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Yes, Trump Actually Just Tried to "Both Sides" the Central Park 5

59 min 28 sec ago

President Donald Trump actually went there again: He pulled out his outrageous “both sides” line, this time in reference to the five black and Latino teens who were wrongfully convicted of attacking a white female jogger in 1989.

Trump infamously paid for full-page ads in several New York newspapers after the attack, calling for the execution of the teens, who came to be known as the “Central Park Five.”

All five men were exonerated by DNA evidence years later. But Trump apparently doesn’t accept that.

During a brief gaggle with reporters on Tuesday afternoon before he departed for his official 2020 kickoff rally in Orlando, CNN reporter April Ryan asked him if he would apologize for those ads, which have been cited many times as evidence that he harbors racist views.

“You have people on both sides of that,” Trump said. “They admitted their guilt.”

“BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE,” the Trump-funded ads, which ran ten days after the attack took place, while the victim was still in a coma. “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them."

In responding to April Ryan Tuesday, Trump seemed perplexed as to why she would bring up the Central Park 5 — he must have missed all the buzz around the new Netflix miniseries about the case, “When They See Us,” directed by Ava DuVernay. The series casts the prosecutors who worked the case in a particularly unfavorable light. Elizabeth Lederer, who led the case and who still works for the district attorney’s office in Manhattan, resigned from her position at Columbia Law School amid growing student backlash. Linda Fairstein, the former head of the sex crimes unit for Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, resigned from the boards of Vassar College. Now a best-selling crime novelist, she was also dropped by her publisher following the release of the Netflix series. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Fairstein called the series “an outright fabrication.”

The five boys, aged 14 to 16, were convicted of rape and assault in 1990 and given prison sentences ranging from six to 16 years. They say they were coerced into confessing to attacking 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili. They were released and exonerated in 2002 after a convicted murderer confessed to the crime. His confession was supported by DNA evidence.

Trump’s remarks on Tuesday were reminiscent of his comments following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, August 2017. After the rally, which left a protester dead and dozens injured, he failed to issue a forceful condemnation of the neo-Nazis who marched in the Virginia college town. Instead, Trump said that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the rally.

Cover: President Donald Trump calls on a reporter before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Orlando, Fla. for a rally. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Ken Burns Is Trying to Save This Liberal Arts College — Before it Dies

3 hours 55 min ago

AMHERST, Ma. — Hampshire College is in trouble. The liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts was founded in 1970 as a radical experiment in education: there are no grades, and students chart their own coursework. But now the school is finding itself on the verge of bankruptcy and is in danger of shutting down.

Hampshire College costs about $65,000 a year to attend, but only has an endowment of about $48.5 million — which pales in comparison to other, older colleges (neighboring Amherst College has a $2.2 billion dollar endowment, for example). Student enrollment steadily declining over the last few years could mean the death knell for the school, as tuition and fees make up about 90% of their operating budget.

But Hampshire is not alone in this: according to Moody’s, at least 25% of private colleges are now running deficits. Several New England colleges have closed in the last few years, and Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen predicts it’ll only get worse: he claims that as many as half of America’s colleges/universities will go bankrupt or close within the decade.

Things got so bad at Hampshire this year that administrators decided to start looking for a strategic partner and decided to accept almost no new students in the fall. These decisions did not sit well with the majority of faculty, staff and students at the school. Students felt that it threatened the future and independent character of Hampshire College and staged protests, including a 75-day sit-in at the office of President Miriam Nelson. Eventually, Nelson resigned, along with about a third of the school’s board of directors.

Students and alumni are now trying to save the school and raise about $100 million over the next five years, in a push led by one of their most famous alumni: Ken Burns.

He’s urging alumni to donate an amount “that hurts, and then multiply it by 4”, because he strongly believes Hampshire’s education model - while maybe not very profitable - is worth saving. “I am the living proof,” he told VICE News. “And there are thousands of other people who are the living proof of the value of a Hampshire education.”

This segment originally aired June 7, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

The Battle Between West Virginia Teachers and Republicans Is About to Get Ugly

4 hours 45 min ago

West Virginia public school teachers and the state’s Republican legislators are once again on a collision course over charter schools. And things could get ugly.

On Monday, the House of Delegates advanced a sweeping education bill out of committee that would introduce charter schools into the state. The last time the GOP floated the introduction of charter schools in the state, in February, West Virginia teachers mobilized and went on strike, eventually stopping the bill in its tracks.

This time, however, West Virginia teachers are being hit from a few more directions in a fight that’s become about something much larger than pay raises: the future of public education in the state. Earlier this month, state senators passed a proposal that would not only introduce charter schools into the state but also specify that teachers who go on strike are breaking the law.

Although teacher strikes are already technically illegal in West Virginia, teachers get away with strikes because of their sheer numbers and broad public support for their cause. But the Senate’s proposal seeks to undercut such movements before they begin by adding specific measures to punish teachers. Superintendents, who have previously closed schools in the state in solidarity with teachers, would be barred from shutting down schools over strikes. The bill also includes a provision that allows county boards to fire public educators who participate in labor strikes.

The latest House bill, though notably devoid of specific strike-killing language, presents a similar threat, teachers’ unions argue, by again pushing to allow charter schools into the state. And although both bills include teacher raises, unions say the raises are a distraction from the broader attacks on public educators.

As House members discussed their bill in committee Monday, chants of protesting teachers once again filled the statehouse’s halls, occasionally drowning out legislators’ discussion, according to the Associated Press. The House bill could go to floor vote as early as Wednesday.

“Yesterday was just more disappointing than ever,” said Jenny Craig, a special education teacher at Wheeling Middle School and a member of the West Virginia United Caucus, which is comprised of rank-and-file teachers’ union members. “We are worried that we’re not going to have the votes we need to defeat this legislation.”

Craig said that members and leaders of the three unions representing teachers in the state will use every tool they’ve got to kill the bills.

“Even at the cost of not starting school in August,” she said.

Since early 2018, a wave of teacher strikes has erupted throughout the country. The very first one, which started the so-called “red state revolt,” occurred in West Virginia.

“Yesterday was just more disappointing than ever”

Teachers are striking for a variety of reasons, such as years of stagnating pay as well poor benefits and crowded classrooms. But their strikes often extend beyond material gains and reflect broader conflicts in the shifting landscape of public education. The current conflict in West Virginia is about two things: the privatization of public education and teachers’ right to organize.

Public school teachers’ unions are generally in opposition to charter schools, which use public money but operate with little public oversight. Advocates of charter schools say they offer more options for kids in a broken school system, while opponents argue that they aren’t any more beneficial to kids than under-funded public schools.

West Virginia legislators are also considering the introduction of “education savings accounts,” which set aside taxpayer money so some kids can attend private schools. Public school employees say such measures rob their schools of crucial resources. At public town halls in West Virginia, about 88 percent of people at the forums (many of them not even teachers) said they opposed charter schools.

The strength of teachers’ unions, and the life they’ve breathed back into the broader American labor movement, has captured the attention of some very powerful people. Virtually every 2020 Democrat has made labor solidarity a major campaign issue. Sen. Kamala Harris’ first big policy proposal, in fact, was all about teacher pay.

But not all of that attention is good. President Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, recently waded into the debate in West Virginia, publicly backing the introduction of charter schools in the state.

President Trump has also inserted himself in the debate, tweeting that “one size does not fit all” for schools in the state. It’s unclear if Trump was indicating that he supported the bills in West Virginia, though the president has repeatedly voiced his support of “school choice” — a euphemism for charter schools and other uses of public money for private schooling.

Cover: Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the House of Delegates passed a motion to postpone indefinitely a vote on Senate Bill 451 at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. during a statewide strike by teachers and school personnel on Tuesday, February 19, 2019.(Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

Trump Just Dropped His Defense Chief on Twitter After Allegations He Punched His Ex-Wife

4 hours 46 min ago

President Donald Trump announced via Twitter Tuesday that acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan is no longer in consideration for a more permanent job leading the Pentagon.

“Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter Tuesday. He then announced Mike Esper, the secretary of the Army, would be nominated for the Defense post.

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, was tentatively scheduled to appear before Congress for a confirmation hearing Tuesday, but it was suddenly pushed back due to an FBI investigation. Then came a USA Today report saying Shanahan was struggling to make it through an FBI background check, possibly due to domestic violence incidents between him, his ex-wife, and his son.

His then-wife was arrested for punching him in 2010 — she accused Shanahan of punching her in the stomach to start — and his then-17-year-old son was arrested in 2011 for hitting his mother with a baseball bat. Shanahan told the Washington Post that bringing the incidents up publicly would “ruin my son’s life” and said “This is a tragedy, really.” He denied ever hitting his ex-wife.

