5 children heading to Disney killed in fiery Florida crash
By TERRY SPENCER and FREIDA FRISARO
Friday, January 4
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Five children heading to Disney World in a church van from Louisiana died along with two truck drivers in a fiery crash on Interstate 75 in north Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol said Friday.
The children were traveling in a large passenger van from Avoyelles Parish, Lt. Patrick Riordan said during a news conference on Friday morning in Alachua, which is south of Gainesville.
On Thursday, a big rig and a passenger vehicle collided in the northbound lanes of the highway and continued across the guardrail and into the path of another big truck and the church van, investigators said.
“Once those semis struck, they both caught fire,” Riordan said. He said a fifth vehicle came through and either struck people who had been ejected from the vehicle or debris. Some 50 gallons (1.6 kilometers) of diesel fuel spilled, fueling the fire that also damaged the road in some spots.
At least eight people were sent to the hospital with injuries.
Vinnie DeVita said he was driving south at the time and narrowly escaped the crash – he said it saw it happen in the rearview mirror, immediately behind him, according to a report by WKMG.
“If I had stepped on the brake when I heard the noise, undoubtedly, I would have been in that accident,” DeVita said. “And then within probably 15 to 20 seconds of it all, it exploded. I mean, just a ball of flames.”
The aftermath closed part of the highway in both directions, causing massive delays along the busy north-south corridor. Authorities opened the northbound lanes around 8 p.m. but all but one southbound lane remained closed Friday morning. Debris, including personal property and vehicle parts, was scattered across the road, the Florida Highway Patrol said. A helicopter helped search for any victims who may have been in nearby woods.
Nicole Towarek was traveling northbound with her family when they came across the scene. She told the Gainesville Sun that black smoke billowed, people were laid out near vehicles, there were long skid marks across the roadway and emergency workers were converging on the area.
“We kept seeing these little explosions and fire,” she said. “The heat, it was insane.”
It was the worst accident on I-75 in Alachua County since January 2012, when 11 people died in a chain reaction crash attributed to heavy fog and smoke on the roadway, which crosses Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Officials were criticized then for not closing the road due to worsening conditions, and later installed cameras, sensors and large electronic signs to help prevent similar crashes.
Spencer contributed from Fort Lauderdale and Frisaro contributed from Miami.
Two Years After Standing Rock, Scars of the Protest Remain
By Erin Mundahl
For more than a year between 2016 and 2017, thousands of people crowded into three protests camps in North Dakota. Ostensibly, they were there to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The reality was more complex, bringing together environmentalists, Native American activists, members of Black Lives Matter and sympathetic citizens. Area residents saw it all up close: both the rituals and prayer, and the blocking of roads and violence. Today, the camp is gone but the scars remain.
Many people focus on the cost to Energy Transfer Partners, (ETP), the company building the pipeline. According to a study by the University of Colorado, the protests cost ETP and other firms with ownership stakes in the project no less than $7.5 billion. The banks that financed the project lost an additional $4.4 billion through account closures.
But the true costs of the protests are more than dollars.
“It will take a generation to work past the effects of this,” says Julie R. Neidlinger, a writer from Bismarck. Neidlinger’s book, “Blue Like a River,” gives voice to the local perspectives that she believes were drowned out.
She is open about how the protest harmed the relationship between Standing Rock and the communities of Bismarck and Mandan. Even finding the right words to describe the situation is difficult, since many tribal members live in these cities. Before the protests, the tribe was a neighbor. During the protests, many stories depicted the area as two sides pitted against each other.
Said McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson, “The globe watched a heroic struggle on their computers, while North Dakotans lived through a protracted siege.”
No story is ever as simple as it first seems. Neidlinger collected dozens of interviews with police officers, tribal members and residents.
The view of the protests that most of America saw focused on the David and Goliath story of the plucky protesters standing up to the faceless corporation. This narrative leaves out the story of the broader community, which was caught up in the protests whether they wished to be or not.
“The way it was painted, that it was white racists against natives, was completely inaccurate,” Neidlinger said, explaining that other groups co-opted the movement to push for a carbon-free energy future, changes in the relationship between tribal and federal governments, and simple fundraising.
Black Lives Matter chapters and environmental groups saw themselves as allied with the camp, even as their presence muddied the goals of the protest.
Instead of just resisting a pipeline, the camp was seen as a stand against a range of injustices — everything from treaty rights to police violence.
