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The Depressing Truth About Hipster Food Towns

Mother Jones

Hallie Bateman

Deborah Gilfillan lives between Brooklyn’s first Trader Joe’s and its flagship Whole Foods. She’s also walking distance from Union Market, a local grocery chain where flank steak sells for $15.99 per pound. But these stores are too expensive and don’t have the right ingredients for the 62-year-old contract administrator, a native Brooklynite who lives in a brownstone she bought for a song back in the 1960s. Nowadays, she usually walks or takes the bus almost a mile to shop.

In the past, if a city dweller had to journey a mile to a grocery store, it probably meant she lived in a “food desert.” The term was coined by social scientists in the 1990s to describe places bereft of ingredients needed to make a healthy meal.

In recent years, the US government has spent at least $169 million in grants and helped raise $1 billion more to try to end food deserts, by funding things like new stores and farmers markets. But as urban neighborhoods gentrify, a new kind of disparity has emerged. Many experts, including some federal researchers, stress that high local grocery prices—not simply distance—prevent lower-income households from eating well. Gilfillan finds herself not in a food desert, but rather in what some soci­ologists are now calling a food mirage. Her home is surrounded by fancy markets and restaurants, yet cheap staples are hard to come by. “You can go in there and buy 10 different lettuces,” she says. But “we grew up on pork. A lot of them don’t have it.”

In cities across America, specialty stores flock to newly hip districts while cheap supermarkets are pushed out. Since 2000, the median sale price for a home in Gilfillan’s neighborhood of Boerum Hill has increased nearly fivefold, from $250,000 in January 2000 to $1.15 million in the fall of 2016, pulling up commercial real estate with it. Met Foods, the grocery store she used to frequent, was sold in 2014 as the land under it became valuable.

The conventional approach to addressing food access is blind to these mirages. In 2010, the White House announced the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which provides loans, grants, and tax breaks to food sellers mostly in neighborhoods that qualify as food deserts. To help identify needy areas, the government looks at whether the median income of a census tract is less than 81 percent of the median income of the greater area. But this metric doesn’t work well in gentrifying neighborhoods, where rich and poor people live crammed together.

Take Boise, an up-and-coming district in Portland, Oregon. In 2014, 15 percent of its residents lived below the federal poverty line of $11,670 for individuals or $23,850 for a family of four. But thanks to upscale stores like New Seasons (a West Coast chain similar to Whole Foods) and the district’s high median family income, it’s hard to call Boise a true food desert, even though people there have few options besides pricey retailers and corner stores stuffed with junk food. While “conventionally defined food deserts are rare in Portland,” a pair of researchers concluded in a 2013 paper, “food mirages, by contrast, cover much of the city.”

Nonprofit grocery stores might help close this gap. For example, Fare & Square, a nonprofit in Chester, Pennsylvania, relies partly on government funding to keep its prices low. But the Obama administration’s initiative mostly targeted nonprofit grocery stores in neighborhoods already deemed food deserts. Places like Boise and Boerum Hill tend to fall through the cracks.

The Department of Agriculture doesn’t seem sure what to tell people living in food mirages. Even benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) aren’t a great solution: They’re based on nationwide average costs, so they don’t go as far in places where specialty and niche food stores dominate the market and charge upward of $4 a gallon for milk. When I asked a SNAP spokeswoman about the problem of ignoring local food prices, she referred me to a webpage called “Healthy Eating on a Budget.” “Create a grocery game plan,” it suggests. “Rethink your food choices and pick healthier options.”

Gilfillan has a grocery game plan. She treks to Stop & Shop, a chain supermarket where she finds plenty of bargains. On her way home, she passes modern condos and farm-to-table restaurants. Although she can’t bring herself to move out of her house, her advice for her son, Dashawn, is different. “Sell it for whatever you can get,” she recalls telling him. “So long as you got the memories, you don’t need this damn house.”

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The Depressing Truth About Hipster Food Towns

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Here are some of the most unnerving things we’ve read so far in those Pruitt emails.

The protesters gathered in Boston’s Copley Square with some impressively nerdy signs, including “Scientists are wicked smaht” and “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.”