Shanahan, 56, previously served as deputy secretary of defense but ascended to acting secretary in January. Some are questioning why these incidents didn’t come up in a background check when he was up for deputy secretary.

“Though my marriage ended in sorrow and disappointment, I never laid a hand on my then-wife and cooperated fully in a thorough law enforcement investigation that resulted in her being charged with assault against me,” Shanahan said in a statement to USA Today.

Cover: FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019 file photo, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks about the situation in the Persian Gulf region during a meeting with Portuguese Minister of National Defense Joao Cravinho, at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

New York State Is About to Pass Its Own Green New Deal

5 hours 18 min ago

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New York State is looking ready to pass one of most aggressive bills aimed at fighting climate change in the country.

State Democrats have introduced a version of the Climate and Community Protection Act every year for the last three years — without Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support. But the governor has finally come around. Cuomo, who was previously pushing his own, less aggressive climate plan, announced Monday that he’s ready to support the bill.

The landmark legislation is as close to a Green New Deal — the national proposal to address climate change being pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — as any existing state policy. Many of the Green New Deal’s priorities, like the creation of green jobs and aggressive cuts to carbon emissions, are featured in the bill, which is expected to pass later this week.

“I believe we have an agreement,” Cuomo said on Albany’s WAMC radio station on Monday. “I believe it's going to pass.”

"This is going to be the most ambitious climate bill in the country."

The bill sets an ambitious target for greenhouse gas emissions in New York: Under the current version, New York will have to reduce its emissions by 85% by 2050 from 1990 levels. The remaining 15% of emissions will have to be offset or captured. That’s a concession from the original version of the bill, which called for the elimination of all carbon emissions. The slightly less ambitious version of the bill is meant to leave some leeway for difficult-to-decarbonize industries, like cement mixing, jet fuel, and steel fabrication, according to a source close to the negotiations. They’ll be allowed to offset or capture their emissions, rather than eliminating them entirely.

“It feels like we have begun the most important mission of our generation,” said Assembly member Steve Engelbright, a lead sponsor of the bill and a Democrat representing Assembly District 4 on Long Island. “We’re going to empower the people of these communities and engage them in the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That will lead the way for success across the entire state.”

The plan that Cuomo had pushed called for aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector but ignored the state’s transportation sector, the largest source of carbon emissions in the state. But activists weren’t pleased with the governor’s version, and some legislators thought it didn’t go far enough.

“I’m really grateful that we rejected to climate proposal that was in the executive’s [Cuomo’s] budget,” said State Senator Julia Salazar, a Democrat who represents District 18 of Brooklyn and Queens. “I really feel that would’ve just kicked the can further down the road and delayed addressing what is truly a climate emergency.”

The Climate and Community Protection Act is only the latest victory for the ascendant left in New York State. After the 2018 midterms, Democrats took control of the state Senate and have had a remarkable legislative session. They’ve passed landmark rent control regulations, protected abortion access in the event that Roe v. Wade gets overturned, and most recently, gave undocumented immigrants access to drivers licenses.

“The most ambitious climate bill in the country”

Under the current version of the bill, 70% of the state’s energy production will have to come from renewable sources by 2030. By 2040, the entire state’s energy production will have to be carbon free. That’s five years earlier than California’s current goal of producing all carbon-free energy by 2045.

California, which has led the country in climate policy so far, has relied on cap-and-trade markets, where polluting companies buy and sell the right to emit carbon. Those markets have been tough to maintain. In New York, the new bill is centered on hard caps and annual reductions of greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy. There’s no cap-and-trade market.

“This is going to be the most ambitious climate bill in the country,” said Priya Mulgaonkar, a resiliency planner at the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance who helped to draft the bill. “In terms of addressing climate change and racial injustice, we see this as a huge watershed moment but we hope it’s the first of many wins for our coalition.”

The new bill plans to meet those goals by funding renewable energy, green transportation, weatherization, and green jobs specifically in poor communities of color. If signed into law, it would stipulate that no less than 35% of any state spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, housing, workforce development, pollution reduction, energy, transportation, and economic development would have to benefit poor communities of color.

A last-minute change to the bill has activists frustrated, though. The text, as of Monday, specified that green investments needed to be made in disadvantaged communities. On Tuesday, a small tweak was made that those investments need not be made in the communities themselves but only benefit them. But those communities also disproportionately have to deal with the effects of climate change and pollution: The EPA found last year that black people are much more likely to be exposed to air pollution.

The governor’s office declined to comment on the change.

The labor stipulations of the bill are notably strong, too: Any green jobs created under the current version of the bill would be required to pay union wages or better. The bill has gained the support of some of the biggest labor unions in New York State. And courting organized labor has become a prioriority for Democrats at the presidential level, which suddenly believe labor to be a constituency worth courting.

“I’m really thrilled to see how much of a priority it was to work with organized labor to ensure that the jobs that are being created are really high quality,” Salazar said.

The bill is just the latest action taken by states to fill the void of climate legislation at the federal level, where the Trump administration has rolled back tons of environmental rules. President Trump is working to repeal and replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the only regulation aimed at keeping the U.S. in line with the Paris agreement, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of.

In the wake of that reversal at the federal level, states are becoming the laboratories for climate policy. Michigan created a state office dedicated to fighting climate change. New Mexico passed ambitious climate legislation in March. Hawai’i’s on track to outpace its 2020 carbon reduction goals, and Oregon appears set to pass a new cap-and-trade bill in the next few days.

“We should not be in a position where states have to lead the fight against climate change. It would be far more preferable and effective to have Washington put a nationwide solution into place,” Sen. Todd Kaminsky, the lead sponsor of New York’s bill told VICE News. “But in lieu of that, states now need to step up.”

“New York, having an economy of its size, its changes in carbon reduction and its implementation of green energy solutions will be consequential,” Kaminsky added. “I think this is a nation-leading step and I hope other states follow the example.”

Cover image: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks about the $175.5 billion state budget during a news conference in the Red Room at the state Capitol Sunday, March, 31, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Trump Fired Three Pollsters But Kept the One Who Keeps Telling Him He’s Winning

5 hours 41 min ago

President Trump’s reelection campaign has fired a trio of pollsters after a series of embarrassing leaks of internal survey data. Still on the payroll: John McLaughlin, a close ally with a long history of bad data.

“His track record is spotty at best,” one Republican strategist who’s overlapped with McLaughlin on a handful of races told VICE News.

McLaughlin once had a large stable of prominent Republican candidates — but that’s been dwindling for years, as top GOP strategists have grown increasingly wary of his work following a series of polls that found his candidates in much stronger positions than they ended up on election day.

But to Trump, his longtime client, McLaughlin’s often-rosy numbers may be a feature rather than a bug.

The president prizes loyalty over quality, and he and McLaughlin go back decades. He also might not be too unhappy to have a good-news pollster on staff.

“The president likes people who are loyal to him. That’s true in every facet of the campaign and the White House,” said Doug Heye, a Trump critic who was a senior advisor to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) during his 2014 primary loss.

READ: Bernie Sanders wants to remind you he's the O.G. democratic socialist

McLaughlin is known in the industry as someone who sometimes tells his clients what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, say multiple Republicans who’ve worked with him on past races.

McLaughlin was Cantor’s top pollster when upstart primary opponent Dave Brat defeated him by an 11-point margin in 2014, shocking Cantor and the rest of the political world. Their surprise was genuine: McLaughlin’s survey had found his boss leading by a whopping 34 points just two weeks earlier.

The Cantor debacle led the National Republican Congressional Committee to blackball McLaughlin in 2014, cutting him off from work and encouraging top candidates not to use him.

The three pollsters reportedly fired by the Trump campaign over the weekend were Brett Lloyd, Mike Baselice and Adam Geller. Lloyd heads The Polling Company, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s old firm. Geller was the top pollster on Chris Christie’s upset win in New Jersey in 2009.

Grading on a curve

The Trump campaign shakeup happened after internal polls leaked to the public that showed the president trailing Joe Biden by wide margins in swing states and in tough reelection fights in some surprising red states. Those surveys were conducted by the campaign’s top pollster, Tony Fabrizio, who along with McLaughlin was kept on payroll.

It’s unclear why Fabrizio was kept on while the others were fired, though he’s known as a quality pollster who doesn’t pull his punches.

But McLaughlin may be playing a different role.

“If I look at the cast of characters surrounding Trump, a guy like McLaughlin fits right in,” said one GOP strategist. “[Trump] likes to surround himself with people who like to tell him he wants to hear.”

McLaughlin defended Trump when the then-candidate predicted he had numbers showing he’d beat Hillary Clinton in New York four years ago (Trump lost the state by 1.7 million votes and a 22-point margin). While Fabrizio and Conway did most of the polling last cycle, he was in charge of Virginia and the Northeast for the Trump campaign, sources tell VICE News.

