Scholar Says Prison Uprisings Usually Come After Basic Needs Aren't Met

Prof. Heather Ann Thompson talks about the inmate unrest following a deadly prison uprising in Delaware that left a corrections officer dead last week.


We’re going to spend a few minutes talking about this country’s prisons. Most people probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this until events force them to. Last week’s uprising at the largest state prison for men in Delaware, the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna is that kind of event. A group of inmates took over a building and held four staff hostage. Two were released. One was rescued, and one corrections officer Sergeant Steven R. Floyd died at some point over the course of the 20-hour standoff. It’s not clear – or has not been made public exactly how.

At some point, though, the inmates managed to call a local newspaper to demand education, rehabilitation programs and more transparency about the state’s prison budget. In a few minutes, we’ll hear about a new documentary that takes a deep look at the practice of solitary confinement which we understand was in practice at this prison.

But, first, we wanted to hear one scholar’s take on why prison uprisings happen, so we called Heather Ann Thompson. She’s an historian at the University of Michigan. She’s author of “Blood In The Water: The Story Of A 1971 Attica Uprising” which was one of the largest prison revolts in American history. We reached Professor Thompson via Skype in Detroit. Professor, thanks so much for joining us.

HEATHER ANN THOMPSON: Great to be here.

MARTIN: So it seems that the inmates at Vaughn Correctional Institution made pretty basic demands like they wanted better education and rehabilitation programs. Why would demands like that result in something that seems pretty drastic on the outside?

THOMPSON: Well, that’s indeed the question. Throughout American history, prisoners have always demanded the most basic human rights. They’re not asking to get out. They’re not asking for anything particularly outrageous, things like decent food or – for institutions to stop using solitary confinement in such a punitive fashion and an ability to re-enter society with some degree of education.

In each and every case, correctional authorities seem surprised or seem, indeed, outraged that prisoners would eventually explode in frustration that their needs aren’t being met. And so it is really time that we learn the lesson of Vaughn, but also Attica in ’71 and many prisons before that.

MARTIN: It seems as though these are actually relatively rare. Is that true or is it that we just don’t find out about them?

THOMPSON: It’s so hard to know. One of the most remarkable things is that prisons are public institutions, and yet the public is given very, very little information about what goes on inside of them. For example, a few weeks ago, there was a lockdown at the Attica prison. And the public was just told that there had been some inmate fights, but we know enough about Attica to know that conditions there (unintelligible) been terrible and to know that the prisoners very likely were engaging in some sort of protest there as well. So we don’t really know because every time the state officials get to tell us what happened, and there’s no means to corroborate it.

MARTIN: And when you say that conditions are terrible, could you give us a sense of what it is that you’re talking about?

THOMPSON: So even more so than when there was a rash of uprisings in the ’60s, prisons now are even more overcrowded, prisoners serve much more solitary confinement. This particular facility in Delaware, incidentally, is notorious for that. They are punished through food, kept locked up for 23 hours a day. A jury says if you’ve committed a crime, you might serve time. But this is beyond the being removed from society.

MARTIN: Do you know anything more about the prison that you could tell us that might have led to this particular incident?

THOMPSON: I do know that it’s a facility that was actually built in ’71, but was expanded pretty dramatically in 1996, not coincidentally with funding from this very notorious now violent crime bill that was passed with the Clinton administration. And so it was a facility like many around the country that just grew and grew and grew and, indeed, began eventually to hold way too many people in too small of a space and, indeed, you know, creating a situation that was very, very dangerous for corrections officers and prisoners alike.

MARTIN: That’s Heather Ann Thompson. She’s a professor of history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She’s author of the book “Blood In The Water: The Attica Prison Uprising Of 1971 And Its Legacy.” We reached her via Skype from Detroit. Professor Thompson, thanks so much for speaking with us.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Documentary Focuses On 'Voicelessness And Helplessness' Of Solitary Confinement

Filmmaker Kristi Jacobson talks about her new documentary Solitary, an in depth look at life as a prisoner in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia.


We have one more conversation about the prison system with a look at a new film about solitary confinement. As we just talked about, prisons are closed off from the outside world. That’s just one reason the access granted to director Kristi Jacobson for her documentary was so extraordinary. Jacobson and her team made multiple visits over the course of a year to the Red Onion State Prison in West County, Va. That’s a maximum-security prison that is said to house the most violent prisoners in Virginia, where inmates spend 23 hours a day locked in a small cell alone. Now, tens of thousands of Americans are being held in solitary confinement, sometimes for years.

