DNC Group Calls For Drastic Cut In 'Superdelegates' As Part Of Nomination Process

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has called for the party to reform the way it uses superdelegates in its presidential nominating process.

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The group created to reform how the way the Democratic National Committee selects its presidential nominees announced plans Saturday to slash the number of superdelegates used by more than half — an effort it calls a “productive first step” for making the nomination process more open to the grassroots wing of the party.

The DNC’s Unity Reform Commission called its recommendations “historic.” In a statement, the commission’s chair Jennifer O’Malley Dillion and vice chair Larry Cohen said “We are incredibly proud of the work this commission has undertaken since May to ensure that our party’s presidential nominating process is far more inclusive and brings new people into the party.”

They added: “This includes reducing the number of unpledged delegates or ‘superdelegates’ by nearly 60%, and making our caucuses and primaries more accessible, transparent and accurate.”

Superdelegates — sometimes referred to as unpledged delegates — are elected officials and other party leaders that are free to throw their support to any candidate at the party’s presidential nominating convention. Pledged delegates, on the other hand, can only cast their votes in the nomination process based on the outcomes of state primaries and caucuses.

The commission is also recommending that state parties in all 50 states make absentee voting more accessible, offer same-day party affiliation switching and and ensure same-day voter registration is available. It also is calling for written ballots at caucuses so that recounts and recanvases can be done accurately.

The recommendations are not binding. They still have to be voted on by the DNC’s bylaws committee and, if it passes, then by the entire Democratic National Committee. The Unity Reform Commission was established following the bruising 2016 presidential primary between Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Sanders released a statement praising the commission’s recommendations.

The senator who caucuses with Senate Democrats, said he was “extremely pleased” that the commission had begun the process of making the Democratic more accessible to working people and young people across the country by “voting nearly unanimously to limit the role of super delegates along with making our caucuses and primaries more democratic.”

He continued: “Now it is incumbent on the Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws committee and the membership of the DNC to enact these critical reforms as soon as possible.”

The commission is made of 21 party operatives selected by Clinton, Sanders and DNC Chair Tom Perez to unite the party while “empowering Democrats” at all levels and finding ways to engage with new and unaffiliated voters according to the Unity Reform Commission’s website.

Last month, former interim DNC chair Donna Brazile re-opened old wounds among Democrats when she published a scathing look at the 2016 primary process.

In her book entitled Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House she all but said the Clinton campaign tilted the primary process in Clinton’s favor by entering in a deal with the DNC that allowed her to have input on hiring and party spending in exchange for providing the DNC with much need help with fundraising.

In an interview with NPR, Brazile was asked by host Lulu Garcia-Navarro whether or not the nomination process was rigged.

“No, the primary was not rigged. What I said in the book was that in exchange for bailing out the party, which was broke, the Clinton campaign would get control over certain decisions and aspects of the DNC that made it difficult, if not impossible for me to do my job. I call it unethical, but the primary itself was not rigged.”

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Trump Attends Opening Of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Despite Controversy

President Donald Trump gets a tour of the newly-opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., Saturday. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, left, joins the president on the tour.

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President Trump visited Jackson, Miss., Saturday, where he toured and delivered remarks at the opening of a pair of museums dedicated to the state’s role in the civil rights movement and as a celebration of its bicentennial.

While he largely did not stray from his prepared remarks, Trump’s presence at the event drew a sharp rebuke from some prominent African-American elected officials and civil rights leaders, prompting some of them to not to attend the opening altogether.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.; and Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, all publicly declared in recent days that they were not going to the opening ceremony for Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, citing what they said was Trump’s tendency to stir racial divisions and questionable record on civil rights issues of importance to ethnic and racial minorities.

In his remarks Saturday, Trump did not wade into the controversy surrounding his presence. Instead, he praised those who helped build the conjoined facilities that state officials worked to open for more than a decade.

“These museums are labors of love, love for Mississippi, love for your nation, love for God-given dignity written into every human soul,” the president said. “These buildings embody the hope that has lived in the hearts of every American for generations, the hope in a future that is more just and more free.”

Trump, at the invitation of Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this week, was slated to participate in the public ceremony marking the museum’s opening. But, that plan was scuttled after some prominent figures said they would not attend because Trump would be there. The president ended up delivering his remarks to a smaller crowd at a private event inside an auditorium just before the larger public ceremony held outside in the brisk December weather.

