How America became a timid, cowardly, selfish nation

Susan B Glasser writes: Ai Weiwei is making a strong case for himself as America’s leading dissident of the Trump era.

Never mind that he’s Chinese, or that he lives in Berlin in de facto exile these days.

The legendary artist, who has long embraced political themes in his work, has gone full-out activist in a new feature-length documentary film about the global refugee crisis, called Human Flow and released in theaters across the U.S. Friday, and in a new, New York City-wide public art exhibit of 300 works in dozens of locations called “Good Walls Make Good Neighbors.”

Both are explicit rebuttals of the nationalistic, America-First-fueled policies espoused by Donald Trump, from his proposed Mexican border wall to his curbs on immigration that include admitting the smallest number of refugees to the U.S. in decades.

In a new interview for The Global Politico during a rare visit to Trump’s Washington, Ai referred to Trump’s win as “the moment I think history stopped,” a “backward” evolution that undermines liberal ideas like freedom of speech and human dignity everywhere.

Authoritarian leaders in China and elsewhere are the beneficiaries of Trump and the crisis of American democracy, said Ai, who spent four years under house arrest and forbidden to leave China before being allowed to leave the country two years ago.

“China is laughing about this situation,” he said. “China, Russia, they all laugh about it.”

When we met in Georgetown recently, I found Ai most compelling when talking about why he made the film, a “strangely beautiful” documentary, as the New York Times put it, shot in 23 countries from Asia to Africa to the Middle East and Europe over the course of a year.

It’s a call to action for Americans, he told me, and a commentary on what he sees as the breakdown of our society into a “timid” and “cowardly” and “selfish” place, one whose new role in the world is very much at odds with its self-identity as this liberal, generous nation.

“We have to save our own soul and our own mind and our own society,” he said. [Continue reading…]

 

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Is the American idea doomed?

Yoni Appelbaum writes: On may 5, 1857, eight men sat down to dinner at Boston’s Parker House hotel. They had gathered to plan a magazine, but by the time they stood up five hours later, they had laid the intellectual groundwork for a second American revolution.

These men were among the leading literary lights of their day, but they had more in mind that night than literary pursuits. The magazine they envisioned would, its prospectus later promised, “honestly endeavor to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the American idea.”

That prospectus bore the unmistakable stamp of The Atlantic’s founding editor, James Russell Lowell, but “the American idea” had been popularized by Theodore Parker, the radical preacher and abolitionist. The American idea, Parker declared in an 1850 speech, comprised three elements: that all people are created equal, that all possess unalienable rights, and that all should have the opportunity to develop and enjoy those rights. Securing them required “a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people,” Parker said.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, another Atlantic founder, put the matter more concisely. There was, he observed, a single phrase, offered by the little republicans of the schoolyard, that summed the whole thing up: “I’m as good as you be.”

As a vision, it was bold and improbable—but the magazine these men launched that November, 160 years ago, helped spur the nation to redefine itself around the pursuit of the American idea. And as the United States grew and prospered, other peoples around the globe were attracted to its success, and the idea that produced it.

Now, though, the idea they articulated is in doubt. America no longer serves as a model for the world as it once did; its influence is receding. At home, critics on the left reject the notion that the U.S. has a special role to play; on the right, nationalists push to define American identity around culture, not principles. Is the American idea obsolete?

From the first, the idea provoked skepticism. It was radical to claim that a nation as new as America could have its own idea to give the world, it was destabilizing to discard rank and station and allow people to define their own destinies, and it bordered on absurd to believe that a nation so sprawling and heterogeneous could be governed as a democratic republic. By 1857, the experiment’s failure seemed imminent.

Across Europe, the 19th century had dawned as a democratic age, but darkened as it progressed. The revolutions of 1848 failed. Prussia busily cemented its dominance over the German states. In 1852, France’s Second Republic gave way to its Second Empire. Spain’s Progressive Biennium ended in 1856 as it began, with a coup d’état. Democracy was in full retreat. Even where it endured, the right to vote or hold office was generally restricted to a small, propertied elite.

