Two U.S. service members were killed and five others were injured during combat operations in northern Iraq on Sunday, the military announced in a statement.
The joint task force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve, said an investigation has been opened into the incident. The mission notes that initial reports suggest the casualties did not come as a result of “enemy contact.”
“The entire counter-ISIS Coalition sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the task force, said in the statement Sunday.
“There are no words to describe the respect I have for you and sorrow I have for your loss,” Townsend continued. “I hope there is some small solace in knowing their loss has meaning for our country and all the nations of the Coalition as the fallen service members were fighting to defeat a truly evil enemy and to protect our homelands.”
As NPR’s Lauren Frayer reports, nine Americans involved in the operation have been killed this year, and nearly 50 service members have been wounded since the campaign launched roughly three years ago.
White nationalist demonstrators walk into a park to protest the pending removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend.
It didn’t take long for a photo of a throng of torch-wielding white supremacists to go viral. The picture from Friday night captured the faces of young (mostly) men who had descended onto the University of Virginia’s campus to protest the pending removal of a nearby statue of Robert E. Lee and as part of a planned rally in Charlottesville for white supremacists called “Unite The Right.” That the young men in the picture looked so smug and unashamed only made their troll-job more effective. Don’t they know they should be embarrassed by the things they’re saying?
It seemed another example of how emboldened the loose agglomeration of white nationalists, neo-Confederates and fascists that make up the so-called “alt-right” had become over the past two years, since they had hitched their wagons to Donald Trump’s star. (One of the key architects of Trump’s long-shot campaign for the White House was Steve Bannon, who as the head of Breitbart News turned it into the alt-right’s unofficial propaganda organ.) While the views of the torch carriers in Charlottesville weren’t exactly mainstream, the protesters clearly no longer felt they had anything to hide. They didn’t need the hoods and masks that once shrouded the identities of their ideological forebears.
Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader and University of Virginia alum who coined the term “alt-right,” would likely count that openness as its own incremental success. “If you greeted someone in 1985 and you said, ‘all gays should marry,’ you actually would get a lot of laughs,” Spencer told The Atlantic last year, not long after the election. “By 2015, gay marriage is popular. What is possible has shifted. That’s what the alt-right is doing. It’s shifting the reality of what’s possible, and imagining a reality in which they are.”
Spencer and other figures on the alt-right often explicitly invoke as their objective a desire to shift the “Overton window,” a wonky concept that until recently was only name-checked by political theorists and media studies types. Named for Joseph P. Overton, it refers to the universe of ideas that are palatable and therefore capable of being codified into policy; ideas that lay outside of that “window” are unthinkable. When the Overton window has shifted or expanded or contracted, it has often been as result of sustained political agitation. The most obvious example is the civil rights movement, which was, at its root, a project to fundamentally recast America’s social norms. It helped make mainstream once-radioactive ideas like the integration of American public spaces and created powerful new taboos around public expressions of racism.
Of course, these are the very things the alt-right wants to roll back. And just as it was in other ideological movements, the rancor among alt-right types — who can disagree over tactics, priorities and objectives — might serve the useful function of carving out more political room for their various revanchist factions to maneuver. The “radicals” often pull the movement in their ideological direction, but they also draw away fire and opprobrium from folks who less combative approaches to the same ends. That’s partly how Spencer, who makes a show of being well-mannered, name-dropping novelists and wearing ties, ended up a regular presence in the mainstream news media. His life’s goal may be to cleave out of the United States a separate nation meant solely for white people, but at least he doesn’t shout.
