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Twin attacks threaten new Ethiopian government's reforms

The Baklaba and Cake cafe was heaving with customers when truck-loads of heavily armed men in fatigues rolled up across the road outside the local government headquarters in Ethiopia's Amhara region.
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Read full article on: reuters.com
Record Numbers Have Lost Their Health Insurance the Moment They Need It Most
More than 5 million Americans have lost coverage so far, a new study finds.
slate.com
Sportsbook gives 'bad beat refunds' to anyone who bet on Max Holloway winning at UFC 251
Proof that sometimes when you lose, you really win.        Related StoriesUFC 251 reactions: Winning and losing fighters on social mediaJorge Masvidal’s drawing power is clear after UFC 251. Now what can he do with it? | OpinionJiri Prochazka takes the anyone, any time stance toward eventual UFC title contention 
usatoday.com
'Utopia Avenue' review: Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll triumph in David Mitchell's latest
"Utopia Avenue" is a fun and fulfilling read, a rock 'n' roll road trip whose characters and narrative become the song that gets stuck in your head.        
usatoday.com
Cal Thomas: Roger Stone's self-proclaimed pivot towards Christianity draws historical parallels
While some have used religion to keep out of prison, receive a lighter sentence, or be paroled early, the faith of others has proved to be genuine.
foxnews.com
Conspiracy Theories Aside, Here's What Contact Tracers Really Do
Recently, the idea of contact tracing has triggered some colorful misinformation campaigns. It's actually a tried-and-true public health tool that can curb the spread of the coronavirus.
npr.org
The Supreme Court Tries to Settle the Religious Liberty Culture War
Rarely has a single Supreme Court term created such alternating spasms of anger and joy, bouncing back and forth across the ideological aisle. And rarely has that seesaw reaction been so concentrated into a single, salient cultural issue – the perceived conflict between gay rights and religious liberty. By the end of this term, however,…
time.com
‘Defund the police’ is a debate over how to prevent crime. What do Americans believe?
Here's what makes whites less -- and more -- likely to support community investment.
washingtonpost.com
Police Reform Is Only the Beginning
People protest to signal that they are fed up with the status quo. But protest is rarely singularly focused. People are in the streets this summer over the murder of George Floyd, but the current racial reckoning in America goes far beyond lethal policing. People are in the streets because Black students are five times more likely than white students to attend highly segregated schools. Because Black unemployment is regularly twice the white unemployment rate. Because racist housing policies have locked Black families into unequal neighborhoods and out of the prospect of building wealth.Meanwhile, the policy responses to the protests have thus far been singularly focused on police brutality. State leaders have already signed a string of changes into law. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill restricting chokeholds; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed bills that would punish officers who kill someone after placing them in a chokehold with up to 15 years in prison, that would make police disciplinary records available to the public, and that would require officers to give medical or mental-health attention to people they have arrested.In the 18 days after Floyd’s murder, 16 states introduced, amended, or passed various police-reform bills. But to be effective, efforts to combat systemic racism must stretch as far as the inequality itself does. That work is now beginning in city councils and statehouses across the country—largely in Democratic-leaning states—where lawmakers are being pushed to act on discriminatory policies.Activists in Hartford, Connecticut, are petitioning local and state officials to eliminate racist zoning laws that block affordable-housing opportunities and segregate the city. In Wisconsin, board members for Milwaukee’s public-school district are writing a regional desegregation plan for the southeastern part of the state. Two weeks ago, when the board members voted on the resolution to begin their work, it passed unanimously.[Read: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s testimony on reparations]“This movement started with dealing with criminal-justice reform and police reform—dealing with the institution of mass incarceration—but not stopping there,” Jamaal Bowman, who defeated Representative Eliot Engel to win the June primary in New York’s Sixteenth District, told me. Bowman is an advocate of the Green New Deal, universal health care, and a housing plan that emphasizes public housing and the enforcement of fair housing standards. “These are all interconnected policies that are rooted in equality and justice for all people and making sure we do all we can to uplift the working class and the poor,” he said.Practical things can be done to address some of these disparities—not just big ideas that upend accepted norms, but also baby steps to keep momentum going. In education, activists are pushing leaders to reconsider how wealth is hoarded in predominantly white school districts. If states pooled property-tax dollars and distributed them evenly to schools rather than allowing accumulated wealth to dictate at least part of school financing, American education would look more equal, Rebecca Sibilia, the founder of EdBuild, a nonprofit focused on school funding, told me. But many Americans believe that local control of a school district means keeping all of their money there, she added.Meanwhile, federal lawmakers are trying to knock down barriers to housing. This month, in a move led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Faircloth Amendment, which has stymied new construction of public housing in the United States for decades. But the measure is doomed in the Republican-controlled Senate, which has limited its response to Floyd’s killing and the subsequent protests to proposing a police-reform bill that was due to fail from the beginning.White Americans have stolen Black Americans’ land. They have stolen their property. In some places, there is a 20-year life-expectancy gap between white and Black people. Those gaps will take time and money to