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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Friday, July 31, 2020

As a cop, I killed someone. Then I found out it happens more often than we know | Thomas Owen Baker | Opinion | The Guardian

‘According to the FBI, only 40% of the approximately 18,000 police agencies in the US shared their 2019 use-of-force data.’

"In 2005, I joined the police department in Phoenix, Arizona. I became a police officer for the health insurance and economic security, and because the people I’d looked up to as a working-class kid had told me being a cop was a respectable career. I was married with two small children and saw policing as one of the few remaining paths to the middle class available to an army veteran without a college degree.

Becoming a police officer was an easy transition. As a former Army Ranger, the training, male-dominated culture and paramilitary structure of the police academy felt like home. I loved it, and became completely engrossed in police culture. I viewed myself as a member of a special brotherhood, protecting sheep from wolves.
I wanted to be respected by my new peers, so I worked to be perceived as a hard-charger. In patrol, I responded to as many dangerous incidents as I could. When nothing dangerous was available, I searched for suspects on an active list of people to arrest or conducted pretextual stops on suspicious vehicles. I was known as a “shit-magnet”: someone who was always finding stolen vehicles, guns and people who wanted to fight with the police.
There’s no feeling quite like entering a dangerous encounter and asking for your fellow officers to “step it up”, then hearing sirens in the background, knowing that your brothers and sisters are racing to danger and will do anything to protect you. I’ve never felt that way before or since. But my perceptions about my job and my identity began to change after something that happened about four years into my career.
At the time I was working a regular off-duty security job, which is common among cops. My partner and I were providing security for an apartment complex that had been experiencing a lot of crime. One night, about four in the morning, we received a domestic violence call from one of the apartments. We had been to the same unit the night before and had resolved a verbal altercation between a man and woman. While we were expecting something similar to the night before, we also knew there was a potential for violence. During our previous investigation we had discovered the man had a long history of violence and had fractured his victim’s arm during a previous incident.
When we arrived in front of the building there was screaming coming from the second-story apartment. As I ran up the stairs to the landing I could see blood on the floor. At the top, a man was yelling, “He has a knife,” and pointing to an open apartment door.
I drew my weapon. Inside was the man I had dealt with the night before. This time he was holding a large, bloody knife. Screams were coming from somewhere farther inside the apartment. I pointed my gun at him and told him to drop the knife. He yelled, “Let’s go, motherfucker,” raised the knife, and ran toward me.
I shot him twice in the chest. He hit the floor at my feet. He breathed heavily for a few moments, and then became motionless.
When I fired my weapon, it was like watching a movie of myself; I felt slightly outside my body, and I remember feeling relieved that I was responding the way I’d been trained. I kept my gun trained on the man’s body while my partner smashed a bedroom window and evacuated the family.
I was placed on three days of paid leave, required to visit a psychologist, and re-qualify with my gun before returning to work. The shooting was investigated by our version of internal affairs, by the homicide bureau, and by the county prosecutor’s office. All agreed that the shooting was justified: what many cops call a “clean” shooting.
After the shooting I felt, for the most part, fine. I’m ashamed to say that; it doesn’t feel like the response you’re ‘supposed’ to have after killing someone
Following my return to work, someone in my chain of command pulled me into their office and played the radio transmissions from the shooting. He told me he was impressed with how I’d handled the situation and was going to fast-track a transfer I’d previously requested to an investigative position. The news made me uneasy; it felt like I was being rewarded for taking a human life.
However, in the days and months after the shooting I felt, for the most part, fine. In fact, I was proud of the way I’d performed under pressure. I’m ashamed to say that; it doesn’t feel like the response you’re “supposed” to have after killing someone.
At that point, I viewed the man I’d killed as being solely responsible for what had happened. He had made a series of moral decisions, on that day and in his life, that led him to his encounter with me. On a logical, purely intellectual level, I did not – and don’t – regret the decision I made that night. I don’t think I had much choice.
But about a year after the shooting, something began to change. Where I had previously accepted what had happened with relative calm, I now began to have a more difficult time dealing with the fact that I had taken a life.
One day I received an innocuous-looking interoffice envelope. Inside was a computer disk with the results of the investigation into the shooting. The first file I opened contained high-definition autopsy photographs. They showed how one of my bullets had pierced the man’s heart and the other had partially severed his spine. There were also close-up photographs of the extracted bullets, lying on a metal tray, with small scraps of human flesh still clinging to them.
I started to have bad dreams and anxiety. I was hyper-vigilant bordering on paranoid. I made things worse by self-medicating with Captain Morgan after my shifts ended. I gained more than 60 pounds. I continued to work hard and produce the type of results expected of me, but something had changed. I started to question the idea of individual culpability. As I investigated burglaries, robberies and homicides, interviewing thousands of suspects over the years, it became clear that a myriad of social forces drove people to behave the way they did. The man I’d killed wasn’t completely autonomous but also a product of an environment we’d all contributed in creating.
During the 2009 financial crash and the recession that followed, a lot of people who had lost everything washed up in my beat, often in the back of my patrol car. Some had lost their jobs, some their homes, and many found themselves living on the streets, doing whatever it took to get through to the next day, legal or not.
In 2011, I was asked to provide crowd control at a conference held by the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which was being protested by Occupy activists. Alec is a conservative political organization primarily known for writing “model legislation” for state legislators. I felt sympathetic to Occupy. I began to wonder if I was a sort of state mercenary, protecting the interests of the same oligarchs who had put so many people out of their homes and jobs.
During a shift one day, the radio dispatcher announced that a man had stolen a woman’s car at gunpoint from a nearby restaurant parking lot. I responded and soon found myself in a long train of police cars following the stolen car down the highway. Rather than be arrested he exited his vehicle and shot himself in the head.
I didn’t know it during the pursuit, but I’d dealt with the same man before. Several years earlier I’d sent him to prison. His family members later told investigators that he was about to be sent back to prison for a parole violation and had indicated he preferred death to further incarceration. The robbery itself, they said, may even have been a ploy to commit “suicide by cop”. It was notable that after stealing the car he appeared to wait for the first patrol car to arrive before fleeing.
In 2014, I decided to leave law enforcement. I was tired and felt dirty. I wanted to convert what I had experienced into something of social value. I returned to school to do a PhD in criminology at the University of Missouri-St Louis – a little over a mile from where Michael Brown was killed the same year.
My research looks at police culture and police use of force. When I began this work I was shocked to learn that there is no comprehensive national government database documenting police killings in the US. Furthermore, reporting by local law enforcement to federal agencies is voluntary. According to the FBI, only 40% of the approximately 18,000 police agencies in the US shared their 2019 use-of-force data.
Some news organizations, such as the Washington Post and the Guardian, have created police violence databases. Even these, however, probably undercount police-related deaths. Many databases, for example, wouldn’t document the killing of George Floyd because they only include incidents where police kill people with guns.
The organization I feel collects the most comprehensive data is a project called Fatal Encounters. The vast majority of its data is collected by volunteers and funded by donations or grants.
Fatal Encounters not only documents homicides by police but also includes civilian deaths that occur while fleeing from police; deaths by suicide during or immediately following contact with law enforcement, such as the one I witnessed; and police-related accidental deaths, among other causes.
Although the Washington Post database estimates that slightly over 1,000 people are killed by American police every year, Fatal Encounters estimates the number to be closer to 1,800. And even the Fatal Encounters database has missing or incomplete data. I was initially unable to locate my own killing in their files. This is probably because Fatal Encounters’ data is sourced mainly from online news reports; I was only able to locate one news report of my shooting on the internet and it was buried behind a paywall. I killed a man while wearing a police uniform and it’s almost as if it never happened. I later contacted Fatal Encounters directly and they were able to locate the incident in their database. The file did not contain an address, the victim had been listed as “unknown”, and the date was slightly off.
Perhaps the only thing the left and right agree on, regarding police, is that we ask too much of cops. They’re correct
I’ve spent the last year reading over 1,700 accounts of police-related deaths. There is usually a complex combination of race, class, guns, violence, capital and other social forces that lead to the fatal encounter. Merely identifying a handful of bad officers and sending them to prison is not a sufficient solution. We must work toward a society where citizens and their governmental representatives – the police – aren’t so terrified of one another.
While I’m very critical of policing, it is worth acknowledging that things are improving, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Police departments across the country are far more professional than in the past and many have made considerable progress in reducing the number of police-related deaths. In 1971, the New York police department shot and killed 93 people. In 2009, the NYPD shot and killed 12. This decline is the result of better training and more restrictive departmental policies, as well as the fact that American society has become less violent over time.
Perhaps the only thing the left and right agree on, regarding police, is that we ask too much of cops. They’re correct. Decades of deindustrialization have pulled the rug out from under a lot of Americans, and our social safety net is shamefully weak. Our society’s failings inevitably fall on to the police. Recently there have been calls to defund police agencies. It is critical that any attempt to do so coincide with a refunding of the social safety net that will be required to fill the void."
As a cop, I killed someone. Then I found out it happens more often than we know | Thomas Owen Baker | Opinion | The Guardian

