drugs at all. It was a surprise to everyone.”

 

 

Tributes

 

Meanwhile, tributes poured in for the respected jurist who Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called a “trailblazer.” “During her time on the bench, Justice Abdus-Salaam earned the respect of all who appeared before her as a thoughtful, thorough, and fair jurist,” he said in a statement “I join all those who knew Justice Abdus-Salaam in mourning this terrible loss.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called her a “humble pioneer.” And Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Abdus-Salaam possessed an “unshakable moral compass.” “She was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come,” Cuomo said.

Asked what makes her a good judge, Abdus-Salaam said in a 2012 profile for Columbia Law School Magazine, “I think people consider me to be a judge who listens and gives them a fair shot.” Despite being widely hailed by that encyclopedia and several published reports as “the first female Muslim US judge,” it was unclear if she was been an active practitioner of Islam.

Abdus-Salaam was married three times. Her second husband was James Hatcher. And she is survived by Jacobs, whom she married in 2016 and who is a minister at the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.

 

 

 

Russia vs. West: EU-Russia strained relations!

Russia vs. West: EU-Russia strained relations!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff

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West continues to be anti-Russia even during the early reign of President Trump who claimed to try and drastically improve relations with its Cold War foe.  End ideology in Russia and Eastern Europe has not helped the situation to improve.   USA continues to control policy making processes in Europe and does not let Europe think for itself and EU does not want lose the US help.  As such Russia’s efforts to bring EU out of US control mechanisms have not been successful for obvious reasons.

 

US hand in Ukraine

 

Russian ties with the western world have never been smooth though at times they are seen making some efforts to make up and even stop fighting each other. Mutual mistrust is the main cause for the conflictual situation and this mistrust is not without any base. The Sept-11 hoax that helped both to forget their differences and forge a common front against Islam on the promotion of media Islamophobia,  could  not sustain itself too long as the  trust deficit between them  is too  strong.

 

USA influenced the government of Kiev (Ukraine), considered historically bound with Russia since its early formatary stages, to oppose Russia. That indeed annoyed Russian iron President Vladimir Putin who in order to redeem Russia’s lost prestige retook Crimea.  Annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, now a part of Europe and EU, by Russia has cut its relations with both USA and Europe almost simultaneously.

 

Mutual sanctions hurt EU and Russia, economically. USA continues to press EU not to lift the sanctions on Russia. It is three years since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and began its covert invasion of eastern Ukraine. At the time, it seemed like the start of a more ambitious Israel-like land-grab. His rhetoric implied that Ukrainian and Belarusian independence was only a historical anomaly.

 

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB boss working in Europe, first came to power in 2000 by killing Chechen Muslims in a well planned military attack on Chechnya; he has made all efforts to make Russia super power once again and he shrewdly managed the foreign policy, made Russia emerge as a super power. When Putin described Russians as “one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders,” Russia’s neighbors — some of them homes to large Russian minorities — wondered whether he meant to erase those borders.  Eastern Europe, dotted with frozen conflicts of Russia’s making, is stuck in transition to an uncertain future. Though he still holds Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine, Putin has alienated the rest of Ukraine. But the West also has little to congratulate itself on.

 

 

Putin’s pet project has been to bring in former Soviet states into Russian fold. Three years on, one is not quite sure if Putin’s project has made any headway.  But the west says he has clearly failed. But Moscow’s willingness to use economic and military coercion in its neighborhood has alienated many who might otherwise have felt an affinity with Russia.

 

Conspiracy

 

With Superpower instinct, Vladimir Putin opposes the fall and disintegration of the mighty Soviet Union as a western conspiracy and  said that Ukrainian and Belarusian independence was only a historical anomaly. When he described Russians as “one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders,” Russia’s neighbors — some of them homes to large Russian minorities — wondered whether he meant to erase those borders.

 

 

Today, the USA and the EU remain extremely cautious about Russia’s imperial intentions and see a hidden agenda of the Kremlin to revive Soviet Union in another format. Russia is unhappy that most of the former Soviet Republics have been admitted into US led NATO and Germany led European Union (EU). The European Union has consistently dodged the issue of possible EU membership for any of the six former Soviet states that now lie in Europe (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). Russia has a clearer vision for the region than the West does. It has never treated the six states as fully sovereign. After Putin became president for the third time, in 2012, he stepped up efforts to keep former Soviet states inside what his predecessor, Dmitriy Medvedev, described as a “region of privileged interests”.

 

 

As USA guides European policies, Western leaders do admit that Russia has a veto on its neighbors’ foreign policies. But even a few want a fight with Russia even with US backing. They are scared of Russian military prowess. Eastern Europeans who want their countries (and Turkey that would join the EU) to meet European “standards” of governance and join Western institutions have become disillusioned by the West’s failure to offer full-throated support against the Kremlin.

