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Here Are the Results for Montana’s Body-Slamming-Marred Special Election

Mother Jones

Update 12:50am ET Friday, May 26, 2016: The race has been called for Republican Greg Gianforte.

On Thursday voters in Montana went to the polls in a special election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who left Congress in March. (See below for the results, beginning at 7 p.m. PT.) The race was marred by a fishing-hole dispute, a concert at a nudist resort, and, in the waning hours of the campaign, a misdemeanor assault by the Republican front-runner, Greg Gianforte, who “body slammed” a reporter. No one ever called Montana politics boring.

The race has major national implications: Although Republicans consistently carry the state at the presidential level, Democrats have won statewide races for senator and governor in Montana in recent years—and this contest offers the party’s most serious opportunity yet to chip away at the Republican majority in Congress and show that with the right candidate and message, it can compete and win in Trump Country. Gianforte, a businessman, has consistently led in the polls against Democrat Rob Quist, a country music singer.

After Gianforte narrowly lost his bid for governor last fall (largely on the basis of a decade-old lawsuit over fishing access), he kept a low profile during his comeback bid and sought to win election by avoiding taking a position on the most contentious issue in Washington: the Republican health care bill, which would leave an additional 23 million Americans without health insurance by 2026. Quist, an unabashed economic populist, campaigned aggressively on a single-payer platform and ran ads about his own preexisting condition (a botched gallbladder operation). Gianforte stalled for the final 21 days of the race, insisting first that he would wait to pass judgment until after a new Congressional Budget Office score had been released, and then after the CBO report was released, body-slamming the first reporter who asked his position. Win or lose, he’s due back in Bozeman in June for a court date.

Follow along with the results here, via Decision Desk:

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Here Are the Results for Montana’s Body-Slamming-Marred Special Election

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This Year’s May Day Protests Aren’t Just About Labor

Mother Jones

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Following the election of Donald Trump, groups affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement set out to expand their focus beyond criminal justice issues and build partnerships with outside advocacy groups. May Day will be the first big test. On May 1, International Workers’ Day, a coalition of nearly 40 advocacy groups, is holding actions across the nation related to workers’ rights, police brutality and incarceration, immigrants’ rights, environmental justice, indigenous sovereignty, and LGBT issues—and more broadly railing against a Trump agenda organizers say puts them all at risk.

This massive effort, dubbed Beyond the Moment, is led by a collective of racial-justice groups known as the Movement for Black Lives. Monday’s actions will include protests, marches, and strikes in more than 50 cities, adding to the efforts of the labor organizers who are leading the usual May Day protests.

Beyond the Moment kicked off officially on April 4, the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. In that speech, delivered in New York City in 1967, King addressed what he saw as the connection between the war in Vietnam and the racial and economic oppression of black Americans. Both, King argued, were driven by materialism, racism, and militarization—and he called upon the era’s diverse social movements to work together to resist them. (Exactly one year later, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he’d traveled to meet with black sanitation workers organizing for higher wages and better conditions.)

Beyond the Moment adopted King’s tactics. Organizers intend to build a lasting coalition of marginalized groups that can be brought together for future actions. This past April 4, the Movement for Black Lives collaborated with Fight for $15, a national movement led by low-wage workers, for a series of marches, protests, and educational efforts. On Monday, they will be joined by countless other groups.

“We understand that it’s going to take all of our movements in order to fight and win right now,” said Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of one of the Black Lives Matter groups involved. Beyond the Moment, she says, is “a reminder to this administration that you’re going to have to contend with us” over the long term. In Los Angeles, where Cullors will be on May 1, a march is planned from the city’s historic MacArthur Park to City Hall. More than 100 organizations will participate, Cullors says.

Black Lives Matter groups have long collaborated with other groups locally, but only fairly recently have they sought to do so at the national level. Last summer, they sent organizers and supplies to assist the Native American protesters at Standing Rock. In January, in advance of Trump’s inauguration, the groups led a series of protests and educational efforts highlighting aspects of the Trump agenda that target immigrants, Muslims, and people of color.

Monday’s actions will follow a series of national marches defending the value of scientific research and evidence-based policy (a response, in part, to the administration’s efforts to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, slash federally funded research, and eliminate science advisers in government.

“We’re going to have to undo a lot of the policies that this administration is putting on us. And in four years, we don’t want another Trump. We don’t want another Jeff Sessions.” The organizers are laying the groundwork for a Trump-free world, Cullors said. “What you’re seeing is natural allies coming together to organize, to grow bigger, to get stronger, and to build power…This is a very dangerous time, and we’re taking it very seriously.”

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This Year’s May Day Protests Aren’t Just About Labor

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Justice Sotomayor Slams "Disturbing Trend" of Supreme Court Siding With the Police

Mother Jones

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The Supreme Court has a “disturbing trend” of siding with officers over their alleged victims in cases involving the use of force by police. That’s according to a stinging dissent issued on Monday by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, after the full court voted to let stand the dismissal of a lawsuit against a Houston cop who shot a man in the back during a traffic stop. The court, Sotomayor wrote, has reliably reversed lower-court rulings that favored the plaintiff in such cases, “but we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit” of the doubt. Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg joined Sotomayor’s dissent.

One night in October 2010, Ricardo Salazar-Limon and his friends were driving on a highway outside of Houston when Houston Police Officer Chris Thompson pulled him over. After running the driver’s license and registration and finding nothing amiss, Thomson asked Salazar-Limon to step out of his truck—apparently to conduct a Breathalyzer test. Thompson then tried to handcuff Salazar-Limon, but the driver resisted and began walking back to his truck with his back to Thompson. The officer then drew his gun and ordered him to stop. Salazar-Limon says Thompson shot him within seconds of that order. Thompson claims he fired only after Salazar-Limon reached for his waistband—as if for a weapon—and turned toward him. No weapon was found.

