Amazon employees, unions protest working conditions

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As countless purchases were made across the country for Amazon Prime Day, many protested the company’s working conditions in the Portland metro area.

Former and current employees and labor unions held a rally outside of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Hillsboro on Tuesday.

They demanded a safe work environment, higher wages, increased respect and opportunities for growth. The protesters cited working hours without sufficient breaks, constant standing and no medical benefits as their hours are capped at part-time.

Helen Clement has worked at the Amazon warehouse in Hillsboro for 2 years.

“I can end up working 5 hours and have 30 minutes off and then another 6 hours and I’m on my feet continually,” Clement said.

Following the Hillsboro rally, Amazon Workers Solidarity Campaign released the following statement in part:

“Workers at Amazon are subjected to unsafe working conditions, forced to work like robots for minimal pay, constantly increasing pace of work, and physically harmful labor…

Amazon has been cited by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violating health and safety rules. Workers are suffering for poverty wages in unsafe conditions while CEO Jeff Bezos profits.”

A spokesperson for Amazon said the company already meets the protesters’ demands.

“Amazon is very proud of our working conditions,” said Amazon Public Relations Manager Shevaun Brown. “We are proud to be providing jobs in safe, comfortable places to work with industry-leading pay.”

Brown claimed the group of union leaders and employees, both past and present, are misinformed.

“Events like this are an opportunity for organizations to capitalize on the news and make a point to further increase their cause,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, a lot of them have not been inside our fulfillment operations — they don’t really understand.”

Amazon also responded to the Portland-area rallies with the following statement:

“As a company, we work hard to provide a safe, quality working environment for the 250,000 hourly employees across Amazon’s U.S. facilities. We provide a $15 minimum wage for all U.S. hourly employees, opportunities for career growth, industry-leading benefits, and hands-on training using emerging technology. Associates are the heart and soul of our operations, and in fact, they are also our number one recruiter for new hires by regularly encouraging friends and family to apply for roles. We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other major employers across the country.”

Wednesday rally

Dozens of people gathered outside an Amazon delivery station chanting slogans like “Say it loud, say it clear, workers rights are welcome here.”

But company spokesperson Amanda Ip deflected the protesters points.

“Prime Day has become an avenue for our critics,” she told KOIN 6 News. “We are industry leaders in pay. All our associates earn at least $15 an hour. We encourage everyone to work together to help pass legislation on the federal level to increase minimum wage.”

Ip said safety is Amazon’s prime concern for workers and that they strive to continuously make improvements.

“The vast majority of our employees are working inside the building and not outside protesting,” she said. Amazon has an open door policy for workers “and we don’t believe any 3rd-party representation is necessary.”

Top Economist: San Francisco Vaping Ban Will Cause More Smoking

San Francisco’s chief economist has stated that the city’s recent decision to ban the sale of e-cigarettes will make more people turn to traditional smoking — which is almost certainly worse for you.

As a piece in Reason notes, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously (!) on June 25 to completely ban the sale of vapes, while continuing to allow the sale of traditional cigarettes.

In an in interview in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 15 (which Reason reported on this week), the economist Ted Egan gave his take on the impact that the legislation will have on San Francisco’s economy. As Reason notes, Egan’s job is to provide economic analysis of new legislation for the city, which is then sent to the Board of Supervisors and published on the Controller’s Office website. If this analysis finds that there will be no impact, then the legislation goes forward without any further research.

Now, this no-impact result is exactly what Egan and his team found when it came to the e-cigarette ban — but, the reason for the lack of impact is something that the city should be paying more attention to, rather than simply dropping the issue and going forth with the legislation. Why? Because, according to their study, the reason that the ban won’t impact the economy is that people will just spend the money that they were spending on vapes on other nicotine products, such as cigarettes, instead.

If you believe in the harm-reduction principle whatsoever, just know that this is bad news for the people of San Francisco. After all, as I’ve reported before, a Harvard study suggests that vaping (although potentially not totally healthy) is “almost certainly less lethal than conventional cigarettes.” They can also help cigarette smokers quit nicotine entirely. A Juul-sponsored study of 19,000 users found that smokers who had switched to vaping outnumbered vapers who had switched to smoking. Yes, it was a study conducted by a vape company, but the results were by a huge margin — and only 2 percent of the respondents who had not smoked before trying Juul were smoking by the time the survey was taken, which militates against the gateway-to-cigs argument that you so often hear people making. Finally, a December 2017 study from the Medical University of South Carolina found that even those users who did not quit smoking entirely reported that they smoked less while using e-cigarettes.

