Vandalized Mosques, Threats of Violence—Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes on the Rise

| Wed Nov. 25, 2015 6:00 AM EST

One day after the deadly terror attacks in Paris, a woman in Michigan went on Twitter and threatened to "send a message to ISIS." How? By violently targeting Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb where more than 40 percent of the population is of Arab ancestry. In response, the head of the FBI's Detroit office announced an investigation into a string of recent threats in the city. (Sarah Beebee, the woman who sent the tweet, publicly apologized.)

Since the Paris attacks, there have been similar incidents across the United States, from vandalized mosques to threats of violence, rattling Muslim Americans.

Based on the latest FBI hate crime figures, these incidents are on the rise. The most recent FBI data, released last Monday, indicates that hate crimes based on race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation have dropped across the board—with the exception of crimes against Muslim Americans. In 2014, even as the total number of hate crimes dipped nearly 8 percent from the year before, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 14 percent. 

While anti-Muslim incidents have risen, they trail behind incidents targeting Jewish Americans. Last year, 609 hate crime incidents were reported against Jews, the highest number of crimes based on religious beliefs—and four times the number of anti-Muslim crimes. As Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post points out, these figures are likely undercounted, since police departments' participation in the FBI's crime assessment is voluntary and some departments track figures better than others.

Some bright spots can be found in the FBI data: Crimes against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity dropped from 1,264 in 2013 to 1,115 in 2014. And recorded incidents against Hispanic and black Americans dipped nearly 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively. 

The uptick in crimes against Muslim Americans, though, signals a troubling trend that lingers more than 15 years after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, described the climate in the aftermath of the Paris attacks as "increasingly bleak." "There's been an accumulation of anti-Islamic rhetoric in our lives and that, I think, has triggered these overt acts of violence and vandalism," he recently told the Chicago Tribune

Between 1996 and 2000, according to the Washington Post, the FBI recorded between 20 and 30 hate crime incidents against Muslim Americans. In 2001 alone, the figure skyrocketed to nearly 500. Even before the terrorist attacks in Paris, the number of anti-Muslim hate crime incidents remained roughly five times as high as it was before 9/11. 

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The Case For Donald Trump Being a Liar Is Overwhelming

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 10:06 PM EST

I've gotten some pushback on my post about calling Donald Trump's serial tall tales lying. The main objection is an obvious one: something is only a lie if you tell it knowingly. Trump tells lots of whoppers, but maybe he's just misinformed. Or, in cases like the Jersey City Muslims, maybe he's convinced himself that he really saw them cheering on 9/11. There's no way to know for sure.

This is true: we can't know for sure. But in Trump's case we can be pretty damn sure. After all, this hasn't happened once or twice or three times. It's happened dozens of times on practically a daily basis. He doesn't just tell these stories until somebody corrects him. He blithely keeps on telling them long after he must know they're untrue. And while memory can fail, Trump has, by my count, told at least seven separate stories based on his own memory for which there is either (a) no evidence or (b) directly contradictory evidence.1 Some of them are for things that had happened only a few days or weeks before.

If you're waiting for absolute, watertight, 100 percent proof of a knowing lie, you'll probably never get it. But the case in favor of Trump being a serial liar is overwhelming—and in the fallen world in which we live, this is how adults have to make judgments about people. Given the evidence at hand, there's simply no reasonable conclusion except one: Donald Trump is a serial liar.

1On my list of Trump fabrications, they are numbers 1, 6, 8, 13, 18, 19, and 26.

Quote of the Day: Here's What the Republican Primary Has Come To

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 9:28 PM EST

Gideon Resnick shows us what the Republican primary has come to:

A Carson campaign official told CBS News on Sunday that the candidate has considered taking a trip to Asia, Africa, or Australia in order to do something “eye-opening” prior to the Iowa caucus in February....(Australia was likely in the mix because Carson says he spent time working there at Charles Gairdner Hospital in 1983, according to his autobiography Gifted Hands. The Daily Beast has reached out to the hospital to confirm.)

A leading presidential candidate makes a simple, entirely plausible statement in his autobiography and yet a reporter feels like maybe he ought to make a call to double check it. Just in case. And I can't say that I blame him.

(Fine: I'm being snarky. For the record, I believe that Carson really was there.)

