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America's 'democratic experiment' is inextricably tied to the history of slavery

America's 'democratic experiment' is inextricably tied to the history of slaveryThe year 1619 laid out rough boundaries of citizenship, freedom, and democracy that are still being policed‘What we politely refer to as the ‘legacy’ of slavery is a political and economic system built on racial exploitation and the theft of black labor.’ Photograph: Carlos Barría/ReutersThis year marks 400 years since enslaved Africans from Angola were forcibly brought to Jamestown, Virginia. This forced migration of black bodies on to what would become the United States of America represents the intertwined origin story of racial slavery and democracy. This year also marks what would have been the 90th birthday of Martin Luther King, the most well-known mobilizer of the civil rights movement’s heroic period between 1954 and 1965.While Americans are quick to recognize Jamestown as the first episode of a continuing democratic experiment, the nation remains less willing to confront the way in which racial slavery proved crucial to the flourishing of American capitalism, democratic freedoms, and racial identity. The year 1619 laid out rough boundaries of citizenship, freedom, and democracy that are still being policed in our own time.Although we hardly remember this today, King often discussed how the imposing shadow of slavery impacted the civil rights struggle, perhaps most notably on 28 August 1963, during the March on Washington.Addressing a quarter of a million people in front of the Lincoln Memorial, King acknowledged racial slavery’s uncanny hold on the American imagination. A century earlier, Abraham Lincoln, whom King called “a great American”, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Yet 100 years later, black people remained marginalized from the American dream. “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation,” King said, African Americans had received a “bad check” – one that the nation would have to pay in full to overcome the tragic dimensions of a racial past that continued to constrain its future.King longed to reconcile the fundamental contradiction of American democratic traditions: the existence of racial slavery alongside individual freedom and liberty. What King interpreted as a contradiction, Malcolm X recognized as ironic symmetry. According to Malcolm, racial slavery in America helped to undergird a system of racial democracy that became the exclusive provision of whites.In his stinging denunciations of white supremacy and his bold support for revolutionary violence against anti-black racism, Malcolm often invoked African Americans’ experience of 400 years of racial oppression. 2019 is the exact anniversary of the date that Malcolm often extolled in speeches, televised debates, and jaw-rattling interviews.Both Malcolm and Martin understood the intimate connection between the struggle for black dignity and citizenship during the civil rights and Black Power era and the movement to end racial slavery in the nineteenth century.Perhaps no single figure more elegantly represents that century’s struggle over racial slavery, freedom, and citizenship than Frederick Douglass, whose reputation has swelled in the aftermath of the historian David Blight’s recent Pulitzer-winning biography.A former enslaved African American from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, Douglass narrated his escape from slavery to freedom as a journey emblematic of the nation’s entire democratic experiment. A brilliant writer and public speaker, Douglass became the 19th century’s most-photographed American, the nation’s leading abolitionist, and a proponent of the violent overthrow of slavery by any means necessary. Douglass, no less than Abraham Lincoln, came to represent the freedom dreams that animated not only the struggle for black citizenship but the destiny of democracy.Racial slavery – a ruthless system of bondage closely tied to the rise of global capitalism – collapsed in 1865 only after the deaths of over 700,000 Americans in the civil war. Black soldiers’ patriotism in the face of white supremacy was only begrudgingly, if ever, acknowledged by northern politicians. New constitutional amendments designed to settle the debate over black freedom by abolishing slavery and establishing birthright citizenship and the vote competed with the rise of political, economic, and racial terror against black Americans.Reconstruction between 1865 and 1896 found black women and men on the cutting edge of new interracial democratic experiments that helped to establish public education, historically black colleges, churches, businesses, civic groups, and mutual aid societies and elect black officials. Yet those triumphs were challenged by violence, political betrayal, and legal and legislative assaults on black citizenship. In 1896, the supreme court’s Plessy v Ferguson decision made segregation the law of the land and ushered in a dark period of history.Contemporary black-led social movements such as Black Lives Matter confront not only the racial ghosts of the Jim Crow south memorialized in popular culture. They face the larger specter of racial slavery that our society often still refuses to acknowledge. What we politely refer to as the “legacy” of slavery represents the evolution of a political and economic system built on racial exploitation, the theft of black labor, and the demonization and dehumanization of black bodies.What is all the more remarkable is the way in which black folk have embraced an expansive vision of democracy even when the nation refused to recognize it as legitimate. Ida B Wells, the 19th-century anti-lynching crusader, was a trailblazing social justice activist whose work anticipated the rise of mass incarceration in America. Ella Jo Baker, the founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), understood the sit-in movement to be less about gaining access to white lunch counters than about eradicating oppressive and anti-democratic systems that had flourished since the bullwhip days of antebellum slavery.Similarly, King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail extolled the heroism of black schoolchildren jailed for violating Jim Crow laws in Alabama. Those young people, King argued, would be one day recognized as heroes for having transported the entire nation back to those “great wells of democracy” that were dug deep by the founding fathers.The relationship between slavery and freedom and our contemporary understanding of this history remains at the core of the American democratic experiment, one that has global reverberations for a sprawling communities of indigenous and immigrant people around the world who, in the best of times, have looked to America as a beacon of liberty. Barack Obama’s extraordinary rise to the presidency in 2009 burnished the United States as a symbol of racially transcendent freedom even as Trump has tempered such celebrations as premature.Perhaps the most important lesson from Jamestown for the present is the indefatigable nature of the black freedom struggle. Courageous individual acts of resistance during slavery inspired collective rebellions that transformed American democracy. Yet this change, as we are painfully experiencing today, remains fraught with the weight of a history rooted in racial slavery. Contemporary debates over racial privilege, white supremacy, and identity politics flow from political, economic, and social relations that have become normalized by our history but are far from normal.Confronting slavery’s indelible impact on conceptions of freedom, citizenship, and democracy offers us essential tools for confronting our contemporary age – what might be considered a Third Reconstruction – where efforts to embrace racial justice and an expansive vision of democracy compete alongside movements for racial bigotry rooted in ancient hatreds dressed up in new clothes. * Peniel E Joseph is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin



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Prosecutors: Kansas drug network tied to Chicago dismantled

Prosecutors: Kansas drug network tied to Chicago dismantledAuthorities said Wednesday that they’ve dismantled a major drug-trafficking operation in northeast Kansas responsible for a college student’s fatal overdose in 2017, resulting in criminal charges against more than 50 people. Federal and local officials said they’ve been investigating trafficking in heroin, methamphetamines, the powerful opioid fentanyl and other drugs in the Manhattan area for three years. A federal grand jury issued 13 indictments last week charging 54 people with conspiring to distribute illegal drugs, illegally using guns and Facebook Messenger to further drug trafficking, and other crimes.



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Saudi woman activist rejects release deal tied to denying torture: family

Saudi woman activist rejects release deal tied to denying torture: familyProminent Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has rejected a proposal to secure her release from prison in exchange for a video statement denying reports she was tortured in custody, her family said on Tuesday. Hathloul, along with at least a dozen other women’s rights activists, were arrested over a year ago as Saudi Arabia ended a ban on women driving cars, which many of the detainees had long campaigned for. Some of the women appeared in court earlier this year to face charges related to human rights work and contacts with foreign journalists and diplomats, but the trial has not convened in months.



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Poll: Biden, Warren lead, while Sanders and Harris tied in 3rd place

Poll: Biden, Warren lead, while Sanders and Harris tied in 3rd placeSen. Bernie Sanders has slipped from his second-place standing in several recent polls. In a new NBC News/WSJ poll, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has claimed second place behind Joe Biden.



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Iran exiles tied to top Trump advisers demand regime change

Iran exiles tied to top Trump advisers demand regime changeSupporters of an Iranian exile group with ties to some of President Donald Trump’s top advisers rallied Friday for regime change in Iran, amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Clad in yellow vests emblazoned with the words “Free Iran,” more than 1,000 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq gathered outside the State Department to demand an end to Iran’s theocratic government. The demonstration took place just hours after Trump claimed he had approved but then called off military strikes against Iran to retaliate for its downing of a U.S. drone in the Persian Gulf.



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Feds Charge Greg Craig, Former Obama Lawyer Tied to Manafort Ukraine Report