The truth is, according to the facts, that the legislation that San Francisco claims it’s putting in place to help people might actually end up hurting them. This is wrong.

Anyone who knows me knows that I vape pretty much constantly. Yes, I know that that is probably not good for me, but do you know what? That’s a choice that I, as an adult, should be allowed to make for myself. As a libertarian, I believe that even the most dangerous substance should not be illegal for any willing adults, because adults in a “free” country should be allowed to decide to do anything they want to do as long as it does not interfere with another person’s rights.

Of course, I understand that many people do not agree with me on this principle, and I’m certain that the regulation-happy politicians in San Francisco would not. The thing is, though, when it comes to this ban, individual rights are not the only thing at stake. No, the very thing that San Francisco is claiming to want to help by instituting this ban is at stake as well: public health. The fact that the city is going through with this legislation, and that it’s doing so in the name of public health, represents not just idiocy but an actual logical fallacy. Think about it: The city’s own employee has found that the ban will lead to more traditional smoking, and even the slightest bit of research on the issue will tell you that vaping is almost surely better for your than traditional smoking. Here, essentially, the “public health” argument they’re peddling falls apart — so, unless they can come up with another one, they should take action, reverse this ban, and give their citizens their individual rights (and their healthier option) back.

Sign Your Kids Up Now for Peace & Justice Camp at Morrow Church

Rev. Brenda Ehlers’ newly-launched non-profit, SOMA Center for Peace and Justice, is offering two weeks of Peace and Justice Camp at Morrow Church this summer for students entering grades 1-5. There are openings for next week (July 22-26) as well as a few for the following week (July 29 – Aug 2). Camp runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday – Friday. The cost is $150 for the week with scholarships available. Sign up on the Morrow website: morrowchurch.org or call Rev. Brenda Ehlers at 973-763-7676. Below is a sample schedule of camp week.

Download (PDF, 368KB)

Download (PDF, 468KB)

Mizzou Received $5 Million to Hire Austrian Economists. A Lawsuit Claims It Misspent the Money.

Sherlock Hibbs, a wealthy Wall Street financier with ties to the University of Missouri, died in 2002. A fan of free market economics, the Austrian School, and Ludwig von Mises in particular, Hibbs specified in his will that $5 million would go to the university for the purposes of hiring “dedicated and articulate disciples” of this philosophy.

There was an interesting catch. If Mizzou failed to use the money to fund acolytes of Mises, the donation would instead go to Hillsdale College, a conservative institution in Michigan. Hibbs seemingly did not trust Mizzou to fulfill his terms and thus structured the gift so that an ideologically sympathetic college would have an incentive to hold the Mizzou accountable.

Hibbs was apparently right to worry. Hillsdale is now suing Mizzou, and alleges that the university willfully misspent the funds on faculty members who have nothing to do with either von Mises or Austrian economics.

“MU has never appointed a dedicated and articulate disciple of the Ludwig von Mises (Austrian) School of Economics to a Chair or Distinguished Professorship funded by Mr. Hibbs’ gift,” wrote Hillsdale’s attorneys in the lawsuit. “Instead, MU provided millions of dollars over 15 years to individuals who were not Austrian economists.”

Ironically, Hillsdale is being represented in this lawsuit by Jay Nixon, a former Democratic governor of Missouri. Four of the current curators of Mizzou’s governing board were previously appointed by Nixon.

The professors currently funded by Hibbs’ donation are Dan Turban, Karen Schnatterly, Rhonda Reger and Lisa Scheer, according to The Columbia Daily Tribune. In 2018, each of them signed a statement attesting that “consistent with the stipulation in the will of Mr. Hibbs, each of us believes we are ‘a dedicated and articulate disciple of the free and open market economy (the Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics).'”