Salazar-Limon sustained crippling injuries. In 2011, he sued Thompson and the Houston police for violating his civil rights. But a federal judge dismissed the suit, ruling that Thompson had qualified immunity because he’d shot Salazar-Limon in the course of his lawful duties. Salazar-Limon never explicitly denied reaching for his waistband during his deposition, nor, the judge wrote, did he offer evidence that he hadn’t—so the only conclusion a reasonable jury could reach was that he had. Thompson thus could have felt threatened and shot him because of it. A federal appeals court affirmed the ruling.

Salazar-Limon appealed to the Supreme Court, which on Monday decided not to hear the case. That was the wrong move, argued Sotomayor. A dismissal should only be granted, she wrote, when the facts of an incident are not in dispute. Thompson claimed the shooting was provoked. Salazar-Limon said it was not. The lower-court judge gave unfair privilege to the officer’s account, Sotomayor said. It was a jury’s job—not a district court judge’s—to determine whose story was more plausible. A juror, she wrote, could easily ask why Salazar-Limon would have reached for his waistband if he didn’t have a weapon. (In a footnote, she cited “the increasing frequency of incidents in which unarmed men allegedly reach for empty waistbands when facing law enforcement officers.”)

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the court rarely reviews cases “where the thrust of the claim is that a lower court simply erred in applying a settled rule of law to the facts of a particular case”—as opposed to cases in which the court is asked to interpret the law itself. But Sotomayor cited five recent cases in which the court intervened after a lower court ordered an offer to stand trial based on the facts of the case. Improperly dismissing lawsuits against officers who may have acted unlawfully “imposes no less harm” than trying officers who haven’t broken the law, she wrote.

The high court’s decision could encourage federal judges to dismiss civil lawsuits against police officers, says Joanna Schwartz, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who studies litigation against police. The ruling could also discourage attorneys from bringing such lawsuits, further limiting the options for redress against police abuses—as prosecutors rarely bring criminal cases and the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have little interest in doing so. “Lawyers are not making very much money off these cases. They bring these cases because they believe in them,” Schwartz told me. “As it becomes increasingly more difficult to win anything, it’s going to be even harder for lawyers to make the decision to represent these plaintiffs.”

Sotomayor’s dissent on Monday was her second recent one related to police tactics. Last summer, she cited author James Baldwin and The Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates while slamming a Supreme Court ruling involving what she deemed an illegal search and seizure: “The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights,” she wrote. “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

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Justice Sotomayor Slams "Disturbing Trend" of Supreme Court Siding With the Police

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How Ann Coulter and the Far Right Are Using the Lefty Playbook to Troll Berkeley

Mother Jones

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Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals, published in 1971 at the height of the counterculture movement, has long been required reading for community organizers on the left. It inspired activists with the labor movement, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. A young Hillary Clinton wrote her senior thesis on Alinsky and fawningly corresponded with him. But recently Alinsky has drawn a less likely group of devotees: the white nationalists and other bigots who make up the so-called alt-right.

After the white nationalist figure Nathan Damigo was filmed punching a female counterprotester at a provocative “free speech” rally this month in Berkeley, California, fueling a backlash online, his fans on the fringe message board 4chan/pol/ turned to Alinsky’s playbook. “Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is like Antifa’s Quran,” one 4channer wrote. “They follow his rules explicitly and inflexibly. Why not turn them back against them?” Everyone agreed that at the next scuffle they should spray female counterprotesters with silly string—an idea inspired by Alinsky’s Rule 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

“The Left is getting massively out-Alinskyed, and the hilarious thing is that this band of withered hippies, unemployable millennial safe-space cases, and unlovable + unshaven libfeminists don’t even know it,” wrote right-wing columnist Kurt Schlichter recently in TownHall. “Thank you, Andrew Breitbart. You yelled ‘Follow me!’ and led a movement that had previously been dominated by doofy wonks and bow-tied geeks over the top in a glorious bayonet charge against the paper tiger liberal elite.”

Begrudging respect for Alinsky and the leftist protest tactics he inspired is nothing new on the right; FreedomWorks, the Koch-funded political organization, reportedly handed out Rules for Radicals to tea party activists. But the alt-right appears to have really taken Alinsky’s strategic thinking to heart—or at least when they are not just straight-up hyping their next opportunity to beat the hell out of some antifa.

“A lot of the strategy of this site is based on it,” Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, wrote in September, urging his followers to read the book. In November, another neo-Nazi site, The Right Stuff, published a detailed analysis of Alinsky’s rules, concluding that “the Alt-Right is already in something of an unholy alliance with (((Alinsky))).” (The “echo” parenthesis are used by white supremacists to single out Jews.)

Far-right provocateur Gavin McInnes, whose “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys were among those who waged bloody fights with antifa in Berkeley, described Alinsky to me as “an immoral human being”—but nevertheless professed to be a student of his writings. “This isn’t us taking on a brilliant book because we admire the guy,” he told me. “It’s us seeing what your tactics are and using them against you.”

Nowhere has that strategy more clearly been on display than in Berkeley, where supporters of Trump-boosting media provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter have gleefully taken their cue from the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. Although the University of California-Berkeley canceled each of their planned speeches over mounting security concerns—exacerbated by the mayhem around Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance in March—officials worked to reschedule Coulter’s speech. She declined. On Monday, conservative student groups filed suit against the university, arguing that canceling Coulter’s talk violated their free-speech rights. Then Coulter vowed to show up anyway. Then she vowed not to come—on Wednesday the New York Times reported she was out. “Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” Coulter declared. (Alinsky’s Rule 4: “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.”) Then she told Fox News that she might still come: “I think I am still going to Berkeley, but there will be no speech.”

Though most of Alinsky’s devotees on the left eschew violence and laud, as he did, the passive resistance techniques of Mahatma Gandhi and the civil rights movement, his writings are not necessarily inconsistent with the alt-right’s and antifa’s embrace of street battles. “The future does not argue for making a special religion of nonviolence,” he wrote. “It will be remembered for what it was, the best tactic for its time and place.”

