United States

The White Protestant Roots of American Racism

The United States Capitol Building holds a fantastic piece of artwork titled The Apotheosis of Washington. The fresco was painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865, taking 11 months. The painting was completed at the end of the Civil War, two years after the construction of the dome. It is 180 ft (55 m) above the rotunda floor, covering 4,664 square ft (433.3 m2). The figures in the painting measure up to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall.
Brumidi had previously worked in the Vatican under Pope Gregory XVI, yet worked on a Pagan masterpiece in the United States.
There are a number of different themed sections to the fresco, which highlight different aspects of America and the Greco-Roman gods who rule over them. | http://www.whiteartwork.com/the-apotheosis-of-washington/

The New Republic

The Apotheosis of Washington,” painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi, is a fresco of the first president of the United States ascending to the heavens. The goddesses of Victory and Liberty, along with 13 maidens who represent America’s original colonies, flank George Washington; here, he’s elevated to the status of a god (and it’s worth noting that “apotheosis” actually means “deification”). In the 150 years since Brumidi’s last brushstroke, the painting’s characters have borne silent witness to the machinations of the U.S. Congress from the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. When the fresco was completed, four million black people called the United States home but were only that year able to enjoy even the most limited experience of citizenship when the Civil War ended and the Emancipation Proclamation began the process of ending slavery. Of course, Brumidi’s fresco only features white faces.

His painting illustrates the complexities of a nation inextricably informed by the religious ethics of its founders and those who continue to wield power today: Religious white men, ascending to fame on the strength of their ideals. Even those founding fathers—who identified primarily as deists—shared views that aligned with Christian theologies. American society is heavily informed by this religious foundation, specifically in terms of racial injustice, even as religious identification declines.

A recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute on police brutality showed that between December 2014 and April 2015 the percentage of white Americans who believed that police killings of black Americans were part of a broader pattern jumped from 35 percent to 43 percent. White evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, see the recent homicides as isolated incidents—62 percent of them said that police treat blacks and whites equally. This isn’t an accident of demographics; it springs from the religious framework that undergirds American societal values. To deny the ongoing influence of Protestant ethics is to be willfully ignorant.

The “Protestant work ethic” is a term coined by sociologist Max Weber, whose seminal work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,delineated how links made by theologians between religion, work, and capital laid the groundwork for capitalism. Calvinist theology holds that only an elect few are predestined for salvation from birth, while the rest are damned. The anxiety this produced compelled people to look for hints or signs that they were members of the elect; they believed that material success was among the most notable indicators of God’s favor. Doing the hard work of creating God’s kingdom on Earth through a secular vocation was considered a pathway to God’s grace. The opposite also held true: Just as material success indicated God’s grace, poverty was a sign that you’d been denied God’s grace. In this context, slaves could be both blamed for their own plight and have the legitimacy of their labor erased.

“When the Protestant work ethic was being developed here, many people who were in the country weren’t even considered people and that continues to inform how we think about work,” said Jennifer Harvey, a professor of religion at Drake University whose research includes the intersection of morality in the context of white supremacy. “It cannot see certain kinds of work and labor as real and therefore virtuous,” she continued. It’s easy to be outraged when something as tangible as a video of a man being executed by police surfaces, but more insidious forms of racism still permeate our views of what does and does not constitute valid work—even among those who don’t subscribe to Protestant ethics.

A survey of millennials conducted by MTV showed that only 30 percent of whites reported being raised in families that talked about race at all. Adifferent survey from PRRI in 2014 found that “[W]hile more than three-quarters (76 percent) of black Americans, and roughly six-in-ten Hispanics (62 percent) and Asian Americans (58 percent), say that one of the big problems facing the country is that not everyone is given an equal chance in life, only half (50 percent) of white Americans agree.” An even more comprehensive study of young Americans in 2012 showed that 56 percent of white millennials believe the government “paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities.” Considering the fact that so many white people were raised in families that erased race by not talking about it at all, it’s not hard to see how the government’s attention to other races could seem excessive.