The rally coincided with the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held a few blocks away, but was not sponsored by the scientific organization. In fact, scientists have often been wary of participating in political demonstrations, citing the need for science to be objective and nonpartisan.

“We’re not protesting a party,” one scientist told the Boston Globe. “As scientists, we want to support truth.”

Truth, however, has increasingly become a political issue, with an administration that has denied climate change, attacked the value of the EPA, and put forward a non-evidence-based travel ban that would adversely affect many scientists and researchers in the United States. As one sign at the rally put it, “Alternative facts are the square root of negative one.” That is, imaginary.

Sunday’s rally was a warm-up act for the March for Science, which is expected to bring many thousands of scientists to Washington, D.C., on April 22, Earth Day.

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Here are some of the most unnerving things we’ve read so far in those Pruitt emails.

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Congressional climate deniers are getting called on their BS at town halls this week.

The protesters gathered in Boston’s Copley Square with some impressively nerdy signs, including “Scientists are wicked smaht” and “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.”

The rally coincided with the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held a few blocks away, but was not sponsored by the scientific organization. In fact, scientists have often been wary of participating in political demonstrations, citing the need for science to be objective and nonpartisan.

“We’re not protesting a party,” one scientist told the Boston Globe. “As scientists, we want to support truth.”

Truth, however, has increasingly become a political issue, with an administration that has denied climate change, attacked the value of the EPA, and put forward a non-evidence-based travel ban that would adversely affect many scientists and researchers in the United States. As one sign at the rally put it, “Alternative facts are the square root of negative one.” That is, imaginary.

Sunday’s rally was a warm-up act for the March for Science, which is expected to bring many thousands of scientists to Washington, D.C., on April 22, Earth Day.

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Congressional climate deniers are getting called on their BS at town halls this week.

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Here Comes The First Suit Challenging Trump’s "Muslim Ban"

Mother Jones

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Within hours of President Donald Trump signing his “Muslim ban” executive order Friday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced that it is about to file a lawsuit challenging the ban.

The order, called “Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” denies entry to the US to anyone from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, according to CNN. The order also freezes refugee admissions for 120 days.

“There is no evidence that refugees—the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation—are a threat to national security,” CAIR national litigation director Lena Masri said in a release. The group says it will announce details of the lawsuit Monday.

Demonstrators have been protesting the order ever since a draft was leaked on Wednesday.

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Here Comes The First Suit Challenging Trump’s "Muslim Ban"

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These 15 Albums Might Actually Make 2016 Tolerable

Mother Jones

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Each year, Mother Jones‘ favorite music critic browses through hundreds of new albums and pulls out maybe a couple hundred for his weekly reviews. But only a few can make the final-final cut. Below, in alphabetical order, are Jon Young’s super-quick takes on his 15 top albums for 2016. (Feel free to heartily disagree and share your own faves in the comments.)

1. William Bell, This Is Where I Live (Stax): The tender, moving return of an underrated soul great.

2. David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia/ISO): The Thin White Duke’s eerie, haunting farewell.

3. Gaz Coombes, Matador (Hot Fruit Recordings/Kobalt Label Services): Grand, witty megapop from the former Supergrass leader. (Full review here.)

4. Bob Dylan, The 1966 Live Recordings (Columbia/Legacy): A massive compilation of every note from his notorious tour. (Full review here.)

5. Margaret Glaspy, Emotions and Math (ATO): No-nonsense relationship tales that rock out with insistent verve.

6. Hinds, Leave Me Alone (Mom + Pop/Lucky Number): Frayed, rowdy femme-punk straight outta Madrid.

7. Jennifer O’Connor, Surface Noise (Kiam): Tuneful, deadpan folk-pop with a cutting edge. (Full review here.)

8. Brigid Mae Power, Brigid Mae Power (Tompkins Square): Hair-raising solo acoustic performances by an Irish chanteuse. (Full review here.)

9. Dex Romweber, Carrboro, (Bloodshot): A colorful Americana kaleidoscope from a master balladeer and rockabilly shouter. (Full review here.)