The alt-right’s repeated physical clashes with counterprotesters in Berkeley and elsewhere represent an evolution in tactics for what had been mostly an online movement. They also dovetail with the alt-right’s penchant for generating viral memes: An image of Kyle Chapman (a.k.a. Based Stick Man) pummeling an antifa counterprotester in Berkeley made him an alt-right celebrity and led to the birth of his own anti-antifa Proud Boys militia group, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights. (Chapman was arrested in Berkeley in mid April on an outstanding warrant for battery.) Thanks to additional publicity whipped up by Coulter, discussion and planning for the next Berkeley showdown has consumed 4chan since last week, with more than 100 recent posts dedicated to the subject, including talk of busing people in from around the country. No one seems deterred by Coulter’s waffling. “Folks are still going to Berkeley as a protest against the Domestic Terrorist Organization known as BAMN,” began one 4chan thread on Wednesday. “Spread the word. This changes nothing.”

“She’s apparently still going,” said another 4channer, “so we’re still on to bash some Antifa.”

“Regardless of Ann Couture’s (sic) decision,” Chapman wrote on Facebook, “we will have our rally. We will go back to MLK Civic Center Park and stand against these demons.”

“The whole idea of having Trump/free speech rallies in Berkeley is the historic nature of it,” a 4channer wrote earlier this month. “In 1968 the free speech movement happened in Berkeley to support communism. Now it is happening again in 2017 to support anti-communism, in hostile territory. It’s a battle on the front lines and the lefties help us make fun memes for the ages.” (Alinsky’s Rule 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”)

Activists on the right have much less experience than leftists with turning street protests into media tools. The civil rights, anti-war, and Occupy movements rose to prominence with the spread of photographs and videos documenting police brutality against protesters, from the use of fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, to pepper spray by a police officer at the University of California-Davis. The viral video of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer getting punched is a relatively rare example of the radical left celebrating violence. Yet for the meme-makers of the far right, humiliating their rivals by presenting their street brawlers as physically dominant is the preferred theme: “We’re just braver, and that makes for better jokes,” says McInnes. “The left are the new Church ladies. They’ve been sheltered in their own bubble for so long, they don’t know fun.”

An alt-right meme based on the Damigo punching video

Few people on the far-right have done more to turn the ideas of the left against it than Yiannopoulos, who enjoyed a rising career of co-opting “identity politics” in the interest of white males, before a pedophilia scandal knocked him from his perch. On Friday, he doubled down on the strategy of appropriating leftist concepts, announcing that he will host a “free speech week” this year that may include “a tent city on UC-Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza.” The idea repurposes an approach last seen on a large scale in 2011 at UC Berkeley and other university campuses in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street—but this time, in service of the right to say nasty things about women, people of color, and Muslims.

Which points directly to another Alinskyism that the alt-right is now testing: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” As one proponent of the idea explained on the neo-Nazi site The Right Stuff: “We want to get to the point where being labeled by the establishment as a racist, sexist, or antisemite (sic) is a sign of having done something correct.”

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How Ann Coulter and the Far Right Are Using the Lefty Playbook to Troll Berkeley

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This Clever Legal Strategy Could Take Down the Officer Who Shot Laquan McDonald

Mother Jones

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Last Thursday, prosecutors announced that Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is facing new criminal charges in the fatal October 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm—one count, apparently, for each bullet he fired at McDonald. Van Dyke had previously been indicted on charges of first-degree murder and misconduct in office. Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon filed the new indictment—which included the original charges—to replace the first one.

All of which begs a few questions: Why would prosecutors charge Van Dyke separately for each bullet he fired? How common are these kinds of charges in shooting cases? And how likely is it that a jury will buy the argument that Van Dyke committed 16 separate felonies?

To get some answers, I reached out to Robert Milan, previously the No. 2 prosecutor in the state’s attorney’s office for Cook County, which includes Chicago. Milan has personally tried more than 100 shooting cases, he says, and “I’ve never seen charges shot by shot.”

Prosecutors, he says, may have filed the aggravated assault charges to preempt the defense’s inevitable argument that Van Dyke had the authority to use deadly force to protect himself and others, or to prevent McDonald—who was wielding a knife and had reportedly attempted to break into cars—from committing a violent felony.

Jurors would consider the battery charges in addition to (not in place of) first-degree murder. So prosecutors could ask the judge to instruct the jury to consider Van Dyke’s self-defense claim only for the bullets he fired before McDonald fell to the ground, on the grounds that the claim no longer applied after McDonald was down.

“If Van Dyke gets the total defense instruction for the entire act, I’m sure prosecutors are concerned that it covers all 16 shots,” Milan said. But “if the judge buys it, and Van Dyke doesn’t get that instruction, then that defense goes flying out the window for those shots. I really think that’s what they’re doing here.”

Which means, even if jurors find Van Dyke not guilty of murder and not guilty of the battery charges attached to the first few bullets, they could still potentially convict him on battery charges for the later bullets. The prosecutor’s strategy seems tailored to counter the special consideration a police office usually receives in shooting cases: “He’s covering his bases. Doing what a good prosecutor would do.”

Van Dyke’s attorneys have tried to get the charges in the original indictment thrown out on the grounds that former Chicago prosecutor Anita Alvarez had tainted the grand jury process with “irregularities.” Alvarez—who lost a re-election bid last year in part because of voter dissatisfaction with her handling of the case—was under pressure to secure an indictment against Van Dyke. She filed the charges in November 2015, just hours before the city—under court order—released police footage of the shooting.

Van Dyke’s next court hearing is scheduled for April 20. His attorneys say they intend to file a motion to have the new charges dismissed. Milan says they may argue that Van Dyke should be charged with only one count of battery, since the 16 bullets were part of a single incident—but the judge is unlikely to oblige. “Bottom line is you have this videotape showing what took place. The burden is not high to get somebody indicted and to lay it out there,” Milan says. “I don’t see this case getting dismissed prior to trial.”

If Van Dyke were convicted of multiple battery counts, the sentences—ranging anywhere from 6 to 30 years in Illinois state prison—could be served concurrently. Milan won’t speculate on how a jury might rule, but he agrees that if the prosecutor’s strategy succeeds, it could easily spread to police shooting cases in other places.

Caution: This video of the shooting, while relevant, is graphic and disturbing.