Dr. Ray Winbush is the director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, and he said that his work in Baltimore has recently increased his exposure to racial conceptions of work and goodness. “White people will say, ‘Why don’t you black people pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. This is America, everyone is free to do what they want,’” Winbush told me. “But what was the civil rights struggle of the 1960s if not the greatest self-help movement in American history?” Through the old lens of work as an act that contributes to building God’s kingdom on Earth in a very physical way, the work of political organizing can’t be recognized as a legitimate form of labor. Denying the labor of black Americans reinforces white supremacy.

“The Protestant work ethic that influenced the founding of this country included a belief that the more material wealth you have, the closer you are to God,” said Robin DiAngelo, a professor whose research focuses on how white people are socialized to collude with institutional racism. “So during slavery, we said, ‘You must do all the work but we will never allow that to pay off.’ Now we don’t give black people access to work. Then and now they have not been allowed to participate in wealth building or granted the morality we attach to wealth.” This historical entanglement of property and virtue continues to inform racial views. “Property among white Americans is seen as something to be treasured and revered,” said Winbush. “Black Americans do not view themselves as truly owning anything in America.”

DiAngelo noted that we sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at sporting events and don’t even flinch at “the land of the free” lyric written in 1814, a time when the country was home to millions of slaves. Winbush pointed to the black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was burned to the ground in 1921 by white mobs enraged by the incredible prosperity blacks had created there. Black attempts to participate in the promise of America are met consistently with this kind of violence. Ethicist Katie Geneva Cannon has written at length about how the institutional denial of citizenship and freedom to black people essentially wrote out the possibility of them ever being seen as virtuous in white society. “The ‘rightness of whiteness’ counted more than the basic political and civil rights of any Black person… Institutional slavery ended, but the virulent and intractable hatred that supported it did not,” Cannon wrote in The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness. Through both erasure and ignorance, we continue to deny the virtue and legitimacy of black citizenship and labor.

As we abandon our explicit ties to religion, religious ethics still inform our views of race, prosperity, and even personhood. It’s easy to blame older white Protestant evangelicals for the country’s residual racial strife, even as it represents white America’s refusal to interrogate the source of our worldviews and our tremendous social and political capital.

What is troubling about the fresco in the rotunda is that it functions as a mirror: The Congress those white faces look down upon is 92 percent Christian and 80 percent white. George Washington and his cohort of virtuous states are enshrined above so, theoretically, we’ll forever remember the virtuous, godly work of “protecting freedom.” Meanwhile, the black human lives whose uncompensated work built America’s prosperity—and the Capitol building—with their blood, sweat, and tears are consistently forgotten.

Alana Massey

U.S. to tell Americans why they’re on no-fly list

Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they've been banned from flights.

Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they’ve been banned from flights | Attribution: none

CNN

Americans on the United States’ no-fly list will now be privy to information about why they have been banned from commercial flights and be given the opportunity to dispute their status, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department this week.

The revised policy comes in response to a June ruling by a federal judge that said the old process was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The decision was part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans on the list.

But the ACLU isn’t satisfied with the government’s new policy, outlined in documents filed Monday in federal courts in Oregon (PDF) and Virginia (PDF).

“After years of fighting in court for complete secrecy and losing, it’s good that the government is finally now going to tell people of their status on the No Fly List,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and the lead attorney on the case, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, we’ve found that the government’s new redress process falls far short of constitutional requirements because it denies our clients meaningful notice, evidence, and a hearing. The government had an opportunity to come up with a fair process but failed, so we’re challenging it in court again.”

People on the no-fly list, managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, are prohibited from boarding a commercial flight for travel into or out of the United States.

The number of people on the list is classified. An official with knowledge of the government’s figures told CNN in 2012 that the list contained about 21,000 names, including about 500 Americans.

Before the change, American citizens and permanent residents who inquired with the government about being denied aircraft boarding received a letter that neither confirmed nor denied their inclusion on the no-fly list. Now, they’ll be made aware of their status if they apply for redress, with an option to request further information.