On the other side, law enforcement resources were pushed to their limits. The community rallied to support them, organizing donations of meals and other supplies. That community effort never made headlines.
“We wanted to show support for our law enforcement when we certainly weren’t getting much from outside the state,” Neidlinger said, expressing frustration with the narrative that focused more on dramatic pictures taken in the camps rather than the quiet work of Girl Scouts and others supporting police.
In her book, Neidlinger describes her own conflicted reaction to the news that ETP had sued environmental organizations, seeking to recover damages. Generally ambivalent toward the energy industry, she found herself oddly pleased at the prospect that someone was pushing back.
“I’m no fan of lawsuits, but that felt like the only thing that would even possibly address the things we were frustrated about here,” she said. “You have to keep in mind, we saw all these protesters get their charges dropped, get a slap on the wrist. We saw people get rich and continue to get rich. We were seeing all this and our state was footing $34 million in costs.”
So far, the ETP lawsuit has been unsuccessful. The company was forced to swallow its losses, just as the state of North Dakota was forced to swallow the costs of law enforcement.
Neidlinger hopes her book will encourage people to consider how events in the news affect real people.
“It’s important that people think about the places where events take place, not just the events themselves,” she said. “When we see events on the news, we want to say, ‘There’s a bad guy, there’s a good guy.’ (Instead,) we need to think about the community all this is happening in.”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Erin Mundahl is a reporter for InsideSources.com.
PC Culture’s Class Blindspot
By Matthew Johnson
In a lecture at the Heartland Festival last year, the Slovenian social philosopher Slavoj Zizek pointed out that proponents of political correctness (PC) often do not bring poor and working-class white people under their mantle of protection. While many decry PC for going too far in the context of gender, race, sexuality, etc., in the context of social class, it does not go far enough.
A lack of class consciousness was a major feature of American culture from the beginning. French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the 19thcentury, famously noted the prominence of the American value of equality while identifying historical explanations for this, such as the lack of an American royal family or peasantry.
Then there is the far more recent observation, attributed to Ronald Wright that “… the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” In other words, the underclass does not identify as such in the United States; therefore, there is (perceived) equality between rich and poor. The Horatio Alger myth is near-gospel, but upward class mobility is a canard that is useful to those who benefit from working class illusion that they are likely to be well off some day. Developing class consciousness is threatening to billionaires and is thus discouraged. This is one reason socialism has long been considered a dirty word despite the popularity of socialist policies, such as Social Security and Medicare—or the public roads, bridges, and highways.
It is an indication of the cultural power of perceived equality that even the American left does not draw a line between rich whites and poor whites the way it does between whites and people of color, men and women, heteronormative and queer folks, and so on. Speaking for myself, I have never been labeled — at least not in any discernable way — as lower-middle class (which I am at best) or economically insecure (which I have been at times), even though there has often been a noticeable gap between my family’s financial and education attainment and that of the people I choose to associate with in the personal, professional, and political (organizing) realm.
It is partly due to this background that I am a critic of PC because, although I agree with most of the goals of so-called ‘social justice warriors’ (SJWs), their tactics simply do not appeal to the under-educated and under-employed (or the over-employed-but-under-paid) masses.
I started discussing this problem more than 10 years ago with my peers, who at the time were radical college students (SJW-types) like me. We asked ourselves: how do we appeal to those who may share our goals but not our language? Is it fair, for example, to label a working-class white man a racist for using the phrase “colored people” out of ignorance rather than malice? Also, how do we educate him without coming off as condescending and thus alienating him further?
Unlike many of my peers, I did not regard these questions as academic; I wanted to know how to appeal to my family members, many of whom still do not use or recognize the terms “people of color,” “LGBTQ+,” “intersectionality,” and so on. My father once (erroneously in my opinion) referred to Malcolm X as “racist” (against whites) because he had not learned enough about anti-black oppression to understand that Malcolm’s rhetoric was designed to incite emancipatory consciousness and not racial hatred for its own sake. It took only a few minutes of constructive, respectful dialogue to convince my father to rethink his position whereas a knee-jerk reaction with the intent of upholding politically correct modes of discourse would have been counterproductive and distancing. I favor “calling in,” not so much “calling out.”
The same approach could be taken to someone making a racist or a sexist joke as opposed to shaming the person for it. One could ask questions with the intention of identifying the attitudes lurking behind the attempt at humor. Jokes, after all, do not always represent where an individual stands on a complex issue and can easily be misinterpreted.
