In defense of equality

In a review of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, by Danielle Allen, Gordon S. Wood writes: This is a strange and remarkable book. There must be dozens of books on the Declaration of Independence written from every conceivable point of view — historical, political, theoretical, philosophical, and textual — but no one has ever written a book on the Declaration quite like this one. If we read the Declaration of Independence slowly and carefully, Danielle Allen believes, then the document can become a basic primer for our democracy. It can be something that all of us — not just scholars and educated elites but common ordinary people — can participate in, and should participate in if we want to be good democratic citizens.

Allen, who is a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, came to this extraordinary conclusion when she was teaching for a decade at the University of Chicago. But it was not the young bright-eyed undergraduates whom she taught by day who inspired her. Instead, it was the much older, life-tested adults whom she taught by night who created “the single most transformative experience” of her teaching career.

As she slowly worked her way through the 1,337 words of the Declaration of Independence with her night students, many of whom had no job or were working two jobs or were stuck in dead-end part-time jobs, Allen discovered that the document had meaning for them and that it was accessible to any reader or hearer of its words. By teaching the document to these adult students in the way that she did, she experienced “a personal metamorphosis.” For the first time in her life she came to realize that the Declaration makes a coherent philosophical argument about equality, an argument that could be made comprehensible to ordinary people who had no special training.

By reading and analyzing the words of the Declaration deliberately and with care, her night students

found themselves suddenly as political beings, with a consciousness that had previously eluded them. They built a foundation from which to assess the state of their political world. They gained a vocabulary and rhetorical techniques for arguing about it.

The entire experience with her students “re-gifted to me a text that should have been mine all along. They gave me again the Declaration’s ideals — equality and freedom — and the power of its language.”

Allen is most interested in the idea of equality, and rightly so. Equality has always been the most radical and potent idea in American history. [Continue reading…]

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Prince Charles calls for ‘profound changes’ to the global economic system to tackle climate change

The Guardian reports: Prince Charles has said that “profound changes” to the global economic system are needed in order to avert environmental catastrophe, in an uncompromising speech delivered in front of an audience of senior business leaders and politicians.

The heir to the throne – often criticised for his meddling in political affairs – argued that ending the taxpayer subsidies enjoyed by coal, oil and gas companies could reduce the carbon emissions driving climate change by an estimated 13%.

Although the prince’s passion for environmental causes is well known, the speech delivered on Thursday evening in St James’s Palace, London was particularly pointed in its criticism of companies that protected vested interests and came with a report that proposed raising taxes on them. [Continue reading…]

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Kurds intent on carving new state out of Iraq after ISIS fight

Fox News reports: Kurdish fighters and leaders are intent on carving an independent state out of Northern Iraq after they wrest back vital territory from the Islamic State “whether the U.S. likes it or not,” according to American and international security forces on the ground.

Kurdish forces, whose commanders say they aren’t getting enough help from the U.S. and other allies, have been making headway against ISIS. But while re-taking Mosul from ISIS was seen as a key achievement by the U.S., the new focus is squarely on holding Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city claimed by many to be the cultural Kurdish capital.

“They are pushing hard in Kirkuk to hold Kirkuk and keep ISIS out and once that is done, they will move forward with plans for their country,” one operator on the ground with direct connections to Kurdish leaders told Fox News. Another source, who is directly advising Kurdish leaders, said “they have only one goal, whether the U.S. likes it or not.” [Continue reading…]

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ISIS militants destroy 2,000-year-old statue of lion at Palmyra

AFP reports: Islamic State jihadis have destroyed a 2,000-year-old statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra, the country’s antiquities director has said.

Maamoun Abdelkarim said the statue, known as the Lion of al-Lat, was an irreplaceable piece. “IS members on Saturday destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, which is a unique piece that is three metres [10ft] tall and weighs 15 tonnes,” Abdelkarim told AFP. “It’s the most serious crime they have committed against Palmyra’s heritage.”

The limestone statue was discovered in 1977 by a Polish archaeological mission at the temple of al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess, and dated back to the 1st century BC.

Abdelkarim said the statue had been covered with a metal plate and sandbags to protect it from fighting, “but we never imagined that IS would come to the town to destroy it.” [Continue reading…]

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These two maps show ISIS’s big losses in Syria

Vox reports: ISIS is seeing some significant setbacks in Syria. Its de facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa, is under serious threat from Kurdish (YPG) troops. ISIS “is barely surviving in Syria,” Yasir Abbas, an associate at the private research and consulting firm Caerus Associates, told me last week. “It is struggling to halt YPG advances and is out of low-hanging fruit [to seize].”

