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Chart of the Day: Brexit Would Have Turned Out Very Differently if Kids Turned Out to Vote

Mother Jones - June 25, 2016 - 6:30pm

This will come as no surprise, but here's the fundamental reason that Brexit won:

The younger the voter, the more strongly they voted to remain in the EU. The older the voter, the more likely they were to actually get out and vote. Eventually the kids are going to figure out how badly their elders are screwing them, and maybe then they'll finally muster the energy to cast a ballot. I wonder what it's going to take to make that happen?

(Preference via YouGov. Turnout via SkyData.)

The Paradox of Immigration: Opposition Is Strongest Precisely Where There Are the Fewest Immigrants

Mother Jones - June 25, 2016 - 5:58pm

James Fallows is in western Kansas around Dodge City, where many of the cities are majority Latino and full of immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, and more recently Somalia and Sudan. Here's what he says:

I can’t let this day end without noting the black-versus-white, night-versus-day contrast between the way immigration, especially from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, is discussed in this part of the country where it is actually happening, versus its role in this moment’s national political discussion.

....Every single person we have spoken with — Anglo and Latino and other, old and young, native-born and immigrant, and so on down the list — every one of them has said: We need each other! There is work in this community that we all need to do. We can choose to embrace the world, or we can fade and die. And we choose to embrace it.

I don't have actual data on this, but my sense from both the US and Britain is that the most fervent opposition to immigration—legal or otherwise—comes precisely from the regions where it's had the least impact. Here in the US, for example, immigration from Latin America has been heaviest in the southern sun belt states of California, Texas, Arizona, and a few others. And yet Donald Trump's "build a wall" narrative played well in places like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, all of which have relatively small Latino populations. Similarly, Brexit did best in the small towns and rural areas of England, the places that have the fewest immigrants and that depend the most on EU trade.

That's not to say that opposition to immigration is absent in places like London or San Diego. It's not. But these places mostly seem to have adapted to it and figured out that it's not really all that bad. It's everywhere else, where immigration is mostly a fear, that anti-immigrant sentiment has the strongest purchase. And that's why peddling fear is so effective.

Millennials Blame Older Generations For Brexit, But Whose Fault Is It Really?

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 3:00pm

Following a narrow victory by those voting for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, recriminations about who's to blame are flying in the Remain camp.

Younger voters overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU and have pointed the finger at their parents' and grandparents' generations who were the main force behind Leave. VICE News sent Simon Ostrovsky to a rally outside the Houses of Parliament in London to put depressed Remain voters on the couch.

Watch "Leftists, angered by Brexit, march in London"

Watch "Majority 'Remain' London reacts to Britain leaving the EU"

Leftists, Angered By Brexit, March In London

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 1:30pm

Left wing activists gathered on Friday in Whitechapel, London and marched to the offices of the Sun newspaper to protest Britain leaving the EU.

Watch "Donald Trump applauds Brits for taking their country back"

Watch "Majority 'Remain' London reacts to Britain leaving the EU"


Scotland Is So Pissed About The Brexit It Might Break Up With The UK

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 1:24pm

Less than two years ago, Scots who voted against becoming independent from the United Kingdom hugged and cheered to the sound of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" when referendum results came in showing that Scotland would remain in the UK.

But now, in the uncertain aftermath of Britain's unprecedented decision to exit the European Union, its northern neighbor is signaling its intention to possibly leave the UK for real this time and seek EU membership on its own.

On Saturday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised Scots, who voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to remain in the EU, that she would seek to protect their EU membership, and that a second independence referendum was a real possibility.

Related: Britain's divorce from the EU could get messy

Sturgeon said in response to the Brexit vote that Scotland had spoken "decisively" with a "strong, unequivocal" vote to remain in the EU. She said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland could be taken out of the EU "against its will."

"We will seek to enter into immediate discussions with the EU institutions and with other EU member states to explore all possible options to protect Scotland's place in the EU," Sturgeon said. "A second independence referendum is clearly an option that requires to be on the table, and it is very much on the table."

Scots rejected independence in the 2014 referendum by a 55-45 vote. Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP) said that EU membership through the UK was a deciding factor for many Scots who voted against independence.

Whether the European Commission will accept Scotland's bid for membership is another question. "Scotland is part of the UK," a Commission spokeswoman told Reuters. "Constitutional arrangements apply. We will not speculate further."

Reuters quoted a source close to the Scottish government as saying that Sturgeon and others were not discouraged by the EC's response, which they took only "as a statement of fact."

She said she would establish a panel of experts to advise the Scottish government on legal, financial, and diplomatic matters concerning EU membership.

Related: The Texit: Britain's EU departure is inspiring more independence movements

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on Friday called for a border poll on the unification of Ireland. Northern Ireland, like Scotland, voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said in response to the Brexit that, ultimately, the future unification of Ireland would be in the best interest of its citizens, but that holding a referendum while the Brits were negotiating their exit from the EU would only create further chaos and division.

Under a 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of sectarian violence, Northern Ireland can call a referendum if it appears likely that a majority of the electorate would seek a united Ireland.

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews

Watch: Majority 'Remain' London reacts to Britain leaving the EU

Let Us Now Figure Out Who to Blame for Brexit

Mother Jones - June 25, 2016 - 12:48pm

Brexit has passed, and now it's time to find someone to blame. Sure, you can go with the pack and blame David Cameron or Nigel Farage, but that's not much fun. Here are four plausible but not entirely obvious choices:

Ed Milliband

In order to keep peace within his own party, Prime Minister David Cameron promised a vote on Brexit in 2013. It seemed fairly harmless at the time: Cameron's Conservative Party was about 20 seats short of an outright majority in Parliament, so he was governing in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems opposed the referendum, and as long as they remained in the coalition, there would most likely have been no vote. To maintain this status quo, neither the Lib Dems nor the opposition Labor Party even had to gain any seats in the 2015 election. They just had to hold their own.

But Ed Milliband proved to be such a hapless leader of the Labor Party that he lost 26 seats in the election. This was just enough to give the Tories a bare majority, and that paved the way for Brexit.

Alternatively, you could blame Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who managed his party's coalition with Cameron poorly and lost an astounding 49 of its 57 seats in the 2015 election. But Labor was the primary opposition party and should have been able to pick up most of those seats, so let's stick with Milliband on this one.

Angela Merkel

For all the praise she gets, Angela Merkel has been one of the most disastrous European leaders in my lifetime. She's as responsible for Brexit as anyone I can think of, thanks to two catastrophic decisions she made.

