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Baton Rouge Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling Will Not Be Charged

Mother Jones

The Department of Justice will not pursue criminal charges against an officer involved in the videotaped shooting of a man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last summer, the Washington Post has reported. The announcement—expected tomorrow—will be the first time under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department has publicly declined to press charges against an officer investigated in a high-profile police shooting case.

Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge Police Department officer in July 2016, setting off days of protests in the city and nationwide. Two officers had responded to a call about a man outside a convenience store who had waived a gun at someone else. When they arrived, they found Sterling outside the store selling bootlegged CDs. A confrontation ensued in the parking lot (the beginning of the incident was not caught on camera), and an officer tased Sterling after ordering him to the ground, cell phone footage of the encounter shows. Sterling remained on his feet, and an officer tackled him while another rushed to handcuff him. In a second cell phone video, one officer is heard yelling “He’s got a gun!” Then he fires several shots into Sterling. Sterling was armed, but it’s unclear from either video whether he reached for his weapon before he was shot. Witnesses told local new outlets that Sterling never reached for his gun during the encounter.

Sterling’s shooting occurred the day before an officer shot and killed another man in a Minneapolis suburb in an incident that was streamed in part on Facebook Live by the man’s girlfriend, and in the same week that a black man—admittedly upset over police shootings of black men—opened fire on officers at a protest over the two shootings in Dallas, killing nine. Just over a week after that incident, three more officers were killed ambush-style in Baton Rouge.

The Obama DOJ launched a criminal investigation into whether the officer who shot Sterling had willfully violated his civil rights by doing so. On Tuesday, the Trump DOJ—led by adamantly pro-police Attorney General Jeff Sessions—will announce that it will not pursue charges against the officer, the Washington Post reports. The decision is not unsurprising—civil rights cases are notoriously difficult to prove in court. The DOJ declined to file criminal charges against officers involved in high-profile police shooting cases on numerous occasions under President Obama, including in the case of of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014.

The report of the Sterling decision comes amid a flurry of other police-related news this week, including the police shooting death of a 15-year-old boy in a Dallas suburb over the weekend and news today that the officer filmed shooting a North Charleston, South Carolina, man in the back multiples times in April 2015 had pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges similar to those considered in the Sterling case. You can read Mother Jones‘ deep dive investigation into the trial of that officer here.

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Baton Rouge Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling Will Not Be Charged

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Daughter Slams Pepsi Protest Ad in One Tweet

Mother Jones

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Bernice King, the daughter of legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., has added her voice to the criticism sparked by Pepsi’s controversial protest ad.

The commercial, which was released Tuesday as a two-and-a-half minute video, depicted reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner walking through a demonstration. As police stare down the protesters, Jenner approaches one of the officers to hand him a Pepsi. The gesture appears to defuse tensions, which prompts cheers from the protesters.

The ad quickly became the target of derision, with many calling it “tone-deaf.” Critics also argued Pepsi was co-opting the imagery of recent minority-led protest movements for profit. On Twitter, people pointed out that the scene of Jenner handing a Pepsi to an officer closely resembled a widely-shared photo of a Black Lives Matter protester being arrested during a 2016 protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On Wednesday, King took to Twitter to share her thoughts about the controversy, posting a photo of her father being pushed back by police officers during a protest. In a particularly cringeworthy bit of timing, the Pepsi ad’s Tuesday release came on the same day of the 49th anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee:

In a statement Wednesday, Pepsi announced the ad would be pulled immediately.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize…We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Daughter Slams Pepsi Protest Ad in One Tweet

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

Mother Jones

In Shots Fired, the buzzworthy police drama premiering March 22 on Fox, federal agents investigate a black cop who has gunned down a young, unarmed white man. By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

We’ve obviously got some policing issues, but the Trump administration seems inclined to look the other way. Last month, in his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions made clear that his Justice Department will curtail the monitoring of problem-plagued police departments that the Obama administration used as a tactic to combat civil rights violations by police. (Sessions suggested the monitoring had undermined “respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.”) Lest readers have forgotten just how divisive the racial disparities in law enforcement have been, and continue to be, we put together this brief history of recent police violence and backlash to it.

July 2013
Sickened by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, labor organizer Alicia Garza writes on Facebook, “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter.” Her friend Patrisse Cullors turns the last bit into a hashtag.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire via AP Photo

March 2014
In a Pew poll, 46 percent of Americans agree that “our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.”
July 2014

Eric Garner is choked to death by an officer on Staten Island, New York. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” become a civil rights slogan.

Bruce Cotler/ Globe Photos/Zuma

Aug. 2014
A white cop in Ferguson, Missouri, kills black teen Michael Brown, sparking weeks of protest. Police deploy riot gear, armored vehicles, and sniper rifles, while demonstrators adopt a “hands up, don’t shoot” posture based on claims that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. On Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter takes off.
Oct. 2014
A Chicago cop shoots Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police officials claim the teen was approaching officers with a knife—a union rep says he “lunged”—but the city won’t release dash-cam footage.
Nov. 22, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, is killed by a Cleveland officer as he plays with a toy gun in a park.
Nov. 24, 2014
A Ferguson grand jury declines to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown‘s killer. More protests. Critics of #BlackLivesMatter respond with #AllLivesMatter.