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This Clever Legal Strategy Could Take Down the Officer Who Shot Laquan McDonald

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Trump’s Plan to Make America Great Again Using Cheap Foreign Labor

Mother Jones

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At Porterville Citrus, an orange harvesting and packing operation in California’s Tulare Valley, CEO Jim Phillips has been growing increasingly nervous over the past five years. He’s found it harder and harder to marshal enough local workers to pick his oranges on time—up to 20 percent of the fruit has been left to rot on the trees. This year he decided not to take any chances. He hired a contractor to supply his company with 120 Mexican guestworkers under the H-2A farmworker visa program. “It is a little bit more expensive,” he says, “but the quality and reliability is worth something to us. We know we can get the product harvested.”

Only about 4 percent of America’s 2.5 million farmworkers in 2015 came in on temporary visas—most of the rest were undocumented—but these numbers are poised to skyrocket if President Donald Trump carries out his promises to build a border wall and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. Trump has signaled that he wants to cut red tape in the H-2A program, but farmworkers’ advocates fear a loosening of the rules could make guestworkers even more vulnerable to potential labor abuses than they already are. “The H-2 programs are inherently problematic,” says Bruce Goldstein, president of a nonprofit called Farmworker Justice, because the workers “tend not to want to challenge unfair or illegal conduct—and there are a lot of violations.”

Despite campaigning on the unsettled claim that immigrants depress wages and compete with American citizens for jobs, Trump has embraced the use of temporary foreign workers. He has used low-wage guestworkers himself at Mar-a-Lago, and his son Eric petitioned the Labor Department in recent months to import 29 H-2A workers to tend his Virginia winery. Trump’s transition teams for the departments of Labor and Agriculture are stacked with members of trade groups and right-wing think tanks who support guestworker programs.

A draft executive order leaked to the press last month called for “efficient processing” of H-2A visas. The order “does suggest an interest in modernizing the H-2A program, which we would welcome,” says Jason Resnick, a vice-president of Western Growers, whose CEO serves on Trump’s agricultural advisory board. “We think the administration is well aware of the importance of the H-2A program to agriculture, so we are optimistic that there will be proposals forthcoming to make the program more efficient and streamlined and less costly and burdensome.”

The number of H-2A visas has roughly doubled since 2011 as it stands, driven by what farmers say are chronic labor shortages. The children of aging farmhands gravitate toward higher-paying work, and stricter border enforcement and an improving Mexican economy means fewer immigrant workers are available. Some farmers have turned to mechanization to hold down labor costs, but harvesting California’s fresh fruits and vegetables often requires a human touch. Western Growers says the crews of its farmer members are 20 percent understaffed.

Before hiring guestworkers, farmers have to show that they can’t find enough Americans to do the work at the “adverse effect wage,” which is basically the average wage in a given state for a given type of farm work. “US workers are not applying to take those H-2A jobs,” says Western Growers’ Resnick. “The ones that do generally don’t last a week, let alone the whole season.”

Some labor advocates say the shortages are a product of inferior wages. They point to Christopher Ranch, a 4,000-acre farm in Gilroy, California, which at the end of last year was short 50 workers it needed to peel and package garlic. In January, the company announced that it would raise its farmhand wage from $11 to $13 an hour—an 18 percent increase—and boost it to $15 in 2018. Soon it had a waitlist of 150 people. “I knew the pay raise would help,” ranch VP Ken Christopher told the Los Angeles Times, “but I had no idea it would solve our labor problem.”

But farmers insist they can’t pay wages high enough to attract non-immigrants. Labor economists tend to agree: “I don’t think we will ever get US workers in the field, period,” says P.L. Martin, a professor emeritus of agriculture and resource economics at UC-Davis. In America, he says, labor makes up about 40 percent of the cost of producing fresh fruits and vegetables, and that puts the farmers at a disadvantage to foreign rivals paying lower wages. But in less-competitive sectors—fresh-picked strawberries, fresh lettuce, etc—farmers could afford to pay more, according to a 2010 USDA report Martin co-authored.

In any case, H-2A workers are typically viewed as a last resort by American farmers, who must pay the cost of transporting and housing them. They cannot easily adjust an H-2A workforce according to a farm’s day-to-day needs—and they can’t employ any guestworker for more than three years at a time. There is one advantage, though: “We really can control the quality of the harvesting even better than we can with our local farm labor contractors,” says Phillips of Porterville Citrus. “Nobody is being overbearing, but if the workers are not productive, they can be sent back. So their incentive is to do a good job.”

Which is okay so long as the boss is fair. But the imbalance of power can also enable horrific abuses. A 2015 investigation by BuzzFeed found that thousands of H-2 visa holders had been badly exploited: deprived of fair pay, imprisoned, starved, beaten, raped, and threatened with deportation if they complained. And guestworkers seldom report labor abuses. When they do, advocates say, they lack the resources to fight for restitution. Former Rep. Charles Rangel once attacked the H-2 program as “the closest thing I’ve ever seen to slavery.”

The United States last experimented with large-scale use of guestworkers during WWII, when Mexican braceros labored on American farms. Approximately 200,000 braceros entered the United States each year between 1948 and 1964, according to historian Mae M. Ngai. On paper, the program offered legal protections for workers, just as the H-2A program does today, but abuses were common—a study by the Pan American Union noted that “workers who complain are regarded as agitators and shipped back to Mexico.”

Any plan to bring in more guestworkers will likely face resistance from left-leaning labor groups and right-wing nativists alike. Breitbart News has written critically about the use of H-2As, as well as H-2B visas for non-agricultural workers. As a senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions voted against a bill to loosen restrictions on the H-2A program.

Yet guestworkers do have a certain appeal on the right. “You are probably going to see more reliance on it, which is better than just allowing employers to hire people who come across the border illegally,” says Ira Mehlman, media director for a group called Federation for American Immigration Reform. “It eliminates some of the exploitation that comes just with the widespread hiring of illegal aliens.”