Trump also said Saturday that the museum records the “oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African-American community” and he highlighted the work done by civil rights leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers, a Mississippi native and NAACP activist in the state who was killed by a white supremacist in 1963 outside his home late one night in Jackson.

“Here we memorialize the brave men and women who struggled to sacrifice and sacrifice so much so that others can live in freedom,” the president said.

Following the event, Trump tweeted that it was an “honor” to celebrate the museum’s opening.

“It was my great honor to celebrate the opening of two extraordinary museums-the Mississippi State History Museum & the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. We pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past & dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice & peace.”

It was my great honor to celebrate the opening of two extraordinary museums-the Mississippi State History Museum & the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. We pay solemn tribute to our heroes of the past & dedicate ourselves to building a future of freedom, equality, justice & peace. pic.twitter.com/5AkgVpV8aa

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017

On Friday, Lewis — a civil rights icon in his own right who marched alongside King in the height of the civil rights movement, and had his skull fractured during a protest that turned gruesome in Alabama in 1965 known as “Bloody Sunday” — said Trump’s attendance at the museum was “an insult.”

“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum,” Lewis said in a statement. “The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi.”

President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum. After President Trump departs, we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum. https://t.co/cXo11eGHZw

— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) December 8, 2017

The statement issued with Rep. Thompson, Mississippi’s only Democratic member of Congress and who is also African-American, offered a list of minority groups the president has maligned as further reason why the two lawmakers had decided not to attend Saturday’s event alongside Trump: “President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants, and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.”

Both Reps. Lewis and Thompson were among the Democratic members of Congress who did not attend Trump’s inauguration earlier this year.

In an interview with CNN on Friday, Jackson’s Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba echoed the sentiments expressed by Lewis and Thompson, adding that Trump coming to the opening of the civil rights museum was “ill-considered.”

“I think we are aware obviously of the great sacrifices and struggles that took place to bring us to this point,” Lumumba said. “And President Trump and the policies he espouses are disrespectful to the legacy and the history that is to be portrayed in this museum.”

But, Bryant, the Mississippi governor, disagreed.

Earlier this week as the controversy was beginning to simmer, he tweeted residents should be “proud” the president wanted to be at the museum’s opening and urged residents of the state to unify.

Mississippi should be proud that @POTUS has agreed to speak at the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
The world will be watching our Bicentennial celebration. Let us come together as one Mississippi. pic.twitter.com/QA8KKjP2yz

— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) December 6, 2017

“Mississippi should be proud that @POTUS has agreed to speak at the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The world will be watching our Bicentennial celebration. Let us come together as one Mississippi.”

White House spokesperson Raj Shah told reporters Friday aboard Air Force One, as the president was headed to Florida for a campaign rally, that Trump never considered not going to the museum’s opening even after Lewis, Thompson and others announced they would not attend.

“We think it’s a little unfortunate that [at] a moment like this, that could be used for unification and for bringing people together, some folks are choosing to play politics with it, “he said. “But that’s not going to deter us from honoring heroes in the civil rights movement.”

Shah added: “The civil rights movement is an amazing movement about fighting intolerance, hatred and bigotry. He’s going to honor the leaders of that movement.”

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Firefighters Gain Ground On SoCal Wildfires Even As Winds Continue To Vex

Fire crews work among destroyed homes at the Rancho Monserate Country Club community on Thursday in Fallbrook, Calif.

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Tens of thousands of people forced from their homes, thousands of acres scorched and hundreds of buildings reduced to ash. It hasn’t yet been one week since the latest string of wildfires broke out in Southern California and the toll has been staggering.

Even so, by Saturday, some bright spots began to emerge in the fire-ravaged region.

The Santa Ana winds, whose gusts had measured at hurricane force earlier in the week helping drive the flames, had subsided by Friday evening. Firefighters took advantage of the lull to gain some ground on the fires.

On Saturday, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County — the biggest of the area blazes — was 15 percent contained and had burned around 150,000 acres.

“Milder winds allowed more helicopters and air tankers to make fire retardant and water drops,” reports Danielle Karson from Pasadena.