Darren Wilson St. Louis County Prosecuter’s Office/Reuters

Nov. 30, 2014
Five St. Louis Rams players walk onto the field for a game in the “hands up” position.
Dec. 3, 2014
The NYPD officer who choked Eric Garner escapes indictment. Days later, LeBron James and other NBA players don “I Can’t Breathe” shirts at pregame warmups.

Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire via Zuma Images

Dec. 18, 2014
The White House announces a new task force to “strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Dec. 20, 2014
Two NYPD officers are ambushed. Their killer, a black man, had posted a photo of his gun on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today.”
Jan. 2015
#BlackLivesMatter tweets average 10,000 a day.

Erik McGregor/Zuma

March 2015
A Department of Justice report says Ferguson police employees sent racist emails and targeted black residents with nuisance citations to generate revenue.
April 2, 2015
A white sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shoots black suspect Eric Harris after a foot chase. “I’m losing my breath,” Harris pleads in a video. “Fuck your breath,” another officer responds.
April 4, 2015

Walter Scott is fatally shot as he attempts to flee from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Walter Scott in his Coast Guard days Courtesy of the Scott family

April 19, 2015
Freddie Gray dies of his injuries after a “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van.
May 2015
“I have heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace,'” prosecutor Marilyn Mosby says as she announces charges against six officers in the Gray case. The White House task force releases its report: Police must “embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset.”

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

June 2015
Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video depicts him being shot by police. It garners about 70 million YouTube views and wins two Grammys.

July 2015
BLM activists seize the mic at a Democratic candidate forum to grill Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders on police violence.
Oct. 2015
Rapper Vic Mensa’s video for “16 Shots,” a song about Laquan McDonald, goes viral.

Nov. 19, 2015
A judge orders the release of dash-cam footage that appears to show McDonald walking away from police when he was shot. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires his police chief the next month.
Nov. 22, 2015
Presidential candidate Donald Trump tweets out a chart of fabricated crime statistics suggesting that black criminals are responsible for the vast majority of homicides against white people. It’s entirely bogus. Here’s Politifact’s summary:

Feb. 7, 2016
Beyoncé’s dancers adopt a Black Panther look for the Super Bowl halftime show. Police unions call for a boycott of the star.


Feb. 24, 2016
BLM activists disrupt a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, demanding she apologize for her racially charged comments about “super predators” during the 1990s. Clinton appears irritated, but the next day she does just that.
May 2016
The first state “Blue Lives Matter” bill passes in Louisiana. Attacking a cop is now a hate crime.
June 2016
The police-van driver in the Freddie Gray case is acquitted.
July 5, 2016

Alton Sterling is fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while officers have him pinned to the ground.
July 6, 2016
During a traffic stop, a Minnesota cop shoots Philando Castile as he reaches for his wallet—that’s according to Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed his demise on Facebook: “You told him to get his ID, sir!”

July 7, 2016
A black gunman kills five cops at a Dallas protest against police violence. He holes up in a parking garage, where police kill him with an explosives-bearing robot.
July 12, 2016
President Barack Obama defends Black Lives Matter at a memorial for the slain officers. “We have all seen this bigotry in our lives at some point,” and “none of us is entirely innocent,” he says. “That includes our police departments.”
July 17, 2016
A black military vet who ranted online about the treatment of black people by police assassinates three officers (one of them black) in Baton Rouge.
July 18, 2016
At the Republican National Convention, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who is black, proclaims that “blue lives matter.” In an op-ed the same day, he calls Black Lives Matter the “enemy.”

Mike Segar/Reuters via ZUMA Press

July 18, 2016
A police officer in Florida shoots a black caregiver who was lying in the street with his hands up. A union rep explains that the officer had been aiming at the man’s autistic patient, whose toy truck he mistook for a firearm.
July 27, 2016
After further acquittals in the Freddie Gray case, charges are dropped against the remaining officers.
Aug. 2016
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starts sitting out the national anthem to protest police violence. A few pros and countless high school and college athletes follow suit.

Kevin Terrell/AP

Sept. 2016
Clinton debates Trump: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she says. Critics pounce. “Yes, Hillary Clinton called the nation racist,” writes a Washington Times columnist.
Oct. 2016
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the DOJ will (finally) start collecting national data on police use of force.
Dec. 2016
A jury of 11 whites and one African American deadlocks in the trial of Michael Slager. A retrial is scheduled for late August 2017. A separate federal trial, to determine whether Slager violated Walter Scott’s civil rights, is slated to begin in May 2017.

Mic Smith, File/AP Photo

Feb. 2017
In his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions suggests that the Justice Department, under his watch, will discontinue its practice of monitoring police departments suspected of violating people’s civil rights.
March 2017
A new drama series, Shots Fired, debuts on Fox. “There were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid,” one of the show’s co-creators tells Mother Jones. “He was painted as the victimizer, and Zimmerman Martin’s killer got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to make one victim white.”

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

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Donald Trump May Be on Your Television, But Here’s What America Really Looks Like

Mother Jones

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Photojournalist Peter van Agtmael considers his third book, Buzzing at the Sill, the latest chapter of what he calls “one greater book”—a sweeping exploration of the September 11th attacks and the impact of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on soldiers and their families. His project began with his 2009 book, 2nd Tour, Hope I Don’t Die, and continued with Disco Night Sept. 11, which appeared in 2014. In Buzzing at the Sill, published by Kehrer Verlag, he shifts his attention to unexplored corners the United States, after he realized “how little I know about my country.”

