An American Surgeon in Wartime Ukraine

Why one volunteer doctor keeps going back into countries wrecked by Russian bombs.

As a Syrian American surgeon living in Chicago, Dr. Samer Attar felt compelled to be of service during the Syrian civil war, when doctors were being driven underground by Syria’s Russia-backed military. When Russian bombs began raining down in Ukraine this year, Dr. Attar once more raised his hand to cross the border and treat the war-wounded.

Guest: Dr. Samer Attar, associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

A majority of Americans will have election deniers on the ballot. What could this mean for the future?

Donald Trump’s name is not on the ballot this November, but his ideology certainly is.

As the former president continues to spread misinformation about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, FiveThirtyEight reports that 60% of U.S. voters are to have someone who either casts doubt or completely denies the results from 2020 on the ballot in 2022.

This all comes while restrictive legislation is being pushed across the country in the name of election security and the Supreme Court is considering cases that impact voting and our democratic process.

Mike Collins and our panel of guests look at the short and long-term impact these election deniers may have in Congress and what it says about our republic.

GUESTS

Susan Roberts, political science professor at Davidson College

Nathaniel Rakich, senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Roll Call podcast “Equal Time”

Local News Roundup: CATS gets riders’ input on new station; CMS school performance update; Panthers continue to lose

CATS is now turning to its customers for their input on the plans for the new and improved Transit Center in Uptown. The design plans have been a source of controversy at recent city council meetings and now people who use the service get to have their say. We’ll hear what riders think about the design plans.

In a time when schools are struggling to perform nationwide after the pandemic and when many reports are illuminating low levels of performance at CMS, a new list has emerged that gives some optimism in the district- several schools within the district scored among the highest in the state for academic progress last year. We’ll learn more.

CMPD is investigating a high number of recent shootings in the city this week, most of which stemmed from some kind of dispute leading to one party pulling a gun on another, many times in a populated area. We’ll discuss the disturbing frequency of these shootings.

North Carolina’s Supreme Court returned to the topic of redistricting and new boundaries this week. We’ll hear the latest.

And the Panthers’ poor performance this season continues, leading many to speculate that Matt Rhule’s days as head coach are numbered. What can we expect this week against the 49ers?

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and all the week’s top local and regional news on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS

Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter

Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

When Climate Change Makes You Sell Your House

With disaster relief funds from Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s Harris County instituted a mandatory buyout program for residents in flood-prone areas. But some residents didn’t want to leave.

The fight over faith in politics: Which faith? Whose values?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a Colorado church early this summer, one of that state’s Republican representatives, House member Lauren Boebert, spoke, as she always does, with definitive conviction: “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. … I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution.”

While many would and have disagreed, pointing to that document’s First Amendment — which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — Boebert was speaking for many Americans for whom that separating line has always been, if not invisible, at least fuzzy.

Boebert remains strong in her belief that faith and politics are inextricably entwined, as evidenced by brief, fiery remarks on Friday at the North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Salt & Light Conference in Charlotte. There were warnings (“how far have we come when the word of God is not a part of our regular speech?”), bragging (“I am a professional RINO hunter,” when recounting her defeat of a longtime incumbent) and a prescription (“we need men and women of God to rise up”). In her words, she is someone who has been called by God, who “told me to go forward.”

At the gathering, which drew, according to organizers, about 1,500 over its two days, there was much talk of God, rivaled only by the many references to fighting and marching into battle, with the very future of America at stake. Though prayer was the primary weapon on display, and a voter registration table showing the way, there was also a raffle for a 17.76 LVOA rifle, only 500 tickets available, $20 each, six for $100.

America has heard similar exhortations before, including from the former head of the Christian Coalition, the founder of the national Faith & Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed. Despite Reed’s tight relationship with Republican Party politics — as senior adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaigns in both 2000 and 2004, onetime chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, a GOP candidate himself, and more — the ambassador for the North Carolina organization insists his group is independent.

Paul Brintley, a North Carolina pastor who leads on minority engagement, told me, “Our forefathers made choices in laws from a foundation of the Bible” and “we don’t want to lose our saltiness” in continuing that charge, hence the “salt” in the conference name. Jesse Hailey, a Baptist pastor from Elk Point, S.D., said he, too, longed for a country that elevated biblical traditions, and he said he was very pleased with the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

But, “we don’t endorse candidates; we just educate people,” said Jason Williams, the executive director of the N.C. Faith & Freedom Coalition.

Was that a wink?