But lately, advocates, medical professionals and even prison officials are beginning to reconsider the effects of this extreme isolation on human beings. And Kristi Jacobson joins us now from our NPR studios in New York City. Kristi, welcome.

KRISTI JACOBSON: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: Well, first of all, why were you particularly interested in Red Onion State Prison?

JACOBSON: There are a handful of notorious Supermax prisons of which Red Onion State Prison is one. It was built in the late 1990s along with a handful of other Supermax prisons. And it was built and designed specifically to hold prisoners in 23, 24-hour isolation. And at that time, when I was doing this research, the Virginia Department of Corrections had recently begun implementing a reform program in an effort to start to reduce the numbers of inmates that were held in isolation. So I essentially – I think I reached out to the right person with the right ask, which was genuinely – what’s going on? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? I’d like to know more.

MARTIN: So let’s talk about the effect of solitary confinement on prisoners and particularly their mental state. But first let’s listen to what they had to say. This is from your film “Solitary.”


MICHAEL: If you just sit and just listen to all the different cells, you will hear a thousand arguments all day, every day just about nothing. It’s an anger and a frustration everybody feels inside themselves. You have this rage that just builds and builds and builds and builds and builds. And little things would just make you go crazy.

MARTIN: That was Michael, who was one of the inmates at Red Onion State Prison that you interviewed. Can you just help us understand how being in solitary could have that effect on a person?

JACOBSON: I think the main thing to understand is in addition to the isolation, the being alone inside of a cell, is the voicelessness and the helplessness that you feel behind that door. During filming, I was inside of a cell at one point. We asked for the door to be closed. And I realized then that when you’re in there looking out, you know, you have such limited sight. I mean, nobody can hear you, and you can only see so much. And so in that world, in that cell, by yourself, you can essentially lose grasp on what’s real, what’s not. Are you hearing voices? Are you not? And every little promise, every little aspect of your routine becomes really important.

MARTIN: Why are these people in this place to begin with?

JACOBSON: Many of the men in my film have committed violent acts inside the prison system and therefore presented a threat to either other prisoners or the staff. And – so Dennis, for example, 17 years ago tried to slit the warden’s throat. Lars tried to escape. Michael got in a fight. Randall had some, you know, violent attacks on other inmates. But I want to point out that across the country, people who are in solitary confinement or segregation units are often people who are simply just not able to follow the rules. So these men that are in the film had particularly interesting stories that I felt were important to tell, especially because if we’re looking at these men and asking the question of is this OK, I think we’re asking the tougher question.

MARTIN: Well, also, the thing about this film that I think is important for people to understand is that you talked to everybody in the facility. And not just the prisoners, but also – who you have to assume craved the human contact. I mean, they craved the opportunity to talk with somebody.


MARTIN: But you also talked to the officers who work there. Now, let me just play a short clip from one of those conversations.


UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #1: The hard part for some staff is because they’re on such great alert 12 hours a day and there’s the potential for violence, when you go home and it’s time to relax, sometimes it’s hard to let your mind…


UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER #1: …Relax because you’re still…



MARTIN: Do you think all corrections officers feel that way?

JACOBSON: I think that corrections officers – they are spending time in a violent environment at which they do have to be on guard. But in a Supermax, the experience is so different in that there’s just so much yelling and so much pain that I can’t imagine how you would be able to allow yourself to connect with those individuals and yet return each day, you know, on the outside while they’re locked up on the inside in that cell. And it seemed to me as important for them to have a voice and to convey what the impact of working in that environment can have on an individual, which is severe.

MARTIN: What is it exactly that advocates object to about this environment? Because I think a lot of people listening to this conversation might say, look, I certainly wouldn’t want to be in an 8-by-10 cell. I mean, really the size of…

JACOBSON: A parking spot.

MARTIN: Yeah, a parking spot for 23 hours a day. But these people have demonstrated that they’re violent. So what should people do about that? I mean, what would you say to them?

JACOBSON: A small percentage of people inside the U.S. prison system, you know, pose a significant violent threat. And no one is suggesting that they shouldn’t be, perhaps, separated from a general population environment. But the lack of humanity that’s built into this place and built into the procedures is something that has an effect that literally forces people to descend into madness. The media will push, you know, these are monsters, these are the worst of the worst, and, you know, the people in our prisons deserve to be in our prisons and what happens to them doesn’t matter.