 

 

Meanwhile, a After Kiev announced the travel ban on Samoylova from entering Ukraine for the next three years, the Russian TV network Vesti declared that Russian television will not broadcast this year’s Eurovision contest, though the broadcasting rights for the 2017 competition actually belong to a rival station in Russia, Channel One. It’s not yet clear if Channel One will agree to the EBU’s offer, having announced previously that it will send Samoylova as Russia’s contestant for Eurovision 2018, in light of Ukraine’s “unreasonable” decision.

 

Eastern Europeans who want their countries to meet European standards of governance and join Western institutions have become disillusioned by the West’s failure to offer full-throated support. Few Western leaders admit that Russia has a veto on its neighbors’ foreign policies. But even fewer want a fight with Russia.

 

So what can Eastern European countries do if they do not want to be in Russia’s orbit but cannot join Western institutions? Have they lost their independent capacity to decide their own matters?

 

 

Region of privileged interests

 

 

Russia has a clearer vision for the East European and former Soviet zone regions than the West does. It has never treated the former six Soviet states as fully sovereign. After Putin became president for the third time, in 2012, he stepped up efforts to keep former Soviet states inside what his predecessor, Dmitriy Medvedev, described as a “region of privileged interests”. But Moscow’s willingness to use economic and military coercion in its neighborhood has alienated many who might otherwise have felt an affinity with Russia.

 

The top priority of EU should be establishing the rule of law. Countries where courts work and laws are stable will be more attractive to foreign investors and less vulnerable to economic pressure. The West can help by making it harder for local elites to launder the proceeds of corruption through the EU or US. Denying Turkey its due place in EU as a European state just because of Islamic religion is not at all fair.

 

Meanwhile, Russia needs to treat all regions fairly. Geography and economics mean that the Eastern Partnership countries would benefit from good political and trade relations with Russia. They should not shy away from this, as long as relations are on the basis of sovereign equality, consistent rules and mutual benefit. Ensuring that minority ethnic groups are fairly treated is also vital. Disaffected minorities have been fertile soil for Russia to promote separatist conflicts — there is less scope for mischief if all communities have a stake in society.

 

The West should use the coming years to try to persuade Moscow that, whether or not more countries join Western institutions (and even the most advanced are decades away from membership), it is in everyone’s interests that they should be prosperous, stable and well-governed.

 

 

West tells Moscow that it is time to give up its nostalgia for empire. The biggest policy shift must come from both USA and Russia that continue to behave as though their prestige and fate depends on controlling Europe and neighbours. Europe’s other imperial powers have realized that it is better to create shared economic and other interests with former possessions than to try to coerce them.

 

Putin said US-Russia relations have touched the lowest level  now as President Trump continues to behave erratically, especially  with his bombing Syria,  in order to   get special  media coverage.

 

A major issue

 

The European Union has consistently dodged the issue of possible EU membership for any of the six former Soviet states that lie in Europe (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). NATO leaders agreed in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO.” But after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, NATO dragged its feet on fulfilling that promise.

 

Europeans have an important job at hand as they have the future of the fragile union in their own hands. As they strive to remain united because in unity lies their strength they Russia a disturbing or destabilizing factor.

 

Both USA and EU talk about ‘common values” and say Russians do not share their values.  While, any genuine rapprochement with Russia is difficult to foresee in their differences in the near future, the EU would strive to engage Russia where possible and speak out when their views clash as they are too important to one another. But any engagement is firmly based on the grounds of the international rules-based system and its principles and values. The spirit of Eurovision’s values of inclusivity goes against any real truck with Russia.

 

Between Russia and the EU, Eastern Europe’s Future is Uncertain.  Eastern Europe, dotted with frozen conflicts of Russia’s making, is stuck in transition to an uncertain future.  It is three years since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and began its covert invasion of eastern Ukraine. At the time, it seemed like the start of a more ambitious land-grab.

 

 

Three years on, Putin’s project has clearly failed. Though he still holds Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine, he has alienated the rest of Ukraine. But the West also has little to congratulate itself on. Eastern Europe, dotted with frozen conflicts of Russia’s making, is stuck in transition to an uncertain future.

 

Will European Union survive?

 

Lighting or illumination is considered to be a happy  expression for something that has happened well, the Tel Aviv city hall building in Israel was illuminated in “solidarity” with Russia after the blast in the St.Petersburg metro in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 3, 2017.  As a terrorist nation, making terrorizing the besieged Palestinians as their major hobby, Israel is through about state terror operations and their needs.   Whether or not Israel was happy and over joyous about the terror attacks in Russia is not very clear, though.

 

The survival of European Union as multinational continental entity is a major theme of debates and media reports as the fate of survival depends on factors that seem to be intractable.

 

Obviously, Brexit has given a jolt to Germany’s efforts to strengthen the Union with further measures. Though many in Britain rethink the decision to quit EU for good, the decision of the people and parliament is final and only few formalities  need to b completed to make UK  a totally soverign nation.

 

In fact, the fate of EU had been the subject of heated debates even much before Britain opted out of EU. Over years of meticulous steps undertaken by the EU make it look a cohesive multi-nation, now it is much better than a few years ago.