“The U.S. government is making enhancements to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) to provide additional transparency and process for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been denied boarding on a commercial aircraft because they are on the No Fly List,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

In cases in which travelers included on the list request to receive or submit more information about their status, the government will provide a second, more detailed response, identifying “specific criterion under which the individual has been placed on the No Fly List,” according to the court documents.

An unclassified summary of that information will be provided “to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake,” court papers said.

Those who appear on the no-fly list will then have further opportunity to dispute their status in writing, with supporting materials or exhibits, and will receive a final written decision from the Transportation Security Administration.

The 2014 ruling that prompted the policy changes had called for passengers on the list to be given the opportunity to dispute their status before a judge.

Read Ronald Reagan’s executive order on immigration the GOP won’t talk about

President Ronald Reagan | AFP Photo/Mike Sargent

Raw Story

The following statement was made by then-President Ronald Reagan on July 30, 1981:

Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands. No free and prosperous nation can by itself accommodate all those who seek a better life or flee persecution. We must share this responsibility with other countries.

The bipartisan select commission which reported this spring concluded that the Cuban influx to Florida made the United States sharply aware of the need for more effective immigration policies and the need for legislation to support those policies.

For these reasons, I asked the Attorney General last March to chair a Task Force on Immigration and Refugee Policy. We discussed the matter when President Lopez Portillo visited me last month, and we have carefully considered the views of our Mexican friends. In addition, the Attorney General has consulted with those concerned in Congress and in affected States and localities and with interested members of the public.

The Attorney General is undertaking administrative actions and submitting to Congress, on behalf of the administration, a legislative package, based on eight principles. These principles are designed to preserve our tradition of accepting foreigners to our shores, but to accept them in a controlled and orderly fashion:

  • We shall continue America’s tradition as a land that welcomes peoples from other countries. We shall also, with other countries, continue to share in the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression.
  • At the same time, we must ensure adequate legal authority to establish control over immigration: to enable us, when sudden influxes of foreigners occur, to decide to whom we grant the status of refugee or asylee; to improve our border control; to expedite (consistent with fair procedures and our Constitution) return of those coming here illegally; to strengthen enforcement of our fair labor standards and laws; and to penalize those who would knowingly encourage violation of our laws. The steps we take to further these objectives, however, must also be consistent with our values of individual privacy and freedom.
  • We have a special relationship with our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Our immigration policy should reflect this relationship.
  • We must also recognize that both the United States and Mexico have historically benefited from Mexicans obtaining employment in the United States. A number of our States have special labor needs, and we should take these into account.
  • Illegal immigrants in considerable numbers have become productive members of our society and are a basic part of our work force. Those who have established equities in the United States should be recognized and accorded legal status. At the same time, in so doing, we must not encourage illegal immigration.
  • We shall strive to distribute fairly, among the various localities of this country, the impacts of our national immigration and refugee policy, and we shall improve the capability of those agencies of the Federal Government which deal with these matters.
  • We shall seek new ways to integrate refugees into our society without nurturing their dependence on welfare.
  • Finally, we recognize that immigration and refugee problems require international solutions. We will seek greater international cooperation in the resettlement of refugees and, in the Caribbean Basin, international cooperation to assist accelerated economic development to reduce motivations for illegal immigration.

Immigration and refugee policy is an important part of our past and fundamental to our national interest. With the help of the Congress and the American people, we will work towards a new and realistic immigration policy, a policy that will be fair to our own citizens while it opens the door of opportunity for those who seek a new life in America.

H/t: D.B.

 

Fox News Quietly Corrects Congressman’s Mistake On Ebola Response

Chaffetz Ebola

CREDIT: SCREENSHOT

Think Progress

The GOP’s persistent and oftentimes conflicting criticism of the administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis within the United States jumped the shark on Wednesday, after a prominent Republican congressman questioned why President Obama hasn’t yet named a medical doctor to manage the situation whom the party has vociferously opposed.