The nonpartisan polling website FiveThirtyEight gives Fabrizio’s firm a B, Geller’s a B+ and Baselice’s a B-. McLaughlin gets a C-.

McLaughlin didn’t return phone calls and emails requesting explanations for his past polling misses and information on what role he’ll play on the 2020 campaign. A Trump campaign spokeswoman didn’t respond to an email on the same subject.

Getting it wrong

McLaughlin had two big House clients last fall: Then-Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and John Faso (R-N.Y.). His polling for Faso was only slightly off from the final results, according to private polls shared with VICE News (he had the race tied; Faso lost by 5). But the Comstock race went off the rails.

McLaughlin churned out poll after poll showing Comstock maintaining a lead in the low single digits, even as every public poll released in the last six months of the race showed her trailing outside their margins of error.

Comstock used those numbers to make the case she was still alive to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which proceeded to dump $8 million into the district even as other GOP strategists howled that they were wasting money that could have saved other endangered incumbents. His final poll, conducted two weeks from election day, still found her in a statistical tie. She ended up losing by 12 points.

“His numbers on Comstock were awful,” said one strategist involved in the race. “Did her a disservice.”

Another Republican involved in that race gave him a bit more credit, saying that he nailed Comstock’s performance in 2014 and 2016 wins and had earned internal trust from those solid results. But his most recent work in the district couldn’t be defended.

“Obviously he was completely off,” said the source.

The Comstock results were nothing new. In 2012, after the Cantor debacle, he found statistical ties in Connecticut and Pennsylvania Senate races just weeks before the Democrats won by double digits. He had Mitt Romney leading in Virginia by seven points (President Obama carried the state by four), with former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), his client, up by three shortly before Allen lost by six.

According to his numbers that year, then-Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) led by double digits just weeks before he narrowly lost, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) was losing by 17 points less than a month before he won, and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) was in a neck-and-neck race less than a month before she won with more than two thirds of the vote.

McLaughlin argued then that many of his 2012 polls didn’t match the election results because they came shortly after Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance and at the height of Romney’s numbers, which then deflated over the coming weeks, and he said he thought they’d still been accurate at the time they were conducted. He said the bad misses on the east coast were due to complications in reaching people after Hurricane Sandy, and blamed Democrats crossing over to vote against Cantor as the reason he missed so badly in that race.

McLaughlin didn’t respond to questions for this story.

But his rosy numbers, say some Trump-skeptical Republicans, may be precisely why McLaughlin is sticking around.

“Would you actually expect Trump to hire a good pollster?” one Republican who’s worked with McLaughlin texted VICE News when asked about the recent shakeup. “Hahaha.”

Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a second chance hiring and criminal justice reform event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 13, 2019. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Unicorn Riot Outed a White Nationalist in the National Guard. But They're Not Kicking Him Out.

5 hours 59 min ago

A soldier in the Minnesota National Guard was outed earlier this year as a dues-paying member of a white nationalist organization — and the military doesn’t seem too fussed.

Following an investigation into his activities online and offline, the Minnesota National Guard has decided not to expel 19-year-old Andrew Schmidt, who enlisted in January.

Schmidt, from Chaska, Minnesota, was identified as a member of Identity Evropa in April by HuffPost, which leaked chats from Discord, a chat server popular with gamers. The internal chats were obtained and published by leftist media collective Unicorn Riot.

“After a thorough investigation into his alleged conduct, the Minnesota National Guard has determined that, in accordance with DoD policy and U.S. Army Regulations, Private First Class Andrew James Schmidt did not engage in prohibited activity during his period of service,” the Guard said in a statement to VICE News. “Due to this, he will be retained by the Minnesota National Guard.”

For decades, the military has struggled with infiltration by right-wing extremists and radicalization within its ranks. Because of this persistent problem, the Army has policies that explicitly prohibit involvement in extremist groups.

Army Command Policy states that participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army personnel is “inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service.”

Schmidt was one of 11 active service members outed as members of Identity Evropa by HuffPost (others are under investigation). He posted in the leaked Identity Evropa discord servers under the username “Hyphenstein” about 60 times between 2017 and 2019. He posted photos showing he’d distributed Identity Evropa recruitment fliers on a college campus, and discussed paying dues. In November, he drove to Colorado to participate in a propaganda campaign called “Defend the Rockies.”

He also promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and talked about his future in the National Guard. His last message was on Feb. 24 (only 10 days before the server was leaked). “Last day in Minnesota before army basic training,” he wrote, adding that he wished he could have made it to a recent Identity Evropa meet-up.

Read more: How an Allegedly Violent White Nationalist Spent Decades in the US Military Undetected

But he seems to have had a change of heart: Schmidt told the Star Tribune this week that he no longer shares Identity Evropa’s ideology and was “embarrassed and ashamed’ of his involvement with the group. Col. Starkey said that Schmidt had received counseling and had been trained in Army policies pertaining to involvement in extremist groups.

Anyone enlisting in the armed services is required to fill out a lengthy questionnaire called SF86. One section of that questionnaire zeroes in on recruits’ associations. The only question that could have potentially applied to Schmidt’s involvement in Identity Evropa asks whether an applicant has “EVER been a member of an organization that is one asking if an organization that advocates or practices commission of acts of force or violence to discourage others from exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution or any state of the United States with the specific intent to further such action?”

Identity Evropa was founded in 2015 by an ex-Marine named Nathan Damigo, whose colleagues helped organize the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 that left one dead and dozens injured. Khaki-clad Identity Evropa members were seen marching alongside neo-Nazis, chanting slogans like “Jews will not replace us.” Since then, the organization has undergone a leadership change, and its new leader has sought to distance it from the ugly scenes and rhetoric of Charlottesville — with the goal of taking their white nationalist ideology mainstream.

Cover: Staff members leave the Pentagon building through the so-called 'River Entrance', which is usually being used also by the US Defence Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the Army in Washington D.C., USA, 13 November 2015. Photo by: Tina-Jane Krohn/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Run for President and Lose Your House Seat? It Could Happen to These 2020 Candidates

7 hours 4 sec ago

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard arrived to a recent Democratic cattle call here to a hero’s welcome, with supporters and staff blowing conch shells and waving signs heralding her arrival at the convention hall.

The reception for her presidential bid has been less warm in her home state of Hawaii. There, Kai Kahele, a 45-year-old state senator and airline pilot, is promising a bare-knuckle fight should Gabbard return to run for reelection.

“She's got a fucking tiger on her tail, and she's gonna be in trouble,” Kahele told VICE News, on the phone from his home on the Big Island. “It's a different Hawaii than what she's used to and I'm a completely different candidate than anything she's ever faced.”

A funny thing is happening to the presidential aspirants barnstorming Iowa and New Hampshire and pontificating in glistening convention centers in California and New York: Voters back home are starting to get suspicious and rival politicians see an opportunity.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Gabbard and Reps. Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell. A wave of national stardom is crashing down on the shores of reality, at least in the early going, where these presidential candidates are finding a catalogue of cable news hits and political profiles highlighting their potential are not translating to real support on the ground. All four are polling at 1% or less nationally for the Democratic presidential nomination, leaving candidates and constituents wondering why they bother running at all.

House members have to run for reelection every two years. So more than any other candidates in the presidential primary, Gabbard, Moulton, Ryan and Swalwell are balancing national aspirations with local job security. They have never faced legitimate opponents from within their own parties, but their longshot bids for the presidency have caused rivals to see vulnerability.

Threatened at home

Kahele said Gabbard’s run is the equivalent of trying to surf a 40-foot wave in Waimea Bay, without dying. Basically, he thinks there’s not much chance she survives — and he’s betting voters see the same thing. Already, he’s raised more than $250,000, but he’s going to have to raise much more to topple a prolific fundraiser like Gabbard. It may help that three sitting governors have endorsed his campaign, which he says is a message to Gabbard: “Good luck running for president, but don't come back to Hawaii.”

“If she did not run for president, I would not have announced I was running against her”

“If she did not run for president, I would not have announced I was running against her,” Kahele said. “But I knew that when she did that, that would be a game changer because it would be impossible for her to fight fires nationally and locally. I knew that it would completely take her out of the district for at least a year.”

The two have a similar profile: She served as a medic in Iraq, he as a pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan. She’s in the Army National Guard, he’s in the Air National Guard. Her father was a state senator, as was his.

But he thinks he can exploit her declining local popularity locally after some domestic and foreign policy stances Gabbard has taken recently — plus lingering whispers about her upbringing, culminating in recent a New York Magazine story about her ties to, as Kahele put it, “this super weirded-out cult.”

