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Trump Fundraiser Offered Russian Gas Company Plan to Get Sanctions Lifted for $26 Million

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Pay to play, and a reason for (and example of) collusion and corrupt intent. Ryan Grim and Alex Emmons report in the Intercept:

SHORTLY AFTER PRESIDENT Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Broidy is a Trump associate who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. But in February 2017, when he laid out his lobbying proposal for Novatek, he was acting as a well-connected businessman and longtime Republican donor in a bid to help the Russian company avoid sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The 2014 sanctions were aimed at punishing Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.

Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board. Yet even as he offered those services, Broidy was adamant that his company, Fieldcrest Advisors LLC, would not perform lobbying services but would hire others to do it. He suggested that parties to the deal sign a sweeping non-disclosure agreement that would shield their work from public scrutiny.

The plan is outlined in a series of emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. Broidy and Baev did not dispute the authenticity of the exchanges but said the deal was never consummated.

In March, Bloomberg News reported that Broidy “offered last year to help a Moscow-based lawyer” — Baev — “get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.” The news outlet did not identify the Russian firms or provide details of that proposal.

“At the time when I was a partner of Chadbourne & Parke LLP I had very preliminary discussions with Elliott Broidy with regard to possible engagement of him as a strategic consultant with regard to a possible instruction by one of my corporate clients. This instruction has never materialized,” Baev told The Intercept in an email. “Nor did I or Chadbourne provide any services to any other individual or entity in connection with any attempt to remove any Russian company or an individual from the US sanctions list.”

Broidy told The Intercept through a spokesperson that Baev had approached him about the proposal, but that Broidy had decided not to go through with it for political reasons. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 3:16 pm

The Restaurant Industry Ran a Private Poll on the Minimum Wage. It Did Not Go Well for Them.

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Lisa Graves and Zaid Jilani report in the Intercept:

ONE OF THE nation’s most powerful anti-minimum wage lobbying groups tapped a longtime Republican pollster to survey the public about a range of issues impacting the industry.

A significant chunk of the survey focused on attitudes toward the minimum wage — and many members of the powerful lobby group aren’t going to like the results.

The poll — which was presented on a slide deck obtained by The Intercept and Documented — found that seven in 10 Americans want to see the minimum wage raised even if it means that they’d have to pay more for meals. It also found that the industry’s various talking points against raising the wage are mostly falling flat with the general public.

Conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz’s firm LuntzGlobal on behalf of the other NRA — the National Restaurant Association — the poll found that 71 percent of people surveyed support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

The NRA, which did not respond to a request for comment, is the trade association for the massive restaurant industry. It has estimated that restaurant sales reached $799 billion in 2017, up 4.3 percent over 2016, and boasts eight years of consecutive growth in revenue for U.S. restaurants.

“The restaurant industry now in the United States is larger than 90 percent of the world economies,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s Research and Knowledge group.

The NRA paid its CEO, Dawn Sweeney, more than $3.8 million in total compensation, including a bonus of $1.7 million. If her total compensation were computed hourly, it would amount to $1,867.88 per hour (as of four years ago), which would take a minimum-wage worker 247 hours, or six weeks of full-time work, to earn.

The NRA has long claimed that increasing the government wage floor would “ratchet up restaurants’ labor costs and result in thousands of jobs lost,” but these results show that the NRA’s rhetoric on the minimum wage is failing to move the American public. Indeed, as Democrats embrace a $15 per hour minimum wage ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign, the NRA is moving in the opposite direction.

Industry Messaging Backfiring

The leaked NRA poll is the first instance of a known national poll commissioned by the industry itself that shows how widely popular raising the minimum wage is and how small the opposition is, even though other published national surveys have shown a similar level of public support. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, including a chart that shows that 71% want the minimum wage even if the restaurant’s prices go up some to cover the expense.

One interesting point:

A small minority of those surveyed don’t care: Twenty-nine percent told the Luntz pollsters that they would not support raising the minimum wage “even if the average food service employee cannot make ends meet.” Twenty-nine percent of respondents also said they were most concerned about cost increases.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but 29% is very close to the percentage of voters that support Trump (through thick and thin). Maybe that’s the percentage of people who lack empathy and the spirit of a community working together for the benefit of all.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 2:35 pm

Denial by a different name

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Kate Aronoff reports in the Intercept:

IT CAN FEEL GOOD to make fun of climate deniers. So let’s take a little romp with one: Wolfgang Müller.