Purina Pet Food Is So Much More Disgusting Than We Even Knew

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 8:16 PM EST
Nestlé's Fancy Feast cat food, with a "fish and shrimp feast" flavor, is a product of Thailand.

If you've ever purchased seafood or pet food from Nestlé, you may have unwittingly contributed to the abuse of migrant workers in Southeast Asia.

Burmese and Cambodian workers are tricked into laboring on Thai fishing boats after fleeing persecution and poverty at home.

On Monday, Nestlé admitted that it had found indications of forced labor, human trafficking, and child labor in its supply chain in Thailand, where the Switzerland-based company sources some of the seafood that it sells in supermarkets around the world, including in the United States. The findings came after an internal investigation that was launched by Nestlé in December last year, following reports by media and NGOs that linked the company's shrimp, prawns, and Purina brand pet foods with abusive working conditions.

Many of the workers in question are migrants from Thailand's less developed neighbors, Burma and Cambodia, who are tricked into laboring on fishing boats after fleeing persecution and poverty at home, according to the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Verité, which at Nestlé's request interviewed workers at six of the company's production sites in Thailand. Workers "had been subjected to deceptive recruitment practices that started in their home countries, transported to Thailand under inhumane conditions, charged with excessive fees leading to debt bondage in some cases, exposed to exploitative and hazardous working conditions, and, at the time of assessment, were living under sub-par to degrading conditions," Verité wrote in its report.

But Nestlé isn't the only one with a tainted supply chain: The mistreatment of migrants is systematic in Thailand's fishing sector, Verité found, meaning that other American and European companies that buy seafood from the country are likely complicit in similar labor abuses. These abuses have been highlighted by the US State Department, which last year downgraded Thailand to the lowest level in its annual report on human trafficking, and they underpin several lawsuits that have been filed recently against retailers including Nestlé and Costco Wholesale Corp. Steve Berman, managing partner of the law firm Hagens Berman, which in August filed a class-action lawsuit against Nestlé, told the New York Times that the company's report on Monday was "a step in the right direction," but added that "our litigation will go forward because Nestlé Purina still fails to disclose on its products, as is required by law, that slave labor was used in its making."

For its part, Nestlé has vowed to publish a strategy to protect workers in Thailand, including by bringing in outside auditors and training boat owners about human rights. "This will be neither a quick nor an easy endeavour, but we look forward to making significant progress in the months ahead," Magdi Batato, Nestlé’s executive vice president in charge of operations, said in a statement.

Police Just Released Dashcam Footage of the Laquan McDonald Shooting

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 7:18 PM EST

On Tuesday, Chicago officials released the dashcam footage from the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The video’s release came hours after state prosecutors charged Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder in McDonald’s shooting last October, reportedly becoming the first cop in the city to face such charges in nearly 35 years.

The video, posted below, is disturbing. (WARNING: Seriously, watch at your own discretion.)

In April, the city of Chicago paid McDonald’s family $5 million, before any lawsuit was formally filed.

The footage and a bond hearing early Tuesday revealed details that differed from the initial police narrative of events. Police previously said they had found McDonald in the street slashing a car’s tires, and that when ordered to drop his knife, he walked away. After a second police car arrived and police tried to block McDonald’s path, police said, McDonald punctured a police car’s tires. When officers got out of the car, police officials alleged McDonald lunged at them with the knife and Van Dyke, who feared for his life, shot him.

Instead, the footage shows McDonald, who was carrying a knife, ambling away from police as Van Dyke and his partner get out of their car. Van Dyke then unloads a barrage of bullets on the teen about six seconds after then. The Chicago Tribune reported that according to prosecutors, Van Dyke fired 16 rounds at McDonald in 14 or 15 seconds and was told to hold his fire when he began to reload his weapon. For about 13 of those seconds, McDonald is on the ground.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez described the video as "deeply disturbing" and told reporters that Van Dyke’s actions "were not justified and were not a proper use of deadly force."

A judge had ordered the video’s release by Wednesday, but Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced that the city would release the video a day early. "The officer in this case took a young man's life and he's going to have to account for his actions," McCarthy told reporters. Van Dyke could face between 20 years and life in prison if convicted.

"With these charges, we are bringing a full measure of justice that this demands," Alvarez said.  