Gabbard’s campaign declined to make her available for an interview, but when CNN asked whether she plans to run for her House seat again if the presidential bid doesn’t work out, she deflected. Hawaii has a resign-to-run law, so Gabbard can’t run for both offices at once, but Hawaii allows candidates until June 2020 to file for reelection and the primary isn’t until August of that year, so she has plenty of time.

In the Bay Area, Swalwell is also facing a challenge to his seat. California allows candidates to run for two offices at once, but he has promised he won’t do that and will make a decision by the state’s December filing deadline. Still, he said potential opponents in his district should cut him some slack.

“It’s not like I joined a traveling bowling league. Like, I’m running for president,” he told VICE News after delivering a speech at the California Democratic Party Convention in San Francisco. “They should run. I’m running for president. If I’m still in [the race] come December, even though people can file for both, I’m not going to do that.”

A state senator announced for the seat, but then had second thoughts. But another potential challenger awaits for the March primary. Aisha Wahab became the first Afghani-American woman elected to any office in the country when she took a seat on the Hayward, Calif., City Council. Now she has an eye on trailblazing nationally.

Talking over coffee in San Francisco recently Wahab seemed less certain than Kahele that she would take on Swalwell if he returns from the presidential campaign trail. But she said she didn’t want to wait for Swalwell to decide to elevate the progressive issues she wants to pursue, including housing, universal health care and jobs.

She said endorsements have been slow coming because many people in the district also think Swalwell’s run will peter out, and because Swalwell himself has said he would run for his seat again if he drops out of the national race. But she wanted to set a marker either way.

“I think that people are just a little bit reluctant right now. They also say, ‘You know, we need to see what the presidential campaign is going to look like,’” Wahab said. “A lot of people have told me, ‘Slow down, slow your roll.’ … And I will say, the way I've said it to everybody: ‘We can't wait, we cannot wait for somebody to make a decision.’”

“Anyone who doesn’t make the debates should get out”

Swalwell said the test of whether his campaign will continue is whether he qualifies for the Democratic debates.

“Anyone who doesn’t make the debates should get out,” he said.

1% calculation

That was not the calculation Moulton made. He failed to quality for the first debate in Miami later this month, but will continue his presidential campaign. Several politicians have expressed interest in the race, and ex-Rep. John Tierney, who Moulton bested in a primary to win the seat in 2014 may return to avenge his loss. Yet at the moment, even though Moulton made enemies by trying to unseat Pelosi as Speaker, he faces no serious opposition.

“Seth has said he'll run for his House seat if he's not the Democratic nominee for president and so far no legitimate challenger has thrown their hat in to run against him,” said his spokesman, Matt Corridoni.

The same goes for Ryan, who has so far avoided a challenger altogether. During a recent interview in Iowa, he said he thinks that is because his campaign has focused on helping his home state of Ohio, and more specifically, his district, which has been hit by manufacturing job losses.

“We may get somebody but nobody yet,” he said. “They like seeing me out there right, so in a primary, it's kind of like he's our guy and he's trying to fix the problem here. So it's been fine.

One House member avoided the a challenger the old fashioned way: Resigning from his seat entirely. Ex-Rep. John Delaney said he wanted to run full time, so he owed it to his constituents to step down.

“I think it's hard to do your job in the Congress and run for president at the same time,” he said. “I also thought it was kind of the honest and honorable thing to do to tell my constituents that their member of Congress who is supposed to be representing them every day is actually going to be running for president and they should have someone who's doing it as a full time job.”

The numbers bear that out: Swalwell has missed more than 38% of his House votes this year, by far the most absent House member running for president, according to a tally kept by Pro Publica. Ryan has missed more than 26%, Gabbard missed more than 15% while Moulton missed just about 6%.

Cover: Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and 2020 presidential candidate, speaks during an Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, June 9, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Boaty McBoatface Just Made a Big Scientific Discovery

7 hours 29 min ago

Boaty McBoatface just made a scientific discovery about climate change and sea-level rise.

The submarine that the internet named in 2016 had a super successful first mission down in Antarctica mapping deep ocean currents. Traveling to depths of 2.5 miles below the surface, Boaty took a journey of over 100 miles through underwater mountain ranges deep below the Southern Ocean.

And the study from the mission, published Monday, is a game-changer for future climate models as it's helped scientists realize a link between stronger winds in the Antarctic and higher sea temperatures.

Back in 2016, the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council put up a public poll online to name a research ship. When the internet did what it does and named the boat Boaty McBoatface, the self-serious Brits did what they do and named the boat the RSS Sir David Attenborough instead.

But they did concede to the masses somewhat: They named one of the remote-piloted submarines that operates from the Attenborough “Boaty McBoatface.”

The study produced from Boaty’s data will inform future climate models, which up until now didn’t take into account the deep ocean currents that are contributing to warming waters in the depths of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.

Winds have gotten stronger over Antarctica due to a hole in the ozone layer above the southern continent and higher levels of greenhouse gases that have contributed to warming. Those winds are making the waters in the Southern Ocean more turbulent, causing warmer water from closer to the surface to mix with colder, denser water at greater depths.

The warming of that water in the deeps is a significant contributor to sea level rise. As it heats, water expands, and as it expands, sea levels get higher.

But none of this was factored into climate models that seek to predict sea level rise. Thanks to Boaty, now this warming water in the deep ocean will factor into future climate models.

To Boaty, scientists are grateful. “This study is a great example of how exciting new technology such as the unmanned submarine ‘Boaty McBoatface’ can be used along with ship-based measurements and cutting-edge ocean models to discover and explain previously unknown processes affecting heat transport within the ocean,” Dr. Povl Abrahamsen of the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement.

Cover: FCO Oceans strategy. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, with Boaty McBoatface, a autonomous underwater vehicle used for scientific research, during his visit to the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton ahead of the forthcoming FCO Oceans Strategy. Picture date: Friday June 22, 2018. Photo credit should read: Matt Cardy/PA Wire URN:37140108 (Press Association via AP Images)

Biden Says Hey Dems Let's Calm Down about the Whole Revolution Thing

8 hours 15 min ago

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders warned that “there will never be any real change in this country unless there is a political revolution.”

Author and activist Marianne Williamson called for “a moral, a political, an economic revolution.” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to “build a better America.”

At a June 17 forum on poverty and racism hosted by the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C., nine Democratic candidates for the presidency fielded questions about how their campaigns have committed to prioritizing the needs of the poorest Americans.

“There will never be any real change in this country unless there is a political revolution.”

Their answers, which ranged from installing a universal basic income (Yang) to slashing the military budget by more than half (Williamson), highlighted the degree to which the Democratic party has moved left over the last 45 years.

Nearly every candidate called for the radical transformation –– or total eradication –– of the political and financial institutions that have shaped the modern American economy. “Let us go forward with a new vision that transforms this country,” Sanders cried to applause.

Everyone, that is, except Joe Biden.

The former vice president and 76-year-old senator from Delaware hedged when answering questions about what cuts he’d propose making to the U.S. defense budget, how he’d build a political coalition in the American South, and how his administration would address rural flooding that has devastated dozens of towns across the country.

At an event where at least half of candidates criticized Senate Majority Leader and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell for his partisanship, Biden stopped short of identifying any people or institutions that he believes have shaped an economy where an estimated 40 million people live in poverty.

As has been his norm, Biden did not refer to the president by name, making thinly veiled comments instead about the “charlatans” who sow divisions between people of different ethnic and religious groups. Biden also appeared to take a swipe at the political language of his primary challengers who have called for a “revolution.”

“I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to say we have to work together.”

“Folks, look, if you start off with the notion there’s nothing you can do” to work with Republicans, he said, “well, why don’t you all go home then, man?” Throwing a subtle jab at the left wing of the Democratic party, Biden suggested starting “a real, physical revolution if you’re talking about it. Because we have to be able to change what we’re doing with our system.”

Biden also clashed with moderator Joy Reid, who asked him how he would confront a highly partisan, Republican-controlled Senate. Sidling over to Reid, Biden cracked, “I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to say we have to work together.”

In response to a question about how his campaign would address the issues of poverty “that undermine the myth that these issues affect a small minority of people,” Biden pivoted to political strategy instead of talking economic change: He told the crowd that he planned on winning delegates in Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, and Texas.

Biden strategically embraced a handful of modest policies –– a $15 minimum wage, an $8,000 child care tax credit, universal access to pre-school, and a bigger investment in school social workers –– that appeal to conservative voters in the Southern states he’s trying to win.

But where Biden stopped short, others went long. Nearly every other candidate running to his left offered a resounding critique of American capitalism.

Sanders, the event’s penultimate speaker, called for a “political revolution” where “millions of people have got to stand up and fight and take on the corporate interests, the billionaire class, the 1%, and tell them that in this country, our government and economy belong to all of us.”