Here he is in a Dusseldorf hotel conference room, 100 people gathered to take a group photo before him. He’s distributing stemware and pouring champagne, at the 11th annual International Conference on Climate and Energy, a convening this past November of some of Europe’s pre-eminent denialist minds.

Given that this is Europe, it’s not a huge crowd. Müller and company fit the stereotype: cranks poking holes in scientific consensus, railing against the pointy-headed academics — often, though not in his case, with generous industry funding. This particular gathering is co-hosted by the European Institute for Climate and Energy, known as its German abbreviation EIKE; the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an American outfit; and a handful of smaller groups of self-identified climate skeptics.

It’s not hard to see why EIKE sits on the margins. In one presentation, a historical building preservationist argued that medieval building practices — castles with 2-foot-thick stone walls — were better suited to insulate heat than Germany’s apparently tyrannical energy efficiency standards, in a talk that included an extended, only half-joking anecdote involving sex and boar skins. A session on renewables pleads sympathy for wildlife; literature handed out by the presenter features a picture of a dead bird at the foot of a wind turbine. The sole caption, in German, asks: “Bird shredder?”

Billed as a “Contra-COP23,” it takes place about an hour’s train ride from COP23, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 23rd annual Conference of Parties talks in Bonn, where the world is vowing to redouble its efforts to combat climate change in spite of the spurning of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Back in Dusseldorf, it’s cause for celebration. For the camera, they toast: “To Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement!”

It is the patent impotence of Müller and his cohort that allows us to laugh at him. In the realm of international policymaking at the UNFCCC talks, he is far more than an hour from the main conversation, where climate change is universally acknowledged to exist, to be manmade, and to present one of humanity’s most pressing challenges — a fact that even right-wing heads of state rarely dispute.

Viewed close-up, the two sides and their competing conferences couldn’t look any less alike. Yet panning back and taking a longer and broader view — the one that actually matters to the health of the climate — the daylight between them shrinks.

Müller, at least, is honest about this denialism — even if he prefers the term “skeptic.”

Müller’s own scientific rationale may make no sense, but his conclusion is easy on the conscience: Relax, everything will be OK. Another version of that message is being marketed across COP23. As climate scientists call for a dramatic transformation of the world’s economy, a different set of deniers is starting to coalesce around something easier — plans to seemingly tackle climate change that may well still portend planetary catastrophe, even according to conservative climate projections. Unlike Müller, they’re at the center of the climate policymaking debate in Bonn. Like its predecessor events, exhibition halls at COP23 were dotted with stalls sponsored by fossil fuel companies proselytizing carbon capture and storage technology; international investment banks eager to discuss the central role of private finance in driving the new green revolution; industry-backed think tanks exploring the necessity of spraying particulates into the air to block out the sun. The solutions coming out of high-level talks don’t inspire much more confidence.

They peddle in a set of easy fixes: a market signal here, an industrial-grade aerosol there, and the crisis will be an artifact of history, with corporate shareholders better off for it.

If you believe that, then I have a clean coal plant to sell you.

AMERICA MAY WELL be the only country in the world where climate deniers making claims similar to Müller enjoy access to the reins of power. Given its status as the world’s largest economy and its second-largest polluter, that’s not something to be taken lightly; former EPA administrators estimate that the damage wrought by agency head Scott Pruitt in his first year could take three decades to repair. A few dozen miles from the EIKE confab, though — at a sprawling U.N. campus along the Rhine — was a preview for the kinds of climate politics that will dominate the 21st century once Trump and Pruitt are out of office. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they’re only marginally more in touch with scientific reality than our German revelers.