But it does matter because Randall, who you meet in the film, who tells us the story of his life beginning with his childhood being abused by his father, being thrown into foster care being, thrown into juvie, learning nothing but violence was set on this path. And while he takes responsibility and accountability for his violent actions and the crimes that he committed, I think that we also need to take some responsibility about what’s happening inside of our prisons and also what’s happening to fill our prisons.

MARTIN: That was Kristi Jacobson joining us from our studios in New York City. Her documentary “Solitary” premieres on HBO tomorrow. Kristi Jacobson, thanks so much for speaking with us.

JACOBSON: Thank you so much. It was a real pleasure. Thanks.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Asheville, N.C. Is Gentrifying, But People Have Always Been Drawn To It

Asheville, N.C. just ranked 2nd on a list of U.S. cities that are gentrifying the fastest. Western North Carolina political science professor Chris Cooper talks about the phenomenon.


We head to North Carolina now. That state was in the news quite a bit last year because of HB2, the so-called bathroom bill and then the dust-up over the Republican lawmakers’ efforts to curb the authority of the new Democratic governor. But what issue you might not have heard much about is the rapid pace of change in Western North Carolina, particularly in the city of Asheville. Just last week, Asheville was ranked the second fastest gentrifying city in the entire country by the real estate database

I’m headed to Asheville next week for the latest in our live event series we call Going There. Our subject is When Your Hometown Gets Hot. We’re going to talk about what happens when a place like Asheville is discovered by newcomers.

Professor Chris Cooper is the head of the Department of Political Science at Western Carolina University. He’ll be joining me onstage next week to talk about some of the change happening in his part of the world which you might also be seeing where you live. He’s with me today from member station WCQS in Asheville. Professor Cooper, welcome. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

CHRIS COOPER: Thanks. I’m looking forward to it.

MARTIN: So what are some of the reasons that Asheville has gotten hot? Why are people moving there?

COOPER: You know, I think it’s – (unintelligible) have this broader national trend – right? – of folks moving to the Sun Belt. And I think maybe we’re part of that – folks moving from the North to the South. It’s an area that’s got pretty good health care, that’s got a lot of the markers for retirees. It’s also one that folks have always been drawn to, I think.

I mean, if you go back and look at the history of Asheville, and the history of Western North Carolina, it was a place where people would vacation from the South, and they’d vacation to escape the heat, right? So if you’re in Columbia, S.C., and it’s 105 degrees outside and you just take a little bit of a trip up the road to Asheville, I think you’re going to find cooler temperatures. You’re going to find bigger views, and I think you’re going to find it a really interesting place.

MARTIN: So what role does a city like Asheville play in the politics of North Carolina? Do people care in the rest of the state what people in Asheville think? Do they have an influence on the rest of the state in any way?

COOPER: They do. I think Asheville sometimes is a foil for the rest of the state, right? I think it’s viewed as this liberal enclave in the western part of the state in a lot of the same ways that Austin, Texas, might look in the middle of Texas, right? You got this big red sea, and you have this big, bright blue dot in the middle of it. And I think that is Asheville in Western North Carolina.

So it’s the economic center, it’s the media center, it’s the cultural center and it is in the region. But in some ways it is not of the region anymore. I think you definitely feel some differences when you drive 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour outside of Asheville into Western North Carolina more generally.

MARTIN: And to that end – and this is my final question for today because, as I mentioned, you’re going to be joining me next week – why should the rest of the country be interested in something like this? I mean, why should people care that this little town has become…


MARTIN: …So hot and that, you know, it’s become a land of, you know, brewpubs and excellent restaurants, and, you know, the arts and so forth in a place that people might not expect?

COOPER: Yeah. I think it’s a fascinating place for a lot of reasons. One, I think it tells us a lot about the South – right? – and what the South is and what the South isn’t and how the South is changing. I think it does give us a lot of clues into gentrification, the good and the bad. I mean, yeah, this is an area that’s got, you know, James Beard Award-winning restaurants. But then if you drive 30 minutes outside of town, you’re in counties with real poverty, real Appalachian poverty.

And so I think all that juxtaposition leads to this really, really interesting place. You’ve got folks that moved to Western North Carolina to get away from it all because they’re way to the right, and they might be a prepper (ph). They might be somebody who’s sort of on the right extreme and fringe or you might have somebody who’s way in the left extreme and fringe – right? – the kind of people that are keeping rabbits for pets or meat. So it’s a fascinating place. I think it’s a microcosm of the country in a lot of different ways, and it’s a beautiful one, too.

