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Posted by Andrew Prokop

Paul Manafort’s mugshot, June 2018

The sentencing memo was harsh.

Special counsel Robert Mueller would like Paul Manafort to go to prison for a long, long time, according to a new sentencing memo he’s filed for Manafort’s case in Virginia.

The special counsel did not recommend a specific sentence for Manafort, but as a ballpark, he said he agreed with the probation department’s proposed guidelines for a sentence of at least 19 and a half years.

“Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars,” Mueller wrote. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”

Manafort was convicted of financial crimes after a trial in Virginia, and then struck a plea deal to avert a second trial in Washington, DC. So he will be sentenced by two different judges — T.S. Ellis III in Virginia, and Amy Berman Jackson in the District of Columbia.

This first sentencing memo was filed in Virginia, and focuses on Manafort’s financial crimes: filing false income tax returns, not declaring foreign assets, and bank fraud.

All of the charges against Manafort have so far related to his past work for the former government of Ukraine, his finances, or attempting to interfere with the investigation. He has not been charged with any criminal conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 elections.

But Mueller clearly believes Manafort has still been hiding a great deal. The special counsel accused him of lying about his sharing of Trump campaign poll data with a Russian associate, hiding his work to advance a “Ukraine peace plan,” and other topics.

Manafort’s complicated legal situation, explained

Manafort is a somewhat legendary Republican operative and lobbyist who spent a decade working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians before joining Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Because of his ties to pro-Russian interests, Manafort has long been a major figure of interest to investigators probing whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere with the election — and he ended up being the first person indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. His legal road since then has been long and winding:

  • In October 2017, Mueller indicted Manafort and his longtime right-hand-man Rick Gates in Washington, DC, for conspiracy and lobbying-related crimes related to their past Ukraine work.
  • In February 2018, Mueller filed his second indictment of Manafort — this one in the Eastern District of Virginia, for tax, bank fraud, and other financial crimes. Shortly afterward, Gates “flipped,” striking a plea deal and cooperating with the government.
  • In June 2018, Mueller added more charges to Manafort in DC, alleging that he and his Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik tried to obstruct the investigation through witness tampering.
  • Manafort’s Virginia case ended up going to trial first, and on August 21, a jury found him guilty on eight counts of filing false tax returns, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign assets. (The jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on 10 other counts due to one holdout, and those charges ended up being dismissed.)
  • After his conviction, Manafort agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in DC, to avert that pending second trial. In the plea, Manafort admitted all the charges against him were true, agreed to forfeit millions of dollars in assets, and committed to cooperate with the government.
  • But last November, after Manafort had met 12 times with the government and appeared twice before Mueller’s grand jury, the government announced that they believed he’d breached his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to them on several different topics. And last Wednesday, DC Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with the government on most of those accusations.

So now, Manafort is finally ready to be sentenced — twice. His DC sentencing is scheduled for March 13, and his Virginia sentencing does not yet have a scheduled date.

What Manafort’s actually being sentenced for

During Manafort’s Virginia trial, prosecutors laid out a two-part case.

First, they alleged that in the years before Manafort joined the Trump campaign, he’d gotten paid millions for his work for Ukrainian politicians. Then, he moved $30 million of that money from from foreign shell companies into the US — but he didn’t disclose this income on his tax forms, pay taxes on it, or fill out legally required disclosures of his foreign accounts. For all this, he was convicted of five tax charges and one failure to declare foreign accounts charge.

Second, Mueller’s team focused on what Manafort allegedly did once he lost his Ukrainian income after the country’s president was deposed. They claimed he tried to conjure up more cash via bank fraud — and was convicted of two counts for that.

Then, in the District of Columbia, Manafort eventually pleaded guilty to a broad “conspiracy against the United States” — in which he admitted unregistered lobbying and money laundering related to the Ukraine work — as well as “conspiracy to obstruct justice” (his attempts to get witnesses to stick to a false story about that work). He also admitted to the truth of all the Virginia charges filed against him.

Finally, both judges have previously indicated that when they sentence Manafort, they might take into account Mueller’s accusations that Manafort lied during cooperation. Judge Jackson ruled that Manafort did indeed deliberately lie about a $125,000 payment made on his behalf, about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik (his longtime Russian associate), and about another Justice Department investigation.

It’s been widely speculated that Manafort is hoping for a pardon from President Trump, and Mueller’s team even said in court that this could be a potential motivation for his false statements. Trump has conspicuously declined to rule out such a move.

For now, though, the former Trump campaign manager remains in jail, where he’s resided for eight months. His sentencing in Washington will take place on March 13, and his sentencing in Virginia currently has no scheduled date.


For more on the Mueller probe, follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and check out Vox’s guide to the Trump-Russia investigation.

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Posted by Nicole Fallert

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what’s happening in the world. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

High-speed rail is a no-go in California; the House votes to condemn the war in Yemen.


A high-speed railway to nowhere

 California High-Speed Rail Authority via Getty Images
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision earlier this week to scale back the state’s high-speed rail project is disappointing to supporters of expanding transit — and it demonstrates the weaknesses in how the US approaches transit. [Vox / Matthew Yglesias]
  • There was a lot of confusion about what Newsom’s announcement actually means: Opposers and proponents of the high-speed rail are still unsure what Newsom plans to do now. He can’t abandon the project or he’ll lose the federal funding he got for it. The state will continue an environmental review of the proposed line, and “bookend” rail lines in Southern California and the Bay Area will also get support. All that’s stalled is the Central Valley railway that links regional train routes. [Capital Public Radio / Ben Alder]
  • President Trump claimed that California owed $3.5 billion to the federal government, but Newsom retorted that money belongs to the state. The high-speed line was estimated to cost $77 billion and be completed in 2033. [CNN / Holmes Lybrand]
  • The train is now going to go from Bakersfield to Merced — connecting two inland cities where the economy isn’t booming in the way it is in San Francisco and Los Angeles. [New Yorker / Nathan Heller]
  • The cancellation comes just as Democrats were getting excited about the Green New Deal, which called for expanding rail service to reduce demand for air travel. Globally, high-speed rail has done exactly that. [Slate / Henry Grabar]
  • California’s high-speed railway was one way that vague goals in the Green New Deal could be realized. Trains use 2 percent of all energy used for transportation and offer comparable prices to planes for passengers in some areas. California’s struggle reveals how reliant American is on air travel — and how long the Green New Deal may actually take to effect change. [Vox / Umair Irfan]
  • America doesn’t have rail infrastructure like those in other developed countries like China. Large US cities remain disconnected by rail largely because highways are prioritized, soaking up tax dollars that could be used for development projects. [Vox / Matthew Yglesias]

The House votes against the war in Yemen

  • The House of Representatives is trying to end American involvement in the three-plus-year war in Yemen, passing a resolution on Wednesday to remove US armed forces from the conflict. [WSJ / Joshua Jamerson]
  • The resolution passed 248 to 177, with support from some conservatives. The Senate passed a similar measure last year, before Congress turned over. If the vote goes the same way this time, it could end up being President Trump’s first veto. [NYT / Catie Edmondson and Charlie Savage]
  • The conflict in Yemen, led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has killed more than 50,000 people. The US-backed Saudi coalition, in coordination with the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states, has been fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, providing intelligence and arms and reportedly fueling warplanes. [Vox / Tara Golshan and Alex Ward]
  • Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Warsaw this week to attend a summit with Arab states in the name of promoting Middle Eastern peace and confronting Iran — who backs the Houthi rebels. Yemen’s foreign minister was present at the meeting. [The National / Joyce Karam]

Miscellaneous

  • President Trump declared a state of emergency on Friday to direct $8 billion to build and repair a wall on the US-Mexico border. In a live address defending his use of executive action, Trump also spoke about an impending trade deal with China and an upcoming summit with North Korea. [Politico / Anita Kumar and Caitlin Oprysko]
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed support for President Trump’s national emergency declaration — but the GOP has been tentative about such an extreme step. [Atlantic / David A. Graham]
  • Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is about to release a book, in which he describes how he began investigations into President Trump’s ties with Russia following the firing of his boss, James Comey. The White House has called McCabe’s investigation “baseless.” [60 Minutes]
  • Haiti’s high level of anti-corruption protests prompted the US State Department to issue a warning to Americans to avoid the country. A court report ignited anger over the misuse of development funds, reportedly involving Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. [NPR / Bill Chappell]
  • India has vowed to completely “isolate” Pakistan after a suicide bomber killed 46 people in India-controlled Kashmir on Thursday. Pakistan denies responsibility for the attack, committed by the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Violence has been increasing in Kashmir, with at least 500 people killed last year. [BBC]

Verbatim

“Our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening. Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory.” [Diocese of Covington Bishop Roger Foys in a letter to parents at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, via NPR]


Watch this: Who actually pays for your credit card rewards?

Here’s why you’re paying for credit card rewards — even if you use cash. [YouTube / Danush Parvaneh]


Read more

4 winners and 4 losers from the funding bill and emergency declaration

Trump’s wall won’t do anything about drugs

A California coalition is tackling one of the hardest, unsexiest parts of climate policy

The census lawsuit headed straight to the Supreme Court, explained

Meet Annie Turnbo Malone, the hair care entrepreneur Trump shouted out in his Black History Month proclamation

(no subject)

Feb. 15th, 2019 04:57 pm
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Posted by J. Bradford DeLong

Simon Wren-Lewis: The Tory Party Lost Its Way from 2010, Not 2016: "'I have had it up to here with the Conservative party.' So writes a one time editor of the Spectator, Matthew d'Ancona. It is a good read: for example 'a chilling populism is now creeping into the language of mainstream Toryism: the language of treachery, snarling tribalism and impatience with anything that smacks of prudence, compromise or caution'. He is talking about Brexit of course, and he is entirely right. What he misses, in my view, was that this problem did not begin with the EU referendum, but six years earlier, with the Tory ‘modernisers’, Cameron and Osborne...


#noted

Годовщина смерти

Feb. 16th, 2019 02:45 am
silent_gluk: (Default)
[personal profile] silent_gluk
54 (? - он умер в 1965 году) годовщина со дня смерти Наума.

До недавнего времени я знала только то, что эта дата (1965.02.16) была записана прабабушкой в раздел годовщин, связанных с родственниками.

Но мне сказали, что у прабабушки было куда больше сиблингов, и одним из них был Наум. Этот самый. Наум Гершонович Рахман, брат прабабушки (Блюмы Гершевны Рахман-Геерман), иой, соответственно, двоюродный прадедушка. Правда, я все равно о нем больше ничего не знаю. Даже в каком году родился.

Правда вот, говорят, у него была семья.

И вот фото.

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Posted by Jen Kirby

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, in October 2018.

The incumbent Muhammadu Buhari is facing off against businessman Atiku Abubakar during a tenuous time for Nigeria’s economy and its security situation.

Nigeria will get to choose a new president during the country’s national elections on Saturday, February 16.

Incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari, of the All Progressive Congress (APC), will face off against Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and business man, who is representing the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). (There are also a slew of minor party candidates, but the election is really a contest between the two.)