The relevant question isn’t whether the Earth is heating up, but what we intend to do about it. That’s a radically different conversation about climate change than the one that’s been had in America to this point. Here, decades of propaganda from the fossil fuel industry and the denialist think tanks they support have forced the debate to orbit around whether there’s a problem at all, prying open the Overton window to accommodate conspiracy theorists and Nobel Prize winners alike. That the two co-habitated for years on the same cable news panels put the climate debate on deniers’ terms, taking any discussion of reasonable, large-scale solutions — stringent regulation, massive public investment, an economy planned around reducing emissions — virtually off the table. In its place has come a parade of utopian techno-fixes and market-based solutions, dreamed up by the likes of Milton Friedman and now embraced by left and right alike. The same disinformation campaigners that created a debate over the reality of climate change have hedged their bets and staked a claim to solving a problem that they had tried to convince the world didn’t exist.

In late March, Royal Dutch Shell — Europe’s biggest oil company — released a pathway to meeting the low-bar commitment laid out in the Paris Agreement to cap warming at 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels; the actual text calls to cap it at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. Still, the company’s decarbonization plan — to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 — is hugely ambitious. As Vox’s David Roberts notes,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 10:40 am

Trump admin announces abstinence-focused overhaul of teen pregnancy program

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Moving to abstinence programs because it has come to their attention that the number of teen pregnancies is too low, I presume. (It has been well-established that abstinence programs don’t work, but I think the people who back them are more interested in making a statement than solving a problem.)

Jessie Hellmann reports in The Hill:

The Trump administration will shift federal funding aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rates to programs that teach abstinence.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday the availability of grants through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, (TPPP) a grant program created under former President Obama that funds organizations and programs working to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

Trump’s HHS announced, however, that unlike under the Obama administration, grants will be geared toward organizations that teach abstinence education to teens instead of the comprehensive sex ed approach the previous administration supported.

In a funding announcement released Friday, the administration announced two tiers of funds for the TPP program.

In the first, grantees would have to follow one of two abstinence programs to receive funding.

One of the programs uses a “sexual risk reduction model,” which is designed to reduce sexual risk behaviors.

The other program uses a “sexual risk avoidance model,” which teaches teens to avoid sex completely.

“Projects will clearly communicate that teen sex is a risk behavior for both the physical consequences of pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections; as well as sociological, economic and other related risks,” the funding announcement reads. “Both risk avoidance and risk reduction approaches can and should include skills associated with helping youth delay sex as well as skills to help those youth already engaged in sexual risk to return toward risk-free choices in the future.”

In total, tier one will award up to $61 million in funds, ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 per year.

The second tier solicits applications to develop and test “new and innovative strategies” to prevent teen pregnancy while improving adolescent health and addressing “youth sexual risk holistically by focusing on protective factors.”

The changes represent a major change to the way the federal government treats teen pregnancy.

The Obama administration mostly awarded TPP grants to organizations that taught comprehensive sex education, which can include teaching teens about contraception and abstinence.

But the Trump administration has been shifting toward abstinence programs since hiring several HHS employees who support the approach, including Valerie Huber, the chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, which oversees the TPP program.

Prior to coming to HHS, Huber led Ascend, a national abstinence education advocacy group.  . .

Continue reading.

Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 10:23 am

Amazon Gets Tax Breaks While Its Employees Rely on Food Stamps, New Data Show

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Claire Brown reports in the Intercept:

LATER THIS YEAR, Amazon will begin accepting grocery orders from customers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal anti-poverty program formerly known as food stamps. As the nation’s largest e-commerce grocer, Amazon stands to profit more than any other retailer when the $70 billion program goes online after an initial eight-state pilot.

But this new revenue will effectively function as a double subsidy for the company: In Arizona, new data suggests that one in three of the company’s own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the figure appears to be around one in 10. Overall, of five states that responded to a public records request for a list of their top employers of SNAP recipients, Amazon cracked the top 20 in four.

By 2021, Amazon is projected to handle 50 percent of all online sales in the United States. To accomplish this, it must add to the dozens of fulfillment centers that ensure the swift delivery of cheap televisions and shampoo bottles to nearly every corner of the nation. And to finance this expansion, the company will doubtless continue to leverage the promise of full-time jobs with benefits that it has used to win more than $1.2 billion in incentives from state and local governments so far.

