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  • Democratic Party Chair Announces Resignation on Eve of the Convention

    Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday afternoon that she would resign her position following the end of the party's quadrennial convention this week in Philadelphia.

    The Florida congresswoman's decision came just days after WikiLeaks published a trove of internal DNC emails, including one in which a party official discussed pushing stories about Bernie Sanders' faith to damage the Vermont senator's chances in southern states.

    The Sanders campaign, and many of his supporters, had long held a grudge against Wasserman Schultz, accusing her and the DNC of favoring former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in various ways throughout the primary. But in her five years at the helm, Wasserman Schultz had often clashed with other party leaders. In 2014, Politico reported that her interactions with President Barack Obama were limited to brief exchanges on the rope-line at fundraising events.

    Here's the full statement:

  • My Book Is Better Than the Tarzan Movie

    This story, which contains spoilers, first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

    Some time ago, I wrote a book about one of the great crimes of the last 150 years: the conquest and exploitation of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium. When King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa was published, I thought I had found all the major characters in that brutal patch of history. But a few weeks ago I realized that I had left one out: Tarzan.

    Let me explain. Although a documentary based on my book did appear, I often imagined what Hollywood might do with such a story. It would, of course, have featured the avaricious King Leopold, who imposed a slave labor system on his colony to extract its vast wealth in ivory and wild rubber, with millions dying in the process. And it would surely have included the remarkable array of heroic figures who resisted or exposed his misdeeds.

    Among them were African rebel leaders like Chief Mulume Niama, who fought to the death trying to preserve the independence of his Sanga people; an Irishman, Roger Casement, whose exposure to the Congo made him realize that his own country was an exploited colony and who was later hanged by the British; two black Americans who courageously managed to get information to the outside world; and the Nigerian-born Hezekiah Andrew Shanu, a small businessman who secretly leaked documents to a British journalist and was hounded to death for doing so. Into the middle of this horror show, traveling up the Congo River as a steamboat officer in training, came a young seaman profoundly shocked by what he saw. When he finally got his impressions onto the page, he would produce the most widely read short novel in English, Heart of Darkness.

    How could all of this not make a great film?

    I found myself thinking about how to structure it and which actors might play what roles. Perhaps the filmmakers would offer me a bit part. At the very least, they would seek my advice. And so I pictured myself on location with the cast, a voice for good politics and historical accuracy, correcting a detail here, adding another there, making sure the film didn't stint in evoking the full brutality of that era. The movie, I was certain, would make viewers in multiplexes across the world realize at last that colonialism in Africa deserved to be ranked with Nazism and Soviet communism as one of the great totalitarian systems of modern times.

    In case you hadn't noticed, that film has yet to be made. And so imagine my surprise, when, a few weeks ago, in a theater in a giant mall, I encountered two characters I had written about in King Leopold's Ghost. And who was onscreen with them? A veteran of nearly a century of movies—silent and talking, in black and white as well as color, animated as well as live action (not to speak of TV shows and video games): Tarzan.

    The Legend of Tarzan, an attempt to jumpstart that ancient, creaking franchise for the 21st century, has made the most modest of bows to changing times by inserting a little more politics and history than dozens of the ape man's previous adventures (see trailers) found necessary. It starts by informing us that, at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the European powers began dividing up the colonial spoils of Africa, and that King Leopold II now holds the Congo as his privately owned colony.

    Tarzan, however, is no longer in the jungle where he was born and where, after his parents' early deaths, he was raised by apes. Instead, married to Jane, he has taken over his ancestral title, Lord Greystoke, and has occupied his palatial manor in England. (Somewhere along the line he evidently took a crash course that brought him from "Me Tarzan, you Jane" to the manners and speech of a proper earl.)

    But you won't be surprised to learn that Africa needs him badly. There's a diamond scandal, a slave labor system, and other skullduggery afoot in Leopold's Congo. A bold, sassy black American, George Washington Williams, persuades him to head back to the continent to investigate, and comes along as his sidekick. The villain of the story, Leopold's top dog in the Congo, scheming to steal those African diamonds, is Belgian Captain Léon Rom, who promptly kidnaps Tarzan and Jane. And from there the plot only thickens, even if it never deepens. Gorillas and crocodiles, cliff-leaping, heroic rescues, battles with man and beast abound, and in the movie's grand finale, Tarzan uses his friends, the lions, to mobilize thousands of wildebeest to storm out of the jungle and wreak havoc on the colony's capital, Boma.

