"White Lives Matter" will soon join the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, the National Socialist Movement, and racist skinheads on the Southern Poverty Law Center's annual "hate map" which tracks the spread of hate groups across the United States.
"We are listing them because they are clearly white supremacists," Heidi Beirich, head of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, told VICE News. 'Their motto should be 'only white lives matter.'"
White Lives Matter emerged as a counter to the Black Lives Matter movement's message. Black Lives Matter erupted in the wake of several high-profile killings of black men by law enforcement. It was intended as a critique of the criminal justice system, which proponents of BLM say has historically treated African Americans unjustly.
White Lives Matter, in response, claims that whiteness is under attack. "White genocide is a phenomenon where mass third world immigration, integration by force and 24/7 race mixing propaganda are being promoted in all and only white countries to turn them non-white," WLM's website website asserts.
In a report published earlier this month, SPLC wrote that one of the faces if not the leader of WLM is Rebecca Barnette, a 40-year-old woman from Tennessee who is also vice president of the women's chapter of the Aryan Strikeforce, a racist skinhead group, as well as the director of the largest women's neo-Nazi group.
"Barnette, who describes herself as a "revolutionist" who is working to "create a new world" for white people, appears to run both the WLM website and the movement's Facebook page" wrote the SPLC's Senior Research AnalystSarah Viets.
The SPLC also dug up Barnette's posts on vk.com, a Russian social networking site which is known for its lack of censorship. In one post, SPLC says Barnette wrote that Jews and Muslims have made an alliance "to commit genocide of epic proportions" against the white race. Barnette called for "the blood of our enemies soak our soil for new mortar to rebuild our landmasses."
Last week, a dozen or so WLM protesters gathered outside NAACP headquarters waving confederate flags. So far, SPLC notes, the movement so far remains small. It plans to grow, however, and encourages members to find like-minded individuals and organize on a grass-roots level in their communities.
White Lives Matter wasn't the only counter-slogan to emerge from BLM. First came "All Lives Matter," from those who thought that when protesters chanted "Black Lives Matter," they were really saying "Only Black Lives Matter."
Last month at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, a sniper unaffiliated with the protest opened fire on police officers. This, and another shooting that targeted officers in Baton Rouge one week later, compounded the misunderstanding that Black Lives Matter calls for violence against members of law enforcement, and as a result strengthened the burgeoning "Blue Lives Matter" movement championed by pro-policing advocates.
Amid the furor that followed, SPLC said they received a number of requests asking that they classify Black Lives Matter as a hate group. In response, they released a statement explaining why BLM was not a hate group.
"The perception that it is racist illustrates the problem," SPLC wrote. 'Our society as a whole still does not accept that racial injustice remains pervasive. And, unfortunately, the fact that white people tend to see race as a zero-sum game may actually impede progress."
Hillary Clinton got her first national security briefing as the official Democratic nominee a process she is somewhat familiar with.
Her campaign said the briefing went on for two hours and took place at the FBI offices in White Plains, north of New York City, near the Clintons' home in Westchester County.
She was briefed alone by a "handful of officials" from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Clinton campaign said.
As President Barack Obama's Secretary of State, Clinton frequently handled sensitive intelligence documents containing classified information and analyses about the geopolitical climate.
Her use of a personal email server when handling potentially sensitive information has dogged her campaign, and furnished her Republican opponent with one of his favorite lines of attack.
Last month, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, arguing that the former secretary of state's use of a personal server a decision which the FBI deemed "extremely reckless" should effectively bar her from being privy to classified information. "I firmly believe this is necessary" Ryan wrote. "The consequences for our nation's safety are grave."
Clinton's first intelligence briefing as the official nominee isn't the only one that's been steeped in controversy.
Her opponent Donald Trump received his first briefing as the Republican nominee earlier this month. Prominent Democrats questioned whether the real-estate mogul could be trusted with such sensitive information, given his apparently unpredictable temper.
The intelligence briefings have been a traditional part of the race for the White House for the last 60 years and were introduced with the idea of making the handover between the incumbent and president-elect as smooth as possible.
Two transgender students and one transgender employee in North Carolina can now use bathrooms which match their gender identity, thanks to a federal judge's ruling on Friday.
The decision will allow three trans individuals to choose whichever bathroom they want at their school, and represents a small step toward dismantling the nation's most prohibitive bathroom laws. Earlier this year, North Carolina passed a law mandating that people use the bathrooms in public schools and government buildings which accord with the sex on their birth certificate.
The controversial HB2 law which flouted federal law about transgender rights and barred local municipalities from adopting anti-LGBT discrimination laws sparked a national conversation, boycotts and a Justice Department lawsuit accompanied by heartfelt and stern words from the attorney general.
District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder wrote in an 83-page order issued on Friday afternoon that until the legal battle is over, schools in North Carolina cannot enforce HB2. Schroeder acknowledged that the three transgender plaintiffs would suffer "irreparable harm" if they were mandated to use bathrooms according to their biological sex, and noted that single-occupancy bathrooms are far and few between at the University of North Carolina.
Republican proponents of HB2 say that the law is needed to protect women by keeping men out of their bathrooms. Transgender plaintiffs contend that bathrooms are already protected by existing statutes and HB2 is needlessly discriminatory.
Schroeder acknowledged that "North Carolina's peeping and indecent exposure statutes continue to protect the privacy of citizens regardless."
"Defendants argue that separating facility users by biological sex serves prophylactically to avoid the opportunity for sexual predators to prey on persons in vulnerable places," Schroeder wrote. "However, the individual transgender Plaintiffs have used facilities corresponding with their gender identity for over a year without posing a safety threat to anyone."
Chris Brook, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told Reuters that Friday's ruling was a sign that Schroeder would likely block HB2 entirely when the full case is heard in November's trial.
Joni Worthington, a spokesperson from North Carolina's university system, said in a statement that the administration felt like it had been "caught in the middle of a conflict that we did not create" and was happy that it was headed toward a court resolution.
Much of the legal showdown hinges on whether the DOJ can argue that North Carolina has violated federal law by refusing to accept current, widely held medical standards that gender identity is separate from biological sex.
Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen
Turkish warplanes attacked a group allied with the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, after Turkey earlier this week launched an offensive into northern Syria against Kurds and Islamic State forces.
