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Why the Communist Party Defended the Scottsboro Boys

May 1, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Members of the Communist Party of the United States' preparing for a march to protest the conviction of the Scottsboro boys, 1933. (Credit: Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

As the freight train whisked its way over the Alabama rails in 1931, nine boys’ lives were changed forever. The details of their skirmish with a group of white men and two women on the train are still unclear. But by the end of the train ride, nine young men—all African-American, all teenagers—were headed toward their death by an unjust, vigilante mob and a legal system that didn’t value their lives.

They were the Scottsboro Boys, and their trial, death sentences, and dramatic appeals helped expose the injustice of the American legal system during the 1930s. But false testimony and rousing pleas for their release weren’t the only drama that surrounded their legal struggle. The Scottsboro case also pitted the NAACP against the Communist Party in a struggle for who would control the boys’ legal defense—and claim this rare spotlight on race in America.

The boys’ case seemed hopeless. After the fight on the freight train, they were falsely accused of rape by the two white women in the group. They were immediately arrested by a posse, thrown into jail in Gadsden, Alabama, and threatened by a lynch mob. Then, all but one were swiftly convicted by all-white juries and sentenced to death.

At this point, an unlikely ally swooped in to mobilize on their behalf: the American Communist Party. At the time, the party was working to make inroads in the United States. Legal advocacy was a critical part of that strategy, and International Labor Defense, the party’s legal defense arm, specialized in offering free legal representation in high-profile cases, like that of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who were tried and ultimately executed for murder and robbery in 1927. The group also took on labor disputes and free speech cases.

Members of the Communist Party of the United States’ preparing for a march to protest the conviction of the Scottsboro boys, 1933. (Credit: Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

Civil rights were a cornerstone of the Communist Party’s platform in the U.S., and the party actively courted black intellectuals and leaders in an attempt to appeal to African-Americans. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the ILD began to tackle prominent cases related to lynching, the KKK and other racially motivated crimes. …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Key Democratic Senator Finally Ends Pointless Campaign Against Legal Marijuana

May 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Democratic Party as a whole seems to be realizing that legal pot is the way of the future.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein will no longer fight against legalization of recreational marijuana, the California Democrat told McClatchy on Tuesday.

“My state has legalized marijuana for personal use, and as California continues to implement this law, we need to ensure we have strong safety rules to prevent impaired driving and youth access, similar to other public health issues like alcohol,” Feinstein told the newspaper.

Feinstein had opposed Proposition 64, California's 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational pot. McClatchy also notes that in 2015, Feinstein “was the sole Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to vote against preventing federal funds from being used to target state-legalized medical marijuana dispensaries.”

While she was in favor of some forms of medical marijuana use, she feared the negative consequences of wider legalization — a view that earned the ire of many liberal activists.

Though Feinstein attributes her change of heart to conversations with her constituents in her comments to McClatchy, she also has an imminently practical reason to back legal pot. She will face off against Kevin de Leon as a challenger in this year's Democratic primary, and her opponent is running to her left.

Feinstein's change is a significant development in national drug policy. As the most senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she holds a key vote on any marijuana legalization or decriminalization legislation coming down the pike.

The attitude shift is also a reflection of wider developments in the Democratic Party. Just last month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer came out in favor of legalizing marijuana at the federal level — an announcement that shows that party's leftward tilt and the growing influence of the younger generation in on national politics. 

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Newest Mueller Court Filing Reveals that Michael Flynn May Be Playing a Key Role in the Russia Probe

May 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Flynn has already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mueller, but his sentencing keeps getting delayed.


Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked to extend the deadline for sentencing former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to documents filed Tuesday, suggesting that Flynn remains an active cooperator in the investigation of potential collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

Flynn has previously pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI and has reportedly become a cooperating witness in the ongoing investigation. 

“Due to the status of the Special Counsel's investigation, the parties do not believe that this matter is ready to be scheduled for a sentencing hearing at this time,” the filing reads.

Flynn was one of Trump's top advisers during the campaign, and he became national security adviser after the president's inauguration. He was fired within a matter of weeks, however, ostensibly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador. It was only later that he pleaded guilty to lying about the same subject to the FBI.

Flynn also has reported contacts with Russia that extend back to at least 2015.