    With Jane watching admiringly, Tarzan and Williams then sink the steamboat on which the evil Rom is trying to spirit the diamonds away, while thousands of Africans lining the hills wave their spears and cheer their white savior. Tarzan and Jane soon have a baby, and seem destined to live happily ever after—at least until The Legend of Tarzan II comes along.

    Both Williams and Rom were, in fact, perfectly real people and, although I wasn't the first to notice them, it's clear enough where Hollywood's scriptwriters found them. There's even a photo of Alexander Skarsgård, the muscular Swede who plays Tarzan, with a copy of King Leopold's Ghost in hand. Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Williams with considerable brio, has told the press that director David Yates sent him the book in preparation for his role.

    A version of Batman in Africa was not quite the film I previewed so many times in my fantasies. Yet I have to admit that, despite the context, it was strangely satisfying to see those two historical figures brought more or less to life onscreen, even if to prop up the vine swinger created by novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs and played most famously by Johnny Weissmuller.

    Williams, in particular, was a remarkable man. An American Civil War veteran, lawyer, journalist, historian, Baptist minister, and the first black member of the Ohio state legislature, he went to Africa expecting to find, in the benevolent colony that King Leopold II advertised to the world, a place where his fellow black Americans could get the skilled jobs denied them at home. Instead he discovered what he called "the Siberia of the African Continent"—a hellhole of racism, land theft, and a spreading slave labor system enforced by the whip, gun, and chains.

    From the Congo, he wrote an extraordinary "open letter" to Leopold, published in European and American newspapers and quoted briefly at the end of the movie. It was the first comprehensive exposé of a colony that would soon become the subject of a worldwide human rights campaign. Sadly, he died of tuberculosis on his way home from Africa before he could write the Congo book for which he had gathered so much material. As New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis observed, "Williams deserves a grand cinematic adventure of his own."

    By contrast, in real life as in the film (where he is played with panache by Christoph Waltz), Léon Rom was a consummate villain. An officer in the private army Leopold used to control the territory, Rom is elevated onscreen to a position vastly more important than any he ever held. Nonetheless, he was an appropriate choice to represent that ruthless regime. A British explorer once observed the severed heads of 21 Africans placed as a border around the garden of Rom's house. He also kept a gallows permanently erected in front of the nearby headquarters from which he directed the post of Stanley Falls. Rom appears to have crossed paths briefly with Joseph Conrad and to have been one of the models for Mr. Kurtz, the head-collecting central figure of Heart of Darkness.

    The Legend of Tarzan is essentially a superhero movie, Spiderman in Africa—even if you know that the footage of African landscapes was blended by computer with actors on a sound stage in England. Skarsgård (or his double or his electronic avatar) swoops through the jungle on hanging vines in classic Tarzan style. Also classic, alas, is the making of yet another movie about Africa whose hero and heroine are white. No Africans speak more than a few lines and, when they do, it's usually to voice praise or friendship for Tarzan or Jane. From The African Queen to Out of Africa, that's nothing new for Hollywood.

    Nonetheless, there are, at odd moments, a few authentic touches of the real Congo: the railway cars of elephant tusks bound for the coast and shipment to Europe (the first great natural resource to be plundered); Leopold's private army, the much-hated Force Publique; and African slave laborers in chains—Tarzan frees them, of course.

    While some small details are reasonably accurate, from the design of a steamboat to the fact that white Congo officials like Rom indeed did favor white suits, you won't be shocked to learn that the film takes liberties with history. Of course, all novels and films do that, but The Legend of Tarzan does so in a curious way: It brings Leopold's rapacious regime to a spectacular halt in 1890, the year in which it's set—thank you, Tarzan! That, however, was the moment when the worst of the horror the king had unleashed was just getting underway.

    It was in 1890 that workers started constructing a railroad around the long stretch of rapids near the Congo River's mouth; Joseph Conrad sailed to Africa on the ship that carried the first batch of rails and ties. Eight years later, that vast construction project, now finished, would accelerate the transport of soldiers, arms, disassembled steamboats, and other supplies that would turn much of the inland territory's population into slave laborers. Leopold was by then hungry for another natural resource: rubber. Millions of Congolese would die to satisfy his lust for wealth.