Nigeria’s lagging economy and shaky security situation — due in part to the resurgent violence of militant groups such as Boko Haram — are among the issues dominating the race.

One major worry heading into Saturday’s elections is that the vote will be rigged, potentially to favor Buhari. Nigeria’s elections have also been marred by violence in the past, and while an expert currently in Nigeria told me the country is “cautiously optimistic” about peaceful voting, the threat of conflict breaking out remains.

Here’s a quick list of the key things to know about Saturday’s presidential election, and why it matters.

Meet the two major candidates: Buhari and Atiku

Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party attends an election campaign rally. AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party attends an election campaign rally at the Ribadu Square in Yola, Nigeria, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019.

Lots of people are running for president, but only two seem to really have a chance: Buhari, and Atiku Abubakar, who most people just call “Atiku.”

Buhari is a former general who briefly ruled Nigeria in the early 1980s during a period of military dictatorship. He won a historic election in 2015 by promising to crack down on corruption and stamp out extremist groups such as Boko Haram. The group gained international attention in 2014 after it abducted hundreds Nigerian schoolgirls, but has terrorized and killed thousands and displaced at least 2 million people in the northeastern part of the country since 2009.

Buhari’s victory in 2015 marked the first time an opposition candidate denied an incumbent president a second term, a turning point for Nigerian democracy.

Buhari says he’ll take Nigeria to the “next level” if he’s elected to a second term, but his four years in office have been somewhat lackluster: He has failed to deliver on his biggest promises about corruption and security, and the economy has struggled during his tenure.

Many of Buhari’s critics also see him as being a bit checked out, especially since the 76-year-old has been absent for long stretches due to poor health. (There was even a fake news story circulating that Buhari had died and been replaced by a body double, which he had to debunk.)

“Buhari’s tenure — most observers think that it has not been a good four years for Nigeria,” Ken Opalo, an associate professor at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, told me. “He’s been unwell, he hasn’t been as bold as he had promised in terms of needed reforms that could push the Nigerian economy, and despite his personal record as a non-corrupt person, there’s definitely lots of corrupt people around him.”

Atiku is positioning himself as the alternative to Buhari on the economy, asking Nigerians if they’re better off now than four years ago. As a successful businessman, his record is appealing to those who hope he can be a potential job creator, and embracing the slogan “get Nigeria working again.”

Atiku has vied for the presidency in the past; five times, to be exact. He’s also been dogged by allegations of corruption, and has been banned from traveling to the US due to his ties to corruption cases. (He received a temporary reprieve recently and was allowed to visit Washington, DC.)

Nigeria’s economy and security situation are big issues among voters

The Nigerian economy has struggled during Buhari’s tenure. Nigeria slipped into a recession in 2016, and though the economy has rebounded in some areas, poverty and joblessness remain high. Nigeria had the worst-performing stock market in the world last year.

Buhari is promising more state-driven reforms and public investment, whereas Atiku is promoting his business acumen and advocating for more private-sector initiatives, including privatizing Nigeria’s state-run oil corporation, which could shake up the oil-dependent economy.

Security problems also loom over the race. Buhari promised to uproot Boko Haram, and the terrorist group did lose a lot of its territory during his tenure, but the group and others like it are far from being eliminated.

Nigeria has also seen a recent uptick in violence. Boko Haram also splintered, giving birth to an ISIS-linked militant group, the Islamic State in West Africa Province. This group has staged multiple brazen attacks, including one on a Nigerian governor’s convoy this week near the border with Cameroon.

The central part of Nigeria is also becoming mired in clashes between farmers and herders over land for grazing; statics from Amnesty International say the conflict claimed more than 3,600 lives last year.

Regional and identity politics are also important factors in Nigeria’s election. Atiku and Buhari are both Muslims from the north of the country, and they’ve managed to form political alliances with other regions — Buhari with the southwest and Atiku with the southeast — to try to gain more support.

There are concerns over whether the elections will be free and fair

People holding a banner that reads “NBA must act now” protest the suspension of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, in Abuja, Nigeria, AP Photo
People protest the suspension of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday, January 28, 2019.

It’s not really clear who is leading the race right now, but experts say Buhari, as the incumbent, is likely to have an edge.

There are also widespread fears that the election will be rigged.

Nigeria’s elections have been rigged in the past — that’s why Buhari’s win in 2015 seemed so remarkable. Atiku’s opposition party, PDP, has alleged wrongdoing, though Buhari has insisted he’s upholding free and fair elections.

Still, worries persist. A recent Guardian analysis of voters registered in Nigeria since January 2018 found that new voter registration increased by almost exactly the same percentage in all of Nigeria’s states. One analyst called that “statistically impossible,” which could indicate potential irregularities.

Another red flag: In January, weeks before the election, Buhari suspended the top judge on Nigeria’s Supreme Court over his alleged failure to declare some foreign assets. The suspended judge would have been in charge of ruling over any election-related disputes. But many critics — including Atiku — called the move anti-democratic.

Patrick Ukata, a lecturer at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington, said he had a sense that Atiku would win if the elections were free and fair. “No one in their right mind would vote for more of the same,” Ukata told me on Friday.

A rigged election could also potentially be dangerous. The 2015 election, which Buhari won as the opposition candidate, was largely peaceful — but in 2011, an estimated 800 people died in post-election violence.

Experts I spoke to said sporadic violence is always a risk, especially on the local level, but conflict on a national scale seems unlikely. For one, Atiku and Buhari are both from the same region, religion, and ethnic group, which make it less likely that anger over the elections will escalate into sectarian conflict.

Western governments, including the US, have encouraged the candidates to embrace the results, whatever the outcome. A US State Department spokesperson released a statement Friday saying that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken to both candidates and they had made a “public commitment to renounce violence and to accept the results of a credible process.”

Ukata said Nigeria seems cautiously optimistic that Saturday’s elections will be largely peaceful. But, he added, the “expectation of violence is always there.”

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Posted by Gaby Del Valle

People opposed to Amazon’s plan to build a second headquarters in New York hold a protest inside of an Amazon book store in Manhattan on November 26, 2018. Amazon has since scrapped its plan to build a Queens campus.

“I wanted there to be a deal, but not the deal that was on the table. I wanted there to be a fair deal,” one Queens resident said.

From the moment Amazon announced its plan to build a massive corporate campus in the rapidly gentrifying Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, the lawmakers responsible for the deal — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the latter of whom jokingly offered to change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” — went to great lengths to explain how Amazon’s presence in the city would be a boon for all New Yorkers.

“This is a giant step on our path to building an economy in New York City that leaves no one behind,” de Blasio said in November, when the deal was first announced.

Now the deal is dead. Amazon still plans on building its other new corporate campus in Crystal City, Virginia, as well as a “hub of operations” in Nashville, Tennessee, two cities that welcomed the e-commerce company with open arms. But Amazon confirmed it would no longer be building the Queens campus, part of a plan known as HQ2, soon after the New York Times broke the news on Thursday, citing opposition from local lawmakers as evidence that the company had no way of building “the types of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.”

Some New Yorkers, particularly the many community groups who opposed the deal from the outset, were so elated they threw a late-night block party in celebration, complete with a mariachi band. Others were less pleased. Real estate developers who had bet that Amazon’s presence in Long Island City would drive up rents were stunned, the Wall Street Journal reported. David Lichtenstein, founder of the real estate company the Lightstone Group, reportedly called Amazon’s decision to back out the “worst day for NYC since 9/11.”

The day after Amazon said it was scrapping its plans to open a Queens tech hub, I went to Long Island City to ask residents and business owners how they felt about the company’s decision.

Shawn Dixon, owner of the Long Island City barbershop Otis & Finn, told me he was surprised Amazon pulled out of the deal without trying to negotiate. Dixon and two friends attended the first anti-HQ2 protest in November with a sign encouraging Amazon to pay its fair share of taxes and support local businesses or else “stay the helipad out!” — a reference to the helipad CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly requested as part of his deal with the city.

“The thing is, I actually wanted there to be a deal,” Dixon said, “but not the deal that was on the table. We thought we could get to a fair deal. I’m disappointed in the way the deal was brought about behind closed doors. I’m disappointed that Amazon didn’t come to the table. If them playing this all-or-nothing game foreshadowed how they’d be as neighbors, then [Amazon deciding not to come to Queens] is the best thing for everybody.”

One good thing about Amazon’s decision to come to New York, Dixon added, was that it brought attention to longstanding problems residents and business owners in Long Island City faced, chiefly rapidly rising rents for residential and retail renters alike. “Long Island City is a real estate bubble — everybody is sitting on these empty storefronts and they don’t want to lease anybody because they’re waiting for [speculators] to pay tens of millions of dollars for this land,” he said. “Landlords don’t want to give long-term leases because they want developers to come in and buy them up.”

Jorge Centeno, whose father owns the nearby LM Cafe, said Amazon’s presence in the neighborhood would have been good for business — but, he added, it would have likely raised rents for locals who would then be pushed out of the area. “It’s disappointing for us, but on a collective level I think it’s best that they didn’t open [an office here],” he said. “It would have been a domino effect.”

“The mayor should have done a better job of talking to Amazon about the problems that were going to exist — New York isn’t the kind of city where you can throw something down the throat of a community,” said Jason Haber, a broker at the luxury real estate firm Warburg Realty. “This was all done behind closed doors — there were no stakeholders that would have been opposed to it that were brought into the process.” But, he added, the city and state were right to give Amazon subsidies. He said that otherwise, it’s likely that the company would have chosen another city.

“There are really two sides to the coin,” Justin Farman, a Long Island resident who commutes to Queens every day, told me. “It could have been very beneficial, but it’s not like [the people who opposed Amazon coming to Queens] pulled their points out of thin air, you know? They were valid.”

Farman said he was initially wary of Amazon’s plans to expand its presence in New York City — “I was under the impression that it would cause more traffic and it would get a lot more congested here than it’s already getting,” he said — but then realized “it would bring a lot of jobs here and could probably bring a lot of money in for the city.” Amazon had repeatedly claimed it would hire 25,000 employees for its Queens campus over the next 10 years. Now, Farman said, those jobs would never materialize.

Although he sympathized with those who opposed Amazon’s presence in the city, and agreed that the $3 billion in subsidies and financial incentives the e-commerce giant would receive from the city and state were “a bit crazy,” Farman said it was “shocking” to him that progressive groups flat-out opposed Amazon, and added that its presence in Queens could have been a boon to low-income people in the area, especially tenants of the nearby Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the community.

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Activists and community members who opposed Amazon’s plan to move into Queens rally in Long Island City in celebration of Amazon’s decision to pull out of the deal on February 14, 2019.

But Queensbridge residents, too, have mixed feelings on the matter.

Back when the deal was still on, a coalition of Amazon supporters that included April Simpson, president of the Queensbridge Houses Tenant Association, staged a pro-Amazon rally to counter the anti-HQ2 protests that had been going on for months. “We’ve been representing the community for years, so what makes you think we ain’t going to represent them today with Amazon?” Simpson said at the rally, less than a week before Amazon pulled out of the deal.