close. Bowman packages the reforms he believes the country needs as a new “Reconstruction agenda”—which includes free college, a wealth tax, and baby bonds. But his agenda begins by reconciling with history. That reconciliation would inevitably require some form of reparations, Bowman said. He didn’t articulate what those reparations would look like, but stressed the need for them.Bowman, who after winning the primary will likely win the general election in a heavily Democratic district, may discover that many of his new Capitol Hill colleagues share the sentiment. Several House Democrats, including Representative Karen Bass of California, believe that H.R. 40—the bill that would create a commission to study the legacy of slavery and examine reparations proposals—could be voted on before the end of the year. That’s the least Congress could do, Representative Gregory Meeks, a co-sponsor of the bill, told me, “so that people can catch up and get access to things that everyone else takes for granted.”[Read: Everyone wants to talk about reparations. But for how long?]For progressive activists, the national mood seems promising. But Americans have watched the story of civil unrest and policy stagnation unfold on a loop for more than a century. “No republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them,” Frederick Douglass wrote in The Atlantic in 1866. His words were aimed at the Reconstruction Congress tasked with rebuilding America after the Civil War.Nearly 100 years later, in 1960, three decades before he would enter Congress, a young Gregory Meeks could spy his elementary school across the street from his public-housing complex in East Harlem. Meeks had just completed second grade when a school official, concerned about his growth, told his mother to get him out. The books at his school were old. There were few, if any, after-school activities. His educational development would be stifled there, the official said. So, alongside one other Black student, he went to another elementary school in a white neighborhood off York Avenue, dozens of blocks south, on the Upper East Side.Four years later, on July 16, 1964, protests and riots erupted in New York after a white police lieutenant shot James Powell, a Black ninth grader. Two bullets pierced Powell’s body, killing him, not far from Meeks’s new school. The protests over the killing lasted for six days; the demonstrators called for an end to police brutality and for equal protection under the law. Witnesses said the 15-year-old threw his arm up to protect himself when the officer pulled his gun. The officer was acquitted by a grand jury after maintaining that Powell had lunged at him with a knife.Meeks thinks a lot about the things that haven’t changed, how the issues of his childhood mirror the issues of today. “I’d always wondered why they couldn’t just fix the school that was right across the street to make sure that it would be good for all kids,” he told me. “It’s time for an accounting to be made in this country, if we really want to get to the root causes of the problem of racism in America.”
theatlantic.com
Facebook’s Pandemic Feuds Are Getting Ugly
A disposable face mask is burning in the bottom of a cake pan. It’s a controlled blaze, the perfect size for roasting a hot dog—which someone is doing, holding it above the flame on a metal skewer. A tinny recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays in the background, building to its familiar end just as the hot dog appears to be fully toasted.The comments beneath the 30-second video, posted to Facebook in June as part of the “Burn Your Mask Challenge,” run the gamut from mirth to disdain to a swelling of patriotic pride. “LOVE THIS!” with three laugh-crying emoji. A smattering of sober warnings not to eat a hot dog that has been roasted in the fumes of incinerated fabric.The “Burn Your Mask Challenge” started in a private Facebook group called Reopen NC, which was created in early April, not long after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced a statewide stay-at-home order. The 81,000 members of the group generally believe that state measures to control the spread of the coronavirus infringe on their personal rights. When Cooper announced a mask mandate last month, they started a petition against it, which has so far accrued about 5,500 signatures. A mock-up of a face mask reading This mask is as useless as our governor is still shared regularly.The pandemic has opened up a new front in the American culture wars. There have been protests against masks and lockdowns in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and several other states. In North Carolina, Facebook has served as a highly visible hub for both sides. Reopen NC has sparked more than 30 smaller, county-specific groups that started sharing its videos of mask burnings in the spring and have echoed its complaints about government “tyranny” all summer. It also has a number of antagonists, who bristle at the group’s flagrant disregard for public health and have spent the last several months becoming more and more embittered—often referring to those who don’t take the pandemic seriously as “plague rats.”Watching these warring groups has been like seeing polarization happen in real time. Members of the Reopen NC group joined it to complain and vent with people who felt similarly to themselves, but soon they were naming enemies—the mask-wearing “sheep,” and the “socialist” governor who controls them. These North Carolinians were looking for online community in a moment when the offline world had become a pressure cooker, in a time when they were bored, and they found it on Facebook in the form of ever-escalating suspicion and anger.The Reopen NC Facebook group was started by 33-year-old Ashley Smith, a Trump-supporting independent who lives in suburban Asheville and runs a small payment-processing business with her husband. Smith says she created the group simply for discussion—and maybe some anti-shutdown email campaigns—but when the membership hit 10,000 in just a few weeks she started mobilizing it for on-the-ground political action. In late April, she was arrested at a protest she organized outside the governor’s mansion, bringing increased attention to the group from local media. The next month, reports emerged about her husband’s use of Facebook Live to vow that he was “taking up arms” and “willing to kill” over the stay-at-home order. The membership of the group only grew.