    Here's the good news: I think I'm finally getting the hang of Hollywood-style filmmaking. Tarzan's remarkable foresight in vanquishing the Belgian evildoers before the worst of Leopold's reign of terror opens the door for his future films, which I've started to plan—and this time, on the film set, I expect one of those canvas-backed chairs with my name on it. Naturally, our hero wouldn't stop historical catastrophes before they begin—there's no drama in that—but always in their early stages.

    For example, I just published a book about the Spanish Civil War, another perfect place and time for Tarzan to work his wonders. In the fall of 1936, he could swing his way through the plane and acacia trees of Madrid's grand boulevards to mobilize the animals in that city's zoo and deal a stunning defeat to Generalissimo Francisco Franco's attacking Nationalist troops. Sent fleeing at that early moment, Franco's soldiers would, of course, lose the war, leaving the Spanish Republic triumphant and the Generalissimo's long, grim dictatorship excised from history.

    In World War II, soon after Hitler and Stalin had divided Eastern Europe between them, Tarzan could have a twofer if he stormed down from the Carpathian mountains in late 1939, leading a vast pack of that region's legendary wolves. He could deal smashing blows to both armies, and then, just as he freed slaves in the Congo, throw open the gates of concentration camps in both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. And why stop there? If, after all this, the Japanese still had the temerity to attack Pearl Harbor, Tarzan could surely mobilize the dolphins, sharks, and whales of the Pacific Ocean to cripple the Japanese fleet as easily as he sunk Léon Rom's steamboat in a Congo harbor.

    In Vietnam—if Tarzan made it there before the defoliant Agent Orange denuded its jungles—there would be vines aplenty to swing from and water buffalo he could enlist to help rout the foreign armies, first French, then American, before they got a foothold in the country.

    Some more recent wartime interventions might, however, be problematic. In whose favor, for example, should he intervene in Iraq in 2003? Saddam Hussein or the invading troops of George W. Bush? Far better to unleash him on targets closer to home: Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund managers, select Supreme Court justices, a certain New York real-estate mogul. And how about global warming? Around the world, coal-fired power plants, fracking rigs, and tar sands mining pits await destruction by Tarzan and his thundering herd of elephants.

    If The Legend of Tarzan turns out to have the usual set of sequels, take note, David Yates: Since you obviously took some characters and events from my book for the first installment, I'm expecting you to come to me for more ideas. All I ask in return is that Tarzan teach me to swing from the nearest vines in any studio of your choice, and let me pick the next battle to win.

  • Clinton Announces Tim Kaine as Her Running Mate

    Hillary Clinton announced Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate on Friday, making what's widely seen as a safe pick by choosing a man with deep political experience, but one who might not have much potential to generate new excitement for her campaign. She announced the decision in a text message to supporters, informing them, "I'm thrilled to tell you this first: I've chosen Sen. Tim Kaine as my running mate."

    Kaine backed Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary but was an early booster of Clinton's 2016 bid and has long been seen as a front-runner to be Clinton's vice presidential pick. While he doesn't have a loyal following among the Bernie Sanders crowd, as someone like Elizabeth Warren does, it's easy to see why Kaine appealed to Clinton. He has an extensive political résumé, as a former mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor and governor of Virginia, and head of the the Democratic National Committee, and now as a senator from an important swing state.

    Kaine isn't a rhetorical bomb-thrower. He still carries the reserved Midwestern persona that he gained growing up in the Kansas City suburbs. A former civil rights attorney who won a major redlining verdict against Nationwide Insurance before he launched his political career, Kaine, much like Clinton, offers a quieter version of progressivism than Sanders or Warren, with an emphasis on finding compromise and achieving incremental progress. During his first few years in the Senate, Kaine has focused on foreign policy, seeking to impose limits on the president's powers to conduct war.

    Kaine's challenge will be to convince Sanders fans that he's on their side, and he didn't do himself any favors in the lead-up to his vice presidential rollout. Earlier this week, he signed onto a pair of letters, bipartisan but largely authored by Republicans, that asked federal regulators to ease regulations on community banks.

    Read more about Kaine's full career here.