An extended period of Santa Ana winds forecast thru Sunday over Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. These winds will range from 25 to 40 mph into Saturday, and increase Saturday into Sunday with gusts 40 to 50 mph. The minimum RH values of 5 to 10 percent into midweek. #cawx

— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) December 8, 2017

Southeast in Los Angeles County, firefighters were also making headway on three other blazes: the Rye and Creek Fires were at 65 and 80 percent containment respectively, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

And the Skirball fire which burned in the pricey residential neighborhood of Bel-Air and took several homes with it, was at 50 percent containment, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

But even with the winds’ reprieve, firefighters braced for their forceful return.

On Saturday the National Weather Service issued a high wind warning in San Diego, with gusts predicted to reach 60 mph or higher through Sunday afternoon.

Latest HRRR smoke model output continues to keep much of the smoke across the Santa Barbara South Coast then spreads south over Oxnard during the afternoon and evening. #Socal#CAwx#LAfire#ThomasFire#CreekFire#RyeFirepic.twitter.com/1ukaGqW88G

— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) December 9, 2017

Adding to the region’s woes, a new wildfire erupted in San Diego County on Thursday. The Lilac Fire overran a mobile home retirement community as well as a horse training facility, where dozens of horses died in the blaze, The Associated Press reports.

It had burned 4,100 acres and 100 structures by Saturday and was nearly a quarter-contained.

Dick Marsala was overcome with emotion as he sifted through the ash of his home trying to find his wallet. He came across a photograph of himself playing golf. “I’ll be darned,” was all he could manage, reports the AP, as his eyes teared up.

Tom Metier’s own home was spared, but he reflected on the damage in his community. “It’s really horrible to see some of these little streets look like a moonscape,” he told the wire service.

In Los Angeles and Ventura counties a red flag warning remained in effect through Sunday — meaning conditions were prime for the spread of fires. Forecasters said the Santa Ana winds there would be 30-40 mph on Saturday but could pick up to 55 mph on Sunday. The winds, combined with low humidity could lead to what the NWS called “critical” fire conditions through the weekend.

At their peak, the fires chased 212,000 Californians from their homes, according to the AP’s count. But by Friday, evacuation orders stemming from the Creek Fire in Los Angeles County were lifted. And most of the city of Ventura was allowed back home following evacuation orders from the Thomas Fire.

Are you returning home after a wildfire? Here is some information @LACo_FD@LAFD@Angeles_NF@LAPDHQ@LASDHQpic.twitter.com/zLyER59wSE

— LACounty Fire PIO (@LACoFDPIO) December 9, 2017

But weary area residents had to be content with yet another consequence from the wildfires: air quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency says several parts of the region will experience unhealthy levels of air pollution through the weekend.

“These big large flakes of ash continue to fall,” NPR’s Eric Westervelt reports from the Ojai Valley. “There’s a sort of blanket of smoke everywhere. Most people are wearing these white protective masks.”

Officials in Ventura County said, “In the Ojai Valley and surrounding areas, the air quality is extremely bad with the last couple of days at the Very Unhealthy/Hazardous levels. In fact, the numbers are off the charts for AQI (air quality index) readings.”

Hospitals across Southern California have seen a sharp uptick in emergency room patients complaining of breathing problems this week, The Los Angeles Times reports.

A firefighter battles a wildfire at Faria State Beach in Ventura, Calif., Thursday.

Jae C. Hong/AP

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Jae C. Hong/AP

Officials say residents can take a few basic steps to protect themselves including reducing physical activity, wearing a mask outside, staying inside as much as possible and not worsening indoor air by burning logs or even incense.

At least one death has been attributed to the fires. The Ventura County Medical Examiner Office said a 70-year-old woman from Santa Paula got into a traffic accident during an evacuation earlier in the week and died from “blunt force injuries with terminal smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.”

With dust-dry vegetation, very little rain and nagging winds, the peril persists.

On Saturday, the Ventura County Fire Department warned the Thomas Fire was expected to spread toward Santa Barbara and a new evacuation order was issued.

Gov. Jerry Brown remained optimistic as he was scheduled to visit the scene of the Thomas Fire. “We’re going to recover,” Brown tweeted on Friday. “Have no doubt about that.”