Unlike Warren, Sanders’ closest contemporary on the left, the Vermont senator emphasized the importance of political organizing –– “this campaign is about transforming this country,” he said –– over dissecting public policy. Sanders urged the audience to “take on [Trump’s] divisiveness and racism and xenophobia,” and mobilize “around an agenda that works for all people.”

Warren, too, was unsparing in her assessment of the American financial system. “When the government is working only for a slice of people at the top, that is corruption pure and simple, and we need to call it out for what it is,” she said. “Is it going to keep working for the rich and powerful, or a thinner and thinner slice at the top? I want a government that works for everyone else, and that’s what this fight is all about.”

Andrew Yang, the entrepreneur and author, has staked his entire candidacy on the promise of enacting a universal basic income at a rate of $1,000 per citizen per month. Marianne Williamson, the author who ran an unsuccessful 2014 Congressional race, called the capitalism practiced in the U.S. “unfettered, with no sense of morality.”

“The economic system in America today is a system of economic tyranny,” she said. “The government is little more than a system of legalized bribery and corporate nationalism.” She likened her campaign to those of Sanders and Warren, and is calling for “fundamental status disruption.”

Even California Senator Kamala Harris –– no socialist by any standard –– said of the economy, “these supposed leaders walk around peacocking about how the economy is great … Nobody should have to work more than one job to have a roof over their heads and food on the table.”

Cover: Democratic candidate Joe Biden speaks during the Poor People's Moral Action Congress forum for presidential candidates at Trinity Washington University on Monday, June 17, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Trump Threatens Mass Deportations of Undocumented Immigrants

9 hours 31 min ago

In a series of tweets Monday night, President Donald Trump threatened mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, and said they could happen as soon as next week.

The posts from Trump signaled that a shelved plan for raids in major cities, an idea challenged by former administration officials, could be back on.

“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” Trump tweeted. “They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

The Washington Post reported that Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, “have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members” whose cases have been expedited as a part of a plan called the “rocket docket.”

It was revealed in May that Trump had purged the Department of Homeland Security after then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and then-acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello were critical of a plan to carry out mass arrests of thousands of migrants in 10 major American cities. The plan, the Post reported at the time, was to target families. Nielsen and Vitiello’s objections at the time were over “logistical and operational” concerns, rather than ethical qualms.

It’s not entirely clear if the administration is preparing to carry out the deportations Trump promised, but acting ICE Director Mark Morgan said this month he planned to ramp up arrests of people who’ve received their final deportation orders, including families.

The Associated Press reported Monday night, citing an anonymous administration official, that the arrests would target the “more than 1 million people who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remain at large in the country.” It would seem, then, that Trump was tweeting about a plan that is actually in place and not on a whim, as he is wont to do.

Morgan claimed the deportations would be carried out with “with compassion and humanity.” But promises to carry out deportations in a compassionate way have never come to fruition, despite similar claims from numerous administrations: There’s no kind way to uproot someone's life against their will, and no nice method for sending a person back to a dangerous situation.

In what's sure to be a frightening time for undocumented immigrants, RAICES, a Texas nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants, was quick to remind people of their rights. If ICE raids your workplace, the group noted in tweet responding to Trump, you don’t have to speak, you do have the right to a lawyer, and you don’t have to sign any documents.

Cover: President Donald Trump walks through the Colonnade at the White House as he heads to the Rose Garden, June 14, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Trump Is Willing to Go to War with Iran Over Nukes, But Not Over Oil

9 hours 43 min ago

President Donald Trump has warned Iran that he would be willing to go to war to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, but would probably not launch a military conflict over oil.

In an interview with Time published Tuesday morning, Trump tried to defuse tensions over last week’s attacks on oil tankers that the Pentagon has blamed on Tehran, calling them “very minor.”

Trump made the remarks on Monday, just hours after Iran had announced that its stockpiles of enriched uranium would exceed the limits agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal by the end of the month — raising concerns that it could soon begin developing nuclear weapons.

Asked if he'd be willing to go to war with Iran if it started developing nuclear weapons or if the U.S. needed to protect international oil supplies, Trump said, “I would certainly go over nuclear weapons, and I would keep the other a question mark.”

The question of protecting oil supplies has become increasingly relevant after a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. On Monday, the Pentagon released additional evidence to back up its claim that Tehran was behind an attack on two oil tankers in the gulf last week, and also announced it was sending about 1,000 additional American troops to the Middle East to bolster regional security in the face of what U.S. officials say is a growing threat from Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the U.S. is “considering a full range of options” in response to the attacks.

But Trump struck a different tone in the Time interview, downplaying the attacks and claiming the U.S. is no longer as reliant on Middle East pipelines as it once was.

“Other places get such vast amounts of oil there,” Trump said. “We get very little. We have made tremendous progress in the last two and a half years in energy. And when the pipelines get built, we’re now an exporter of energy. So we’re not in the position that we used to be in the Middle East where … some people would say we were there for the oil.”

Tehran has denied any responsibility for the tanker attacks, and the country’s president responded angrily on Tuesday, saying his country does “not wage war with any nation” but the entire nation “is unanimous in confronting U.S. pressures.”

“The end of this battle will see victory of the Iranian nation,” Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday.

China, which is still heavily reliant on oil from the Middle East, waded into the middle of the conflict Tuesday when its top diplomat denounced U.S. use of “extreme pressure” on Iran and urged restraint in the region.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said.

The pressure coming from the U.S. side in relation to nuclear weapons may ring hollow, however, given that Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. That now puts Washington in the awkward position of urging Tehran to abide by the terms of the pact.

“We continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community,” a State Department spokesperson said Monday.

Cover: President Donald Trump joined world leaders, dignitaries and military veterans in Portsmouth, England to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion in June of 1944. (Portsmouth, England, UK)

Facebook Just Launched Its Own Version of Bitcoin. Here's What You Need to Know.

11 hours 12 min ago

Facebook, having repeatedly proven that it can’t be trusted to handle its users’ personal information, announced Tuesday that it wants to become a global payment giant by launching a digital currency in 2020.

The Facebook-led initiative, known as Libra, aims to provide a fast and easy way for people to transfer money around the world, using the company’s own services like Messenger and WhatsApp.

Facebook is initially pitching the service at the 1.7 billion people in the world without a bank account.

The initiative is Facebook-led but has signed up a coalition of 28 partners, including households names like Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber and Lyft — who each coughed up $10 million to operate a Libra node, which gives them access to the data on the network

The Libra digital coin uses a distributed ledger technology known as blockchain.which is similar to the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin

Supporters believe Libra will be a tipping point, igniting wider adoption of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin by lending the technology a certain level of credibility.

"People feel as if Libra coin is going to increase mass awareness of cryptocurrencies and what they are, and provide an on-ramp into the original cryptocurrencies,” Mati Greenspan, market analyst with eToro, told VICE News.

Facebook’s new Libra blockchain can support what are known as smart contracts, meaning developers can build services on top of Facebook’s platform — giving it another possibly lucrative revenue stream.

Bitcoin's major attraction is that it’s decentralized, and the fact it's not controlled by a bank or government. Libra, however, is not decentralized and is controlled by the not-for-profit Libra Association, leading some critics to question why Facebook needed to use Blockchain technology at all.

“I assumed this wouldn't actually be a blockchain, because it would just be stupid to do their payment system as a blockchain,” David Gerard, author of “Attack of the 50ft Blockchain,” told VICE News. “I didn't figure on the depths of human foolishness around promises of magical internet money.”

How will Libra work?

Facebook says that from next year users on its platforms will be able to buy the digital coin and store it in a digital wallet called Calibra, which lets you send and receive money.

Facebook says sending money around the world will be "as easily and instantly as you might send a text message.”

The cost will be “negligible” Facebook says, with a tiny fee built in to prevent the system being spammed by millions of fake transfers in a denial-of-service attack.

Key to its adoption, however, will be Calibra’s integration directly into Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, instantly putting it in front of billions of users.

Who will use it?

Facebook’s marketing material for the Libra coin highlights that 31 percent of the world’s population don’t have access to a bank account, and it is these 1.7 billion people who Facebook will target.

The market for remittances — sending money around the world — is a hugely lucrative one, though there are already a number of major players in this market including WorldRemit and Kenya’s Mpesa.

But remittances are just the beginning.

“In time, we hope to offer additional services for people and businesses, such as paying bills with the push of a button, buying a cup of coffee with the scan of a code, or riding your local public transit without needing to carry cash or a metro pass,” Facebook says.

All of the launch partners are also expected to begin using the currency.

Facebook said it expected Libra would be bought and sold on currency markets in the future.

What About Fraud and Money Laundering?

In order to send and receive Libra, you will need to prove your identity to Facebook.