  • The Virginia Supreme Court Tried To Kill A Key Voting Rights Order?And This Democratic Governor Won?t Let Them

    Virginia's Supreme Court on Friday blocked Gov. Terry McAuliffe's attempt to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons. The 4-3 ruling, which could have a significant impact on the potential swing state in November, comes three months after the Democratic governor issued an executive order to enfranchise felons who had completed their sentences and parole or probation as of April 22.

    In May, Virginia Republicans sued the governor over the use of taxpayer money to make such an order, suggesting that the order would aid Democratic turnout in the general election. State Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Normen, Jr. said in a statement at the time that McAuliffe had "overstepped the bounds of his authority and the constitutional limits on executive powers." McAuliffe struck back, stating that the lawsuit would "preserve a policy of disenfranchisement that has been used intentionally to suppress the voices of qualified voices."

    The Virginia Supreme Court found that McAuliffe overstepped his clemency authority in granting 206,000 felons the right to vote through executive order and that it violated the state constitution. The ruling could affect the one in five African Americans who are disenfranchised as a result of a felony conviction in the state.

    "Never before have any of the prior 71 Virginia governors issued a clemency order of any kind—including pardons, reprieves, commutations, and restoration orders—to a class of unnamed felons without regard for the nature of the crimes or any other individual circumstances relevant to the request," wrote Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons in the majority opinion.

    "To be sure, no governor of this commonwealth, until now, has even suggested that such a power exists," the justice wrote.

    The court’s decision made Virginia "an outlier in the struggle for civil and human rights," McAuliffe said in a statement Friday. He criticized Republicans’ lawsuit.

    "I cannot accept that this overtly political action could succeed in suppressing the voices of many thousands of men and women who had rejoiced with their families earlier this year when their rights were restored,” he said, adding that he would "expeditiously sign" orders to restore voting rights to 13,000 felons. It was immediately unclear if the court's order would affect McAullife's plans to grant rights for those people.

    You can read the judges' opinions here.

  • This 19-Year-Old Never-Trumper Is the Future of the GOP?If It Can Keep Him

    On the final night of the GOP convention in Cleveland, I found myself next to the largely white, largely over-50 crowd of delegates from West Virginia on the red carpet of Quicken Loans Arena. Throughout Donald Trump's 75-minute acceptance speech, they shouted in unison: "Build that wall," "Help is on the way," and "Lock her up!"

    Trump fans were enraptured by his dystopian vision of a nation in "chaos," beset by enemies from without and from within. "This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness," he said. Shoulder-to-shoulder with delegates on the floor, I was left with zero doubt Trump was expertly hitting his mark: The mood was electric and full of rage.

    But the most interesting experience of my week in Cleveland was an interview I did with a young member of the Texas delegation—someone who might have been placed, had things gone differently, to inherit a more diverse and forward-looking version of the Republican Party than the one seen by the nation on Thursday night. He's now an outlier.

    Houston-native Jorge Villarreal is transferring to Texas A&M from community college next year to study agriculture economics and pursue a career in political consulting. The 19-year-old Mexican American is a Republican, and he's passionate about his politics. But he despairs about the future of his party, and the Trumpism—protectionism, nativism, racism—now cemented at the top of the ticket.

    In its 2013 election "autopsy" report, the Republican National Committee wrote that in order to win future elections, the party should urgently change how it engaged with Latinos if it hoped "to welcome in new members of our party":

    If we believe our policies are the best ones to improve the lives of the American people, all the American people, our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.

    But this post-Romney push by the party to appeal to a broader demographic of voters—rather than simply to white Americans—appears to have run aground in Trump's GOP. Polling indicates a majority of young Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of the billionaire real estate developer. Among the broader Hispanic community, Trump has an unfavorability rating of 77 percent, according to a Gallup poll conducted in March.

    I originally included portions of my video interview with Villarreal in my story about how voters reacted to Sen. Ted Cruz's refusal to endorse Trump. But I wanted to share the full interview, because it provides such a powerful counterpoint to what I saw in the convention hall on Thursday—and a possible future for the Republican Party.

