I WOKE up today to find my Dutch morning paper, the Volkskrant, dominated by a full-page spread on the results of the independent autopsy on Michael Brown, the shooting victim whose death has plunged the town of Ferguson, Missouri, into protests and riots. The situation in Ferguson also headlined today’s editions of Spain’s El Pais, Portugal’s Publico, Denmark’s Politiken, France’s Liberation, and Germany’s Der Tagespiegel, Die Tageszeitung and Die Welt. The racially charged protests over police brutality in Ferguson are an important story, but the level of attention they are drawing in Europe is frankly bizarre. Police killings of unarmed black men occur regularly in America, and Ferguson is a small, faraway midwestern town. Yet the protests there are drawing more focused attention in northern European media than the anti-austerity riots in Greece did during the euro crisis. When Paris saw anti-Semitic riots following pro-Gaza demonstrations on July 13th, it did not even make a sidebar item on the front page of the next day’s Die Welt.
Part of the attraction of the Ferguson story for Europeans may be a bit ofSchadenfreude enjoyment of America’s racial woes. Europeans got tremendous political mileage out of America’s racial conflicts in the 1960s, using American racism as a negative pole to rally support for counter-American projects both on the Gaullist right and on the socialist left. In recent years it has been Europe that has struggled with anti-immigrant racism and an integration model that seems to work much worse than America’s. Europeans weary of criticism over rising xenophobia may be relieved to see that America still has its own troubles.
In a similar fashion, countries such as China, Russia, Egypt and Iran are exploiting the Ferguson riots to try to blunt human-rights criticism of their own repressive activities. “Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others,” huffed an editorial published byXinhua on Monday. “We would like to advise our American partners to pay more attention to restoring order in their own country, before imposing their dubious experience on others,”Russia’s foreign ministry declared Friday.
That said, there’s another reason why the events in Ferguson are so interesting to a European public, and for that matter to everyone else. The confrontation in Ferguson, as many observers have noticed, looks uncannily like the ones in Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq. There is clearly some kind of a global blowback going on, in which military techniques of forcible population control developed for use at the periphery of states’ areas of sovereignty are now being applied at the centre. Leonid Bershidsky, a brilliant Russian journalist and editor, laid out the similarities in a fascinating column yesterday in Bloomberg View. “Police officers around the world are becoming convinced they are fighting a war on something or other, whether that’s drugs, terrorism, anarchists or political subversion,” Mr Bershidsky writes. “This mindset contrasts with the public’s unchanged perception of what the police should be doing, which is to keep the streets safe, a conceptual clash that can lead to unexpected results.”
The difference between these two kinds of policing, Mr Bershidsky writes, can be modeled as the division between the London Metropolitan Police Force established in 1829, which conceived itself as fighting crime in concert with the populace, and the repressive colonial police forces the British Empire employed in “colonies of rule” such as Ireland and India, who conceived of themselves as keeping potentially hostile local populations in line. He cites the argument of Emma Bell, a faculty member at France’s Universite de Savoie, that the colonial policing culture is now “coming home”, as local police forces come to see themselves as hostile to the populations they police. And he recalls how militarised police provoked the conflict in Ukraine.
I am not entirely convinced that Mr Bershidsky is right that increasing the level of militarisation of the police response in Ferguson will have the opposite of its intended effect. Ferguson’s own police force may have been heavily militarised, but they were also untrained and incompetent. Better trained and more efficient militarised police have been highly successful at containing and shutting down popular protests in New York, Moscow, Cairo and so on. The depressing reality is that, as repressive as modern police tactics of population control may be, they seem to be very effective, and the boundaries for autonomous civic action are growing ever narrower. Indeed, even as Ferguson was featuring on the cover of today’s Volkskrant, the paper was also reporting on efforts by the mayor of The Hague to ban an anti-ISIS march by Dutch right-wingers in a largely Muslim neighbourhood, after an earlier march led to violent clashes. Europeans are right to be riveted by what’s happening in Ferguson. It is in the same genre as the stories of protest and control we see playing out all over the world.
Violence continues to erupt in Ferguson, Mo., more than a week after the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by policeman Darren Wilson. The 18-year-old’s family demands justice be brought to their son with the arrest of the six-year veteran officer. Protesters have clashed with authorities as control over security shifted from local police to St. Louis County officers to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Gov. Jay Nixon has since called in the Missouri National Guard. And the Brown family continues to prepare for the teenager’s funeral arrangements amid completion of three separate autopsies.