Turkish tanks and special forces rolled into Jarablus earlier this week, backed by US air power and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, to expel Islamic State militants from Jarablus a strategic border town and to stop Kurdish militias from taking the town and moving further west along the Turkish border.
Reuters reported that the Jarablus Military Council which is allied to the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said Turkish aircraft attacked a village south of Jarablus, called al-Amarna, causing civilian casualties and conducting what the council called a "a dangerous escalation that threatens the fate of the region."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Turkish attack occurred after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces took the village from Islamic State during last week's Turkish offensive.
The attack is indicative of the complicated situation in Syria, where NATO member Turkey is allied with the US against Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the US also supports the Kurds fighting Islamic State but who also support their ethnic brethren mounting an insurgency in Turkey. The US is also allied with Syrian rebels fighting Assad and Islamic State but who have also fought against the Syrian Kurds.
Turkey in the past had allowed Islamic State militants to move back and forth across its border as part of Ankara's effort to unseat Assad, but last week's Turkish offensive represents a commitment to driving the IS militants away from the border where several of the group's key resupply and smuggling routes were located after Islamic State mounted several mass-casualty attacks on Turkish soil.
The Turkish government made clear that the Syrian Kurds were as much a target of the Jarablus offensive as Islamic State. Syrian Kurds have established a de-facto autonomous zone in northern Syria, and have expanded that zone with help from US airpower and special forces as they've driven Islamic State militants from towns near the Turkish border.
That group includes fighters from the Kurdish YPG, which is the Syrian wing of a Kurdish group in Turkey called the PKK, which Ankara has outlawed and considers a terrorist organization.
Turkey is currently engaged in a war with the PKK and their allies in southeastern Turkey, and fears that further Kurdish gains in Syria could further stoke Kurdish aspirations to their own autonomous zone in in Turkey to autonomy.
The PKK claimed a Friday bomb attack on a police station in Turkey's southeast on Friday killed 11 officers.
In response to the alleged Turkish strike on al-Amarna, the Jarablus Military Council said, "If do not attack our forces, then we will keep the border strip secure."
Turkey has 50 tanks and 380 troops on the ground in Syria, Turkey's Hurriyet daily newspaper reported.
The Turkish military also said it destroyed an ammunition warehouse near Jarablus on Saturday.
Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews
Bangladeshi security forces say they stormed a hideout on Saturday and shot dead three suspected militants believed to have masterminded last month's attack on a caf in Dhaka.
The three suspects were holed up in a house on the capital's outskirts, the head of Dhaka police's counterterrorism unit told Reuters. They refused to surrender to police, and a gunbattle ensued.
"We can see three dead bodies here," senior police officer Sanwar Hossain told AFP. "Tamim Chowdhury is dead. He is the Gulshan attack mastermind and the leader of JMB," using an acronym for Jamaaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, a domestic terror outfit.
On July 1, five militants entered a bakery in Gulshan Tana an affluent area of Dhaka where many of the embassies are loaded up with machetes, firearms and crude bombs, and took dozens of hostages. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, in which the militants targeted non-Muslims and foreigners, including Italians, Japanese, an American, and an Indian.
All five attackers were killed during the police rescue operation.
IS have claimed a number of attacks over the last year, including the brutal murders of Hindu priests, atheist bloggers, and LGBT activists. The Bangladeshi government, however, rejects such claims and contends that the militant group has no domestic presence. Bangladesh authorities did acknowledge that JMB the sprawling terror network that has pledged allegiance to IS was likely behind the caf attack.
Two men who were hostages in the cafe attack remain in police custody. The men, University of Toronto student Tahmid Khan, a Bangladeshi citizen and Canadian permanent resident, and Hasnat Karim, a British-Bangladeshi citizen, have been detained since July 1. Karim had just arrived to Dhaka that morning to see his family as he traveled from Canada for an internship with UNICEF in Nepal. Karim was at the cafe with his family, celebrating his daughter's 13th birthday.
The families of both men, and other hostages who were released, say the attackers forced the men to carry weapons.
Follow Tess Owen @misstessowen
At the federal courthouse, Ignacio Sarabia asks the magistrate judge, Jacqueline Rateau, if he may explain why he crossed the international boundary between the two countries without authorization. He has already pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor commonly known as "illegal entry" and is about to receive a prison sentence. On either side of him are eight men in the same predicament, all still sunburned, all in the same ripped, soiled clothes they were wearing when arrested in the Arizona desert by agents of the US Border Patrol.
Once again, the zero tolerance border enforcement program known as Operation Streamline has unfolded just as it always does here in Tucson, Arizona. So far today, close to 60 people have already approached the judge in groups of seven or eight, their heads bowed submissively, their bodies weighed down by shackles and chains around wrists, waists, and ankles. The judge hands out the requisite prison sentences in quick succession—180 days, 60 days, 90 days, 30 days.
On and on it goes, day in, day out. Like so many meals served in fast-food restaurants, 750,000 sentences of this sort have been handed down since Operation Streamline was launched in 2005. This mass prosecution of undocumented border crossers has become so much the norm that one report concluded it is now a "driving force in mass incarceration" in the United States. Yet it is but a single program among many overseen by the massive US border enforcement and incarceration regime that has developed during the last two decades—particularly in the post-9/11 era.
Sarabia takes a half-step forward. "My infant is four months old," he tells the judge in Spanish. The baby was, he assures her, born with a heart condition and is a US citizen. They have no option but to operate. This is the reason, he says, that "I'm here before you." He pauses.
"I want to be with my child, who is in the United States."
It's clear that Sarabia would like to gesture emphatically as he speaks, but that's difficult, thanks to the shackles that constrain him. Rateau fills her coffee cup as she waits for his comments to be translated into English.
In April 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, still in the heat of his primary campaign, stated once again that he would build a massive concrete border wall towering 30 (or, depending on the moment, 55) feet high along the 2,000 mile US-Mexican border. He would, he insisted, force Mexico to pay for the $8 billion to $10 billion barrier. Repeatedly throwing such red meat into the gaping jaws of nativism, he has over these past months also announced that he would create a major "deportation force," repeatedly sworn that he would ban Muslims from entering the country (a position he regularly revises) and, most recently, that he would institute an "extreme vetting" process for foreign nationals arriving in the United States.