While a news outlet might pass on giving space and airtime to legitimizing a figure like Spencer, it’s much harder to ignore the president of the United States, by definition the most mainstream political figure in the country. Trump was restrained after the skirmishes between “Unite the Right” rallygoers and counterprotesters turned deadly. He characterized what was happening in Charlottesville as an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides.” Whatever his motive, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis — the kind of villains that it takes virtually no political instincts or particular ideology for a mainstream figure to condemn — escaped even a token condemnation from the president. The Klan was treated instead as just one of several unruly partisan hordes. It was a remarkable moment. It seemed almost as if something in the country had shifted.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, in 2011. Mullen, who retired six years ago, has expressed concern about escalating tensions with North Korea.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen is warning that tensions with North Korea could easily get “out of control,” and blames President Trump’s harsh rhetoric for narrowing options.
Speaking with NBC’s Meet the Press, Mullen was asked whether the president’s bellicose comments on North Korea had made the situation worse.
“It eliminates maneuver space for him because it looks like brinkmanship to me,” said Mullen, a retired admiral.
The remarks by the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama come after a week of tit-for-tat between Washington and Pyongyang that saw Trump promise to respond to North Korean threats with “fire and fury” and tweeting that a military response was “locked and loaded.” North Korea has threatened to conduct missile tests in waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.
“I’m really concerned, because I don’t know where this goes in terms of a peaceful resolution,” Mullen told Meet the Press.
He said he was worried about the “very strong rhetoric” coming from both sides in the dispute.
“That rhetoric, it seems to me, has taken away options or its reduced maneuver space, if you will, for leaders to make decisions,” he said.
“And if this results in a military strike, the unintended consequences of that, the possibility that there are disproportional responses, miscalculations. It can really get out of control fast,” he said.
Meanwhile, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Sunday that after conducting two ballistic missile tests in July, he would not be surprised if North Korea conducted another.
“I am quite confident that [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] will continue to try to develop his missile program, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was another missile test,” Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday.
A PAC-3 Patriot missile unit is seen deployed in the compound of Defense Ministry in Tokyo, on Thursday.
Japan’s former Ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, speaking with NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, said Japan is “rather reassured” that Washington “is getting more serious” about the threat from North Korea.
However, he noted that his personal opinion is “that it’s very important to say it once, but that it doesn’t have to be repeated.”
Many observers have pointed out the similarity of Trump’s “fire and fury” comments to the steady stream of propaganda coming out of North Korea, a criticism shared by Fujisaki. “It does not have to come down to the rhetoric of North Korea,” he said.
In Jr Arimboanga’s ninth-grade classroom, students learn about critical consciousness: how to read the word, but also the world. It’s a concept popularized by a Brazilian educational theorist named Paulo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
The class is ethnic studies. It’s part of an effort by San Francisco educators like Arimboanga to teach courses centered on the perspectives of historically marginalized groups. Just last year, California passed a law mandating a model ethnic studies curriculum.
Sometimes called multicultural education or culturally responsive teaching (though there are subtle differences among the three), ethnic studies has been expanding on the west coast and in pockets across the country. San Francisco’s curriculum is “designed to give high school students an introduction to the experiences of ethnic communities that are rarely represented in textbooks,” according to the school district’s website.
Teachers of ethnic studies argue that these courses give students a pathway to break the cycles of poverty, violence, and incarceration that so many communities of color face.
“Ethnic studies works,” says Artnelson Concordia, a veteran teacher who is helping to develop the San Francisco curriculum. He wants students to see that “all of their experiences can be connected to larger issues.”
“So by the end of the school year, they’re seeing themselves as makers of history,” Concordia says.
Movements and Counter-Movements
Ethnic studies has “gained momentum, frankly, with the election of Donald Trump,” says Ravi Perry, president of the National Association for Ethnic Studies. This summer, Oregon set a timetable for the adoption of K-12 ethnic studies standards. Efforts to introduce statewide legislation are also ongoing in Kansas and starting this year, Indiana high schools will be required to offer ethnic and racial studies as an elective course. States with large indigenous populations — like Montana and Alaska — have already written standards for culturally responsive teaching.
“We have an obligation to ensure their heritage is aptly reflected in how we talk about America,” Perry says. “This is not about promoting an individual agenda. It’s about understanding the importance of community solidarity.”