You reap what you sow, be careful what you wish for, et cetera.
BREAKING: The Supreme Court has handed down its #McCutcheon v. FEC decision, deciding to strike down aggregate limits on direct political contributions by claiming they are unconstitutional based on the First Amendment.
It’s another major blow to America’s campaign finance system.
While we are not surprised by today’s outcome, we are disappointed that the plutocracy we predicted is now sanctioned by the high court. Thanks to the high court, wealthy donors can now pour millions more into federal elections - the decision effectively ties a big bow around Congress and delivers it to the 1%.
Read Sunlight’s full response to #SCOTUS's decision here: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2014/04/02/sunlights-response-to-scotus-ruling-on-mccutcheon-v-fec/
President Obama, delivering a lengthy, emotional address on Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and race just moments ago.
Stating that Martin “could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama nonetheless said that the issue of race in America has improved, though there’s still plenty of work to be done.
Read more on the president’s surprise remarks over at Politics Now.
===WASHINGTON — George Zimmerman is unlikely to face federal charges for killing black teenager Trayvon Martin because it would be difficult to prove he acted out of racial bias, Justice Department officials said Tuesday.
… [A] successful federal prosecution of Zimmerman would require clear evidence that he set out to attack the unarmed Martin because he was black.
Although that is exactly what many Americans see in the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old, it can be very hard to prove in court, legal experts said. So far, prosecutors have not shown evidence that Zimmerman acted out of racial bias.
In 2010, (Marissa) Alexander, a mother of three, fired what she said was a warning shot after she felt threatened by her husband.
According to (Congresswoman Corinne) Brown, Alexander’s husband had said, “If I can’t have you, nobody going to have you.”
Alexander’s attorney invoked the “Stand Your Ground Law,” which gives the benefit of the doubt to a shooter who feels threatened.
But that argument didn’t fly with the jury, which decided she was not acting in self-defense. Prosecutors argued that Alexander fired in the direction of her husband and two of his children, endangering their lives.
The act amounted to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because Alexander fired the gun while committing a felony, Florida’s harsh gun laws required the 20-year sentence.
“If women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves, the Stand Your Ground Law will not apply to them,” wrote Brown, who added, “If you are black, the system will treat you differently.”
Well before (Trayvon Martin’s killer George) Zimmerman was acquitted, the contradictory nature of the two cases was already evident to Brown and many others." -
The New York Daily News, "Black Woman’s Failed ‘Stand Your Ground’ Claim Raises Allegation of Racial Double Standard."
And don’t even get me started on what would’ve happened if Trayvon had survived being shot by George Zimmerman and then claimed a Stand Your Ground defense.
A man carries cooking oil he received at a relief center for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sanaa August 2, 2012. Around 8,000 of the IDPs who have fled fighting between Shi’ite rebels and government forces in northwestern Yemen have yet to return to their villages two years after the fighting ended.
[Credit : Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]
The latest issue of TIME, featuring our cover story, “One A Day,” will hit newsstands Friday.
Read more about the cover story here.
(Photograph by Dan Winters for Time)
George Zimmerman, who slipped out of jail on $150,000 bail in the early morning darkness, went back into hiding Monday and likely fled to another state to avoid threats as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
His release from jail came less than a day before the Sanford City Commission rejected, by a 3-2 vote, the resignation of Police Chief Bill Lee, who was roundly criticized for not initially charging Mr. Zimmerman.
Even though authorities can pinpoint Mr. Zimmerman’s location with a GPS ankle bracelet, that he must wear round the clock, the public may not see him again for some time. Mr. Zimmerman has waived his appearance at his upcoming arraignment next month, so he can stay underground if he wants.
Mr. Zimmerman already has experience laying low: For more than a month before his arrest, he eluded the media and his whereabouts were not known. His attorney has suggested he had several options for where Mr. Zimmerman can stay this time, and a judge indicated he was willing to let Mr. Zimmerman leave the state.
Until the next time he must come before a judge, Mr. Zimmerman will have to skip such routine pleasures as eating in a restaurant or taking a stroll outside, said Jose Baez, a former attorney for Casey Anthony. Ms. Anthony, acquitted last summer of killing her 2-year-old daughter, went into hiding after her release from jail.