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We WIll Vote

PolitiFact | The long history of racism in the US presidency

Joe Biden stated on July 22, 2020 in a town hall:
No U.S. presidents elected before Donald Trump were racist.


"At a town hall meeting, a home care provider spoke to former Vice President Joe Biden about racist rhetoric targeting Asian Americans during the pandemic. Biden responded by leaning into racism allegations against President Donald Trump.

"We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has," Biden said July 22.

Biden’s pointed statement was memorable for a few reasons: Not only was he calling the sitting president a racist, but Biden also asserted that no other racists held the office before Trump.

Historians say this is wrong. Various presidents since the country’s founding can be considered racist, whether because they enslaved Black people, held racist beliefs, or used racist rhetoric.

Multiple early presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, enslaved Black people. Andrew Jackson forced Native Americans from their lands, causing migrations in which many died. Andrew Johnson sought to undermine Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner with nostalgia for the antebellum South, re-segregated the federal government. Still others privately used racial slurs or believed whites were the superior race.

"If Mr. Biden wanted to call the president a racist, he should have done so and left it at that," said H.W. Brands, a history professor at The University of Texas at Austin. "Bringing in history confuses the issue."

Not everyone sees eye-to-eye on who they consider racist. Nikki Brown, an Africana studies professor at the University of Kentucky, said a person’s race may play a role in which presidents they view as racist.

White people might look for red flags like using racial slurs as a sign that someone is racist, Brown said, while Black people and other people of color may also point to a politician who "supports laws that treat African Americans as inferior or unworthy."

Whatever definition you use, many presidents can be considered racist.

The most obvious category would be presidents who personally enslaved people. Historians generally consider 10 of the first 12 presidents to fall into this category. (The exceptions were John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts.)

Most of these presidents were born in the slavery-era South. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, and John Tyler were born in and represented Virginia. Andrew Jackson was born in South Carolina and represented Tennessee; Zachary Taylor, who owned 100 people, was born in Virginia and resided in Louisiana; and James K. Polk was born in North Carolina and resided in Tennessee. Martin Van Buren was from New York, where slavery lingered after formal abolition.

By the standard of enslaving people, "the first 60 years of the U.S. republic would have been run by racists," Brown said.

Within the category of presidents who enslaved people, some historians see gradations of racism.

For instance, Washington not only enslaved people but also, as president, moved some of them to and from the then-capital of Philadelphia every few months. "Pennsylvania had passed a law ensuring the freedom of enslaved people who resided in the state after a period of time," said Saint Louis University historian Lorri Glover. This gambit "re-set the clock on their bondage and precluded their freedom."

On the other hand, Washington was initially opposed to Black troops during the Revolutionary War but changed his mind during the war, and he later said that his favorite unit was one that was half Black, said Paul Finkelman, the president of Gratz College in Pennsylvania who has written extensively about slavery. Washington also freed his enslaved people and set them up with land.

Historians paint his contemporary, Jefferson, more negatively. In his writings, Jefferson "said that Blacks are inferior" and tried to justify it scientifically. While Jefferson claimed not to sell enslaved people except in limited cases, he regularly wrote to his plantation managers asking them to sell enslaved people because he needed the money, Finkelman said. And in her book, "Founders as Fathers," Glover detailed the stark contrast between how Jefferson treated his acknowledged white family and his unacknowledged family with Sally Hemings, who was enslaved.

A later president who enslaved people, Andrew Jackson, also worked for the forced relocations of Native Americans, during which many died.

The roots of the federal takeover of Indian lands, often undergirded by notions of white superiority, dated back to the first five presidents, Glover said. Subsequent presidents continued Jackson’s approach. "Polk opened Texas, and, if he'd had his way, would have opened California too, to cotton planting with slaves," said Jason M. Opal, a McGill University historian.

John Tyler went so far as to join the Confederate government 16 years after he left the White House.

Lesser known presidents like Millard Fillmore have racist pasts, too. Though he was a New Yorker who didn’t enslave anyone, Fillmore "said absolutely horrible things about Black people," Finkelman said.

Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which "made it possible to literally kidnap free black people in the North, bring them before a compliant federal commissioner, and drag them into slavery," Finkelman said.

"Freedmen Voting in New Orleans," a 1867 engraving. Andrew Johnson worked to undercut civil rights laws after the Civil War. (New York Public Library/Wikimedia Commons)

"After the Civil War, arguably the most racist president, historians say, was Andrew Johnson. A Southerner who succeeded the assassinated Abraham Lincoln, Johnson proceeded to undercut anti-discrimination policies in the South and was a pioneer in articulating "white victimhood," Opal said.

"His racism is most tragic in American history, because it led to a true failure of Reconstruction," Finkelman said.

Theodore Roosevelt held racist views reflected in his policies of imperialism. Roosevelt "embraced his racism, believing it the solemn duty of the most civilized — white — race to uplift the rest," said Jeffrey A. Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University.

At the same time, Roosevelt was sympathetic to immigrants and had lunch with the Black leader Booker T. Washington, an invitation that shocked Southern white leaders, Finkelman said.

Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner by upbringing, re-segregated large portions of the federal government, down to separate bathrooms in federal buildings. Wilson also held a White House screening of the pro-Ku Klux Klan film "Birth of a Nation," which dovetailed with his nostalgia for the Confederacy. Wilson once wrote that "domestic slaves were almost uniformly dealt with indulgently and even affectionately by their masters."

Oswald Garrison Villard, a contemporary liberal journalist, wrote that Wilson’s administration "has allied itself with the forces of reaction, and put itself on the side of every torturer, of every oppressor, of every perpetrator of racial injustice in the South or the North."

As open racism became less socially acceptable from politicians in the latter half of the 20th century, presidents’ legacies on race became more complicated. Presidents held racist views privately yet delivered legislation to advance equality at the same time.

Lyndon B. Johnson used a racial slur for Black people frequently, according to his biographers, including when Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court instead of a less-famous black judge.

Johnson was a "good ol’ boy from Texas, so of course he was racist. He just didn’t govern like one, which frankly strikes me as more important," Engel said. Johnson fought for and signed the century’s most far-reaching civil rights laws.

Richard Nixon was captured on tape making numerous racist remarks, said John J. Pitney, Jr., a Claremont McKenna College political scientist. Yet Nixon’s legacy on civil rights was fairly robust, advancing the desegregation of schools and affirmative action in employment.

So what about Trump? Trump challenged Biden’s remark that he was racist and compared his record with Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed enslaved Black people in Confederate states.

Symone Sanders, a Biden campaign senior adviser, sought to clarify Biden’s remark: "There have been a number of racist American presidents, but Trump stands out — especially in modern history — because he made running on racism and division his calling card and won."

As a businessman and politician over the years, Trump has made various statements that have been condemned as racist.

• In the 1970s, the U.S. Justice Department sued Trump and his father for refusing to rent apartments to Black people. Trump Management filed a countersuit against the U.S. government before reaching an agreement in 1975. (The Trumps said the agreement was not an admission of guilt.) 

• After the first Black president in U.S. history was sworn into office, Trump repeated the false conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

• When Trump announced his presidential candidacy in June 2015, he said, "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best." He added, "They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

• As president in 2017, Trump said there were "very fine people, on both sides," in reference to neo-Nazis and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va.

• When speaking with lawmakers about immigration from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries in 2018, Trump reportedly said, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" He denied saying it in a tweet.

• In July 2019, Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." All of them are American citizens, and three were born in the U.S.

• Later that month, the president called Maryland’s 7th congressional district, which is majority Black, a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" and wrote that "no human being would want to live there."

• Trump has referred to the novel coronavirus as the "kung flu" and "China virus" throughout the pandemic.

In 2019, the Pew Research Center found that 56% of Americans say Trump has worsened race relations, compared with only 15% who say he’s made progress.

Biden said that no presidents who came before Trump were racist.

Historians agree that various presidents can be considered racist. That includes those who enslaved Black people, those who used racist rhetoric and those who held beliefs that white people were superior to other races.

Biden’s campaign later clarified the comment, but his original words are wrong.

We rate Biden’s history False."

PolitiFact | The long history of racism in the US presidency

Late-night hosts react to Trump's tweet on delaying the election

Michael Brown shooting: officer will not be charged, top prosecutor says | US news | The Guardian

Trinetta Brown, left, 19, and Triniya Brown at memorial service for their brother Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2018.

"The former police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, will not be charged over the killing - a dramatic decision that could reopen old wounds amid a renewed and intense national conversation about racial injustice and the police treatment of minorities.

St Louis County’s top prosecutor, Wesley Bell, made the announcement on Thursday, describing it as “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do”. Bell said that his office conducted a five-month review of witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence before reaching the decision.

It was nearly six years ago that a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Brown, a Black 18-year-old. Civil rights leaders and Brown’s mother had hoped that Bell, the county’s first Black prosecutor, would reopen the case after he took office in January 2019.

“My heart breaks” for Michael’s parents, Bell said during a news conference. “I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain will continue forever.”

Bell continued: “The question for this office was a simple one. Could we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown he committed murder or manslaughter under Missouri law. After an independent and in-depth review of the evidence, we cannot prove that he did.”

But, he said, “our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson.”

Wilson’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, didn’t immediately return phone and email messages from the Associated Press.

The August 2014 police shooting touched off months of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and made the St Louis suburb synonymous with a national debate over police treatment of minorities. The Ferguson unrest helped solidify the national Black Lives Matter movement that began after Trayvon Martin, a Black 17-year-old, was shot to death in Florida in 2012.

The issue has taken on new life since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May after a white police officer pressed his knee into the handcuffed Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Ferguson is among cities around the world that has seen protests since Floyd’s death.

“This is a time for us to reflect on Michael’s life, to support Michael’s family and to honor a transformative movement that will forever be linked to his name,” Bell said.

Bell – who took office in January 2019 as a progressive, reform-minded prosecutor promising to eliminate cash bail for nonviolent offenders and to increase the use of programs that allow defendants to avoid jail time – faced no restrictions in re-examining Brown’s death for potential murder charges.

Wilson was never charged and tried, so double jeopardy was not an issue. There is no statute of limitations on filing murder charges.

The shooting happened after Wilson told Brown and a friend to get out of the street as they walked down the middle of Canfield Drive on a Sunday afternoon. A scuffle between Wilson and Brown ensued, ending with the fatal shot. Wilson said Brown came at him menacingly, forcing him to fire his gun in self-defense.