After the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas, Texas in September, Republicans abandoned their longstanding opposition to government czars and called on the administration to appoint an “Ebola czar” to coordinate and message the government’s response to the deadly virus.

Obama resisted such calls for weeks, insisting, primarily through White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, that “clear lines of authority” already exist within the government’s effort. But the administration ultimately named Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden, to act as the point person on the issue.

Republicans immediately pounced. They accused Obama of nominating a “hack,” claimed that Klain had no “medical experience,” and would only “add to the bureaucratic inefficiencies that have plagued Ebola response efforts thus far.”

Others still insisted that the president shouldn’t have appointed a czar at all, because he simply needed to lead. “This is a public health crisis, and the answer isn’t another White House political operative. The answer is a commander in chief who stands up and leads, banning flights from Ebola-afflicted nations and acting decisively to secure our southern border,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced.

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”

But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republicans senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officiallyplaced a hold on the nomination.

Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment. Confusing matters even further, a FoxNews.com article summarizing the Chaffetz interview appears to have changed his wording to correct the error. It reports that the Congressman called on Obama to nominate the “acting-United States surgeon general,” a claim he never made. In fact, that individual, Boris D. Lushniak, serves in a place-holder position that does not receive Senate confirmation. Lushniak, who is filling in because Murthy has been blocked, has not taken an active role in the Ebola response.

Still, the mistake — and the political back-and-forth over Obama’s response — underlines the GOP strategy of criticizing every aspect of Obama’s response in an effort to capitalize on the public health story ahead of the midterm elections.

10 things you need to know today: October 11, 2014

Health care workers carry the body of a person suspected to have died from the Ebola virus, in West Africa.

Health care workers carry the body of a person suspected to have died from the Ebola virus, in West Africa. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

The Week

Ebola death toll passes 4,000, Kmart announces data security breach, and more

1. WHO: Ebola death toll passes 4,000 people
The World Health Organization raised the number of people who have died from the Ebola virus outbreak to at least 4,033 on Friday. Eight people have died of Ebola in Nigeria, one in the United States, and the rest have all died of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The United Nation’s special envoy for Ebola warned the U.N. General Assembly on Friday that the number of those infected is likely doubling every month. “It will be impossible to get this disease quickly under control,” unless the international community provides a much larger response, David Nabarro said. [The Associated Press]

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2. Kmart stores become latest victims of data breach
Sears Holdings Corp., which owns Kmart, announced on Friday that an undisclosed number of customer credit and debit cards used at some Kmart retailers may have been vulnerable to a malicious software attack that began in early September. It was discovered by Kmart’s IT team on Thursday, but Kmart was quick to note that no personal information, such as debit PIN card numbers, email addresses, or social security numbers appeared to have been compromised. The company is offering shoppers who have used their debit or credit cards at a Kmart over the past month free credit monitoring. [Fortune, The Wall Street Journal]

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3. Study: Black males 21 times more likely to be shot by police
A ProPublica analysis of federal data released on Friday shows that young black males face a 21 times greater risk of being shot by police than their white peers. Of 1,217 deadly police shootings between 2010 and 2012, 31.17 black males aged 15 to 19 were killed per million, versus just 1.47 white males per million. A co-director of the Violence Research Group said the data is “certainly relevant,” but further study requires a larger sample. Still, “no question, there are all kinds of racial disparities across our criminal justice system,” Colin Loftin said. “This is one example.” [ProPublica]

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4. Sayreville football players charged with sexual assault of teammates
Less than a week after Sayreville High School, in New Jersey, canceled the remainder of its football season following allegations of “serious bullying and harassment” of players, seven members of the team were charged in connection to the locker room hazing incidents. The charges range from aggravated sexual assault to hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration on one victim. No coaches or other school officials have been charged. [NJ Advance Media]