The first was her insistence on punishing Greece following its collapse after the Great Recession. There's plenty of blame to go around on all sides for the Greece debacle, but as the continent's economic leader Germany held most of the high cards during negotiations over Greece's fate. Merkel had a choice: (a) punish Greece for running up unsustainable debts and lying about them, or (b) accept that Germany bore much of the blame itself for the crisis and that Greece had no way of rescuing itself thanks to the straitjacket of the common currency. The former was a crowd pleaser. The latter was unpopular and would have required sustained, iron-spined leadership. In the event, Merkel chose to play to the crowds, and Greece has been a basket case ever since—with no end in sight. It hardly went unnoticed in Britain how Europe treated a country that was too entangled with the EU to either fight back or exit, and it made Britain's decision to forego the common currency look prescient. And if that had been a good choice, maybe all the rest of "ever closer union" wasn't such a great idea either.

Merkel's second bad decision was more recent. Here is David Frum: "If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany—and then all Europe—to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come." It's hard to fault Merkel for this on a humanitarian basis, but on a political basis it was a disaster. The barely-controlled wave of refugees Merkel encouraged has caused resentment and more all over Europe, and it unquestionably played a big role in the immigrant backlash in Britain that powered the Leave vote.

Paul Dacre

Paul Dacre is the longtime editor of the Daily Mail, and he's standing in here for the entire conservative tabloid press, which has spent decades lying about the EU and scaring the hell out of its readership about every grisly murder ever committed by an immigrant. In a journalistic style pioneered by Boris Johnson—who we'll get to next—the Mail and other tabloids have run hundreds of sensational stories about allegedly idiotic EU regulations and how they're destroying not just Britain's way of life, but its very sovereignty as well. These stories range from deliberately exaggerated to outright false, and they're so relentless that the EU has an entire website dedicated to debunking British tabloid myths from A (abattoirs) to Z (zoos). The chart below, from the Economist, tots up all the lies, and the Mail is the clear leader.

The EU is hardly a finely-tuned watch when it comes to regulations, but the vast majority of the outrage over its rulings is based almost literally on nothing. Nonetheless, the outrage is real, and it was fueled largely by Dacre's Daily Mail and its fellow tabloids.

Boris Johnson

Why Boris? After all, it was Nigel Farage, the odious leader of the openly xenophobic UKIP party, who led the charge to leave the EU. This is, perhaps, a judgment call, but I've long had a stronger disgust for those who tolerate racism than for the open racists themselves. The latter are always going to be around, and sometimes I even have a little sympathy for them. They've often spent their entire lives marinating in racist communities and are as much a victim of their upbringing as any of us.

But then there are those who should know better, and Boris Johnson is very much one of them. The usual caveat is in order here: I can't look into Johnson's heart and know what he really thinks. But he's had a long journalistic career, and an equally long history of tolerating racist sentiments. As a longtime Euroskeptic—though probably more an opportunistic one rather than a true believer—it's no surprise that he campaigned for Brexit, but in doing so he knowingly joined hands with Farage and his UKIP zealots, providing them with a respectability they wouldn't have had without him. He knew perfectly well that the Leave campaign would be based primarily on exploiting fear of immigrants, but he joined up anyway.

Johnson is hardly the only British politician to act this way, of course. But he's the most prominent one, so he gets to stand in for all of them.

23 Dead In West Virginia Floods: 'We Have Lost Almost Entire Towns'

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 12:36pm

At least 23 people are dead after torrential rains in West Virginia caused the state's worst flooding in more than a century. Authorities have stepped up search and rescue operations, and West Virginia's governor asked on Saturday for a federal major disaster declaration in three devastated counties.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he made an expedited verbal request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to aid Kanawha, Greenbrier, and Nicholas counties, which were severely damaged by flooding that started with heavy rains on Thursday.

Tomblin said the state would follow up with requests for other counties that also sustained significant damage. The scope of damage in those three counties allowed him to make the request immediately, he said in a statement.

Related: It's already looking like 2016 will be the hottest year on record

A FEMA team is expected to arrive on Saturday to assess the damage in West Virginia where more than 32,000 homes and businesses still were without power.

"We have lost almost entire towns in some cases," said Tim Rock, spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. "There are going to be a lot of rebuilding, a lot of people without homes, a lot of businesses destroyed."

Video footage posted online showed surging floodwaters washing away a building as it went up in flames, submerging entire neighborhoods, and generally wreaking havoc.




The death toll in West Virginia is the highest in any state from flooding this year. At least 16 people, including nine US soldiers, were killed in flooding in Texas earlier in June.

Up to 10 inches of rain fell on Thursday in the mountainous state, sending torrents of water from rivers and streams through homes causing widespread devastation.

Tomblin has declared a state of emergency in 44 of 55 counties and deployed 200 members of the West Virginia National Guard on Friday to help rescue efforts.

Related: 'It's the new abnormal': Extreme downpours and flash flooding wreak havoc in Texas

Some towns have been completely surrounded by water, hundreds of houses and buildings have been lost and at least hundreds of people forced to take emergency shelter, Rock said.

The hardest-hit area was Greenbrier County in southeast West Virginia, where 15 deaths have been reported and the heaviest rain fell, state officials said.

West Virginia received one-quarter of its annual rainfall in a single day and multiple rivers surged to dangerous levels, including the Elk River, which broke a record at one stage that had stood since 1888.

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews

Petition For Brexit Referendum Do-over Has Nearly 2 Million Signatures

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 11:15am

More than 1.8 million citizens have signed a petition calling for the United Kingdom's government to hold a second referendum on whether the country should leave the European Union.

The campaign to leave the EU won with 52 percent of the vote in Thursday's referendum, but the majority of voters in London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland voted to remain, as did a large majority of young people across all parts of the UK.

The petition, which began circulating in late May, says the government should hold a new referendum because neither "leave" or "remain" gained more than 60 percent of the vote, and because voter turnout was less than 75 percent.

Related: So the Brexit happened. Now what?

The petition went viral in the last two days. According to a House of Commons spokeswoman, the petition site was experiencing some technical issues on Saturday following "exceptionally high volumes of simultaneous users on a single petition, significantly higher than on any previous occasion."

Petitions only need more than 100,000 signatures to be considered by parliament. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who offered his resignation on Friday, said "there would not be a second referendum," calling it a "once in a generation, once in a lifetime" decision, according to the BBC. Cameron said the UK holds "referendums not neverendums."

Elections expert John Curtice told the Guardian that the petition has no chance of succeeding. He said the subject was so bitterly divisive within mainstream political parties that it would be unlikely to spark another public vote or form a campaigning issue.