It was hard to miss the issue-oriented voter guides or the theme of the vendors’ room with tables for the Patriotic Students of America, which promotes clubs and believes “today’s education system has growing anti-American sentiments,” and Moms for Liberty, which has led the charge against what it labels critical race theory but in practice seems to be about banning books on LGBTQ families, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges integrating New Orleans schools, and girls who aspire to a career in tech.

Valerie Miller, 40, a member of the Cabarrus County Republican Party executive committee, touted “Blexit” — Black Americans leaving the Democratic Party — and her story of finding a home in the GOP. You could also learn about Patriot Mobile, advertising itself as “America’s Only Christian, conservative wireless provider,” and pick up a “Let’s Go Brandon” sticker.

All the while, a who’s who of conservative politicians, media stars and firebrands took the stage.

When it comes to what faith in action — political action — should look like, opinions have always varied in stark ways. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” after all, was a generous yet robust rebuke to fellow faith leaders who urged patience not action in pursuit of justice. Not even the Scripture they all preached could settle the argument.

It’s no different today, with people of faith preaching far different versions of how God’s vision is and should be reflected in the country’s policies. In Washington, D.C., last week, a diverse group of national, state and local faith leaders prioritized voting rights, the living wage and the lack of health care as they joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in a briefing to urge Congress to act on issues that affect millions of vulnerable Americans.

“We’re in a moral crisis. Fifty million people are going to experience some sort of voter suppression because we’ve not restored the Voting Rights Act and passed the original John Lewis bill that the guy who amended the original John Lewis bill didn’t vote for it himself,” said co-chair William J. Barber II, who is also president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, in remarks I watched on video. “And 50 million people will experience continual poverty because we’ve not raised the minimum wage in 13 years. Thirteen years.”

Local News Roundup: Bomb threats and lockdowns at schools throughout the region; Actors Theatre to close; Gaston County Schools payroll problem continues; CATS drivers vote on agreement

CATS drivers vote on a new contract this week that would get them “significant pay raises”. The tentative agreement could make a positive change for the drivers and the problems CATS has been experiencing with a bus driver shortage for the last several months. We’ll dig into the details of the first vote.

Actors Theatre of Charlotte plans to close its doors next month after 30 years of bringing professional local theater to Charlotteans. We’ll talk about why they’re closing and what led to the decision.

Payroll problems continue for some Gaston County school employees. Officials from the system acknowledged that the problems have been going on for months. School Board Chair Jeff Ramsey says they’re committed to fixing the problem.

Around the region, from Mooresville to Cabarrus county schools and several Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, bomb threats and lockdowns at multiple schools have students, employees and families on edge.

And “unruly behavior” by minors at Carowinds causes the amusement park to close early last week and now, a new policy for all minors to be accompanied by a chaperone.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and all the week’s top local and regional news on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS:

Nick Ochsner, WBTV’s executive producer for investigations & chief investigative reporter

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter

Danielle Chemtob, investigative reporter with Axios Charlotte

You can’t ‘pivot away’ from sick stunts and cruelty

It’s called the “pivot.” It’s that moment when a politician who has been playing at the fringes for primary purposes tacks to the center, just in time for the general election, the better to appeal to independents and moderates who might be turned off by red-meat rhetoric.

A particularly clumsy execution of what should be a deft move could be observed after New Hampshire Republican Don Bolduc won his primary fight and the right to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan.

After running as a true Trump devotee, swallower of the election lie that Donald Trump was denied the presidency because of fraud, and signing a letter saying Trump won, Bolduc had a come-to-truth conversion as soon as the primary votes were counted. “I’ve done a lot of research on this,” he said to explain his about-face. “The election was not stolen.”

Did he forget that videotape exists and social media is forever?

In politics, there are actually all kinds of pivots.

One that erases the lived experiences of human beings is underway right now, as buses and planes crisscross the United States, courtesy of governors competing to see who can score the most political points on the backs of brown people.

Who are these men, women and children? Where exactly are they from? Are many in the country legally, stuck in an immigration system that is overloaded, unwieldy and in need of reform? What’s going to happen to them now? Who is paying for this stunt?

Before all these questions are deeply explored, notice how quickly conversation about GOP Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida transporting asylum-seekers northward segued from the details about the people on those buses and planes to analysis of how these politicians’ cynical moves will play among voters.

Eventually, those details dangerously lose their power to shock, the names and faces blurring.

Consider how little has been reported on the fate of a 1-month-old baby dropped off in front of the Washington, D.C., residence of Vice President Kamala Harris, courtesy of Abbott.