Other movements are concentrated at the district level. Seattle has passed a resolution, based on recommendations from the NAACP. Students in Providence, R.I., have successfully lobbied for a pilot of the ethnic studies curriculum. Albuquerque, N.M., has launched ethnic studies courses in all of its high schools.
Though the start of the ethnic studies movement can be traced to the early 1900s, it really kicked off in the 1960s at colleges and universities. In the past decade, the growth has accelerated in K-12 schools, partly in response to an Arizona law that banned the curriculum.
There, Republican lawmakers were specifically targeting a Mexican-American studies program at Tucson High School — where minority enrollment is 88 percent. The Republicans who wrote the legislation, Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, claimed the classes were stoking racial tensions and “radicalizing students.” They pointed to the course materials — among them, Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America — as well as the class decor, which included a poster of Che Guevara.
In 2010, Horne and Huppenthal passed HB 2281, prohibiting classes and materials that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government,” “resentment toward a race or class or people,” or “ethnic solidarity.” (This happened soon after the passage of SB 1070, which gave local police the authority to question a person’s citizenship.)
There were other ethnic studies courses in Tucson that were not touched by the bill, Huppenthal says. He mentions African-American studies, for one. But the teachers of Mexican-American studies classes at Tucson High, Huppenthal says, were “indoctrinating students.”
“They were doing a very simplistic application of Karl Marx’s dictum: All of history is the struggle between the ‘oppressor’ and the ‘oppressed,’ ” Huppenthal says. “And they were going to identify whites as oppressors and Hispanics as the oppressed.”
Myths and Truths
“One of the things you would hear was that our classes were hateful. That we were teaching resentment,” says Curtis Acosta, who piloted one of the Mexican-American studies classes that sparked the controversy in Arizona. “That’s exactly the antithesis of what you would see.”
Acosta taught for 18 years in Tucson Unified School District. On a typical day in his Chicano literature class, Acosta says, you’d find students sitting at tables “doing really controversial things like reading and writing well.”
Each morning, his class would begin with an affirmation, a Mayan precept called In Lak Ech, which translates to “You are another me.” Students would recite in Spanish and English part of the poem by Luís Valdez:
Tú eres mi otro yo. You are my other me. Si te hago daño a ti, If I do harm to you, Me hago daño a mi mismo. I do harm to myself. Si te amo y respeto, If I love and respect you, Me amo y respeto yo. I love and respect myself.
“Students were sharing and taking risks and that didn’t happen by accident,” Acosta says. “It was real intentional.”
Alexei Marquez can attest to that. She was in Acosta’s class the first year it was offered. Up until then, she had been a dutiful, if disengaged, student. “I learned from an early age to play the game as it was,” Marquez says.
When she took Acosta’s class, it was the first time she’d connected to literature on a personal level. She fell in love with The Devil’s Highway by Luís Alberto Urrea. “I can’t even tell you what I read in AP English,” Marquez says.
She is starting her PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Arizona. And she is not a lone success story. While 48 percent of Latino students were dropping out of high school, 100 percent of those students enrolled in Mexican-American studies classes at Tucson High were graduating, and 85 percent were going on to college.
“The research says, plainly, that this stuff works,” explains Christine Sleeter, a California State University professor and ethnic studies expert. In 2010, the National Education Association asked her to review the academic and social impact of ethnic studies.
A few things happen when students take courses that connect with their lived experience, Sleeter says. Engagement increases, as do literacy skills, overall achievement and attitudes toward learning.
“As students of color proceed through the school system, research finds that the overwhelming dominance of Euro-American perspectives leads many such students to disengage from academic learning,” Sleeter writes in the NEA report. “Ethnic studies curricula exist in part because students of color have demanded an education that is relevant, meaningful, and affirming of their identities.”
Something else happens in these classes: students develop “a sense of agency,” Sleeter writes. So they aren’t just learning about history, they’re engaging with it and shaping it — reading the word and the world.
