Overt racists are easy to spot. America’s insidious racism is a greater challenge

Natalie Y Moore writes: White supremacy is more than overt displays of racial hatred as seen in the last few days. It is a system in which white people dominate others and dominate society. They are the default setting, if you like. They hold the power, even if unwillingly. Institutional racism means that even if a white individual does not embrace a white supremacist view, it’s very likely that person benefits from the rigged system.

A swift social media response to the images out of Charlottesville was #thisisnotus. Oh yes it is. America’s original sin is racism. For black people need look no further than slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to segregation, to today’s not-so-invisible hands guiding housing and education policy, the wage gap, health disparities, how banks give loans. One could also add police brutality, food insecurity and disinvestment in black and brown communities.

White supremacy makes up the very fabric of the United States. Racial terror and violence are a central part of our story. An interesting exercise is to compare footage of last weekend’s racial attacks and that of the 1960s. At first glance, the only real difference is that the latter was filmed in black and white.

Beyond our wider, deeper, societal issues, what has been particularly odd is how surprised many have been in the past week by Trump’s response and his implicit nod to white supremacist groups. The idea that he was a blustery political neophyte, rough around the edges, who would clean up his racial language once in the White House has never made any sense. Up until Friday, ultra-rightwing media executive white nationalist Steve Bannon served as White House chief strategist.

But I’ll tell you who’s not surprised by Trump’s actions – black people, especially black women: 94% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, the highest figure among any demographic.

Maya Angelou, the African American poet, memoirist and civil rights activist, once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Trump hardly hid what kind of president he would be on racial matters – he publicly revealed to the nation his leanings for decades. Indeed, he jumped into the political fray via “birtherism”, the absurd conspiracy theory that questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship. Trump swung from one media outlet to another declaring Obama’s birth certificate was fake, therefore disqualifying him for president. He gained traction, by disparaging the country’s first black president with a fanciful and noxious allegation. [Continue reading…]

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Mnuchin defends Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, rebuffs calls to resign

The Washington Post reports: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who faced calls from his Yale University classmates to resign in the wake of President Trump’s controversial comments about last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, defended the president Saturday and said he intends to stay in office.

“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president, I feel compelled to let you know that the president in no way, shape or form believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin, who is Jewish, said in a statement released by the Treasury Department. [Continue reading…]

Mnuchin’s classmates wrote:

President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings. President Trump made those declarations loudly, clearly, and unequivocally, and he said them as you stood next to him. We can be Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and a number of other things and still be friends, classmates, and patriots, but we cannot be Nazis and white supremacists. We can disagree on the means of promoting the general welfare of the country, on the size and role of government, on the nature of freedom and security, but we cannot take the side of what we know to be evil.

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Organizer of Charlottesville protest says Heather Heyer’s killing was ‘payback’

ThinkProgress reports: The man who organized the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last Saturday tweeted that Heather Heyer, the woman who was murdered at the event, a “fat, disgusting communist” and described her death as “payback.”

The organizer, Jason Kessler, deleted the tweet and initially claimed he was hacked. He later deleted that tweet and blamed his online attack on Heyer on a drug cocktail of Xanax, Ambien, and alcohol. [Continue reading…]

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How 12 young men from a small town secretly plotted the deadliest terrorist attack in Spain in more than a decade

The Washington Post reports: The Spanish interior minister boasted Saturday that the terrorist cell that had carried out attacks in Barcelona and a nearby seaside village has been “completely dismantled.” But in the mountain town where the conspiracy was born, people wanted to know how it all had started.

At the center of the mystery here: How did a dozen young men from a small town — some friends since childhood — come together to plot in secret and carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Spain in more than a decade, considering some were barely old enough to drive and most still lived with their parents.

As many as eight of 12 young men named as suspects in the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils are first- and second-generation Moroccan immigrants from the picturesque town of Ripoll, perched high in the forests at the edge of the Pyrenees, a two-hour drive on the highway from Barcelona.