    "[Trump's] racist comments makes me feel that I can't vote for him at all, because not only would I be making a bad decision morally for me, I would be further damaging the party in the long term," Villarreal told me. He recounted conversations with his parents, who he said had immigrated to the United States illegally before being granted amnesty during Ronald Reagan's presidency: "They say, 'Jorge, you need to fix your party. Trump's making it go haywire.'"

    Watch the full interview above.

  • California Just Required Registration for Untraceable Guns?Like the One I Made

    Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 857 into law, requiring Californians who build their own firearms to apply for a state-issued serial number. Previously, guns assembled from parts kits officially flew under the radar. No background checks were required, and no serial number had to be stamped into the finished firearm, making them effectively untraceable. 

    In 2013, I attended a "gun build party" in southern California, in which I and a dozen others built AK-47s and other Kalashnikov variants from parts kits. My AK, according to the host of the build party, was an Egyptian "Maadi." Its parts had traveled to the United States by way of Croatia, which most likely received the weapon some time during the Yugoslav wars. He told me that often parts kits come from former conflict zones, and that sometimes the wooden stocks have tally marks notched in them. From my Mother Jones story about the gun build party:

    Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun's key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we're assembling the guns for our own "personal use," whatever that may entail, we're not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California's stringent assault weapons ban, that's perfectly within the law.

    Now that's no longer the case in California. Homemade weapons have long been a pastime for gun enthusiasts, but some law enforcement agencies have become concerned as they've started showing up more frequently at crime scenes.

    As the Los Angeles Times reports, today's bill is part of a more sweeping package of gun safety proposals that California Democrats recently pushed through, including a ban on semiautomatic assault rifles with detachable magazines and requiring background checks for ammunition purchases. Brown signed several of these bills earlier this month, which has been met with an effort to overturn them.

  • An Indiana Court Just Said Women Can't Be Jailed for Ending Their Own Pregnancies

    The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday overturned the feticide conviction of a woman found guilty in the death of her child after she bought abortion-inducing drugs off the internet. Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in 2015 after an Indiana trial court convicted her of two felonies: feticide and "neglect of a dependent."

    Patel, in her mid-30s, was managing her family's restaurant in rural Indiana when she got pregnant. After doing research online, Patel ordered mifepristone and misoprostol (the same drugs typically prescribed for a medical abortion by a clinic) from a Hong Kong pharmacy for $72. In July 2013, Patel texted a friend, "Just lost the baby."

    But when she started experiencing severe bleeding, Patel went to the emergency room. There, her doctors called the police, who found the baby, which they estimated weighed a little over a pound, in a dumpster near Patel's work. One of the ER physicians, who was also a member of a pro-life medical organization, left the hospital to join police in the search. About a week later, Patel was arrested and charged with feticide and neglect.

    During her trial, attorneys for Indiana argued that Patel was at least 25 weeks into her pregnancy and that her fetus was not only viable but also took at least one breath before dying. They also argued that the state's feticide law, passed in 2009 to protect pregnant women from acts of violence, could be used to criminalize pregnant women, not just third-parties. In 2015, after two years behind bars, Patel was convicted of both charges.

    Patel's attorneys, along with abortion rights advocates, vowed to overturn what they called a wrongful and contradictory conviction.

    "Even assuming Indiana's feticide law could somehow become an abortion criminalization law, many people were initially baffled by how Patel could be charged with two seemingly contradictory charges: feticide for ending a pregnancy and also child neglect for giving birth to a baby and then failing to care for it," wrote Lynn Paltrow, the founder and executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which provided legal support to Patel's case.

    In its ruling on Friday, the Appeals Court noted the contradiction, calling the outcome "absurd," but found that the state's feticide statute doesn't require a dead fetus, despite the common definition of the word. Instead, the law just requires that a person terminates the pregnancy.

    But the court did overturn the feticide conviction, ruling that the statute wasn't meant to be applied to pregnant women themselves. The court also ruled that Patel's class A felony charge should be bumped down to a class D felony. The case will go to a trial court for resentencing.

    Jill E. Adams, a lawyer and the chief strategist for the University of California-Berkeley Law School's new Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team, which also gave legal support to Patel, told Mother Jones that Patel does not plan to challenge the new felony charge.

    "The SIA Legal Team is pleased the court recognized that feticide laws are intended to protect, not prosecute, pregnant women," she wrote in an email. "Women don't need to be stigmatized and sentenced; instead, they need safe, affordable access to provider-directed and self-directed health care."