Louise McMillon, who lives in the nearby neighborhood of Astoria and works as a home health aide during the day, told me she was disappointed Amazon was no longer coming to Queens.

“I was looking forward to getting a night job there, but then I found out on the news that they’re not coming here,” she said, adding that she didn’t know much about the deal but had heard that only a few dozen jobs would be slated for public housing residents.

Barby, a Queensbridge Houses resident who asked to only be identified by her first name, said she had signed an anti-HQ2 petition because the company did not seem invested in her community. “I live in the projects and they weren’t really going to help us, from what I understand,” she said. “However, it would’ve been good for people that need jobs — if they would’ve given us jobs.”

After months of heated debate about whether Amazon’s presence would help or harm New Yorkers, Amazon is no longer coming to town. Public opinion toward Amazon’s decision to back out of the New York deal is just as varied as the reaction to the news that Amazon planned to build an office in the city in the first place.

The HQ2 deal was so opaque that it was easy to point fingers in all directions, for some critics to blame the city while others blamed the state. Still others claimed Amazon’s opponents were willfully misrepresenting the facts. No one seems to agree on whether this is good or bad news for the city — and, more crucially, no one seems to agree on who to blame for the deal falling apart.

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Posted by P.R. Lockhart

Colin Kaepernick watches a game from the sidelines on December 18, 2016. The game would be one of Kaepernick’s last before going unsigned during the NFL’s 2017 season, prompting him to file a collusion grievance against the league.

Kaepernick’s lawyer and the NFL announced a confidential settlement in the grievance case on Friday.

More than 16 months after filing a formal complaint alleging that NFL team owners worked together to keep him off the field in the wake of his kneeling protest, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the league has concluded with a confidential settlement, lawyers for Kaepernick and the NFL announced Friday.

The exact details of the settlement — which also included an agreement with player Eric Reid, who filed his own collusion grievance in 2018 — will not be announced due to a confidentiality agreement. The settlement was first revealed in a pair of Friday afternoon tweets posted by the NFL and Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos.

“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” the parties noted in a joint statement. ”As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances.”

Kaepernick won his first major victory in his grievance case last August when an NFL arbitrator ruled that he would allow Kaepernick’s grievance to proceed to an official trial phase. The trial was expected sometime this year, but the settlement announcement means that the case ends here.

In addition to the joint statement from Kaepernick’s attorney and the NFL, the settlement was also acknowledged in a Friday statement from the NFL Players Association, which advocates on the behalf of NFL athletes:

We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them.

The group also expressed its satisfaction that Reid has since joined a new NFL team, and called for Kaepernick to also be given that chance.

The settlement ends a long battle between Kaepernick and the NFL, which has adamantly denied colluding to keep him from playing football after Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police violence. His protest later spread across the league, sparking condemnations from President Donald Trump, who has made opposition to the protests a key part of his political messaging. And while the settlement means that Kaepernick’s official case has ended, discourse on his impact on matters of race, patriotism, and activism are unlikely to end anytime soon.

A brief history of Kaepernick’s kneeling protests, explained

Kaepernick began his protests against police violence and racial inequality in 2016, first sitting and later kneeling during the national anthem. The act sparked a years-long debate about activism on the football field, as players throughout the league joined him by kneeling, raising fists, and locking arms.

Along with some fans, the protests drew the ire of President Donald Trump, whose comments turned the protests into a referendum on matters of race and patriotism.

As Trump’s criticism mounted both on the campaign trail and later from the White House, Kaepernick left the 49ers and became an unsigned free agent, last appearing in an NFL game in January 2017. Nine months later, he filed an official grievance against the NFL, alleging that the league’s teams colluded to keep him off the field as a result of his protest. Some of the NFL’s most powerful owners gave depositions in the case.

As a new NFL season began last fall, the league and its players remained deadlocked over an anthem rule intended to end the kneeling protests. That rule has since been suspended, but the protests were declining even before it was announced.

Still, Kaepernick’s image and the image of his protest has continued to loom large over the league. The athlete garnered a wave of praise — and backlash — for a Nike campaign he appeared in promoting the message “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” It was one of many signs that Kaepernick’s protest and subsequent exile had made him into a powerful symbol in American culture.

Last August, Kaepernick lawyer Geragos announced that an arbitrator denied the NFL’s efforts to end the collusion grievance in its preliminary stage, giving Kaepernick a chance to officially make the case that he was blackballed by the NFL.

The news of his grievance sparked ongoing discussions of the ways the league’s handled the kneeling protests, but also opened a larger conversation about how the NFL treats its players, a relationship that has always been fraught due to the racial politics of the NFL’s predominantly white group of executives and team owners making decisions that affect a predominantly black group of athletes.

Kaepernick argued the NFL and its teams colluded to keep him off the field, which the league denied

Kaepernick became a free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract in March 2017, allowing him to sign with any team. He spoke to the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens but wasn’t offered a contract with either. A string of other quarterbacks — some with statistically weaker performances than Kaepernick — found work in the NFL. This prompted observers to question whether Kaepernick was out of a job because of his protests.

Kaepernick formally demanded that the league answer that question in October 2017 when he filed his grievance, alleging that the NFL’s teams had colluded against him. In doing so, he asked the NFL’s arbitrator to determine if two or more teams, or NFL leadership in partnership with at least one team, worked together to keep him off the field because of his protest.

Due to the rules outlined in the NFL Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement with the league, a ruling in Kaepernick’s favor would not entitle him to a spot on a team, but he would receive a financial award amounting to roughly double what he would have made if he had stayed in the league.

”Principled and peaceful protest ... should not be punished,” Geragos, Kaepernick’s attorney, said in a 2017 statement. “Athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government.”

The NFL denied that this happened. “Teams make decisions (based) on what’s in the best interest of their team ... and they make those decisions individually,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. The league regularly repeated that argument, saying there was no effort to collude against Kaepernick and that any team’s decision to keep him off the field was a decision made independently.

Some of the NFL’s argument was challenged. In May 2018, Yahoo Sports reported that in 2017, NFL executives contracted a poll asking fans if they thought Kaepernick should continue to play in the NFL. This, on its own, wouldn’t be enough to prove a conspiracy to keep Kaepernick off the field, but if the polling data was shared with teams and then influenced teams’ willingness to sign Kaepernick, that could have been a problem.

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway, one of several NFL figures deposed in the first stage of Kaepernick’s grievance, also muddied the waters in 2018 when he potentially violated the grievance’s gag order while speaking with reporters. “As I said in my deposition ... I don’t know if I’m legally able to say this, but he’s [Kaepernick] had his chance to be here,” Elway said. “He passed it.”

Reporters noted that Elway offered Kaepernick a contract in 2016 but passed on him a year later, after the protests, despite Kaepernick’s improved numbers that season. Elway’s comments suggested that he had been asked about the 2016 offer in the deposition.

Kaepernick cleared the first hurdle in his collusion case — but collusion is very difficult to prove

To understand the process that led to the recent settlement, it’s helpful to explain exactly how collusion grievances are handled. First, collusion between teams to prevent a player from signing onto a team or playing is a violation of the NFL Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement with the league.

Collusion grievances don’t go to trial, although they do rely on a framework that borrows heavily from that sort of procedure. If the official hearing happened, Kaepernick’s team and the NFL would have been able to offer testimony, present evidence, and review footage.

All of this would occur behind closed doors, with arbitrator Stephen Burbank, who has worked to resolve disputes between the NFL and the Players Association for years and having the final say as to whether the NFL colluded against Kaepernick.

It presented an opportunity and a challenge for Kaepernick. In his preliminary ruling last year, Burbank determined that Kaepernick had enough evidence to move the case forward, which suggested he thought there was enough evidence to further investigate the collusion claim (although some experts, like Charles Grantham of the Center for Sport Management at Seton Hall University, argued that given the high-profile nature of the case, it was always very likely to get a hearing).

Burbank also opted not to remove any teams that he thought weren’t involved in collusion from the case, instead allowing the grievance against all 32 teams and the NFL executive leadership to continue. But this did not mean Burbank would find in Kaepernick’s favor once all evidence was presented in the next phase of the process.

Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick, and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the anthem before playing the New York Jets on December 11, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers via Getty Images
Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick, and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the anthem before playing the New York Jets on December 11, 2016, in Santa Clara, California.

In this process, it wouldn’t be enough to argue that Kaepernick — who led the 49ers to two conference championship games and the 2013 Super Bowl, and performed better while kneeling in the 2016-17 season than the year prior — is statistically a good enough player to play.

Kaepernick also couldn’t argue that a single owner who found his protest too hot to handle proved collusion; if that decision was reached independently, even if it was reached by each of the NFL’s team owners, it fails to meet that standard. Instead, Kaepernick had to prove that at least two teams, or the NFL and at least one team, worked together to keep him from playing.

Experts noted that it can be hard to find a smoking gun in these sorts of cases. “There’s a host of reasons why a club would individually or independently not offer him a contract,” Matt Mitten, executive director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School, told the New York Times in 2017. “So it will be tough for them to argue that there was a tacit agreement.”

That doesn’t mean it was impossible. Players in other leagues have won collusion grievances. Perhaps the most notable example of this occurred in the 1980s when players filed grievances against Major League Baseball, arguing that the league had restricted free agents. The arbitrator sided with the players, leading to a $280 million settlement.

But Kaepernick’s collusion grievance was also tied up in the owner-oriented nature of the NFL, which affords little power or recourse to its players. Even so, there was one figure who could help Kaepernick make the case that collusion played a role in what is likely to be a forced conclusion to his football career.

And that person was President Donald Trump.

NFL owners said they wanted to end Trump’s complaints about the protests. That could’ve helped Kaepernick’s case.

Trump has been very transparent about his feelings toward the NFL protests, particularly when it comes to his belief that players protesting racial injustice are disrespecting the symbols of America.

The claim dates back to his time on the campaign trail when he criticized Kaepernick’s protest, saying the player should “find a country that works better for him.” Since then, Trump has only ramped up his rhetoric, notably calling kneeling NFL players “sons of bitches” who should be fired last September.

A few weeks after that, Vice President Mike Pence left a football game after 49ers players knelt during the anthem (Trump took credit for Pence’s departure shortly thereafter). In March 2017, after Kaepernick became a free agent, Trump argued that NFL owners were avoiding the quarterback because they didn’t want to get a “nasty tweet” from the president.

Trump has eagerly claimed credit for Kaepernick no longer playing football and suggested that the NFL impose strict penalties on players who continue to protest, but that doesn’t necessarily imply he colluded with the league or team owners. After all, Trump, despite his earlier ambitions, is not an owner of an NFL team.

But as Michael McCann, a law professor and legal analyst for Sports Illustrated, explained, Trump still could be the catalyst for collusion within the NFL. That case could be made based on various comments from Trump and corresponding statements and policies taken by the league in recent months.