ISIS has recently lost some critical territory in northern Syria. To see how quickly that’s happened, first look at this map of the battle-lines in Syria, from the always-excellent Institute for the Study of War, in late May. [Continue reading…]

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Britain hints it may join U.S. campaign against ISIS in Syria

The New York Times reports: Jolted by the deaths of 30 British tourists in Tunisia at the hands of a gunman professing allegiance to the Islamic State, Prime Minister David Cameron is considering joining the United States in bombing the group’s forces in Syria.

Mr. Cameron’s spokeswoman, Helen Bower, briefing reporters on Thursday, said that the prime minister wanted members of Parliament to “be thinking about” authorizing Britain to do “more in Syria.”

Ms. Bower said Mr. Cameron thought that “there has been and continues to be a case for doing more in Syria” against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Britain is already conducting bombing runs against the group in Iraq. [Continue reading…]

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Germany faces billions in losses if Greece goes bust

Der Spiegel reports: “So far, Germany hasn’t had to spend a single euro from the federal budget on Greece.” It’s a line one has heard dozens of times on German talk shows in recent years. Soon, though, the claim may no longer hold true. A Greek insolvency is now within the realm of possibility and if the country does go bust, it could directly burden the German federal budget.

But how many billions of euros in German money are actually at stake? It may seem like a simple question, but there are no easy answers, because Germany’s actual liability for Greek debt depends on a number of factors. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. operates drones from secret bases in Somalia

Foreign Policy reports: Some say the Americans are everywhere. Some say they are nowhere. Still others say they are everywhere and nowhere at once. But the shadowy U.S. presence in this strategic port city in war-torn southern Somalia has clear consequences for anyone with a share of power here. That includes Somali regional officials who are quick to praise American counterterrorism efforts, African Union forces who rely on U.S. intelligence as they battle back al-Shabab, and even the al Qaeda-linked militants themselves, who are increasingly hemmed in by a lethal combination of AU-led counterinsurgency, airstrikes, and raids by U.S. special operators.

Based out of a fortress of fading green Hesco barriers at the ramshackle airport in Kismayo, a team of special operators from the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite U.S. military organization famous for killing Osama bin Laden, flies drones and carries out other counterterrorism activities, multiple Somali government and African Union sources have confirmed. Their presence in this volatile city, which until 2012 was controlled by al-Shabab, has not previously been reported. Nor has the United States acknowledged operating drones from Somali soil. (Unmanned armed and surveillance flights are said to originate from Camp Lemonnier in nearby Djibouti or from bases in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.)

“They have a base over there,” Abdighani Abdi Jama, state minister for the presidency in the interim regional administration in Kismayo, said of U.S. forces, gesturing to a heavily fortified compound not far from the airport’s small terminal. He confirmed that as many as 40 U.S. military personnel are currently stationed in Kismayo, roughly 300 miles south of the capital of Mogadishu, where he said they operate drones from the airport’s single runway and carry out covert “intelligence” and “counterterrorism” operations. [Continue reading…]

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Europe is heading towards constitutional crisis, with or without Greece

By Nicole Scicluna, University of Birmingham

As Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stands off against the so-called Troika, questions abound about the future of his country.

But there should also be pressing questions about the future of the European Union. The shaky legal foundations of the EU have been laid bare by this crisis.

Over the past few months, Greek officials and representatives of the Troika have indulged in a succession of tit-for-tat exchanges masquerading as negotiations.

These are only the latest proof of the failure of the EU’s political and legal structures to effectively mediate conflicts and resolve differences between members.

The negotiation of a new Fiscal Compact, the creation of multiple bailout funds, and the (potentially illegal) expansion of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) mandate all failed to solve the problems that sparked the crisis in the first place.

Now, five years after Greece’s first bailout, solidarity and trust between citizens, governments and EU institutions are in desperately short supply.

All of this indicates that the euro crisis is a crisis of EU constitutionalism. The union has failed to strike the right balance between democracy and technocratic governance. It has failed to balance the needs of citizens and states in a highly diverse supranational polity.

