‘This Isn’t the America I Promised’ My Wife

Mohammed Al-Rawi

Mohammed Al-Rawi’s passion for computers carried him through the war in Iraq all the way to the shores of California,” Marjorie Miller wrote in 2010 for a Fourth of July story in the Los Angeles Times.

“His fluency in Windows and in English landed him a job with journalists, put him in the path of multiple bomb and rocket attacks, and brought him here, along with his wife and two young children, for their first Fourth of July in the United States. Like so many new Iraqi immigrants, he has much to celebrate this Independence Day, and much to mourn.

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“At 21, Al-Rawi ran an Internet cafe in the basement of Baghdad’s Flowersland Hotel. He knew how to breach Saddam Hussein’s firewalls to access forbidden websites, and in the weeks leading up to the U.S. invasion he helped reporters send their material out of the country. Then government monitors traced a photograph of the president to his computer, and he went into hiding until he saw the first U.S. tanks roll into his southern Baghdad neighborhood and one of the first U.S. soldiers on the ground, an African American in dark glasses with an M-16. ‘It was just like in the movies,’ he says. . . .”

That was then. On Friday, Al-Rawi was distraught. “My 69 year old dad is in Qatar boarding LAX flight to come visit us and and he’s being sent back to Iraq,” he wrote on Twitter. “Some US official told him that Trump canceled all visas.”

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Journal-isms asked Al-Rawi for an update Monday night. “My dad was detained for 12 hours and sent back to Iraq,” he messaged. “Embassy representative told him that his Visa is no longer valid and at this point we don’t know if we will ever be able to see him again. That’s pretty much the latest.”

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Al-Rawi’s example is but one of many ways journalists — or those close to them — are being affected by President Trump’s temporary ban on entry visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The ban has led to massive demonstrations at home and abroad, four federal judges temporarily blocking part of Trump’s executive order, objections by corporate chieftains and, on Monday, Trump’s firing of the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, when she refused to defend his immigration executive order.

CNN’s Brian Stelter reported Sunday in his “Reliable Sources” newsletter, “WashPost reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi are here in America, one year after Rezaian was freed from an Iranian jail cell. Rezaian has both American and Iranian citizenship. Salehi has Iranian citizenship. When a twitterer said, ‘Think who this #MuslimBan affects. Wife of @jrezaian,’ Jason responded: ‘Yes, it is likely to have a major impact on my wife & our entire family. This isn’t the America I promised her when we were finally set free.’ “

Rukmini Callimachi

Rukmini Callimachi, a correspondent for the New York Times who focuses on al-Qaeda and ISIS, tweeted on Saturday, “Last night, I found myself in tears at the news. I do not recognize the America that welcomed my family so many years ago. #IAmARefugee,” and “I usually use my Twitter feed to talk about ISIS. Today, I’d like to share my own story, as a metaphor for what is unique about America.”

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On Monday, Yvonne Leow, president of the Asian American Journalists Association, said in a statement with the AAJA governing board, “We remain dedicated to providing fair and accurate coverage of communities of color. We believe empathy elevates our reporting, and context distinguishes our journalism. These are cornerstones of what we stand for at AAJA, and we will not stand for anything less.

“The stories we tell have a profound impact on what the public learns about the communities they may not have access to. As a daughter of a Cambodian refugee and a Singaporean immigrant, I, along with many fellow AAJA members, understand why these narratives are so nuanced and deserve fair and accurate coverage. Over the years, we’ve developed a style guide for covering Asian America, which we recommend sharing with your colleagues. We’ve also extended our support to Muslim journalists in light of recent events, and partnered with more than 60 journalism organizations to demand transparency under the Trump administration. . . .”

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post explains “what Trump’s executive actions ignore about terrorism.”

Dallas, Fort Worth Papers Applaud Protesters

The Dallas Morning News and the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth applauded protesters opposing President Trump’s order restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order “led to 13 travelers being detained at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport over the weekend, prompting large protests Saturday and Sunday in the international terminal,” Ryan Osborne reported Monday for the Star-Telegram. All 13 had been released by Sunday afternoon.”

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In an editorial Monday, the Dallas Morning News listed “local heroes” who “reflected the bold and diverse North Texans who made up the protest.”

After naming civic and religious leaders, lawyers, politicians and restaurateurs, the editorial concluded, “Most moving were the hundreds of average folks who swarmed Terminal D Saturday and Sunday with deafening chants and robust singing of ‘This Land is Your Land.’ Their signs made clear: ‘Walls can’t stop love,’ ‘We can afford to help others’ and ‘This is what Dallas Looks Like.’