And some team owners — especially those who are among Trump’s most prominent supporters and donors — have made it clear that they are deeply worried about the president’s criticisms.

McCann explained last year:

Such a concern was documented in audio recordings of owners during an October 2017 meeting that centered on Kaepernick and the national anthem. This same concern resurfaced in June 2018 when Trump rescinded a White House invitation to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on account of his perception that Eagles players disagreed with him on the anthem (in reality, not one player on the Eagles kneeled during their Super Bowl season) and because only a handful of Eagles players were likely to attend.

According to Trump friend and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who also gave a deposition in Kaepernick’s collusion grievance earlier in 2018, the president has been pretty vocal about the political value of the NFL protests, telling Jones that attacking the protests was a “winning” issue.

In May 2018, the NFL announced (and later suspended) a new policy that would require players to stand on the field for the anthem or wait off field until it was over. According to ESPN, the desire to pass this rule was so strong that NFL owners did not even wait for a formal vote, instead relying on a hands vote to pass the anthem policy. The move has frustrated the Players Association, which entered talks with NFL execs in July 2018 in the hopes of creating a more agreeable anthem policy.

Again, none of was a smoking gun that proved collusion. But taken as a whole, these moments indicated that NFL owners had a strong desire to see an end to the player protests being used as a political weapon, and that appeasing Trump was a catalyst for that desire. The NFL has also worried that the protests are unpopular with fans, a theory that has been backed up in polls, although polling also shows significant racial and partisan divides in opinion over the protests.

All that made it more believable that at least some NFL owners might have colluded to curtail the protests by not signing Kaepernick, someone whom the president has repeatedly singled out when criticizing the NFL.

The settlement means that Kaepernick’s grievance will never receive an official verdict

When Burbank ruled that the case could go forward, Kaepernick and the NFL were left with two options: let things continue to a hearing, or settle before that happens. Given Kaepernick’s continued statements about the protests and the NFL’s response to them, it seemed unlikely that he would take the latter option, even if the league preferred it to avoid any further bad press. But since that happened, the case will not go to an official trial.

A billboard featuring former Kaepernick is displayed on the roof of the Nike Store on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A billboard featuring Kaepernick is displayed on the roof of the Nike Store on September 5, 2018, in San Francisco.

A Kaepernick victory in the trial was by no means guaranteed, and both parties had the option to file an appeal after the final ruling. But if Burbank had ruled in Kaepernick’s favor, the case might have had a serious impact, on Kaepernick, the NFL, and other players.

First, there’s former 49ers safety Eric Reid, who joined Kaepernick in the kneeling protest and filed his own grievance against the NFL last year after he became another unsigned free agent in 2018. Reid eventually signed with the Carolina Panthers in September 2018.

There was also a chance that Kaepernick’s grievance might create a scenario where the current collective bargaining agreement could be scrapped, but that was always incredibly unlikely. Under the current agreement, if the NFLPA is part of a grievance where 14 teams are found to have colluded, then the NFLPA can call for a new agreement.

That didn’t happen, and Kaepernick’s and Reid’s grievances were eventually settled. And while the settlement is not an acknowledgment of guilt from the NFL, the fact that the settlement happened shortly before the trial was expected to start suggests that the league did not want to deal with a highly publicized fight against the former player.

It’s perhaps a testament to how Kaepernick sparked a tremendous shift that continues to affect the NFL’s public image and has ignited an ongoing national dialogue about race, sports, and protest. And while the future of Kaepernick’s football career remains uncertain, that change will be difficult to reverse.

Get out of the boat

Feb. 15th, 2019 10:03 pm
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Posted by Paul Campos

I’m going to post a couple of highlights from Trump’s announcement today that he was tearing up the Constitution because of a fake national emergency (Let the record reflect that Ann Coulter spoke eleven consecutive completely true words today, which is probably a new record: “The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.”).

But you should force yourself to read the whole thing.  Because we all have an understandable tendency to look away from this national catastrophe.  Electing Trump president was pretty much the same thing as electing Dennis Rodman president, i.e., a washed-up celebrity from the 1980s with obvious mental health issues and a bizarre affection for the North Korean regime.  Really the only significant difference now is the tattoos.  (To be fair Rodman was actually good at something once upon a time, so comparing him to Trump is kind of unfair in that regard).  We are in a completely insane situation, and we need to look at it in the face every day, rather than denying how crazy it actually all is.

So anyway:

When you look and when you listen to politicians, in particular, certain Democrats, they say it all comes through the port of entry. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s just a lie. It’s all a lie. They say walls don’t work. Walls work 100 percent. Whether it’s El Paso—I really was smiling because the other night I was in El Paso, we had a tremendous crowd, tremendous crowd, and I asked the people, many of whom were from El Paso, but they came from all over Texas, and I asked, them, I said, “Let me ask you as a crowd, when the wall went up, was it better?” You were there, some of you. It was not only better, it was like 100 percent better. You know what they did. But that’s only one example. There were so many examples. In El Paso, they have close to 2,000 murders right on the other side of the wall, and they have 23 murders. That’s a lot of murders, but it’s not close to 2,000 murders right on the other side of the wall in Mexico.

Annual homicides in El Paso, 2014-2018

2014: 21

2015: 17

2016: 16

2017: 20

2018: 23

Last year, 70,000 Americans were killed at least—I think the number is ridiculously low—by drugs including meth and heroin and cocaine, fentanyl. Now one of the things that I did with President Xi in China when I met him in Argentina at a summit before I started talking about the trade—it was a trade meeting, it went very well. But before I talked about trade I talked about something more important. I said, “Listen, we have tremendous amounts of fentanyl coming into our country, kills tens of thousands of people, I think far more than anybody registers. And I’d love you to declare it a lethal drug and put it on your criminal list.” And their criminal list is much tougher than our criminal list. Their criminal list, a drug dealer gets a thing called the death penalty. Our criminal list a drug dealer gets a thing called—how about a fine.

And when I asked President Xi, I said, “You have a drug problem?” [He said,] “No, no, no.” I said, “You have 1.4 billion people, what do you mean you have no drug problem?” [He said,] “No, we don’t have a drug problem.” I said, “Why?” [He said,] “Death penalty. We give death penalty to people that sell drugs.” End of problem. What do we do? We set up blue-ribbon committees, lovely men and women. They sit around the table. They have lunch, they eat, they dine, and they waste a lot of time. So if we want to get smart, we can get smart. You can end the drug problem. You can end it a lot faster than you think.

In response to a question:

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster,” he said. “And I don’t have to do it for the election. I’ve already done a lot of wall for the election. 2020. And the only reason we’re up here talking about this is because of the election—because they want to try to win an election, which it looks like they’re not going to be able to do.”

This is of course the most direct possible contradiction of the legally-crucial claim that he’s doing an end-run around Congress because there’s a national emergency.

 

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"On Friday the US president tried speaking for just under one hour without a phone call or teleprompter. It did not go well."

Зачем тратить "меньше часа" на просмотр этого помёта, когда есть возможность прочитать ровно два этих предложения?

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Posted by Alexia Fernández Campbell

Fast-food workers organized dozens of strikes, rallies, and protests to make this happen.

Years of strikes and rallies to raise the minimum wage across the US are starting to pay off.

Earlier this month, New Jersey became the fourth state in the country to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Illinois is poised to become the fifth one.

On Thursday, Illinois state lawmakers passed a law that will gradually raise the wage floor from $8.25 to $15 an hour by 2024 —the first state in the Midwest to do so. Illinois’s new governor, J.B. Pritzker, had campaigned on a $15 minimum wage and is expected to sign the bill in the coming days. Earlier this month, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a similar bill.

In all, nearly 2 million low-wage workers in both states will get a raise in 2019, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

The news signals growing momentum for the years-long effort to raise the minimum pay to $15 an hour for workers all across the country. California was the first state to hike hourly wages to $15 in 2016, followed by Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, DC. And Democrats in Congress are now considering a bill for the first time that would establish a $15 federal minimum wage.

Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s employee in Chicago and a leader of the Fight for $15 movement, said it took years of protests, rallies, and strikes to make this change happen. “We will have money to buy shoes for our kids and keep the lights on. We’ll be able to put breakfast on the table and maybe go out to the movies every now and then,” she said in a statement Thursday, in reaction to the news.

Fast-food workers have been at the forefront of this effort to increase wages. Within five years, they’ve transformed an improbable proposal into a popular policy — one that would address, in part, the slow wage growth that American workers are experiencing.

Business groups, meanwhile, are not happy about the fight for $15. They’ve long pushed back against any effort to raise the minimum wage, claiming it would destroy small business and trigger massive job losses. The president of Illinois’s Chamber of Commerce said the new law will make Illinois a “second-tier” state, and will encourage businesses to move out of the state.

The chamber had lobbied hard to quash previous attempts to raise the minimum wage. The state’s last governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, angered workers in Illinois when he vetoed a similar bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2017, saying that “that economic evidence suggests such a big wage hike would hurt workers more than help.”

But the idea that raising the minimum wage is actually bad for workers is getting harder to support, as a growing body of research discrediting that claim emerges.

What research says about the impact of raising the minimum wage

There are few topics US economists have researched more than the impact of raising a minimum wage. Their findings have varied over the past 30 years, but there are two things most mainstream economists now agree on.

First, they agree that raising the minimum wage increases the average income of low-wage workers, lifting many out of poverty (depending on how big the raise is). Second, raising the minimum wage likely causes some job losses.

The remaining disagreement revolves around how extreme the job cuts would be.

Some research suggests hundreds of thousands of American workers could lose their jobs with a modest increase to the minimum wage. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist at the conservative American Action Forum, points to a 2014 study from the Congressional Budget Office that estimates that a $10.10 federal wage floor could lead to about 500,000 lost jobs because higher labor costs would lead some employers to scale back their staff.

Other research concludes that increasing the minimum wage has an insignificant impact on employment, or none at all.

The best way to evaluate all the different conclusions is to analyze all the research findings together — what scientists call a “meta-analysis.” And the most recent ones suggest that the most likely impact on employment is minimal.

For example, a 2016 study by economists at Michigan State University crunched data from 60 research studies on the minimum wage in the United States since 2001. They concluded that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage would likely reduce overall employment from 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent.

Another meta-analysis comes in a new research paper by economists at the University of Massachusetts, University College London, and the Economic Policy Institute. They studied data from 138 cities and states that raised the minimum pay between 1979 and 2016. The conclusion is that low-wage workers received a 7 percent pay bump after a minimum wage law went into effect, but there was little or no change in employment.

In a 2018 working paper, soon to be published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, economist Arindrajit Dube shows that raising the minimum wage significantly reduces the number of families living in poverty. For example, he concludes that a $12 minimum wage in 2017 would have lifted 6.2 million people out of poverty.

But businesses, for the most part, really dislike the idea of raising the minimum wage. The US Chamber of Commerce, the US Business Council, and the Restaurant Association are just a few of the big industry groups that have lobbied aggressively against past attempts to do so.