The Magnum photographer first went to Iraq in 2006 when he was 24, and he covered the conflicts there and in Afghanistan for several years before returning to the States. With 72 images pulled from his journalism assignments and others he shot while traveling throughout the country, Buzzing at the Sill examines the reverberations of 9/11 through glimpses of daily American life that often have the intimate feel of a snapshot. The photos in Buzzing at the Sill depict vulnerable, grieving, celebrating, and sometimes threatening Americans, collectively offering a cohesive and sharp reading of the country, with a powerful undercurrent of alienation. “In America, we somehow feel immune,” he writes in Buzzing at the Sill, “but in any country at war, the first thing they’ll tell you is that they didn’t think it could happen there.”

I talked with van Agtmael about making this book and what it might say about the political climate in the United States today.

Kentucky Derby aftermath. (Louisville, KY. 2015)

Mother Jones: Can you tell me about the title, Buzzing at the Sill?
Peter van Agtmael: Buzzing at the Sill is from a Theodore Roethke poem called “In a Dark Time.” I’d heard a small part of it in a play, a sort of sci-fi play about morality in a virtual reality universe. Nothing to do with the book precisely, but it was a great play. I read the poem afterwards because I was intrigued and had one of those strange senses: “This poem is kind of important to me. I don’t know why, but I’m going to just keep it in the back of my mind.” I just kept coming back to it. As I started putting the book together and writing the stories for it, this idea of buzzing as a word kept popping up in my brain.

I started the book with the story of a vulture that flapped up to this window sill outside of a burn ward at a military hospital in Texas. I guess it could smell the rotting flesh through the walls and was just trying to desperately and aggressively get in through that window, I don’t know, to try and feast on the flesh. It was really a troubling moment. But apparently it happens all the time, because the soldiers in recovery and the nurses were totally accustomed to the presence of those vultures.

When I started thinking of the decisions that led me down the road first—which was part of Disco Night Sept. 11 and then the buzzing being— I somehow couldn’t ignore the urge to do things that kind of defy logic. And I liked the poem, I liked the ring of it. I was sitting with David Allan Harvey one day when he pointed out how appropriate the title was for the things I was talking about.

MJ: In what way do you see that Buzzing at the Sill continues the narrative you built with Disco Night?

PVA: I went out to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fundamentally because I was interested in war as a notion and in experiencing it. I was interested in history and how societies form. I was interested in the recent history of what had provoked these wars. So when I finally got out there, I was really seeing the wars through the American perspective, much more than through being embedded with American soldiers and Marines. I realized in that process how little I knew about my own country. I had grown up in the suburbs and, after college, I moved out of the country, so I didn’t really know the place well. When I started following soldiers and their families back home, it provoked a lot of the questions about who we are as a nation, questions I realized couldn’t be explored through the more limited framework of looking at the military at war and at home. So that inspired these trips in which I began to explore America in more general terms. I really started this work in 2009. I got the bulk of it done as I was easing out of Disco Night. I started them as almost concurrent projects.

A woman attending the annual Iowa GOP Ronald Reagan dinner, where Sarah Palin gave the keynote speech. (Des Moines, Iowa, 2010)

The Fourth of July. (Brooklyn, New York, 2010)

The KKK had boasted that dozens from their Klan chapter would attend the rally and cross burning, but there were only a few people when we showed up, including a British TV crew and a freelance photographer. (Maryland, 2015)

Outside Lyniece Nelson’s house. Nelson’s 19-year-old daughter, Shelly Hilliard (known as “Treasure”), was strangled, dismembered, and set on fire in 2011. Treasure was a transgender teen born Henry Hilliard Jr. The family is with Treasure’s urn. (Detroit, Michigan, 2012)

MJ: What was your thinking as you approached putting together this body of work? The photos feel like they’re pieced together from assignments or from different stories.

PVA: At first it wasn’t meant to be a book, although I’m always thinking about that in the back of my mind. It started off as a series of exploratory road trips that I was doing with Christian Hansen, who I dedicated the book to. Then I started getting some assignments to go shoot in America because I think editors liked the pictures I was taking. What I was doing for those assignments wasn’t always directly tied to what I was doing for myself, but it gave me the space to photograph. I started getting assignments that dealt with my own interests and made some pictures in that direction. A lot of it was just photographed through general exploration. It was sometimes provoked by assignments, then I’d go back on my own dime if I really clicked with a place. And sometimes it was just hanging out with my family or friends.

MJ: How did you approach the editing? How were you going to tie the pictures together?

PVA: I’m a constant editor. Every few months or so I make a ton of 4×6 prints. I put them on a magnetic board and I live with them for a while to see what bubbles to the surface. A lot of this was part of Disco Night originally, and I suddenly started realizing, “If I keep working on this because I’m not done and I put all that in Disco Night, how can this be one book? Is it going to be too long and bloated and crazy?” Then I started thinking, “Okay, I have so many other questions about America, when do I stop?” I started thinking about each book being a chapter in one bigger book and that gave me the space to cut it off at a certain point. I needed to have some kind of thematic focus to the work.