But Phil Magness, an economic historian and senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, disputes that any of the above individuals are followers of von Mises.

“None of the named faculty appear to have any meaningful research in or connection to Austrian economics,” Magness tells Reason. “It looks like Missouri accepted the cash, then failed to honor the terms of the donor.”

I reached out to Turban, Schnatterly, Reger, and Scheer for comment, asking whether they could point me to any research they have done or coursework they’ve assigned, that references von Mises. Only Schnatterly responded: She directed me to speak with Mizzou’s director of media relations, Christian Basi, instead.

In an email, Basi said my line of inquiry was not warranted.

“I’ve been forwarded a couple of your requests to the professors asking about classes they taught or studies they’ve completed,” he said. “The gift agreement does not place any restrictions on the curriculum nor the research work of professors holding those appointments. It only asks about their belief in that particular economic model.”

I replied that if these academics were indeed “dedicated disciples” of von Mises and Austrian economics, then I would expect it to be evident in their work or at least hinted at.

“I understand that perspective, but it is not a requirement of the gift,” said Basi.

That strikes me as splitting hairs. Quite literally, the requirement was that Mizzou spend the money on “dedicated disciples” of von Mises and the Austrian school. The individuals who benefited from the gift do not appear to fit that definition at all, regardless of what they claimed in their signed statement.

We will see how the legal battle unfolds, but the just outcome would be Mizzou writing Hillsdale a check for $5 million.

Nukes For Peace?

Surrounded by trigger happy Tonkinesque gunboats and drowning in debt, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made the risky decision to play the last card left in their deck; to defy the P5+1 Deal in order to save the P5+1 Deal. It’s a hell of a gambit but it already has those pussies in the EU clamoring for new talks with the embattled nation. Under the circumstances, I would argue that Iran’s decision to enrich Uranium past the amount allowed in the deal but still far short of anything potentially lethal isn’t just tactically savvy, it’s the right thing to do.

Iran offered Europe and the US everything but a weekly colonoscopy with that deal and we’ve given them jack shit in return for their patience. While Trump shredded the agreement in a reckless Israel-friendly hissy fit, Europe has sheepishly reneged on their promises to stand up to Orange-Man-Bad and ease their own sanctions. Their indecision isn’t just an embarrassing display of geostrategic cowardice that would gag Charles de Gaulle like a gimp, it’s a brazen violation of the very deal they claim to remain committed to. In this dire situation, for Iran to continue to sit on their hands, would be a betrayal of both international diplomacy and their long suffering citizenry who these values are supposed to protect.

But this move also begs a bigger and rather uncomfortable question for peaceniks like me. Could Nukes be good for peace? Just typing those words feels blasphemous on my fingertips, but history speaks for itself. Iraq and Libya both forfeited their own nuclear weapons programs for the sake of self-preservation and both ended up brutally mugged for their efforts by the world’s preeminent nuclear superpower. Further more, international law on this regard, is little more than a sick fucking joke. Iran has been hounded for decades by an illegally nuclear armed Israel and the only nation to ever use one of those goddamn things while even the intelligence agencies of these very rogue states admits that this program is a total fiction. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan continue their own flagrantly illegal arms race while being bathed in buckets of western aid. And evil Iran should what, be the last boy-scout while they get ransacked? It clearly doesn’t make any fucking difference whether they actually have the bombs or not, so why not arm up?

This has essentially become the policy of North Korea, who originally sought little more than to update their dusty moribund nuclear program for the use of hard-water power to help them weather the post-Cold War winter. When confronted by an increasingly belligerent Clinton Administration on the issue, they decided that they might as well double-down and go back to making bombs until Jimmy Carter went rogue on the White House and cobbled together a peace deal that held until Bush decided to follow in Clinton’s imperial footsteps with more baseless dick-wagging and saber-rattling. North Korea simply flipped that New England hick the bird and diligently returned to their nukes, braving power both soft and hard, until being offered another equally precarious deal with our current Schizophrenic-in-Chief. North Korea didn’t exactly come out of this thing unscathed. Millions of their citizens have starved beneath the weight of our crippling sanctions. But they’re still standing and without the taste of Uncle Sam’s cock in their mouth. So why not Iran?