Feds Charge Greg Craig, Former Obama Lawyer Tied to Manafort Ukraine ReportMark Wilson/GettyFederal prosecutors have charged President Obama’s former White House counsel with making false statements in connection with his role in disseminating a report commissioned by Paul Manafort. Prosecutors allege that as an attorney in private practice, Greg Craig lied to officials at the Foreign Agents Registration Act unit after the Justice Department launched an investigation into Paul Manafort’s illegal lobbying on behalf of his pro-Russian clients in Ukraine. The charges, spurred by a referral from then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, mark the first time the Russia investigation has led to a criminal complaint against a prominent former Democratic official. Craig was a partner at Skadden Arps in 2012 when Manafort arranged for the firm to write a report about his client, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and the prosecution of Yanukovych’s former political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. Skadden reached a settlement with the Justice Department in January 2019 over its work with the Ukrainian government. As part of the agreement, the firm admitted that “a partner then at Skadden made false and misleading statements to the FARA Unit, which led it to conclude in 2013 that the firm was not obligated to register under FARA.” Under the deal, Skadden Arps agreed to register as a foreign agent and pay $ 4.6 million to the U.S. Treasury—the cost of its work on the report.Prosecutors say Craig, who led a team of Skadden lawyers in writing the report, ventured into lobbying when he allegedly offered a copy of the report to a New York Times reporter, subsequently identified as David Sanger, and pitched him on a call with a lobbyist for Ukraine in advance of its release. Craig’s conversations with the Times reporter took place shortly after he met with Manafort and a public relations firm to discuss the media strategy for the report’s rollout, and prosecutors viewed his media calls as an outgrowth of the strategy meeting.The indictment alleges that Craig began lying to officials at the Justice Department's FARA unit when they inquired about his contacts with the media shortly after the Times story ran. In a meeting with the chief of the FARA unit and in a subsequent letter, prosecutors say, Craig falsely claimed that his conversations with reporters “was done in response to requests from the media” and that the Ukrainian government neither knew of it nor directed it.In particular, they claim that Craig failed to tell FARA officials he had “recommended and facilitated” the Ukrainian government's choice of a PR firm, had been briefed on the firm's strategy, and had recommended Sanger as a recipient for the report after he met with the PR firm and a lobbyist for Ukraine. The indictment quotes a handful of emails from Craig meant to back up claims that his media outreach was allegedly an extension of a Ukrainian government-directed PR strategy and not a responsive correction of the record.Craig allegedly emailed Sanger in December 2012 with the explanation that “the Ukrainians have determined that you should be given first look” at the report. In an email sent shortly after Craig handed an advance copy of the report to the Times, the lawyer reported to a PR firm working for Ukraine that he told Sanger “it was his if he wanted to use it” and that “tomorrow is not too late for [another U.S. reporter] or for [another major U.S. newspaper].”In discussions with prosecutors, Craig’s attorneys have doubled down on his claims about contacts with the media, according to CNN. They claim Craig only spoke with the Times in order to correct an unspecified mischaracterization of the report and that the prosecution represented an attempt to make the Russia investigation and its spin-off prosecutions, which have primarily targeted Republicans, seem less partisan. The Skadden report featured prominently in court documents filed in Manafort’s Washington, D.C., lobbying case. The special counsel’s office alleged that Manafort’s choice of “the lead attorney at Skadden was made with the United States lobbying effort in mind" and that the report Craig spearheaded was “misleading and used to justify the political prosecution and jailing of a political opponent.” Skadden earned $ 4.6 million for the report, paid through Manafort’s offshore accounts in Cyprus, but the Ukrainian government publicly claimed that the work cost only $ 12,000. Craig resigned from Skadden in April 2018, shortly after attorney Alexander Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to the special counsel’s office about his work on the report. Van Der Zwaan, whom Skadden fired in 2017, destroyed emails requested by the special counsel and lied about talking points he passed to Manafort aide Rick Gates and an advance copy of the report he slipped to a public relations firm. He served a 30-day prison sentence after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with Mueller’s office.  Prosecutors said that the Skadden report was one part of a sprawling illegal lobbying campaign that enlisted other Washington heavyweights, Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group, to sell Washington on Yanukovych’s government. The special counsel’s office alleged that Manafort used an obscure think tank in Brussels as a cut-out to allow Mercury and the Podesta Group to lobby for the Ukrainian government without registering as foreign agents. Mercury subsequently registered with the Justice Department for its Ukraine work but the Podesta Group fared worse. Its founder, Tony Podesta, left the firm shortly after Mueller indicted Manafort in October 2017, and the firm closed seven months later. The charges against Craig are another sign that the Russia investigation has led to increased vigilance in enforcing foreign lobbying rules by the Justice Department. The department announced in March that Brandon Van Grack, a special counsel’s office prosecutor who worked on Manafort’s Virginia tax and bank fraud trial, would take over as the head of the Foreign Agents Registration Act unit. Read more at The Daily Beast.



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U.S.-backed forces capture Syria suspects tied to American deaths: sources

U.S.-backed forces capture Syria suspects tied to American deaths: sourcesThe bombing killed Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent and Scott Wirtz from the Defense Intelligence Agency. It also killed Ghadir Taher, a naturalized U.S. citizen working as a civilian interpreter for a U.S. contractor. “The investigation is ongoing as are efforts to bring all of those terrorists responsible to justice.” The attack was the worst single incident involving U.S. personnel in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015 and took place at a cafe in the town of Manbij, which was controlled by a militia allied to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.



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U.S.-backed forces capture Syria suspects tied to American deaths

U.S.-backed forces capture Syria suspects tied to American deathsU.S.-backed forces have captured Islamic State fighters tied to a January suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans.



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California university says students tied to admissions scam could face expulsion

California university says students tied to admissions scam could face expulsionThe school said on Monday night it has already “placed holds on the accounts of students who may be associated with the alleged admissions scheme,” preventing them from registering for classes or acquiring transcripts. It did not name specific students, but Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli are among 50 people charged last week with participating in what federal prosecutors called a $ 25 million bribery and fraud scam. Prosecutors said some students involved in the scandal were not aware their parents had made the alleged arrangements, although in other cases they knowingly took part.



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Founder of Florida day spa tied to Robert Kraft's prostitution case attended Trump's Super Bowl party, report says

Founder of Florida day spa tied to Robert Kraft's prostitution case attended Trump's Super Bowl party, report saysThe founder of a Florida day spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was busted for allegedly soliciting prostitution watched this year's Super Bowl at a party hosted by President Donald Trump.



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