I was taking all these prints and I brought them to the Magnum meetings, trying the old Josef Koudelka trick: Give them to photographers, who are getting bored during the talks about the economics of the agency, to look through with a pen. They’ll separate them in two piles—what they like and what they don’t like—and put their initials on the back. I started to find the core pictures that people seem to relate to. I’d ask myself why? And did I relate to them? Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. But it gave me an idea of how other people were seeing the work. From there, I kept shooting but started making drafts of the work, essentially spending a few days a month sequencing and editing, hanging things up on the board, showing them to trusted confidantes from in and outside the photo world. It started to take its shape naturally over time until I kind of ran out of ideas. At that point I was like, “Okay, I guess it’s a book.”

After dinner at Lyniece Nelson’s house. One of Nelson’s children was murdered, one committed suicide shortly after his 16th birthday. Her house burned down not long after the death of her son, destroying the urns of both her deceased children. (Detroit, Michigan, 2012)

Hunting rabbits with BB guns. (The outskirts of New Orleans, Louisiana, 2009)

Iraqi refugees in a low-income housing community in Portland. The area is home to several thousand Iraqi refugees. (Portland, Oregon, 2015)

MJ: When you’re out on these road trips, do you still see reverberations from 9/11 in the country?

PVA: Constantly. You find them in them most unexpected places, like graffiti on a wall. Sometimes it’s a faded picture; sometimes it’s a newspaper tacked to a wall. Sometimes it’s weird paraphernalia related to it, home constructed paraphernalia. It resonates through society and continues to resonate today. The travel ban that was imposed by the administration is a very direct reverberation of 9/11. Even though most people were disconnected from it, the moment amplified a fairly massive and somewhat irrational fear that exists in the populace at large. And I think a lot of the work I’ve done and a lot of the work I’m going to do in the future still ties to 9/11 and the fallout from it.

MJ: In the text you’ve written for both Disco Night September 11 and Buzzing at the Sill, you are introspective about covering war. Do you still cover conflict?

PVA: I am still covering conflict to some degree. I was back in Iraq last year for the next book I’m working on. I’ve covered quite a bit of the Israel and Palestine conflict in the last five years for another book I’m working on. But I’m not doing it with the kind of intensity I was before and I’m not seeking out the front line and the kind danger that comes with being at the edge of the war the way I used to. It just kind of ran its course for me. For a long time I could justify doing it to myself, no matter how irrational it was. It was important to me and my work. And I just don’t feel it in the same way any more. When it comes up and it’s important to me, I’ll do it, but more out of sense of duty than desire—which used to be a big part of it.

MJ: When we started talking, you mentioned that Buzzing at the Sill reflects the times, the current situation in America. Can you explain what you meant?

PVA: It deals with the margins of America, a lot of parts unseen. Well, parts that are seen and familiar to a lot of the populace, but unseen when it comes to the parameters of what mainstream news and popular culture and Hollywood reflects. That kind of unease, that melancholy, is of course partly my interpretation, but partly, I think, it’s something that’s really there as well. It resonates with this moment and the sort of alienation from the power structure a lot of people feel, as well as a certain amount of desperation, in the hope of disrupting the power structure so they can live better lives. I think in those ways, it’s intimately connected to today.

The youngest children tending the horses. (Pine Ridge, South Dakota, 2011)

A “second line parade” is a local African American tradition where brass bands–known as the first line-march in the streets and are joined by members of the public, the “second liners.” (New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012)

All photos by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos, from his book Buzzing at the Sill.

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Donald Trump May Be on Your Television, But Here’s What America Really Looks Like

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A Brief History of the Idea That Everyone Should Get Free Cash for Life

Mother Jones

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From the window of his university office in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, philosophy professor Philippe Van Parijs—considered by many to be Europe’s most prominent advocate for the idea that the state should provide a regular income to every citizen—can see the mailbox where he sent off invitations to the first “basic income” conference more than 30 years ago. “I’m quite amazed by the seed we threw on the ground now,” he says.

After decades of obscurity, the idea is suddenly in fashion. Politicians around the world are interested and a handful of governments, such as Finland and the Canadian province of Ontario, are planning or considering basic-income pilot projects.

But the idea of basic income has been around for more than 200 years, rising on waves of political and economic turmoil only to disappear in calmer times. Here are some of the highlights of its long, turbulent history:

Thomas Paine Wikicommons

1795-97: As the Industrial Revolution widened the gap between rich and poor, land reform was seen by some as an answer to social inequity. Thomas Paine, who two decades earlier had written Common Sense, drafted Agrarian Justice in the winter of 1795 and 1796. The earth by right belongs to all people, Paine argued, but the private ownership of land has stripped us of this “natural inheritance”; at 21 years old, citizens should be compensated for their loss with a sum of 15 pounds. A year later, fellow British-born radical Thomas Spence responded with a pamphlet titled The Rights of Infants. Writing in the character of a woman (“because the men are not to be depended on”), Spence said society should be organized into parishes that would lease out all houses and lands and then, after the community’s expenses had been paid, distribute their remaining funds equally among members.

1848: Revolutions erupted across Europe, Karl Marx penned The Communist Manifesto, and Joseph Charlier, a Belgian variously identified as a “writer, an “accountant,” or a “merchant,” wrote The Solution of the Social Problem, now considered the first fully fledged proposal for basic income. His book received little attention and disappeared until two European academics stumbled upon it 150 years later and wrote an article that established Charlier’s place in history.