Brown’s body remained in the street for four hours, angering his family and nearby residents. Some people initially said Brown had his hands up in surrender when Wilson fired, although a grand jury and the US Department of Justice did not find those accounts credible.

Bell’s predecessor, the longtime prosecutor Bob McCulloch, drew considerable criticism for taking the case to a grand jury rather than charging Wilson himself. Critics also accused McCulloch of swaying the grand jury to its decision not to indict Wilson – an accusation he emphatically denied. Wilson resigned days after McCulloch’s 24 November 2014 announcement that the grand jury would not indict the officer.

The justice department also declined to charge Wilson, but it issued a scathing report citing racial bias in Ferguson’s police and courts.

Bell, a former Ferguson councilman, upset McCulloch, a staunch law-and-order prosecutor, in the 2018 Democratic primary and ran unopposed that November. Within days of taking office, Bell took steps to remove three veteran assistant prosecutors, including Kathi Alizadeh, who played a role in presenting evidence to the grand jury in the Ferguson case.

In his campaign to unseat McCulloch, Bell focused on larger criminal justice issues, not on McCulloch’s handling of the Wilson investigation.

Bell, who, like McCulloch, is the son of a police officer, said in an interview after the election that he would appoint independent special prosecutors for allegations of wrongdoing by officers. He said he would support police “200%” as long as they acted appropriately. But he said officers who violate the law must be held accountable.

Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, asked the Republican governor, Mike Parson, to reopen the investigation in 2018, saying Bell’s win was “a clear mandate from the people of St Louis to reform the criminal justice system, which first begins with securing justice for my son”. But Parson’s office said it had no legal authority to appoint a special prosecutor."

Michael Brown shooting: officer will not be charged, top prosecutor says | US news | The Guardian

Virus-Driven Push to Release Juvenile Detainees Leaves Black Youth Behind - The New York Times

After an initial decrease in the youth detention population since the pandemic began, the rate of release has slowed, and the gap between white youth and Black youth has grown.
Olivia Alford, left, a high school student, protested with her family in Pontiac, Mich., this month in support of a classmate who was jailed because of a probation violation for failing to complete her virtual homework.
Olivia Alford, left, a high school student, protested with her family in Pontiac, Mich., this month in support of a classmate who was jailed because of a probation violation for failing to complete her virtual homework.
WASHINGTON — Black youth detained in juvenile justice facilities have been released at a far slower rate than their white peers in response to the coronavirus, according to a new report that also found that the gap in release rates between the two groups had nearly doubled over the course of the pandemic.
The report, released this month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, illustrates one more disparity the coronavirus has exacerbated for Black children, who are disproportionately funneled into the juvenile justice system. At the outset of the pandemic, juvenile public defenders and youth advocates worked to free thousands of children from detention facilities as public health officials warned that correctional institutions were becoming virus hotbeds.
Judges and state leaders have taken measures to halt intakes of low-level offenders and to send nonviolent and vulnerable detainees home. But the Casey report, based on a survey of juvenile justice agencies in 33 states, found that many Black children ages 10 to 17 had been left behind. In February, before the coronavirus was widespread in the United States, the white release rate was about 7 percent higher than the Black release rate, the report found; by May, that gap rose to 17 percent.
“It’s clear that the juvenile justice system does not value Black life even during a worldwide public health pandemic,” said Liz Ryan, the president and chief executive of Youth First Initiative, an advocacy group that campaigns against youth incarceration. “Juvenile detention agencies’ inaction during Covid-19 has exacerbated racial disparities and is utterly irresponsible and disgraceful.”
Nate Balis, the director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, said the push to release young people from confinement had lost momentum since showing initial results. The organization tracked a significant 27 percent decrease in the youth detention population since the pandemic began, and admission rates dropped proportionately by race among Black, white and Latino youth. But after a surge of releases in March, they tapered off in April and May, and Black youth remained overrepresented in detention, partly because their release rates had stalled.
“In the months since the pandemic emerged in March, the disparities in detention that disadvantage Black youth have gotten worse, solely because Black youth have been released at a slower rate than their white peers,” the report said.
The survey did not include explanations for why young people remained detained. Judges and law enforcement officials who opposed calls for juvenile release argued that some low-level offense categories did not capture the dangerous nature of the crimes, and that many youth were better off in state custody because they risked returning to unstable home lives and unsafe neighborhoods.
Proponents of release countered with data showing that juvenile crime had declined 71 percent since 1997, and the number of incarcerated youths had dropped 59 percent.
“Based on what the data has been showing us for years, there’s no reason to believe that the kids who are there today are there for major offenses,” Mr. Balis said. “Especially during the pandemic, especially in this moment of heightened awareness of racial disparity in this country, every system needs to be looking at their data and figuring out what stands in their way.”
In Maryland, which released at least 200 juvenile offenders during the pandemic after the state’s chief judge signed an order encouraging courts to do so, population and admissions rates have plummeted so much that two juvenile facilities have closed. But advocates say that Black youth who remain in the system have misperceptions stacked against them.
“We’ve seen prosecutors and judges argue that Covid isn’t killing young people in large numbers, thereby downplaying the other long-term consequences of this devastating disease,” said Jennifer L. Egan, the chief attorney in the juvenile division for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore, which filed an emergency petition that prompted the high court’s order this spring.
“We also know that racism leads people to underestimate the pain experienced by Black people,” she added.
Juvenile justice groups say efforts to release more young people as the virus resurges must focus on the officials who are making decisions about youth releases.
In May, a Michigan judge ordered a 15-year-old girl back to juvenile detention in May, saying she violated probation terms by skipping her school’s remote-learning coursework. The case, first reported by ProPublica, caused a national outcry, and the judge’s decision is being reviewed by the state’s Supreme Court.
The virus continues to sweep through juvenile facilities. According to data collected by the Sentencing Project, which has tracked the number of reported cases in juvenile facilities each week since March, coronavirus case counts among detained youth has surged in recent weeks, following the national trend. The group has recorded a total of 1,310 coronavirus cases among youth and 1,550 among detention staff since March.
“You can’t incarcerate a virus,” said Joshua Rovner, a senior advocacy associate at the Sentencing Project.
“We should be happy that many youth are being released who should have never been there in the first place,” he said. “I don’t want to minimize the fact that white youth are benefiting from that, but the data speak for itself: All of our kids are not being treated equally.”
Virus-Driven Push to Release Juvenile Detainees Leaves Black Youth Behind - The New York Times

Trump's Election-Delay Idea Unworthy of a U.S. President | National Review

"President Trump outdid himself this morning with a tweet floating the idea of delaying the election.