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'Uncomfortable' Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Aims To Face Past, Move Forward

Harold Dahmer, whose father Vernon Dahmer was killed in 1966 by the Ku Klux Klan, smiles when he sees a photograph of his younger self on display at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum opens Saturday in Jackson as a testament to the state’s complicated, often dark, racial and political history. This week, it became the setting of its own political dust-up, but organizers hope to stay focused on the museum’s message.

Democratic Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi announced earlier this week that they would not attend the opening after Republican Gov. Phil Bryant extended an invitation to President Trump, who attended Saturday.

Mississippi is a key chapter in the nation’s ongoing struggle for equality, but the state has been slow to acknowledge the racism and violence in its past. The new museum now tells that difficult story.

Pamela Junior, director of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, guided a group of guests through the galleries before the official opening. The tour starts with a look at Africans coming to the U.S. through the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Next, museum guests journey through the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction, when African-American communities begin to thrive. Then the tour takes a turn into a room dominated by a tree with limbs sprawling overhead.

“It’s not only you think about the tree and lynching,” Junior said. “But you look up and see the images — Jim Crow images — as leaves on the limbs of the tree.”

There are five lynching monoliths, etched with the names of some 600 victims. Junior wants visitors to experience these dark, cramped spaces as they move through the museum.

“The [civil cights] movement was very uncomfortable,” she said. “I want them to feel uncomfortable. So they can understand that once they come through this tunnel, they’ll come to light.”

Museum personnel said the goal is to take visitors through the darkness of the past into the light they hope for in the future.

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

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Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

The challenge, she said, is to “make Mississippi the best that [it] can [be].”

Junior said she and her colleagues will encourage visitors to travel across the state to learn more at key historical sites. And there are plenty – Bryant’s Grocery store, where Emmett Till was fatefully accused of flirting with a white shopkeeper before he was abducted and brutally killed; the house where NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in his driveway; voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s grave; the field where Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee first called for Black Power; and the Neshoba County memorial to three civil rights workers killed by the Ku Klux Klan during Freedom Summer.

Long time coming

Mississippi state Sen. Hillman Frazier calls his state “ground zero when it comes to civil rights.”

Frazier, of Jackson, was instrumental in getting legislation passed for the new museum and served on the planning committee. It was a long time coming, he said.

“Folks thought we should forget about that part of history. Don’t tell the story. Don’t bring up anything that is painful,” he said. “But that’s part of our history.”

Civil rights tourism has taken off in other states. In Alabama, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery are a big draw.

In 2006, then-Republican Gov. Haley Barbour helped push the Mississippi project forward, seeing the economic benefit. But to secure funding from the Legislature, Frazier said, the civil rights museum was paired with a state history museum, giving lawmakers political cover to approve it.

“Some just didn’t want to vote for a straight-up civil rights museum because of the districts they represent,” Frazier said. “They just didn’t want to bring those issues up.”

Some state officials, including Frazier, reject the idea that the dual museums represent a continuation of the “separate but equal” doctrine. Instead, he said, they complement one another.

Set in downtown Jackson near the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the two buildings are joined by a common lobby. The Museum of Mississippi History gives a broad overview of the state’s past.

“This museum covers the entire sweep of the state’s history from the earliest times to the present,” said state archives director Katie Blount.

It spans from the Stone Age and Native American cultures through the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 to Hurricane Katrina. Blount said the civil rights museum brings a deeper focus to the 30-year period when Mississippi was at the center of the movement. Both museums tap the vast collection of the state archives, including the papers of Medgar and Myrlie Evers-Williams.

But Blount said there are gaps in the broader state museum, particularly from the civil rights era.

Museum exhibits, including one on the assassination of Medgar Evers, take visitors through significant events that drove the fight for civil rights forward.

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

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Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

“It was a more recent period, and people don’t necessarily think of what they have as artifacts,” she said. “And there was also some hesitation until the museum was built and people could see the approach we were taking. I think people were hesitant to let their treasures go.”

Painful memories on display

Another major contribution came from the family of murdered Hattiesburg NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer. He was targeted for offering to pay the poll tax for African-Americans who wanted to vote.

Dahmer was killed in 1966 when the KKK firebombed his home and surrounded it, waiting to shoot anyone who tried to escape.