Back in June 2015, when Trump first rode a Trump Tower escalator into the presidential campaign, among his initial promises was the building of a "great" and "beautiful" wall on the border. ("And no one builds walls better than me, believe me. I will do it very inexpensively. I will have Mexico pay for that wall.") As he pulled that promise out of a hat with a magician's flair, the actual history of the border disappeared. From then on in Election 2016, there was just empty desert and Donald Trump.
Suddenly, there hadn't been a bipartisan government effort over the last quarter-century to put in place an unprecedented array of walls, detection systems, and guards for that southern border. In those years, the number of Border Patrol agents had, in fact, quintupled from 4,000 to more than 21,000, while Customs and Border Protection became the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country with more than 60,000 agents. The annual budget for border and immigration enforcement ballooned from $1.5 billion to $19.5 billion, a more than twelvefold increase. By 2016, federal funding of border and immigration enforcement added up to $5 billion more than funding for all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.
Operation Streamline, a cornerstone program in the so-called Consequence Delivery System, part of a broader Border Patrol deterrence strategy for stopping undocumented immigration, is just one part of a vast enforcement-incarceration-deportation machine. The program is as no-nonsense as its name suggests. It's not The Wall, but it embodies the logic of the wall: Either you crossed "illegally" or you didn't. It doesn't matter why, or whether you lost your job, or if you've had to skip meals to feed your kids. It doesn't matter if your house was flooded or the drought dried up your fields. It doesn't matter if you're running for your life from drug cartel gunmen or the very army and police forces that are supposed to protect you.
This system was what Ignacio Sarabia faced a few months ago in a Tucson courtroom a mere seven blocks from where I live.
Before I tell you how the judge responded to his plea, it's important to understand Sarabia's journey, and that of so many thousands like him who end up in this federal courthouse day after day. As he pleads to be with his newborn son, his voice cracking with emotion, his story catches the already Trumpian style of border enforcement—both the pain and suffering it has caused, and the strategy and massive buildup behind it—in ways that the campaign rhetoric of both parties and the reporting on it doesn't. As reporters chase their tails attempting to explain Trump's wild and often unfounded claims and declarations, the on-the-ground border reality goes unreported. Indeed, one of the greatest "secrets" of the 2016 campaign (though it should be common knowledge) is that the border wall already exists. It has existed for years, and the fingerprints all over it aren't Donald Trump's but those of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Twenty-one years before Trump's wall-building promise (and seven years before the 9/11 attacks), the US Army Corps of Engineers began to replace the chain link fence that separated Nogales, Sonora (in Mexico) from Nogales, Arizona, with a wall built of rusty landing mats from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Although there had been various half-hearted attempts at building border walls throughout the 20th century, this was the first true effort to build a barrier of what might now be called Trumpian magnitude.
That rusty, towering wall snaked through the hills and canyons of northern Sonora and southern Arizona, forever deranging a world that, given cross-border familial and community ties, then considered itself one. At the time, who could have known that the strategy the first wall embodied would remain the model for today's massive system of exclusion.
In 1994, the perceived threat wasn't terrorism. In part, the call for more hardened, militarized borders came in response, among other things, to a never-ending drug war. It also came from US officials who anticipated the displacement of millions of Mexicans after the implementation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which, ironically, was aimed at eliminating barriers to trade and investment across North America.
The expectations of those officials proved well justified. The ensuing upheavals in Mexico, as analyst Marco Antonio Velázquez Navarrete explained to me, were like the aftermath of a war or natural disaster. Small farmers couldn't compete against highly subsidized US agribusiness giants like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. Mexican small-business owners were bankrupted by the likes of Walmart, Sam's Club, and other corporate powers. Mining by foreign companies extended across vast swaths of Mexico, causing territorial conflicts and poisoning the land. The unprecedented and desperate migration that followed came up against what might be considered the other side of the Clinton doctrine of open trade: walls, increased border agents, increased patrolling, and new surveillance technologies meant to cut off traditional crossing spots in urban areas like El Paso, San Diego, Brownsville, and Nogales.
"This administration has taken a strong stand to stiffen the protection of our borders," President Bill Clinton said in 1996. "We are increasing border controls by 50 percent."
Over the next 20 years, that border apparatus would expand immensely in terms of personnel, resources, and geographic reach, but the central strategy of the 1990s ("Prevention Through Deterrence") remained the same. The ever-increasing border policing and militarization funneled desperate migrants into remote locations like the Arizona desert, where temperatures can soar to 120 degrees in the summer.
The first US border strategy memorandum in 1994 predicted the tragic future we now have: "Illegal entrants crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border can find themselves in mortal danger."
Twenty years later, more than 6,000 remains have been found in the desert borderlands of the United States. Hundreds of families continue to search for disappeared loved ones. The Colibri Center for Human Rights has records for more than 2,500 missing people last seen crossing the US-Mexico border. In other words, that border has become a graveyard of bones and sadness.
Despite all the attention given to the wall and the border this election season, neither the Trump nor Clinton campaigns have mentioned "Prevention Through Deterrence," nor the subsequent border deaths. Not once. The same goes for the establishment media that can't stop talking about Trump's wall. There has been little or no mention of what border groups have long called a "humanitarian crisis" of deaths that have increased fivefold over the last decade, thanks, in part, to a wall that already exists. (If the dead were Canadians or Europeans, attention would, of course, be paid.)
Although wall construction began during Bill Clinton's administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) built most of the approximately 700 miles of fencing after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed. Sen. Hillary Clinton voted in favor of that Republican-introduced bill, as did 26 other Democrats. "I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in," she commented at one 2015 campaign event, "and I do think you have to control your borders."
The wall-building project was expected to be so environmentally destructive that then Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff waived 37 environmental and cultural laws in the name of national security. In this way, he allowed Border Patrol bulldozers to desecrate protected wilderness and sacred land. "Imagine a bulldozer parking in your family graveyard, turning up bones," Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. of the Tohono O'odham Nation (a tribe whose original land was cut in half by the border) told Congress in 2008. "This is our reality."
With a price tag of, on average, $4 million a mile, these walls, barriers, and fences have proved to be one of the costliest border infrastructure projects undertaken by the United States. For private border contractors, on the other hand, it's the gift that just keeps on giving. In 2011, for example, the DHS granted Kellogg, Brown, and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton (one of our "warrior corporations"), a $24 million upkeep contract.
In Tucson in early August, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence looked out over a sea of red "Make America Great Again" caps and T-shirts and said, "We will secure our border. Donald Trump will build that wall." Pence was met with roaring applause, even though his statement made no sense at all.