Of course it would cost businesses more to pay workers more, and would likely lead to some job losses. But business groups have hyped up the economic impact of raising wages to the extreme, suggesting the economy would collapse and mass layoffs would ensue. What the research shows, however, is that this just isn’t true.

The fight for $15 has reached Congress

Around the same time that New Jersey signed its wage hike into law on February 4, Democrats in Congress began their push for a $15 minimum wage in every state.

A few days later, the House Committee on Education and Labor held its first hearing on the Raise the Wage Act, which would eventually double the federal minimum wage by 2024. The current minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009. The law would also tie future changes to the minimum wage based on changes to median workers’ pay. So if middle-class wages go up — or down — so does the minimum wage.

The bill, which has more than 190 co-sponsors (all Democrats), would also phase out the lower minimum wage for tipped workers — such as restaurant servers and valets — which has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1996.

Republicans in the House want nothing to do with the bill, and are sticking with the claim that it will actually hurt workers and trigger layoffs.

But their stance does not reflect what voters want — since most Americans want Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. Poll after poll shows widespread support for raising the federal minimum wage, even among Republican voters. And a majority of voters want it increased to $15 an hour.

That may explain why Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, recently toned down his usual criticism of efforts to raise the minimum wage, saying the chamber is “going to listen.”

While Congress debates the merits of a $15 wage floor, state lawmakers are pushing forward with their own plans. In fact, efforts are ramping up in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and Hawaii too.

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Posted by Li Zhou

President Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House February 15, 2019, in Washington, DC. 

House Democrats could file a resolution — and a lawsuit.

President Donald Trump has officially declared a national emergency in order to secure funding for his border wall. But he’s also ready to be challenged in court, as he said at the announcement Friday morning.

“We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued,” Trump said on Friday, outlining the steps he expected the lawsuit to take all the way to the Supreme Court.

Trump is issuing the declaration under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which lets presidents issue an emergency declaration but under certain constraints — namely, Trump can only use specific powers Congress has already codified by law, and he has to say which powers he’s using. The act doesn’t define what counts as an emergency.

As Vox’s Sean Illing, who spoke with 11 experts about the legality of Trump’s declaration, laid out, there’s enough ambiguity in the law to let Trump declare an emergency. But the maneuver may not stand up to legal scrutiny once challenged in court. He is effectively trying to circumvent Congress — which is supposed to have the “power of the purse” and has decided against funding his border wall — and it’s not clear whether Trump can actually use the armed forces for the project. And his claim that there’s an emergency at the border that necessitates a border wall is dubious.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday that they were prepared to take multiple routes to try to block Trump’s efforts. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available,” they said in a statement.

There are several different paths to challenging the declaration. Here are some of the most likely.

1) A joint resolution of termination contesting the status of the emergency

Congressional Democrats have already said they plan to use any means they have to oppose Trump’s national emergency, including a legislative check a resolution contesting the status of the national emergency — that’s part of the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

Both chambers of Congress would need to approve the resolution by a simple majority (that’s 51 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House).

Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced Friday that they are ready to introduce a bill in the House that would block the emergency declaration. Castro has previously said he was prepared to introduce this resolution in the House, where Democrats have a comfortable majority. It remains to be seen whether the Senate has the numbers to approve it: The 47-member Democratic caucus would need four Republicans to join them.

If they can get the votes, the resolution then heads to Trump’s desk — where he’s expected to veto it. (It’s worth noting that Trump has threatened to veto many, many bills, but has yet to actually do so during his presidency.)

Because of his expected veto, stopping the declaration this way would require a veto-proof majority, which consists of a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate.

To reach that threshold in both chambers, Democrats would need the support of a hefty number of Republicans so they can get 67 votes in the Senate and 290 votes in the House. It’s unlikely this many Republicans would directly go up against the president.

2) Congressional Democrats sue the White House

As Pelosi and Schumer both mentioned, taking this fight to the courts is another possible means of blocking the emergency declaration — and there’s a precedent, one set by House Republicans.

House Democrats could sue the White House on the grounds that it is effectively bypassing Congress’s constitutional power of the purse, the same logic Republicans used in a 2014 lawsuit against the Obama administration.

At the time, Republicans argued that officials attempted to use federal funds that had not been approved by Congress to pay insurers under the Affordable Care Act. In that case, a federal judge ruled that Republicans had the grounds to sue the White House because its efforts infringed on Congress’s authority over appropriations.

House Democrats could also contest the status of the national emergency by arguing that it’s not actually an emergency at all, though experts have said that the law has typically granted the president a wide berth to determine what an emergency is.

3) Landowners sue the White House

Long before Trump’s emergency declaration, one likely source of resistance has been clear: people who own land along the US-Mexico border where Trump wants the wall to be built.

As the New York Times pointed out in 2017, dozens of lawsuits involving landowners in Texas were filed after President George W. Bush in 2006 signed the Secure Fence Act mandating fencing and walls be built along parts of the border. And in the case of Trump’s wall, the scenario is likely to be similar.

The federal government can legally invoke “eminent domain,” a power to take private land or property and convert it into public use enshrined within the US Constitution, but if Trump tries to do so for the border well, he could very well face a fight. Landowners could sue, as they did after Bush’s order, to keep the government from taking their land. And those lawsuits could last for a long time: the Washington Post in January reported that 334 eminent domain lawsuits were filed in South Texas under the Bush administration, and 60 to 70 of them are still pending.

4) Liberal activist groups sue the White House

The ACLU, which has filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration, on Friday said it planned to sue the president over his “blatantly illegal declaration of a national emergency.” The group called Trump’s move an “unconstitutional power grab that hurts American communities.” In a statement, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero cited Trump’s Rose Garden remarks, when Trump said he doesn’t “need” to declare an emergency “but I’d rather do it much faster.”

“He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress,” Romero said.

Ahead of the declaration, nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy and think tank the Niskanen Center said they were prepared to file a lawsuit. They are representing El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights. Trump traveled to El Paso for his first 2019 campaign rally, in part to highlight his calls for a border wall, and during the State of the Union falsely claimed border fencing reduced crime there.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego in a statement slammed Trump for his “many negative and false statements about our community in the attempt to justify his border wall.” He continued, “He has never reached out to the leadership of our community to determine if this is actually an emergency. This threatened emergency declaration will further damage El Paso County’s reputation and economy, and we are determined to stop this from happening.”

5) California and other states sue

Soon after Trump’s announcement on Friday, the state of California set in motion plans to file a lawsuit against his emergency declaration.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that Trump was “manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up ‘national emergency’ in order to seize power and subvert the constitution” in a joint statement on Friday. “Our message back to the White House is simple and clear: California will see you in court.”

Becerra had already telegraphed the move in his Spanish-language response to Trump’s State of the Union address.

California isn’t the only state poised to challenge Trump’s declaration. Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford in a statement said the Trump administration “should be prepared for a legal challenge” should Nevada’s federal funds be affected. Other states could resist as well.


The news moves fast. Catch up at the end of the day: Subscribe to Today, Explained, Vox’s daily news podcast, or sign up for our evening email newsletter, Vox Sentences.

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Posted by German Lopez

Police respond to a shooting at the Henry Pratt Company building in Aurora, Illinois.

At least five people were killed and multiple others were injured.

A shooter killed at least five people and injured multiple others, including police officers, at the Henry Pratt Company building in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday afternoon.

Police responded to the shooting, killing the gunman. The shooter is believed to have been an employee at the Henry Pratt Company, a manufacturing warehouse, but officials haven’t yet confirmed a motive.

The story is still developing. Here’s what we know, and don’t, so far.

What we know

  • Around 1:20 pm local time, police officers responded to reports of a shooting at the Henry Pratt Company building in Aurora, Illinois, city Chief of Police Kristen Ziman said at a press conference. They quickly responded to the shooting, with five officers suffering gunshot injuries.
  • Officers engaged with the gunman and killed him.
  • The shooter killed at least five other people, Ziman said. It’s unclear how many other people were injured, and what their current condition is.
  • The injured police officers were stabilized, a city spokesperson told WGN-TV.
A map of the location of the Aurora, Illinois, shooting at the Henry Pratt Company building. Javier Zarracina/Vox
  • The shooter was identified as Gary Martin, believed to be an employee at the Henry Pratt Company.
  • Prior to the shooting in Aurora, Illinois, there had been 38 mass shootings so far in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The organization defines mass shootings as events in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, were shot but not necessarily killed in a similar time and place.
  • The shooting comes one day after the first anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
  • President Donald Trump tweeted in response to the shooting.
  • Both US senators from Illinois tweeted as well.

What we don’t know

  • The shooter’s motive
  • The final casualty count
  • The identities of the victims
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Posted by Sigal Samuel

A protein bound to a receptor is shown in the Molecular Graphics Lab in California.

A Harvard biologist on his journey from melancholy to acceptance.

It was with a strangely deflated feeling in his gut that Harvard biologist Mohammed AlQuraishi made his way to Cancun for a scientific conference in December. Strange because a major advance had just been made in his field, something that might normally make him happy. Deflated because the advance hadn’t been made by him or by any of his fellow academic researchers. It had been made by a machine.

DeepMind, an AI company that Google bought in 2014, had outperformed all the researchers who’d submitted entries to the Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction (CASP) conference, which is basically a fancy science contest for grown-ups.

Every two years, researchers working on one of the biggest puzzles in biochemistry, known as the protein folding problem, try to prove how good their predictive powers are by submitting a prediction about the 3D shapes that certain proteins will take. That might seem like a weird thing to forecast, but it’s actually crucial for how scientists develop new drugs. DeepMind has a pretty clear explanation of how this works.

By harnessing the power of machine learning, DeepMind won the CASP contest by a huge margin. What this advance represents for both biochemistry and machine learning is fascinating and important.

But even more intriguing to me was a blog post AlQuraishi wrote in the aftermath of the conference, which I came across after it was highlighted in a New York Times article.

In his post, AlQuraishi describes the gamut of emotions he experienced at CASP. He discusses his initial melancholy — he felt like he and the other academics had been made obsolete — and how he ultimately overrode that feeling “as my tribal reflexes gave way to a cooler and more rational assessment of the value of scientific progress.” His meditation struck me as important, because if we’re going to solve high-impact problems, we need to find a way to be psychologically open to the notion that our own minds will not always be the best tools.

I spoke to AlQuraishi about how researchers can cope with the fact that AI is changing their scientific fields — and may even change our perception of science itself. A transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.

Sigal Samuel

You wrote a very personal blog post where you describe feeling a gamut of different emotions from the moment you headed to the conference to the moment you left. Can you walk me through those emotions?

Mohammed AlQuraishi

So for people who are in the field, the results actually came out two days before the conference began. We could all go online and look. I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting [DeepMind] to do so well. I was also disappointed because I was participating [in the contest] too, and I didn’t do so well. There was that emotion, disappointment, because I had a personal stake in the matter.

And then over the next couple days, it dawned on me that this is a field that people have been working in for decades. The fact that a new group could come in and do so well, so quickly — I felt bad because it demonstrated the structural inefficiency of academia. I felt really bad for the people who’ve been in this even longer than I have. So there was a feeling of solidarity with some of the other academic groups.