German academic Fritz Scharpf famously asked 16 years ago whether EU governance could be both effective and democratic. Right now, it appears to be neither.

[Read more…]

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‘How dare you put such a complex issue to common folk?’

Business Insider: It’s crunch time on Sunday for Greece.

Citizens will help the government decide — in a “Yes” or “No” referendum — whether the government should accept the conditions that its creditors have put forward for a bailout deal.

In an interview with Australian radio host Phillip Adams on Thursday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis gave some color on what the Eurogroup reaction was at their meeting.

It was less than enthusiastic.

Here’s what Varoufakis had to say:

“I was told in no uncertain terms that this is a very strange and even inappropriate course of action that we’ve taken. And the argument that was given to me by a colleague in the Eurogroup, whose name will remain unsaid, while everybody was more or less nodding, was ‘how dare you put such a complex issue to common folk?’ And I was just looking at them astounded, thinking ‘you have just negated the whole principle of democracy, which is that the common folk determine government; they determine very complex questions during elections.'”

In an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, Varoufakis said he would sign an agreement if Greeks decide to vote “Yes” to the creditors’ proposals, though this vote would force him to to resign. [Continue reading…]

On his blog, Yanis Varoufakis explains “why we recommend a NO in the referendum – in 6 short bullet points”:

  1. Negotiations have stalled because Greece’s creditors (a) refused to reduce our un-payable public debt and (b) insisted that it should be repaid ‘parametrically’ by the weakest members of our society, their children and their grandchildren
  2. The IMF, the United States’ government, many other governments around the globe, and most independent economists believe — along with us — that the debt must be restructured.
  3. The Eurogroup had previously (November 2012) conceded that the debt ought to be restructured but is refusing to commit to a debt restructure
  4. Since the announcement of the referendum, official Europe has sent signals that they are ready to discuss debt restructuring. These signals show that official Europe too would vote NO on its own ‘final’ offer.
  5. Greece will stay in the euro. Deposits in Greece’s banks are safe. Creditors have chosen the strategy of blackmail based on bank closures. The current impasse is due to this choice by the creditors and not by the Greek government discontinuing the negotiations or any Greek thoughts of Grexit and devaluation. Greece’s place in the Eurozone and in the European Union is non-negotiable.
  6. The future demands a proud Greece within the Eurozone and at the heart of Europe. This future demands that Greeks say a big NO on Sunday, that we stay in the Euro Area, and that, with the power vested upon us by that NO, we renegotiate Greece’s public debt as well as the distribution of burdens between the haves and the have nots.
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Egypt two years after the military coup

Amnesty International: Generation Jail: Egypt’s youth go from protest to prison [Continue reading…]

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Egyptian forces kill 13 Muslim Brotherhood members in Cairo

Middle East Eye reports: New evidence has emerged that suggests the 13 members of the Muslim Brotherhood killed by Egyptian security forces in a flat in the Sixth of October area in Cairo on Wednesday were shot to death after being arrested.

Original media reports said that nine men had been killed but pro-Muslim Brotherhood Mekameleen TV said that the number has now increased to 13.

An anonymous security source told the Egyptian daily Watan that Nasser al-Hafi, a former member of parliament, was amongst the dead.

Abdel-Fattah Mohamed Ibrahim, an MB leader in the Giza governate, was also killed.

Another security official called the Muslim Brotherhood members “armed militants” and said that the group were hiding in a den in the flat. The official maintained that the group opened fire first and that the 13 men were killed in the resulting gun battle.

However, Muslim Brotherhood sources said that the men were well known lawyers and belonged to a legal team that represented imprisoned MB supporters, as well as a committee that supported the families of those killed or detained. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports: The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement claiming its leaders who were killed in a Cairo apartment on Wednesday were murdered in “in cold blood,” calling for a rebellion against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who it calls a “butcher.”

The group “holds the criminal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and his gang fully responsible for these crimes and their consequences,” it writes. [Continue reading…]

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Egypt’s crackdown on Islamists will lead to more violence

Mohamad Bazzi writes: On June 29, Egypt’s top prosecutor was killed in a car bombing as he left his home in Cairo. He was the most senior official to be assassinated since Islamic militants launched an insurgency two years ago after the Egyptian military ousted Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president.