Should Trump actually win, how could he build something that already exists? For all practical purposes, the "Great Wall" that Trump talks about may, by January 2017, be as antiquated as the Great Wall of China given the new high-tech surveillance methods now coming on the market. These are being developed in a major way and on a regular basis by a booming border techno-surveillance industry.
The 21st-century border is no longer just about walls—it's about biometrics and drones. It's about a "layered approach to national security," given that, as former Border Patrol chief Mike Fisher has put it, "the international boundary is no longer the first or last line of defense, but one of many." Hillary Clinton's promise of "comprehensive immigration reform"—to be introduced within her first 100 days in office—is a much more reliable guide to our grim immigration future than is Trump's wall. If her bill follows the pattern of previous ones, as it surely will, an increasingly weaponized, privatized, high-tech, layered border regime, increasingly dangerous to future Ignacio Sarabias, will continue to be a priority of the federal government.
On the surface, there are important differences between the two candidates' immigration platforms. Trump's wildly xenophobic comments and declarations are well known, and Clinton claims that she will, among other things, fight for family unity for those forcibly separated by deportation and enact "humane" immigration enforcement. Yet deep down, their policies are far more similar than they might at first appear.
That April day, only one bit of information about Ignacio Sarabia's border crossing to reunite with his wife and newborn child was available at the Tucson federal courthouse: He had entered the United States "near Nogales." Most likely he circumvented the wall first started during the Clinton administration, as most immigrants do, by making his way through the potentially treacherous canyons that surround that border town.
If his experience was typical, he probably didn't have enough water or food and suffered some physical woe like large, painful blisters on his feet. Certainly, he wasn't atypical in trying to reunite with loved ones: More than 2.5 million people have been expelled from the country by the Obama administration, an average annual deportation rate of close to 400,000. This was, by the way, only possible thanks to laws signed by Bill Clinton in 1996 and meant to burnish his legacy. They vastly expanded the government's deportation powers.
In 2013 alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out 72,000 deportations of parents who said their children were American-born. And many of them are likely to try to cross that dangerous southern border again to reunite with their families.
The enforcement landscape Sarabia faced has changed drastically since that first wall was built in 1994. The post-9/11 border is now both a war zone and a showcase for corporate surveillance. It represents, according to Border Patrol agent Felix Chavez, an "unprecedented deployment of resources," any of which could have led to Sarabia's capture. It could have been one of the hundreds of remote video or mobile surveillance systems, or one of the more than 12,000 implanted motion sensors that set off alarms in hidden operational control rooms where agents stare into large monitors.
It could have been the spy towers made by the Israeli company Elbit Systems that spotted him, or Predator B drones built by General Atomics, or VADER radar systems manufactured by the defense giant Northrup Grumman, which like so many similar technologies have been transported from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq to the US-Mexico border.
If the comprehensive immigration reform Hillary Clinton pledges to introduce as president is based on the existing bipartisan Senate package, then this corporate-enforcement landscape will be significantly bolstered and reinforced. There will be 19,000 more Border Patrol agents roving around "border enforcement jurisdictions" that extend up to 100 miles inland. More F-150 trucks and all-terrain vehicles will rumble through and, at times, tear up the desert. There will be more Blackhawk helicopters, flying low, their propellers dusting groups of scattering migrants, many of them already lost in the vast, parched desert.
If such a package passes the next Congress, up to $46 billion could be slated to go into more of all of this, including funding for hundreds of miles of new walls. Corporate vendors are salivating at the thought of such a future and in a visible state of elation at homeland security trade shows across the globe.
The 2013 bill that passed in the Senate but failed in the House also included a process of legalization for the millions of undocumented people living in the United States. It maintained programs that will grant legal residence for children who came to the United States at a young age, along with their parents. Odds are that a comprehensive reform bill in a Clinton presidency would be similar.
Included in that bill was funding to bolster Operation Streamline. The Evo A. DeConcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson would have the capacity to prosecute triple the number of people it deals with at present.
After taking a sip from her coffee and listening to the translation of Ignacio Sarabia's comments, the magistrate judge looks at him and says she's sorry for his predicament.
Personally, I'm mesmerized by his story as I sit on a wooden bench at the back of the court. I have a child the same age as his son. I can't imagine his predicament. Not once while he talks does it leave my mind that my child might even have the same birthday as his.
The judge then looks directly at Sarabia and tells him that he can't just come here "illegally," that he has to find a "legal way"—highly unlikely, given the criminal conviction that will now be on his record. "Your son, when he gets better, and his mother," she says, "can visit you where you are in Mexico."
"Otherwise," the judge adds, he'll be "visiting you in prison." And that's not exactly, she points out, an appealing scenario: seeing your father in a prison where he will be "locked away for a very long time."
She then sentences the nine men standing side by side in front of her to prison stints ranging from 60 to 180 days for the crime of crossing an international border without proper documents. Sarabia receives 60 days.
Next, armed guards from G4S—the private contractor that once employed Omar Mateen (the Pulse nightclub killer) and has a lucrative quarter-billion-dollar border contract with Customs and Border Protection—will transport the shackled men to a Corrections Corporation of America private prison in Florence, Arizona. There, behind layers of coiled razor wire, Sarabia will have time to think about his sick child while the CCA collects $124 per day for incarcerating the father.
Donald Trump's United States doesn't await his presidency. It's already laid out before us. And one place it's happening every single day is in Tucson, only seven blocks from my house.
Todd Miller is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security. You can follow him on Twitter @memomiller.
Tensions continue to rise over the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (known also as the Bakken Pipeline), a proposed 1,172-mile project currently under construction. Demonstrations over the pipeline, which will travel from North Dakota's northwest Bakken region to southern Illinois, have grown steadily over the last few weeks. As many as 4,000 people have reportedly joined the Standing Rock Sioux in protesting the pipeline, which is slated to travel beneath sacred Native lands and cross under the Missouri River, the region's main source of drinking water. The protesters have gathered along the border of the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, blocking the construction site. (Read Mother Jones' report on the pipeline here.)RELATED: The government quietly just approved this enormous oil pipeline
On Monday, according to the Bismarck Tribune, Greg Wilz, Division Director of Homeland Security, ordered the removal of the state-owned water tanks and trailers that had been providing the protesters with drinking water. Wilz attributed the decision to alleged criminal activity—specifically two complaints of laser pointers being shined in the eyes of pilots of surveillance aircraft monitoring the protest. "Based on the scenario down there, we don't believe that equipment is secure," he said. The supplies were provided last week by the North Dakota Department of Health at the request of the tribe.