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5. Dallas Ebola patient’s temperature hit 103 degrees at first ER visit
Medical records obtained by The Associated Press show that Thomas Eric Duncan’s temperature rose to 103 degrees on his first visit to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Duncan, who became the first person to die from the Ebola virus in the United States earlier this week, was sent home following his initial checkup. The hospital has since backtracked on several points concerning Duncan’s treatment and the timing therein. [The Associated Press]

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6. War on ISIS projected to add $40 billion per year to U.S. military spending
A new estimate from military analysts puts the annual cost of the United States’ war on ISIS at about $40 billion per year, a figure experts expect could rise if operations besides airstrikes are implemented. Those costs will be added to the Pentagon’s 2015 budget, which is $496 billion, plus an additional $58.6 billion “Overseas Contingency Operation” fund that pays for America’s other Middle East operations. [The Fiscal Times]

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7. Study finds cancer drugs could be more effective during sleep
A study published in the journal Nature Communications on Friday says some cancer drugs may be more effective while a person is sleeping. Researchers at the Weitzmann Institute found that mice treated with the anti-cancer drug lapatinib at night had “significantly smaller tumors,” than those treated with the drug during the day. Scientists speculated that lower nighttime hormone production contributed to the drug’s increased effectiveness. [Time]

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8. ‘Software bug’ incorrectly inflated Nielsen’s TV ratings
Nielsen Ratings blamed a “software bug” for more than seven months of inflated ratings for broadcast networks, the company said on Friday. Nielsen tracks the size and demographics of television audiences, and its reports can impact how much networks are able to charge advertisers for commercials. The company said an internal investigation had found that an error had affected the ratings of broadest and syndicated television shows since March, but that “98 to 99 percent” of the ratings were affected by less than .05 percent of a point. [Variety]

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9. Angelina Jolie receives honorary damehood from Queen of England
Actress Angelina Jolie has received an honorary damehood from Queen Elizabeth II for her humanitarian work seeking to end war-zone sexual violence. Jolie’s selection for the honor was announced in June, and she officially received the title during a private audience with the Queen on Friday. However, because Jolie is a U.S. citizen, protocol says she cannot be addressed as “Dame Angelina.” [BBC News]

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10. Katy Perry to perform at Super Bowl XLIX
Pop singer Katy Perry will perform during Super Bowl XLIX’s halftime show, sources confirmed on Thursday. Perry was reportedly on a shortlist that included Coldplay and Rihanna, and the news came following a “pay-to-play” controversy, in which the NFL reportedly wanted artists to pay for the honor of performing at the game. Perry addressed that idea earlier this week, saying she’s “not the kind of girl who would pay to play the Super Bowl.” [Billboard, Page Six]

The Excessive Political Power Of White Men In The United States, In One Chart

Mitch McConnell | CREDIT: AP PHOTOS/SUSAN WALSH

Just sayin’…

Think Progress

White men make up 31% of the population, yet they hold 65% of elected offices in the United States.

According to data released Wednesday by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which built a database of over 42,000 elected officials, America’s leaders do not look very much like their constituents. Whites, men and white men dominate elected offices. Women and people of color are massively underrepresented.

misrepresentative_democracy-14

Elected politicians in the United States are overwhelmingly white (90%) and male (71%). While men of color make up 19% of the population, they account for only 7% of elected officials. Likewise, women of color are 19% of the population, but hold only 4% of elected offices. White women are proportionally slightly better off: they are 32% of Americans and 25% of elected officials.

The database also revealed that women are slightly more represented at the state and local level – they are a third of county-level office holders and a quarter of state legislators. The reverse is true for people of color who are more represented at the federal level than anywhere else, even though they still only represent 17 percent of federal officials.

The Reflective Democracy Campaign also released the findings of a poll of 800 likely voters, which found that the majority of those polled felt that women and people of color were underrepresented in elected office. What is more, overwhelming majorities of voters across all party identifications (Democrat, Independent, and Republican) supported policies that elect more women and people of color to Congress. The question is admittedly an abstract one and it remains to be seen, as more data from the project is released, what sort of specific policies the public will support.