On the surface, things appeared different in Boston, where The Atlantic’s eight founders—Emerson, Lowell, Moses Dresser Phillips, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Lothrop Motley, James Elliot Cabot, Francis H. Underwood, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.—dined in May 1857. Almost all adult males in Massachusetts, black and white alike, could vote, and almost all did. Almost all were literate. And they stood equal before the law. The previous Friday, the state had ratified a new constitutional amendment stripping out the last significant property qualifications for running for state Senate.

But even in Boston, democracy was embattled. [Continue reading…]

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When 20,000 American Nazis descended upon New York City

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How America helped create Nazi Germany

Ira Katznelson writes: There was no more extravagant site for Third Reich political theater than the spectacular parade grounds, two large stadiums, and congress hall in Nuremberg, a project masterminded by Albert Speer. From 1933 to 1938, he choreographed massive rallies associated with the annual conference of the Nazi Party, assemblies made famous by Leni Riefenstahl’s stunning documentaries of 1933 and 1935, The Victory of Faith and Triumph of the Will. Nuremberg was the setting for the September 1935 “Party Rally of Freedom,” at which a special session of the Reichstag passed, by acclamation, legislation that disqualified Jews as Reich citizens with political rights, forbade them to marry or have sex with persons identified as racial Germans, and prohibited any display by Jews of national colors or the new national flag, a banner with a swastika.

Just eight days after the Reich Citizenship Law, the Law on the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, and the Reich Flag Law were formally proclaimed by Adolf Hitler, 45 Nazi lawyers sailed for New York under the auspices of the Association of National Socialist German Jurists. The trip was a reward for the lawyers, who had codified the Reich’s race-based legal philosophy. The announced purpose of the visit was to gain “special insight into the workings of American legal and economic life through study and lectures,” and the leader of the group was Ludwig Fischer. As the governor of the Warsaw District half a decade later, he would preside over the brutal order of the ghetto.

Every day brings fresh reminders that liberal and illiberal democracy can entwine uncomfortably, a timely context for James Q. Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model, which examines how the Third Reich found sustenance for its race-based initiatives in American law. Upon docking, the Germans attended a reception organized by the New York City Bar Association. Everyone in the room would have known about the recent events in Nuremberg, yet the quest by leading Nazi jurists to learn from America’s legal and economic systems was warmly welcomed.

Whitman, a professor at Yale Law School, wanted to know how the United States, a country grounded in such liberal principles as individual rights and the rule of law, could have produced legal ideas and practices “that seemed intriguing and attractive to Nazis.” In exploring this apparent incongruity, his short book raises important questions about law, about political decisions that affect the scope of civic membership, and about the malleability of Enlightenment values.

Pushing back against scholarship that downplays the impact in Nazi Germany of the U.S. model of legal racism, Whitman marshals an array of evidence to support the likelihood “that the Nuremberg Laws themselves reflect direct American influence.” [Continue reading…]

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Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock, son of a ‘psychopathic’ bank robber, was a high-stakes gambler who ‘kept to himself’

The Washington Post reports: Before he opened fire late Sunday, killing at least 58 people at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, gunman Stephen Paddock was living out his retirement as a high-stakes gambler in a quiet town outside Las Vegas.

Paddock, 64, would disappear for days at a time, frequenting casinos with his longtime girlfriend, neighbors said. Relatives also said Paddock had frequently visited Las Vegas to gamble and take in concerts.

Eric Paddock said his brother often gambled in tens of thousands of dollars. “My brother is not like you and me. He plays high-stakes video poker,” he said. “He sends me a text that says he won $250,000 at the casino.” [Continue reading…]

NBC News reports: The suspected gunman behind the Las Vegas massacre made several large gambling transactions in recent weeks, according to multiple senior law enforcement officials and a casino executive.

On several occasions, Stephen Paddock gambled more than $10,000 per day — and in some cases more than than $20,000 and $30,000 a day — at Las Vegas casinos, according to an NBC News source who read the suspect’s Multiple Currency Transaction Reports (CTR) and a casino gaming executive.

According to a U.S. statute, a CTR is a Treasury- and IRS-mandated report that casinos have to file when “each transaction in currency involving cash-in and cash-out of more than $10,000 in a gaming day.”