The assassination of the prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, is a tragedy but it’s not surprising. Egypt spiraled into a cycle of state-sanctioned violence, repression and vengeance as soon as the military removed Morsi from power in July 2013. The new military-backed government launched an aggressive campaign to suppress all political opponents, hunt down leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled after the coup and undo many of the gains made during the 2011 uprising that toppled then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

That is the danger many in the Arab world and in the West failed to grasp when they remained silent after Egypt’s coup: while authoritarian rule appears to provide stability over the short term, it breeds discontent and affirms the idea that the only way to achieve political power is through violence.

On June 16, an Egyptian court upheld the death penalty against Morsi, the first Brotherhood leader to assume the presidency of an Arab country. He was initially sentenced to death in May, along with more than 100 co-defendants, for taking part in an alleged prison break. It was the latest in a series of sham trials and mass death sentences decreed by the judiciary since the military coup. If the former president is ultimately hanged, it would be a grave miscarriage of justice that would make Morsi a martyr for millions throughout the Muslim world.

Beyond Morsi’s fate, the mass death sentences send a dangerous signal to Islamists throughout the region: that election results will not be respected. The Brotherhood’s recent experience in Egypt shows that authoritarian and secular forces, which often fare poorly at the ballot box, will mobilize to undermine the Islamists before they have had a chance to rule. Ultimately, Egypt cannot be a viable democracy without the Brotherhood’s participation. [Continue reading…]

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Where ISIS has directed and inspired attacks around the world

The New York Times reports: Days after the Islamic State called for attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, terrorists targeted sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait on June 26, leaving a bloody toll on three continents. The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait, but it is unclear if the militants are also responsible for the attack in France.

The group’s declaration of a caliphate, or Islamic state, last June marked the launch of its global strategy, which has resulted in attacks or arrests in more than a dozen countries. ISIS is focused on three parallel tracks:

  • inciting regional conflict with attacks in Iraq and Syria;
  • building relationships with jihadist groups that can carry out military operations across the Middle East and North Africa;
  • and inspiring, and sometimes helping, ISIS sympathizers to conduct attacks in the West.

“The goal,” said Harleen Gambhir, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, “is that through these regional affiliates and through efforts to create chaos in the wider world, the organization will be able to expand, and perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war.”

Beginning last fall, ISIS made repeated calls for attacks on the West, especially to followers in countries taking part in the American-led airstrike campaign in Iraq and Syria. So-called lone wolves have responded to these calls with relatively low-tech assaults — shootings, hostage takings, hit-and-runs — that tend to get a lot of attention.

“Al Qaeda always wanted to do spectacular attacks, but ISIS has reversed it,” said Patrick M. Skinner, a former C.I.A. operations officer now with the Soufan Group. “They don’t do spectacular attacks. They do attacks that generate spectacular reaction.” [Continue reading…]

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Michael Oren’s passion for re-writing history

Ron Kampeas writes: It’s a compelling hero-takes-the-fall narrative: Valiant little country takes the lead in rescuing a battered people and gets snubbed when it’s time for kudos.

It’s the picture Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., paints of Israel’s 2010 Haiti rescue operation in “Ally,” his book excoriating President Barack Obama’s treatment of Israel. Haiti’s devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which struck outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed hundreds of thousands (though the official death toll is disputed) comes at a pivotal moment in the book, when Oren believes the U.S.-Israel relationship is on a downward trajectory.

There’s a problem, though: Except for the part about the uncommon valor of Israeli rescuers, none of it appears to be based on anything that actually happened.

The passage appears on pages 132-133, in a section punningly headlined “Tremors” and that describes tensions over Israeli-Palestinian peace, “as the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office pitched toward collision”:

“My foreboding only deepened on January 15, when Obama issued an official statement on Haiti. ‘Help continues to flow in, not just from the United States but from Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic,’ the president declared. Omitted from the list was Israel, the first state to arrive in Haiti and the first to reach the disaster fully prepared. I heard the president’s words and felt like I had been kicked in the chest.”

• Israel was not “the first state to arrive in Haiti.” Israel arrived on the evening of Jan. 15. According to this CNN timeline, the United States, Iceland, Canada, Spain, China, Argentina, Cuba and Brazil had rescue teams in place by Jan. 13 and 14. The Dominican Republic was first. (I’m also not sure what Oren means about Israel being the first to reach the disaster “fully prepared.” According to the CNN timeline, an Argentine field hospital had treated 800 people by Jan. 13.)

