U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is pressing President Obama to ramp up diplomatic efforts to reach a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a letter to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Ellison and several other House Democrats call for an immediate end to the “cycle of violence” in the region.
“Past experience indicates that the current conflict will likely end with a new cease-fire. Ground troops, air strikes, and rockets do not lead to permanent peace in the Middle East,” the letter reads. “The United States government, together with international partners, must redouble our efforts to urge all parties to avoid further loss of life on both sides by coming to a cease-fire.”
The lawmakers praised Israel for its “willingness to agree to the terms of the [cease-fire] agreement” proposed by Egypt, which Hamas has rejected. Their letter also criticizes Hamas for “indiscriminately launching thousands of rockets into Israel.”
The lawmakers also urge the Obama administration to reopen peace talks in the Middle East.
“Additional diplomacy is necessary to save lives and create lasting peace,” the lawmakers write. “… a final status agreement in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security is urgent and necessary.”
President Obama accepted the credentials for new Somali Ambassador to the United States, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, in a ceremony at the White House today.
Sharmake, a former prime minister of the African country, is the first Somali ambassador to the U.S. in more than two decades. Somalia closed its U.S. embassy after warlords ousted formerdictator and President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the United States.
"This is a historic moment for the future of a democratic Somalia and for the future of relations between our two countries,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said in a statement. “Mr. Sharmarke is well prepared to continue building a free, peaceful Somalia.
"I look forward to working with His Excellency and I would like him to visit Minneapolis as soon as possible. Together, we can promote security, economic prosperity, and well-being for Somalis both here in the U.S. and in Somalia."
Obama also accepted credential for ambassadors from Cabo Verde, Sri Lanka, Armenia and Guinea.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in Congress, said a report that the National Security Agency and FBI were tracking the email of five prominent American Muslims is “troubling because it suggests that Americans were targeted because of their faith and civic engagement.”
Documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the Muslim attorneys and activists were targeted for surveillance from 2002 to 2008 under a program meant to uncover terrorists and foreign agents, according to an analysis from online news organization The Intercept.
Among the documents released were training materials that used the name “Mohammed Raghead” as an example of a terrorist suspect.
“Profiling based on religion breeds distrust and resentment in communities that are potential partners in the fight against crime,” Ellison said.
“Muslim-Americans continue to face bigotry and hatred, but the NSA’s former spying practices undermine our entire nation’s progress towards greater inclusion. Undue surveillance has a chilling effect in all communities.”
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison took out his guitar and took to Twitter to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Minnesotan Prince's iconic 'Purple Rain' album.
"Can't believe it's been thirty years since #PurpleRain," the Minneapolis Democrat tweeted Wednesday morning to his nearly 55,000 followers. He also posted this video:
New York Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley felt the need to respond in kind:
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's eight House members and both senators collectively urged the Army Tuesday to clarify a new directive expanding legal services to victims of sexual assault in the National Guard.
The Army recently released new rules expanding important legal services to certain victims of military sexual assault, but the rules don't cover National Guard members who become victims of sexual assault outside drill weekends or military duties.
Minnesota's ten members of Congress say the directive will undermine the Minnesota National Guard's ability to "effectively provide support services to survivors of sexual assaults," according to a release.
The letter was led by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP Rep. John Kline and co-signed by Democrat Sen. Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, and Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen.
"Our Minnesota service members should not be impeded from seeking critical services in the aftermath of a sexual assault," the letter said. "The Army must provide clear guidance and direction in order for the National Guard to effectively provide these services authorized by Congress."
The letter comes as the Department of Defense scrambles to deal with the increasing problem of sexual assaults in the military. According to the delegation release today, the DoD found in May that overall reporting of sexual assaults in the military in 2013 was 50 percent higher than it was the previous year -- 5,061 in 2013 versus 3,374 in 2012. Previous year-to-year increases in reporting never exceeded five percent.
There are more than 13,000 soldiers and airman in the Minnesota National Guard.