“When Calibra is available, you will need a government-issued ID to sign up for an account. Identity verification is important to comply with laws and prevent fraud, so you know people are who they say they are,” the Libra website says.

Verifying users' identities is necessary to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, but Facebook has not said how it is going to implement this system, particularly in countries that don’t have government-issued identity cards.

"Compliance is the really hard and expensive part,” David Marcus, who is leading the Libra project at Facebook, told the BBC, without providing any further answers.

Critics say that meeting the standards required by regulators around the world will take more than mere aspirations.

“How can they bank millions of unbanked if they're required to do Know Your Customer to international standards?” Gerard said. “None of their blockchain promises are coherent, or make sense, in the context of a properly regulated money transmission business.”

This is not bitcoin 2.0

Bitcoin was designed to take power out of the hands of giant corporations and governments by using a truly decentralized network that is private and trusted. Facebook’s implementation will be much more opaque.

At launch, only the 28 partners who have each paid $10 million to operate a node, allowing them to monitor the information flowing across the network, will be able to see the transactions.

Unlike bitcoin, which has swung from a low of $3,000 to a high of $9,000 in the last six months alone, Libra is what is known as a “stablecoin”, as it is backed by a basket of currencies and real assets such as government securities, meaning its value won’t fluctuate that much.

Will my data be safe?

Facebook says its Calibra subsidiary will keep financial and social data strictly separate and users won’t be targeted by adverts based on their shopping habits.

From a security perspective, Calibra will have built-in fraud protection, password recovery option, and multi-factor authentication. It will also have 24/7 customer support.

But after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook will need to convince its users that it can be trusted with their financial information — and it is banking on the fact that Libra is a collaborative effort to offset any privacy concerns.

"But by the time it comes to market next year, it won't be a Facebook-controlled initiative. We'll have the exact same voting rights as all the other members,” Marcus told the BBC.

Cover: File photo dated 25/03/18 of the Facebook logo displayed on a smartphone. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire URN:42395277 (Press Association via AP Images)

Family Held at Gunpoint by Phoenix Cops Say Apologies Are a "Slap in the Face"

June 17, 2019 - 3:58pm

The family held at gunpoint by Phoenix cops said at a press conference at City Hall Monday that public apologies from the police chief and mayor feel like a “slap in the face.” They want the officers held accountable, and community leaders are calling for rallies and protests this week to address the broader toxic police culture in the Arizona city.

“Everyone knows they are not fit to be policing,” said Dravon Ames, the father of the family, regarding the two cops who threatened them in a Dollar Store parking lot in late May. “Just like any other job, those officers should be held accountable — and they aren’t being held accountable at all.”

In bystander video that went viral late last week, the two officers run toward Ames and his fiancée Iesha Harper’s vehicle with their guns drawn. Officers later said they were responding to a call about a theft in the store.

“Get out of the fucking car,” one officer shouts, adding, “Put your hands up.”

“I can’t put my hands up,” Harper replies. “I have a fucking baby in my hands. I can’t. I’m pregnant.” Officers slam Ames against the police vehicle, cuff him, and then kick him in the back of the knees. “You’re going to get fucking shot,” one officer shouted.

One of two children in the car, a 4-year-old girl, had stolen a doll from the store without her parents’ knowledge.

“It was very terrifying for me and my children because they’ve never been through anything like that, especially when they have guns pointed at them,” Harper said at Monday’s press conference. “I always taught my daughters to depend on the police if something happens, but she had to find out herself that she cannot depend on the police.”

Ames and Harper have filed a $10 million civil rights suit against the city of Phoenix.

“This happens every day and every hour in America,” said their attorney Sandra Slaton at the press conference. “But there was video of this, and thank god there was.” The family is also getting assistance from rapper Jay-Z, who has hired another top lawyer to join the legal team in the case.

Over the weekend, Phoenix’s Police Chief Jeri Williams put out a video statement on Facebook, in which she spoke directly to the camera. “I, like you, am disturbed by the language and actions of our officers,” Williams said. She also appeared on a local NBC station, saying she was “with everyone in the community who is angry.”

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego also apologized, writing on Twitter that she was “deeply sorry for what this family went through.” She also called the officers’ actions “completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional.”

But their apologies are falling flat.

“Inappropriate and unprofessional?” said Kat McKinney, a community leader who runs an organization called Black Women of Faith. “How about ‘inhumane’? How about that word.”

Williams said she put the officers involved in the incident on desk duty after she became aware of the video last week. But for the family and community members, it’s not enough.

"Apologize to their face"

“They didn’t apologize to this family. They went on an apology tour,” said Jarrett Maupin, a spokesperson for the family, at the press conference. “This is 2019. This is not 1959. We’re not going to be treated as anything less than human beings. If you want to apologize to the Ames-Harper family, bring it on down and apologize to their face.”

Only weeks ago, Phoenix Police Department said it was reviewing hundreds of disturbing, racist and violent Facebook posts by nearly 100 current and former officers. The posts, which were compiled in a database by researchers at the Plain View Project, show officers calling black people “thugs,” sharing images of Confederate flags, and writing things like “good day for a chokehold.” Williams said she was “shocked” by some of the posts, and had pulled some officers off their enforcement duties.

An investigation by Phoenix New Times found that 11 of the Phoenix officers included in the database have been accused of killing or gravely injuring people.

Members of the community pointed to the Facebook posts as further evidence that the Phoenix Police Department is plagued by a racist, toxic, violent culture. Last year, police in Phoenix, the fifth most populous city in the U.S., shot and killed 44 people — more than any other large city. Police officials blamed a surge in violent crime.

When Williams, Phoenix’s first black female police chief, took office in 2016, she positioned herself as an ally to the community. She extolled the virtues of community policing, which was promoted by the Obama-led Justice Department. She expressed tepid support for Black Lives Matter, and said she recognized the protest movement was “spawned by a rash of men of color, and sometimes women of color, being killed by the hands of law enforcement.” But at the same time, she’s tried to maintain favor within the law enforcement community, by tacking on statements like “frankly, I’m all about all lives matter.”

After Williams took office, a group of community activists —including McKinney from Black Women of Faith — submitted a “12 Point Plan for Healing, Reconciliation, and Peace” to the Phoenix Police Department.”

“This was after several years of us protesting and trying to wait for them to come up with a solution,” said McKinney. “We can’t wait any longer. People are dying. Their lives are in danger. This is immediate action that needs to be taken.”

Among the recommendations, community members called on the City of Phoenix to immediately turn over investigations into fatal shootings and brutality to an outside law enforcement agency. They also urged Phoenix police department to immediately complete the sensitivity and diversity training that they’d abandoned earlier in the year, and to speed up the process of outfitting all officers with body cameras None of those recommendations have been implemented yet, McKinney says.

“They haven’t done a damn thing, including the purchasing of body cameras,” Maupin said at Monday’s presser. On Tuesday, community activists plan to rally at City Hall to pressure officials to adopt the recommendations; the rally will coincide with a Town Hall that the mayor is hosting about the incident. On Thursday, Maupin said that a coalition of local activists have organized a mass protest. “Black leaders, sports figures, music, politics, community, the church, have put their hands around this young couple, because of the absolute injustice they’ve endured,” said Maupin.

Cover: Iesha Harper, right, answers a question during a news conference as she is joined by her fiancee Dravon Ames, left, at Phoenix City Hall, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Phoenix. Ames and his pregnant fiancée, Harper, who had guns aimed at them by Phoenix police during a response to a shoplifting report, say they don't accept the apologies of the city's police chief and mayor and want the officers involved to be fired.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

U.S. Cities Are Under Attack From Ransomware — and It’s Going to Get Much Worse

June 17, 2019 - 1:54pm

When Atlanta was hit by a devastating ransomware attack in March 2018, it knocked almost all of the city’s agencies offline, impacting everything from scheduling court cases to paying utility bills online and causing decades worth of official correspondence to disappear.

The incident was headline news, and the recovery cost to the city was estimated to be $17 million. (A Department of Justice probe into the cyberattack resulted in indictments of two Iranian hackers.) Security experts warned that Atlanta should be a wake-up call for how vulnerable local and state governments were to these types of attack — and how underprepared they are to combat them.

So far, it seems like no one has gotten the message.

Just over 12 months later, Baltimore is in the throes of its own costly ransomware attack. Now in its sixth week, the attack has left officials unable to process payments and even respond to emails. And Baltimore is hardly alone: In just the last two months, there have been ransomware attacks in Greenville, North Carolina; Imperial County, California; Stuart, Florida; Cleveland, Ohio; Augusta, Maine; Lynn, Massachusetts; and Cartersville, Georgia.