• Obama delivered his remarks between 1:08 and 1:14 PM on Friday, Jan. 15. The Israeli rescue teams arrived on Jan. 15 – in the evening, according to Walla News. And, according to multiple news sources, including JTA, the Israeli army’s field hospital was not set up set up before Saturday morning, Jan. 16.

So why would Oren have “felt kicked in the chest”? Israelis did not rescue or treat a single Haitian until after Obama delivered his remarks; there was no Israeli team in place when he spoke; what would have led Obama to cite Israel that Friday afternoon? [Continue reading…]

Without questioning the good intentions and noble efforts of individual Israeli relief workers, there’s little question that the Israeli government and media viewed the tragedy in Haiti as a wonderful PR opportunity.

“Haiti’s disaster is good for the Jews,” declared a site run by Israel’s popular Hebrew daily, Maariv.

Every disaster needs a hero, the report said, and the heroes in Haiti are the Israelis. And as I wrote at the time:

The message that Israel is saving Haiti was likewise captured in an editorial cartoon in Yediot Aharonot which shows American soldiers digging for earthquake survivors. A voice from beneath the rubble calls out, “Would you mind checking to see if the Israelis are available?”

Bnei Akiva, the largest religious Zionist youth movement in the world, in partnership with Latet, an Israeli humanitarian aid organization, launched a Haiti appeal saying: “We are not only helping Haitians with their tragedy, but uniting the Jewish world and demonstrating the Jewish values of the State of Israel. We believe that it is a Jewish duty to help the people of Haiti. As the representative of the Jewish people, the State of Israel is leading the relief effort.”

An Associated Press article I linked to yesterday describing the exodus of Haitians fleeing from the ruins of Port-au-Prince, strangely was subsequently replaced by a report describing the rescue of a 22-year-old man by an Israeli search team 10 days after the earthquake leveled much of the capital.

In Haaretz, Bradley Burston writes:

Over the past week, the work of the Israeli medical team has become a kind of Rorschach for how people view Israel and Israelis. Most of the comment, it must be said, is supportive. Even on the part of those who cast the humanitarian misery in Gaza in contrast.

But for a shocking number of others, the bottom line is simple: Israel, and Israelis, can do no right.

In its most extreme form, there are those who have accused Israel of using the Haiti catastrophe as a new reservoir for harvesting organs.

But even many of those who shun blood libels, have seized on the Haiti mission to bash Israel, revealing in many cases a hatred – and a bigotry – that borders on the visceral.

Would Burston lump me in with the anti-Israel commentators? Maybe.

Do I think the Israeli doctors, nurses and rescue teams now working in Haiti are all toiling away purely in the service of Israel’s international image? I doubt it. I would expect that for most of these individuals, their response is like that of most of the other foreigners now providing relief to Haitians: it is above all a human response to human suffering.

Is there such a thing as an Israeli response or a Jewish response or an American response to human suffering? If so, it is laced with vanity.

To say this is what we do because this is who we are is to preen oneself in front of a mirror of self-praise. It is undignified. It spies a reward in someone else’s loss.

In this mirror, Israel now sees an image of itself as a big-hearted nation admired around the world for its humanitarian efforts in Haiti. But the self-satisfaction will be short-lived. Before long this glimmer of goodwill will once again be overshadowed by the enduring reality that in the minds of most Israelis the suffering of others seems just as likely to provoke callous indifference as it does an open heart.

The big Israeli heart shrivels at the sight of a Palestinian.

Maybe Oren felt kicked in the chest when heard Obama’s words because he’d been busy sending out press releases to all and sundry hailing the imminent arrival of Israelis in Haiti, imagining that the whole world would be in awe at the mere fact that they had been sent.

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Why racists target black churches

Sarah Kaplan and Justin Wm. Moyer write: Since at least 1822, when the first recorded burning of a black church occurred in South Carolina, church arson has been the default response of racists frustrated with progress — or even the faint specter of progress — on civil rights. More than even lynching, burning houses of worship remains a go-to weapon in hate groups’ arsenal. Torching churches such as Mount Zion persisted decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, 100 years after Booker T. Washington dined at the White House and 150 years after the end of the Civil War.

What’s the enduring appeal of this very specific act of terror for those who wish to express hate?

The reason black churches remain a target? Because they have always remained a symbol of hope in the darkness of American racism and a source of leadership, political and religious, in the African American community.