On Monday night, the New YorkTimes published a list of dozens of questions that Mueller reportedly wants to ask Trump as part of the investigation. Several of the questions focus on Flynn and his firing. Tuesday's filing from Mueller suggests that the special counsel may see Flynn's role as a cooperating witness as critical in assessing Trump's truthfulness in his answers to those questions — assuming the president ever sits down for an interview.

Though some — especially defenders of the president — have suggested that Mueller's investigation might be winding down, the latest developments suggest that the probe remains in high gear.

Read the new court documents here.

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Christian Pastor Pens Open Letter to Trump 'Surrogate' Sarah Huckabee Sanders About Her Lies

May 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Dominique Jackson, Raw Story

He asked how she reconciles her unethical behavior with her professed religious faith.


In an open letter to White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, author and pastor, John Pavlovitz, vividly questioned Sanders relationship with Jesus Christ.

“What I mean is, how do you reconcile your supposed faith in Jesus of Nazareth, with your current position as a mouthpiece for this morally malignant President?” Pavlovitz said.

Pavlovitz platform is about saying the hard stuff. He wrote that Sanders public image and professed Christian faith has raised a few eyebrows.

“As a professed Christian, how do you make peace with the reality that you regularly mount the largest bully pulpit in the nation—and you lie for a living on behalf of a serial predator?” he said.

“How do you square your Christianity with the realization that you are the most visible and vocal surrogate for a man who is by nearly every measurement—fully devoid of Christlikeness?” he added.

He went on to say that she must be following a different Jesus. “Maybe your Jesus is good with deporting immigrants,” Pavlovitz wrote. “Maybe your Jesus celebrates the poor staying poor.”

He said Michelle Wolf let her off easy at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“Given the countless hours you’ve spent lying to the world and claiming Jesus while you’ve done it—I think you got off easy,” he said.

Read the full letter here.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Why Can't the World's Most Powerful Military Win Its Wars?

May 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Arnold R. Isaacs, TomDispatch

This country needs to rethink war and reevaluate its place in the world.


“This time, they think they have it right.”

So declared an Associated Press story reporting an upbeat assessment by this country's top military officer at the end of a five-day visit to Afghanistan earlier this spring. Marine General Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was heading home from the war zone, the AP reporter wrote, “with a palpable sense of optimism” about the U.S.-supported war against Taliban and Islamic State fighters there.

Light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps?

The story didn't say whether any of the reporters listening to General Dunford asked why it had taken more than 16 years for the world's leading military power to come up with the “fundamentally different approach” that the general believes has put U.S. and Afghan forces on the path to success. (None of the changes he mentioned really sounded fundamental, either.) Still, it's a question worth asking: If Americans are right in ceaselessly telling themselves that theirs is the most powerful country the world has ever seen and that their military is the “greatest fighting force ever,” as President Trump calls it, should it have been this hard and taken this long to find a way — if they really have — to defeat enemies whose war-making resources are a tiny fraction of ours?

As has happened often during our current conflicts, that piece of news from Afghanistan got me thinking about an earlier war that I witnessed first-hand as a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun during its final three years.

In Vietnam, as in subsequent American wars, the United States and its local allies had staggering advantages in all the conventional measures of military strength, yet failed to win. It makes me wonder: If U.S. political and military leaders and the American public remembered Vietnam more honestly, if painful truths hadn’t been cloaked in comforting mythologies, might this country have responded more intelligently and effectively to the violent challenges we’ve faced in the current century?

Consider, for example, the persistent story that America lost in Vietnam …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Rod Rosenstein Says He Has Been Privately Threatened as Republicans Draft Articles of Impeachment

May 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

If Trump is trying to intimidate Rosenstein, it could factor into a potential obstruction of justice case against the president.


Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein revealed Tuesday at an event at Washington, D.C.'s Newseum that he has been privately “threatened,” a troubling indication of the level of threat the rule of law faces under President Donald Trump's administration.

He made the remarks when he was asked about recently leaked efforts to draft impeachment documents against him by congressional Republicans.

“I don't have anything to say about documents like that that nobody has the courage to put their name on,” he said. “There have been making people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time. And I think they should understand by now: The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. We're going to do what's required by the rule of law. And any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.”

Rosenstein did not say specifically who threatened him. However, if the threats were in any way directed by Trump in an effort to derail special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections, this fact could become a part of a case that the president has attempted to obstruct justice and undermine the investigation.