“We’re not constitutionally promised a virus-free existence,” Smith told me in a phone call. “I think we’ve seen a gross overreach of power.”Collective actions in the group have been creative and wide-ranging, including an afternoon of “throwing axes for freedom” at an ax-throwing space near Charlotte that refused to adhere to the statewide shutdown, and a “sit-in” at a nearby barbecue restaurant. When Cooper closed the Ace Speedway racetrack, Reopen NC led a “cruise-in,” described by one of the group’s administrators as “NC’s 21st CENTURY ALAMO!” The group has organized multiple “unmasked” protests in front of the governor’s mansion—“American Flags only please,” the description for a June protest requests politely in a parenthetical.[Read: The social-distancing culture war has begun]Janet Presson, a former nurse who stumbled across the Reopen NC group on Facebook, was so excited by it that she donated money to help recoup some of Smith’s protest expenses. “The government’s responsibility is not to protect my health,” she told me. “It’s to protect my rights.”Presson says she has worn a mask only once during the pandemic, to a doctor’s office for a Botox injection. Otherwise, she’s endured the hostile looks. She’s ignored the couple who shouted at her by the lake. She’s even resisted the urge to buy one of the more stylish masks, or the cute American flag ones—they do nothing, she insists. The virus has been blown “way out of proportion,” she said, and businesses are being destroyed for no reason. “If it was Ebola or something else truly devastating, I wouldn’t be complaining about it at all, because you wouldn’t see me. I would be home with a tree down across the driveway.” (More than 120,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.)Though much of Reopen NC’s rhetoric is dark, the group finds plenty of time for entertainment. “Show us your maskless selfies in public!!!!!!!” reads one post, paired with six American flag emoji. There are hundreds of responses—blurry, poorly lit, taken straight up the chin like every photo a dad has ever sent, of naked faces at “Big Al’s Barbecue” and a mini-golf course and a wig store and a water park. There are multiple comments about being kicked out of various Subway restaurants for going mask-less. But many of the comments are just about praising the thread’s existence, finding camaraderie in rebellion and comfort in relaying scoldings to sympathetic ears.Scrolling through all the drama, it’s easy to forget that Facebook has a special ability to warp reality. According to a poll conducted in May, more than 75 percent of North Carolinians supported Cooper’s decision to extend the state’s stay-at-home order. A June poll showed his approval rating stood at 63 percent—significantly higher than it was a year ago. (“Pandemic response is not a time for partisan politics,” Dory Macmillan, the Cooper’s press secretary, said in an email. “Governor Cooper will continue to be guided by science and the law working to keep North Carolinians safe.”)As a counterweight, the Facebook group Banned from Reopen, which has more than 800 members, popped up in April to support the stay-at-home order. Everything about it is a deliberate contrast to Reopen NC. Besides the name, the group’s cover photo is the Reopen logo—a black cut-out state of North Carolina with the hashtag #Reopen printed in white—but with a disposable surgical mask Photoshopped on top of it. The description reads, “This is a public group for people cast out for trying to inoculate the ignorant with truth.” Scrolling through Banned from Reopen, it’s easy to stumble on characterizations of the Reopen NC members as “wackadoodles,” “#MAGAtards,” and “deplorables.” The memes shared on the page often depict death: a toe tag that reads “At least the economy is open again,” and a cemetery with gravestones shouting “We owned the libs!”Smith describes Banned from Reopen as existing “solely for the purpose of trashing us, trying to infiltrate and find out what we’re doing,” and explains that her group went from private to “secret” for several weeks to keep these “trolls” out. The group’s creator, Dan Nance, an information-security specialist who lives in Charlotte, describes it differently. He’d been disturbed by the disinformation and conspiratorial sentiment in the Reopen group and was kicked out of it for protesting in the comments. Banned from Reopen was intended as “therapy,” for him, he told me in an email. “Just a group of like-minded people having discussions.”[Read: Masks are a tool, not a symbol]Even so, those discussions sometimes get out of hand. “I think a legal case could be made to shoot non-mask-wearing people in self defense,” one member wrote in a thread posted in June. Another replied that while shooting might be “a little extreme,” a “solid kick, square in the nuts” might be more appropriate. A third chimed in, “spray bottles of water work on simple-minded creatures like house cats so with that in mind, perhaps …” The original poster, Scott Thompson, eventually resolved to take a Super Soaker squirt gun the next time he shopped at Sam’s Club.When I spoke to Thompson, a 37-year-old musician who moved to North Carolina two years ago, he was sheepish. “Yeah, you know that was kind of tongue in cheek,” he said. “I think the rhetoric of the online back-and-forth isn’t a true reflection of either side, but it’s easy to get enraged. I see people flouting being safe to prove a point and then I’m huddled up at home doing what we’ve been told to do.”Over time, the rhetoric in each group has become noticeably more dramatic. While Banned from Reopen was once a place to swap dazed stories about the experience of clashing with people who were vehemently antiscience, it is now full of self-righteousness and morbid jokes. In a recent post, screenshots of a North Carolina man complaining about the tyranny of masks are paired with a screenshot of a post revealing that he has died from COVID-19—the comments below include “one less plague rat” and “dumbass is as dumbass does.” Reopen NC has also become even more extreme: While users were initially indignant about lockdown measures and suspicious of the motivations of politicians like Cooper who implemented them, it is now teeming with outright conspiracy theories.There are posts in Reopen NC suggesting, without evidence, that Cooper is deliberately misrepresenting deaths from causes like car accidents as coronavirus deaths. Smith didn’t specifically corroborate that theory, but she said she does think “it’s likely” that he is faking the numbers in some way. This month, she has led a call to impeach Cooper—necessary, she and other Reopen-ers say, because he is deliberately crippling the economy at the request of the Democratic National Committee, to harm Trump’s 2020 campaign. (There is no evidence of this either.) Cooper is up for reelection in November, but Smith thinks the people of North Carolina can’t just wait until then. “What would make us think that we’re going to have a legal election? I would bet money we will not,” she said. “And his actions would lead any reasonable person to believe that.”