10. Sad13, Slugger (Carpark): Sadie Dupuis’ solo debut, poppier than her band Speedy Ortiz, and exuberantly feminist.

11 & 12. The Scientists, A Place Called Bad (Numero Group); and Blonde Redhead, Masculin Feminin (Numero Group): The great Chicago reissue label scores again with retrospectives devoted to The Scientists, Australian trash-rockers from the ’70s and ’80s, and Blonde Redhead’s ’90s shoegaze-noise recordings amid the chaotic New York scene. (Full review here.)

13. Allen Toussaint, American Tunes (Nonesuch): The gorgeous final works of the New Orleans R&B genius. (And here’s our recent chat with Toussaint collaborator Aaron Neville.)

14. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic): The long-overdue return, and devastating goodbye, of a hip-hop institution.

15. Various Artists, The Microcosm: Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 (Light in the Attic): An eye-opening survey of vintage new age music in all its oddball, unexpected glory.

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These 15 Albums Might Actually Make 2016 Tolerable

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Here’s What Madonna Just Played at Her Surprise Hillary Mini-Rally In New York

Mother Jones

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The one and only Madonna just held a surprise “pop up” mini-rally for Hillary Clinton in New York’s Washington Square Park tonight—singing a 30-minute set to stunned New Yorkers who were either just walking by, or who had seen the mega-star’s tweet and ran from all directions to catch her. Reporter James West dashed to the scene and was able to speak to one bystander, Paul, who attended the event. Here’s what she played tonight:

And if you needed more proof:

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Here’s What Madonna Just Played at Her Surprise Hillary Mini-Rally In New York

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Stop Trying to Feel Awesome All the Time, Says Millennial Whisperer

Mother Jones

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“Personal development” blogger Mark Manson got his start shelling out dating advice back in the mid-2000s, when The Game was making waves. Like every other twentysomething of a certain demographic, Manson, who hails from Austin, Texas, was hoping to cash in as a digital nomad: He moved abroad, started a blog, and attempted to earn a living working on internet marketing startups.

HarperOne

But the promise of the young web was elusive, Manson soon discovered. The startups and the jobs they offered were “not sustainable—they’re not real careers,” he says. “If you start looking out 20 years in the future, you have no stability. I started to realize this, and around the same time, I realized that writing is the only thing I’m good at, the only thing I really love about my job.”

So Manson, who is now 32, resolved to focus on his writing. In 2012, while living in Colombia, he penned his first viral post, “10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America.” The post received thousands of shares and crashed his website, he says. Manson continued writing in his plain, off-the-cuff style, appealing to millennials with posts like “Stop Trying to Be Happy,” “Love is Not Enough,” and “In Defense of Being Average.”

Nowadays, his eponymous advice blog (tagline: “Some people say I’m an idiot. Other people say I saved their life. Read and decide for yourself”) commands about 2 million unique visitors a month and covers topics from love to the development of habits. I reached out to Manson to talk about his new book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and naturally, to get a little advice.

Mother Jones: What’s up with the book title?

Mark Manson: It actually comes from a blog article I wrote a couple of years ago. I was just joking around with a friend about not giving a fuck, and I think at one point, I said, “Not giving a fuck: It’s not easy, it’s a very subtle art form.” I have a Google Doc, and every time I have an idea for an article, I pull up my phone and jot down ideas. It took me a year to actually write the book, and one day when I was feeling irreverent and ridiculous, I was like, all right, let’s talk about giving fucks, not giving fucks, and just went for it.

MJ: How would you summarize the key takeaways?

MM: The central message is that, in general, people have spent way too much time trying to feel good all the time. Instead they should focus on deciphering what’s important and what’s not. Because problems are inevitable, pain is inevitable, and the only really reliable way to persevere or deal with those problems and pain is to find a worthy cause or a worthy reason for dealing with it. A lot of the culture at large, and self-help material in general, has gone down this rabbit hole of “You can feel great all the time and you’re amazing. You’re a special snowflake who’s going to be the next big thing in the world.” I think that’s really led to a culturewide sense of entitlement and just kind of being detached from reality and from each other.