Authorities in North Dakota have now arrested 29 protesters in the last two weeks, including the tribal chairman. A federal judge will rule by September 9 on the injunction filed by the Standing Rock Sioux to prevent construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Pipeline protesters—including actors Shailene Woodley and Susan Sarandon—have also gathered in New York and Washington, DC. Woodley has been protesting the pipeline for weeks, documenting the peaceful nature of the Standing Rock demonstration in North Dakota on her Twitter page before returning to DC for the rally, which took place Wednesday outside a federal court building where challenges to the permits were being heard.August 23, 2016 August 24, 2016
Environmentalist Bill McKibben also weighed in on the pipeline with an article published Monday. Indigenous populations like the Standing Rock Sioux "have been the vanguard of the movement to slow down climate change," wrote McKibben.
Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a press release of his own on Thursday, condemning the pipeline and upholding the grassroots efforts to stop it. "Regardless of the court's decision, the Dakota Access pipeline must be stopped," he wrote. "As a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, not increase our dependence on oil. I join with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline."
What kind of cat is Hilbert? Here is this week's peek into his personality.
On Tuesday Marian made a tuna sandwich for lunch. That means tuna juice too, so she squeezed out the tuna juice into two saucers and put them out. Hopper came bounding over immediately and started lapping up the juice. Hilbert was slower off the mark, but eventually he figured out what was going on and shambled over.
But when he got to the saucers, he didn't head to the unoccupied one. He went around the long way and stuck his snout into Hopper's saucer and pushed her away. She shrugged, and headed over to the other saucer, which she lapped up. She had been almost done with the first one anyway.
So there you have it. Hilbert is more interested in taking away Hopper's tuna juice than in actually having any tuna juice of his own. However, he also has a brain the size of a peanut and is unable to effectively carry out his nefarious intentions. In the end, Hopper got all the tuna juice.
In other words, he is not a cat we'd want to elect as president. But as a king? Sure. So here is his majesty up on the balcony, surveying his vast domains. I'm not sure what he's looking at. Probably a crow walking across the skylight.
Colombians took to the streets this week to celebrate a peace accord that promises to end a war that has killed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions over five decades and helped fuel the country's booming cocaine industry.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a guerrilla group known by its Spanish acronym, FARC, has agreed to lay down its arms and quit the drug trade, which it has long used to finance its operations.
Observers say the peace deal should have a major impact on the dynamics of the local cocaine industry, potentially making the drug more expensive as things settle down.
According to the latest survey by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, estimated potential cocaine production in Colombia last year was 646 metric tons, a 46 percent increase from 2014. The FARC controls 70 percent of the country's estimated 96,000 hectares (237,221 acres) of land where coca the plant used to manufacture cocaine is grown, according to InSight Crime, a research group that tracks organized crime in Latin America.
The rebel group taxes local growers, buys their coca leaves, turns them into paste to sell to other illegal groups, and maintains its own clandestine labs that manufacture the powder. The peace accord could end all of that. But the group's promise to get out of the drug trade raises two key questions: Will the rebels keep their word? And, if they do, what happens to their share of the business?
Many expect that some FARC members will find the drug profits too tempting to resist, meaning they may refuse to demobilize and opt instead to stay in the jungle. The country actually has a precedent for this situation: In 2006, about 30,000 members of the AUC, an anti-guerrilla paramilitary organization that became involved in the drug trade, agreed to disband.
"When we demobilized, our politics demobilized too," former AUC commanderGermn Senna Pico said in a recent prison interview. "Those that stayed are only interested in being narcos. It will be the same with the FARC."
InSight Crime has suggested that the FARC commanders will receive offers of money and weapons from international criminal networks desperate to keep the flow of cocaine coming.
But even assuming some FARC fronts refuse to demobilize, a period of instability could force the international price of cocaine up for a while.
Adam Isaacson, director of the regional security policy program at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), predicts that other violent groups will fill the power vacuum left by the demobilization and bring yet more violence to local civilian populations. "Things are about to get really bad," he says.
The likely contenders to replace the FARC include Mexican cartels, homegrown successor groups to the AUC, and local criminal bands such as the Urabeos, a feared gang that has long trafficked cocaine in northwestern Colombia and has known links to Mexico's Sinaloa cartel.
The Urabeos are now aggressively consolidating their presence in areas where the FARC rebels once held sway. A UN report described increased fighting and the displacement of thousands of people in these areas, such as the northeastern department of Choc.
High-ranking Urabeos have also been recently captured or killed in areas outside what is typically considered their turf.
Colombia's second-largest rebel group the National Liberation Army, or ELN is also expected to make a play for FARC assets after demobilization. There are reports of battles between the ELN and the Urabeos along the Pacific coast.
The FARC peace deal requires the rebels to assist with a nationwide coca crop substitution program, which is supposed to be voluntary and involve only manual eradication rather than fumigation with harmful pesticides. "Getting people to stop growing coca, and to grow other crops instead, will take time," says Ariel vila, an analyst with Bogot-based research institute Fundacin Paz y Reconciliacin. "Right now, nothing will change."
Isaacson, the WOLA researcher, argues that the government should not wait for the peace-mandated substitution program to push coca farmers to grow other crops. But while he stresses that the government would "no longer be having to shoot its way in," he adds that "it's more likely other criminal groups will move faster to fill the vacuum."
And, he notes, history has already provided a lesson to anybody who imagines a peace deal will significantly interrupt the northward flow of cocaine.
"Remember," he says, "even taking down the monopolistic Medelln and Cali cartels 20 years ago had zero impact on cocaine availability in the United States."
Follow Joe Parkin Daniels on Twitter: @joeparkdan
Long before Stephen Bannon was CEO of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, he held a much different job—as the acting director of Biosphere 2, a $200 million scientific research facility in the mountains outside Tucson, Arizona.
The original Biosphere project, completed in 1991 by a company called Space Biosphere Ventures and funded by a Texas billionaire named Edward Bass, was an attempt to turn science fiction into reality. Eight individuals were to live and work entirely within a series of domed and self-contained buildings, where they would grow their own food, recycle their own waste, and demonstrate that humans might be able to survive in space. But when that two-year experiment ended in disarray—it was overrun by ants and cockroaches—the company turned to a group of outsiders for help in turning it around. At the head of that effort was Bannon.