Watch Rosenstein's comments below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Why Was the Battle of the Somme So Deadly?

May 1, 2018 in History

By Amanda Onion

British machine gunners firing during the Battle of the Somme. (Credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/Getty Images)

The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of World War I, and among the bloodiest in all of human history. A combination of a compact battlefield, destructive modern weaponry and several failures by British military leaders led to the unprecedented slaughter of wave after wave of young men.

The battle was concentrated in a small area.

“The German doctrine was that not a single yard of ground should be surrendered and the French and the British were determined to never stop the attack,” said Spencer Jones, senior lecturer in Armed Forces and War Studies at University of Wolverhampton.

“So both sides were locked into a frighteningly small area onto which an enormous amount of firepower was poured.”

On the first day alone the British endured more than 57,000 casualties. The nearly 20,000 British troops killed on day one of the infantry assault was so high it remains the single worst day in British military history. By the 141-day battle’s end on November 1, the Allies and Central powers would suffer more than a million casualties combined.

The campaign, staged along an 18-mile stretch around the Somme River in France, was a joint French and British offensive to expel German forces. The location and timing of the attack was also intended to relieve pressure on Verdun, where French troops were enduring a punishing German attack.

British artillery shells failed to detonate.

British General Sir Douglas Haig ordered a week-long artillery bombardment of more than a million shells starting on June 24. The hail of shells was intended to wipe out German barbed wire, front line trenches, artillery – and the morale of the German army.

“We were informed by all officers from the colonel downwards that after our tremendous artillery bombardment there would be very few Germans left to show fight,” recalled Lance Cpl. Sidney Appleyard of Queen Victoria’s Rifles.

In fact, more than half of the artillery shells failed to detonate, most of the German dugouts remained undamaged and their wire barricades remained largely intact.

British machine gunners firing during the Battle of the Somme. (Credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/Getty Images)

The Germans were well prepared.

The terrain around the Somme was made up primarily of chalk, which the Germans had found well-suited for trench warfare, including a deep networks of fortified trenches, complete with rear supply fortifications and buried communication lines.

As British and French …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Brutal Pre-Viking Massacre Uncovered in Sweden

May 1, 2018 in History

By Natasha Frost

Artifacts found during a metal detector survey in 2010. (Credit: Daniel Lindskog)

On a day like any other, the 5th-century residents of Sandby borg went about their business as normal. In this prosperous village on the island of Öland, off Sweden’s south-east coast, people ate a herring lunch or tended the hearth. Then disaster struck.

Mysterious assailants stormed the stone walls of the ring fort. Once inside, they slaughtered its inhabitants where they stood. Those who fled down the street or attempted to escape their homes were apprehended, and killed. All in all, at least 26 people died. One was an old man, who fell into the open fireplace after receiving a crushing blow to his skull. Another was a baby of just a couple of months old. For well over 500 years, their remains lay where they had fallen, unburied by their attackers and left to rot.

In 2010, archaeologists visited the island, after hearing about treasure hunters looting the site. Locals warned them to stay away from the green mound, where the village had once stood. When they began to dig, they uncovered first one skeleton, and then another, and then another. One had four goat’s teeth crammed into its open mouth. In one house, nine bodies were found. Now, new research published in the April 2018 edition of the journal Antiquity reveals more details about the massacre, suggesting that it may have taken place not for plunder, but because of politics.

An array of artifacts date the attack to the late 5th century. These were turbulent times, with people traveling far and wide to obtain resources, status, and important political ties. All across the European continent, in fact, power struggles were playing out—sometimes with chilling consequences. This, the researchers argue, may have been the cause of this massacre: that “the perpetrators at Sandby borg established themselves as the new local ruling elite,” and some nearby group decided to take that power for their own.

Artifacts found during a metal detector survey in 2010. (Credit: Daniel Lindskog)

There’s other evidence to suggest that the perpetrators had little interest in the material wealth of their victims. Treasures such as beads, silver jewelry and gold coins were simply left at the site, while valuable live animals starved to death in their pens. Weapons, however, seem to have been taken, whether to be used or ritually dumped. Houses …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Stakes Rise for Trump's Meeting with Kim Jong Un as Korea Moves Toward Peace

May 1, 2018 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

The President Trump-Kim Jong Un summit will be an enormously
consequential diplomatic event. A successful summit could pave the
way for the denuclearization of North Korea and the establishment
of lasting peace in Northeast Asia. However, a failed summit could
prove disastrous and leave the United States alone in its approach
to North Korea.