 

Recently, European leaders came together to celebrate 60 years of the continent’s greatest peacetime project: the European Union. And today, 60 years later, the vision remains alive and we can be proud of our achievements. Europe has turned from a continent of war to a continent of peace. This project has brought together 28 European states, more than 500 million people speaking 24 languages in one union, the EU.

 

The EU today might symbolize peaceful cooperation, respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality and solidarity among European nations and peoples. It is the largest trade power and development and humanitarian aid donor. The world’s largest single market and the euro is the second most important global reserve currency.

 

Back on March 25, 1957, the Founding Fathers signed the Treaty of Rome – an act that resolutely put an end to the trend of devastating wars between neighbors on our continent. Fundamentally a people’s project, Europeans pledged “farewell to arms” and “never again war.” President Juncker stated that they are the heirs of those who first established Europe, of those men and women who in 1945 returned from the front and the concentration camps to towns and villages which had been destroyed. He added that putting behind them animosities among neighbors and reconciling the feeling of national identity with a commitment to the common good, Europeans vowed to work toward a vision of a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe.

 

 

EU today may be home to the largest union of democracies in the world and legally European citizens are free to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe. It is at the cutting edge of innovation. EU membership has resulted in increased and shared prosperity. This makes them a strong partner when they all together need to adapt and to face the new challenges of the world: effects of rapid globalization continued armed conflict and the rise of terror, poverty and migration, a degrading environment and resource depletion.

 

 

USA insists that Russia is a destabilizing factor in their ties and the term “challenge” is also used nowadays to describe the state of EU-Russia ties. As spelled out in the EU Global Strategy, “managing the relationship with Russia represents a key strategic challenge for the European Union.” For the last couple of decades, the EU and Russia had assumed a strategic partnership based on the convergence of values, economic integration, and modernisation of our societies.

 

Economic partners

 

However, the partnership faced a breakpoint in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilization in Eastern Ukraine. From that point forward and today, it is clear that Russia and the EU have some deep differences: they relate to the European security order, principles of pluralism and human rights, the need for an open market economy and a rules-based trading system. At the same time, Russia and the EU remain strategically important to each other.

 

The EU remains the largest trading partner for Russia, while Russia is the EU’s fourth largest. We also have a number of shared concerns, such as the threat of terrorism, climate change and the situation in the Middle East. The success of the joint efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran demonstrates that we can cooperate in the international arena.

 

Many see Europe’s long-term security in regime change in the Kremlin would welcome the opportunity to bring into question the incumbent’s assertions that Russians are alone and embattled. A few small-minded individuals somehow think St. Petersburg does not “deserve” sympathy because of Sevastopol, who assume that every terrible incident is some kind of “false flag” operation instigated by Putin to generate some kind of “rally-round-the-flag” sentiment, is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

 

 

To move forward by  shedding the US  luggage, the EU would continue to undertake substantial and significant steps that provide a direct impetus to strengthening people to people contacts both within the Union and with Russia. From cooperation across our common border through student exchanges to support for civil society – those are the efforts that form the real glue between our peoples.

 

 

Observation

 

The West seeks to spread confusion, dismay, suspicion and uncertainty, globally. Everything is symbolic, and by not showing solidarity, Europe played into the hands of a Kremlin narrative that has been deployed again and again on far flimsier grounds. The Kremlin argues that the West is fundamentally Russophobic, and it delights in seeing woes of every kind besetting Russia.

 

Unlike the Cold War between superpowers, Europe wages a “hybrid war” or ‘political war’ against Russia engineering disinformation and political subversion. The corollary is that every time the European Court of Human Rights censures Moscow, every time an EU delegation calls for greater transparency, every time a Western observer notes flaws in electoral processes,  it can neatly be discounted as European mischief-making at best, and at worst ‘hybrid war.’

 

World is in the midst of a renewed Cold War and there are all kinds of reasons for Europe to feel hostile toward Russia, from its annexation of Crimea, to its aggressive intelligence activity. Nonetheless, there is a higher calling of human sympathy, a sense that we are all united in the face of the unexpected and undiscriminating threat of terrorism.

 

Many in EU seek a ban their dirty-money oligarchs and their paranoid-patriot lawmakers, but they do welcome their students, tourists, artists and entrepreneurs. This supposedly denies the Kremlin’s propagandists easy opportunities. Indeed, it actively undermines their pernicious narrative that seeks to force Russians into an artificial choice between us and them, patriot or traitor.

 

 

NATO and EU do not want any truck between Russia and  former Soviet republics most of them are now their  own members NATO leaders agreed in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO.” But after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, NATO grew panicky and dragged its feet on fulfilling that promise.

 

Notwithstanding the US opposition to Russia and future  of Euro-Russia relations, 60 years of experience since the signing of the Rome Treaty shows that a united EU is capable of strengthening and extending the wellbeing of European people. And a united EU will be a strong and reliable partner to countries around the world, including Russia.

 

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