Reported attacks rose from 38 in 2017 to 53 in 2018, according to data collected by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. Those numbers are only expected to rise in the coming years.

As corporations harden their defenses against ransomware attacks, hackers have found convenient targets in local municipalities whose defenses are much weaker. And as cities and towns race to digitize more and more of their infrastructure, the potential for larger, more devastating attacks becomes even greater.

“The government knows it needs to change, but they move slowly compared to how quickly private business can pivot to manage their exposure to a new threat,” Gary Hayslip, a cybersecurity expert who previously acted as chief information security officer for San Diego, told VICE News. “Until it is mandated that cities, counties, and states meet a specific level of security and have to periodically demonstrate it as is done in business for compliance, government entities will continue to be low-hanging fruit and cybercriminals don't mind eating them for lunch.”

Why is this happening now?

Ransomware isn’t a new phenomenon. The pernicious malware has been popular among hackers for years, giving them an easy way to extract millions of dollars — typically in bitcoin — from unsuspecting users around the world by infecting their computers and holding their data hostage until they pay up.

But it has recently spiked at the local level, for two main reasons.

1) It’s become increasingly easy to launch an attack

"On the dark web, there are lots of available tools for relative novices to craft together pretty effective pieces of ransomware technology,” according to Chris Kennedy, chief information security officers at cybersecurity company AttackIQ . “It's the ‘Idiots Guide to Hacking’.”

2) Local and state governments are easy and lucrative targets

Just like other criminal groups, cybercriminals tend to look for targets that require the least effort for the maximum profit. These locales fit that bill nicely, for multiple reasons. Agencies at the state and local level tend to “chug along on this old legacy infrastructure, and that old legacy infrastructure is the stuff that is often exploited,” Kennedy says.

In Atlanta, for example, an audit conducted months before the 2018 ransomware attack found its systems had up to 2,000 vulnerabilities. In the end, the hackers took advantage of a weak password to burrow their way into the system.

Those charged with protecting these essential services, meanwhile, are typically overstretched and underprepared.

“Cities are especially prone to ransomware because of, well, politics,” security expert Rob Graham told VICE News. “Public employees famously have extremely high job security, which means you can't fire bad IT workers or those without outdated skills.”

“I do think that we are seeing less than half of the actual cases, and it may be significantly less”

There is a global shortage of qualified cybersecurity talent at the moment, and public bodies simply cannot compete for the top people with private industry, given their very limited resources. In some cases, state and local government agencies may not have any dedicated cybersecurity staff.

“What we found is that they have IT people but not designated security people,” Supervisory Special Agent Joel DeCapua of the FBI’s Cyber Division told VICE News.

Finally, money is a problem. Even if there's sufficient money allocated to cybersecurity, it can often be spent in the wrong places.

“We still don't see town councils, city councils allocating the budget that is necessary to put the protections in place to prevent these kinds of attacks,” Allan Liska, author of the Recorded Future report, told VICE News.

Why it’s going to get worse

In order to adequately fight the growing threat of ransomware against local and state governments, experts say, there needs to be a clear sense of how big the problem is and how hackers are exploiting these systems.

But there’s currently no government agency doing that at the state or federal level, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future.

“I do think that we are seeing less than half of the actual cases, and it may be significantly less,” Liska said. He and other experts believe there needs to be one organization with a mandate to oversee the response to these attacks, and, crucially, to enforce guidelines and best practices.

“We are throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks”

Today, the FBI is typically the first point of contact when these attacks happen, giving it the best insight into the scale of the problem. DeCapua says the FBI is currently extremely worried about BlueKeep, a new vulnerability in older versions of Windows that could allow ransomware to spread much faster from computer to computer without any need for human interaction — the same way WannaCry ransomware did in 2017 when it infected 200,000 computers across 150 countries in the space of a couple of days.

“The thing that is keeping us up at night right now is thinking about how a ransomware actor, or any type of hacker, could use this exploit once they are able to weaponize it and then spread like a worm,” DeCapua said.

While incidents like the attack on Atlanta or the spread of WannaCry were meant to be “wake-up” calls for the industry, the hackers are continuing to win, while cybersecurity experts are left mostly fumbling in the dark.

“Fundamentally we don't know what works and what doesn't work in cybersecurity,” Dave Aitel, CEO of cybersecurity firm Immunity and a former NSA hacker, told VICE News. “We are throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.”

Cover: A man behind a laptop. IT systems in several countries have undergone a global ransomware attack. Kirill Kallinikov/Sputnik via AP

Parkland Survivor Kyle Kashuv Was Going to Harvard. Then His Old Messages with Racial Slurs Surfaced.

June 17, 2019 - 12:38pm

Kyle Kashuv, the lone conservative voice among the Parkland shooting survivors turned activists, was booted from Harvard before he could even step foot on campus. The elite university pulled his acceptance after it became clear he'd used racial slurs in high school, he said.

Last month, a classmate posted a video to Twitter of Kashuv and others messaging on a Google Doc in 2017. He wrote the n-word several times and said in one message “fuck the Jews” and “kill the fucking Jews.” After the messages came to light, Kashuv resigned from the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA and called his own comments “idiotic” and “callous.”

Harvard does not comment on the admissions status of its applicants. But Kashuv wrote in a viral Twitter thread Monday that he was withdrawn from the Class of 2023 after being accepted three months ago. He shared a screenshot of an email from Harvard, which said the school “takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character.”

“Harvard deciding that someone can’t grow, especially after a life-altering event like the shooting, is deeply concerning,” Kashuv wrote. “If any institution should understand growth, it’s Harvard, which is looked to as the pinnacle of higher education despite its checkered past.”

Kashuv also said that Harvard emailed him asking for an explanation in late May and that he apologized in a letter of his own to the school. He also said his past racist statements were simply meant to be “as extreme and shocking as possible.”

“So what now? I’m figuring it out,” Kashuv continued on Twitter. “I had given up huge scholarships in order to go to Harvard, and the deadline for accepting other college offers has ended. I’m exploring all options at the moment.”

After the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018, Kashuv quickly assumed the position of the lone, vocal pro-gun activist among survivors. He met with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and President Donald Trump and appeared on Fox News numerous times.

He was scheduled to attend Harvard in 2020 after taking a gap-year, along with his classmates, David Hogg and Jaclyn Corin, who became leading voices in the push for stronger gun control after the shooting.

Some ultra-conservative figures — like Ben Shapiro — have jumped to Kashuv’s defense. Shapiro wrote Monday that Harvard was setting “up an insane, cruel standard no one can possibly meet.” And CJ Pearson, another conservative activist, wrote his “heart hurts” for Kashuv.

Cover image: Kyle Kashuv, survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Friday, April 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s First Democratically Elected President, Just Collapsed and Died in Court

June 17, 2019 - 12:01pm

Egypt's ousted former President Mohamed Morsi died after fainting in a courtroom during a hearing on espionage charges Monday, Egyptian state television reported.

The 67-year-old won his country’s first free presidential election in 2012, but was ousted by the military following mass protests the following year.

Morsi, a leading figure in the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, had been serving lengthy jail sentences since his ouster from power. He was serving a 20-year sentence on a conviction related to the deaths of protesters during 2012 demonstrations, and a concurrent life sentence for espionage in a case related to Qatar.

The former president was appearing in a Cairo court Monday over espionage charges related to alleged contacts with Hamas, Egyptian state television reported.

During his little more than a year in office, Morsi issued decrees that dramatically consolidated his power, eventually triggering protests and later a military coup that sparked his downfall.

After Morsi was removed from power, Egypt’s military rulers banned the Muslim Brotherhood and instigated a crackdown on his followers. The country’s military and Interior Ministry announced a state of high alert Monday after his death was announced, amid fears the news could trigger protests and rioting.

Morsi’s sudden death prompted a swift response from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who hailed him as a martyr. “May Allah rest our Morsi brother, our martyr's soul in peace,” he said.

Others blasted the harsh treatment Morsi had experienced in Egyptian prison.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said Morsi had been treated poorly by Egyptian authorities during his six years in prison.

“This is terrible but entirely predictable, given [government] failure to allow him adequate medical care, much less family visits,” she tweeted.

Morsi’s youngest son, Abdullah, had complained about his father’s treatment — being held in solitary confinement and denied treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure. He wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in March 2018 that his family feared “that the Egyptian authorities are doing this on purpose, since they want to see him dead ‘from natural causes’ as soon as possible.”

This is a developing story. Please refresh for updates.

Cover: Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom at Egypt’s national police academy in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. An Egyptian criminal court on Tuesday, sentenced Morsi to 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the country’s first freely elected leader. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

It Looks Like Germany's Worst Fear Just Happened: a Far-right Political Assassination

June 17, 2019 - 11:34am

For years, experts have warned that Germany’s increasingly radicalized far right would one day lash out with deadly violence against a politician. Now it appears this nightmare scenario has finally happened, underlining the arrival of a dangerous new political reality for the country.