MJ: So we should feel bad instead?

MM: Feeling good is nice, but the goal should be to find something meaningful and important.

MJ: But isn’t that what everyone is saying?

MM: Yeah, a lot of people, but it’s usually framed like, “You’ll feel really good if you find something meaningful.” It doesn’t work that way. The quality of your life is determined by how good your problems are, not how awesome you feel all the time. The whole point of the book is that self improvement isn’t about getting rid of pain. It’s about not giving a fuck about pain. That’s what growth is. It’s getting to the point where the pain you’re sustaining is a worthwhile thing to endure.

MJ: So how do you know which problem is the right one? For instance, a lot of people work really hard and suffer a lot—and they’re not satisfied.

MM: The quest here is to find better problems. A better problem is the one we have control over, that is pro-social and not antisocial. In a way, it’s about values. Good values are based in reality—they’re socially constructive and immediately controllable. Bad values are superstitious, socially destructive, and not immediate or controllable.

To use one of the facetious examples in the book: If the biggest problem in my life right now is that my favorite TV show got canceled, that’s a pretty poor reflection of my values and the quality of my life. That’s a poor thing to care about, it’s not controllable, it’s not immediate, it has no immediate effect on the people around me or the people I care about. The highest priorities in our life should be something that’s grounded in being constructive toward the people around us, and something that’s immediate and we have control over.

So if someone says they want to be a famous singer on TV, for example, it’s a poor value, because there’s so many factors that could influence that. The thing that will bring greater quality to life is something more controllable, more like, “I want to the best singer that I possibly can,” or “I want to move as many people as possible with my artwork as I can,” whether you’re singing in a coffee shop or onstage at Madison Square Garden.

MJ: That seems obvious. And yet I hadn’t really thought about it.

MM: Culturally speaking, we’re getting a bit lost. The side effect of all this marketing and consumerism is that we’re running into this constant state of distraction, and we don’t realize that a lot of the values that we end up adopting maybe aren’t even our own, or maybe were a little bit imposed on us through marketing messages and TV shows and movies.

I spent a lot of my early adulthood caring about a lot of things, and I was very upset when I discovered that they weren’t very important. I’ve watched a lot of my friends and my readers go through similar experiences. I think a lot of that comes with growing up with the internet and 500 channels on TV. We’re the first generation that grew up with this very distorted expectation of what the world is and what we should expect from it.

MJ: So what can we do?

MM: What needs to be done is a return to simplicity. The answer these days is not more, it’s less. It’s deciding what to cut off from our attention and our focus. There’s way more things out there than any single person people could pursue, way more opportunities and questions. I think the most important question is: What am I going to give up? What am I going to cut myself off from? What are the few things in my life that I am going to care about and focus on, understanding that I’m limited, and a lot of ideas so prevalent out there may not ever happen in my life? I think it’s a really hard thing to swallow.

MJ: So then it’s more like, “What do I actually want to give a fuck about?”

MM: Exactly. The not giving a fuck thing is actually just a silly tool to teach people to think about their values, about what are they choosing to find important in their life, and then finding a way to change those things.

MJ: But suppose I were to say, “Mark, I actually give a fuck about everything. What should I do?”

MM: I would tell you to prepare for a lot of disappointment, and it would really come down to how you react to that disappointment. It’s a process of letting go. Some people react by refusing to accept it. They give a fuck about everything and they’re constantly disappointed because nothing is living up to their expectations, but instead of accepting that their expectations are unrealistic, they blame groups of people and blame the government and blame everybody. What we have to get back to is that people are really limited and fallible. You need to choose the few things that you’re going to work really hard for, and accept the disappointment that comes with everything else.

It’s a very negative philosophy, but it makes people feel better because it relinquishes the pressure. If you think of your typical millennial, since that’s who most of my readers are, they have all these expectations. They went to a good school and they worked their asses off. They did an unpaid internship and they studied abroad and they want to have their amazing career and they want to get there faster than ever. And they want to make a certain amount of money and live in an awesome city, and it’s just, the pressure of having to care about everything weighs them down and creates a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Everything else will eventually come as a side effect: If you get good at a job, eventually you’ll get to live in a good city. If you get good at a skill, you’ll find a good job. If you find a skill that you care about and think is important, then you’ll naturally get good at it. Start at the beginning.