While a pipeline to leadership and increasing voter turnout are vastly different issues, the connection between who votes and who we vote for remains. Gloria Totten, president of Progressive Majority, a PAC which recruits and trains progressives to run for office across the United States, noted “If you’re a person of color and you can’t even vote, are you going to run for office? There is some reality in the fact there is a ripple effect of regressive policy action in this country that plays into this data.”

Restrictive voting laws are one major culprit. ID requirements, laws that prevent felons from voting, proof of residency statutes, and conservative tactics such as barring same-day voter registration all disproportionately impact communities of color and the working poor who are less likely to own the stringent documentation required to enter the polls.

Less examined is the nature of polling places themselves. Limited hours, long lines, and inconvenient locations could prevent low-wage workers who lack workplace flexibility from taking time off to cast their vote. Currently, there is no federal legislation that protects workers who take needed time off to vote. This leaves women, people of color, and youth who are concentrated in low-income jobs that lack flexible scheduling without the protection they need to engage in civil life. Although some states, such as California, Georgia, and Illinois, laws provide several hours off work to vote, in 2012 more than 10 million voters waited in line for longer than half an hour to cast ballots. And for minimum-wage workers who are not paid for this time off, the lost income amounts to little more than a 21st century poll tax.

Of course, it is precisely this group of racially diverse, young, and working-class voters that are most discouraged from turning out to vote who are the most likely to support progressive candidates and initiatives.

Counterterrorism Experts: ISIS Not A Threat

no attribution

Liberaland

Intelligence agencies say ISIS poses no immediate threat to the United States.

Daniel Benjamin, who served as the State Department’s top counterterrorism adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, said the public discussion about the ISIS threat has been a “farce,” with “members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.”

“It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems — all on the basis of no corroborated information,” said Mr. Benjamin, who is now a scholar at Dartmouth College…

“As formidable as ISIL is as a group, it is not invincible,” Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said last week, using an alternate name for the group. “ISIL is not Al Qaeda pre-9/11” with cells operating in Europe, Southeast Asia and the United States. Mr. Olsen’s assessment stood in contrast to more pointed descriptions by other American officials like Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has said that ISIS poses an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”…

In a speech Wednesday morning, Jeh C. Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, said, “We know of no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland at present.”

 

10 things you need to know today: August 9, 2014

The United States is sending food and water to displaced Iraqis via airdrops.

The United States is sending food and water to displaced Iraqis via airdrops. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The Week

The U.S. continues its aid drops and airstrikes in Iraq, Reagan’s former press secretary’s death is ruled a homicide, and more

1. Obama addresses Iraq airstrikes as ISIS advances
President Barack Obama used his weekly Saturday address to describe the United States’ military airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops in Iraq. “The United States can’t just look away,” he said, when “countless innocent people are facing a massacre.” Obama authorized the use of airstrikes against ISIS targets on Thursday, and the U.S. has since sent two rounds aimed at stopping the militants’ march toward Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdish capital. The Sunni insurgents have continued their advance, though, forcing thousands of Iraqis to flee into the nearby mountains, reliant on aid drops for fresh water and food. [TheWeek.com, The Wall Street Journal]

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2. Former Reagan press secretary James Brady’s death ruled homicide
A medical examiner for the Northern District of Virginia on Friday ruled former press secretaryJames Brady’s Monday death a homicide. John Hinckley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan, along with three others including Brady, on March 30, 1981. He has since been treated at St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital, after being found not guilty for the assassination attempt by reason of insanity. The shooting wounded Brady, who died on Monday at age 73, and left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. The medical examiner determined that those injuries led to Brady’s death, albeit 33 years later. [The Washington Post, NBC4 Washington]

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3. Afghanistan’s presidential candidates pledge to honor audit
Following a contentious runoff vote in June, Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates finally agreed to honor — and speed along — an audit of more than eight million ballots on Friday. Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani are vying for leader of a country which should have instated its new president last weekend, but arguments between the candidates’ camps and disruptions of the audit have pushed that timeline back. The United Nations, along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, worked to broker the most recent agreement, which supersedes a previous truce that quickly stalled. [The Washington Post]