However, though taxpayers have generously subsidized the build-out of Amazon’s warehouses, it’s not clear that the company has held up its end of the bargain. The jury is still out on its warehouses’ net effects on long term employment in the places they’re located. And independent analyses have shown that the company pays below-average wages for the warehouse jobs it brings to town.

The new data showing Amazon employees’ extensive reliance on SNAP demonstrates an additional public cost of the corporation’s rapid expansion. Even as generous subsidies help its warehouses turn a profit, its workers still must turn to the federal safety net to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania, for instance, an estimated $24.8 million in subsidies support 13 warehouses employing around 10,000 workers. At the same time, more than 1,000 of those workers don’t make enough money to buy groceries, according to public data provided by the state.

The American people are financing Amazon’s pursuit of an e-commerce monopoly every step of the way: first, with tax breaks, subsidies, and infrastructure improvements meant to lure fulfillment centers into town, and later with federal transfers to pay for warehouse workers’ food. And soon, when the company begins accepting SNAP dollars to purchase its goods, a third transfer of public wealth to private hands will become a part of the company’s business model.

IN JANUARY, AFTER Policy Matters Ohio reported state data showing 1,430 Amazon workers and their family members enrolled in SNAP, the New Food Economy and The Intercept submitted public records requests to the 30 states we could identify with Amazon fulfillment centers. We requested information on employers with the largest number of workers enrolled in SNAP. We asked for data from the years 2014 to 2017 in hopes that several years’ worth of numbers would help us establish patterns in Amazon’s reliance on the SNAP program. All told, five states responded, and most sent in partial data that included either the year 2017 or a single month during that year. (Many states don’t track SNAP data by employer and are not required by law to generate new reports when public records are not readily available; some also cited privacy concerns in their refusals to grant our request.) Data from a sixth state, Ohio, was already publicly available.

In five out of these six states, . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, and it’s bad news for the future of American labor as automation, robots, and AI move in.

A strong union movement would help, as Harvard graduate assistants and teaching assistants are discovering.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 9:53 am

In Rural Tennessee, a Big ICE Raid Makes Some Conservative Voters Rethink Trump’s Immigration Agenda

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Jonathan Bltizer writes in the New Yorker:

April 5th began in the usual way at the Southeastern Provision meat-processing plant, in Bean Station, Tennessee—some workers were breaking down carcasses on the production line, while others cleaned the floors—until, around 9 a.m., a helicopter began circling above the plant. Moments later, a fleet of cars pulled up outside. Agents from the I.R.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice), and the Tennessee Highway Patrol emerged, and proceeded to arrest ninety-seven people, most of them originally from Mexico or Guatemala, for working without legal papers. It was the largest workplace roundup of immigrants in a decade.

Bean Station is a sleepy lakeside town of three thousand people in eastern Tennessee. The Southeastern Provision plant—located just off the main roadway, past cattle farms and clapboard churches—is made up of a string of dilapidated barn buildings, but it is the third-largest business in Grainger County. Two hundred and fifty head of cattle pass through the plant each day, which translates to roughly thirty million dollars of business every year. After the raid, the I.R.S. said in a court filing that many workers there typically make less than minimum wage, and that the agency believes the owners of the plant, headed by a man named James Brantley, owe the government millions of dollars in back taxes. But neither Brantley nor any of the other owners of the business were arrested on April 5th. (Lawyers for the plant owners could not be reached for comment.) Of the ninety-seven people taken into custody, ten are facing federal criminal charges relating to past immigration violations, and one is facing state criminal charges. The remaining eighty-six people were placed in deportation proceedings. Thirty-two of these people were released on the day of the raid—allowed to return to their families and sleep at home as their cases work through the system—but fifty-four were kept in detention, and many were soon moved to facilities out of state.

Most of the people who were arrested lived not in Bean Station but in a town called Morristown, part of Hamblen County, about ten miles to the south. In Morristown, a larger town of thirty thousand people, the raid was catastrophic news. Families’ worst fear had come true: husbands, fathers, wives, mothers—gone. The following day, more than five hundred students were reported absent from area schools, kept home out of a combination of fear, anxiety, and confusion. The raid also set off a whirl of activity, as relatives of those arrested gathered each day at a church in the center of town to meet with advocacy groups and discuss their legal options.