This is a question the western world will have to answer as Iran has chosen a middle ground, between Iraq and Korea, to throw the ball in our court. Expecting exposed third world nations to embrace nuclear dovery runs as patronizingly hollow when all the rich countries singing Cat Stevens songs are armed to the fucking teeth. Iran has never invaded a single sovereign nation and yet its expected to play Gandhi to a gang of colonialist bloodhounds who’ve left rotting carcasses on nearly every continent they’ve ever raped with a flagpole. In what hopped up universe is this mindset anything but atrociously racist and downright rude? I still think sticking to that deal as long as they did showed the world a lot of class on Iran’s part. But class wont cure kids with leukemia or keep food on the table. When it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, whether it ever becomes more than fictional or not, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

You want peace, dearest motherfuckers? Me too. In fact I wage to bet even those dastardly Mullahs do. But the cowboy in the red, white and blue hat is gonna have to drop his pistols first. After all, he’s the only one who’s been caught using them.

Vine City Peace Park – Much more than a name: A place to study war no more


By Guest Columnist ANDREA L. BOONE, Atlanta City Councilmember and daughter of the late civil rights leader Rev. Joseph E. Boone

In 2008, the city named the north border of Rodney Cook Sr. Peace Park for my late father, the Rev. Joseph E. Boone. The park located on Atlanta’s west side will consist of 16 acres of green space, with a lake, and, of most significance, a Peace Pantheon with a library, 18 sculptures and tributes to civil and human rights leaders from the area. All said, it will be the largest peace park in America.

Andrea Boone,

Andrea Boone,

I often reflect on lessons my father taught me. As a civil rights leader, congregational minister and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s appointed chief negotiator for Operation Breadbasket, my father knew that the movement was not just about making life better for black people in America, but “redeeming America’s soul.” I’m confident he would have supported naming the “peace park” for Cook.

Cook and many other whites including my father’s best friend, and Emmaus House founder, Father Austin Ford, an Episcopal priest and advocate for civil rights, made important contributions to the civil rights movement for which my father devoted his life. Ford proudly took a stand placing him on the right side of history. My family had great respect for Father Ford, who treated my sister and me like we were his own children. Both Ford and Cook stepped out on the front lines of this important fight at great peril. Cook placed himself and his entire family in peril during the period my father was most active, by taking a stand for what was right, instead of what was politically expedient.

So far, coverage of debate on this issue has centered around a decision by the Atlanta City Council to name the park for Cook, a white man who happened to be a Republican. The focus turned to Cook’s race, versus his heart and courage, thereby missing the central message of the civil rights movement. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – all people should be, “judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.”

Former District 3 Councilmember Jabari Simama, who preceded Michael Julian Bond and Ivory Lee Young, Jr., stated it most eloquently, saying: “The peace component elevates the park above just being a city park with a retention pond. It makes it a real destination where peace leaders and lovers from around the world will come and meditate, pray and reflect upon world peace.

The disagreement over what to name the park is more complex than a perceived scrimmage between the more seasoned generation, including civil rights icon Ambassador Andrew Young, and the newer one that includes our newly elected councilmember. Support for keeping the park named for Cook came from Councilmember Michael Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson III, Councilmember Amir Farokhi and myself, along with other young residents of Vine City and English Avenue, who hardly identify as the older generation.

The Rev. Joseph E. Boone was a civil rights leader whose daughter says would have supported placing the name Rodney Cook Sr. on a park along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. Credit: Andrea L. Boone

My father and his siblings were raised on Sciple Terrace, a small street located off then-Simpson Road. He attended Ashby Street Elementary and Booker T. Washington High School.

In 2008, the city honored my father by renaming Simpson Road as Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. It was much more than a renaming. It was an acknowledgment of his courage and his determination. Each time I see that sign, I’m reminded of my father’s bold fight for justice. I’m energized when I consider my father’s unwavering determination as he held up picket signs to oppose institutions that would not receive African Americans, Jews, and others.

During our last council meeting, I glanced at my mother who was sitting on the front row. As an educator in Vine City, she invested 40 years in the teaching profession. She dedicated her life to instilling much more than reading, writing and French. She taught values. She taught integrity. Her voice and sentiments inform my every decision.