[Read: How the pandemic silenced the nation’s biggest governor’s race]But even removing Cooper from office isn’t enough for some in the group. “We’re past impeachment!” one member wrote on the Fourth of July, under a photo of the North Carolina governor with a cancel sign drawn across his face. “It’s time to tar and feather!!!North Carolina’s coronavirus case count has been steadily rising for months. But deaths peaked in late May. As the months have dragged on and Reopen NC has grown in popularity, the group has also become a home for conspiracy theories about this curious gap. “The virus is weakening just as viruses will do,” Smith told me, which is why the local media is focused on case numbers instead of death counts. “It is coming to the end of its life cycle.”There is a lag between new cases and death numbers partly because it takes an average of 14 days after symptoms start for a person to die of COVID-19, and an average of seven more days for the death to be reported. So far, the latest surge of the virus has also been largely among younger populations, who are less likely to die from it. Even so, daily deaths are now on the rise in dozens of states, including North Carolina.North Carolina has a history of channeling right-wing anger into digital activism. The state was a hotspot for online Tea Party activity during Barack Obama’s presidency, as the sociologist Jen Schradie writes in her 2019 book The Revolution That Wasn’t. Schradie emphasizes that right-wing groups in North Carolina were more active than their left-wing counterparts, viewing social media as a “revolutionary communication tool” to disseminate information they believed the media wasn’t covering. “I think what’s happening in the Facebook groups is reflecting conversations that are already happening,” she told me when I asked her about Reopen NC, “but it kind of puts them into hyperdrive.”But disinformation and extreme rhetoric are known problems within Facebook groups more broadly, particularly private ones that members must request to join. These spaces tend to shed casual participants and intensify the feelings of more active ones. Looking at information from the other side tends to make them all the more certain of their beliefs: In a 2018 study of anti-vaccine Facebook groups, researchers found that “the introduction of dissenting information ... can produce a backfire effect, thus reinforcing the pre-existing opinions within the sub-group.”[Read: Facebook groups as therapy]That both Reopen NC and Banned from Reopen are becoming parodies of themselves is common with online groups set up as silos. “In a self-selecting population with a lack of dissenting views, it does become a reinforcing spiral,” Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told me. “What usually happens in these communities is that more and more of the people who are moderate drop out and you’re left with the more extreme individuals.”As the pandemic surges again, and Americans become even more exhausted by the task of modifying their lives because of it, people want ways to express their frustration. Members of groups like these are also looking for community and a sense of purpose, which are difficult to come by in the best of times. That impulse is now complicated by orders to stay away from each other, and the feeling of hopelessness that comes with months of illness, death, and economic devastation.But Facebook doesn’t seem to bring them much peace. While Smith told me she felt a “calling” to start Reopen NC, other members of the group were less sentimental about it, saying they went there once in a while to be around “like minds.” Members of Banned from Reopen also had a very hard time articulating to me what they got out of their ritual dissection of what they see as horrible and dangerous opinions. “It’s an uncertain time, and people are bored. So I found myself wandering around internet rabbit holes that I might otherwise not have,” Raymond Desmarais, a 38-year-old personal trainer from Durham who is active in the Banned from Reopen group, told me. “Sitting around on social media criticizing other people seems like not the best use of one’s time necessarily,” he conceded.Thompson—the commenter who joked that he was going shopping with a water gun in hand—said he finds participation in his group pretty pointless. “Will I have a few drinks and get on there and entertain myself? Probably,” he said. “But, I mean, I don’t think anyone is going to change anyone’s minds.”
theatlantic.com
Bear breaks into home looking for pizza
Everybody wants pizza — even bears. A black bear entered a home in Oro-Medonte, Canada, and tore into an empty pizza box. The wild moment was captured by resident Sean Atkinson’s Ring security camera. “Don’t leave garbage out in Canada,” he warned his fellow Canucks. “This is entirely my fault, although I’ve never seen a...
nypost.com
'Protest Writing' workshop gives students an outlet to fight racial injustice and bullying
On a recent Friday afternoon, a handful of high school students in Philadelphia met over video chat from their respective homes to dissect the lyrics of songs by jazz musician Billie Holiday and rapper J. Cole.
edition.cnn.com
China will sanction Lockheed Martin over arms sales to Taiwan
China said on Tuesday it would place sanctions on Lockheed Martin for its involvement in arms sales to Taiwan, a move that could further escalate tensions between Beijing and Washington.
edition.cnn.com
China will sanction Lockheed Martin over arms sales to Taiwan
China said on Tuesday it would place sanctions on Lockheed Martin for its involvement in arms sales to Taiwan, a move that could further escalate tensions between Beijing and Washington.
edition.cnn.com
Naya Rivera is ‘Glee’s latest tragedy
The mysterious death of former “Glee” star Naya Rivera is just one of many dark tales to come out of the Fox show.