MARTIN: Chris Cooper heads the Department of Political Science at Western Carolina University. He will be joining me and my other guests in Asheville for a live conversation about the rapid pace of change taking place in Western North Carolina. Our event is called When Your Hometown Gets Hot. I do want to mention our event will be live streamed, so you can participate that way, and we have a hashtag #hothometown. Professor Cooper, thanks so much for joining us.

COOPER: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Health Rumors Swirl As Nigerian President Asks For Extended Leave

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari, waves after a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. Azeez Akunleyan/AP hide caption

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Azeez Akunleyan/AP

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari asked the country’s parliament to extend his leave from office for medical reasons on Sunday, despite the country’s top officials continuing to maintain he is in good health.

His administration released a statement saying he had written to the country’s National Assembly, which includes a senate and house of representatives, similar to the United States.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly today, February 5, 2017, informing of his desire to extend his leave in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors,” the statement said.

The administration has continued to refer to Buhari’s leave as a “vacation,” but rumors have swirled around the president’s health for months. The 74-year-old president spent nearly two weeks in London last summer for an ear infection, and has been in Britain for the past two weeks as well.

He was expected back to work from this leave Feb. 6, but the statement did not say how much extra time away he was seeking.

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Just a week and a half ago, Nigerian officials were not only begging the public to not fall into the trap of believing everything they read about the president’s health on social media, but also were going out of their way to deny there was any reason for worry.

“There is no iota of truth in the messages being circulated on the health of the President,” said Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohamed, in a statement as reported by Reuters. He added that Buhari is “hale and hearty.”

Femi Adesina, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, went even further in an interview with CNBC Africa.

“The president is in London on vacation,” Adesina said. “He is in no hospital, and he is not ill.”

When pushed by the interviewer about why the president wouldn’t make a public appearance or give an interview himself to quell the rumors, Adesina said forcing him to do such a thing would be “infringing on his rights.”

An extended leave could hurt “already-shaky confidence” in the president’s administration, according to Reuters:

“Buhari’s health issues come as investors push the government to allow the currency to float freely, saying it its being kept artificially strong by policymakers. The economy is performing its worst in 25 years.

“Meanwhile, in the northeast, a humanitarian crisis threatens millions, ridden by conflict with Islamic insurgents Boko Haram.”

Buhari declared more than a year ago that Nigeria had “technically won the war” against Boko Haram, but as NPR’s Maggie Penman reported last month, even though the country’s army celebrated another victory in December, that’s doubtful to signal an end to the seven-year conflict that’s killed more than 20,000 people:

“Though the president’s message was celebratory, there are already reports that insurgents are regrouping in Taraba and Bauchi states, south of their stronghold in Borno state.”

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WATCH: Baby Hippo, Born Prematurely, Takes Her First Steps

Fiona, a premature hippo calf born six weeks early, has been gaining strength and weight since her birth on Jan. 24. Now she has taken her first steps. Courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo hide caption

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Courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo

A baby hippopotamus, born prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo, has struggled to stand, eat, gain weight and breathe.

But on Sunday morning, the zoo announced “encouraging news from hippo headquarters.”

Baby hippo Fiona, now in stable condition, has taken her first wobbly steps.

Cincinnati Zoo YouTube

Fiona was born at the zoo on Jan. 24, six weeks early. She weighed 29 pounds, when baby hippos are normally 55-120 pounds, the zoo says. She was too weak to stand and couldn’t nurse on her own.

The zoo has provided around-the-clock intensive care to keep her alive.

On Tuesday, when the zoo gave the hippo her name, they warned that she was “not out of the woods yet.” But “every baby needs a name,” they said.

The zoo explained that Fiona was being nursed close enough to mom Bibi and dad Henry that they could all hear and smell each other.

To regulate Fiona’s oxygen intake & min. dive reflex,caregivers position her chest to chest to feel normal breathing

— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) February 4, 2017

The baby hippo has spent time in a pool, first with noodles to support her weight and then standing on her own. She was tube-fed, with a combination of her mother’s milk and formula, as zoo staff worked to teach her how to nurse on her own. She struggled with a poor suckling response.

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“She still has a long way to go before she’ll be strong enough to be reunited with her mom,” curator of mammals Christa Gorsuch said in the update on Tuesday. “She needs to learn how to nurse on her own, walk, swim and get a lot bigger.”

The little hippo’s fight to survive caught the eye of another team of caregivers. On Thursday, the zoo announced it had received “a package from the preemie team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that included signed superhero capes, a pre-filled baby book, a stuffed hippo, a beautiful note and much more.”