As I listened to the often contentious debate, I asked my colleagues to be fair to the Cook family. I reminded them that a task force re-visiting this issue equates to the re-opening of an old wound. This family has been good to the community. Cook’s son and former Councilmember Ivory Lee Young met with Atlanta’s 59th mayor several times, sharing his vision for this park. The former mayor and a delegation traveled to England, meeting with the Prince of Wales to discuss the park’s design, construction and fundraising efforts. Young met with his beloved District 3 residents in multiple meetings seeking input from all who committed to attend. A groundbreaking was attended by over several hundred citizens, all gathered with the goal of naming that parcel of land Rodney Cook Sr. Park.

Today, America is torn by racial, national, religious and ethnic strife. I am proud to sit on a city council that is committed to building a park and monuments honoring those who have laid down their swords and shields, regardless of race, and agreed to study war no more. My father devoted his life to this goal, and I will forever be influenced by his life and humbled by his sacrifices.

On July 1, 2019, the Atlanta City Council voted to file legislation that would have delayed progress on the park. I believe it was the right thing to do. Now we can move swiftly on completing the peace park honoring Rodney Cook, Sr., Sen. Julian Bond, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Rev. James Orange, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Dorothy Bolden, Grace Hamilton and others whose sacrifices for peace and freedom are too often taken for granted or forgotten.

Now, let’s move forward and turn our attention to the other pertinent issues facing the city of Atlanta.

Note to readers: Atlanta native Andrea L. Boone is serving her first term on the Atlanta City Council, representing the citizens of District 10. Boone is the daughter of the late civil rights leader Rev. Joseph E. Boone and longtime Atlanta Public Schools educator Alethea W. Boone. She has served the citizens of Atlanta through her work in the office of former Atlanta City Councilmember C.T. Martin. She also served over seven years as the City of Atlanta’s commissioner in the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services.

 

As politics are shaken up, a peace coalition emerges

SACRAMENTO – After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 turned into a mess that led to an immense loss of life and years of violent havoc in the Middle East, the war’s backers flippantly declared that “everyone” agreed on the war. The invasion’s evolving justifications – Saddam’s supposed amassing of “weapons of mass destruction” to his alleged ties to Al-Qaeda – were overblown, but if everyone was in agreement then who could possibly second-guess the military effort?

At the Editorial Board of the Orange County Register, we produced one piece after another questioning the war. We even got in a spat with one Fox News personality, who took umbrage at criticism of the war while the fighting was going on. That was somehow unpatriotic. But the United States has been involved in endless conflicts. If Americans held their tongues while bombs are dropping, then when could they ever feel free to air their concerns?

“There is no real threat to the United States, only a theoretical one based on faulty premises,” I opined at the time. “It is unjust, in that it is not a war of last resort.… It will run up tens of billions of dollars in costs, and it will lead to the limiting of civil liberties at home. Furthermore, America will be managing Iraq for years, perhaps decades, and our presence there is more likely to destabilize than democratize the region.”

Those points largely were correct. (This column isn’t about “I told you so,” by the way, but about “look how far we’ve come.”) Even the current GOP president has lamented that war. When Donald Trump recently called off airstrikes on Iran at the last minute, almost everyone expressed relief. It’s a new world ideologically and our long-standing foreign policy consensus is, finally, up for debate again. It’s taken long enough, but better late than never.

Many of us have serious concerns about our increasingly fractious political discourse, but it’s great that old coalitions are falling apart, new ideas are flourishing and we’re seeing a rethinking of age-old international policies that have been off limits to debate. It’s refreshing to see many conservatives abandon their kneejerk support for militarism – and nice to watch a prominent Democratic presidential candidate, former Sen. Joe Biden, held accountable for his support for the Iraq blunder.

One recent Boston Globe column highlights how much the ground has shifted. Both sides have their billionaire bogeymen. Conservatives dislike George Soros and liberals dislike Charles Koch. But Soros and Koch are “uniting to revive the fading vision of a peaceable United States,” according to the article. They are working to end our “forever war” policies and “promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions and bombing.” Bring it on.