State Sen. Albert Butler Sr. speaks with Ellie Dahmer, the widow of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer, who died when the Ku Klux Klan firebombed their home in 1966.

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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

While her husband fought off the attackers with a shotgun from the front of the house, Ellie Dahmer busted a back window to get out with her children. The 92-year-old said she never thought she would see it documented in a museum.

“We lived it,” she said. “And some of them died with it. The rest of Mississippi needs to know about it.”

Museum director Junior showed the Dahmer family a photograph of the four oldest sons who returned from the military after their father was killed. They stood somberly by the remains of the family home.

“You see the brothers all with uniforms on,” Junior said. “His sons were fighting for America, and Mr. Dahmer was here in Mississippi fighting to be an American.”

Vernon Dahmer Jr., the eldest son, stopped to gather himself when he saw the picture.

“That was a tough day,” he said. “To have to come home and look at where we were raised and reflect back on the memories of growing up. And it didn’t need to happen.”

He is moved by the museum’s treatment of Mississippi’s brutal past.

“We’ve come a long way, and it’s something we can all be proud of,” Dahmer Jr. said. “Got a long way to go.”

He said he is pleased and proud to see the exhibit on his father and Mississippi’s other civil rights martyrs.

“It represents well what Mississippi stands for and what we’ve gone through,” he said.

His brother Dennis Dahmer was 11 when the KKK attacked. He said they came to send a message not long after passage of the Voting Rights Act.

“To terrorize black folks and people sympathetic to black folks,” he said. “This is still Mississippi, and this is the kind of stuff that can happen to you.”

The Dahmers said Mississippi’s state flag with its Confederate emblem sends just as chilling a message.

“We can’t get rid of the flag,” Ellie Dahmer said. “How can they put up a museum like this?”

Slow progress

Despite a confession from one of the Klansmen, it was more than 30 years before Mississippi convicted a KKK grand wizard for Dahmer’s murder.

Ellie Dahmer said it’s up to white people to see it through.

“If as many of them will stand as the Blacks did in ’66, we will change in Mississippi,” she said. “But you all are going to have to stand. We’ve already stood.”

Her daughter, Bettie Dahmer, was burned in the January 1966 attack. She’s thankful for the exhibit and thinks the museum is a powerful teaching tool. But she is not so sure her dad would approve.

Bettie Dahmer (left), with her mother, Ellie, said her father “was simply trying to make the world better for his children and other children.”

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

“This is just not my daddy’s thing,” she said. “Accolades, no, he wasn’t looking for that. He was simply trying to make the world better for his children and other children.”

Now, a new controversy has put Mississippi in the spotlight after Gov. Bryant invited Trump to the museum’s opening. Lewis and Thompson of Mississippi said it’s an insult for Trump to come given his response to white nationalist rallies and other racially divisive comments.

The White House issued a statement saying it’s “unfortunate” that Lewis and Thompson won’t join the president in honoring the “incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.”

Bryant rejected calls to revoke the president’s invitation.

“The president of the United States should be able, and we’re very thankful that he is going to come for this historic occasion,” Bryant said.

He said Trump will honor Mississippi with his presence.

Dennis Dahmer disagrees. He said that Trump’s attendance takes away from the seriousness of the moment and that some members of his family will no longer attend the museum dedication because they feel it’s now tainted.

“You never know what he might say,” Dahmer said.

The agenda calls for Trump to briefly tour the museum and then speak with civil rights veterans and elected officials in a private setting. He is not expected to make remarks at the public opening ceremony.

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ISIS's Last Stand Falls In Iraq, Prime Minister Says

Thousands of Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad take part in a training exercise in 2015. On Saturday, the Iraqi prime minister announced its war on the Islamic State group was over, after more than three years of fighting.

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ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State Saturday after its forces drove out the group from its final area of control along the Syrian border, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

“Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border,” Abadi later tweeted. “We defeated Daesh through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people.”