“Yes it is.”

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The Star-Telegram noted on Friday that Trump’s action “came on the heels of a forum, ‘Defending Against Radical Islamic Terrorism in the State of Texas,’ hosted by state Rep. Kyle Bidermann, R-Fredericksburg.

“One of the biggest concerns of the forum was the unfounded speculation that many Muslims want Shariah law to supersede the American laws. . . . “ the editorial said.

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It concluded, “The forum and Trump’s executive action are provocative, marginalizing a group of human beings — people who work, pay taxes, abide by laws and raise families in America along with the rest of us.

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“We shouldn’t point fingers and fearfully accuse the many for the actions of a few. America is better than that.”

Kevin Lewis and Barack Obama on the December day that Obama asked Lewis to join him post-presidency. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

For Some, Obama’s New Spokesman Looks Familiar

When Barack Obama issued a statement Monday rejecting the idea that President Trump had based his immigration executive order on a policy adopted by the Obama administration, as Juliet Eilperin reported for the Washington Post, the message was delivered by Kevin S. Lewis, an aide familiar to black journalists who made contact with the Obama administration.

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Lewis, 33, is serving as Obama’s spokesman in the former president’s post-White House life. He was director of African American media for the White House Communications Office from 2010 to 2014, when he moved to the Justice Department. At the White House, he was “responsible for strategic communications planning and messaging for constituency media, and is the liaison for African American media including print, online publications, new media, and radio,” a bio said at the time.

Lewis and Obama go back to the former president’s days as a U.S. senator from Illinois, when Lewis graduated from Yes We Can, a campaign operative training program created by the then-senator through Hopefund, his political action committee. Lewis also worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the exploratory committee for the presidential campaign, the Presidential Inauguration Committee and as an aide to then-press secretary Robert Gibbs in the White House Press Office.

In December, Obama asked Lewis to join him in his post-presidential life, Lewis said. He happily said yes and told Journal-isms that it was important to him to stay in the administration until its last day. He said he was also glad that his first child was born while Obama was president.

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Now Lewis and Ed Schultz, who was ‎White House principal deputy press secretary, work for Obama in office space in Washington’s West End neighborhood. “It’s like a start-up,” Lewis told Journal-isms by telephone.

Obama pledged to remain active as a citizen, and has a hand in the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, in former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr.’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee and in other projects, including the planned Obama library and foundation.

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In his final news conference as president, held Jan. 18, Obama said he would be compelled to speak out “where I think our core values may be at stake. I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. . . .”

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On Monday, just 10 days after leaving the office, Obama felt that such a time had come.

Justin Baragona, Mediaite: ‘Who is Cleaning House?’ Kellyanne Conway Wants Media Outlets to Fire People Critical of Trump

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: No, Trump, Not on Our Watch

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Matt Bonesteel, Washington Post: ESPN’s Sage Steele is ‘saddened’ that airport protesters are disrupting everyone’s travel plans

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Steve Coll, New Yorker: Trump’s Information Wars

Gene Demby, NPR “Code Switch”: Why Sanctuary Cities Are Safer

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Adrian Florido, NPR “Code Switch”: How Trump Criminalized 11 Million with a Stroke of His Pen

Elizabeth Jensen, NPR: The Pros And Cons Of NPR’s Policy Of Not Calling Out ‘Lies’

Kirk W. Johnson, New Yorker: A Yazidi Refugee, Stranded at the Airport by Trump

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Shaun King, Daily News, New York: Please prepare your heart, mind and schedule to protest often

Latino Rebels Radio: Trump’s Immigration Ban and Our First Sundance Report (PODCAST)

Frederick H. Lowe, NorthStarNews.com: Black Immigration Group Ready to Battle Trump

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Farhad Manjoo, New York Times: The Alt-Majority: How Social Networks Empowered Mass Protests Against Trump

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: President Trump’s tweet about Chicago murder rate may prove useful

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Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: First They Came for the Immigrants — and NYT Said People Should Anonymously Inform on Them

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Andrés Oppenheimer, Miami Herald: Trump will bring jobs back from Mexico — to be replaced by robots

Tara Palmeri, Politico: Trump moves to put his own stamp on Voice of America (Jan. 24)