A Stanford study finds similar outcomes — particularly for high school students at risk of dropping out. Taking a course which examines “the roles of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience” improved not only academic performance, but also attendance.
“Kids react when the curriculum isn’t speaking to their experiences or to the things that really matter to them,” Sleeter says. “They just get bored and they either intellectually drop out or physically drop out.”
Waiting on a Verdict
A federal judge will rule any day now on whether GOP state officials violated students’ constitutional rights when they all but abolished Tucson High’s Mexican-American studies program.
For the main players, this trial has stirred up a lot of old emotions.
Huppenthal has held steady, maintaining that ethnic studies racializes the classroom. “To teach kids that they’re victims and they can’t get ahead in life because somebody’s holding them down, I think it’s a mistake,” he says.
But that argument — that the world is a meritocracy, free of systemic racism and colonialism — is detrimental to students of color, according to a new study in the Child Development journal.
Acosta, who lost his class to the ban, has been helping other districts integrate ethnic studies into their schools. No matter what happens, he says, the legacy of Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program remains.
“As emotional as this has been, what’s really fascinating and affirming is that ethnic studies is now something seen,” Acosta says. “And can be used to resuscitate hope.”
Over 200 men and women sent in their stories of street harassment to NPR, and across the U.S. all of their experiences were similar.
Over the past two years, I’ve lived in six cities in two states — Arizona, New York — and the District of Columbia. And one of the first things I always notice about each new place is the street harassment.
Manhattan and Brooklyn were rough. During my first week of work in Manhattan, a tall man in a coat said “good morning, baby” to me as he masturbated. Calls of “hey baby” were almost as common as “good morning.” In Phoenix, I got harassed in my car during rush hour gridlock with honks, “heys” and sexually explicit gestures. And during my first month interning with NPR in Washington, D.C., I was honked at, leered at, “hey baby’ed” and, once, even followed to work.
I’m not alone. A 2014 survey commissioned by Stop Street Harassment, a nonprofit that works to document and end street harassment, showed that 65 percent of all women in the U.S. said they had experienced street harassment. In the 2,000-person nationally representative poll, 23 percent of U.S. women said they’d been touched and 20 percent had been followed. Among men, about a quarter surveyed said they had been harassed on the street.
It seemed to me that in a country where a carbonated drink is known as soda, coke or pop, depending on where you are, there might be some regional differences in the language of sexual harassment as well. After all, people say “howdy” a whole lot more in my hometown of Hereford, Ariz., than they do in New York City.
Through a social media callout on NPR, we asked people to share their experiences of street harassment, and received more than 200 responses.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, a man yelped “Damn girl,” at Rebecca Vachon. In Chicago, Ill., Stephanie Pelzer was walking by when a man yelled, “Oh damn baby, damn you sexy thing.” Meredith Young was on her way to work in Washington, D.C., when a man stopped to say, “Damn, look at the a** on that thing.”
Turns out that just as with the phenomenon of street harassment, the language of street harassment is pretty consistent across the country.
Holly Kearl, the founder and executive director of Stop Street Harassment, says that common words and actions from street harassers are virtually the same across the entire U.S. — and even around the globe.
“I was shocked to find women have similar experiences with harassment in different places of the world, not just regions in the U.S.,” she said, noting that the language – and actions – is pretty consistent among all harassers. “I’m like, ‘Is there some school [harassers] are all going to? What is going on?'”
Words such as “damn” and “baby” are among the most common kinds of street harassment, as are sexual gestures, honks and whistles.
Benjamin Bailey, an associate professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who researches street remarks, says one reason for this consistency is because harassers use vague language so they can easily deny they meant any harm.
“My most striking finding is mostly it’s ‘hi,’ ‘hi beautiful,’ ‘hi sweetie,'” Bailey says. “Very boring, surely sexist, but the vast majority of [street harassment] are these subtle things that are appropriate in other contexts and give an out to that person.”