Late 1910s and 1920s: Social movements demanded a radical redistribution of resources after the devastation of World War I. In England, two young Quakers published a pamphlet calling for a weekly “state bonus” for all citizens of the United Kingdom. The idea gained a following and was considered by the Labor Party in 1920 but ultimately rejected.

Sen. Huey Long Wikimedia Commons

1930s: The Great Depression swept across the industrialized world, wiping out jobs and sending poverty soaring. In 1934, populist (and famously corrupt) Louisiana Sen. Huey Long addressed the country on the radio and called for the confiscation of wealth from the richest and guaranteed annual incomes for all families, a program he called “Share Our Wealth.” The movement was cut short by Long’s assassination in 1935. That same year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the landmark Social Security Act, creating the anti-poverty program known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children—or “welfare.”

1940s: Conservative economists Milton Friedman and George Stigler, both future Nobel laureates, developed the idea of a “negative income tax” (NIT), essentially a guaranteed income administered through the tax system. Low-income filers would receive checks from the government rather than pay taxes; as their earnings increased, so would their tax burden, but also the total amount the filer took home. Friedman’s plan may come as a surprise to his small-government acolytes, but the economist firmly believed an NIT would address poverty without adding to the state bureaucracy he reviled.

1962-63: Basic income went mainstream as attention turned to poverty, unemployment, and the massive northern migration of African Americans. In 1963, critic Dwight Macdonald argued for the necessity of a guaranteed income for all families in an influential review of Michael Harrington’s The Other America in The New Yorker. Friedman made the case for an NIT in his book Capitalism and Freedom, while on the left, economist Robert Theobald outlined his “Basic Economic Security plan”—a proposal strikingly similar to modern basic-income schemes. Economists in the Kennedy administration embarked on a federal anti-poverty campaign, which, after Kennedy’s assassination, became Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

1964-68: Racially charged riots, with demands for economic justice, erupted in cities across the country. In a 1967 speech, Martin Luther King Jr. called for a guaranteed minimum income for all people. Protests organized by welfare rights groups raised the pressure on government to address poverty and guaranteed income gained popularity within the administration. In a 1966 report, Johnson’s Council of Economic Advisers said a negative income tax “would be the most direct approach to reducing poverty” and “deserve(s) further exploration.” By 1968, a surprising cast of characters, including heads of major companies, had lent support to the idea. John Kenneth Galbraith and Paul Samuelson joined more than 1,200 economists in signing a statement advocating a “national system of income guarantees and supplements.”

1969-71: Richard Nixon repudiated guaranteed income on the campaign trail, but after his election, he was persuaded that it might be the best solution to the so-called “welfare mess.” In a televised address in August, Nixon presented his Family Assistance Plan (FAP). While Nixon insisted that it was “not a guaranteed income” because it included work requirements, the plan owed its central tenets to the guaranteed-income debate and would have made a radical break with past poverty policy. Families headed by both working and unemployed adults were eligible, erasing a historic line between the “deserving” poor (the old, disabled, and mothers with young children) and “undeserving” (people who are physically able to work).

Daniel Patrick Moynihan Marion S. Trikosko / Library of Congress

In 1970, Nixon’s bill easily passed the House but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, which was chaired by Huey Long’s son, Sen. Russell Long of Louisiana. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a proponent of the plan within the administration, wrote in a memo to Nixon that for Southern committee members “it would very likely mean the end of those political dynasties built on poverty and racial division.” Nixon’s plan died in committee. A revised version met the same fate the following year.

Late 1960s to the early 1980s: Beginning in 1968, the US government ran four groundbreaking negative income tax trials involving nearly 9,000 families. In Canada, between 1974 and 1979, the government turned the tiny, isolated town of Dauphin into a living laboratory where qualified residents received a guaranteed annual income equivalent to about $15,000 for a family of four. (The Canadian data was never analyzed; a determined academic discovered the documents in the early 2000s, packed away in 1,800 dusty boxes in a Winnipeg warehouse.) The US experiments, which were primarily intended to study an NIT’s impact on labor, found only small reductions in work effort. But researchers reported that the trials in Seattle and Denver appeared to increase the rate of marriage dissolution by 40 percent to 60 percent. Although the results were later disputed, the damage was done. Moynihan, now a senator and once an avid supporter in Congress, renounced guaranteed income. But Nixon’s welfare reform efforts did have a lasting impact: Supplementary Security Income (income support for the aged, blind, and disabled) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (an NIT applied solely to the working poor) were enacted in 1972 and 1974.

Jay Hammond Wikicommons

1982: In 1976, as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline neared completion, Jay Hammond, a professional hunter turned governor, proposed a system of dividends to be paid to all Alaskans from a state oil fund established in 1976. The program dispensed its first dividends in 1982, in effect becoming the first basic-income system in the United States. Last year, the state sent checks of $2,072 to nearly 650,000 residents. In June, current Gov. Bill Walker capped payments at $1,000 per person this year to help cover Alaska’s budget deficit.