It then became more a feeling of, okay, we should look at this from a different perspective: This is great, it’s going to bring attention to the [protein folding] issue.

Sigal Samuel

Do you think there was a psychological drive propelling your colleagues to want to undersell DeepMind’s contribution because it was displacing them?

Mohammed AlQuraishi

I think if it were one of the established academic groups [making the advance], people would’ve said, “It’s no surprise, we always knew this group would do well.” But the fact that it was coming from outside, with this machinery … that probably created some level of resentment, yes.

But the DeepMind team was pretty open in sharing their insights, and from my perspective, the fact that there’s a new group in the field — it’s all for the better. The point is to compete to do better science, not to claim credit.

Sigal Samuel

AI advances can sometimes be overhyped and can yield emotion that isn’t merited by the actual situation — either too much optimism or too much pessimism. Do you think people walked away from the conference with realistic expectations for what AI can contribute to the field in the future?

Mohammed AlQuraishi

The lay coverage was a little too optimistic, too overly enthusiastic. In the scientific community, it’s hard to say. I myself keep vacillating. Crystal-balling is a difficult thing.

I place myself in the camp of being fairly bullish on machine learning. I do think that if you look at the history of science, it’s rare to see sustained improvement over a long period of time. I think what we’ve seen over the last, say, six years in machine learning is a fairly unique thing. It’s a once-in-a-generation type of thing, a genuine advance of the first order, comparable to the big intellectual revolutions.

Sigal Samuel

It strikes me that there are established economies of prestige in academia. How do you think machine learning advances will change the prestige economy that we’re used to?

Mohammed AlQuraishi

[Laughs] That’s an interesting question. [Long pause] One version is to say, “This is going to make it such that being able to make sense of data will be more important, will increase in prestige.” I think that’s reasonable to expect. We’ve had this tendency as a field to be very obsessed with data collection. The papers that end up in the most prestigious venues tend to be the ones that collect very large data sets. There’s far less prestige associated with conceptual papers or papers that provide some new analytical insight.

From my perspective, if there were a shift from the data collection exercise to the analysis exercise, I think that’d be a good thing in a way. In a lot of sciences, we’ve focused too much on data and not enough on understanding.

Sigal Samuel

That’s reminiscent of the conversation I hear about AI among my fellow journalists. Just recently news reports came out about how AI is writing articlesone-third of the articles at Bloomberg are written with the help of AI. People always say, don’t worry, it’ll be a good thing because that’ll free up the journalists to do deeper thinking on more nuanced issues rather than focusing on the “who, what, where, when, why” — so there’s a funny parallel there.

Mohammed AlQuraishi

Yeah, absolutely. And I actually think, looking further ahead, this will change our whole perception of what science is. Going away from human-conceived theories and models of natural phenomena to more data-driven methods and models.

I think it’s a little silly to think we’re always going to be the smartest creatures on the planet. We’re going to be out-thought by machines eventually. In the interim, I suspect that what we’ll see in our modeling of natural phenomena is that it’ll increasingly be built by machines.

What’s interesting is, when we cross this threshold (and in some ways, we already are), we’ll get to a point where the models we built are entirely incomprehensible to us. This will raise questions about, what is the nature of the scientific enterprise? What is it that we mean by “doing science”? Is science about understanding natural phenomena or about building mathematical models that’ll predict what will happen?

Sigal Samuel

That’s so fascinating, that this could actually upend what we understand science to be.

Given that kind of development, can we do a little thought experiment? Let’s say a smart undergraduate student with loads of potential comes to you tomorrow and says, “Hey, professor, I’m thinking of dedicating my career to researching protein structure prediction.” At this point, would you advise her against it? Would you tell her to leave the academy and go work for DeepMind?

Mohammed AlQuraishi Courtesy
Mohammed AlQuraishi.

Mohammed AlQuraishi

I would encourage her to become fluent in machine learning and computing more broadly, because that’s going to be critical over the next few decades. It’s going to be one of the most important skill sets to have, irrespective of what phenomena you want to study. In terms of whether you stay in academia or go to DeepMind or elsewhere, I think that’ll probably be driven by the person’s motivation. If you’re really keen on solving a problem, then an industrial lab is the way to do it. If you’re more curiosity-oriented, if you want to tackle whatever topic draws your fancy at a given point in time, then perhaps academia is still the best place because you’re more independent.

Sigal Samuel

I think there’s also a class dimension at work here, right? Someone who’s highly trained, who has highly specialized knowledge, can potentially retrain or adapt the focus of their work so they’re not competing directly against AI. Do you think it’s easier for you than for, say, a factory worker to override the gut-level fear about being made obsolete?

Mohammed AlQuraishi

Absolutely. Somebody who’s an academic who knows about machine learning today has pretty high job security. Somebody who’s doing certain other kinds of jobs, like truck-driving — I think if your job is less secure, absolutely it’s a completely different consideration.

At one point, a lot of people thought there was a hierarchy among jobs — intellectual jobs would be the last to be replaced and mechanical jobs would be the first. But that’s actually unclear. It may well be that jobs that are mechanical will take a long time to replace because it’s actually hard to make robots that make certain gestures. And things in the higher echelons of intellect can maybe be more quickly replaced.

Sigal Samuel

In these conversations about automation there’s always the worry about people losing their incomes, but there’s also a worry about the felt loss of meaning — the meaning we derive from the work that we do.

Is that something you worry about — scientists feeling they derive less meaning from their work as machine learning makes more inroads in the field? Or is it not an issue to you because machine learning will just make the science advance faster and then we can all derive meaning from that?

Mohammed AlQuraishi

I think both things are true. A lot of scientists judge themselves based on how smart they are, how quickly they can solve a problem. So much social currency is based on that. And we compare ourselves to other people and we feel like imposters. So this could lead to a kind of widespread existential crisis.

In the short term, I think this will be destructive. The profit motives will end up obsoleting a bunch of people. Maybe in the medium term, there’ll be some ways to adapt. We’ll think of ways to change society to define our value and identity in different ways. But I also suspect that in the very long run, there’ll be some form of augmentation or a cyborg scenario where machines and humans are integrated in some way.

As we move into the longer time frame, we’re going to start to have to confront some of these broader questions. It behooves us, and particularly the machine learning community, to start communicating about the potential implications and thinking through ways we could smoothly transition to an era where machines are smarter than humans.

I think it’s about equity and making sure we live in a place where we’re happy to live.


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Posted by Nadra Nittle

<em>Siempre Bruja</em> stars Angely Gaviria as Carmen Eguiluz, a powerful Afro-Colombian witch.

The new fictional series shows that black witches can be human, powerful, and the stars of their own stories.

As her friend lies comatose in a hospital bed, Carmen Eguiluz orders the young woman to wake up, her voice louder with each command. Eyes closed and face clenched, Carmen rises toward the ceiling, hovering in the air until her incantation rouses her friend. The other visitors in the room look on in stunned silence: They’ve never witnessed such a scene before. And while viewers of Netflix’s new series Siempre Bruja (Always a Witch) have surely seen lots of cinematic magic, watching a black woman perform it may be a novel experience for them too.

Witchcraft is a well that Hollywood keeps returning to, whether it’s for movies or TV shows. Last month, news broke that Anne Hathaway would star in a remake of 1990’s The Witches. The fall television season saw the debuts of The CW’s Charmed reboot and Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. On FX’s American Horror Story, Sarah Paulson and her coven returned to battle the Antichrist in Apocalypse. Except for Charmed, however, none of these vehicles star women of color as leads.

With Dago García (Pedro el escamoso, El Paseo) as executive producer, Siempre Bruja stands out for centering, and humanizing, a black witch. Inspired by Isidora Chacón’s 2015 novel Yo, Bruja, the series kicks off in 17th-century Cartagena, Colombia, with an enslaved Carmen (Angely Gaviria) time-traveling to the city in the present to avoid being burned at the stake for practicing magic. The hoverboards, mobile phones, and cars of the modern world baffle her, but she doesn’t plan to stick around for long.

The 19-year-old witch is in 2019 Cartagena to fulfill a promise to Aldemar (Luis Fernando Hoyos), the wizard who gave her the time-bending spell. In exchange for him helping her escape to the future, she’s agreed to deliver an enchanted stone to a witch working as a college professor. Although Carmen gets the job done, the professor disappears before performing the ritual that will send her back to 1646. Despite the threat to her own life in the past, Carmen desperately wants to return to save her boyfriend Cristóbal (Lenard Vanderaa), who was shot by his father for trying to stop her would-be execution. Cristóbal’s parents own Carmen, and his mother accused the enslaved woman of bewitching him.

This is a complicated start to a show that’s equal parts fantasy and telenovela. But Siempre Bruja is unique in that the black witch doesn’t sow discord or merely exist on the margins; she’s the main attraction — the most powerful witch in a long line of them. Actress Angely Gaviria deftly inhabits the role of Carmen, and she’s surrounded by a capable cast of supporting characters who, for the most part, aren’t threatened by her practice of brujeria. Filmed in lush locations around Colombia, Siempre Bruja reframes Hollywood’s often limited takes on the occult in which the heroines are white, magic is alienating, and witchcraft clashes with other faith traditions.

Siempre Bruja’s Carmen departs from Hollywood’s depictions of black witches

Carmen Eguiluz is one of the most complicated black witches to grace the screen. She’s a young woman, still growing accustomed to her powers, but she’s also formidable. She has a strong sense of integrity but sometimes interferes in other people’s lives in ways that worsen their problems. In short, Carmen may be a powerful witch, but she’s still a human being. Many of the black witches in Hollywood who’ve preceded her, however, haven’t been quite so three-dimensional. They’re either on the sidelines, helping white witches fulfill their destinies, or evil voodoo queens straight from central casting.

Dinah Stevens (Adina Porter), a voodoo priestess on American Horror Story: Apocalypse is an example of this trope. Wicked and self-serving, she’s willing to do the Antichrist’s bidding, despite his mission to destroy the world. Although Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle) of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is given far more complexity than Dinah, she spends several episodes being a mean girl for the hell of it. And neither Prudence nor Dinah is as powerful as the white woman she challenges.

Discussing the (mis)representation of black witches in popular culture in 2017, Vulture critic Angelica Jade Bastién wrote, “The lack of powerful black witches in film and TV is a symptom of a larger problem that has existed in America since its very beginning: the fear of black women’s autonomy and prowess.”

Carmen Eguiluz (Angely Gaviria) levitating in Netlfix’s Siempre Bruja. Netflix
Carmen Eguiluz (Angely Gaviria) levitates as she sleeps in Netlfix’s Siempre Bruja.

Siempre Bruja shifts this pattern by making Carmen Eguiluz extraordinary but imperfect. It’s thrilling to see her exert her power by literally scaring the piss out of her friend’s toxic ex or levitating in a scene that recalls 1996’s The Craft. Rochelle, the black witch in that classic, needs her friends to levitate, but Carmen does so on her own — simply by sleeping. In addition to The Craft, you’ll see hints of 1992’s Like Water for Chocolate during a lunch scene and 2006’s The Lake House as letters are exchanged in Siempre Bruja.