Parents of the young men here told The Washington Post they fear their sons were radicalized by a visiting cleric who spent the last months praying, preaching — and possibly brainwashing gullible youngsters who spoke better Spanish than Arabic. [Continue reading…]

 

Christopher Dickey writes: According to the JTIC [Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre], Spanish police have arrested at least 20 suspects connected to the Islamic State. “Notably, 11 of the suspects detained in 2017 have been arrested in Catalonia, where the latest attack occurred,” the JTIC reports. “Of 38 counter-terrorism operations conducted in 2015 and 2016, 10 operations leading to the arrests of 24 suspected Islamist militants were conducted in Catalonia. Since the start of 2015, 43.2 percent of arrests targeting Islamist militants recorded by JTIC have taken place in Catalonia, highlighting it as a hub of Islamist activity in Spain.”

Yet, for all that, “the two attacks and the relatively large geographic dispersal between Barcelona and Cambrils, the involvement of a larger number of people [than in other attacks in Europe in 2016 and 2017] and the potential discovery of a site to prepare powerful explosives in Alcanar suggest a much higher level of coordination than has been typically present in previous attacks.”
Spain has been on its next-highest level of alert since 2015, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks early that year.

But the autonomous Catalan government has been pressing forward with plans for a highly contentious referendum on complete independence scheduled for October 1, and its secessionist sentiment, though by no means universal, may have had particular relevance to these attacks.

Hugo Micheron, a researcher who has interviewed scores of jihadis in French prisons and elsewhere, notes that those operating in Europe often see elections as key moments for their operations. “ISIS wants to destabilize the democratic process,” he says. [Continue reading…]

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To Iran’s dismay, Iraq engages Saudi Arabia

Al Monitor reports: Pictures displaying Iran’s Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani during the battles with the Islamic State stopped circulating online with the military phase that ended in the liberation of Mosul. The Iranian presence and support for the Iraqi forces were absent in the liberation battles.

Simultaneously, Iraqi officials visited Saudi Arabia and Arab Sunni states that cheer for the Saudi axis. Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Aug. 13-15, with clerics and politicians welcoming him as an Iraqi leader. Prominent Sunni Iraqi cleric Ahmed al-Kubaisi and leading politicians met with Sadr during his visit to the UAE. This was only a few days after his visit at the end of July to Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials had welcomed him.

In the wake of the visit, Saudi Arabia took various measures in favor of Iraq, such as announcing the opening of a Saudi Consulate in Najaf, where Sadr lives. Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, did not object to this proposition, as in the past he had called for openness in relations. [Continue reading…]

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Iraqi forces start offensive to retake Tal Afar from ISIS

The New York Times reports: A month after liberating Mosul from the Islamic State, Iraqi forces began a new offensive Sunday to retake Tal Afar, one of the last big cities in Iraq under control of the extremists.

As he has done frequently during the three-year military campaign against the Islamic State, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared on state television in the dark hours — close to 3 a.m. Sunday, a time chosen to heighten the drama — wearing a black uniform in the style of Iraqi special forces to announce that the operation had begun.

Using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, Mr. Abadi addressed the militants directly. “I would say to Daesh fighters, you have no choice: Either surrender or die,” he said.

Tal Afar, once a remote military outpost for the Ottoman Empire, fell to the Islamic State in 2014. It was strategically significant for its location along a supply route between Mosul and Syria, where the militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is also on its heels as it defends its de facto capital there, Raqqa. [Continue reading…]

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Why Britain’s voters must have a second referendum on Brexit

Vernon Bogdanor writes: ast week, the government set out key elements of its strategy for achieving Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. It seeks a soft landing to a hard Brexit. It wants a time-limited transition period after March 2019, when Britain is due to leave the bloc. During that period, the government hopes for a “close association with the EU customs union”. When it ends, Britain will leave the customs union but seek “a new customs arrangement” that preserves “the freest and most frictionless trade possible” and Britain will then seek a free trade agreement.