To be clear, I am not arguing that civility is only important for those who are educated. This would be classist and condescending, but it is equally classist and condescending for educated people to expect less-educated people to adopt their way of speaking, which implies adopting their way of thinking as well. This is not a progressive approach to social change.
It is time to integrate the labels progressive and conservative—both should favor human and civil rights, economic justice, a clean environment, and a robust democracy. This approach to social change is one that meets people where they are and not where they are expected to be. This was my thinking around calling for Democrats and their supporters to appeal to white men as an identity group if they hope to ensure sweeping electoral victories in 2020.
A complementary approach should be taken with poor and working-class people — for the benefit of all.
Matt Johnson, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is co-author of Trumpism.
Many hate crimes never make it into the FBI’s database
January 4, 2019
Author: Sophie Bjork-James, Assistant Professor of the Practice in Anthropology, Vanderbilt University
Disclosure statement: Sophie Bjork-James does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Vanderbilt University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The FBI’s latest numbers showed a 17 percent increase in reported hate crimes in 2017. But what does this actually say about the actual number of hate crimes occurring in the U.S.? Not much.
The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 mandates that the FBI publish statistics specifically for crimes motivated by bias, and a broad network of state laws require that hate crimes are both tracked and prosecuted. Despite this, a variety of problems plague the implementation of these laws.
A total of 16,149 law enforcement agencies reported 7,175 incidents of hate crimes to the FBI in 2017. That means that 87.4 percent of law enforcement agencies reported zero bias-motivated crimes.
On the surface, this number seems suspiciously low, particularly when considering that the other federal survey of hate crimes, the National Crime Victimization Survey, which looks at how many people say they’ve experienced a hate crime, estimates that “U.S. residents experienced an average of 250,000 hate crime victimizations each year from 2004 to 2015.” There remains an enormous discrepancy between what victims report as a hate crime and what law enforcement agencies do.
The FBI numbers appear even more suspicious in light of the fact that, as the Arab American Institute points out, several high-profile hate crimes are not in the data. For example, Kansas reported no hate crimes for 2017, despite the murder of Indian immigrant Srinivas Kuchibhotla. Adam Purinton reportedly yelled, “Get out of my country,” before shooting and killing Kuchibhotla and wounding two others in an Olathe, Kansas bar. Purinton was caught hours later in Missouri after telling a bartender at an Applebee’s that he’d shot two “Iranians” and needed a place to hide.
Why are hate crimes under reported?
Since 2016, the investigative journalism organization ProPublica has created a national network of news organizations to document hate crimes. The Documenting Hate Project recognizes that “There is simply no reliable national data on hate crimes.”
Journalist Rachel Glickhouse, who helped found Documenting Hate, told me that the FBI data are useful in showing broad patterns around hate crimes occurrences, but there are a variety of reasons why their numbers are likely incomplete.
One problem she noted was that many police departments provide either zero or cursory training around hate crimes. In some cases, state officials were even misinformed about relevant statutes in their states. Different departments also track hate crimes differently, making it challenging to easily find data.
Buzzfeed reporters looked at over 2,400 police incident reports from 10 of the largest police departments that reported no hate crime incidents for 2016. The investigation identified “15 assaults in which the cops’ own narratives suggested that the suspect may have been motivated by bias.”
Lack of trust between law enforcement and communities that have been historically targeted by hate also leads to underreporting, says Arusha Gordon, counsel for the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights’ Stop Hate Project, an organization that trains law enforcement and prosecutors on responding to hate crimes. It’s important to work on “building trust between law enforcement and communities that have been historically targeted by hate.” For example, immigrant and LGBT communities “might not feel comfortable reporting to police because of their citizenship status or because they might have had a previously negative interaction with someone in law enforcement.”
Gordon stressed how important it is to also train law enforcement to recognize “indicators of hate.” For instance, the number 88 is a key symbol in the contemporary white nationalist movement. (The letter “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 stands for “Heil Hitler.”) If a property crime includes an 88 spray-painted on a building, the police officer might not understand the crime’s connection to a hate movement.
Former FBI and and Homeland Security employees have said that law enforcement doesn’t pay enough attention to racist groups or downplays hate crimes incidents to victims. For example, in December, New York City’s deputy human rights commissioner experienced a racist incident, but city police officers discouraged her from reporting it – an incident that’s part of a broader trend of under counting hate crimes in New York.