The success of the inter-Korean summit provides insight into
both of these possibilities.

The text of the Moon Jae-in-Kim joint
declaration
suggests that denuclearization will be the primary
topic of the upcoming Trump-Kim summit. Denuclearization receives
very little attention relative to other objectives in the
declaration. For example, the joint declaration’s section on
alleviating military tensions mentions specific confidence-building
measures that both South and North Korea will implement such as
military-to-military talks and removing propaganda loudspeakers from the
border area. By comparison, the section on denuclearization does
not mention any similar short-term measures beyond recognition of
Kim’s decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test
site
and stop tests of intercontinental ballistic
missiles
.

Therefore, the Trump administration will likely take the lead on
denuclearization issues, while inter-Korean relations will focus on
achieving a peace treaty to end the Korean War and
increasing economic and people-to-people exchanges.

Yet denuclearization will be a difficult task for the Trump
administration. North Korea developed nuclear weapons as an
insurance against invasion and regime change, which means the
possession of nuclear weapons is essential to Kim’s survival.
It is unlikely that Kim will give up his nuclear weapons without
significant U.S. concessions that produce a similar degree of
insurance. Pyongyang has stayed tight-lipped about what concessions
it wants, but they will most likely include significant sanctions relief and reductions or
changes in U.S. military forces in South Korea.

Accepting concessions may be unpalatable if Trump goes into the
summit believing that his “maximum pressure ” approach forced Kim to
the table. If the United States believes that its position is
stronger than North Korea’s then it may be unwilling to make
big concessions unless the North takes big steps towards
denuclearization first. However, Kim is probably entering the
summit with a very different understanding of his position. In an
April 20th plenum speech to the Workers’
Party of Korea, Kim claimed that North Korea had successfully
completed a nuclear deterrent, suggesting that his charm offensive
reflects confidence rather than weakness . These
differing perceptions of advantage and confidence could make the
Trump-Kim summit very difficult if either leader digs in their
heels and is unwilling to accede to the others’ demands.

Additionally, the inter-Korean summit raised the costs of a
Trump-Kim …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Did the American Revolution Influence the French Revolution?

May 1, 2018 in History

By Julie Marks

When American colonists won independence from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War, the French, who participated in the war themselves, were both close allies and key participants. Several years after the revolt in America, French reformists faced political, social and economic hardships that mirrored the colonists’ struggles. While the French Revolution was a complex conflict with numerous triggers and causes, the American Revolution set the stage for an effective uprising that the French had observed firsthand.

There were similar causes for both revolutions.

Although the French and American people had several distinct and differing motives for revolting against their ruling governments, some similar causes led to both revolutions, including the following:

Economic struggles: Both the Americans and French dealt with a taxation system they found discriminating and unfair. Additionally, France’s involvement in the American Revolution, along with extravagant spending practices by King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, left the country on the verge of bankruptcy.

Royal absolutism: While colonists revolted against the British monarchy, the French aimed to reform the absolute rule of Louis XVI.

Unequal rights: Like the American colonists, the French felt that specific rights were only granted to certain segments of society, namely the elite and aristocrats.

VIDEO: American Revolution Get the story of how a fledgling, largely disconnected nation won its freedom from the greatest military force of its time.

Enlightenment philosophy was a major influence.

Many experts believe that the same ideologies that sparked the American Revolution penetrated their way into French culture.

During the war in America, allied Frenchmen fought side by side with American soldiers, which, in some cases, meant exchanging values, ideas and philosophies.

One key ideological movement, known as Enlightenment, was central to the American uprising. Enlightenment stressed the idea of natural rights and equality for all citizens.

Although the Enlightenment movement started in Europe and wasn’t new to the French, it shaped the American Revolution, and many believe, went on to inspire the French Revolution as well.

The Declaration of Independence was a template for the French.

The French who had direct contact with the Americans were able to successfully implement Enlightenment ideas into a new political system.

The National Assembly in France even used the American Declaration of Independence as a model when drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789. Much like the American document, the French declaration included Enlightenment philosophies, …read more

Source: HISTORY