The harasser can say, “I was just saying hi!” — which makes it harder for the victim to speak out against them, Bailey says.
Bailey says he thinks these men want attention, and there are limited ways of doing that. “And if you do it in a way that, on the surface, is culturally appropriate, such as ‘greeting,’ you don’t seem to be trespassing so much.”
“You have this subtle way of reproducing the patriarchy,” Bailey says. “It’s hard to fight back against. The threats of violence and extremely offensive ones exist, but 95 percent are these other things.”Unless you’re like Erin Petersen in Baltimore, who experienced both in the same incident: A man tried to get her attention with “Hey!”s until finally he gave up when she didn’t respond — and called her a “stupid b****” and a “dumb c***.”
In cities, people are often harassed by strangers on the street or during gridlock in their cars. That leads many people to believe that street harassment is mostly an urban problem, says Kearl of Stop Street Harassment.
A survey of 612 women from 2000 found that women in all areas experience street harassment: 90 percent in rural areas, 88 percent in suburban areas, and 87 percent in urban areas.
Kearl describes one woman’s experience in Alaska. This woman lived in a very small town — there was one general store in the entire area. Men would linger outside the store and harass women as they entered and exited.
“The difference is that in Alaska that’s the only store they can go to,” Kearl said. “So there’s some regional differences like that, but the actual harassment is pretty much the same.”
So whether it’s walking alone to the corner store in a small town in Alaska or returning home after a night out in New York City, women are likely to hear the same catcalls and experience the same harassment.
Christianna Silva is an NPR Digital News intern.
Flowers and other mementos are left at a makeshift memorial for the victims after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in Charlottesville, Va.
Authorities in Charlottesville, Va., were investigating a day after a rally of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and Ku Klux Klan members erupted into deadly violence, including a car that rammed into a march of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.
The white nationalists, whose “Unite the Right” rally promised to “take America back,” had gathered to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park.
Two Virginia state troopers en route to the crash scene in a helicopter were also killed when their chopper crashed, police said.
For hours on Saturday, white nationalists — some helmeted and carrying shields and Confederate flags — clashed with counterprotesters, some wearing “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts. Hundreds of people threw punches and beat each other with sticks, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical spray, according to The Associated Press.
White nationalist demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
Deadly car attack
At one point, a car sped forward through a march of counterprotesters, mowing down people, including one woman who was killed. She has not been named by authorities. The impact threw people into the air and more than a dozen were injured. The driver, later identified as James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old who had moved to Ohio from Kentucky, was taken into custody and has been charged with second-degree murder.
The Associated Press, who spoke to the driver’s mother, quotes her as saying that she didn’t know her son was going to a white supremacist rally.
“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” Bloom told the AP. The news agency says Bloom became visibly upset as she learned of the injuries and deaths at the rally.
Late Saturday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that federal authorities will pursue a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.
President Trump on Saturday responded to the violence, condemning “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” adding “On many sides.”
“It’s been going on for a long time in our country,” the president said. “Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”
Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who declared a state of emergency following the unrest, is expected to visit Charlottesville today. After the violence on Saturday, McAuliffe, called on the protesters to leave his state.
“Our message is plain and simple — go home,” he said. “You are not wanted in this great Commonwealth. Shame on you! You pretend that you’re patriots – but you are anything but a patriot.”
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat, blamed the violence on a poisoned political discourse in the country.
“There is a very sad and regrettable coarseness in our politics that we’ve all seen too much of today,” Signer said at a press conference. “Our opponents have become our enemies, debate has become intimidation.”
Speaking to Weekend All Things Considered, the city’s vice mayor, Wes Bellamy, blamed the white nationalists who he said wanted “invoke terror.”
“As many of you are aware, we’re entrenched in a battle to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. But what you’re seeing is bigger than a statue,” Bellamy told NPR. “What you’re seeing are outside groups and people – some who live here, but most of them do not live here – believe that they can come take over our town. And our city, our community, our area is better than that.”