The fallout from the Brexit remains to be seen, but things are looking grim so far. The pound fell to its lowest value since 1985, some banks signalled plans to shift their operations into mainland Europe, and global financial markets were rattled. The Irish TImes called the move "a bewildering act of self harm,"

Some Brits were frantically Googling "What is the EU?" in the hours after the outcome was announced, while others seemed to almost immediately regret casting their vote for "leave."

Related: Britain's divorce from the EU could get messy

"Even though I voted to leave, this morning I woke up and I just the reality did actually hit me," one woman told ITV News. "If I had the opportunity to vote again, it would be to stay."

One man, identified as Adam, told the BBC during their rolling coverage of events that he was "a bit shocked, to be honest."

"I didn't think my vote was going to matter too much because I thought we were just going to remain," he said.

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen

Watch: Majority 'Remain' London reacts to Britain leaving the EU

Gunmen Storm Hotel In Mogadishu After Suicide Car Bombing

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 10:10am

A hotel in Mogadishu came under attack on Saturday, with a suicide bomber detonating a car bomb outside the front gate and gunmen storming the building.

A police official confirmed the attack to Reuters, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

"They started with a suicide bomb and then stormed in. Now they are inside and the heavy exchange of gunfire continues," Major Nur Farah told Reuters.

The attack targeted the Nasa-Hablod hotel near the Somali capital's busy KM-4 junction, according to the Associated Press.

Bursts of gunfire could be heard in video footage posted to Twitter, and ambulances were seen speeding to the scene.

Britain's Divorce From The EU Could Get Messy

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 9:30am

With the results of the United Kingdom's referendum on its European Union membership starting to sink in like a bad hangover, European leaders are calling for the divorce talks to begin and things could get messy.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced his plans to resign on Friday after Britons voted 52-48 to exit the EU. Cameron's resignation and the Brexit vote sent shockwaves across global stock markets and triggered the most dramatic one-day drop in the history of Britain's currency, the pound sterling.

Cameron said he would stay on and help "guide the ship" until October while the Tories choose their new leader, and said it would be his successor's responsibility to officially notify the EU of its plans to leave under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would trigger two years of divorce proceedings from the other 27 members.

Until the Article 50 notification is made, the UK continues to a member of the EU, as if the referendum never took place to begin with.

Related: So the Brexit happened. Now what?

But some EU countries think that Britain should plan to pack its bags as soon as possible, demanding Article 50 notification sooner rather than later. Paris is leading demands for a quick and dirty split, saying that "months of uncertainty" could create windows of opportunity for "leave" movements to take hold in other member states.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned, "We have to give a new sense to Europe, otherwise populism will fill the gap."

"The process should get underway as soon as possible so that we are not left in limbo but rather can concentrate on the future of Europe," German Foreign MInister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, according to Reuters, after a meeting with his colleagues from Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, the six founding members of the EU.

'The process should get underway as soon as possible so that we are not left in limbo but rather can concentrate on the future of Europe.'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking a more measured approach. She says there is no urgency for Britain to leave, but "quite honestly, it should not take ages."

Some European leaders warned of Brexit's potential domino effect, particularly as Eurosceptic, populist, anti-establishment parties garner some success with voters across the bloc.

In France, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen applauded the UK's decision to leave the EU. Le Pen is expected to perform strongly in next year's presidential election.

Related: The Texit: Britain's EU departure is inspiring more independence movements

Slovakia's far-right People's Party on Saturday launched a petition for their own referendum on whether to leave the EU. "Citizens of Great Britain have decided to refuse the diktat from Brussels," it said. "It is high time for Slovakia to leave the sinking European 'Titanic' as well."

The British pound tumbled to levels last seen in 1985, sparking concerns that the decision to leave the EU could threaten investment in the world's fifth largest economy and undermine its role as a global financial capital. Britain's financial industry, which employs 2.2 million people, could potentially lose the right to serve European clients.

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen

Reuters contributed to this report

Watch: Majority 'Remain' London reacts to Britain leaving the EU

Hawaii Becomes First State To Track Gun Owners With FBI Crime Database

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 8:50am

Hawaii's governor signed a bill into law this week that makes it the first state to place citizens who own guns in a federal criminal record database that monitors them for possible wrongdoing anywhere in the country.

The move by gun control proponents in the liberal state represents an effort to institute some limits on firearms in the face of a bitter national debate over guns that this week saw Democratic lawmakers stage a sit-in at the US House of Representatives.

Hawaii's gun owners are already required to register their weapons, but Governor David Ige, a Democrat, on Thursday signed into law a bill to also have police in the state enroll them into an FBI criminal monitoring service.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation database called "Rap Back" will allow Hawaii police to be notified when a firearm owner from the state is arrested anywhere in the United States.

Hawaii has become the first US state to place firearm owners on the FBI's Rap Back, which until now was used to monitor criminal activities by individuals under investigation or people in positions of trust such as school teachers and daycare workers.

Related: Glock pistols are the overlooked weapon in American mass shootings

"As you can imagine, the NRA finds this one of the most extreme bills we've ever seen," said Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association's institute for legislative action.

The law could affect gun owners outside Hawaii, because the state requires visitors carrying guns to register, Hunter said.

As a result, they could be added to "Rap Back" because they arrived in the state with a gun, she said. The Hawaii attorney general's office said a weapon-carrying visitor should be able to petition for removal from the national database after leaving the state.

Hawaii state Senator Will Espero, a Democrat who co-authored the law and owns a gun, called it "common sense legislation that does not hurt anyone."

The law, which takes effect immediately, allows police in Hawaii to evaluate whether a firearm owner should continue to possess a gun after being arrested.

"It just means local police will be notified," Espero said in a phone interview.

Ige's office said he also signed into law two other firearms bills. One makes convictions for stalking and sexual assault among the criminal offenses disqualifying a person from gun ownership. The other requires firearm owners to surrender their weapons if diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder.

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews

Cold War 2.0: The US Military Is Beefing Up Its Presence In The Former Soviet Bloc

VICE News - June 25, 2016 - 8:20am

US Army Major Christopher Rowe scanned the unfamiliar terrain as his Stryker armored vehicle sped past the Russian border, less than 15 miles away. It was just after 3:00am, but the summer sun was already rising over northeastern Poland. From the commander's hatch, Rowe looked out on a stretch of rolling farmland and thick pine forests that US military planners now consider the most vulnerable chink in the NATO alliance.