Early 1980s to 1990s: In 1982, Philippe Van Parijs, then a young Belgian academic losing sleep to fears of unfettered capitalism, landed on the idea of a basic income. He found like-minded thinkers across Europe, and in 1986 they scraped together enough money for the first basic-income conference. At that meeting, the Basic Income Europe Network (“BIEN,” or “good” in French) was born. In 2004, at the insistence of a growing international contingent, the organization was renamed the Basic Income Earth Network.

1997: Mexico launched a large-scale conditional cash transfer program (CCT), or a system of direct cash payments to poor households, followed in 2001 by Brazil and Colombia. While CCTs are not identical to basic income—the grants come with requirements, such as sending children to school, and are only given to the poor—they also operate on the assumption that people can be trusted to spend cash grants wisely. CCT programs spread rapidly across Latin America in the early 2000s and on to parts of Asia and Africa. Tens of millions of impoverished people worldwide now receive financial assistance through CCTs funded by governments, international aid organizations, and nonprofits.

Zephania Kameeta Wikicommons

2006-11: At a BIEN conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Zephania Kameeta, then head of the Namibian Evangelical Lutheran Church, shouted in frustration: “Words! Words! Words!” Kameeta was fed up with the endless scholarly discussions and lack of progress, so after the conference he set about organizing a real-life basic-income trial. By early 2008, a basic-income coalition assembled by the bishop had launched a pilot project in an impoverished settlement. Two years later, a group of researchers began a series of basic-income experiments in rural India involving more than 6,000 individuals.

2015-Present: The Canadian province of Ontario pledged to roll out a basic income trial in 2017, with the Dutch city of Utrecht to follow in 2017. The Finnish government mulled a pilot project with up to 10,000 participants. In the United States, where Silicon Valley bigwigs were among basic income’s most vocal supporters, the startup incubator Y Combinator in June announced plans to start a pilot project this year in Oakland, California, that will distribute up to $2,000 a month to a few dozen people. Another private enterprise, the US-based nonprofit GiveDirectly, is planning an extended trial in Kenya that will span 10 to 15 years and involve at least 6,000 participants.

2016: On June 5, Switzerland became the first country to vote on, and roundly defeat, a national basic income. Opponents argued that the policy would have discouraged work and undermined the Swiss economy. But for basic-income advocates, the referendum was remarkable. Just a few decades ago, Van Parijs remembers, it was “difficult to find 30 people who had heard of the idea.”

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A Brief History of the Idea That Everyone Should Get Free Cash for Life

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The Feds Just Handed the Private Prison Industry a Big Score

Mother Jones

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Three months after the Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons, the Department of Homeland Security has gone in the opposite direction. In a report finalized on Thursday, a subcommittee of the DHS’s advisory council recommended that Immigration and Customs Enforcement continue to use facilities run by private prison companies to detain undocumented immigrants.

The council, which was tasked with reviewing ICE’s use of for-profit facilities, noted concerns about the agency’s ability to oversee private detention centers as well as reports of substandard medical care in some private facilities. But it concluded that the already widespread use of privately run detention centers, combined with their lower cost made it unrealistic to seriously consider eliminating their use. ICE reports that it costs $144 per day to keep a detainee in a private detention center while it costs $184 per detainee per day in ICE facilities.

“Much could be said for a fully government-owned and government-operated detention model, if one were starting a new detention system from scratch,” the committee wrote. “But of course we are not starting anew.” ICE will review the report and implement any appropriate changes, according to a department spokeswoman.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered the advisory council to undertake the two-month review in August, after the Justice Department declared that it would reduce or end its contracts with private prison companies. The DOJ announcement came on the heels of a Mother Jones investigation into a troubled Louisiana prison operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, the major private prison company that recently rebranded as CoreCivic. Private-prison stocks plunged following the announcement.

But the for-profit prison industry’s slump now appears temporary. The election of Donald Trump caused private prison stocks to soar, and CoreCivic has continued to sign lucrative contracts with both ICE and the Department of Justice. If Trump follows through on his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, it would require ICE to significantly expand its detention capacity, likely by turning to private prison companies.

According to the DHS committee’s new report, for-profit detention allows ICE to “respond to surges in migration flows” by expanding its detention capacity. “Capacity to handle such surges, when policymakers determine that detention will be part of the response, cannot reasonably be maintained solely through the use of facilities staffed and operated by federal officers,” the report stated. Last month, Johnson announced he had authorized ICE to acquire new detention space following a roughly 25 percent increase in undocumented immigrant arrests between August and October.

But the deals this fall were moving so quickly that some ICE officials worried there would be no time to ensure that the new detention spaces conformed to certain quality requirements or regulations adopted as a result of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the Wall Street Journal reported. ICE is now pursuing a deal with CoreCivic to reopen the company’s 1,129-bed Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico as an immigration detention center, even though the Bureau of Prisons shut down the prison this year following a series of inmate deaths and repeated citations for deficient medical care.

The DHS committee’s report comes less than week after the death of a 36-year-old Guatemalan woman at the Eloy Detention Center, a CoreCivic immigrant detention facility in Arizona. Raquel Calderon de Hildago was arrested near Tucson by Border Patrol officers the day before Thanksgiving. She died on Sunday after having a series of seizures. Calderon was third person to die in ICE custody in the last two months and the 15th person since 2003 to die after being held at Eloy.