This past weekend, I travelled to Morristown to talk to the families affected by the raid and also to observe how the wider community was responding. While Hamblen County is home to a sizable immigrant community from Central America—11.5 per cent of its population is Hispanic, more than twice the state average—it’s also a deeply conservative place. In 2016, seventy-seven per cent of the county voted for Donald Trump. Yet in the two weeks since the raid, Morristown residents have helped raise sixty thousand dollars to help families with relatives in detention. A vigil was held in support of the families of those arrested, and volunteers from local schools, churches, and businesses had been distributing food and coördinating other forms of assistance. For many people in town, the raid exposed the human costs of the political fight over immigration policy.

“Immigration is kind of a hot-button topic here,” Hank Smith, a fifty-year-old salesman from Morristown, told me. “Some people feel like immigrants are taking our jobs, that they’re not paying their taxes. But others are more sympathetic.” Smith counts himself among the latter group. “I’m a Christian; God loves everybody equally. And I never had a problem with anyone being here,” he said. Nevertheless, in 2016, Smith voted for Trump. He had been mostly indifferent to Trump’s anti-immigrant invective on the campaign trail; the rhetoric didn’t resonate with him personally, but it didn’t alienate him, either. “My kids were getting to an age where they’d be going to work, so the economy was the major issue for my family,” he told me. “It’s the things that affect us the most that we vote on. And immigration didn’t really affect me before. But then this raid happened.”

After Trump took office, ice announced that it planned to quadruple the number of workplace inspections it conducts. In January, the agency launched stings at ninety-eight 7-Eleven franchises in seventeen states. Smith hadn’t noticed those. But when the arrests happened closer to home, he was immediately struck by the fact that many of the people who’d been picked up had lived in the area for more than a decade. He knew people like them, he told me—“they work hard and they do the jobs that no one else wants to do.” He also felt strong sympathy for their kids. Smith said, “I felt I understood the legal side of it. But this is the first time I really started looking at the human side. Families are being divided.”

Smith and I had met through his pastor, David Williams, who leads the Hillcrest Baptist Church—a large, pale-brick building on the eastern edge of downtown Morristown, across the street from the elementary school where the vigil was held. Most of Hillcrest’s congregants are white—the town’s immigrant community tends to gravitate to St. Patrick, the Catholic church a few miles down the road—but Williams has been among the most vocal members of the local clergy in calling for solidarity with the families affected by the raid. “I look at this from a humanitarian perspective,” he told me. “You cannot be a true Christian if you ignore your neighbor in need.” Some of his parishioners dislike his outspokenness, but not all of them. “The people in the middle have had their hearts soften because of the raid,” he said.

Morristown is close-knit, politically conservative, and religious—and in recent years, it’s been growing more diverse. The town has become a regional manufacturing hub, home to plants belonging to Japanese, German, and Belgian companies. Immigrants from Central America began to trickle in during the nineteen-eighties as seasonal workers at tomato farms, and the influx increased as they began staying in the area year-round to work at chicken-processing plants nearby.

One morning, I met with Morristown’s Mayor, Gary Chesney, a self-described “lifelong Republican of the Reagan variety,” in his office at a commercial insurance company. (Being mayor in Morristown is a part-time job.) Chesney had heard that an undercover I.R.S. agent had been working at Southeastern Provision to scope out the conditions before the raid, and that the agent had asked some of the undocumented workers at the plant why they’d taken jobs in Bean Station if they lived in Morristown. “They said, ‘We’re here because we can’t get jobs in Morristown,’ ” Chesney said. “I was proud of that. We’ve been following the rules and guidelines here. But the innocent victims were the kids whose parents were picked up. I was also proud that our locals took care of the innocent folks.” Chesney didn’t see a contradiction in these two sources of pride; he stressed the town’s capacity both for conservatism and for reasonableness. National politics had further intensified the local conversation about immigration, he said—everyone knew that there were many Morristown residents who were anti-immigrant, and whose views remained the same after the raid—but he believed some of the acrimony stemmed from misinformation about how the undocumented were “gaming the system” or committing crimes. Chesney said, “We all get a little bit smarter as the issue gets more personal.”