Solitary horses in twilit fields and drunks teetering out of 24-hour truck stops gazed back at Rowe, 38, who was leading a Stryker column down a two-lane highway through the so-called Suwalki Gap. In the Pentagon's nightmare scenario, Russia seizes this 40-mile-wide bottleneck in a surprise attack, effectively cutting off the tiny Baltic republics Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from their NATO allies. Rowe's mission was to show that the American cavalry was still capable of galloping to the rescue.

The US 2nd Cavalry Regiment's passage through the sleepy Suwalki Gap earlier this month was the anticlimactic highlight of a 1,500-mile road march that would take the regiment's Fourth Squadron from their base in southern Germany to the northern tip of Estonia.

"There's another horse," Rowe's voice crackled over the Stryker's intercom as his column approached the border with Lithuania. Thanks to passport-free travel within the European Union, motorists zipped past the boarded-up customs houses without even braking.

Achieving comparable freedom of movement for military vehicles among NATO countries has become the US Army's top priority in Europe after Russia caught the world off guard by massing tens of thousands of soldiers on Ukraine's borders and then occupying and annexing Crimea two years ago. The underlying fear is that an emboldened Kremlin may stir up trouble in the Baltics not just to retake territory that once was part of the Soviet Union, but to prove NATO a paper tiger should the 28-member alliance fail to defend its weakest members.

The red pin marks the location of the strategic, 40 mile-wide Suwalki Gap in Poland, which the Pentagon fears Russia will seize in a surprise attack, effectively cutting off the tiny Baltic republics Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from their NATO allies. (Image via Google Maps)

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, most Eastern European countries strove to join NATO as a way of safeguarding their newly won independence. Yet even as the US-led alliance grew, the Pentagon slashed its forces in Europe in the belief that the continent would settle future conflicts via political bargains or lawsuits, not weapons. Russia's invasion of Ukraine changed everything.

With little fanfare, the United States has quietly begun expanding its military footprint in a region that during the Cold War was deep inside the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact. Operation Atlantic Resolve is an expansive program designed to go beyond mere reassurance of new NATO allies and to provide a credible deterrent against Russia. Next year the Pentagon plans to spend $3.4 billion in Europe on joint exercises, prepositioning equipment, and upgrading local infrastructure. An American armored brigade is due to begin rotating through Eastern Europe in February.

Related: Putin says US is 'probably world's only superpower,' walks back Trump compliments

The 2nd Cavalry whose regimental motto is toujours pret, French for "always ready" plays a key role in projecting American power eastward. At the beginning of June, the unit was present in 10 countries, according to regimental commander Colonel John Meyer. Dragoon Ride, as the road march through the Suwalki Gap was dubbed, passed through three overlapping military exercises conducted in Poland and the Baltic states. "It's defensive," Meyer said in an interview. "We're really doing tactical tasks that demonstrate operational capability with strategic effect."

Not surprisingly, Moscow is using the growing US military presence to bolster its narrative of encirclement by NATO. President Vladimir Putinsaid last week that the West had fomented unrest in Ukraine to justify the alliance's existence. "They need an external adversary, an external enemy, otherwise why is this organization necessary?" he said. "There is no Warsaw Pact, no Soviet Union, so whom is it directed against?"

Criticism has also come from Berlin, even though Germany is a leading NATO member and took part in recent exercises, including Dragoon Ride. Reflecting a strand in German politics that calls for accommodating rather than confronting Putin, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeiercondemned "loud saber-rattling" and "symbolic tank parades" on NATO's eastern border.

Strykers from 2nd Cavalry Regiment make a pit stop in northeastern Poland on June 9, 2016. (Photo by Lucian Kim)

Over the past century, Russia and Germany have repeatedly clashed in a swath of Eastern Europe that Yale historian Timothy Snyder has termed "bloodlands." As the US Army Strykers rolled through the Polish countryside, they passed road signs pointing to the sites of battles and pogroms, sieges and Nazi death camps. At the end of World War II, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment was the US unit that pushed farthest east, liberating parts of what was then Czechoslovakia from the Germans. By that time, Poland and the Baltics were already firmly under Soviet domination.

While the officers of Fourth Squadron were well aware of the region's dark history, they were preoccupied with making the road march as safe as possible. Soldiers spent their nights sleeping inside or next to their Strykers at sprawling Soviet-era military bases. Departure times were often set before daybreak to avoid clogging up highways. Because of local requirements, one 170-mile leg of Dragoon Ride turned into a 330-mile steeplechase.

The eight-wheeled Stryker, which can be fitted with a cannon, mortar, or anti-tank missiles, gained popularity in Iraq because it has thicker armor than a Humvee but doesn't chew up roads like the tracked Bradley Fighting Vehicle. A 20-ton beast that barely gets six miles to the gallon, the Stryker is also prone to the unforgiving demands of the military. On Major Rowe's truck, the long-range communications were out, as was the heating.

Besides maintenance, the second greatest challenge is complacency, said Rowe, a father of two who did one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. "It does become monotonous," said the Tallahassee native. "You gotta watch your battle buddy and make sure they're staying awake and paying attention to what they're doing."

Soldiers from US Army 2nd Cavalry Regiment stock up on refreshments during a pit stop in northeastern Poland on June 9, 2016.(Photo by Lucian Kim)

The biggest part of soldiering is waiting: for an order, for the enemy, for a meal. At pit stops along the way, soldiers refueled their Strykers from Army tanker trucks and stocked up on hotdogs, sandwiches, and soft drinks anything to supplement the mysterious, vacuum-packed contents of MREs, "meals, ready-to-eat," the standard US military rations.

For most soldiers, contact with the civilian population was limited to roadside convenience stores and the view from a Stryker hatch. Judging by the frequency that passersby stopped to wave at the US armored columns, the mood seemed generally welcoming. But conversations with locals revealed an ambivalence toward the Americans and a feeling of helplessness to stop the wheel of history.

"War is near, don't you think?" asked Karol Kolenkiewicz in Suwalki, the Polish town that was known for its summer blues music festival before the US military arrived. For the past year, the tattooed, 22-year-old bartender has been serving drinks to off-duty US troops. Rather than find their presence reassuring, Kolenkiewicz saw it as a sign that something was horribly wrong. "It's kind of frightening," he said.

Related: Russian track and field athletes just got banned from the Rio Olympics

To dispel locals' fears, advance teams of Strykers headed into the towns along the route and parked on public squares. Dressed in their combat fatigues, officers donned the regiment's black Stetsons and ceremonial spurs before mingling with crowds of curious onlookers, mostly elderly folk and families with small children. "Civic engagements are a huge part of this mission," Rowe said as he arrived in Kupiskis in northeastern Lithuania. The most threatening moment came when the town drunk briefly contemplated dropping his trousers in a supermarket parking lot.