Van Dyke's attorney Daniel Herbert questioned whether the case amounted to a murder case and believed the shooting was justified. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for calm after the video’s release. "Jason Van Dyke will be judged in the court of law," Emanuel told reporters. "That's exactly how it should be." In a statement through attorneys, McDonald’s family reiterated a call for peace and said they would have preferred for the video not to be released.

"No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful," the family said. "Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that."

The Staples Singers Will Revive You With These Gospel and Soul Classics

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 6:57 PM EST

The Staple Singers
Faith & Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976

Not for gospel buffs only, the Staple Singers could make even a confirmed heathen feel blessed by the Holy Spirit. Featuring Roebuck "Pops" Staples and his children Mavis, Cleotha, and alternatively Pervis or Yvonne, the quartet evolved from local Chicago favorites to worldwide soul superstars over the course of a two-decade-plus run. Their sound drew its breathtaking beauty from the shimmering tremolo- and reverb-drenched guitar of Pops—a style his peers dubbed "nervous"—and the exuberant high harmonies of the four, with Mavis' powerhouse voice adding a thrilling jolt to the mix.

The earliest recordings on this fabulous four-disc set capture the Staples Singers at their most visceral. The live 16-minute medley "Too Close/I'm on My Way Home/I'm Coming Home/He's Alright" is downright hair-raising in its primal intensity. Curiously, the group's interaction with the like-minded folk movement of the early '60s resulted in some of their milder efforts in the form of a handful of Bob Dylan covers, although the lull was only temporary. Joining Stax Records in the late-'60s, they scored a series of secular-but-uplifting hits with foot-stomping songs like "Respect Yourself," "I’ll Take You There," and "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)."

Pops passed away in 2000, but Mavis is still going strong today. In any case, Faith & Grace testifies to their illustrious achievements.

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The Big Problem With Electric Cars: They're Too Reliable

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 5:11 PM EST

Matt Richtel has an intriguing article today in the New York Times about electric cars. The question is: why aren't they selling better? Is it because they have weak performance? Because they can only go a hundred miles on a charge? Because they're expensive?

Those are all issues.1 But it turns out that people who want to buy an electric car anyway have a hard time getting dealerships to sell them one:

Kyle Gray, a BMW salesman, said he was personally enthusiastic about the technology, but...the sales process takes more time because the technology is new, cutting into commissions....Marc Detsch, Nissan’s business development manager for electric vehicles said some salespeople just can’t rationalize the time it takes to sell the cars. A salesperson “can sell two gas burners in less than it takes to sell a Leaf,” he said. “It’s a lot of work for a little pay.”

He also pointed to the potential loss of service revenue. “There’s nothing much to go wrong,” Mr. Deutsch said of electric cars. “There’s no transmission to go bad.”....Jared Allen, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said there wasn’t sufficient data to prove that electric cars would require less maintenance. But he acknowledged that service was crucial to dealer profits and that dealers didn’t want to push consumers into electric cars that might make them less inclined to return for service.

I suppose this makes sense. And to all this, you can add the fact that none of these cars can fly. There are so many hurdles to overcome before we make it into the Jetson's future we were all promised.

1We are, of course, talking about the non-Tesla market here.

China Is Absolutely Destroying the US on Clean Energy

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 4:13 PM EST
A worker installs solar panels on November 17 in Yantai, Shandong Province, in China.

When world leaders convene on Monday in Paris for two weeks of high-stakes climate negotiations, one of the top items on the agenda will be how developing nations should prepare for and help to slow global warming. Opponents to President Barack Obama's climate agenda, such as GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio, like to argue that anything the United States does to curb greenhouse gas emissions will be pointless because countries like India and China aren't doing the same.

But new data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that this argument is just hot air: For the first time ever, over the last year the majority of global investment in clean energy projects was spent in developing countries. In fact, clean energy investment in China alone outpaced that in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France combined, BNEF found. Across 55 major non-OECD countries, including India, Brazil, China, and Kenya, clean energy investment reached $126 billion in 2014, a record high and 39 percent higher than 2013 levels. 

The chart below shows how that level of investment is opening up a market for wind, solar, and other clean energy projects in non-OECD countries that is now larger than the market in the traditional strongholds of the United States and Europe. In other words, the very countries Rubio likes to malign as laggards are actually leading the charge.