German authorities announced Monday that the country’s federal prosecutor had taken over the investigation into the June 2 murder of Walter Lübcke, a prominent pro-refugee local politician, who investigators suspect was killed in a politically motivated assassination by a right-wing extremist. A 45-year-old man, arrested on Saturday on suspicion of having shot Lübcke, has a long track record of right-wing extremist associations, and a history of violent and xenophobic crimes, German media outlets reported.

Lübcke, 65, who served as the regional council chief in the western city of Kassel, was found with a gunshot wound to the head on the terrace of his home earlier this month. He was a constant target for far-right extremists and had previously received death threats for his pro-immigration comments; his death was celebrated online by neo-Nazis. The acknowledgment of a potential far-right connection in his killing has only amplified the shock over the popular politician’s death.

Experts told VICE News that the killing, coming after a number of non-fatal assassination attempts on politicians and disrupted terror plots in recent years, was the strongest proof yet that far-right terrorism had arrived as an urgent threat to German society.

“There has never been a case like this in the history of [modern Germany],” said Viola Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a German organization that works to combat the far-right.

Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute on Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies, told VICE News that the closest precedent was the shooting of a German student political leader in 1968, causing injuries which resulted in his death 11 years later.

In Germany’s increasingly radicalized political climate since the migration crisis of 2015, there have been a number of brutal attacks on pro-immigrant politicians that the victims were lucky to survive.

In October 2015, Henriette Reker, then a candidate for the Cologne mayoralty, was stabbed in the neck by a right-wing extremist who was yelling about refugees. Two years later, the pro-immigration mayor of Altenar, Andreas Hollstein, also survived being stabbed in the neck by an extremist. In another attack in 2015, a pro-refugee local councilman in the town of Freital had his car blown up while he slept.

The attacks were a reflection of the way right-wing extremists had increasingly framed politicians as an enemy of the people over their support for the migration influx of 2015, which saw nearly one million migrants arrive in Germany, said Schmidt. “This concept of the politician as enemy has turned into a widely-spread narrative among right-wing extremists,” she said. During the trial of Reker’s attacker, he described how his motive was to instil terror into the political class so they learned to fear the public, said Koehler.

“This concept of the politician as enemy has turned into a widely-spread narrative among right-wing extremists”

German authorities have not named the suspect arrested over Lübcke’s murder, but said he was connected to the crime through a DNA link. German media outlet Zeit, citing security sources, identified the suspect as Stephan E., using just the initial of his surname in line with German privacy protocols.

READ MORE: Inside the far-right conspiracy movement that’s preparing for a showdown with Germany’s government

According to German media reports, the man has had past associations with various right-wing extremist groups, from the neo-Nazi political party the NPD to the militant group Combat 18, and has a criminal record for violent and xenophobic crimes, including for a bomb attack on a refugee shelter in 1993 and an attempted homicide. He had reportedly made threats against the government on his YouTube channel.

Koehler said German authorities had ramped up their response to the far-right threat in recent years, following regular warnings from the country’s domestic intelligence agency that the numbers of extremists were growing, and becoming more violence-oriented, since 2015.

That heightened responsiveness could be seen in the way prosecutors had successfully charged groups like the so-called Freital Group, which conducted a bombing campaign against refugees and their advocates in an east German town, as terror cells, rather than simply on weapons charges as they would have done in the past.

“We’re in a game-changing phase when it comes to the authorities assessing the threat from the far-right”

Koehler said that the murder of Lübcke, a representative of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union, would be “seen as a direct attack on the political establishment” that would lead to even greater priority being placed on the far-right threat.

“We’re in a game-changing phase when it comes to the authorities assessing the threat from the far-right,” Koehler said. “It will speed up changing the minds of policy makers and decision makers.”

But for critics like Irene Mihalic, home affairs spokeswoman for the left-wing Greens party, the murder of a politician by a known right-wing extremist only showed that the security apparatus needed to do more to counter the threat.

“This is very alarming for all democrats, and illustrates how dangerous this form of extremism is,” she told VICE News.

Cover: In this Monday, June 23, 2019 photo, a police tape secure the area around the home of Walter Luebcke, who was in charge of the Kassel area regional administration, in Wolfhagen, near Kassel, Germany. Walter Luebcke was found dead outside his home Sunday, June 2, 2019, and a homicide investigation was opened. (Sven Pfoertner/dpa via AP)

Pakistani Politician Shows Off Bold, New Look

June 17, 2019 - 10:36am

It seems the cat filter — usually reserved for fun Instagram stories — can also be an instrument of political destruction.

Take the case of a regional minister in northwest Pakistan, Shaukat Yousafzai. A once-dignified politician, he was broadcast to the world Friday with cat ears and whiskers when his staff mistakenly live-streamed a press conference with the cat filter mistakenly hovering over him.

The video, livestreamed on the Tehreek-e-Insaf party's official Facebook page, was supposed to be about local issues affecting Yousafzai’s constituents. Instead, the politician’s kitty face became the subject of global ridicule.

The party issued a statement after social-media users latched onto the mistake that the filter was a “human error” by one of the group’s volunteers. While the video was quickly removed, the screenshots circulating on Twitter will live forever.

“Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf’s social media team is deemed to be the pioneers of Social Media in Pakistan,” the statement said.

“All necessary actions have been taken to avoid such incident in [the] future with a great emphasis on strict enforcement of SOPs (standing operating procedures) and protocol for live coverage by ground teams.”

Jokes aside, Yousafzai seemed to take the incident in stride. He told Agence France-Presse that two of his colleagues also suffered under the cat filter.

"I wasn't the only one — two officials sitting along me were also hit by the cat filter," he said.

Cover image: Screenshot via livestream

Netanyahu Just Put Up a Giant Gold “Trump” Sign in the Golan Heights

June 17, 2019 - 10:16am

There’s a Trump Tower in New York, and one in Chicago, and one in Las Vegas. There was nearly one in Moscow. And now, thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there will likely be a settlement bearing Trump’s name in the disputed Golan Heights.

“Trump Heights” will be built in a region that Israel annexed from Syria more than 50 years ago. Golan Heights has never been internationally recognized as Israeli territory — that is, not until Trump tweeted out his announcement that the U.S. would recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the area.

Since the Six Day War in 1967, the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights have been occupied by Israel, while the eastern third has been under Syrian control. It’s estimated that about 130,000 Syrians were expelled from the Golan during the war and haven’t been allowed to return. The construction of Israeli settlements there had been internationally condemned.

The construction of 100 homes is slated to begin later this year. Haim Rokach, head of the Israeli Golan regional council, said that he hopes that, eventually, they’ll build 400 homes there, according to the Guardian.

“Trump is a great friend of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the unveiling ceremony on Sunday. “He has torn the mask off this hypocrisy which doesn't recognize the obvious.”

Not all Israelis think Trump Heights is a good idea. Netanyahu hasn’t yet been able to form a government after the last elections, and new elections are slated to be held in September. His political opponents ridiculed him for his announcement of a new settlement: “Whoever reads the small print on the 'historic' resolution understands that it is a dummy-resolution,” tweeted Zvi Hauser, as translated by Reuters. Hauser is a former Netanyahu cabinet member who’s now with the opposition Blue and White party.

Trump's policies have embolden Israel's hardliners. He’s relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial move given that the Palestinians claim part of the city as theirs. Trump has also entirely cut U.S. aid to Palestinians, and White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s peace plan for the region reportedly doesn’t call for the formation of a Palestinian state.

All of this has made Trump exceedingly popular in Israel. His approval rating is higher there than it is almost anywhere else, with 69 percent of Israelis saying they like him, according to polling from October of 2018.

Back in 1973, Syria tried, unsuccessfully, to take the territory back from Israel. The regional tensions still run high there. Last summer, as the Assad regime in Syria bombed its own civilians, 160,000 Syrians fled toward the Golan Heights. Israel provided aid to some of them, but refused to let any Syrian refugees into its territory, despite calls from humanitarian groups to do so.

To the Israelis living in the Golan, the news that Israel will expand its settlements there is welcome news. Trump’s recognition of the land they live on as Israeli has already led to an influx of international investment in the region. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson — GOP megadonors who also contribute huge sums the Birthright Israel program, which sends American Jews to Israel for free — are reportedly planning to invest in a 200-room hotel in the Golan Heights, according to the Guardian.

Cover: Israeli women visit a sign for a new settlement named after U.S. President Donald Trump on June 17, 2019 in Golan Heights, Israel. The Israeli government named the new settlement "Trump Heights' to honor Trump's decision to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)