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With Trump's Travel Ban Blocked, Visa-Holders, Refugees Scramble to Board Flights

Munther Alaskry, accompanied by his wife Hiba, son Hassan and daughter Dima, gather their luggage as they leave JFK International Airport, in New York City, on Feb. 3. Alaskry and his family arrived after the Trump administration reversed course and said he and other interpreters who supported the U.S. military could come to America. Richard Drew/AP hide caption

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Richard Drew/AP

A federal appeals court denied President Donald Trump’s attempt to restore his travel ban on refugees and visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries Sunday morning, sending people scrambling to board planes while it’s legal once again for them to enter the country.

The court set a timeline for the next developments, while also denying the immediate stay Trump asked for as part of his appeal against a Seattle judge’s ruling that suspended the President’s travel ban on Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has asked those opposed to the ban to file their opposition to Trump’s appeal by 3 a.m., ET (11:59 p.m., Sunday, PT), on Monday, and for the Justice Department, representing Trump’s administration, to reply to that by 6 p.m., ET, Monday.

For now, however, previously-approved refugees and green-card holders from the seven countries listed in the ban are able once again to enter the U.S.

William Lacey Swing, the director general of the United Nations International Organization for Migration or IOM, told NPR his agency is hoping to resettle between 1,800 and 2,000 refugees who had already been approved prior to the ban.

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“It’s quite complex now,” Swing told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro on Sunday. “But you can be sure from our side that we’re going to do everything possible to get them on those flights, to take advantage of this window of opportunity… Unless of course, the courts change things once more.”

Migrants begin boarding flights

Airport officials in Cairo say a total of 33 U.S.-bound migrants from Yemen, Syria and Iraq have boarded flights on their way to the United States, according to the Associated Press. The 33 hadn’t previously been turned away, but were migrants rushing to take advantage of the window offered by the Sunday ruling.

Ahmed al-Durah, an accountant from Damascus with two daughters, a three-year-old and a 10-month-old, told NPR they were driving to the airport in Amman last week from the northern Jordanian city of Irbid when they received a call telling them their flight was cancelled.

The IOM called again Sunday asking if he would be willing to leave for the U.S. on Monday.

“I told them of course, I’m ready,” al-Durah said. “I sold everything and our bags are still packed.”

By Sunday afternoon, the family was booked on a flight scheduled to leave Monday morning. He said his wife’s uncle in Atlanta had rented a house for them there and paid the rent six months in advance.

It was less clear whether the IOM in Lebanon was starting to reschedule flights for refugees.

Amin Khayat had been scheduled to leave on Friday for Detroit with his wife, five children and his 77-year-old mother, who is suffering from cancer.

“They stopped her chemotherapy because we were travelling and then when the flight was cancelled, the hospital said it was sorry but it couldn’t restart it,” Khayat told NPR by phone from Beirut.

Khayat is an electronics repairman from Damascus, and said he had given up their rented apartment and taken the children out of school.

He said he tried calling the IOM Sunday, but since it was a weekend, he couldn’t reach anyone.

The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2017

Iraqis accepted for resettlement under a special program for military interpreters and employees of U.S. companies in Iraq were told earlier in the week they were cleared to leave.

Fuad Sharif Suleman shows his U.S. immigrant visa in Erbil, Iraq, on Jan. 30, after returning to Iraq from Egypt, where he and his family were prevented from boarding a plane to the U.S. following President Trump’s decision to temporarily bar travelers from seven countries, including Iraq. Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

“The embassy called me and said it was OK for me and others like me to travel,” said Fuad Sharif Suleman, an Iraqi Kurd deported back to Iraq last week from Cairo while he and his family were en route to New York.

Reached by telephone just before he boarded the plane in Erbil early Saturday, Suleman said his children – aged 19, 17 and 10 – were a little bit nervous but excited about their new home in Nashville.

Suleman said there had been an outpouring of support in the U.S. after he was sent back to Iraq. “I had friends in Nashville, but now I have a lot more,” he told NPR.

President Trump and his administration’s response

President Trump hasn’t said anything publicly Sunday about the federal court’s decision to deny his stay request. He penned a flurry of tweets yesterday, however, aimed at Seattle judge James Robart and his original decision to temporarily lift the travel ban while a case brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota is heard.

The tweet illustrates a key difference in opinion between Trump and his supporters, and the people working to vet and place refugees in America.