Worker advocates were less sanguine. Employers control the guestworkers’ visas, making it very difficult for the workers to switch jobs. And while undocumented immigrants tend to migrate to places where they have friends and family, guestworkers often live in remote areas without support networks. “It should be that they are significantly better protected” than undocumented immigrants “and have access to better jobs, and that’s what the migrants come in expecting,” says Cathleen Caron, the founder of a farmworker advocacy group called Justice in Motion. But “in the end, everybody gets exploited equally.”

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Trump’s Plan to Make America Great Again Using Cheap Foreign Labor

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The Making of Rock and Roll’s First Trans Superstar

Mother Jones

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Governors Ball, New York City, June 2016. Jordan Uhl/Flickr Creative Commons

Laura Jane Grace, the 36-year-old frontwoman of the punk band Against Me!, is no longer surprised by the secrets her fans reveal to her. Whether it’s the transgender girls at shows confiding that they had planned to kill themselves until they discovered her music, or the men who resent her for “deceiving” them when she came out in 2012, one of the strangest parts of life as rock and roll’s first trans superstar—the band just kicked off a national tour with Green Day—is the way Grace has become not just a role model but a therapist to many of the thousands of people who buy her albums.

Sometimes she’s a target. “I think you’re an amazing person,” one grammatically challenged man wrote to her on Facebook this past July:

But you’re sending a horrible message to younger generations…I wanted to do porn my whole life, but my dick wasn’t big enough. You can’t run from who you are. You can change your physical appearance. But when you’re dead the autopsy report wont lie. You can call me an asshole, say I don’t get it. I’ve come…to terms with being a short white dude with an average penis-size.

Grace showed me this message on her iPhone at Kinfolk, a cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as we sipped Ethiopian coffees and chatted over the percussive drub of jazzy trip-hop. Grace has long sleeves of tattoos, waist-length auburn hair, and a wide, easy grin that spreads across her face whether she’s talking about the harassment she’s received, her discomfort about being a role model, or why she doesn’t want her mother to read her recent memoir, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, co-written with music journalist Dan Ozzi. “It’s not because I’m trans,” she says, flashing that charming grin. “My mom has been the most supportive person in the world. It’s because of all the booze and weed and drugs.”

Tranny is indeed a messy account of sex, brawls, and bad decisions, with enough cocaine in its pages to make Keith Richards blanche. But what saves these foibles from being mere rock clichés is that, as Grace tells it, for nearly half of her 36 years on Earth—15 of them as the singer of Against Me!—she’s relied on these vices to hide her gender dysphoria and her depression from the world and from herself.

Grace is hardly the most famous person to come out as trans in recent years. She joins a growing group of women including Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and Hari Nef who have carved out a space in the American cultural imagination as trans role models. But at a time when the rights of transgender people are under attack by the Trump administration, Grace’s refusal to conform to conservative or liberal clichés about her experience has cemented her role as a uniquely complex—and sympathetic—figure.

Her willingness to detail her transition process without hedging or hiding its complications has earned her a loyal fan base among young people hungry for a hero who is tough enough to push back against right-wing antipathy but honest enough to reveal the suffering that has accompanied her journey. “I felt terrible getting up on stage—like, This is embarrassing,” Grace recalls of her first solo tour as a woman back in 2013. “Meanwhile, I was going back to my hotel room every night and trying to kill myself with Ambien and vodka.”

While navigating her gender identity has sometimes put her through hell, it has also added pathos to her art. “You want them to notice / The ragged ends of your summer dress,” Grace sings on “Transgendered Dysphoria Blues,” from her 2014 album of the same name. “You want them to see you/Like they see every other girl./They just see a faggot.”

Grace’s handling of shame and rejection in her songs is delicate, but when she talks about politics—especially Trump’s politics—she’s unforgiving. “There’s something…evil about an administration actively going out and trying to take away rights,” she told Rolling Stone recently. “There’s just something that much more fucked up about going out of your way to be like, ‘We’re taking that protection away from you.'”

Grace’s birth certificate still reads “Thomas James Gabel.” She asked her mom to mail it to her last May, after North Carolina legislators passed House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill,” which also stripped the state’s workers of anti-discrimination protections. (Similar bills have been proposed in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Texas since the election.) Onstage in Durham a week later, she took out a yellow Bic lighter and torched the document, gleefully shouting, “Goodbye, gender!”

Grace grew up mostly in south Florida, the wild child of a military man and, after he left the family, an indulgent single mother who called her ill-behaved boy “Tom Tom Atom Bomb.” After her dad remarried a much younger woman, Tom Tom Atom Bomb’s antics exploded into full-grown juvenile delinquency. She would skip school and spend days alone at home wearing her mom’s clothes, sipping Kahlua, getting high or tripping, and listening to Madonna and Guns ‘N’ Roses. “When I smoked weed or dropped acid,” she says, “what seemed like a fantasy became more real.”

At the age of 13, in a modern twist on the myth of Robert Johnson and the devil at the crossroads, Grace donned her mom’s wedding dress, and while swigging Miller High Life and messing around on her guitar in her basement, she half-jokingly beckoned to Satan: “Please, please let me wake up a woman.” Satan paid no heed, but her jam sessions brought about the first iteration of Against Me!, consisting of Grace on acoustic guitar and vocals and a childhood friend, Kevin Mahon, whacking on a plastic bucket.

With protest songs that sounded like a deranged fusion of Anal Cunt and Woody Guthrie, they became an unlikely hit on the East Coast DIY punk circuit, touring relentlessly in a Ford Econoline van. But when Against Me! signed with Fat Wreck Chords, a small but profitable San Francisco indie label, punk rock purists turned on the duo for supposedly cashing in—the zine Maximum RocknRoll even urged its readers to sabotage their shows.

“People tried to take the instruments out of our hands while we were playing,” Grace writes in Tranny. “They threw stink bombs at us on stage, they poured bleach all over our merch, our van became a traveling canvas for their graffiti.” The puritanical demand for some vague sort of authenticity foreshadowed similar demands from her future transphobic fans—and Grace’s willingness to fight back. At a café venue in Tallahassee, Grace assaulted a man who’d defaced an Against Me! flyer by scribbling “sell out” over her face. As the police escorted her to jail, she saw that staffers had changed the marquis to read: “Tallahassee Punks: 1, Against Me: 0.”