Obviously, this is an incendiary and absurd idea unworthy of being spoken — or even thought — by a president of the United States.
Top congressional Republicans poured scorn on the idea, and should continue to do so.
Trump obviously doesn’t have the power to delay the election. The Constitution gives Congress the power to fix the date of the election, and since 1845, it’s been the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This is such an ingrained tradition that it is part of the warp and woof of American democracy.
It is a tribute to our commitment to self-government that elections have occurred as scheduled on this day during the worst crises of American history — when federal troops were in the field against rebel troops who sought to destroy the nation, when the unemployment rate was 25 percent, when U.S. forces were engaged in an epic struggle to save the West from the depredations of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Trump doesn’t understand this, or doesn’t care. It is another indication of how little he’s let the institution of the presidency shape him, and how selfishly he approaches his duties.
The proximate cause of his tweet was his frequently expressed opposition to mail-in voting. We prefer in-person voting, as a matter of ballot security and civic ritual, but given concerns over any sizable gatherings of people during the pandemic, states are inevitably going to embrace more mail-in voting. This raises the prospect of an excruciating overtime after the election if it’s close because it takes so long to count mail-in ballots.
This is a legitimate concern. But it’s no reason for the sitting president of the United States to affirmatively undermine faith in an election that can, should, and indubitably will take place on its appointed day, as it has throughout the history of the world’s greatest republic."
Trump's Election-Delay Idea Unworthy of a U.S. President | National Review

Morgan Freeman reads Rep. John Lewis’ last words

Morgan Freeman reads Rep. John Lewis’ last words

Trump faces rare rebuke from GOP for floating election delay

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump repeatedly tests the Republican Party’s limits on issues including race, trade and immigration. On Thursday, he struck a boundary.
GOP officials from New Hampshire to Mississippi to Iowa quickly pushed back against Trump’s suggestion that it might be necessary to delay the November election — which he cannot do without congressional approval — because of the unfounded threat of voter fraud. They reassured voters that the election would proceed on the constitutionally mandated day as it has for more than two centuries.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley was especially blunt: “All I can say is, it doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says. We still are a country based on the rule of law, and we want to follow the law.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu vowed his state would hold its November elections as scheduled: “End of story.” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who leads the House Republican Conference, said, “The resistance to this idea among Republicans is overwhelming.”
The top Republicans in the House and Senate, who have spent the past four years championing Trump in Congress, also distanced themselves from the notion of a delayed election.
It was a rare rebuke for Trump from his fellow Republicans, but one that might not last. There was little conservative opposition to Trump’s broader push to raise questions about the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election, including his suggestion later Thursday that a delayed result because of mail-in ballots would be a sign of fraud.
The simple reality remains that Republicans up and down the ballot this fall need Trump’s fervent base on their side to have any chance of winning.
The dynamic has forced Trump-backed politicians to walk a delicate balance as they condemn the president’s most erratic behavior and ideas while trying not to upset his die-hard loyalists. At the same time, many Republican leaders are struggling under the weight of health, economic and social crises that the Trump administration has failed to contain.
The government announced Thursday that the U.S. economy plunged by a record-shattering 32.9% annual rate last quarter as the pandemic forces a wave of layoffs that shows no sign of abating.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, in an interview with The Associated Press, said he feared “a new wave of economic downturn” as he grapples with pressure to institute a second stay-at-home order as coronavirus infections in his state surge. The first-term Republican governor said he would do “everything possible” to avoid another shutdown but could not rule out the possibility.
Reeves encouraged Trump to embrace a reelection message focused on his ability to revive the nation’s economy, a familiar suggestion from frustrated Republican officials, though the president has shown little interest in adopting a consistent message.
Reeves said he opposes any plan to change the election date: “I don’t personally think a delay in the election at this point in time is necessary.” But he said he remained “100% committed to doing everything possible” to help Trump beat Democratic rival Joe Biden in November.
“I don’t believe that the president is losing significant support from Republicans,” Reeves said.
Indeed, Trump confidant Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, said he would support Trump’s call to delay the election “until things are normal so people can walk in.”
“If it takes a few more months, then so be it,” Falwell said in an interview, raising the prospect of limiting the president’s powers if the delay extends beyond his first term.
There have been a handful of moments that strained the GOP’s allegiance to Trump since he emerged as his party’s unlikely presidential nominee four years ago, yet his party has increasingly acquiesced to his turbulent leadership as his presidency progressed.
Just weeks before the 2016 election, several elected officials, including then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, publicly turned their back on Trump after he was caught admitting to sexual predatory behavior in an “Access Hollywood” video. Less than a year later, the Republican National Committee rebuked the president after he claimed there were “very fine people” on both sides of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. And Republican leaders briefly raised concerns last year when Trump was caught pressuring Ukrainian leaders to investigate Biden — an episode that would ultimately lead to his impeachment.
There have been a series of lower-profile flashpoints over the last four years that prompted modest concerns from Republicans that were quickly forgotten, and the latest debate over the election date may soon fall into that category.
Trump cannot change the election date without the approval of Congress, and policymakers in both parties made clear they would oppose such a move. Trump’s ultimate goal, however, may have less to do with the election date than undermining the results of the election if he loses.
Current polls suggest that Trump is trailing Biden by a significant margin in several swing states.
The president did not deny that he was trying to cast doubt about the election results when asked directly during Thursday’s press briefing. Instead, he repeatedly cited the prospect of voter fraud, which is virtually nonexistent in U.S. politics.
“I don’t want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and the election doesn’t mean anything,” Trump said, warning of the possibility of “a crooked election.”
Back in New Hampshire, a swing state where Trump hosted a virtual event Thursday night, Sununu said the president’s comments about the election date would not affect his continued support for Trump’s reelection.
“Look, the president says things and tweets things all the time,” the governor said. “I don’t know what his thought process is there. I can only speak for New Hampshire, and we have a great system.”
Trump faces rare rebuke from GOP for floating election delay

Thursday, July 30, 2020

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Opinion | Trump’s racist housing tweet is par for his family - The Washington Post

"Donald Trump and his father defended their family’s real estate empire from housing discrimination claims in the 1970s. The Post reported in 2016:

In October 1973, the Justice Department filed a civil rights case that accused the Trump firm, whose complexes contained 14,000 apartments, of violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
The case, one of the biggest federal housing discrimination suits to be brought during that time, put a spotlight on the family empire led by its 27-year-old president, Donald Trump, and his father, Fred Trump, the chairman, who had begun building houses and apartments in the 1930s. . . .
Many whites were relocating to the suburbs, and minorities often moved in to rent or buy properties. Concern about the issue peaked following race riots that broke out across the country after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Amid growing evidence that landlords were refusing to rent to minorities, Congress acted one week after the King assassination by passing the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned such discrimination.
As is the case in many housing discrimination lawsuits, “White testers were encouraged to rent at certain Trump buildings, while the black testers were discouraged, denied or steered to apartment complexes that had more racial minorities, according to the testimony.” Trump’s defense was that he did not want to rent to people on welfare, “black or white.” The suit, eventually resolved by a settlement, may have taught Trump the wrong lesson — and fixed an antiquated view of the suburbs in his mind.
Fast forward to Trump’s floundering presidential reelection campaign. The Post reported: “The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule, promulgated by the Obama administration in 2015, sought to strengthen [anti-discrimination laws] by requiring local governments receiving federal money to draft plans to desegregate their communities.” Knowing Trump’s background, it was little surprise that “Trump moved last week to repeal that rule, with language that appeared to hark back to an era of Whites distancing themselves from Black Americans.”

A Half-Century After Wallace, Trump Echoes the Politics of Division - The New York Times

A Half-Century After Wallace, Trump Echoes the Politics of Division - The New York Times

Opinion | John Lewis: Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation - The New York Times

"Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.

Mr. Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral. Editorial Page Editor Kathleen Kingsbury wrote about this piece and Mr. Lewis’s legacy in Thursday’s edition of our Opinion Today newsletter.
While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.
Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

John Lewis, the civil rights leader and congressman who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death."

Opinion | John Lewis: Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation - The New York Times

Trump says he didn't ask Putin about Russian bounties on U.S. troops

Trump says he didn't ask Putin about Russian bounties on U.S. troops

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Chris Cuomo reacts to Trump comment 'nobody likes me'. Narcissism and self-loathing on public display.

. Narcissism and self-loathing on public display.

How China used censorship to hide the coronavirus truth - CNET

"For two months, Fang Fang documented life in COVID-19's ground zero. Using Weibo, China's Twitter equivalent, the 64-year-old novelist and poet wrote 60 posts over 60 days about inhabiting Wuhan as it was being quarantined by Chinese authorities. 

The posts, which ranged from one to several pages in length, went viral in China. The "Fang Fang Diary" topic had over 380 million views on Weibo. Millions in and outside of Wuhan read her daily updates, clinging to them as a comforting routine at a time of disorienting uncertainty. 
The world changed in those two months. Fang was among the first people on Earth to experience coronavirus quarantine. By March 25, a third of the globe's population was on lockdown. 
Public sentiment was with Fang at first. At various points, she condemned officials' fumbling response to the coronavirus, particularly their insistence that it couldn't spread from human to human, and asserted the need for more freedom of expression. Commenters vented dissatisfaction with the ruling Chinese Communist Party, even if posts would only be up for minutes before being removed by censors, accusing it of covering up crucial coronavirus information. 
But as the epicenter of the coronavirus moved from Wuhan to Lombardy to New York, countries like the US and Australia began to scrutinize China's role in the outbreak. President Donald Trump said the country had mistakenly allowed COVID-19 to spread in its effort to cover up the initial discovery.
This stirred China's nationalists, who made it their mission to intimidate Fang and undermine her credibility.
The incident shows how Chinese nationalists will defend the country in even the most dire of crisesExtreme nationalism and violent political discourse are present in every country, but experts fret about China in particular. Lack of freedoms for press or expression makes public opinion difficult to monitor, but most agree nationalism is rising in China -- and that it's often buoyed by the government. China's education system has encouraged it for three decades, many argue. Another key factor: Strict censorship laws and an energetic propaganda machine amplify many narratives that nationalists cling to.
Though the movement has a presence around the world -- protesting in Australia and New Zealand against Hong Kong democracy, demonstrating numerous times against Japan and Taiwan, suppressing Uighur activism in Canada -- it's most keenly felt within China. Citizens who make enough noise dissenting from the party line can be smeared and abused. 
To these "ultra leftists," as they're called by some, Fang beseeching the government to relax censorship and "let Wuhan people speak" was not a call to improve the lives of Chinese citizens. Instead, it was seen as harming China's position on the world stage and giving ammunition to the country's Western enemies.
This friction turned into hostility in early April when it was announced that Fang's Weibo musings would be translated into English and German and sold as a book, Wuhan Diary. State media insinuated that she's a traitor, and she was swiftly denounced by many citizens for dishonoring China. 
The death threats have yet to stop rolling in. 

World's biggest firewall

Chinese censorship is most known in the West for The Great Firewall, a series of internet blockages that keeps Western sites, platforms and publications out of China. The party banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in 2009, with Instagram, WhatsApp and Google's entire suite soon following. Visit the mainland and you'll also find The New York Times, Reuters, The Washington Post and dozens of other outlets suddenly inaccessible. 
For China's citizens, however, the censorship goes far deeper. News channels and newspapers are overseen by the propaganda department, according to Kevin Carrico, senior lecturer of Chinese studies at Monash University. Not only is there an army of human censors who take down online comments and posts deemed inappropriate, but an increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence network automatically deletes disapproved rhetoric.
"Another category of censorship, which I tend to think is the most insidious, is self-censorship," he said. An environment of constant monitoring and control, Carrico argues, inevitably turns speech control into some degree of thought control. Exerting more pressure is the power of appointment: Criticize the party too severely and getting a job becomes much harder.
Yet like most issues regarding China, it's complicated. Ying Jiang, of the University of Western Australia's Confucius Institute, says China's censorship is exaggerated in the West. VPNs are simple and cheap, she said, making many Western sites and platforms easy to access. In 2017 it was estimated that 14% of the 731 million people accessing the internet in China use a VPN each day
"The common theoretical position in the West sees all forms of censorship as limiting freedom of speech," Ying wrote in her 2012 book Cyber Nationalism in China. "By contrast, in China, where censorship has been and is still much tighter than in the West, the majority of present-day Chinese people tend to be satisfied with the existing more relaxed, though still limited, freedom of expression."
(Confucius Institutes around the world have been accused of being under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party. They reject the claim.) 
"If [censorship] was so severe, we wouldn't be having this conversation," a citizen of Guangdong, who preferred to remain anonymous, said to me in an interview over WhatsApp in May. He uses Facebook and Instagram every day, as well as Google and YouTube for work. 
These conflicting ideas of censorship in China encapsulate a ubiquitous problem. There's constant tension between how the West and China perceive each other and themselves. The West views China as being close to a totalitarian state. China views itself on the road to becoming a superpower, and the West as throwing up roadblocks in the interest of retaining power.
History augments China's feelings of grievance. The period from 1839 to 1949 -- in which China lost Hong Kong to Britain, suffered an embarrassing defeat to Japan in a war for Korea, had economic zones carved out of it by European powers, and then suffered catastrophic losses to Japan during World War II -- is known as the Century of Humiliation.
It's seared into public consciousness by the Chinese Communist Party. The period is regularly invoked in politics, as when President Xi, speaking in Hong Kong in 2017, said that the country's 1997 return from Britain to China "[washed] away the Chinese nation's hundred years of shame." State media regularly makes reference to the term, notably during the US-China trade war. It even has its own day: Sept. 18 is Humiliation Day.
"The notion of humiliation returned to state propaganda after the [Tiananmen Square] massacre," said Carrico. At the time, he argues, it was a tactic to take public anger aimed at those responsible for the massacre and deflect it at external enemies. 
"The sad part is that it really works," he adds, explaining its continued use today.
It underpins a fundamental tenet of Chinese nationalism: that China was a victim, and that the West in general, and the US in particular, is trying to keep it that way. It's part of how we see censorship as totalitarian, and some Chinese people can see Western criticism of the party's censorship as overblown and self-serving. It also allows nationalists to dismiss a number of other critiques Westerners make of China, including the state forcing Uighur Muslims into work camps.
"We study-abroad students don't know anything about politics, we just know our personal interest and our sense of belonging to our nation," a Chinese student who objected to a Uighur activist speaking in a Toronto university told the Washington Post last year. "If other people hurt us, smear us, we have to counterattack." 