Swing, the director general of the IOM, said it’s hard for him to imagine a stricter vetting process then the one already in place prior to the ban. The refugees he’s hoping to relocate to the U.S. while the travel ban is lifted have already made it through that process.

“You have eight U.S. government agencies who are vetting them,” said Swing. “They are looking at six different security databases, they’re doing five different background checks. They have three separate in-person interviews, and then two inner-agency reviews of all that.

“So far the problem has been that since 9/11 the security has been so strict that you’re talking about at least 18 months until you can travel.”

The White House obviously sees it differently. In a statement on Friday, Trump’s administration announced its intention to appeal the decision to lift the ban, and added, “The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.”

More than a dozen legal challenges have been filed against the ban around the country, according to The Washington Post, and just one judge, U.S. District Judge Nathan Gorton, has indicated he was willing to let Trump’s order stand.

Reporters asked Trump about the appeal outside his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, on Saturday night.

“We’ll win,” he said, and briefly paused. “For the safety of our country, we’ll win.”

Trump on immigration appeal: “We’ll win. For the safety of the country we’ll win.”

— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) February 5, 2017

You can find the court documents related to the Trump administration’s appeal and the original decision to temporarily lift the ban here.

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WATCH: As SNL Takes On Trump's Team, Sean Spicer Gets His Roast

Saturday Night Live YouTube

WARNING: Some of the jokes in the scene above easily qualify as adult humor, and may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Saturday Night Live has been relentless in taking on Donald Trump since he started running for president. As various members of his team have made their way into the headlines, SNL has been unsparing with them, as well.

Kate McKinnon has developed an alter-ego for Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway — which has kept McKinnon front and center after her finely-tuned impersonation of Hillary Clinton lost its necessity.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist who was the editor of Breitbart News and represents a boogeyman for liberals, is portrayed literally as the grim reaper.

Last night, it was Sean Spicer’s turn. After two weeks of verbal fisticuffs in which he scolded and demeaned reporters, with some of his own bumps along the way, the new White House Press Secretary got the SNL treatment last night, played by a surprise guest — actress Melissa McCarthy.

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As seen in the video, she donned a blond, short-cropped wig and an ill-fitting suit, just like Spicer was mocked for the day after the inauguration. That was the day he came into the briefing room, with what would come to be known as “alternative facts,” to scold reporters for accurately reporting on inauguration crowds — reporting that the president couldn’t resist challenging at every turn for days.

The impression went on from there.

McCarthy seemed to channel a sort of transgressed high school coach, telling reporters, “I’d like to begin today by apologizing on behalf of you to me for how you have treated me these last two weeks.”

There were a number of other elements of Spicer — aside from his confrontational style with reporters — ripped from the headlines or right from Spicer’s own words that McCarthy satirized. Here are just a few:

Chewing (and swallowing) gum: Spicer told the Washington Post last summer about his habit of chewing and swallowing “two and a half packs by noon.” Which Spicer said his doctor thinks is not harmful.

Standing ovation — and then some: This exaggerated description of Trump’s rollout of his Supreme Court pick was inspired by Trump’s actual exaggeration of the reception he received at the CIA. Trump told interviewers from ABC and Fox that he got a standing ovation when he went to CIA headquarters on Jan. 21 — but they were never asked to sit by the President in the first place.

“It’s not a ban.” — This was inspired by an actual exchange between Spicer and New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush over the use of the word betrayal and an exchange with NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker, who quoted Trump calling the recent executive order on immigration and refugees a “ban,” which Spicer said was simply the president repeating back the press’s words. Yesterday, Trump referred to the order as a “ban” multiple times in tweets.

Why aren’t the lawyers looking at and using the Federal Court decision in Boston, which is at conflict with ridiculous lift ban decision?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017

Props: Visuals have been a part of a couple of episodes in the White House briefing room since Spicer stepped in. His first appearance in the briefing room — the one where he scolded reporters over inauguration crowd sizes — came with a full visual presentation. Then, after controversy erupted over a presidential memorandum giving Bannon a permanent place on the National Security Council’s principals committee, Spicer held up such memos from past administrations in defense, though none made such a move as Trump had.

The show kicked off with the return of Alec Baldwin as Trump, making hostile phone calls to foreign leaders, with a subtle-ish jab in the form of a Russian flag pin on his lapel. There was also a repeat portrayal of Bannon as the grim reaper.

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Harry Truman Still Casts A Long Shadow in Independence, Missouri

A family from California visits the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Mo. Elissa Nadworny/NPR hide caption

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Elissa Nadworny/NPR

Charlottesville, Virginia has Thomas Jefferson.