At the time he was hired by Bass to run Space Biospheres Ventures, Bannon was managing his own investment banking firm, Bannon & Co. Some Biosphere-ites were concerned about Bannon, who had previously investigated cost overruns at the site. Two former Biosphere 2 crew members flew back to Arizona to protest the hire and broke into the compound to warn current crew members that Bannon and the new management would jeopardize their safety.
Under his management, the focus of Biosphere 2 shifted from survival—the Survivor-like challenge of enduring two years inside a literal bubble—to planetary research. Specifically, as Bannon explained in a 1995 interview with C-SPAN, Biosphere 2 would be a place that focused on studying societal challenges like air pollution and climate change.
Breitbart News, the media company which Bannon ran for four years before taking a leave of absence to join Trump's campaign, has adopted an antagonistic approach toward the topic of climate change, mocking climate science as "tosh" and "eco-propaganda" and claiming that the Earth is actually cooling. But Bannon sang a much different tune when he was interviewed by C-Span at Biosphere 2 in 1995.
"A lot of the scientists who are studying global change and studying the effects of greenhouse gases, many of them feel that the Earth's atmosphere in 100 years is what Biosphere 2's atmosphere is today," Bannon explained. "We have extraordinarily high CO2, we have very high nitrous oxide, we have high methane. And we have lower oxygen content. So the power of this place is allowing those scientists who are really involved in the study of global change, and which, in the outside world or Biosphere 1, really have to work with just computer simulation, this actually allows them to study and monitor the impact of enhanced CO2 and other greenhouse gases on humans, plants, and animals."
Bannon left Biosphere 2 after two years, and the project was taken over by Columbia University. (It is currently part of the University of Arizona.) But his departure was marred, as the Tucson Citizen reported at the time, by a civil lawsuit filed against Space Biosphere Ventures by the former crew members who had broken in.
During a 1996 trial, Bannon testified that he had called one of the plaintiffs a "self-centered, deluded young woman" and a "bimbo." He also testified that when the woman submitted a five-page complaint outlining safety problems at the site, he promised to shove the complaint "down her fucking throat." At the end of the trial, the jury found for the plaintiffs and ordered Space Biosphere Ventures to pay them $600,000—but also ordered the plaintiffs to pay the company $40,089 for the damage they had caused.
Just curious: are you ever planning to release the names of Hillary Clinton's non-governmental visitors? You're a news organization, after all, and this is news. I'd sure like to see them. I bet lots of other people would too.
When a district judge single-handedly blocked President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration last year, the situation looked bleak for millions of immigrants across the country who faced deportation. Now, a new lawsuit seeks to challenge that judge's decision.
Obama's immigration actions, announced in November 2014, would have shielded up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, including parents of US citizens and green card holders, and granted them temporary work authorization. The orders also would have expanded a similar program for young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
But last year, after 26 states challenged the executive actions in court, a district judge in Texas issued an injunction blocking their implementation across the country. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, whose justices remained deadlocked and failed to issue a ruling, which meant Obama's immigration programs remained blocked and families could not use them to apply for relief from deportation.
In the new lawsuit, filed Thursday in a federal court in New York, lawyers from three immigrant rights groups argue that the Texas judge lacked the authority to suspend Obama's new programs nationwide, including in states that were not party to the Texas lawsuit because they did not want to suspend the programs. "There's no reason the injunction from Texas should block progress in New York and similar states," Javier H. Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
The suit was filed on behalf of Martín Batalla Vidal, an undocumented 25-year-old medical student in New York who came to the United States illegally from Mexico when he was seven years old. In February 2015, Batalla Vidal received three years of work authorization under a program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that had been expanded by Obama's executive actions. But because the Texas judge issued the injunction, Batalla Vidal's work authorization was reduced to two years—the maximum period allowed by the DACA before Obama expanded it. The lawsuit argues that the injunction should not apply to residents in New York, a state that was never a party to the Texas lawsuit and that falls outside the jurisdiction of the district court in Texas. If the New York judge agrees, it could affect not only immigrants like Batalla Vidal who are applying to the DACA program, but also undocumented parents who are applying for relief under a different program.
"It's hard to know at this early juncture what this lawsuit will achieve," said Melissa Crow, legal director at American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration nonprofit in Washington, DC. "But the nationwide scope of the injunction…is way beyond the court's jurisdiction."
Batalla Vidal's lawyers say the injunction has affected the academic and professional goals of thousands of immigrants across the country. "When I first filed for DACA, I was excited to get a three-year work permit and move forward with my life," said Batalla Vidal. "That was taken away by one judge in Texas…I'm filing this lawsuit for myself and the thousands of others like me who have been wronged by this judge's decision."
After weeks of watching media rehash Clinton and Trump campaign talking points of the day, Americans can be forgiven for wanting to see some ideas injected into coverage of the presidential election. For some, debates are a natural opportunity to possibly pull candidates off script, force them to answer questions they didn’t write themselves. But, activists are saying, debates that include only the two major party candidates are far less likely to do that.
As FAIR founder Jeff Cohen notes in a recent column, the Commission for Presidential Debates that runs the show, though sometimes mistakenly described as “nonpartisan,” is in fact vehemently bipartisan—really a sort of corporation run by the two major parties, and funded by powerful interests like oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and finance. CPD rules, Cohen says, don’t aim so much at eliminating “nonviable” candidates as preventing outsiders from ever becoming viable.
In charge of debates since the 1980s, the CPD makes no bones about its intent to use its role to secure a Republican/Democrat duopoly. So much so that when they took over fully in 1988, the League of Women Voters, which had been running debates, pulled its sponsorship, saying, “The demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”
Describing the deal that party chairs Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk had worked out as a “closed-door masterpiece,” League President Nancy Neuman said,
It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.
Contrast that statement with that of Paul Kirk, now CPD chairman emeritus. Asked about broadening debates beyond the two major party candidates—to include, perhaps, Green Party’s Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson, who will be on the ballot in nearly every state—Kirk scoffed, “It’s a matter of entertainment vs. the serious question of who would you prefer to be president of the United States.”