When Grace came out as transgender in a 2012 Rolling Stone profile, it wasn’t just the fulfillment of her deal with the devil; it also provided a fresh opportunity to find a new fan base. “There was a very real emotional block on my side that was always there,” she recalls. Coming out “meant the ending of a lot of relationships, but as far as being in a band and being happy in a band, it worked.”

Yet coming out also brought a new set of problems. Heather Gabel, Grace’s second wife, walked out on her in 2014 because they had grown apart and she was “attracted to men, not women,” Grace told Rolling Stone. The couple’s daughter, then five, pleaded with Grace, “Will you go back to being my daddy?” Onstage, Grace felt pushed to “demonstrate some kind of physical change” to her audiences—”even though I’d been on hormones for a month.” All the pressures culminated in those late-night Ambien and vodka binges. “I found myself feeling like I went from this box, and now I’m in this box and it’s just as suffocating,” Grace tells me. “If I wanted to make a decision like plastic surgery, I should do it because I want to do it, not because I want to please someone.”

“When I look in the mirror, I still feel extreme dysphoria,” Grace adds. “Before I went to bed last night I wrote in my journal, ‘I look like a corpse.’ Not a good-looking corpse either.”

Amid Grace’s depression, in February 2016, at a show at Brooklyn’s Silent Barn, a 15-year-old trans boy named Lee walked up and handed Grace a letter. “Hello Laura,” it began, “if you’re reading this, thank you so much. I’m sorry I’m so anxious, but can you please help me tell my dad I’m not a girl?”

Standing alongside Lee—who has feathery dyed-pink bangs and thick glasses—was his father, Joe, who’d accompanied him to the show. Joe, a former police officer, had no idea his biological daughter identified as a transgender boy. After reading the note, Grace, who hadn’t spoken to her own dad in three years, turned to Joe and delivered the news. Lee stood there in awe of his hero. Joe looked stunned. “Let’s all go in for a hug,” Grace said, extending her arms.

“This culture is still foreign to me,” Joe tells me seven months later. We’re at Rough Trade Records in Brooklyn, a cavernous boutique just two blocks from the café where Grace and I had coffee. Joe and Lee are here to see Against Me! for the fifth time in the past year and a half. It’s a daytime record-release bash for Shape Shift With Me, the band’s latest. Lee has already memorized the lyrics after hearing an early release on NPR. He and Joe listened to it together that morning on the train from Poughkeepsie. “That’s all she’s been doing, listening to that album,” Joe says.

Daaad!” Lee says, rolling his blue eyes and slapping a hand to his forehead.

“That’s all he’s been doing,” Joe corrects himself, matter-of-factly.

Lee and Joe walk together into a dank back room containing a stage, a bar housed in a shipping container (earplugs: $10), and about 100 fans—many of them young androgynous kids with septum piercings, rainbow hair, black hoodies. “I’m Dante,” one 15-year-old tells me, “but soon I’ll be Zoe. Laura Jane Grace really helped me come out as trans to my family.”

Several other tweens offer variations on the message. Onstage, an amplifier case still bears the faded stencil of Grace’s birth name: GABEL. “What the heck?” I hear another fan say. “I don’t like that.”

Then the band appears. Against Me! is a four-piece now, but for these kids it may as well be a solo act. Clad in Doc Martens, black skinny jeans, and a black sleeveless T-shirt, Grace shoulders her tutone Rickenbacker and steps into a moonbeam of pink fluorescent light. Her hair flies skyward with a head toss. “Let’s play some mid-afternoon rock and roll,” she says into the mic.

The scene is a nice reminder that, for all the attention paid to her trans status, Grace’s most important transformation is from citizen to performer. Wasn’t it on stages like this one, after all, that gender-bending rebels from David Bowie and Boy George to the New York Dolls and Jayne County paved the way for the straight world to get over its hang-ups? And might it also be on stages like this where queer and trans folks find the strength to weather whatever storms may lie ahead? “The only place I’ve ever felt comfortable,” Grace put it to me before the show, “is onstage.”

Cymbals explode, guitars squall, bass rumbles, and the room erupts into dance as Against Me! launches into its first song. Lee is up front, at Laura’s feet, mouthing along to all the lyrics. His pink bangs bounce in 4/4 time and his friend, a trans girl named Zero, hugs him. Joe looks at Lee, then up at Grace, then back to his son, and he grins proudly.

“I just want everyone to feel comfortable,” Grace tells the audience after finishing “Boyfriend,” a song on the new album. “Whatever your gender identity, your sexual orientation, whatever, I just want everyone to feel at home here.” She then breaks into her anthem, “True Trans Soul Rebel,” howling: “Yet to be born, you’re already dead/You sleep with a gun beside you in bed/You follow it through to the obvious end/Slit your veins wide open.”

The room is in a frenzy, oblivious to the darkness of her message, or perhaps buoyed by its unabashed expression. And that’s when the power, and the poignancy, of Grace’s talent hits me: She’s uniquely adept at making others feel good about who they are, and yet she hasn’t figured out how to do the same for herself.

“Who’s gonna take you home tonight?” Grace sings finally, her auburn hair obscuring that gentle grin before she walks off the stage and into the New York City afternoon. “Who’s gonna take you home?”

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The Making of Rock and Roll’s First Trans Superstar

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Everyone on Capitol Hill Needs to Go Backpacking ASAP

Mother Jones

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Getting out into the wild is restorative. Fresh air, natural sounds and settings, a spot of exercise: It tends to free our mind, bring down our stress levels, and, with any luck, give us a break from work. The converse is also true. Excessive urban noise, for example, stresses us out and can wreak havoc on our psyches. These are things we know just based on everyday experience.

Author and journalist Florence Williams, whose last book was Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, takes this knowledge way further in a new book that focuses on the science behind the health-wilderness link. For The Nature Fix, which hits bookstores this week, Williams bounced around the planet talking to naturalists, scientists, and government workers to get to the bottom of our complex relationship with our environment, which turns out to be both intensely physical and psychological.