Put yourself in the place of desperate parents trying to give your infant a better life; wonder what kind of despair and hope would lead to a trek into the unknown.

Oh, that’s right. In Donald Trump’s recent ominous and threatening Ohio speech, the one in which he labeled anyone opposing the MAGA movement as “thugs and tyrants” with “no idea of the sleeping giant they have awoken,” he could not pass up the chance to refer to some immigrants as “murderers” and “rapists.”

The clear message was that “these” people are not like you, smoothing the way for a pivot from people to threats to political pawns, good only for the opportunity to “own the libs” and bank a few votes.

When taken to task for not giving social services in Martha’s Vineyard advance notice, the better to make preparations, DeSantis press person Jeremy Redfern embraced the oversight, tweeting, “Do the cartels that smuggle humans call Florida or Texas before illegal immigrants wash up on our shores or cross over the border? No.”

Anyone who invites a comparison to human-smuggling, lawbreaking coyotes might want to examine his life choices.

It’s not even an original tactic.

CB Bowman: Courage to Leap and Lead (Part 2)

This is part one of a two-part episode. Tune in next week for part 2 with the wonderful Mary C. Curtis.

Mary C. Curtis, a columnist at Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist and educator based in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. She has contributed to NBC News, NPR, The Washington Post, The Root, ESPN’s The Undefeated, and talks politics on WCCB-TV and NPR-affiliate WFAE in Charlotte. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, the Charlotte Observer, the Baltimore Sun, and the Associated Press, and was a national correspondent for AOL’s Politics Daily.

Curtis is a Senior Leader with The OpEd Project, at Yale University, Cornell University, and the Ford Foundation, and at the Aspen New Voices Fellowship in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Kiplinger Fellow, in social media, at Ohio State.

Mary was chosen to be included in The HistoryMakers, the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world designed to promote and celebrate the successes and to document movements, events, and organizations that are important to the African American community and to American society; it is available digitally and permanently archived in the Library of Congress.

Her honors include Clarion Awards from the Association for Women in Communications, awards from the National Headliners and the Society of Professional Journalists, three first-place awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Thomas Wolfe Award for an examination of Confederate heritage groups. Curtis has contributed to several books, including an essay in “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox.”

CB Bowman: Courage to Leap and Lead

This is part one of a two-part episode. Tune in next week for part 2 with the wonderful Mary C. Curtis.

Mary C. Curtis, a columnist at Roll Call, is an award-winning journalist and educator based in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. She has contributed to NBC News, NPR, The Washington Post, The Root, ESPN’s The Undefeated, and talks politics on WCCB-TV and NPR-affiliate WFAE in Charlotte. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, the Charlotte Observer, the Baltimore Sun, and the Associated Press, and was a national correspondent for AOL’s Politics Daily.

Curtis is a Senior Leader with The OpEd Project, at Yale University, Cornell University, and the Ford Foundation, and at the Aspen New Voices Fellowship in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a Kiplinger Fellow, in social media, at Ohio State.

Mary was chosen to be included in The HistoryMakers, the single largest archival collection of its kind in the world designed to promote and celebrate the successes and to document movements, events, and organizations that are important to the African American community and to American society; it is available digitally and permanently archived in the Library of Congress.

Her honors include Clarion Awards from the Association for Women in Communications, awards from the National Headliners and the Society of Professional Journalists, three first-place awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Thomas Wolfe Award for an examination of Confederate heritage groups. Curtis has contributed to several books, including an essay in “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox.”

Fighting unwinnable battles in an American culture war

As usual, Michelle Obama stole the show. The former first lady returned to the White House to unveil the official Obama portraits that will forever hang on its walls, and she used the special occasion to deliver remarks that hit the perfect tone.

“For me, this day is not just about what has happened,” she said last week. “It’s also about what could happen because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house. And she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as first lady.”

All over the world, you could hear young girls and women, particularly those of color, cheering.

She referenced the sentiments of her “hope and change” spouse in saying, “if the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then, again, it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can, too.”

Now, whenever the former first lady speaks simple truths, a few trolls find fault with her words, seeing in them victimization, not the obvious celebration intended by the speaker. But then, those naysayers were the ones who never appreciated the style and class the Obamas brought to the people’s house while navigating the uncharted role of “the first.”

Michelle Obama’s speech was not about how bad we were but how far we’ve come, and isn’t that something Americans can point to with pride?

Apparently not.

The first Black president and first lady — an inspiration for so many who had felt left out — are merely ammunition for those who insist on fighting a “culture war” they feel they’re losing.