Michael Patterson, Frost Illustrated, Fort Wayne, Ind.: Don’t fear the weather—dress for it and know where to get proper clothing

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Merrill Perlman, Columbia Journalism Review: Get woke, America

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Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: So you mean Hillary is president, after all? (Jan. 24)

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Keep a closer eye on Trump the Ringmaster

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Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post: More facts, fewer pundits: Here’s how the media can regain the public’s trust

Mark Trahant, indianz.com: Indian Country can survive the Donald Trump era

James Warren, Poynter Institute: For many journalists, Trump’s immigration ban is personal

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Monday on campus, “When you look at the number of African Americans at the University of Michigan, there’s a real problem there.” (Credit: Melanie Maxwell/Ann Arbor News)

Sotomayor Says U. of Michigan Needs More Blacks

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has challenged the University of Michigan to get more black students as she received an honorary degree from the school,” Ed White reported Monday for the Associated Press.

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“Asked Monday about what public universities will look like in the decades ahead, Sotomayor said they’re going to ‘look a lot like’ the University of Michigan but more diverse — a remark that drew applause. She says the number of black students at the Ann Arbor school is a ‘real problem.’

“Sotomayor says the U.S. can’t ‘reach equality in a larger society’ without equality in education. She made her comments during a forum with German Justice Susanne Baer.

“The percentage of black undergraduate students at the University of Michigan has been pretty steady at less than 5 percent since 2012.”

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The university does not offer journalism as a major, but journalism courses are offered within the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. In 2015, the college enrolled 607 black women and 354 black men, totaling 5 percent of the college population.

ABC Moves Cecilia Vega to White House

ABC News is promoting Cecilia Vega and Tom Llamas,” Marisa Guthrie reported Monday for the Hollywood Reporter.

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“Vega has been named senior White House correspondent. She’ll move to Washington, D.C., where she’ll join Jonathan Karl, who has been named chief Washington correspondent and chief White House correspondent.

“It’s a high-profile assignment for Vega, who covered the [Hillary] Clinton campaign while also anchoring the Saturday edition of World News Tonight.

“Vega will give up the Saturday edition of WNT, and Tom Llamas, who covered the Trump campaign for ABC News, will now anchor both weekend editions of World News Tonight while also becoming ABC News’ chief national correspondent.

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“Like most journalists covering [President] Trump’s campaign, Llamas occasionally found himself in the then-candidate’s cross hairs. Trump called Llamas a ‘sleaze’ when the reporter questioned Trump’s dubious claims about the money Trump said he raised for veterans’ charities. . . .”

Univision: Univision News Anchor Enrique Acevedo Relocates to Washington D.C. to Cover the First 100 Days of the Trump Administration

Short Takes

“The March” by Abigail Gray Swartz, the latest New Yorker cover, makes reference to the recent Women’s March on Washington held on Jan. 21.

The New Yorker has released a glimpse of its next cover, and it’s a striking portrait of a new wave of feminismZeba Blay reported Friday for Huffington Post Black Voices. “Illustrated by artist Abigail Gray Swartz, the cover pays homage to the past, present and future of the feminist movement with an image of Rosie the Riveter reimagined as a woman of color. . . .”

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The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council on Sunday filed its approval of a petition “to allow broadcasters, if they so choose, to rely on Internet recruitment sources, coupled with their on-air advertising, when conducting outreach for new job openings.” However, the MMTC added caveats intended to discourage continued use of the “old boys’ network” and said the rules “should not allow broadcasters to use the impersonal nature of online postings to insulate themselves from the personal contact with job sources and candidates. . . .”

A petition before the Federal Communications Commission would enable nearly 800 Class A FM stations to double their power from 6,000 watts to 12,000 watts and allow hundreds of stations of all classes to improve their technical facilities “without affecting the protected signal contours of neighboring stations,” the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, co-author of the proposal, wrote FCC commissioners on Tuesday. MMTC said that “under the current regulatory environment, many independent and minority-owned stations are and will be forever unable to upgrade their facilities” unless a new classification is adopted.

CNN is embarking on what it characterizes as a major new initiative in investigative reporting as executives pull together accomplished reporters into a single unit and promise to hire at least a dozen more,” David Folkenflik reported Monday for NPR. He also wrote, “The legendary investigative reporters Carl Bernstein and James Steele, both Pulitzer Prize winners, will serve as contributing editors to advise the team on their work and executives on hiring. . . .”