These proposals are beset with ambiguity and difficulty, although the idea of a transitional agreement has been welcomed by business. Brexiters fear – and some Remainers hope – that at the end of the transitional period it will be found to have been so comfortable that it will be extended. In that case, Britain would, to a significant degree, remain in the EU, but as a de facto satellite rather than a participating member.

Remainers put too much faith in the transitional agreement. Business seeks certainty so that new investment can be undertaken without fear that market conditions will radically alter. A transitional agreement cannot provide this. It merely offers a stay of execution. A company seeking to decide whether to invest is not helped by being told that the period of uncertainty, instead of being 18 months, will be prolonged for a further two years. [Continue reading…]

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What Germany can teach the U.S. about remembering an ugly past without glorifying it

Fred Kaplan writes: President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that he’s “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments”—thus furnishing further proof that he knows nothing about history or culture or beauty, much less the reason why monuments are built in the first place.

As many have pointed out, the statues of Confederate officers that scar the cities of the South (and too many spots in the North as well) were erected not in the immediate wake of the Civil War but rather decades later, during the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, as a show of force—from the rulers to the ruled—that the old guard, though defeated in battle, was still in charge.

Trump and all those who find his appeals to historical preservation persuasive should go to Berlin, a city of vast and multiple horrors throughout its history, yet also a city that is facing those horrors head-on, unflinchingly. The city memorializes not its discarded leaders but rather their victims. And instead of mounting old warlords on pedestals (there is nothing “beautiful” about a man on horseback, whether Confederate, Nazi, or Communist), the city displays the full record of their crimes against humanity. [Continue reading…]

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The test of Nazism that Trump failed

Timothy Snyder writes: “No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.” So the president said at a news conference in February. These words left me uneasy. A moment ago, as I was looking at photographs of young men in Charlottesville, Va., who were from my home state, Ohio, and thinking about the message “Heil Hitler” on the T-shirt that one wore, it dawned on me why.

I spent years studying the testimonies of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and the recollections of their rescuers. When the rescuers were asked why they did what they did, they usually avoided the question. If they ventured a reply, it was simply to say that they did what anyone would have done. Historians who read sources develop intuitions about the material. The intuition I developed was that people who bragged about rescuing Jews had generally not done so; they were, in fact, more likely to be anti-Semites and racists. Rescuers almost never boast.

I write these lines in Poland, where the Holocaust is present in every absence, in a house where the Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz spent his summers when he was the same age as the young men I see in those photographs. In 1943 in Warsaw, he watched as the wind that blew the ash over the wall of the burning ghetto caught the skirts of girls riding a carousel. He noticed how people reached out to catch bits of ash floating through the air like “dark kites.”

I found myself thinking also of another Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet, Wislawa Szymborska. She memorably described a seemingly normal woman who was caught up in her daily cares but, when the moment arrived, ran headlong into a burning building to save children who were not her own.

“We know ourselves,” Ms. Szymborska wrote, “only insofar as we have been tested.”

Until we have been tested, there is no sense in boasting of our goodness; afterward, there is no need. After Charlottesville, President Trump faced an easy test, and failed. When presented with an obvious opportunity to condemn the evil that was and is Nazism, he first waited, then equivocated, then read from a teleprompter, then relativized. He spoke of “very fine people on both sides.” [Continue reading…]

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Boston: Small speechless rally disperses in face of massive counter protest

The Washington Post reports: Tens of thousands of counterprotesters crammed Boston Common and marched through city streets Saturday morning in efforts to drown out the planned “free speech” rally that many feared would be attended by white-supremacist groups.

By 1 p.m., the handful of rally attendees had left the Boston Common pavillion, concluding their event without planned speeches. A victorious cheer went up among the counterprotesters, as many began to leave. Hundreds of others danced in circles and sang, “Hey hey, ho ho. White supremacy has got to go.”