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4. Malaysia Airlines to be de-listed and taken private
Two high-profile disasters in less than five months, capped off by three straight years of losses for Malaysia Airlines prompted the Malaysian government to announce that the company will be de-listed and taken private on Friday. The move had been expected following the March 8 disappearance of Flight 370 and the July 17 shooting-down of Flight 17 over Ukraine. Khazanah Nasional, a state investment fund, proposed a $436 million buy-out of the airline’s shares. The company said it expects to completely “overhaul” the airline. This will include eliminating popular routes, trimming payroll, and installing new management. [Reuters]

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5. U.S. Ebola patient says he is ‘growing stronger every day’
Dr. Kent Brantly wrote in a statement released by international relief agency Samaritan’s Purse that he is “growing stronger every day,” as doctors at Emory University Hospital treat him for the deadly Ebola virus. Brantly contracted Ebola while working in Liberia as part of a post-residency program. He has been in the United States receiving treatment for a week. The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak an international health emergency on Friday. More than 900 people in West Africa have died from the virus so far. [Time]

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6. State Attorneys General implore FDA to regulate e-cigarettes
A group of 29 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, requesting that e-cigarettes be regulated the same as traditional cigarettes. “E-cigarettes have all the addictive qualities of regular, combustible cigarettes,” New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “Each year, electronic cigarette companies spend millions of dollars advertising their product…glamorizing smoking in the same way combustible cigarettes did before these commercials were banned.” Courts have struck down previous attempts by the FDA to regulate e-cigs, which come in thousands of flavors and are sold everywhere from corner stores to the internet. [NPR]

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7. Facebook purchases cybersecurity firm
Facebook announced on Thursday that it has acquired cybersecurity firm PrivateCore, although terms of the deal were not released. The Palo, Alto-based startup uses “vCage technology” to protect servers from malware and other malicious hardware devices. “I’ve seen how much people care about the security of data they entrust to services like Facebook,” Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, wrote in a post announcing the acquisition. [Time]

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8. Congress adds $20 billion in extra projects to military budget
Congress added more than 300 glorified earmarks to the current defense spending bill, tacking on an additional $20 billion in costs for projects such as cancer research at historically black colleges and informing troops of the gym locations on military bases. The Pentagon did not request the additions, as the U.S. already spends more on war and defense than the next eight nations combined. American military spending totaled about $718 billion in 2013. [The Washington Times]

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9. Judge rules against NCAA in O’Bannon case
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled on Friday in favor of Ed O’Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit claiming the NCAA had violated antitrust law by not allowing athletes to be paid for their names, images, and likenesses. The decision is a victory for Football Bowl Subdivision and Division I men’s basketball players in the sense that they can now receive up to $5,000 a year in compensation for their role in the NCAA’s live television broadcasts. And, Wilken determined the NCAA’s arguments that it was not a monopoly and that payments to players were unreasonable based on the definition of amateurism did not hold — “that could haunt the NCAA in other litigation,” ESPN’s Lester Munson says. [The Associated Press, ESPN]

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10. Giant, newly discovered jellyfish species baffles scientists
Researchers caught a new species of jellyfish off Australia’s northwest coast in 2013, and nearly a year later, the find still has the scientists flummoxed. The Keesingia gigas is a type of Irukandji jellyfish, but unlike its tiny cousins, this jellyfish is about the length of a human arm. It carries fatal venom, which can cause pain, nausea, and even heart failure. What Keesingia gigas does not appear to have is tentacles, and that’s stumping Lisa-ann Gershwin. “Jellyfish always have tentacles…that’s how they catch their food,” the director of Australia’s Marine Stinger Advisory Services said. “I just don’t know what it is.” [The Guardian]

Robert Reich: Children fleeing to the U.S. are ‘refugees of the drug war we created’

Robert Reich speaks to Conan

Robert Reich speaks to Conan | Screenshot

At last somebody is telling the truth about this immigration crisis and other issues that the Right has venomously perpetuated…

The Raw Story

Robert Reich, President Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, recently put the so-called immigration crisis in perspective by reminding Americans that the women and children who were escaping to the U.S. were “refugees of the drug war we’ve created.”