It was not immediately clear if those transactions were losses or wins. [Continue reading…]

Slate reports: News reports suggest Stephen Paddock, a reclusive professional gambler who lived in a retirement community in Nevada, had a very limited public profile before perpetrating one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. His late father, a notorious bank robber who spent eight years on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List after escaping from a federal prison in Texas, was a very different kind of criminal. The elder Paddock, whose nicknames included “Big Daddy” and “Chrome Dome,” was charged in 1960 with stealing about $25,000 from three separate bank branches in Phoenix, Arizona. Paddock was 34 at the time, and had already been to prison twice for his role in what the Arizona Republic called “confidence games.”

According to witnesses who testified at Patrick Benjamin Paddock’s trial in 1960, an assistant bank manager took the initiative to follow him after one of the robberies and took note of the unusual radio antennas affixed to his getaway vehicle. Two days later, six FBI agents located Paddock near a gas station in downtown Las Vegas. When the bank robber tried to run one of them over with his car, the agent fired at his windshield. Paddock was arrested shortly thereafter; a search of his vehicle turned up a loaded .38 snub-nose revolver, a blackjack, and about $3,000 in cash.

Prior to his arrest, Paddock had been living in Tucson with his wife and four kids. (Most likely, the gunman who carried out Sunday night’s attack was among them.) According to a newspaper account, the family’s neighbors said they couldn’t believe that Paddock—who was known as a “hot rod racer who keeps his head shaved so he resembles Yul Brynner”—“was involved in crime.” [Continue reading…]

In social media in the aftermath of America’s latest mass shooting, once again there are objections to the fact that a white gunman is not being referred to by the press as a terrorist — the assumption being made by many that terrorist is a label reserved for brown people and mostly Muslims.

OK. Let’s call Paddock a terrorist.

There’s no disputing that he terrorized thousands of people in Las Vegas last night.

But beyond underlining the abhorrent nature of his actions, does calling the gunman a terrorist shed light on what he did?

Earlier today, ISIS made a transparently opportunistic attempt to claim Paddock as one of their own, saying he was “was ‘a soldier’ from its ranks who had converted to Islam months ago,” the Associated Press reports.

Really? Unless there’s some compelling evidence to back up this story or any other links to terrorism, I’m strongly inclined to believe Paddock’s career as a professional gambler and his family history had everything to do with the carnage he wrought and neither ISIS or any other terrorist organization or political ideology had any influence.

So why call him a terrorist?

Instead of pushing for a more inclusive use of a word that in common parlance has come to mean the worst of the worst, the most evil of human beings, maybe it’s time to face the fact that, at least in America, mass murder (typically carried out by men, usually white and using legally obtained weapons) is a much bigger problem than terrorism.

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U.S. denies request for Puerto Rico shipping waiver

Reuters reports: The Trump administration on Tuesday denied a request to waive shipping restrictions to help get fuel and supplies to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, saying it would do nothing to address the island’s main impediment to shipping, damaged ports.

The Jones Act limits shipping between coasts to U.S. flagged vessels. However, in the wake of brutal storms, the government has occasionally issued temporary waivers to allow the use of cheaper, tax free, or more readily available foreign flagged ships.

The Department of Homeland Security, which waived the act after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, did not agree an exemption would help this time.

On Monday, U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez and seven other representatives asked Elaine Duke, acting head of Homeland Security, to waive the nearly 100-year-old shipping law for a year to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.Gregory Moore, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, an office of Homeland Security, said in a statement that an assessment by the agency showed there was “sufficient capacity” of U.S.-flagged vessels to move commodities to Puerto Rico.

“The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” Moore said.

The government’s rationale for a waiver after the storms hit Texas, Louisiana and Florida was to ease movement of fuel to places along the U.S. East Coast and make up for temporary outages of high capacity pipelines.

“The situation in Puerto Rico is much different,” Moore said in the statement, adding that most of the humanitarian effort would be carried out with barges, which make up a large portion of the U.S. flagged cargo fleet.

Puerto Rico has long railed against the Jones Act, saying it makes the cost of imported basic commodities, such as food, clothing and fuel, more expensive.