As parents photographed their offspring posing with machine guns and American troops, a smartly dressed man observed the spectacle skeptically. "The military doesn't decide anything, the politicians do. The soldiers are just guys like me and you," said Bronius Jonuska, 56. "Threats are created artificially. We're talking big bucks; billions are spent on arms."

While Jonuska, a railway worker, said he supported Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, he missed the financial security of the Soviet system. His son and girlfriend both work in Britain, and her son found a job in Norway. Paradoxically, the price of freedom is the inability to make a decent living at home.

"If you're a big country, you can talk about independence, but if you're small, you can't be completely independent. Lithuania is little, so we'll always depend on someone," Jonuska said. "It would be better not to see soldiers from any side."

The barrel-chested mayor of Kupiskis, Dainius Bardauskas, 51, showed little patience for such anxiety. "Only old people say that we don't need to provoke Russia. They remember Siberia and the repressions, so they're cautious," he said. "I'm happy our allies came to our little town. People must feel NATO has serious intentions."

Residents of Bauska, Latvia, crowd around a Stryker during a visit by the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment on June 13, 2016. (Photo by Lucian Kim)

Those intentions were on display two hours to the north in neighboring Latvia, where US military aircraft A-10 Warthog attack planes and Blackhawk helicopters stood at Lielvarde air base. The three Baltic nations have minuscule militaries that lack tanks or fighter jets. NATO, which has been responsible for policing the region's airspace since 2004, quadrupled the number of planes patrolling Baltic skiesafter Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

At Lielvarde, US troops on a nine-month rotation from Fort Hood, Texas, were quartered in the barracks and popping into town to grab bacon cheeseburgers and Belgian beer at the local foodie joint. Their comrades from 2nd Cavalry had to rough it on a field adjacent to the base. Most of them hadn't taken a shower since Suwalki.

"This has ruined camping for me. I get enough of nature when I'm out here," said Staff Sergeant Gregory Hill, 28, as he hand-washed his laundry behind a Stryker. Hill, who joined the Army straight out of high school, saw combat in Iraq. "When I enlisted, my focus was on the fight in the Middle East," he said. "If you'd asked me a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have seen myself in Eastern Europe." Hill said he didn't believe that the United States was in a new cold war with Russia and attributed renewed tensions to "media hype."

How their mission was being perceived was constantly on the minds of Fourth Squadron's commanders. As officers gathered for an evening meeting, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Due mentioned a news report of off-duty American sailors wreaking havoc in Greece. Should soldiers get permission to drink once they arrived in Estonia, they must exercise restraint, Due said. "Two drinks is not a suggestion, it's an integer." Foreign IO, "information operations," could be at work, Due cautioned.

US Army Major Christopher Rowe, far left, prepares instant coffee in his Stryker in southern Estonia on June 15, 2016.(Photo by Lucian Kim)

When Fourth Squadron reached Estonia, the country was hardly in a celebratory mood. The northernmost Baltic country was marking an annual day of mourning to remember the tens of thousands of Estonians deported by the Soviet Union in the 1940s. "We lost almost 15 percent of our nation," Romek Kosenkranius, the mayor of Parnu, told the Americans. "That's one reason why we must protect our country and independence."

The only visible opposition to the US Army came from a Russian-speaking granny who wore a reflective vest and a captain's hat. "Estonia dragged these guys here only to disturb the Russians who live here," she said. "If Putin wanted to, he'd take Estonia in 15 minutes."

The next morning, Fourth Squadron trundled on to its final destination of Tapa air base, two weeks after leaving Germany. Major Rowe, usually the stoic warrior, turned sentimental as it suddenly sunk in that his three-year tour in Europe was drawing to an end. "This could be my last trip in a Stryker," he said from the commander's hatch. "It's a little depressing, I'm not gonna lie."

The armored column pulled into the former Soviet air base and lined up on a runway. There the troops were assigned to one of eight long, white tents with 12 cots to a room. They packed up their things, cleaned out their vehicles, and set off through a field to their new quarters.

"Always ready!" shouted a soldier as he walked past and saluted. "Toujours pret!" Rowe replied.

Follow Lucian Kim on Twitter: @Lucian_Kim

Watch: What It's Like to Become a Guard at a Private Prison

Mother Jones - June 25, 2016 - 5:00am

In December 2014, Mother Jones senior reporter Shane Bauer started a job as a corrections officer at a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the country's second-largest private prison company. During his four months on the job, Bauer would witness stabbings, an escape, lockdowns, and an intervention by the state Department of Corrections as the company struggled to maintain control. Read Bauer's gripping firsthand account here.

Bauer's investigation is also the subject of a six-part video series produced by Mother Jones senior digital editor James West. In the first episode, Bauer gets a job with CCA and begins four weeks of training at Winn Correctional Center, which one former guard describes as "hell in a can." Bauer also explores why a dangerous job that pays $9 an hour is attractive in an area with few employment options.  

Powerful Photos From One of Texas' Most Historic Black Communities

Mother Jones - June 25, 2016 - 5:00am
Johnny Jones
Whether singing in a choir or playing keyboards on stage Saturday nights, music is been Jones' passion. He spent his career working on the railroad tracks that run through Tamina. Now retired, Jones devotes his time to singing and recording Gospel music.

When photographer Marti Corn moved to The Woodlands, Texas, in 1996, she found herself living next to the subject of what would become her first book: the town of Tamina.

"Literally across the tracks" from The Woodlands, as Corn says, Tamina is a small community just north of Houston. Founded in 1871 by freed slaves, Tamina (originally known as Tammany) flourished for decades, benefiting from the logging industry and a railroad that ran from Houston to Conroe. It's the oldest freedman town in Texas and one of the last emancipation communities of its kind left in the country; descendants of the original freed-slave founders still live in town.

 But in the 1960s and '70s, affluent suburbs like Shenandoah, Chateau Woods, Oak Ridge, and The Woodlands grew, pushing up against poorer, rural Tamina . This juxtaposition is what drew Corn to Tamina. As she met its residents, she thought she could help create awareness of the town and its history through her photography. "At the very least," Corn says, "I could gift those who live in Tamina with a book of portraits and their stories so their descendants would know where they came from."

Consider Corn's mission accomplished. Her book, The Ground on Which I Stand (published by Texas A&M University as part of its Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life), is a nuanced portrait of the town, filled out by archival family photos and a history of the town

The book compiles oral histories of 15 families, from those whose trace their lineage in Tamina for seven generations to relative newcomers. Resilience and pride in Tamina are common threads throughout the book, tying together family stories into a wonderful tribute.