Just recently, the Commission announced that the threshold for inclusion is based on public opinion—that’s to say, public opinion polls. Candidates must get 15 percent in polls conducted by five national organizations the group names. But there again, as journalist and activist Sam Husseini pointed out, the polls themselves have a way of tamping down interest in independent and third-party candidates.
The question they ask is generally a variant of “if the election were held today, for whom would you vote?”—which is subtly, but importantly, different from asking people open-endedly who they want to be president. As it is, these polls sort of replicate the bind the voter is already in—especially at a time when record high numbers of people call themselves “independents,” and in a race in which many voters’ main reason for supporting one major party candidate is that they are not the other.
Of course, debates are only as enlightening as the questions—and the follow-ups to those questions—from moderators. And who will those be? That, too, is for the CPD for decide. An August 24 op-ed in the Washington Post, from Fusion‘s Alexis Madrigal and Dodai Stewart, notes that in 2012, all four moderators were white people over 55, and, well, that just isn’t what America looks like.
“Young adults between 18 and 33 are the most racially diverse generation in American history,” they write:
Forty-three percent are non-white. Large numbers…date outside their race. They believe in a gender spectrum. About 68 percent of those young, non-white people believe government should provide healthcare for all.
Young people are also less likely to vote. “Could it be because they don’t see themselves as important to the electoral process? Could it be because they’re not included in the important conversations?”
Opening up presidential debates is by no means a solution to an electoral process that leaves many people feeling frustrated, angry and voiceless. Keeping those debates narrow and insular—and then pretending they reflected public concerns—is, however, most certainly part of the problem.
Janine Jackson is FAIR’s program director and the producer and host of CounterSpin.
Did corporations and foreign governments make donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way of cozying up to Hillary Clinton? Cherry picking the few occasions when they did so within a few months of some action by Hillary won't tell us anything. There's too little signal and too much noise. But there's a way to attack this question. Since 2000, Hillary Clinton has had five phases in her career:
2001-06: Senator from New York
2007-08: Candidate for president with good chance of winning.
2009-12: Secretary of State in the Obama administration.
2013-14: Retired, giving speeches, no one knew what she would do next.
2015-16: Candidate for president with excellent chance of winning.
So here's what someone needs to do: Take a look at donations to the Clinton Foundation and see if they seem to align with these career phases. For example, you'd expect foreign governments to be uninterested in gaining favors from Hillary while she was a New York senator, but very interested while she was Secretary of State. Conversely, you might expect, say, the financial industry to be generous while she was a New York senator but not so much while she was Secretary of State. During the periods when she was running for president, you'd expect activity to pick up from everybody, and during 2013-14 you'd expect interest to decline across the board.
You can probably think of other trends you'd expect to see if donations to the Clinton Foundation were widely viewed as a way of getting better access to Hillary. So what you need to do is write down these expectations first, and then crunch the data to see if the evidence supports your hypothesis.
This would be a lot of work. But if you really, truly think the Foundation was basically just a way of buying access to Hillary Clinton, this is a way of getting past anecdotes and looking for real trends. Is anyone willing to do this?
Aaron Persky, the judge who ruled in a high-profile sexual assault case involving a Stanford University student, has recused himself from all criminal cases and requested a transfer to the civil division of Santa Clara County superior court.
Persky in June handed down a sentence of six months jail time to Brock Turner, an All-American Stanford student athlete convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman by a dumpster outside a fraternity house. Persky acknowledged the public outrage over the sentence this week, according to a statement by the county's presiding judge.
"Judge Perky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment," said Presiding Judge Ris Jones Pichon.
"While I firmly believe in Judge Persky's ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served," Pichon's statement went on.
That's more confidence than the district attorney had in Persky when the D.A.'s office pulled him from another sexual abuse case.
Persky's decision in the Turner case shocked the public and one juror even wrote a letter saying they were "absolutely shocked and appalled" at the six-month sentence.
"After the guilty verdict I expected that this case would serve as a very strong deterrent to on-campus assaults, but with the ridiculously lenient sentence that Brock Turner received, I am afraid that it makes a mockery of the whole trial and the ability of the justice system to protect victims of assault and rape," the letter from an anonymous juror to Perskyread.
Activists have also started a campaign to remove Persky from the bench in Santa Clara County, alleging the judge has a tendency toward lenient sentences for convicted abusers, said law professor Michele Landis Dauber.
"This doesn't change anything for us. We're pleased that Judge Persky won't be handling criminal matters at least temporarily," Dauber said, according to the Guardian.
Dauber and others charge that Persky's light sentence came down to race and class bias: Turner, who was 19 at the time of the sexual assault, is white and was attending Stanford on a swimming scholarship. Perskey is also a Stanford alumnus and former captain of the university's lacrosse team.
In June, Persky sentenced another defendant facing similar charges to three years in prison but that defendant was 32-year-old Raul Ramirez, who is Latino.
Two years is the miniumum recommended sentence in California for the type of sexual assault charges that Turner faced. But Perskey said he gave the former student the light sentence because his case was "unusual" and that he would be severely impacted by time spent in prison.
'What's happened with Mr Ramirez is standard. The anomaly is the Stanford case,' Defense attorney Alexander Cross, who briefly represented Ramirez, told the Guardian.
An Associated Press study of Perskey's decisions found that he showed no bias in other cases he presided over.
Despite the Turner ruling, Cook agreed with this assessment. He and other attorney's told the Guardian that other factors played a part in Ramiriz receiving the harsher ruling, including that he was very poor, that California treats unconscious sexual assault victims differently from conscious victims, and that Perskey played a passive role in the plea agreement reached between Ramirez's defense and prosecutors.
The system, he says, also favors wealthier, privileged defendants.
"I've found him to be one of the fairest judges," Cross told the Guardian.
Turner is expected to serve only three months of his six-month sentence.
Is the presidential race tightening up? Let's take a look. Here's Pollster:
No tightening evident here. Here's Sam Wang:
No tightening here either. If anything, Clinton has improved her position. Here's Real Clear Politics:
Some slight tightening here since early August, when the convention bumps settled down. Maybe a point or so. Here's Nate Cohn:
No tightening here. Here's 538:
This is a percentage chance of victory, not a projection of vote share. Clinton has dropped a few points since early August.
Bottom line: Since early August, there's either been no tightening in the polls, or, at most, maybe a point or so. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 6-8 points in the national polls, and so far that's staying pretty steady.
Corporate America is slacking off.