الانتصارات تحققت بالوحدة والعزيمة، فالعدو اراد أن يقضي على بلدنا وحضارتنا وتصدينا له وهزمناه. ان الامم بامكانها ان تنجز المستحيل اذا توحدت، وأن النجاح يتحقق باحترامنا للاختلافات فيما بيننا وتحقيق شعار (أنا والآخر) لتحقيق النهضة pic.twitter.com/xwShfmBAB3

— Haider Al-Abadi (@HaiderAlAbadi) December 9, 2017

Three-and-half years of fighting have taken a heavy toll on Iraq; about 3 million Iraqis remain displaced and reconstruction poses a massive challenge.

The U.S.-backed Global Coalition, which is focused on the defeat of ISIS from multiple fronts, tweeted its good wishes to Iraq following the announcement. “The Coalition congratulate the people of Iraq on their significant victory against #Daesh. We stand by them as they set the conditions for a secure and prosperous #futureiraq.”

The Coalition congratulate the people of Iraq on their significant victory against #Daesh. We stand by them as they set the conditions for a secure and prosperous #futureiraqpic.twitter.com/pJlGImT1Yu

— The Global Coalition (@coalition) December 9, 2017

After ISIS swept into Iraq in the summer of 2014, it managed to overtake nearly a third of its territory, according to an Associated Press tally.

But Iraqi forces, alongside the U.S.-led military coalition, battled to regain ground, capped by this summer’s liberation of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — and finally last month’s recapture of Rawa, the final town under ISIS control. In the weeks that followed, Iraqi forces worked to remove smatterings from across its territory until the death knell for the group was sounded on Saturday.

Yet despite the declaration of victory, vestiges of the group may prove difficult to eradicate as insurgents remain capable of launching attacks. And Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to be living along the border with Syria and has remained defiant, exhorting his followers to keep up the fight, Reuters reports.

Remnants of ISIS also remain a problem in Syria, even after U.S.-backed militia forces retook Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, in October.

Now coalition forces in Iraq and Syria expect to be entering a new era of guerrilla warfare, Reuters says.

Operation Inherent Resolve — the U.S.-led military operation to drive ISIS from Iraq and Syria tweeted Saturday, “In conjunction with partner forces, @CJTFOIR defeats ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and sets conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.”

In conjunction with partner forces, @CJTFOIR defeats ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and sets conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.https://t.co/AmcTYmAqiE

— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) December 9, 2017

NPR’s Tom Bowman reports the U.S. will continue to maintain a presence in the country. “The rough number of U.S. troops in Iraq is above 5,000,” Bowman told our Two-Way blog. “I’m told the plan is not to totally withdraw U.S. troops, as we saw under Obama, but leave some presence for training etc. That decision will not be made until 2018 elections in Iraq.”

A political solution for both Iraq and Syria remains a vexing problem. As NPR’s Greg Myre reported in September “while the military fight against ISIS may be moving to its final stages, the new political challenges in Iraq and Syria are just beginning.”

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Fresh Air Weekend: James Franco; 2017's Word Of The Year; Guillermo Del Toro

James Franco plays eccentric filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. Franco says Wiseau “looks sort of like a mix between a vampire and a pirate and Michael Jackson. … He has long black hair that looks like it’s dyed with magic marker.”

Justina Mintz/Courtesy of A24

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Justina Mintz/Courtesy of A24

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

James Franco Tackles A Hollywood Story ‘Unlike Any Other’ In ‘Disaster Artist’: Franco’s new film is a behind-the-scenes take on the making of the 2003 cult classic The Room. “It was made for $6 million,” he says. “It looks like it was made for about $60.”

As Fissures Between Political Camps Grow, ‘Tribalism’ Emerges As The Word Of 2017: “The meme of the moment is to say that American politics has become ‘tribal,'” linguist Geoff Nunberg says. One sign of the division is the fact that no one can agree on how to use the word.

Director Guillermo Del Toro Says ‘Shape Of Water’ Centers On ‘Love Beyond Words’: “I wanted to make a completely honest, heart-on-sleeve, non-ironic melodrama,” del Toro says. Set in 1962, his new film features a fairy tale romance between a creature and a mute woman.

You can listen to the original interviews here:

James Franco Tackles A Hollywood Story ‘Unlike Any Other’ In ‘Disaster Artist’

As Fissures Between Political Camps Grow, ‘Tribalism’ Emerges As The Word Of 2017

Director Guillermo Del Toro Says ‘Shape Of Water’ Centers On ‘Love Beyond Words’

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To Some Zionist Christians And Jews, The Bible Says Jerusalem Is Israel's Capital

President Trump announced Wednesday that the U.S. views Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a controversial move that complicates Middle East politics.