I reached out to Williams to talk about the science—and why our government is in desperate need of a monthlong camping trip.

Mother Jones: You write about something called “biophilia.” What is that and why is it important?

Florence Williams: Biophilia is a concept popularized by Harvard biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson that humans are deeply and instinctively bonded to living systems. It’s important because modern life has made us forget this. We think we are separate from nature, and we often treat the natural world as if that were the case. Our essential amnesia of biophilia has devastating consequences for both us and the natural world. Wilson believes that although the bond is instinctual, it must be cultivated from childhood or we lose it. If we really care about the future of our planet, we need start reconnecting little kids to nature. Unfortunately, many schools, neighborhoods and ever-tempting new technologies are moving kids in the opposite direction.

MJ: We’ve always known intuitively that nature has restorative effects, hence a turn in the countryside, but you really dug in. What surprised you?

FW: I figured being in beautiful environments would be good for our mood and mental health, but I wasn’t expecting the evidence that it also improves our attention and cognition. I was also kind of blown away by the so-called “awe studies” that show that when we experience even little shots of awe, like a sunset or an unexpected butterfly, it can make us actually more compassionate and generous. I have this new plan that we need to line the halls of Congress with potted ficuses and unleash some butterflies.

MJ: A lot of the health aspects of our exposure to nature seems to involve reducing our stress levels. Is there much else to it?

FW: There’s some debate about the mechanisms by which time in nature makes us feel better. It reduces our stress levels, but why? Some argue it’s because of the way information enters our brains. In ordinary life, we suffer from an onslaught of stimuli that taxes our frontal cortex, especially, leading to fatigue and a kind of general grumpiness. When we’re in nature, the frontal lobes get a break, and other parts of our brains get turned on, like parts governing empathy and daydreaming and self-concept.

Another theory is just that, hey, our nervous systems evolved in nature, not in Euclidean concrete cityscapes, and it just makes us feel good to be back in the green and the blue and the environments that sustained us for millions of years. Yet another piece of it is that being outside facilitates a lot of other effective happy-making things, like exercise and hanging out with fun people and seeing beauty. We can get those things in a city, too, but nature provides them for free and for all.

MJ: There’s a growing body of science supporting these health effects, but it seems like foreign scientists and governments are more serious about this stuff and more willing to act on it than Americans. What’s your theory on this?

FW: A lot of the countries I looked at have socialized medicine. It saves the system a lot of money to put some resources into preventing stress-related diseases and it increases worker productivity in the long run. As a psychologist in Finland told me, there just aren’t enough skilled workers to keep burning through them, like so many industries do in the US. So they invest in the workers, even giving them spa time and hiking days in the woods, so that they’ll keep working. And, oh yeah, they get a year off for parental leave—but don’t even get me started on that.

MJ: Tell me a bit about ways governments have taken action on this science, such as the “healing forests” of Japan and Korea.

FW: Japan has designated some 48 forest-therapy trails, mostly used by Tokyoites, who take the trains out of town and decompress from their demanding lives. South Korea now has three entire healing forests and another couple dozen planned. In both countries, healing rangers offer low-cost programs in stress management for everyone from firefighters with PTSD to school bullies to cancer patients. South Korea has explicitly made “green well-being” part of its forest management plan. Researchers have found that time in the woods improves cardiovascular health as well as mental health, so they’re really promoting it.

MJ: Richard Conniff wrote us an interesting piece a while back about how America’s national parks were inspired by Madison Grant, a prominent racist. To what extent is access to nature a social justice issue as it applies to public health?

FW: Madison Grant may have helped inspire the national parks, but so did Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted is well known for his love of boulders and big elms, but less known for his radical ideas about public space—especially green space—and democracy. He had toured the slave-holding South as a journalist and promoted the idea of parks as a mixing pot for the great American experiment. He understood that all men and women need to de-stress from the pressures of crowded and increasingly urban life. These notions are now back in vogue, and I don’t think there’s an environmental group out there—or a land-managing federal agency, or a kids’ health group—that isn’t looking at diversity in the outdoors as a core tenet. I’m really heartened by the efforts of groups like Outdoor Afro and GirlTrek and the scouting groups and a ton of others to improve access to nature for urban kids. And when the kids drag their parents outside, the benefits reach into their communities.

MJ: You also wrote a recent piece for Mother Jones, on how noise, which is defined as unwanted sound, appears to have significant negative effects on human health and learning capacity. Part of the equation is how sensitive a person is to noise. So what can a noise-sensitive urban dweller do? Is there a way to make peace with the leaf blowers or with the death metal our annoying housemates insist on blasting day and night?

FW: I wish that were true. I think once you’re bothered by noise, you’re probably always bothered by noise. The best we can hope for is to change up our personal soundscapes by wearing noise-canceling headphones, playing some nice birdsong or whatever music, and soundproofing your work space. Beyond that, we need to just get the heck out of dodge once in a while to recover some equanimity.

Florence Williams

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Everyone on Capitol Hill Needs to Go Backpacking ASAP

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Here’s the Hell Trump’s Order Created for Refugees Overseas

Mother Jones

For thousands of US-bound refugees worldwide, President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” has thrown their future into question. Now that refugees are not allowed to come to the United States for 120 days—and Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely—resettlement workers are scrambling to figure out what will happen to these people fleeing war, persecution, and disaster in their home countries.

Trump’s executive order affects both refugees in the middle of the screening process and those already approved for resettlement in the United States, according to Sarah Krause, senior director of immigration and refugee programs for Church World Service, which operates one of the nine global resettlement support centers for US-bound refugees. “For someone to get referral to the US refugee admissions program is a feat,” says Krause, whose organization helped with the resettlement of more than 14,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States last year. “For them to have made it through the process and been approved is even more incredible. That they have gone through all of that and we are now shutting the door on them is unconscionable.”