  • 4 Things That Trump Got Wrong

    This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

    Donald Trump's big speech at the Republican convention on Thursday didn't contain a single reference to the environment or climate change. It was vague on policy overall, focusing heavily on the primary themes of this year's Republican National Convention: bashing Hillary Clinton's character and fear-mongering over crime and national security, with a heavy dose of Islamophobia and xenophobia.

    There was, however, one section that dealt hazily with energy policy. Unfortunately, it was filled with falsehoods. Let's go through the four key assertions one at a time:

    "Excessive regulation is costing our country as much as $2 trillion a year, and we will end it."

    The apparent source for this figure is the National Association of Manufacturers, a conservative business lobbying organization that is fiercely opposed to regulations. The group's $2 trillion estimate calculates only the cost of regulatory compliance and not the cost savings that result from government rules. So the fact that environmental and workplace safety regulations prevent health-care expenses and missed work days, for example, is simply ignored in this calculation. When you do account for the benefits of regulations, they often end up saving far more money than they cost. Experts debunked NAM's report; the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service cited the Office of Management and Budget in calling the kind of methodology used "inherently flawed." No unbiased, empirical cost-benefit analysis would come up with anything close to the number Trump cites.

    "We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy. This will produce more than $20 trillion in job-creating economic activity over the next four decades."

    The source for this $20 trillion figure is the Institute for Energy Research, an organization funded by the Koch brothers. As The New York Times has previously noted, "economic reality" contradicts this projection. Additional fossil fuel production has diminishing returns because increased supply means lower prices. So, according to experts the Times interviewed, the number is wildly exaggerated.

    "My opponent, on the other hand, wants to put the great miners and steelworkers of our country out of work—that will never happen when I am president."

    Hillary Clinton's admission that coal workers will be put out of work in the years ahead was not a statement of what she wants; it was a statement of reality. The coal industry is shedding jobs because of mechanization, tapped-out mountains, and increasing competition from natural gas and renewables. President Obama's Clean Power Plan would prevent backsliding toward more coal use but not seriously worsen the industry's already grim prospects. So Trump can't actually reverse coal's decline just by rolling back regulations. In any case, Clinton, unlike Trump, has a plan to put laid-off workers from this dying industry back to work in growing sectors—including, but not limited to, wind and solar energy production.

    "With these new economic policies, trillions of dollars will start flowing into our country. This new wealth will improve the quality of life for all Americans—we will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow. This, in turn, will create millions more jobs."

    Trump is right that infrastructure investment would be good for the economy. Too bad his party's own platform explicitly rejects spending on railways and many other kinds of infrastructure. And, in reality, Trump's insane budget plan would leave no money for such projects.

  • These WNBA Players Were Fined for Shirts Supporting Black Lives Matter?and They're Not Going to Take It

    Update July 23, 7:42 p.m. ET: WNBA president Lisa Borders announced Saturday that the league would rescind the fines delivered to the teams this week for wearing black t-shirts during warm-ups in the wake of recent police shootings. "While we expect players to comply with league rules and uniform guidelines, we also understand their desire to use their platform to address important societal issues," Borders said in a statement. "[W]e plan to use this time to work with our players and their union on ways for the players to make their views known to their fans and the public."

    In the locker room Thursday afternoon, following a home-court loss to the Indiana Fever, players from New York Liberty refused to answer questions about basketball. Same with the Fever.

    That morning, the Women's National Basketball Association fined the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and Indiana Fever $5,000 apiece, and their players $500 each. Their transgression? During warmups in recent games, they've donned black t-shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. (For one game, the Liberty's shirts included hashtags for #blacklivesmatter and #Dallas5—recognizing the five police officers slain in Dallas.) Earlier this week, the league sent out a memo reminding players of its attire policy, and noting that players could not alter their uniforms in any way.

    "We are proud of WNBA players' engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues," league president Lisa Borders told the Associated Press on Wednesday, "but expect them to comply with the league's uniform guidelines."