Though it may seem the black church has always been a part of American culture — as essential as the Fourth of July or “The Star-Spangled Banner” — it was not always so. When human beings were held in servitude and meetings among slaves were banned, founding a black church was considered an act of rebellion.

Case No. 1: The founding of the church that would became Emanuel AME, the church targeted allegedly by Dylann Roof last month.

“The formation of the African Church in Charleston was a rebellious act of revolutionary proportions,” historian Bernard Powers wrote in “Black Charlestonians: A Social History.” “… The city authorities recognized the full import of the initiatives taken by this group of slaves and free blacks and responded with harassment.”

Like many black churches, Charleston’s African Church saw a tragic end; it was razed by city authorities in the 1820s after a purported slave plot and was not reborn until Reconstruction. Though such churches remained a constant target, they persisted, weaving themselves not just into the fabric of African American culture but into the social fabric of the United States.

During the early years of the black church in the South, when most congregants were enslaved and the rest still subject to the restrictive racism that was then the law of the land, Christianity offered solace and inspiration to African American worshipers. In the introduction to the award-winning digital library collection “The Church in the Southern Black Community,” professor Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explained how black Americans converted to Methodist and Baptist traditions around the turn of the 19th century.

“Clergy within these denominations actively promoted the idea that all Christians were equal in the sight of God, a message that provided hope and sustenance to the slaves,” she wrote.

Among enslaved people, religious gatherings were called “hush harbors” — a phrase evoked by President Obama during his impassioned eulogy for the slain pastor of Emanuel AME last week. These secret meetings were the birthplace of African American spirituals, which always carried a double meaning of religious salvation and freedom from slavery, and of the inextricable link between black spirituality and black liberation. [Continue reading…]

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Gary Younge reflects on 12 years in America

Gary Younge writes: For the past couple of years the summers, like hurricanes, have had names. Not single names like Katrina or Floyd – but full names like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. Like hurricanes, their arrival was both predictable and predicted, and yet somehow, when they landed, the effect was still shocking.

We do not yet know the name that will be attached to this particular season. He is still out there, playing Call of Duty, finding a way to feed his family or working to pay off his student loans. He (and it probably will be a he) has no idea that his days are numbered; and we have no idea what the number of those days will be.

The precise alchemy that makes one particular death politically totemic while others go unmourned beyond their families and communities is not quite clear. Video helps, but is not essential. Some footage of cops rolling up like death squads and effectively executing people who posed no real threat has barely pricked the popular imagination. When the authorities fail to heed community outrage, or substantively investigate, let alone discipline, the police, the situation can become explosive. An underlying, ongoing tension between authorities and those being policed has been a factor in some cases. So, we do not know quite why his death will capture the political imagination in a way that others will not.

But we do know, with gruesome certainty, that his number will come up – that one day he will be slain in cold blood by a policeman (once again it probably will be a man) who is supposed to protect him and his community. We know this because it is statistically inevitable and has historical precedent. We know this because we have seen it happen again and again. We know this because this is not just how America works; it is how America was built. Like a hurricane, we know it is coming – we just do not yet know where or when or how much damage it will do.

Summer is riot season. It’s when Watts, Newark and Detroit erupted in violence in the 1960s, sparked by callous policing. It’s when school is out, pool parties are on and domestic life, particularly in urban centres, is turned inside-out: from the living room to the stoop, from the couch to the street. It’s when tempers get short and resentments bubble up like molten asphalt. It’s when, to paraphrase Langston Hughes, deferred dreams explode. [Continue reading…]

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Under Saudi blockade, Yemen faces severe humanitarian crisis

The New York Times reports: Pressure is mounting on the Saudi-led military coalition that seeks to stanch a rebellion in Yemen, as aid officials prepare to add Yemen to the ranks of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises and human rights groups point to what may be war crimes.

United Nations officials are expected to declare Yemen a so-called Level 3 — or most severe — humanitarian crisis, as the de facto military blockade on commercial ships restricts the supply of food and fuel into the Arab world’s poorest country, diplomats said Tuesday.

That is sure to complicate what is already a delicate diplomatic balance for allies of Saudi Arabia, including the United States, which are reluctant to even call it a blockade. The preferred term, as one United Nations Security Council diplomat put it, is a “controlled maritime area.”

Whatever it is called, its effects on civilians have been dire. [Continue reading…]

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