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Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Those Jews and evangelical Christians who say an undivided Jerusalem should be the eternal capital of Israel have a ready answer for anyone who questions that claim: The Bible says so.

The most often-cited text is 2 Chronicles 6:5-6, wherein King Solomon quotes God as saying, “Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I chose no city in all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there, and I chose no man as prince over my people Israel;but I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.”

The Bible could hardly be more clear, it would seem.

“As far as God is concerned, Jerusalem has been the eternal, undivided capital since the reign of David,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, whose television program, “Focus on Israel,” is aimed primarily at evangelical Christians like herself who see the Bible as “true and historically accurate.” God, she said, “established the boundaries of all the nations, and he chose the city of Jerusalem for himself.”

That faith in the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and the Bible’s dictates regarding Jerusalem is shared by many Zionist Jews, including the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat.

“Everywhere you put a shovel in the ground in Jerusalem, you will find Jewish roots and connecting to Bible stories,” Barkat told NPR. Like other Israeli leaders, Barkat rejects U.N Security Resolution 242, which calls for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied during the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem.

“Any U.N. resolution that dismisses the Bible and dismisses the history, in many, many ways is irrelevant,” he said. “If you go back, even legally, it [Jerusalem] was never anything but belonging to the Jewish people.”

Those Christians who are not themselves Jewish may still feel included among the “people” of Israel, Cardoza-Moore said, by virtue of their faith in Jesus. She quotes Galatians 3:29, where Paul says, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring.” Her organization, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, is dedicated to “building a global community of action and prayer in support of Jews and Israel.” President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy, in Cardoza-Moore’s judgement, is “spiritually, biblically and historically significant.”

Such sentiments, however, largely disregard the perspective of the many Muslim residents of Israel and the surrounding territories, for whom Jerusalem is also a holy city. Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is the next most important site in Islam after Al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Nabawiin Medina.

The argument that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel is also rejected by many of the Christians who live there or in the neighboring territories. Most are ethnic Arabs, and they may feel less kinship with Jews. In a joint letter to Trump before he announced the policy change on Jerusalem, leaders of local Christian churches cautioned that it could bring “increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering.”

Some evangelical leaders in the United States who work closely with Arab Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories also worry about the ramifications of the Jerusalem policy change. Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called Trump’s declaration “important” but warned that many Arab Christians are “concerned” about it.

“As the Middle East absorbs this news, let’s pray for the peace of Jerusalem, pray for the safety and flourishing of our Arab brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray [for] our brothers and sisters in majority-Muslim contexts,” he wrote.

Among the U.S. evangelical leaders who disagreed with Trump’s move was Gary Burge, a New Testament scholar at Calvin Theological Seminary in Michigan.

“For many evangelicals, the modern state of Israel is a revival of the Israel they read about in their Bibles,” he says. “But when you build a bridge from biblical Israel to modern Israel, there is an enormous gap in history and theology.”

Those conservative evangelicals who flock to Israel every year and express solidarity there with the Israeli government, he says, “may not understand that the modern state of Israel isn’t anything like biblical Israel.”

As tensions between the Arab and Jewish populations in Israel as well as the surrounding territories have grown in recent years, so has the disagreement between those Arab Christians who are critical of the Israeli government and those U.S. evangelicals who hold pro-Israeli views.

“I’d question the authenticity of their faith,” said Cardoza-Moore, referring to the Christians in Jerusalem who oppose its recognition as Israel’s “eternal” capital. “I’d say they’re making a decision on a political expediency basis, not a biblical basis,” she said.

Burge, an ordained Presbyterian minister and a professor emeritus at Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution, counters that it is those Christians and Jews who cite the Bible to support their policy positions who are thinking politically.

“We have a political application of a biblical idea,” Burge says. “If you reach into the Old Testament and say, ‘God has given the Holy Land to the descendants of Abraham,’ that’s fine. The question is whether the modern state of Israel is that nation that was imagined back in the Bible.”