The founding fathers were skeptical of empire. In his oft-quoted farewell address, George Washington warned against “the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” This has been a constant thread even in modern times. We all know that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a celebrated general, warned about the “military-industrial complex.”

During World War I – another costly, unnecessary conflict that led to horrific unforeseen consequences – progressive writer Randolph Bourne warned that “war is the health of the state.” Indeed it is. During wartime, the public becomes part of “the herd,” he wrote. It is reluctant to criticize its own government, which always is the main threat to our liberties.

These days, many of Trump’s supporters are paleo-conservatives, who have always looked askance at military adventurism. Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a member of Congress from Hawaii who served in the U.S. military in the Middle East and is a major in the Army National Guard, has been the most thoughtful Democrat on the subject.

She complained to National Public Radio about “leaders in this country from both political parties looking around the world and picking and choosing which bad dictator they want to overthrow.” She opposes “sending our military into harm’s way and then trying to export some American model of democracy that may or may not be welcome by the people in those countries.”

These are unusual political times. We’ve got many evangelical Christians celebrating the “miracle” of a president who, let’s just say, has a spotty moral background. We’ve got “limited government” conservatives championing government control of the economy through tariffs and “big government” Democrats espousing free trade. And yikes – we’re even debating socialism again.

But the good news is things have gotten weird enough that Americans appear ready to consider a foreign policy based on peace and diplomacy. I didn’t believe that was possible in 2003 when the United States was invading Iraq, but it’s possible now – and that’s heartening even if everyone isn’t onboard with it yet.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998 to 2009. Write to him at [email protected]

Gulf-Israel Ties Might Not Survive Trump’s Peace Plan

The U.S.-sponsored Peace to Prosperity workshop in Manama, Bahrain, last month—an effort spearheaded by U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, to sell the economic portion of a broader Middle East peace plan—had limited success in its stated purpose of advancing Palestinian economic development. But it showed more mixed results in another area: serving as a platform for Gulf Arab states and Israel to take meaningful steps forward in their still-emerging relationships.

The meeting had some positive moments and even modest breakthroughs. A delegation of Israeli businesspeople was present and able to network freely among other attendees, including those from Arab states. Veterans of regional economic conferences in Casablanca, Morocco, and Amman, Jordan, in the Oslo Accords era of the early 1990s recall similar scenes at those gatherings, and the economic offices that Israel and Gulf states opened in each other’s countries facilitated additional contacts. So the public meetings in Bahrain were not unprecedented, but they were welcome after a long hiatus from such exchanges.

More groundbreaking was the presence of numerous Israeli journalists, reporting freely. Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, chose an interview with one such reporter, Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 13, to make significant statements about the mistake the Arab states have made by not engaging Israel more until now. In perhaps the clearest statement of recognition of Israel by any Gulf Arab leader, he said, “Israel is a country in the Middle East. Israel is part of this heritage of this whole region historically. So the Jewish people have a place among us.”

The remarks were warmly received in Israel—and widely perceived to carry a broader significance. Ever since Saudi Arabia provided regime-saving protection to the Bahraini royal family during and following the mass protests in 2011, Bahrain has operated with a high degree of coordination with the Saudis. Statements such as Khalifa’s, among other Bahraini gestures to Israel, are likely coordinated in advance with, and approved by, Riyadh. More significantly, they may represent the adoption by Bahrain of the role of a scout—testing frontiers of engagement with Israel that the Saudis are not ready for themselves, to see what the traffic will bear and to lower the costs to Riyadh of taking similar steps later. So while the voice was that of Khalifa, the thoughts may have been those of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On the negative side of the ledger, the conference did not occasion any direct, official Arab-Israeli contact. With relations between the Trump administration and the Palestinian Authority in a deep freeze since the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, and with Palestinian suspicions running high that the United States will try to use the $50 billion economic package Kushner unveiled in Bahrain to pressure Palestinians to accept a political plan that downgrades their national ambitions, the Palestinians placed heavy pressure on Arab states to limit their participation.