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In her book ‘Same Family, Different Colors,’ Lori L. Tharps explores the impact on families when members have varying shades of skin color and the reaction in society when an individual has a darker, or unexpected, skin tone,” Dolen Perkins-Valdez wrote Friday for the Washington Post. “Tharps argues that skin tone will become more important than race as America becomes less white and more multiracial as a result of mixed relationships and immigration. . . .”

After presenting an all-white panel discussing President Trump and the news media the previous week, CNN’s “Reliable Sources” added Lydia Polgreen, an African American who is the new editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, on Sunday. Also appearing was Joel Pollak, senior editor at large of Breitbart News, a favorite website of white supremacists. Pollak asserted that “it’s probably more diversity among ‘Breitbart’ journalists and editors than there was in the entire traveling press corps that was covering the president.” Neither Pollak nor Breitbart responded to requests from Journal-isms Monday for elaboration.

Maureen Bunyan

Maureen Bunyan, forced out of her anchor post at WJLA-TV in Washington, said in a statement Monday, “Tomorrow, Jan. 31st, I will leave WJLA-TV after 18 years as a reporter and news anchor. I am proud of my contributions to this newsroom, especially my support and advocacy for journalists of color. This work will continue no matter where I go or what I do in the future.”

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The Poynter Institute, Google News Lab, Drone Journalism Lab, National Press Photographers Association and DJI have unveiled an innovative program to train journalists in using drones, or unmanned aerial systems, for their news coverage,” Poynter announced on Monday. It also said, “the Google News Lab will support a limited number of travel scholarships for members of the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association and NLGJA, the Association of LGBTQ journalists. . . .”

ProPublica has launched a new reporting partnership to compile and verify reports of hate crimes, creating a national database that will serve as a jumping-off point for investigative reporting,” Deanna Mudry reported Monday for current.org. She also wrote, “Documenting Hate builds on the Electionland initiative, which the news organization tested with dozens of partners last fall. Electionland collected reports of voting fraud or intimidation for real-time news coverage on Election Day. About 1,100 journalists, students and data analysts participated, generating about 500 stories,” according to Scott Klein, ProPublica deputy managing editor.

The Antigo Daily Journal is receiving criticism from viewers near and far after printing a headline many consider racially insensitive,” Emily Thornton reported Friday for WAOW-TV in Wausau, Wis. “In the Wednesday addition in the paper, the following headline was printed regarding a hockey game, ‘Red Robins Scalp Indians in solid GNC 6-0 shutout.’ . . .”

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Talitha Vickers is coming back to WXII after leaving in December,” Kevin Eck reported Monday for TV Spy, referring to the station in Winston-Salem, N.C. “ ‘In November, my husband and I made a difficult decision to leave the Piedmont for an anchor job in a larger news market,’ said Vickers. ‘But when we found out just weeks ago that I was pregnant and that God blessed us with twins, we could think of no better place to raise our family then here in the Piedmont.’ . . .”

A timely new online exhibit from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting presents the history of ‘Speaking and Protesting in America,” Dru Sefton reported Monday for current.org.” Sefton also wrote, “The curated presentation highlights public radio and television content from 1956 to 2008 documenting how Americans have exercised their First Amendment rights. It’s culled from radio call-in shows, local newscasts, raw footage and interviews. Coverage shows everything from peaceful marches to acts of civil disobedience. . . .”

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There is a new online database available through which users can find more than 400,000 digitized archival materials documenting African-American history from more than 1,000 libraries and cultural organizations,” Rhiannon Walker reported Monday for theundefeated.com. “Launched on Jan. 18, the Umbra Search African American History website was developed from a grant of nearly $225,000 that the University of Minnesota Libraries received from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). . . .”

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‘Dear President: What You Need to Know About Race,’ an event series created by New York’s WNYC, brings together unlikely pairings of speakers who respond to a collection of radio essays on black experiences with racism,” April Simpson reported Friday for current.org. “WNYC began broadcasting the radio essays shortly after Election Day, followed by several live events that wrap up Saturday in Newark, N.J. . . .”

The International Federation of Journalists said Monday that it joined its affiliate, the Association of Iranian Journalists, “in calling for setting aside a court ruling ordering flogging two Iranian journalists who have been convicted with ‘inaccurate reporting’ conviction. . . .”

Linda Shockley (Credit: Sarah Fry)

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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Journal-isms is originally published on journal-isms.com. Reprinted on The Root by permission.