City officials said that at least 40,000 people participated in the counter protest, 20,000 of whom participated in the march across town. Tensions flared as police escorted some rally attendees out of the Common, prompting several physical altercations between police and counterprotesters. [Continue reading…]

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‘Donald Trump brought me here today’: Counterprotesters rout neo-Nazi rally in Berlin

The Washington Post reports: “There is only one side — the good side,” cried Eva Kese, mustering a smile as she fought back tears. “Your hate has no place here.”

Kese, 30, stood Saturday facing a crowd of about 500 neo-Nazis. They were gathered on the outskirts of the German capital to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Rudolf Hess, a deputy to Adolf Hitler. The demonstration marked another, more recent anniversary: one week since a march by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Virginia left one counterprotester dead.

Kese held up a sign with a hand-drawn pink heart to the neo-Nazis, who countered with a giant banner of their own, reading, “I regret nothing.”

Choosing her words carefully, she repeated: “There is only one side.”

President Trump, she said, had drawn her to the streets of the German capital to counter the demonstration. She was incensed by his reaction to the violence in Charlottesville last weekend, in which he blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” [Continue reading…]

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The rise and fall of Steve Bannon

Ryan Lizza writes: In March, I went to the White House to visit Steve Bannon, who today was fired by President Trump. After Bannon showed off his office and his famous whiteboard, we sat down at a wooden conference table in the large corner office of Reince Priebus, who was then the White House chief of staff. Moments earlier, Priebus had left the building, and Bannon seemed to use the chief of staff’s office as if it were his own, roaming around while he talked, and flinging a Coke can in Priebus’s trash bin, as if he were marking territory. Despite the show of confidence, Bannon felt like he was beset by enemies.

Since the day after the election, Bannon had been fighting against forces that he believed were trying to roll back the promises of the Trump campaign. The whiteboard was so important to Bannon because it represented the policy ideas that he had been instrumental in foisting on Trump. And Bannon wanted everyone who came into the West Wing to know precisely what Trump was elected to enact: a Muslim ban, a border wall, a protectionist trade agenda (especially with China), and a more isolationist foreign policy. Bannon was obsessed with defeating the elements in the White House who hadn’t worked on the campaign and didn’t understand those policies.

“Did you see the lead story in today’s Financial Times?” Bannon asked me. He summoned an aide to retrieve it and threw the pink broadsheet, the paper of record for what he calls the global élite, on the table.

“The lead story is ‘explosion of civil war in White House, fiery debate in Oval Office,’ ” Bannon said. The story was one of many then detailing the internal combat between Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, and Bannon. What was somewhat unusual was that Bannon was bragging about it. In previous White Houses, officials downplayed this sort of internal combat, insisting that everyone was united around the President’s agenda. But in the Trump White House there is no Trump agenda. There is a mercurial, highly emotional narcissist with no policy expertise who set up—or allowed his senior staffers to set up—competing ideological fiefdoms that fight semi-public wars to define the soul of Trumpism. [Continue reading…]

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The dark minds of the ‘alt-right’

Olga Khazan writes: Some of the protesters who marched through Charlottesville last weekend were described as “alt-right,” a newish term that has been used for everyone from white supremacists to economic populists. But what does it actually mean? The Associated Press recently issued guidelines discouraging journalists from using the term “generically and without definition” since “the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience.” Meanwhile, President Trump recently told reporters that some of the protesters in Charlottesville who waved Nazi insignia and chanted anti-Jewish slogans weren’t all nefarious—some “were very fine people.”

A psychology paper put out just last week by Patrick Forscher of the University of Arkansas and Nour Kteily of Northwestern University seeks to answer the question of just what, exactly, it is that the alt-right believes. What differentiates them from the average American?