“Our dependence on fossil fuel imports by sea is hampering the restoration of services,” said Juan Declet-Barreto, an energy expert at the nonprofit group the Union of Concerned Scientists. The refusal to allow the waiver “is raising fears on the island that they are going to be left behind in this disaster.” [Continue reading…]

Nelson A. Denis writes: After World War I, America was worried about German U-boats, which had sunk nearly 5,000 ships during the war. Congress enacted the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a.k.a. the Jones Act, to ensure that the country maintained a shipbuilding industry and seafaring labor force. Section 27 of this law decreed that only American ships could carry goods and passengers from one United States port to another. In addition, every ship must be built, crewed and owned by American citizens.

Almost a century later, there are no U-boats lurking off the coast of Puerto Rico. The Jones Act has outlived its original intent, yet it is strangling the island’s economy.

Under the law, any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees and taxes, which are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer.

The foreign vessel has one other option: It can reroute to Jacksonville, Fla., where all the goods will be transferred to an American vessel, then shipped to Puerto Rico where — again — all the rerouting costs are passed through to the consumer.

Thanks to the law, the price of goods from the United States mainland is at least double that in neighboring islands, including the United States Virgin Islands, which are not covered by the Jones Act. Moreover, the cost of living in Puerto Rico is 13 percent higher than in 325 urban areas elsewhere in the United States, even though per capita income in Puerto Rico is about $18,000, close to half that of Mississippi, the poorest of all 50 states.

This is a shakedown, a mob protection racket, with Puerto Rico a captive market. The island is the fifth-largest market in the world for American products, and there are more Walmarts and Walgreens per square mile in Puerto Rico than anywhere else on the planet. [Continue reading…]

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Puerto Rico’s American dream is dead

Tyler Cowen writes: President Donald Trump has finally started tweeting about the disaster in Puerto Rico, and his messages show that he — and we as a nation — still haven’t digested the full implications of the post-Hurricane Maria situation. The underlying reality is that the political and economic model for the island just isn’t working any more, and the dream of Puerto Rican economic convergence has been laid to rest once and for all. That in turn says something bad about the rest of this country, namely how quickly we will give up on the possibility of transformational change.

The traditional American dream is that the poorer parts of this country would, sooner or later, start catching up to the richer parts. The American South, after an extreme divergence, gained on the North after World War II. But Puerto Rico never made the same leap, and in relative terms has held roughly steady since 1970.

Worse yet, the island has about $123 billion in debt and pension obligations, compared with a gross domestic product of slightly more than $100 billion, a number that is sure to fall. In the last decade, the island has lost about 9 percent of its population, including many ambitious and talented individuals. In the past 20 years, Puerto Rico’s labor force shrank by about 20 percent, with the health-care sector being especially hard hit. The population of children under 5 has fallen 37 percent since 2000, and Puerto Rico has more of its population over 60 than any U.S. state.

Hurricane Maria has produced conditions unprecedented in recent American experience. Much of the island has no fresh water and no phone service, and the status of the food supply and its accessibility is uncertain. Restoring electricity will take months, the health-care system isn’t functioning, and a major dam may yet break, causing further dangerous flooding.

Those developments will worsen the already dire long-term prospects for Puerto Rico. Tourism no longer exists after the storm, and presumably outside investment will decline in both the short and longer run, due to damaged infrastructure and the possibility that major storms are now more likely as the climate changes. [Continue reading…]

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San Juan mayor: ‘There is horror in the streets’

 

Reuters reports: President Donald Trump hailed his administration on Tuesday for a “really good job” helping Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, despite complaints that federal aid has been too slow to reach the U.S. territory.

Trump agreed to boost federal disaster aid to the island, increasing funding to assist with debris removal and emergency protective measures. He said he would visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Oct. 3.

Critics and some of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents accused the U.S. government of having been slower to respond with water, food and electric grid repairs than it would have been on the mainland, even though the island’s people are U.S. citizens. [Continue reading…]

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Nearly half of Americans don’t know Puerto Ricans are fellow citizens

Kyle Dropp Brendan Nyhan write: More than three million Americans in Puerto Rico are struggling to meet basic needs after a devastating strike from Hurricane Maria, but their plight seems to be attracting far less public or political attention than the woes caused by the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

One potential explanation is the congested news environment. Over the weekend, for instance, President Trump reignited a debate over whether N.F.L. players should kneel during the national anthem, crowding the hurricane out of the headlines.