The doctor who knew

"The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige," wrote George Orwell in a 1945 essay, "not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality." Associated most with the 18th and 19th centuries, nationalism isn't new, but it's a nebulous term. The goal of nationalists, propagandists and autocratic governments is not to improve their society but to project the strength of that society.
So when an eye doctor in an eastern Chinese city last year cautioned a WeChat group of friends that he'd encountered a clump of patients with SARS symptoms, the response of officials wasn't to investigate or ring the alarm bells. Instead, it was to sweep a potential crisis under the carpet. Because these comments on SARS symptoms went viral, the ophthalmologist was made to apologize to authorities for "spreading rumors." 
Unfortunately, the SARS symptoms he reported on Dec. 31 were actually COVID-19 symptoms. The physician was Li Wenliang, of Wuhan Central Hospital. He became a hero after his death, on Feb. 7. The 34-year-old was one of six doctors from that hospital to die from COVID-19.  
"It has now been 16 days since the quarantine was imposed," Fang wrote on Feb.7, Day 13 of her Wuhan Diary. "Dr. Li Wenliang died overnight and I am broken."
Li was hailed as a whistleblower, and countless other Chinese citizens were outraged by his death and his official admonishment. The WeWantFreedomOfSpeech hashtag garnered 2 million views in 5 hours (between the low-traffic hours of 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. no less). By the time most citizens started work that next day, it was completely scrubbed. Offline, citizens amassed outside Wuhan Central Hospital and blew whistles in tribute to Li.
The Chinese government retracted Li's admonishment and posthumously honored him as a martyr. When it came to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the party went the other way. 
A physician in Wuhan told China Newsweek that hospital bosses instructed doctors not to share information about the growing number of cases. Wuhan's provincial health commission as early as Jan. 1 blocked scientists' inquiry into the new coronavirus, according to the Caixin publication. These reports, preserved by freelance journalist Shawn Yuan, were taken down or censored soon after being published. 
"Beijing has used the crisis to further tighten its control of the media," notes Reporters Without Borders, which ranks China 177th out of 180 countries for press freedom, "banning the publication of any reports that question how it has been managed." A White House official reportedly compared the party's response to the Soviet Union's in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion.
Online, people tried to circumvent censors. When an interview with Ai Fen, one of Wuhan's first doctors to encounter COVID-19, was scrubbed, Weibo users tried translating it into different languages including Star Trek's Klingon, Lord of the Ring's Sindarin and Morse code. It didn't work. Others attempted to protest by posting sections of the Chinese Constitution, which states that "citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration." This too was censored. 
While the authorities suppressed China's ignominies, state-run outlets were broadcasting the West's. "A hospital in New York used garbage bags as protective clothing, and a medical worker died of infection," one headline read, while another article spotlighted the UK's shortage of medical equipment
Such duplicity is common in the party's information control system: Though talk of atrocities committed against China are encouraged, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which the People's Liberation Army opened fire on students protesting for press and democratic freedoms in Beijing, is among the most taboo topics on China's internet
"I believe that today marks the Seventh Day since the passing of Li Wenliang," Fang wrote on Day 23. "The Seventh Day is when those who have embarked on their distant journey return one last time. When Li Wenliang's soul in heaven comes back to this place of old one final time, I wonder what he will see."