Marshall Fitz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and member of the DHS advisory council, disputed the council’s main conclusion that ICE’s continued use of private prison is inevitable. “The review undertaken by the subcommittee points directly toward the inferiority of the private prison model from the perspective of governance and conditions,” he wrote in a footnote in the report. “Any shift away from such reliance would take years, carry significant costs, and require congressional partnership…but I disagree that these obstacles require our deference to the status quo.”

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The Feds Just Handed the Private Prison Industry a Big Score

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Federal Bureau of Prisons Renews Contract With the Company Formerly Known as CCA

Mother Jones

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The private prison company formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America—recently rebranded CoreCivic—announced Tuesday that the Federal Bureau of Prisons will extend its two-year contract with the company, despite recent findings of inadequate supervision and gaps in oversight of private prisons.

In August, the Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons. The announcement came on the heels of a blockbuster Mother Jones investigation of a Louisiana CCA prison by reporter Shane Bauer, and just one week after the DOJ’s inspector general released a report that found shortcomings in safety, security, and oversight at private prisons used by the government. The Bureau of Prisons is a subsidiary of the DOJ.

The Bureau of Prisons’ 1,633-bed contract extension for the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia goes against the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who in an August memo explained the DOJ decision to end its partnerships with private prisons. “As each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the bureau should either decline to renew that contract or substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the bureau’s inmate population,” Yates wrote. “This is the first step in the process of reducing, and ultimately ending, our use of privately operated prisons.”

The renewed contract covers 8 percent fewer beds than the former.

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Federal Bureau of Prisons Renews Contract With the Company Formerly Known as CCA

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Private Prison Company Frees Itself From Its Old Corporate Identity

Mother Jones

The Corrections Corporation of America, the private prison company that was the subject of a recent Mother Jones investigation, has announced that it’s rebranding itself in the wake of increased scrutiny of the for-profit prison industry. CCA will now be known as CoreCivic, a “diversified government solutions company.” Don’t let the corporatespeak fool you; it will remain a private prison corporation offering “high quality corrections and detention management.”

The makeover comes after a slew of bad news for the company. After Mother Jones published its investigation, the Department of Justice announced it would phase out its use of private prisons. The Department of Homeland Security said it would reevaluate its relationship with private prisons. CCA shareholders filed a class action lawsuit against the company for allegedly failing to disclose that its practices could put its government contracts in jeopardy. Over the past six months, CCA’s stock price has fallen more than 50 percent, and the company announced a round of layoffs last month.

“Rebranding as CoreCivic is the culmination of a multi-year strategy to transform our business from largely corrections and detention services to a wider range of government solutions,” said Damon T. Hininger, the president and CEO of the business formerly known as CCA in a press release about the rebranding. “The CoreCivic name speaks to our ability to solve the tough challenges facing government at all levels and to the deep sense of service that we feel every day to help people.” The release claims the rebranding has been years in the making and was finalized before the Justice Department’s announcement in August.

The company formerly known as CCA is also adopting a “new visual identity”:

This includes a bolder, sleeker and more modern typeface, as well as a color palette intended to evoke attributes such as safety, strength, passion, stability, integrity and seriousness. The brand’s symbol, a 13-stripe American flag stylized to also represent a building, speaks to the Company’s commitment to public service, the professionalism of its employees and its expanding government real estate focus. There’s also a nod to the Company’s heritage with the right side of the symbol angled at 19.83°, representing the year that the Company was founded, and the left side of the symbol angled at 20.16° to mark the year the Company rebranded as CoreCivic.

Read more about the history of CCA and private prisons and Shane Bauer’s investigation into a CCA prison in Louisiana.

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Private Prison Company Frees Itself From Its Old Corporate Identity

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Donald Trump Just Gave His Most Extreme Immigration Speech Yet

Mother Jones

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In a provocative 75-minute speech Wednesday evening in Phoenix, Arizona—one that quickly drew praise from David Duke and other prominent white nationalists—Donald Trump put to rest any notion that he is “softening” his stance on immigration. The GOP nominee reiterated many of his most extreme proposals, outlining a 10-step policy that included building his much-discussed wall (which Mexico will pay for, he still insists), immediately deporting “criminal aliens,” and adding an “ideological certification” to ensure that US visa applicants—at least from certain countries—share American values.

Per his usual, Trump painted America as a country under siege by criminal aliens and pledged (implausibly) that from his very first hours in the Oval Office, he would commence with the promised deportations. “Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone!” he said, virtually roaring into the microphone. “You can call it deported if you want, you can call it whatever you want, they’re gone.”

Reactions were swift, with Jared Tayor, a prominent white nationalist, calling the speech “almost perfect” on Twitter and Duke, a former “imperial wizard” of the KKK (and candidate for Senate in Louisiana) live-tweeting the speech and offering praise. Hillary Clinton and her supporters took to Twitter to slam Trump’s proposals.

In his address, Trump portrayed American citizens as under attack by illegal immigrants who have sexually assaulted, beaten, and/or murdered innocent citizens. He cited a list of specific examples, in one case describing an Air Force veteran Trump said was “beaten to death by a hammer.” Speaking more generally about “criminal illegal immigrants,” Trump said: “Their days have run out in this country. The crime will stop. They’re going to be gone. It will be over. They’re going out. They’re going out fast.”