Witchcraft looks different through a nonwhite, non-American lens

Produced by Colombia’s Caracol TV and created by Ana María Parra (Cuando Vivas Conmigo, La Nocturna), Siempre Bruja sets itself apart from white American productions about witchcraft in that most characters embrace Carmen’s magical abilities. They aren’t put off because she’s a witch. The opposite happens in shows like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, about a teenage witch of the same name. When Sabrina’s friends find out she practices magic, they’re unsettled by her ties to the occult and unsure how to behave around her. Her boyfriend, Harvey, struggles with having a witch girlfriend, and magic ultimately separates the couple.

Compare Harvey’s discomfort with witchcraft to how Galvin, an Afro-Latino scientist on the Charmed reboot, reacts when he discovers his girlfriend Macy is a witch. Because his culture has already exposed him to brujeria — his family members have told him about the occult — Galvin takes the news about Macy in stride. The Siempre Bruja characters have similar reactions upon discovering Carmen’s powers.

“Carmen, are we going to do a ritual?” a friend inquires as she prepares them to do just that. When Carmen asks her friends if they’re afraid to proceed with the ceremony, they don’t hesitate to move forward with it, as they’ve been raised in a culture where belief in the inexplicable isn’t foreign to them.

Angely Gaviria stars in Netflix’s Siempre Bruja. Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix
Angely Gaviria stars as Carmen Eguiluz on Netflix’s Siempre Bruja.

Though not all of the characters believe in God — one is an avowed atheist — they live in a Latin American country heavily influenced by Roman Catholic beliefs, including the belief in miracles. Accordingly, each character, even the nonbelievers, kneels before the Virgin of Candelaria during a festival in her honor and begs her for help. Mingled with this Catholicism are the traditions of the enslaved Africans brought to the Americas. The Virgin of Candelaria has dark skin, and her festival takes place in a black neighborhood where dancers perform traditional West African choreography in tribute to her. This is the neighborhood where Carmen was born and where her ancestors were persecuted for their blackness and magical abilities alike.

But Christianity and magic aren’t opposing forces for Carmen. She carries a picture of the Virgin with her and prays before her, just as her friends do. This sort of syncretism, familiar to many Christians of color, appears far too little in standard Hollywood fare about witchcraft. Magic inevitably looks different when shown through a lens that’s not white and American.

Angely Gaviria and the ensemble cast are the strengths of this show

Angely Gaviria is, by far, the main reason to watch Siempre Bruja. Last seen in the boxing biopic Pambelé, about Colombian fighter Antonio Cervantes, Gaviria shines onscreen. Her Carmen is vulnerable, optimistic, headstrong, and flawed. As she takes in her new 21st-century surroundings, the wonderment, and sometimes fear, in her eyes is palpable. But when a spell gone wrong brings out Carmen’s passive-aggressive nature, Gaviria capably plays that side of the character, too.

As Kathia Woods of Remezcla put it: “One of the reasons we are rooting for Carmen is because of Angely’s performance.”

Gaviria is joined by an ensemble cast with whom she has genuine chemistry. The wild-eyed Jhony Ki (Dylan Fuentes) emerges as the most charismatic character of the bunch. Fuentes offers comic relief in this role as Carmen’s friend, but he also shows a range of emotions — from anguish to regret to anxiety. As the wizard Aldemar, Luis Fernando Hoyos is a humorous cross between camp and venom. In contrast, Carmen’s professor Esteban (Sebastián Eslava) is more muted but, through furtive glances and quiet concern, reveals he knows more than he’s saying about the young witch.

The cast of Netflix’s Siempre Bruja. Netflix
The cast of Netflix’s second original Colombian series, Siempre Bruja.

The cast’s performance is enhanced by gorgeous setting and a pulsating musical soundtrack (featuring artists like Shari Short and Profetas) that make the highly plot-driven Siempre Bruja all the more lively. Beautifully shot in Bogotá, Cartagena, and Honda, Colombia, it’s hard not to feel transported to the country as Carmen dives into blue water, takes in the Caribbean greenery, and walks by Spanish colonial architecture. This is a series that engages the senses, whether Carmen is kneading dough, caressing her scorched feet, or mixing and matching the colorful prints in her 2019 wardrobe.

Siempre Bruja’s flaw is an ill-advised romance that undercuts Carmen’s power

While Siempre Bruja offers a take on witchcraft, rarely, if ever, seen stateside, Carmen’s willingness to revisit a time when she would be enslaved has outraged some viewers and critics. (But the show has its supporters too.) They argue that a romance between an enslaved woman and a slaveholder’s son romanticizes a system largely rooted in the sexual exploitation of black women. As property of the Aranoa family, Carmen could not have consented to a romance with any member of it. And the idea that she would be fixated on returning to the 1600s rather than relishing her freedom in the 21st century may give the impression that slavery wasn’t every bit an unbearable institution.

Likely sensing that Carmen’s relationship would upset some of their audience, Siempra Bruja’s showrunners take pains to make Cristóbal a hero. He’s willing to risk his life for Carmen and vows to free everyone his father holds in bondage. Cristóbal is not one of those white people, the series insists, but righteous, brave, and socially progressive, despite growing up in a family of slaveholding aristocrats. He’s framed in a way that skates perilously close to white savior.

Siempre Bruja likely could have avoided pushback by removing the slavery context from this romance altogether. Carmen and Cristóbal’s relationship also overlooks that enslaved people needed no catalyst other than slavery to fight for their lives — and many turned to folk magic to do so. West African spiritual traditions, labeled witchcraft by European colonizers, played pivotal roles in Denmark Vesey’s foiled 1822 slave rebellion in South Carolina, in the Haitian Revolution, and in Cartagena itself. There, in 1620, five enslaved Africans, four women and a man, were charged with practicing “diabolical witchcraft.” Siempre Bruja alludes to this history when Carmen visits a black neighborhood during the Festival of Candela and has visions of her persecuted ancestors, but the show doesn’t go much deeper than that.

Angely Gaviria and Lenard Vanderaa star in Netflix’s Siempre Bruja. Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix
A slavery-era romance on Netflix’s Siempre Bruja has upset some fans.

Siempre Bruja also sidesteps the subject of race in the present completely. Carmen is mostly surrounded by white and mestizo Colombians in the 21st century. She and Daniel (Dubán Andrés Prado), the one black person in her contemporary circle, do not discuss their shared racial heritage, and an indigenous man, Cancahuimacu, serves as a spiritual guide and nothing more. While Afro-Colombians have taken to the streets in recent years to fight racism and demand equal rights in their country, Carmen’s dark skin is never the source of tension in her largely white 2019 environment. If the show gets a second season, it will hopefully improve its handling of race.

But even though Siempre Bruja — like Carmen herself — is an imperfect show, it remains a game changer. It has gifted us with perhaps the most sensational black witch to appear onscreen. As TV shows and films frequently marginalize black witches or exclude them entirely, Siempre Bruja boldly shines the spotlight on black girl magic. Hollywood has yet to produce a black witch as compelling, or commanding, as Carmen Eguiluz.

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Posted by P.R. Lockhart

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam seen during the funeral of Virginia State Trooper Lucas B. Dowell in Chilhowie, Virginia, on February 9, 2019.

The embattled governor’s fight for redemption is just beginning.

It’s been two weeks since the news of a racist photo on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page — and Northam’s subsequent admission to wearing blackface in the 1980s — threw the state into disarray. While Northam is looking to atone for his actions, black organizers and activists say that he has a lot to do before he can be forgiven.

Northam, a Democrat, first came under fire in early February after a conservative news outlet reported that a photo of two men, one in blackface, the other wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit, was prominently featured on Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page. The governor initially apologized and said that he was one of the people in the photo, only to reverse course and deny any involvement a day later. But he did admit that he wore blackface in 1984, when he put shoe polish on his face to portray Michael Jackson in a dance contest.

Northam’s comments and subsequent press conference sparked calls for his resignation from former political allies and civil rights groups, but the Democrats in line to replace him have also been engulfed in scandal.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is only the second black official elected statewide in Virginia’s history and who initially seemed poised to ascend to the governorship, is now facing calls to resign after two women publicly accused him of sexual assault and rape. The man who follows Fairfax in the line of succession, Attorney General Mark Herring, admitted that he also wore blackface when he dressed up as rap icon Kurtis Blow for a University of Virginia party in 1980.

 Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax presides over Senate proceedings in Richmond, Virginia, on February 8, 2019.

So far, no one has resigned, even as calls for Northam and Fairfax to step down persist. Herring is also reportedly reconsidering his political future, and some groups have called for him to leave office, but these demands have not been as frequent.

Northam declared last week that he will stay in office, promising to help Virginia “heal” and use the blackface scandal as an opportunity to be more active in addressing racial inequality. That hasn’t stopped protests, though, or ended calls for his immediate resignation.

The Virginia story is simultaneously a local and national issue, with Northam’s refusal to step down sparking questions about his future and his potential impact on the Democratic Party, which counts black voters as part of its core demographic. These same questions are being asked in Virginia, where young black organizers and activists who supported Northam’s gubernatorial campaign are grappling with a deep disappointment in the governor’s admission that he used blackface, and frustration with his refusal to resign.

They argue that while the blackface scandal has centered on Northam, it points to a deeper problem embedded in the roots of Virginia, a state that once served as the seat of the Confederacy. They note that Northam’s gubernatorial campaign benefitted from black voters’ desire to fight against this history and its modern versions.

As Northam attempts to move on from the scandal, activists and organizers say that the question at the front of their minds is if he can effectively govern now that he has been directly connected to the racist history he was elected to help overturn. As of now, they say, Northam hasn’t done enough to answer that question.

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images
A view of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

Black organizers supported Northam in an effort to start a new chapter in Virginia. His scandal is a reminder of how difficult that will be.

The Virginia story has moved quickly, with news of Northam’s yearbook photo rapidly spiraling into a cascading series of controversies that have attracted national attention. In recent interviews with Vox, Virginia organizers and civil rights leaders say that in a state grappling with its history of white supremacy, a photo like the one on Northam’s yearbook page isn’t really a shock.

“Racism has historically been a part of the culture of Virginia,” says Jasmine Leeward, a staff member with New Virginia Majority, a group focused on building power in marginalized communities. “This year we’re acknowledging 400 years of the first enslaved people who arrived in Virginia. We live in the capital of the former Confederacy. There are certain things that disappoint you, but the history of Virginia has prepared us for this moment.”

Still, Leeward says, lowered expectations don’t lessen the sting of what has happened. In 2017, New Virginia Majority was one of several groups who endorsed Northam, Fairfax, and Herring, working with other groups to launch an outreach effort encouraging black voters to use their vote to stand up to racism, and continue a recent surge in black voting in the state.