As Annette Hardin, one of the descendants of the founding families, told Corn, "The value developers place on our land is vastly different than ours. What they don't understand is that it's not just our property—it's our legacy. The land represents the blood, heart, and soul of our African American heritage."

Live Oak
This emancipation town's landscape has a unique pastoral charm. Eighty-year-old live oaks shade houses built years ago. Horses can be found along most streets behind the wooden fences or tethered to a tree.
Molly
"The prejudice we have felt might be one of the reasons we are such a close community."
Lonnie Horse and Trailer
This is a community that is at risk of gentrification as real estate values escalate and surrounding cities eye Tamina land for development.
Bubba Joe
"Five-fifty a week, that’s what we made cuttin' wood. We’d cut four cords a day to make that dollar. Times sure could be real hard, and we had many hungry days."
Ruth
Faith plays an important role in Tamina. There are five churches, many of which line the railroad tracks.
Sweet Rest Cemetery
Many headstones at Tamina's Sweet Rest Cemetery are hand-made with names either painted onto crosses or etched into concrete markers. The cemetery floods every time there is a heavy rain, causing headstones to sink into the ground.
Jada
Tamina has the opportunity to send its children to some of the best schools in the country, thanks to the growth of surrounding cities. But that growth also puts the town at risk of gentrification.

The Ground on Which I Stand: Tamina, a Freedman's Town
Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce

Hot Chilis, Maggot Therapy, and Penis Transplants

Mother Jones - June 25, 2016 - 5:00am

We can thank the armed forces for a lot more than just national security: Many advances in modern medicine we take for granted came from scientists' work trying to keep soldiers safe. Everything from inventing certain mosquito repellents to treatments for dysentery and diarrhea have come from the military's medical breakthroughs.

That's just one of the insights Mary Roach shares on this week's episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast. The writer also tells host Indre Viskontas about advances in ear plugs, a method of cleaning battle wounds that involves maggots, and the latest innovations in penis transplants.

Most or Roach's studies and anecdotes come from her latest book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, which keeps with her style of single-syllable-science-titles (Gulp, Stiff, Bonk) but has a completely new theme: the military. Roach got the idea for the project while she was reporting in India and learned that the world's hottest chili pepper, the bhut jolokia (also known as the "ghost chili"), has been weaponized by the Indian Defense Ministry. 

"Military science suddenly presented itself to me as something that was more esoteric and broader…and less focused on bullets and bombs," she explains.

Roach talks about inventions as old as military toilet paper, and newer advances such as penis reconstruction and replacements. The procedure wasn't an option in the past, Roach says, because injuries that left soldiers without lower limbs or genitals were often fatal. Advances in medical treatment mean soldiers often survive below-the-belt wounds and may need genital reconstruction. The surgery is still uncommon: There are only about 300 genital injuries for every 18,000 limb amputations, she says. On her visit to a cadaver lab at Johns Hopkins, Roach was able to learn about the arteries necessary to connect in order to perform a successful surgery.   

"It's like transplanting a tree," Roach says. "You don't just lop it off, you take the roots and the soil around it."

Roach is known for her squirm-inducing but always fascinating subject matter, such as cadavers, fecal transplants, and pig sex. In Grunt, Roach even details the healing power of maggots. As medieval as it sounds, the creature is incredibly efficient at cleaning wounds. Although the knowledge had been around for centuries, it was World War I surgeon William S. Baer who noticed a soldier who had been lying in the fields for days returned to camp with large open wounds that were free of infection. When he saw that maggots had been eating the dead flesh, allowing the wounds to heal, Baer started using the insects. Today "maggot therapy" is used on diabetic patients; the insects are even approved by the FDA as a medical device. While military surgeons are open to the idea, Roach says, getting hospital staff on board is a challenge.

"It's been an uphill struggle…they're maggots, they're gross!" Roach said. "The nursing staff has to be trained in how to change the maggot-dressing and they might not want that added to their duty list."

Roach sees her exploration of military science as illuminating some of the grizzly realities of war.

"Even when things are going okay in the military, even when no one is shooting at you, it really sucks," Roach says. "It's not a political book, but it's kind of an antiwar book in its own way."

Mother Jones senior editor Dave Gilson also talked with Mary Roach about Grunt. Here's a highlight from their interview:

W.W. Norton

MJ: Did hanging out with soldiers and researchers change any misconceptions you had about the US military?

MR: I didn't have any conception of this world at all. I didn't realize that almost any of this existed—the Naval Submarine Medical Research Lab, or NAMRU Three or the Walter Reed Entomology Branch. That was all a surprise to me. I had maybe a misconception that everyone in the military was sort of hawkish. But in fact, the people who deal with the aftermath of war, trying to repair people's bodies and minds, they are understandably quite anti-war. They're not big boosters of war, particularly the people I talked to at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. Pathologists, people who have a real, day-after-day, graphic presentation of what war does to the body. I wasn't really expecting that.

Inquiring Minds is a podcast hosted by neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas and Kishore Hari, the director of the Bay Area Science Festival. To catch future shows right when they are released, subscribe to Inquiring Minds via iTunes or RSS. You can follow the show on Twitter at @inquiringshow and like us on Facebook.

If Music Be the Food of Love, Play on, Rufus Wainright

Mother Jones - June 25, 2016 - 5:00am
Jacob Blickenstaff

Rufus Wainwright, the son of critically admired folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, grew up amid a bramble of musical siblings, aunts, in-laws, half-siblings and close family friends. (Wainright also has a daughter with Lorca Cohen, daughter of Leonard Cohen, whom he co-parents along with his husband.)

While maintaining the family legacy of incisive songwriting, Rufus has stood on his own as a genre-expanding songwriter, incorporating elements of classical music, opera, and the American songbook into visceral contemporary music, beginning with his self-titled debut in 1998.

He has made those influences more explicit during the last decade with 2007's Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall—a live, song-for-song re-creation of Judy Garland's Live at Carnegie Hall album, and an opera, Prima Donna, which Wainwright composed and produced in 2009 and released as an album in 2015.

Earlier this year, Wainwright released another classical work, All My Loves, which presents nine Shakespeare sonnets in both dramatic recitations and composed arrangements. The eclectic treatment under producer/arranger Marius de Vries—who previously collaborated on Wainwright's lush albums Want One and Want Two—involves a varied cast that includes soprano Anna Prohaska; pop singers Florence Welch (of Florence & the Machine) and sister Martha Wainwright; and the actors Helena Bonham Carter, Carrie Fischer, and William Shatner. I caught up with Wainright recently as he swung though New York to reprise Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. He is now touring in Canada and Europe.