nypost.com
UFC on ESPN 13 weigh-in results (9 a.m. ET)
Check out the results from the official UFC on ESPN 13 fighter weigh-ins.        Related StoriesMounir Lazzez explains how friend's encounter with Dana White led to UFC signingTim Elliott explains how he renegotiated a higher-paying UFC deal, despite coming off three lossesJorge Masvidal’s drawing power is clear after UFC 251. Now what can he do with it? | Opinion 
usatoday.com
The Constitution Doesn’t Work Without Local News
The Framers of the Constitution understood just how important local news would be to the success of their ambitious American experiment. Alexander Hamilton explained the issue this way in “Federalist No. 84,” using as an example one locality in Maryland: What are the sources of information by which the people in Montgomery County must regulate their judgment of the conduct of their representatives in the State legislature? Of personal observation they can have no benefit. This is confined to the citizens on the spot. They must therefore depend on the information of intelligent men, in whom they confide; and how must these men obtain their information? Evidently from the complexion of public measures, from the public prints, from correspondences with their representatives, and with other persons who reside at the place of their deliberations. This does not apply to Montgomery County only, but to all the counties at any considerable distance from the seat of government. To hold public officials accountable, in other words, “intelligent men”—all people, in fact—need reliable reporting about the activities of government and politicians. But these days, local news is withering in many places across America. The United States is dotted with “news deserts,” regions where no newspaper or other local news organization exists. In many other places, once-vibrant local outlets have become “ghost newspapers”—their name remains, and you can still buy a subscription, but their staff and ambitions are so diminished that they can no longer do the day-to-day reporting that allows citizens to make good decisions at the polls about their governmental representatives.The local-news losses are startling: As I write in my new book, Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy, in the past 15 years, more than 2,100 local newspapers have gone out of business, according to the journalism scholar Penny Muse Abernathy at the University of North Carolina. And about half of American journalism jobs have gone away, too—either as a result of those closures or because of constant layoffs and buyouts in newsrooms—not only at newspapers but at digital-only nonprofits, and at television and radio stations. (These losses occurred before the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn, which has caused even more decline.) The business model for local newspapers, based largely on once-abundant print advertising, has crumbled. And while hundreds of start-up news organizations have emerged, some of them excellent, they have not come close to filling the gap across the country.[Read: The threat to American democracy that has nothing to do with Trump]Local news makes a huge difference. A PEN America study concluded last year that as local journalism declines, “government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness,” and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens are less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office, according to the study. Democracy loses its foundation.The tight connection between local news and good citizenship became abundantly clear in 2018 to Nate McMurray, the Democratic candidate for Congress in a heavily Republican district in upstate New York. Although McMurray, the supervisor of the town of Grand Island, was battling a party enrollment skewed against him (the gerrymandered district is the size of Rhode Island and spreads into eight counties), he did have one monumental advantage: His Republican opponent, the incumbent Chris Collins, had just been indicted on insider-trading charges. One would expect that to be disqualifying—but it wasn’t. News of Collins’s indictment did make a difference in the campaign in areas where local news was strong: The Buffalo News has an excellent Washington correspondent, Jerry Zremski, who had broken a major part of the insider-trading story and followed its developments diligently for months. (I spent three decades at The Buffalo News, where I began as a summer intern, including a dozen years as its chief editor.) Many people living in the area around Buffalo, where this newspaper still has a wide circulation, who would have likely voted for the incumbent, crossed the aisle to vote blue. This is clear by a comparison of the election’s results with past voting patterns in the district.This post was excerpted from Sullivan’s recent book.But in the more far-flung parts of the sprawling congressional district, voters were far less informed. The largely rural and suburban district includes Orleans County, which, according to Abernathy’s criteria, is a news desert—one of just a few in New York State.“I’d be going door to door, or meeting with people at a diner or a fair, for example, and in the most isolated areas, a lot of people had no idea that their own congressman had been indicted,” McMurray told me. Orleans County, west of Rochester, he said, was “one of the toughest places.” Some people didn’t even know who Collins was, and many were incredulous when McMurray told them of the federal charges.“People told me I was making it up,” said McMurray. That shouldn’t have been the case, given that television news stations in both Rochester and Buffalo were giving plenty of airtime to the scandal as it developed, and those stations were available throughout the district. Nevertheless, the constituents lacked access to the in-depth coverage that a newspaper would have provided. At one time, almost everyone in the district had ready access to print editions of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle or The Buffalo News, or were within easy reach of smaller newspapers in nearby Niagara Falls or Lockport.[John Temple: My newspaper died 10 years ago. I’m worried the worst is yet to come.]As a result, Collins—the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president—was taking full advantage of the decline of credible news sources. He sent fundraising emails to constituents, blasting what he called “fake news” about his misdeeds—and relied heavily on TV ads to promote his supposed effectiveness in Congress. McMurray put it to me this way: “The lack of real journalism in a lot of the more remote parts of the district meant that people were relying on gossip, conservative radio, or social media. People were really deep into their echo chambers, or they just didn’t care.”McMurray lost that 2018 election by a whisker: less than half a percentage point—far less than expected, given the natural party skew of the district. As for the incumbent Collins, he later pleaded guilty to two felonies, resigned from Congress, and was sentenced to prison. Some of his constituents may be unaware of that too, or wouldn’t believe it if they saw it in a neighbor’s Facebook post. Of course, citizens may be uninformed about their public officials for many reasons—among them the spotty civics education in schools and the public’s increased reliance on social media—but the loss of newspapers is surely a contributing factor.Despite some hopeful signs, such as the many nonprofit news sites that have cropped up around the country, the overall trends are troubling. As Tom Rosenstiel, the executive director of the American Press Institute, told me: “If we don’t monitor power at the local level, there will be massive abuse of power at the local level.” That’s something that Alexander Hamilton and his fellow constitutional architects could not have reconciled with what they had in mind: a society in which citizens are well-informed and active participants in how their government operates. If we in the 21st century are to remain true to their vision, we must find a way—indeed, many ways—to reinvent local journalism before it is too late.This article is adapted from Sullivan’s recent book, Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy.