Strong turnout among black Virginians, coupled with the fact that 87 percent of black voters in Virginia backed the Democrat, pushed Northam to a decisive victory over Republican Ed Gillespie. The win drove increased attention to arguments that if Democrats want to win elections, they need to pay more attention to black voters.

For Leeward, Northam’s blackface scandal cast a shadow over that victory.

 Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images
Protestors rally against Governor Ralph Northam outside of the governor’s mansion in downtown Richmond, Virginia on February 4, 2019.

That sentiment is shared by others. ”When you know the background and history of Virginia, certain things don’t shock you anymore,” says Rev. Joshua Cole, a current candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates and the president of the Stafford NAACP. Last week, Cole was part of a protest outside the governor’s mansion, and his NAACP chapter has joined the Virginia NAACP and the national NAACP in demanding that Northam resign.

Cole, who also served as a former staff assistant for the Virginia Senate, explains that while the yearbook photo was his initial concern, what bothered him more was the February 2 press conference where the governor walked back his first apology, telling reporters that he was not actually in the yearbook photo.

“The backtracking and the press conference made it look like a selfish motive to protect his legacy, which really hurt,” Cole says. “Us putting you in office was for the greater good of Virginia.”

For many black activists, organizers, and politicians, discussing Northam over the past two weeks has been an exercise in carefully threading a series of needles. Statements calling for Northam’s resignation have largely avoided any commentary on Northam himself, and black leaders have explained that the issue has little to do with him as a person, and instead hinges on the fact that he has thrown the governorship into controversy.

Many acknowledge that this is an opportunity for Northam to better understand why blackface is offensive and why his use of it has angered so many. But they also argue that while he is capable of redeeming himself and becoming a stronger voice on matters of racial injustice, Northam isn’t the leader Virginia needs right now.

It’s a nuanced message, but also one that has been somewhat muted by other developments. Last week when Northam confirmed that he would not resign, he promised to refocus his agenda on addressing racial inequality. The governor says that he is reading books like Alex Haley’s Roots and articles like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Case for Reparations, in an effort to better understand history and why his actions were wrong.

 Alex Edelman/Getty Images
During a press conference, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, flanked by his wife Pam, denied allegations that he was pictured in a yearbook photo wearing blackface.

In a weekend interview with CBS’s Gayle King, Northam said he would work to regain Virginia’s trust. “Virginia ... needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass,” Northam said. “And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”

For some black activists and organizers, Northam’s insistence that he can still lead Virginia has been grating. But Northam has found support among other black voters in the state. A recent poll by the Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University found that Virginians were evenly split over whether Northam should leave office. The poll also found that black Virginians support Northam more than their white counterparts, with 58 percent of black adults wanting him to stay in office, compared to 46 percent of whites.

Since polls have found that a majority of black Americans do not approve of blackface, that result likely speaks to black Virginians, like black voters in general, being exceptionally pragmatic. As many stories on the Virginia scandals have noted, a scenario where Northam, Fairfax, and Herring all step down at once could hand the governorship to Republican Speaker Kirk Cox. It’s possible that black respondents looked at this possibility and determined that Northam’s prior use of blackface, while offensive, didn’t warrant his resignation.

Still, the findings have complicated calls for Northam’s resignation, particularly among some black legislators.

“We are being asked to speak not just for every black person in this state, but really every black person in this country, and this is a heavy burden. Black people are not monolithic,” one state official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post.

Others are continuing to demand that Northam step down. On Wednesday, protesters gathered outside of the governor’s mansion for a rally, demanding that Northam be held accountable for his actions and leave his position. “He’s continuing to talk his way out of a mistake that he acted his way into. We need action,” Francesca Leigh Davis, a protester and co-leader of RVA Dirt, a group focused on community engagement, policy, and politics in Richmond, told reporters.

Protestors carry a fake coffin, to symbolize what they call the death of the Democratic Party, toward the Virginia State Capitol, on February 7, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Protestors carry a fake coffin, to symbolize what they call the death of the Democratic Party, toward the Virginia State Capitol, on February 7, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia.

Northam says what he did was wrong. But black organizers and elected officials want more than an apology.

Much of recent coverage of the Virginia scandals has focused on the question of whether Northam, Fairfax, and Herring will resign. But activists and organizers say the focus on the futures of the three politicians obscures a larger story about the black voters who propelled them into office.

To understand that, it’s helpful to go back to 2017, when then-Lt. Gov. Northam faced off against Ed Gillespie, an establishment Republican who embraced Trumpism as he campaigned during the general election. Gillespie defended Confederate monuments, ran ads linking Northam’s 2017 vote on sanctuary cities to MS-13, and criticized NFL players for kneeling to protest racial injustice.

 Alex Wong/Getty Images
Former President Barak Obama campaigns for then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam on October 19, 2017, in Richmond, Virginia.

At the time, black voters explained that they were dealing with high levels of racial anxiety after both the 2016 election and the actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. As a result, black Virginians saw their vote as a chance to push Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, toward a future in which the state not only acknowledged its past, but also addressed the needs of marginalized communities in the present.

But the recent scandals have been a sobering reminder of how much farther the state needs to go. As the Atlantic’s Vann Newkirk notes, for many Virginians, the Northam controversy has “reveal[ed] him to be cut from the same cloth as the other elites of the Old Dominion, where the Lost Cause doesn’t appear to be all that lost, and where reinforcing the old hegemony has often been a bipartisan project.”

In interviews with Vox and other outlets, black organizers and activists have argued that the situation has been nothing short of disappointing and frustrating.

With Northam staying in office in hopes of riding out the scandal, the focus now shifts to how he will address the issue moving forward. On Tuesday, the governor’s office released a statement touting Northam’s record on restoring civil rights to people with felony convictions, a group that is disproportionately black. The Washington Post reported last week that the governor’s office is planning a statewide “reconciliation tour”, and Northam will attend a February 21 discussion on race at the historically black Virginia Union University.

But while Northam has tried to focus on what his office has done, he has also stumbled further, drawing complaints after he referred to the first Africans brought to Virginia as “indentured servants” during this week’s CBS interview. Black legislators are also irritated about Northam’s initial lack of public opposition to a recently passed tax bill they say does not do enough to support poor and low-income Virginians. The governor has since called for increased funding for some programs supporting marginalized groups.

While Northam’s early efforts to atone are necessary, some black leaders in Virginia argue that the fact that he is sorry does not mean that he is forgiven. Rather, they say, his actions and policy agenda will show how truly committed he is to righting his wrongs. And activists are being very specific with the steps they want to see Northam make: The New York Times notes, for example, that the ACLU of Virginia has called for Northam to support a constitutional amendment granting people with felony convictions the right to vote.

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The Richmond Free Press on newsstands near the Virginia State Capitol on February 9, 2019.

In a letter sent to Northam this week, an activist group called the Virginia Black Politicos outlined their own set of policy proposals, including the removal of Confederate monuments, the creation of funds supporting black entrepreneurship and Virginia’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and a new office focused on issues affecting people of color.

“It is not fair for either the Governor or Attorney General to be able to tell us how they are sorry, [or] set their own stage for what they will do,” the group, which the Times describes as a “coalition of black elected officials and civic leaders”, wrote. “Nor is it wise to pretend as if this will simply blow over.” The group says that it still prefers that Northam resign, but wants a serious commitment from him if he does remain in office.

“If he doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of [history], then he needs to make sure the resources are spread in abundance for the people who got him elected and who have been carrying [the Democratic] party,” Charlottesville City Councillor Wes Bellamy, a member of the coalition, told Buzzfeed.

Leeward, of the New Virginia Majority, agrees with this sentiment. But she also argues that the controversy surrounding Northam and other Democratic politicians is a potent reminder that it will ultimately be up to marginalized communities to secure the changes they want to see in Virginia. “It’s never been about an individual politician, or an individual scandal,” Leeward says. “It’s been about our community and what’s best for them.”

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Posted by Scott Lemieux

Hmmmmmm….

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether the Trump administration may add a question about citizenship to the next census questionnaire.

Critics say that adding the question would undermine the accuracy of the census, because both legal and unauthorized immigrants might refuse to fill out the form. By one government estimate, about 6.5 million people might decide not to participate.

That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are drawn in 2021 and affect the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending.

The Supreme Court stepped in before any appeals court had ruled on the matter, and it put the case on an unusually fast track, scheduling arguments for April so that it can issue a decision before census forms are printed in June.

Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, has said that he ordered the question to be added in response to a December 2017 request from the Justice Department, which said that data about citizenship would help it enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Last month, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan issued a detailed decision after an eight-day trial. He concluded that Mr. Ross had dissembled, saying that “the evidence is clear that Secretary Ross’s rationale was pretextual.”

“While the court is unable to determine — based on the existing record, at least — what Secretary Ross’s real reasons for adding the citizenship question were, it does find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that promoting enforcement of the” Voting Rights Act, or V.R.A. “was not his real reason for the decision,” Judge Furman wrote. “Instead, the court finds that the V.R.A. was a post hoc rationale for a decision that the secretary had already made for other reasons.”

It’s not guaranteed that the Court will side with Trump here. But between the fact that the Court could have quietly let this die until it was too late to add the question by simply refusing to grant an expedited appeal to the very strong district court opinion, and the fact Roberts is a hardcore, true believing partisan opponent of voting rights…this certainly isn’t a good development.

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халк ломать

Feb. 15th, 2019 02:41 pm
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[personal profile] ecreet
В рамках курса линейная-алгебра-для-инженеров у студентов две лекции теории в неделю (это я) и одна лаба, где они маленькими группами выполняют задание в Matlab. Методичка висит на сайте (посмотрите в хелпе синтаксис функции такой-то, создающей случайную матрицу заданного размера... при ее помощи заведите переменную Матрица_А размером 100x100... заведите переменную Сумма_средних_значений_по_строкам... посмотрите в хелпе синтаксис функции такой-то, вычисляющей среднее значение массива, и сложите в переменную Сумма_средних_значений_по_строкам средние значения строк матрицы Матрица_А...). На лабе все хором под руководством преподавателя-аспиранта выполняют эти инструкции, если что не так, преподаватель может сразу подойти посмотреть и ткнуть, где исправить. Вечером того же дня код нужно сдать на сайте.

Что заставляет студента писать _мне_ с вопросом, почему у него не работает код, за час до лабы? Риторический вопрос, лабу он хочет прогулять. Что заставляет студента прикладывать к письму не файл со своим кодом, а скриншот, на котором видно два раза по полстроки? Инженеры, ага. Юзеры.
[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Danush Parvaneh

(Hint: It’s probably you.)

Shoppers love credit card rewards. These tantalizing extras come in offers like cash back, travel miles, and cash bonuses, and banks use them to get you to sign up for credit cards and spend. And they work — in 2018, 92 percent of all credit card spending was made on rewards cards.

Some people, like Brian Kelly, a.k.a “the Points Guy,” have even made a career out of maximizing these rewards. Ultimately, though, someone is paying for them. And right now, a hidden battle is going on about their future.

Watch the video above to find out more about the way banks fund credit card rewards — and why your travel perks and cash back offers are at risk of being scaled back.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

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