Mother Jones: Shakespeare's sonnets explore longing, betrayal, and lust and its consequences, themes that are present in your songs as well. Did you have a sense of that connection as you worked on this project? 

Rufus Wainwright: I feel like the sonnets are the gift that keeps on giving. Certainly in terms of my life—anybody's life—you go through death, childbirth and marriage, glory and defeat, and so on. The last 10 years for me have been all of that, so the sonnets have been there with me. I've been able to lean on them profoundly for many years, and they've given me a wider perspective of what's going on, really, on the inside. If my songs can do that as well, then I'm a lucky guy. 

MJ: You began working on musical settings for the sonnets some years ago, while your mother was fighting cancer.

RW: I wrote the music for the majority of them during her illness. It wasn't planned out that way, just coincided. But I was happy to not have to write lyrics while that was going on in my life—it was so painful.  

MJ: Part of the scholarly debate about the sonnets is whether they were autobiographical or written on behalf of someone else. Do you feel there are parallels in songwriting, the autobiographical vs the universal? 

RW: I wouldn't categorize my work as mysterious as the relationship between Shakespeare and his world, because that is one of the great mysteries: How could someone have written all that he did? Was it only one person? And why do we know so little about it? I don't take that mantle, but I will say that I strive for what you do find in Shakespeare's work—that there is a definite humanity and a definite character behind the writing in the sonnets, and it's very real because it's so deeply personal. I try to aspire to that in what I do.

MJ: Are there qualities in his material that you are trying to bring into your songwriting? 

RW: I can't really gauge that. I just keep chugging along and I hope that in doing work with the sonnets or the operas—or singing Judy Garland shows—that all gets in there. It's not up to me to judge that, either; that's for the public to do. But I want to deepen as an artist, and working with Shakespeare definitely points in that direction. 

MJ: Sonnet 20, which addresses the "master-mistress of my passion," is most discussed and interpreted in context of homosexuality, and the longing of one man for another. What's your take on it?

RW: I think it is about attraction in general. That's what is so brilliant about it. There's no question that the writer projects a sort of startling situation in that because he's a man he can't quite do all that he wants to with this other man. But he focuses more on the effect of beauty—what it makes one do emotionally and how it breaks down the barrier between man and woman. That's part of the subtlety that Shakespeare is the best at, ever, in any art form. 

MJ: Something that perhaps was under-noticed on your earlier pop albums is how much classical music is a part of it. For example, the opening track of Want One, "Oh What A World," takes directly from Ravel's Bolero. When did you first start to integrate classical into your pop songwriting? 

RW: My love of classical hit pretty early. I was 13 when it occurred, and that was really the only music I listened to for many, many years. I went to a conservatory, but I always knew I would be in the pop world, because A) it was more fun and B) you didn't have to practice as much and you could go out more. But I immediately saw this opportunity to inject my material with these sounds that most members of my generation really didn't know about, so it was a great way to differentiate myself from the pack. Now I'm paying back the favor a little bit. 

MJ: Tell me about your collaborations with Marius de Vries.

RW: Marius is one of the great and most versatile musicians of our time. He's really able to keep a keen eye on what's going on in the pop world, but by the same token introduce all sorts of musical influences be they classical, ethnic music, or whatever—so he's a great unifier. I really needed someone like that to do this album because I'm going out on so many limbs.

I let him go out and see what he can bring back, and oftentimes it's great, and sometimes we know immediately it won't work. We give each other a lot of leeway because we respect each other's taste, and also sometimes our lack of taste, because we're not afraid to do things a little out of the ordinary. 

MJ: This new album takes a very eclectic approach, both in the performers involved and the musical settings.

RW: I feel that the sonnets can take it. They are so wildly varied and so sturdy in terms of their form and geometry and light, so it was fun to throw all these different musical styles at them and see what sticks. And of course they all stick if you do a good job at it, because they are limitless. 

MJ: As a husband and father, have you had to temper your artistic ambitions? 

RW: The only big change is that I have to rest a lot more now! I think my imagination and my passions are still firing away, but it's really the body that starts to make up the rules. It's not a major problem; it's just when you get a little older you realize how much your body thanks you when you are good to it. I haven't changed much.   

MJ: Judy Garland was coming out of a rough time when she made those live recordings. Do you feel any affinities with her and where she was in her life at that time? 

WR: Well, I have a lot of advantages: I'm not addicted to horrifying pills. I also have surrounded myself with far more caring and upright individuals. And I wasn't abused as a child, so I'm doing okay! 

MJ: Sorry, I wasn't trying to put you in the same redemptive narrative box. 

WR: I mean, I love Judy Garland! I worship at her altar in so many ways. But really when it comes to me getting on stage and performing that material, that's when I call to the songwriters and the lyricists and musicians and really make it about that. If you try to unsettle her spirit and bring it into the room, it's a double-edged sword. If you are going to try and do battle with her, you're going to lose, so I make it about the music. 

MJ: I wonder what the dynamic was, and still is, between you and your intensely musical family.

RW: I'm very blessed, mainly because even though my family is mostly in show business, it's really centered around music. My parents were very successful in many ways, but they weren't necessarily top of the charts. We were never wealthy because of music. We always had to work and we always had to struggle a little bit, and I think at the end of the day that's been very good for me, because I have a sense of it being very ephemeral. I don't have a sense of entitlement in terms of being some kind of spoiled brat. Musically I'm able to keep going, because it's not about money and it's not about success. It's a challenge.

This profile is part of In Close Contact, an independently produced series highlighting leading creative musicians.

Listen: Reveal Takes You Inside Shane Bauer's Immerson Reporting

Mother Jones - June 24, 2016 - 11:05pm

For four months in late 2014 and early 2015, Mother Jones senior reporter Shane Bauer worked as a corrections officer at a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the country's second-largest private prison company. Read his gripping firsthand account of his experience here.

Bauer's investigation is also the subject of the latest episode of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Listen to "The Man Inside" below.

Reveal can be heard on public radio stations across the country and on the Reveal podcast.