MJ: How do people respond to this advice?

MM: The most common thing I get from people is a sense of relief. People who come to self-improvement content are generally the type of people who are very hard on themselves and constantly feel a need to prove that they’re awesome and that their life is awesome. So when they come around and see something that’s like, “Hey, you don’t need to prove anything; it’s not going to work anyway”—even though it’s a negative message, they kind of feel relief. My goal is never to give algorithmic advice, but to explain the principles and a little bit of the framework, so people can decide for themselves. Because deciding for themselves is the most important thing people can do—it’s often the problem in the first place.

MJ: How did you come up with this stuff?

MM: I’m a recovered self-help junkie. I’ve always been a bookworm, so I’ve been reading about this stuff since I was a teenager. I guess it’s a classic case of what was a hobby through most of my life ended up becoming my profession, even if it wasn’t designed that way. That, and I’ve screwed up. There’s really no better teacher than your own screwups.

MJ: Where do you turn when you feel lost or in need of help?

MM: I have a great support network. My fiancée is amazing. I have some friends who are insanely intelligent and who are willing to keep me in check, and I have my family. Books are great, but for most people, if you’re going through hard times, step No. 1 should be friends and family and people close to you.

MJ: Your last chapter, fittingly, is about death. Why did you choose to write about that?

MM: Because the whole book is about people trying to avoid their problems, and death is the ultimate problem we try to avoid. There are entire religions about coming to terms with death and becoming more comfortable. To use that famous Steve Jobs YouTube video, when you think about death, it’s the only thing that kind of puts everything else in perspective. It is the only kind of objective yardstick for being able to recognize the values in one’s own life, and what they’re worth. So I think it’s important to think about it, and for people to imagine their own death, because it makes self discovery that much easier—even though it’s unpleasant.

MJ: So, um, how many times did you use the F-word in your book?

MM: Ha! I have no idea. A lot! Probably a couple hundred. The editor struck a few of them, because they were definitely gratuitous.

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Stop Trying to Feel Awesome All the Time, Says Millennial Whisperer

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Behind-the-Scenes Photos From Trump’s Bizarre GOP Convention

Mother Jones

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Photographer Scott Brauer has turned his camera and blinding flash toward the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Brauer photographed the Republican National Convention in Cleveland for the Mother Jones Instagram account (@motherjonesmag). Below is a gallery of some of our favorite images. Follow along to see what Brauer captures at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week.

Bauer’s project, “This Is the Worst Party I’ve Ever Been To” gives a wry, insider’s look at campaigning for president. The Boston-based photographer offers viewers revealing glimpses of staff, supporters, media, and other machinations of the campaign process we don’t often see. He takes a step back to include the periphery of what’s going on as other photographers shoot pictures of politicians and protesters, offering fascinating insight into the banality of what’s really going.

Crews set up the day before the start of the 2016 Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Balloons hang from the ceiling a day before the start of the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Anti-Muslim demonstrators address a crowd of media in downtown Cleveland.

Sirius XM radio reporter Jared Rizzi works from the delegate floor on the first day of the Republican National Convention in the Quicken Loans Arena.

Republican-themed jeweled wooden handbags made by Timmy Woods of Los Angeles are seen for sale in the Freedom Market in the secure area outside the arena on the first day of the convention.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appears in a video by the Republican Governors Association shown to the delegates on the first day of the event.

Former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole wore an “I STILL Like Ike” pin while sitting in a VIP section at the RNC.

Actor Scott Baio after speaking at the RNC

A worker kneels outside the Society Lounge on East 4th Street near the entrance to the RNC.

Stevedore Crawford of Columbus, Ohio, one of the demonstrators in Cleveland’s Public Square, is surrounded by some family members, friends, and a lot of media. He said that in 1984, he was shot by a police officer and he shot the police officer back. He says he spent 12 years in prison. He spoke about racism, Tamir Rice, and police conduct.