“I’ve been watching media coverage of angry Americans at our southern border waiving signs and yelling slogans, insisting that the children – most of whom are refugees of the drug war we’ve created — ‘go home’ to the violence and death that war has created, and I wonder who these angry Americans are,” Reich wrote on Facebook over the weekend.

The former Labor Secretary explained in a July 14 post why the “United States is not a detached, innocent bystander” when it came to the refugee crisis.

For decades, U.S. governments supported unspeakably brutal regimes and poured billions into maintaining them ($5 billion in El Salvador alone). Implacable opposition to communism—often defined as virtually any reformer—gave these regimes a blank check. The result is a legacy of dealing with opponents through extreme violence and a culture of impunity. Judicial systems remain weak, corrupt, and often completely dysfunctional. After the cold war ended, the United States lost interest in these countries. What was left was destruction, tens of thousands dead, and massive population displacement. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is 54 percent for Guatemala, 36 percent for El Salvador,and 60 percent for Honduras. More recently gangs, organized crime, and drug cartels feeding the US market have become part of this unholy mix.

Reich said that he wasn’t “suggesting we allow in anyone who wants to come here, but these are desperate children.”

“Whatever happened to the generosity, decency, and big-heartedness of this country?” he wondered, quoting a poem by Emma Lazarus that is engraved into the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of our teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

In a follow-up post, Reich observed that the true division in America was not between Democrats and Republicans, it was “between the haters and the big-hearted.”

The haters direct their venom not just at child refugees seeking asylum from the drug war we created, but also at gays who want to marry, African-Americans who want to vote and exercise their other rights of citizenship, women who seek abortions, or even women in general, Latinos who want their children to be taught in Spanish, immigrants in general, Muslims, Jews, government “bureaucrats,” the poor and needy, anyone who dares suggest a required background check before buying guns, people they call “liberals” or “socialists” or “communists,” even the President of the United States.

He observed that “hate-mongers in the media” had also made the problem worse by encouraging the behavior.

“But the haters are not America,” Reich insisted. “They are a small and vocal minority. Most Americans are generous and welcoming, decent and kind-hearted. We are the silent majority, who have been silent too long.”

In the end, Reich said that it was wrong to “make children pay the price for the intolerable social destruction that Central American elites and militaries, as well as successive US governments, had a hand in creating.”

(h/t: Fusion)

Ex-Bush Official Blasts GOP: Bush Would Have Done The Same Thing

Liberaland

With the Afghanistan war winding down, the United States would be required to return prisoners to Afghanistan. We can’t hold them indefinitely.

“I don’t see how these particular Taliban officials could ever have been tried in the southern district of New York,” John Bellinger, who served as an adviser to President George W. Bush explained during an appearance on Fox News Tuesday. “They’re certainly some Al Qaeda detainees who committed actual terrorist acts against Americans who perhaps could have been tried in a federal court because they committed federal crimes, but these particular Taliban detainees I think could never have been tried in federal court.” Although some of the released prisoners posed a danger to the United States when they were captured in 2002, especially toward soldiers serving in Afghanistan, several of the detainees did not commit crimes against Americans…

Though Cheney told Fox News on Monday that he would not have agreed to the deal, Bellinger stressed that the Bush administration “returned something like 500 detainees from Guantanamo.” Statistics from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence show that only 6 percent (5 in total) of Guantanamo detainees released during the Obama administration have potentially engaged in militant activities. That compares with a rate of nearly 30 percent under the Bush administration.

“I’m not saying this is clearly an easy choice but frankly I think a Republican, a president of either party, Republican or Democratic confronted with this opportunity to get back Sgt. Bergdahl, who is apparently in failing health, would have taken this opportunity to do this,” he added. “I think we would have made the same decision in the Bush administration.”