Putin Conspiracies, Obama Nonintervention Blamed for Brexit

FAIR - June 24, 2016 - 9:27pm

No theory for the success of Brexit was too far-fetched–as long as the right people were blamed. (Telegraph, 6/21/16)

The referendum results in favor of Britain leaving the European Union seemed to have caught most Western media off guard. Betting markets and the pundit class had heavily favored a vote to keep the UK in the EU, but at around midnight on the US East Coast, it became increasingly clear Britain would be supporting “Brexit” by a roughly 52–48 percent margin. Per usual, the more cynical writers and pundits—no matter how contrived the task would be — would take the opportunity to take a story about a nationalistic British response to a pro-austerity EU, and make it about Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.

First up was the idea that Brexit resulted from Obama not adequately invading and bombing Syria, namely having not overthrown the “Assad regime” in 2013. The Washington Post‘s Josh Rogin insisted that Obama’s “neglect” of Syria had prolonged the conflict, which thus caused more refugees and thereby provoked more racist backlash:

Obama neglected Syria, allowed the crisis to spill over, driving migrants to Europe, pushing #Brexit over the edge.

— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 24, 2016

If you’re counting at home, that’s four causal links needed to blame Obama for the UK leaving the EU, despite the fact that Obama had actively lobbied for it. To say nothing of the fact that Obama has done anything but “neglect” Syria, having armed and funded anti-Assad and anti-ISIS forces for years, as well as assisting the Saudis, Turks and Qataris in doing the same.

This sentiment was repeated by Ruth Sherlock, US editor for the Daily Telegraph:

Globalised world: If #UK #US hadn’t paid lip service to removing #Assad in Syria, the fostered subsistence war; no refugees: no #Brexit?

— Ruth Sherlock (@Rsherlock) June 24, 2016

On Andrea Mitchell Reports (6/24/16), Chuck Todd echoed this canard as well. Note that this claim is based on the assumption that not bombing and invading countries is what causes violence—putting aside the assertion that arming and funding proxy wars for almost four years is equivalent to “neglect.”

But blaming Obama is never enough. One has to contrive a reason to somehow use the Brexit to further demagogue against Russia—another favorite pastime of Western media. The most popular way of doing this was to insinuate that Putin was pro-Brexit based only on vague notions of aligned interest, rather than citing any statements by Putin himself:

  • Russia Says Brexit Opens Door for New UK Relations but US Blasts Vote as ‘Putin’s Victory’ (Express, 6/24/16)
  • Brexit: Few Will Be Happier Than Vladimir Putin (Sky News, 6/24/16)
  • Putin Will Be Rubbing His Hands at the Prospect of Brexit (Guardian, 6/5/16)

Consistent Russia critic Daily Beast (6/8/16) published a 1,400–word piece suggesting Russia was secretly pushing Brexit, without an ounce of primary source evidence—only a smattering of secondhand assumptions and hearsay.

The day after Thursday’s referendum, Putin would blame the exit on the “arrogance” of British leadership, but the Kremlin, much to the disappointment of professional cold war pundits, still had yet to make a value claim either way.

Indeed, last week Putin was confused why the UK held the vote at all, and expressly withheld sharing an opinion on the matter (Reuters, 6/17/16):

“If it’s such a problem, why did he initiate this, if he is against it himself?” Putin said of Cameron at a meeting on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Putin said that he had a view on whether Britain should leave the EU but that it was not appropriate for him to voice it because it was Britain’s internal affair.

The Telegraph (yes, the same Telegraph whose editor blamed Obama not invading Syria for Brexit) would take this tactic one step further, writing what has to be one of the goofiest headlines in the history of Russia panic, two days before the vote (6/21/16):

Is Vladimir Putin Orchestrating Russian Football Hooligans to Push Britain out of the EU?

So Putin’s elaborate soccer-hooligan psyop was designed to push Britain out of the EU? The causes of Brexit are complex and will be dissected over the coming weeks, but it’s fair to say Putin’s sinister “hybrid warfare” — or even Putin’s alleged support — had little to do with it.

“Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel once said. The same is true for large global shakeups like the exiting of Britain from the EU. Those who already dislike Obama or want to criticize Russia will shoehorn in a breaking story like Brexit to suit their own tangential agenda. By blaming Obama’s lack of a direct Syrian invasion and Russia’s lack of express support, these pundits are letting Britain’s own homegrown demagogues, nationalists and xenophobes off the hook—not to mention the EU’s own anti-democratic structures and pro-austerity policies that made staying with Europe a less appealing prospect.

But attributing Brexit on British rightists and European neoliberals calls into question corporate media’s leading ideologies. Better to put the blame on two individual leaders who had little or nothing to do with it.

Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. Follow him on Twitter at  @AdamJohnsonNYC.

Donald Trump Applauds Brits For Taking Their Country Back

VICE News - June 24, 2016 - 6:04pm

On Friday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump touched down in Western Scotland. Ostensibly, he had traveled to Britain to relaunch Trump Turnberry, one of two luxury golf courses that he owns in the country. But his timing was conspicuous: Trump's visit came hours after Britain voted to leave the European Union, an extraordinary move that Donald Trump had previously expressed support for.

At a raucous press conference, Trump told Brits that they were right to "take their country back," and drew parallels between the political forces driving both Brexit and his presidential run.

Outside the golf course, a small band of protesters gathered for an anti-Trump demonstration. They worry about the global spread of Trump-style, right-wing populism.

Watch "Majority 'Remain' London reacts to Britain leaving the EU"

Read "The Texit: Britain's EU departure is inspiring more independence movements"

Pentagon Will Reportedly Lift Transgender Service Ban in July

Mother Jones - June 24, 2016 - 4:40pm

The Pentagon will officially lift its longstanding ban on transgender military service sometime next month, according to multiple reports.

USA Today reports that high-ranking members of the Pentagon’s personnel team could meet next week to hammer out the final details of the plan to lift the service ban. According to one defense official cited anonymously by the paper, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work could sign off on the final plan as early as next Wednesday. The end of the service ban will be announced after final approval from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and could come down as early as July 1, just before the start of the Fourth of July weekend.

The military currently does not allow openly transgender people to enlist in the military, citing medical reasons to disqualify them from service.

Citing an anonymous Defense Department official, USA Today also notes that the announcement will include a directive from the Pentagon that gives each military branch one year to "implement new policies affecting recruiting, housing and uniforms for transgender troops."

A Pentagon official told the Washington Post that the Defense Department would likely make an official announcement sometime in July, but added that an official date for ending the ban has not been set.

If the predicted timeline holds, the lifting of the transgender military service ban will come roughly one year after Carter issued a directive commissioning a task force to come up with a plan for incorporating openly transgender service members into the military. Carter’s directive also changed the process for discharging transgender soldiers who were already in the military but had not come out publicly, elevating discharge authority out of the immediate chain of command and into the hands of a senior Pentagon official. 

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