New York City can claim Teddy Roosevelt.

And Independence, Missouri, is synonymous with our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman. He always called it “the best town in the world.”

Truman moved to Independence, just outside Kansas City, Mo., with his family as a young boy. It’s where he went to school and, at age six, met the girl who would become his wife: Bess.

It’s where he became a judge, in the courthouse that now bears his name.

And it’s where he lived out his days after the presidency. Speaking from his porch in 1953, after he left the White House, Truman proudly said, “It’s good to be back home in what I call the center of the world: Independence, Missouri.”

You can find lots of Truman souvenirs in the gift shop at the president’s library and museum. Highlights include Truman baseballs, bobbleheads and these plush dolls. Elissa Nadworny/NPR hide caption

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Elissa Nadworny/NPR

In those days, Truman was a regular presence, walking briskly through town, his Secret Service detail struggling to keep up.

Our Land is a project from special correspondent Melissa Block. She’s spending the next few months traveling the country, capturing how people’s identity is shaped by where they live. Help her decide where to go and who to spend time with by filling out this form.

As I discovered, in Independence today, Truman is never far out of reach. Driving into the city along East Truman Road, you’ll pass by Truman’s Wash Tub and Mini Mart. You can pick up a Truman bobblehead doll at the “Wild About Harry” gift shop on historic Independence Square. There he is in silhouette, hat on head and cane in hand, on signage all over town.

At Clinton’s Soda Fountain, you can order “Harry’s Favorite”: a chocolate sundae topped with butterscotch.

When Truman was 14, he got his first job at this spot, in what was then Clinton’s drug store. He’d mop the floors, and get things in order.

Zac Gall sits outside Clinton’s Soda Fountain on Independence Square. Elissa Nadworny/NPR hide caption

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Elissa Nadworny/NPR

He also got some early exposure to hypocrisy.

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He would serve whiskey to people who would come in through the back door to sneak a drink behind the counter. “Most of those people were the great high hats of Independence,” he later recalled, “who were not in a frame of mind to go across the square to the saloons and buy their drinks openly. That’s where I got my idea of what a real prohibitionist is.”

At Clinton’s, I meet up with Lois McDonald, who works at the Independence Chamber of Commerce. “He’s everywhere!” she laughs. “If you look out the window, he’s standing right there.” Indeed, there’s Truman, cast in bronze, mid-stride, just outside the courthouse.

City manager Zach Walker calls Independence “the biggest small town you’ll ever be in. And I mean that lovingly,” he adds. “Everybody knows everyone.” With 117,000 people, it’s the fifth largest city in the state, and Walker says they’ve got their eyes on #3.

(Top left) Trying the blue raspberry milkshake at Clinton’s Soda Fountain. (Top right) Tabitha Watson, 17, makes a phosphate soda. (Bottom) Clinton’s is where President Harry Truman held his first job, in what was then Clinton’s drug store. Elissa Nadworny/NPR hide caption

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Elissa Nadworny/NPR

The city, he says, is ripe for development. “We’re defined by our history, but we’re certainly wanting to be more than just that, too.”

Walker hopes they can attract high tech jobs to jump-start the Independence economy. That’s important, Lois McDonald says, “So that we don’t just disappear into history. We have to stay relevant. It’s important to keep our eyes out, and not recede into the history books.”

City leaders also hope a revitalized Independence will attract more young people with families to move here, like 34-year-old Zac Gall.

Gall grew up in Independence, but moved away to study writing. When his friends were settling down in Brooklyn, Austin and San Francisco, he and his wife decided to move back to Independence.

Truman’s boyhood home where Zac Gall now lives with his family. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

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Melissa Block/NPR

Now, he teaches at Truman High School and he lives in the Truman boyhood home. “So we’re just hitting all the Independence tropes, I guess!” he jokes.

Gall tells me his mother recalls seeing the former president taking his daily constitutional through town. “You do feel his presence,” he says. “The office at the top of the stairs that I have now — what I write and work out of — was Harry Truman’s bedroom when he was a teenager. It’s kind of wild!”

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The Politics Of The Super Bowl

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to longtime NFL insider Amy Trask, former Oakland Raiders CEO, about all the politics swirling around the Super Bowl, and what she thinks of this year’s matchup.

In today’s hyper-fast media climate, who has time to wait for the Super Bowl to actually see the commercials?