That trend is likely to continue for decades to come, BNEF found. Check out their projection for growth through 2040:


These numbers add up to a big deal for the climate, because they show that countries in Africa and Southeast Asia that still lack reliable electricity for millions of people are solving that problem, and growing their economies, without relying on dirty fossil fuels. China, to be clear, is still the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and it doesn't plan to peak its emissions until 2030. But its early commitment to clean energy means it can continue its rapid rate of growth with far less pollution than it would produce otherwise.

The BNEF report is just the most recent good sign for the clean energy business. Big corporations in the United States are signing contracts for a record amount of clean energy for their data centers, warehouses, and other facilities. And the Paris talks are likely to send a jolt through the industry, as countries around the world redouble their commitments to get more of their power from renewable sources.

Stay tuned for more news on this front as the talks unfold over the coming weeks.

Donald Trump Is a Pathological Liar. It's Time to Stop Tiptoeing Around This.

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 2:35 PM EST

Let's take a look at a few headlines about Donald Trump lately:

CNN: Does Donald Trump transcend the truth?

New York Times: Donald Trump’s shortcuts and salesmanlike stretches

ABC News: Donald Trump gaining strength despite questionable comments

The Atlantic: Donald Trump's fact-free weekend

Washington Post: Donald Trump is leading an increasingly fact-free 2016 campaign

NBC News: Amid outcry, Trump continues campaign of controversy

BBC: Trump 'wrong' in claiming US Arabs cheered 9/11 attacks

CBS New York: Evidence supporting Trump’s claim of Jersey City Muslims cheering on 9/11 is hard to come by

Business Insider: Donald Trump declares massive victory on his widely disputed claim about 9/11

Los Angeles Times: When it comes to Syrian refugees and fighting Islamic State, Trump wings it

USA Today: Trump defends tweet with faulty crime stats as 'a retweet'

Fox News: Trump tweet on black crime sets off firestorm

It's way past time for this stuff. You can call Trump's statements lies or fabrications or even falsehoods if you insist on being delicate about it. But you can't call them questionable or controversial or salesmanlike or disputed or even faulty. The man is a serial, pathological liar. Isn't it about time for the journalistic community to work up the courage to report this with clear eyes?

Who's the Most Humble? We Are!

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 2:03 PM EST

People For the American Way emails to highlight something from last Friday's pre-Thanksgiving celebration of Christian virtue in Iowa. Here is Carly Fiorina:

"I do think it's worth saying," Fiorina declared, "that people of faith make better leaders because faith gives us humility, faith teaches us that no one of us is greater than any other one of us, that each of us are gifted by God. Faith gives us empathy; we know that all of us can fall and every one of us can be redeemed. And faith gives us optimism, it gives us the belief that there is something better, that there is someone bigger than all of us."

PFAW is doing the Lord's work here—so to speak—but I can't get too worked up about this. It's annoying, but what do you expect at a big gathering of evangelical Christians in Iowa? But then there's this from omnipresent messaging guru Frank Luntz:

Luntz then followed up on Fiorina's statement by declaring that "I can back that up statistically," asserting that "every single positive factor that you can describe is directly correlated to someone's relationship with faith, with God, and all the pathologies that you would criticize are directly related to a rejection of God."

You know, I've got nothing against organized religion. It provides an important part of life for a lot of people and does a lot of good charitable work. It also does some harm, but what human organization doesn't?

<rant volume=7>

But it sure does get tiresome to hear Christians like Fiorina constantly preening about how great they are and then in their next breath boasting about their humility. Fiorina also explicitly suggests that nonbelievers are second-rate leaders and then immediately congratulates believers like herself for their empathy. As for optimism, I have rarely come across a community more convinced that the entire country has become a grim and ghastly abomination than evangelical Christians. Generally speaking, I'd say that evangelical Christians—the ones who blather in public anyway—are among the least humble, least empathetic, and least optimistic people in the country.

Still, you can just chalk all this up to political hyperbole and let it go. But then Luntz steps in to bring the Science™. It's not just Fiorina's opinion that believers are better than nonbelievers. By God, Luntz can prove that every single bad thing in the world is due to unbelievers. Who needs faith when you have dial tests? So there you have it: Revel in your overwhelming superiority, Christians. What better way to win sympathy for your views?


Have a nice Thanksgiving, everyone. Eat with a few sinners and publicans this year, OK?