A member of the Indiana State Police stands guard in front of anti-Muslim protesters in Cleveland’s Public Square.

Sen. Orrin Hatch shakes hands at the convention.

Members of the Alabama delegation react as Sen. Jeff Sessions speaks at the RNC.

Martin Parr (left) and Christopher Morris (down low) photograph a member of the Florida delegation holding a Trump figurine. Morris was in the news earlier this year after he was “choke-slammed” by a Secret Service agent while covering a Trump rally.

During the formal nomination, roving camera crews moved between different states’ delegations to show the votes. It was the main video feed used by television networks. Here, on the back of a piece of cardboard, you can see the list of states and territories that this team will cover: California, Alabama, Maine, Virginia, Montana, Wyoming, and Guam. Ohio is crossed out.

Each night the Republican convention begins with the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem, and a prayer, at minimum. Here, people toward the back of the delegate floor stand during the national anthem.

People danced and sang along during country singer Chris Janson’s performance at the convention.

A man talks on his phone on Wednesday night near the nosebleed section of Quicken Loans Arena during the RNC.

Food is hard to come by inside the Quicken Loans Arena. Here, photographer Nate Gowdy eats a pretzel during some downtime Wednesday night.

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Behind-the-Scenes Photos From Trump’s Bizarre GOP Convention

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Protesters Arrested in Cleveland After Trying to Burn American Flags

Mother Jones

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Eighteen people were arrested Wednesday afternoon after an activist lit an American flag on fire outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Flag-burning is protected free speech under the First Amendment, but in a statement, police said that “a demonstrator also lit himself on fire and those around him due to the close proximity” and that two officers were assaulted by demonstrators. According to police, the demonstrators were arrested for assault, failure to disperse, and resisting arrest.

The arrests on Wednesday mark the most significant conflict between protesters and police so far during the convention, which has seen mostly peaceful protests by various groups. On Tuesday, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones barged his way into Cleveland’s Public Square to confront a group of communists, nearly triggering a brawl. No arrests were made in that situation, and police characterized it as a “small shoving match.” In total, more than 20 protesters have now been arrested during the convention, with charges ranging from criminal mischief related to climbing a flag pole to hang a banner to stealing a gas mask from a police car, according to police.

On Wednesday, shortly after 3 pm local time, a group from the Revolutionary Communist Party ignited an American flag in front of one of the gated entrances to the convention site, where delegates pass through security on their way into Quicken Loans Arena. After announcing that the group supported neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, a man lit the flag on fire. USA Today reported that the man was Gregory “Joey” Johnson. Johnson is the man who lit an American flag on fire in 1984 at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, which led to a 1989 Supreme Court ruling establishing that burning an American flag is protected under by the Constitution.

In this video, a Cleveland police officer can be seen trying to put the flames with what police say was a fire extinguisher, before the police move in and grab the protesters:

You can see a clearer picture of the scene here:

Another protester was subsequently arrested about a block from the first incident after trying to set another American flag on fire.

* This story has been revised and updated to reflect subsequent statements from law enforcement.

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Protesters Arrested in Cleveland After Trying to Burn American Flags

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Photos From Around The World Capture the Outpouring of Support After the Brussels Attack

Mother Jones

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Early Tuesday morning, a series of terrorist attacks ripped across Brussels, the Belgian capitol, leaving at least 31 dead. We’re following live updates to the story here. Similar to the December massacre in Paris, the attacks were quickly followed by a public outpouring grief, sympathy and solidarity, taking the form of makeshift memorials and specially lit landmarks.

Here is a selection of reactions from Europe and around the world:

People light candles at a memorial set up outside the stock exchange in Brussels. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

The pencils in the cartoon below are a reference to the terrorist attacks on the offices of French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, last January:

Pakistanis chant slogans during a rally to condemn the Brussels attack, in Multan, Pakistan. Asim Tanveer/AP

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Photos From Around The World Capture the Outpouring of Support After the Brussels Attack

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