theatlantic.com
Iran executes man who purportedly sold missile info to CIA
Reza Asgari was the second spy alleged to have sold information to the U.S. or Israel that Iran has put to death in one month.
cbsnews.com
Opinion: The 2020 college football season, even in the mighty SEC, is in real trouble
The SEC punted on a decision for the 2020 college football season, delaying the inevitable ... that COVID-19 can take down the mightiest conference.       
usatoday.com
ShowBiz Minute: Rivera, Gray, Pop Smoke
ShowBiz Minute: Rivera, Gray, Pop Smoke        
usatoday.com
AP Top Stories July 14 A
Here's the latest for Tuesday July 14th: Texas holds primary runoff as coronavirus rates surge; Navy ship fire in San Diego prompts new worries; 5 shot in NYC; Body of Naya Rivera found.       
usatoday.com
Power Up: Teachers unions say DeVos is making it easier to beat Trump in November
‘We’re going to go all out,’ AFT president Randi Weingarten said of the election.
washingtonpost.com
Jurgen Klopp sends special message to striker after history-making promotion
edition.cnn.com
The United States Needs a New Foreign Policy
It’s tempting to draw sweeping conclusions about what geopolitics will look like after the pandemic. Some argue that we’re witnessing the last gasp of American primacy, the equivalent of Britain’s 1956 “Suez moment.” Others argue that America, the main driver of the post–Cold War international order, is temporarily incapacitated, with a president drunk at the wheel. Tomorrow, a more sober operator can swiftly restore U.S. leadership.There is a lot we don’t know yet about the virus, or how it will reshape the international landscape. What we do know, however, is that we have drifted into one of those rare periods of transition, with American dominance in the rearview mirror, and a more anarchical order looming dimly beyond. The moment resembles—in both its fragility and its geopolitical and technological dynamism—the era before World War I, which triggered two global military convulsions before statecraft finally caught up with the magnitude of the challenges. To navigate today's complicated transition, the United States will need to move beyond the debate between retrenchment and restoration, and imagine a more fundamental reinvention of America’s role in the world.The wreckage of the pandemic surrounds us—with more than half a million people around the world dead, the ranks of the global hungry doubling, and the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression raging. Well before the coronavirus hit, however, the liberal international order built and led by the United States was becoming less liberal, less ordered, and less American. The pandemic has accelerated that trend and aggravated preexisting conditions.[Read: The pandemic’s geopolitical aftershocks are coming]With the United States and its allies reeling, distracted, and divided by the pandemic, China’s ambition to become the dominant player in Asia has grown, as has its desire to reshape international institutions and rules to suit its power and preferences. The pandemic has also magnified the insecurities of Chinese leadership, amplifying their worries about economic sluggishness and social discontent. The result is greater domestic repression and an even more pugnacious brand of “wolf warrior” diplomacy.Always attuned to the weakness of others, Vladimir Putin is losing sight of Russia’s own weakness. The collapse of the oil market and Putin’s mismanagement of the pandemic have made Russia’s one-dimensional economy and stagnant political system even more brittle. A potent counterpuncher, Putin still sees plenty of opportunities to disrupt and subvert rival countries, the kind of tactics that can help a declining power sustain its status. His margin for error, however, is shrinking.Europe is caught between an assertive China, a revisionist Russia, an erratic America, and its own political breakdowns—none more perplexing than Brexit. The drift in the transatlantic alliance is worsening, with the U.S. looking for Europe to do more with less say, and Europe fearing that it will become the grass on which the great-power elephants trample.The pandemic has also intensified the Middle East’s disorder and dysfunction. Hard-liners in both Tehran and Washington pose combatively at the foot of a dangerous escalatory ladder. Proxy wars in Yemen and Libya spin on. Syria remains a bloody wreck, and Israel’s impending annexation in the West Bank threatens to bury a two-state solution.As the pandemic’s wave crests over developing countries, the world’s most fragile societies will only become more vulnerable. Latin America now faces the biggest economic decline in the region’s history. Africa, with its growing cities and daunting food, water, and health insecurities, faces greater risks than perhaps any other part of the world.All of these challenges and uncertainties are further complicated by ongoing technological disruptions, and by ideological and economic competition.The pace of change has outstripped the capacity of faltering, inward-looking leaders to shape the rules of the road. False information spreads with the same alacrity as truth; infectious diseases move faster than cures. The same technologies that unlock so many human possibilities are now being used by authoritarian leaders to lock in citizens, surveil them, and repress them.With the triumphalism of globalization long behind us, societies struggle with widening inequality and mercantilist impulses. Democracy has been in retreat for more than a decade, the compact between citizens and governments badly frayed. International institutions are beginning to break—paralyzed by too much bureaucracy, too little investment, and intense major-power rivalry. Looming above it all is the forbidding menace of climate change, as our planet gradually suffocates on carbon emissions.