For the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, Forscher and Kteily recruited 447 self-proclaimed members of the alt-right online and gave them a series of surveys. How did they know these people were really “alt-right?” The individuals responded to questions like, “What are your thoughts when people claim the alt-right is racist?” with statements like:

“If it were not for Europeans, there would be nothing but the third world. Racist really needs defined. Is it racist to not want your community flooded with 3,000 low IQ blacks from the Congo? I would suggest almost everyone would not. It is not racist to want to live among your own … Through media [the Jews] lie about the Holohoax, and the slave trade. Jews were the slave traders, not Europeans … many people don’t even understand these simple things.”

The researchers compared the responses of the alt-right people to a sample of people who did not identify as alt-right. What they found paints a dark picture of a group that feels white people are disadvantaged. They are eager to take action to boost whites’ standing. What’s more, they appear to view other religious and ethnic groups as subhuman. [Continue reading…]

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Trump wants to protect monuments — but not if they’re natural

Robinson Meyer writes: On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump announced his unequivocal support for preserving statues of Confederate generals and leaders, moving a step past his previous statements that the fate of the statues should be left to cities and states.

In full, his tweets read: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson—who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns, and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”


It was not the first time he had spoken about monuments—national or otherwise. In April, Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to review whether every national monument created since 1996 should be eliminated or shrunk from its current size. His order put protections for tens of millions of acres of public land in doubt.

These are not the same type of monuments, of course. The Confederate monuments that Trump describes are stone or bronze depictions of leaders who took up arms against the United States. They are scattered across the entire country but concentrated in the Southeast. (There are also assorted plaques.)

The national monuments of Trump’s April executive order, meanwhile, are areas of federally owned land set aside for their natural beauty or cultural significance. [Continue reading…]

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Beating the odds for lucky mutations

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: In 1944, a Columbia University doctoral student in genetics named Evelyn Witkin made a fortuitous mistake. During her first experiment in a laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor, in New York, she accidentally irradiated millions of E. coli with a lethal dose of ultraviolet light. When she returned the following day to check on the samples, they were all dead — except for one, in which four bacterial cells had survived and continued to grow. Somehow, those cells were resistant to UV radiation. To Witkin, it seemed like a remarkably lucky coincidence that any cells in the culture had emerged with precisely the mutation they needed to survive — so much so that she questioned whether it was a coincidence at all.

For the next two decades, Witkin sought to understand how and why these mutants had emerged. Her research led her to what is now known as the SOS response, a DNA repair mechanism that bacteria employ when their genomes are damaged, during which dozens of genes become active and the rate of mutation goes up. Those extra mutations are more often detrimental than beneficial, but they enable adaptations, such as the development of resistance to UV or antibiotics.

The question that has tormented some evolutionary biologists ever since is whether nature favored this arrangement. Is the upsurge in mutations merely a secondary consequence of a repair process inherently prone to error? Or, as some researchers claim, is the increase in the mutation rate itself an evolved adaptation, one that helps bacteria evolve advantageous traits more quickly in stressful environments?

The scientific challenge has not just been to demonstrate convincingly that harsh environments cause nonrandom mutations. It has also been to find a plausible mechanism consistent with the rest of molecular biology that could make lucky mutations more likely. Waves of studies in bacteria and more complex organisms have sought those answers for decades. [Continue reading…]

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Music: Weather Report — ‘Jungle Book’

 

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Steve Bannon, back on the outside, prepares his enemies list

The New York Times reports: Stephen K. Bannon has always been more comfortable when he was trying to tear down institutions — not work inside them.

With his return to Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon will be free to lead the kind of ferocious assault on the political establishment that he relishes, even if sometimes that means turning his wrath on the White House itself.

Hours after his ouster from the West Wing, he was named to his former position of executive chairman at the hard-charging right-wing website and led its evening editorial meeting. And Mr. Bannon appeared eager to move onto his next fight.

“In many ways, I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on,” he said Friday. “And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with.”

Among those already in Mr. Bannon’s sights: Speaker Paul D. Ryan; Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader; the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Gary D. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs who now directs the White House’s National Economic Council. [Continue reading…]

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