In addition to its temporary freeze on resettlement, the order caps total incoming refugees for the 2017 fiscal year at 50,000 people—less than half of what the Obama administration had planned. Nearly 26,000 have already been resettled. For the 872 refugees already set to travel to the United States this week—not including those from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen—the government has granted a temporary grace period. Those refugees will be allowed to enter the country until Friday. For those scheduled to enter the United States after Friday, their flights have been canceled.

Here’s what Krause sees as the most pressing issues facing the refugees left behind by Trump’s order:

People have been left without housing or their possessions. “These are individuals who, in many cases, have already sold their belongings in order to have some money upon entering to the United States,” Krause says. “Many of them knew their final destination—the cities to which they would be resettled. In Kenya, refugees coming from the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps are brought into Nairobi prior to their departure for the United States. There they stay at the International Organization for Migration transfer center, where they receive predeparture medical screenings as well as cultural orientation, where they learn about life in the United States. Currently, there are over 120 refugees in the IOM transfer center who were expecting to board flights this week and who are now being told they will be sent back to the camp. For those refugees, they have already given up their shelters to new refugee arrivals, and sold their belongings. Their future is very uncertain.”

Refugees already approved for US entry may need to restart parts of the resettlement process—a delay of months or years. “Their cases remain in processing,” she says. “Some of their clearances will expire during this 120-day period and will need to be re-requested. There are checks that are requested by the resettlement support centers: security opinions, interagency checks, as well as fingerprints. It is a challenge to line all those clearances up, which means the window for departure is very small. Once that window closes, it’s difficult to open again.”

Refugees from the seven banned countries were left stranded. “For those that had already been booked for travel, their flights have been canceled,” Krause says. “Processing has essentially halted. They are not in their home country, they’re in countries of asylum, and the conditions in those countries are often very difficult. Some refugees make it to urban centers but live on very little and are not permitted by the countries in which they’re residing to work. Others are living in camps with hundreds of thousands of other people. Our Somali refugees—most of them have been in exile since 1990. You have generations of Somalis that have never been to Somalia.”

Officials are trying to prioritize refugees in particularly dangerous circumstances. The executive order allows for some refugees to be admitted on a case-by-case basis, Krause says. “We’re working with the Department of State to compile a list of the most vulnerable cases, although at this point the process for seeking exemptions is not yet clear. This is a life-saving program, and a delay of even a day for some cases could mean death in a case of extreme medical need or protection issues. There are some who are being moved from safe house to safe house by UNHCR because they are being hunted by their persecutors. I know of a gay Somali man who is currently in a safe house and who has been attacked. He is one of those cases in our pipeline.”

But for others, there’s little hope of finding another home now that the United States has shut its doors. “For those for whom we don’t believe exemptions can be sought, or it may take too long, we will look at pulling those cases out and giving them back to UNHCR for referral to another resettlement country. While the US accepts less than 1 percent of the world’s refugee population, we take more than any other. So it is unlikely that any other countries will have the capacity to take those that we cannot. And other countries have their own processes. That will take time.”

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Here’s the Hell Trump’s Order Created for Refugees Overseas

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Fox News Retracts Tweets Implying Quebec City Mass Shooter Was Muslim

Mother Jones

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Fox News has retracted and apologized for three tweets misidentifying the suspect in the massacre at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday night as a Moroccan.

Quebec authorities initially indicated on Monday that they had two suspects in custody, but soon clarified that the sole suspect in the killings was a white Canadian man. Although Fox News updated its story with that information on Monday, the network’s erroneous tweets remained online, pointing to a person identified by authorities as Mohamed el Khadir as the perpetrator. In fact, the sole suspect in the attack was 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, who was reported to be a right-wing extremist and vocal supporter of Donald Trump.

A day after Mother Jones first reported on the erroneous Fox News tweets—which collectively were retweeted thousands of times before their removal—the director of communications for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent an email to Fox News calling for a retraction and rebuking the network for allowing “false and misleading language” to continue circulating:

These tweets by Fox News dishonour the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities.

We need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe and united instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities. Muslims are predominantly the greatest victims of terrorist acts around the world. To paint terrorists with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims is not just ignorant — it is irresponsible.

(See the full text of the email from Trudeau’s communications director, Kate Purchase, in her timeline.)

In a statement emailed to Mother Jones, the managing director of FoxNews.com, Refet Kaplan, said: “FoxNews.com initially corrected the misreported information with a tweet and an update to the story on Monday. The earlier tweets have now been deleted. We regret the error.”

The earliest information to emerge as a mass shooting unfolds almost always contains inaccuracies, a well-known fact in newsrooms. Two of the Fox News tweets highlighting the unconfirmed identity of the shooter as a Moroccan were posted on its primary account, which has 13 million followers, and remained online for more than a day. A third tweet, posted on anchor Bret Baier’s Twitter feed for his show “Special Report,” was removed on Wednesday morning. It had circulated widely since Monday, after being retweeted by Donald Trump Jr. (See all three tweets here.)

On his show Monday night, Baier appeared to remain focused on the shooting suspect as a Moroccan—even after his own correspondent reported otherwise on the air.

“Bret, in the aftermath of this attack there was a great deal of confusion and contradictory reports,” said Fox correspondent David Lee Miller, reporting from Quebec City. “Initially it was said that there were two shooters. Now authorities are saying there was only one, and just a short time ago the suspect was brought into court. He is identified as Alexandre Bissonnette.” Miller described Bissonnette’s age and the murder charges brought against him. Then he added: “We are told he had been a student at a local university here, and that he had what are described as extreme right-wing views.”

Miller also went on to say that the mosque had previously faced anti-Muslim harassment, including reports of it being vandalized with swastikas and the delivery of a pig’s head to the building last summer.

After Miller’s reporting of all these details, Baier responded:

“And just to be clear, David Lee, one of them is Moroccan? Do we know anything more about the background?”

Miller again emphasized that el Khadir had by then been identified as a witness to the shooting, not a suspect: “The man described as the Moroccan was someone who was worshiping inside the mosque when the gunfire erupted.”

“OK, that’s a good point to make,” said Baier.

Watch the full segment here:

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

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Fox News Retracts Tweets Implying Quebec City Mass Shooter Was Muslim

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