Having studied the white supremacist movement in the U.S, I see the problems associated with the FBI’s hate crimes reporting as part of a larger issue related to FBI priorities around fighting terrorism.
Threats by far-right groups aren’t addressed with the same resources, even while they motivate a variety of bias-motivated crimes. In fact, there are no longer any Homeland Security officials dedicated to monitoring right-wing extremism.
In 2009, years before Charlottesville and a string of high-profile white supremacist murders, Daryl Johnson – then an analyst for the Department of Homeland Security – authored a report outlining the threats posted by “Right wing Extremism.” In hindsight, the analysis predicted much of what has come to pass: a rise in hate crimes and domestic terrorism carried out by white supremacist and far-right groups, many of them former veterans.
However, a broad political backlash from conservative media and veterans groups forced the Department of Homeland Security to rescind the report. Johnson’s team was disbanded the following year.
Former FBI special agent Michael German, who worked undercover to infiltrate right-wing extremist groups before leaving the FBI in 2004, told me that law enforcement might be failing to see hate crimes as possibly part of a broader pattern. For example, if a skinhead group is engaging in organized crime, law enforcement may not see the connections between individual violent acts and never investigate the broader organization.
There are additionally a number of examples of situations when the FBI did not label criminal acts as domestic terrorism, even when the crimes fit the statutory definition. Although far-right violence does not always qualify as terrorism, it does count when it is done in an effort to change the broader political discourse.
Studies show that far-right extremists have caused more deaths than Islamist extremists since 9/11. The most comprehensive database on far-right violence in the U.S. tracked 4,420 violent incidents carried out by far-right actors between 1990 and 2012, including 670 deaths and over 3,000 individuals injured.
In a statement on the 2017 hate crimes report, the FBI said that it is “working with law enforcement partners across the country to encourage reporting of hate crime statistics.” They promise that, in 2019, they will provide training for law enforcement officers in how to identify and report bias-motivated incidents. I feel that this is an important step in working to fix the problems in the U.S. with reporting and prosecuting hate crimes.
Preventing Brazilian Indigenous Genocide and Protecting the Amazon
By J.P. Linstroth
It is official. On the first of the year, Jair Bolsonaro, was inaugurated as the 38thPresident of Brazil. One of his first official acts as a newly inaugurated president was doing away with demarcation of indigenous territories in Brazil. All of us living on this planet should be fearful of this act.
Bolsonaro transferred the responsibility of demarcation of indigenous lands to the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture and placed the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI, Fundação Nacional do Índio) under its jurisdiction. It is FUNAI’s responsibility to protect the nation’s Indians and yet the Ministry of Agriculture is traditionally known to protect the interests of big business, especially soy farmers and cattle ranchers. Both are powerful lobbying groups in Brazil and likewise partly responsible for destroying the Amazon and its people. In effect, FUNAI is no more under the Bolsonaro administration.
We should also realize this is not only a fulfilled campaign promise of Bolsonaro but a realized fear for the legitimization of genocide against Brazilian indigenous peoples and also the imminent destruction of the Brazilian Amazon. It is also important to note that 60 percent of the Amazon is under Brazilian jurisdiction.
At the end of November, a United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Egypt. It was there many of the world’s Amazonian indigenous leaders proposed a 200-million-hectare corridor stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes mountains along the great meandering Amazon River and its tributaries in order to protect the world’s largest rain forest and its incredibly varied fauna and flora. Such an ecological plan would not only protect the forest and its wildlife but its many indigenous peoples and their lands. What is more, such a scheme may have the long-term benefit of preventing climate change and global warming from becoming inevitable realities.
To understand the immensity of such a proposed biodiversity corridor, think of an area the size of Mexico and 500 different Amazonian indigenous nations with their wide array of cultures living within it. Ponder for a moment that 10 million species of animals, insects, and plants exist within the Amazon rain forest. Almost 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity is to be found on indigenous lands and Native territories are some of the most biodiverse on earth.
Now more than ever we should be taking such environmental propositions very seriously for the fate of humankind.
The proposal to protect the Amazon with a “sacred corridor of life and culture” was presented by COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica)at the UN conference.