The result was a twofold disappointment for U.S. hopes: underwhelming attendance by Arab officials and the complete absence of Israeli government representatives. Palestinian officials boycotted the event entirely. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar sent ministers with economic responsibilities, while Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco sent lower-ranking officials to the workshop. The U.S. team described its decision not to invite the Israeli government to participate as natural, because it would have been premature to discuss both political issues and implementation of the economic plan. But given the Trump administration’s strong commitment to expanding Israel’s regional and international acceptance, this choice could only have been the result of the refusal of the Bahraini hosts and other Arab participants to countenance discussing Palestinian issues with Israeli counterparts without Palestinians present. In that respect, the Palestinian boycott achieved one of its objectives.

Other Arab states, including Kuwait and Oman, stayed away altogether. Both chose the week of the conference to make gestures toward the Palestinians—Kuwait issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to the Palestinian cause of statehood, and Oman announced a decision to open an embassy to Palestine in Ramallah. Even Khalifa made sure to use his Israeli television interview to cite the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for two states on the 1967 lines (the armistice lines from before the Six-Day War) as the basis for Arab engagement.

In practical terms, the conference also produced few results: No pledges of aid were announced, and no deals or investments were finalized in support of the $50 billion vision. Trump administration officials said that was expected and that such announcements would only come at a later stage, when they reveal their political program.

The Bahrain conference demonstrated three major factors in Gulf-Israel relations.

First, there continues to be interest among some Gulf countries in advancing their relations with Israel and in supporting the Trump administration’s approach on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. The most enthusiastic—Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—are those that place a higher priority on confronting the threat posed by Iran than on further attempts at improving the seemingly hopeless Israeli-Palestinian situation. With the Iran issue as their main focus, their desire to coordinate with Israel and the importance they place on supporting the Trump administration helps explain their relative openness to Israel. Qatar, which seeks to demonstrate its value to Washington in light of its tensions with Saudi Arabia and the UAE—and continues to act as an Israeli-approved source of funds for economic relief in Gaza—also goes further in engaging Israel than some other Arab countries.

Second, the Gulf states are not united on Israeli-Palestinian issues. Kuwait in particular is an outlier, expressing greater hostility to normalization with Israel and fidelity to the Palestinian cause. Oman, which hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year, does not shy away from engagement with Israel but prefers to act on its own, rather than as part of a Gulf collective, and sought to sustain its role as a possible go-between by strengthening its ties with the Palestinian Authority. Oman’s independent, if fitful, role was highlighted further on July 1, when Israel’s director of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, announced in a speech that Israel had received approval to open a diplomatic mission in Muscat, an announcement subsequently denied by the Omani government.

Third, the absence of progress toward Palestinian statehood continues to impose a low ceiling on the pace of normalization between Gulf states and Israel. An Arab-Israeli ministerial meeting in a Gulf capital with the Palestinians boycotting was a bridge too far. The case for normalization, or even limited statements of lessened hostility, has not filtered down to Gulf Arab publics enough to embolden the rulers to move as fast as Washington and Jerusalem would like. The elites are ready, but the publics are not.

Normalization gestures are also not advancing in Egypt and Jordan, key partners whose stability the Gulf states do not wish to undermine. All of which suggests that the Gulf-Israel normalization gains that have been achieved could stall if Israeli-Palestinian ties remain frozen, or they could even be reversed if ties deteriorate.

This means that the United States and Israel need to carefully weigh the impact of their next moves. Until now, Gulf states have not been presented with or forced to respond to a U.S. or Israeli approach to Israeli-Palestinian final status issues. Sources of tension with Palestinians, like moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem or the cutoff of aid and tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority have had minimal impact on Gulf attitudes. But their views and willingness to proceed in their ties with Israel will be tested mightily if and when they must react to a Trump political plan that does not envision statehood for the Palestinians or an Israeli decision to proceed with annexation of parts of the West Bank. The Bahrain summit tells us that in such a circumstance, it is nowhere near certain that Gulf states would feel they could continue in their recent trend of warming toward Israel.

Woman Who Can’t Walk Teams Up with Blind Man for Hiking Adventures: ‘He’s the Legs, I’m the Eyes’

Melanie Knecht and Trevor Hahn are showing the world the meaning of teamwork.