Weaponizing information

"One has to wonder how her book came out so quickly in the US and Europe," reads one of around 60 one-star reviews Wuhan Diary received on Amazon. "Fang doesn't speak English or German and yet somehow it was 'translated' almost instantaneously and made it to the book stand in the West."
"Makes one wonder if this wasn't simply a constructed, coordinated effort with anti Chinese forces in the West intent on smearing China." 
Michael Berry, translator of Wuhan Diary and a friend of Fang's, said these reviews are part of a campaign to discredit Fang. Detractors make Amazon accounts, give the book a bad review and then cite the bad review on Weibo or WeChat as evidence that the book is being poorly received in the West. 
"Around April 7 is when the attacks started coming at me," Berry said, adding that this was when news of the book's Western translations was announced. Within 24 hours, he received around 300 messages on Weibo. Some were insults, others were death threats. Some accused him of being in the CIA, or that he and a team of other agents wrote the book. It reached 600 a few hours after that, plus private messages, and it didn't stop. 
"There's fear on the part of Chinese nationalists that this book would be 'weaponized' and [the US] would use it as a tool to hurt China," said Berry. But, he adds, anyone who reads it in search of such scandal will be disappointed. Wuhan Diary is as much a love letter to Wuhan as it is an admonishment of the country.
While nationalism is on the rise, everyone I spoke to agreed it's a multifaceted issue: There's truth in the narrative that China was victimized, and cultural norms, like the importance of hierarchy and "saving face," affect how moderate Chinese citizens react to Western criticism. But systems that control what information people see, hear and read matter too.
The strength of the connection may be debatable, but its existence is easy to see. Much of the criticism Berry received alongside death threats reads like official rhetoric. "Her global rise propelled by foreign media outlets has also sounded the alarm for many in China that the writer might have become just another handy tool for the West to sabotage Chinese people's efforts to fight the COVID-19 outbreak," cautions the party-controlled Global Times newspaper. "Fans disappointed as Wuhan Diary's overseas publication 'gives ammunition to antagonist forces,'" reads another headline.
Part of the problem with assessing the impact of censorship and propaganda is that, by their nature, they make it difficult to measure public opinion. But it's not just that pro-free speech, pro-democracy or, in this case, pro-Fang Weibo posts get deleted. It's that making public statements can get you attacked.
Berry said he received over 2,000 private messages from Chinese citizens apologizing for the way he's been treated. He noticed that, though there were certainly death threats mixed in, most of his private messages were positive, while the overwhelming majority of public comments directed at him were negative. 
"Ultranationalists are not only prevalent and so vocal, they also don't play fair," he said. "They send death threats, they send insults. When you use those kind of bully tactics, fair-minded people just curl up in a ball and hide away." Chinese people online who are concerned about their country or nationalist sentiment make up a "silent majority," he added. 
Exacerbating nationalistic frenzy is the 50 Cent Party, "online commentators" named because they are paid 0.5 yuan per post by the CCP to amplify party victories, steer conversation away from discussions that reflect poorly on the party, or reprimand people who are critical of the party. A 2017 study estimates around 448 million state-directed posts go up each year.
"Almost every morning at 9 a.m. I receive an email from my superiors -- the internet publicity office of the local government -- telling me about the news we're to comment on for the day," one such commentator told The New Statesman
Barry is sure that the 50 Cent Army was part of the wave of abuse that crashed upon him following Wuhan Diary's English translation. 
"They came so quickly," he said, "in such a coordinated fashion, hundreds of messages, some of them within minutes like a machine gun firing, all of them hitting the same talking points, as if they're reading from a script, someone sent them a directive saying attack this person on points A, B and C."
A confident China
Just as the Century of Humiliation is used to evoke a sense of victimhood, China's propaganda system rouses pride by regularly pointing to the country's astonishing rise from the "sick man of Asia" in the '70s to now being a world power. And just like the Century of Humiliation, this narrative isn't a fallacy. Less than 1% of Chinese lived on $1.90 or less a day in 2015 -- compared to 66% in 1989.
It's no surprise that nationalism has grown alongside China's power. Market reforms that began in the '80s freed up China's hitherto state-controlled economy, causing an industrial boom. But the market reform meant the party needed a marketing reform, too. Profit was now encouraged, so the old rhetoric about class warfare that the communist government had historically relied upon was now outdated. The answer was nationalism.
"[It was] a massive shift to nationalism," Carrico said of the time. "Get mad at the foreigners, not your leaders." In the '90s, as China's economy expanded by nearly 10% every year, children were learning from a new curriculum in schools: aiguozhuyi jiayu, or patriotic education.
"After years of schooling, every Chinese national is left with a wardrobe of collective enemies: the Western countries and Japan," Jianan Qiang, a Chinese author, wrote of his childhood. "No sensible adult would be foolish enough to adopt this completely black-and-white view. But a hostile mindset can still get the better of us when nationalistic sentiments are involved."
The party's encouragement of nationalism and its discouragement of dissent have magnified since 2013, when Xi Jinping became president. His government has waged a war against "historical nihilism," a confusing term has been used as a pretext to silence historians and public intellectuals who question the party's narratives.
"It's become harder to be a dissident in Xi's China," said Kerry Brown, author of CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping. "He's used nationalism in particular as a way of making sure people don't rock the boat, so it makes it seem that you're not disloyal to the Communist Party, you're disloyal to the Chinese nation."
China has never had complete freedom of expression. But there was room for some figures to critique party policy in the name of "loyal opposition." That's gone under Xi, said Brown. "If you don't agree with the party, that's disloyal. Period."
Technology empowers Xi's enthusiasm for censorship. "If we do our job really well, we can be in a place where every piece of content is flagged by artificial intelligence before our users see it," Facebook's data analytics VP Alex Schultz once said of extremist, hateful content. China's government has much the same idea, but a much different idea about what constitutes extremist, hateful content. 
Xi's reign has also been noted for its self-assured stance on foreign policy. The country's rejection of any blame for the coronavirus outbreak is just the latest example. It follows China's encroachment on Hong Kong (a new national security bill introduced in July looks to undermine the territory's sovereignty), and its surge of activity in Vietnamese, Indonesian and Philippine territories of the South China Sea, among other things. While many in the West criticize these moves as aggressive, nationalists champion a newly confident China under Xi.
Much of China's nationalist movement is made up of young people, born from the '80s onward. Having not experienced the horrors of the 20th century, and exclusively seeing China as a growing power rightfully reclaiming its place on the world stage, this sect of nationalists have a name in China: Fenqing, or Angry Youth. 

Danger zone

"I'm not sure if I'll be able to send anything out through my Weibo account," Fang's very first Wuhan Diary entry begins. "It wasn't until too long ago that I had my account shut down after I criticized a group of young nationalists who were harassing people on the streets with foul language."
For a country so keen to suppress sensitive information, it's miraculous that all of Fang's diary entries ended up on Weibo. Her posts would invariably be taken down, and eventually her account would be blocked. But in these cases, friends and fans would share and reshare new and old entries. 
"When controversy around the diary first started, that was shortly after the whole Li Wenliang controversy had broken out," said Berry. "There was so much anger at that point at the government [due to Li's death] that, had they done something to Fang Fang at that stage, I think that it really could have blown up in their face."
The consequences are often far more severe. In February, two video bloggers, Bin Fang and Chen Qiushi, vanished after posting videos documenting life in Wuhan that contradicted the official narrative. After writing an essay criticizing the Communist Party's coverup, billionaire property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang also went missing and now faces prosecution. Compared to this, the chore of having to evade censors felt mild. 
Berry rejects this suggestion that Fang got off light. She may not have gotten official punishment, but aggressive nationalists are picking up that slack.
"On a daily basis, she's still getting hundreds, if not thousands of messages, online cyberattacks and death threats," he said. "They have posted videos online that are kind of investigative report exposes into her private life, her home address was posted, there were public calls to kill her from some very prominent individuals, like one of China's leading MMA fighters. She hasn't been arrested or anything like that, but what she has faced has been really, really horrific."
I asked Berry if Fang does interviews in English. Anxious about attracting any more attention to herself, Fang isn't doing any press for the book."

How China used censorship to hide the coronavirus truth - CNET