Yet, Brazilian President Bolsonaro and newly elected Colombian President, Iván Duque Márquez, along with other powerful business leaders, most likely will not consider such a plan because of economic interests for developing the Amazon for energy (e.g. hydro-electric dam projects and oil prospecting), mining (e.g. excavating gold), resource exploitation (e.g. timber extraction) and agri-businesses (e.g. cattle ranching and soy farming). The UN biodiversity agreement is scheduled to be signed in Beijing, China in 2020.
President Bolsonaro has infamously likened indigenous peoples residing on protected territories in Brazil to “animals in zoos” (como animais em zoo). When humans dehumanize other humans, and equate them with non-human animals, we know psychologically such rhetoric allows for genocide. This was evident from the Rwanda genocide when Hutu heard racist radio messages about Tutsi equating them to cockroaches, among other things. Such directed racism allowed for the near Tutsi extermination, ranging between 500,000 to 1,000,000 killings in 1994. Similarly, Hitler’s propagandists relentlessly compared Jews to rats. We know those results.
In a recent 2018 report commissioned by the ‘Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLU), Impacts on Extractive Industry and Infrastructure on Forests: Amazonia, it stated the following: “…large-scale infrastructure development, in particular road building and hydropower, have induced human settlement, forest clearance and an aggressive expansion of the agricultural frontier across substantial parts of Amazonia. The synergies between agriculture and infrastructure are important, particularly in the Legal Amazon. The scale of future changes in forest cover will depend on where and how infrastructure investments move forward.”
There are presently about 850,000 Natives in Brazil. Bolsonaro believes they should be forcibly assimilated and integrated into Brazilian society along with Afro-slave descendants or Quilombolas living in the hinterland.
Three prominent Brazilian indigenous leaders, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Sônia Bone Guajajara, and Raoni Metuktire, have written a letter to the world to express their alarm.
Their peoples live in different areas of the Brazilian Amazon. The Yanomami people have been mostly isolated, living in Brazil and Venezuela, numbering some 35,000 people.
Since the 1980s, Yanomami have been subject to massacres from Brazilian gold miners (garimpeiros) who have also brought disease and mass death.
The Guajajara people live in the state of Maranhão and number some 19,000 people. During the 1960s through 1980s, there have been concerted efforts to develop and illegally settle on their lands.
The Kayapó live in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará and number some 9,000 people. Since the late 1980s, they have been fighting hydroelectric dam projects on their lands. The ongoing Belo Monte Dam will flood vast areas of Kayapó territories and have a very lasting negative impact upon the survival of these people by limiting fishing and massively destroying both fauna and flora.
Davi Kopenawa, Sônia Guajajara, and Raoni Metuktire stated in their letter:
“A genocide is unfolding in our country, Brazil. Our government is destroying us, indigenous peoples, our country’s first people. In the name of profit and power, our land is being stolen, our forests burned, our rivers polluted and our communities devastated. Our uncontacted relatives, who live deep in the forest, are being attacked and killed…This is the most aggressive attack we have experienced in our lifetimes. But we won’t be silenced. We do not want the riches of our land to be stolen and sold. For as long as we can remember, we have looked after our lands. We protect our forest as it gives us life…Please tell our government that our land is not for stealing.”
We should heed their warning and not allow the Brazilian government to sanction such a genocide against Brazilian Indians and simply remain silent. It is time to speak up.
Not only are nearly one million Brazilian indigenous lives at stake, but the Amazon rain forest as a world natural resource, is in certain jeopardy without protective measures. The “sacred corridor” plan proposed by COICA at the 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference is a good beginning to ensure two million square kilometers of rain forest land along the Amazon River and its vast tributaries be preserved and safeguarded for future generations.
Let’s begin the New Year by helping and protecting these people and the Amazon before it is too late.
How you can help:
- One organization which has ongoing campaigns to protect Brazilian Amerindians is Survival International: https://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/brazilian https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/12060
- You may wish to donate them or get involved in their ongoing campaigns to protect Brazilian Indians: https://www.survivalinternational.org/donate Or consider writing your US Senator or US Congressman or even your local Brazilian Consulate or Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C.: http://www.brazil-help.com/brazil-emb-consul.htm
- Or sign a petition at Amazon Watch and pledge your support to protect the Amazonian Indians: https://amazonwatch.org/take-action/pledge-solidarity-with-brazils-resistance
J. P. Linstroth has a PhD from the University of Oxford in Social and Cultural Anthropology and is a former Fulbright Scholar to Brazil. He is author of Marching Against Gender Practice: Political Imaginings in the Basqueland (2015).