There are a few advertisers who will make us wait until the Big Game to see their wares – Snickers plans a live commercial with Adam Driver which will be Must See TV whether it works or not. Weeks ago, many advertisers started posting online teasers, previews and actual commercials airing in Sunday’s game. (Beermaker Anheuser-Busch reportedly held a “media briefing” on its ads strategy with journalists last month).

Makes sense. These companies are paying up to $5 million for 30 seconds of advertising time to the Fox network for space in a game that is often the most-watched TV event of the year. With that much at stake, a media strategy that doesn’t include some pre-game day viewing seems like a missed opportunity.

Just like with TV shows, ads that move audiences can tell us a lot about what values inspire or alarm us. And those notions can change on a dime – I’m betting Anheuser-Busch never expected its inspiring story about the immigration struggles of founder Adolphus Busch to be seen as a dig at President Donald Trump.


But it’s tough to watch scenes in its ad titled “Born the Hard Way,” where Busch initially faces angry Americans telling him, “you’re not wanted here… go back home,” without thinking of Trump’s executive order on immigration and the fiery debate it has kicked off.

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting Super Bowl commercials coming Sunday – including a few that are compelling for reasons their creators likely never intended.

Bud Light: Ghost Spuds. The Weird But Kinda Works award goes to Budweiser for its ad featuring the ghost of its former Bud Light mascot, the party dog Spuds MacKenzie, voiced by actor Carl Weathers. At first, it’s odd to be reminded that the dog which actually played the original Spuds in late 1980s ads is no longer with us. But watching the “ghost” lead a schlubby guy to realize the value of friendship through beer is kinda entertaining – and pretty much the spirit of a lot of Super Bowl revelry.


Audi: Daughter. As the father of three daughters, I was all in for this ad featuring a young girl beating several boys to win a downhill cart race while her dad voices fears about how sexism will affect her, asking, “do I tell her… she will automatically be valued as less than every man she meets?” By the time the screen announces “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work,” I’m drying my eyes and thinking about a vehicle upgrade.


Ford: Go Further. Complaints about commercialism may seem quaint these days. But it’s still jarring to see Ford use Nina Simone’s rendition of the civil rights anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” to illustrate scenes where people are frustrated by being stuck in traffic or locked out of the house. When Simone sang about wanting to “break all the chains holding me,” I don’t think she meant sidestepping traffic tie-ups.


Mercedes-Benz USA: Easy Driver. One notch down the commercialism disappointment scale, we find the Mercedes-Benz ad featuring Peter Fonda. Stories about Baby Boomers selling out are nothing new. But it’s still odd to see a guy who once embodied ’60s counter culture in Easy Rider star in a commercial with hordes of bikers acting like knuckleheads until they are struck dumb by the sight of a relatively clean-cut Fonda, peeling out of a parking lot in a $350,000 AMG-GT Roadster. Insult to injury: the commercial was directed by Fargo‘s Oscar-winning filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen.


Honda: Yearbooks. Lots of celebrities are doing lots of interesting ads (it seems like New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski pops up in every other commercial). But my award for Best Use of a Big Name goes to this ad, which animates old, mostly embarrassing high school yearbook photos of celebrities like Robert Redford, Amy Adams and Viola Davis to tell viewers dreams really do come true. Even for guys geeky enough to try rocking the pornstar moustache Steve Carrell sports in his photo (“You think any of these folks believed that I’d make it?” he asks. Surely not.)


Squarespace: Who is I’m always telling journalism students to get ownership of their name as a URL for their websites soon as possible. So it was a tickle to see John Malkovich in this ad begging a fisherman to let him have his own name back. Extra points to Malkovich for always being willing to poke fun at his own eccentric image.


Febreeze: Halftime #BathroomBreak. We all know what happens in bathrooms across the country between the halftime whistle and halftime show. Do we really need a TV commercial to remind us some air freshener may be needed?


84 Lumber: The Journey Begins. This 90-second ad features a Spanish-speaking mother and her young daughter enduring loads of hardships – jumping on trains, walking long distances, crossing rushing streams – to reach their destination. The company has said Fox rejected the original version of the ad, which included images of a border wall similar to the one President Trump has promised to erect between Mexico and the U.S. Now 84 Lumber’s website promises it will feature the full ad at halftime, with “content deemed too controversial for TV.” The wall-less version which will air on Fox Sunday certainly humanizes people who are too often reduced to stereotypes in today’s immigration debates. I don’t know how much lumber this ad will sell, but it will surely earn loads of attention.


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