[Amy Zegart: The race for big ideas is on]This moment screams for leadership to help forge a sense of order—an organizer to help navigate this complicated mess of challenges, stabilize geopolitical competition, and ensure at least some modest protections of global public goods.But now we are living through the worst intersection of man and moment in American history. “America First” really means Trump first, America alone, and Americans on their own.The post-pandemic future of the United States is not preordained. We still get a vote, and we still get to make some fateful choices. They are more complicated than those we faced at the end of the Cold War, when our undisputed primacy cushioned us from our mistakes and sustained our illusions. But today’s choices are even more consequential than those of 30 years ago.The United States must choose from three broad strategic approaches: retrenchment, restoration, and reinvention. Each aspires to deliver on our interests and protect our values; where they differ is in their assessment of American priorities and influence, and of the threats we face. Each is easy to caricature—and each deserves an honest look.RetrenchmentIt’s not hard to persuade many Americans—struggling through the human and economic costs of the pandemic, pained by the open wounds of our racial divides, and doubtful about the power and promise of the American idea—to pull up our national drawbridges and retrench. Nor is it hard to make the case that the prevailing bipartisan foreign-policy consensus fumbled America’s post–Cold War “unipolar moment”—leaving the U.S. overstretched overseas and underinvested at home.Proponents of retrenchment argue that for too long, friends and foes alike were glad to let the United States underwrite global security while they reaped the benefits. Europe could spend less on defense and more on social safety nets. China could focus on economic modernization, while America kept the peace.The U.S. may be first among unequals for now, but the notion that its leaders can resurrect the era of uncontested American primacy, prevent China’s rise, or will our diplomatic relationships and tools into exactly their pre-Trump, pre-pandemic shapes is a mirage.[Kori Schake: The damage that ‘America First’ has done]Retrenchment is easily distorted as a kind of nativist isolationism or pathological declinism. It is often portrayed as a Bannonite call to throw overboard a sense of enlightened self-interest, and focus at long last on the “self” part. The heart of the argument is far less radical; it’s about narrowing our concept of vital interests, sharply reducing global military deployments, shedding outdated alliances, and reining in our missionary zeal for democracy-building abroad. Retrenchment means jettisoning our arrogant dismissiveness of nationalism and sovereignty, and understanding that other powers will continue to pursue spheres of influence and defend them. And it means acknowledging that the U.S. can manage threats and adversaries more effectively than it can vanquish them.The main risk in retrenchment lies in taking it too far, or too fast. Any effort to disentangle the United States from the world comes with complicated downsides. President Barack Obama’s attempt to shift the terms of American engagement in the Middle East offers an important caution. His thoughtful long game met the unsynchronized passions of the region’s short game, creating significant dislocations and doubts about American power.There are bigger structural questions too. Even if the U.S. accepted its relative decline and shrunk its external ambitions, where’s the rising ally to whom America can pass the baton, as the British did to the U.S. after World War II? However sclerotic some of our alliances have become, how confident are American leaders that they can shape our fate better without them? Isn’t there a danger of the United States becoming an island power in a world inhospitable to islands—with China gradually dominating the Eurasian landmass, Russia a weakening accomplice, and Europe an isolated appendage?And would an America retrenching in hard power still be able to play the organizing role on issues like climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, and global trade, which no other country can play right now?RestorationA case can be made that American diffidence, not hubris, is the original sin. Warts and all, U.S. global leadership ushered in an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. We give it up at our peril. Retrenchers subscribe to the diplomat George Kennan’s view that the sooner the U.S. sheds its paternalistic altruism and becomes just another big country, the better off it will be. Restorationists believe that consigning America to such a role, in an otherwise rudderless world, would be a fatal mistake.[Thomas Wright: A bigger foreign-policy mess than anyone predicted]They argue that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. failed to take full advantage of its primacy. American leaders naively enabled the rise of our future rivals, thinking they’d be satisfied with a seat at our table, rather than displacing us at its head. The U.S. slowed NATO’s expansion to pacify Russian anxieties, only to see an ever more revanchist Russia get back on its feet, and welcomed China into the World Trade Organization as a “responsible stakeholder,” yet failed to hold it to account when it continued to behave irresponsibly, breaking the rules while the American middle class broke its back.Restorationists argue that America suffers most not when it does too much, but tries too little. They believe that U.S. leaders feared the uncertain slippery slope of intervention abroad far more than the certain waves of human tragedy that would flow absent American action. They see “leading from behind” as an oxymoron and think the U.S. failed to appreciate how much emerging democracies depended on America, and how methodically authoritarians would contest the democratic model.Although the United States may no longer enjoy unrivaled dominance, power differentials still lean significantly in our favor. Despite our self-inflicted wounds, we still have the world’s strongest military, most influential economy, most expansive alliance system, and most potent soft power.Restorationists worry about the risk of overreaction to relative American decline. The contest with China is not another Cold War to avoid, but one to fight with confidence and win. The U.S. should reject any return to a world of closed spheres of influence—and be clear-eyed about the rise of techno-authoritarianism, and push back hard with a new concert of democracies. And although we might need to rebalance our foreign-policy tools and avoid the excesses of the post-9/11 era, the risks of slashing our defense budgets and our global military posture outweigh the rewards.For critics, Saturday Night Live’s “More Cowbell” sketch—admittedly not your standard foreign-policy analogy—embodies the restorationist view. To paraphrase the immortal words of the producer Bruce Dickinson: The world has a fever, and the only prescription is more U.S. leadership, however discordant and self-involved we can sometimes be, and however