The lack of functioning power and communications in Puerto Rico has also hindered reporting on the storm.

But another explanation is simpler: Many Americans don’t realize that what happened in Puerto Rico is a domestic disaster, not a foreign one.

A new poll of 2,200 adults by Morning Consult found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, are U.S. citizens. [Continue reading…]

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Tyranny of the minority

Michelle Goldberg writes: Since Donald Trump’s cataclysmic election, the unthinkable has become ordinary. We’ve grown used to naked profiteering off the presidency, an administration that calls for the firing of private citizens for political dissent and nuclear diplomacy conducted via Twitter taunts. Here, in my debut as a New York Times columnist, I want to discuss a structural problem that both underlies and transcends our current political nightmare: We have entered a period of minority rule.

I don’t just mean the fact that Trump became president despite his decisive loss in the popular vote, though that shouldn’t be forgotten. Worse, the majority of voters who disapprove of Trump have little power to force Congress to curb him.

A combination of gerrymandering and the tight clustering of Democrats in urban areas means that even if Democrats get significantly more overall votes than Republicans in the midterms — which polls show is probable — they may not take back the House of Representatives. (According to a Brookings Institution analysis, in 2016, Republicans won 55.2 percent of seats with just under 50 percent of votes cast for Congress.)

And because of the quirks of the 2018 Senate map, Democrats are extremely unlikely to reclaim that chamber, even if most voters would prefer Democratic control. Some analysts have even suggested that Republicans could emerge from 2018 with a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority.

Our Constitution has always had a small-state bias, but the effects have become more pronounced as the population discrepancy between the smallest states and the largest states has grown. “Given contemporary demography, a little bit less than 50 percent of the country lives in 40 of the 50 states,” Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Texas, told me. “Roughly half the country gets 80 percent of the votes in the Senate, and the other half of the country gets 20 percent.” [Continue reading…]

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Eric Reid: Why Colin Kaepernick and I decided to take a knee

Eric Reid writes: In early 2016, I began paying attention to reports about the incredible number of unarmed black people being killed by the police. The posts on social media deeply disturbed me, but one in particular brought me to tears: the killing of Alton Sterling in my hometown Baton Rouge, La. This could have happened to any of my family members who still live in the area. I felt furious, hurt and hopeless. I wanted to do something, but didn’t know what or how to do it. All I knew for sure is that I wanted it to be as respectful as possible.

A few weeks later, during preseason, my teammate Colin Kaepernick chose to sit on the bench during the national anthem to protest police brutality. To be honest, I didn’t notice at the time, and neither did the news media. It wasn’t until after our third preseason game on Aug. 26, 2016, that his protest gained national attention, and the backlash against him began.

That’s when my faith moved me to take action. I looked to James 2:17, which states, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I knew I needed to stand up for what is right.

I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest. [Continue reading…]

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Is the crisis in Puerto Rico becoming Trump’s Katrina?

Abigail Tracy writes: For three days, Donald Trump has been focused like a laser beam on the alleged ungratefulness of professional athletes kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racial injustice, tweeting 17 times on the subject. Over this same period, the president has not once expressed solidarity or support for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where millions of Americans are reportedly without food, water, electricity, or shelter, in what officials there warn is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure. More than 10,000 homes and 80 percent of the island’s transmission and distribution infrastructure were reportedly destroyed when the powerful storm tore through the Caribbean. Some have predicted it might take four to six months for electricity to be fully restored to the 3.4 million people living on Puerto Rico.

The president’s apparent disinterest in the national disaster, after his high-profile tours of the damage from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, has not gone unnoticed. Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, is pleading for help from the Trump administration and Congress. “We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America,” Rosselló said in an interview with CNN on Monday. “We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now,” warning that if the island doesn’t get aid soon there will be “a massive exodus to the (mainland) United States.” [Continue reading…]

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Puerto Rico’s agriculture and farmers decimated by Maria

The New York Times reports: José A. Rivera, a farmer on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, stood in the middle of his flattened plantain farm on Sunday and tried to tally how much Hurricane Maria had cost him.

“How do you calculate everything?” Mr. Rivera said.