The Republican nominee repeated his call for an “extreme vetting” of legal immigrants, and a suspension of new visas for citizens from countries where “adequate screening of visas cannot occur.” He promised he would “cancel” President Obama’s 2014 executive action that offered temporary protection from deportation for at least five million people, including undocumented parents of children who are American citizens—an order that is currently tied up in court.

Trump also detailed for the first time that his proposed ideological test would include questions about honor killings and attitudes toward women, LGBT rights, and radical Islam. Deportations would be swift. The tone of the speech was classic Trump: “Number three. Number three, this is the one, I think it’s so great. It’s hard to believe, people don’t even talk about it. Zero tolerance for criminal aliens. Zero. Zero. Zero. They don’t come in here. They don’t come in here.”

While Trump—on the heels of a controversial visit with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto—touched briefly on his infamous border wall (including sensors above and below the soil), he focused more on the need to “take back” America from the “crisis” of illegal immigration: “This is our last chance to secure the border, stop illegal immigration and reform our laws to make your life better.”

Trump’s immigration language has been picked apart in recent weeks, following talk that he was perhaps softening his positions. He launched his campaign, of course by calling for a “great” border wall, and promised to create a deportation force for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. His hard-line stances and peddling of scary scenarios—both criminal and economic—fueled his rise in the polls. Earlier this month, however, Trump reportedly told Hispanic leaders he was interested in courting a “humane and efficient” way to deal with undocumented immigrants. Since then, he and his campaign have been sending mixed signals on Trump’s immigration plans.

In tonight’s speech, Trump took his most controversial stances and, if anything, pushed them further. While acknowledging that there are “some good illegal immigrants” living in America, he also claimed the Obama administration has implemented policies that prioritize the interests of undocumented immigrants over those of Americans. The former, he claimed, are treated “even better than our vets.” President Obama and Hillary Clinton, he added, “support catch and release on the border. They support visa overstays. They support the release of dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, criminals from detention.”

“Hillary Clinton, for instance, talks constantly about her fears that families will be separated, but she’s not talking about the American families who have been permanently separated from their loved ones because of a preventable homicide, because of a preventable death, because of murder.”

“For those who are here illegally today waiting for legal status, they will have one route and one route only: to return home and apply for reentry like everybody else under the new system,” Trump continued. “We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration.”

The nominee’s rhetoric may contradict some of his own business practices. In a Mother Jones investigation of Trump’s modeling agency, Trump Model Management, several former models told reporter James West that they had worked illegally in the United States on the company’s watch. (Mike Pence, Trump’s vice presidential pick, dismissed the women’s allegations as a “sidebar issue.”)

Near the end of the speech, Trump briefly brought on stage 10 “angel mothers” who spoke of their children allegedly killed by undocumented immigrants. The women expressed their support for Trump. “This is a movement,” he proclaimed solemnly. “We’re going to take our country back.”

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Donald Trump Just Gave His Most Extreme Immigration Speech Yet

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A Federal Judge Just Stopped Trans Students From Using the Bathrooms of Their Choice

Mother Jones

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The school year is off to a rough start for transgender students. A federal judge in Texas has given public schools across the country permission to ignore the Obama administration’s instructions to let trans kids use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, rather than their birth sex.

In May, the US Department of Education sent a guidance to public schools, saying they could lose federal funding if they kept trans kids out of bathrooms of their choice. On Sunday, a federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary, nationwide injunction that blocks the department’s guidance from being enforced. The injunction also prevents the Obama administration from using the guidelines in any lawsuits.

The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by 13 states against the Obama administration over the federal government’s position on bathroom choice for students.

“Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights,” representatives for the states wrote in the lawsuit filed in May. The case was filed by a long list of state attorneys general, including Ken Paxton of Texas, Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, and Jeff Landry of Louisiana.

A main question in the case is whether Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, also bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Obama administration says it does. The suing states argue that references to “sex” in Title IX refer only to biological sex.

US District Judge Reed O’Connor granted the nationwide injunction because the states that filed the lawsuit have a strong chance of winning their case, he wrote in his decision, which was filed on Sunday.

“It cannot be disputed,” he wrote, “that the plain meaning of the term sex as used…following passage of Title IX meant the biological and anatomical difference between male and female students as determined at their birth.” He noted that the injunction would only apply to states that want to separate school bathrooms according to biological sex. Other states can maintain policies allowing kids to use facilities based on gender identity.

“I’m pleased the court has ruled against the Obama Administration’s latest overreach,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote on Twitter following the decision. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union, which has represented transgender students in other civil rights cases, and four other civil rights groups blasted the judge’s ruling in a joint statement.

“The court’s misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people…for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse,” the statement said.

The impact of the injunction may be limited, however. Legal experts told the New York Times that higher-level courts in other regions have previously sided with the Obama administration’s view that transgender people are protected by existing anti-sex-discrimination laws, and those rulings won’t be affected by the new injunction.

The Texas decision follows a similar order from the US Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the high court’s justices temporarily blocked a transgender boy in Virginia from using the boys’ bathroom at his school while the justices decide whether to take up a case concerning that school board’s bathroom policy. If the justices agree to hear the case, it would be the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on this issue.

The 13 states suing the Obama administration include Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Maine, Arizona, Kentucky, and Mississippi. Separately, 10 other states sued the Obama administration in July over the same issue. Those states include Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

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A Federal Judge Just Stopped Trans Students From Using the Bathrooms of Their Choice

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