fatigued our bandmates might be with our prima donna act.The promised cure, however, leaves many questions unanswered. Do the American people have the stomach and resources right now for a cosmic struggle with authoritarianism or unbounded competition with China? Are the maximalist aims sometimes thrown around in this debate necessary or achievable? How far are our allies willing and able to join us in common cause? Will a more assertive international posture accelerate or delay the renewal of the American middle class? Is restraint an invitation to disorder or the best defense against it?ReinventionThere lies an alternative between breaking up the band and resigning ourselves to the perpetual din of the cowbell.We live in a new reality: America can no longer dictate events as we sometimes believed we could. The Trump administration has done more damage to American values, image, and influence than any other in my lifetime. And our nation is more divided by political, racial, and economic tensions than it has been in generations. But even so, assuming we don’t keep digging the hole deeper for ourselves at home and abroad, we remain in a better position than any other major power to mobilize coalitions and navigate the geopolitical rapids of the 21st century.[Peter Beinart: America needs an entirely new foreign policy for the Trump age]We can’t afford to just put more-modest lipstick on an essentially restorationist strategy, or, alternatively, apply a bolder rhetorical gloss to retrenchment. We must reinvent the purpose and practice of American power, finding a balance between our ambition and our limitations.First and foremost, American foreign policy must support domestic renewal. Smart foreign policy begins at home, with a strong democracy, society, and economy. But it has to end there too—with more and better jobs, greater security, a better environment, and a more inclusive, just, and resilient society.The well-being of the American middle class ought to be the engine that drives our foreign policy. We’re long overdue for a historic course correction at home. We need to push for more inclusive economic growth—growth that narrows gaps in income and health. Our actions abroad must further that goal, rather than hamper it. Prioritizing the needs of American workers over the profits of corporate America is essential. Leaders must do a far better job of ensuring that trade and investment deals reflect those imperatives.That doesn’t mean turning our back on trade or global economic integration, however. Supply chains in some sectors with national-security implications will require diversification and redundancy to make them sturdier, but policy makers shouldn’t disrupt global supply chains that benefit American consumers and fuel emerging markets. An improved economic approach might involve elements of industrial policy, focusing more government support on science, technology, education, and research. That ought to be complemented by reform of our broken immigration system.A second major priority for a reinvented foreign policy involves grand global challenges—climate change, global health insecurity, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the revolution in technology. All of those problems directly affect the health, security, and prosperity of Americans. None of them can be solved by the United States on its own. All will require international cooperation, despite intensifying strategic rivalry.They require a new multilateralism—a patchwork of coalitions of like-minded states, which the U.S. is still better placed than any other country to assemble; a hard-nosed approach to reforming international institutions; and agile diplomacy. Just as our forward military basing helped deal with threats to security during the Cold War, preventive diplomacy can help cushion our society against inevitable shocks, and strengthen its resilience.A third vital priority is our greatest geopolitical challenge: managing competition with China. In recent decades, undisciplined thinking led us to assume too much about the benefits of engaging with China. Today, undisciplined thinking of a different sort is causing us to assume too much about the feasibility of decoupling and containment—and about the inevitability of confrontation. Our tendency, as it was during the height of the Cold War, is to overhype the threat, over-prove our hawkish bona fides, over-militarize our approach, and reduce the political and diplomatic space required to manage great-power competition.Preventing China’s rise is beyond America’s capacity, and our economies are too entangled to decouple. The U.S. can, however, shape the environment into which China rises, taking advantage of the web of allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific—from Japan and South Korea to a rising India—who worry about China’s ascendance. That will require working with them—and engaging Chinese leadership directly—to bound rivalry with Beijing, define the terms for coexistence, prevent competition from becoming a collision, and preserve space for cooperation on global challenges.Everything rides on developing a strategy that reinforces—rather than trades against—these three interrelated priorities. China, obviously, is not America’s only geopolitical challenge, just by far the most important. We cannot ignore other regions where we have enduring interests: Europe remains a crucial partner, and North America our natural strategic home base, despite the current administration’s rare diplomatic feat of alienating the Canadians. Nor can we ignore the inevitable crises at home and abroad that so often derail the neatest of strategies.Armed with a clear sense of priorities, the next administration will have to reinvent U.S. alliances and partnerships and make some hard—and overdue—choices about America’s tools and terms of engagement around the world. And it’ll have to act with the discipline that so often eluded the U.S. during its lazy post–Cold War dominance.If“America First” is again consigned to the scrap heap, we’ll still have demons to exorcise—our hubris, our imperiousness, our indiscipline, our intolerance, our inattention to our domestic health, and our fetish for military tools and disregard for diplomacy. But we’ll also still have a chance to summon our most exceptional national trait: our capacity for self-repair. And we’ll still have a chance to shape our future, before it gets shaped for us by other players and forces.
theatlantic.com
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