New numbers on the U.S. economythe world's biggestshow it continues to grow at a less-than-sizzling pace. The data show the broadest measure of the economy, GDP, expanded at a 1.1 percent annual pace during the second quarter. (That's April, May and June.) Not terrible. But not amazing.
But the U.S. wouldn't have been able to manage even that level of growth without a surprising spurt of spending from shoppers. The government's measure of personal spending rose at a 4.4 percent clip during the second quarter. That's the second fastest reading since the Great Recession ended. Spending on cars and recreational vehicles was a big contributor, as the improvement in the US labor marketunemployment is now at 4.9 percenthas people feeling more comfortable shelling out for that snowmobile.
In fact, the economy only expanded because of shoppers. Companies, by and large, were a drag on GDP as they continued a well-established pattern of stingy investment in the technology, equipment and buildings the economy needs to keep growing.
A key gauge of business spending declined at a 0.9% rate during the second quarter. That was the third straight decline in investment, something the US hasn't seen since the Great Recession.
Of course, companies need feel good about the stability of the economy before they drop tons of cash on investments. Ideally the good vibes from consumers will eventually spill over and start coaxing corporate types to join the spending party. If that happensperhaps after the noisy presidential election season endslook out. The US economy will really get rolling.
The artists behind "Blurred Lines" may have lost a lawsuit last year, but it looks like they're just beginning to fight.
Attorneys for Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. filed a brief Wednesday that aims to overturn a ruling that found that "Blurred Lines" had copied Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up," and found the artists responsible for $5.3 million in damages and half of songwriter and publishing revenues.
The brief argues that the judge should have never allowed the trial to occur, and also claims the jury was unfairly influenced by both hearing the actual "Blurred Lines" recording and not being told to ignore parts of the song that are not protected by copyright.
The outcome of the appeal will no doubt impact other high-profile copyright battles that have been trigged by the ruling in March 2015. On Monday, indie stars Sleigh Bells officially filed a copyright infringement suit against Demi Lovato, saying that her 2015 track "Stars" rips off two of their songs.
The artists appealing the "Blurred Lines" ruling point to a a recent copyright case in which Led Zeppelin was accused of ripping off another, lesser known band in their creation of their 1971 hit "Stairway to Heaven." In that case, a jury deliberated for only one day before finding the famous rockers not guilty of stealing the opening riffs of their song.
In the Led Zeppelin case, the jury was not allowed to hear the original recordings of either song, because the copyright claim only applied to the sheet music. Instead, specially-prepared versions of each, based on the sheet music, were played. But in the "Blurred Lines" case, the jury was allowed to hear the actual Pharrell Williams-produced recording, along with a specially-prepared version of "Got to Give it Up." The lawyers for Gaye's estate were also allowed to testify about the sound of the "Got to Give it Up" recording, which the brief says should not have happened.
Peter Anderson, the lawyer who represented Led Zeppelin in their case, declined to comment for this story.
William Hochberg, a Los Angeles based attorney who regularly represents musicians, agrees that the original ruling of the "Blurred Lines" case was wrong.
"With the 'Blurred Lines' case, you have high hat cymbal sounds, crowd noise, falsettos," he said in a phone interview. "Nobody owns the falsetto voice or the crowd noise, or that vibe that exists in both 'Gotta Give it Up' and 'Blurred Lines'." These elements, he said, are not copyrightable.
"If Marvin Gaye's estate had come to me , I would have turned them down."
He says that since the "Blurred Lines" lawsuit, he has seen a lot of what he calls "frivolous" lawsuits popping up, which he feels is having a chilling effect for the creative community. "If this is overturned, it would cause a sigh of relief among those who are creating music. I'm the first one to go to bat for someone has been ripped off, but sometimes there's nothing there."
But, he says, this appeal is a long shot; it is difficult to get an appeals court to overturn a jury's decision.
Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews
This week, in a downtown Toronto courthouse, Indigenous people who were taken away from their families as children began what they hope will be the final leg of a journey for justice from the Canadian government.
They are the victims of the "Sixties Scoop," a period in which government workers took children from Aboriginal reserves and placed them into white homes across Canada, the US, and Europe often under the pretense that doing so was in the children's best interest.
In Ontario, Canada's most populous province, an estimated 16,000 people were subjected to a practice designed, according to lawyers, "to remove the savage Indian from the child" and now the subject of a class-action lawsuit.
Plaintiffs are seeking $85,000 in damages each. But beyond that, survivors want the government to acknowledge it breached its duty of care by failing to help them preserve their Indigenous culture.
"Our claim is about cultural genocide, and about the loss of identity for these 16,000 native children," said Jessica Braude, one of the lawyers in the case. "We're dealing with liability that is liability with respect to Canada's obligation to protect First Nations people, their culture and identity."
The lawsuit names the federal government, which paid for welfare programs in Ontario that extended to indigenous reserves, as a defendant and covers a period between December 1965 and December 1984. Similar lawsuits have been inching their way through the court systems in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba.
Marcia Brown Martel, chief of Beaverhouse First Nation, is the lead plaintiff in the Ontario Sixties Scoop class action.
The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that Canada failed to ensure children who were taken from their homes knew of their Indigenous status, provided them with no means of retaining their culture, and failed to help them reclaim their cultural identities when they left the system.
The federal government had been forcibly removing Indigenous children from their communities well before the 1960s in Canada. But it was in that decade that their overrepresentation in the welfare system skyrocketed, as compulsory government-sponsored religious institutions known as residential schools began to be phased out.
Spurred by concern for the poverty that permeated many Indigenous communities, combined with a paternalistic assessment that Indigenous children weren't being properly cared for, provinces stepped in to provide services including child protection. They dispatched social workers with little understanding of Indigenous culture and traditions, informed by a Euro-Canadian view of parenting that often clashed with what they saw on reserves. A traditional Indigenous diet of dried game, fish, and berries, for example, became cause for alarm.
"I was told were allowed to lay wherever they wanted, and we couldn't access the full house, and slept in the basement."
Recollet remembers being restricted to one part of the house unless she was washing the walls. She said was forced to go to church seven days a week, and twice on Sundays, and beaten when she spoke Ojibwe.
The sisters say they struggled with alcohol addiction. Rediscovering their culture wasn't easy.
"It was hard for me to feel that sense of 'I've come home now.' I had to work for the sense of belonging," Desmolin said.
Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter: @anima_tk