February 10, 2020

The FBI Makes a Bizarre Claim About Pro-Choice Terrorism
The FBI is expanding its focus on domestic terrorism, and that includes pro-choice violence—even though such violence is so vanishingly rare, it’s all but nonexistent. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray disclosed that the bureau has recently “changed our terminology as part of a broader reorganization of the way in which we categorize our domestic terrorism efforts.” It’s part of a much-heralded reinvigoration of the bureau’s domestic terrorism focus after a rising tide of mostly white-supremacist terrorism.Among four broad categories of domestic terrorism that the FBI confronts, Wray said, is “abortion violent extremism.” But Wray wasn’t only talking about the pro-life extremism that murders abortion providers in their churches, he hastened to add, but “people on either side of that issue who commit violence on behalf of different views on that topic.”His questioner, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), was puzzled at Wray’s seeming equivalence: “People on either side of that issue don't commit violence.” In fact, the FBI pointed The Daily Beast to just one episode of pro-choice-inspired terrorism—one that did not involve an actual act of violence, but rather a threat in an online comments section.But Wray persisted: “Well, we've actually had a variety of kinds of violence under that, believe it or not. But at the end of the day.” Bass asked, “Really, that blow up buildings and threaten doctors?” Rather than responding, Wray moved on to detailing the FBI’s next domestic-terrorism category, one about “animal rights and environmental extremism.”Wray’s comments weren’t the first instance of the bureau promoting the idea of pro-choice violence as a real threat. In 2017, the FBI distributed a brief “Abortion Extremism Reference Guide” at a counterterrorism training for local law enforcement, listing “pro-choice extremists” as a group of domestic terrorists. The document, first reported by Jezebel, claimed that these extremists “believe it is their moral duty to protect those who provide or receive abortion services”—though even this document noted that only one “pro-choice extremist” had ever been prosecuted. Additionally, an earlier FBI training document obtained by the ACLU in 2012 referenced pro-choice violence but did not “provide a single example of violence against abortion opponents,” the ACLU wrote. “Abortion violent extremism” of any sort accounts for a only small percentage of FBI domestic terrorism cases. Wray on Wednesday that the “top threat” of domestic terrorism comes from what he called “racially/ethnically motivated violent extremists.” Out of approximately 850 current cases that a senior FBI official cited in congressional testimony last May, about half concern anti-government extremism and another 40 percent concern racist terrorism. That leaves around 85 cases of violence motivated by animal rights, ecological degradation, abortion and miscellaneous cases. An FBI spokesperson confirmed the total caseload and the breakdown are still current.But abortion extremism doesn’t have an “either side.” The primary case of pro-choice violent extremism that the FBI pointed The Daily Beast toward—the same one cited in the 2017 FBI document—is the 2012 conviction of Theodore Schulman, who had a long history of threatening anti-abortion activists. Schulman’s ultimate downfall was the result of posting a threat in the comments section of religious conservative outlet First Things: “if Roeder is acquitted, someone will respond by killing” Princeton’s Robert George and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, he wrote. That itself spoke to the discrepancy in violence between the two sides. “Roeder” was a reference to Scott Roeder, who murdered abortion provider George Tiller in the foyer of a Wichita church in 2009. Other instances of anti-abortion violence include a trio of bombings at Florida abortion clinics in 1985, a string of arson attacks on a Washington clinic in 1983, and a 2015 shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood that killed three. Between 1993 and today, anti-abortion activists murdered 11 people and attempted to kill another 26, according to the National Abortion Federation.“Anti-choice violence as we know it is constant, pervasive, and escalating dramatically, and it threatens the civil liberties as well as the lives of our patents, our members, our society,” NAF President Katherine Ragsdale told The Daily Beast. Wray’s comments, she added, are a “danger to public perception.”“It tars everyone with the same brush when in fact pro-choice folks simply are not doing this,” she said.The Daily Beast has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI to document the extent of its focus on alleged pro-choice violent extremism.Mila Johns, a domestic terrorism researcher affiliated with the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, said violence was “very much lopsided in the other direction,” the anti-abortion side, and called Wray’s equivalence “a very political statement.” The database, which tracks terrorist attacks across the world since 1970, records about 300 incidents related to anti-abortion violence and none for pro-choice violence. However, an Austin woman in 2016 was charged with throwing a crude Molotov cocktail at anti-abortion protesters. And last year, an 85-year old anti-abortion protester in San Francisco was knocked to the ground after he attempted jamming the bicycle spokes of a man who appears to have stolen a pro-life group’s banner. Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue—a radical anti-abortion group that moved its headquarters to Wichita, Kansas, specifically to target Dr. Tiller—said his movement has been on the receiving end of threats. He estimated he had made between 20 and 50 complaints to federal law enforcement over the last two decades, for everything from anthrax scares to online intimidation. Wichita resident Christopher Thompson, he noted, was sentenced to 12 months in jail last year for making menacing calls to Operation Rescue’s office and employees.But when asked about specific instances of pro-choice violence, Newman cited only the murder of James Pouillon, an Operation Save America activist who was shot while protesting abortion outside a high school in 2009. (The judge in that case said the killer’s motivations were not tied to abortion.) Newman declined to give examples of abortion-rights violence of the scale and magnitude of that enacted by the anti-abortion movement. “You got your scorecard and I got mine,” he said. “All of them are terrible.”The FBI’s position is that pro-choice activists and groups not concerned with violence don’t need to worry about the new domestic terrorism categorization. “We don't investigate ideology or rhetoric or anything of that sort,” Wray testified. An FBI spokesperson declined to comment, but pointed to comments from the bureau’s former assistant director for counterterrorism, Mike McGarrity, from last June. “It is important to remember that in line with our mission to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States, no FBI investigation can be opened solely on the basis of First Amendment-protected activity,” McGarrity testified to a House panel in June. “Rather, domestic terrorism investigations on individuals are opened on the basis of information concerning the occurrence or threat of violent criminal actions by the individual in furtherance of an ideology.”However, prior episodes during the 18-year-old war on terror show the FBI does not always hold a rigid distinction between ideology that isn’t to be investigated and violence that is. In 2011, its counterterrorism training at Quantico included instructional material that held Islam was an ideology, rather than a religion, with violence baked into its doctrines. The point of the training was to portray Islam itself as a threat to national security—which, for an investigative entity with broad domestic powers, was ominous enough for the Obama administration to order the training materials removed. Michael German, a former FBI special agent who investigated domestic terrorism, said the FBI was not only engaging in a false equivalence but “the manufacturing of an imaginary violent movement,” reminiscent of its now-discarded “black identity extremism” category.  Anti-Abortion Violence at All-Time HighThe bureau “seems to be grasping a tiny number of unrelated incidents that are not part of any organized effort to falsely imply that such a ‘domestic terrorist’ movement exists,” said German, now with the Brennan Center for Justice. “This is a misleading analysis of dubious purpose, apparently to satisfy some political constituency, which is not what an objective law enforcement agency should be doing.” But for some in the reproductive rights space, the threat posed by anti-abortion violence is enough that they are willing to accept dubious FBI categorization to ensure it gets investigated.“Those of us in this movement have lost friends and family,” Ragsdale said. “By all means, investigate the escalating violence.”“And if politics requires you to have a category that says pro-choice violence, go right ahead,” she added. “I’d be interested to see if anything ever pops up."
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
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The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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