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Former Congressional Candidate And Minister Arrested For Plotting To Attack Muslim Community In New York, But Let Out On Bail

May 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Robert Rankin Doggart ran for congress last year.

For years, far-right media outlets, including Fox News, have warned of so-called “no go zones” where Muslims have taken over Western cities and enacted their own form of religious law. One of these mythical zones has been identified as Hancock, New York. 

It is difficult to imagine that there is no impact of years of demonizing the Muslim community and spreading paranoia about sharia law. Therefore it's hardly surprising that someone was recently arrested actually plotting to attack Hancock.

Robert Rankin Doggart ran for Congress in Tennessee last year as an independent, winning 6.4 percent of the vote. He is also an ordained minister in the Christian National Church.

Doggart was arrested last month after he was recorded on a wiretapped phone talking about his intention to take a private militia to Hancock and burn down a mosque and schools while using deadly force on anyone who resisted. “Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives. We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God,” said Doggart in a Facebook post. “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”

Doggart pleaded guilty to interstate communication of threats and he has been released on a $30,000 bond to home confinement and faces between 0 to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. 

What's particularly unusual about this case is first that the FBI chose not to publicize it and that no terror charges were brought. The second is that Doggart, despite expressing intent to commit terrorism, has been let out on bail. Can we imagine the FBI treating a would-be Muslim terrorist the same way?


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U.S. Approved Raid to Kill “Senior Islamic State official” in Syria

May 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Adam Johnson, AlterNet

It's the first direct action by U.S. Special Forces in Syria.

Saturday morning, the White House announced it approved a raid to kill “senior Islamic State official” Abu Sayyaf in Syria, in what one U.S. official referred to as “the first direct action” by U.S. forces inside Syria.

Previously, the White House has acknowledged U.S. soldiers have carried out hostage rescue missions in Syria but this is the first time they have admitted doing so expressly for military purposes. According to a White House statement the raid was “launched from Iraq” with the full consent of Iraq authorities. The White House said Sayyaf’s wife was captured and the couple had been keeping a Yazidi slave.

Though the White House provided no evidence to support this claim, Human Rights Watch documented the enslavement of the Yazidi, an ethno-religious group, by the Islamic State in October 2014.

Stopping what the White House called the “potential genocide” of the Yazidi on Mount Sinjar, Iraq was the primary justification given by the White House when the U.S. began its bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq August 8th, 2014. The bombing of ISIS in Syria would begin soon after on September 22nd, 2014.

Since at least 2012, the U.S. has been arming and training “moderate rebel” forces in Syria. Though the CIA had been in control of the operation for years, recent attempts to train rebels have fallen under the purview of the Defense Department after the program was sanctioned by Congress last fall. According to the Pentagon, the focus of the moderate rebels has shifted from fighting Syrian forces loyal to Assad to those of the Islamic State.

The Washington Post reported that the raid on Abu Sayyaf’s compound wasn’t only motivated by his position within ISIS (some other outlets are calling him “ISIS CFO”) but also the possible intelligence in his possession – namely, the location of “remaining U.S. hostages being held by the Islamic State.” It’s also believed, according to the White House, that …read more


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Video Reveals Baltimore Corrections Officers Were Looting During Freddie Gray Protests

May 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Arturo Garcia, Raw Story

Three Baltimore cops were accused of theft in two separate investigations.

Three Baltimore police officers were accused of theft in two separate investigations — including two charged after being caught on video looting a store during the unrest that followed the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

According to the Baltimore Sun, correction officers Tamika Cobb and Kendra Richard were suspended without pay after footage showed them exiting a local convenience store holding Slim Jims and Tostitos chips on April 25.

That same day, riots broke out in the city after six hours of peaceful protests calling for charges to be filed against the officers who arrested Gray earlier that month. Six officers were later charged in connection wih Gray’s death.

Both Cobb and Richard were assigned to corrections facilities downtown, near the site of the unrest. They face charges of burglary and theft, and bail was set for each of them at $35,000.

Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer said in a statement that authorities began investigating the two officers following a tip.

“We will not allow the vast majority of our employees who are honest and hardworking to be tainted by the actions of a few,” he said.

A separate sting operation led to Officer Maurice Lamar Jeffers being charged with theft of government property and “converting property of another” after allegedly stealing $3,000 that authorities left in a hotel room.

The Sun reported that Jeffers, who is part of a fugitive task force, was told to help secure the room so that Prince George’s County police could execute a search warrant. He was then filmed putting the money in his pockets after his partner left the room to alert a supervisor that it was clear.

A member of Jeffers’ task force reportedly told an internal affairs investigator that Jeffers cashed his paychecks instead of using a bank account, and always bought things in cash, calling the behavior “suspicious.” Jeffers had in fact been accused of theft three times between 2005 and 2011. 

Watch footage purportedly showing Cobb and Richard looting from the store, as posted by …read more


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Jon Stewart vs Sean Hannity: We all Know Who the Real “Sanctimonious Jackass” Is

May 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Sophia A. McClennen,

Hannity embarrasses himself as usual.

On Wednesday, Sean Hannity, the right-wing host of Fox News’ “Hannity” weeknight program, had two pieces of big news.