For as far as he could see, every one of his 14,000 trees was down. Same for the yam and sweet pepper crops. His neighbor, Luis A. Pinto Cruz, known to everyone here as “Piña,” figures he is out about $300,000 worth of crops. The foreman down the street, Félix Ortiz Delgado, spent the afternoon scrounging up the scraps that were left of the farm he manages. He found about a dozen dried ears of corn that he could feed the chickens. The wind had claimed the rest.

“There will be no food in Puerto Rico,” Mr. Rivera predicted. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.”

Hurricane Maria made landfall here Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. Its force and fury stripped every tree of not just the leaves, but also the bark, leaving a rich agricultural region looking like the result of a postapocalyptic drought. Rows and rows of fields were denuded. Plants simply blew away.

In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry, said Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture. [Continue reading…]

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Hot, isolated, and running out of supplies, parts of Puerto Rico near desperation

The Washington Post reports: In the heat and humidity here in the central mountains, Meryanne Aldea fanned her bedridden mother with a piece of cardboard Sunday as the ailing woman lay on her side, relieving a large ulcer in her back.

The 63-year-old mother, Maria Dolores Hernandez, had cotton stuffed in her ears to keep flies out, since her now screenless windows were letting all sorts of bugs in. The gray-haired diabetic woman spoke with her daughter about her worries: that she would run out of prescription drugs, that they were almost out of generator fuel to keep her insulin refrigerated and to run the fans at night. With all the heat, she feared that her ulcer would become infected.

But she worried most about her daughter’s home on the floor above hers, which was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. The shrieking winds had ripped off the zinc roof and the pounding rains had soaked the unprotected rooms below. While the outer concrete walls were mostly intact, everything else was ruined, covered by dirty tree branches, leaves, glass and debris.

Aldea reached out to hold her mother’s hand.

“Relax,” she said. “It’s okay.”

Four days after a major hurricane battered Puerto Rico, leaving the entire island in a communications and power blackout, regions outside San Juan remained disconnected from the rest of the island — and the world. Juncos, in a mountainous region southeast of the capital that was slammed with Maria’s most powerful winds, remains isolated, alone, afraid. [Continue reading…]

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Trump provokes widescale protest among players — in the NFL, and beyond

 

Megan Garber writes: Terrell Suggs took a knee.

Leonard Fournette took a knee.

At a game played in London on Sunday afternoon, many of their fellow Ravens and Jaguars took a knee.

Before the Lions met the Falcons in Detroit on Sunday, Rico LaVelle sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And then he took a knee.

They were replicating the gesture of Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who, starting in 2016, had been kneeling during the pre-game singing of the national anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Kaepernick’s 49ers teammates, Eric Reid and Eli Harold, took a knee. The Beaumont Bulls, a high school team, took a knee. Their collective protests, however, had been limited—deviations from the norm.

This weekend, however, the kneeling became a movement: Kaepernick, after President Trump mocked the notion of athletes talking politics during a rally on Friday, was joined in his quiet protest by an unprecedented number of his fellow football players. And also, in spirit, by many of his fellow athletes. And by several NFL franchise owners. And by the NFL itself. On Sunday evening, during its primetime games, CNN reported, the league will re-air a one-minute ad, produced for the Super Bowl earlier this year, created to “demonstrate the power of football to bring people together.”

It all happened slowly, until it all happened quickly. “Last week across the entire NFL,” the Associated Press reported, “only four players knelt or sat, and two stood with their fists raised. In the nine early games Sunday, AP reporters counted 102 players kneeling or sitting, and at least three raising their fists.” (Later in the day, the AP modified its estimate to “more than 130.”) [Continue reading…]

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‘America has done a terrible job of telling the truth about racism’

Jamiles Lartey writes: If one set out to crown a symbolic epicenter for the 400-odd year odyssey of white supremacy in the US, they would be hard-pressed to do better than Montgomery, Alabama.

It was at the statehouse in Montgomery that Jefferson Davis was first inaugurated as the president of the Confederacy in a bid to preserve the institution of slavery and in defense of the inferiority of the black race. It was here too, nearly a century later, that Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat, and a young Martin Luther King launched his first direct action campaign: The Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Indeed the official city seal tells some of this story in ironic juxtaposition, nesting its claim as “Cradle of the Confederacy” inside that of “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement”.