The hiking buddies, who both live in Fort Collins, Colorado, have worked together to navigate Colorado mountains and trails ever since meeting at an adaptive exercise class, according to Good Morning America. Knecht was born with Spina bifida and uses a wheelchair to get around, and Hahn lost his eyesight due to glaucoma five years ago, the outlet reports.

After they bonded over their love of the outdoors, the pair started hiking together. During their treks, Hahn carries Knecht in a secure harness on his back, and Knecht gives verbal directions to guide him along the trail.

“It just seemed like common sense,” Knecht told GMA in a recent interview. “He’s the legs, I’m the eyes — boom! Together, we’re the dream team.”

“This way, we both have purpose and this huge responsibility,” Hahn added to 5280.

The pair documents their adventures on the Instagram account @hiking_with_sight. On their profile, Knecht and Hahn describe their hikes as “a journey of purpose between two friends, one who cannot see and one who cannot walk.”

Trevor & Melanie
Melanie Knecht and Trevor Hahn
Trevor & Melanie/ Instagram
Trevor & Melanie
Trevor Hahn and Melanie Knecht
Trevor & Melanie/ Instagram

Hahn told KDVR that he continued to hike and climb mountains after he lost his eyesight, relying on adaptive techniques like following the sound of a bell.

“But it didn’t really give me a purpose. Like, I was just following this bell,” he said. “It would be really cool if I could have a purpose on the trail.”

After hiking with Knecht, Hahn now feels like he has his purpose.

“It made me so happy to help someone experience what I’ve been able to experience my whole life,” he told GMA. “Just getting on top of a mountain, a car can’t get to it, you just feel that sense of accomplishment. The best part is being able to make her smile. That gives me purpose.”

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For Knecht, the best part of their hikes is being able to leave her wheelchair behind.

“I’ve been in a wheelchair my whole life, and it’s an amazing feeling to leave it literally miles behind on the trail,” Knecht told the outlet. “I even couldn’t get in it if I wanted to, and that’s a great feeling.”

Trevor & Melanie
Trevor Hahn and Melanie Knecht
Trevor & Melanie/ Instagram
Trevor & Melanie
Trevor Hahn and Melanie Knecht
Trevor & Melanie/ Instagram

Next up for the duo? Hiking a fourteener — a mountain that’s over 14,000 feet tall. According to GMA, they plan to make their attempt in August.

“There’s definitely a learning curve,” Knecht told 5280 of training for their biggest climb yet, adding that the most important skill for the pair is “communication.”

“I’m trying to warn him about obstacles far in advance, but also tell him if he’s about to trip on a rock or root in that moment,” she said. “I have to interrupt myself to give directions.”

“It takes a lot of teamwork,” Hahn added. “If I fall, she falls.”

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Knecht also shared her advice for others who have friends with disabilities.

“Ask questions of people with disabilities, to see what they like and what they want to do,” she told GMA. “Don’t not include them because you think they won’t be able to do something.”

Five tips to help you keep your cool while hiking on a hot summer day

A family and their dog walk along the creekside trail at the Lair o’ the Bear park in Jefferson county Wednesday June 24, 2009.
(Reza A. Marvashti, Denver Post file)

Hiking during the summer can feel like walking across a hot griddle with a blow torch aimed at your face.

That’s why park rangers, who encounter lots of park visitors suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration, want to share some tips to keep hikers safe during the hot summer months.

1. Drink plenty of water. Hydration makes it easier to tolerate heat. Carry extra water and drink periodically, even if you don’t feel thirsty. And if you’re bringing your dog, make sure it has water, too. A good rule of thumb is to turn around and head back once you’ve consumed half of your water supply, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials say.

2. Make sure you know how long the trail is before heading out. Hikers sometimes underestimate how long it will take them to hike a trail, especially when they’re tackling rugged terrain.

3. Plan hikes for early in the morning or in the evening, when it’s cooler and the sun isn’t as strong. Take frequent breaks and know your limit. Rest under shade when you can.

4. Wear appropriate clothing — light-colored, lightweight and loose-fitting clothing works best. A hat keeps your face shaded, and a bandana can be dipped in water and worn around the neck to keep you cool.

5. Check the weather before you start your hike so you’re prepared for conditions on the trail.

If you start to experience a heat-related emergency, call the park headquarters or 911.

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