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Recycling Chaos In U.S. As China Bans 'Foreign Waste'

China’s ban means recycling is piling up at Rogue Waste System in southern Oregon. Employees Scott Fowler, Laura Leebrick and Garry Penning say their only option for now is to send it to a landfill.

Jes Burns/OPB/EarthFix

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Jes Burns/OPB/EarthFix

Like many Portland residents, Satish and Arlene Palshikar are serious recyclers. Their house is coated with recycled bluish-white paint. They recycle their rainwater, compost their food waste, and carefully separate the paper and plastic they toss out. But recently, after loading up their Prius and driving to a sorting facility, they got a shock.

“The fellow said we don’t take plastic anymore,” Satish says. “It should go in the trash.”

The facility had been shipping its plastic to China, but suddenly that was no longer possible.

Portland residents Satish and Arlene Palshikar want to see the U.S. become less dependent on China for recycling.

Cassandra Profita/OPB/EarthFix

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Cassandra Profita/OPB/EarthFix

The U.S. exports about one-third of its recycling, and nearly half goes to China. For decades, China has used recyclables from around the world to supply its manufacturing boom. But this summer it declared that this “foreign waste” includes too many other non-recyclable materials that are “dirty,” even “hazardous.” In a filing with the World Trade Organization the country listed 24 kinds of solid wastes it would ban “to protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health.”

The complete ban takes effect Jan. 1, but already some Chinese importers have not had their licenses renewed. That’s leaving U.S. recycling companies scrambling to adapt.

“It has no value… It’s garbage.”

Rogue Waste Systems in southern Oregon collects recycling from curbside bins, and manager Scott Fowler says there are always non-recyclables mixed in. As mounds of goods are compressed into 1-ton bales, he points out some: a roll of linoleum, gas cans, a briefcase, a surprising number of knitted sweaters. Plus, there are the frozen food cartons and plastic bags that many people think are recyclable but are not.

For decades, China has sorted through all this and used the recycled goods to propel its manufacturing boom. Now it no longer wants to, so the materials sits here with no place to go.

“It just keeps coming and coming and coming,” says Rogue’s Laura Leebrick. In the warehouse, she is dwarfed by stacks of orphaned recycling bales. Outside, employee parking spaces have been taken over by compressed cubes of sour cream containers, broken wine bottles and junk mail.

And what are recyclables with nowhere to go?

“Right now, by definition, that material out there is garbage,” she says. “It has no value. There is no demand for it in the marketplace. It’s garbage.”

For now, Rogue Waste says it has no choice but to take all of this recycling to the local landfill. More than a dozen Oregon companies have asked regulators if they can send recyclable materials to landfills, and that number may grow if they can’t find someplace else that wants them.

At Pioneer Recycling in Portland, owner Steve Frank is shopping for new buyers outside of China.

“I’ve personally moved material to different countries in an effort to keep material flowing,” he says.

Without Chinese buyers, Frank says U.S. recycling companies are playing a game of musical chairs, and the music stops when China’s ban on waste imports fully kicks in.

“The rest of the world cannot make up that gap,” he said. “That’s where we have what I call a bit of chaos going on.”

Adina Adler, a senior director with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, says China’s new standards are nearly impossible to meet. The group is trying to convince China to walk back its demanding target for how clean our recycling exports need to be.But Adler doesn’t think China’s decision is all bad.

“What China’s move is doing is probably ushering in a new era of recycling,” she says.

A helping (mechanical) hand

Bulk Handling Systems is betting that robots can be the future of recycling. At its research facility, bits of waste pass by on a conveyor belt as robotic arms poke down, sucking up plastic bags and water bottles then dropping them into bins.

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CEO Steve Miller says the robot uses cameras and artificial intelligence to separate recycling from trash “in the same way that a person would do it,” but faster and more accurately.

“It actually moves at a rate of 80 picks per minute,” he says. “A person might only get 30 picks per minute.”

Miller believes technology like this could let the U.S. make its recycling clean enough for China. But the robots are expensive and few companies have them.

For now, the best bet may come back to the curbside bin.

Recycling companies are considering changing the rules for what’s allowed in them, or adding an additional bin for paper only, to help streamline the sorting process. Steve Frank says Pioneer Recycling is even looking into adding cameras to collection trucks, to catch people putting trash in their recycling bins.

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