    The WNBA's decision to fine the women was met with criticism, especially given that NBA players led by New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and other superstars have been calling for renewed social activism among pro athletes. After the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who died after a police officer put him in a choke hold in Staten Island, New York, superstars Lebron James, Derrick Rose, and Kyrie Irving, and members of the Brooklyn Nets, wore "I Can't Breathe" shirts during warmups—no one got a fine. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver supported the players while noting that he preferred they "abide by our on-court attire rules." (Just yesterday the NBA, in an unprecedented act of social activism by a pro sports league, punished North Carolina for its controversial workplace discrimination and transgender bathroom law by moving its lucrative All-Star game away from Charlotte.)

    After the shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub that killed 49 people, the WNBA distributed T-shirts bearing a rainbow heart with the words #OrlandoUnited on them for a night. The Minnesota Lynx wore shirts with the words "Change starts with us, justice and accountability" for one game—prompting four off-duty police officers working the game to walk out. (The women did not receive a fine in that case.)

    Here's what some of the fined players had to say about the whole affair:

    Liberty guard Tanisha Wright: "We really feel like there's still an issue still in America, and we want to be able to use our platforms. We want to be able to use our voices. We don’t want to let anybody silence us in what we want to talk about...It’s unfortunate that the WNBA has fined us and not supported its players."

    Liberty forward Tina Charles: (Charles wore her usual warmup shirt inside out while accepting the "Player of the Month" award prior to the game.) "I was just thinking, with what happened today in North Miami to the African-American male who was down just trying to help an autistic person out, when I heard about that news, I just couldn't be silent. You know, just knowing my status, knowing the player I am representing this organization, if anybody was going to wear it, it had to be me. So for me, it's just all about me continuing to raise awareness. I have no problem wearing this shirt inside out for the rest of the season until we're able to have the WNBA support."

    Liberty guard Swin Cash: "We really would appreciate that people stop making our support of Black Lives Matter, an issue that is so critical in our society right now, as us not supporting the police officers. There's a lot of women in this room right now, and in the WNBA, that have family members who are in law enforcement, family who are in the military...The fact of the matter is, there is an issue at hand is, and as much as we can grieve and feel sorry for those families who are losing those police officers, we also have the right and the ability to also have our voice be heard about an issue that goes back even further than the deaths that have been happening lately. And so I think people need to understand that it's not mutually exclusive. You also can support both things, but at the same time, this issue is important to us."

    Tanisha Wright: "More than 70 percent of this league is made up of African-American women, so that affects us directly. We need [the league] to be just as supportive of this issue as they were with any other issue: Breast cancer awareness, they support that. Pride, they support that. Go Green initiative, they support. So we want them to stand with us and support this as well."

    Indiana Fever's Briann January: "Race is tough, it's very tough, but when you go about it the right way and attack that issue with information and statistics and support for those people, there is not a fight here. We're not here to put up a fight. We're here to support a certain group. We're asking for change. Every race deserves the right to be treated with respect and not be treated based on the color of their skin."

    Tanisha Wright: "We feel like America has a problem with the police brutality that's going on with black lives...And we want to just use our voices and use our platform to advocate for that. Just because someone says black lives matter, doesn't mean that other lives don't matter...What we say is black lives matter, too. Period."

  • Former KKK Leader David Duke Announces He's Running for Senate

    Last night, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke was ecstatic over GOP nominee Donald Trump's convention speech; this morning he announced his plans to capitalize on what he sees as a ripe political moment and run for Louisiana's open US Senate seat.

    Duke didn't draw a direct line between Trump and himself, but he could barely contain his excitement over Trump just hours before his official announcement:

    Then, this morning, Duke posted a video to his website announcing his candidacy for Senate as a Republican, and describing himself as the "first American politician in modern times to promote the policy of America First," a clear nod to Trump's repeated use of the phrase throughout his campaign. Duke clearly saw Trump's ascendancy as his moment to break into the mainstream, gloating on Twitter during Trump's speech last night about the expanding "Overton window"—the range of ideas the public is willing to discuss and accept in the mainstream.

    Last fall, Duke publicly endorsed Trump, who was slow to disavow the white supremacist's approval. Trump later claimed it was a misunderstanding, but his campaign has attracted a series of white nationalist and openly racist supporters.

    Duke, a felon who was convicted of tax fraud, served in the Louisiana Legislature for one term between 1989 and 1992. He later ran for the White House in a long shot bid in 1992 and has continued to periodically run for various state and federal offices, though he has never won.