My first night in Morristown, I had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. A family—a couple with two young kids—was sitting in the booth next to mine, and before the parents paid their check, they flagged down their waitress with a question. “We’re trying to figure out who’s right,” the husband—who was white, bearded, and looked to be about forty—told her. “Is it ‘estoy cansado’ or ‘soy cansado?’ ” Laughing, the waitress replied in accented English, and a conversation ensued about the grammatical differences between the two Spanish forms of the verb “to be.” As the family left, I approached the man and asked him for his thoughts on the recent raid. “Terrible stuff,” he said. He felt for the families. But he did have one reservation about the community’s response. “It’s great that everyone’s pulling together to help. But what about the citizens here who need help? Are they getting it, too?”

On Sunday afternoon, thirty people gathered in the chapel of St. Patrick church for an information session that had been advertised with flyers that read,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 4:05 pm

What the Rape and Murder of a Child Reveals About Modi’s India

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Mitali Saan writes in the NY Times:

India is sliding toward a collapse of humanity and ethics in political and civic life, as the recent reports of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl from a seminomadic Muslim community in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir reveal. Politicians from India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party defended the men accused of the crime and ignited a furious debate about the fundamental character of the country.

The child was abducted in January and imprisoned for a week in a temple, where she was drugged, starved and raped repeatedly before being murdered. Her body was thrown into the forest. At the time the crime passed without much comment beyond the local press.

Outrage finally exploded last week, after a front-page report in the Indian Express newspaper revealed terrifying details from the police charge sheet, including the fact that one of the accused, a police officer, had asked his co-conspirators to hold off killing the child so that he could rape her once more.

The charge sheet and other reports strongly suggested that this was not a random crime but one deliberately in line with the ugly sectarian politics playing out across India. Intimidation of religious minorities and violence against them has increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to power in 2014. India’s traditional secularism is now locked in battle with the new majoritarian, Hindu chauvinist politics he represents.

The 8-year-old girl belonged to the Muslim Bakarwal people, who move with their sheep and horses between high mountain pastures in the summer and the plains of the Hindu-dominated Jammu region in winter. There is tension with local Hindus over the right to graze animals on the land. According to the police, the motive of the premeditated crime was to terrorize the Bakarwals and dislodge them from the area. The bereaved parents were not even allowed to bury the child in the village. They have since fled the area.

A newly formed group called Hindu Ekta Manch, or Hindu Unity Forum, organized a protest march in defense of the accused, who include a retired government official and two police officers. Thousands joined in, many waving the Indian national flag. Vijay Sharma, a co-founder of the group and an organizer of the march, was also a high-ranking leader of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the region.

Mr. Modi’s party shares power with a regional political party in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two B.J.P. ministers in the state government joined the protest in defense of the accused. “So what if a girl died?” one of them remarked. “Many girls die every day.”

They demanded that the investigation be transferred from the state police — the investigators included Muslim officers — to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation, a largely delegitimized institution that serves as a de facto arm of the ruling party. Lawyers at a court in the city of Jammu tried to physically prevent officials from filing charges against the accused and have threatened the lawyer who is representing the girl’s family.

Over the past week, horrified Indians have protested vigorously on social media and in some cities. The disgust and the fury at the complicity of politicians, and the federal government’s silence, grew into a thunderous chorus demanding that the prime minister speak up and fire the ministers backing the Hindu Ekta Manch.

Belatedly reacting to popular outrage, Mr. Modi finally said: “Incidents being discussed since past two days cannot be part of a civilized society. As a country, as a society, we all are ashamed of it.” He promised justice. His vague statement delicately alluded to another case in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where a lawmaker from Mr. Modi’s party is accused of rape. Mr. Modi stayed away from his party’s involvement in both cases.

Yet instead of uniting India in horror, the incident has deepened religious, political and ethical divides. It has also made clear that there is no automatic political cost to crime or falsehood if it furthers the hegemonic political narrative. The politicians involved were sacked only after a huge public outcry. Government ministers, officials, right-leaning media and right-wing supporters have been perfectly sanguine about using the dead child to polarize society with whataboutery, fake news and wild conspiracy theories.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Modi’s party . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 3:09 pm

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