First, he claimed that his coverage of spring break excesses in Panama City Beach had led the city council to pass a ban on beach drinking. And second, he suggested that this proves that Jon Stewart — and all liberals, for that matter — don’t really care about people. He cited the news as “evidence of the left’s hypocrisy; they don’t really care.” Referencing the way that Stewart had mocked his weeklong coverage of spring break the year prior, Hannity went on to call Stewart a “sanctimonious jackass.”

But the real sanctimonious jackass in this story is Hannity. Let’s start with Hannity’s choice of epithet, since it is there that we can discover the core of the debate. Hannity chose to marry two key concepts: the idea of being morally superior to others (sanctimonious) and the idea of being a stupid person willing to perform stunts in order to look cool (jackass). It’s really an amazing insult when you think about it — because it defines precisely all that is wrong with Hannity’s public persona.

Hannity was thrilled to be able to report that something on his show had a real-life impact. Too thrilled, really, since his glee reminds us how rare it is for his show to report anything that is remotely news-like. His reaction, though, is proof of his need to reiterate that he is above others — especially liberal adversaries like Stewart. And then there are Hannity’s innate jackass qualities — his constant need to call attention to himself even when doing so simply makes him look like an idiot.

It’s not surprising that Hannity chose this one moment when his show’s coverage may have done some good to go after Stewart. Hannity had long been a target of Stewart’s sharp satire. There was the time that Stewart busted Hannity for using fake footage to exaggerate the crowds at an anti-health care reform rally in November 2009, …read more


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The End of Religion as We Know It: Why Churches Can No Longer Hide the Truth

May 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Andrew Aghapour, Religion Dispatches

Daniel Dennett on closeted atheist clergy and our new age of radical transparency.

f Daniel Dennett is anything, he is a champion of the facts. The prominent philosopher of science is an advocate for hard-nosed empiricism, and as a leading New Atheist he calls for naturalistic explanations of religion. Dennett is also the co-author (along with Linda LaScola) of the recently expanded and updated Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Faith Behind, which documents the stories of preachers and rabbis who themselves came to see…the facts.

Caught in the Pulpit is a close cousin to The Clergy Project, an outreach effort to “current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs”—many of whom must closet their newfound skepticism to preserve their careers and communities.

For Dennett, closeted atheist clergy are not simply tragic figures, they are harbingers of great things to come. Peppered amongst Caught in the Pulpit’s character vignettes are mini-essays in which Dennett predicts a sea change in religious doctrine and practice. Our digital information age, he argues, is ushering in a “new world of universal transparency” where religious institutions can no longer hide the truth. To survive in an age of transparency, religions will need to come to terms with the facts.

Dennett spoke recently with The Cubit about institutional transparency, the parallels between religious and atheistic fundamentalism, and the future of religion.

You describe non-believing clergy as “canaries in a coal mine.” Why does this group hold such significance for understanding the future of religion?

I think that we are now entering a really disruptive age in the history of human civilization, thanks to the new transparency brought about by social media and the internet. It used to be a lot easier to keep secrets than it is now.

In the March issue of Scientific American, Deb Roy and I compare this to the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian Explosion happened 540 million years ago, when there was a sudden, very dramatic explosion of different life forms in response to some new change in the world. Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker argues that the increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything: …read more


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Justin Patterson Is Another Dead, Unarmed, Young Black Man: Why Don't You Know His Name?

May 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

Gillian Laub's heartbreaking documentary 'Southern Rites' looks at a case that went under our national radar.

Justin Patterson’s name should be known far beyond the courtroom where his killer—who fired shots at Patterson even as he was running away—was sentenced to just one year for his murder. His name should be recognized by people outside of his grieving immediate family, which includes his younger brother Sha’von, who held Justin in his arms just before he bled to death. It should, for many, bring to mind the image of a 22-year-old who will never live to see his daughter grow up or experience old age, while his murderer lives out his twilight years in South Georgia’s pastoral countryside. In short, Patterson’s name ought to be as familiar as many others on the grim roll call of unarmed black people killed by armed white people claiming self-defense, often in the face of dubious and contradictory evidence.

Perhaps Gillian Laub’s beautiful, elegiac documentary Southern Rites, which has its broadcast debut on HBO on May 18, will help give Patterson’s name the recognition it deserves. Laub is a photographer whose camera often zooms in on the invisible but impenetrable things that divide us; her 2005 awardwinning photo and interview series “Testimony” focused on Israeli Jews, Arabs and Palestinians. She began documenting the racially segregated high school proms in Justin Patterson’s hometown of Montgomery County, Georgia, in the early aughts. In 2009, the New York Times magazine published her photos and interviews in a multimediapiece titled “A Prom Divided.” It caused enough national outrage to inspire—the word “shame” might be appropriate—the town into finally integrating its school dances. When Laub later returned to Montgomery County with the intention of capturing the hope and promise symbolized by the town’s first integrated proms, she unexpectedly found herself documenting a tragedy.

In the wee hours of Jan. 29, 2011, a 66-year-old white man named Norman Neesmith shot and killed a 22-year-old African-American named Justin Patterson. By all accounts, Justin and his brother Sha’von had been invited to Neesmith’s rural home, which sits amid the rolling …read more