“He may be free, but he’s not free,” Mr. Baez said.
A day after the Syrian Army overwhelmed the main rebel stronghold in the embattled city of Homs, the Red Cross was reported to have sent a relief column into the beleaguered city on Friday with food and aid for civilians trapped there for a month.
Carla Haddad, a a spokeswoman for International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, told Reuters that the convoy had reached Homs and was preparing to enter the enclave of Baba Amr, which had been at the epicenter of a four-week government effort to dislodge rebels and army defectors.
Red Cross official in Geneva did not respond to further requests for clarification of the situation. The convoy was accompanied by ambulances from the Syrian Red Crescent, Reuters said.
If it succeeds in entering Baba Amr, the relief convoy will be the first major opportunity for humanitarian officials to survey the results of the fighting there since dissident forces withdrew on Thursday, setting the stage for elite government soldiers to turn their attention — and superior firepower — to other insurgent redoubts farther north, despite the increasing international pressure for a cease fire. .
In announcing their “tactical withdrawal” from Baba Amr on Thursday after enduring a pounding by artillery, tank and sniper fire for nearly a month, the rebel Revolutionary Brigades of Baba Amr said in statement that they were both heavily outgunned and unable to justify keeping thousands of civilians marooned under dire conditions. In a quarter where most buildings are pockmarked by shell blasts, residents lack food, medicine, water and electricity, and are cut off from the outside world." - The New York Times, “Aid Reported to be Nearing Battered Syrian Enclave” (via inothernews)
I have been immeasurably honored to serve the people of Maine for nearly 40 years in public office and for the past 17 years in the United States Senate. It was incredibly difficult to decide that I would not seek a fourth term in the Senate.
Some people were surprised by my conclusion, yet I have spoken on the floor of the Senate for years about the dysfunction and political polarization in the institution. Simply put, the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned.
During the Federal Convention of 1787, James Madison wrote in his Notes of Debates that “the use of the Senate is to consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” Indeed, the Founding Fathers intended the Senate to serve as an institutional check that ensures all voices are heard and considered, because while our constitutional democracy is premised on majority rule, it is also grounded in a commitment to minority rights.
Yet more than 200 years later, the greatest deliberative body in human history is not living up to its billing. The Senate of today routinely jettisons regular order, as evidenced by the body’s failure to pass a budget for more than 1,000 days; serially legislates by political brinkmanship, as demonstrated by the debt-ceiling debacle of August that should have been addressed the previous January; and habitually eschews full debate and an open amendment process in favor of competing, up-or-down, take-it-or-leave-it proposals. We witnessed this again in December with votes on two separate proposals for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
…The great challenge is to create a system that gives our elected officials reasons to look past their differences and find common ground if their initial party positions fail to garner sufficient support. In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly, I do not see it happening in the near future." - The Washington Post, “Olympia Snowe: Why I’m Leaving the Senate” (via inothernews)
Women and children endure wintry weather as they wait in line to buy bread in Al Qusayr, a city in western Syria about 3 miles from Homs, on March 1, 2012.
[Credit : Goran Tomasevic / Reuters]
But Ms. Colvin’s frustrations were also more particular than that: she worried that her accounts of indiscriminate bombing by forces loyal to the Syrian government were not able to reach the widest possible audience.
Days before her death, she asked a fellow journalist to sidestep the online subscription requirement for her newspaper, The Sunday Times of London, and share her latest article from Syria with nonsubscribers. “Getting the story out from here is what we got into journalism for,” she wrote in a message that was republished on Wednesday by Bill Neely, the international editor for ITV News in Britain.
“You have my permission to post it, as in I will take the firing squad in the morning,” Ms. Colvin said, indicating that her bosses might object to the reposting of her articles elsewhere. “I’m just not able to technically do it, as I am still in Baba Amr.”
This puts a seriously human face on a problem widely plaguing the newspaper industry — how do you get your stories read and paid for? The Times’ paywall, implemented by News Corp. in 2010, is the worst of the worst, as you can’t even read excerpts from the stories without a subscription. Newspapers need to make money, yes, but when does the public interest, which Marie Colvin was deeply interested in, take precedent?