But there’s a deeper racial history here too, one that often gets buried in favor of the hagiography of leaders and legends like Davis, Parks and King. Montgomery was also for a time the central hub of the domestic US slave trade, and that’s part of why writer and activist Bryan Stevenson thinks is a perfect place for a “new kind of museum” entitled From Slavery to Mass Incarceration that will trace the untoward history of racial capital through generations and simultaneously shine a light on the legacy of US racial terrorism.

“It all begins with enslavement and the ideology of white supremacy and what follows is lynching, segregation, and many of the issues that we’re dealing with today,” Stevenson told the Guardian. [Continue reading…]

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Racist currents still run deep in White America

Larry J. Sabato writes: A new Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in conjunction with the University of Virginia Center for Politics finds that while there is relatively little national endorsement of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, there are troubling levels of support for certain racially-charged ideas and attitudes frequently expressed by extremist groups. The survey also found backing for keeping Confederate monuments in place, the removal of which has become a hot-button issue in communities across the country.

As is often the case, these survey results can be interpreted in two quite different ways. On the one hand, despite the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere, few people surveyed expressed direct support for hate groups. But on the other hand, it will be disturbing to many that a not insubstantial proportion of those polled demonstrated neutrality and indifference or, worse, expressed support for antiquated views on race.

The large-sample poll (5,360 respondents for most questions) was conducted from Aug. 21 to Sept. 5 in the aftermath of a neo-Nazi rally and counter-protest on the Grounds of the University of Virginia and in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 11-12.

Among the questions, respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with statements asking whether white people and/or racial minorities in the United States are “under attack.” Notably, 14% of all respondents both 1) agreed that white people are under attack and 2) disagreed with the statement that nonwhites are under attack.

Nearly one-third of respondents (31%) strongly or somewhat agreed that the country needs to “protect and preserve its White European heritage.” Another third (34%) strongly or somewhat disagreed with the statement, and 29% neither agreed nor disagreed. [Continue reading…]

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‘Racism is as American as baseball’ banner unfurled at Fenway Park

The New York Times reports: Four fans were ejected from Fenway Park after in Boston they unveiled an anti-racism banner over the Green Monster on Wednesday night.

“Racism is as American as baseball,” the sign said.

The banner was unfurled in the fourth inning, just above an advertisement for Foxwoods Casino. Umpire Joe West consulted with the police and security about the sign because it was in fair territory. It was taken down and the fans were removed peacefully within minutes.

No arrests were made in the incident.

The Red Sox said in a statement: “During the fourth inning of tonight’s game, four fans unfurled a banner over the left field wall in violation of the club’s policy prohibiting signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark. The individuals involved were escorted out of Fenway Park.”

Sam Kennedy, the team’s president, told The Boston Globe that the fans “felt connected to the Black Lives Matter movement.”

One of the protesters, maintaining anonymity, emailed a statement to several news organizations that said in part: “We are a group of white anti-racist protesters. We want to remind everyone that just as baseball is fundamental to American culture and history, so too is racism.” [Continue reading…]

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Want to fix America’s health care? First, focus on food

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Poor diet hurts our health and our wallets.
Lukas Goja/Shutterstock.com

By Dariush Mozaffarian, Tufts University

The national debate on health care is moving into a new, hopefully bipartisan phase.

The fundamental underlying challenge is cost – the massive and ever-rising price of care which drives nearly all disputes, from access to benefit levels to Medicaid expansion.

So far, policymakers have tried to reduce costs by tinkering with how care is delivered. But focusing on care delivery to save money is like trying to reduce the costs of house fires by focusing on firefighters and fire stations.

A more natural question should be: What drives poor health in the U.S., and what can be done about it?

We know the answer. Food is the number one cause of poor health in America. As a cardiologist and public health scientist, I have studied nutrition science and policy for 20 years. Poor diet is not just about individual choice, but about the systems that make eating poorly the default for most Americans.

If we want to cut down on disease and achieve meaningful health care reform, we should make it a top nonpartisan priority to address our nation’s nutrition crisis.

[Read more…]

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